Dreams Love Fucking Life Near Death and Some Other Shit (Part One)


The 2020 New Year reformatted version.


A true story by D.A.Steel.

Sometimes it feels like the ghosts of the past are all about and crowding in, vying for space and recognition. They are no longer content to be kept down there in the dark. They have been there too long. They are angry and gathering strength and calling for attention. They’re clawing their way into the future, and will be waiting there. Have I remembered them enough? Have I honoured them sufficiently? Have I done my best to keep them alive?”

-Nick Cave

Take my hand, we’re off to never-never land…

Read it and weep…


Dedication 4th June 2017

To the memory of Chris Cornell.

Requiem For A Voice Of My Generation

Dreams I told of 97, an XX anniversary, but it started last year, wallowing in my own obscenities, sitting like wet ashes with X’s in my eyes and drawing flies. Bathed in perspiration to drown my enemies, I used my inspiration for a guillotine and fired a loaded mental cannon to the page.

I shared it with few for no relief. So many tales screamed still for release and my spring brought no renewal. Many secrets have me, many secrets I have, but is it only a matter of time? Did I finally decide there’s nowhere to hide and really no reason why? It was XV years ago today, that day, but who reads and who bleeds and who cares what they say? So back in the box and to a bed where I lay, wallowing in my own obscenities, sitting here like wet ashes with X’s in my eyes and drawing flies.

Lying in my bed, half dead, some weeks ago, a phoney film Hendrix put a song into my head. A true tale of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

It was 20 years ago today…not today.

It was 20 years ago today…not today.

It was 20 years ago today…go away!

And then, still lying in my bed I read…Chris Cornell. And the truth was too real.

It was less than weeks, truly only days before that I’d sat just there on the floor….Christ no!

Last year the man, not just the music, entered my head. Reflections, special connections. The chance to use his words, proud homage, a reason to be heard. In Dreams I wrote of my mind riot, at long last, it took me many years. Had he taken only one? Like he wrote about me, but how it could be? Would be? Do you know? I never heard the half of it.

A voice of my generation. True the sound of his singing reached us all. Soundgarden was a place I never stopped and sat, until post-millennium madness became my rusty cage. I found a space to lie and listen and that sound from the past called to be present. Badmotorfinger spun my gears, sparking more than memories of raining ice picks, it hit like a phillips head into my brain and wired me awake. Charged drunk I found I could sing with a voice I could rejoice and there were good times when I cried!

Breaking from my cage I ran, lost in the cities, alone in the hills, desperately seeking a dry warm cave, and Audioslave played, and before the last remaining light there were sad times when I cried. And that was enough. Superunknown was left on the shelf. Of course I knew his Black Hole Sun, and that was enough.

Years passed. I found that comfortable cave and kept a fire alive. The passion of youthful exuberance, pure vision, and shameless honesty was what mattered most to me. It was louder than love, and I loved playing it loud! And no longer were there times when I cried.

And then the roof caved in. So now to here, where for so many weeks I been lying, dying, lying, readying to meet the end. Behind my closed door I’d knelt on the floor, bedsheet twisting tight, testing might. It hurt too much. And then it was him! Was it me? This is all true. This is what it’s like, my “insanity”. And there are hard times when I cry.

And Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came calling again, singing something about getting high with a little help from my friends.

It was 20 years ago today, and

I won’t save it for another day

We’re all in this together forever

I hope this helps to light your way.

Das Steel  4/06/2017

Get on the snake where the metal river bleeds

Get on the snake where you never will believe

Hey baby what’s your disease?

My heart’s bleeding

I’m dying to leave

-Chris Cornell



Dreams Love Fucking Life Near Death and Some Other Shit

Part One

A Pipe Dream Sparks?

Draft 1.7: 2018 Dream No More

(First Draft: 2016/17 Broken, Beat and Scarred)



Winter 1997: Nelson, Aotearoa NZ

Mark had come to couch-surf at mine and Yasmine’s wee one bedroom flat. Excellent! I was on my own. Yasmine was in Kuala Lumpur. She’d scored a break.

Mark ‘Schaf’ Schafer was living the dream. He wanted to design and build a helicopter. He was studying the theory component of the commercial helicopter pilot licence at a private school in Motueka and had been renting a room out on an orchard on his own.

I didn’t have a dream. I was still on the search. I had a love of the mountains, adventure, and exploration, which had dominated my life, but I wasn’t interested in the outdoor recreation industry. Now in my mid-twenties I’d finally chosen a career path and was doing the one-year pre-apprentice carpentry course at the polytech. I was into it, it was all good.

But I was poor and a bit lonely, so I was stoked that Mark came to stay. He put in for rent and we could share food and cooking. He was resourceful and good at it. He was resourceful and good at everything. I knew this from the previous winter when Yasmine and I lived with him and some other friends bumming a ski season at Arthur’s Pass. But that wasn’t only why I was pleased about it.

Schaf always seemed to me to be some kind of modern-day Germanic warrior legend. He was big and solidly built with a naturally chiselled physique. His skiing style was powerfully spectacular. He rode telemark skis, low and strong, exploding through his turns, annihilating anything that lay in his way, be it powder, crud or ice. This was combined with a ‘strong silent type’ personality, but he could talk, which was good because you could discuss things in-depth with him and he was highly intelligent, highly skilled and highly motivated. Scoring a few weeks of one-on-one time with him was a gift.

Arthur’s Pass 1996, Skier: Schaf, Photo: Das, Lens Flare: Gods know?

