Ahhh - to be sixteen again. Life may be nasty, brutish and short but when you're 16 is nasty, brutish and seems very, very long.
A recent encounter with a new pal, Lucy F, who has started her own blog at 16 called 'The Fangirl Stories' made me remember how much life sucks when you are 16! You can't go out yet, you can't drink, (almost) no one takes you seriously, you have no money and in my case mostly when you talk to boys you come out with a blotchy rash (true - it ruined all my formal photos).
Of course, there are upsides - like the thrill of all these new experiences, the great music you will love for the rest of your life and friends. At the time, we used a little social media platform called 'Myspace' (which is where I found these INCREDIBLY embarrassing pictures of me from the time). Recently I stumbled across my old Myspace profile. I thought it had disappeared...but no - the photo's from my first social media was still there. As a bit of a trip down memory lane and a chance to poke fun at myself, I thought it would be fun to share some of the old photos of me from the time (pre-Facebook people) and reflect on where I went when I was Lucy F's age in Wellington. Also, from the evidence acquired, I really liked a good artistic montage photo. WHAT WAS I THINKING?!
1. Espressoholic (currently at 136 Cuba Street, at the time located at 128 Courtenay Place where Enigma is now)
As a teenager anywhere, there is a limited number of places you can go and hang out, even in Wellington. As cash is hard-won, you need to make sure you are getting bang for your buck when it comes to spending money on food and drink but also you need to go to a place where you won't get thrown out if you and your friends are in high spirits. It also needed to be cool - somewhere your mum and her friends were not likely to be.
At 16, nothing was better after-school than going to Espressoholic. It was grungy but still safe. You could order a hot chocolate, ruff up your school uniform and go take a filthy bench in the back in the courtyard (you can see that it is Espressoholic from in the background of the mural in the photo above).
Espressoholic also did, and still does, the best hearty food in Welly. From large vegetarian lasagne to massive chocolate caramel slice, we would gorge at a time when our metabolisms were more forgiving. We'd sit back, talk the latest music and chill out together until the final Karori Park bus was due to take us back to the suburbs.
2. Real Groovy (now Rough Peel Music at 173 Cuba Street)
One of my favourite places at 16 to go and spend hours was Real Groovy, formerly on the intersection near Abel Tasman Street and Cuba Street, opposite where Laundry is now. Going into Real Groovy was like going into paradise if paradise had the entire Patti Smith back catalogue. It was a music Mecca. No matter how down you were feeling, at Real Groovy you felt a bit better because music was your friend.
At 16 I loved English music - particularly rock 'n' roll. The Zutons, the Kaiser Chiefs, Kasabian, the Kills, Lily Allen, Coldplay, Muse, Franz Ferdinand and The Killers all featured heavily on my second generation iPod. I also started learning about some of the female musicians who I still admire to this day, from Cat Power to Patti Smith to Jenny Lewis and her band Rilo Kiley. I also was mad about the White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Oh, and who could forget The Dandy Warhols!
I also had a friend, Georgette, who I'd met the Summer before working at Moore Wilson's. She was from an American family and had the coolest music taste EVER. She once burnt me 3 CD's of her music which I treasured and played again and again filled with Bob Dylan, Coco Rose, Devandra Banhart and the Strokes. Those early influences have stayed with me and are some of my favourite bands to this day.
At Real Groovy I could spend hours browsing music and music magazines. Real Groovy had all the 'hard-to-find' CD's and vinyl records we were after. The guys who worked behind the counter were lush and we would stare dreamily at the ticket section, wishing we could go to the r18 shows on sale.
No matter what, Real Groovy was there. Maybe you were waiting to meet a friend who hadn't shown up yet or had some time to kill in the afternoon before having to go home. Whatever the reason, the music store was dependable. In 2011 Real Groovy closed down but it still lives on in spirit through the much small but equally fabulous RPM records on Cuba Street.
3. Zeal's Wellington Venue (formerly in Glover Park where Rogue and Vagabond, now at 103 Ghuznee Street)
If there was one thing that I thought of as rebelling against my all-girl school goody-two-shoes reputation, it was heading to Zeal with my friends from Wellington High School and Wellington Girls. I know. Super bad-ass.
