Friday, October 28, 2005
A few weeks ago I saw a notice up in the foyer from someone complaining about the fact that his/her Financial Review Paper had been stolen and would the perpetrator please return it.
One bloke has posted a notice in the elevator for the return of an video tape package that has gone missing. Apparently it is a video of him rock-climbing or something of personal interest only like that.
And my Scale Avaiation Modeller International October edition is missing. At least it is two weeks late in arriving.
I'm considering contacting the other two victims and forming a Unit Vigilante Group. I think we're looking for someone who is reasonably well-off, owns his/her own grampons, and has a slight smell of hobby plastic cement on their fingers.
Thursday, October 13, 2005
Yesterday I bought some flowers on the way home from work — that's just the type of guy I am. Not an expensive bunch, but one of those impressive-loooking, space-invading, conical shaped, multi-coloured deals.
Up on the platform I noticed it first. This young woman looked at me, glanced down at the flowers and smiled at me. Exactly the same thing from an older woman walking up the platform. What is going on?
I boarded the train, doing my customary stand-in-the-middle-because-I've-only-got-three-stops thing. As anyone who remembers the weather yesterday it was a wet and muggy day, so crowded in the little vestibule of the carriage, the faint bouquet of the flowers became a stifling, cloying stench. But that didn't stop the women smiling at me uninvited. One older, sharply attractive, power-suited woman squashed in the far corner even combined the look, glance, smile with a affectionate tilt of the head. This is probably a woman who is used to physically biting off the heads of people who oppose her in the boardroom.
So what is going on here? All have obviously made the assumption that, inspired by true love, I've bought the flowers in a spur-of-the-moment fit of passion. Don't any of these women make the assumption that the reason I've bought the flowers is in apology because I've totalled her uninsured car whilst in a drunken swerve attempting to hit a small kitten on the road on the way back from the motel with the most hated girl from her childhood sitting barely-dressed in the passenger seat and after borrowing it without telling her? That's certainly a more likely explanation.
On reflection though, I guess I shouldn't take too much stock in the flower power. I got the same look, glance, smile from the thin, clean fit and mustachioed man in the tiny tight running shorts who was standing on the pavement outside the train station at Waverton. Although I have a sneaking suspicion that the glance down was not at the flowers.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Scene: Smart fellow in business suit waiting for an elevator.
There is a ding and the door opens. We now see from his point-of-view as the door opens to reveal the left inside of the elevator with partial smoked mirror walls. Staying with his point-of-view, man enters the elevator heading towards the left side and presses a button. Doors close.
There is a change of point-of-view to see the man left side-on looking from the middle of the elevator. He breathes a huge relaxing sigh. He noisily scratches his under-carriage for an extended period, perhaps with a pause in the middle and then returns to it.
Then he spots a pimple on his nose in the mirror. He moves in close to the mirror to squeeze the pimple satisfactorily. It obviously pops and he wipes a spot of pimple gunk off the mirror.
Scratching his nose, he wrinkles it slightly and then inserts a finger up it. He hunts briefly and it emerges. He inspects the end of his finger and then holds his hand out at the side, flicking his fingers together to get the nose remains of it.
Straightening up, he has a slight look of discomfort. He leans slightly to one side and we hear a loud fart sound. He does a cheeky chuckle and then reacts to the obviously bad smell, waving his hand in front of his nose and the chuckle changing to a subdued, coughing laugh.
The point-of-view is now the outside of the elevator, slightly to the right. We hear a ding and the elevator doors open to reveal the man on the left looking somewhat bewildered as this is not his floor. His look of bewilderment changes to horror as a pretty young woman (that the man obviously did not see till now) quickly emerges from the far right rear of the elevator, running slighlty hunched and with both hands pressed over her nose. She briefly glances back at the man, and when her face returns to the front we see her look of disgust.
I swear this didn't happen to me.
Friday, September 23, 2005
There were pigeons everywhere, and a couple of white chicken-sized things with really long thin curved black beaks that a brief hunt through the internet did not find.
I noticed, watching the pigeons gathered round a pile of crumbs that used to belong to a Lebanese bread roll, that the fattest birds were the most aggressive. Obviously they were fat as a result of their aggressiveness. The other possibility, that they were aggressive because they were fat, is too complicated for me.
It occurred to me that a kind of natural selection was going on here. The aggressive pigeons were getting fat and the submissive pigeons were dying out. Does this mean that over time, pigeon aggressiveness will increase as the 'aggressive' gene is passed from parent to child? Will this mean that eventually, pigeons will be attacking us for food, rather than somewhat meekly gathering at our feet for our leavings? Has this already happened and they are simply biding their time, waiting for the most opportune time to simultaneously attack and remove us all from this world?
I left the park soon after, nervously flicking my head around everytime one of the conniving little bastards flew past.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Lately I've had no drive and energy in the morning. Sometimes this lasts all day. I have heard stories of older friends who have gone through "listless" periods of their life where they don't want to do anything except sit on the lounge and watch the telly. There is no drive in their job and nothing to spur them on. I've been wondering whether I'm suffering the same thing.
But no! The answer is simple. I've discovered that the coffee I've been drinking at work is decaffinated. Yesterday morning in the tea room I overhear one of the blokes telling a new starter, "...that jar is the decaf, and that [huge] tin is the real stuff." AHA! One mug of the "real stuff" and I'm away.
The only bad thing about this is the realisation that I'm a caffeine addict. I guess I just add it to the list and deal with it when I retire?
Thursday, August 04, 2005
A late start this morning with a touch, just a touch mind you, of hangover. Probably that last Bass Ale in Ryan's Pub was off. We were woken, and not the last time on this trip, by housekeeping. The little "Do Not Disturb" sign just wasn't working its magic for us.
We'd decided that we'd had over a week in the States, it was laundry time. If it hadn't have been for the souvenir shirts boughts in LA, Disneyland, Universal and Vegas we wouldn't have made it this far. So while Ali showered, I hunted through the phone book and found The Washing Well LaunDRYteria on Bourbon Street. It was only a short walk away.
The Washing Well was yet another in those eye-opening experiences we had. The woman running the place was as old and as large as my grandmother (except alive, of course). White, she had an equally old (though slimmer) black woman working for her who she ordered around to the response of, "Yes Maam." We obviously had no clue how the system worked so the old woman took charge of it all without moving one centimetre from her chair behind the counter. Two hours to wait, so we headed off to explore.
We headed down to the Decatur and decided to have some breakfast, despite being closer to lunch, at Cafe Beignet. A beignet is a little bit of a cross between a donut and a croissant, heavily dusted, OK, soaked, with powdered sugar. They were gorgeous. Ali had a more substantial breakfast that included grits. I'd always wanted to know what grits were, and now found out. They seemed to be a sort of tasteless ground oatmeal, a little bit ilke semolina. I heaped on the melted butter and the syrup to get a little taste out of them.
We walked west up Decatur and down to the Riverfront. We were accosted by this bloke, who gave me a ticket for being "too good looking" and demanded $10 off us for the New Orleans cap he had thrust upon us. Interesting sales line. The money was for some charity so we acquiesed and went on our way. The Mississippi is a very dirty river, a bit like the Yarra on a good day. Much wider of course.
While walking along the riverfront we were stopped by a couple of black kids who looked very, very out of it. One of them was the one who had tried to con us the previous night on Canal Street. And he tried the same trick again! Either a very short memory or very very out of it. We danced through the interruption and headed for the French Markets. Well I wasn't that keen, but you know, chicks. After wasting about an hour or so looking at the trinkets and the t-shirts, we thought we heard some music, and so we followed it's siren-like calling.
We ended up in a small bar just off the Markets, where I had a couple of Heineken and Al had something exotic and chicky. The band were very basic, Clarinet, Accoustic Guitar, Trumpet, Tuba. They were playing Trad Jazz, At The Jazz Band Ball, was swinging along. I calculated that it wasn't too early to send an SMS to a friend in Australia (about 7:30am). So I sent a message to Ray saying we were sitting in a bar in New Orleans listening to the standards and got one back moments later complaining that he was in Brisbane airport listening to the rotten muzak. We listened for a while, gave the bar a tip and went on our way.
Back to the Wishing Well to pick up our laundry. We had to fold and sort it, but that was no problem of course. The poor black woman was still being ordered around, and I noticed this time, muttering under her breath as well. We walked the length of Royal to get back to our Hotel and to rest, change and to book that evenings activities. We'd done a fair bit of walking and so were a little tired. We discussed for a bit what we would do the following day, and being a bit tired and niggly, we couldn't make any decision and so decided to make the decision in the morning or later that night.
Dressed in our finest and on our way. Down Canal to Decatur, and then the long walk east to Frenchman's. The restaurant guy was right, even that way was a little scary, New Orleans did really not make an effort to entertain 21st Century street lighting. So up Frenchman's, and we were aware walking along that here were some more contemporary Jazz locations. Snug Harbor, though spelt differently gave us a beautiful and local dinner. While I had the Atlantic Salmon, Ali had the Hush Puppies, which were like corn meal dumplings. A lovely dinner and some nice wine.
