Entry #5, my most late night post to date, and I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start off in reference to my last post… I figured out what type of bird Tom is! Of all the exotic species I had sought after, it turns out the damn thing is just an Australian Raven (black crow). Give it a listen though, the little bugger sounds creepily like someone dry heaving in high pitch. And it goes on for, I'm not even kidding, hours at a time outside my window. Gross.
So we’ll start with Thursday… spent the whole day in a sales workshop at a hotel across the street from the office. 6 hours of presentations I sat through and maybe half of them actually pertained in some way to what I do for a living. Nonetheless, always good to know the other side of the Sherpas business. The whole Australian/New Zealand team made it out for drinks and dinner afterwards at a place called the Chophouse. Ironically, I have spent many evenings the the Chophouse in Atlanta… yet the one here had absolutely nothing to do with the Atlanta Braves. I had the lamb chops, which were exquisite, and managed to polish off at least two bottles of wine before deciding my best move was to take the train home before the werewolves came out at midnight.
Friday was far more extreme… yet another company event, but this one much more celebratory. All fifty of us hopped on a bus together and headed over the Paddington Bowling Club, or “Paddo Bowls,” as the locals would call it, around noon. Now let me start by saying this is not your traditional Lebowski-style bowling, but rather LAWN bowling, which strikes me as an extremely aristocratic version of Bocce Ball. You throw the jack (small ball) out onto a 40-yard-long, finely manicured lawn and then each of the two teams proceeds to roll half a dozen “bowls” each to see who can get closest to wherever it lands. Here’s the catch: unlike Bocce Balls, the lawn bowls are lopsided and oval-shaped, with one side being weighted heavier than the other so you have to “play the curve” in order to hit your target. Sunscreen is mandatory since the UV rays here are essentially the same as the planet Mercury. In order to keep the players cool during the competition though, a seemingly endless amount of ice cold beer and cider is catered out to the teams during gameplay… needless to say we were a better team when we started than when we finished - 5 hours later, somewhere between 3rd and 8th place. The people I work with here are awesome, I've decided.
After lawn bowls we headed to Surry Hills, one of the trendy “going out” districts here, for a happy hour - as if we needed it - and dinner. Things got sloppy quickly and, as the sun started to set, we rallied a group to yet another bar where I shamelessly hit on some Australian girls, before I realized I was over it and dipped out with Zac to a late night poker game with a crew of ex-patriot Americans he’s friends with. It was refreshing to hang with a group that all spoke the same U.S. tongue I did, for once. 2AM came around and, only a few Glenlivets down and merely $20 behind, I called it a night and stumbled out to the streets on a mission to find a Döner Kebab shop that could satiate my 4th meal cravings. I came up empty-handed, called a cab, and made my way home to make a pot of pasta (which I didn’t remember but discovered in the sink the next morning).
Queue my first real Australian hangover on Saturday. I had only one task prepared for this weekend, which seemed easy enough, yet it turned out to be the most mind-numbing 5 hour journey I’ve embarked on here yet: a trip to IKEA.
So I scored a mattress and a bed in the first week here, but have since been living out of suitcases in a tiny bedroom with a three door closet containing only hanger bars but no shelving… there’s literally no shelves, drawers, or anywhere to store anything aside from the ground. Underwear, shorts, shoes, you name it. For the few of you that have lived with me (I can be a bit “territorial” with where I toss my shit), this is a nightmare. I thus set out on a journey to pick up some organizational essentials, which the Swedes are ever so good at, and a desk, which I’d already picked out online and would fit perfectly between my bed and wall, serving as a dual-purpose nightstand. The closest Ikea is in Tempe, Australia, which is a 45-minute train ride and then still another mile from the station. After pounding two vitamin waters, inhaling a banana, and building a thorough shopping list, I embarked on this journey with the hopes of easily acquiring all I needed and making it back home before dark.
Now I openly pride myself as what I like to call a "power consumer," always able to find the best deal on the best stuff, that somehow comes together in a tasteful manner. So therefore Ikea, to me, is both a curse and a blessing, elevating my heart rate to 90 beats per minute from the second I walk in and maintaining stress-level midnight as I make my way through the gallery and into the warehouse. “Is this a good bargain?” “Will that fit?” “Can I even drill into the wall where I’d like to mount this thing?” I filled up two whole Ikea bags (y’all know how big those things are) before I even made it to the self-service area and then went in for the desk which, in theory, seemed like something I could carry flat-packed under one arm. Haha… yeah right! Maybe if I had Kevin Durant’s wingspan, I could have walked more than 20 steps at a time without having to set this bitch down. It was a SIXTY-FIVE POUND BOX that was four feet long. It quickly dawned on me that I had two options… either go ahead and purchase the two huge bags of stuff that I had meticulously picked out over the last 2 hours and go home deskless. Or bail on the riff-raff, and carry home the desk I had truly come for, which clearly required both arms. “I simply can’t do this,” I thought, “but if I come back later...I can just make two trips and get everything home alright.” The other side of my conscience reminded me that, having to take the bus back home, that would be an additional 3-hour round trip back to Ikea!
