26 February 2007
"He's at work. It is Monday afternoon here."
"Oh yeah...so did you watch the Oscars last night?"
24 February 2007
I don’t know why it has taken me so long to write about the fruit bats. Perhaps I have been too enamored to put words to the nightly phenomenon of their majestic flight across Burns Bay. Or perhaps I was waiting to be motivated by the screeching of their sexual frenzies off the bedroom balcony – which is precisely what has me up writing at this late hour.
“What is that horrible noise?” asked Kevin.
“That is the sound of fruit bats making love.”
And how appropriate that the Triple J DJ has chosen this moment to torture his audience with a bass-heavy remix of “Summer Lovin’” (yes, from the soundtrack of Grease…it is almost as horrible as Dolly Parton’s version of “Stairway to Heaven”….oh my God, is that the South Park boys in the background?? This DJ is evil incarnate!)
They stayed out till ten o’clock!!
Well, they certainly weren’t having as much summer fun as the fruit bats are having…really, the term “making love” is a gross application of the term. It is the most hideous bitching noise I have head since the “conversation” Kevin and I had last night.
22 February 2007
19 February 2007
This morning, the Queen Mary II docked in Sydney Harbour - the largest ship ever to enter. The event was marked by sky writing and a lot of ballyhoo on television. Tonight, the Queen Elizabeth II will enter the harbour, marking the first time the sisters have ever seen each other. More ballyhoo, including a blasting of their horns and a huge fire works display.
Speaking of fireworks...I swear there are fireworks going off around here all the time. Last Tuesday, there was a noisy frackas just over the hill from our apartment, where I would swear there is nothing noteworthy located. What could have been so exciting on a Tuesday?? Perhaps someone was having a Tupperware party.
18 February 2007
Seeking affordable and healthy entertainment, we have purchased a National Parks Pass. Each weekend, we select one of a plethora of nearby parks. Pack a picnic hamper and set off to explore a new walking track through the bush. (Notice my rich Australian vocabulary?) Today, we ventured north to Kur-ing Gai National Park down a steep trail that leads to several secluded beaches looking out towards the Barrenjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach. Optimistic interpretive signs described numerous positive cultural exchanges between the settlers and the aboriginal people that once ruled over this land, glossing over the ugly details of their banishment from their own way of life, while goannas scurried menacingly across the trail, seeking refuge (or is it vantage) up the trunks of trees.
We returned home sore and exhausted, too exhausted to detail the ineptitude of Australian mapmakers and the inadequacy of trail signs which lead us 3 km down a one way track, albeit to a lovely beach resort town otherwise accessible only by boat. Stepping into the spare bedroom to discard my sweaty boots, I was surprised to find an equally exhausted noisy miner fluttering against the sunny window. Judging from the number of feathers and the amount of poop on the window sill, the poor thing had been there for quite some time. Wanting to cause him the least amount of distress possible, I popped the screen from the window, thus liberating the tiny captive.
No sooner had I returned from retrieving the now broken screen from its six-story plunge, than the little bugger had gone straight around to the balcony and hopped once more inside. This time, Kevin was able to shunt him right back out the sliding glass door. Later that evening, the little bugger was back again, hopping boldly through the door and making himself quite at home. After clearing up the crumbs in front of the coffee table, he skipped into the kitchen and pecked the floor clean. Amused as I was, and always willing to feed a hungry soul, I drew the line when he went after our dinner and quickly shooed him out the kitchen window.
Spending much of my time as I do, feeding the various species of birds from the balcony, I have observed the origin of the phrase “pecking order”, and I can say without doubt, that the small but fearless noisy miners are at the top, where as the large (and infinitely noisier) cockatoos rank fairly low on the ladder...speaking of which, there is one squaking at the kitchen window behind me as I speak...I suppose he wants an audition, too.
11 February 2007
When people ask why I moved to Australia, I invariably reply “Because I can’t get Triple J on my car radio in The States.”
Triple J is the “youth oriented” arm of the publicly funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and is quite possibly the best radio station on the planet, not to mention commercial-free! Although they mostly play new music, nothing is off limits. Last night, on the same program I heard Mickey Avalon, AC/DC, Prince, Scissor Sisters, The Beastie Boys, and Dolly Parton (did you know she did a cover of “Stairway to Heaven”? It is perfectly HORRID!), interspersed with a variety of hip-hop and punk artists who have until now been completely off my radar. It is truly awesome.