Yasmine had been gone for many weeks. She was tutoring law at a private college in KL where Nelson Polytech was selling a business and commerce degree course to students desperate for an international qualification and who couldn’t afford to get one at a better university. Before they came to Nelson they would do a few papers including business law. Yasmine applied for some tutoring work at the polytech when we settled in Nelson and when the previous tutor in KL quit suddenly, they called Yaz, and in a rush she was gone.

It wasn’t a career move for her, but it was going to be good professional experience and some decent money. She had travelled around Thailand a few years earlier, so it was no great adventure. It was the polytech that had lucked in. The intelligent, hardworking, personable, gorgeous, light skinned, long strawberry blonde locked, half Libyan, Yasmine Ali El Orfi was sure to be a shining star for the Malaysian school.

I missed her. I missed her badly. It was worse than I expected. We’d been together for two and a half years and had spent almost every night together except for a couple of weeks the previous year.

After the winter at Arthur’s Pass we decided to try living in sunny beautiful Nelson where I could enrol in a polytech carpentry course and Yaz could possibly get tutoring work. Like me she was still unsure what her career path was going to be. She had a law degree but was being pulled by her artistic interests and Nelson has a vibrant arts community.

When we first got into town we enrolled at the Work and Income office and got directed out to a local orchard for work. Thinning apples. $8.50 per hour. It drove me nuts. After a couple of weeks I was going insane.

Yaz was okay. Like many people she could just get in a zone and beaver away each day. She started painting in the evenings which was great. I was loving her work, a landscape reminiscent of Arthur’s Pass, in a distinctive cartoon style using acrylics thick like oils. She was talented in many ways. I always felt privileged to have her for my best friend. It was pleasing to see her pursuing her own interests.  I was aware that she’d always been on my ride and I felt it was important for a partner to have some pursuits away from your own.

Before we hooked up I was working as a cycle courier in Wellington, living with my olds, saving money and thinking vaguely about a solo 12-18 month cycle touring trip around South America and up to The States. But I had some success racing the local cross-country mountain bike series that year and was keen to see if I had what it took to move up to the expert class at national events. I was scheduled for shoulder surgery in the spring so wouldn’t be racing that summer. I wasn’t committing to either idea, my skiing still needed a lot of work too.

I was having surgery because I’d torn my shoulder when I put my foot through a snow bridge into a crevasse on a ski mountaineering trip and some months later dropped my chain sprinting in an MTB race and went OTB (over the bars) and bust my collarbone and it got weak. Then it kept dislocating and getting stuck half out of the socket when I was climbing and skiing multiple times and I had to give up rock climbing and it was getting too risky to ski in the backcountry.

Yaz and I got together just before my surgery. We were workmates. Bikes 34 Daz and 36 Yaz. We’d become good friends quite quickly after she lured me in one day announcing on the radio that she was at the Electricity Corporation with a chocolate coated banana lolly if anyone wanted it. I was close and immediately replied “34’s Treasury, I’ll see you there in one.”  I was lying. I was actually a long way up The Terrace, coasting down the steep hill at high speed on my shitty old work bike with bad brakes, passing cars and dodging taxis and delivery vehicles and office workers scurrying across the road, while talking into my radio with one hand, as you do. I didn’t want anyone trying to race me for that banana lolly. I needed to crank it.

I’d only worked with Yaz for a few days. She’d worked for our company in the past before I’d begun. We had a sister company that was all female and Yaz was the only woman who rode on our team. She was sharp and fit and she was cute too. I wanted to get to know her. I had to be quick. I didn’t want her to know I lied about my location and I wanted to be there in the blink of an eye, like “Ta-da!”

Showtime! I put it in the big ring and spun it out. The Terrace ran downhill to where it ended at Bowen Street at the base of the Beehive (parliament), across the road from the Treasury. The lights were already green, uh oh, I was still a few hundred metres out, they were going to change. I had to commit or brake. The lights went orange. It was do or do not, there was no try.

Cycle couriers’ breaking the law was Wellington’s favourite whinge. We were frequently discussed and portrayed in the media as red light running, pedestrian endangering, inconsiderate anarchists who must be policed at all costs. We weren’t all that bad. The reality was probably more that the capital city was overpopulated by self-righteous squares who had it so good that a bunch of young people getting paid to wear lycra and ride bicycles around town were their public enemy number one.

Yeeah boyyy! I flew through the red light, laying it into the right hander, faster than I ever had before, doubtlessly exceeding the 50kph speed limit. So fast no one had time to see me coming, and I was gone before the drivers who were taking off at the lights had neither time nor need to react. The pedestrian crossing at the Cenotaph was clear, so I sailed through the left hander without feeding anyone’s hunger for righteous indignation, and rolled up to Rutherford House in serious oxygen debt and did my best to breathe normally and then not talk like I was doing a bad impression of Mickey Mouse while I became friends with the coolest girl I’d ever met.

We soon started meeting for lunch, taking turns to bring fancy homemade sandwiches or pizza or cookies to share. I was very impressed by her. She was very smart, like me, but even smarter. She was in the last year of her law degree and had it sorted.

We had very similar ideas about lots of things and the world in which we lived. Talking with her was stimulating and fun and exciting. Things I’d been feeling about life would crystallise into thoughts. I’d been captain of my school debating team and she was about to graduate from law and together we worked like a team at considering all the angles on everything. It seemed like we were riding ahead of the zeitgeist, above the spheres of culture and counterculture. I’d ride away from our discussions on a high with an enhanced sense of my own potential. She was something special.

