Originally published August 5, 2008
This will be the final part in the epic Chronicles of Mordor series.
"Delightful," says the New York Times.
"Insouciant," says the New Yorker.
"Shallow and pedantic," says Peter Griffin.
"Three stars," says CBS' Steve Sears.
Unfortunately, the big wigs were not as pleased. The ratings were putrid. You guys really let me down. They suggested a few casting changes and I flatly refused. They wanted Paul Giamatti as me, Dame Judi Dench as Zach and Jonathan Lipnicki as Monica. I did not want such stunt casting in my little venture, so they gave me one last parting shot before banishing me to the writers' room of the Bill Engvall Show.
Let's get started. We braved some car problems in Queenstown and went out to peruse the night scene. The All-Blacks were playing the England Sillynannies in rugby and all the places were packed. We slipped into one bar, where Zach continued his Joe DiMaggio-type streak of suggesting terrible alcoholic drinks for me. He then played Monica in an epic game of pool where they got in each other's faces and danced around the table in an effort to distract the other while I tried to play as many Pearl Jam songs on the Jukebox as possible. If you're wondering, I think Cobra Kai Hosseini won the match.
We left for Christchurch on a Sunday morning as Zach profanely complained that New Zealanders ate at cafés too much. (We couldn't find a seat in any of Queenstown's 433 cafes.) You see, Q-Town was the touristiest place I saw in New Zealand. All-Blacks shirts cost about $100 dollars and everyone seemed to come out of an Old Navy commercial, with their cutesy winter clothing and smiling faces. I don't like smiling faces. But it's a cool place, and if you don't mind the 16 hour flight and you really want a $400 All-Blacks eye patch, you should go.
Then it was off to Christchurch, via Arthur's Pass. Arthur's Pass is a national park with tall mountains (as opposed to the short ones) and the road goes basically up to the top. We were literally driving through clouds. Christchurch was the most cosmopolitan city I saw, but the city was pretty empty. Walk around after 8 p.m. and it's as empty as …wait for it…the Rhode Island Mall!! Boarded up shops, construction sites and tumbleweeds marked the streets of that fine, British-looking city.
However, what I'll remember most about that part of the trip was an unfortunate excursion to an Indian restaurant. I like to eat normal food. I have my tastes, but even I took some leaps during the trip. I had some guacamole, a kabob and sushi. That wasn't enough. Here's how the typical food decisions went.
"What should we eat," Monica asks.
"Hmm, I've heard of this one place that serves possum testicles and nachos," Zach puffs while twirling his metrosexual scarf. (EDITOR'S NOTE: This is my favorite sentence that I have ever written.)
"That sounds gross," Steve says. "And do possums even have testicles?"
"I don't know," Zach answers. "But if I go to such a place it will add to my already noxious air of superiority because I eat adventurous foods while watching English Premier League soccer games. I'm so European." (EDITOR'S NOTE: This is my second favorite.)
And I'm helpless. So we go to this Indian place and it's basically empty and we're escorted past the tables to a couch and given a wine menu. Again, they probably do this so when it's crowded, you wait for a seat and feel inclined to order some wine. (We had already done our elitist wine drinking in Queenstown.) They were trying to bilk our money right from the start. Then the waitress comes over and describes to us what a menu is, and what an appetizer is, and that the beverage section means drinks and so forth. She failed to tell us that you put the food in your mouth and chew.
I forget what I ordered, but I asked for the rice thinking it came with the chicken. which looked like diarrhea on a plate. Once I finished, only able to eat half of what I ordered, I found that they billed me for both the plain rice and the gross chicken. That was the final straw. The Schaible Face appeared. For those who don't know, that's a stone-cold face of rage. Sure, I should have read the menu more carefully, but I was in a huff. Zach had to buy me a fine glass of wine to sooth me over, much like a mother buys a chocolate bar for a crying toddler.
We didn't spend much more than a day and a half there. Our last day contained an epic rainstorm and balls-freezing wind that makes you question your will to live. If that didn't work, then you could go to a record store and find $36 dollar CDs. Shiver.
Zach and I boarded a bus back to Dunedin, leaving Monica alone on a cold, deserted street. Actually, she went on her own way. Little did she know that she would miss the opportunity of a lifetime, a Sears discovery that rivals Columbus and Newton. The bus made a stop at a tiny restaurant/convenience store where I discovered, to my amazement, a bottle of coffee milk.
Yes, the greatest beverage known to man. The liquid of the gods. The label read "Iced Coffee" but it sure looked like coffee milk to me. And it was. Delicious. One of the highlights of the trip. I found coffee milk in fucking New Zealand yet can't find it in Florida. That has to change.
Zach and I did not do much in our last day back in Dunedin. We watched some Sopranos episodes, made pizza and dealt with more car issues. Then the time came to part as I headed back to my big-time job with CBSSports.com while Zach faced an uncertain future living in a guys basement whose wife was about to give birth. After we said our goodbyes at the airport, he walked away and I … shot him in the back.
And that's that. A trip unlike any other. It was relaxing, for the most part, and memorable. I took some great pictures, met a person who lived with Zach for more than a month and retained her sanity, and saw Zach wear the same pair of gym shorts for 13 days in a row. The more things change … well, you know.
Cheers, New Zealand!
(Screen goes black, and then opens on KIM BAUER waking up from bed. She looks a bit concerned and confused. A copy of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Card Cabal lies on the nightstand. She walks into the bathroom to find STEVE SEARS, his gigantic biceps and pectorals glistening after a hot shower. He steps out and Bauer clutches on to him.)
Kim: I just had the strangest dream. You traveled all the way to New Zealand and you ate a burger made out of deer meat. And this annoying guy wouldn't shut up about his stupid basketball team and kept saying "fried cheese" and his female friend had never been to Europe. Europe! It was awful.
Steve: (embracing her) It's OK. It's OK. (He pauses and looks into the camera.) What's New Zealand?