Tuesday, September 29, 2009


In the 48 hours since landing in Singapore, I have eaten: baked scallops, raw salmon spring rolls, deep fried white fish strips, a cocktail called Gingerbread Man and a shot of Johnnie Walker Black Label, four Asian pears, seven chocolate covered macadamia nuts, roast duck with egg noodles and Chinese broccoli, a green tea drink, two cups of kopi (espresso coffee as pronounced in Singlish), pickled mango on a stick, starfruit on a stick, a mangosteen, winter melon drink, laksa (which is like a Malaysian coconut-based noodle soup with fried tofu and clams and other such deliciousness inside), a cup of golden kiwi juice, a cup of Thai young coconut water with coconut meat slices, a vegetarian zongzi, fried doughballs with octopus, ham and cheese, and shrimp inside and all smothered in kewpie mayo and some brown liquid and dried fish flakes, a wedge of light Laughing Cow cheese, three glasses of German chardonnay, half of a mushroom and leek flammkuchen, half of a potato and sauerkraut flammkuchen, chrysanthemum tea with honey, noodles with ribs, some other noodle soup dish with very salty deep fried squid bits, a yogurt drink, a box of grape-flavored pastilles, toast with kaya (coconut jam) and thick slices of unmelted butter, soft-boiled egg with white pepper and dark soy sauce, braised beef over rice with oxtail broth and hot sauce for dipping, a deviled egg, Belgian cheese, mackerel on toast, onion rings, a slice of salami, and 330ml of Leffe.

I find it totally refreshing to be sweating and porking in hot tropic Asia. The muggy haze and the confusing streets and lively markets and endless eating feels familiar to me even if I am perceived as a transgender-sandal wearing, truck-built outsider. My last day in Australia, I felt like an autumn leaf being blown this way and that in an unpredictable wind. After a very long and very productive video chat with my dear sweet bun, I set off to wander around Sydney. Stores were shut because it was already late on a Sunday night, so I walked into one place that was open - a convenience store, to buy some souvenir license plates with friends' names on them - and ended up having a forty-five minute conversation with the cashier, a Jordanian man named Abraham, about how poorly he felt white Australians ("Uzis," he called them) treated people of color. He called the Uzis "close-minded, like villagers," because they were so isolated from the rest of the world, and mocked their "three television stations and four newspapers" that only report "woman eaten by crocodile, kangaroo car crash, the weather is so hot." I felt sympathy for gregarious, gesticulating Abraham and stayed chatting with him even as Uzis lined up to slap down their funny money in exchange for bottled water, and tried to disabuse him of his fantasy of America as a promised land of racial harmony where white people actually perceive people of color as fellows rather than as imported labor, as apparently white Aussies do. Abraham sucked a pint of milk through a straw as we drank. Then, after a scary night walk on the Sydney Harbour Bridge pedestrian walkway, I found myself at McDonald's at midnight, siphoning free wifi, and getting chingchong'd and slanty-eyed by a group of German 18-22 year olds. I said, "Are you talking to me?" when they did this, and then muttered a "Stupid!" in their direction, but otherwise I just felt helpless and foreign in even 40% immigrant Sydney, and then I knew it was time to leave.

Thanks to the international date line, celebrations for my 29th birthday started at 11 a.m. EST on September 28, and have continued for two days. This is the closet to the equator I have been and I have prickly heat rash at my elbow and on my thighs, so I have taken to wearing (around Cynthia's house, at least) the sarong that Connie mocked me for buying in Cairns and smearing Tiger Balm on the bumpy itchy parts of me. I'm broader of shoulder than every woman here; yesterday, when I ordered my roast duck with noodles, the man at the register repeated a sentence several times to me. It took me a few seconds to decipher to the Singlish. He was saying, "You like a-sport, ah?" which then put me in the position of repeating a sentence in return: "Oh, no sport, the muscles are natural, the muscles are natural." Since sodomy is illegal here, or so Cynthia says, I decided it was time to switch my sports sandals into something more Asia-appropriate, and then I made it my mission yesterday to buy a passably feminine Asian woman outfit during my circular wanderings around four square blocks of the Raffles Place region. (It took me two hours to locate Cynthia's office building because I was unable to cross the street.) But lesbian habits are hard to break, and instead of buying girly things I bought 1) a white necktie, 2) a USB cable, and 3) a cargo shoulder bag that prompted Cynthia to say, "Oh, that looks...comfortable."

Cynthia rates bonds for a very large credit risk researching organization, so she lives and works in the western parts of Singapore. Of the country, she says, "Nothing out of the ordinary ever happens here." I think this means that she prefers her cities a little riskier than Singapore, where people are more obedient and similarly-dressed than in a messy froth like New York. I have liked so far that Singapore is very diverse, at least for Asian faces, and the subway announcements are in English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. Cynthia also says that Singapore is nearly a mature economy, which I guess means there are less squat toilets here than one would expect, and also that there are giant air-conditioned shopping complexes where one can buy a very expensive Louis Vuitton purse and then descend five steps on an unnecessary escalator and then buy a very expensive Salvatore Ferragamo - oh, whatever it is that that store sells.

