Tuesday, January 31, 2006

One week left in Sydney...

My time in Australia is winding down; a week from now I will be on a plane back to the States. So I've been busy doing all the things I wanted to do over the last 5 weeks that I haven't yet gotten around to. I guess I figured that by sitting back and relaxing the things on my to do list would just naturally happen, but no.

Since the weather here has been crappy for the most part, one of the things on the list was to improve my tan. It was sunny yesterday so I went to Coogee and got a burn. I'm hopeful that it will fade into a nice brown color by next week.

Today sitting outside a certain Seattle-based international coffee chain, I watched as the pigeons descended on two different sets of Japanese tourists sitting at the tables around me. In both cases, a pigeon would jump onto their tables, causing the tourists to scream and run away. The pigeon would then be joined by other pigeons and together they would eat whatever food the tourists left on the table -- in these cases, half a piece of cheesecake and half a bagel. My question is: do they not have pigeons in Japan? Are pigeons that scary that they'd cause you to leave your food at the table to run for your life? I'm now convinced that as long as there are Japanese tourists in Sydney, Sydney will always have a pigeon problem.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Missing London

The other day I was thinking about my friends in London, so I took a look at my pal Wingman's blog, which had this photo. How can you not love these guys?

Saturday, January 28, 2006

I Like To Talk to Myself After Drinking

This evening I was in the kitchen at a party all alone since everyone was outside on the deck. Naturally, I decided to have a conversation with myself while I was pouring a drink.
Me: "This music sounds familar. Is it the Kaiser Chiefs?"
Me: "Hmmm, not sure. It does sound like them."
Me: "Yeah, I agree."

Just then I looked up from my drink and saw a woman across the room staring at me.

In situations like that, there's really not a whole lot you can do to bounce back. You pretty much have to just leave the room. So I did. Luckily we left the party soon after that, but I'm sure I'd be forever known as "that guy who talks to himself at parties" if I ever ran into these people again.

Friday, January 27, 2006

What I Learned Over the Australia Day Weekend

So the past few days we've been celebrating Australia Day, which was actually Thursday but for many enterprising Aussies it evolved into a 4-day weekend. From what I can gather, Australia Day is some sort of national pride celebration which involves face painting, barbecues and heated discussions about what it means to be an Australian (informal polling on my part has concluded that nobody really knows).

Australians love their days off, so it seems odd to me that instead of making it an official 4-day holiday weekend, many people headed back to work Friday. A poll by National Nine News asked if Australia Day should be celebrated as a long weekend, and 4/5ths of respondents said yes.

Well DUH.
My question is: who are these 25% who think it shouldn't? What's wrong with these people?

We spent the day on the Sydney Festival yacht in the Harbour, watching the Ferry-a-thon, which is a traditional race between the ferry boats. As far as I can tell, a bunch of the ferry boats decide to race each other, and all the other boats in the harbour follow behind them and cheer for their favorite. Or in the case of the yacht I was on and the people on it, the Ferry-a-thon is an excuse to charter an air-conditioned boat, drink free liquor and mock the people on the other boats who cheer for the competing yachts (photos can be found here).

Earlier that morning, I watched on tv the annual Surfboard Challenge, a paddling race across Sydney Harbour (pictured above). It looks like fun and something I would definitely do next year, if I lived in Australia and knew how to use a sufboard.

On Friday I went to Bondi, which was actually a bit boring since the sea was alarmingly calm (read: lame) and on Saturday night we went to a party in North Sydney, specifically to North Narrabeen. Overall, a lovely weekend not without some valuable lessons learned:

  1. It is amazing how easily you can confuse your own shadow for a shark while swimming alone in the ocean.
  2. Kylie Minogue is a tiny woman.
  3. Flea markets in Australia are pretty much identical to ones back in the US.
  4. I need to learn to stop talking with my hands, especially when in the presence of open containers of alcohol.
  5. No matter how nice or gracious or graceful you try to be, spilling your drink all over someone (caused by talking with your hands) makes you look like an ass.
  6. The whole "Eating is Cheating" mantra, while philosophically sound, is in actuality hard to practice.
  7. "Eating is Cheating" while fun to attempt to live by, can get you in lots of trouble.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Worst Day Ever

I'm going to let this pretty much speak for itself.
Except to say mine wasn't so bad. Had center 7th row seats to Elvis Costello and the Sydney Symphony at the Sydney Opera House. He sang a great rendition of "Watching the Detectives" and during "Veronica" I swear to God he looked at me, and when I grinned at him he grinned back. Not making that up.

Quote of the Day (from TubeTalk):
"In the last ten days I have received precisely zero phone calls."

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Friendly Neighborhood Stalker

We have a stalker as a neighbor. He watches us all the time. He says things like, "I saw you get out of the taxi yesterday wearing your green trainers and blue shirt." Freaking bunny boiler.

