Friday, November 30, 2007

Graduation day

My mother reminded me this morning. It has been two years already. It feels so much longer. My dad only spent one night at the hospital. We got a call early on Tuesday morning. My mother told me that, although they told her he was fading, he was already gone. I don't think it was one of her clairvoyant moments. I think she just believed hospitals prefer to say "they're leaving" to "they're gone". We drove to Greenville right away. But we didn't hurry. Two white tail deer bounded across the road as we traveled through the early morning fog.

So much of those last fews days are a horror. I don't know if it better to remember or forget. Despite my mother's admonition to be happy- that this was a happy day- I cried. I cried. I was numb. And, when we went to visit the minister she'd chosen, I had no memories to add. I couldn't touch that part.

I loved my father. I didn't figure out until I was 18 that he wasn't perfect. Well, I knew he had bad habits. But, he was my dad- who helped me, who told funny jokes, who always had a hug for me everyday. We spent much of one summer together when I was about 13 or 14- golfing every evening after work.

Then I got too old and too busy. Then, he fell from grace.

Its just a part of growing up. Parents becoming human. Learning forgiveness and acceptance.

In his last years I learned how much alike we are. Quiet. Hard working. Determined. (But, I can't remember a joke.)

He was 78. Until the last few weeks, he was going to live to be 80. His last surgery had been the previous winter and the doctor then told us he would likely not get out of the hospital. But, he got out. He healed. He walked laps around the house. He golfed- up to the week before he died.

Happy graduation day, Dad. I still love and miss you.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Well, only one irony. Maybe if I try hard enough I can find another. They are usually ALL over my life- making quite a clutter.

Tomorrow, I leave to spend my WEEKEND OFF with Kevin in Sydney! Since last Saturday, he's been away in Blaney - probably misspelled-probably there is an r or two in there. He finishes his class on Friday and will drive into Sydney to fetch me from the airport. Then, we'll do fabulous Sydney things. All we have planned with any confidence is driving to some spot in Manly. (It will be better than it sounds here. Scenic. Walking. Views of the city, the harbour, the ocean- some or all of the above.) After that, we could do ANYTHING. Maybe you should watch the news.

And, while I'm away, guess who's coming to Brisbane? Go ahead. Try.

Yes, it's Joan Armatrading! I learned about it while listening to the radio on Tuesday. WHY can't the radio tell me about things happening in two weeks? Arghhh! Of course, I wouldn't have the same hot date I had for the last Joan Armatrading concert AND she's only performing for an hour. She's touring with Bryan Ferry. Yes, and without me. Sigh.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday at the Sea

I'm not saying that Kevin's been holding us back...but he's gone and Zelda's had her first experience with the Pacific Ocean. Sort of. More like Moreton Bay. OK. She didn't actually get wet. She backed up from the "surf" swishing in under the Redcliffe jetty. That counts for something.

She's not much of a water dog. She has been to the Atlantic (Wrightsville Beach, NC) and she has been swimming. The latter, however, was unplanned by all concerned. We were visiting my sister. It was Zelda's first visit and we were in the backyard. We climbed up the stairs to look at the above ground pool. Zelda was fascinated by the self-propelled pool sweeper. She had to have it. And, in a Wile E. Coyote move she walked off the edge of the deck and "onto" the blue surface. There was a moment when time stood still and she looked down to discover there was no ground underneath her.

Then, she was swimming.

No longer interested in the sweeper, she just circled along the edge until I could reach in and drag her out. After that, she wouldn't even climb the stairs to be on the pool deck.

Today, however, was hot and "dry". Even at 8 AM the sun is intense for a black dog. We walked along the shore, out on the jetty (where Zelda barked at the squeaky noises the floating docks made), back past the "settlement lagoon". We hugged the sidewalk as far away from the lagoon as possible as there were numerous signs posted banning dogs under penalty of fine (up to $1500!) for being in the lagoon area.

Next time we'll go earlier and maybe only to around Brighton. I was intrigued by all the pelicans sitting on the street lights overhanging the bridge there. I think I need to see more.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Election day

Very different from being at home. First of all: it is a Saturday. Secondly, the Liberals are Conservative. And, I understand, voting is compulsory. People keep asking me whether I can/will be voting. You'd think they could hear the non-voting accent.

