Procrastination (But I Digress)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wonderful World (Chapter Eight: Maccas, Museums)

Still Day Two (can you believe it), but it is near the end of Day Two.  After Adam dropped me back at the hotel (and I took my cake and some diet coke), it was another early night--right off to bed for me.  I think we got back a little after 7 p.m., but I could barely keep my eyes open.  I tried to watch tv to see who won the French Men's finals, but there was nothing about it on all 14 of my channels.   There was no wireless Internet and I had no more International 3G juice for the ipad.  I was very afraid of how much the international roaming charges would be for my phone and when I got a phone call I hastily said thanks for calling, good-bye (it was a Happy Birthday wish).  [Early the next morning, as I flipped channels, I saw the little ticker at the bottem of the screen that told me Nadal def. Federrer, so at least I knew he won.]

The next day I awoke at 3 a.m. AGAIN.  This time I got out my book and tried to read in addition to flipping channels.  When I finished my book, it was still hours until Adam would be there.  We were going to museums in the City, so I decided to wear dress slacks and a nice top.  After surviving the plane trip, my poor clothes needed to be ironed.  As I pulled out the hotel ironing board and iron and got the little cup of water for steam, I was trying to remember the last time I ironed anything.  I only buy clothes that are wrinkle free.  I never iron anymore.  But oh, in my youth.  I used to iron a lot.  It took up big chunks of time.  I can't imagine having time to iron anymore.  But on my vacation, I had plenty of time.  I ironed to Murder She Wrote, took a long break and finished up during Hogan's Hero's.  I contemplated ironing additional outfits, but I was over ironing.  I was hopeful that my supply of jeans and tee shirts would hold out for the rest of the trip and for the most part, they did.

The big bag of ice that I bought the first day was now a solid block of ice, freezing the little refrigerator, (making the cans of diet coke that I had in the little fridge really, really cold).  I used every utensil in the little kitchenette, but none worked as a very good ice pic.  It was such a solid block of ice, I was afraid to drop it on the floor to break it up, because it might crack the tile.  I tried running hot water over it, but that just made the edges of the block melt.   So I made due with little chips of ice--not ideal. 

Anyway, between no tennis, not much ice, my book was done and I didn't want to start a new one yet, I was very ready at 9:00 a.m. to get out and see the town.  We planned to drive over to the Brisbane art museums and walk around the campus of the local university.  But first, Adam said we could go to McDonalds to use the internet.  [Apparently although I never heard it personally, Australian's call McDonalds, Maccas, hence the title of this chapter.]   I hadn't checked my e-mail or facebook for days, so I was looking forward to it.  I got downstairs early, but Adam was not parked in the loading zone in front.  The hotel had little cafe tables outside, but it was pretty cold out.  The seating inside the hotel lobby was sunken, down two rather large stairs.  It hurt my knees to go up and down those stairs, and I knew Adam would be there any minute, so I bundled up tight in my jacket and sat outside. 

9:00 a.m., no Adam.  I figured that I would give him until 9:15 and then I would go in and try to figure out how to call him.  I started to watch the people going by on the street.  There were quite a few people, even though the hotel was on a street that wasn't that busy, next to a park and a hospital.  And on a pretty steep hill.  I watched so many people, different ages, some in business attire, some casual, some pushing baby carriges, some talking on their cell phones, but none of them were overweight.  As I came to that realization, I started to really keep my eyes open for obesity, and saw only the lack thereof.  But I digress. 

At 9:15, I went inside and I was going to ask the desk how to make a local call.  Mr. Meanie was at the desk and he had a line of people to help.  That was going to take forever, so I thought, I don't care if I have to wait a bit longer, I'm sure Adam will be here any minute.  So I burrowed myself deeper into my jacket and went back outside to wait.  Some teenaged girls who were staying at my hotel were getting ready to go out sightseeing.  They looked like they were on a soccer team or something--all tan and athletic.  They were wearing shorts and flip flops.  I was cold just looking at them.  I think it was 65 degrees or something.  Brrrrr.

At 9:30, I went back up to my room.  I tried to dial on the hotel phone, but nothing happened (I was supposed to dial 9 first).  I was going to just spend the money and send Adam a text, when I saw that I had a text from Adam telling me that he was going to be a little late.  So I waited and waited.  Should I go back outside or should I wait in my room.  I just didn't know.  When he finally got there, he said that he had driven by and seen me sitting at the cafe table.  He thought that I saw him and would realize that he was going to find a parking place.  He parked about a mile away.  This all put neither of us in a very good mood.

The first order of business was the internet, so Adam drove us out of the City to another part of town to a McDonalds with a good parking lot.  [Apparently the closest McDonald's is in the train station, but there's no easy parking.]  It was a bit of a drive, but a very nice McDonalds.  I think that I only screamed twice in fear when I thought he was going to crash, driving on the wrong side of the road.  Fun times.  [I am embarrassed to admit that I did actually scream in fear at one point--scared the shit out of Adam who braced for impact at my scream, only to realize that I was not reacting to another car was about to hit us, I was reacting to me thinking we were going to crash.  It was already the third day and I was still not used to cars on the wrong side of the road.  Poor Adam.  Thank goodness I didn't have to drive, but I digress.]

The McDonalds was very nice and Adam thought we should have breakfast.  I'm not much of a breakfast at McDonalds type of person, but they did have diet coke with ice--score!  [It tasted funny though, oh well.]  I logged in (after bugging Adam over and over to figure it out for me) and there were my 24 e-mails.  It was so nice to have e-mail.  Some were from work and I answered and read and answered and read.  Before too long, I was all done.  While I had been doing this, Adam had been on his iPhone.  I think he was playing a game, because he was done as soon as I was (which means that he was really just waiting for me).  Our plan for the day was to go to the museum and walk around the museum part of the City.  It was called South Bend which I thought was funny, because that's where Erika lives.

I tried to be the navagator using my ipad map, but my sense of direction hadn't improved in the least, so we were both relieved to get there and park not a minute too soon, before our tempers burst.  I know that I consciously tried to put past frustration out of my mind to approach the day fresh, ready to enjoy myself and I think that Adam did too, because when we got out of the elevator that opened right into the museum, we were both in a much better mood.  We had entered at the Science Center--it was awfully cool.  There was one room that had a very long--length of a very long room display of animals, from insects to reptiles, to birds, to small game, to large game animals--including sea life.  It was really cool and we spent a long time looking at all parts of the display.  There was another room that was all bugs--wall to wall displays of bugs, from very small to extremely large.  Adam had a facination with spider webs--all through the trip he pointed out some very large, elabrate spider webs.  Very unusual creatures in Australia.

In another building was an art museum.  They had a Camille Pissaro painting (my all time favorite french impressionist painter--I love him like a brother of Monet's, but I digress)--apparently Pissaro's son lived in Australia and painted there.  It was very interesting to see Australian french impressionism paintings.  I really enjoyed it.  They also had a lot of modern art, which was interesting.  And they had a disappearing edge pool in the lobby.  I've seen them before, but it was just so interesting to see the floor seem to meld to the water seamlessly.  Adam showed me how it was done, but that didn't make it any less of an awesome sight.

After a while, we were museum'ed out so we went through a tunnel that led to the campus of a University on a park by the river and the surrounding "college" town.  There were lots of shops and restaurants and a movie theater.  As we wondered around the park, I noticed a lot of construction.  Later Adam told me that they were repairing the flood damage.  [Right before Adam moved there last January, Brisbane had suffered some severe flooding.  The mayor had given a speech comparing the flood in Brisbane to 9/11 in New York, to which American Adam took offense.  I tried to reason that maybe the mayor was referring to the effect of a disaster on tourism and not necessarily comparing their flood to the 9/11 terrorist act--but it still sat poorly with Adam.]  One of the things that they were repairing was a man made sandy beach and they had already repaired the pool.  It was not a large swimming pool right next to the river--you could swim in the pool and look out over the river, giving you the impression that you were swimming in a much larger body of water.  It was kind of cool.  But it was very cold and there was actually a life guard and a mother and small child swimming.  That was not cool--I was freezing, looking at them.

Anyway, we were out of things to sight see, so we decided to take in a movie.  The only movie playing that we both wanted to see was Pirates.  We got there right at the right time, so we went in.  We bought our tickets, got some popcorn and then I realized that there was only one way into the actual theatre--up a very long staircase.  That was a very long walk.  I so, do not do stairs. There was absolutely no elevator (or lift as I remembered the correct word to request.)

