Monday morning, we had the big breakfast with eight family members and my two mentors; Maggie and Mabel. As is usually the case the eight family members sat around at the table talking and Maggie and Mabel and I went outside to play. When those adults came outside Maggie and Mabel complained that they were not paying them attention as they raced up and down our miniature racecourse then eventually one adult (not counting whatever I am) watched. Maggie yelled out ‘everyone look!’ so she managed to get a larger but not complete audience, though their father was inside, probably watching footy or whatever young Aussie males do.
When we got tired of the adult non-attention and outside we did the usual thing, computers. Maggie at age five likes the games but I am trying to steer her toward programming and Photoshop. Mabel is starting to use Photoshop, a few months ago, in Washington D.C., Liam, age eighteen months, give or take a month, had his first lesson in Photoshop… so bottom line, who wants to hang out with adults who no doubt are talking about politics when they can hang out with younger humans who want to play?We told everyone that we were leaving Tuesday but by Monday afternoon we started packing the caravan to drive to Melbourne. We had booked in a caravan park for Friday – Sunday in Melbourne giving us five days to get there. Five days for 1000 kilometres should be a couple hundred a day. That is about two or three hours driving. We don’t go very fast with Narda liking to stay around 90 Ks an hour and getting anxious with me comfortable at 100-110, so to maintain equilibrium in marriage I try to stay around 90. Not sure why but we took a long time packing and did not leave until after four pm. About an hour away we got to Truro Roadside stop. Roadside stops are fine and there are many listed in our free-camping book, “Camps 8”. The only problem is that on a main road, it is noisy from trucks all night, which was the case with the Truro Roadside stop.
Looking up Truro we find that it is known for a spate of killings; about eight in a few weeks a few years back and of course that is always what you want to read about when camping in a dark place alongside a highway outside of a small town. We watched the movie ‘Selma’ and I didn’t think about the serial killings again; until I awoke at two in the morning. We drove on the road that Martin Luther King and his mates walked to Selma which was the basis of the movie a few years ago, giving us the feeling that we were part of something that had happened some time ago that changed the southern mindset for a while.
As we approached the Victorian border we saw the ominous sign, “no fruit or vegetables in the Riverland or an on the spot fine of $350 applies”. We had a large bucket full in the van. Damn. So being thrifty and conscious retirees, we pulled over into the next parking bay, turned the gas on, and boiled the tomatoes (yummy tomato soup), the sweet potatoes, broccoli and something else green (yummy stampot….it’s a Dutch thing) and the apples (yummy appelmoes…another Dutch thing). So congratulating ourselves and feeling very smug, we drove past the sign and the bin where we should put our precious produce (an American thing), and happily ate for free for the next 3 days; leaving money in the budget for more Crispy Crème Donuts.
We were up bright and early (and not killed by anyone, which was pleasing to us) and continued our epic journey to Melbourne. Perhaps it is not epic mileage-wise as we recently did a round-the-world, four-month, trip, but epic in the sense that every moment is epic or could be… or possibly part of an epic-experience that we call our life.
Coburg, another dying town. Terrell and I have decided that what Australia needs is to spend lots of money on trains, and revive all these lovely country towns. Fill the country with a maze of trains. Some could be high speed, connecting small towns with cities and employment. Terrell decided that he will be the mayor of one of these towns, and I can be the post mistress. Hmm. And Coburg can open up a dedicated yabbie store instead of leaving it to the earthmoving store. There were 3 general stores in the past we discovered on our exploration using our bikes, each with their own speciality: pizza, petrol and other general goods. Two of them now boarded up.
And yet there was a beautiful riverside park in Coburg, welcoming ‘grey nomads’ to park there for ‘a small donation’. There were many caravans and RVs there. The park was great alongside the Murray River, with some amazing scenery, wildlife, old gum trees, tracks for cycling and grassy areas for camping.
A source of happiness for me is waving to the other drivers with caravans on the back. When they wave back, I smile. It’s complicated though. You have to be careful not to be offended if they don’t wave back. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the driver is too young and too trendy. Or perhaps their rig is just so much superior to ours. Or perhaps they are concentrating on their driving, with a huge Mac truck tail-gating them. So there it is, small things in our life.
Our next night was at Kings Billabong camping area 8 km south-east of Mildura. Mallee Country outside of Mildura. For our friends, not familiar with Aussie stuff, a billabong is an oxbow lake, an isolated pond left behind after a river changes course. Billabongs are usually formed when the path of a creek or river changes, leaving the former branch with a dead end. Wikipedia. Mallee Country is an informally defined region of north-western Victoria with Mallee trees like in the picture below.
