Finding free things to do in Auckland (that I can actually go to) has been a harder task than I thought. In Melbourne, I was spoiled for night markets, food markets, festivals, stuff happening in Fed Square. Every time we went in to the city we were accidentally caught up in something fun, and part of the joy of going in to the city was to see what we might stumble in to.
i don’t want to find free events, as much as stumble upon them.
So far I’ve not found that in Auckland.
I’ve not found myself stumbling in to a parade, or hearing a buzz about a festival or event.
Not that the city is culturally devoid, but it doesn’t have the same ‘artsy’ feel Melbourne does. It feels more business, more corporate, more like events are carefully staged and planned rather than feeling like they happen organically.
Of course I’m under no illusion that Melbourne’s events don’t take significant planning and preparation, but it always feels a little more like a flashmob has set up camp than the CEO has organised some fun for you.
Naturally Lewis’ finger was on the pulse when it came to The Big Gay Out, and having never been to a Pride parade, festival, or general public celebration of being gay (bars don’t count) he was super keen to pop one of his few remaining cherries and get his queer on.
I’d casually asked Laine what he was doing, and after establishing he was also going to The Big Gay Out, we managed to
bully persuade him in to give us a lift down.
Expecting him to ditch us for his friends as soon as we got there, we awkwardly made our way towards the hubbub, planning on making our escape as soon as were outnumbered by children.
But he stayed.
I have to say, this was the start of something beautiful.
Perhaps the weirdest threesome you could put together from the staff at Dean Greenwood, at only 19, we spent the day opening Laine’s eyes to a whole world of possibilities, both professionally and sexually.
Not intimidated by our stories, the wide-eyed child was enthralled by our tales of encounters and was basically taking notes as we plied him with advice, generic and specific, good and really, really bad.
We found a spot in the shade to sit, and slightly underwhelmed by Auckland’s offering compared to other gay events I’d been to (especially in terms of freebies) I was glad to while away the hours on the grass.
We got him set up on Tinder and then sat casually flicking away through hoards of teenage girls. I started to feel older and older, with each swipe grimacing at their bios and photos, thanking the Tinder Gods I no longer worshipped them.
Laughing at Laine’s feeble attempts to pick up girls and trying not to feel too disgusted when I worked out the birth year of some of his potential bae’s.
glitter, gays, glorious sunshine, the only thing not to love was the price of the bear garden.
We ate churros and drank warm coke.
We danced to Adele and bizarre covers of other gay anthems, naturally performed by a Drag Queen.
We tried to disguise our sweat patches from the unexpected afternoon sun and searched for cheap sunglasses.
We got tested for Chlamydia, and Lewis had every orifice probed and his finger pricked to test for HIV (the joys of being gay).
We headed to Maccas smug at our haul, free condoms and lube and the knowledge we were being proactive with our sexual health.
Lewis and I had planned on walking home via the lantern festival, and as the day slipped away from us, we couldn’t believe it was nearly 7pm. We were debating whether or not we should go, when Laine chimed in he’d love to tag along and (once again) would give us a ride to the station and then shout our train tickets in to Auckland Domain.
We’d been so caught up in the afternoon, I’d barely had time to talk to Zac, who naturally was happy I was finally enjoying myself, but also I think a little jealous it seemed I suddenly didn’t need him.
The boys teased me on the train as I snuck off to talk to him, mimicking my ‘Hellowy‘ as he answered the phone, blowing kisses in my direction and generally being petulant.
After 15 minutes, when I realised we’d just been talking about vegetables and how he was slow cooking them for the last five minutes, I paused on his carrot method and said we should probably debate carrots when I wasn’t supposed to be socialising with my friends.
of course it could never live up to lantern town, but it still gave me those warm fuzzies.
The lantern festival was, thankfully a real treat.
Nothing on Hoi An, of course, but it was so lovely wandering around this maze of light sculptures, marvelling at the simplicity and beauty.
There’s something so pretty about lights at night, something warming and almost nostalgic. Like moths to a flame, we’re drawn in by the light and there’s something mystical about bright fish in the air, or love birds in a tree or multicoloured lanterns, seemingly suspended in mid air.
We got there in time for the fireworks as well – a real treat as we were just about to turn around and head home.
I’d relaxed enough to just slip into being me, falling over, stumbling over my words and thinking without speaking. They were merciless with their roasting, but it was the most I’d laughed in weeks.
There was a moment when I thought I’d really hurt Lewis, I was watching the fireworks and lost my balance, fell over backwards onto him and from the noise he made thought I’d landed on his dodgy ankle.
As it turns out, his bladder was full and as I’d flailed, I’d hit his stomach, causing him quite a lot of discomfort. If you ask me, the noise was disproportionate to the severity of the pain, but that’s gays for you: drama queens.
hey auckland? you might just be alright.
I’m so glad we did make the effort to go to the lantern festival. It was such a wonderful way to end the evening, and for the first time since I got here, I started to feel like Auckland could become home.
I might not like the city, I might not love my job, but the people are what’s important. I’d expected nothing much from the day, an afternoon out and some free condoms, maybe a gossip around Lew’s afterwards about how awkward it was having Laine tag around with us – and I was so wrong.
We’ve created a dysfunctional tribe – although Lewis and I are probably having slightly too much fun corrupting Laine – it’s just nice to have that sense of family.
Stood in the rain, waiting for our train home, tired from a full day and playfully sick of the boys incessantly taking the piss out me, my clumsiness and general inability to ‘life’, I rested my head on Lewis’ shoulder and mumbled through tired, half closed eyes:
“I think this has been the best day since I got here. I had way more fun with you daft cunts than I thought I was going to.”