Wednesday, December 29, 2010

That Whore Chrissie

I know I’ve already written about spelling and diction in previous blog entries, but something today at work has prompted me to write yet another blog about how Aussies speak.  Or, rather, how Aussies speak funny.

I randomly met an Australian speech pathologist a few months ago and she mentioned that it’s a bit more difficult for people to learn how to speak properly in Australia than it is to learn how to speak properly in the United States, Canada, or even England.  When it comes to pronunciation, vowel sounds are often shortened, whole syllables dropped, or inflection changed.  To say it bluntly, Australians are notoriously lazy speakers.  They’re like the Mexicans of the language world.

Just kidding!  Mexicans aren’t lazy.  That’s just me perpetuating stereotypes again.

Anyway, I didn’t notice this too much at first, but as I go along, it’s definitely catching my attention more and more.  What really gets me are the dropping of syllables – or dropping of whole words really.  Geography is a perfect example:  when referring to Surfers Paradise, Australians only say “Surfers”.  Same goes for Byron Bay – you only need “Byron”.  Coffs Harbours is simply “Coffs” and Alice Springs is just plain “Alice” – like the whole city represents the maid or nanny or whatever that lady was on the Brady Bunch.

Your locale only has one word in its name?  How do you shorten that?  It’s simple!  Use the diminutive so it sounds endearing and it’s shorter!  For example, Tasmania becomes “Tassie” (pronounced “Tazzie” – because they hate using the letter “z” here).  “But, Phill, my city only has two syllables to begin with.  How on Earth can I shorten that?”

No worries, outsiders!  The Australians have an answer:  change the last syllable to make it diminutive and shorten the vowel sound on it.  Brisbane becomes “Brissie” and the Gold Coast becomes “Goldie”.  Who needs two whole syllables when you can have… one syllable and then a different syllable?

Right.

Need more examples?  Darlinghurst becomes “Darlo” and Paddington becomes “Paddo” and Wagga Wagga becomes “Wagga” – because who needs that second wagga anyway?

(As an aside, “Wagga Wagga” is a real place.  “Wagga” means crow or something in an Aboriginal language, and they pluralize it by saying it twice, therefore “Wagga Wagga” means more than one crow.  And since there are multiple crows there, I won’t be going, because I hate birds.)

It’s not just geographical place names that get shortened:  anything can be shortened if you put your mind to it!  Registration (as in car registration) is far too long of a word for Australian English.  Let’s just call it “rego”.  Afternoon’s three syllables getting you down by late morning?  Just say “arvo” instead!  Because getting arvo out of afternoon makes complete sense seeing as both have the letter “v”.

Oh wait.

Americans have four syllables so let’s just call them “Yanks”.  And Brits?  We’ll call them “Poms” because maybe the vowel sound is shorter?  I don’t know.  Australia’s national soccer team is known as the Roos – short for Socceroos.  And if you need to buy groceries, head on over to Woolies – or Woolworth’s as the sign says.  An “esky” is a cooler or ice chest (this I learned fairly recently) and they call it that because it’s cold like an Eskimo.  Seriously.  Esky is like Xerox or Kleenex or Google or Band-Aid in that it’s a brand name (proper noun) that has become synonymous with the item (common noun).  But what gets me is this:  the brand isn’t “Eskimo” – it’s “Esky”.  The creator got lazy with the language even before his product hit the shelf.  “Eskimo seems like such a long name for a cooler.  Let’s just call it Esky.”  Ugh.

But today – today was the last straw.  My boss was on the phone with a client and I heard this come out of his mouth:

“Did you have a nice Chrissie?”

Are you kidding me?  You shorten Christmas too?   Because Christmas is just too long to say I suppose.  There’s something about the -mas suffix that makes Christmas seem like seven syllables instead of two.  (Ok, no there’s not.  This is bullshit.)

Chrissie should not be short for Christmas.  Chrissie is a name for a woman – and more specifically – it sounds like a name for a woman who makes her living dancing naked around a stripper pole in front of a bunch of gross, horny, old perverts or Japanese businessmen.   Or – if not a stripper – then a full-fledged whore.  Seriously.  Chrissie is a whore’s name and now it sounds like Christmas is just some big whore.  Isn't it supposed to be about Mary being a virgin and all?  This is defeating the purpose.  “Did you have a nice Chrissie?”  Why, yes, she was delightful and only cost $50 per hour.  It's times like that I'm extra thankful that I'm a big Jew.

“And did you get any good pressies?”

For fuck’s sake!  Pressies?!?!?  (pronounced “prezzies” of course)  Pressies sounds like something you say to a three year-old.  And I seriously doubt the broker on the phone was a three year-old, because if a three year-old could do my job I’d say fuck it and play with building blocks all day instead.

Australians don’t seem to care or even notice that they are lazy with the language.  But the moment I say “whatev” or “ridick” (short for ridiculous) they stare at me like I’m from outer space.  Ugh.

