Queenstown NZ

Queenstown is a town nestled at the foot of a range of mountains named 'The Remarkables' for good reason, towering over Lake Tekapo in the South Island of NZ. Anyone who believes that faith can move mountains should come here and pray then perhaps lower their expectations a tad.

It's where bungee jumping was invented, it hosts the famous shot-over marine jet experience and tourists, tethered to experienced para-gliders go wafting off cliffs to soar over the town squealing.

There's a summer Luge run down brushed concrete tubes within the towns borders and come winter the nearby ski fields kick off. It's an outdoor-persons dream and if you like nights spent by the fire there's no better backdrop.

The local population seems at all times to be outnumbered by tourists. Every day looks like the day after Christmas, the tourists proudly wearing Kiwi clothing freshly unwrapped.

A hundred or so years back gold was found in these parts. Now it's just flushed through the place via busloads of tourists and a large churning backpacker population. It's interesting to visit certain cafes of an evening to witness the calm, almost post coital vibe created by those whose bodies have faced what must have felt like certain death from jumping off some hundred foot bridge with a rubber band attached or some cliff with an instructor attached or gone whizzing at excessive speed inches from sheer walls of rock in a jet boat.

Nick Nickolas, a Covent garden forged, rollicking street magician friend and I had cavorted our way down-country from Auckland at the other end of the country. He drove, I kept tally of the commemorative improvised crosses denoting road fatalities.

He was going to get certified as a cliff jumping parachutist and I as always was simply at a lose end.

The structure of my life was contained within my clowns performance and nowhere else and I tended to be a free associating blunderbuss that my performance friends would adopt for interesting company and perhaps in their own twisted and generous and thus far heterosexual way, because they loved me. I certainly loved them, as was my diminished capacity, in much the same way a leper, diseased and self serving, might get a platonic crush on a nun.

My performance friends also tend to be fantastic people to drink heavily with. Leash-less the lot of them.

Both Nick and I had a couple of weeks to kill before that chestnut of a gig the Christchurch International Buskers festival. We were both regulars there, had been since it's inception.

So the pitch was a small pedestrian mall full of upmarket tourist shops that catered to predominantly Asian tourists buying wool related products. The flow was pitiful, the place would be empty and then one or two people would pass down and it was odds against whether they'd make it 20 feet before being drawn into a shop. It was a challenge, the longest slow-build test, in which you might work for 30 minutes to gather and keep a minimum of 10 people for an audience. The slow build is one of my talents as I can exist in character without attention. I'm self sufficient in that way as my clown justifies it's existence easier than I do, pointless boredom being more comfortable with makeup and stilts than otherwise. Still I struggled, managing one or two shows an evening, earning just enough for the required liquids, beer and petrol. Marking time.

Tourists are displaced by nature. I suppose I should identify with them but I don't. My ideal is to perform in places where my gift transforms ordinary places in peoples everyday lives into something briefly uplifting and the production of unexpected laughter in public places has been my chosen vocation.

To illustrate;

The most profound compliment I ever received was a shy man who sought me out after my show in a large city and meekly admitted that he had not left his house for some time but had forced himself to re-enter the world that particular day. He thought it important enough to admit to me that I had made him laugh and what's more he was driven to seek me out and thank me for showing him he still could. I wept, I actually sobbed with the joy of mattering moments later hidden down an alley.

Tourists are divorced from the everyday already. To them I'm simply 'entertainment', competing with all the other experiences that are strands of a quilt their disposable incomes are invested in to briefly disguise their lives modulated captivity. Still, in Queenstown I did what I could in the county of my birth to defiantly add my tiny thread to their patterns and in turn I forsook gratitude for amusement and got paid whatever my shallow distraction was worth.

Much like Queenstown itself this story could be seen as a pointless aimless distraction.

Although some crisp morning as you sit alone by the lake and gaze up to the towering mountains that surround you with the shale that flows from them as the mountains themselves melt on a timescale that renders our species as predominant and relevant as lint, the enormity that surrounds can make the seemingly unremitting cacophonous cultural and personal insignificant static of your own bipedal computer, as it tries to grasp meaning within and beyond itself, briefly cease.

Insignificance can in it's own way be liberating and I believe within laughter lies this shared celebrated truth. Dignity dashed, unforeseen circumstantial twists, sudden departures from routine. These are all clues.

That I can share this thought is, if anything I suppose, my point.

We are not here long.