This evening we took a whirl on the Singapore Flyer. It is the world's largest Ferris wheel at 540 feet high. It is built like a bicycle wheel, with cable spokes coming off a central hub to a wide rim; this way the spokes disappear at night and the rim, which is lit up like a Christmas tree, floats in the sky as a standalone ring. Viewed from a distance from this glowing, gigantic circle looks like some sort of signal to other life forms that humans are peaceful, beauty-seeking, and technologically advanced beyond your wildest alien fantasies. You sit in pods that hold about 20 each for a slow half hour churn around the circumference. Constance, how awful that after our hunt for Ferris wheels in three cities, I should find it here! I wish you were here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

jenolan caves

I am in Katoomba, a freezing mountain town 100km west of Sydney. I have come to chase the blues away. Last night, I stayed up until 2 a.m. chatting with Sonia, and then followed our mutual agreement with one ear cocked to make sure the snoring from the Canadian in the next bunk over remained unbroken, and then fell into some sort of half-sleep, half-waking dream state until it was time to rush to the grocery store for yogurt and then rush back to the hostel for the bus trip to the Jenolan Caves.

On the way there, I put in my headphones and listened mostly to Queen and then a little bit to Marvin Gaye and James Brown. I’ve been traveling already for over a month, and I have learned so many facts, useless facts, facts about founding dates and founders and hotel draperies, facts that crowd out my marginally more useful knowledge of judicial estoppel and how to tie overhand knots and the number of bushels in a peck. One fact that entered my head today, and will be gone by tomorrow, was that a man by the name of McEwen escaped the penal colony and lived in the Jenolan caves region for ten years, until he emerged to steal a horse. Then he was pursued by the authorities and he decided, instead of surrendering, to ride himself and his stolen horse off a thousand foot ledge now called Govett’s Leap. Or something like that—I didn’t want to pause for too long from Freddie’s voice, so I only occasionally tuned into the bus driver’s commentary.

We passed by a non-functioning Volkswagen Bug that had been painted pastel colors and bore a sign reading “LOLLY STORE.” Morrissey came on my headphones and, for the second time this trip, made me laugh aloud. He is describing a horrible seaside town where it is silent and gray every day, where your clothes were stolen, a place that they forgot to shut down, wondering why Armageddon passed by this place, and then he invites you, “Come, come, you’d be appalled."* Everybody, give “Every Day is Like Sunday” and “The Last of the International Playboys” (“I never wanted to kill / I am not naturally evil / Such things I do make myself more attractive to you / Have I failed?”) a fresh listen.

The drive to Jenolan Caves was frightening, down a winding road next to a cliff that had blind curves and only enough room for one car. The driver laid down on the horn every time we went around such a curve, but I didn’t believe that our tooting would be enough to stop a coach coming in the opposite direction from caroming into our front end should it drive in any way besides the most prudent. For this section of the ride, I looked down the cliff to the side, and focused on Freddie. We made it just fine.

I did two ninety minute guided tours, one of Lucas cave, the other of Orient cave. Another useful fact that I have learned is that the limestone in these caves were created from the fossils and chum and coral and exoskeletons on the sea bed being pressed with mud by the weight of the ocean into sedimentary rock, a process called diagenisis. Then the oceans receded, and streams came in and cut away the softer bits of this rock, and the caves in which generations of tourists have hit their heads on such cantilevered bits as “Head Rock” and “Concussion Rock” were thusly formed, 450 million years ago. Other than this—it’s very dry in Australia; I’m very dehydrated; I had a headache all day; so I remember almost nothing else of the tours except for the impressions that the formations left in the part of my brain used for visual processing. I snapped blurry, uninteresting photos and scribbled madly into my memo pad these nonsense words, all in a stream: “Head Rock, Concussion Rock, House of the Tooth Fairy, The Bishop, I am surrounded by vulvae, shawl rock, Cleopatra’s Asp, petrified forest, Hercules’ pillar, sparkling that cannot be located, kangaroos and emus cannot walk backward, skin tags, flowing, droopy, rippling, melting, popcorn, crystal, shawl, clear, muddy, columns, helactites, stacks, nativity scene, cones, rim pools, ripples, cupolas, holes, ruts, pits, sheets, slides, boulders, canyons, pancake batter, ochre, turkey, kangaroo’s backside, tonsils, curtains, baleens, orange, translucent, Medusa.” This is a shopping list for the best fucking party in the world; come, come, you’d be appalled.

