Monday, December 27, 2010

Odd Encounters

I'm actually hoping "odd encounters" is a tag I use often.

Had a big day's work yesterday, most of it in my office:

Located here:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas From Australia

Thom here, reporting from the future for my American friends. It's Christmas here, Christmas Eve there, and I can tell you that you may as well give it a pass this year. Christmas just isn't that great this time, really, rather boring. And I heard six reindeer and an elf were killed over the Hindu Kush. Horrible. May as well skip Christmas this year and just go straight to New Years.

Okay, that's just wrong.

Merry Christmas everyone, from Christine and I. We miss you all very much more than you know. We're listening to the Wild Goose Christmas album right now, and Sage's beautifully pure voice on "Oh Holy Night" made Christine cry. Really.

Oh, and this:

Sorry if the formatting is weird, having some problems with that.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Australian Santa Has Issues

On a sidewalk outside a Collaroy surf shop:

I'm thinking a pack of drunken Australians maybe got a little fondle-ey with Santa one year, and he hasn't been the same since…

Subscribe to Little Australia

I've gotten a message from my old friend Gene saying he'd become a follower of this site - and it did nothing for him. No emails or nothing! I looked into it, and there are lots of complaints about this. I looked further and found a subscribe function through Feedburner. You can see it near the top right of the sidebar to the right. Just enter your email address - they'll stay private, of course - and once a day you'll receive an email if I've put some fresh new internet wisdom/drivel up here.

Enjoy. (And thanks, you subscribers.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ocean Office

My office this morning, 4:38 a.m., is a picnic bench a few yards from the beach and the Pacific. It's about 18° (65° C), a mild breeze is blowing. I'd like to see if there's such a thing as The Green Flash at sunrise (Wikipedia says there is). I've seen it at sunset two or three times, over the Mediterranean many years ago, but never at sunrise.

Tin and I walked the one block to Collaroy Beach last night at 8:30 to see the full moon, a fist or so above the horizon, and partly obscured by the first solstice eclipse in more than 400 years. It was coolish - I wore a jacket for the first time sine I've been here (one week today). There was almost nobody on the beach. Amazing. Tin said at one pint, Thom, this isn't a vacation, this is where we live. I think I still haven't quite absorbed that yet.

We walked that one block from our very own apartment, which we acquired yesterday, a one-bedroom, not too small unit in a nine-unit building. We had our St. Vincent De Paul-bought sofa, computer desk and chair, and refrigerator delivered, as well as a queen size mattress. It is lovely, and it is home now.

Yesterday I went to Manly and rented a ute - small pickup, basically, and drove it home. I stuck to the left lane, scraped no curbs or parked cars, and, when the terror faded, generally felt okay.

Now, to work, in my office.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sweaty Santa

Get your picture taking with a stinking, smelly Santa kids! Later he'll go for a swim and get bitten by a shark!

Oi oi oi! (Australian for "Ho ho ho!)

Australia: Where Even the Turds Are Alive [update]

I was sitting in my office on a sidewalk table at a coffee shop this morning around 6:30 when I noticed a small turd on the sidewalk crawling toward me. I thought, "Of course. It's not strange enough to have just kangaroos and platypi in Australia—they even have walking turds." Here's a photo:

I touched the thing, turned it over, and second-guessed myself: maybe I didn't see it crawling. Surely this thing can't be alive—it looks like a dried up turd, or some sort of detritus from a tree:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tips for Americans in Australia: Crossing the Road

Now this might seem obvious, but truly: Look to the right when you go to cross a road. You do not know how ingrained it is in you, a citizen of a right-side-drive country, to look to the left, where the nearest oncoming traffic will naturally be, when you cross the street. Once safely in the street you then naturally look to the right for oncoming traffic in the far lane. In Australia, where they of course drive on the left side, I can now say with experience, if you look to the left and amble into the road, then look to the right, you will see, in the lane you’re standing in, a tiny car with an Aussie driver, a Sydney driver, who has been programmed to drive in furious bursts between stops, barreling toward you. You will have a moment of contemptuous outrage: What the hell is that idiot doing in the wrong lane? You may even dash for safety into the far lane—looking, naturally, to the right—only to find that some idiot is driving the wrong direction in that lane, too. What the hell is wrong with this country? you will think, if the terror of being in the middle of a busy street with a bunch of apparently drunk Australians affords you the luxury of thought.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Office, Australia, with Dragon

Set up my computer on a picnic bench next to the bike path on Pittwater Road, the main road nearest the beach that runs the length of the Northern Beaches, in Narrabeen, across from the Thai Lanna Restaurant. Three sulphur crested cockatoos are digging in the grass about thirty yards away. Numerous noisy miners fluttering around. It's about 65 degrees, breezy. Feels like it could rain. I have a latte and a pack of Camel straights, third from a carton I got in duty free. When they run out, will I put up $17-20 a pack that smokes cost in Australia? Of course I will. Or maybe I’ll go back to Drum rollies. (Nigel says, “Maybe you should just quit smoking. Or are you gonna need those teats for the rest of your life?” Nigel is such as asshole.)

