The pleasures of going nowhere while most of Auckland takes a break.
Auckland summers begin as slowly as traffic crawling on the Southern Motorway at the start of a long weekend. I savour the few weeks where it feels I have the city to myself, those weeks when many have decided to enjoy their summer elsewhere. The quiet beauty of a city mostly abandoned, the streets empty — coming alive later in the day, but still sleepy.
Shops are open, but almost sheepishly. I work through the break, but it doesn’t feel too much like work. There is a kind of camaraderie among those of us who remain, the leftovers. The office is quiet but cheerful. We eat our way through old Christmas mince pies and gifted boxes of Roses chocolates. We only complain at the sluggish way time seems to move — exclusively between the hours of nine and five — or when our favourite coffee shops shut on public holidays.
Auckland never seems smaller than when everyone else is away. The travel from South Auckland to the CBD is never quicker. Parking never more plentiful. A jaunt to a West Auckland beach never more logical, though the idea is rarely followed through. It’s also at this time, when I’d expect to be most lonely or alone, that I connect with more Aucklanders than ever.
During that lazy haze, there is a jolt of energy, a party called Shenanigan, a gathering where for me, the internet and real life collide. Auckland’s best rap and r’n’b DJs play deep 90s cuts alongside tracks that dropped just a couple of days ago, yet somehow everyone knows them.
Half-joking requests for songs from the Moana soundtrack are fired off a few days before via Twitter. Ethan James, one of the DJs, obliges and people lose their minds. For a few hours on a Sunday, it’s a community gathering made up of people with shared musical and social interests, who prefer to wear socks and scuffs or sneakers to the club and have a mutual appreciation for late-night Spicy House egg-fried rice. It is where Twitter buddies become IRL mates over an icy mojito, a favourite song on the dancefloor, or a $100 tray of accidentally dropped drinks. It is the birthplace of many an in-joke to last us through the year. It’s where a sprawling Auckland starts to shrink, and I feel more connected than ever.
But that is just a short burst of activity, followed by the final few days of Auckland at its relaxed best. Before the people and the traffic return, before the city begins to stretch out again, I start to take the train again, and time becomes much scarcer. Workmates talk of their breaks, the things they did on holiday. I can barely account for anything I did in those first few weeks of summer. I just know it’s the best time to be in Auckland.