9.29.2010

Sydney, Philly

In the bathroom of Sydney airport, I heard ABBA's "I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do." Good omen!

The city was beautiful. Our hotel was on Hyde Park. Lunch at Darling Harbor, a walk towards Circular Quay with great views of the bridge and the opera house. We browsed the market at The Rocks. I learned that opal is the national gem. We got an afternoon buzz at the Lowenbrau beer garden, then took the ferry to Manly Beach. Paella and sangria for dinner.



In Sydney the people don't wear their names on their shirts during the marathon. I went down to the quay to cheer runners on, and only a handful of runners labeled their jerseys. I cheered for a good hour, clapping, yelling, thinking the locals near me thought I was crazy because I was so much louder than their "Well done, good job"s. We were standing at mile 18 or 20. There weren't many spectators.

On Sunday night I went to the church near the hotel. I don't go to Mass often (sidenote: should Mass be capitalized or not? the Internet hasn't helped much), but 1) I wanted to see the inside and 2) maybe it satisfies a longing for the familiar when you are in a foreign place. I figure I eat McDonald's at least once when I'm abroad (even if not for work reasons), because I miss what I know. Mass is like that but with ritual. The gospel was a weird and confusing parable about an unjust steward(?) who is going to lose his job and goes around slashing debts owed to his master in an effort to secure a good name for himself(?). It contains the famous line about not being able to be a servant of two masters, money and God, but the rest of the story confused me. The priest acknowledged that it was a "controversial" parable because the guy is seemingly praised for dishonesty, but then he noted that most parables have characters that are not all good or all bad, e.g. the Prodigal Son. The priest took the story to mean (in part) that in difficult circumstances we shouldn't sit around feeling sorry for ourselves but rather think creatively about how to get out of our bad situation. I liked that. (When I was trying to find this parable, I came across this random page that applies the lesson as "we need to make the most of the resources that God has given us to our best advantage." I like that, too.)

I climbed the Harbour Bridge on my vacation day. In groups of 12 or so, you ascend the arch and get a phenomenal view of the city. (Note to Jenn: they supply the sweatshirt in case it gets cold. Also, because everything you carry with you must be attached to your body, it is a sweatshirt that is stored in a fanny pack hooked onto your harness, and on top of that, part of the hem is sewn in to the fanny pack so that the shirt can't fly away from you if you happen to remove it. A sweatshirt attached to a fanny pack attached to you. Amazing.) My climbing group included a Bulgarian, a friendly guy from San Bruno (in the news recently for the explosion by SFO), an American family, an Australian couple celebrating 47 years of marriage, a mother and son, and honeymooners from Japan. I marveled that our climb leader memorized everyone's name. The mother, Nell, had actually done the climb years before, but she was taking her son, who was about 12 or 13 years old. I imagined that my mom would have been up there with me in the same situation, and that made me happy.



After the climb, I saw the Sydney Theatre Company's production of Our Town. Funny seeing the quintessential American play in another country. It was a good production, and they made clever use of sound effects to go along with the propless actions on stage: a newspaper being thrown, cowbells clanked, coffee being stirred. The actors performed with American accents.

Do human beings ever realize life while they live it--every minute? No. That is why we try to write. Not sure if the writing hurts or helps in the end.

(My favorite part is at the end of Act One when George's sister (Rebecca!) talks about a letter her friend got addressed to: "Grover’s Corners; Sutton County; New Hampshire; United States of America…Continent of North America; Western Hemisphere; the Earth; the Solar System; the Universe; the mind of God." It made me want to send a postcard right then addressed the same way.)

The day I left, I had a great latte at a cafe in the street behind the hotel. It was the beginning of the work day and sharply dressed regulars filed through. A lady in a denim jacket with long brown hair and bangs complimented the barista on looking nice that day. She smiled. "That color really brings out your eyes." He was wearing a black shirt, a uniform with the cafe's name (Chrysler) on it. I fell in love with her.

