On February 3, 1931 (my birthday, but not my birth year!) a 7.8 earthquake and a resulting fire destroyed much of Napier, New Zealand. However, the effect was like a reverse tsunami in which the land was raised and all of the water from the harbor drained out, leaving an extra 8000 acres of land in its wake (see before and after maps). Within 2 years, due to the “benign dictatorship” of a businessman and a civil engineer, the city had rebuilt itself mostly in the Art Deco style, with some Spanish mission buildings thrown in for good measure. Today Napier’s hawkers dress the parts of 1920’s flappers, dancing in the streets and driving vintage cars to entertain visitors. Considered the Art Deco capital of the world, people from around the world come each February for a full weekend of celebration with air shows, vintage car parades, and dress-up for the whole family.
I spent a lovely day visiting the sites of this bustling beach town which reminded me a lot of Santa Cruz, CA where I lived from 1982-1986 (and where I will be going in February to serve as scholar-in-residence, teaching Mussar). Lots of buskers and tourists, coffee and ice cream shops, fascinating architecture and history, a lovely farmers’ market, and mild weather year-round.
So sad was I to leave Napier, I almost didn’t even make it to the last shuttle back to the boat. As we paused at the aquarium, I saw my old friend, rabbinic school classmate, and colleague Rabbi Lisa Edwards outside on the terrace there! I screamed to the bus driver to please stop the bus so I could say a quick hello to her and Tracy, my dearest friends when I was in rabbinical school. Lisa is the rabbi of BCC, one of the two LGBT congregations in LA. This was a post-Chanukah miracle in my book.
And, yes, I was the last passenger back on the boat (of approximately 2000)! Did not want to leave Napier.
Above, some of my onboard “flock” following havdalah this evening.