We buy Mallee roots for our fireplace as it is slow burning. If Mallee roots are really your thing, there is a contest every year for the world’s largest. See; ‘Guinness World Record officials have put a little town in north-west Victoria on the map — thanks to a very big root’ (of course to Australians ‘root’ has a different meaning so if you’re here from overseas be careful with some terms: Root (verb and noun): synonym for f*ck in nearly all its senses: “I feel rooted”; “this washing machine is rooted”; “(s)he’s a good root”. A very useful word in fairly polite company. http://www.koalanet.com.au/australian-slang.html). The town staved off a challenge from the nearby community of Tooleybuc to take out the top honour’. Who knew? http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-27/mallee-root-festival-sees-ouyen-take-out-big-record/8389516
We camped at Psyche Bend which is part of Kings Billabong Park campsite. The road becomes corrugated soon into the park which rattles our truck, caravan, and us to smithereens. Being new at driving off-road we have always gone slow over them and put up with our bones clinking against each other. However, asking folks lately, it seems we should be driving much faster, like 60 – 80 Ks instead of 15 – 20 Ks, and deflating our tyres which we have never done which of course means having to pump them back up which means buying a pump of some sort. We have a lot to learn before doing the loop (driving around Australia, taking six-months to do which will involve lots of off-road, outback driving). We’re planning to use the upcoming month of June to get in some real outback driving by going to Coober Pedy (opal capital of the world) and getting off road north of there. Watch for out blog of that trip sometime in June, probably toward the end of June. Needless to say, we did not drive very far but took the first camping spot we saw along the billabong. Below is the road leading to our campsite.
The place was ideal for tent camping and not our 20-foot thing we pull behind our truck but Narda, being the great backer-upper that she is, got us out of an almost impossible spot the next morning. We rode our bikes over to Psyche Bend as the sunset to see the waterbirds (pelicans, swans, herons and ducks) on the large billabong. There were several other caravan campers there making the spot we chose ideal. We could turn up our TV or radio and not test how far from the caravan we could go before still hearing us. We started watching the classic movie ‘Manchurian Candidate’ but being so quiet and dark and a bit chilly we got under covers and were asleep probably about 8 pm. Early, with the sunrise, the cockatoos, galahs, rosellas, parrots, and honeyeaters all let us know we were in their area and seemingly were having conferences with the usual loud mouths and disagreements one hears at a conference.
Photos below are where we camped at Kings Billabong Park on the right and the photos on the left where we camped along the Murray the next night in Nyah.
Taking our time getting to Melbourne, not that I was putting off seeing Sacha who we get to see about twice a year, but that we just want to travel slow, we managed to drive almost three hours before our next stop which was at Nyah Recreation Reserve Camping Area, alongside the harness racing track and alongside the river. Not only is it free camping, though there is a contribution box which we added to but one can stay for seven-days unless there are horses running amok on the track. We found great bike riding areas there too. The town of Nyah is quieter (deader) than our last exploration of Terowie, South Australia, see: https://neuage.me/2017/04/05/terowie/. There is only one shop to purchase milk etc. open anymore and all the other once-were-shops are boarded up. Our bikes, not the cool racing bikes others have, but bikes we bought our first month of our three-year stay in China working at Dalian American International School and sent to Adelaide, take us to many off-beat places.
After four-nights/days of free-camping we stayed at the Golden Nugget caravan park in Bendigo. We bought solar panels so we could get power for longer but we ran out of water which is something we need to work on before taking our next trip. I got a power inverter so we could keep our computers going; I’m good with roughing it as long as I have my Nikon and laptop and smartphone charged and at the ready. We could probably go without watching a video or one of our Netflix series but a computer and camera are a must on every trip. I could even do without a phone for a day or two seeing that we do not use it as a phone, Sacha is the only one who ever rings me, but we get 3G/4G all the time and it makes me feel secure knowing I could see if WW III has started or not. I suppose we would just hide among the gum trees and camp for the next few years. For the most part we avoid the news when we camp except to troll the headlines every few days.
Today in Melbourne, we are back in a trailer park (for those Aussies who don’t know what that is, watch an episode on Trailer Park Boys on Netflix). The community is amazing, everyone talks to everyone. And you don’t have to be cool or wealthy or intelligent or good looking. There’s the lady across the road from us who has 9 brothers. She came from Malta but will never go back “26 hours on the plane, are you kidding me, it’s too bloody far”. She has a grandchild I don’t think she has met yet. There’s the guy who is waiting for his son to pick him up. He doesn’t drive anymore because he had a stroke, He told his son it would be fine to drive “but just in the country” but his son is fine with picking him up.
Narda, the social one in our family of two travellers, manages to strike up conversations with folks quite easily. Me, I am happy talking to a tree or a magpie. Humans kind of confuse me. I tend to be the one making a meal, playing with some Adobe update, or taking photos of something I can use for my picture-textual-thingies that I have done since the mid-1960s. (see https://plus.google.com/collection/E_6JaB, https://youpic.com/photographer/Neuage, or possibly https://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage/ for some I have done recently). Narda, seems to collect the misfits in life (that is why she married me) and gathers interesting stories from them. I think she should start a series of ‘tales along the way’ or some such narrative title.
Below is the ever-growing Melbourne apartment buildings, these to have 96 stories. Apparently, they are throwing together another one soon (The project consists of a 317-metre-tall (1,040 ft) apartment building with 1,105 apartments over 100 floors) that will be bigger yet. Already, they have the tallest building (Eureka Tower – 297.3-metre, 975 feet), an apartment building, in the southern hemisphere.