The movie was in three-D (I hate those glasses), but it was a very pleasant diversion to our day.  When we got out of the movie, it was overcast and pretty chilly.  I was ready to get something to eat (and have a diet coke).    Now Caitlyn likes this cartoon called 64 Zoo Lane.  It is set in Australia and my favorite song that they sing in this cartoon again and again is "Pizza, Pizza, Pizza, Pizza, Pizza."  So this song is running through my head almost the entire trip.  I'm a looking for some tasty pizza.  But the only pizza place looks just too upscale--I'm not looking for pizza that badly.  Adam suggested a hamberger place, because I was so impressed with the Australian beef.  How could we go wrong.   As an aside, I know better.  For many, many years, I have been supper careful not to order a hamberger in a new place.  I am an extremely picky eater.  I don't even really like hamberger, so I know I should have resisted.  Except for two things.  Cheesecake Factory and BJ's.  These are two restaurants in the past couple of years where I have tried the hambergers and really, really loved them.  They joined Islands, Red Robin and Ruby's as restaurants where I will eat the hamberger.  I am well aware to avoid the hamberger at Denny's or its ilk, but I was (I'm sorry to say) lulled into a false sense of complacency regarding a new hamberger place.

First of all, I'm freezing, but all of the seating is outdoors.  Second, the fries were soaked in some kind of marinade and garlic.  No amount of ketchup (excuse me tomato sause) was going to fix that, but I was hungry so it took a few agonizing bites before I could convince my hand and mouth to obey my brain and stop eating them.  Finally, the burger was so not what I was expecting.  My expectation was Cheesecake angus beef hamberger and I got breaded and seasoned so much it tasted like meatloaf (which I can't stand).  Adam liked his burger a lot and I tried to be positive, but I could only eat a few bites.  I was going to dream about Little Ceasars Pizza.

It was just starting to get dark (it was too cloudy to see the sunset) and I wanted to ride the farris wheel at night so that I could see the Storybook Bridge lit up.  Adam said it was really cool, but I'd only seen it during the day.  It just looked like an ordinary bridge during the day (think eiffle tower--not much until it is lit up so gorgeous).  [As an aside the first day Adam asked me if I wanted to walk across Storybook Bridge--he said it's a very touristy thing to do--lots of people do it.  I was thinking about how Megan and I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge--sure it was slightly cool, until we realized we were going to have to walk back again to get back to the car--that was a looooong walk.  So I was kind of not enthousiastic.  Then he pointed to the bridge and pointed out how walking the bridge was actually walking up the cat walk to the top, then back down to the middle, then back up and then back down.  All stairs.  I don't think so batman.]

Anyway, we bought tickets for the ferris wheel (quite pricey, but I'm on vacation) but had to wait a long time to get on (--no one was in line, but apparently they can't stop it, even if it is empty to let someone on until the proper number of rotations because there is an accompanying tour guide sound track to tell you what you are seeing--ours didn't work).  It was not quite dark enough for all the lights in the city to be on and we were at the wrong angle and too far away to see the Storybook Bridge.  However, it was really cool even so.  And very relaxing.  I wanted it to go on longer, but all too soon it was done and I was getting pretty sleepy, so we called it a night.

As Adam dropped me off, I said, 9:00 right?  No more mixed signals.  9:00 o'clock, he said and we both believed him.  I remembered to take the baggies this time, but I couldn't break up the block of ice.  I did get one big chunk and I melted it until it fit in my cup and turned on the tv.  I was determined to stay up late, so that I would adjust to the time change and stop waking up at 3 a.m..  Silly me. 

Stay tuned--Day four is the Gold Coast--more driving.  Sea lions and white tigers and polar bears, oh my.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wonderful World (Chapter Seven: Sunshine Sunset)

Oh yea, here's the poster shot.  This is the sunset over a harbor up the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane, Australia.  Adam had asked me if I saw the Sunset my first night in Australia, because they are really awesome, but I slept through the one the first night and every night after the second night was overcast.  But it didn't matter, because I saw the perfect one already.

Of course getting here was no simple matter.  When we left the zoo, I looked at my ipad map and it was just a grey grid, but I distinctly remembered that the road to the zoo ran parallel to the highway north to the beach.  On the map in my memory, the road diverted from the highway and about half way up was the zoo and then in ran parallel until it met back up with the highway.  Very logical.  How can we go wrong--if we turn right (the correct right that is even right in Australia) we will go back to the place we got off the highway and simply turn back onto the highway North.  If we turn left (the real left, not just the Australian right) we will be going North and we will meet back up with the highway and we can continue North to the Sunshine Coast.  There was no way to go wrong... except that the road North was not one road going parallel--there was a fork in that road.  Logically, I would think that the ocean was on my right--we are in Australia (not California) going North, so east is to my right, but my right and left were really mixed up, so I just didn't trust myself.

Anyway, leaving the Zoo, I said turn right.  Adam started to turn right and I said, no, no, the Australian right.  So I meant left really.  If we went left we would be continuing North.  It sounded like a good idea at the time.  The first thing that happened was that we came to a fork in the road.  I said go left, but when Adam went to the left, I said, no, the other left (meaning right).  Adam turned around and now we were going South.  I was going to tell Adam just go back to the fork, but I was afraid to talk anymore.  A little while later (almost under my breath, because Adam was looking pretty angry still) I said, this is good.  I wasn't  sure that the place to get back on the highway going north wasn't past King's Beach--our actual destination.  So going all the way south back to the place that we left the highway was actually more logical.  Hey, I didn't pay all that money for law school for nothing--I can argue anything.

When we got back to the highway (which was a lot farther than I remembered going originally), almost right away there was a sign for King's beach but we passed it too fast for me to see what it said.  And the map on my ipad was showing again.  We were going to go over a bridge and then there would be a turn off right away.  Except that there wasn't.  The ipad map was completely unable to distinguish an overpass.  There were signs, but none of them said King's Beach.  My ipad map went back to a grey grid.  I told Adam to get off at the first exit and we'd just go in the direction of the Ocean.  (I think I was careful not to say left or right, east or west, because I totally no longer trusted my sense of direction). 

So Adam got off and we started trying to go toward where the ocean was.  I should say that Adam did that--I tried to keep my mouth shut, but I concurred with his turns at first.  Later we were just going and going through neighborhoods with no sign of the ocean anywhere.  I was getting very frustrated and Adam was getting very frustrated.  The map showed again on my ipad and I recognized a road.  It looked like if we turned around and went left on the next street, straight ahead would be King's beach.  Adam was sceptical (hell, so was I), but he turned around.  The place on the map that I wanted to turn had a little strip mall on the corner (I use the word corner very loosely, but I don't know how else to describe it--a bunch of roads just seemed to converge near it, not perpendicularly, not logical).  A store--let's stop for a diet coke I begged.  Adam was thrilled to get out of the car and away from me.  Ask for directions, I yelled at him as he rushed into the store.

Both of us calmed down and drank our sodas.  I think Adam had bought more time on his iphone at the little store, because he pulled it out to look at the map.  I also figured out that if I enlarged the map and then made it smaller, the grey grid sometimes disappeared on my ipad.  I got a pretty good shot of the map and showed it to Adam.  We both felt pretty good about the direction that we decided to take out of the parking lot although I was probably still gripping the dashboard because I felt like we were going to crash driving on the wrong side of the road.  My brain couldn't get over the fact that everyone else was too, so it was ok.

Anyway, we drove and drove.  The ipad went back to grey.  Suddenly, there was the ocean.  We parked by the side of the road and walked down a rather overgrown path into the sand.  The ocean was beautiful.  Adam went right out and waded in the water.  I was happy to stay up on the dry sand.  It was so pleasant, but I really wanted to sit down.  I knew that I couldn't just sit down on the ground (I lost those days 60 pounds ago), but I could see a some big rocks that I could sit on, up the beach.  Now all I had to do was walk through the sand to get there and sit down.  Walking in the sand is not easy.  The rocks looked really far away, but we weren't going anywhere, so I'd walk to the rocks and then walk back.  It sounded like a great plan--a great visit to the beach in winter in Australia.  So I put one foot in front of the other and sank into the sand and then repeated and sank and repeated and sank.  Every once in a while, my foot did not sink three feet and I started to develope a strategy of spreading out my toes in my shoe to distribute my weight so that I wouldn't sink as much in the sand, but it was all superstitious.  It was a very long walk.  As I got closer to the rocks, Adam had been way, way, way up the beach and was now coming back toward me.  He said, "I hope you don't think you are going to sit on that sand barge up there."  "What?  That's not a rock?"  "No," he said, "It's sand and it crumbles as soon as you sit on it.  I already tried." 

Why don't rental car places leave lawn chairs in the trunks of the rental cars?  I mean really, do they think we are going to try to take their lawn chair on the plane with us when we go home.  It would be such a small expense.  I'm serious.  We'd passed a K-mart when we were coming here--surely Adam could find his way back there to buy me a chair--then he would have another chair for his apartment.  In my brain at the time, it seemed like a brilliant idea.

