If You Hear a Knock on the Window … It’s Not a Kangaroo

NB: title comes from actual quote, as wheezed by house guest, ‘Lorenzo’

And so the time for the first official blog is here. This may be a long one, I encourage all to get a hot beverage, and settle in. I’m going to hark back to 1.45pm, January 14, a sunny Thursday afternoon. I was late to the airport, but that clearly isn’t going to surprise anyone. My mother got far too involved in a story, as she is so apt to do, and instead of veering left towards the International Airport, calmly cruised on into a tunnel that spat us out in Kingsgrove. After a u-turn (narrowly avoiding two policemen on motorbikes) we made it to the airport, just in time to greet Dee at the top of the check in line, and discover my frantic unpacking of items that morning in order to meet weight restrictions was pointless seeing as the United Airlines site lies about aforementioned weight restrictions.

Anyway.

It was a tearful goodbye; our farewell party consisted of our two mums, Dee’s little sister and my Nana. Everyone held it together remarkably well, Dee and Alyx even hugged. After sauntering through customs, we found ourselves in the duty free fragrance department. We spritzed for a while, I even attempted to sell a woman Miami Glow, before realising I wasn’t at work, and following this awkward interlude, I expressed my desire to purchase a trashy novel to tide me through the flight, and so we spent some time perusing the book store. I settled on Louise Bagshawe, Queen of Trash, and we proceeded to the registers. En route, we found some Vegemite, and purchased that too.

UA

The flight was horrid. To those planning a trip to the USA, I cannot warn you enough of the emotional perils of the flight. To those planning a return trip, and who have forgotten the horror, I urge you to cast your mind back to the last time you spiralled into genuine insanity, and suggest it was actually on a flight to LA.

Dee and I were situated a metre from the bathrooms, which afforded us a plethora of unsavoury smells throughout the 13.5 hour flight. Every so often one of us would gag and inhale our jumper sleeve, rasping ‘shit smell.’

One of the male flight attendants (gay as Christmas, and needing a serious dose of testosterone) took a shine to Dee and his affections culminated in him offering to apply her lip balm for her which Dee, her arms pinned beneath a blanket, could only go along with, politely murmuring her assent and admiration of his accurate application. She found another fan in the form of a borderline personality disorder Navy man who fixed her with his divergent squint and said ‘you’re a very pretty girl.’ He then went onto reveal his life story to me, step-children, second marriage, warts and all.

With an hour to go, Dee lost it completely and my last visual memory is of her trussed up in a sweater, scarf and blanket, like a Christmas turkey, violently flipping from side to side cursing the United Airline’s nonexistent in-flight entertainment system.

We arrived at Gramercy Place unscathed, at around 11am, May 3rd. Except for a layer of grime which everyone seems to accumulate following five minutes spent in LA. Jetlag absolutely knocked our socks off, and after prevailing upon the owner for a speedy check in (said owner was feverishly surfing the net for Bon Jovi pictures as we entered the office) we literally passed out for five hours – even though we promised ourselves we’d ride out the day and sleep through the night. We also promised ourselves we’d never catch a cab, but how else do you think we got to Gramercy Place?

Within five minutes of being conscious, we’d perfumed the place with an assortment of spritzes, prompting someone to say, rather incredulously, ‘what smells good? … like a really strong … perfume smell …’, my toothbrush had fallen in the bin (thank goodness I’d packed a spare) and we both began to suffer ongoing bouts of nausea which I blame squarely on the foolish consumption of a ‘sausage’ at breakfast on the plane, which has come to be known as the ‘Turd Sausage’. Crass, but so accurate.

When we woke up, we set out in search of a grocery shop and, due to a wrong turn (how unusual) ended up in a possible hispanic ghetto, where men hung out of car windows and leered (not that much different to George St) and the streets were empty by dusk. We were directed to a grocery store that stocked the most ridiculous assortment of nothing, and ended up buying a loaf of bread and an insane amount of butter – it seems bulk is all this country knows how to do. Needless to say all we have been eating is vegemite toast. In fact, last night, we coerced about 6 of the American guests into eating vegemite on toast – most approached with trepidation, but we won them over with the occasional ‘it’s so good for you’ and ‘packed with vitamin b’. Dee and I dolled out butter and vegemite lathered slices of sweet, sweet American bread, as the crowd thickened with curious onlookers. We then ate some slices ourselves and went back to bed, only to awake at 4am this morning.

