February 16, 2010 marks the 51st birthday of John McEnroe. Here’s his profile as it appears in my book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com) continue reading »
FOR ALL YOU TOLKIEN/HOBBIT JUNKIES NEW ZEALAND’S THE PLACE WHERE THE BOOKS AND MOVIES SPRING TO LIFE
ARROWTOWN, New Zealand – You might call it a double-dose of Middle-earth. For a Tolkien junkie, it’s heaven.
Although I don’t fit that profile – Frodo isn’t my go-go guy – I did read J.R.R. Tolkien’s stuff to my kid, and wasn’t going to miss a chance to plunge into the splendors of Middle-earth (aka New Zealand) that Oscar-winning producer-director Peter Jackson, a native, selected for his filmed trilogy.
Jackson knew what he was doing. So small, so few people, this country of two principal islands is a scenic smorgasbord of distinctive topography: ruggedly commanding ranges, virginal forests, grand beaches, endless sheep and deer-dotted meadows, vast uninhabited tracts – some lonely and desolate — conducive to solitude and privacy. continue reading »
What a marvelous adventure, The Routeburn Track in New Zealand, one of the world’s very best treks. Beautiful flowers, amazing views, we were so fortunate with perfect weather the first two days.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Here’s the worst thing about Wellington: The day-and-a-half allotted for a look around isn’t nearly enough.
Although Wellington is the capital of this double dip delight in the South Pacific, the unevenly-paired North and South islands that form New Zealand, it might as well be tucked into lost-and-found as an anonymous city. That, however, would be unfair to such a vibrant, attractive town on a handsome harbor and guarded by big-brotherly hills. continue reading »
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Is Captain Cook receiving visitors today?
Alastair Shaw, standing on the deck of Cook’s glorified (nonetheless illustrious) sailboat called the Endeavour, replies, “Sorry, you’re 222 years too late. The good captain departed this earth in 1779. Actually you’ve missed him by 232 years, since the Endeavour reached New Zealand in 1769.”
Oh, I knew that. continue reading »
OTOROHANGA, NEW ZEALAND – It isn’t every day in New Zealand that you can walk into the living room of the national symbol. Are we dressed for the occasion? Is this an acceptable time? Will it disdainfully give us the cold-feathered shoulder?
Don’t be nervous, says the guard. Shorts, T-shirt, and sneakers are perfectly presentable guest attire. But no photographs, please. After all, New Zealand is a pretty relaxed, informal place. The most celebrated citizen, explorer Sir Edmund Hillary – he who made Mount Everest seem like a walk in a chilly park in 1953 – is listed in the Auckland phone book. Of course, he isn’t the national symbol. If he were, the natives would call themselves Hillarys. Maybe Eds. continue reading »
Waiotapu, New Zealand –
“Here’s mud in your eye!” seems to be the New Year’s toast from some underworld god lurking beneath the thick and grimy surface of the steaming pond. Bloop! Bloop! Plop! Plop! Two sudden spurts of wet dirt, splattering against my cheeks and chest, baptize me as I stand on a wooden platform at pond’s edge.
“Too close for comfort,” says my friend, Aurelio, laughing. “But at least it’s sacred water. That’s what Waiotapu means in the Maori language. Consider it a millennial badge of honor, bestowed on you in, shall we say, a supernatural rite. Anyway, it’ll wash off your T-shirt.” continue reading »
ONE FINE DAY ON GREAT BARRIER ISLAND; THIS NEW YEAR’S CELEBRATION EVEN INCLUDES DOUSING THE CONSTABULARY
GREAT BARRIER ISLAND, New Zealand – Slop the cop!
That seems the most amusing amusement for the hardy band of islanders at their New Year’s fair: a good-natured dousing of the three policemen who don’t have a whole lot to do in the nature of catching crooks.
So on this day annually, they take turns at catching, head-on, a bucket of water that has been rigged precariously above, on a wooden frame over the wet seat. Through a system of ropes, pulleys, and hinges – a Rube Goldbergian contraption – the bucket is tipped and emptied whenever a splash-minded contestant triggers it by hurling a baseball-hard cricket ball against a target 20 feet distant. Throw a bull’s-eye, and keep a bull un-dry. Three balls for $2. Proceeds to a local charity. continue reading »
WHAKAPAPA, New Zealand – Because it’s there, I know I shouldn’t be.
“It” is the volcanic Mount Ruapehu, looming and with the appearance of a gigantic molar with cavities.
“Looks like a sweet climb,” enthuses my friend, Aurelio, who would never deny that a mountain goat teeters somewhere on some altitudinous limb of her family tree.
Looks like a sweat climb to me. So, why?
“Because . . ..” continue reading »
FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER, New Zealand – Ice dancing is an activity usually associated with the blade-sliding crowd, currently minueting for gold at an Olympic rink in Nagano. Years of effort have gone into their romance with frozen water, and they don’t have a lot of trouble standing up or waltzing.
Of course, their wonders are performed on the well-known level playing field. However, my wanders have introduced me to a steeply slanted ballroom, defaced with chasms, parapets, and other daunting obstructions, while a catchy two-step – “Nearer My God to Thee” – pumps through my neural mush. I’d like to sit this one out. continue reading »