We stayed at a caravan park in Melbourne (Springvale) for three days/nights; Sundowner Caravan Park http://sundownercp.com/ as that is the closest to Sacha’s home. Melbourne is lacking in caravan parks and there definitely is no free-camping anywhere near. Sundowner was not as good as some places ($33/night which is cheap for Melbourne) that we have paid for in that there was no Wi-Fi but the hot showers are nice compared to a cold wash-up in our caravan. Also, plugging into electricity is good as our 12V caravan will not run my 1000W smoothie maker but does charge the computer, lights, fridge (though the fridge runs colder when on gas) and TV and radio. When plugged in we can also put on the heater making camping a luxury on a cold night. I made four-days of smoothies when we started and again I made that much to get us home. Being on a low-carb diet my kale, hemp seed, almond milk (yes, I soak my almonds then take off their skins to make my own milk), protein powder (pea protein), fruit, sprouts, yogurt, (we make our own yogurt every day too) and whatever else is laying about is my main nutritional intake. I make my own low-carb cookies and bread too which is fine because we have a gas oven. Along with vinegar (the one with ‘the mother’) and olive leaf oil extract every day, and of course no meat, I seem to keep my body going though Narda thinks I’m a bit high maintenance.
Three days with Sacha as always is good. For those who know him (he is not on Facebook or I believe he is but he won’t tell me what name he is using in fear I will embarrass him which of course is what parents have children for) he is doing well; thinking of starting a family with his partner of the past fifteen-years, still doing music stuff with a room full of recording stuff, and working for Melbourne Council with troubled youth and he is very happy. What more could a parent want? Oh, and he has a new car that he bought a week earlier, very sporty and fast, so he took us up into the hills outside of Melbourne for a tour.
We left Melbourne and stayed at Lake Bolac in a rain storm. We found a place away from others (there were three others camping in the area) and settled in early. Even with the rain we were quite happy with where we were. It was the darkest and quietest place we had been in. With a break in the weather we went for a bike ride. During the stormy night we watched the movie, ‘Hereafter’ with Matt Damon playing the role of a psyche who could communicate with dead people, directed, co-produced, and scored by Clint Eastwood. I liked this movie as it is never far from my mind this sort of thing because of my son, Leigh – http://neuage.org/leigh.html
Lake Bolac, one of the stops on the way back was a surprise. In the middle of farming country, this substantial lake. The weather forecast was rather grim; strong wind warnings with the possibility of large hailstones. We discussed the possibility of finding shelter in a local hay shed. Well it turned out to be fine. The darkness was complete, with thick cloud cover, and though we did get some rain, the tarp we had added to the roof (we sprang a small leak) did the job nicely.
Wannon Falls Needing some waterfalls for a new series I am working on (video poetry) we stopped at Nigretta Falls then past Hamilton on B 160. See the clip below…
Along the way we stopped for sheep to wander off to a new paddock – see clip below…
On this trip we listened to ‘Lake Wobegon, A Prairie Home Companion’, with Garrison Keillor. Narda took me to one of his shows at The Town Hall, New York City, for my birthday years ago and she bought me a two-cd set of his shows for a birthday about five-years ago and finally with time to listen we had a great vision of all those Lutherans up at Lake Wobegon.
July blog and some of June too
Sunday, July 29, 2012 PM
Spending this week at Bellbrae Country Club, five minutes from Bells Beach, an hour from Melbourne; 1992 my father came to Australia, he was 87, traveling alone, from upstate New York. I was with my two sons, Sacha age 11 and Leigh, 8.
We rented a large mobile home, collected my father from Sydney Airport and drove north to the Gold Coast and Brisbane, spent a couple of weeks getting back to Adelaide and parked in front of our house in Victor Harbor with our mobile home. I am not sure who was the most handful on the drive; my children or my father – they were all so demanding. Not only was I the sole driver, cook, sorting out three complaining humans but I seemed to be the unofficial happy person to keep everyone else the same. Bottom line, we got to Bells Beach a month after collecting my father in Sydney. Sacha said he would surf no matter what. We parked his surfboard in the toilet of the mobile home and I doubted the wisdom of bringing it from the get-go. We parked overnight on the beach in front of the ‘no camping’ sign. Sacha proclaimed the water too cold, and that was it for my eleven year-old surfing champ. The next day we dropped my father off at Tullamarine Airport, took our mobile home to the rental agent and flew back to Adelaide, with an unused surf board.
Twenty-years later we are back. A different configuration; my father and Leigh are dead and I am here with Narda. Sacha and his girlfriend visited for the weekend. We all went to a micro-brewery and the Jack Rabbit Vineyard. Sacha long ago left his surfing career behind and is happy with his life; working with and recording hip-hop, working with asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan and etc. Sacha left a few hours ago to go back to work in Melbourne and we are watching the show Mad Men, waiting our next group arrival; Narda’s son Stu, wife, Claire and of course the seven-month old granddaughter, Maggie. The one who covers are fridge back in China.
This is now but this is just an add-on to what I was going to post a few days ago….