Whatev.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Other Palm Beach

The day after our Wollongong adventure, John and I still had possession of our rental car.  So we decided to make the most out of it by heading all the way to Palm Beach!  That’s right!  A 10,000 mile adventure!  We’ll get to go shopping at CityPlace and ogle Donald Trump’s massive beachside mansion!  I hear Oprah and Tom Selleck have homes on Palm Beach too!  Woohoo!

Oh wait.

No, no.  Not Palm Beach, Florida.  Sorry.  The other Palm Beach.  Just like with London and Paris and Athens:  there is more than one Palm Beach in the world.

Palm Beach, New South Wales, is located approximately one hour north of Sydney.  It sits on the very tip of a narrow peninsula that separates the Pacific Ocean from Broken Bay.  And to all you Americans and Canadians reading this right now:  Be jealous.

Be very jealous.

It’s winter in North America and you all are sitting inside drinking hot cocoa by the fireplace… because you know that the moment you step outside will be the moment your nose and ears automatically turn blue and your testicles shrivel up and take cover as close to your body as they possibly can.  And your car is frozen in the driveway.  And me?  I’m here:


We went to Palm Beach on a Monday and it was virtually empty.  There was minimal traffic getting up there (it’s a long and somewhat winding drive up the peninsula) and the café we ate at featured only one other table of patrons.  No pesky tourists.  No children screaming or laughing heinously.  Just the waves and the beach all to myself.


And John too, of course.  I laid my towel out and went straight for the water.  I splashed around like a little kid while John read his book up on the beach under a nice tree.  He was sick of the sun.  These Seattle people just can’t handle it.


And the best part?  The best part was… there weren’t really any birds!  Usually, Sydney beaches are plagued by those little shit seagulls.  But not Palm Beach.  Maybe they stayed away because there weren’t enough beach-goers out to feed them on a Monday, but my housemate conjectured that they probably are exterminated regularly because Palm Beach is one of the filming locations for Home and Away – one of Australia’s biggest soap operas.  We can’t have those pesky seagulls flying into shots and pooping on actors’ heads mid-scene and stealing French fries from that guy behind the camera.  Hellz no!

Whatever the reason, the point is there weren’t any birds and it was the absolute best beach ever.  Seriously.  (But I sort of hope that Channel 7 kills the seagulls because that would just be awesome and I would implore them to start filming scenes at Bondi as well.  And Coogee.  And Manly.  And Tamarama.  And all around Circular Quay.  And, Channel 7, while you’re at it, can you get rid of all the pigeons on Bourke Street?  Thanks!)

So yeah.  The whole point of this blog is to make you jealous that we’ve got Palm Beach and you’ve got blizzards and snow chains and bunches of cars and buses sliding down iced-over hills in Seattle or Washington or Chicago or New York or Toronto or wherever you may reside.


Oh, wait.  That’s mean.  Sorry!  The whole point of the blog is to inform you that there is more than one Palm Beach in the world.  In fact, there are seven.  In addition to Palm Beach, Florida and Palm Beach, New South Wales, there is also another Palm Beach in Australia – up in Queensland – and Palm Beaches in Aruba, South Africa, and the French Riviera.  That makes six.  And the seventh?

It’s in Illinois.  And that’s fucking ridiculous.


Monday, December 20, 2010

The Gong

Here’s a little recipe for you:

Take 1 part bogans (Australian rednecks), 1 part blue collar workers, and 1 part university students.  Mix them all together, set them down next to some gorgeous beaches, and garnish with a big ass Buddhist temple.  What do you get?

The Gong!

Actually, it’s Wollongong, but calling it “The Gong” is way more fun, so let’s do that.  Wollongong – with a metropolitan population of around 280,000 – is the ninth largest city in Australia.  It sits an hour and a half south of Sydney and is one of Australia’s major ports.  It’s also a hub for fishing, steelworks, and mining.  My Canadian mate Jeremy was studying abroad for a year at the university in Wollongong.  I kept saying that I’d go visit before he left, and seeing as he was leaving at the very beginning of December and it was the end of November and I still hadn’t gone, I figured I’d better get my butt in gear and head down there.  John and I planned on renting a car for a few days when he was in town from Seattle, so I thought to myself that it would be the perfect time.

So, we woke up early, hopped in our rental car, and headed down to see The Gong Show.  First stop:  Nan-Tien Temple!


The temple grounds were serene – and so well-manicured.  It was gorgeous.  It’s one of the largest Buddhist temples in the southern hemisphere (but really, how many can there be?) and is one of Wollongong’s largest tourist attractions.  I had never been to a Buddhist temple before, and I think this is a good preview of what I should expect when I travel China and Mongolia one day.


Why they would build this giant temple in Wollongong of all places befuddles me, but I’m sure they have their reasons.  Also, John, I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to leave your fish in the car.  Thanks.