A Japanese woman befriended me and we had lunch together and made small talk and took photographs for each other and walked near each other in the caves. On the bus, two Aussie women from Newcastle whom I suspected buttered each other’s toast if you know what I mean (I mean lesbifriends) befriended the two of us and told me a story about the minor scandal when Belinda Neal, the wife of some important minister, made a ruckus in a restaurant when she didn’t get seated as she wanted. She actually said, “Don’t you know who I am?" Sonic directed my attention yesterday to the clip of Ernie Anastos saying “Keep fucking that chicken!”, so I am up to date now on the viral hits on both sides of the Pacific.

We all sat up front on the equally hair-raising bus ride back up the winding route and the two Aussies and the bus driver took turns exchanging quips and lusty cackling. The ride back to Katoomba sounded like this: “A coach bus is a smoother ride than a minibus. So – size does matter!” “Ah ah ah ah ah!” “Another coach driver, poor guy, drove a minister down to the caves and halfway down a woman in the back started screaming hysterically. Poor driver was sweating all the way down!” “Ah ah ah ah ah!” “We made it to the top! Drinks on me!” “Ah ah ah ah!” “I like the adrenaline rush, don’t you?” “Adrenaline? Ah ah ah ah!” I fell asleep to this and woke myself up with whimpering.

* A Google search reveals the lyric actually to be, "Come, come, nuclear bomb." Morrissey is inviting bombs to erase this pitiful resort. Still I prefer my version of these misheard lyrics.

emails from dad

Recent emails from Dad, all within the subject heading instead of the body of the message:
love , thanks this makes my day... love you...love
...lov....lo...l........Re: doing great!

we're doing just fine... neve argue... except mom's blood pressure shot up
at 155 Sunday at stockton ca, need input/idea to lower it.. . please send if you
have..: doing great!

dear, .... mom and i went to the same zoo last time..it the view on the
ferry boat was beautiful...the zoo was quiet ... animals are gorgeous...
beautifulRe: doing great!

Re: doing great! please don't go hiking at blue mountain.. it's not
everywhere! please think of you parents...brother...

"get the heart rate up" got you... the best advice... i've started to hold
the dog leach so mom can walk much faster, swinging her arms too.. thanks,...
love you..your mom will live 107 years old...Re: mom , love you... your both
your heart and letter are so warm and beautiful ... love you all, i'm the
happiest man in the world...Re: doing great!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

vhy are ve vearing vetsuits?

Connie left yesterday. We spent much of the last day speaking with fake German accents, which really just meant repeating the phrase "Vhy are ve vearing vetsuits?" a thousand times and saying, "Oh, vatch out!" when crossing the street. We told each other's fortunes by directing each other to point to random sections of the Gideon Bible in our hotel room. Mine was Deuteronomy 11:30: "Are they not on the other side of the Jordan, toward the setting sun, in the land of the Canaanites who dwell in the plain opposite Gigal, besides the Terebinith trees of Morah?" (Awesome that my fortune is to be in Lord of the Rings!!) Everywhere we went, we declared ourselves co-queens of the place. I flexed in front of a mirror wearing no pants and told Connie I had the body of a Greek god, an Adonis, a Roman god, a Roman soldier, and that I had the kind of physique that would have been killed by a spear, and Connie turned away from me and said that she wouldn't dignify my behavior with an audience. I was whining on about being tired and Connie said suddenly, "I am awesome! God! I'm awesome." She had been ignoring me completely and had just finished threading a string through the hood of her hoodie. Connie also recalled the entire plot of the Twilight series to me over the course of ninety minutes, sparing few details. Renesmee? Really, Stephanie Meyer?

In Connie's last ninety minutes in Sydney, we sat down at the bar on the harbor next to the Opera House and drank three champagnes and three beers and attempted to write a journal entry together. Then we staggered through Hyde Park and videotaped ourselves singing and dancing along to the chorus of Rihanna's "S.O.S.", which Connie had been steadily choreographing ever since we arrived in Australia. Connie split her pants open on "It's not healthy for me to feel this way." There was an 18" tear down the ass seam of her beloved gray jeans but it was worth it for the awesomeness. I am alone in Sydney for five days and missing the split pants off of Connie.

This is the journal entry we wrote together. The subjectivity keeps changing because Connie and I alternated writing it:
Things we have done since Melbourne

We had a day of travel from Melbourne to Cairns. We stayed in one hostel in Cairns for four days, the Tropic Days. There was a bulldog that looked like a wombat. Charges were applied for every amenity, including air conditioning by the hour. There was a horrible mean bitch woman who was really condescending to us and a Dutch woman. Our first night in Cairns we went to a place called Bull Bar for beer and food and a terribly loud drunk Australian band, and then Woolshed. About Woolshed, Lonely Planet wrote, “If you can’t get laid in Woolshed, you will probably never get laid.” The LP also described the Sydney Harbour (sp?) Bridge as a coathanger that might give you a spook. We both thought this was stupid. Today, Wednesday September 23, 2009 is Connie’s last day in Australia. It is making me very sad. We went to the Australian museum in the morning and then went looking for donuts that gave me instant diarrhea. “Dude, non-white kids are so cute,” Connie has just said. The museum was interesting. People’s sisters (like Kylie Minogue’s sister and Nicole Kidman’s sister) are stars here because there are only 20 million people in the country. We own this country. The animals in this country are insane because they shit in cubes like the wombat. We started saying “suck my dick” to each other and then gesturing lewdly toward our crotches. We bought kangaroo boxing pens and made them box. Also, Connie will announce to her stepmom, “I love you” using the kangaroo boxer to emphasize words.