One month later than I was going to write. Not a long time but not on time to be current, except as reflections of then compared to now and long ago reflect in now like any normal hologram type of holistic comparisons. Then again one year ago today I was packing to move to China and that seems not too long ago; ten years ago I was packing to move to New York; twenty years ago I was doing my BA in journalism, something I never really used; thirty years ago I was a single parent living on a farm with my two boys and on it goes, all seemingly just moments ago. I wrote a book for my children, “Leaving Australia” (550 pages leather bound, two copies; one for the one who decided to stay on the planet and one for me) in which I listed everywhere I was at on Christmas for the years 1965 – 2005 (when I stopped writing it) and I had been in something like 35 places in those 40 years at Christmas.
Last Christmas I was at:
1965 – Key West, Florida, alone
1966 – New York City, with a girlfriend whom I cannot recall
1967 – New Orleans – have no memory of the day
1968 – Glen Ellen, California – living in a commune
1969 – 1970 Honolulu – in a religious Order with Carol Ann
(whose daughter I helped raise for a while and whom is a friend on Facebook 42 years later)
1971 – Clifton Park, New York with a girlfriend, forget her name
1972 – Clifton Park, New York at my parents
1973 – New Orleans with a girlfriend, not sure which either Rita, Chialeah, or Robin or Tamzon
1974 – Cheyenne, Wyoming – in a religious Order – trying to be celibate
1975 – Syracuse, New York – in a religious Order – failing celibacy at an alarming rate
1976 – Baltimore, Maryland- in a religious Order – failed again
1977 – Towson, Maryland
1978 – Lutherville-Timonium, Maryland – with a girlfriend, Beverly, who wrote recently that she did not want to be in touch with me ever again; after not being in touch for like 30-years, then finding me on-line and emailing me to say she did not want to be in touch again – why do females make so little sense?
1979 – Towson, Maryland with a different girlfriend than the Christmas prior, I think she was Lynn, who committed suicide – I think it is my Venus conjunct Saturn/Pluto all in Leo square my Jupiter that gets me with people who do these things… just my dumb luck to be born with Saturn conjunct Pluto in Leo, exact to the minute, and with Mars conjunct Uranus in the 8th house – no wonder….luckily I no longer believe in that crap! Especially since Mars and Uranus descendant go through where I live in northern China, where we return to next week – talk about weird; Uranus was at 25 Gemini when I was born and that is the degree and sign it was in when discovered in March 13, 1781. [I love this quote: The discovery degree of Uranus has been found to be primarily important in three categories of individuals. The first is writers, particularly those who achieve wide recognition during their lifetimes. The second is political reformers, and the third is astrologers. Ralph Waldo Emerson was born with Mercury at 24 degrees Gemini. Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle both had Jupiter at 26 Gemini and Aldous Huxley had his Jupiter at 25 Gemini, the discovery degree of Uranus. http://www.stariq.com/Main/Articles/P0000270.HTM%5D Of course I am living proof this is not true.
1980 – Honolulu with wife number one
1981 – 1982 – Adelaide, South Australia with wife number one and Sacha
1983 – Adelaide, with wife number one, Sacha, and Leigh
1984 – Clifton Park New York with my brother and parents
1985 – Clifton Park New York with my brother and parents and two children; Sacha age 4 and Leigh age 2 and a half – I traveled alone from Australia to New York with my children – not so easy
1987 – Mt. Compass, South Australia, with my children (three different
homes, a different one each Christmas. Uranus rules my 4th house and I have never kept a home for very lone)
1988 – Port Elliot, South Australia, with my children
1989 – Middletown, South Australia, with my children
1990 – 1994 – Victor Harbor, South Australia, with my children
1995 – 1997 – Hackham, South Australia, with my children
1998 – 2001 – Christies Down, South Australia, with my children
2002 – Clifton Park, New York, with my 97-year-old father, with Narda
and two of her sons
2003 – Round Lake, New York, with my 98-year-old father, Sacha,
Narda and her son, Stu.
2004 – Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, with Sacha
2005 – Paris, France with Narda
2006 – Melbourne, Australia, with Sacha
2007 – Crossville, Tennessee with Narda and her son Chris and his wife
2008 – Melbourne
To cut to the chase here I am for the tenth summer, actually winter in Australia, staying in our little apartment upstairs from the in-laws. For ten years it was part of our summer holidays from New York, this time it is our summer holiday from China. Nevertheless it is our last time in this house as the parents are moving out and a change once again is in front of us, except we get to spend our summer in winter once again.
Two weeks ago we got a taste of summer and that is really what I want to write about as it really does bring into memory so many decades. We left Dalian, China in the warmth and arrived in Atlanta with 40 C (104F) greeting us for the next two weeks. After driving off with Narda’s son Chris’ and his wife Jessica’s car we got off the interstate as soon as possible and in Mississippi stayed at a motel that looked not as bad as the ones next to it. Yes it is true that motels in the south are almost all run by citizens from India. A curious situation that has been reported (even a movie was made about it) in the NY Times – “According to the latest figures from the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (A.A.H.O.A.), slightly more than 50 percent of all motels in the United States are now owned by people of Indian origin.” And that was said in 1999, now I would believe from our experience over the years it is about 87.46 % though I may be off by a fraction.
