Saturday, June 21, 2008

Visiting NO- ME

Last weekend was another good one. On Friday night, I attended my second footy game and the Bombers won! I just may be their good luck charm, as I've been present at two of their three victories this season. Just waiting for the Footy club to offer me season tickets.We beat the West Coast Eagles from Perth and it was a heavy pro-Essendon crowd. It's always fun to win and I'm starting to understand the game a little better.

Saturday, I travelled to unknown territory. Melbourne is divided by the curving, snake-like Yarra river, a brownish body of water that separates northerners from those of us here on the south. People take pride in their side of the river, and, much like the US Civil War, such territorial pride has been known to pit brother against brother, tearing families apart.

Well, perhaps not. Though the weather in Melbourne is such that it is possible for the North to be blue and the South to be gray at the same time.

I can't say I've never been north of the Yarra before. The CBD is on the north side of the river and I've spent plenty of time downtown. But the so-called suburbs of the north have a personality of their own and until last Saturday, I'd not experienced this.

St. Kilda, the hip neighborhood near me, offers bars and nightclubs with the beach close at hand. The gentrifying neighborhoods are a mix of Frum Jews, smack addicts and too-cool hipsters. The northern suburbs of Fitzroy, on the other hand, are close to the University of Melbourne and have a definite bohemian flair. While St. Kilda back alleys are littered with random syringes and the corners are doted with Methadone clinics and hip clothing stores, in Fitzroy you're more likely to find the ends of joints on the street, with veggie cuisine and incense shops selling environmental bumper stickers lining the footpaths. For lack of a better description, Fitzroy definitely had a more Boulder feel.

In any case, I'd been anxious to visit this boho paradise, since that is a little more my style than the hip and cool trendiness of my 'hood. We arrived in the early afternoon and first wandered around Smith street, where the aforementioned incense stores compete with athletic brand factory outlets vying for attention. After getting Adi some new runners (aka running sneakers), we went for a bite to eat at Soul Food Cafe, a vegetarian hodgepodge where we combined an Asian salad, a Thai style curry and a Greek pastry. I thought it was delicious; Adi wanted some meat.

From there, it was time to head towards Brunswick street, perhaps the most active strip in Melbourne, complete with restaurants, funky shops and bars. We went to a bar called "The Laundry" which offers live Jazz every Saturday arvo. We met up with two of Adi's friends from his previous grad program; they all used to hang out at The Laundry back in their Victorian College of the Arts (VCA, a school at Melbourne Uni) days.

I had never met Martin or Dani (or her husband Josh) and it was nice to meet some new folks. Dani's friend Kate was visiting from Sydney. She and I bonded instantly when we discovered that neither of us liked the Sex and the City movie, so I now have a pal in Sydney! The six of us spent a fun afternoon downing some pots (small glasses of beer- I even had one!) and listening to music as well as laughing quite a bit.

Martin in particular proved to be a formidable challenge in the humour department and we covered a variety of topics, including facebook self-destruction, how zoos acquire elephant semen and the Aussie version of Romper Room. I'm certain most of these jokes were location based, so I'll spare the retelling and saying "guess you had to be there", but suffice it to say, we laughed a lot!

Josh is an actor and had to depart early for a call and Martin had to ride his slightly over-sized bike to a mate's party, so when the music ended, Kate and Dani and Adi and I wandered down Brunswick street. Feeling decadent we decided to whet our appetite for dinner by having dessert first- the joy of being a grown up!

We ducked into the Italian inspired Cafe Nova where the more than generous slices of cake beckoned. Dani chose the banana caramel cake while Adi and I selected the chocolate mousse mountain. Unfortunately, the deliciousness of our selection suffered when Adi extracted a long blond hair from his mouth. They offered another piece so, in spite of being full from the few bites we'd already had, Adi chose the Cherry Ripe cake, named after an Australian candy bar. Its a chocolate, coconut, cherry concoction and we took most of it to go (to those of you paying attention, yes, they let us take it with us!) You can see in the photos that these cakes would have sufficed as a substitute for dinner rather than a precursor.

But Adi and I being who we are, we had to enjoy the culinary offerings of the neighborhood. We said farewell to Kate and Dani and proceeded to a gourmet Italian spot, Casa Farro (technically in Carlton, the next suburb over,, whose whitewashed walls and curved archways reminded me a bit of Di Napoli in Boulder. This restaurant offered the best service I've had since arriving here. This isn't saying much. In a non-tipping culture, the wait staff doesn't generally come back to check on your meal but in this case they did. My gourmet pizza with ricotta, walnut oil and pumpkin was yummy so I had no complaints. We exercised great restraint by resisting the desserts on offer here and called it a day.

It was a good one, we agreed, as we drove back down south.

This specialty Lolly-shop window on Smith street
caught my eye and reminded me of some of the
candy I've been missing. But $5 for a Reese's seemed
like a bit much to pay for a migraine.

Dani, Adi, Martin and Kate

Dani and her banana caramel cake

Adi shows off both of our choices- the Mousse Mountain and the Cherry Ripe. YUM!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Posting

Thanks to all who sent their condolences after my last posting. I appreciate the thoughts as does my family. And it’s nice to know I’m not writing into a vacuum (comments posted ON THE BLOG would also make me feel that way:-) The best part was all those Red Sox fans writing “Go Yanks” in their emails to me. Nothing like some emotional manipulation to get you to cheer for your enemy!