Next stop:  into the city for some beach time!  Jeremy – along with our mates David and Elcid who were also down visiting from Sydney – and a bunch of Jeremy’s lady friends – headed down to the beach.  It was a gorgeous beach – nice sand, nice waves, and a decent amount of topless hunky eye candy.  I was pleased.


The water just looked so inviting that I had to go in for a little swim – a first for me in Australia.  Luckily, I survived without getting eaten by a shark or stung by a jellyfish or getting pulled out to sea by a lethal rip current.  Woohoo!  Did I mention there were skydivers?  Fun.


Afterward, we were hungry (we may have forgotten to eat all day…) so Jeremy wandered with us down to the main drag in Wollongong.  It was there that reality set in.  It was around 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and the main drag in a city of over a quarter-million people was… completely dead.  Dead.  Everything was closed.  Seriously.  Everything.

Jeremy had a few lunch places in mind.  They were all closed.  I had read about a good brewpub on the beach, so we headed back in that direction.  They had a patio with a great view!  But… they weren’t serving food any more.  We had missed it.  In my twenty-seven years of existence, I had managed to tactfully stay away from small town America, but I imagine this is what it must be like:  dead.  And starving.  And quiet.

So that’s why the Buddhists built their temple here.  So eerily peaceful.

We wandered back to the main drag and ended up eating at virtually the only open restaurant:  Oporto – a nationwide fast food chain that is sort of like Chick-fil-a but with a Portuguese flair and a disappointing lack of waffle fries and sweet tea.  Still, it was better than McDonald’s or Hungry Jacks.

Then, we bid Jeremy adieu and headed back to Sydney via a scenic coastal route.  We made a brief stop at the Sea Cliff Bridge.  The bridge, which opened in 2005, replaced an earlier road that was subject to frequent rock falls.  The bridge is unique in that it runs parallel to the shore – one of only seven in the world to do so (according to Wikipedia).


They even filmed a Ferrari commercial there and showed it internationally.  So I guess the bridge is pretty famous now.

Or not.


I will admit that it was pretty neat, but in all honesty, I was expecting a bit more.   One interesting thing:  the railings were covered in locks that people had engraved – mostly for weddings – but a few had some other various commemorations on them.  I think I’ll go back one day with a lock and attach it to one of the posts.  Obviously, it won’t commemorate my wedding – largely because I’m not married and don’t plan on it anytime soon – but I’ll have to think of something clever and moderately offensive to engrave on my bridge lock.  Something like “This lock touched Oprah's bare bottom” or “Those who read this lock will have an eternity of pain” or anything involving feminists or those pesky Lithuanians.  I don’t know.  Something witty.  Suggestions?


  

Monday, December 13, 2010

All About John

“The only things certain in life are death and taxes…” and a blog post about any friend who comes to visit me.  If you drop $1,000+ to come see little old Phill in his land far away, then a blog post is the least I can do.  That and seriously run you ragged.

And run ragged is just what I did to good old John.  John, being one of my top straights from Seattle, got the star treatment here in Sydney.  Oh, and yes, I rank my straights.  It gives them something to aspire to.  Anyway, John was here for 12 days and he left completely exhausted and sick of the sun.

My work here is done.

John had the true blue Aussie experience.  He drank Aussie beer and met Aussie people.  He ate Aussie food and had to ask what certain words meant.  He even killed a giant spider that we found in the kitchen sink when we got home from the bar at 2 o'clock one morning.  That's the real Aussie experience right there.

Now, of course, I’m a working man, and I have to bring home the bacon, even though it’s not kosher.  So I had to let John run around Sydney on his own for a few days.  I gave him an itinerary and a map and some bus passes and he was off like a prom dress.  I sent him to the Botanical Gardens and Government House and the Sydney Opera House (duh!) and the Harbour Bridge and The Rocks and Taronga Zoo and Sydney Tower and the Queen Victoria Building… and one day I even sent him on a two-hour train ride up to the Blue Mountains for some hiking.  All of that, of course, was accomplished on the three days I worked.

When I was off work, we did heaps more:  we walked, we ferried, we conquered.  We did the Bondi to Coogee Walk, Centennial Park, Manly, and drove all the way down to Wollongong and the Sea Cliff Bridge and Royal National Park and all the way up to Palm Beach and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.  We did trivia and we had beer, we did dinner at the Wharf Bar and we had beer, we did dinner at Una’s and we had beer, we had dinner at Trinity Bar and we had beer, we had dinner at Oporto but we didn’t have any beer there because they are a fast food establishment and they don’t serve beer.  But there was plenty of beer at all other meals.  John likes beer.  I like beer.

Together we like a lot of beer.