I added “Life behind the Lobby: Indian American Motel Owners and the American Dream” to my Goodreads Book list to read. Unfortunately the list is growing and the read for pleasure vs. the read because I am teaching the bloody subject (Adobe CS6, and too many other programs) is becoming a gap too wide for this year. Saying all that we stayed at this place either called the Motel Alabama or the Alabama Motel; usually we read up on a place first but we read after that people complained that there were drug dealers and prostitutes all over this place. Having watched five seasons of Breaking Bad I was up for an interesting night and kept looking out the peep hole in the door for interesting action but nothing seemed to be going on and suffice it to say we had a good sleep. The importance of a good sleep was that we were jet lagged to buggery and actually fell to sleep as soon as we checked in at 3 PM for a couple of hours with our bodies thinking they were still on the way to work over in China. No matter how many times we told our bodies it was 3 PM and not 3 AM they just would not pay attention.
Driving route 80 over to Selma we saw reminders of the 1965 civil rights walks. So much has changed since “Sheriff Jim Clark had issued an order for all white males in Dallas County over the age of twenty-one to report to the courthouse that morning to be deputized… Seconds later, the troopers began shoving the demonstrators. Many were knocked to the ground and beaten with nightsticks. Another detachment of troopers fired tear gas. Mounted troopers charged the crowd on horseback…” from Wikipedia.
We found a soul food restaurant in Selma and the food was good – the people there reminded us of our life in China, where everyone seems to stare at us like we are aliens. I suppose they do not get many of us type of people in their area. Back in 1965 we would no doubt have been beaten as sympathizers – hungry sympathizers who did not want to eat at McDonalds over in the white area.
Our end game was New Orleans. I had wanted to take Narda since meeting her eleven-years earlier and seeing her play saxophone in her big-band, the ‘Little Big Horns’ at a firemen’s ball in Adelaide. New Orleans is my favourite city in the world. Of course when I was a street artist in Jackson Square 40 years earlier life was a shade different; I was younger, I had not gone through the 40-years I just experienced, the world just seemed to be an easier and more liberal place in the early 1970s. There were only about two and a half billion people, now there are seven billion. But that was then and now my dream back then of being with a jazz saxophone playing female had come true. I have a photo of me in 1972 selling picture poems alongside Jackson Square at http://picture-poems.net/ and in my mind little has changed.
I never liked the first few blocks of Bourbon Street with its strip bars – not even when I was young and feistier than I am at 64 and eleven-months.
Further down the street, about @ St. Peters the music clubs take over and all that New Orleans is known for fills the air. Of course even the French Quarter changes over forty-years. I could not find the music clubs I loved in the late 1960s or the gallery I had further down Bourbon Street. It was called Tiphareth, after the Tree of Life – middle path on the Kabbalah. Tiphareth is the beauty sphere. I sold my art and a few other’s craft and art things there. It was at the end of an alley off of Bourbon that seems to no longer be there. I was in New Orleans in 1967 – 1968 with lots of journeys in and out; hitch hiking back to New York occasionally and once stowing away on a freighter bound for England which I got into heaps of strife because of. After a few years in a cult order (1969 – 1971) in Hawaii I was back in New Orleans 1972 – 1973 before going back to the order for another five years. It was those years in New Orleans I remember best; selling my pictures alongside the fence of Jackson Square with all the other artists; reading astrology charts and tarot cards for people; telling passing girls how well our charts synchronized, for personal gains I will not elaborate on here. I rented a large house at the end of Bourbon Street and because none of my hippy friends made money I paid the rent from my street art stuff. We could not find the house anymore – in its place there is something newish which is too bad. We did find some good music halls and listened to late into the night which surprised us as we usually are off to bed when the young people are going out.
New Orleans is the best. I still keep in touch with a few people from those days; Randy Dandurand who I had known since our days in Los Angeles and San Francisco during those days of fun at the end of the 1960s, then he got me involved in that Order in Hawaii in 1969 and that stuffed me up for a while, but I returned the favour getting him out of it in 1972 when he was in charge of some station in Nashville and we headed off to New Orleans. When we got there we were almost out of money and slept in our sleeping bags on the lawns of Tulane University out in the Garden District where passing students the next morning woke us and someone told us to piss off. I spent my last five-dollars on some water colours and art board and made a few pictures and sold them at Jackson Square; which became my source of employment for a couple of years. Randy now lives in Eugene Oregon and makes a living off selling old shit on EBay. I still keep in touch with Dell Crowther who went off to Guatemala during the Regan era because of his political disagreement with the US and he built a huge weird house in San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlan. We visited him a couple of years ago; he is so depressed and quite ill but refuses to come back to the States. He is 70 now. We are the only people to ever visit him in Guatemala but I doubt if we can again. Guatemala is so dangerous and Dell is so difficult and it is all so far away from China and Australia. When we were New Orleans hippies we all looked up to Dell, he was just this really cool person. My how times change us all. And there is Shane who changed her name to Mariya —- and I keep in touch with her on Facebook but I have not seen here in person since 1994 when I took my two boys, age eleven and eight at the time on a trip around the world and we stopped in Louisiana to see Mariya, Los Angles to see Daniel Bushnell who I was in that Order with in Syracuse New York and Towson Maryland and I see on Facebook but we don’t seem to say much to each other, Hawaii to visit Randy, Indiana to visit Tamzon and New York City to see my brother who was dying of AIDS then we went to London, Paris, Germany, and Switzerland; it was a good trip. And there is Tamzon, she joined that Order from our days in New Orleans and seems to have had more favourable thoughts toward it. She befriended me for a couple of weeks on Facebook but was upset about what I had said about her in my Leaving Australia book which I had as a pdf on-line but I took it off to save some people embarrassment though I do not understand why some are so precious about what they did in the past. She seems to have dim thoughts of me now.
