Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cabramatta Diet Plan

A few weeks ago, I went down to a place called Cabramatta with Ross & Jonathon.  In the Vietnamese language, the word Cabramatta means “Where the fuck are we?”

Ok, no it doesn’t.  Well, it might, but I really don’t know.  I’m going to assume no.

Cabramatta is a suburb somewhere in between East Bumblefuck and BFE, about 45 minutes away from Sydney by train.  Historically a diverse area due to nearby immigrant housing projects, the population of the area swelled with immigrants from Southeast Asia after the Vietnam War.  This turned Cabramatta into somewhat of a little Vietnam.  So, before venturing into the real Asia one day, I figured this would be a good introduction.

There’s one important thing I confirmed in Cabramatta:  I don’t like Vietnamese food.

I mean, I like Asian food, and it’s a staple of my diet.  Thai food is great, and I love (Americanized) Chinese food – especially on Christmas!  I’ve tried Vietnamese a time or two before and never really enjoyed it, but that was in Houston so I thought maybe it would be better here.  This was the real deal.  And it was definitely worse.

We walked around the streets passing by dozens of little markets just full of meat-like substances that I would never consider putting anywhere near my mouth.  Then we sat down at a restaurant and I looked over the menu.  Pork, prawns, pork, prawns, pork, pork, pork, beef, prawns.  Not great for a Jew.  And I don’t eat beef either.  They had a few chicken dishes, but the photos next to the selections looked questionable.  What part of the chicken was this meat coming from?  And are we sure it’s actually a chicken?

I decided on a vegetarian dish.

I got noodles and vegetables.  The dish was bland.  Extremely bland.  What do vegetarians do in Vietnam?  How do they survive?  All I could think about was how good a burrito would’ve been right about then.  That led me to an epiphany:  I should move to Cabramatta.  Or Vietnam.  Either one.  With all that bland, boring, tasteless, rubbery food, can you imagine how much I wouldn’t eat, and how much weight I would lose?  I’d look like a starving Ethiopian in a matter of weeks.  Wait, wait.  Let me rephrase that.  I’d look like a starving albino Ethiopian in a matter of weeks.  That’s better.

The question that I’d like to pose is:  Why can’t all Asian food be like P.F. Chang’s?

You don’t have to answer that question, because I know some of you will be up in arms.  But just think about it.  The world would be a better place.

Cabramatta is a taste of Asia… and it tastes bad.

This brings me back to that shotgun Buddhist Vietnamese wedding that I went to back in college.  The bride’s family was the band, and they were nothing more than stereotypical drunk karaoke singers who only spoke a smattering of English.  This one dude struggled through Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”.  It was painful.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Please Do Not Enter The Chicken

Every November in Sydney, the sand and cliffs between Bondi Beach and Tamarama Beach are littered with dozens of new-fangled pieces of modern art.  This is called “Sculpture by the Sea”.  Now, I’m not a huge art person, especially modern art, but after seeing the Biennale a few months ago, I thought this would be great as well.  And it was, but it almost didn’t happen.

First try:
Todd, my top hetero activity buddy (that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?), and I planned on heading out early to see the sculptures.  The weather for the day was questionable, but the forecast said the weather might be ok in the morning and then shitty in the afternoon.  So, we awoke at the butt crack of dawn and met for breakfast around the corner at the cute baristas’ place and then planned on taking the bus down to the beach from there.

Well, that plan didn’t work out so well.  The weather in the morning was… terrifying.  I don’t think I’ve seen rain that hard in Sydney before.  So we had our brekkie and then parted ways back to our respective houses for additional sleep.  Later on that afternoon, when the weather was supposed to be worse, the sun started to peek its head out.  I had already made other plans.  Bastard.

Second try:
So, the next day – Sunday – we tried again.  I had brunch plans already but we met in the early afternoon and bussed down to the beach.  My friend Karen joined us this time.  We arrived and the weather was delightful.  Unfortunately, everyone else thought the weather was delightful too.  The narrow trail through all the art was littered with more people than you can imagine.  You could barely move and I kept getting pushed and brushed up against inappropriately.  It was sort of like a gay club in that everyone who you didn’t want touching you was touching you and all the hotties were off somewhere else, but different in that it was outdoors and the people were a different breed of gross (but overall, the whole experience was completely and absolutely and utterly miserable… just like the gay clubs usually are).  Fuck this.

We left half way through.  Not worth it.

Third try:
The following weekend, on the second to last day of the exhibition, Todd and I met once again at an ungodly hour of the morning:  8am.  That’s pretty ungodly for a Saturday.  We bussed to the beach and… we beat the crowds!  Hooray!  We walked around for an hour and a half or so and we didn’t have to shove our way through to see everything, and we didn’t have all the children running around, and we didn’t have the old people with delusions of actually being able to climb the stairs at a reasonable pace, and we didn’t get bumped and shoved and inadvertently manhandled by people who have no place manhandling anyone, and we didn’t have the Asian tourists out there in full force with their cameras posing in front of each and every sculpture to take sixteen group photos.  Not to stereotype or anything, but seriously people.