We socialised with other workmates, including my best mate and Yasmine started to hang with us and our friends. We had loads of fun. She mountain biked too. We went for a ride. Wow, she was good. When things got to the stage that I couldn’t stop thinking about her I was too scared to talk to her about it because I didn’t want to jeopardise the awesome friendship I had. I couldn’t tell if she felt the same way about me. She was thinking the same thing. Finally one night at a fun tequila party it became obvious and she took me home to her bed.

The summer after my surgery I wanted to go for a South Island mountain bike tour to regain my fitness. Yaz was keen and I helped her get set up and we hit it. She didn’t need much gear, just a cheap rack and panniers. I had a good two person tent and stove and stuff. She was strong for her size and had a lot of grit. We rode for a month doing some big days and monster climbs that pushed her to her limits. It was very cool having a girlfriend with her capabilities. She wanted to join me in a sports oriented lifestyle. She’d competed in lots of sports at school and obviously cycling was now a big thing for her.

I had some cool friends in The States who I’d met when I bummed a ski season in Wanaka the winter before last and I kept in touch through the mail. A couple lived in New Mexico and another in a small ski town in the Colorado Rockies that was gaining some renown as an MTB destination. I had the idea of going there for a summer and riding and racing and then coming home to work on the road again and race the nationals come our summer. Yaz loved the idea and we did it. We went for four months and had a fantastic time.

Yaz showed considerable potential and I wanted to support her as much as I could. I had a couple more grand USD than her and suggested that we buy her one of that season’s top-of-the-line Specialized Stumpjumpers that was an ex-rental demo bike being sold at the local store which she had ridden. It was mint, already ridden-in and perfectly maintained and was half what it would cost in NZ if you could even get one. She insisted she was going to pay me back. I didn’t care, I wanted to give her everything.

Back home when summer came we travelled down south with our best mate to race the nationals. After the first race we all decided we had much more fun travelling around and just riding than going to races, so we did. They were the true halcyon days of summer. We were young, carefree and loving life. Back in Welly we lived at Yaz’s mum’s place for minimal board and saved for our next adventure.

Winter was coming and it was time to ski again. I had invested a fair amount of time and money into skiing, including some painfully uncomfortable months getting my shoulder fixed. I had become a proficient skier but hadn’t scored much powder and wanted a proper sniff. Through the Wellington grapevine Mark had heard that I was keen on a season with a backcountry emphasis. We knew each other but weren’t in contact. Mark tracked down my number and rang when I was there, which was very lucky because I seldom was. He’d lined up a small bach at Arthur’s Pass for the winter for $80 a week that could sleep five people. The small club ski area an hour’s hike above the pass was offering public season passes for the first time for less than $200. It was on.

Yasmine was very fortunate to have such an opportunity to quickly and cheaply learn mountaincraft and skiing off-piste and in the backcountry. Mark and I were experienced skilled mountaineers and Mark was an exceptionally good skier. She got fitted out with gear. I helped her score some second-hand skis and boots and touring bindings which were extremely rare to find. I had extra crampons and an ice axe. We had to buy her some clothing, an avalanche transceiver and snow shovel and climbing skins for her skis. I scored a car. Mum and Dad’s old Mitsi was getting a bit rusty to pass too many more roadworthy tests, and Dad had a work car, so they passed it on to me. We went south and again had a fun successful time.

We were done with cycle couriering. The pressure was on me to pursue a career. Some friends, like Mark, were working on developing practical skillsets in things like sewing, mechanics and engineering and it was inspiring. I decided on building, recognising that I liked physical work outdoors and when I was a kid I was a keen Lego architect and had been up to the varsity when I was at high school to check out the architecture department. Yasmine had her law degree, but all she’d done since she finished it was join me in making the most of a young New Zealander’s bohemian mountain sports lifestyle while one could.

I pondered all that while I thinned apples. Yeah, it sure was nice to see Yasmine starting to paint and do her own thing. The only thing I had going on besides thinning apples was that I’d perfected pulling a handbrake skid to park my Mitsi between the workers’ cottage and the fence. I honed some driving skills that year up The Pass and I could get it sideways when coming in hot and release the brake with perfect timing to glide gently to a stop in the narrow parking space with the finesse of 007. After another week of thinning apples I was losing my shit.

While lost in the endless rows of tedium something else that burned in my mind was the pain I had been feeling recently. It was a pain in my heart that was always there somewhere and springtime especially I would think about it.

When I was 17 my climbing partner and best mate was a bright shining superstar named Martin. We’d just learned how to climb and in the summer attempted our first peak in The Southern Alps. Martin wanted to tackle the mighty grand Mt Aspiring which was a bold first target. We did it.

Postcard by Craig Potton Publishing. Photo: Craig Potton

Martin was 25. He had a master’s degree in engineering and worked for the government’s Department of Science and Industrial Research’s Applied Mathematics Department up at the varsity. Among many things, he was an accomplished musician, a violinist who had toured internationally with the National Youth Orchestra and had played in a professional string quartet. He was very fit and had a vibrant personality and a great sense of humour.

Martin Rowe in Colin Todd Hut, Mt Aspiring, Jan 1990. Photo: Das Steel

We met on our hiking club’s alpine instruction course and were partnered up. We immediately made a great team. Our personalities were complimentary and we regarded each other as equal which was something we both appreciated. Martin wrote a report for our club journal which he titled “Aspiring Novices”. He mentioned how he had convinced our other companion to vote against me when we had a disagreement about which route we should take down the glacier. “As we retraced our steps, after having become impossibly encircled by huge crevasses, Darryl informed us from the end of the rope that he wasn’t one to say “I told you so.””