Well I finally made it to the sand brine.  It was a nice little sand cliff as high as my butt.  There was no way that I was going another step without sitting down, so a sat down as gingerly as possible.  The sand did give way a little, but just enough of it held and was packed down by my large butt, so that I could actually sit down.  I was still a little afraid to breath such that I might cause an avalance, but I rested a bit.  Meanwhile Adam went up and down the beach which was pretty rocky.  There were flat rocks that had pools of water and they were covered in moss.  Adam started to slip a few times and the personal injury attorney drilled into my brain in law school, saw disaster around that corner.  Eventually Adam went down hard and I lost my seat by jumping up to see if he was ok.  He was fine.  When I got to him I saw that just a little further up the beach was a lovely little park with a bench to sit on.  Oh, that's for me.  Maybe they have a coke machine.  A girl can dream.

It was a bit of a climb to get to the park that was kind of on a bluff above the beach, but Adam dragged me up.  There was a very nice bench under a tree and Adam and I sat there a long time just soaking in the beautiful view.  What an awesome day (I said more than once).  There was a lighthouse on the map a bit further up the coast, so we decided that was where we should go to see the sunset (which was behind us, not over the ocean).  What time does the sun go down I asked Adam and he said, six o'clock or so.  We had plenty of time.  I tried to talk Adam into getting the car and driving back to this park to pick me up, but my phone didn't work and we were so lost getting here that neither one of us was buying that plan.  The idea of walking back in the sand was not sitting well with me, but I reasoned that at least I had my spread my toes in my shoe technique so that I wouldn't sink down in the sand so much.  Not.

We made it back to the car and my map was not grey.  It seemed like a straight shot up to the lighthouse and in a very short time we drove into a parking lot.  On the map it looked like there was a road to the lighthouse, but from the parking lot, it looked more like a bike trail.  We had plenty of time--it was only about 4:40.  The cake smelled really good in the car, but I said, let's have it with dinner.  We started to walk on the trail out toward the ocean--we were in some kind of a harbor.  It was so pretty, but there were a lot of dogs.  Between the old people, the dogs and the bikes--it was really kind of busy.  As soon as we started walking I realized the sun was looking like it was getting ready to set.  I thought, maybe because it is getting cloudy.  The sun behind the clouds near the horizon was looking really gorgeous, but the trail was a lot longer than we thought.  Soon it was clear that we were going to have to walk faster to beat the sunset to the lighthouse.  The sun was going down fast now.  [Much later I realized, duh, it is Winter in Australia.  Sunset was at 5:00 p.m.] 

We made it to the lighthouse (on a very steep hill), but I had the idea that we could go into the lighthouse and that would be the best place to view the sunset.  Adam went up the hill very fast, but then had to wait for slowpook McGee.  When we got to the top, the lighthouse was not open.  We looked out over the hill and back toward the harbor and took a few pictures.  It was an awesome sunset.

Then we made the long walk back to the car.  On the map, the trail was a circle back to the parking lot, but in reality, the trail turned into a service road for condo's and it was getting dark.  We were both pretty glad to see the car, except that it was a rental car and they all looked alike.  I think we had to try the key in a couple of cars before we found the right one.  [My other new best friend in Australia had a good laugh with us over that one--she said--it happens all the time.]

Now it was time for cake.  Even out of the back of the car, it was so very yummy.  Adam had packed a knife and forks, but he didn't sing (thank you).  Since it was my birthday, I wanted to go somewhere for steak for dinner.  I loved Outback in the States, but Adam said he'd never seen an Outback steak house in Australia.  They had Sizzlers (which were really much nicer than the States) and Lone Star Steakhouse.  I knew Lone Start Steakhouse, so that was a winner.  I think maybe we looked for directions on Adam's phone because we found one in Logan that was going to be on our way back.  Getting back on the highway was effortless and there were lots of signs for the City (meaning Brisbane).  It was a very long, long drive.  I was getting sleepy.  It was very dark.  There were no street lights on the highway.  There was lots of other traffic (but they were all driving in the wrong lanes, but then so were we--I closed my eyes).  Anyway, we got off the highway in Logan and just when we thought we were lost we saw the sign for Lone Star.  We parked and went in.  This is the restaurant that you eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor.  There were no shells on the floor, but we were asked if we wanted a bucket of peanuts as soon as we walked in the door.  Sure.

The placed looked awful rundown--like it was build in the 80's and never updated (or cleaned) again.  We were escorted to a back booth and the other customers all stared at us.   It was like we were in the twilight zone.  Anyway, the diet coke was not so good, they had no bread (they just ran out before we got there), they put margarine (or some Australian version on the theme) on the baked potato, but the steak was excellent.  I remember hating the place and the food, except for the steak.  I still remember how excellent the steak was.  Anyway, Adam and I were exhausted and we still had a drive ahead of us, so we didn't linger over dinner and we were back on the road.  Adam had driving to my hotel down to a science now, so he pulled up to drop me off.  I took the cake, a few more diet cokes, but I forgot the baggies and I forgot my sweatshirt.  I told Adam I'd meet him out front a 9:00 a.m.--tomorrow, museums--and I thanked him for the best birthday I'd ever had.  It really was an awesome, awesome day.

Stay tuned--Where's the best place to get the internet in Australia?  McDonalds of course.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wonderful World (Chapter Six: Crikey Zoo)

Can you see how turned around that owl's head is?  That's me navigating in Brisbane, Australia.  I thought that driving was bad on the wrong side of the road.  Being a passenger and the navigator was a very close second and sometimes overtook first place.  So Adam picked me up on Monday and he's already driving, so what the hey.  I had looked on my ipad to navigate where we were going, but my international 3G was expired (I think it lasted 10 minutes for $26), so no more directions.  The map however still came up and our gps, little blue dot still came up so, score!  But every once in a while the screen was just a grey grid with no map, so I reached under the seat to look at the big book the car rental guy had given us.  It was completely incomprehensible--even after I put on my glasses.

Anyway, we kind of followed our noses to get out of the City.  Occasionally there were signs for Sunshine Coast, so we followed those.  At one point we were in backed up traffic at a light and suddenly my ipad showed the map and our blue dot was very close to the intersection to turn to get on the main highway going north.  Just as I was telling Adam, this is it, this is our turn, traffic had started and I said, turn right.  Adam started to get in the right hand lane and I yelled, no, no, the other right.  He yelled, that's left.  We were almost at the turn and I said go that way--the Australian right!  That was the point that Adam pointed out to me that Left was left everywhere, even in Australia.  Smartass.  Luckily there was a big green sign saying Sunshine Coast for the left turn and Adam did make the turn, but it was certainly in spite of my directions.

Once we were on the highway, we had a really long drive ahead of us.  The country was lovely.  We started to see billboards for the Australian Zoo.  Adam said, that's what we should do one day while you are here--go to the zoo.  I said let's go today and he said, no, we'd have to go early in the morning.  It's 9:30 a.m.  It is early in the morning.  Ok.  So we took the turn off (lots of very readable signs) for the Zoo and I watched our little blue dot go up the road to the zoo.  It was really cool to see our progress on the ipad map.  And changing our plans to go to the zoo put Adam in a terrific mood--I never would have guessed that he would like the zoo so much.

So, I don't have my fanny pack, no sunscreen, no hat, I'm wearing a sweatshirt on a sunny, beautiful day and we are getting ready to spend the day at the zoo.  And this is a change in plans from spending the whole day at the beach.  What was I thinking?   The first order of business was to buy a hat.  Adam didn't want one. 

After the souvenir store, we came upon a place to line up to feed the elephants. The time was listed at about 10 minutes from the time we were there and there were literally no other people around. The zoo was practically empty. There were more staff than visitors. I didn't want to wait in line and there was a sign for Koala Bears, so we didn't stay. The koala bears were a little stinky, but awfully darn cute.

We walked up from there and saw an alligator.  It looked like a statute.  Never moved at all.  Then we went back to the elephants.  There was now a line a mile long, so we decided not to feed the elephants and I started to be interested in feeding me.  I think my diet coke hour was almost up.
We passed more and more alligators or crocodiles or both, but they all looked like statutes--none of them moved.  Much later in the day I finally saw one blink.  The signs said that they are incredible fast and not to take any changes.  No worries--the day I get anywhere near an alligator or crocodile without a big, big fence between us will never happen.
So Adam wanted me to pet a Kangaroo.  Really.  Wasn't going to happen. 

"Come on, Kathy, pet a Kangaroo.  You have to.  It's your birthday.  How awesome would that be to pet a Kangaroo on your birthday in Australia."
Adam on the other hand was very happy to pet a kangaroo--to pet many kangaroos.  And we saw baby kangaroos in their mother's pouch.  Their hind legs are more like very large bird talons, so at one point I saw this really disgusting looking long talon hanging out of a Kangaroo's stomach--a scene right out of an alien from outer space movie, only to realize that was the baby Kangaroo's hind leg.  The baby Kangaroo pulled in their leg (large sharp looking talon) into their mother's furry soft looking pouch.  It was something to see.