Yesterday we walked very slowly to the Opera House. Then we walked very slowly to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Then we went on a ferry. Then monorail. Then Japanese noodles at ichiban because Jimmy’s Malaysian was closed.

Over dinner, Connie posed a series of horrible hypothetical questions to me, such as “Would you rather give up rice or wheat?” and “Would you rather give up rice-based foods or all foods shaped like noodles?” Then we went to Kinokuniya, which is a huge bookstore with lots of Asian language books. I bought a music box for Raj. Then we hid from a thunderstorm and attempted to find Starbucks. Although we might have been directed to “Star Bar,” by the fobby people we asked, there was actually a Starbucks across the street from "Star Bar." Then we journaled separately for an hour. Then we walked very slowly back to the hotel, where Connie fell asleep and I went to an internet café to research lesbian bar options. Connie and I are lesbifriends. We say to each other, “We are lesbifriends,” and, "Hey, les be friends, okay?" Sonia was online and we chatted for half an hour, which put me in a state of bliss.

Mandy hates Germans. She is very good at a French accent. “JJ, ni zai na li?” It’s really cool that Sydneysiders hang out everywhere outdoors, including right in front of the Opera House. We devised a system for crossing the street where we look on our side and say “clear.” Some times we have said “Woah, NOT clear!” But generally we are co-queens of this country. When one of us says “This country sucks” we mean that we are hungry. Then we find food immediately and one of us says, “I guess this place is pretty cool, huh?” I start work in 5 days!

Our last day in Cairns we got $.50 cones from McDonalds. We had an enjoyable lay in the shade until Connie screamed because there was an ant on her arm. We recreated photos from Connie’s lost camera in the Thai restaurant where we ate lunch, including Connie snorkeling and me eating the king-sized Twix bar. Yesterday I took off my shirt on the monorail because from one stop to the next nobody was riding in the car. Anyway back in Cairns, all we did was shuffle from spot to spot. We went to a mall where the teens go, and then the Green Ant Cantina where we were the only customers but the cashier still insisted that we take that little number clamped to a stand that Australians use in lieu of waiters. We had a kangaroo burger and prawn fajitas and then dashed to the hostel.

Mandy has been talking to me about Sonia nonstop but I ignore her. Mandy jumped off the pier at Fitzroy Island and looked like an uncoordinated orangutan. Right now I am drinking Opera House Brut and Mands is drinking Bees Knees (or whatever it’s called). It was 30 degrees yesterday and today it’s about 22. We’ve been using my calculator watch to figure out the conversion. We are both extremely scared of the sun right now. There are tons of Asian people here. We decided that pandas are a zillion times better than koalas. MASTER RACE BITCHES! This country is a poor imitation of others.

Today because we were so scared of the sun, I wore a surgeon’s mask and sunglasses and pulled up my hood, and Connie wore my bandana tied around her face and sunglasses and pulled up her hood, and then we walked around Sydney with our coats zipped up. We looked like Unabombers. Connie told me a story about her high school friend who aspirated his Hs and chose “Hwhat?!” as his tagline his yearbook, but the yearbook editors thought it was a typo so his high school yearbook quote is just “What.” And then she told me a story about Sarah freaking out about seeing two of the same pair of earmuffs. I tried on a sarong dress and Constance cut off the top of my head in the picture she was taking because she was laughing so hard. The man at the New South Wales state parliament building started singing the Star Spangled Banner when I said I was American, and his friend called him an idiot. Sometimes state parliamentarians wear wigs but not much any more. Connie says I smile all blissed out when reading emails from Sonia, and I say that she gets that way when thinking about Vanilla Coke. Connie first didn’t want any of my Vanilla Coke, but when I said, “Mm, this Vanilla Coke is delicious!” she thought for a moment, and then said, “Okay, give me a sip.” Connie is very responsive to advertising.

Everything is a lawsuit in this country. A rat can bite people through a gap in the display case, and there’s just a little sticker that says “Rat will bite!” Also on the Opera House steps children can climb on the side of the steps and fall to their death. Mandy LOVED the Great Barrier Reef. She was waving her arms around and looked like a kid in the biggest candy store in the world in the middle of Disneyland. Mandy thinks that doing the Australian accent just requires sticking out her front teeth farther but she is dead wrong. We keep saying “Yah, yah” which is a line from Blood Diamond. In Cairns, Koaland was our North Star. Mandy has been washing her hair with dish soap.

