That Gum You Like

Road Trip vol. 3

Posted in Uncategorized by Dave on December 16, 2009

Hey Y’all–

So this is it. I’ve reached the halfway point in my road trip, and will henceforth be retracing my steps in double time to get back to Melbourne by the night of the 20th. This ain’t my last post, I plan to write a little bit more before I leave as a sort of wrapping up gesture, but from here on out, my trip out to the land down under is on a rather steep downhill slope. Ready to go home, buds.

Anyway, my time in Yulara, and thus Ayers Rock and the Olgas (a.k.a. Uluru and Kata Tjuta), was somewhat spectacular. It’s impossible to put into words what it even looks like to walk around the rock or take a jaunt through the Olgas. It’s an experience that is vastly diminished in any sort of reproduction. I’ll try a little.

On Monday, I showed up at Uluru around 11am and did the base loop, which takes you around the whole thing. Before arriving in Yulara, I had been thinking that I would climb Uluru, but as I discovered upon arrival in the town, the climb has no small share of controversy surrounding it. There is first of all, the practical side: 35 people have died climbing it, from either the heat or falling. The climb is pretty steep, although I suspect that many of the deaths were people who were insanely careless about the whole endeavor. The park closes the climb at 8am (it opens a half hour before sunrise), on days that exceed 36 degrees centigrade, and frequently closes it due to high winds. However, of greater significance is that the ‘traditional owners’, as the park refers to the Anangu people that associate themselves with the land surrounding Uluru, view climbing the rock as a serious kind of sacrilege. I won’t pretend to have a firm grasp on the mythology that surrounds the rock, but as far as understood, the top of Uluru was the site of some sort of ceremony that the Anangu see as the origin of their people.

On >onday though, none of this was even an issue. I got there too late anyway, and didn’t even think about it. The walk around the rock is about 10.5km, and certainly wasn’t very difficult, but I easily could have drowned a small child in the amount of sweat I produced. Anyway. As I said before, it’s difficult to describe what the experience of close proximity with the rock is like. Every time you look at it, it’s almost entirely different. The sheer enormity of it, and the monolithic view you’d get from google image or your national geographic documentary on the natural wonders of the world, entirely masks the unbelievable variety of its surface. It’s pocked with caves and fissures, and around every corner a new chunk reveals itself. See? You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure, or I at least sound like I’m in some sort of druggy rapture. Which really isn’t the case, I promise. It may just be a cop out because I’m incapable of summarizing it in some sort of neat fashion, but I don’t think I’ll do you any good continuing to ramble. Go see it. It’s cool. Don’t go in december.

Tuesday, I went to the Olgas, the less famous younger sibling to Ayers rock (the Stephen to its Alec Baldwin). The Olgas are basically a bunch of little Ayers’, all jammed together and piled on top of each other. They are just as impressive as Ayers in terms of size, though not as photogenic or intimidating. There are a few walks through the Olgas, the most prominent of which is The Valley of the Winds Walk. This trek is significantly more difficult than the loop around Uluru, and like the climb, is frequently closed due to high winds or intense heat. The day I showed up, it was closed beyond the first lookout after 11am (the forcast predicted about 40 degrees centigrade). I showed at 10:45, and figured I’d cheat a little bit, and pushed on to the second lookout. I’m very glad I did, as the view was spectacular; jammed in between two of the Olgas, I looked out onto a surprisingly green-looking and enormous valley. However, I’m fairly certain I looked as though I had been swimming when I was done–on the walk back I ran into a few fellow walkers, all of whom recoiled in horror upon seeing me and realizing what they were in for. All I could manage to say to each of them was “Enjoy!”

This morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4:45am and went to see the sunrise at Ayers. It was a supremely surreal experience. As great as it was to see the rising sun slowly change the color of the rock from a drab orange to a blindingly bright red, sharing it with nearly 500 camera toting tourists dampened the whole thing a little bit. Which, really is my problem with the whole Uluru / Kata Tjuta national park experience. Every possible interaction with the rock is strictly organized and cordoned off. Want to watch the sunset? Please, proceed to the Sunset parking lot, and stand on hot concrete with 1000 other people boozing and talking on their cell phones. Want to see the sunrise? Please enjoy from our two viewpoints, and do your best to ignore the american couple next to you screaming at each other about whose responsibility it was to charge the camera batteries. At the same time though, I feel pretty bad that we were there at all. The whole area holds immense significance for a hugely marginalized people, who have to deal with watching ugly tourists tramp all over land that was ripped out from under them. It’s a tough balance to strike, and the national park is probably doing the best they can to try and negotiate respecting the Anangu while still trying to manage what is effectively the only real tourist destination in all of central Australia. I can’t say I have a better way to go about it, apart from making every tourist take a quiz to prove that they’re not a total douchebag.

After the sun came up, I took my leave of Ayers rock and the surrounding area and pushed on to Alice Springs. I’ll admit to not spending a whole lot of time in the town, but what I did see was pretty good. Lot of Aboriginal art galleries, shitload of gift shops, lot of heat. I cruised up and down the main drag a few times, cleared away some gifts for the folks back home, had a beer, and went back to the hostel I’m crashing at to write all this up. I would write more about Alice now, but I’m starving. Sorry y’all.

Look for my final post coming up soon (hopefully within the next week), and keep it real.


Road trip vol. 2

Posted in Road Trip by Dave on December 13, 2009

Hey hey hey–

Since I last checked in, I’ve driven about 2000 kilometers, and I’m now crashing at the Ayers Rock resort, tourist trap extraordinaire. They’ve got backpacker accommodations (what the rest of the world would refer to as a hostel) for about 30 bucks a night, which really isn’t so bad, and is certainly the cheapest thing I’ll find outside of sleeping in my car.

So, right. Since I checked in last I’ve stayed firm in my decision to crash in hostels rather than my car. It’s become much less about not wanting to get murdered, and much more about the fact that my car is basically unsleepable. Forget the fact that it’s small, although that’s certainly a problem. The big issue here is that it’s hot. Hot like I’ve never dealt with in my life. The sun is insanely powerful. Sitting in the car with the A/C blasting–my natural state out here– is perfectly comfortable, but if your skin is under direct sunlight, you know it. Walking around outside is a joke, after a minute you can feel your skin enter its death throes. I’m not a big sunscreen guy (sorry moms) and I’m fairly sure I’ll be returning to the US a genuine redneck.

So given the fact that sun rises well before I’m capable of functioning, sleeping in the car has proven to be more annoyance than it’s worth. Hostels are generally cheap enough, and getting a good nights sleep, a shower (although I must admit I’ve been drying myself with old shirts, they never provide towels), and usually something for breakfast is worth the 25 bucks it typically costs.

After Adelaide I crashed in Port Augusta. The last water access as you move north, it’s not desert yet. The town, to be honest here, has more or less nothing going for it. It’s the biggest thing between Adelaide and Alice Springs (a bustling 19,000), but you’d never guess. God knows what the primary industry here is, I saw almost zero locals outside of the high school dance I accidentally crashed looking for a bar, and unlike nearby Port Pirie, there was no enormous, mysterious plant looming over the downtown. I watched the sun go down over some scrubby mountains and crashed early.

The next day took me into the beginnings of the Outback, and to the most bizarre place I’ve come across in my travels here, Coober Pedy. Coober Pedy (pop. 4000) is the opal capital of the world, responsible for nearly 80% of the world’s opal supply. In an attempt to escape the oppressive heat, and taking advantage of the preponderance of explosives and empty mine-shafts, most locals live underground. I actually stayed in an underground hostel, which was pretty awesome. No need for A/C, it stays a temperate 23 degrees centigrade regardless of what madness is going on topside. It’s also by far the most popular stopping place between Adelaide and Alice Springs, bringing through dozens of tourists like myself each day in the off season, and hundreds a week in the peak of the year (may-sept.). I arrived in town in the late afternoon, and quickly signed on to stay two nights. I decided I needed a full day to even begin to figure this place out.

I would be lying if I said I had a handle on the way the place works, but I left Coober Pedy with at least a marginal understanding of the town. And to tell the truth, it’s a pretty sad place. 80% of the worlds opals doesn’t come without some significant landscape altering, and the area around town is surrounded for miles with enormous piles of dirt. It takes a particular kind of person to decide they’re going to pull up stakes and gamble their whole lives on mining for opal: ballsy and desperate are two words that come to mind. As far as I can tell, most people fail; a quick walk around town revealed dozens of abandoned shops and boarded up houses. All the miners I met were holding down day jobs in the various tourist traps, running mine tours or selling pretty awful jewelry and opal-encrusted boomerangs (for real). Having said all that, I ended my second day sitting on the porch with the owner of the hostel, watching the sun set over the desert and we agreed that, mining aside, it wasn’t a bad place to sit and drink beer in the evenings.

This morning I blew out of town around 10, and made the trek up to Yulara. A pretty sizable drive, I pulled into town around 6, a few hours after crossing the border into the Northern Territory. Ayer’s Rock is in a national park, and just outside is the town of Yulara, which exists exclusively to give people looking at the rock a place to stay. It’s insanely overpriced, but that’s what you get for putting this enormous rock way in the middle of the goddamn desert. Oh right. The border between South Australia and the Northern Territory is marked by a change in geography from what you thought was desert to okay, holy shit, this is actually just sand and tumbleweeds, this is the desert.

I’m gonna be here for a few days, so I’ll update again once I have a better feel for this whole rock thing. Be well, y’all.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pix. The internet that I can manage to scrounge is far too slow (and costly) to upload. I’ll do a huge photo post when I’m back in the land of real internet.

Road Trip, Vol. 1

Posted in Adelaide, Road Trip by Dave on December 10, 2009

hey kiddos–

So I left Melbourne on Tuesday at about 7pm. The late exit because I didn’t end up getting the car until about 4pm, and took three hours to frantically get an iPod connector and pack all my stuff. I had been planning to stay in a campground in Little Desert National park, and really it looked very nice. But it was a lot further away than I thought it was, and by the time I reached Keniva, the town you access the park from, it was about midnight. Also, I couldn’t find the campground, so I suppose it wasn’t so much the midnight as the fact that I had no earthly idea where I was going. It’s called planning folks.

So my plan for the trip as a whole had been to sleep in my car for the most of it, as a money saving technique and a surefire hilarious-story bonus detail. So I arrive in Keniva, can’t find the campground, and decide, well, may as well start now. I pulled into a parking lot conveniently located right by the police station, whipped out my blanket and pillow, reclined the seat, and tried to sleep.

Mine is red.

The picture does this beast far too much justice in the size department. Cramped is an understatement. After I couldn’t work it in the drivers seat, I tried lying across the back seat. After a few minutes getting intimate with my knees, I decided it just wasn’t going to work.

Okay, I imagine some of you at this point are thinking, “C’mon dave, I’ve seen you fall asleep sitting up at the dinner table in the middle of a conversation, and you’re telling me you couldn’t sleep in a car because it was too small?”. And you’re right. That’s not the whole story. The other half of the story is I got spooked, and bailed. A few things in my defense–it was midnight. this town was a straight transplant from rural Alabama. Before leaving Melbourne, I watched Wolf Creek, a horror flick about backpackers getting murdered in rural Australia. And the king of all reasons–both times I stopped for gas en route, the conversations I had with the various truckers went something like this:

“Where ya headed mate?”
“Uh, Keniva. Little Desert National Park.”
“Ah, American, are yas?”
“Yeah, east coast.”
“Ah. Well, good luck to ya, and y’know….be careful.”
**nervous laugh** “Of what, in particular?”
“Just be careful, mate”
**increasingly nervous laugh “Yeah, okay, thanks…”
“Some people out here don’t much care for tourists, that’s all.”

At this point I typically choked out a thanks and got back in my car. I’m almost certain they were joking, but as it got darker and the traces of civilization got further and further away, the joke stopped being funny.

Okay, so, yeah. The truth is, whatever the reason, I knew I wasn’t sleeping in that car. So I drove the rest of the way to Adelaide, and got in at about 3 in the morning. After it became clear that every hostel in town was closed and that the only open hotel was the surely very expensive (at least compared to the $24 hilton, it was 5 in the morning and I figured I may as well just stay awake until it got light. So I cruised around and saw some of the city, walked through the park, and as it got light, drove through the adelaide hills and watched the sunrise over some mountains. It was pretty awesome actually.

The rest of my day was spent cruising around Adelaide and trying not to fall asleep in bookstores and art galleries. I found an absolutely incredible bookstore in a tiny gallery called the Experimental Art Foundation. I’ve never seen a less commercially viable place of business in my life. The biggest sections were Philosophy and Experimental Lit. followed closely by Art and Literary Theory. All of the marginal sections in any reasonable bookstore, if they have them at all, were highlighted here. It was a dream come true for a snob like me, but it blew my mind how anti-profit the design and selection was. I have a lot of respect for the guy who runs it, who talked to me for quite a bit as I nosed through the store. As he explains it, because the gallery is supported by the government, he doesn’t pay taxes, and can survive as long as he doesn’t actually lose money. Which is enough of a challenge, as I discovered. He claimed that he got far more customers like me, just passing through town, than from the local community, despite the fact that he’s on the campus of the University of South Australia, which reportedly has a robust art program.

And quite a good one, to judge by their museum. I spent nearly an hour in their Sydney Ball exhibit, which was pretty great.

Shapes, guys. I love 'em.

After nerding it up in the museums, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Botanical Gardens reading comics. [Garth Ennis’s Preacher and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. Amazing and disappointing, respectively. Preacher highly recc’d if you like: absurd violence, foul language, books that make you feel gross for reading them, and the Golden Compass]. Around six I checked into a hostel. Okay hostels are ludicrous and I felt like an alien, but I don’t have the time to do the subject justice. I’ll probably end up staying in quite a few more, so I’ll write more about them as I get a better sense of what’s crazy and what’s not.

After a few beers at the local Pub, the fantastic Grace Emily, I crashed mega early. Like, 8pm early. 32 hours awake was enough for me.

Today I’m headed off to Port Augusta, the reported “Crossroads of Australia”. I think this is where the Outback starts, so I’ll be looking for a steakhouse.

Oh hey guys

Posted in Uncategorized by Dave on December 6, 2009

Hola Amigos–

I guess at this point, it’s silly to keep apologizing for taking so long to update this sucker. I’ve established a standard of at least about a month of silence between posts for much longer than I updated every few days. Although this isn’t really what I envisioned for this little project, it’s kinda whatever at this point. I’ve always thought I’m pretty good at talking about myself, but trying to keep a personal blog up to date has shown me how little effort I’ll expend in extending that beyond in-person conversation.

Which is not to say that I don’t think that my life here over the past two months has been anything but pretty boring. Not that I’m actually bored myself, but I can’t imagine my description of a day in which I sleep till noon, make an egg sandwich and read Underworld for five hours being met with anything but a yawn and a few clicks over to youtube to watch that video where the baby gets kicked in the head by that breakdancer again. Particularly when that routine has become so crystallized (although I finally finished Underworld) that it’s applicable to nearly any day when I don’t have to go to work.

I’ve also completely abandoned the part of this thing where I attempt to play the critic or nerdy friend who recommends things. In part, because I don’t really have access to what’s new in the world of music and movies (although I saw The Informant! yesterday (So-So. has its moments. damon is good.)) and would feel weird trying to hip people to things that came out three years ago. Trying to go the other route of actually writing something where the criticism itself is of interest seems self-indulgent, and I’m not really sure that this is the right kind of venue for it. Partially because I’m not really confident of my skill at that kind of critical writing, but largely because it feels exploitative to trick my family and friends who are trying to find out if I’m still alive into reading a half-baked argument about why a book they don’t care about it better than another book they don’t care about.

Anyway! Things are all right down here in Melbourne. Thursday was my final day in the Boeing plant, and thank god, yo. The mind-numbing oblivion of factory work has its upsides (notably: money), but damn if I don’t feel really stupid these days. This is the longest period of time I’ve ever gone without being in school since I started kindergarten. And, unexpectedly, I can tell. The other day I found myself in a used bookstore, and bought Foucault’s Madness and Civilization and a mammoth collection of Wordsworth’s poems. Thumbing through them on the tram ride home, I realized that I probably picked those two over the vast selection of novels that I’ve been meaning to read because they’re the kind of thing I’d normally read in school. And although I’ve just started Madness and Civilization, I recognize the curious mix of serious interest, confusion, and occasional apathy as something that reading for classes brought out. Really though, it’s just been making me feel sluggish and out of practice. I should probably stop talking about anything academic here–anyone I know at college right now is probably in the thick of finals, and wishing that I would kindly go choke, sitting here on a lovely saturday without a care in the world.

Academic, at least. Because on the admittedly skewed scale of stress I’ve got operating out here in Melbourne, last week was a doozy. So I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I’ve been trying to roll on out of here and embark on a road trip. The plan has morphed considerably since I first envisioned it– as it stands now I’ll probably just drive to Adelaide, then on to Alice Springs, and then back to Melbourne. But obtaining a car has proven to be the most complicated logistical adventured I’ve embarked on in quite some time.

First, I tried renting a car. I had heard that, unlike the states, people under 25, and even 21, could rent cars, although it might cost a little extra. Turns out this is only kind of true. You can rent a car if you’re over 21, but almost no rental companies will rent to people younger than that. Almost. I did find a place called Travelers Auto Barn that would rent their camper vans and station-wagons out to anyone with a license, but upon further investigation, they admitted they were all booked out well into January. However, they told me that most companies would rent a specific kind of Campervan, called the “Breezer” (god knows why), to Under 21s.

Now, I was pretty opposed to the idea of renting a campervan. For one, it’d be a lot more expensive to rent and I’d end up spending twice as much on fuel. But, even aside from these practical issues, I have serious aesthetic beef with these things. I mean, the vans are hideous already, but most of the companies renting them out take ugly to the next level in their painting schemes. The only way to explain some of these decisions is a serious level of intoxication for everyone involved. How else do you explain this:

Nothing says "Rob me, I'm a dumb tourist" like a garishly painted trio of demons that look like the aliens from Space Jam.

But by this point, I was desperate for anything that would get me out of melbourne. As it turned out though, all the companies I checked were sold out of that one type of campervan I was legally allowed to rent. So, for renting, I was SOL. I briefly considered buying a car, and then selling it back, but I chickened out. Confronted with striking a balance between buying something cheap (thus decreasing the chances of it breaking down) or something a little pricier (thus increasing my losses if I didn’t have enough time to sell it) I eventually backed out all together.

However, all is not lost. After some talks with my bosses at work, I’ve worked out a supremely complicated plan that will give me access to a rented car for two weeks, starting on tuesday. So after Tuesday, I’ll be updating a lot more frequently, from the road, hopefully with plenty of hilarious stories about the outback.

See you then. Be good.

Chockers in Renmark, Knackered in Adelaide

Posted in Adelaide, Renmark by Dave on November 11, 2009

What’s happenin’ kids? Another long wait between updates, my apologies, but not nearly as bad as last time, I don’t think. Nothing too new in the lovely port city of Melbourne, but this past weekend I finally escaped it’s sprawling clutches and ran off to find some rural goodness in South Australia. Specifically, a little town called Renmark, pop. 10,000, located right on the lazy banks of the Murray River.

A co-worker at the Boeing plant had gotten to asking me every Monday or Tuesday if I had “gotten up to anything that weekend”, and was apparently somewhat frustrated with my continual denial that I hadn’t been raising hell or wrestling wallabies. So two Fridays ago (Oct. 30) he announced to me that he was quitting work and moving out to Renmark to meet up with a buddy of his, and that I should come up for the weekend and see some of the real Aussie country. Eager for a break from my usual routine of falling asleep with a book on my chest in the park or watching movies till my eyeballs started bleeding, I readily accepted without bothering to ask any details, except when we left. Thursday, giving me a week to figure out how I was going to get back to Melbourne for work on Monday.

By the time Thursday rolled around, I had worked out the following plan. I would drive up to Renmark with Justin on Thursday, stay till Saturday morning, when I would take a bus to Adelaide at 730am and after spending the day there fly back to Melbourne Sunday morning at 650am. A somewhat ludicrous plan, to be sure, considering the concept of paying for a hotel is anathema to me by this point and I was planning on sleeping in the airport terminal, but the temptation of an 80 dollar plane ticket was too much to resist.

Thursday morning Justin picked me up at work, and after a picking up a furniture-loaded trailer from the father of the guy he was going to see, we hit the road. The scenery shifted quickly from the suburban sprawl of Melbourne to long loping fields full of hay or grapes to stark, empty desert. The last few hours of the drive brought us across some of the most barren, empty, country I’ve seen outside of the American Southwest. Scrubby plants sticking up out of the famous, endless, red dirt, periodically interrupted by a few blink-and-you-miss it towns where a gas station is the only sign of civilization (and even that is a questionable form of civilization. These people still use the word “petrol”).

After eight hours in the car, we arrived in Renmark at about four or five in the afternoon and met up with Ramsey. Ramsey is an old family friend of Justin’s, and had moved to Renmark about a year ago after spending some time recovering from a motorcycle accident. As I picked up from the endless shit-talk, Ramsey’s idea of recovering apparently involved spending two and a half years visiting damn near every bar in Australia and buying rounds for the house out of a seemingly bottomless insurance compensation.

Seemingly being a key word here. It would seem that well had run dry by the time I blew into town—Ramsey was starting work, and had blown the last bit of the cash on a place to live so he could finally move out of his girlfriends place. The twist is that he bought a church.


Party Central.

Okay, so not exactly a church, but a hall used by the Lutheran church across the street for whatever functions they had going (exorcisms? ritual sacrifice? what’s a Lutheran?) Apparently they didn’t need it any more, and Ramsey picked it up for a song with grand plans to turn it into the den of debauchery it was always intended to be. After dropping our stuff off in the hall, we headed “downtown” and got a beer at the sports bar, before making our way over to Ramsey’s girlfriend’s house for a “Barbie.” [Okay, seriously, I’m not kidding, they said Barbie. It was the first time I’d heard it, and I had to turn a laugh into a cough pretty quickly….)

Emma’s house, in the “suburbs” of Renmark (scare quotes because these people talk about their 10,000 person town as if it was some burgeoning metropolis, which brought a chuckle when the downtown is half a block and the suburbs a 100 house development), used to be right up against an apricot (ape-ri-cot, in these parts) farm, but the town had recently hit a stride of growth and the farm was being converted into another development. The company building the houses out back was the one that Justin and Ramsey were shortly going to start work for, so we took an amble through the frames of the future suburb and beyond, into the scrubby outback. After watching Ramsey’s whippet, Basil, chase down a few Kangaroos, we went back in and had dinner.


Australian steak on the Barbie is serious business.


This steak has more meat than I do.

These steaks kicked my ass, and I emerged the winner. After finishing mine and half of Justin’s I sat back and nearly collapsed in soporific ecstasy (the Aussies refer to this state of extreme fullness as “chockers”), and went to bed for real shortly after. We crashed at Emma’s that night, as there was no place except the hardwood floor to sleep in the hall.

Saturday morning dawned bright, loud, hot, and generally unpleasant, although I suppose the ‘slab’ (i.e. case) of Cooper’s Pale Ale (the winner so far in the best Australian Beer contest) we had polished off the night before could have played a role in that. To be fair, the weather in Renmark is extreme. Saturday reached a peak of something like 40 centigrade (104 F), and was generally considered a pretty cool day. The prediction for this week was three days over 45 C, which is pushing into absolute madness territory. The locals deal with the heat through a time-honored tradition of mocking the sweaty tourists, feigning ignorance to the existence of sleeves, and beginning their beer drinking before noon, if possible. As a sweaty tourist whose shirts all still have sleeves, beer was my only hope.

Ramsey was signed up to help a friend with some work on a vineyard, leaving Justin and I to our own devices. Justin was eager to get the TV in the hall working, so after making a delicious egg sandwich for breakfast, we set out to get bunny ears and an aerial (right? I had no idea these still existed). After managing to get one fuzzy channel playing an endless marathon of a painfully inane kids show, we decided to see what we could see in town. After fifteen minutes of that, we gave up and bought a slab and sat drinking in the cool shade of the gum trees on the banks of the Murray. The Murray runs right through Renmark, and like many rural river communities, life revolves around the cool water skirting around the town. Most locals own a ‘tinny’ (and overpower them with hilariously large motors. I saw a 50 horse on a 15 foot flat bottom…) and spent most of their time floating around the river, fishing and camping. Any local who learned I wasn’t going to make it upriver claimed I would be missing the best part of Renmark, but I suppose these are the breaks.

Ramsey called in the early evening to give us the plan for the rest of the night. We were expected at Emma’s at 630 for another barbeque, this time with a few more guests, and after that everyone was headed to the Club. “There’s a band playing tonight, it should be pretty good,” says Ramsey, “I think it’s a Pink cover band.” You heard right, friends, a Pink cover band. Pink is strangely huge in Australia in general (like Hasselhoff in Germany huge) and the affection for the woman and her music extends across gender and age lines in a way that would be regarded an exceptionally strange phenomenon stateside. So I guess I wasn’t surprised that Ramsey was excited to see a Pink cover band, though I suspected that the truth was that he was more excited about the surely epic night that the band would bring.

The barbeque at Emma’s house, though not matched in size, was equally delicious as the night before, and the added guests delighted in that old Australian party game “Make Fun of the American.” Popular categories include “Gridiron”, “What the fuck are you doing in Renmark” “That Bush guy sure sucked, huh?” “Clark Kent” and “I’m surprised you aren’t fatter.” Really though, I had a great time at the barbeque, and the Renmark locals are easily some of the nicest, most down-to-earth Australians I’ve met since arriving. With these people, the only thing that matters is that you’re there. It doesn’t matter what roundabout path you took to arrive, once you’re sitting on their veranda and drinking a beer with them, it’s instant acceptance. Which is a pleasant change from American social politics, where I more often feel some need to prove myself (particularly with my peers), and my right to be sitting at the table. It’s not so much a value judgment; I think the flip side is that although Australian’s are far more comfortable with you on the surface, they are less likely to be actually open with you. I haven’t had a serious conversation with a local since arriving, and while that’s not purely a bad thing, it does feel like an incomplete kind of relationship.

But enough of this half-baked theorizing. I’m sure that what you want to hear about is the Pink cover band. We arrived at the club to find the band in full swing, as well as a packed house. Italics, not scare quotes. Everybody and their cousin was at this club. Within ten seconds of arriving I saw a girl who couldn’t have been older than fifteen and a dude who had to be at least seventy bobbing his foot-long beard with the music. Now I don’t care much for Pink, but this band put on a hell of a show. Smoke machines, elaborate lights, a singer who at least looked like Pink, and band that was fully capable of recreating the, um, full complexity of Pink’s oeuvre. Needless to say, I spend much of my time on the porch overlooking the river, which had become a placid reflecting pool in the bright lights of the club. This kind of social situation is not particularly my scene, and I knew I had to get up at 630 to catch my bus, but I ended up staying till 2am, pretty much exclusively because every time I tried to leave I saw or was accosted by someone hilarious. Highlights: A barrel-chested dude who had to be at least seven feet tall and his 4’10” wife, the woman who claimed I was Spiderman (“No ma’am, I believe you’re thinking of Clark Kent”), the retiree who wouldn’t take no for an answer and essentially dragged me onto the dance floor (she could bust a move, for the record), a guy who asked me if I wanted to see a shark fight a gator the next day and a very drunk hippie with a braided beard who cryptically informed me that if I wanted to really see Australia, I had to go to New Zealand. [Almost everyone knew immediately I was American. I still can’t figure it out. Maybe I smell like McDonalds or something.]  But I eventually made my way back to the hall and promptly passed out on the stage.


Slept great, dreamed of Jesus.

The next day dawned just as hot and unpleasant as the one before, too hot even to sleep on the bus. My arrival in Adelaide was marked by the following thoughts: “Oh my god it’s hot. Holy shit, this is seriously hot. I can’t believe how hot it is. This is incredible.” I soon decided standing in the black tar parking lot wasn’t improving the situation any, and found my way into the center of the city. After a cursory tour of the Art Museum (saw another Francis Bacon, and a bunch more I forget), I found my way into the botanical gardens. I don’t care about plants, but I do care about shade, and I frittered away a big chunk of the day drifting in and out of a nap under a huge tree.

Exhausted (i.e. knackered) from the past two days (drinking beer in the hot sun is the new working), I wasn’t up for much exploring, and I didn’t think I could survive much time in the heat anyway, so after leaving the gardens I killed some time watching An Education in a local movie theater. A fine source of air conditioning, and although I didn’t care much for the movie, I would recommend it highly to moms (particularly those raised in the sixties. HI MOM!). I then headed out to the airport, planning to fall asleep on a bench until my flight the next morning. I had only begun to set my plan into action on a strangely comfortable row of chairs before the security guard approached me, and informed me of some hilarious news. Apparently the terminal closes at 11 in the Adelaide airport, and I was going to have to find another place to sleep. The guard was perfectly friendly about it, and recommended the coffee shop’s outdoor terrace area as a good place to catch a few winks.

Unfortunately, due to a combination of a hard wooden bench, no pillow, some serious breeze, and a couple of obnoxious Germans, sleep eluded me for the evening.  I was allowed back in the airport at four the next morning, caught my flight at 650, got back to Melbourne and spent the day in a coma. Fucking knackered, mate.

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Posted in Melbourne by Dave on October 20, 2009

Hey Hey Hey–

Nope, I haven’t been devoured by a rapid kangaroo or crushed by a mob of footy fanatics. Just lazy and unmotivated to blog, considering the relative lack of activity in these parts. I really frontloaded my activities for the trip– since I updated last, I’ve really just been working in the plant and getting used to life in Melbourne. Which really means a lotta movies, few books, and lotta x-files. I’ve been doing some exploring too, but this mostly means getting lost on my way to buy bread.

Easily the most bloggable thing in my life these days is my job working for Electroimpact Australia, in the Boeing plant in Melbourne. Boeing is working on a big new airplane, the 787 ‘Dreamliner’, utilizing carbon-fiber something or other, and have contracted Electroimpact (full disclosure: I have this job exclusively because my uncle is a bigwig in the company) to build assembly lines that will build the wings.

At least I think this is what I’m doing. Really, I could be building assembly lines that wrap Starbursts or stuff teddy bears, for all the comprehension I have of what’s going on around me. Really all I know is that I show up four days a week from 830-5 and do tasks that could be completed by an inbred Appalachian with a learning disability. The plant is enormous, and I walk through various Boeing activities everyday, and as far as I can tell, the most important requirements to work in this plant are the existence of thumbs and a willingness to heckle whoever happens to walk by. As well as the incredible amount of courage it takes to dodge seagull attacks on your way into work.

To delve a little further into specifics, here’s what I did today. I got to work very late, around 10 (really, nobody cares what I do, I have this job purely as a favor, and my co-workers could care less when I show up and when I leave), changed into my steel-toed boots and headed down to the little corner of a gargantuan warehouse where I’ve been working. I then got into a little trench that runs under a long row of floor panels (which I spent the vast majority of my first week assembling) in one of the assembly lines. The trench is maybe two feet deep and two and half feet wide, so my latent claustrophobia kicked in immediately, meaning my movements were frantic, uncoordinated, and destined for painful encounters with the walls of my narrow cave. I spent the two hours till lunch slowly schooching my way along the trench, bolting the floor panels to the wall. After my hour lunch break (so luxurious!), I spent a few hours leveling the floor panels (an extremely particular process that actually required a level, as opposed to the “eh, looks aight” technique I’ve been taught since arriving). Then, I finished off the day hammering a rubber tube onto a rail, so as to soften the impact of the moving parts of the floor.

I wish I could illustrate this fascinating process with a few pictures, but cameras are banned in my part of the factory. Trade secrets for the 787, I suppose, although I wouldn’t know what secrets to steal if someone asked. So, a brief list of other jobs I’ve done. Greasing the teeth of a long (long) rail with several cans of the stickiest, most penetrating green goop I’ve ever encountered, watching my more skilled coworkers play with an enormous crane, assembling 250 bolt and nut combos, looking for washers, sanding huge steal plates and then rubbing them with a deadly liquid known as prep-solve (I was told that if I didn’t wear a mask I’d be high as a kite in about five minutes, and as tempting as that proposition was, I was also told the high would be followed with a cripping headache caused by the death cries of the vast majority of my brain cells), and trying to figure out the espresso machine (fail).

All in all it’s diverting work, and I get to wear headphones most of the time, giving me a good opportunity to listen to Prince and giggle to myself (srsly, “Head” is a hilarious song), drawing stares from any number of super masculine bot-builders. I can’t say I’m really learning much except I don’t every want to work in a factory for real, but it’s more or less perfect, given the circumstances. I suppose, if I’m learning anything, it’s the kind of subconscious environment absorption that I could never get in any other way but spending two months at work. Like, I can definitely say that I have a very good feel for the way the company works, in a way that’s kind of inexplicable. It’s like in fourth grade, when your teacher asks you to explain what division is to a martian, and you can’t do it, because all the building blocks are so taken for granted that you forget to explain them. Was that everybody’s fourth grade teacher? Just mine? Okay, well, I think you get my point nonetheless. What I’m trying to say is that I’m glad I’m getting this kind of inexplicable experience.

But okay yeah, other than the factory, I’ve got nothin’ new for ya. My frequent wanderings throughout Melbourne are mostly without a strict goal in mind, so I haven’t seen any of the “sights” since I last updated. Or at least not on purpose or that stick out in my mind. I do think I have a much more defined view of Melbourne though. It’s is an alright city, but it’s seriously flawed in a few ways. It’s extremely spread out, where the suburbs have grown into miniature districts of the city. The effect this creates is a total lack of a real “downtown” and makes the goal of having a handle on the layout of the city as a whole nearly impossible. But my little corner of it grows more manageable by the day, and I’m starting to feel comfortable cruising around the neighborhood (I’m at least getting lost a lot less, only about 25% of the time I leave the apartment. Although probably more like 75% if I venture beyond 10 blocks in any direction.

I promise to get better about blogging, now that I’ve gotten over the hump of not having a whole lot to talk about, I’ll be more diligent about rambling. Hopefully soon, I’ll have accumulated enough pix and necessary songs to do a media post.

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Media Update

Posted in Melbourne by Dave on September 26, 2009
Sorry about the watermark, I'm too lazy to do this myself.

Sorry about the watermark, I'm too lazy to do this myself. But it's the view from my balcony.

Saint Kilda Saints. They lost.

Saint Kilda Saints. They lost.

Police is Serious Business.

Police is Serious Business.

Rugby Parade. Obnoxious.

Rugby Parade. Obnoxious.

Yellow Building of Something or Other.

Yellow Building of Something or Other.

My Building. I'm on floor 15. If you look real close, ours is the one with the dead plant. (You probably can't actually see this.)

My Building. I'm on floor 15. If you look real close, ours is the one with the dead plant. (You probably can't actually see this.)

Oh I intend to find out. My guess? Brutally Tender.

Oh I intend to find out. My guess? Brutally Tender.

Bizarro Burger King.

Bizarro Burger King.



My Room. And/or Closet.

My Room. And/or Closet.

Hot Chip albums are crafted with lazers:

Hot Chip – Over and Over

Lo-fi pop genius smothers accessible, friendly pop tune in layers of off-putting fuzz. Dig through and you’ve got a jam.

Ariel Pink – Loverboy

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In which Dave gets to Melbourne

Posted in Melbourne by Dave on September 26, 2009

Hola Amigos,

I know that it’s been a while, but forgive me, it’s been kinda chaotic. Also I keep screwing myself over with this thing, because if I let it go for a few days, I’m always daunted by the amount of time it’ll take to write and upload an update, so I put it off, which obviously makes it even harder the next time. But whatever. Here we go.

So after my day at the races I spent three more days with the Body’s out in the QLD, where Simon finally really put me to work at Tarrawonga. Sunday was a flashback to my landscaping past, as I spent most of the day destroying a massive hedge that had taken over one of the fences in the Body’s yard. Then, during the week, I helped Simon with “mustering”. Mustering involved me driving an ATV around the ranch, driving about 300 cattle from one fenced off chunk of field (AKA a “paddock”) to another. Apparently the cattle had devoured most of the edible scrub in their existing paddock and we were driving them into one of fresh oats. It was actually a pretty fun job, driving an ATV was pretty sweet, and the cattle were stupid and hilarious. I thought that driving these massive crowds of huge animals would be difficult and perhaps a little intimidating, but cows are real dumb and responded pretty well to me driving the ATV nearly into them over and over and over. So it took two days to finally get all the cows into the new paddock, as many of them were resistant to moving or got separated from their calves, and jumped the fence back into the original field.

On Wednesday we moved another herd of cattle, this time into the cattle yards, as they were being sold that day. This time, instead of the ATV I was driving the Ute, which gave me access to the radio, which in turn gave me access to the jewel of information that it was Bruce Springsteen’s 60th birthday. I know, holy shit. In a fortuitous coincidence, the only tape in the Ute was Born to Run, and even though I’m no fan of the Boss, I couldn’t fight against fate. Besides, my only other option was 106 Hot Country. So, for me, the definitive moment of my visit to the Body ranch was driving cattle while blasting Born to Run with the windows down. Seemed appropriate, somehow. (For the record, Born to Run pretty much sucks, but Thunder Road is impossible not to sing along to with all the heart you got.)

After driving the cattle into the yards, I got to see the beginning of the process of sorting them into varying grades before I had to go. The yards were a complex maze of fences and gates, and sorting them was a nutty process that’s I can’t possibly describe in any sort of convincing detail. Let’s just say it involved hitting the cattle with plastic pipes to keep them from ramming into you. Pretty much all I got. But I had to leave shortly after the process began, to begin what would turn into a hilariously drawn out bummer of a travel experience. Before I get into that though, I feel like I should wrap up the whole cattling experience somehow.

Although I obviously didn’t really get a feel for the ranching life in the five days I was there, the time I spent there left somewhat of a weird taste in my mouth (although that easily could have been the dust storm that came up on the day I left). As far as my feelings about eating steak, they remain essentially unchanged. At this point, I remain unconvinced that raising cattle like this is particularly inhumane. They basically are on vacation from the day they’re born until the day they die, and the people who own them are entirely focused on keeping them fat and happy. And at this point in the evolution of cows, they’re as helpless as zoo animals, and an existence in the wild would be a complete disaster. Is it sad that they’ve been domesticated to that extent? Maybe. But probably not. As far as the life they’re living in this situation, it seems pretty ideal. Okay, sure, they’re not “free” but honestly, I don’t think that distinction really means anything to cows. I’m still gonna eat steak, even having seen the face behind the plate, or whatever the hell those PETA ads were on about. I could easily see myself being a vegetarian someday, but certainly not for moral reasons.

The thing that stuck with me the most, and left me the most confused about my whole experience though, is the life that these ranchers live. It seems like a touch-and-go business, one that is left largely up to unpredictable factors like rainfall and the ever variable grain and steak prices. Many of the people I encountered, though, seemed to fall into the category of “gentleman farmers”, people who farmed because they liked it, and had money to back them up in case everything fell apart. Simon didn’t really fall into this category, I don’t think, but the general cultural feel I got out there was one of land=wealth=entitlement. And everyone out there has buttloads of land. It just seemed that I had dropped into a very weird world of intense isolation from the general populace, where everyone was preoccupied with the things that affected them directly, and not much concerned with society at large. It’s a life that left me confused, with my only certainty that it’s not for me. It’s not even that I have a problem with insulating yourself from the wider world, which is something that I see the romance in quite clearly, but more the combination of that isolation with a community of wealth and entitlement.

Having said all that, everyone I encountered was incredibly nice and gracious, and couldn’t have been more welcoming to this snobby jerk who’s left them to criticize the life they life. I don’t want to give the impression that these people were anything but fantastic in person, but I also can’t deny the culture shock that I experienced.

ANYWAY, I left the Body’s on wednesday and began my travel adventure to Melbourne. I started with a crowded, double-layover Greyhound trip to the Brisbane airport. Greyhounds out here are classier than in the states, but still draw the kind of people who are looking for cheap transportation, i.e. young people and grungy old boozehounds. But the Greyhound was pretty painless, I spent most of the time listening to Dirty Mind on repeat and reading As I Lay Dying.

I arrived at the Brisbane airport around 7pm, and went to check in for my flight that left at 6am the next morning. Of course, as soon I went up to the desk, I was informed that I couldn’t check in overnight and would have to wait until about 430 the next morning. I wasn’t about to take a cab into the city and pay for a hotel, so I cozied up in the ludicrously uncomfortable baggage claim waiting area and watched something like 7 episodes of the X-files. I didn’t particularly trust my neighbors and had too much stuff strewn about me to get some proper sleep, so I relied on the escapades of Mulder and Scully to keep me awake (not a difficult proposition (Question: Is X-files the theme of this blog so far? I seem to find a way to mention my obsession with it in every post. Still, I stand by its greatness.))

So around 430, I went to check my baggage, only to be told I was about 4kg overweight and that it was going to cost me 40 dollars. I suppose that’s what I get for bringing a box of books, but c’mon. My next encounter with the delightful Qantas people was when they confiscated my deodorant, toothpaste, and shaving cream at the security check. I’m still not really sure why, I didn’t have any problem bringing that on the plane on my flight over here, but I guess there was the danger that I was planning on not smelling and looking like a hobo on my flight to Melbourne. Oh well.

But I do have to say that once up in the air, Qantas was a great airline to fly on. They fed me breakfast and lunch, gave me unlimited coffee and free newspapers (which unfortunately follow the general trend over here of having totally bullshit crosswords) and were generally pretty nice. I landed in Melbourne to find it rainy and about 30 degrees colder than it had been in Queensland. After a bus into the city and a cab ride where the cabbie and I had to pore over a map for 10 minutes to find the apartment I’m staying in, only to discover it was a 3 minute walk from the bus station, I arrived at my apartment at about noon on thursday.

After meeting the fiancee and girlfriend of the two dudes who work at the plant where I start on monday I went off into the city. Didn’t do a whole hell of a lot aside from drink coffee and get lost, but already I really like Melbourne. It’s a little bit expensive, but it has everything you could ever want in a city, as well as a seemingly limitless number of weird neighborhoods to explore. At this point I hadn’t slept in about 24 hours, so I went back to the apartment and napped before meeting the two dudes, and had dinner with everyone, including two other Americans employed by the plant. Everybody is really really nice and it’s been great to hear American accents and to live with people who are equally confused by the difference between Rugby League, Rugby Union, and the AFL. Also, my apartment is killer, with an incredible view of the main downtown area. My internet is a little sketchy do properly do photos, but I’ll do a photo post later, where you can see the incredible view from my 15th floor balcony. When I do that I’ll also show you my hilarious closet/room where I’m living, which although small and windowless, it’s perfect for what I need (i.e. it has a bed).

Friday I slept in, had a delicious breakfast at a cafe nearby (hint to future travelers: all bacon is canadian bacon, and these people do not believe in homefries.) and went off to the ACMI (Australian Center for the Moving Image) which kept my record of free museums at 100%. The museum was really really awesome, with two aggressively experimental exhibits, Remixing Hollywood and a survey of the work of Len Lye, a New Zealand filmmaker. Len Lye apparently pioneered the technique of painting directly onto film, and although that work hasn’t aged particularly well in the 80 or so years since it was made, it was still really cool to see. Lye also apparently worked a lot with scratching onto film, and the three I saw in the exhibit were incredible. Particularly “Free Radicals” which I could watch for days. Remixing Hollywood was also fantastic, with films by Martin Arnold, Virgil Widrich, and Peter Tscherkassy, none of whom I’d heard of or seen anything by, but it was all really good. So yeah, the ACMI was definitely my best museum visit since getting to Australia, and if you’re ever in Melbourne, it’s definitely worth a visit. After my stop there, I just went back to the apartment and enjoyed my view and passed out early.

Today all I’ve done is travel over to Richmond, one of the dozens of Melbourne suburbs that are basically in the city and go to the awesome Picture Search Video, where I opened an account and got some flix. It’s currently about 130 here, and the AFL (more rugby) Grand Final starts in a half hour, so I think I’ll join the rest of the Melbourne population in watching that. Seriously, people here are going insane, I had to walk through a parade yesterday to get to the ACMI, and nearly everyone has either a red and white (Saint Kilda Saints) or blue and white (Geelong(I think) Cats) striped scarf. I expect nearly the entire city plans on getting tanked and screaming like idiots, so it should be a great day to get a feel for the place.

Like I said, my internet is too slow to upload photos or tunes, but I’m on the hunt for an internet cafe, so a media post is forthcoming.


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In which Dave goes to the QLD

Posted in Queensland by Dave on September 20, 2009

Hey Guys,

I know it’s been a few days, but I’ve been crazy busy since the last time I updated this thing. Took the train from Sydney to Brisbane, a fourteen hour expedition in which I ended up falling asleep in the fetal position on the floor after trying every possible position on the seats themselves. The train was populated mostly by loud, drunk, crazy people, including one woman who kept insisting that “she knew me from somewhere”. Pro-Tip: if you’re going to try and pick up somebody at least thirty years younger than you, on a train at five in the morning, spitting on them as you talk is probably not going to help matters.

I got to Brisbane around 7:00am Thursday, and my Greyhound left at 7:30. So my impressions of the city were limited to the Transit Station, which was basically a dirty, garish mall. The Greyhound from Brisbane to Roma was pretty painless, including a meal stop at a gas station where the food choices were limited to either A.) Fried Chicken B.) Chicken Fingers or C.) Chicken-Flavored Chips (fries). Having had nothing to eat since I left Sydney the previous afternoon, I got a generous helping of all three, topped off with a big ‘ol bottle of Coke.

You guys. Coke in Australia is like Coke from Mexico. Anyone worth their salt when it comes to Cola knows that in Mexico they use Cane Sugar instead of High-Fructose Corn Syrup, and also knows that yes, it makes a difference. In the states the only place you can find this ambrosia is in a select few bodegas scattered around the country. That or Texas. But here in Australia, the nectar is standard issue. Suffice to say I will be imbibing far more frequently than I ever would. Thus far, this is the only culinary item where the Aussie version is significantly superior to it’s US counterpart. Go Coke.

ANYWAY, Simon’s wife Katrina picked me up at the bus station in Roma, and took me out to the ranch, known as Tarrawonga, which is about a thirty minute drive outside town. Tarrawonga is an enormous property, and it’s one of three that Simon owns, along with Tallah and Kynoch, which he’s purchased since I arrived on Thursday. Altogether, I think the properties total at something like 15,000 acres, on which Simon raises his 1500 head of cattle. After an early dinner and sleep on Thursday evening, I woke up at about 630 with the Body family. Simon and Katrina’s two sons, Peter and Ted, ages 7 and 9 respectively, don’t let the family sleep much past 7, and Simon likes to be up early– before the heat kicks in.

We spent the morning checking the cattle in Simon’s “Ute” (AKA pickup truck), and taking a tour of the property. Raising 1500 cattle is an intense business, and I arrived at an interesting time for Simon. Along with buying Kynoch, he’s currently engaged in trying to sell 300 steers (at roughly $1.95/kg) and 300 heifers (at roughly $1.70/kg), which will be his big sale for the year. Usually he waits longer to sell, he says, but the drought that’s running train on the rest of Australia has struck here, and Tarrawonga has gotten about a third of it’s usual rainfall. This lack of rain has stunted the growth of the oats Simon uses to fatten the cattle, and he’s trying to close the sale before he runs out of oats to feed them.

Coming back from our foray into town (where Simon had to sign some papers regarding his property deal, and I took the opportunity to check out greater metropolitan Roma), we ran into one of Simon’s neighbors, Cossi, who pointed out we had a flat tire. After helping us fix it, Cossi shoved off, but not before Simon convinced him to come over for drinks later, or as Cossi put it, “tellin’ lies on the veranda”. As I would shortly learn, in Queensland the weekend is serious business.

