I didn't wake until noon. The night prior had been cursed by good times and it spilled over into the morning. Plans had been made to meet at a friend's mother's apartment at 1pm. I would arrive on time, maybe a few minutes late, with beer in hand.
It was nice of them to have me for Easter Sunday. Quite nice. Pizza, spaghetti bolognese, ensalada, pesto penne. That was the menu. Needed it, and so it was done. There was a barrage of wines and champagnes and beers. Me, being the man I am, I stuck exclusively with beer. Until, of course, I began to mix certain beers with wine…and champagne. I’m not religious, really, although I do believe in an afterlife of some sort. More a haunting I believe in, I suppose. Perhaps, a reincarnation. Undecided. I’ll know when I’m dead.
After the nice meal and dinnertime conversation, which traversed many topics including Australian books and television shows, as well as lawyering and NBA playoffs, we retired back to a friend’s house where we played a new game (to me) called “Touch”.
In Touch, there are three rules. One, you must say “touch cup” before touching the cup. In the game, a coin is used, and I tell you this because the second rule involves the coin. The second rule is that you must never accept the coin from another player. The coin must be spilt onto the table and then gathered by you, the momentary active player. The third rule: when a player successfully flips the coin into the cup three times, they are afforded the right to concoct a rule of their own. All players must follow all rules.
Soon, we all had made a rule, and, therefore, were sitting on the ground, hiding our teeth with our lips, speaking annoyingly in falsetto, fondling green men that were sitting on the lips of our beers, and avoiding eye contact with whomever was Snake Eyes at the moment. Cheeks burned, eyes leaked, and we were favorably twisted into merriment. The holidays, they bring out the best in all of us, don’t they?
The next day would see my compatriot and I scoot down the coast in his Mitsubishi right side steering express van. A wonderfully slow and steady beast, requiring the manager of the wheel to simultaneously manipulate the tree-like knob-top that extends from its center consul with . It was a manual transmission, and thus, a stick-shift.
One-hundred kilometers and we had arrived at Point Impossible, which is a funny, silly name to give such a kind, easy-access point break. There, we set up camp, which meant parking the vehicle, and went for a sobering evening surf. Long-winded, rolling right-handers slowly eased the ache from my head and the tingle from my spine – I’d been sore from a night on a deflated air mattress. The deflation was no one’s fault but my own. I’d been given all the proper tools to fix said deflation, yet I chose, instead, to let laziness guide my way.
That night, once dry, and the sun setting, we realized how unprepared we’d been. Canned beans, canned tuna, top Ramen-esque noodles, and water crackers. Also, we’d forgotten entirely that our bodies run off water, and failed to pack enough. No matter, for we made do with brilliant resolve and high spirits. The dinner, itself, was tasteful, despite a lack of silverware, and we promptly retired to our sleeping spots within the van.
It was a squeaky night of sleep as I tossed and turned in my many attempts to outrun a bear and save my, now dead, dog, Murphy, from certain Grizzly death. In video game style, I was given many lives, and thus spent the night outrunning many, many bears.
Upon waking the next morning, my compatriot, as well as I, were less than pleased with our rest. No matter, for we, once again, showed the kind of resolve and high spirits the road requires.
After a ration of water crackers and several sips of water, we paddled out to Point Impossible for a surf. It was a nice surf, and the sun was shining. How could we have known terror awaited us back at the van?
Well, not terror, but the vehicle had died. Diagnosis: weak battery. Luckily, a goodhearted Australian stopped and helped us get her back on the saddle. Then, I tell you, we were off to the famed Bells Beach.
We surfed again, paddling out far for the waves. Wholeheartedly worth the exertion. As I tucked into a heaving curl towards the end of the session, my board was caught up by a swell of water and slung back into my head. I did not leave the water, however. I can take a blow, and I proved it further with this feat of resiliency.
Several more waves, however, and we were done. Back to Melbourne we travelled. We would need to stop twice en route to Melbourne in order to let the Mitsubishi cool down. She was old and her lungs burned hot if kept on the throttle for too long.
At home, it was pasta (Italian again) and fresh salad. Then, bed. We’d be up at 5am the next morning.
All for now. More later, as always.
Start the day with eggs. Go ahead. Okay, done. Coffee. Got it. Bike down to the park. Okay, I'm here. Play some goddamn basketball. Right now? I'm super hungover, though. That's okay, it'll help. Alright.
And so we played. Three games of three on three in the middle of Melbourne. It was good. There was one portly gentleman, dwarfish in nature, with a quintessential Australian ponytail up-do. He could shoot and understood the game fairly well. There was a skinny man who refused to pass the ball, which was fine. I was there to sweat. It didn't bother me, at all, that he wouldn't pass that damned European ball. Even when I was sitting patiently, wide open at that Euro three-point line, waiting. It didn't bother me. Really.