I washed my hair with Connie’s shampoo and conditioner yesterday and today she has marveled at the quality of my hair. “You have really nice hair!” she keeps saying, as if surprised. She said I could be a Pantene Pro V model, with a before and after. “I used to wash my hair with dish soap!” she says, modeling the commercial that I would star in. Connie and I have been calling each other “Stupid!” and “Idiot!” and saying “Shut up!” to each other, but in a loving affectionate way. She made me take the love language quizzes in the Cairns hostel except I didn’t get reception in our stupid German-voice-capturing room so I had to hold the laptop up over my head near the window and take the quiz. The quiz’s questions are impossible to answer, because they’re like, “Would you rather breathe air, or drink water?” Connie accused me of not taking it seriously. In the end our love language needs are the same except Connie values physical touch more and I value emails from Sonia more.

It’s three drinks later! Yeah, bitches! Partytime! Whoo hoo! Suck my dick! (Just kidding.) Mandy went to the bathroom. Now she’s coming back.

Constance says, “When I get excited, I produce a lot of saliva.” This is why when we stood at the front of the boat back from the Great Barrier Reef for ninety minutes trying to balance while doing the Muppet dance, she said “This is so pppfffun!!!” and spat all over me. When she got on the ocean trampoline, she screamed, “This is so much fun!!!!!” involuntarily and made the people around us laugh. Bazz the kayak guide who might have stolen Connie’s camera said the water I was jumping off the pier into was “deep enough” and then threw in a half chewed pizza crust, saying, “Here, let’s attract some fish first.”

vulcan high five

Sorry not to have posted in a while. Connie and I have been busy being idiots in Australia. In lieu of a blogpost, you get my diary.
Thursday, September 17, 2009, 10:48am
Waiting at Tullamarine Airport for our flight to Cairns

This is what we have done in the last few days. We got in on Monday at 10:45am after a fourteen hour flight from Los Angeles followed by a two hour flight from Sydney. On the fourteen hour flight, Connie and I watched Star Trek, the best movie on the planet, and devised a special Vulcan high five to celebrate Starfleet victories. We learned that the in-flight entertainment system permitted IMming between seats, and Connie wrote me immediately to say, “God these kids are so annoying.” There were six kids sitting next to us. We slept, and also played cards. I had told Sonia about my plan to surprise Connie with the $4.99 pack of cards that I had refused to buy from the newsstand. Sonia had said, “What is the point of your performance?” Art, Cup!!! The point was to entertain Connie, and it worked.

Waiting for our flight at Sydney, I found a discarded Daily Telegraph and we read it and learned about Australian culture, which is exactly the same as American culture except in their version of football the ball has rounded ends, and about Serena Williams’ outburst against the line judge in the semifinals of the U.S. Open. We have so far repeated the phrase “If I could, I would shove this fucking tennis ball down your fucking throat and kill you” thousands of times, and taken pictures of ourselves posing with tennis ball packages at W Mart saying the same.

We took the shuttle in from Tullamarine to the city, saying that we had spent a thousand dollars and taken a fourteen hour plane ride to land in Missouri. I am convinced that the fourteen hours in flight we just circled over the Midwest before touching down in St. Louis. We ate soft serves at Hungry Jack’s, which is Burger King. I just looked over at Connie just now and told her that my bowel movements were “All or nothing,” meaning I have been drinking lots of milk trying to induce diarrhea since apparently I can purge no other way. Connie method of dealing with me has been to ignore me, which I just think is funny. She has pointed out that I say “Stupid!” in a disdainful tone of voice about Richard quiet a lot, which I do, and which is surprising to Connie because I am careful not to express disdain about the other people in my life. I do this to Richard when he says genuinely stupid things, like when talking about a Victoria’s Secret model who apparently has "not only a perfect body but a really cute face too." I like that when I said “Stupid!” about this particular comment, he insisted that I look before I judge, as if I called him stupid because I disbelieved his assessment of her hotness rather than because he was being a stupid gross boy (and in front of his girlfriend, too!).

Anyway, let me recount our activities before I forget. On Monday, we first dropped off our stuff at Richard and Aimee’s apartment right in the central business district. They live in a nice new apartment building with a small pool and gym and central heating and carpeting and other nice things. They had bought a bed at Ikea just for me and Connie, which was really sweet of them. Richard’s apartment was full of Gloomy toys that Richard had won at a midway arcade in Sydney. [Incidentally, I just went to this arcade and lost $5 trying to win a digital camera to replace Powershot. Sorry I didn't get it, Con!] Connie and I posed pretending to eat their giant plush hamburger, their giant plush ramen box, and their giant plush yang le duo. Our favorite activity thus far has been posing like idiots and taking photos next to statues, sculptures, signs, etc. Then we had sandwiches at the café down the street from the apartment. I learned that a "flat white" is milk with a drop of espresso in it. Then we walked down through the tiny CBD, to the library to see Ned Kelly’s armor (Ned Kelly being an asshole who killed three cops and made armor out of ploughboards and then became a figure of heroic libertarian antiauthoritarianism), to Chinatown for a pearl milk tea, to Flinders Street Station, to Federation Square, to Richard’s dental office. Along the way, Richard acted as a tour guide and made pronouncements, a third of which were informative, a third of which were wrong (such as his declaration that Max Brenner was a Sydney shop), and a third of which were just plain crazy (such as making up shit about deadly “drop bears” that drop from branches onto the heads of unsuspecting, gullible tourists).

