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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

DADDY DEAREST

I think the North Central coast of New Zealand’s North Island is as close to paradise as you are likely to find. We don’t know for certain why Captain Cook called it “The Bay of Plenty” in 1769. But at the port of Taurange, a three hour drive south from Auckland, the average low temperature in the winter (March through August) is a cool 41F, and the average high in the summer is a pleasant 75F. During the winter rainy season the average rainfall is only 4 to 5 inches a month. And even though its beach lined coast is bisected by the Taupo Volcanic Zone, with its northern terminus of White Island, one of the most accessible and active, explosive volcanoes in the world, a mere 30 miles off the coast, there is nothing in the geological history to indicate that this resort region has anything particular to fear from Mother Nature. The violence and the fireworks of this land are merely harmless backdrops. Or at least they were until 45 year old James Bowring went on the prowl.
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James is a Maori, one of the native peoples of New Zealand. The word means normal or ordinary in their language. They arrived a thousand years ago from Polynesian islands to the north and had the place to themselves until the Dutchman Able Tasman showed up 500 years later. It was the Dutch who renamed the “Land of the Long White Cloud” after their native region of “Zeeland”. But it was the English, who followed them, whose enthusiastic immigration prompted the Maoris to ask if they planned on transplanting the entire population of England to this South Pacific Hobbit haven. In 1864 the English Colonial authorities set out on a war of conquest that climaxed at the battle of Rangiriri. The morning after a bloody and useless assault the British were stunned to see the victorious Maoris flying a white flag. The natives had just meant to parlay, but by the time that was straightened out 20 minutes later the fort was filled with intermingled and intermingling British and Maori soldiers, and it just seemed easier to call the whole thing a draw. In fact no peace treaty was ever signed. Everybody just stopped fighting. It was an enormously logical way to end a war: just stop fighting. By 1900 there were barely 43,000 natives left in New Zealand. The population has since rebounded, but to quote one official New Zealand web site, today “…not one fully blooded Maori exists - but thankfully the culture and heritage continues with passion amongst their descendants.”
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James Bowring is certainly passionate. So passionate he can be described as suffering from a “personality disorder”, as well as from anxiety and depression. One effect of his “disorder” is that James has been arrested four times for driving after his license had been revoked. And another effect of his disorder is that it seems to make James irresistible to young New Zealand women. And they, it seems, are irresistible to him. If so this would explain why James was drawn to woo and seduce 18 year old Krystal Clark, whom he met while his 18 year old son, Jacob, was dating her. In fact, Krystal is carrying James’ child. Now, stealing and impregnating your son’s girlfriend tends to put a strain on the familial bonds, and in February James was driving down a street in Taurange, with 18 year old pregnant Krystal in the passenger seat. They had just dropped off a 14 year old female “friend” when they happened to drive past Jacob. And all hell broke loose.
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Jacob gave vent to his frustrations on the street corner, as 18 year olds will do. The sight of his ex-girlfriend driving past in his father’s car compelled the boy to call out in pain and indignation, public ally branding his father as a “pedophile” and shouting that he “should be in a mental institution.” James, evidently driven by his “personality disorder” immediately pulled a U-turn on the street, drove over the curb and, at 30 miles per hour, aimed the speeding car at his son. The only thing preventing James from running over Jacob was a propitious lamppost, which Jacob hid behind. James was charged with recklessly operating a motor vehicle, driving while his license was revoked and “assault with a blunt instrument”, i.e., a car. Later, in Tauranga District Court, with Jacob seated in the gallery directly behind Krystal, James’ lawyer pleaded his personality disorder. And the judge agreed. James was found guilty and sentenced to five months home detention, drug and alcohol counseling and 12 months loss of license, which James was already driving without – for the fifth time now.
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James has sought solace with his native cultural. He now lives in the tiny Maori community of Te Puna: in a bus. And now Krystal lives there too. It must be every New Zealand parent’s dream to have the fruit of their womb, their bundle of hope and dreams, living in a bus with the 45 year old reprobate who impregnated her. I’m fairly certain this was Jacob’s nightmare, if he had ever thought about such things before. But James seems contented for the moment, locked up 24 hours a day in an immobilized bus with a pregnant 18 year old. Do you think they have run out of things to talk about, yet? To most 45 year old males, such an existence would eventually become a living nightmare, and in a lot less than 5 months, too.
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