We were successful together and formed a group of friends at the club and were extremely active through the next year doing trips nearly every weekend. The club was full of people who had been friends for decades with stories of trips from around the country and the world. That was our future and we loved it.

I was in my last year of high school and worked a job after school and during the holidays to make money for my adventures. I’d been a top ranking student at school, third highest grades, already qualified for university entrance, captain of the debating team, but I’d lost my ability to focus and study that year after Aspiring. I’d never been particularly studious and I’d reached the point where my IQ alone wasn’t enough and I needed to work on the exercises, but when I tried to sit down and study it was like a fire that was burning inside me would spread to my mind and I couldn’t concentrate.

My chemistry teacher, Mr Cockburn, knew it would happen. He was an old weirdo that I really liked. He had a wicked dry sense of humour and was cantankerous with an odd manner. There was a tale told around school that old Cock-burner used to be normal until his wife and children were killed in a car crash. He was also a hiker and we’d both been on a school trip and I’d come across him in the local mountains before. I enjoyed giving him cheek in class, probably as much as he enjoyed kicking me out of it. (“Steeel! Get outside!”) Despite having scored one of the best chemistry grades the previous year he wrote on my report “Next year Darryl will learn just how little he really knows.” Touché.

Eventually, after a lot of stress, I had to drop out from sitting exams and I just settled for finishing the year. I wasn’t too worried. I knew that when the time came for me to study I had an ace in the hole, someone who would love to be my perfect mentor and tutor. With Martin for my best mate I could never lose.

I got woken one Saturday morning in September in the club’s mountain lodge on the side of a volcano by my mate Connan. Martin was dead, killed the previous night in a car crash.

Connan woke me from a dream. It was some kind of boy’s own adventure gun battle scenario. The situation in the dream was vivid and the feelings and sensations were intense.  Me and the crew were pinned down behind cover and the enemy outnumbered us and they kept advancing. I was off to our left and started trying to crawl away in the hope of outflanking them, but I got stuck when my cover ran out and I was dangerously exposed and scared of being detected. Without me the crew were outgunned. I thought we were going to get slaughtered and it would be my fault, so I was getting ready to sacrifice myself by breaking cover to draw fire.  It was extremely tense and frightening. The dream had become a nightmare and I wanted to wake up and escape but I couldn’t. The others started to shoot the enemy down as they got closer and they stopped the advance. I was still in a bad position, and fretting that the crew would be thinking I had abandoned them, when Connan broke from cover and charged. It was a masterstroke! I did the same, outflanking the enemy with surprise and stopping them from retreating to cover. Instead they turned and ran and, exhilarated, we laid chase. That’s when I got woken.

Regardless of the dream it was exciting to wake up and see Connan sitting next to me. He was another super bright guy, an irrepressible character and the most exuberant of the crew.  And fit. We were all fit and strong but Connan was on like another level. He was in his early twenties and was an apprentice pastry chef. He was great fun to have around, the energy was fantastic, his addition to the crew made it start to feel like some kind of multifaceted dream team.

Connan Bolitho in Kime Hut, Tararua Forest Park, 1990. Photo: Das Steel

Martin and I first met him one afternoon at the rock climbing wall next to Wellington harbour. An old Triumph pulled up and these two guys got out. One was tall with bleached blonde hair and leopard skin tights and the other was short, dark and hairy. The big guy led a climb and then the short guy attempted it with a top rope. The crux was near the top and it was a move that was impossible for someone that short to reach without performing a monkey-esque leaping dyno. He impressively tried countless times but couldn’t stick it. We chatted to the big guy while he belayed and when they were done we all talked and introduced ourselves. The big guy was Connan. “Oh man, you’re Connan the Cunt Maker!” I blurted out, suddenly realising who he was. He was a bit taken aback until I explained that our mate TG Rambo Gates had told us what a great guy he was on a recent trip and how he’d been named for his professional cake making exploits. Connan started coming to club after that and I soon loved him like another special bro.

So I was totally stoked to open my eyes, waking with an intense high, and see Connan, thinking we were about to have a blast up the mountain, with our newly formed dream team, helping people learn how to build snow caves. Super stoked.

“Man, I was just having the most crazy dream about you…” I said excitedly before the look on his face and red eyes told me something was wrong.

Connan had been the first person to the scene of the crash. Martin was dead in the driver’s seat. His girlfriend was conscious in the seat next to him and Connan held her hand while they waited for the emergency services to come and cut them from the crumpled wreckage. And then it was Connan who came and broke the news to the best friend. I learned that morning what it means to truly feel gutted as I ran retching to the toilet.

Early the next year I got an unexpected phone call from Connan one night. He was experiencing mental health problems and didn’t know where to turn. I wanted to talk to him more about it later but couldn’t because he completely avoided me after that. I was a bit hurt but understood how painfully difficult everything was for us all. That Easter I went rock climbing up north and Connan went to The Alps on a club trip before attempting an audacious solo transalpine trip. He was never seen again. Gone without a trace.

Gods help me, I was only 18.

Connan Bolitho, Mt Ruapehu Summit Plateau, Jan 1991. Photo: Das Steel

I thought about it as I grovelled around the apple trees looking for clusters of recently formed apples to break apart. Fuck apples! I don’t even like fucking apples! I was caught in a mind riot, tied within, and needed to escape and get some peace. I felt a yearning to go and be alone in the mountains and pay homage to my lost brothers. I’d heard somewhere about a hike down the far West Coast where you took the coastline of Mt Aspiring National Park south of Haast down to Martin’s Bay in Fiordland National Park and came inland up the Hollyford Track to the road. There was some exceptionally good weather forecast.  It had to be done.