It was right then, in the midst of all those “I can’ts” that I remembered that one scene in the Sandlot, where Babe Ruth appears before Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez, and poetically says, “Heroes get remembered… but legends never die. Follow your heart, kid.” I found a yellow Ikea dolley nearby that I could use to actually maneuver, albeit haphazardly, the desk around with one arm. Then approached the first slightly shady employee I could find and asked him how hard it would be to just straight up walk out of the store with one. He then walked me over to the registers, which made me kinda nervous, but I knew I could play the estranged foreigner card if need be, and he showed me the rack where you could LEGALLY purchase the same dollies for $20… challenge accepted! I’d be carrying 50lbs worth of home goods in two bags over one arm and then toting around 65lbs more of flat-packed hardwoods with the other. World’s Strongest Man style. I can honestly say, I looked like a damn idiot having to take three separate trips to load all my stuff onto the bus, which was still a quarter-mile walk to the stop with rubber legs. But finally getting home with all I came for was epicly rewarding. Legitimately, I wish I’d taken a picture of all the things I’d carried from point A to point B because it’s far more than any sane human should ever consider moving by his or herself. Also, I splurged on the meatballs while I was there… you really have no choice. I had the meat sweats for the next 2 hours. The 95 degree heat didn't help. Ikea rant over.
Bedroom stage 2... the tiger-striped blanket I found on discount from a going-out-of-business sale at a textiles shop down the road to hold me over the first 2 weeks. Thank God I have a real comforter now and I can freely donate it to Mike Tyson.
After making it back late Saturday afternoon, I was beat. All I wanted to do was shut myself in, since my roommates had both taken off for Melbourne this weekend and I had the place to myself, and put together all the stuff I’d purchased in an effort to make my room feel like home… but that’s not what legends do. My buddy Marty, the only true Sydney local I’d met before moving here while at a sales conference out in San Fran, invited me out to Clovelly Beach, South of my place in Bondi, where he lived, for a two-man pub crawl. His girlfriend was out for the night, and he promised to show me some of the glory of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. I took a shower and acquiesced without second thought… after all, I needed a break.
Marty picked me up in his Jeep Liberty (the American-ness of it cracked me up, despite the driver-side being shotgun) and we cruised over to his place, just a 15-minute stroll to the South Beaches, where we snagged a 6-pack and caught up in his apartment watching cricket. We joked about how, back in October, I had mentioned halfheartedly that I might be considering a job in Australia and, despite how farfetched it seemed at the time, here we both were... only a few miles away from each other. After the sun set, he and I walked down to Clovelly beach, a very deep inlet with only limited sand and mostly surrounded by concrete. Nonetheless, it seemed like it would have been a real happening spot in the summer when the tide was up. Full moon, like the brightest I’d seen since I’d been here, was spilling down across the waters. In the words of Brandon Boyd, “the sky resembles a backlit canopy, with holes punched in it.” As the moonlight reflected and refracted over the slow ebbs of the docile night waves, I realized how smart I was to have come out that night.
Despite the low-lighting, I snapped some meaningful shots of the reflection, only my phone can't find them now... this never would have happened with my iPhone. Just saying.
Marty and I ventured back up a few hundred yards from the beach to the Clovelly Hotel Bar, which was unexpectedly a happening joint, grabbed some dinner and a few pints littered with intermittent tequila shots, before doing some astute people-watching and then climbing the hill back up to his place. We talked work for awhile, as he holds a similar pro-Google job to mine, but managed to polish off a bottle of Jim Beam before the night caught me and I felt immediately inclined to catch a cab home.
I had promised Marty I’d go play touch rugby with he and his mates on Sunday afternoon but, after waking up Sunday nursing a 3-day hangover and a bad thumb (which I clearly sprained or fractured trying to ride a Ripstick down my hallway with a beer-in-hand 2 nights before leaving Atlanta), I decided it was better to wait until next week.
It still hasn’t caught up to me that Sydney is my home now. I think about it now and then, when I try and rationalize decisions or decide to “take my time” rather than forcing myself out every night in order to not miss anything, as most people do on vacations or studies abroad… but it’s slowly starting to sink in. And it’s a comfortable feeling: the complacency of knowing I can take my time to slowly get to know this place, build new friendships, and always be able to come back to whatever I didn’t get enough of the first time around. As for now though, this trip seems to be just a vacation. I’ll be back in Atlanta the first weekend of February for my final goodbye’s and then it’s truly “Bon Voyage America” and “G’Day Australia.”
Today it kinda rained... first non-beautiful day in Sydney since I've been here. And the Niners lost this morning.
But hey, without the sour, the sweet is never as sweet....