Finally Adam accepted that I was not going to pet a Kangaroo.  A little later we went through the Aviary.  I had heard that there were wonderfully beautiful parrots in Australia and I couldn't wait to see some awesome birds.  And then I was attacked.  We had just entered the enclosure, when I saw a bird take a nose dive right for me.  I felt the impact and thought that he hit me, but actually he landed on my shoulder and started to peck at me.  Luckily he was pecking at my sweatshirt collar, but I was freaking out and Adam was laughing and laughing.  He said the bird is attacking you because you refused to pet a kangaroo.

After a while it was just too funny.  One little bird against a great big girl.  Finally, a zoo keeper saw me and came over to remove the bird.  He said "Oh, is this little fellow bothering you.  He is just 4 weeks old and he was born with only one eye.  The other birds pick on him, so he tends to attach himself to people."  The guy showed us the cuts on his own hand where the bird had pecked him, so I was pretty glad to be wearing the sweatshirt now.  Another girl (zoo keeper) showed up to take the bird and she had peck marks all over her hand also.  It could have been a lot worse, but I was attacked by a one-eyed bird on my birthday.  How awesome is that!

On the other hand, we did not see any beautiful parrots and I beat my way out of the Aviary, tout suite.  I was already one very tiny bird's prey, so I didn't want to take my changes with the bigger birds and there were lots of bigger birds.

At another bird enclosure, there was one bird behind a large fence who followed Adam's every move.  He really took a shining to him.

Finally, we found the elephant enclosure, but the elephants were out getting fed.  We were kind of hanging out in the shade (did I mention what a bad idea wearing a sweatshirt out in the sun all day was).  Then walking through the park comes the three elephants, trunk to tail in a line back to their enclosure.  They were given really large branches with leaves on them and they were eating them.  It was really cool to see how they maneuvered the branches into their mouths using their trunks.  We stayed there for a while.  It was shady.

At some point we went to the Zoo's version of a food court. It was up stairs, but we did find an elevator (yea!) [excuse me "lift". You can't say elevator in Australia--they look at you funny.]   I was going to go for the pizza, but it had garlic on it. Then I was going to go for some chicken thing, but it looked too odd. I think I finally settled for another bacon and tomato sandwich with "chips" with tomato sauce (actually yummy french fries and ketchup). Again, it was Canadian bacon type and cooked tomato--but this time I was careful NOT to try the tomato.

I ordered a souvenir cup of soda. It was going to be $9, but I figured a large glass of ice and a large souvenir cup--I'm on vacation. When the fellow started filling it with soda, he didn't put any ice in it. Wait, I said, fill it with ice. We don't have any ice, he said. No ice? I said incredibly! No ice, he said matter of factly. I'll have a water. While we were eating, a very large, aggressive bird (who looked a lot like the bird pictured above) was harassing a toddler in a stroller near us. The mother was actually laughing AT the small child and berating him for being afraid of a bird. I tried to remind myself that I was in a foreign country and it was none of my business, but I really wanted to punch that woman in the face. The urge was visceral. I was probably just ice deprived. But I digress.

Any way, between wanting to get into a fist fight, no ice, really warm weather and not so much shade, I couldn't stand the sweatshirt anymore and I had to buy a tee shirt.  I got a really cool one with aboriginal pictures of kangaroos.  Happy birthday to me.  I offered to go see the kangaroos again, but I assured Adam I was not going to pet one, so Adam passed.  We had pretty much seen the zoo and not a minute too soon.  As we made our way toward the exit, we were bombarded with thousands of school children entering the zoo.  Thousands.  I don't think I'm exaggerating at all.  They all wore uniforms.  It was quite a sight.  And then I saw the alligator blink.  I was truly suspicious that they were actual statutes.  We stared at them for a long time and they never moved at all.  Really something to see.

Outside the zoo, there was a coke machine.  A 500 ml of diet coke was $5.50.  Four would make a 2 liter that I am used to paying $1.69 for if it is not on sale.  So that is $22 vs. 1.69  [In all fairness, the little store at the mall charges $2 for the 500 ml size, so it is $5.50 to $2--275 % increase.]  I still wanted to buy it.  It had been an hour since my last one.  I had to break a $20, but then the machine was out.  So, hot (sweatshirt), bothered (wanted to punch crazy mother), lack of ice ($9 for a souvenir cup and no ice--it boggles my mind), lack of diet coke, survivor of a bird attack, really creeped out by the thousands of school children in school uniforms--hmmm, let's add jet lagged, in a foreign country, a foreign hemisphere--I need lots of excuses, because after we left the zoo, Adam looked to me to be the navigator.  Suffice it to say, I was really, really bad at it.

Stay tuned--I manage to get us lost trying to find the ocean--the ocean is pretty big--kind of hard to miss.

Wonderful World (Chapter Five: Happy Birthday)

So this trip was over my birthday.  This is me smiling at the rain forest again, maybe day four.  I think that is the day that I realized that I didn't have enough good pictures.  But let's back up to where Chapter Four left off. 

The French Open.  As you all know, I am an avid tennis fan--but my ability to see tennis matches is fairly limited to the majors.  Only one major is in the US and that is in NY--three time zones away.  Another is in Australia (18 time zones), London (8 time zones) and Paris (9 time zones).  So four times a year for about two weeks at all crazy hours on limited channels, I get to see tennis matchs.  One time I had a terrible cold and stayed home from work for a whole week in January right at the perfect time to see matchs in the Australian Open.  Except for the coughing and puking--that was an awesome week.  But I digress.

The plane trip to Australia involved going forward 17 time zones and 14 hours travel time so that I lost June 4th.  I didn't have a June 4th this year.  But that was the date of the Women's Final in the French Open.  I wasn't too sad to miss it, because for some reason I just don't like Sciovone.  She's such a scrapper and so volitale, that logically she should be one of my favorites, but I just don't like her.  It defies logic, but it's not like I'll ever meet her in person and if I did, I'm sure that I would be suitably impressed and polite and not embarass myself.  Where was I?  Oh yes, the French.  Li Na made it to the finals.  I really like Li Na.  Although she is a solid player, I don't think I've seen her play more than twice.  The women's field is really wide open--there are so many excellant players and without the dominance of the Williams, no one remains a clear favorite.  So yes, I did kind of really, really, really wanted to see the final.  I was soooo happy to see the red clay of the French through the window of that restaurant on the Brisbane River.  What a wonderful treat.  Li Na won--awesome for the sport.  Awesome for her.

They gave us way too much food, but even though I had a refrigerator in my room, I insisted that Adam take the left overs, because I wasn't going to be in the room very much and certainly not for meals.  We walked back to the hotel and tried to get the car out of the elevator to go to the grocery store to buy a bag of ice.  No attendant.  The car was in an elevator, but we didn't have the controls, so we had to go back to the desk.  Mr. Smilie, just wasn't as smileali as he had been before and he avoided eye contact amazingly well.  However, very soon the attendant appeared and let the car out of the cage.  I think I tried to drive again, but we were only going a few blocks.  Parking was very odd, but we survived.

Adam had asked me if I wanted him to bake a cake for my birthday (the next day).  I love chocolate cake and pizza.  I had just eaten pizza, so before I could tell Adam it was totally unnecessary to go to any trouble, my mouth said an emphatic "Yes."  "Then I'll need to buy a cake pan," he said.  So we shopped for everything that he'd need to make a cake.  They didn't have an oblong cake pan per se, but there was one that was close.  It turned out to be a roasting pan, but it worked.  And the cake mix boxes were a very odd shape.  He was going to need a 1/4 cup (metric equivilent) of vegetible oil, so we had to buy a great big bottle.  They had a name brand that I recognized and a brand I didn't recognize (surprise, surprise--I was in a different hemisphere) for 4 cents cheaper.  Adam wanted to save the 4 cents, but I wouldn't let him.  [As an aside, it couldn't have been 4 cents, because they don't have pennies in Australia.  Generally, the smaller the coin, the more it is worth.  I think they had five dollar coins, and I know they had two dollar coins, one dollar, fifty cents (that was a giant coin), 10 cents (very, very small and thin) and I think that there was a five cents coin, but I don't remember having one.  The dimes really threw me off just when I thought it was logical.  But I digress.]  At the check out counter, Adam suggested that I buy a 24 can case of diet coke (great idea--stock the fridge in case we have an ice catastrophy) and at the last minute remembered that we were there to buy a bag of ice.  My girl scout training kicked into gear and I ran out of line to pick up ziplock bags (or their version of the theme) so that I could put some ice into a smaller bag to fit into the teeny tiny freezer for the following day.  I was so impressed with my foresight.

We had decided to park the car at Adam's apartment.  They had a dedicated parking space and no cars, so I would save $9 a day and not have to park in the elevator.  It was probably going on 3:30 or 4 p.m. by that point.  I had been awake for over 40 hours or more.  Although I was no longer not not hungry, I was pretty exhausted.  I told Adam that I would go back to the hotel and take a nap and call him later to do something.  If I didn't call him, then he should just come over at 9:00 a.m. and we would head up the Coast.  I wanted to see the Pacific Ocean first on my trip.  When I had mentioned wanting to go to the Ocean north of Brisbane, Jade had suggested King Beach, so that sounded like a great plan.  We'd go to the beach. 