Richard no longer does drill-and-fill dentistry but orthodontics now. [ . . . ] Richard strapped our heads into a standing x-ray kiosk and took three-dimensional x-rays of our heads that produced many creepy and wonderful images, such as colored 3D images of our skulls and bones that could be scrolled through like a Google map. Richard talked to Connie for a long time about the source of her jaw pain. He noted that Connie’s TMJs are unevenly spaced. He then looked at my x-rays and said that we have the same problem with the collapsed arch at the front of our upper jaws, and pointed out that my sinuses are “huge,” occupying much of the space where my brain should be. The roots of my molars poke up into my sinuses, actually. There was a set of toy teeth that chattered when wound up. It had feet.

We then walked to the top of the Shrine of Remembrance. Richard complained that the walk was “Really, really far away, like thirty minutes.” It was half a mile and about ten minutes away from his workplace. Richard also wanted to take a tram four blocks down LaTrobe street to his apartment, because the road was “uphill.” Richard is the O.G. lazy fucker; I realize this is why Oliver seems so familiar to me, because he is just like my brother! At the Shrine, we tried to decipher the three flags on the flagpoles, then we stood at attention while the Australian flag came down. The hapless soldier first allowed the flag to drap in an undignified, curtain-like manner over his head, and then to drag on the ground. Some French people failed to stay silent and stand for the flag ceremony, which caused Richard to curse at them in Chinese. Richard says “we” when he means Australia. I think it just means that he is proud to live here.

It was so sweet and nice that we hung out for three days, and that Richard had prepared the room and had specially bought wines for me and Connie to try, and that he wanted to show us all his pictures from New Zealand and the videos of the Japanese spitz they had for four weeks, and take us through his daily life on Google Maps’ street view of Sydney, and that he shared his special peatsmoke-infused expensive whiskeys. I also find Richard really funny, such as when was making fun of a post-pregnancy, newly-fat Kimora Lee Simmons by calling her “gravid,” which describes lobsters who carry egg sacs around their exoskeletons, and appreciate that we actually have similar tastes and experiences (such as when he sings “I have no legs” and I can follow up by making the sound of coins rattling around a can, a Kids reference). He also told me that he remembered the day that we heard the news that our grandfather died, and how Mom was leaning against the wall crying and Dad was crying hysterically. This was 1983, so I don’t remember any of it, but he was almost six then, so his memory is better. He also remembered them crying about Tiananmen Square. We have actually shared a lot as siblings even though we have not been in the same place in a few years. [ . . . ] Connie and I have been talking about the best strategy for convincing Richard that two more years of school is not a prohibitive reason not to move back to America. I have been applying the Hu method of criticism (e.g. "Stop being stupid and move back to America"), but Connie suggests less vinegar, more sugar. It was nice also to spend time with Aimee, whom I like because she laughs at every single thing I say, and because she is really generous with her time and did incredibly thoughtful things like pack us food for our day trip and wake up earlier to cook dan bing for us.

Back to the recollection of the days. On Monday, after the Shrine, we took a tram back to their apartment. I had to ask for change from a stranger since the ticket machine did not take bills, so I applied my Yankee charm and confessed to being a stupid tourist. I am holding up my end of the bargain I struck with Connie: she makes travel decisions, I talk to strangers. We relaxed in the apartment for a bit watching some television, and then walked past Victoria market to get Korean barbecue. We crashed.

On Tuesday, we woke around 4:30a and slept fitfully until 6, and then had breakfast with Richard and Aimee. Aimee steamed us chao shao baos – more thoughtfulness! After they left, Connie and I ventured out to find Pancake Parlour, which we had difficulty finding because it was on Bourke Street, not Little Bourke Street, which was labeled “Lt. Bourke Street,” which Connie and I both thought was Bourke Street because we just assumed that Bourke had been a lieutenant. At Pancake Parlour, we had Ragu sauced poured into a pancake that cost us $30. Then we walked down the Yarra River, a closed Ferris Wheel, and then the Melbourne Cricket Ground. There we posed as cricket bowlers and batters, and then tried to charm our way into the stadium (failing), and then proceeded to touch every single thing in the gift shop, including stressball versions of cricket balls and Australian footballs, giant pencils, loser team jerseys, and keychains. We grilled the cashier about who to root for for the upcoming finals. I have chosen the Bulldogs because the other team, the Pies (Magpies), is the Yankees of Australian football.