As today was the first nice weather day in about two weeks, Greg, Richard and I took the ferry over to Manly Beach. Great weather, great waves and great day. Got stung by a jellyfish though, but luckily it got in just a few small stings. Afterwards, we headed over to Richard's friend Nicole's flat on a private inlet on the Harbour side of Manly, where we did more swimming, had loganberry cordials (I don't even know what those are, exactly, but I like the idea of sitting on a deserted beach drinking loganberry cordials in the afternoon sun) and watched a woman on a nearby apartment balcony take off her top for a boat full of men having a bachelor party. (Note: that was perhaps the longest sentence I've ever written.)

Yesterday, Greg and I saw Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet. Fucking brilliant.

Quote of the day (from Overheard in New York):
Teen boy: Do you have any matches?
Counter lady: Can I see ID?
Teen boy: You need ID for matches? For just matches?
Counter lady: I can't give you matches without ID.
Teen boy: ID for matches...what the fuck is this world coming to?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Why I Love the Midwest - Pt. 1

I'll be heading back to Chicago soon, back to the Midwest. Read this article in the Battle Creek (MI) Enquirer (courtesy of Beerzie Boy), which makes me realize why I miss it...

According to the article, a man destroyed his car by putting his toolbox on the accelerator, while he pushed the car out of a mud field. Per the article, according to police "The man was successful in freeing the vehicle, although unsuccessful regaining control of the vehicle" as he chased behind it. My favorite part of the whole incident was the following description: "The car reached an estimated speed of 100 mph, traveled a half-mile, sometimes becoming airborne. The car then struck a tree."

I seriously would have paid a hundred bucks to see that. "Sometimes becoming airborne" - priceless.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Stimulating Conversations with the Locals - Pt. II

The other day at the Victoria Park Pool:
[Background: I know I have issues when it comes to slow people swimming in the designated fast lanes. But the other day I was in the fast lane and shared it with a woman who was seriously the slowest person I've seen in the fast lane in a long time. I think it is really inconsiderate and rude when people do this. And don't give me that whole "maybe she didn't see the 'fast lane' sign" crap because that would make her blind as well as stupid. In the course of 15 minutes I had to swim around her about ten times.]
Slow-ass woman: "Wow, you're really fast."
Me: "Yeah, well that's why I'm in the fast lane."
Slow-ass woman (clearly not picking up on the biting sarcasm in my last comment): "Yeah, I feel like I'm practically standing still swimming in this lane with you in here."
Me: "..."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Take Me Out

Forget the Golden Globes, last night we had our own little celebrity sighting adventure at the Sydney Opera House. Greg, Richard and I went to see the Tiger Lillies and afterwards met Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces and Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand . What do you say when you meet (semi) famous people? That's a question for the ages.

Me (to Eleanor): "So you're from Oak Park? I'm from Chicago."
Eleanor: "Where abouts?"
Me: "The south side - 103rd and California in Beverly."
Eleanor: "Great."
(awkward silence)
Me: "So did you go to Oak Park-River Forest High?"
Eleanor: "Yes."
Me: "Cool. I had cousins that went there."
Eleanor: "Great."
Me: "........" (awkward silence)

The show itself was rather strange and dull. But Greg and I did get a kick out of watching this blonde girl who kept getting out of her seat to dance by herself in the corner, even to the "Masturbating Jimmy" song, which I felt was clearly inappropriate. She was on something, surely. I kept asking, "Is she supposed to be part of the act?"

Extra bonus is that I was able to sneak a snapshot of Kath from the Kath and Kim Show who was sitting at the table in front of us, not having a good time (see photo to the left). I think she was not at all amused by all the sex jokes and comments about Jesus.

Richard was super excited to meet Eleanor and Alex, but the poor guy was the walking dead by 11:30 pm (when the photos were taken), hopped up on all sorts of pain meds.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Convalescing in Australia

Well I've been here in Sydney for three weeks and looking back realize that I haven't a whole lot to show for it. Aside from a lot of walking around the streets of Newtown and the CBD/downtown, I haven't really done a thing. Beach? Only once. Sightseeing? Did that last time I was here, thanks.

I don't even have a good tan.

Part of the reason is the weather has been absolute crap - lots of rain, not much sun; not much reason to hit the beach. I can count on one hand how many days of good weather since I've arrived. But the reason is that I just can't be bothered.

But I can say that I am getting plenty of rest. So I have that going for me.

My friend Greg from DC arrives this afternoon, so I'm hoping his visit will kick my ass into doing something besides eating and sleeping; maybe get to the beach and do some other stuff while he's here.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Things Overheard at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital

I spent the weekend at the hospital - the very fine Royal Prince Alred Hospital - and it is amazing the things you hear while hanging out in the emergency ward.

Patient #1: "I went to poop this morning and my stool was bright white."
Doctor: "That's perfectly normal. Well, not really normal. But normal for someone in your condition."

