Friday, 22 February 2008

A Strange Tale

We went for a walk last night. It was a lovely warm night, with a huge full moon hanging over the Harbour. Dramatic streaks of high-altitude cloud lit up by moonlight, and the water was remarkably calm. We walked along the water behind Te Papa, and there was this statue we thought was a person at first because it wasn't there before, and because it looked real in the moonlight. What finally gave it away was how still it was and how the centre of gravity was wrong, the statue leaning impossibly foreword as if in the process of diving off the pier into the dark water.

Moving along, we saw some people gathered in front of Te Papa on the Mac's Brewery side of the giant building. The museum was closed, so what were they all doing? There was a couple dancing to nothing, but the crowd was just milling about, not really centred on them. Then we walked a bit further, and saw someone had set up two huge lights focused on the five-story-tall wall of Te Papa. The lights were projecting the dancing figures high upon the wall. There were other figures, too. Some seemed to be co-conspirators in this strange performance piece, some were just regular folks who walked in front of the lights and then started playing - doing "walk like an Egyptian" or shadow boxing each other, or just standing there fascinated by the mere fact of their shadow displayed at such a height. We watched for a time and the shadows danced across the façade of Te Papa, that dramatic full moon hovering above it all.

Further along we walked, curious now about the lights we saw down by Frank Kitts park - it seemed like all the park lights had turned to greens and blues and pinks, surely those weren't there before? Then we reached it - a park built in many levels, defined by ancient battlements along the harbour side, with little out-of-the-way garden nooks and terraced pathways. To our astonishment we came across a sizeable building which hadn't existed before. A large circular building, with a strange façade down one side made of pink triangular structures, and an open-air section in the back which looked like an ordinary cocktail lounge. Peering in, we saw a sign that said "private party" Private party indeed! Who builds a temporary night club in the middle of Frank Kitts park just to throw a party!? The place was empty, but there were enough security guards about that we didn't stay too long to snoop. (I'm going back today just to see if the thing is still there).

We headed back along the lagoon side of the Sea to City bridge. We could hear drumming coming from the park on the other end of the bridge. I'd noticed a drumming circle gathered there once before during a full moon - maybe it's a regular event? Looking over there, I could see it was a much larger group than before, some drumming, some just hanging out. I caught the glint of a baton twirling over there somewhere. The drumming sounds drifting over from the park sounded vaguely Tahitian.

Headed back towards Te Papa now, we notice something else new. Circus tents set up on the long stretch of cemented park land in front of the NZ stock exchange. Tents with brightly coloured lights running across the tops of them. A sign informs us the circus won't be doing shows until tomorrow, still all these lights are on and we hear odd sounds coming from within the tents - a bit of drumming or the tinkle of some kind of string instrument. They must be practising. Even from here we can see there are shadow figures still dancing across the wall of Te Papa. The folks at the tables outside Mac's Brewery are enjoying the show along with their beers. Someone has gotten so close to the lights that their shadow is five stories high. The shadow is trying to grab a little kid who is running around in front of him, darting out of his imaginary grasp.

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in the actualized potential of a city, the Platonic ideal of what a city can become. Sometimes it seems impossible that this place exists at all, and that I actually live here.

No comments: