Sunday, September 30, 2007

Oktoberfest in Australia

The longest train ride so far took Audra, Kevin and I to Fairfield where a free shuttle took us to the Oktoberfest. I eagerly anticipated sharing a few steins with several thousand Australians. It did not disappoint. I wanted to buy Lee a Tirolean hat, since they looked so cool on the attendees, but the hats arrived with owners, and were not purchased at the 'fest. We shared Thuringer bratwurst, potato pancake, and Jagermeister shots for desert. Audra continued to emit weirdo attractor rays, and one especially unappealing dude with a large beer belly (with outie) balanced on skinny legs kept trying to make eye contact with her, and would then try to slide off her rejection to me. I was successful in sliding under his glances. We were just about to leave, deciding to be prudent and not get really sloppy drunk, just toasty, when a Mariachi Band paraded through the tent and took the stage. Audra was drawn to them like the Pied Piper, even though close attention confirmed suspicion - they were lipsynching. Another beer was needed to drown the disappointment.

We boarded the return shuttle and scored prime front of the bus seats, only to have the outie sit down across from Kevin. A corner eye glance and a desperate "Let's move" from Audra sent us to the back of the bus. How fortunate! There were some middle aged drunks, to whom I seem to be honey. They vastly improved the return trip, even considering the trifecta of my beer consumption, their beer consumption, and the Australian dialect filtered through both. The videos illustrate perfectly.

Unfortunately, the next train back to St. Leonards was a 25 minute wait, so more beer was needed. The pub across from the station contained our new back of the bus friends. They are members of De'Boyz Social Fishing Club, and I think I gathered that no fishing is involved. It centers around drinking together, and being awarded custody of their mascot, Kevin, a toy hamster with a fishing hat. The friend in the platinum wig hair/hat told a story of being assigned custody of Kevin for an evening. Several hours later, he noticed Kevin was not on the barstool next to him, so he asked the bartender "Where's Kevin?" "Two dollars" was the cryptic reply. Confused, platinum hair/hat guy offered the bartender two dollars, who indignantly refused a bribe. Finally, an epiphany! The vending machine takes two dollar coins, and yep, there was Kevin, inside the machine.

This story illustrates my experiences so far - I meet someone who is so friendly, but we may or may not feel the need to exchange names. Good manners require the exchange of amusing stories, and the exchange of "next round is on me." Farewells convince me that they will miss me tremendously, and that meeting me was the highlight of the evening. Such good manners in Australia.

When we took to the train tracks, our friends were across the way, travelling home in the opposite direction. Good natured hooting and howling back and forth was soiled by the appearance of some Iraqi youth, who misinterpreted the jeering as directed at them. So sad. A clear case of how damaging prejudice is - they are always met with hostility, so they assumed the drunken banter and pants dropping was directed at them, when it was not. The pants dropping by our friends was for Audie and Kev and me, not for them. But they could only perceive what they know, and unfortunately assumed the act was hateful. Prejudice hurts us all. A sour note entered the symphony.

Which was cancelled by a young cutie on the train who started a game of toss the snurf ball, and again ameliorated by the young student from Jordan was was so pleased to be able to talk to Audra, since he went to university where she works, and he was a psychology major, so they had the language of science in common. The evening ended peaceful.

Except that Audra got too much hot sauce on her late night falafel snack, and we were all required to share her pain.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Featherdale Wildlife Park

Today Audra and I took the train to Blacktown. I saw my first hoon, or Westie. In American, a hooligan. We transferred to a bus that took us to the Featherdale Wildlife Park, where we had the most marvelous time, taking photographs and videos! I love my camera. All animals were fascinated by my hat. When I removed it and moved it around, they would follow it. The Devil even stopped running in circles to give it some attention. Perhaps it is the seagull poop.

We spent hours there, watching the fruit bats, dingos, and Tasmanian devils eat. The dingos were very polite eaters, causing Audra to revise her opinion, a dingo cannot eat your baby. The fruit bats are silly eaters as the crawl down, grab some melon, yell and scratch the fruit bat next to them, the crawl back to the top to swallow upside down. When Audra tried to scratch fruit bat belly, he launched a stream of urine she barely avoided.

The Tasmanian Devils were the best. No eating could be done without lots of snorting and running around. They are much smaller than I imagined, but just as deranged. But when you make eye contact, there is some sort of consciousness in there.

We went to a lovely Thai restaurant called Khacha, and I was inspired to take photos of the first two courses, then I fell into Tasmanian Devil Dinner Mode. I took a photo of the famous "Chloe" painting at a local pub, and will try to get a better one of the legend for future posting. We ended the evening at a "club" - you cannot just enter a place and drink, you must be a member. Kevin is a member, Audra was his guest, but since I am from overseas, I don't need to be a member or a guest. Color me confused.

We had port and interesting conversations, and I got hit on twice. Ray was fascinated with my hair and my ability to say f**k in a charming American accent.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

My flight was easy all thing considered. I was the highlight of my customs inspector's day because I had made a list of all items I thought I needed to declare. Had a librarian never been through her line?

I must have a librarian's face. On the first day out, I was travelling by bus to Circular Quay to snag the Manly Ferry when a young man asked me if I could tell him where the Wynyard Station was. I did know! It was right beyond the Payless Shoe Store. But when I told him it was about the only thing I did know, having just arrived from San Jose, he told me about his work experience in Anaheim.

I had breakfast in a cafe on Circular Quay, scrambled eggs with local smoked salmon on a bagel.
I needed to warn the seagulls that if they were to land on my table, I would need to punch them. A pigeon performed a lovely ballet at my feet, dancing in circles, which is a diversionary tactic for the seagull, who is promptly punched. I am clearly done eating, but no check arrives, so under the guise of taking photos (none of which I keep) I observe how my fellow diners pay for their meals. You get up and walk in to the register, and tell the cashier your table number. And there is no tipping in Australia.

I have mastered the skill of walking here. No snickering! Driving is to the left, and so is walking. For the entire first day, I found myself wandering into oncoming walkers.

My mission for day one was to go to Manly, a suburb beach front village across the harbour.
I found the perfect hat, and walked down The Corso to the Pacific Ocean to dabble my tootsies.
While disrobing the feet, a seagull just poops on the small portion of my cheek not protected by my hat. My perfect new hat, as well as my right shoulder and right cheek are now covered in seagull scat. Thank you Jonnie for the Valentine's Day gift, the Tide stain remover stick.
Is there a seagull threat assessment network, and he learned of my actions back at Circular Quay? As penance, I leave the uneaten portion of my brekkie bagel on a bench, and skulk away, never looking back to witness the feeding frenzy.

On my second day out, I went to the Aquarium which is in Cockle Bay at Darling
Harbour. I viewed outdoor art, had a meat pie with a glass of wine, and just let tension ooze away.

I am wizaard at the trains, having yet to select the wrong platform, direction, or train.

Yesterday, Audie took the afternoon off. I trained in and met her at the Haymarket Branch of the Sydney Public Library, which uses Horizon, the same system we use in Los Gatos. We took a new train line build for the Olympics, out to the Fish Market, where we assembled a fine feast of sashimi and cooked seafood, a lovely bottle of wine, and went down to the picnic area on the docks. Seagull threats were again necessary. The food was delicious, with the exception of the octopus with sweet chili sauce. Life is too short for unpleasantness, so we put it right in the garbage bin, and bought sashimi seconds. We ended the evening with a few pub drops.

And this morning Audra and I set up this blog and my Flickr account!