And they turned me onto my new favorite artist, C.W. Stoneking...with visions of a smoke-filled low-ceiling room in Preservation Hall, I thought "Wow, they really dig up some old shit." Imagine my surprise to discover he's some young punk from The Northern Territory!
So if you want hear what I am hearing (sans shrieking cockatoos in the background) and you have a good broadband connection, you can listen on-line at Triple J.
Of course, if you want to hear the noon-hour farm report, or lengthy call-in discussions about the plight of the labour party, you’ll have to check in with their parent stations on the ABC.
The following story illustrates a fundamental difference in attitude between the U.S. and Australia:
Kevin’s company hosted a kick-off event to celebrate the opening of the Sydney office. Every consultant in Australia - from Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Adelaide (and a few higher-ups from New Zealand) was flown to town and put up in a hotel for a few days of team building, which consisted mostly of painful and boring Power Point presentations selling the company to its own employees. Afterward, the 30+ employees were loaded into cabs and shuttled to the King Street Wharf, a bustling waterfront collection of bars and fine restaurants, for dinner and drinks. Being a recent arrival, and the only child-less spouse sitting home alone, I was encouraged – nay commanded, to join them after dinner. Cab rides home were fully expensed.
With the embarrassing memories of numerous other employer-sponsored alcohol related events fresh in his mind, and valuing this job as he does, Kevin swore he was going to remain sober. He’d have one or two glasses of wine with dinner, but stay in control, sharp, responsible. Alas, it was not to be.
Kevin was placed under strict orders by his office manager. Under NO circumstances were members of any office other than New South Wales allowed to be the “last men standing” at a bar, especially that Scotsman from Queensland. It was a matter of regional pride. At least one member of the Sydney office must out drink the rest of the company. Although he had full confidence in his ability, Kevin shivered with clairvoyant dread at the thought of its execution.
“They made me do shots of Tequila!” he slobbered upon my arrival at 9:30. I winced as tray after tray filled with shot glasses were passed around the table. I feigned polite resistance, but was soon goaded into compliance by the insistent chants of the drunken mob. Then another tray of shots arrived. Then another, then a tray of long-island iced teas was delivered and passed around. Then another tray of shots before the disorganized gang adjourned to another bar, commencing the phenomenon known by experienced drinkers as “time travel”.
The memory tapes began rolling at the next bar at the unfortunate moment when Kevin and several of his co-workers were being escorted to the sidewalk by the bouncers, really for no other reason than being over 30 and having a penis. He tried to politely explain that his wife was still inside the bar, that he wasn’t some horny old man prowling for young girls (though I am certain those were not his exact words.) The bouncer was immovable, and in an act of sheer frustration, Kevin performed a ridiculous looking dance that can only be described as ape-like, thus rousing the bouncer to radio his comrades for back-up. I watched in surreal fascination as the rest of his co-workers burst into hysterical laughter behind him, then decided to go to his rescue.
Later, in yet another bar, I spoke with the Scottish manager, relaying Kevin’s fears of humiliation and retribution, telling him of my own recent debacle. “Ach, it was an American company, was it? Bloody uptight Americans.” He assured me that Kevin’s behavior was by no means grounds for dismissal and that his success had far more to do with how well he took the inevitable ribbing he was sure to get, not only next week, but for the rest of his career with the company. “You can bet come Munday, there’ll be a dancin’ monkey with boxing gloves on ‘is desk.” He then told me stories of other managers in previous years who had fallen off of tables while giving speeches.
We woke up at noon on Saturday with the unavoidable shame-over, a phrase we have coined to describe the unique features of a tequila-induced hangover. We filled in the gaps in each other’s memory banks. I assured him that his office manager was far more drunk and obnoxious than he had been. He still thinks I made up the part about the monkey-dance, but the good news is, we did indeed shut down the last bar, the folks from Queensland having left long before us.
Maybe, just maybe, Kevin is management material after all...