Adam was going to drop me off, because he would be taking the car to park at his place.  But I couldn't carry the ice and a twenty-four pack of cans of diet coke, so I took just six.  I forgot the ziplock bags.  When I got to the room I unpacked a little and put the diet coke in the fridge and I was going to make myself a cup of ice to have a diet coke, but instead, I put the big bag of ice in the bottem of the fridge and laid down to take a nap.  Ten hours later I woke up. 

It was 3 a.m. and I was wide awake.  Now what?  I turned on the tv.  OH MY, LIONS AND TIGERS AND BEARS.  There were 14 channels.  14.  None showed movies.  None.  Six showed sports:  rugby.  All. The. Time.  Four were news channels.  One rather local.  One rather national.  BBC and another International.   Sometimes the news shows were exactly like Good Morning America--about American news, but with different people.  It was so odd.  Two of the channels were music videos.  Except that one was sometimes frozen on the screen.  The other showed music video themes--the top 1,000 songs about sunshine--counting down.  I tuned in at about 857--It was so awful that I couldn't turn away--it was like watching a natural disaster--you just can't turn the channel.  My favorite was TV Land.  Murder She Wrote was on at about 6 a.m. each day.  I made sure to tune in.  Diagnosis Murder was at 7 a.m.--I'm not a fan, but sometimes it was the only thing on tv.  Literally.  In between, they had a "Who's the Boss" Short episode.  The title credits, three scenes to give you the gist of the plot and the closing credits.  Then it was Hogan's Heros at 8, but by that time I was pretty much getting ready to go, so I only caught a couple of episodes.  I basically turned the channels over and over and over and over, maybe stopping to see a news story or a music video and turned the channels over and over and over for three hours until Murder She Wrote came on.  It was strangely soothing and mind numbing.

Although I knew it was Winter in Australia, I brought jeans and tee shirts mostly.  I reasoned that I had a sweater and a jacket, so I should be fine.  I brought only one sweatshirt.  That first morning, I lameted the fact that I had only one sweatshirt.  I needed it as my pajamas (I sleep in sweats because I am always cold), but it was really cold outside (at 3 a.m.) so I was going to need the sweat shirt, sweater and the jacket.  And this was only my first day.  Oh well, I thought--if I have to buy something to wear, I'll buy something to wear.

As it got closer to 9 a.m., it warmed up a bit, so that I wasn't going to also take my sweater, but I was definitely taking my jacket--even if I just left it in the car.  We were going to the beach in winter--I bundle up at the beach in summer, so I was ready for some cold.  The sky was a brilliant, beautiful blue.  It was going to be a gorgeous day.  I'm not sure how Adam and I connected, because I don't think that I could make phone calls, but I walked out and there he was.  I got in the car and he told me that there was a cake in the back.  I could smell it.  It was going to be an awesome day!

Stay tuned--I wouldn't pet a Kangaroo, and a one-eyed bird attacked me.  I swear that it is true.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Wonderful World (Chapter Four: Hotel, Smotel)

I wish this was the view from my Best Western hotel, but it was not.  This is the sunshine coast, north of Brisbane.  No, the view from my hotel was a bunch of buildings and the tallest one, right out the window had a big digital clock on it.  That was actually kind of handy.  Also, the building accross the street had mirrored windows, so that I could look at the bottem floor and see Adam enter the hotel from the street in the morning, but I digress. 

When we left off, it was still my first day in Australia and I had just visited Adam's apartment, killing time, because my room was not ready yet.  My little glass of ice was gone too soon and there were too few of the little teeny ice cubes frozen to make much of a second glass of diet coke, so all too soon, it was time to leave Adam's place and walk, walk, walk back to my hotel.  I would say, at least it was down hill, but my knees hurt just as much down hill as up hill.  Note to self: lose 30 pounds last month.  But I digress.

When we got back to the hotel, there was a new person at the desk.  He smiled very brightly and I was encouraged.  Mr. Meanie (whom I had met earlier) was still there, but he was excellant at not making eye contact.  Mr. Smilie listened to my request to check in and cocked his head and said "Huh?"  It was as though I was speaking a different language.  He didn't seem to understand me.  Finally I just gave him my credit card and he found my room.  As I recall these moments, I realize that I was babbling on and on about the odd parking situation, so perhaps I was incoherent, but his puzzlement really lead me to believe that either he didn't understand English or I wasn't speaking it. 

Anyway, as I gathered my bags out of storage and started to my room, I asked where was the ice machine?  "What?"  Mr. Smilie says.  The ice machine, I repeated, enounciating every syllable--my English was a second language to him.  "No, no ice machines" he says.  NO ICE MACHINES???  Really, the expression on my face must have been something for the record books.  I flew thousands and thousands of miles to a different continent, a different hemisphere and you have no ice machines?  This is information you are supposed to state out loud on your brochure so as to avoid hysterical women from running up and down the halls screaming frauds, liars, cheats!  No ice machines--who do you think you are? European?  I don't think I said any of that out loud, but it was sure written all over my face.  Mr. Smilie, however, was not a complete ogre--he added "You can get ice at the restaurant, right here" and he pointed around the corner.  Breathe, I told myself, breathe. 

So I went around the corner to the restaurant and tried to get the attention of the fellow behind the bar.  He was also, quite the expert at avoiding eye contact.  But I was on a mission to get ice.  I spent 14 hours in a plane with no ice.  Adam's teeny tiny ice cubes just would not cut it for a whole week.  This restaurant better have ice and they better give it to me NOW!  Finally, I got the guy's attention and he said, "Oh, we're closed for lunch.  I already turned off the ice machine.  There's no ice."


Even as I remember this, I distinctly remember counting to 10.  Let's break down the news that had just been imparted to me.  They were closed for lunch.  The restaurant in the hotel was closed.  For lunch.  Ok, I reasoned.  It is Sunday.  Perhaps on Sunday, a nice breakfast/brunch service is offered and they close in the afternoon before a big Sunday dinner service.  I guess I can try to wrap my mind around the concept that they, the restaurant in the hotel are closed for lunch.  It is a stretch, but by golly, I'm in a different country.  If the custom in Australia is to close the only restaurant in the hotel for lunch on Sunday, then by golly, I'm just going to have to accept that there are some customs I'll never understand.

But "I already turned off the ice machine.  There's no ice."  This is incomprehensible to me.  Counting to ten did not help me at all.  There's no ice, there's no ice, there's no ice.  I just couldn't comprehend it.  Perhaps it was the jet lag.  Perhaps it was the extreme fatigue.  Perhaps it was that I was not completely not hungry.  Perhaps it was my brain trying to circle the drain in the oposite direction being in the Southern Hemisphere.  "There's no ice."  No comprende.

[That reminds me of what I like so much about "The Tourist", he was speaking Spanish in Italy and expecting every one to understand him--so cute.] 

As I left the restaurant weighing my options, stay at a hotel with no ice, stay with Adam with teeny tiny ice cubes, I realized that I was willing to spend money to buy ice.  They sold great big bags of ice at the grocery store we'd just been to in the neighborhood.  I was willing to buy a great big bag of ice every day if I had to.  I had a car.  This problem has just been solved.  Relief spread through me, delight almost.  Oh my, crisis averted.  That was close.  I feel so much better.  I think I laughed out loud, I was so relieved.  As I passed the desk, I remembered to ask Mr. Smilie the password for the wireless.  [There was a line now, so I had to wait a bit, but solving the ice crisis had put me in magnanomous frame of mind.  I was happy to wait.]  Finally it was my turn and I tried to remember to enounciate.  "What is the password for the wireless internet?" I asked with a great big smile left over from solving the ice issue.  "We don't have wireless internet.  There is a dial up Internet connection available for a fee in the back computer room."  I was just too numb to feel the blow.  The significance of "no internet" just didn't occur to me.  We walked back to the elevators and off to the side I saw a tiny windowless room with a 1980's computer moniter and it didn't even register.

I put "there's no wireless internet" out of my mind completely.  Denial, denial, denial.  I refused to allow the concept to enter my brain.  Let's see the room.  The lobby was nice enough, but there was no ice and the restaurant closed for lunch.  The clerks were mean or uncomprehending.  It was almost impossible to drive here and parking was in a skinny back alley elevator.  My brain had seen the 1980's computer moniter, even if I was trying to block it out.  I was getting rather giddy frightened.  I tried the card.  Nothing.  You were supposed to "wave" it in front of the scanner.  I waved it and waved it, but nothing happened.  I tried the door knob to see if I just wasn't hearing a click.  It was locked, but I happened to glance at the key cover and realized I was at the wrong room.  Whoops.  We went to the right door and the key worked right away.

