Mark Tanner - Adventurer, Writer and Amateur Beatboxer



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South of the Border

24 November 1998


With my freshly nuggeted footy boots slung over my shoulder, gripping my stubbies firmly in one hand and my gear-bag in the other, I eagerly approached the serene, tree framed field ready for my first rugby training since Wellington's mild winter of '98. The venue was Kitsilano Park, the team was the Meraloma 3rds ( and the evening air was getting dark and chilly.


Kial, a guy I met from Invercargill, took me along and introduced me to the relatively large team of strapping lads made up of Auzzies, Poms, Irish and Scots, with about a dozen token Canadians. I was immediately placed into the vacant loose head prop position, partly by choice and partly because the other positions I was keen to try - flanker or No.8, already had about 10 others vouching for the spots.


Training seemed to be fairly similar to that of your typical kiwi footy practice until we took to the scrum machine for some grinding forward work. Normally this wouldn't have been too bad, but the prized machine was about as similar to a New Zealand scrum machine as a vinyl covered bed base, so this made the exercise that much more interesting. I managed to negotiate a technique with the contraction, and after a big 20-or-so 'heeves' we rolled the mechanism back to it's resting-place.


To top off the good, hard training run, me and my newly found team-mates refreshed ourselves with some of the local ales at the 'Georgian mansion styled' clubhouse elegantly bracing the side of the park, topped off with a few more brews at a pub around the corner. The guys were bloody friendly and made me feel very welcome. I even got the big history lesson from one of the grey-haired old boys trying to relive his rugby playing youth.


Unfortunately due to excessive weather conditions, the grounds were closed for play over the weekend, so I haven't got any 90 metre try stories to write home about yet. Apparently rugby season pauses for a 10-week 'Christmas break' very soon. I hope to have a run before then, so I get a get my boots muddy one more time in 1998.


About a five minute walk towards the coast from the Meraloma's home ground is my new flat, where Tipu the Scot, McCracken from Australia (until he leaves Canada) and myself will become the proud occupiers, as of December 1st. The flat is a spacious 2-bedroom suite, in the basement a sweet old wooden cottage right in the heart of the Kitsilano Beach area, which is called the 'Melrose Place' of Vancouver. It's about a 5-minute walk from the beach, a 2-minute walk from some shops, pubs and restaurants and I am predicting about a scenic 3-km walk to the heart of town.


Our new land lady, an old Italian lady living on her own in a small place above us, is very sweet and lovely and seems to be a lot of fun. I think she could be a bit crazy, when we went to look at the place, we ended up sitting around her piano singing songs. When we returned a week later to pay the bond and rent in advance, we spent a good 30 minutes listening to Latin love songs and bouncing and kicking balls around her lounge - which is cluttered with lots of breakable little knickknacks. Although she seems to be a few sandwiches short, she has a big heart, and has promised to regularly have us up for real Italian styled lasagna. My Italian vocabulary is also improving.


On the way to his big European Vacation, Mr. Haines stopped off for a week in Vancouver. It was bloody good to see his familiar face and receive the precious gifts that he had carted from the other side of the world from the Tanners and the de Feijters (thanks again). After a passionate greeting, Nicholas and I had a little look around the municipality of Vancouver. Unfortunately it was a grey day, so Haines didn't get to see Vancouver and her snow covered mountains in all of their splendor.


Haines entertained himself in the rain for a couple of days while I was slaving in front of a screen at work. When we met each evening, he shared stories of almost getting run over crossing the street and getting lost in the unfamiliar areas, which reminded me a lot of my early time here.


While here, Nick and myself had dinner and a few beers at a couple of the nudey bars that Vancouver has on offer. After having attended Liks in Wellington just a few days before, Nick was very impressed with the girls and fell in love about half a dozen times. The next night we had a few beers with a few of the mates from work at The Roxy, described by Haines as "Vancouver's Loaded Hog". We made our way home reclining on the leather interior of a long limousine, just like movie stars.


We rose early the next morning for a 10am departure to travel South of the border to the land of the hamburger, super highways and cheesy daytime soaps. It was everything you'd expect, as we drove by on the interstate - Mega Malls and star spangled banners popping up every where.


Our first night in the States was in Seattle where Mr. Haines and myself went to a few of the pubs in Pioneer Square, apparently where some of the big grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana started singing on their long road to becoming rock stars. We met the band performing in one of the pubs. A four peace band, whose lead singer was a blind-man. They were pretty good, and some of their originals were fairly harmonic, but I don't think you'll be hearing them on 91ZM's top 8 at 8. Haines put his name down to go on their fan club emailing list, and was given their debut CD for free. We ended up eating dinner at 3:30 in the morning with some friendly Americans at a 24-hour diner.


The next day we saw a few of the tourist spots in this neat city, which Haines informed me were settings in his favourite movie, Sleepless in Seattle.


The next and final stop on our tour of the Pacific NorthWest was Mark Schiller's resident town of Vancouver, Washington. Not knowing what to expect of him after a long absence, I was pleasantly surprised to see that he was just about exactly the same as when he left, except with an even cheesier accent and a more expensive car insurance policy.


We caught up where we left off while traveling home in the Lexus. Upon reaching the stereotypical American Suburbia neighbourhood, we were treated to the most sensational steak dinner with dessert ever, proudly cooked by Jerri Beeman and her barbecue assistant, Mark Schiller. The night entailed a lot of laughing and joking about old times, and then on request of his two guests, Schiller took us to some of Portland's premium nudey bars. Although the format was somewhat different than Canada's exotic bars, we picked up the traits very quickly, with help from the tour guide Mark Schiller, who obviously was blessed with a lot of experience in such surroundings.


After a much deserved sleep-in the next day, we were given a guided tour of the beautiful Columbia Gorge and it's many spectacular waterfalls. It was a truly beautiful time of the year with many of the trees changing colour. To relax after a hard day of sight seeing, Schiller took us to some local Country and Western pub with a live band and a parking lot fill of big utes. Haines described it sarcastically as the "a-typical American bar". We drunk Bud and played some darts and pool, but probably the funniest part of the night was when Haines almost got his face rearranged by a cowboy hat, cowboy boot, leather vest wearing urban cowboy who didn't take to kindly to his Kenny Rogers comments in the rest rooms.


I'm looking very forward to return to our very hospitable hosts at Christmas time for what I am predicting to be one of the finest feasts ever.


To finish my citation, I thought that I would chuck in some trivial things:


* Chased a skunk around the neighbourhood the other night, and got some very smelly little stink bombs fired at us.
* Met the actor who plays Lurch, the Butler ("You called...") in the Adams Family TV series at the pub. He was a classic bugger, who had the scary laugh down to a tee. He was a towering 6'9" and 275 lb.
* Stumbled across a girl at a Halloween party, who's father was from Yemen (c.f. Chandler from Friends) and her mother was from Epuni, Lower Hutt.


Vancouver and the Columbian Gorge in Oregon/Washington in Autumn







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