29 October 2007

Fall into Spring

A few days ago, I walked by a dollar store and saw a small display of Halloween costumes and decorations. I was flabbergasted. Halloween is my favourite holiday of the year, and it snuck up on me completely. I felt suddenly displaced, out of whack with the space-time continuum.

For reasons beyond my comprehension, Halloween is not a well regarded holiday in Australia. It seems to be considered the ultimate example of the contamination of Australian culture by American marketing and consumerism. I am among the first to admit a hatred of the marketing machine, and for this reason avoid fabricated Hallmark gift-giving holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Secretary Day, and Mother’s/Father’s Day. And, I concede there is something unsettling in the fact that Halloween is second only to Christmas in consumer dollars spent.

But, Halloween is FU-UN. It is FUN to be ghoulish and macabre (note the proper use of the adjective). It is FUN to dress up and pretend to be someone (or something) else for a day. It is FUN to eat so many Bottlecaps, and Smarties, and miniature Three Musketeers Bars, and Wax Lips, and Pixie Sticks, and Tootsie Rolls, and Junior Mints, and Atomic Fireballs that you shit sugar cubes for a week.

Marketing mania aside, what struck me the most was the simple fact that it doesn’t FEEL like Halloween. Why not, you might reasonably ask? Because it is spring, of course. I get disoriented each time I look at the calendar or catch wind of an NFL score or see a news blip about the World Series then walk outside into warm white sunshine. In the archives of memory and sensation football, Halloween, and the appearance of Christmas decorations are indelibly linked with crisp cool winds, orange slanted sunlight, and the smell of distant wood fires, not with blooming Jacaranda Trees, lengthening days, and the cacophonous din of sexually charged birdsongs.

One of my biggest anxieties about moving to Australia was how I would handle the football jones. Usually, each summer, just before the pre-season, my body begins to physically crave a Sunday spent prostrate on the couch listening to the insouciant chatter of sportscasters punctuated by mindless marketing pitches for beer, cars, and shipping services. Because of the transposed seasonal transitions, that jones never materialized. Nonetheless, when Kevin finally figured out how to “acquire” NFL broadcasts (with the commercials conveniently edited out) I jumped onto the couch with heart-pounding colon-wrenching anticipation…and then I was lulled to sleep by the sweet strains of Al and John, blathering away…

18 October 2007

Camel Dreaming

Despite my mother’s wishes to the contrary – or perhaps because of them - I was unable to resist structuring our outback excursion around camel experiences. To begin with, I booked us a room at The Lost Camel Resort, so named for a poorly worded legend involving lost wages, lost dreams, lost lives, and of course, lost camels.

Serendipity contributed significantly to the camel theme. On our first morning drive to Ayer’s Rock/Uluru, we encountered a herd of feral camels crossing the road. Mom nearly wet herself with excitement.

The following day, on a hike through the Mulga Gorge at Kata Tjuta/The Olgas, I spied a pile of impossibly white objects lying at the bottom of a side gorge to the left of the trail. Bright white is generally not a colour consistent with the palette of the Australian Outback, thus the pile warranted closer examination. Slipping stealthily off the trail, I scrambled across the slick rock and nearly wet myself with excitement. The immense size of the bones made it immediately clear that a camel had met with an end tragic for the camel but beneficial for the bottom of the food chain. The bones were shockingly clean for their weight…or shockingly heavy for their size. Not shockingly, I knew that I HAD to have at least one of those bones…Unfortunately, the skull was no where in sight.

I would like to state for the record that I in no way endorse the removal of any artefacts, flora, or fauna from national parks, including rocks and shells. I have considerable respect for Aboriginal Lands and Culture and would never willingly or knowingly desecrate any site considered sacred. But then, camels are NOT native to this area, so perhaps the presence of their bones is a desecration and their removal might be a public service.

My conscience was reeling, but I stashed a massive camel vertebra beneath a foot bridge and employed the remainder of the hike to consider the delicate morality of this situation. Preoccupied by my ruminations, we came upon a ranger filling a plastic bag with non-native invasive weeds. Normally, I favour the adaptive advantage of invasive weeds and support their right to colonize new lands. Today I conveniently opted to employ a change of perspective in order to get what I wanted. I happily collected my new found treasure and whisked it out of the park.

In keeping with the theme, I booked a sunset camel ride. It was no small motivator that the tour concluded with beer and camel meat appetizers, which tasted suspiciously like Hickory Farms Summer Sausage, but then maybe I have unknowingly been eating camel meat at Christmas all these years. Camels are frighteningly smelly beasts with notoriously unpleasant dispositions. Our mount, Sullay, proved especially so and was fitted with a mesh bag to keep him from nipping the camel in front of him. There was nothing to keep him from urinating all over himself and the camel behind him.

Speaking with the guides after the tour, I confessed my sin of stealing camel bones. “Oh, was that at the base of Kata Tjuta? Yeah, my boss took the skull.”

Envious absolution was mine.

09 October 2007

The Fat Lady Sings

To the horrible tourist from Texas with big hair and steatopygia-

You had no right! You had no right to inflict such agony on your fellow diners! After all, the dinner event was called “The Sounds of Silence” not “The Shrieks of The Banshee.” No one in their right mind would have paid $149 to listen to your shameful caterwauling. Not only was it painful, it was quite disruptive to the digestive process.

Who ever gave you the idea that you could sing? It’s not like you were some celebrity, cheered into giving an impromptu performance by her adoring fans. No. At the incessant urging of your tone deaf husband YOU approached the tour operators and insisted on “treating” the crowd to a couple of songs before dinner.

Just because you can hit a vibrato on every drawn-out note, does NOT make you an opera singer. And what makes you think people on vacation at Ayer’s Rock want to listen to opera anyway? Not that your song selections had anything to do with opera. I don’t mind so much that you mauled “Danny Boy”, as I have never been particularly fond of that song anyway, but I will be forever scarred by the mere thought of Sound of Music after the thorough vivisection you applied to “Climb Every Mountain”, a song that was hitherto quite dear to my heart.

I implore you to carefully consider the health and well being of those around you before you launch into any further mutilations of popular ballads. I nearly broke my mother’s fingers as I wrestled the fork from her hands before she could plunge it into her eardrum. The man next to me actually cried blood. The chef threatened to quit. You are lucky the bus drivers did not abandon us in the desert, though all in attendance would have thoroughly enjoyed watching dingoes rip your throat out.

Please, please limit your future public demonstrations of your wretched vocal talents to the Pig Whistle County Baptist Choir, where your cacophonous ululations undoubtedly help usher your flock unto heaven if only in the hopes of arriving before you just so they may persuade St Peter to rethink any invitations he might be attempted to extend to you.

Kind Regards,