I quickly wandered the Royal Botanic Garden. Again I thought of Mom, how it would be something she would like. There were beautiful cacti, crazy of shape. There was wisteria, an orange bloom I didn't see a name for, and rhododendron. That made me smile because Mike and I talked in San Francisco about how we didn't know what it was. (Rabbit tends to that woman's garden in Rabbit, Run.)

The whole Asia trip was great. I visited places I never imagined I would go, literally on the other side of the world. (To get from Chicago to Shanghai, we flew over the North Pole.) There was again a sadness about things I would never know, that there is too much to know. I will never be an evolutionary biologist or botanist. There's not time to be all the things you want to be. There's not time to know all the names of flowers in the world and the geography of China. You look at Sydney or Shanghai on a map and see they are just specks of a larger country you may never see! It's a mix of gratitude and inadequacy.

*************

Finally, I'm back in a place I know. The parking lot. Of a Wawa. Outside Philadelphia. I'm sitting in a rental car, a gleaming red Dodge Charger. The sun is low over Route 291 West. Marlboros are being advertised at $5.59 a pack--LOWEST PRICE ALLOWED BY LAW. It is humid, the way Eastern summer always is. I ordered a sandwich and took a picture of a Tastykake display and made the executive decision that "Tastykake" is the only word where a "k" like that is acceptable. Killing time while waiting for JP's flight to arrive. (I calculated whether there was time enough to get to Pat's and back but did not want to chance traffic.) I texted Leslie.



When I came out to my parents, when I came back from the shore, Mom told me I was always a happy kid, and then later in high school I seemed to change and didn't talk to her anymore. I want to tell her today: don't worry. Not everything is great, but I'm happy. I'm writing in a Wawa parking lot on the side of a road to the Philadelphia airport, but I like where I am.

9.27.2010

Nana Was a Flapper

Back in the day.

Shanghai

If you asked a child to draw a city, I think she would draw Shanghai: high-rises as far as the eye can see, trees, powerlines, all people on bikes.



We went to the Bund one night; I only got to take a picture from the window of a bar. The city is lit fantastically at night. Even highways lined in blue and red.

9.12.2010

Moving Day

Cleaning my apartment, JP requested a playlist he could sing along to. This is problematic, because there is not much overlap in the music we like. So I just put it on shuffle, when this oldie but goodie came on.

"Spring is here, the-e-e sky is blue. This is a song you can sing along to! Look, you can even do this." I fold my hands in prayer, and do the step-touch down the aisle.

"I don't know who you are."

"Yes, you do. This is what you love. This is what you love!"

Big Life Changes Month

Today, I moved in with JP.

Tomorrow, I am leaving on a business trip to China and Australia. I never really imagined going to China! This is amazing.

I have to get back in time to go to a wedding in Cape May. A friend said, "That's all right, though. Don't you go to a wedding in New Jersey about every other weekend?"

So, dear hearts, if you don't hear from me for a while, that is where I am.

9.09.2010

In Case You Missed It

The New York Times catches up with Bailamos' recent "reporting" by featuring Blue Sky Bakery.

The OKTrends blog continues to fascinate with their latest analysis of "the real stuff white people like," i.e. the interests that are statistically distinct among racial groups based on words and phrases of OKCupid users and their self-stated race. I've seen links to this post in a number of places, but I'm actually more interested in the follow-up to the bisexual thing in "the big lies people tell in online dating."

An NPR story on genetically modified salmon for human consumption creeped me out.

Speaking of statistics and creeping me out...

And if we're talking about politics, then here is one thing that boggles the mind, as expressed by Dan Savage:
So here's where we're at: everyone who cares about gay issues is mad at the Democrats. The homophobes are angry because the Democrats suggested that they might do something about gay rights; gays and lesbians are furious with the Democrats for failing to do something—failing to do anything—about gay rights. Since doing nothing pisses off the gay haters just as much as doing something, perhaps the Dems should've have done something and won the enthusiastic support of someone.

9.08.2010

All The Lovely People, Part 2

En route to the airport, we listened to Joni no less than three times.

The trip was perfect.

9.01.2010

Just 'Cuz

I hope this brings you a smile. Get over the hump!