At 16, Zeal was the place we went to watch our friends who were in hard core bands from Welly High wittily named 'Whispers For Warning' play into the night (well, at least to 10pm). We would sometimes meet in the park, having had some disgusting RTD drink at someone's house who's parents were suitably chill (read: not mine).
After lashings of eyeliner were applied and suitably awkward Myspace photos taken (such as the one here on the right where I look like I am trying to be a Russian), we would catch a bus into town and head to Zeal. A venue for under 18's, Zeal patiently hosted all of us. There was no alcohol served obviously but there would always be someone trying to be clever and sneak in a Sprite bottle with Vodka in it into the venue. Ah, the class we had.
Zeal still does awesome work with youth to this day and is now on Ghuznee Street. Still, to me, Glover Park will always remind me of those crazy times (which probably happened much less than I think - but hey, nostalgia is like that).
4. Fusion Surf and Skate (89 Cuba Street)
When it was time to get our Grunge/Emo/Punk look perfected or to pick up the latest pair of Lee Super Tubes (LONG LIVE THE LEE SUPER TUBE JEAN!), our boutique of choice was Fusion on Cuba Street. Fusion did excellent surf wear from Roxy and Stussy to Ripcurl. However, in Wellington as a 16 year old, what we were really into were the fake band tops, studded belts and quirky beanies that gave us that Avril-Lavigne-but-not-trying-to-be-because-that-would-be-so-uncool look. Surfer wear was, like, SO 2004.
I remember that I loved a T-Shirt that had a skull on it from the brand 'Money Shot'. I thought it made me look seriously hard-core and edgy. However, this is also where I got my summer dresses and mum likely bought my Paul Frank PJ's for Christmas. It's all about mixing it up right? My friend Hayley and I wore our Fusion outfits to one of my first gigs (see left) when the Foo Fighters played in Wellington. We thought we were very sultry in our Fusion wear indeed.
Accessories included Converse Chuck Taylor's, wrist bands, anything studded or spiked and a streak of colour in black hair with lots and lots of eyeliner. I could but dream as mum would never have let me out of the house looking as such. At least I had my Paul Frank PJs.
5. Reading Cinema's - Courtenay Place
When Reading Cinema's opened in 2001, it was the coolest place to be. Woe betide the girl or guy who went to the movies there with his or her mum or Dad. Reading Cinema's contained everything you needed at 16 as a microcosm of the world. You had Wendy's ice cream stand, McDonalds, dark movie theatre's for canoodling, a chemist with cheap makeup and even a CD store (back in the day). What's more, no one could tell you you had to leave so you were free to hang out with friend for hours and hours and hours. Reading was our first taste of freedom. I probably only started going there properly with my friends when I was 16 because by them Mum was less suspicious whenever I left the house. She'd figured out I wasn't probably game enough to get up to any REAL mischief.
Reading Cinema's is legendary because it was the COOLEST place to be when it first opened. I remember having great laughs with my friends here - we would go see a movie together and then we would talk for hours and hours, agonizing over whether so-and-so liked us or what we should wear to the sixth-form ball. I also got my first fringe cut at 16 and suddenly I felt like a babe in the style of Olsen Twins. See awful duck-face photo on right.
Sadly today Reading Cinemas has lost some of its shiny newness (remember that in 2006 malls were being built everywhere all around the world - again, it was cool). It is now being re-furbished so I hope to see it re-born to a new generation.
People like to say that it's so different for kids today, what with new technology. They're having sex more! They have no self respect! But I don't think maybe it is so different. There have always been pressures to be thin or cool. People snuck out at night (never me). We had MSN messenger and Myspace.
Today they have What's App, Snapchat and Facebook (Facebook hadn't been brought to New Zealand yet at this stage). It's just the same, but the newer shinier version. It is still pretty tough being 16 just because your options are so limited in what you can do.
Many of the places I used to go to when I was 16 are still around. Having grown up in Wellington, I still - at 27 - have a bit of a soft spot for these memories. Sometimes I stride past Reading Cinema's and don't even think that it was once a cool place to hang 10 years ago. But other times I stop and I remember myself, reading music magazines and eating a hot fudge Sunday at McDonalds while listening to My Chemical Romance. And I want to give that girl a big hug and tell her it's okay. She'll make it through 16. There is still a long and winding road ahead. Also, stock up on vinyl from Real Groovy. It might be worth good money one day.