We went to the Shady Pines Saloon – my favorite country & western bar in Sydney (probably the only country & western bar in Sydney) – and we visited the cute baristas – not once but twice.  We spent a whole day doing Thanksgiving (our third Thanksgiving together!) and we went to the Westfield Bondi to buy ingredients and we cooked (well, I mostly cooked… John grated cheese, but I’m a control freak so that was my decision) and we dined and drank copious amounts of alcohol at our multinational Thanksgiving dinner at Karen & Elsbeth’s apartment.  And on top of all of that, John flew up to Cairns to check out the Great Barrier Reef for three days.  So yeah, all of that other crap was squeezed into just 9 days.  Not 12.  Remember in the first paragraph when I said I ran John ragged?  That was an understatement.  I should’ve said…

Completely ragged.

Of course, this was a big 12 days, and several more posts will come out of it, including a post on The Gong and a post about the beach that will make you jealous and a whole post devoted to chocolate, because John brought me Theo Chocolate from Seattle and I don’t blog about food enough.

Or do I?

But those posts will follow later this month.  For now, I leave you with pictures of me and my straight.

This was taken somewhere between Wollongong and Royal National Park.  In case you’re wondering, I’m the one on the right.  I look short, but I’m really about average.  John is freakishly tall.


A nice jolly woman took this for us at West Head in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.  Haha, I said head…



Friday, December 3, 2010

Movember

Stop what you’re doing right now and open up the Google homepage.  Come on, do it… Now do an image search for “1980’s porn star”.  Seriously.  Do it.

I’m waiting.

Ok, now that you’ve searched, examine the results closely.  Aside from all of the men being fairly ugly and creepy looking, what else do nearly all of them have in common?

Come on, you can guess…

Ok, fine.  It’s a mustache.  1980’s porn stars almost always have a mustache.  Well, not all 1980’s porn stars.  Just the males.

Now, come to Australia during the month of November and look around… what do so many men have in common?

Oh, that’s right.  Mustaches!  Australia during the month of November is just like a 1980’s porno flick… except that people aren’t having sex for you to watch (well, at least not for me to watch) and ladies’ hair isn’t as big as it was back then.

November in Australia is called “Movember” - a month-long charity event where men raise money by growing a mustache for the entire month.  “Mo” is slang for mustache in Australia, so naturally, November was the obvious month for “Movember”.  “Mobruary” and “Mogust” don’t sound nearly as clever.  Participants start clean-shaven on November 1st and end on the 30th looking something like Ron Jeremy.  In researching this event on the interwebs, it appears that it is a fundraiser for men’s health issues – most notably prostate cancer and depression – but I didn’t actually hear that from anyone’s mouth, so I have a feeling that people do it for whatever charity they want nowadays.  And it’s incredible how many men do it:  a few of my friends, heaps of co-workers, and probably about one out of every 10 men that you pass on the street… all doing their part to help raise funds for my future prostate health.

Among those who participated:  the really hot guy at work.  It only took a few days for him to start looking ridiculous.  By the 9th or 10th of the month, I could no longer refer to him as the hot guy.  Just the memory of his heinous mustache has warped the view of him in my mind.  Not that he cares (he’s straight), but still.  Also participating:  the really sweet older guy at work.  He must be in his 60’s and always says “hi” to me and starts up little conversations with me when he sees me in the lunchroom or at the copier.  His hair is all gray and white, but his mustache grew in black, and let me tell you:  it was beyond porn star creepy.  Seriously, the nice older man all of a sudden turned into a sketchy porn star playing the role of the boss about to blackmail his secretary into doing some dirty, dirty deed.  Isn’t there a better way to raise money?  Like a relay or a march or something like we do in the States?

The whole month reminded me of the time in college when five friends and I decided to go rent an adult DVD to see what it was all about but we all had out-of-state drivers licenses so they wouldn’t let us rent so we ended up having to purchase one but porn is apparently really expensive so we ended up buying something from the VHS bargain bin for $5 and it was a 1980’s porn called “Hocus Poke Us” (not even shitting you) and it was full of women with big hair and men with CREEPY mustaches and some sort of storyline that they tried to pass off as a legitimate plot.  Living in Sydney in November was really similar to that.

I’m glad November is over.


God it’s hideous.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cabramatta Diet Plan

A few weeks ago, I went down to a place called Cabramatta with Ross & Jonathon.  In the Vietnamese language, the word Cabramatta means “Where the fuck are we?”

Ok, no it doesn’t.  Well, it might, but I really don’t know.  I’m going to assume no.

Cabramatta is a suburb somewhere in between East Bumblefuck and BFE, about 45 minutes away from Sydney by train.  Historically a diverse area due to nearby immigrant housing projects, the population of the area swelled with immigrants from Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War.  This turned Cabramatta into somewhat of a little Vietnam.  So, before venturing into the real Asia one day, I figured this would be a good introduction.

There’s one important thing I confirmed in Cabramatta:  I don’t like Vietnamese food.