I was pleasantly surprised that the room was very nice.  There was a washing machine in the bathroom, so the sink was built very high.  I liked that a lot.  There was a full kitchen, stove, refrigerator and sink.  Two microwave ovens.  [Don't ask me why they had two microwave ovens--there was a washing machine in the bathroom and their only restaurant closed for lunch.  I cannot comprehend such customs.]  There was a sofa, a desk, two nice chairs and a beautiful balcony with a table and chairs to sit out on.  It overlooked the city and it was lovely.  But none of the lights worked.  Every switch and nothing.  Finally, Adam realized that there was a place next to the door to insert the key card that connected the electric.  When you leave the room the electricity goes off, so no lights left burning.  Very green and economical.  Each electrical outlet had a switch on it, so that you could turn off the outlet when you were not using the things plugged in.  Really cool.  All in all, the place was redeeming itself, big time.  It was a very comfortable room.

And then I looked at the tv.  WraaRow.  It looked pretty old.  Oh well, Adam and I will be out most of the time anyway.  I didn't fly thousands and thousands of miles to watch tv in Australia--how bad can it be?

Well, I'd gone almost an hour without a diet coke and there was no ice at this hotel, so we should be heading out to remedy this situation.  We decided to do some sight seeing and we walked down to the River.  I did not have any expectations for the River.  My original vacation plans were to go to Hawaii, so trading down to a river from the ocean made my expectations nil.  Oh contraire, mon frair.  The river in Brisbane was beautiful.  Absolutely lovely.  The walk through the City was beautiful.  It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon.  [And more gentle hills between the hotel and the river than between the hotel and Adam's apartment--so a much easier walk.]  Along the river there was a wide flat walkway that made for a very pleasant stroll.  We passed a very nice looking bar that served Italian food--that means Pizza.  From the window, I saw Li Na and Sciavone and the red clay of the French.  The score was 2 2.  Oh my.  I lost Saturday completely in my flight.  I already knew who won, but here it was, right there.  We must go in, I told Adam.  We ordered lunch (pizza for me) and they had diet coke and a glass with ice without me specially requesting it and I got to watch the Women's finals of the French.  This vacation was really looking up, big time.

Stay tuned--Adam baked (after I bought him a pan to bake in).

Wonderful World (Chapter Three: Stairs, Chairs?)

This little guy likes climbing a tree to get into his house.  He doesn't need no stinking chair.  Me, same boat?, not so much.  So when we left off, Adam and I were walking (read climbing) to his apartment and he had just pointed out their neighborhood grocery store.  As it turns out, we needed to go the grocery store, because that is where Jade was (Adam's Australian native roommate--who traded living with her four brothers to be roommates with two fewer boys, Adam and Wayne in a three bedroom apartment).  Jade had the key.  Apparently, even though there are three bedrooms, there are only two keys.  Wayne has a key and we know that he is at work at the Airport Coffee Club (where we've just had breakfast) and Jade has a key, because she was going to be going out and they didn't know what time Adam would be back from picking his Aunt up at the airport.  It makes sense to them and the apartment is affordable, so who am I to make waves.  Jade has texted Adam that she is not home, but went to the grocery store.  So we will meet her there.  Me, I was thrilled to stop at a store to buy a diet coke--it had almost been an hour.

The side of the building as we were approaching looked like a brick, non-descript building, but inside it was a big and bright and fully stocked grocery store.  Many brands were different, but otherwise it was exactly the same as America.  Except that my diet coke was $4.50 for a 500ml bottle.  The two liter was also pretty expensive and we were walking and I'd have to carry it, but I wouldn't pay $4.50 for a small one (yet).  (I probably made Adam carry it.)

So Jade wasn't at the store, but we presumed that was because I was such a slowpoke and that she was probably home again.  I used my credit card to pay, because again, I hadn't exchanged my US dollars and they really didn't want them.  Debit or credit? Pin or signature?  Can I see your ID?  There's going to be a charge for this.  I'm on vacation, of course there is.

Outside of the store Adam started up a street and I said, you live on this street (this was before I fully understood that his idea of a block and my idea of a block are two different things) and he said, no, right up here and he pointed.  So we walked (read climbed) and walked and then he turned in and said this is it.  It is a modest looking building with a nice entry way.  He buzzed up and Jade was home.  In the foyey was a large staircase.  I looked left and right.  Where's the elevator, I asked.  There isn't one, he said.  No elevator? and I looked up the stairs.  What floor are you on?  The third.  Three flights of stairs, I said.  Ok, I thought, I can do this.  It's for Adam.  So I climbed and climbed, turned a corner and climbed and climbed, turned, climbed, turned, climbed and climbed.  Finally I looked up and said how much further is it?  Each floor had two flights--it seemed a lot longer than just three floors.  Finally, we were at his door.  His apartment has the kitchen to the left as you come in the front door--more of a galley style open kitchen to the living room space.  It was a nice size, but not large.  To the right there was another staircase in the apartment.  That led to Jade's room which was a pretty separate space.  All the way to the left was a small balacony overlooking the street.  I asked to see Adam's room and it was a very small room with a mattrass and a bunch of clothes.  Where'd you get all these clothes, I asked him, since I knew that he came to Australia with only a back pack and one pair of jeans.  He said that these are all Waynes clothes too--they share.  Wayne's room was the next door and it was about the same size as Adam's room.  The last room was the bathroom, which was a pretty good size and had a washer and dryer in it.  Ok, they were third world looking contraptions, but Adam said that's where they do their laundry.  They also had a ductless heater/airconditioner.  Adam said it works really well at cooling the room down and providing heat for the apartment. 

The walls were completely white and there was nothing hung on the walls.  When I asked him, why he didn't draw something to put up, he said that they weren't allowed to make any holes in the walls to hang any pictures and the landlady does spot checks to make sure they don't.  They did have an Australian flag hanging on a string under the staircase (Adam said he found it in the garbage and brought it home) and they had a tv that looks like the tv we had when I was a kid more than 45 years ago.  I asked if it works and Adam said, yes, but they haven't hooked it up or even plugged it in.

As I took in the apartment, my exhausted self was looking desparately for someplace to sit.  There was no furniture.  If I had tried to sit on Adam's mattrass on the floor, I probably wouldn't be able to get back up.  There was one wicker and medal chair that looked one step away from trash day.  I gingerly sat down on it and it didn't break.  Adam said that's his chair, because he found it in the trash and brought it home.  He said that Wayne has a beanbag chair, Jade has a computer chair in her room and he has the wicker chair, so they all have someplace to sit.  For the whole week I bugged Adam to let me take him shopping for a chair for me to sit on at his place, but he would never let me. 

I met Jade--she was taking a break from studying for finals to make herself breakfast.  She's very nice.  I didn't see her again, because she was very busy studying the whole week. 

My next order of business was to get a glass of ice and a diet coke.  I asked Adam for some ice.  Ice?, he said, I'm not sure if we have any ice.  The look of panic that must have been on my face was probably priceless.  He opened the freezer and said, Yes, we have ice.  He proceeded to empty these two tini tiny little bitty ice trays into a very small container.  He gave me two or three little, tiny ice cubes and I said, no, I'll take all of them.  I filled the glass and poured my diet coke.  I sat on the wicker chair that still didn't break and there was a cool breeze off the balcony.  All was right with the world.

Stay tuned--if I thought ice at Adam's apartment was difficult, wait til I get back to my hotel.  They didn't have any ice machines--none.  No wireless either.  A real winner, I picked.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wonderful World (Chapter Two: Thrifty Driving)

Isn't this a cool building.  Downtown Brisbane was beautiful--very clean, very pretty, very crowded and very hilly too.  The streets were nearly impossible to navigate, but we tried.

I rented a car, because I had the romantic notion that if there wasn't enough to do in Brisbane, we could drive up the coast to the Great Barrier Reef--the fact that it takes two hours by plane to get there should have clued me in that driving there would be highly improbable (30 hours minimum--it was only a 10 hour drive to Sydney, but I digress).  But wait, let me start at the beginning.

After I found Adam and gave him a good, long hug (kind of leaning on him, so that I wouldn't fall down), he pointed a few feet away and said, "do you want to meet one of my roommates, Wayne?"  Wayne works at the Coffee Club right at the airport directly outside the customs room.  How handy was that.  And it is a real restaurant, which Adam attests has really good breakfasts.  I've just been on a plane for 14 hours with nothing to eat or drink, so the plan is perfect.  They had eggs on the menu and crapes and stuff that sounded like breakfast, but I was leary.  It was awfully upscale for my taste.  Then I saw Bacon and Tomato on Toast--well that's my all time favorite thing to eat--no bothersome lettuce.  They had an actual bottle of diet coke with my specially requested glass of ice (I had to explain exactly what I wanted for a glass of ice to Wayne--no, not that tiny juice glass, a big glass--I almost took out my burger king cup, but I didn't want to get it dirty).  Wayne took our order and I paid $17 for breakfast on my credit card, since I hadn't exchanged any cash and they really didn't take my american money.  My credit card, sure.   Credit or debit?  Pin or Signature?  Can I see your id?  I heard that a lot over the next week, but I digress.

