Chapstick. Lick. Chapstick. Lick. My kingdom for some chapstick.
While New Zealand's summer has been mediocre, New York's winter has been plain nasty. Auckland was tepid and damp but New York was crisp and perfectly dry.
One morning she conned me; the rush of air was almost refreshing, like a shower on a hangover. Like dawn at Mt Hutt.
But as I tramped the streets, the insides of my nostrils went perfectly dry. In three blocks, my lips had shrivelled and died like slugs in salt. I could really, really have gone some chapstick. Lick.
"Dude, how are you?" I said. It'd been three months since I last saw my friend, Stenny. His lips looked like mine felt.
"Ewww ... a week in New York, Tame, and you've already got Kiwi lips as well."
"Your lips. They're all gross."
"Nah, nah it's a Kiwi thing, man. It's because the cold air's so dry here. All the new Kiwis in town have munted lips."
"Nah, they're okay."
"Seriously, sort yourself out. Go to a drug store or something. You look like a wreck."
But with my rotten lips, I did one better than a drug store. Like any American desperate for warmer air and a cosmetic improvement in their appearance, I flew to California.
There are few times in life when one wishes for chapped lips. And there are fewer times still when one is so conscious of having them than when confronted by the World's Most Beautiful People.
At the 84th Academy Awards, I stood on the red carpet as the big names and symmetrical features swept by. Their lips were full and pert; mine were dry and ratty.
I'd decided to buy a memento for the occasion. I'd found it in a massive, tacky souvenir store, just outside the carpet and closed roads. The store had novelty licence plates, god-awful T-shirts and an incredible array of plastic Oscars, each with a small plastic plaque at its feet.
The range was astonishing. Every feasible job, relationship or verb was available as a $10.99 plastic Oscar. I flicked through the shelves, past "Best mailman", "Best Accounts Coordinator" and even the one that said "Best News Reporter".
Ironic, I thought, given my terrible ailment, that I should woo Hollywood's finest with an Oscar for "Best Kisser".
It never happened. Just as Angelina Jolie strutted down the carpet, with her big crazy eyes and her white leg and her massive, pouty, completely unchapped, voluptuous lips, a security man confiscated my Oscar.
"Best Kisser?" he said. "You definitely can't have that."
I couldn't. Not like that. Not ever, actually, but definitely not like that.
So I did what Angelina would've done. Finally I took my friend Stenny's advice.
I went to a drug store. Just a typical old, ubiquitous drug store. And there were no fewer than 27 varieties. Different flavours, different blends, different brands. Twenty-seven different sorts of chapstick.
It was wildly unnecessary. Stupidly excessive. It was America. And for a guy with Kiwi lips, it was a wonderful waxy oasis. Lick.