Friday, May 20, 2016

On the road

Dominion Road is bending
Under its own weight, shining like a strip
Cut from a sheet metal plate
'Cause it's just been raining

The home strip. The main drag. The road to home and the launch-pad to the Moon. Dominion road has had the same significance to me as Jiangnan Xi in Guangzhou or Hobsonville Road in, well, Hobsonville, or dare I say it, Goudie Road in Helensville. Dominion Road is unique in Auckland for being so straight, it's a wonder it's congested so easily. It has delightfully had a song sung about it.

Jane reached the point where she knew
What it meant before he opened his mouth
He couldn't say them same
Or he'd have guessed she was moving south
With one of his friends

Beyond the time and familiarity I have with Dominion Road, there's also the cultural connection that makes it a warm place for me: It really is Auckland's equivalent of Chinatown. This in itself was a development. When I started university if you had to name a place of Chinese settlement most would say Howick (AKA Chowick) in a heartbeat. But the first year of my university also marked the opening of the floodgates of Mainland migration to Auckland. Howick was the one of the natural destinations for Hong Kong, Macanese and Taiwanese migrants, but Mt Roskill and Mt Albert became the place for the formerly those who Deng Xiaoping was a fairly recent memory. And their restaurants flourished. Unlike the "safe", perhaps localised, cuisine of the earlier Chinese restaurants, these ones pitched their food for Chinese culinary sensibilities. As a result, coming back from Guangzhou so freshly I can vouch for it being pretty authentic. Also unlike earlier restaurants, many stick to their regional guns, too. So instead of the same variety of regional dishes, you'd have some that go deeply into the repertoire for a particular province. I melted as I devoured fried soup buns the other day, the kind that I don't even see much in Guangzhou. They're a specialty of Hangzhou and the surrounding eastern cities. Not that it's just Chinese food. My favourite western restaurants of Tasca and Cazador are always there for me to peer into, too.

But it's getting better now
He found it in him to forgive
He walked the city
And he found a place to live
In a halfway house
Halfway down Dominion Road
And it must be said, that the halfway house of the song is likely to be fictional, or perhaps dating from another era. Not that you can't imagine it being there, a place to the unfortunate, a place to get back on the straight and simple. It might be unfortunate that the sound of "dominion" were close to the sounds of misfortune, daomei, in Chinese. It's thus widely called Daomei Lu (Misfortune Street) by students at my school. I remember the news on my arrival back in New Zealand that the council chose not to give it an official Chinese name Duomei Lu (Street of Much Beauty, perhaps Splendour Street). 
As he watched Jane's brother sell the house
He felt no sense of loss
More like a mountain climber
Looking back having made it across
The steepest face

The way I pay tribute to it is with walking and running. And running is something I've managed to slowly get back into. The tendonitis that began in late September 2015 is only just disappearing in May 2016. At my physio, on Dominion Road of course, I learned the Way of the Inflamed Heel, which is namely to build up its strength and work it with more and more intensity. You work the inflammation out, as counter-intuitive as that sounded. The funny thing is that now that I'm running longer (12 kilometres being my longest) it's not the heel that's the problem but all the other parts of my leg that are scrambling to get used to the impact running brings. They're taking turns one by one to report back into action, while the apparently chronically injured one says nothing of pounding the pavement until a day later while I'm sitting in the office.

But he's still climbing
See him trying to cross the street
He checks his footing
Like he was up ten thousand feet
Above the the clouds
Halfway down Dominion Road

I hope that I keep pounding the street both in running and walking and celebrate a road that changes.

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