The only people I still know from four-decades ago are the ones I met in New Orleans; except for my first girl-friend from the early 1960s or was it the mid-1960s? who I keep up with on Facebook and who will hopefully one day sell our houses in upstate New York and Marta Waterman who I knew as a child and who is writing a book about my brother.
We liked the Treme series and drove around the area which has been re-done, for the most part. It is next to the French Quarter and the music is less touristy and more authentic some say. I have always liked the street musicians and there are still plenty of them about. See my youtube video —- http://youtu.be/QGzf4mQVNtQ
After a few days in New Orleans; and Narda loving the place too, though maybe she tired of so many of my stories from so long ago, we went south and stayed for three days at a bed and breakfast in the Bayou. We did the tourist thing of going on a swamp alligator airboat, it is on youtube @ http://youtu.be/hYxw0-T8O7c. Spent a couple of days wandering around to the tip of Louisiana and put our feet in the gulf where it was so warm but having forgotten to bring our bathers we did not plunge all the way in.
Leaving Louisiana we stayed somewhere in Alabama. It was so hot that we were in the motel pool within ten minutes of checking in and planned the next morning to be back in Atlanta by early afternoon.
As they say, ‘one never knows what is around the next corner’.
Narda was driving on the interstate rolling along at about 70 mph, 112 Kph, I was looking at something, probably at our new Nikon D5100; what a great improvement to the little digital camera we had been using, when there was a big bump, our car started swerving all over. We were in the middle lane. Narda said, ‘he hit me’ and I waited for the glass to break and the car to roll but when we hit the concrete block in the middle of the highway separating us from oncoming cars I felt everything would be fine. Narda said she was waiting for the pain to hit. When we came to a grinding halt and the car stopped Narda discovered she could restart the car and went off chasing the truck that hit us. I could not believe it but of course it is such a Narda thing to do. The back wheel was broken, we were in shock, and we are off. Luckily the truck pulled over and stopped. I took lots of photos and by the time I got out of the car Narda was already standing in front of the driver, ‘what was that?’ she demanded. Fortunately the truckie was a good bloke and rang the police and took full responsibility. He somehow did not see us when he changed lanes and clipped us sending us across a couple of lanes.
Luck was on our side that no one was in our lane or the next one over except for the truck that sent us on our merry way. The interstate was extremely busy and there was just this little break in the traffic when we decided to kiss the wall. And of course we were lucky to have the bloody wall as some places there is no dividing barrier which would have meant we would have been going across the lanes coming toward us too which would have killed us off for sure.
We stood in the sun, 104 degrees, 40+ c, for more than two hours watching the heavy traffic go pass us, waiting for a police then a trooper then a tow truck. Having been in three previous serious accidents and never getting a scratch I wonder what keeps me going. I survived the 1960s, car accidents, marriages and just so much and I am still full of gas – well probably that is not the correct analogy at my age… We rented a fire-truck-red Volkswagen and got our sorry asses back to Atlanta, though still in shock, by that night, Friday.
I said to Narda on Sunday as we boarded a plane to Chicago > Beijing that if we had been killed we would be having burial things done about then. We spent a night in Beijing and went on to Adelaide the following day. I said we had a great chance to re-boot our lives. Maybe we were killed out on the Interstate and now we can re-craft our new lives. It has been a rather liberating feeling – that we had this choice either to be dead meat or to keep on living and embrace every day anew.
At the moment I am writing this in Horsham, Victoria. We left this morning, 26th July, Thursday, and got this far on our way to Melbourne; doing another road trip. This is so different. Whereas driving Atlanta to New Orleans is filled with towns and cities and massive freeways and wild truck drivers; here is not really nothing, there is the outback, which at the moment is quite green due to so much rain of late, single lane each direction roads, with massive trucks – road trains they call them and instead of the single trailer they pull two and even three giving us the feeling that we truly would be cactus if they hit us.
Tomorrow we get to Melbourne and I am excited that my son will stay with us for the weekend, the one that is still alive; the other son visits too often, but in reality he is dead, and his visits freak me out. It is almost nine years ago since he flew from the Dodger’s headquarters in Vero Beach Florida to Sydney and went off of a 15-story hotel balcony when his girlfriend broke up with him. The Dodgers were looking for him and were concerned because he was acting strange the week leading up to then and he left without telling anyone. I had a dream recently that he had pitched a perfect game but of course that is not true at least not in my realm. I have been having dreams for all these years where he is in some sort of trouble and he asks me to help him get back on track to get back into baseball then I wake up and say ‘no you are dead’. I hate those dreams and I get them regularly month after month year after year. It is all so disconcerting.