When I am out walking in the rain, I am frequently assaulted by the most delicious yet evasive odor – it smells of lemon grass, sweet and citrus, yet rich and earthy. I freeze in my tracks and begin investigating the nearby shrubbery, pinching leaves and sniffing vigorously in a vain attempt to identify the culprit. It is such a profound scent, that I expect to see a gigantic bush covered in huge yellow flowers dripping with nectar. I can never find it. It is like trying to focus on the floaty things inside your eyeballs. I can only smell it out of the corner of my nose. It seems to exist only when my mind is preoccupied with worldly thoughts, then vanishes as soon as I turn my attention to it. Such a frustrating delight!
06 February 2007
Mark Lewis is my new favorite film maker.
05 February 2007
Declaring it a holiday of national significance greater than Christmas and President’s Day (put together), Kevin put in for a day of vacation (yes, after a mere five weeks, Kevin has already accumulated vacation time – another manifestation of the slackness of the Australian workforce, which will be dealt with at length throughout this blog). We set an early morning alarm and headed off to the CBD on the 7:32 am bus in the company of well-dressed commuters and in search of the camaraderie of fellow American ex-pats, which we found in large numbers at a sports bar called Cheers. Eager as we were, we became slightly dismayed to be two of five people waiting in line for the pub to open their doors. Our worry was quickly allayed as the place was standing room only by game time.
Judging from the display of jerseys and other team gear, the crowd was pretty well split between Bears fans and Colts fans. Those who didn’t have any football swag wore the most American t-shirt in their collection. I saw one for Budweiser, one for the Yankees, one for the whole state of Wyoming, and even an old Billy Joel concert t-shirt, which I thought the most clever. We stood with tears of pride for the National Anthem, a custom that quickly allowed us to gauge who was American and who was un-American.
I would like to point out one thing. Australians LOVE to gamble. Perhaps this arises from their convict heritage, as it doesn’t seem a particularly British trait. Every pub has slot machines (called pokies) and most have Keno. There are sports betting bars called TAB where you can lay a parlay on every type of racing imaginable, as well as on any of the myriad of national and international sporting events such as rugby, basketball, cricket, tennis, curling and of course, all the various permutations of football. I LOVE to gamble, especially on sports, so after some painstaking internet research - which followed the lines of “Hmmm, Devin Hester 34:1 to score the first touchdown of the game…well, I went to Hester Elementary school” - I placed several contradictory $5 bets.
I cannot describe the intense pain in my chest during the opening play of the game as my little heart nearly exploded from the rush of adrenaline when Devin Hester ran an amazing 92 yards for a touchdown. My $170 win (plus the $17 won when Indianapolis beat the 6.5 point spread and kept the total score under 48.5) more than covered the expenses for the day, including the round of drinks we bought for some college students from Samoa and New Jersey and the delicious Pork Bulgogi we got on the way home.
Overall, an excellent Super Bowl and a great day, as evidenced by the smile on Kevin’s face during a much needed nap on our preposterously ugly sofa. And for those of you inquiring as to whether I drank tea or coffee during the game…what, are you kidding?
01 February 2007
I’m sure you have guessed that in spite of my recent griping about Australian birdlife, I am completely unable to resist feeding the little buggers. Although it took awhile to initially lure them to the balcony, they have since become thrice daily visitors, and quite insistent too, hopping directly inside the kitchen windowsill should I neglect my duties.
Unfortunately, Kevin wasn’t quick enough to snap the shot of the one that bit me on the ass whilst I fed the other.
Today we rented kayaks on nearby Lake Narrabeen. We’ve been doing a LOT of walking since we’ve been here and are anxious to add some upper body conditioning to our physical fitness regimen. Kevin oozes envy every morning as we watch paddlers stroking through the calm waters of Burns Bay, but our budget does not yet allow for the purchase of new water craft. So we packed a picnic lunch and drove up to the Northern Beaches, a beautiful collection of pink-sand crescents. With the barrage of news stories featuring hungry sharks lurking just beyond the waves, kayaking inland waters has much more appeal than ocean kayaking (and you may recall my previous misadventures with ocean kayaking in Mexico.)
Well some upper body conditioning is most certainly called for, as my shoulders went soggy after about fifteen minutes of easy paddling. Fortunately, we had a tandem vessel, so I took frequent rest breaks. Unfortunately, being in the front, my slacking did not go unnoticed and a quick splash from Kevin quickly set my arms back in motion. Can we stop for lunch now?