And at the end, the masses of pesky tourists and onlookers and other undesirables had begun to arrive.  But we were done by that time, so we didn’t care.  I guess the third time really was the charm.  So now, without further ado, I present to you:  Sculpture by the Sea, in pictures:

The yellow light means:  “Proceed with caution, there’s some strange shit on exhibit here today.”

Dude, cool shades!

Nothing screams modern art like a big metal chicken.

Honey, do you think the kids are old enough for the bestiality talk?

Todd, I think you should have that foot checked out by a doctor.

Oh my god, Becky, look at her butt.  It is so big…

No no Todd.  We need your OMG face, not your WTF face…

Let’s paint the town… red!

"Oi, Ethel!  Look at all the candles on that menorah!  There must've been a really big miracle here!"

I think they’re watching us.  We’d better go…

Monday, November 22, 2010

A History Lesson

I’ve been meaning to blog about my day trip to a place called La Perouse since August… and now it’s November and I’m just getting around to it, mostly because a mate of mine is in town from the States and we’ve been doing heaps of things that I’m going to want to blog about over the next few weeks and it wouldn’t make sense for me to blog about those without blogging about this first seeing as it’s from August and I’m trying to do this somewhat chronologically.

I’ve been putting off blogging about La Perouse for months now, mainly because I just don’t know how to make it exceptionally funny and/or entertaining for my blog.  There’s nothing funny and/or entertaining about La Perouse... unless you’re a nerd.  Seeing as I’m a nerd, I absolutely loved this place.  What you are about to read may overwhelm you with nerdiness, so I caution you readers with a low tolerance for nerdiness to stop now and just wait for the next blog to come out.  This just might be too much for you.

Picture it:  Sicily, 1918.  Just kidding!  Nothing like a good Golden Girls reference to start a blog post…

Picture it:  Sydney, 2010.  A young American man who had been in Sydney for just over 6 months hops on the mystery bus (393) that runs by his front door every 20 minutes and ends up a half-hour later at a place called La Perouse.  It was a warm day – warmer than it should have been for Sydney in August – so it was the perfect day to get out of the house.

Ok, I’ll stop with the Golden Girls formatting.

So, I ended up in La Perouse – about 30 minutes south of my house on the shore of Botany Bay.  Botany Bay was where the First Fleet (the name of the boats carrying the first British military and prisoner settlers) first came into Sydney, but quickly backtracked out and headed up to Sydney Harbour to establish their settlement.  A day later, a French explorer named La Perouse landed in Botany Bay, quickly realized that the British had already settled, said a quick hello and then peacefully bid them adieu.

Can you imagine if the French had been first and settled Australia and now everyone here spoke French?  That would be horrible, and for sure I wouldn’t have moved here.  Stupid French.

Anyway, I guess the Brits decided to name this area of Sydney after La Perouse as sort of a thank you for fucking off and leaving them alone to conquer this great land for the English-speaking world.  The area was nice – little beaches and hiking trails… and a fort sitting on a very small island in the bay.  Someone had mentioned the fort to me that morning as a thing to do in La Perouse, but I didn’t really pay too much attention to it as none of the guidebooks really highlighted it.  But, as I arrived, I realized that I had time for a quick tour of this little fort and one was about to start.  10 minutes and $10 later I was about to nerd out.  And…

The tour fucking rocked, and I can honestly say it was one of the most interesting things I’ve done in Sydney.  Yes, the Opera House is stunning and intriguing, and the Harbour Bridge is quite magnificent, but this little teeny fort captivated me.  First of all, the little island that it sits on is called “Bare Island”.  Not a great name for an island bearing a military fortress, but whatever.  Second, the island is connected to the mainland by a little rickety wooden footbridge.  Again, not instilling faith in Australia’s military history, but I’ll let it slide.

The tour guide – a very nice female park ranger – seemed to have an absolute love for Australian military history.  It was bordering on fetish.  Seriously.  She told us all about the fort, why it was built, all of the weapons it housed, and so on and so forth.  I have never met anyone so knowledgeable or excited about military history and I sort of wanted to invite her to join my trivia team.  But that might have come off as slightly creepy.  But seriously, what other information did she have up her sleeve?

I won’t bore you with all the details, but to summarize:  it was built in response to the Crimean war because the Brits were afraid that the Russians would try to invade Australia.  Only two or three decades later, the Brits realized that this piss-ant little fort could defend Australia just about as well as I could on horseback, and they decommissioned it.  It was later turned into a retirement home for veterans (WTF?) before it was condemned and handed over to the National Park Service for restoration.