Then I remember the 1960s and early 1970s in New Orleans when I had nothing and how simple it was. But then again it could be true that we died out on the Interstate a couple of weeks ago and all this is just some wayward thoughts coming through someone else. Just like my son asking me for help and I awake and say but you are dead, we may awake and someone will tell us that we died out on the Interstate. For now, I will go back to Leigh pitching a perfect game, somewhere in the universe; http://neuage.org/leigh.htm the perfect son.
Now I am really really upset with China Eastern. It is not bad enough they have the worst food of any airline I have ever been on (and I have been flying internationally for 40 years with many airlines). As we are leaving the States for good (except for our three houses there which somehow keeps us attached) and moving way too much stuff to China and storing way too much in Australia for someday when we are settled in one place we have five overweight suitcases and several carry-on bags with us, I thought putting Leigh’s ashes into my checked-in luggage would be fine. Not only did they break open the box to see what was inside (there is a label on the box clearly stating “the remains of…”) but the box, which had also been inside a plastic bag, was left to spill all over my clothes and other articles. Since Leigh died in 2003, throwing away a successful career as a LA Dodgers’ pitcher for a girl, I have had his ashes with me. I was bringing them back to Adelaide with the thought of someday putting them somewhere. It is a traumatic thing to begin with now China Eastern has made my life a bit more difficult. Sacha has some ashes too and he does not know what to do with them. For now they are in his recording studio because he too wants to keep Leigh nearby.
It is so cold in Melbourne, a rainy winter storm night. A few days ago it was 98 degrees in New York City now I realise my winter clothes are in storage on a dock waiting to be shipped to China.
It is five AM, Narda is happily asleep probably dreaming of someplace warm and I am wide awake, shivering (they do not have central heating in houses in Australia) thinking it is 5.00 PM the evening before this morning. ‘Hey body clock get with the program.’ But it is great being here. From 1980 to 2002 Australia was home. I was poor with two children in tow those years. I am still poor but I get to fly around now instead of taking buses. So much has changed but decades changes everyone. Back in the 1980s I had a tenth grade education (that is why my syntax is still budget often); then for some strange reason at 43 years old, that would be 1991, I thought I would try and educate myself as it was obvious I was not going to become a well loved, sought after poet with no learnin’. I applied for, tested for, was accepted for a BA program at Deakin University in Melbourne. I thought, sure, easy, two kids, a failed tofu business, almost homeless, I can get a degree. Well I worked really hard and four years later I had a BA in literature and journalism. Then I thought, hey maybe I am smart and capable and applied to do an Honours degree, did that, and went for a Masters, did that and went for a PhD, which almost killed me and took seven years on two continents, but after 14 years I had gone from a tenth grade drop out to a doctor something. So I taught at university in Adelaide and then in New York then became a high school computer teacher then a middle school computer teacher then a primary school computer teacher and then it seems I was too old for any school in the States to want me so I went and got my teacher’s certificate from Darwin University. I did that off-campus whilst living in NYC watching Narda go off to work everyday, teaching. I did my ten-week practicum at Torrens Valley Christian School in Adelaide last July – September and lived upstairs from Narda’s parents whilst she was happily teaching in NYC. Got the teaching degree then got hired by Dalian American International School, Dalian China to be the middle school computer teacher and technology integrator. I am so excited. And sitting here, shivering in the dark, so as not to wake Narda, not even 24 hours back in Australia I realise what an interesting trip this has been. Not sure why I never did well with schooling in the States and Australia I do so much. Perhaps it is because my Mercury passes through Adelaide, like if that matters.
I suppose I am not a Yank anymore. After fleeing the States of the past 9 years I am totally using my Aussie passport. Lived here 22 years, and the States 41 years but now my China work visa says Aussie. ‘Hey World I’m OK.” Yet everyone says I sound like a Yank. Just don’t get it.
Sacha is doing so well, so maybe a little bit of my parenting rubbed off. His new DVD is so good but of course it seems everyone is doing a new DVD (except me – I am just writing an e-book on tofu – tofu.neuage.us). And yes Facebook/Twitter/youtube was blocked in China but it seems my blog links show up in Twitter and Facebook even if I don’t see them in China.
This is our second home in airbnb. In Harlem we lived for 17 days in Penny’s pad, we learned a -lot about her from her photos and poems all over the walls. In Melbourne we are at Imogen Manins’ studiom http://elwoodstudio.com.au/ which is only a few blocks from Sacha’s house. From the posters on the wall we learn that Imogen, http://www.imogenmanins.com/about.htm, is a cellist with lots of awards.
Staying in airbnb places http://www.airbnb.com/ is so much better than hotel rooms.
Now it is 6.30 AM, still dark outside, mid-winter and all, and I am ready to go back to bed. But I am starving and all we have is a loaf of bread. See I am wealthy.
We had a good stay at the Grand Mercure with a special interest in the loo: heated toilet seat, massage/vibrate, spray wash in various directions – dry; if this was not China (blocking youtube) and not the Shanghai Airport (blocking my uploads to my server) See the video clip, not of anything more than the toilet control box. If you are unable to view it, well you must be in China.
