SOMETIMES it just takes a few crazy friends to get someone out of a funk.
When I met members of the League of Extraordinary Pyroclasts – unofficially known as the Whakatane Steamers – I knew I had come across some fellow travellers. They welcomed me, as they do with all newcomers, with an enthusiasm and sincere interest.
As an expat New Zealander who had been overseas since childhood, I was just beginning to become reacquainted with my fellow Kiwis.
As I am a bit of an introvert and sometimes feel uncomfortable in crowds, I was unsure whether this group was my thing. But the high energy levels and sheer lust for life they convey at every event they attend, it didn’t take long for that enthusiasm to rub off. There is a shared flair for the dramatic among us, we are all performers at heart perhaps.
Steampunk is one genre of an activity known as LARPing (live action role playing). I used to think it meant running around in the woods pretending to be someone else. Though there is an aspect of that in the steampunk world, it’s really about an appreciation of an aesthetic – the styles and zeitgeist of the Victorian era.
I suppose to a certain extent it is little more than an excuse for adults to drop their facades and let their true personality out. It is a liberating experience to have permission from one’s fellows to act a bit silly and feel like a youngster for a while.
The league embodies a cross-section of the community with various age groups, professions and lifestyles represented. Aside from the steampunk connection, one might not think this rag-tag group of anachronists could have common interests. Perhaps like me, some feel they were born one hundred years too late. And despite varying backgrounds, and political and spiritual beliefs it is an easy and comfortable friendship we have all built with each other.
Though I have missed some of their events, I find myself drawn to this world they have created. It’s a place where the differences that keep people apart are ignored, where the impossible is spoken of as though real and like Never Neverland, where children never grow up.