Saturday, November 20, 2010

Taking an introspective break in Queenstown

Hello everyone, it's Will, back for my second entry.

After challenging the butt-destroying Mt. Roy outside of Wanaka, we piled back into our Toyota Corolla II (some call him 'Tim'), and took the relatively short drive down to Queenstown. Due to the fact that most of the towns we had stayed in so far had been little, one-pub-and-a-cafe affairs, we were all quite astounded when we rolled into what turned out to be a hip, bustling, multiple-block town nestled between snow-capped mountains and a rolling lake.

Queenstown, day 12

Nick snapped this shot of one of Queenstown's several streets, all bustling with smelly backpackers, local hoons, and large packs of Asian tour groups. As we settled into what was by far the nicest hostel we had been in so far, we decided to stay another night (an unprecedented decision), and forgo spending a night at Lake Tekapo, which we hit for lunch on the way back anyway. Beth and I turned in for some light reading while Nick hit the town, and found a tree harboring a Brit, an Aussie, and a Kiwi, who were all greatly offended when he told them they all sounded the same to him.

Queenstown, day 12

The next day Beth stayed in to do some work on her first free-lance article for the Post-Gazette, leaving Nick and I to our devices. The dude at the hostel desk recommended a hike along Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu (yeah, they all sound the same to me too). As an incentive, he added that "there's a sweet 30-foot cliff you can jump off, but you have to like, really jump." To what I'm sure is the relief of the half-dozen women responsible for worrying about my well-being, we couldn't find any cliffs that even a completely daft kiwi would leap off of, but we had a pretty good hike nonetheless.

Queenstown, day 12

The trail led us over outcroppings and through viney shrub, eventually dropping us onto a rocky beach which terminated in this little jetty. Also, there were doggies. Our conversation ranged from the complexities of the human neural system to the dangers of student loans, from the relation between career and fulfillment to the implications of Pinky and the Brain.

Although we assume it is Brain who is the genius, and Pinky who is insane, it seems possible that it is the other way around - for Brain spends his entire life pursuing control and power, which only brings him frustration, while Pinky is always just happy to spend the day with his good friend. In fact, the syntax of the show's opening jingle seems to support this reading: "They're Pinky and the Brain, Pinky and the Brain, one is a genius, the others insane." The Derridian in me was sated, my philosophy degree vindicated.

Queenstown, day 12

Yet as we stood together on a rocky bluff, checking out this rather large boat making itself look like a child's model, I found my thoughts coming back to the book I was reading, "Cat's Cradle," by the late great Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut, like Sufjan Stevens and carbon nano-tubes, falls into the category of 'things I wouldn't know about if it wasn't for my friend John Goods.' Some previous scientifically-endowed tenet of his MIT grad student dorm had left it to collect dust, and, calling it providence, I nabbed it.

Yet Bokonon teaches us that such ideas of fate and meaning are happy lies, cooked up by people pretending to know God's will. The notion that things like fate or divine direction existed only within the confines of my skull seemed compounded by this lake, so large its surface curved away from me along the contours of our planet, or these mountains, so much wiser and more important than me that their tops were brushed with snow, and entire forests grew about their base.

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