Downstairs after dinner to the tiny little entertainment area. We were seated towards the back of the room, but were still close enough to see and hear everything. I sneakily snuck off a few pictures without flash which came out moodily blurred. Delfeayo Marsalis was playing with his quartet. So him on trombone. This freakishly superb musician on Piano and Guitar, a Bass (tree not electric), Tenor Sax and of course, kit. All very, very good musicians. Despite the 30 minute wait for our bottle of red wine, we enjoyed the show. Delfeayo is a great trombone player, easily the best I've seen live. Interestingly, he's a "bell-toucher", which is something every learner trombone player is told NOT to do. When he plays notes in 3rd postion, the slide handle is adjacent to the bell of the horn, and almost every time, one of his fingers flicked out to touch the bell. Even on lightning fast runs up and down the scale; flick out it goes, flick in again. It didn't detract from the performance.
Afterwards we trouped outside. Ali was excited because on exiting through the crowd, Delfeayo had looked at her and thanked her. I mean he did that to twenty other people as he walked through, but it made it special for her of course. She chatted for a little bit with the bar lady, and managed to score a free CD of Snug Harbor recordings. Woohoo!
Across the road was The Spotted Cat which was crowded as buggary, and they had a large, and we both thought, not great, Jazz band playing. There was this old guy propping up the bar despite the crush and as the band played one tune, this old bloke pulled out a trumpet from beneath him and took a turn at a solo! We had one drink each only, but we weren't really in the mood for shitty music after the good stuff we'd heard already that night, so we decided to give it up.
We'd heard about the Beignets place, Cafe Du Monde on Decatur and so we stopped there for coffee and beignets on the way back to the Hotel. The place was crowded as, and we had to fight for a table. The waiter was very attentive, and I think I remember hearing that they don't actually get paid properly by the Cafe, but they make their money from the difference between what the Cafe charges for coffee and what they charge the customers. I could not spot any price boards in the place. I wasn't impressed by the coffee though I must say. Beignet was beautiful of course. This was our last call for the night and we tiredly walked back Decatur and Canal to our Hotel for another sleep.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
I don't know whether it is always been the way with these shows, but twice now I've noticed that they have thrown in questions relating to advertisements that have been aired during the preceding break. A few weeks ago it was a commercial break for Jetstar Airlines, and in the next period of the gameshow, one of the questions had the answer: Jetstar Airlines.
Last night it happened again. Commercial break which included a plug for the musical Fiddler on the Roof, back to the show and there is a question, "What musical tells the story..." The answer: Fiddler on the Roof.
Now I don't have an objection to the need of a show to advertise, I mean, come on, they are providing me with free entertainment for the simple cost of me ignoring the stupid friggin' commercials that happen every six minutes or so. But this sneaky little way of tying in a gameshow question with the advert that preceeded it, I find a little disconcerting. Disconcerting because it works; I don't remember any other commercials that have been on since the show started, and these brand names have stuck in my head now. Disconcerting because I thought I was ignoring the commercials, obviously something has gotten inside my conciousness. Sneaky. Sly. Insidious, even.
Strangely I am reminded of the quote from Goldfinger -- the book by Ian Fleming, not the film: "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action." I'm waiting for that third time.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
[Again I delve into profanity. See this for my last effort on this topic.]
There is no doubt what the foulest word in the English Language is. As a hint: it starts with the letter "C".
I must admit, I have occasion to use this word, usually when behind the wheel of my Honda Civic, when discussing the merits of Channel 9 TV personalities, or when discussing telephone companies. Never in front of the children of course (unlike my mother who used it in front of me). But it is strongly frowned upon when I use it in the home, for whatever reason. When I do let it slip out, I hear the "C-Word signature" cough from my Chick. She does not like hearing it.
It sounds a little like "hup-hrrm", but in a coughy way.
"Gee that Eddie Macguire is a bit of a c..."
You get the picture. I've worked out that the cough is not because of any liking she has for Eddie Macguire, either.
Today, I got the "C-word signature" cough for another reason. I was in the office/spare room, listening to Mozart whilst working, she's in the loungeroom listening to a Charlie Parker CD. I reckon Charlie is OK, but, waggishly, while returning the Mozart CD to it's rightful place in the bookshelf in the loungeroom, I attempted to get a small rise out of her:
"<big smile>What's this sh*t you're listening to?"
I think if you analyze it carefully, you will realise, as I did, that she has used the C-word on me!
This morning was the first since Friday I have not woken up and immediately coughed up or spewed up huge amounts of green glutinous matter.
Yes, I've had the flu.
Last Friday was the worst. I spent all day on the lounge watching crappy daytime telly, with a prime diet of panadol and sudafed, turning paper tissues into soggy green papier mache. To rub salt into the wound, I missed out on going to the Lord Nelson with a bunch of mates. And I love the Lord Nelson.
I guess it is my own fault. I had the sniffles early last week and suspected it was going to turn into a flu, but instead of cutting out the booze and diary products and taking it easy, I pissed up, ate lots of ice-cream, exercised and played a basketball semi-final. The basketball was on the Thursday night and that was just the nail in my (albeit temporary) coffin.
[Oh in case you're interested, we lost the semi-final. Drawn at the final buzzer we played an extra period of 5 minutes, were down by one-point up till less than 1 second before the final buzzer, when our guard threw it up from half-way. Straight through, nothing-but-net, for three points. HUGE cheers! The ONLY person on or off the court who thought that the ball left his hands after the buzzer was one of the referees, who somehow managed to convince the other referee that the points didn't count. The other team congratulated us on our win, and they will now go through to play the final. I guess the best way to lose is knowing that you really truly won.]
[On second thought, no it's a shitty way to lose.]
One thing I have noticed in recent years is the way that the flu knocks me around now, compared to when I was younger. At 20, I'd get the flu and feel a little crook for one day, but usually panadol and sudafed fixed me up. Rarely did I need to take time off school/Uni/work. At 40, I am out for almost a week, with one or two of those days incapable and in bed. No amount of drugs can turn my head from a nauseous constantly-moving spring to normality. Nothing stops the tap dripping at the back of my throat.
So: is it the drugs, the age or the flu? I'm quite willing to accept that it is the age thing. But I suspect that just as much, it is the inadequacy of the drugs and the ferocity of the flu virus. It is not solely the age thing.
Friday, June 17, 2005
It is quite difficult to maintain a reasonably regular blog. I think the key must be short entries. Of course the quality would drop...
I have found a partial solution to one of my problems though. The Aust Direct Marketing Assoc. has an "Opt-out" form that you can fill-in on-line to stop receiving their harassing phone calls. I heard an interview/discussion topic on ABC radio last night with this bloke who was telling about how his company does surveys and how they are moving from telephone surveys to on-line surveys. Of course everyone rang up to tell their worst telemarketing experience. At first I felt sorry for the bloke as he was at pains to distance himself from the telemarketers, but then I thought, no, well, they're just as bad. One caller mentioned the ADMA and the opt-opt form. I can't wait the six weeks "take effect period" for the calls to stop.
Of course, the bloke also mentioned random-number dialling from overseas centres, there's nothing you can do about that.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Last night, my girlfriend's boss and his wife had their first child - a little baby girl Charlotte Elizabeth Dries. I won't have a crack at them for stealing my own child's name although I'm itching to. In a totally nice, caring and supportive way of course. <cough cough /> Maybe they are just fans of Sex in the City (Mmmm Kristin Davis -- I don't care if she's lesbian). I believe she was late and induced (newborn, not Kristin), not that this makes any difference, Christine was late and induced with our Charlotte. Hmmm do you see a pattern for Charlottes here?
When I was at high school my favourite teacher, a physics teacher who also played the trombone, Derek White, and his wife Wendy had their first child, and they named it Michael. Derek and I were friends outside of school as we both played in Bankstown City Band. I felt a little bit uncomfortable about them naming the child, although I'm certain that they didn't name it after me. More like despite me. I think I was a disappointment to Mr White, as I didn't do as well in my HSC as I was meant to. I haven't seen them in many years. Ah never mind.
Many, many years indeed. It's occurred to me now that (and this is actually quite disturbing) Michael White should be about 23 by now! Wow, am I old.
When Christine and I were deciding on names, we went through a hell of a time. "No we can't call it Jennifer because I know a horrid, slutty girl called Jennifer." That sort of thing, spread over weeks and weeks as a kind of sporadic, drawn out conversation. You know what I mean, we'd be watching The Simpsons or something and I'd offer, "How about Jason for a boy?" She'd respond with something like,"No, wasn't that the killer in Friday the 13th?". And there the conversation would pause until three or four days later while we were in the car driving to the shops when she'd offer, "Well what about Jennifer for a girl?" You get the picture. We got there in the end, obviously.
Aside from the pain of deciding on a name that suits both of you, the worst thing about naming a child is that everyone's taste is just a little bit different, and when you offer up the name of your newborn for the first time, you get all those false smiles from the people who think Charlotte (or Josephine for that matter) is a crappy name. Usually from the same type of people who call their children Cool Modine or something like that. Or from your parents.
I've strayed somewhat from my original brief. Let's get back on track.
My brother and his wife are almost there. Maybe a month to go with their first one. I'm looking forward to it because Mum and Dad will have someone else to focus their grandparenthood onto, rather than just lumping it all onto my narrow shoulders. Hopefully anyway, despite the Sydney/San Francisco distance. I'm actually surprised that Mum hasn't booked a ticket already. Also I guess it is just exciting seeing my little brother become a Dad as well.