Without a television or newspaper, our exposure to the candidates and election is pretty light. I hear ads on the radio and pass BILLBOARDS on the highway. "Australian families have never been better off" John Howard. Who is moved by this kind of statement coming from the incumbent candidate? If it is true, why isn't there a similar statistic coming from an independent, or at least independent sounding, source? And, I'm moved to guess that these better off Australian families must be doing something WAY differently than Kevin and I. We both have good jobs, but we cannot imagine how we could ever afford to own our own home here. That is, own our own home and STILL eat on a regular basis.

The AM talk-jockies were yesterday going on about "how to vote" flyers that people are handed at the polling stations. I don't think these are manuals on how to push buttons or press levers or throw chads to the wind. I think they are identifying party affiliation and maybe party positions (??) on proposed bills...but I was perplexed for a nanosecond or two.

Meanwhile, Zelda is bugging me to take her to the polling station. She, and rightly so, reminds me that she is now Australian and, therefore, she is compelled to express her opinion. I think she hasn't really been taking time to read about the candidates or been taking any of "W"'s calls because I heard her sitting on her chair last week woofing out "Rudd". Yikes. Maybe because his name is Kevin she thinks he'll sleep with her. I can't believe she's changed her political stripes. I feel like I'm probably saving her from tremendous embarrassment by preventing her from voting "Labour".

Anyway, I did have a brush-once-removed with a local candidate from the Liberal Party. About 3 weeks ago I looked out our office window and saw a video crew with their big fuzzy microphones camped out on our bench. Seems they were supposed to be filming in a local dress shop a statement by "the candidate" about crime - but when they arrived they found that the shop had JUST BEEN ROBBED. In Bald Hills. A dress shop. How much business could they "enjoy"? prior to 2 PM? on a rainy Thursday? As an American I knew what had to be going on. My suspicions were heightened the next week when my boss told me that she was in the dress shop and the proprietor seemed pretty cool about it and told her he wasn't permitted to discuss the crime. Ongoing investigation? or, drama-grad-gets-big-break in politics?

Updated to add: Congratulations to Kevin Rudd.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

It is the eve of our second thanksgiving in Australia. Last year I was not working and so was much more prepared for the big day having researched recipes for pumpkin pie filling, pie crust, dressing, and poultry seasoning. This year- having worked the last two nights until 7 plus- the plan is to buy a roasted chicken from the GOOD shop (Fresh Zone). If I get ambitious I may put together a batch of noodles- though I wonder if noodles need to dry out before cooking. Hmmmm. That would make noodling an early morning activity. The other item that is important to me is pumpkin pie. I used to make pumpkin pieless back in Cleveland. (I'll share my recipe. Put together the pie filling according to the can of Libby's pumpkin and bake it in a pie pan without a crust.) I suppose it would work in Australia with filling made from a real pumpkin (like the kind that could carry you to the ball if you had a team of mice and a fairy godmother- Australia, for all its fondness for pumpkin does not sell any pumpkin puree in the vegetable aisle. What's with that?) The alternatives are either Flicker's no fail pie crust- which I failed with on my last attempt. A "no roll" press-in pie crust I found on-line. Or, buying crust units from the frozen food section of Coles. Hmmmm.... Now, you won't sleep wondering what I do. Sorry about that.

My first Thanksgiving away from home occurred in 1985. Wow. That's over 20 years ago! I stayed in Durham. I think I was probably raising squab for my research project. My friend Carolyn flew down from NYC to join me. A few nights before I stopped by the North-something mall- you know- the one the hurricane blew the roof off? Or, then again, was it the South-something mall? Anyway, I was about the only soul walking through the mall when I was accosted by some child selling tickets for a turkey raffle. I don't know WHY I bought a ticket. I must have recently been paid. Anyway, I won. I won a 20 pound bird. Carolyn and I took that turkey to a butcher and had it cut in half. Half we cooked...well, SHE cooked. The other half we took to a local food pantry. Still, that was a ton of bird. I remember eating turkey on homemade popovers with cranberry sauce for days- sitting in the quad in between the psych building and the hospital.

So, on the occasion of thanksgiving- I am thankful for my family and friends-new, old, and yet to be discovered. For my home and totally-almost-perfect car. For my dog, Zelda, and the backyard family of butcher birds who serenade me and amuse me as they feed their overgrown baby. I am thankful that my own birds- Beeker, Big Bird, and Modern Physics have good homes back in the US without me. I am thankful that I have a job with people I like (and that I got a raise today!) I am thankful that my bed is firm and my pillow reliable. And, I have tomorrow off.