I mean, I like Asian food, and it’s a staple of my diet.  Thai food is great, and I love (Americanized) Chinese food – especially on Christmas!  I’ve tried Vietnamese a time or two before and never really enjoyed it, but that was in Houston so I thought maybe it would be better here.  This was the real deal.  And it was definitely worse.

We walked around the streets passing by dozens of little markets just full of meat-like substances that I would never consider putting anywhere near my mouth.  Then we sat down at a restaurant and I looked over the menu.  Pork, prawns, pork, prawns, pork, pork, pork, beef, prawns.  Not great for a Jew.  And I don’t eat beef either.  They had a few chicken dishes, but the photos next to the selections looked questionable.  What part of the chicken was this meat coming from?  And are we sure it’s actually a chicken?

I decided on a vegetarian dish.

I got noodles and vegetables.  The dish was bland.  Extremely bland.  What do vegetarians do in Vietnam?  How do they survive?  All I could think about was how good a burrito would’ve been right about then.  That led me to an epiphany:  I should move to Cabramatta.  Or Vietnam.  Either one.  With all that bland, boring, tasteless, rubbery food, can you imagine how much I wouldn’t eat, and how much weight I would lose?  I’d look like a starving Ethiopian in a matter of weeks.  Wait, wait.  Let me rephrase that.  I’d look like a starving albino Ethiopian in a matter of weeks.  That’s better.

The question that I’d like to pose is:  Why can’t all Asian food be like P.F. Chang’s?

You don’t have to answer that question, because I know some of you will be up in arms.  But just think about it.  The world would be a better place.


Cabramatta is a taste of Asia… and it tastes bad.


This brings me back to that shotgun Buddhist Vietnamese wedding that I went to back in college.  The bride’s family was the band, and they were nothing more than stereotypical drunk karaoke singers who only spoke a smattering of English.  This one dude struggled through Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”.  It was painful.



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Please Do Not Enter The Chicken

Every November in Sydney, the sand and cliffs between Bondi Beach and Tamarama Beach are littered with dozens of new-fangled pieces of modern art.  This is called “Sculpture by the Sea”.  Now, I’m not a huge art person, especially modern art, but after seeing the Biennale a few months ago, I thought this would be great as well.  And it was, but it almost didn’t happen.

First try:
Todd, my top hetero activity buddy (that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?), and I planned on heading out early to see the sculptures.  The weather for the day was questionable, but the forecast said the weather might be ok in the morning and then shitty in the afternoon.  So, we awoke at the butt crack of dawn and met for breakfast around the corner at the cute baristas’ place and then planned on taking the bus down to the beach from there.

Well, that plan didn’t work out so well.  The weather in the morning was… terrifying.  I don’t think I’ve seen rain that hard in Sydney before.  So we had our brekkie and then parted ways back to our respective houses for additional sleep.  Later on that afternoon, when the weather was supposed to be worse, the sun started to peek its head out.  I had already made other plans.  Bastard.

Second try:
So, the next day – Sunday – we tried again.  I had brunch plans already but we met in the early afternoon and bussed down to the beach.  My friend Karen joined us this time.  We arrived and the weather was delightful.  Unfortunately, everyone else thought the weather was delightful too.  The narrow trail through all the art was littered with more people than you can imagine.  You could barely move and I kept getting pushed and brushed up against inappropriately.  It was sort of like a gay club in that everyone who you didn’t want touching you was touching you and all the hotties were off somewhere else, but different in that it was outdoors and the people were a different breed of gross (but overall, the whole experience was completely and absolutely and utterly miserable… just like the gay clubs usually are).  Fuck this.

We left half way through.  Not worth it.

Third try:
The following weekend, on the second to last day of the exhibition, Todd and I met once again at an ungodly hour of the morning:  8am.  That’s pretty ungodly for a Saturday.  We bussed to the beach and… we beat the crowds!  Hooray!  We walked around for an hour and a half or so and we didn’t have to shove our way through to see everything, and we didn’t have all the children running around, and we didn’t have the old people with delusions of actually being able to climb the stairs at a reasonable pace, and we didn’t get bumped and shoved and inadvertently manhandled by people who have no place manhandling anyone, and we didn’t have the Asian tourists out there in full force with their cameras posing in front of each and every sculpture to take sixteen group photos.  Not to stereotype or anything, but seriously people.

And at the end, the masses of pesky tourists and onlookers and other undesirables had begun to arrive.  But we were done by that time, so we didn’t care.  I guess the third time really was the charm.  So now, without further ado, I present to you:  Sculpture by the Sea, in pictures:

The yellow light means:  “Proceed with caution, there’s some strange shit on exhibit here today.”


Dude, cool shades!


Nothing screams modern art like a big metal chicken.


Honey, do you think the kids are old enough for the bestiality talk?


Todd, I think you should have that foot checked out by a doctor.