What I'm desperately trying not to do, despite my eagerness to hear the current state of play, is to bother Paul and Ros. There are few things more annoying when the baby is due than people continually hassling for information: "Is it born yet? Is it born yet? Is it born yet?" as if they are sitting in the back seat during a long trip. Yes, definitely, they are only asking because they are concerned and interested friends, but it can get very disturbing after a while. And particularly for the Dad-to-be, because he doesn't really do anything other than ensure his mobile phone is always fully charged, and to be ready to speed his car dangerously through traffic to the sounds of a screaming woman in the back seat at a moment's notice. In truth, it is an anxious enough time as it is, without others adding to it, well-meaning as they are.
And in my day, it was pager, not a mobile phone.
Anyway, Charlotte Elizabeth Dries, welcome to the world. Sorry about the state it's in at the moment. We were hoping to clean it up before you got here, but you know how things get put off and put off. We're actually hoping you can do something with it. Maybe paint it up a bit, new curtains possibly?
Saturday, May 14, 2005
In contrast to the previous night, this night's sleep was very poor. I struggled to get up at 7:45 with a sore throat which I explained away as the air-conditioning. The other possibility – that I was coming down with a cold – was too painful to think about. Wake up, clean up, pack up, and then downstairs to dodge the cowboys and slot machines and pay our bill. As we exited to the extremely cold and dreary day, I thought that it must also be a cab-driver's convention at Vegas as well, the number of taxis that were lined up to take us to the airport. The cabbie was your typical strong, silent type, and despite the fact that he drove in the exactly opposite direction before hitting a freeway to the airport, I didn't disturb his solitude.
Check-in was painless and quick. Here was the first place where I noticed people taking off their shoes and belts for the run through the metal detector. Some of the cowboys had belt buckles the size of dinner plates, so it was no wonder. Ali and I didn't remove anything, and weren't asked to, we didn't beep, so everything was jake.
Breakfast was Cinnabon – $15 for a bun and an orange juice! The alternative was (of course) Starbucks, so of course we settled for the sugar. While sitting in the cafe eating, I noticed this bloke from outside the shop come into the shop at least three times and re-fill his paper mug from the soda machine. One of the employees was getting a little tired of it, and she had a word to him. He obviously had some (ummm) developmental problems the poor man, and I'm not sure he understood her.
After breakfast we headed to the departure lounge. Poker machines and cow-persons everywhere. Undoubtedly the NFR was winding up, and people were heading home. Ali just had to try the slots at the airport, and one machine swallowed $2 worth of nickels in the space of two minutes.
Our flight to New Orleans via Fort Worth Dallas left on time. There were more Texans than Australians on this flight I can tell you, and there were a lot more fat, noisy people than thin, quiet ones also. Hmmmm do I dare to draw a parallel here? No I think I'll leave it. We arrived at Dallas around midday, and entered the busiest airport we'd been in yet. A lot of Texans with big hats. A lot of people from the Armed Services, the "Ambassador Club" was where they were all going – unfortunately I'd left my army ID at home.
We eventually squeezed into a two-person booth in a Mexican restaurant called "Chilitos". And here we had the best American food since the Thai food on the first night. A great Nachos shared, Margaritta for the Chicky and a couple of Dos Equis para mí. I didn't know anything about this beer but it was quite OK. My poor Spanish at this stage led me to believe that Dos Equis might actually mean "Two Horses" — OK, the big "X's" on the label should really have given it away to me — and I thought of my beloved Two Dogs beer at home which I missed very much. [Yes I know they aren't dogs, they're Tasmanian Tigers.]
About three hours later and a takeoff delay and we boarded our flight to New Orleans. It was quite full. I had the middle seat, and was next to this big black fellow. He fell asleep during the flight, and had this really attractive bottom-lip droop when he slept. No really, it was just beautiful. We talked a little during the flight. Apparently he'd flown straight in from Bangkok, 27 hours of air-planes and -ports, and was going home to New Orleans. Later that night, despite his obvious exhaustion, we spotted him on Bourbon Street. I guess that's one way to regain energy.
The flight into Louis Armstrong airport was a little scary landing over the lake. I experienced the same tension that I see in other people when I am on a flight landing at Sydney and the trip in is over Botany Bay. I think it's called payback.
A long, long wait for the bags and people where crushing in around that baggage carousel as if getting closer would get their bags quicker. Our friend Kevin had mentioned the Louisiana time that everyone runs on, and I didn't expect the bags in a hurry. After pickup into a cab. The driver made some quick enquiries in a very thick indeterminate accent and then ignored us till he took our money. In fact he spent most of the time on the phone to a friend. Not that we could understand what he was saying — it wasn't English, and it wasn't Spanish, and it wasn't French, so I don't know what it was.
Into the French Quarter, our hotel was the Alexa on Royal St, near the corner of Canal St. Despite having a tidy (and tiny) reception, the passageways to the rooms were labyrinth-like, and it appeared that the Hotel was a number of adjacent buildings tacked together. Where the floors didn't meet up there were stairs, and it was obvious that you had enterd a different building. After meandering for a while, and including one time going through the same intersection in a different direction, we ended up in our narrow, double-height room. You could easily have fitted another room in the space between the top of my head and the ceiling. Ali went in to the bathroom to shower before we went out, and while she was in there I heard a Jazz band startup somewhere in the street downstairs. New Orleans we have arrived!
So out we went, along Royal, up Canal, turn right into Bourbon Street. The band that I had heard was here. Traditional Jazz. Some nice trombone-playing too. Along we went, pushing through the Thursday night crowds. Crowds!! People everywhere. On the street - no car could ever get through here - on the pavement, in the bars and the dodgy sex shops, on the balconies above our heads. People with beads, people mostly drunk, music everywhere, not the Jazz I was expecting but more 80's & 90's rock and pop covers. It was a complete madhouse. We walked along Bourbon till we reached St Peters. Ali wanted to go down and see Preservation Hall, I reluctantly agreed, I mean it was on our ToDo list, might as well tick it off straight away.
Preservation Hall. Wow. I will never forget walking into this place. Some officious and previously (like 30 years previously) attractive woman demanded $15 each off us before we could enter. No problems of course. The first thing I noticed was the plump and fluffy cat curled up on the lounge chair in the corridor outside the Hall. Cute. And we went in.
The Hall was quite small mostly dark wood with a brick and concrete wall on the side. It was only half full, and there in front of us was 6 blokes, Trombone, Kit, Bass, Clarinet, Piano, and the Trumpet/Vocal man. These blokes were not just old, but old old. Three black, three white. When we got in they were standing playing "Tiger Rag" which was coming to it's raucous end. The piano had it's front board off so it was louder. No electronics, no microphones. And then the Vocalist, Gregg Stafford, gave the intro to the next song in this teeny, tiny, Armstrong-like croaky voice. "When You're Smiling."
They started as usual, with a tutti run-through the verse. All sitting down in their hard-backed chairs. Then the vocalist stands up and starts singing/speaking in this almost whisper of a voice that somehow managed to carry over the band and implant itself indelibly in my brain. I was absolutely spellbound. My mouth gaped open, tears welled in eyes. This was the most beautiful music I had heard in my life. I realised that up until that point in my life, I had not, not even come close to understanding traditional Jazz. And he didn't sing at us, he sung to us, highlighting his phrases by looking at individual members of the audience, smiling, singing and looking, holding his free hand out and palm up. It was an incredible, engaging performance.
Each bloke did his turn at the solo, standing up if possible, and at the tutti at the end, all the frontline stood up to do the last run-through. Then onto their last number of the set, which was "Careless Love". They were to break for a while, at least 90 minutes. So we went looking for some dinner.
We found Pere Antoine Restaurant on Royal Street. It was getting close to closing time, there were only four other patrons, but the menu and the price looked OK, so we gave it a go. I had the Snapper Gaige with Crawfish — to me they looked like tiny little prawns — and Ali had Shrimp Creole. The little waiter was quite friendly with an unusual accent. He apologised to us for asking if we were English — I guess he must be aware of the average Australian's reaction to being called a Pom — and launched into us about Australia's War-in-Iraq policies. This was a little bit uncomfortable, because I agreed with the bloke, but you sort of feel honour bound to defend the government you hate because of outside attack. I guess governments have always known this and use it against us, right? As it was in this case, we were both dumbfounded by the suddeness of his tirade, and could only stare back at him. To make it up to us he came around later and advised not only where to go and what to see, but also which way to get there. "Don't walk along this street. If you go to here go directly down Decatur and then up Frenchmans, etc, etc". He knew the phone numbers of the clubs off by heart and wrote them down on a little napkin for us. His "Preservation Hall is just for the tourists" didn't sit well with me, particularly after the experience we'd just had, but OK, we were tourists. But the food and service were excellent otherwise, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to others. Two great meals in the same day, but only three good ones in seven days!
After settling up we went back to Preservation Hall for the next set. It was as entertaining as the partial set we'd seen earlier. On the wall behind the band was a sign which listed the prices for requests. Standards $5, Saints $10. The Jazz equivalent of a brass band's "Colonel Bogey". Someone obviously coughed up the $10, so they played The Saints. At the end of the performance as everyone filed out, Alison gave Greggy a $5 or $10 tip over the cover charge. "Thank you, Darling," in that croaky, southern accent.