Did I mention that Australia is pretty much completely incapable of defending itself?  It’s a big barren coastline and they don’t have nearly enough people to guard it, let alone enough tax dollars generated from the small population base to buy sufficient weapons or build sufficient military bases for the size of the land.  But that’s ok, because Australia plays nice with America and the UK and knows that both countries will probably come to its rescue in a time of crisis… except for during World War 2 when the Japanese were bombing Darwin and other parts of the northern coast of the continent… the US and the UK were busy on other fronts then and the Aussies could really only hope that the Japanese would just go away… but things will be different during the next war, right?  I learned all of this during my one-hour tour of Bare Island.

Seriously, it was one of the coolest, most informative things I’ve done in Sydney.  It was sort of like watching a documentary on the History Channel or the Discovery Channel - except I was actually there, seeing and touching it all, not sitting on my couch hungover with a bag of Cheetos, half-naked and slowly passing out.  This was WAY better.

So, in summation, if you’re from the States and planning on visiting Sydney, then you need to put this on your list of things to do right up there with the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  And if you’re in Sydney and you’re reading this:  go check out Bare Island in La Perouse.  Tours are on Sundays only and run at 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30pm.  Afterward, you can grab a bite to eat at a waterfront cafĂ© and then head over to the nude beach for some people watching.


Now look at that piddly footbridge.  And the fort trying to hide itself under the grass… pish.

When the Russians invade, we can shoot them with this.  Or we can shoot the French just for shits.

I will most certainly be off the island well before sunset.

Before or after your tour, enjoy some time at the beach!

Just watch out for the nudists. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dear Oprah

Dear Oprah,

I heard you were coming to town.  I heard you were going to do two shows at the Sydney Opera House.  I was excited.  I was anxious.  I was hopeful.  I was determined to get tickets to your show.

Fuck you for getting my hopes up, bitch.

Seriously.  I know you’re rich and all, but what on god’s green earth makes you think you can torment people like this?  You announced it and then said that you are going to raffle off tickets.  I waited patiently by my computer for weeks, and then registration opened – a very short period – and I registered.  I registered with my Gmail address and used my US physical address.  Then I registered with Yahoo e-mail address and used my Australian physical address.  And when the form said I had to specify a guest, I specified my friend Karen on the first registration and my friend Jason on the second registration, and then they both went and registered and specified me as their guest.  And we did this for each of the two tapings.  That’s my name in the raffle eight times.  Surely I was bound to get a ticket somewhere, right?


I received the e-mail:

The Oprah Show Reservation Request Status

Thank you for your interest in attending The Oprah Show from Sydney, Australia.

Unfortunately, we were unable to accommodate your request(s) for this ticket reservation window due to overwhelming demand. We will email you if more tickets become available for these tapings of The Oprah Show in Sydney, Australia.

Of course, my first move after this:  text Karen and Jason to see if they got tickets.

Me:  I got an e-mail from Oprah saying that she wouldn’t give me tickets :( I never really liked her anyway…

Jason:  Bitch.

Karen:  Fuck her.  She’s fat.

Well, there goes that.  But wait!  A day later and another e-mail from the Oprah show!  Could I be off the waiting list and into the audience where I’ll receive glamorous Oprah gifts beyond my wildest dreams???


Status of Your Ticket Request for The Oprah Show

Oh this could be it!!!

Thank you for your interest in attending 'The Oprah Show' from Sydney, Australia. You are receiving this email because we have had reports that some of you may not have been able to view the previous version that was sent.  We are sending this email to ensure you are aware of the status of your ticket request(s).  

Unfortunately, we were unable to accommodate your request(s) for this ticket reservation window due to overwhelming demand. We will email you if more tickets become available for these tapings of The Oprah Show in Sydney, Australia.

We apologize for any confusion you may have encountered.

You apologize for any confusion???  Ok, bitch.  That’s it.  You’re gonna get it.  Here we go.

First of all, I got your first e-mail.  I got it loud and clear.  And I got it in both of my e-mail addresses so I had to read it twice.  Just rub it in how great you are and how we – the common folk – the plebeians – the huddled masses yearning to breathe free – aren’t allowed to see your majesty because we’re just too far down the ladder for your royal highness.  Pish.  You may eat at the 5-star restaurants, but you know you’re a McDonald’s girl at heart.  And I?  I am a Chipotle boy, and I don’t think anyone would disagree when I say that Chipotle is of a much higher caliber than Mickey D’s.