Beat it

MJ has been excised from the red dragon. We took our lovely red beast to the Aspley Automotive and King-of-Pop Exorcism shop on Monday. They found one sequined glove jammed in the choke and for a meager $180 removed it, checked the brakes ("Break it up, break it up, break it up. Break down!"), AND changed the oil. Now, the car is even MORE perfect and humming a different tune.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Santa Claus is coming to town

Actually, his sleigh pulled up to Chermside LAST weekend. That's the nice thing about Australia, as far as Santa is concerned. No silly "Thanksgiving" holiday to keep him from getting in an extra week or so of prime child-holding, minimum wage earning time! I didn't stop by to welcome Mr. Claus. (I was recovering from my late night out with Kevin and Colin.) I am moved to wonder if the Santas in Australia, New Zealand, South America, etc are actually stationed at the South Pole...??? Maybe their sleighs are pulled by penguins rather than reindeer?? Cathi? can you hear me?? What's the story?

Brisbane's been busy putting up holiday decorations. I'm amused by the heavy reliance on the snowflake motif for the decorations on the Queen's Street Mall. Sure there are a legion of angels...but it's a damn blizzard of blue snowflakes!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It's a Beautiful World

My my my

The concert was great fun! The hall had no seats and while we were permitted to sit on the floor during the opening act- two bald guys from Caboolture, guitar/singer and harmonica, doing the blues... sort of- once Colin was imminent "everyone on his feet". We were in the 3rd row. Close enough to spit- if you were a spitter

"or a woman if you are one"

Colin opened with two acoustic numbers- "It's a Beautiful World" and "(I Just Don't Think I'll ever) Get Over You". Just Colin, his guitar, and that wonderful voice. Then, his band joined him. They played pieces from his new album and ALL the Men at Work tunes you'd want to hear!

"who can it be now?"

Wow. The audience- at least up front- was packed with very, very happy looking 40 and 50 year old people having a very, very, very good time. Sure, we might all have complained after that the sloping floor hurt our backs or that the volume was so high it distorted the music...but we were transported and free.

"ghosts appear and fade away"

I'm way overdue for that night of dancing. I'm ready.

Friday, November 16, 2007

And now for something completely different

Actually, that would have been a better title for the lecture by Michael Palin that I didn't attend with Kevin LAST week. Silly me. I forgot to note on the calendar that I was off Wed rather than Thursday...and the lecture was- this should be obvious- Thurs. Kevin bought be a ticket. Thank you. And, sold it to Aaron.

Tonight, however, we're off to see Colin Hay. I didn't know Colin Hay by name until Wed morning when I caught part of an interview on the radio. He was the lead singer for Men at Work and, according to the radio interviewer, puts on a very entertaining performance now by himself. He supposedly does a lot of talking. I'm hoping I can understand what he's saying. The door opens at 8 PM. I'm not sure when we'll stroll in. We know the performance isn't starting at 8. I'm just hoping it starts before 10 PM.

The last similar concert we went to was at the Odeon in Cleveland: They Might Be Giants. That night the headliner didn't start until about 11 PM. YAWN. Fortunately, we got to see this far-out (I don't use that adjective willy-nilly by the way) band: The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. While I enjoyed TMBG (though not as much as when I heard them perform at The College of Wooster- when I heard them much EARLIER in the evening), it was the Trachtenburg's who made the night. I wanted to link here a video of their performance of "Look at Me" which is an amazing musical, lyrical, visual experience. But, an extensive search only finds lyrics or recording of the song. If you listen to it, you may be disappointed. They aren't outstanding musicians. You need the whole act to "get it". So, here's another of their pieces "Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959".

Garden musings

I have been very, very fortunate. Ever since I planted that first flat of annuals we have enjoyed a couple days of showers each week. What's more- they have always come after one of my days off when I've stuck MORE plants into my garden. I've only had to tote buckets twice! And, now, my babies are starting to look bigger...It is time to get out and feed them.

All of this has led me to an unreasonable level of giddiness and ambition. In this 60 year drought, I'm looking at ALL the overgrown beds here and seeing flowers. My mission this weekend was to find rudbeckia and salvia to plant along the driveway. Some nice North American plants. And, relatively good with low water conditions.