Oh my god, Becky, look at her butt.  It is so big…


No no Todd.  We need your OMG face, not your WTF face…


Let’s paint the town… red!


"Oi, Ethel!  Look at all the candles on that menorah!  There must've been a really big miracle here!"


I think they’re watching us.  We’d better go…



Monday, November 22, 2010

A History Lesson

I’ve been meaning to blog about my day trip to a place called La Perouse since August… and now it’s November and I’m just getting around to it, mostly because a mate of mine is in town from the States and we’ve been doing heaps of things that I’m going to want to blog about over the next few weeks and it wouldn’t make sense for me to blog about those without blogging about this first seeing as it’s from August and I’m trying to do this somewhat chronologically.

I’ve been putting off blogging about La Perouse for months now, mainly because I just don’t know how to make it exceptionally funny and/or entertaining for my blog.  There’s nothing funny and/or entertaining about La Perouse... unless you’re a nerd.  Seeing as I’m a nerd, I absolutely loved this place.  What you are about to read may overwhelm you with nerdiness, so I caution you readers with a low tolerance for nerdiness to stop now and just wait for the next blog to come out.  This just might be too much for you.

Picture it:  Sicily, 1918.  Just kidding!  Nothing like a good Golden Girls reference to start a blog post…

Picture it:  Sydney, 2010.  A young American man who had been in Sydney for just over 6 months hops on the mystery bus (393) that runs by his front door every 20 minutes and ends up a half-hour later at a place called La Perouse.  It was a warm day – warmer than it should have been for Sydney in August – so it was the perfect day to get out of the house.

Ok, I’ll stop with the Golden Girls formatting.

So, I ended up in La Perouse – about 30 minutes south of my house on the shore of Botany Bay.  Botany Bay was where the First Fleet (the name of the boats carrying the first British military and prisoner settlers) first came into Sydney, but quickly backtracked out and headed up to Sydney Harbour to establish their settlement.  A day later, a French explorer named La Perouse landed in Botany Bay, quickly realized that the British had already settled, said a quick hello and then peacefully bid them adieu.

Can you imagine if the French had been first and settled Australia and now everyone here spoke French?  That would be horrible, and for sure I wouldn’t have moved here.  Stupid French.

Anyway, I guess the Brits decided to name this area of Sydney after La Perouse as sort of a thank you for fucking off and leaving them alone to conquer this great land for the English-speaking world.  The area was nice – little beaches and hiking trails… and a fort sitting on a very small island in the bay.  Someone had mentioned the fort to me that morning as a thing to do in La Perouse, but I didn’t really pay too much attention to it as none of the guidebooks really highlighted it.  But, as I arrived, I realized that I had time for a quick tour of this little fort and one was about to start.  10 minutes and $10 later I was about to nerd out.  And…

The tour fucking rocked, and I can honestly say it was one of the most interesting things I’ve done in Sydney.  Yes, the Opera House is stunning and intriguing, and the Harbour Bridge is quite magnificent, but this little teeny fort captivated me.  First of all, the little island that it sits on is called “Bare Island”.  Not a great name for an island bearing a military fortress, but whatever.  Second, the island is connected to the mainland by a little rickety wooden footbridge.  Again, not instilling faith in Australia’s military history, but I’ll let it slide.

The tour guide – a very nice female park ranger – seemed to have an absolute love for Australian military history.  It was bordering on fetish.  Seriously.  She told us all about the fort, why it was built, all of the weapons it housed, and so on and so forth.  I have never met anyone so knowledgeable or excited about military history and I sort of wanted to invite her to join my trivia team.  But that might have come off as slightly creepy.  But seriously, what other information did she have up her sleeve?

I won’t bore you with all the details, but to summarize:  it was built in response to the Crimean war because the Brits were afraid that the Russians would try to invade Australia.  Only two or three decades later, the Brits realized that this piss-ant little fort could defend Australia just about as well as I could on horseback, and they decommissioned it.  It was later turned into a retirement home for veterans (WTF?) before it was condemned and handed over to the National Park Service for restoration.

Did I mention that Australia is pretty much completely incapable of defending itself?  It’s a big barren coastline and they don’t have nearly enough people to guard it, let alone enough tax dollars generated from the small population base to buy sufficient weapons or build sufficient military bases for the size of the land.  But that’s ok, because Australia plays nice with America and the UK and knows that both countries will probably come to its rescue in a time of crisis… except for during World War 2 when the Japanese were bombing Darwin and other parts of the northern coast of the continent… the US and the UK were busy on other fronts then and the Aussies could really only hope that the Japanese would just go away… but things will be different during the next war, right?  I learned all of this during my one-hour tour of Bare Island.

Seriously, it was one of the coolest, most informative things I’ve done in Sydney.  It was sort of like watching a documentary on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel - except I was actually there, seeing and touching it all, not sitting on my couch hungover with a bag of Cheetos, half-naked and slowly passing out.  This was WAY better.