We went back up to Bourbon Street, the crowds had multiplied, and we toyed with the idea of going into one of the bars, but it was just too much of a crush. The beads, everyone had beads, and the effect they had on people as they were thrown down from the balconies was as if someone was throwing down some form of currency. Ali was able to score some which she put on — at this stage we didn't understand the significance of them. But we scored our beads and marvelled at the crowds and walked back along Bourbon towards Canal and our Hotel. The brief walk along Canal was very scary, with young drunk black blokes hassling us in the street. And the Hustlers. Their gambit was the old, "If you give me $5, I'll tell you where you got them shoes." Kevin had warned us about this one, so we were wise, brother; I got these shoes on Canal St near the corner of Royal!"
We made a quick toilet stop in our Hotel, and then we went down to Decatur to try to find The House of Blues. We did. The line up to get in wasn't too long, but I soon realised that if we did line up, we would be both the oldest and the whitest people in the line. So we bypassed this and went further up Decatur. We found Ryan's Irish Pub, of course, so Alison (Ryan) felt quite at home, particularly with a Baileys. I had a pint of Bass, so also felt quite comfortable, if not at home. After a couple of these, we decided to call it a night.
Just past the Hotel in Royal Street there was an all-night convenience store, so we stopped in there for some supplies. The store was very-very dodgy, I think even the bloke behind the counter was spaced out. We did not feel safe at all — this would not be the last time we would feel this way in New Orleans — I picked up a six-pack of Heineken to keep me company and Ali picked up a chick drink. It was 1:30am — back to the Hotel for bed and sleep.
New Orleans had blown me away on the first night, and I was wondering if it could be topped. Bourbon Street was not what I imagined it to be; yes the drunken raucousness and crowds, but I'd sort of imagined more Jazz, rather than the overloud pop music that was billowing out the doors of the bars. When our friend Kevin had insisted we go to Preservation Hall I had thought, yeh OK, but we'll do it just to say we've done it. Not that I doubted Kev, he's never steered us wrong yet, but when you travel, you want to make it your own trip, rather than someone elses.
Monday, May 02, 2005
A fairly restful night in our air-conditioned $69 per night luxury room. Looking back, with the exception of the nights spent at Paul and Roz's place in San Francisco, TI was the cheapest place we stayed. And probably the most luxurious. Our latest morning start yet, as we were up and moving around 11am. The weather was once again cold and overcast, if a little better from the previous day.
First stop was (once again) Starbucks. They seem to catch a lot of flack from people about the fact that there is a Starbucks on every corner, but the coffee is generally very good, and certainly is an order of magnitude better than coffee just about anywhere else in the States. Except Peet's, of course.
And once again we started off south down the Strip to check out all the joints. The cabbie had recommended M&M's World, so we first went in there. We didn't buy much, well I didn't buy much. They have a rainbow selection sold by the pound, so we bought some mixed green and gold peanut M&M's for Paul and Roz to be patriotic.
After this, we lunched at Subway, while looking out at New York New York.
On top of the casino is a roller-coaster, and despite the bitter weather, it was still operational. Well, I guess it wasn't raining. And on we walked, stopping in a souvenir shop on the way to pick up a few presents, and a corner store to buy some supplies. At the corner where the Tropicana is, I got a phone call from home. Greg was asking me whether I'd be playing basketball that night. It must've been Thursday morning back home! Naturally I told him, that while I was keen, I would probably be unable to get there in time.
While at Tropicana, Ali and I had a "Free Spin" on the wheel at the outside of the casino. You "win" a free deck of cards, and to collect, they craftily make you descend into the bowels of the casino to retrieve them. Included in the winnings was a brochure for their entertainment; we noticed that a show was shortly about to start, so we did the poker machine polka to find the place where the show was on: a stage literally placed on top of a bank of poker machines. While waiting Ali pulled $7.50 profit out of a 5 cent machine.
The free show was "Airtime", which featured a couple of very muscly and very gay blokes and a couple of barely-dressed chicks, who did a suspended acrobat type act over the stage. One of the chicks did a hoola-hoop dance with lots of twirling. She was doing the "spotting" thing which ballerinas do to stop getting dizzy, and on her way around I could've sworn she winked at me! Next time around, yep she's winking. Subtle look around, no I'm the only bloke in the area, she's got to be either winking at me or Ali. Ali leans over, "I think she's winking at you," in a very matter-of-fact voice. Then I notice she's not only winking at me, but at a whole bunch of people on her way 'round. It's obviously some showbiz trick to draw you in. After the show ended we left the Tropicana, all the better for the experience.
Further down the Strip we eventually ended up at the pyramid-shaped Luxor . Ali had to ride the lions out the front. Another "sheer-scale-will-amaze-you" type place. We decided to take a peek inside but the photos just do not do it justice. I was actually starting to get sickened by the amount of money that was just floating around in these edifaces. Rooms up inside the pyramid, stone features inside the foyer, uggh, it must've cost tens of millions to build this place. And here I am, an arse-hanging-out-of-my-pants Australian along to have a Captain Cook at the place.
Luxor was our last stop on our walk south, and we'd taken about three hours to get that far. Three hours! So we headed back, looking in at most of the casinos on the way, just for a gawk. Snapped a couple of shots at MGM Grand (and one which I should've shown of the previous day at Paris).
Paul or Roz had recommended we stop in at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. We did, and we were originally intending to stay there for dinner. But it was not to be. After waiting for quite a few minutes at the near-empty bar to be huffily served by the rude barman I returned with our drinks to the table Ali had found. The second round he charged me two dollars more and was even ruder. Obviously I hadn't given him enough tip in the first round and he was trying to make up for it. Which was rubbish because I gave him plenty. Anyway we voted with our feet and left after we had quickly finished up. No need to give them anymore money. I don't recommend Margaritaville.
I snapped one of my most favourite shots here. I just couldn't imagine in Australia that anyone would want to eat in a place called "Fatburger." We didn't enter or taste the food, so it may be my loss. However, I'll stand by my decision.
Back we walked, north to TI, then it was rest, a little bit of telly, a snooze, and room service. We went fairly basic with the room service (hamburgers, etc) but it came to $38 plus tip and I was once again disappointed at the quality of the food. Too much and too disgusting. It was now mid-evening so we organised ourselves for yet another walking trip along the strip.
This time it was north, past the huge shopping-complex that we could see from our room window. It wasn't long before the area got rather grotty. I was keen to see Circus, Circus because of the whole "Diamonds are Forever"-James Bond connection. But it was easily the filthiest casino we'd been in so far. And they had a different hiring policy as well, since all the croupiers were Asian. There was an acrobatic show which we caught briefly, complete with live band which consisted merely of drummer, violin and piano accordian. Interestingly, the acrobats ("Isha and Misha" or something like that) were of some Slavic origin, neither spoke very good English. But after the show had finished, they spent about five minutes on the darkened stage going over a couple of moves that they'd obviously stuffed up. We saw them later that night walking down towards the "rich" end of town, chatting away in their native tongue. We didn't stay long in Circus, Circus, long enough to smell the stale cigar smoke only and then we left back towards TI.
As I said the area was a little dodgy. There was a very drunk couple who were being abusive to people who overtook or walked past them. We avoided conflict by walking into Frontier for a quick piss-stop.
One thing I could not get used to was the people handing out semi-porno business cards intending to attract you to strip clubs. It didn't matter that I was walking arm-in-arm with my chick down the street. Every time, they'd spot us, tap the pack of cards in their hand once or twice and thrust them forward towards us. One bloke was so forceful that Ali had no choice but to accept the card, which she quickly discarded. I will always remember Las Vegas for the piles of fluttering little cards in every gutter on every street.
For the last time, we made it back to TI, and went to the "Centre" Bar for a drink. But no dice, pardner, we couldn't get a drink because we didn't have a table or weren't playing one of those dickey-little bar-side poker machines. You can not only sit and get pissed, but you can also lose money gambling at the same time. How convenient. I was ready for bed, but Ali insisted we get a drink somewhere, so we followed the sound of music and ended up in Kahunaville within the bowels of TI. We scored our 2-for-1 cocktail for $7.50, and drank something completely indescribable. The entertainment was Duelling Pianos with two obviously very talented blokes playing and joking, but I was not impressed at all. The sound was so loud that it was actually hurting me to listen to. The jokes the guys said were just a little too off-colour (or should I say off-color) for my mood, and some of the humour was quite insulting in that insecure stand-up comic sort of way. After three drinks I managed to pry Ali away from there and we went out to the general casino.
After trying out a few machines, we both sat down in front of this 5 cent machine and began playing. And lo and behold, at 12:30am on Thursday 9th December we eventually received the fabled Vegas drink service. We felt a right pair of dicks actually because when the chicky came back with Ali's screwdriver and my bourbon, Ali asked her how much it cost and was told in a deadpan voice, "It's complimentary, M'am." Hee hee hee. All this must have inspired the gambling gods to look kindly on us, for Ali won $45 on the machine from an initial $5 outlay.
After this we were both ready to drop, so it was back up to the room and to open the Twinkies that I'd bought in the corner store earlier that day. They are not easy to find in Australia but I had had them before, and devoured two or three with gusto. Then it was to sleep.
The following day we were to leave Vegas for New Orleans. I could easily have done without the Vegas portion of the trip. The sheer wealth pouring into that place is staggering, and for me, it was just a bit too much of a disgusting display. I wasn't impressed by the "replicas"; quite frankly I'll be happy to see the Eiffel Tower and the Trevi Fountain. But the real one, not some plastercast knock-off (although I doubt that they were actually made of plaster!). I was not enjoying the food either, and with the sole exception of the Thai dinner we'd had the very first night, I was beginning to think that I'd never enjoy a meal in the US.