I've even toyed with seeds- California poppies, cosmos (one of my all time favorites), sunflowers, moonflowers and morning glories. I have NEVER seen seeds here for either my favorite sunflowers- Italian White or Lemon Queen- or my favorite annual vines: morning glory, hyacinth bean, or moonflower- I imagine the latter may be too invasive in this climate. I miss them!

I suppose I SHOULD embrace this new home and try some Australian varieties. They'd undoubtedly be hardier and I could acquire a new appreciation of the country by going native. I can't say, however, that I'm too keen on the odd prickly flowers of Australia. But, I guess that was the point. I could maybe LEARN to LOVE them.

Before much else happens, however, I've got to get all the grass OUT of the existing beds. Ah, the most tenacious of weeds. Why won't you grow this well in the lawn?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mt. Coot-tha

Sunday, after gaming, Kevin and I buzzed over to the other side of town so I could view the city from the Mt. Coot-tha look-out. (I've never heard anyone but Kevin SAY Coot-tha, so I'm not sure. It IS a bit funny looking. But, there's a lot of that. My favorite is "Toowong"- which I can't say or read or think about without "Fu Thanks for Everything" and images of Patrick Swayze (would that be Swayse in Australian? I think so) and Wesley Snipes in dresses. Priscilla is certainly "majestic" with its fluttering fabric trailing through the outback- but I probably enjoyed "To Wong" more. (I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who would say that.))

The asides have taken over.

Anyway, it was an overcast day. Still, we could see the CBD towering in the distance and the Brisbane River snaking through the hills.

It was a bit past 4:30 and Kevin had work to complete at the office- but we pulled over at the Botanic Gardens anyway. The guard sitting in his golf cart which was parked conspicuously in front of the mostly closed gates confirmed that the gardens closed at 5 PM. But, then went ahead to tell us how we could get out if we found ourselves on the wrong side of the locked gates in 20 minutes.

Thank you.

Really. It was a very nice garden.

And very, very, very full of lizards

I'm not sure what it is about these trees. They date back to the time of the dinosaurs. I think they must be dangerous. They are ALWAYS locked away. Spooky.

Anyway, we scurried past the pond. The bamboo. The cannas. We lingered a bit in the Japanese Garden. Then explored the one way mechanism on the exit gate.

We're pretty sure that as a team we could get in the out...but don't tell anyone.

In my next life

I'm going to be taller.

And, I'm going to audition prospective husbands with a Polaroid camera. If they can't take a picture of me where I don't look like some scrunch-faced troll scurrying across the ground to get out of the light.... that's it.

Until I got married, I wasn't overly concerned with my age. But, that's when it started. And, it really wasn't me. It was the comments that I attracted.

Entering David's Bridal shop "The mother of the bride dresses are in the rear."

My Uncle Carroll pointing out all my grey hairs and asking if I'd been through menopause yet.

The b#&*@! at the pet store asking if I had GRANDCHILDREN.

You will note, however, that I am looking pretty hip...despite the windblown condition of my hair. Can't place it? It's the bra strap. In Brissie, having straps hanging out is tres chic. Last summer I was astounded to not only see straps on shoulders but also across women's backs if the neck line was cut particularly low. I thought it was just tacky- but hey- obviously it looks pretty good on me.

This season, however, not so many straps. (Maybe I'm again passe? or, maybe it is too early in the spring?) My current peeve is being mooned by women in low riding pants. Personally, I never thought it worked for plumbers, either.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New Toy

Since the weather is turning (uncomfortably) warm (mostly humid), I've been craving gazpacho. Ideally, I'd be ordering it from the Stone Oven in Cleveland Heights- along with a salmon salad sandwich. Since I don't have time to arrange for pick-up- and they don't deliver- even IN Cleveland Heights, I had to make my own.

Fortunately, I had a recipe. Pretty easy recipe, at that. All it takes is about 4 ripe tomatoes, a cucumber, a red pepper, about 1/2 a red onion and 2 cups of tomato juice.

Oh, and a blender or food processor.

So, I spent $30 to make gazpacho.

It was worth it- if only for the opportunity to learn how to use an Australian food processor: The "You'll Love Coles Food Processor Model YLCFP". I was disappointed, however, with the following.

Do not operate this product in the presence of explosive and/or flammable fumes, or use it to mix flammable materials.

Damn. Guess I'll need a blender, still.