What followed the 4am wake up call was delirium in its most pure form, and following a panic attack from Dee when the TV wouldn’t work, more nausea accusations directed at the Turd Sausage and an entirely bizarre interlude with a bitter and twisted ‘behind the scenes guy’ whose robe was so thickly coated in cigarette smoke, I gagged in his face, we went back to bed for an hour, passed out on a single bunk because Dee couldn’t be bothered to climb upto her top one.

It should be noted here, that the robed man offered on several occasions to be our tour guide, all of which were politely refuted, and then insisted we all sit through a Gorillaz DVD as his morning wake up ritual. Casual conversation about his life turned into bitter spittings regarding ‘the rough ride’ his life has been (something about his best friend throwing him out of the house) and he then left the room with the TV not working, and Dee in a blind panic trying to figure out how to get it back on.

Today, we hit Hollywood (after some more vegemite toast) via the bus and metro. Their public transport system is pretty straight forward, even for someone completely incompetent like myself. Our trip into Hollywood can be summed up by the following key terms;

Hollywood Sign

The Walk of Fame (cut and paste us with every single star on it)
The Chinese Theatre
The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Cafe (we went to two in an effort to track down celebrities and perhaps Perez Hilton … neither of the above were tracked down, so we simply drank super sweet coffees and departed). The only thing spotted, in fact, was a man in an akubra nursing a mini apricot poodle sporting a matching mini akubra … and a short sleeved faux cow print jacket … and his ears were dyed pink. A curious phenomonen also made itself known, with the American inability to get the name ‘Dee’ right. Everyone has been calling her Day. In fact, on her Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf receipt, she first got ‘Day’, then on round two got ‘Daa’ … after spelling it out to the cashier. I got Elivia. Nowhere near as cool as Daa.
Leering Latinos – it’s getting bizarre. We must clearly not be from around here, but is it that obvious?

And finally … perhaps the best part of all … The $5.84 Haul (and yes that’s US dollars …)

In need of nutrience that vegemite just cannot provide, we went to Food for Less this afternoon and achieved perhaps the highest of shopping honours. In half an hour, and for under $6 we bought …

* 2L apple juice
* 2 apples
* 3 bananas
* 10 packets instant noodles
* A packet of 8 giant cinammon buns

We left on a euphoric high.

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The people here are, in a word, interesting. And seeing as interesting is such an irritatingly non-descriptive word, allow me to offer you this; a majority of them are ‘background actors’ … aka extras, bar Lorenzo who is an alleged personal trainer, but I have my doubts. Perhaps I should leave you with this awkward moment …

Russian from Brooklyn, NY: ‘Have you seen the Professional?’
Hitherto believed harmless nerd: ‘No .. when was it made?’
Russian from Brooklyn, NY: ‘1993’
Hitherto believed harmless nerd: ‘Oh no, I was in prison in ’93….’

We then all proceeded to watch Wolf Creek together, Dee and I being the only two girls, and clinging to each other for dear life.

Tomorrow will perhaps bring a trip to Santa Monica, which is supposed to be very beautiful, and hopefully on Sunday we’ll have lunch with a friend of Dee’s, then a friend of mine. We leave Monday for San Diego, and residence with a normal, criminal-record-free family.

Hope this finds you all well, and stay tuned for the next installment – who knows what is around the corner … (Dee says, ‘probably a mugger.’)

Calm Before The Storm

I am writing this three days before our date of departure, more to break the ice than to actually post anything insightful. For those of you unfamiliar with the adventure Dee and I are about to embark upon, it crosses 3 continents, spans approximately 12 countries, comprises 12 flights and a ferry (well, they’re the arrangements we know of right now) and will deliver us back home, safe and sound on October 21st … all going to plan. Then again, nothing ever goes to plan with me, and so for those of you who delight in the bizarre, it is in your best interests to stay posted via this blog – I promise, it shall not disappoint.

See you in Los Angeles.