Patient #2: "I came in because I was bleeding out of my belly button."
Doctor: "Out your belly button? I don't think I've seen that too often."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sick in Sydney

It is Friday the 13th and I am feeling sick. Very sick. Can barely get out of bed. I did not factor this into my Australia activities.

Last night sat on the steps of the Opera House at dusk and watched the giant fruit bats (that nest at the Royal Botanic Gardens) swoop into the sky and begin their nightly feedings. (Actually, they're not bats but rather grey-headed flying foxes). Either way, they're huge.

Heading back to bed now.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Huge Pressure" on Sharks

I've been here for two weeks and only once to the beach. Here's why:
1. On Sunday, a woman swimming in waist-deep water was attached by three sharks. According to rescuers, her arms were missing by the time they reached her. Yes, a rescuer went to grab her arms to pull her to safety but found she had no arms to grab. This happened on a NSW beach that had been protected for the last 40-some years by shark nets. She was pronounced dead before they could get her to the hospital.
2. Also on Sunday, a girl was attacked by a jellyfish at another NSW beach. As she got out of the water, she collapsed and died from shock.
3. Yesterday afternooon, all swimmers at Tamarama and Bronte Beaches (here in Sydney) were called out of the water due to shark sightings.

Until Sunday, there had not been a fatal shark attack on a New South Wales beach in 44 years. And then I arrive and there are sharks (and a jellyfish) everywhere. Of course, there is now a lot of debate about what to do with this perceived increase in shark activity. But this morning's Sydney Morning Herald quoted a local marine biologist saying that "There's huge pressure on sharks these days. If anything you would expect that sightings would be decreasing."

Mmm, OK. So what kind of pressure, exactly, would that be? Regardless, I'll be swimming tomorrow at Andrew Boy Charleton Pool in downtown Sydney.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Sydney Festival 2006

Saturday night was the opening of the 2006 Sydney Festival, and, more importantly, the Opening Night Party at the Hyde Park Barracks. Hands down, the best party I've been to in a year. Great music (a group called Panjea from NYC for the first part, then a DJ later), free alcohol (champagne and Russian vodka) and celebrity sitings. I'm standing there talking to some of Richard's friends and then - bam! - I look over and Cate Blanchett is walking right past. A few more glasses of champagne and I would have stopped to talk to her (which would not have been good for anyone).

I did manage to go up and babble to an actress I recognized from my new all-time favorite show "Headlands." Like my previous all-time favorite show from the UK, "Hollyoaks", "Headlands" is a horrible evening soap opera that everyone watches but nobody will admit to. I've been here about 2 weeks and I'm hooked on it, and even told the Headlands actress. She didn't seem as impressed with my admission as I feel she should have been.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Liar's Club I

Stimulating Conversations with the Locals - Pt. I

Sunday night after the Shins concert, standing in line at Hungry Jack's.
Drunk guy: Hey, your shirt. It's almost a pink color.
Me: Yes.
Drunk guy: It's like salmon colored.
Me: Yes.
Drunk guy: It's a little gay. Don't get me wrong. I'm a metro-sexual just like the next guy. But if you don't mind me saying, your shirt is a little gay.
Me: Well, you're the one that called it "salmon."
Drunk guy: Good point. Good point.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Some Thoughts on 2006

Things I Could Do Without in 2006:

  1. Nicole Ritchie – she’s gross.
  2. American Apparel Ads – they’re gross.
  3. “Times New Roman” font (esp. as the default in Word)
  4. Swass
  5. Sizzle Reels
  6. Tom Cruise
  7. Piercings
  8. “On no you di-int!”
  9. The Eurovision Song Contest
  10. Those photos with the little babies dressed as flowers
  11. My humps. Or your humps, or anybody’s humps, really.
  12. T-shirts with stupid, lame sexual double-entendre references, like “Woody’s Longboards” or “Cleveland Coffee Roasters – Start Your Day with a Cleveland Steamer!”
  13. Another iPod product. Seriously, let’s give it a rest Steve.
  14. Nickelback

Things I Could Have More of in 2006:

  1. Arrested Development
  2. Crimped hair (on women or men)
  3. More jokes/comments about Your Momma
  4. Eurovision Song Contest Parties
  5. Cadbury Malt Crisps
  6. Limahl
  7. Rockin’ to the Beat
  8. Stevie Nicks
  9. Kilts
  10. Pink (the color, not the singer)
  11. Merino Wool
  12. Cornhole (the game, not the other thing)
  13. Moo n' Oink

Monday, January 02, 2006

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Lager and Lime Disease

Experiment in Terror

Hot Hot Heat

As I write this, it is 112 degrees here in Sydney. It hurts to move. In Chicago, it is about 28 degrees. That's a 84 degree difference between here and home. How is this possible??

Richard and I went to the beach this morning bright and early before the crowds and heat. I'd never been to Coogee Beach, and it was fantastic. Swimming in the ocean was a great way to start the New Year.