The Grafton I first encountered in the early 90s was hardly the most savoury place in Central Auckland, but was by all accounts a substantially different from the neighbourhood that had seen punks throwing themselves off the iconic bridge, and Baxter entering the commune in Boyle Street. It still smelled of history though.

Today the past of the neighbourhood is erased under the weight of SUVs, apartments and expensive ‘restored’ houses, but then I could still feel the impress of my parent’s footprints in the grass of the Auckland Domain. I could still make the walk to Albert Park, the centre of New Zealand’s modest student revolution, and laze beneath the trees and palms. I was a long, long way from the 1970s, but I was 21 and living in my father’s skin, just for a time, to see what and how he might have felt.

Lonely was my impression. Auckland has never been a forgiving place, and the winters, while not as bitter as my experiences of heavily concreted Wellington, were damp and brooding. But still I saw the ongoing hardship of the street peoples there, and knew all too well what it was to be hungry and addled. And that is what I thought life then must have been. From reading of Baxter I know that he lived there a relatively short time before my father did, and the experiences of the young addicts in the Boyle Street commune must have also been his. The increasing police surveillance. The final ostracisation from a bewildered mainstream Auckland. The political foment as ideas were thrown up every day to challenge the status quo.

It was into all this my mother followed my uncle to the big smoke, and it on Carlton-Gore Street she must have met my father, she the liberated woman, he the liberated son. Pretentions about their affair I have not. Having been the young man I know all too well how confusing the flatting and student scene can be, how transient the friendships and living arrangements. I do wonder of the romance of it all though, from time to time. My examination of their pasts does lead to wonder – had things been different? Only to dismiss the idea as a child’s idealisation.

The fact is that my father was becoming increasingly sick, his dislocation from society almost irreconcilable, his entry to that subculture usually attracting the attention of the Law, permanent.

But, from this melange of history, this dare I say it, crucible of the changes that made New Zealand what it was in the 80s and 90s, I emerged – doubtless wailing (as appropriate). Although, there was something of an interlude that in itself became deeply formative to me. Because while my father descended more deeply into what became an all-encompassing lifestyle, my mother once again followed my uncle, this time away to Balmain, Sydney, another centre of the revolution, and it was there, in 1971, that I was born.

F,FLP

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