It was Friday afternoon - I strolled along Camp Street to the ASB bank. On the doorstep, a middle-aged Maori dude, with a full face tattoo and black Dirty Dog wraparound shadze, was selling books. He looked friendly, not imposing. I stopped and picked one up.
“TRUE RED, The Life of an ex-Mongrel Mob Gang Leader”.
A younger version of himself was on the cover. His hair and beard have turned salt and pepper, a bushy brown pony tail was just visible.
‘You must be the author?’
‘You’re a long way from home, I grew up in Hawkes Bay.’ (Home of the mung-ie mob, as we used to call them.)
‘You on holidays then?’
‘No, I live here.’
‘Poor you,’ he chuckled.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Tuhoe,’ he said, through inked lips. He lifted his shades and greeted me with soft eyes. ‘What’s yours?’
‘Plain Jane!’ he chuckled again.
‘Thanks a lot.’
‘Where’d you live in Hawkes Bay, I boxed in Waipukurau?’
‘All over. Onga Onga, Takapau. We were farm managers. Waipukurau. Wanstead. I worked in the Freezing works in Takapau once. Stuck out a bit.'
I skim read the inside front of the book. ‘Did you have a ghost writer?’
‘How much is your book?
‘Forty five dollars.’
Jeesh, I would have whistled then if I could. I know books, how much they cost to print. Maybe he had to pay his ghost writer, bulk, like those All Black books. ‘Have you heard of Jarrod Gilbert? He wrote a book about New Zealand gangs. "Patched". It won an award.’
‘Yes, I’m in his book, but it’s all summation. This is the real thing,’ he tapped an inked finger on his book. ‘It’s from the heart.’ He pumped a thick fist onto his chest.
‘I’m publishing a book before Christmas,’ I blurted out. ‘It’s a children’s book. It’s ultimately about believing in yourself,’ I explained before he felt obliged to ask.
‘So’s mine.’ He opened the book and read out a random passage that genuinely needed some Steve Braunias editing.
‘I’ll take one.’
He signed my copy with a blue Bic and his un-inked right hand. Tuhoe Isaac. Best wishes. 14.8.2015. He took my $50 and reached into the bumbag strapped tightly across his bulk for a five dollar note.
‘Can I take your photo? I’ll put you on my twitter feed. Might get some publicity for your book. Help sales.’ (yerp with my massive following of 360).
‘Sure,’ he said, and shuffled slightly taller and posed like an important tribal chief might. ‘I’ve got to get in touch with my co-author soon. We’re writing another book.’
‘Cool, good luck with that.’
‘Yeah, good luck with yours too. Kia ora.’
On the way home I collected a friend’s daughter. ‘Oh I bought that book about six months ago,’ she said.
‘Did you? What did you pay? He charged me 45 bucks!’
‘I don’t think it mine cost that much.’
I read the inside front cover. First printed 2007.
Eight years ago. Time flashed forward. I had a vision – of my 59-year-old self, sitting on the cobbled pavement outside the ASB Queenstown, on Friday afternoons, sat on a collapsible picnic stool, invisible behind wrap around shadze with reflector lenses, selling remaindered Lily Max books for $50 apiece.
I hope it doesn’t come true. Then again, too bad if it does.
Buy books people. That’s all I can say. Buy books!