The amount for breakfast seemed kind of high, but I was so happy to get to sit down and eat something, I was happy to pay it.  AND a lady on the plane had told the people sitting next to me not to tip in Australia.  She said that everyone makes a living wage, so there's no tipping.  Adam had told me that the wages are really good--something like the minimum wage is $11 an hour and it goes up even for lower level jobs.  So I was happy to pay $17 (now that I think about it, Wayne probably gave us an employee discount or something).  We took our number and sat down in really comfortable chairs--they were like lounge chairs that you would curl up and read a book in at a table that was just the right height for the chairs.  And I got my diet coke over ice right away.  I was sooooo happy.  I was sooooo stupidly looking forward to my bacon and tomato on toast.  I don't know why I was completely unprepared for what I was served.  Did I not just fly for many, many thousands of miles to a different continent, a different hemisphere???  The bacon was rather lightly cooked pork--kind of like canadian bacon, with a lot of fat.  The tomatoes were cooked--hot even.  The toast was very thickly sliced and only toasted on one side.  I tentatively tried the bacon and it was not altogether unedible, so I ate it all.  Did I mention I was just off a 14 hour flight with nothing to eat or drink for 14 hours?  I also ate two pieces of toast, though a bit less enthousiastically than I usually eat bread (hands down my favorite food in the whole wide world--I often say that bread and butter are my dessert, but I digress).  I was very hungry and a little distracted, so that, yes I bit into a cooked tomato.  I'll never do that again.  Adam had some kind of breakfast wrap thing and he quickly cleaned his plate.  I was not done just sitting and relaxing, so I offered him the end of my bread and he cleaned my plate too.  I've so missed that.  Twenty-One years old and still a bottemless pit of a boy, but I digress.

When we couldn't justify hogging a perfectly good table with no food left on it any longer, we made our way over to the car rental stalls.  It was only about 7:30 a.m., so I was a little concerned that they might not be open.  I was renting from Thrifty.  There were five stalls and tucked in the middle was the sign for Thrify.  It appeared to be unmanned, but as we approached we could make out the blond head of a young guy sitting behind the high counter.  He was really quite hidden until you were right up to the counter.  He did not get up from his seat that was too low for the counter, but I gave him my name and confirmation number and he typed a few things in the computer and handed me a form to sign to say that there were no dents on the car.  But I haven't seen the car, I told him.  That's ok, he says, just a formality.  If I find anything, I should come right back and let him know.  Now I know what you are thinking--I'm a lawyer--no way am I signing a statement that there are no dents until I see for myself that there are no dents.  I'm just about ready to argue with the guy, when I realize--he's a kid.  He looks like a bored teenager, who'd rather be out surfing.  If I find a dent, I can take this kid in a fight (tired as I was) and get the form back from him.   Or maybe it was his accent.  He had just the slightest accent that sounded like (and looked a very little like) Lleyton Hewitt, my favorite Australian Tennis player.  You're on vacation, I told myself and I signed the form.  Do you have a map of the city, I asked that little kid.  Where do you want to go?  I said, well, we'll want to go all over the City, so if you just have a City map....  He handed me the equivilent of a Thomas Guide (though not quite so logical) for all of Australia--a very large, heavy book and said, just leave it in the car when you come back.  After I picked my jaw off the floor, I took the keys, confirmed the parking spot number and let the kid point me in the direction of the lot (right outside the terminal doors) to get the car.

As we were walking away, Adam said, you know the steering wheel is on the other side and you drive on the left, right.  There was a disbelief in his voice as if to say, do you actually realize what you are doing, renting a car in Australia.  Yes, I know.  Then he said, are you sure you got an automatic?  Yes, I paid more for a midsize automatic.  Ok.  Then I looked down at the very large book that was supposed to be a map.  Oh my.  Lions and tigers and bears.

Adam and I went back to say good-bye to Wayne (and all his co-workers called out to say good-bye to Adam--he later told me he just met them at a party a few weeks before, so their adulation was a bit over the top and Adam seemed a bit embarrassed by it.  My theory is that Adam is just such a nice person, he makes others feel comfortable right away, so that they feel a lot closer than they are in reality.  That's happened to me.  Did I mention the lady on the plane who told "me" that I didn't have to tip in Australia--she's my best friend in Australia, except for Adam, Wayne and their other roommate Jade and the jolly customs guy.  I'm very fond of the Thrifty rent a car kid, but I'm sure he forgot me right away--he's just a kid, but I digress.)

The car was exactly where we were directed to go and even though we were just talking about it, I went to the wrong door to drive.  Adam very politely offered to drive, but I declined--no, no--I can do it.  We switched sides and I got into the drivers side (Australian driver's side).  It took a little while, but I started the car and pulled out.  Adam reminded me to drive on the other side.  I had already forgotten and I was just starting.  So I got over, but I was convinced I was going to hit something, so I kind of stayed in the middle of the road.  Somehow--I don't know how, because I've blocked it out of my mind, I made it into the City.  We had to drive around and around trying to find my hotel.  We could see it, but you were not allowed to turn on the street from the street we were on, so we had to try to go around the block.  Except that it wasn't a block, it was a large park and then a hospital and we were right back on the street that we couldn't turn from onto the street.  After the second time around, I was starting to wonder if that is why I got the room so cheap. 

Eventually, we were able to drive past it, but there was no entrance for parking.  Eventually, back around we were able to find the entrance for parking--a very skinny alleyway.  The parking for the hotel was in a car elevator.  You backed into a spot and then they elevated your car to a different level so that someone else could park too.  You would have to get the attendent to get your car.  It was the weirdest thing and I was not comfortable driving on the wrong side, backing into an elevator in a rental car.  And I was still very tired (and not completely not hungry).  Still, I did it.  But I didn't do it very well, because the attendant wanted me to repark it.  I think that is the point that I handed Adam the keys and I never had to drive again.  That is not to say that Adam was not a bit timid--you try driving with a hysterical crazy aunt tuting her tongue and staring at you like you are about to crash and gripping the dashboard in a death grip.  Poor guy.  He did great.  I tried to tell him that even though none of my body language or actual language reflected it, I thought he was an excellent driver and I was very lucky that he was willing to drive, but I don't think he believed me.  It was not the first or the last time of the trip that he looked completely exasperated with me.

So we went into my hotel to check in, except I was four hours early for check in.  After waiting and waiting and waiting for my very rude check in clerk to talk to me (he is not anywhere on the list of my friends in Australia), we stowed my bags and set out to walk to Adam's apartment which he said was about three blocks away.  Now let me stop right here to explain that Adam's idea of a block and my idea of a block are not the same.  If you have to walk around three sides of a block, to Adam that is one block, to me that is three blocks.  So Adam was really nine blocks away, up hill.  I know that is not logical, but you try walking around Brisbane and then we'll talk.  At one point, after we'd been walking and walking and walking (or should I say, climbing and climbing and climbing--it was really all up hill), Adam said see that building over there (it was about two blocks away in my blocks), that is our grocery store and we live one block away from there.  I don't think so Jacko.  It was very clear to me that wrong side of the road or not, it was a darn good thing I rented a car even if we never left the City at all.

Stay tuned.  Next I visit Adam's apartment after having walked up hill for miles and miles (and don't forget I'm exhausted and not entirely not hungry), I get to walk up three floors (five flights of stairs) and then he has no furniture.  I am not a sit on the floor kind of girl (old woman).

Wonderful World (Chapter One: Plane Torture)

So I went to see Adam in Australia a couple of weeks ago (is that all?)  It is winter there (hence Adam bundled up).  This is a rain forest behind him--we are on a "sky walk" set of raised trails above the rain forest.  The brochure said that there was lots of exotic wildlife--birds, butterflies, critters--but it is winter, so we didn't see anything but pictures of birds, butterflies and critters (giant bugs).  But let me start at the beginning.

My facebook post was a little ditty about getting a window seat on the plane.  I knew that the long flight (14 hours) was going to be arduous.  I reasoned that if I had a window seat and could lean against the wall, it would be slightly less horrible.  The gal on the phone who refused to reserve a seat for me assured me that if I was just three hours early for my flight, I would surely get my window seat.  I mentioned this plan to another person who said that she arrived three hours early just in time to get in line behind a tour group that was advised to get there three hours early.  She got a middle seat.  A middle seat WAS my worst nightmare.  I got to the airport four and a half hours early.  I got the last window seat.