After retiring from the game, I sauntered over to the footie field to try my luck at kicking a few. They say the technique is to kick the nose of it so that it goes into a backwards tailspin. "More accurate that way," they say.
My technique was a bit simpler. Kick it high and far. Straight? Well, when convenient.
After the footie kick, I jimmy-jazzed my way over to the botanical gardens for an early afternoon jog...I believe it's pronounced yawg. That was nice. It was. Even though I was wheezing from all the rolled cigarettes, my head was pounding from all the Victoria Bitter, and I was generally dehydrated, I enjoyed the jog through the botanical gardens. I did. It was beautiful.
Anyway, I felt better after all the activity. Better enough to start drinking again, which is exactly what we did. My friend was playing a show with his band a little divey hotel (pub) and so we walked over to his place to play Chinese dice in preparation for the event.
Chinese dice is essentially Liar's Poker, dice version. Good game. Try it. Oh, I'll teach you.
The show was vundebar. I saw a fat man play a beautiful guitar, and I also saw another man with a bowl cut and hanging earring that would have given Janet Reno (Will Ferrell version) a run for her knickers.
We did it. We did it all.
The would be Easter Sunday, but that's for tomorrow.
More later, as always.
"It was just so confronting," one of our Australian friends said. They use the word confronting a lot. I like it. They also call people spuds and refer to cans of beer as tinnies. There are a lot of good words they use. I can't think of any more at this moment, but I will.
My pilgrim accent amuses them and they ask me to repeat things often, which I don't mind doing. Maybe I'm vain. Yeah. Their bewilderment and fear in just talking about guns reveals how different our two cultures are. Good points to be made for both sides, I implore. They don't disagree.
We were sitting on the corner of George St. and Kerr St. drinking jugs (pitchers) of Stone Wood pale ale from Byron Bay. As I poured another pot (glass) of beer they asked me about common names in the States. They were especially interested in the name Craig.
"You say that name so funny. You say it like Cregg...it's Crayg," one of the girls remarked giddily.
"Crayguh," I repeated mockingly. "Maybe I should get some tahmahtoe or some bassil, eh?"
A few more jugs and it was time to get on the tram. The tramways are clean and efficient and useful, and it dropped us right at the steps of the football stadium. There is a Hungry Jack's (Burger King) that we used for the bathroom before going inside.
"We have to get sloppy meat pies. First one to drop theirs gets the first round." They all rejoiced at the game and meat pies to be had.
The meat pies are truly sloppy and comprised solely of meat. I imagine they are the equivalent of a hotdog at a baseball game. In fact, they are very similar to that.
"Don't you want any sauce for it?" one of the girls asked me as I began to walk away with a sauce-less meat pie.
"Sauce?" I asked.
"Yeah," she said, pointing to the ketchup and mustard.
"Ohhh, sauce. Yeah, sure," I answered, heading over to the saucing station. First bite and my tongue was fire-branded by the Melbourne meat pie. Ironic as it was beef (cow) that I was eating, or was it vengeance?
We find open seats up high and begin to drink. Australian football is not like rugby, as I first imagined. It's a combination of many sports, and it's apparent that whoever invented it was having themselves a good old time.
Funny you should ask. It was invented in Melbourne by Tom Wills as a sport to be played by cricketers in the winter time so they could stay fit -- although, that's disputed. It's unclear who actually invented the rules for the game. The first match, organized and umpired by Tom Wills, was played in 1858 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground by Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College.
There are four posts at opposite ends of the giant circular field, think Quidditch. The two middle posts are taller and more important, for if a player is able to kick the football through them it's considered a goal and worth six points. If a player kicks it through either of the spaces formed in conjunction with the outer posts, it's simply a one-pointer, not a goal.
There are four quarters and time is kept as it is in soccer, factoring in stoppage time. One quarter was thirty-two minutes, while another was only twenty-seven. At the end of a quarter, Blitzkrieg sirens sound and everyone either cheers or boos. All drink.
Passing the ball as done in the NFL is prohibited. Instead, one must punch or kick the ball, which can be d0ne in any direction. A player is allowed to run with the ball, but he or she must bounce it every ten steps or so. If a player is tackled to the ground with the ball in hand, it is turned over to the other team. For that reason, the game becomes reminiscent of "Hot Potato" during certain stretches.
In other regards, like when a player boots it upfield, the game is similar to "Three Flies Up". In this way, basketball skills of rebounding and post play are rather relatable.
The running and kicking are of the variety used by a soccer player. Hands for to catch the ball are like those one would find on an NFL player. The tackling, as well. The rapid changes of pace and advantage evoke the suddenness of a hockey game.
The atmosphere, stadium, and field are, I say again, that of a Quidditch match. The fervent drinking like the kind done in a hotel (pub).