I told Yasmine she could do whatever she wanted, she could have the car, I needed to do this mish. I hitched down the West Coast, an adventure on its own, with good luck and a real cool ride or two. One of my first rides was in this big beautiful shiny blue classic car. A cool couple from up the North Island were doing their first road trip down south.

“Wow, really?” I said, “You guys are really lucky, you know, this weather is something special. This car’s pretty choice eh? I’ve never seen one before, what is it?”

Dude replied it was an American Motors Rebel, also called a Rambler Rebel. “Hey bro?” he asked, “You smoke weed?”

“Yeah bro,” I replied with a grin, “but I haven’t had any for ages.”

“Well it’s a bit early, but you wanna sesh? We don’t like driving stoned because this car makes us a target for getting pulled over by the cops, and it sucks when you’re red-eyed and paranoid eh? But now you’re here and Lynn wanted a drive anyway. That sweet-as Babe?”

“Yeah, no worries,” She replied, “it’s all good.”

“Cheers bro,” I replied, “that would be totally wicked.”

They did a cool driver-swap sliding across the bench seat and my man pulled out a fatty and sparked that sweet delicious Kiwi bud. I stretched out on the spacious back seat. It really was a beautiful day, sunny blue sky, lush green countryside and towering mountains. It was a beautiful country, beautiful people, a beautiful place to live. We were lucky. We rolled smoothly through the magical island in the Rambler Rebel and as my thoughts wandered to what I was doing there a song played in my mind and I giggled.

“…For now I smell the rain, and with it pain, and it’s heading my way…Ah, sometimes I grow so tired, but I know I got one thing I got to do…Ramble on, and now’s the time, the time is now…”

Hiking the wild west coast wilderness of Te Waipounamu, solo, was a serious undertaking. But I was supremely confident in my skills and ability. I was relaxed thinking about the trip and all I wondered was what special experiences I might be gifted.

Something strange happened when I got to hiking the isolated coastline a few days later. I’d get intense sensations that the ocean, which was mostly calm, was suddenly going to rise up above me and sweep me away. I had no irrational fear of water or the ocean. In Wellington I spent my life playing around the coast on rocks and swimming, sometimes in the surf. The previous couple days I’d crossed the intimidatingly large Cascade River and had frantically swum another close to where it flowed out into big surf, without shitting my pants.

The sensation came from deep within me and was powerful and unnerving. I’d never experienced anything like it, although I recognised it from dreams. I’d dreamed recently about a real scene from that winter. We’d gone for a drive to Greymouth from The Pass with the crew and Mark took his surfboard. There was a monster swell at the Greymouth bar, no good surf, but Mark just wanted to get out amongst it. We sat parked on the breakwater and watched. In the dream a tsunami wave rises up and I can’t out-drive it and it catches us with that same sensation. It wasn’t to be the only time I had that dream. I’d also had a similar recurring dream for years where it was basically the same thing but I was on the beach down the road from where I lived in Wellington. Both dreams were very vivid. Even though an interpretation seemed obvious in a way about how I related to my world, it felt like something more, and I wondered if I’d met such an end in a previous life or something.

The rest of the trip was everything I thought it would be. The mozzies and sandflies were epic. The Fiordland crested penguins were cool. I ran most of the Hollyford in a day, 43k in boots with a pack, blisters burning, tears in my eyes, imagining I was trying to outpace Connan and Martin. It was another lucky and very long hitching mish back to Nelson.

It was only a couple of weeks away from Yasmine, but we hadn’t previously spent a couple days apart. I hadn’t missed her, and being on my own like that felt very good and I thought about what I might have sacrificed being in a relationship. For the first time I questioned how I really felt about it. I couldn’t tell how she felt when I got back. The apple thinning was finished and she was staying at my uncle and aunt’s and was painting and drawing and she was cool and intelligent and cute and sexy and talking about stuff with her was better than anyone else ever and I was lucky to have her as a best friend and I loved her more than anything else in the world.

Her departure to KL was sudden. I missed her badly from day one. I wasn’t on an adventure, I was going home to an empty flat and, apart from those two weeks last year, hadn’t slept alone for over two years. Naturally I was horny as all fuck. A few weeks in and I started having sex dreams. But I started dreaming of Erica, my first girlfriend, before Yasmine.

This was a surprise, but initially wasn’t strange. We’d had an exceptional sexual relationship. Erica Steele was a very sexual woman. She also considered herself to be highly spiritual, a true believer (she’d hate that term) in many alternative ideas and regularly attended meetings with other likeminded people. She was also a mature, responsible and conscientious person. Professionally she was a successful executive career consultant.

At the time we were together my best friends were practising Christians and between the two I was able to fully realise the idea that I too considered myself a spiritual person, someone who accepts that they experience a connection and relate to the universe in ways beyond one’s physical and mental realities.

We’d been friends for a while at our hiking club before she seduced me. Earlier we’d both been on a climbing expedition to the Indian Himalaya. She and her boyfriend had come along just to do some hiking and he was a bit of a dick and I don’t remember where he was when she and I were getting cosy under the blankets in the main tent at basecamp one night.

Das Steel, 19 and hot as all fuck, 5000m high in the Indian Himalaya, 1991.