So, in summation, if you’re from the States and planning on visiting Sydney, then you need to put this on your list of things to do right up there with the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  And if you’re in Sydney and you’re reading this:  go check out Bare Island in La Perouse.  Tours are on Sundays only and run at 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30pm.  Afterward, you can grab a bite to eat at a waterfront café and then head over to the nude beach for some people watching.

Seriously.


Now look at that piddly footbridge.  And the fort trying to hide itself under the grass… pish.


When the Russians invade, we can shoot them with this.  Or we can shoot the French just for shits.


I will most certainly be off the island well before sunset.


Before or after your tour, enjoy some time at the beach!


Just watch out for the nudists. 



Monday, November 15, 2010

Dear Oprah

Dear Oprah,

I heard you were coming to town.  I heard you were going to do two shows at the Sydney Opera House.  I was excited.  I was anxious.  I was hopeful.  I was determined to get tickets to your show.

Fuck you for getting my hopes up, bitch.

Seriously.  I know you’re rich and all, but what on god’s green earth makes you think you can torment people like this?  You announced it and then said that you are going to raffle off tickets.  I waited patiently by my computer for weeks, and then registration opened – a very short period – and I registered.  I registered with my Gmail address and used my US physical address.  Then I registered with Yahoo e-mail address and used my Australian physical address.  And when the form said I had to specify a guest, I specified my friend Karen on the first registration and my friend Jason on the second registration, and then they both went and registered and specified me as their guest.  And we did this for each of the two tapings.  That’s my name in the raffle eight times.  Surely I was bound to get a ticket somewhere, right?

Wrong.

I received the e-mail:

Subject:
The Oprah Show Reservation Request Status

Text:
Thank you for your interest in attending The Oprah Show from Sydney, Australia.

Unfortunately, we were unable to accommodate your request(s) for this ticket reservation window due to overwhelming demand. We will email you if more tickets become available for these tapings of The Oprah Show in Sydney, Australia.

Of course, my first move after this:  text Karen and Jason to see if they got tickets.

Me:  I got an e-mail from Oprah saying that she wouldn’t give me tickets :( I never really liked her anyway…

Jason:  Bitch.

Karen:  Fuck her.  She’s fat.

Well, there goes that.  But wait!  A day later and another e-mail from the Oprah show!  Could I be off the waiting list and into the audience where I’ll receive glamorous Oprah gifts beyond my wildest dreams???

Subject:

Status of Your Ticket Request for The Oprah Show


Oh this could be it!!!

Text:
Thank you for your interest in attending 'The Oprah Show' from Sydney, Australia. You are receiving this email because we have had reports that some of you may not have been able to view the previous version that was sent.  We are sending this email to ensure you are aware of the status of your ticket request(s).  

Unfortunately, we were unable to accommodate your request(s) for this ticket reservation window due to overwhelming demand. We will email you if more tickets become available for these tapings of The Oprah Show in Sydney, Australia.

We apologize for any confusion you may have encountered.

You apologize for any confusion???  Ok, bitch.  That’s it.  You’re gonna get it.  Here we go.

First of all, I got your first e-mail.  I got it loud and clear.  And I got it in both of my e-mail addresses so I had to read it twice.  Just rub it in how great you are and how we – the common folk – the plebeians – the huddled masses yearning to breathe free – aren’t allowed to see your majesty because we’re just too far down the ladder for your royal highness.  Pish.  You may eat at the 5-star restaurants, but you know you’re a McDonald’s girl at heart.  And I?  I am a Chipotle boy, and I don’t think anyone would disagree when I say that Chipotle is of a much higher caliber than Mickey D’s.

Secondly, Karen was right.  I saw your interview with the Jackson family earlier this week.  And I saw your arms.  How could I not?  They were blocking half the shot.  Did you eat Gayle?  Was she hiding in there somewhere?  Now, I know I’m no skinny bitch.  And that’s fine.  But you – you are a BILLIONAIRE.  You have more money than Jesus’ publicist and yet you can’t afford a personal trainer to make you look all good and shit?  Hell, you even have your own personal chef.  Tell him to stop feeding you fatty foods and to steam your ass some celery or zucchini or something.  And, also, don’t be drinking gravy as your beverage at dinner.  Not good.

Thirdly, yeah yeah yeah – you give away shit.  And you gave a whole audience cars one day a few years back, but you know what – you gave them Pontiacs.  Pontiacs.  Of all cars, you gave them the shittiest.  Didn’t GM discontinue Pontiac not too long ago?  And do you know why?  Because they suck.  That’s why.  You gave your whole audience shitty cars.  Why not a Honda?  Or a Nissan?  Or even a Subaru?  Yes, Subaru screams lesbian or hippie or lesbian hippie or hippie lesbian, but they’re practical and those people in the audience sure could use the all wheel drive.