100 Year-Old Bungee Jumper Spells Infinity to Guard-Dog

Over a decade ago when I worked for the president of Ziff-Davis Publishing in Boston—the top international tech publishing company at its heyday—my boss subscribed to a stack of periodicals for the IT news. It was my task to sift through the pile and let him know if I found anything about Sun, Microsoft, Apple, etc., and try to get the news to him before anyone else did.

infinity
Infinity Symbol

Overtly, it was a competitive, edgy realm. Stressed-out sales and edit staff were predator and prey of this ecosystem, and sometimes newer, larger carnivores cast shadows on the carpeted walls. I tried to make my way through it with occasional stomach-churning and snarling, but I found the stress contagious, no matter how I chose to respond to it.

Once, Bill Gates came to visit and I had his personal assistant in my office without knowing it. I can still see the young man plugging away on his laptop, sitting on the floor because I denied him the use of my desk. I was annoyed at how he walked right through my office and came around to *my* side of the desk. When he tried to hijack my office without telling me his name, I—feeling my territorial, guard-dog hackles aroused—tried to put him in a conference room at the other end of the building, as far away from me as possible. I had things to do, after all, Bill Gates was in the building, somewhere, and I had to make sure there were hot croissants and cold bottles of Italian mineral water in The War Room. But this young scallywag wouldn’t budge. He scowled at me as he unplugged my fax, connected to his network, sat on my floor and banged out emails at a speed that sounded like bursting popcorn. Later my boss told me that it was Bill Gate’s PA and I said, ‘I don’t care who he was, he was a jackass.’ My boss laughed, that was one of the reasons I spent seven years working for him.

Oh the little battles, the stresses, the minute triumphs that seemed so bloody important. When really, I was just a guard-dog and I knew it. But the ‘research pulls,’ as they was called, the rifling through the piles of publications dumped daily on my desk, called this guard-dog to peer through a hole in the fence.

One of the publications was Newsweek and while much of it was what I call glossy-style ‘fun’ news with pretty pictures and tidy captions, even of disasters, I loved the quotations taken from the week’s headlines. Words from both bigwigs and everymen who put some perspective on the world’s events. It was the first thing I read. Sometimes the quotes were funny, like when a boozy politician babbled to the wrong guy, and sometimes they were soul-rending, like a bystander’s perspective on Kosovo.

Only once did a quote strike me as both so cosmic and so deeply hilarious that, between the shudders of excitement it caused, I cut it out and taped it to the wall. Everyday this quote slapped my back or jabbed me in the ribs, no matter who was on the phone or creeping around to my side of the desk. This quote reminded me of how I’d rather be, and still, all these years later, this quote has never left me: ‘I told my family if I die, I die. Bring a bucket and a mop.’

One-hundred years of perspective gave me this. These were the words of a 100 year-old man, after he went bungee jumping and lived. Since most 100 year-old people I’ve met were pretty cranky as well as horrified prisoners of painfully atrophied bodies [I spent a summer feeding, washing, dressing and talking with the inmates of a nursing home when I was 20], I thought this man was incredible. He didn’t hate the world. He wasn’t waiting for death in a corner. He was free. Even from the fear of death. Free beyond anything I have ever even seen.

Of course, I don’t aspire to bungee jump or to be 100, but I do aspire to this man’s perspective: the one that kept him sane and limber in a cascade of ways. And sometimes when that old feeling returns like it did every so often at that job—that everything is oh so fricking important, that I *have* to do this or that or everything will fall apart, that I’m stressed, crowded and talking to a jackass—I try say, ‘If I die, I die… bring a bucket and a mop.’

ouroboros


Overall, the idea of meeting stick-to-your-ribs wisdom when you’re doing something else entirely, is profound. It tells me something about perspective and sight, about how the wisdom is all around me if I choose to see it. If not, I can be stressed out and stupid and gleefully accepting a fleeting sense of meaningless victory like a guard-dog barking at passers by but still chained.

Or I can ponder that freedom for a moment, see that the chain is made of grass or candy and crumbles with a tug. If I want, no matter what or who is making demands on me, I can dance around on my dog-paws on a rim of infinity, on the wing of a crazy-sideways-8 and howl just for the hell of it.

Oh, now that’s good. Bring a bucket and a mop.