I took this photo yesterday, next to a creek across the street from Tin's sister's house:

It's an Easter Water Dragon, about two feet long, with tail.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Objective Echidna, and Bob's Your Uncle

Back from our first big Australian safari. No echidnas, I’m sorry to say, but that’s probably for the best, as I forgot to bring my Leatherman along, and Nigel and I would have probably been torn to bits. We did see a man standing on something on the surface of Nareen creek, a body of water that looks more like a small lake, rowing it along with a long oar. Nigel said it looked like he was standing on a garbage can lid. When he got closer we saw it was a surfboard. Maybe people stand on surfboards and row them in the States, I don’t know.

* * *

Walking with Tin the mile or so from Shannon and Kevin’s – Tin’s sister and her husband in Narrabeen, where we're staying at the moment - to the bus stop yesterday a woman, maybe sixty-five, in a little yellow car stopped alongside us and asked, “Do you need a ride up to the top of the road?” We didn’t really, but it was such a nice thing that we said Yes! and jumped in. She chattered on about – well, I don’t really know what. Even after being married to an Australian for eight years in the states the Australian way of using English is still often beyond me. (I can’t wait for the opportunity to say, “Bob’s your uncle!” to someone, although I’m sure it’ll be the wrong moment to say it.)

“Where ya headed?” I understood at the first pause . Tin told her – going to get an apartment in Collaroy – and I happily added that it was my third day in Australia as a migrant, and what a nice thing it was to have some stranger just pull up and offer us a lift. She was delighted. So was I. Such displays of the famous friendliness of Australians have been abundant in my first few days here, and I can tell you that it makes this transition a lot more sweet than it might be in other circumstances. Of course I might be beaten to unconsciousness by a gang of cricket hooligans this afternoon. Bob’s your uncle! (I’ll ask Tin if that was right…)

Objective: Echidna

Right. It's 5 a.m. Southern Hemisphere time, and Nigel and I are armed to the teeth and ready to go on our first real nighttime safari. Our objective is to find the elusive and vicious echidna. Here's one ripping a man's testicles off right here:

Look at the pain in that mans face. Awful.

We'll report back at oh eight hundred. God be with us.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My First Australian Home

Well Tin's hard work finally paid off - she's been running back and forth from apartments all over the region for weeks looking for a home for us - and we are now the proud owners of a rental agreement securing a small one-bedroom apartment in the Northern Beaches suburb of Collaroy. We move in Monday, hopefully; photos to come.

The apartment's on the second floor of a three-story building with maybe ten units total. It's on a quiet, quite pleasant seeming, one-block, dead-end road, one end of which ends on a two-mile stretch of sand on the Tasman Sea, a segment of the South Pacific Ocean, called Collaroy Beach:

Once again: Our one-block, dead-end street ends at that. I can stumble there from my bed in maybe two minutes. And there's a club on the beach with an open air deck on the beach.

What have I done?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sydney [update]

I'm in my first few hours in Australia. A very happy Tin and brother-in-law Kevin picked me up at Sydney Airport.

Too tired to post much, but: I opened the car door at the home we'll be staying in Narrabeen, in the Northern Beaches district of Sydney, and immediately said, "What the hell is that?"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cicadas urinating

I'm still in LA. Tin just sent me an email. It contained this line: "Cicadas singing (and urinating)."


Opening Post: Tomorrow I'm Australian

I'm in LAX in Los Angeles. I left Ashland, Oregon, my home for 20 years, this morning at 7. It's 3:30 p.m. I fly at 8:10 p.m. for Sydney, from America, my home for 47 years, minus an odd excursion here and there. I've got a permanent resident visa good for five years. I've got a laptop, and work as long as I can come up with ideas. And write them down with some verve. My Tin awaits me; she's been back in her Sydney for a month hunting an apartment for us. No luck yet.

This is the record of my journey into Australia, beginning now, December 13, 2010.

There wil be photos. There will be videos. There will be songs. There will be stories. There will be beer.

Styx's "Come Sail Away" is playing in LAX's Daily Grill airport bar. That's either good or very, very bad.

A young woman with blonde hair, skinny shoulders, tired eyes, and a blue, rolled up bedroll just walked into the bar and gave me a dour look.

It's time for a smoke.

Let's go.