We popped into a cell phone shop to see how much a new Google phone would be. Unbelievable, there were eight floors of cell phone stalls, mostly iPhones and Android – OK what is left? There were a few Blackberry stalls. The building was packed with 20-year-olds. We must have looked strange; tall, not-Chinese, old – and confused. There were hundreds of cellphone stalls on each floor. I was unable to decipher the price. I thought we would be trampled by the youth of China – all 1.2 billion of them, in Shanghai to get the latest phone on the same day we just were having a look-see.
So another flight is delayed. We are not having a good time with China Eastern and probably rarely have. The food they served between JFK and Shanghai was so bad we could not eat it. I had the vegetarian slop which I could eat, barely, but Narda’s chicken was uneatable and her scrambled eggs – we have no idea what they were but they not only smelt revolting but we both spit out the first bite. But we have learned that China Eastern has the worst flight food of any airline we have ever been on.
OK so at 8 PM (our boarding time was 7.30) not only was there no check-in people but there was no plane in sight. At 8.30 someone appeared and said the flight would probably leave at 11.55 PM. If after midnight then we would have to wait until tomorrow. My son has taken a day off from work in Melbourne to meet us. Luckily I was able to Skype him and say at this point it looks as if we will be four hours late. The last time I saw him Virgin Airline had a computer problem and I was stuck at the Adelaide Airport for twelve hours and I got to Melbourne at 1 AM. Sacha collected me at the airport but he had to be at work that morning so there was no visiting time then. I suppose I am unwittingly getting him back for all those years during his adolescence when he… well all those nights of worry….
We were told we would be fed as it was a four hour delay. Sounds good, we are starving and tired, and jet-lagged frustrated.
The ‘meal’ was a pack of cookies and bottle of water. When it comes to China Eastern and food forget it. Why do we fly China Eastern? It was about a thousand dollars cheaper than any other airliners to get between the States and Australia and after a few trips, times two people, we have saved enough money to eat a proper meal every once in awhile, and stay at a nice hotel. And the staff have been good. We know it is not Singapore Airlines and we know they are at the bottom of the world-flying heap but hey….
The workers have been good to us. For example, we ask for exit-row seats and usually get them. No other airlines does that for us as they always get some young fit looking people sitting in exit-rows ready to rescue the passengers if the plane gets into strife. Not China Eastern. They have never asked us to read the safety card, or whether we were willing to help passengers through the exit if the plane lands in the Hudson. Actually they never talk to us. Being the tallest on the plane I suppose makes us look like able candidates. We love the extra leg room and the fact that no-one sitting in front of us will push back and there is no one in front of us in the exit-row. Of course we have had some better luck on other airlines such as Lufthansa upgrading us to Business between Bangalore and Frankfurt two years ago and an upgrade to business from Seoul to Singapore a few years back; both times for various reasons such as overbooking or being late and us complaining so much.
And our luggage. Shanghai airport has some good stuff: free wifi, storage facilities (we checked in three overweight suitcases last night and headed into downtown Shanghai), free baggage carts (JFK charges five dollars for the use of a cart with no-return funds) and there are probably some other good things. Back to our luggage; five well overweight suitcases and there was not a blink, they just went through, both at JFK and at Shanghai. We were charged $130 at JFK for an extra suitcase and at Shanghai we showed the JFK receipt and they did not charge us. So all our worries of the past few months of getting so much crap to Dalian is past. Our shipment was like 800 pounds overweight and they tried to charge us an additional $600 but we managed to wangle out of that and now we have more.
When at Shanghai Airport eat in the domestic terminal. The food is reasonable, if not almost tasty, and cheap. In the international terminal the food is very overpriced. We just bought two sandwiches and a coffee for 195 yuan ($30.29 USD) and the coffee was absolutely terrible.
Announcement ‘the Shanghai – Melbourne flight has been delayed. We will announce information’ – OK that was two-hours ago.
Let me be clear, we are not complaining; love China, happy to be moving to Dalian, looking forward to seeing family in Australia, loving traveling – just keeping track as we forget stuff so easy or get one trip meshed into another. We have finally left the USA after nine years and about fifteen return trips between the States and Australia with lots of countries explored between. Hopefully we will explore a lot more of the world over the next section of time.
I normally would write a short blog but being stuck at an airport for half a day brings out these musings in me….
How many blogs can one have?
I chose this theme randomly for this blog that will be about our trip back to Australia. We have a house in Ferrara at the end of June for a couple of weeks. I just looked closer at the picture and on the umbrella it says “Ferrara”. How is that for synchronicity?
I will call this 2008 http://08.ournews.mobi
Chattanooga, Tennessee (January & March) > NYC > Utrecht, The Netherlands > Warsaw, Poland >Ferrara, Italy > Rome > Singapore > Australia > (return to NYC August 25th) via Atlanta, Georgia, NYC (Christmas to Australia) > Sydney/Melbourne/Adelaide leaving December NYC 22nd continue with 2009 travel
Back from Tennessee with our weekend sidetrips (Maryland, UpState NY and etc.) then in two weeks son Sacha arrives from Melbourne and we are off to Tennessee again then The Netherlands and back at the start of April. We were on the way to Poland last year but changed to Scotland now we will finally get there in June before spending July and August in Australia.