But Ali enjoyed Vegas, and for that I was happy that we'd come all this way. She came out a little ahead in the gambling stakes as well, so doubly happy as far as that was concerned. No million-dollar bonus win, however.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
- Schappelle — sha-'pel — noun
- An unwitting and innocent victim of a failed drug smuggling attempt. One who has become the mule (c.v.)
for a drug-smuggling ring without realising it, and is caught by authorities.
eg: That one with the boogie board. She's our schappelle.
- Schappelled — sha-'peld — verb
- 1. To be used as an unwitting accomplice by a drug-smuggling ring, and to be caught in
the process of smuggling drugs.
2. To be the innocent victim of a failed drug-smuggling attempt.
3. To have drugs planted on you by a corrupt official.
eg: Our girl got schappelled at Bali airport. There's 4.5 kilos gone!
Hell, I could be completely wrong, but something just isn't right with this.
Monday, April 11, 2005
I don't normally delve into obscenties, but I had an email from an American correspondent about my reference to the word "route" and the humour I so obviously gain from using it. (Struth! An American reading about my American trip! I better only say nice things about them.)
OK I know, for all you Aussies, it is spelt "root". Here is a link that'll wise you up maybe a little.
Do you get it now? When you "root, root, root" for the home team, it is not only entertaining and enlightening, but enjoyable as well.
Last morning in LA at Manhattan Beach - but missing the waffles for breakfast. Despite this, I'm starting to feel sure that I'm going to come back from home from the US very, very large indeed. A bit of a rush, preliminary farewells to Roz, as Paul is dropping her off at work on the way to the airport. Outside it is overcast and just a little muggy, with the never-ending haze of a normal LA day.
Traffic, despite travelling away from the city south towards Torrance, is terrible. The usual stuff: large break in traffic, accelerate to 60mph, hard break to a full stop, sit and wait, eventually creep on. I question Paul's constant use of the freeways, when we spend so much time on them stopped, surely it'd be quicker on the back streets. I figure afterwards it is his unfamiliarity with the city.
Eventually we arrive at Roz's work; we're seeing them again in less than two weeks, so only a temporary goodbye. Then it's the big turnaround north to get back to LAX. Surprisingly, the traffic back in is not too bad in comparison, though it is possibly the time of day, as it is getting on towards 9:30a. Into LAX, see off Paul, then to United check-in for our flight to Las Vegas.
Uggghh! United check-in. Are they the worst airline in the world? The lines for the check-in were not encouraging. Paul had clued us up about the "Self Check-in" and so we decided to give that a go. Insert a credit card for identification and away it went. Only it didn't. After a while a bloke there took pity on us and gave us a bit of a hand, and after recognising my credit card, a couple of minutes later it did work. So it happily clicked away and told us to wait for someone to complete the process by attaching the stickers to our bags. Only there was no one there to do it. There was a security guard there who frequently advised us and anyone who'd listen that he wasn't allowed to touch the bags at all — it seems United was short-staffed this morning and this guard could see a very humourous side to it all. Eventually one of the two women who were doing normal check-ins broke free and grabbed the bags of us and two or three other people who had self-checked in. Then the security guard picked up the backs and put them on the conveyor. "I'm not really allowed to do this you know." Now, I must admit, I also was seeing the funny side of United's problems. So, "Self Check-in" reduced the check-in time from (say) 30 minutes to about 30 minutes.
Through the bag screening. Ah, not so fast. It seems they didn't like the look of my cigarette lighter and my choice was... none. I could either not board the plane or surrender the lighter. Well maybe a heavily-weighted choice. Luckily it wasn't an engraved lighter or anything, worth about $30. I reckon one of the guard took a liking to it, and it is now lighting his disgusting little tailor-made cigarettes. Up till then my lighter had only either lit my hand-rolled cigs or cigars.
Neither of which I smoked the whole time I was in the US. Ah well.
So they let us go on.
Breakfast at Starbucks, I ordered something better than the "shot" of coffee I'd gotten at Peets, and Ali her normal Cap, and we toddled off to the embarkation area. I did a bit of shop-cruising and picked up a new wallet for $12 to replace my aging Jag one. With all the check-in and security kafuffle we didn't have all that long to wait to board our flight. The flight itself reminded me of my first times flying when I suffered from airsickness quite a bit. I had to actually tell Ali to leave me to myself because all her attention was making me feel more ill. Also driving us both bonkers were the people in the seats in front of us. Quite large people, they talked too loudly and chatted across the aisles and generally made quite a nuisance of themselves to everyone around us.
We landed — at Las Vegas, really only a short flight, and I'd managed to stave off the spewing part of the travel-sickness thankfully. Las Vegas is a bizarre place from the air. It looks like a city picked up from some other place and plonked in this wasteland. And the airport is much closer to the city than any other I'd been to. We exited to plane to see — poker machines inside the terminal. Our mate Ray was right in saying that you cannot walk a straight line in Vegas without walking through poker machines.
The chatty cabby was quite proud to show us billboards proclaiming the "Wonders from Downunder" or something similar. Both male and female version of strippers bought exclusively in from Australia. Hmmm, well I'm glad we're famous for something. He virtually gave us a guided tour of the Strip on the way to our hotel, "...and this one was owned by the same consortium who owns Treasure Island and was built in 1984, blah, blah..." His effort was appreciated though. I was quite frankly too goggle-eyed to pay much attention to the cabbie's spiel. Everything was huge. Hotels, statues, water features, electronic billboards, colours all clashing to compete for your attention and (presumably) the contents of your wallet. And it was also with the cabbie that we first heard those fateful letters "NFR."
It seems this week was the National Finals Rodeo, and there were cowboys everywhere. I mean real blokes walking around in all that wild and crazy cowboy gear as if it were normal to be walking down a city street and knocking people over with the size of your hat brim. And thinking that leather tassels are a great accessory for a shirt. Chaps! No really! There were cowboys everywhere. I have never seen anything like this before in my life.
After a little while we pull up outside Treasure Island, our casino/hotel/home for the next two nights. It is a three-spoked monstrosity, and you can't call it "Treasure Island" — it is "T.I." Check-in was painless. I sort of was expecting to be fighting off bellhops wanting to take our bags upstairs, but everyone was content to handle their own, as was I. The crowds just inside the hotel were simply amazing for the time of day, possibly 1p. The lineup outside the bistro were legendary. Cowboys, cowboys everywhere. So we toddled off on the crooked path to the elevators to our hotel room, dodging cowboys and poker machines with a quickly-learned dexterity.
By the time we'd settled into the room and changed and went back downstairs it was freezing cold and raining, so both tired and me still a little seedy from the flight, we went back upstairs to have a sandwich and a sleep. I took some time to wrestle with the in-room internet access via the television set to check/send emails. Aside from the shockingly bad resolution of the screen, the fingertip joystick on the IR keyboard kept on drifting down, down, so everytime I wanted to click on a button or on a site, it was force the joystick up and hold it up whilst simultaneously pressing the mouse button. Wow. After struggling with this for about 45 minutes and a short read of my book, I joined Ali for a sleep.
We finally emerged, showered, dressed and refreshed around 8:30p! What had happened to the day? The lobby downstairs was noisy, smoky and full of cowboys, so we retreated into the nightclub Tangerines for a couple of hideously-expensive drinks. From there we watched the twice-nightly Pirate show, which, although incredibly cheesy, was amazing for the ship which sails up the lake, and then is sunk by cannon shot — naturally all simulated, but the lake and the people diving into the freezing water were real. And the ship sinks into the lake! Very cool.
After this we made our first excursion outside into the cold night with the hundreds of other people who had watched the show, and we headed south down the strip. One thing which amazed both of us was the sheer size and space of the casinos. For most of the casinos, just to walk from the front door to the street is a huge effort, and I'm certain that it took almost 15 minutes just to walk past the Bellagio. Ali had to get a shot in at the Trevi fountain since she's been to the real thing.
So south along the strip, Mirage, Bellagio, etc. eventually all the way down to New York New York, and it was getting very late and we were very hungry. So we stopped into an Asian buffet to have possibly the worst mixed Asian food of my life. Huge amounts, but dry, tasteless, and spice-free. They even had a Mongolian BBQ set up, but I wasn't game to try it. One of the staff, this piratical-looking bloke with scary tattoos all over his forearms had obviously overheard our accents and came over to talk to us. At first his accent defeated us, but it turned out he was an Indonesian from Surabaya, and wanted to talk about things closer to his home. He had relatives in Darwin. His description of his life certainly furthered the impression of a pirate — we parted wishing him well.
We stopped in at Paris for a quick gamble, well Ali to have a gamble, me to watch. Inside the casino under the legs of the one-third size Eiffel Tower replica, it was like day, there were even clouds painted on the sky blue ceiling. Roz had previously mentioned this tactic of the casinos to fool you into not knowing what time of day it is, and I must say it was very effective. Ali lost about $10 on the "I Love Lucy" poker machine and then we went walking around to perve on the people playing. I was gob-smacked watching these people push bundles of $25 chips around the blackjack tables, and not even showing any interest in the game at all, aside from the mechanics necessary to ensure they weren't absolutely stuffing things up. All the croupiers (or whatever they are called) looked young and bored, and there seemed to be a lot more black people than white working there. Later on up the road at TI, it was the other way around. Do certain casinos have hiring policies?