And last – but certainly not least – you ruined America.  Oh yes, I’m going there.  Your fat ass campaigned for Barack Obama during the primary and he edged out Hillary Clinton.  Now, look around you, Oprah.  Do you see what’s going on?  All that hope and change… oh wait… it’s not there.  There’s no hope and there’s been no change.  The healthcare thing was ok, but really doesn’t go as far as Hillary’s proposal would have.  And he’s completely ignored gay rights.  And he didn’t pull the troops out of Iraq like he said he would.  And he squandered his supermajorities and now the Republicans took the House back and we’re all fucked.  You have a lot of weight to throw around, Oprah, and you threw it in the wrong direction.  Millions of American women read every book you tell them to and always do exactly what you tell them to do and had you told them to be pragmatic and vote for Hillary Clinton I think our nation would be a hell of a lot better off.  Seriously.  I blame you and your followers.

And Gayle King.  As your secret lesbian lover, she should’ve stopped you.

In summation, I’d like to point out that this offence is just the rotten cherry on top of the bitter icing on the hate cake.  The cake which you probably just devoured in one humongous bite.

Sincerely,
Phill


p.s.  Oprah, if you’re reading this:  I love you!  Please send me tickets to your show!


Monday, November 8, 2010

A Horse Named Shocking

… can go fuck itself.  And considering the size of a horse penis, that should be a fairly easy yet excruciatingly painful task.

I suppose I shouldn’t take out my anger on the horse.  I should take it out on two of my co-workers who tried to lead me down the path toward Gamblers Anonymous.  I got a little swept up with all of the excitement of the Melbourne up.  I really hadn’t been all that into it until I arrived at work on the morning of race day.  First up, the two aforementioned gambling addicts were taking everyone’s orders for bets so they could go down to the TAB and buy tickets for everyone.  I decided to do a modest bet – a few bucks on a box trifecta flexi bet  - naming the top 3 horses in whatever order.  So, I did a little research and picked some horses that had cute jockeys and reasonable odds.  I use the term “cute jockeys” loosely.  From the fairly poor quality pictures, most of the jockeys strikingly resembled Gollum from The Lord of The Rings, but a few seemed to be fairly attractive so I decided to make that my basis for betting.

Not the best idea, but I’ve had worse ones…

So, I picked my three horses (Shocking, Zipping, and Maluckday) and then noticed that everyone else was picking different horses.  Ok fine.  I’ll get a second box trifecta flexi bet and put three more horses down (So You Think, Americain, and Profound Beauty).  Those three were all ranked fairly high.  I didn’t look at the photos of the jockeys.  But in an interview afterward, one of them sure did look like a little troll creature.

Then we had the office sweeps.  You put in a few bucks and pull a horse from a hat (not an actual horse, but a piece of paper with a horse’s name on it).  We did one just for our team – 12 people with two horses each.  I pulled two horses that were unfamiliar to me.  That means they weren’t ranked high AND the jockeys looked like baboons.

And then there were the sweeps for the whole office – not just our team.  So there was a little more money, and again, I pulled out a no-name horse with a little troll creature riding it.

And then I had to go down to the TAB because the box trifectas weren’t the best idea and I should’ve bet on individual horses.  So I did.  I did a few bucks on Shocking – last year’s winner with a relatively cute jockey –and Zipping – another horse with a relatively cute jockey and halfway decent odds – and I did the bet where they only need to place (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) for me to win money.

Then, at 12:30 our team exited the building and walked down to the Belgian Beer Bar where we had a fancy shmancy lunch, several rounds of Chimay, and watched the race on their big screen.  But before that – the waitresses came around with the Belgian Beer Bar sweeps.  Ok, what’s a few more dollars?  Well, I pulled another shitastic horse.  Great.

And then they were off!  And a minute later they were done!  And I glanced at my tickets and realized that I had won zilch.  Nada.  Nothing.  Zero.

My sweeps horses didn’t do so well…

For my team sweeps, Monaco Consul and Zavite came in 14th and 22nd, respectively.  There were only 24 horses and one never started and one failed to finish, so really, my 22nd place horse was dead last.  Fail.

For the office sweeps and the sweeps at the restaurant, my horses – Holberg and Precedence – came in 6th and 8th – a nice showing but it didn’t do me any good.

Then there were my trifectas.  For my first trifecta, my horses finished in 2nd, 4th, and… 18th.  Great.  And my other trifecta:  1st, 3rd, and… 17th.  Even better.  I picked the top 4 horses and two stragglers ruin the whole damn thing for me.  Balls.

And as for Shocking and Zipping – the two horses that I bet money on?  Well, Zipping made a respectable effort placing in 4th – just shy of me winning some money.  And last year’s winner – Shocking – well, his performance was shocking.  18th place.  You know what that means…


The final damage tally:  I was out $52 for the day.  I’ll make it up next year…