Erica and I separated after a year and a half together because she wanted to bear my child and I knew I was too young to make that decision. She thought it was her time and I was the one. It wasn’t the easiest idea to dismiss. The way E. Steele and D. Steel could open up and connect to each other was something quite phenomenal. But I was only 21 and knew it wasn’t the time for me to be making such a decision. Erica was 31 and felt that her time was ultimately more important than the man. She’d cry and plead for me to be the one. It was hard for us both.

The first dream was just a dream, almost a wet dream, but I woke before the end and had to finish myself off. It was wonderful, very vivid with intense sensations. I never in my life had a wet dream. I always felt kinda ripped off about that. Up to that time I could only remember twice ever having a dream that came close. The next night I had exactly the same dream again. I never had a recurring dream in succession like that. It was just as good. When I had the exact same dream two nights later I was starting to get a bit freaked out. Afterwards I couldn’t sleep, thinking about fucking Erica, thinking about Yasmine, it was disturbing. The dreams didn’t stop.

After two weeks I wished I’d kept a record, but was pretty sure it was eight times, give or take one. One night I had the dream, finished myself off, took hours to get back to sleep not long before I had to get up and then had the fucking dream again! I was waking up from the dreams frustrated and angry and didn’t know if blowing a load was helping or not and, either way, couldn’t get back to sleep. Some days I was a tired wreck, not good when you’re learning to use sharp tools and machinery. I was yawning hard out, one of the young fellas joked to me “Missus keepin’ you up eh Dazza?” It was too much.

I kept telling myself that it was just a symptom of a fit hungry libido, but I didn’t believe it. It seemed like something much more powerful was at play. Maybe Erica really was supposed to have my child? It became all-consuming and I decided to find out if fucking Erica was a possible reality. First I’d have to talk to Yasmine about it.

It was a tricky decision. It forced me to consider fully what my relationship with Yasmine was. We were pragmatic about our relationship, like we were about most things, and I thought we were always completely open and honest with each other. We didn’t believe in traditional gender roles. She was my partner not my girlfriend. It always seemed like, especially for her, we were friends first and foremost and being lovers was a bonus. She definitely wasn’t the romantic type. We had a healthy sexual relationship, although I knew it was better for me than her. Don’t get me wrong, she knew how to have a good time, she’d cowgirl me and leave my pubic bone pleasantly hot and bruised for days. But during moments of intimacy it would be me who breathlessly admitted how much I loved and was devoted to her. She never really told me she loved me.

Earlier that year I had, in jest, suggested we get married. Neither of us liked the idea of marriage and I was just waxing lyrical about having a cool party with all our friends and scoring heaps of swag. Yasmine baulked at it and shut me down with a seriousness that I found slightly disconcerting.

So I was almost completely certain that Yasmine wouldn’t be at all upset by my asking if she minded me fucking my ex-girlfriend while she was overseas alone working! But I was still nervous when I rang her.

I told her about the dreams and feeling the need to fuck Erica and the curiosity about what kind of relationship we had. I didn’t talk about the possibility of sowing a seed in Erica. I’d decided if that was going to happen I’d give Erica total discretion to decide who was to know about it.

At first she said that although it wouldn’t upset her, she didn’t like the idea, but if it was something I felt I had to do then she could accept it. That wasn’t good enough for me so I said I wouldn’t do it. She told me to wait a minute while she thought it through. I’d lost my nerve and tried to shut it down again, but she shushed me and after a pause told me to do it. I still said no but Yaz started to insist with some enthusiasm. She said she was curious too. I asked her if she was sure a few times until she got annoyed. I said I had concerns that she might think it’s okay now but later might feel bad, especially as she was over there on her own and I hated the idea of her thinking about it and getting bummed out. “Oh god no” she scoffed “that’s not going to happen.”  Hmmm, now I had to pursue it. Yasmine finished by telling me not to talk about it and wear a condom. I replied that of course I wouldn’t talk about it.

When I rang Erica, initially I had to be ‘just ringing for a chat’. I thought I would have heard if she had got married or had a baby, and if she had a boyfriend then I was just going to have to suffer the dreams and hope the whole talking about it thing was enough. But if she was on her own then things were really confirmed. She was on her own. I told her the whole story, but I was very tactful around the idea of giving her free license to use me as a sperm donor. It was her choice and I wanted to give her the option to be able to exercise absolute discretion even with me. I just said that I was still a long way from being in a position where I could take responsibility for being a parent. She said she needed to sleep on it. She came down from Welly the weekend after next.

The dreams stopped after the phone calls and were replaced with the anticipation of the event.

I drove us up to the mountains. On the way there I stopped in Motueka to get some provisions and, lo and behold, who should suddenly appear but, well as I live and breathe, Mark Schafer! He’d joined the local soccer team and had just finished a game. I asked if they’d met before, yeah maybe, “We’re going for hike in Able Tas,” I said with as much innocence as I could muster while trying to not break into a big shit-eating grin. I think we all found it somewhat amusing.

I took Erica on a hike to a small hut for the night and got down to business. The first time was understandably a bit awkward. I was wondering if we were really on the same page. Erica had always used contraception in the past because she claimed that women in her family were extremely fertile. I asked her if she was on the pill and said I had a condom. She said she wasn’t but was in a safe time in her cycle. Yep.

For the second night we drove around Golden Bay and out to the west coast. We camped by a river and built a large fire. It was a perfect calm winter’s night. Out at the river mouth big barrelling surf cracked and roared, echoing up the valley. Erica anointed me with oil and we made love into the night beneath the bright Milky Way. She screamed out loud as she came again and again and again.