Eventually we got sick of this and went back to our casino. Ali needed to lose some more money, and the bloke at the prize wheel was quite ready to take $20 off her. I was quite surprised how invisible one becomes when you are merely accompanying gamblers. Gamblers and staff only talk to gamblers, not to others. We stopped in at the "centre" bar for a quick drink. A lot of cowboys were there watching the NFR replays on the telly. I had a brief thought that it was weird that they would spend all day doing it and then go home and watch it, but Ali reminded me that we do exactly the same thing when we film one of our concerts! A couple of drinks later and we'd had enough, it was winding our way through the poker machine maze to show our room keys to the security card at the elevators to prove we weren't terrorists or whatever, and off to bed.
Another day of firsts in the good 'ol US of A.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Last night, it was howling. Me, I had a beer before I went to sleep about midnight and slept like a baby till wakeup at 6:30a. Best night's sleep I've had in ages. While waiting for Al to finish in the shower I went through to the other end of the flat to see if anything had blown off the balcony during the night. We have two balconies, the small one facing the city and the large one facing west. The sliding door to the small one had blown open during the night.
Now I must admit I found it pretty amazing that the door had been blown open. The wind had somehow blown the door hard enough that the catch had disengaged and forced the door open two centimetres at right angles to the direction of the wind!
So I asked Al about this, along the lines of, "Did you hear anything in the night?" since I knew she'd had a restless night. "Now that you mention it..."
Apparently she'd heard a big sound and pressure change during the night, which was (obviously in retrospect) the door being blown open.
M: "Did you get up and check it?"
M: "Did you wake me to get up and check it?"
A: "Well I spoke to you."
M: "Did I answer?"
M: "Do you think that probably meant that I was asleep?"
A: "Oh. Yeah. But I wasn't really awake."
But you spoke to me!! Hmmmmmm. Chick logic, I guess. Hee hee.
So the carpet was a little wet this morning. Not a huge drama as it'll dry soon enough. It sort of reminds me of a mate at a previous work who'd gotten in trouble during the night because his girlfriend cuddled up to him while he was asleep and he'd pushed her away. But he was asleep!!
Mate I feel your pain. It is interesting that if you tell this story to chicks and blokes you get completely different reactions.
- "But he was alseep!" - invariant bloke reaction.
- "Oh she only wanted a cuddle. Are they still together?" - one of a host of chick reactions.
My comment that she was lucky that he hadn't farted on her wasn't taken in the same vein it was delivered. I mean he did have a reputation.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
It got me thinking about how people respond to unwanted calls. This is a subject I've taken some interest in over time. All you have to remember is: you are in control. Once these people have interrupted your sitcom or Sunday night dinner, then the gloves are off, and you can play with them like a cat plays with a lame mouse. After all, they're only salespeople and they haven't got any feelings. And the bottom line is, if you take up their time and costs them more telephone calls, it hits them in the hip pocket. If enough people followed these guidelines, then evetually a bean-counter somewhere will realise that the cost of the calls and the salespeople far outweighs the sales they are bringing in, and the whole thing will fall in a heap.
1. The Hang-Up
I must admit this is my usual response. It is immediate, if less than satisfying. Accompanied by The Abuse though, it is a harsh and direct method of getting rid of them.
All you do is simply hang up on them. You don't have to be nice about it, or give them an explanation. I usually just say "No" or "No thanks" and hang up the phone. I must admit to lamenting the fact that I haven't got a phone that can be slammed down in exasperation. I have to meekly push the correct button.
And really this doesn't achieve anything. If the salesperson has had more than an hour's experience on the phone, then they've definitely gotten over the fact that people actually hang up on them. It just frees them for the next call.
2. The Argument
This is my least favourite method of dealing with these pests, probably because I am not a good thinker on my feet. If you get stumped though you might have to fallback on The Hangup. A lot of people try this one though, probably because they are more pious than myself.
In this method you attempt to reason with the person that it is an inappropriate time to call and that they are engaging in a less-than-reputable business. You'll probably get into a little discussion about when a more appropriate time to call is, and it can carry further on into who the person's supervisor is, where they get their call lists from, why is my name on it etc, etc. If you are the argumentative type, this is a good option for you, because you may actually be able to find out some of this information.
And it has an added benefit of keeping the other person talking to you, and not to other potential customers.
3. The Turnaround
This was the favourite of my previous partner, she used it every single time to her own amusement. I think the original idea came off a Seinfeld episode or something like that.
She would immediately tell the person that she was sorry she couldn't take the call right now, but if the salesperson gave her his home number, she would call back later. The salesperson would usually protest that he couldn't have people calling him at home, which would leave him open to an attack such as: "Well you bloody called me at home!!"
It's good for venting the anger, and it fairly clever, but most salespeople deal with it head-on now.
4. The Jealous Party
This was a favourite when I lived with my previous partner. When she took a nuisance call, I could usually tell within a couple of seconds that it wasn't an friend or something important, so I'd yell out, "Honey!! Is that your boyfriend again?? What's going on? I thought it was over." She would stutter out down the line in a frightened voice, "Look, I've really got to go." and hang up abruptly.
This generally didn't achieve anything except providing a source of amusement for both of us, and possibly for the person at the other end of the line. So everyone is happy.
By the way, don't be tempted to ad-lib in lines like, "I'm going to kill you," or anything like that unless you want a visit from the police domestic violence unit.
5. The Time-Waster
This is a particular favourite of mine, and has the added benefit of taking up the seller's time. This results in fewer sales for that person, ie, their bottom-line.
All that you really need to do is to patiently listen, or completely ignore, it is up to you — though if listening you can add a few "uh-huh's" and "yeh's" in during the spiel. Let them go through their whole spiel, try and drag them out as long as possible, if you can keep them going for ten minutes you're really going well. Saying something like, "Oh that sounds great," or asking for further information really helps things along. At the final hurdle, when they ask, "So can I sign you up?" you can emphatically say no.
If pushed, you can even admit that you were just wasting their time. This has the added benefit of getting them angry with you, which is a real source of amusement.
6. The Redirect
This is a favourite of a mate. He hands the phone off to one of his young children to speak to. The kid doesn't mind playing with the phone, and he reckons it's interesting to pick the phone up off the child a couple of minutes later to hear, "Can you give the phone to Daddy?" Hee hee.
7. The Prop
This was popularised by a food commercial. You need something which beeps near the phone. On the commercial they used a microwave oven timer. You just pretend that you are an answering machine and say your bit ("This is Mike. Please leave your message after the burp. BURP!"). They won't hang around.
Always good fun.
8. The Abuse
I have used this one in the streets of North Sydney when (every other day) I am accosted by people trying to get you to give to charities or just simply begging. When accompanied by The Hangup, it gets your point across.
You just swear volubly at the person on the other end of the line. It can be short and sweet ("P*ss off!") or long and inventive ("You cantankerous whore of a dung-beetle spawn, etc."). Eventually if you continue on for long enough, they will hang up without prompting.
I've got a feeling it might actually be illegal to do this, though, so I didn't tell you about it, right?
9. The Bad Connection
This is a great one for playing with them. Pretend you are on a mobile or bad connection or something. Interrupt them mid-spiel and ask them to repeat themselves. Eventually they will tire of this and offer to call back. Here you can use the same technique, which will definitely get rid of them for good, or change it for another. The more times they call, the more it costs them. The longer you speak to them, the more it costs them.
10. The Put-Off
In this you simply say it is a bad time to call, and give them a time when they can call back. Of course you give them a time when you won't be there and the answering machine can pick it up. You run the risk of them calling back the same time the following night (or whenever), but of course you can repeatedly go on putting them off and they will eventually give up.
I'm sure there are other suggestions. If you wish to comment to add to this list, go right ahead, I'll keep it updated and eventuially move it over to my site: www.micsgarage.com. But you know me, nothing moves with great speed with me ;-)
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
I don't really believe in portents.
While it is technically correct that I didn't get to sleep till 1am, I contend that it wasn't my birthday yet since I wasn't born until 4am. Or 4:21am as my mother reminded me when she rang me at 7:20am this morning. I'm not the ONLY one who thinks this is rather early to be calling someone up, surely.
But this morning, I not only had to contend with an early morning mother call, but I also belted the side of my hand against a picture frame, drawing blood there, and then cut myself shaving. And I've been having a horrid time at work since then.
No I don't belive in portents.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
But now I'm awake. Hence neglected blog.
Thankfully though, it's not the same sleeplessness I have when I stress about non-work things. Money has been the big non-work thing stress recently. I know you're going to think I'm a bit crazy, but when I really, really stress, I have violent nightmares. They generally follow the same pattern where I murder some stranger for some unknown reason. Well, the reason is probably known at the time, but when I wake in fright, I can never remember the reason, I can only remember the horrid violence.
The other night's dream was a little bit novel, though. To set the scene: that evening Ali had two tickets that she'd gotten through school to one of the Sydney Kings vs. Brisbane Bullets semifinal playoff matches. [Basketball, just in case you were wondering.] Ali's school was playing another in a curtain-raiser game, and after watching that, we ventured out of the Entertainment Centre to find some dinner. Chinatown, naturally.
After some discussion, we decided to just grab some Chinese in one of the food courts. It was the worst Chinese food I have ever tasted in my life. Dry chicken, over-battered, extra-peppery. Yucko. Finish up, back to the basketball, Kings slaughtered Brisbane, very enjoyable, train home, sleep.