Then we met Richard for lunch. We went to his workplace, which was very busy. I liked seeing Richard in his business wear, but I criticized him for his pineapple hair, which made him a little prickly (HAHAHA). I saw him leaning down and talking to a little boy about orthodontics, which I liked. I said to the receptionists, “I am here to see Dr. Richard Hu…my brother!” and everyone laughed. We had Thai food that gave me diarrhea in forty minutes. In those forty minutes, Connie and I walked to the Victoria markets and bought fruit. Then we went back to the apartment. Connie fell asleep and I had diarrhea and then watched half of The Fellowship of the Ring, and then all of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and remembered the very important role that franchise played in forming my curiosity about the world and about travel and my romantic but completely unrealistic expectations for the weirdness of faraway cultures. Richard and Aimee came home, and we watched Twilight, with Richard making disdainful comments about having butt sex with Edward Cullen. It was his way of expressing displeasure about Aimee’s crush on Robert Pattinson. He also muttered, "Why didn't I delete this movie?" right when Edward Cullen and Bella started to suck face. I realized that that movie is terrible but perfect, and I instructed Richard to pay attention because that movie represented everything that a woman wants, including a lover whose desire for you so overwhelms him that he shakes and furrows his brow when he finally kisses you. Later, Aimee was singing along to the Iron and Wine song, and from the toilet, Richard called out a low, reprimanding, “Aimee.” This was very funny. We ate noodles and crepes, and then bought a pillow from W mart and came home to sleep.

On Wednesday, yesterday, Connie and I did a twelve hour nausea tour of rocks along the Pacific Coast Highway a.k.a. the Great Ocean Road. A nice Irish woman named Imelda whom I was sure was going to elope with Peter our tour guide gave me a tab of ginger to ease my roiling stomach, and the LA girls sitting behind us gave me two ibuprofen tabs to help me with my sinus headache. Connie says I am hypochrondriac and that learning that I have huge sinuses has made me believe I have sinusitis, but it is true that I have sinusitis. The views were spectacular in exactly the same way that views along all of the California coast are spectacular, so Connie and I grumbled all day about this. We counted time by saying, “It is now 11 a.m., and we have an entire workday of nausea ahead of us” or “It’s noon, so it’s as if we have just finished reading nytimes.com for the first time in the workday and we still have a workdaylong of nausea ahead of us.” We continued in our tradition of taking idiotic pictures and complaining. I did a b-boy freeze on a post and Connie pretended to eat two of the Twelve Apostles. Connie paid $3.90 AUD for a Sprite. I told her about my “What the fuck!?” reaction I had to the first time I had an orgasm, which she thought was extremely funny. We returned to Melbourne at 8p, bought wine and Jack Squire porter (pretty good! No head, though) for Richard and then half-assedly watched Blood Diamond with Richard and Aimee and did Aimee’s MASH for her (Brooklyn, Brad Pitt, three children, one of which will be named “Panda”). We watched video footage from Richard and Aimee doing their bungee jumps in New Zealand, and laughed at Richard’s rag doll fall off the ledge and Aimee’s screaming. Richard poured out two wines and a whiskey for us to try.

Today I took a jog around Flagstaff Gardens while Connie woke up, and then we got ourselves to the airport. We got here two hours early, and I have been writing and drinking milk in an effort to induce diarrhea.

I have also discovered that there is no Dr. Pepper in this country so the pepperoni pizza Combos I bought in LAX are still going unpaired with their perfect complement.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Richard is describing Kimora Lee Simmons being fat as "gravid," like a lobster. Lobsters that are gravid are pregnant with egg sacs around their abdomens. Now he is telling us about a documentary he saw about it and is acting out lobsters dancing on the beach and shaking out their eggs.

MASH on the great ocean road

Here in Melbourne at Richard and Aimee's for only a few more hours. I will blog more about C and me getting our heads 3D x-rayed by Dr. Richard on the first day and discovering that my sinuses occupy roughly one third of the volume of my head, repeating the phrase "If I could, I would take this fucking tennis ball and shove it down your fucking throat and kill you" about a thousand times, taking photos pretending to eat Richard and Aimee's amazing collection of oversized plus food simulacra, and other Aussie adventures, tomorrow from Tullamarine Airport. Until then, let me leave you with the insights I have gained on the Australian accent:

- Short "e" and "i" sounds are pronounced like the long "e" sound
- "O" is a dipthong pronounced "oir"
- "Er" is non-rhotic ("uh")
- The long "i" sound is not exactly "eye" like the American "I," but more like "oy"