The next morning she was a bit upset and teary. She had to deal with the fact she couldn’t be with me and had given me up to find someone else and still hadn’t. I helped her realise that probably she was there because it was something she was supposed to come to terms with. I wondered to myself if maybe she was honest about her cycle and she had miscalculated something. She soon accepted the situation and cheered up, which was good because there was a farm house way up on the ridge above us that we didn’t know about and the farmer came down a short while later to say hello. He was a nice old guy, next time we came over we could stay in a farm hut of his if we wanted, he said, looking at me with a gleam in his eye.

I didn’t feel anything of consequence after it. It didn’t feel like I had done a good or bad thing, there was no guilt or inner bravado, it just truly felt like something I was supposed to do and I did it. That’s what I told Yaz when she asked and that was that.

The next year when we were back living in Wellington I was curious that maybe Erica had a baby and news hadn’t made it back to me. Maybe she was keeping it under the radar? I asked Yaz what she thought about inviting Erica around for dinner. I said I thought it would be nice to show her that we were all cool and it might be good to talk to her about a business concept we were working on and see if she had any good ideas. Yaz absolutely positively agreed without any hesitation, she was  keen-as to meet Erica and find out what she was like. It was Erica who lost the plot.

Erica accepted our invitation. We all sat in the living room. Our flatmate B was there with his bro AJ who was also my workmate after he got me a job. The boys didn’t know anything at all about Erica other than she was an ex-girlfriend of mine. We ate and chatted. I was pretty sure there was no baby undisclosed.

After dinner I pitched my ideas at her. She told me what she thought I should do. I obviously hadn’t got my points across well enough because her suggestion was completely counter to the direction I wanted to take. I knew my arguments against that well and passionately presented them. She didn’t seem to want to discuss it too much, it was late, all she had was what she suggested. That was cool.

Next day I rang her to say thanks for coming around. She was obviously strange. I asked what was up and she had a sook about how I’d got her around there to get her advice and when she’d given it I ridiculed her and tried to make her look bad in front of my friends. I was flabbergasted and momentarily dumbfounded. I replayed the night in my head. No way! I said I hadn’t got her around because I needed someone to tell me want to do, I wanted to discuss ideas and thought maybe she had some good ones but obviously I was wrong. Well, people paid her good money for her advice and she was giving it to me for free. Really? I hung up. How tragic.

But I was still worried that when arguing against her suggestion I might have got carried away and was rude. Her reaction was very extreme. Learning to successfully pitch ideas was a skill I needed to develop. I was on smoko so went straight to AJ and asked him. He did his slow serious thoughtful bloke thing and said “Ah no. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it before you asked and I thought that you were quite the opposite. I actually thought that you were being extremely nice and must have been lining her up for a threesome with Yaz.” He thought she was hot and wondered if he’d have a chance at having a swing at her. I said I thought that probably wasn’t going to happen.

When I got home I went to B and asked him. He was stunned like I was, and then he seemed really confused. “What?! Nah bro, no way!” He told me he was glad I had come to talk to him about what I had said last night because he’d been waiting to talk to me about it all day. He’d never heard me talk about my ideas before. His tone was very serious, uh oh. “I never understood before. I thought you were just trying to be a video producer, but now I know that you’re going to be a successful businessman. Now I know. Now I see it.” He also said AJ and he both thought Erica was hot and wanted to fuck her.

I told Yaz about Erica. She laughed and said mockingly “You were just being you.”

“Yeah okay, thanks, but was I inappropriately rude or out of line?”

“No, of course not. You were great, really, so totally on to it, it was impressive. She’s probably just never heard you pumped like that before and well, you know.”

Yeah I knew. But I was very disappointed in her and I was extremely insulted that she could even think that I might have such intentions. Back then I was still a totally genuine good guy and no matter how paranoid she may have been, for whatever reasons, that was one hell of a leap to make. I had expected much better, but to be completely honest, looking back now, I don’t know why I had.

It wasn’t so much that when we were going out she was, by day, Erica Steele executive career consultant, and by night, after having taken her crystals for a walk to the beach to bathe them in the ocean and clear their energies, she was Erica Daughter of the Dancing Heart, high priestess of the goddess Isis. Nor was it so much that she associated with a ‘spiritualist’ who had a reputation around town for being a fraudulent charlatan. Nor was it the way she was so ridiculously pedantic about euphemising anything to do with her crackpot spiritual ideas. It was more what she had done after we had broken up.

A few weeks after she’d dumped me because I wouldn’t have a child with her, she rang me up. I was still raw about it and got excited because I thought maybe she had reconsidered. But no. She was actually ringing me up because she wanted to try getting it on with a good friend of mine who I was doing trips with to the mountains. I was totally bummed. I politely said that, while I accepted it was okay in principle, the reality was it would be emotionally difficult for me and it could badly affect my friendship and I would prefer that she didn’t. She got horribly upset and angry with me.

“It’s not fair! You don’t want to have a child with me and now you’re trying to stop me from having a chance with someone else! I don’t have time like you do! I need to explore all my options! You’re being selfish!”

Remember I was only 21, she was my first girlfriend, and was 31. It was way too soon and very upsetting.

“Fuck, I’m only giving you an honest answer!” I replied, tears welling in my eyes. “If you can’t handle the truth, don’t ask! Just fuck off and do what you want and I’ll fucking deal with it!”

