Friday, October 24, 2008

Two Weeks in Australia: a trip told in lists


I took the following flights during the two weeks that made up my trip:
  • Madison to St Louis
  • St Louis to Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles to Sydney*
  • Sydney to Brisbane
  • Brisbane to Sydney*
  • Sydney to Los Angeles
  • Los Angeles to Dallas*
  • Dallas to Madison
Running total: 8 flights

An asterisk (*) indicates a flight in which there was a crying baby.

Related note:  I used to like flying.


I watched the following bad movie while in transit via airplane:
  • The Happening
I watched the following mediocre movie while in transit via airplane:
  • Hancock
I watched the following good movie while in transit via airplane:
  • Speed Racer
I don't exactly believe it either.


Here is a partial list of things Australia does better than the States:
  • Public transportation
  • Toilets
  • Bacon (!)
  • Food in general
  • Chocolate
  • The level of dress among the general populace, flipflops and sandals notwithstanding
  • Ovens
  • Currency
  • Radio personalities (Hamish and Andy are actually pretty funny)
  • Spectrum of popular music
  • Outlook on life
  • Slang


Here is a partial list of things the States do better than Australia:
  • Price tags
  • Coffee
  • Soda
  • Hamburgers
  • Cheese
  • Highways
  • The availability of garbage cans
  • Baby carrots
  • Incorporation of the indiginous people (although to be honest the US has a ways to go as well)
  • Keeping a lid on Kings of Leon
  • Black people
  • Volume


I observed the existence of following the fast food chains during my stay in Australia:
  • McDonald's
  • Subway
  • Hungry Jacks (Burger King)
  • KFC

It should be noted that KFCs are more popular than they are in the States.  Australians are absolutely crazy about KFC, comparatively speaking.

Soul-crushingly absent:
  • Taco Bell


I had the following conversation many times while in Australia.

Aussie: So where are you from?
Me: The States.
Aussie: Yeah, but which state?
Me: Wisconsin.
Aussie: ...uh...
Me: Dairy state.
Aussie:  ...erm...
Me: Midwest, right under Canada.
Aussie: Oh, right!  wisconsin!
Me: Yeah, Wisconsin.



Things I did in Australia that I couldn't do in Wisconsin:
  • Coughed salt water out of my nose
  • Ate a meat pie
  • Paid four dollars for a dixie cup of black coffee
  • Encouraged overeating in kangaroos
  • Been mistaken for a member of a surfing gang
  • Taken a ferry back after a couple drinks at a pub
  • Drank a little too much beneath the Sydney Opera House
  • Drew sideways glances from passing pedestrians everytime I opened my mouth
  • Earned free drinks on accent alone
  • Started the day with fresh caught shrimp
  • Real Aussie Tucker
  • Saw a beatific Steve Irwin statue
  • Purchased candy branded with blackface imagery
  • Slept with the windows open in October
  • Consumed sushi travelling via conveyor belt
  • Heard MGMT in a grocery store
  • Visited locations with names like Wagga Wagga and Mooloolaba
  • Got harrassed by a two-foot tall bird in a mall food court
  • Turned away paper-waving activists with the explanation that "I'm about to fall off the planet in a couple days"
  • Attempted to hold a reasonable conversation while a nearby television flashes network full frontal nudity
  • Scratched a stinky koala


Australian beer brands sampled, and ranked (from best to worst):
  • James T Squire
  • Cooper's
  • Carlton Draught
  • Pure Blonde
  • Vic Bitter

Noticably absent:
  • Fosters


People I miss now that I've returned home:
  • Chris
  • Dominica
  • Hugh
Note: not necessarily in that order

Friday, October 3, 2008

Two things

First off, my grandmother died, and at her funeral I read this:

When I was told that grandma had passed away, one of my first reactions, as odd as it may seem, was to want to bake a pie.

When I think of grandma, I think of food. I think of apple bars cooling on the counter as my sister and I entered the kitchen. I think of home-baked pies swollen with sugar and fruit, waiting to be consumed with little regard to portion control. I think of a surplus of daily meals more numerous than I had known to be possible, with the occasional intermittent tray of sandwiches in case you got hungry. I even think of a pantry full of the sweetest of multicolored breakfast cereal, the kind of which--and here's what made it really good--my mother strongly disapproved.

Simple stuff, perhaps, but I was a kid, and it is things like this that add up to legendary measures. Grandma wasn't just any grandma, she was the grandma, the kind of grandma you think of when you describe exactly how important a grandmother is. The grandma who always welcomes you in and encompasses you in love. The grandma who gives you support when needed, and plays a part of major milestones in your growth and maturity. A grandma who keeps you in line and yet isn't afraid to interpret the rules a little more loosely and spoil you from time to time.

It may seem shallow to remember grandma through the medium of food, but it runs much deeper than just eating things, as delicious as these things may have been. I was twenty or so the last time I tried to bake a pie, and I distinctly remember grandma assisting me in my mother's kitchen with warm authority. We operated as a team for a good half hour or so, and by the time we put the pie in the oven my black t-shirt was practically white with flour. She knew better, and wore an apron.

The pie, of course, was delicious.

Thank you grandma, I love you.


Secondly, I'm off to Australia for two weeks. Later.