And that night, another nightmare. The murder: fatal stabbing with a chopstick.
Friday, February 18, 2005
The next commercial comes on. Another community service announcement from some quasi-government mob. Child safety around the swimming pool.
Ali points out the (now) obvious anomaly here: what on earth are commercials lke this doing on at night when kids are in bed asleep? Well my kids usually are asleep. Why don't they put them on during the afternoon?
My first thought was that McDonalds must've committed some crime to have to perform community service like this. And aren't they getting out of it lightly by putting them on late at night when commercials are cheaper? Har-de-har-har.
My second thought was less charitable:the target market for these commercials can't be the children. It must be the adults awake at that hour. Are they trying to, under the banner of community service, trying to boost their brand name? Do people really think, "Oh I saw that commercial late last night telling children how to cross the road safely. Therefore McDonalds must be good. So I'll eat there." You've got to be kidding, that tactic surely doesn't work.
I can't think of any other explanation.
I've broken my McDonalds addiction. Since swearing myself off it late last year, (and our US trip aside, where we just had to try the Macca's) I've only had one late night cheeseburger. I reckon that's pretty good. And driving home after basketball now my car doesn't automatically stear towards the nearest McDonalds. There's three of them on my route. (route -- hee hee hee)
I've also seen Super Size Me (bloated Flash site alert) recently which further put the nail in the Maccas coffin for me. Although I reckoned the film was largely sensational [I mean come on, of course if you eat any fast food for three meals day you're going to adversely affect your health], watching someone do what he did just turned my stomach. Yucko. Arrggh, I can still picture the scene where he's spewing out the car window. Forcing yourself to eat food till you spew! Yucko again.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Waffles for breakfast again! And once again, mine turned out perfectly while Ali's was substandard. Ho-ho-ho. It was even sunny outside. So looking forward to a great day
We got off to an earlier start than the day before, I think we were on the road by 9am. Paul had downloaded the instructions from the net, and to me it seemed a roundabout way to get there. A long way north, then east, then south. Struth! All around LA. But we did get there. During the trip, the weather had turned decidely cold, though thankfully it wasn't raining again. So it was out with the jackets again as we exited at Universal Studios. The parking was a lot less organised than Disney I noted.
As we exited the parking lot we were assaulted by LOUD music. There just wasn't any escape from it. We walked down through all the shops towards the entrance — for some reason it reminded me of Fox Studios in Sydney. Hee hee.
At the entrance, Paul and Roz took off to get photo IDs, as they were season ticket holders or something. Ali and I meandered on in, debated whether or not to have a shot taken with the Marilyn look-alike, decided no, looked at the schedule, and wandered down to the Blues Brothers Show, which was starting in a couple of minutes. I SMS's ("texted" for the rest of you) Paul to let him know where we'd be.
As it turned out, it was the "Christmas" Blues Brothers show, so it did nothing but annoy me. OK, Jake and Elwwod were reasonable facsimiles, and the car was pretty cool, but I think they only sung three numbers from the movie. And they slotted in this other little runty character who they said was Curtis's relative or something. I just couldn't get into it at all — I think Ali may have, though. Paul and Roz caught up with us at the end. they were itching to move on.
First up was Animal Planet. Lots of trained animals and I got to pat one of the doggies out the front. Reasonably entertaining. There was one bird that was trained to retrieve money off people in the crowd. I wondered whether it knew the difference between US currency or other currencies, or even Monopoly money. They used the standard comedy/magic show trick — take the money off the audience volunteer and then "disappear" it. "Oh yes here it is in a thousand pieces," <clap,clap,clap> you get the picture.
When that was over it was over to the Shrek 3D movie, which was very cool. Paul and Roz somehow managed to sit in seats that didn't work — they rock and move back and forth at various points in the movie — but ours did, so it was pretty good. And to top it off, when we exited the movie, Shrek and Fiona were just around the corner having photos taken. Fiona looked a little bored, but she kept in character and even asked me if Ali was"my true love." She didn't understand my colloquial reply I don't think, as she gave me a wierd look, one of those, "Oh my, this is a nutcase, I want to get out of here." I wasn't being nutty at all! Paul and Roz got a photo with Dora the Explorer. No, I don't know who these are either, but they were very popular with the Japanese tourists. In fact, in my notes I had it written down as "Travelling Nora" — almost!
Next stop was the "Van Helsing" ride, which was just like a dimly lit maze, and people jumped out at you. They were quite good, and two months later I still have the bruise yellowing from where Ali gripped my arm very, very hard. The scary things on the walls were just, you know, scary things on the walls, but when someone jumps out in front of you unexpectedly, it was very effective.
We checked the schedule and headed down to the start of the backlot tour. Either our schedule was wrong or they changed it, but one lot left just as we were leaving, with plenty of space on board. Perhaps I had my watch still set on Sydney time? Grrrr. Never mind, it was only a fifteen-minute wait for the next one, and by that time the crowds had piled up behind us. So off we go, looking through the streets of the backlot. The guy running the thing looked like an ex-actor, very well preserved in an LA sort of way. He got the poos a number of times during the ride with whoever was pressing the buttons for some of the special effects. Hee hee that was real funny.
The tour was alright, but I should've taken a notebook with me as I snapped about 150 shots of buildings and things, and have little hope of ever remembering what film or TV show it was used in. "This is the drug store from Man Loses His Pants," <snap, snap>, "and the coffee shop from Battleship Popcorn." <snap, snap>. They also had cool things like the street that flooded with rains — Paul got wet on this one, you can see the sequence here, here, here, here and here. (That'll teach you, putting me at the front of the log ride!) And of course we saw the Jaws set, and this set and that set and King Kong and the largest green-screen in the world and a collapsing bridge and a river that parts (hee hee — "We're at the river now would you part the river? Umm we're waiting here for the river to part, would you please part the river? Ummm yes we're still here can you part the river?" — hee hee. Gee he was getting upset). Anyway, about 45 minutes of tour and we were back where we started.
Time for lunch. This time a proper lunch because I wasn't feeling so queezy as yesteday. We stopped at a pizza cafe and had pizza and beer. I must say, pizza in the USA seems so very much different from pizza back home. It was all I could do to get a pizza with something more than just cheese and tomato sauce on it. OK, yes I agree things are starting to come off the rails a bit now with the "two-layers of thin crust enclosing thick cream cheese for a base" stuff that is going on now, but still, does it hurt you to put bit of capsicum on there (or even some bell peppers ;-) )? The beer was a Heineken I think served in a huge plastic cup. Roz declined the lunch due to her illness. A wise decision for her, since we all agreed it was the worst food we'd had so far.
After lunch was the bottom end of the Park: Backdraft, Revenge of the Mummy, Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park, Revenge of the Mummy, Revenge of the Mummy, then back up the top. With the nice weather, the crowds had grown, so we actually had to wait in line to see Backdraft. To tell the truth I wasn't that impressed with Backdraft — maybe I watch too much television? Jurassic Park was alright, but it was a long ride just to go down the big slope at the end, which was the best part. People were purchasing yellow plastic ponchos for the Jurassic Park ride; we still had our Disneyland ponchos with us, put these on and so looked a little out-of-place. And then we walked off the ride and went straight back in to do it again. The Revenge of the Mummy was voted the best ride by the others. I only had one stomach for it however, and because the lines were small, the other three went on it again, then later Paul and Roz went on it yet again. I cruised the gift shops.
After the long climb back up to the top of the park, we decided to sit in a faux-Mexican bar for a while drinking Margherita's waiting for the Waterworld exhibition to start. When it was getting close, we finished our drinks and headed up there. Paul recommended us to a particular area, ("No keep going, further to the back, further. Further!"), which I was grateful for when I saw the extras start up the show and begin by spraying people within easy reach with water. The show was quite entertaining, and for a lot of the crowd, wet, as they got sprayed with water from the jet skis. This was the largest crowd I'd seen all day, and it was starting to get dark. We had a brief stop off in the gift store to buy souvenirs before heading off — we really had to get going because we had to get from Universal, back to Manhattan Beach and then back into the Staples Centre (<cough, cough> I mean center, sorry) to see the NBA game that Paul had bought tickets for.
The trip home was long and painful. Traffic! Roz was ill and Ali was once again sleeping. Roz decided on the way that she wouldn't go to the game. But regardless, it was a quick turnaround after spending about an hour in the car from Universal to the Hotel. Only twenty-five minutes later we were looking for a parking spot near the Staples Centre.
The NBA. I've always wanted to go see an NBA game. Nothing to do with the fact that I play the game. It just seems a great big enjoyable spectacle. This game was enjoyable. Double-overtime. I didn't even know there was a concept like double-overtime. The LA Clippers defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 99 to 93. I must say the food at the Staples Centre was obsolute rubbish. We tried MacDonalds, a "Street" Dog, Nachos with Cheese Dip. The only thing which we enjoyed was the Dos Equus beer — I think this means "Two X's". What happened to the other two? Har-har.
We were in what is affectionately referred to as the "nosebleed section". I think there were about 10 empty rows behind us and then there was the roof. The players were bizarrely out-of-proportion stick figures. But we could see. It was well worth the money to see the game, and both Ali and I enjoyed it. I think Paul enjoyed it too, since he's a basketballer from wayback. The bloke sitting next to us slept through the whole game. He had his kids with him, but all they did was run riot in the place. We naturally barracked for the home team, despite the obvious draw to Charlotte (my eldest daughter's name). In the USA I guess you could say we routed for the team, but it's not an expression I would use. ;-)
Battling through the crowds, we got home around 11:45p. Another late night. Another great day!