And that’s what happened, she probably already had anyway. They informed me about it sometime later. I was cool about it. I honoured their request to not mention it to anyone. They were both being nut jobs and it didn’t go anywhere and we all remained friends. I pretty much forgot all about it. My friend, John, reminded me many years later when he rang me up.

He was a partner in a big law firm and was old enough to be my dad, but had never married and had no children. He had attached himself to my story not long after Martin’s death when he gave me the top prize in the prestigious “Alpine Section” of our club’s annual photo competition.

I had entered a photo I took of Martin earlier in the year, around the start of winter. We were hiking up Ruapehu to snow-cave or bivouac on the summit plateau. The sun had just broken onto the slope and the light on the icy snow was sensational. Martin had his skis on his pack and made a striking silhouette.  I got my camera out and he posed. He said sternly “Make sure you get the exposure right to capture the sparkle on the snow” and I was like “Yeah yeah, don’t stress, I got it.” My camera was as old as me, a heavy second-hand manual SLR. I had precious little money and had found it, with some mouldy old lenses, in the newspaper classifieds a couple of years prior to joining the club when I had independently developed an interest in photography. Film and developing were an expense I could barely afford on top of mountaineering. I had chrome film loaded that I had used before. I knew to ‘stop up’ for the conditions and only bracketed two exposures. I nailed it. Martin was killed before I had the chance to get the film developed.

I titled the shot “MJR”, Martin’s initials, and never spoke of Martin’s insistence that I got the shot of him perfect. John was the “Alpine Section” judge. He gave it second prize. He didn’t award a first prize. He said he thought that the special winning entry was somehow missing. He befriended me after that.

After his Erica fiasco had passed I didn’t give a shit. We never swapped notes and I didn’t mind the occasional mention of “Erotica”, which was what he fittingly called her. I had been living in my self-imposed exile in Australia for the best part of a decade, and could seldom be bothered talking to him, when he reminded me of it. He gleefully informed me that we were “penis brothers”. It was some term he’d heard recently for dudes who had fucked the same woman. I think he was pretty stoked to be able to say that he was my “penis brother.” The feeling was far from mutual. That was the last time I spoke to him before a few weeks later he fell off the side of a mountain and was unlucky to survive, having broken his back, and was now a paraplegic.

When he had recovered enough that he was able to communicate we emailed. I wasn’t going to pity the old bugger and gave him a bit of stick. His mind and his sense of humour must have been as broken as his back because he took offence and emailed me back stating that he didn’t think we could be friends anymore. Excellent! A swinging sword swoosh sung in my mind as I replied “Oh no, that sucks because I was so looking forward to coming back to Wellington so this time I could be the tourist in the tragedy of your life! Go fuck yourself. Oh no, wait on, does your dick even work anymore?” Was it too soon? Whatever.

As for Erica, she was just pitifully desperate. Her flimsy façade of sense and solidity was a cover for a crumbling fruitcake that was deliciously hot, and I had loved her because of it.

So fuck Erica. But it was Yasmine who was to have the last word on Erica back then, and that was… well, fuck me.

Yasmine never said anything about it. Not until the dark days at the bitter end of the millennium, when I’d be on my knees in tears begging her to tell me why she was so upset with me. What are the issues? If you don’t like me anymore so badly you don’t want to be my friend why won’t you say why, so I can deal with it? She mentioned it then with no explanation. “What!? What do you mean?” I implored her. She wouldn’t say.

It wasn’t until early 2000, after I’d lost everything and was so heavily medicated that I could barely talk, crushed and humiliated, that she said more about it. On that drive she took me on when she added it to her list of bewildering reasons why she was leaving me and the credit card debt and was letting the computer system get repossessed and was taking her video camera and the Stumpjumper, which she hadn’t ridden for years and I’d lovingly converted it into mine after we’d scored her a better bike to ride. It was then that she brought it up.

“But……you……said…..” I stammered.

“Yes well that still doesn’t mean it wasn’t a very very hurtful thing to do.” She said coldly as she rubbed another handful of salt into the gaping wound on my entire being. Of course I was so medicated I couldn’t feel anything, not then.

Women. Can’t live with them, can’t cut their fucking heads off while wearing a GoPro and post the video to your fucking YouTube channel!

Back in ‘97 I didn’t think that. Back then I still considered myself something of a devotee of The Great Female Spirit and her worthy daughters.

But anyway, back then, as ever, a rockin’ time was on when it was just ‘the dudes’, and two dudes makes a crew. So when Mark came to stay I was stoked. We could spark some shit up and make some shit happen.

To be continued….

Coming up….

Spring 1997: Pipe Dream Reality Bomb?

Damn it was hot. Fuck it was too hot! I was sweating hard out. I was soaking wet beneath my layers. All I could hear over my rapid deep panting, ‘sucking in the big ones’, was the sound of my pulse thumping like a machinegun in my neck. I tried to slow it all down as I looked down the mountain visualising the turns and traverses necessary for my escape from danger, my run to freedom, to Yasmine and to success.

Slow it down, slow it down, fuck it’s hot, slow it down. Fuck hurry up! Slow it down! One run, don’t stop, launch turn, turn turn, turn turn, turn turn, traverse the debris, kick-turn, traverse the bridge, and down to the guys, to the guys who are yelling. What?! Oh no, they’re not yelling, oh fuck no! THEY’RE FUCKING SCREAMING!!!

It could only mean one thing………..

SHOW ME THE MONEY!


Team Selfie: Spring 1997


Dreams Love Fucking Life Near Death and Some Other Shit (Part Two)


Music for closing credits…