The best way to practice the accent is to repeat the phrase "Like a bridge over troubled water." Say it: "Loike I breedge oiva trebled wadda." Try it! Also, the phrases "We are going to recycle some bottles in Cairns" and "We are going to recycle some bottles and cans" have exactly the same pronounciation. Furthermore, today C and I did each other's MASHs on our twelve hour bus tour of rocks along the Victoria coast. In the future, C will be living in a shack in the Great Barrier Reef with Edward Cullen, enjoying her second career as a fishmonger. She will have an internet affair with Takeshi Kaneshiro eight times a week. An interest she will unexpectedly develop in her 40s will be making wire bicycles. She will hike the Appalachian Trail. I will be living in a house in Brooklyn with Olympia and working as an untenured professor of English at a community college. I will have a constant, one-sided love affair with OZ. I will take up antiquing and will raise well-behaved, conscientious children. Now we are doing Aimee's MASH. Will update on the results soon.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

venice beach

I'm not starting work until November 30 so I have some time to travel. For the last week I was in North Carolina feeling so much love for a person it was at times literally nauseating; at other times it felt like being supine with a hippo standing on my chest; but most of the time it felt like riding a beach cruiser in the surf with a warm tailwind on a sunny day. More on this later.

Right now I am in J's place in Venice. J and E picked me up from LAX last night saying that they had almost gotten into four car accidents in the hundred yards of the arrivals loading zone, including with one cab driver who looked over and gesticulated with two fingers at his eyes in the "Look where you're going, asshole!" style. We stayed up in J and R's apartment taking turns with the guitar (E: Buddy Holly and Willie Nelson covers; J: two JayMay covers; me: two originals from The Cleaver Streeters' repertoire) and very slowly drinking gin and tonics. J is doing fine in her doctoral program but suddenly thinking about being a doctor; E just left television writing for comedic film writing and is already wildly, wildly successful; she left early to rest for her Saturday meeting with a very famous ex-SNL actress-turned-film-star who is shepherding her newest screenplay.

J and R and I walked the dog around the neighborhood and J invited me to sniff a large white ginger flower, which produced a scent like falling in love for the first time. We passed by another man with a dog who pet J's dog and kept saying, "You look just like Bambi. You reincarnation - you look just like Bambi." Then I spent the night on the click futon with a golden pit bull mouth-breathing on the Ikea Poang next to my head. This morning J and R and I walked to a coffee shop where the baristas and baristos all wore black vests and tattoos and served espresso drinks with great flair. We passed by a Gold's Gym and they told me about a man who walks up and down Venice Beach boardwalk in an American flag speedo, white socks, and white tennis shoes, and invites tourist ladies to walk arm-in-arm with him down the path; apparently Speedo Man also works out at Gold's Gym at midnight on weeknights.

Later we walked the three blocks from their house to the beach, passing by a woman who sat in her fenced-off front yard and passively sold billowing batik shirts and a hundred people with skin of sunny cowhide. I told J and R about S, and J recalled that she had excellent, "voluminous" hair and perfect skin, and was skinny and smiley. She remembered what S wore on the day we went to improv comedy in July 2007, the same day that J and R mocked us for realizing we knew the same person with the same highly-trafficked political blog. We lay on a king-sized towel looking at the surf. J and R are both surfers. R is newly interested in sailing, and as we lay on the towel he explained the semaphores for different types of storms: one red triangle for small craft warning, two for storm warning, one square red flag with a black square for gale force winds, two such flags for hurricanes. R explained the concept of a nautical mile.

R left for his job; J and I bobbed in the surf and she taught me how to dive under breakers. I still got swept up in a couple and tumbled all around in a panic, so we were not in the water long before I wanted to go back to shore and drain my sinuses of saltwater. On the sand we talked about readiness for relationships and R's family; on the boardwalk we walked along eating badly melted ice cream, buying miniature bicycles made of twisted wire, touching knick knacks, and fondling $5 underwear in the American Apparel factory outlet store. We passed by a medicinal marijuana store, and J opined, with no basis of knowledge, that all marijuana did was make a person speak in a whisper and then apologize profusely for speaking too loud.

We shuffled in sandals back to her apartment and then shuffled around Venice eating things and looking in stores. J bought a ridiculous pair of slippers covered in beaded tendrils, and I bought a tin of anchovies for the plane ride to Melbourne. Back at the apartment, J spent a few minutes researching used hybrid bikes and I strummed some disgusting sounding chords on the guitar. Now J is on the guitar playing Ben Harper ("This guitar is impossible to play," she has just said, and now, strangely, "Hey, this piece of muscle is riding a bike like the one you just bought! This piece of muscle is taking the path of least resistance for powerful treatment of insulin resistance!" (her atlas is pharmaceutical swag from her surgeon father, and its cover depicts of muscle cell riding a teal bicycle)) and I am ticking away on this tiny laptop.

I'm meeting C in 2.5 hours for our 20 hours of flying and laying over. First, I must go eat ramen. This city is paradise! I will write next from Melbourne.