Now let me just say this about Disneyland: People have always said to me, "When you go to the States, you've just got to go to Disneyland!' And I've always been a bit cool to the idea; it's never really been one of my intentions to go there. Well maybe with the kids when they get older. I get motion sickness on the rides, and I've got no particular affection for Mickey Mouse, so I've always reckoned I'd give it a miss.
The previous night Paul had convinced me to go. I was plumping for Universal Studios; he reckoned we could still do that the following day. So I half-heartedly agreed. Anyway, Ali was keen, so that clinched the deal.
Sunday started out drizzly and cold - we wondered if we were going to go to Disneyland at all. We had intended to get up early, but 8am was the earliest any of us could manage. Hunting around for things, I realised that in the frenzy of moving rooms last night, my laptop bag was missing. It didn't have a laptop in it, it was just one of those "maximum carry-on" size bags. So, Paul and I went to reception and picked up a key to the old room and retrieved the bag that had been left behind. I don't want to name names, but when I asked the only other occupant of my bedroom if it had been completely cleared, and she said yes, I sort of thought that it had been completely cleared. Ah never mind.
Breakfast at the "Gatehouse", which was the dining room next to Reception. An introduction to Waffles made fresh. Mine always turned out perfectly, Ali's less so. While munching on our American breakfast (dare I say it: huge), the telly was showing scenes of congestion and snow falls on some of the California highways, and as we were watching, a real live car accident, right behind the on-location reporter. It almost looked staged.
A little bit of debate about whether it would be worthwhile in the rain and cold, but we eventually got underway. A quick stop-off at Fry's Electronics Store to get an extra memory card and battery for my camera. Prices of electronics are incredibly cheap in the States. The 256Mb card cost one-third of the price of a 128Mb card had three months previously in Sydney. Plus they have a "mail-in rebate" system, which gives you an additional discount off the price - you have to fill out the form and mail it to them. I presume they use your money in some high-return high-risk short-term investment in the time it takes to mail and return a cheque. And once again, the store was easily the largest electronics store I'd ever been in.
Paul stopped to get Petrol (or "Gas"). There are blokes waiting at the pumps, not working for the Petrol Station, just to "pump your gas", and presumably get a tip. We managed to avoid this, thankfully.
Finally, finally on our way, I-405 south, I-110 north, 91 east and we'll be there. Traffic notwithstanding, for it was chockers everywhere. Stop-start-stop-start, the traffic has a totally different rhythm to Sydney. In LA, it is either moving very fast or stopped completely. In Sydney, if it is stopped completely, then something is seriously wrong.
12:30 and we're at Disneyland. People eveywhere telling you which direction to head, even though there is only a handful of cars in the lot. "Cast-members" I found out later the employees are called (even though I've read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom). It is very cold, and raining hard, and I am wondering what on earth we are doing there. Board the tram, and into California Adventure Park. The place is a sea of Blue Ponchos and to try and stay dry, we went into the Gift Shop to purchase ours.
First stop was the Tower of Terror Hotel, and looking at it I knew that I really didn't want to ride it. But ride it we did, and I managed not to throw up at the end. Next was the Muppets 3D, which was a new thing for me, a combination film and stage show with 3D glasses. It was very cool. After that we briefly stopped for a lunch, I was still feeling a bit queezy and so only went for fries but Ali went to whole Hot Dog. It was our first introduction to the curious sales tax system they have. You don't bother pre-calculating the bill and preparing your money, because the price on the displays are only indicative of what you have to pay. You always have to add on tax, which they helpfully calculate for you, but unhelpfully, don't tell you how much it is going to be before you buy it. Even though I hate the GST, I prefer to the GST. I asked Paul and Roz, they weren't even sure how much tax should be.
Next "ride" was A Bugs Life, which was interesting, the first film I've ever gotten wet in. Then on to the big roller coaster. The weather and the small number of people meant that we only had 10 minutes to wait for a seat, and I reckon that was the longest we had to wait all day. I was very queezy after this one, and resolved to stay off the nasty rides for the rest of the day. I was tempted to go again: the take-off was spectacular. Many of the remaining rides were closed because of the weather, but truthfully, I would've stayed off them anyway.
Paul had a "corn dog". I struggled to see where the corn was – it looked like a Pluto Pup to me (or a Dagwood Dog).
So on to the Main Park. "Here you leave today and enter the world of yesteday, tomorrow and fantasy." Cool!
Main Street USA was pumping because the truck with all the characters was just going past. Here it was busy, and still wet. We walked up the main road and got to Cinderella's Castle. It was so small that I had to make a comment about it, and Paul told me that it was exactly his reaction on first seeing it. There was a chicky selling ice-cream, so I bought a Mickey Cookies and Cream ice-cream sandwich. It was frozen solid, and I very nearly broke a tooth eating it. Alison snapped a good series of shots of this, here, here, here and here.
The first ride was the Jungle Boat Cruise. The chicky taking the cruise worked very hard with some very poor jokes to inspire some laughter out of us all, but hardly a reaction unfortunately. I think some of the jokes were as old as some of the plastic creatures looked. The next was the Indiana Jones ride. We walked straight onto the ride, through about 16 miles of fake tunnel. The ride itself was very cool, and not as sickening as I thought it would be. At first I thought some of the dummies were real people!
We did a brief gift shop pause. Paul had torn his flimsy poncho and wanted a new one. I think he managed to convince the salesgirl that the thing had self-destructed on first use.
Down to New Orleans. I took particular interest since (the real) New Orleans was one of our stops. And the Paddleboat in the lake was particularly impressive. I almost got lost finding the toilet, but managed to find the others again, waiting for me outside the Pirates Of The Carribean. When I think of Disneyland I think of the Pirates, so I was definitely looking forward to this one.
Once again, no wait, straight into the first boat, with that view of the beautiful twilight restaurant. I took a great many photos, some with flash, some without. Now either the announcements were broken, or we got onto a boat before the announcements were made, but I swear I didn't hear ANYTHING about not taking flash photos before or during the ride until we were in the long wait at the end to debark. As soon as I heard that I said "Oops," and turned to the others. They had not heard it either.
I was dark outside and I had to check my watch: 4:30!! I guess I was still in Daylight Savings mode. Onto the Haunted Mansion. Once again, the biggest wait was the trundle through the maze to get to the entrance. What a ride! And how do they get the ghosts to dance?!
Next up was the log ride. It was very wet. And being in the front of the log (in fact, I do recall that Paul and Roz insisted I go in the front), I had so much water pouring into my eyes from the rain and the ride that I didn't see the final plunge except as a vague, murky black drop.
We decided to break for dinner, and plonked exhausted into the Horseshoe Bar for a Chilli in Sourdough Bread Basket. A show was starting up in a couple of minutes so we decided to wait it out to let our jumpers and ponchos dry out. Bluegrass Band? Well I must say I wasn't expecting much. How wrong I was. Totally entertaining, talented blokes. They even donned wigs for a Beatles number "Ticket to Ride" if memory serves. Very humourous as well, and goes to prove that it doesn't really matter what you play as long as you can entertain. After this it was back on with the wet clothes and back into the park.
Up into Littles Land most of the rides were closed, the Dumbo ride, the Teacups, but Roz insisted we go on It's A Small World. The song had been modified for Christmas, so I was tortured for about twenty minutes with Christmas carols. I thought it interesting that they play to the stereotypes. The Australian dolls were obvious – one blond bloke with a surfboard next to a kangaroo, and a couple of aborigines. It made me wonder how many other of the nationalities I recognised from the stereotypes only.
One thing we noticed: the place was clean! In fact at one point, one bloke was actually sweeping the pooled water away. We decided to catch the last train once around the park from nearby, and ended up back where we started. We had a brief visit to see the little houses, and sure enough Minnie Mouse was home. I tore my poncho in a rush to get it off and have a photo with her. Minnie has great legs (for a mouse), but I suspect that she was just a young girl.
It was getting quite late now, and we still had Tomorrowland to go. Most of the rides were closed. "No, I didn't go on Space Mountain," to your next question. It was undergoing repairs for the season. About the only thing open was Innoventions, good for the kids, but a little boring for us. So back out onto Main Street and to do the obligatory gift-shopping. We arranged a half-hour limit with Paul and Roz and split up. When we met up with them again, they'd decided to buy Charlotte and Josephine some Disney jewellry, so it was back into the shops with them to decide on what to get. I just had to get a Mickey Mouse watch, as I've always wanted one. Paul got a matching one for Charlotte, so we can do the Daddy-Daughter thing.
The 9:30 fireworks display was cancelled because of the weather, so we left. A quick trip home to Thai leftovers for supper and an exhausted drop into bed.
Overall: Disneyland. A little bit cheesy in places, but the whole experience was overwhelmingly positive and enjoyable. Maybe the cheeziness became less noticeable to me over time. And it helped I guess that the crowds were small, as I have heard comments from other friends about how intolerable it is to wait 70 minutes in line for a three-minute ride. And bloody-hell we're in Disneyland of all places! Music played ALL the time. And the whole Cast-Member/Guest versus Staff/Customer thing was very novel.
Despite the weather, a thoroughly enjoyable day.