So, what I was going to say…

As the days get shorter, I get more and more settled into my new life. It’s almost as though it's not that new, although last weekend marked only my 3 month anniversary (mes-iversary?) down under.

My weekday schedule is more predictable than it has been in years. I've been hitting the gym fairly regularly before work and then get to my desk (not too early, mind you) and eat brekkie as I start my day.

I got up really early on Wednesday last (5:30AM) in order to get to a spin class at the gym. The only AM classes they have are at 6:45, although I'd prefer a 7:30 option as it means I don’t have to get up as ridiculously early. But if I don't go to a class in the morning, I just don't go. It wasn't as difficult as I'd feared, though the bikes have smaller and harder bike seats that I'm not used to, so my bum (that's Aussie for ass) was pretty sore for a few days. And I must admit, while the classic rock was okay, I missed the KBCO- style spin classes I took in Boulder. Suppose I'll have to save Sarah McLachlan cool downs for my running days.

Once a week, I meet with my trainer who is VERY different than Katie, my trainer friend in BoCo. Katie, for example, never complained to me about how she frequently ended relationships with great guys because they weren't "well-endowed" enough. Given that I'm fairly laid back, this information doesn't bother me; however, it does seem an odd thing to discuss with a new client (I mean brand new- -this confession came about 7 minutes into our first session!) She has also detailed how she and her friends have a technique they use on first dates, wherein they inspect their date's parts. She calls it a CSI: a "C--k Size Investigation". I appreciate this because I love a good pun, but again, not entirely appropriate at 7:30 in the morning on your second meeting.

And I don't love how she keeps saying "Oh you're working so hard, Sheryl. Soon you'll be thin and then you'll be pretty" because, frankly, 1) thin is really not a realistic goal and 2) I'm pretty now!

But she makes me laugh and makes me work out so I'm sticking with it.

Work is still going well. The first round of OSCEs- the exams with lots of SPs in use- are this week so it’s my first real "test". We'll see how it goes. My boss is still really cool and I really love my office mates, though I'm moving offices- off campus no less:-( - in a few weeks. I'll miss the girls but the person replacing me is a pompous ass of a faculty member so they'll likely miss me more!

I'll be interested to see if an incredible natural phenomenon that I've witnessed will take place at the new office as well. Now, I look out over beautiful deciduous trees whereas my view will be changing to a concrete car park. Last week, I was shocked and annoyed to hear the familiar peck-peck-pecking sound of a woodpecker. Many of you know that I've fought woodpeckers outside my home office in Boulder for a few years. I'm fairly confident it is the same little pecker and think I'll contact National Geographic about the amazing migration patterns of this annoyance. Hedy pointed out that I should find out what kind of visa it has, because hopefully, it will be gone in 90 days.

And in celebration of the old adage that you get what you pay for...and a revisiting of an earlier blog, I've included a photo of the oven mitts I bought at the $2 shop when I first arrived. Turns out, even though they match the colours of our feature wall, they're flammable :-)

I’m also including some pictures from my first Aussie Girls’ Night Out. Five of us went to see Sex and the City. In the interest of staying spoiler-free, and to avoid offending any producers, should they find their way to my blog and want to develop a new HBO series, I will keep my opinions (and there are some strong ones!) to myself. But the cosmos were good and the company was better!

Look, Sarah Jessica is drinking with us!

Hanna and Helen

Maria and Helen and Carrie

All the girls: Dinesha, Hanna, Me, Maria and Hels

Friday, June 6, 2008

For Grandpa

I've been editing a new post and was planning to put it up this weekend but life events have happened, as they do, getting in the way of my plans, so that post will have to wait. This post is dedicated to my grandpa Edgar who passed away on (American) Thursday evening after 94 "innings", as they say here. (It comes from Cricket, not baseball, I've learned today).

People here continually ask me if I miss my family and I explain that, yes, of course I do, but given that I haven't lived nearby in many years, coupled with the wonders of modern technology, it's not as hard as one might expect.

During a time like now, however, this changes. It seems cliche to point out the obvious, that when you have a family life cycle event, its not the words or communication tools that matter but just the presence of family. I have found myself missing being around my family more than I have in the last 3 months, even though we've been communicating the last couple of days- through phone, text and I-M more than we usually do.

Suffice it to say, I felt a "typical" blog entry could wait while I acknowledge this moment in my family's history. Not to mention I need to save my creative juices for the eulogy I'm crafting.

I'm glad I took the extra time- and used the extra gas, environment be damned- to head to NY via Florida when I drove back last February from Colorado. (See the blog entitled Florida, Florida: for more details) He enjoyed showing me around the Florida community- (I'm sure you can all picture it)-he was part of and we had a lovely lunch, interrupted only by the paramedics coming in to save one gentleman from paying his bill (no doubt leaving him with a much larger one, but this is not the place for a discussion on the American Health Care system!)

At the time, he was his usual witty self, explaining that, inspired by John McCain, he'd looked into a presidential bid but decided against it when he could only raise $3.00.

I'll be back with a new posting soon enough...I'm certain Grandpa is looking forward to logging on from wherever he is to see what's going on down under! And I bet he won't have to deal with spam or pop-ups in that utopia!

Till then, root for the Yanks, because Grandpa was a fan:-)