It's a wonderful game and I was instantly a fan. However, the stars of the match are the umpires. Firstly, to initiate the game into play, the center umpire sonic booms the ball into the center circle, where it then bounces nearly twenty feet in the air and players from both teams jump to grab possession.
When the ball ventures out of play, the sideline umpire takes the ball, turns his or her back to the players on the field, and chucks it as high as they possibly can into play. Once again, players from both sides jump for possession.
They also throw double finger-shooting guns when a goal is scored. Bang bang.
I spent a lot of my time watching the umpires. A funny lot, them.
The Western Bulldogs, the club that won it all last year, and are, therefore, hated by many (Lakers), were trailing big after the conclusion of the first half. Their play kicked into high gear as the third quarter commenced, however. They got within one point before the North Melbourne Kangaroos rebutted and put one through the center uprights, advancing their lead back to seven. The Blitzkrieg sirens then sounded and we went out on the patio for a rolled cigarette, which was custom.
In a furious fourth quarter, the lead changing with every goal, the two teams fought hard. A Kangaroo had a shot to win it. A goal (six points) would have done it, but the boot sailed wide, garnering only one point. The final sirens then exploded. The Western Bulldogs won by three.
I then ate a parma (Australian chicken parmesan with ham and not parmesan cheese) at a local hotel (pub) and drank more beer.
Heading to the coast.
More later, spuds.
It was a big beer and then a smaller beer, and then a shot of whiskey down the gurgler just north of gate 152 in Los Angeles International that got me, and this trip, under way.
"You know what the biggest word in the world is?" asked the bartender. He was bald and happy and busily wiping down the counter space next to me. He'd told me earlier he wasn't lazy. I hadn't accused him.
"Antidisestablishmentari - ," I began to answer, before he cut me off. Smart alecking all the way to the bank.
"No, no, no!" he interjected, wisps of laughter squeaking through.
"Okay, then what is it?" I said, confident from liquor.
He paused, striking up a stoic embattlement, preparing to drop his line that he has, no doubt, delivered to many before me. "If," he said, smirking and studying my reaction.
"If?" I said.
"If," he confirmed. "I would have done that if...I would have cleaned my room if...I would have been on time if," he remarked, proud.
"I would have been there if I hadn't got so drunk last night."
"Exactly," he said, twirling his rag and pointing a single finger.
I slept on the plane. I did, but it was an uneasy sleep. I was surrounded by three older women with zero regard for their surroundings, resulting in their constant elbowing of me, the one writing this.
The woman in front consistently reached back and, unknowingly, caressed my leg. She would also jerk and elbow my protruding knee occasionally.
The one behind me shook my seat in what seemed like a hurricane of indecision as she fastened and unfastened her tray table incessantly. She also touched my head every time she rose to go to the bathroom, which was often.
The woman next to me was more diabolical than the others. Clearly well-read in torture, for fourteen hours straight she lightly grazed the sides of my ribs with her elbow. It was like having someone tap the soft space between your eyebrows, just lightly and with just enough force to let you know they're there. Maddening. Puts you in a tizzy, a fragile state where you're likely to lose your mind, raise the white flag, and divulge whatever information you'd been withholding.
Unluckily for her, she didn't know I'd swallowed a Vicodin in the slender bathroom, stopping briefly at the mirror to look myself deeply in the eyes before exiting. Two whiskeys later and I was out, comfortably handling the grazing elbow of the devil next to me.
That's unfair, she wasn't a devil. Her daughter was, though, and she was sitting window seat, which made me the gatekeeper. She needed to get up to go the bathroom every two hours. The two of them had me on the goddamn ropes. I commend them.
So, as I said before: Yeah, I slept. I did, but you know.
Melbourne is a low-rising, stretched out San Francisco with a commonwealth flair. It's like Cape Town in many ways. The weather is similar to northern California. Queen Elizabeth II marks their coins and their paper money are colored like jelly beans.
Meeting up with some friends, we talked about water rights and Australia's relationship with China.
"If it came to war, we'd have to side with China because we trade with them on such a massive scale. We trade with Japan, but they're small. The south China Sea is where it's all boiling over. That's where shit is going to hit the fan," said one friend, a farmer from Canberra, a remote mountainous region north of Melbourne.
Minimum wage is high here, but so are meals and booze and cigarettes. All taxed heavily. Everyone rolls their own cigarettes. A pack of regular ciggies go for upwards of twenty dollars.
We're going to an Australian football game tonight. It's the Western Bulldogs, who we root for, against the North Melbourne Kangaroos. Other teams include the Jeelong Cats, Sydney Swans, and Freemantle Dockers. There are more, but I don't know them, yet.
"Do you they serve booze in the stadium?" I asked, referencing the dry stadiums of European football.
"If they didn't, there'd be riots."
Go Dogs, ya cunts.
P.S. This is the longest word: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.