The flight to Australia was horrible.  Except for the 1 hour and 48 minutes that I saw the movie "The Tourist" and the two 34 minute episodes of some weird cop drama, and the eight or nine minutes that I dozed off--there is no way to sugar coat it.  It was horrible.  I had brought diet coke to drink on the plane, but I really tried to sleep for the first six hours, so that by the time I wanted to drink a diet coke, it was warm.  The woefully inadequate staff on the plane asked me if I wanted anything at about hour 13 (really--not a single drink service--dinner and breakfast that were so disgusting I couldn't stand the smell from my neighbor and tho only offer of drinks was for coffee or tea--coffee or tea?? really??)  The falsely cheery steward type person assured me that a cup of ice was coming right up.  Not.   Thank goodness they had passed out a little bottle of water at the beginning of the flight and strongly suggested that everyone take one, even if they didn't want it.  Little did I know that would be the extent of my liquids on the flight.

The guy behind me took off his shoes at the beginning of the flight and darn if those stinky feet didn't stay stinky the entire 14 hours.  The guy in front of me put his seat back as soon as the flight took off and didn't straighten until we landed.  So even if I wanted my warm diet coke (which I really, really did by hour 13), I couldn't reach it.  For some reason the guy in front of me could not hear my desparate pleas--probably because I was in a stupor and could not get any sound out of my parched throat, but I digress.  [In all fairness, near the end of the flight, a stewardess did actually look at me and ask me if I was alright, but when I said I was fine (really expecting the next question to be what would you like to drink), she was gone faster than a water slide and I never saw her again.]

Finally, because all things do eventually pass, even torture, we landed.  I took my time exiting, because I really kind of thought I might pass out.  My carry on was really, really heavy (three full diet cokes).  The lines for customs were rather confusing, but I stood where they told me to.  The people directing the lines looked like they were retired greeters at walmarts--they smiled, but they didn't really seem to know any more than the tired and confused passengers.  Anyhoo, the customs guy looked at me really closely, scanned my passport, held it up to me comparing my facial features, grilled me on where was I staying in Australia and why was I there.  "Grilled" is probably too harsh--they were actually very nice, but I was so exhausted, it was a real effort to remain standing. 

Next it was off to get my luggage.  I was having trouble carrying my carry on, so I was not looking forward to adding two suitcases to my load.  There were a lot of people so I really couldn't get very close to find my bags, but after a while I heard an announcement telling me I was at the wrong carrosal.  So I went to the correct one and not too long thereafter, I found my bags.  I mustered all my strength and heaved my bags off and proceeded to the line through the next stage of customs.  My bags were on rollers, but there were two of them.  At first I seemed to have plenty of room to manuver, but soon I realized the line was not where I was standing and I needed to go around, but there were people in the way.  A "greeter" type was trying to direct the line, but it seemed to me that she just made it more confused.  The line was getting longer and longer, but I was blocked from getting into the line.  I wasn't the only one and desparate travelors were cutting into the line.  I figured that if I waited long enough, I would be able to get in line properly.  If other people wanted to cut, that was on their conscious.  I tried to scowl, but I was too tired and no one was looking at me anyway and let's face it, my face just naturally looks like a scowl.  I tried to hold my tougue, because obviously these people were just as exhausted as I was, but I may have muttered under my breath "fine, go ahead of me, I'm invisible, I'm not important, please, you are much more important than I am, go ahead".  I must confess that my ears were popped and under my breath may have been a little louder than that, but I'm sure that the young couple with their two small children have forgotten all about that mean old lady yelling at them.  But I digress. 

When the line actually started to move, we were divided into groups and the lines became more defined until finally, I handed my declaration slip to a very jolly, smiling customs agent who said, "no worries, let's take a look at those groceries."  I had brough snacks for the flight--I didn't eat any of them.  I had also bought a cup of ice at the airport for the flight.  It was now a leaking cup of warm water.  My jolly greeter wanted to throw it away, but I'm familiar with the tiny glasses provided by hotels and I rather pathetically begged to keep the cup, if I could just disgard the liquid.  "No worries" he said smiling and he called over a very important, impressive looking agent who gingerly took the cup and disappeared.  My jolly greeter wasn't getting enough appreciation for his jollyness from me, so he moved on to the next travelor, while I tried to calculate how long I would be able to continue to stand without fainting.  Two minutes, three--I'll count to sixty and take it from there.  One, two...I couldn't focus on counting, so I started studying the people around me.  Where were all those people I'd spent an eternity in line with.  Am I the last person from my flight being processed--a little rightious indignation goes a long way, when you are about to pass out from fatigue.  I had just snapped back to attention, to take my jolly customs guy to task for the long wait, when imposing, stern customs guy returned with my cup, nicely washed out for my benefit.  That was so nice and I thank him very much, but alas, I had used all of my allotment of their time and I was quickly sent on my way out the door.  The door was realy a passageway and you could go right or left.  To the right was a longer passageway and to the left I could just barely make out chairs.  I went left and sat down as soon as I could. 

Where was Adam?  I looked from my seat which faced away from the doors.  Couldn't see him.  I was going to have to get up and look at the right side exit.  Oh bother.  So I got up, adjusted my luggage, heaved my heavy carry on and went in the direction of the right side.  No Adam.  Lots of people to try to get around, but wait, who is all the way to the far side so that he is closest to the right side exit:

Adam.  No worries.

Stay tuned--they drive on the wrong left side of the road in Australia making me confuse left and right, left and right.  I'd say, "go to the right--no the Australia right."  "That's left," Adam would tell me.  "It's left everywhere, not just in Australia," he'd say.  "No," I'd say, "you know what I mean."

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Pauvre vous

Two years of french and half the family speaking it when I was a kid, probably doesn't make this correct, but my translation is "Poor You".  Number One, Caroline Wozniacki--OUT (early too), my favorite, Kim Clijsters--OUT (even earlier), former winner of the French, Kuznetsova--OUT (heartbreak--Bartoli was a monster in that match), Zvonareva--OUT, another of my favorites Jelena Jankovic--OUT (up a set and loses to Schiavone--now that was a heartbreaker), Azarenka--OUT, last year's finalist Sam Stosur--OUT (I was rooting for her--very solid Australian player) and now, today, Maria Sharapova--OUT.  Li Na looks good, but I don't like her chances against the huricane that is Schiavone, looking to win back to back French Opens.

However, I will be on an airplane when they play, so I probably won't see it.  Pauvre me!

On the men's side, the final four are the four top seeded players in tennis--that doesn't happen too often--especially at the French which is thought of as a more specialty surface.  Some of the lower overall seeds are much better on clay, and therefore usually knock out the higher seeds.  But not this year.  [They actually used a new type of tennis ball this year which bounces better and that may account for part of the difference--who knew tennis was so intriguingly complex.]

Andy Murray is not 100% (weird ankle strain) and has struggled so far.   Amazingly he was down two sets against Troicki, and came back against amazing odds to even it up and then they stopped for darkness and he had a real fight on his hands to win that final set.  I had never even heard of Troicki before.   Tomorrow Murray will face my baby Rafa Nadal (also not 100%).  Rafa had an amazingly difficult first round match against John Isner and he was almost eliminated.  It went five sets and when he won, he celebrated as though he had won the whole thing--that's how close it was.

Whereas, Roger Fedderer has not dropped a set.  He's in fine form, though a little worn around the edges.  He beat Monfils in straight sets, but he didn't look all that composed doing it.  [OH, Monfils--his match against Ferrer was amazing and astounding and I forgot all the other wonderful expressive words that I'm learning from the Tennis channel (their commentators are not very good, but they do mix up those impressive, expressive words).  I knew that David Ferrer would not be an easy match for anyone and I knew that Monfils had the chops, but what an awesome athlete.]  Roger will face Noli tomorrow.

Novak Djokovic has done something this year that we haven't seen in some time.  He has not lost a match all year (he won the Australian Open).  He's only lost one set so far and that was against Juan Martin Del Potro, who two years ago was in the finals.  Del Po is no slouch and that should have been a much tougher match for Djokovic, but he really made it look easy.  And he beat Gasquet (another very fine player who should have given him trouble) without breaking a sweat.  He is looking unbeatable.  I don't think Roger stands a chance and I'm kind of worried about my Rafa Nadal as well.

Murray has yet to win a major and he certainly has the skills.  Roger is Roger, so he certainly has to be a real posibility.  Nadal is going for a record fifth French open title.  He's only lost ONE match at the French in his entire career (against Soderling two years ago--yesterday he wiped the floor with Soderling--it was nice to see Soderling lose so completely--ok, he rallied in the third set, but Rafa kicked some Soderling behind.).  And then there is Noli Djokovic.  He has the calm presence and confidence of a man who is playing the best tennis of his career right now.  He's 100% healthy and his skills are top notch.  I hate to say it, but I think he can take Nadal this year.

I'll be in Australia for the men's finals.  Wish me luck in finding tv coverage.  Otherwise, I'll be in a coffee shop trying to get a radio feed on my computer over the internet.  Pauvre me.