September 30, 2004

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Fear and Loathing

Mr Neil Falloon writes...

It is late on Friday night, and there are now only 14 days left in Auckland’s Mayoral race. I am sitting in Grand Central, a Ponsonby bar. I have come here in an effort to escape Auckland’s tiresome celebrities and political strivers, drawn to prominent bloggers like atoms into a vacuum, scraping to make an impression and warrant a mention. I have come to mix with the real people of our thriving metropolis and see which way the political wind is blowing. I am slouched in a corner sofa beside the flickering hearth of the Central’s fiberglass “log fire”.

Two well-turned-out young people enter. They sit, a tired blond woman perpendicular to me and her male companion next to her. He is loquacious and drunk. The city is high on political intrigue.


“I’m Dan, this is Kimberley,” he holds out a meaty hand. I introduce myself.

“Great to meet you, Neil. So, what do you do?”

The Auckland equivalent of hello. I am a fireside chat host, I say, gesturing to the flames as if there was nothing more obvious. I’m glad to be talking with you both tonight, I continue. Now, why don’t we start with Kimberley. Maybe she could tell us about her day.

“I didn’t really do much - I work at an undertakers.”

Hmmm. A good angle to see the remaining stocks of John Banks supporters, I venture. Is she an undertaker? An embalmer?

“I do make-up.”

Apparently the training for making up a corpse is exactly the same training as for creating an Orc on The Lord of The Rings, or going on to Hairdressing Academy. Local body politics melts away; there are issues of importance to be discussed tonight.

So, I ask – is the natural look in?

“Sorry?”

The no make-up look, I explain. Is it popular this year?

“We try to make it look as natural as we can in most cases; people don’t want their loved ones to look as if they are ready to go out during a funeral.”

Sometimes, she says, families provide photographs for reference – rarely have the deceased themselves appended these to wills.

“What do you really do, Neil?” Dan asks. “This isn’t a full-time job.”

I explain it keeps me occupied. I feel close enough to these people to confide I also have a blog. It is a mistake. The bartender, clearing glasses nearby, is one-time reality TV stud Logan from Sky 1’s The Player. His ears prick up, and he looks over expectanty. I hastily escape, wishing Kimberley well.

On Ponsonby Road I see the last unblemished Christine Fletcher hoarding in the city. Her gleaming smile unsullied by the crude campaign which has seen her “No Spin” slogan uniformly converted to “No Spine”.

From among the forest of hoardings, a shadowy figure emerges suddenly. The outline is male, dressed in the baggy clothing and hooded sweatshirt typical of a Dick Hubbard voter. In one hand, a can of aerosol spray paint - the tool of trade and recreational drug of choice of the underhanded Hubbard mob – and in the other, a large stencil of the letter “E”. I am transfixed in horror as - with mechanical precision - the sole pristine Fletcher billboard is altered to proclaim her lack of spine.

The figure risks a sideways glance, and I stare into the dark heart of this street hoodlum. Even wobbly with beer, my vision blurred and his face shrouded in shadow, I can clearly make out the distinctive features of disgraced John Banks campaign manager Brian Nicolle. Just as the Herald suspected, Nicolle is and has been the source of all evil and unrest during this, and probably every other local body election ever run.

As he scurries away, he drops the stencil. Examining it, I see it is heavy, cut from production film, with sharp angles at each corner. It is a professional job; a far cry from the snips and construction paper with which Banks and I have whiled away many an idle hour in the Mayoral Chambers. Proof that the Mayor has nothing to do with this, or any of Nicolle’s other malarkey.

The voters must know. Responsible voters will have already posted back their ballots within three days of receiving them. And responsible voters will have voted for Banks anyway. Instead, I need to break this news to the indolent, the apathetic, the lazy and uncivic. I call Fuse magazine.

My attempts to reach Paola Ghirelli meet with frustration.
“She’s not here,” the insolent APN lackey at the other end of the phone tells me. “And between you and me, if you want a future with Fuse, maybe you should be talking to Greg Dixon anyway. Apparently he has powerful internet backers.”

I smile. The word is out, and so begins another campaign, more covert than the thousands of reproduced Metro magazine hatchet jobs on Banks which were sneaked into Auckland homes without even the targeted voters becoming aware of them.

The truth will not come out tonight, then. I close my cellphone, and turn to find a taxi. I walk past Herald columnist and Ponsonby local Brian Rudman, who sighs as he sees the already defaced image of Fletcher. A square of card with an “E” cut out of the middle falls from his hand to the ground, and he walks away, dejected.




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