Seriously, if there’s anybody out there who thinks they’re skilled in the art of consuming vast quantities of beer, I invite them to come try their hand in the flatlands of Queensland. After Cossi’s arrival that evening Simon got started, and as much as I tried to keep up, I quickly gave up at trying to match and just watched in awe…

Enter the Surat Races, the following day. We left the house Saturday morning at around 10:00 (not before Simon had warned me that shorts were not acceptable race-wear, despite the 80 degree heat) and went over to one of Simon and Katrina’s friends’ house, where they dropped off the kids and met the bus that was going to shuttle a crew from the neighboring area off to the Surat, about 45 minutes away. Before going to the house, I had thought the shuttle idea was simply to cut down on the number of cars going or something, but after Simon’s friend Warrick (probably spelled wrong, sorry) offered me a beer at 10:30 in the morning I figured out it was because the most important part of the Surat Races was most definitely not the horses.

My day at the races was excellent. Within ten minutes I had been nicknamed Clark Kent (I suppose it’s the glasses) and had lost fifty bucks (damn you Craiglea Tambo!), and begun trying valiantly to drown my sorrows in the delicious XXXX Bitter, the most popular option amongst the crew I had arrived with. Any moment where I wasn’t actively drinking a beer I was asked if I needed another one, and the one time I turned down the offer I was asked if I would like to henceforth be referred to as “Clark Cunt the Yank Bitch” and quickly learned my lesson. After a 8 hours of socializing, drinking, gambling, drinking, dancing, and more drinking, we loaded back on the bus and listened to the Rugby League game on the radio on the way back to Roma.

See that one in the back there? Yeah.

See that one in the back there? Yeah.

The debatable greatness of Rugby, AKA “footy” is a subject for another post, after I’ve seen more than one complete game, but I will take this moment to offer a word of warning to any americans planning to come out here. Be prepared to defend American Football (AKA “gridiron”). As soon as the Rugby game came on the radio, everyone in the bus used the opportunity to rag on football, and thus americans, and thus me. Example exchange:

“Oy Clark? why are you americans such pussies when it comes to hitting each other?”
“**Awkward laugh** I dunno”
“You should play Rugby mate, make a man out of you”
“Yeah, I suppose”
“You suppose! You suppose! C’mon, gridiron is a game for kids. You americans are a bunch of cunts”

But seriously, Rugby is kinda stupid. It’s really repetitive and predictable and mostly pretty slow moving and futile. Not that I really like football either, but watching Rugby is kinda like watching somebody trying to knock down a tree with their head.

I got home Saturday night mostly unscathed, and spent most of today helping Simon and Katrina out in their yard. It turns out I’ll only be here for the rest of the week before I head to Melbourne, and hopefully this week will be a good chance to get a better feel for the cattle business, but so far, my visit to rural Queensland has been a blast.

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In Which Dave Goes Explorin’

Posted in Sydney by Dave on September 16, 2009


After a quick breakfast this morning, I headed off into Sydney, to see what kind of wandering I could get done by myself. Without a guide, I expected to get lost, and as soon as I got off the train in Town Hall, this expectation was met handily. As I tried to make my way to Circular Quay, the area Sarah had showed me around the day before, I walked in the exact opposite direction, ending up on a different part of the bay. After futilely trying to figure out the way back to Circular Quay by myself, I buckled down and asked for directions. Now, I’m certainly familiar with how difficult it is to give directions to tourists, but after five sets of conflicting instructions from storeowners, (including one dude who started to list streets and then laughed at my baffled expression and offered to call me a cab), I decided my best bet was to buy one of the incredibly overpriced maps sold at the little news kiosks, which finally got me on the right track back towards Circular Quay.
En route to the Quay I stumbled across the Art Gallery of New South Wales, probably my best find on the trip so far. This museum, like the Museum of Contemporary Art the day before, was completely free. I spent a few hours wandering around it’s three floors, checking out its incredibly varied and satisfying collection. Although I suppose the museum is particularly focused on Australian and Aboriginal art, it had a great collection of 20th and 21st century works.
The highlight of which was Study for a Self-Portrait by Francis Bacon, tucked away in a little corner of the 2nd level. I don’t profess to know a whole lot about art in general, but Francis Bacon is somebody that I’ve been geeking out over this summer, after I read some interview with David Lynch where he said Bacon was his favorite painter. So after spending a few months looking at the google image versions of Bacon’s work, it was a really awesome surprise to walk around the corner and stumble across this:

Forgive the glare

Forgive the glare

Other highlights:

No Joke. Gold.

No Joke. Gold.



Nip Slip.

Nip Slip.

Cool Falcon, Bro.

Cool Falcon, Bro.



Shapes FTW.

Shapes FTW.

After leaving the museum, I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the bay, getting a few shots off on my little digital point and shoot and lusting over all the tourists with their fancy SLR’s and 35mm cameras. Anyway, here’s the obligatory Sydney Opera House Pic:

Had to do it.

Had to do it.

The bay is really an incredible spot, edged by the gorgeous botanical garden, and with incredible views of the surrounding city. Spending the afternoon amongst thousands of other tourists was actually surprisingly comfortable, a reminder that as much as I might feel like a weirdo american most of the time, there are plenty of people in my same shoes.


Spent most of today driving around Ku-Ring-Gai national park with Margaret and her daughter Barbara. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera, so I can’t share with you the incredible flowers and aboriginal carvings I saw, or the awesome view from Barrenjoey lighthouse. Suffice to say, they were pretty awesome. No wildlife so far, although I was assured there were Kangaroos and Wallabies (which are apparently basically the same thing…) just around every curve. Still waiting on those. But, despite the foggy weather, had a great day cruising around the wilder side of Sydney.


Today, Margaret’s son Andrew took Margaret, her sister Jean, and myself out on his vintage motor-yacht. It really is a pretty awesome boat. We took the day to motor around the rivers that run through Ku-Ring-Gai, the park I had driven through the day before. Very cool to see it from the water, and what the landscape looked like on a larger scale. Took a few opportunities to row ashore, and saw my first real Australian wildlife (okay, aside from the birds, but really, who cares):





Apparently these creepy things are known as Goannas, which if you’ve seen Rescuers Down Under, you should have repressed memories of. I also was told to be careful swimming, as there was a pretty solid chance of Bull sharks in the water. Sharks are definitely my one true phobia, so when I did go swimming, I went from the beach, and was barely in enough to get my head wet. After lunch we motored over to a waterfall, which was a good opportunity to try out my Super 8, which I’ve almost completed one roll of so far. Not going to know what it really looks like for a while, but I bought about 8 rolls of film, so something interesting should come of it, I hope…


Today I went into Gordon and ran some errands, which pretty much brings us up to know, where I’m sitting in a coffee shop and typing this post. No internet though, so I think I’m going to sneak into the McDonalds and upload everything. This afternoon I leave for Roma, Queensland, where I begin the first true leg of my stay here, working on a cattle ranch belonging to a dude named Simon Body. I don’t know a goddamn thing about this place, except that every Aussie I’ve mentioned this to so far has laughed at me and told me I’m a moron. Should be GREAT!!

Hugs, Kisses,


Some tunes for YOU!

Country tinged genius pop from former underground disco phenom:

Arthur Russell – I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face

John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees, The Hospitals, etc…) runs on premium. Super high-octane head bangin’ :

Coachwhips – Dance Floor Bathroom

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