Secondly, Karen was right.  I saw your interview with the Jackson family earlier this week.  And I saw your arms.  How could I not?  They were blocking half the shot.  Did you eat Gayle?  Was she hiding in there somewhere?  Now, I know I’m no skinny bitch.  And that’s fine.  But you – you are a BILLIONAIRE.  You have more money than Jesus’ publicist and yet you can’t afford a personal trainer to make you look all good and shit?  Hell, you even have your own personal chef.  Tell him to stop feeding you fatty foods and to steam your ass some celery or zucchini or something.  And, also, don’t be drinking gravy as your beverage at dinner.  Not good.

Thirdly, yeah yeah yeah – you give away shit.  And you gave a whole audience cars one day a few years back, but you know what – you gave them Pontiacs.  Pontiacs.  Of all cars, you gave them the shittiest.  Didn’t GM discontinue Pontiac not too long ago?  And do you know why?  Because they suck.  That’s why.  You gave your whole audience shitty cars.  Why not a Honda?  Or a Nissan?  Or even a Subaru?  Yes, Subaru screams lesbian or hippie or lesbian hippie or hippie lesbian, but they’re practical and those people in the audience sure could use the all wheel drive.

And last – but certainly not least – you ruined America.  Oh yes, I’m going there.  Your fat ass campaigned for Barack Obama during the primary and he edged out Hillary Clinton.  Now, look around you, Oprah.  Do you see what’s going on?  All that hope and change… oh wait… it’s not there.  There’s no hope and there’s been no change.  The healthcare thing was ok, but really doesn’t go as far as Hillary’s proposal would have.  And he’s completely ignored gay rights.  And he didn’t pull the troops out of Iraq like he said he would.  And he squandered his supermajorities and now the Republicans took the House back and we’re all fucked.  You have a lot of weight to throw around, Oprah, and you threw it in the wrong direction.  Millions of American women read every book you tell them to and always do exactly what you tell them to do and had you told them to be pragmatic and vote for Hillary Clinton I think our nation would be a hell of a lot better off.  Seriously.  I blame you and your followers.

And Gayle King.  As your secret lesbian lover, she should’ve stopped you.

In summation, I’d like to point out that this offence is just the rotten cherry on top of the bitter icing on the hate cake.  The cake which you probably just devoured in one humongous bite.


p.s.  Oprah, if you’re reading this:  I love you!  Please send me tickets to your show!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Horse Named Shocking

… can go fuck itself.  And considering the size of a horse penis, that should be a fairly easy yet excruciatingly painful task.

I suppose I shouldn’t take out my anger on the horse.  I should take it out on two of my co-workers who tried to lead me down the path toward Gamblers Anonymous.  I got a little swept up with all of the excitement of the Melbourne up.  I really hadn’t been all that into it until I arrived at work on the morning of race day.  First up, the two aforementioned gambling addicts were taking everyone’s orders for bets so they could go down to the TAB and buy tickets for everyone.  I decided to do a modest bet – a few bucks on a box trifecta flexi bet  - naming the top 3 horses in whatever order.  So, I did a little research and picked some horses that had cute jockeys and reasonable odds.  I use the term “cute jockeys” loosely.  From the fairly poor quality pictures, most of the jockeys strikingly resembled Gollum from The Lord of The Rings, but a few seemed to be fairly attractive so I decided to make that my basis for betting.

Not the best idea, but I’ve had worse ones…

So, I picked my three horses (Shocking, Zipping, and Maluckday) and then noticed that everyone else was picking different horses.  Ok fine.  I’ll get a second box trifecta flexi bet and put three more horses down (So You Think, Americain, and Profound Beauty).  Those three were all ranked fairly high.  I didn’t look at the photos of the jockeys.  But in an interview afterward, one of them sure did look like a little troll creature.

Then we had the office sweeps.  You put in a few bucks and pull a horse from a hat (not an actual horse, but a piece of paper with a horse’s name on it).  We did one just for our team – 12 people with two horses each.  I pulled two horses that were unfamiliar to me.  That means they weren’t ranked high AND the jockeys looked like baboons.

And then there were the sweeps for the whole office – not just our team.  So there was a little more money, and again, I pulled out a no-name horse with a little troll creature riding it.

And then I had to go down to the TAB because the box trifectas weren’t the best idea and I should’ve bet on individual horses.  So I did.  I did a few bucks on Shocking – last year’s winner with a relatively cute jockey –and Zipping – another horse with a relatively cute jockey and halfway decent odds – and I did the bet where they only need to place (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) for me to win money.

Then, at 12:30 our team exited the building and walked down to the Belgian Beer Bar where we had a fancy shmancy lunch, several rounds of Chimay, and watched the race on their big screen.  But before that – the waitresses came around with the Belgian Beer Bar sweeps.  Ok, what’s a few more dollars?  Well, I pulled another shitastic horse.  Great.

And then they were off!  And a minute later they were done!  And I glanced at my tickets and realized that I had won zilch.  Nada.  Nothing.  Zero.

My sweeps horses didn’t do so well…

For my team sweeps, Monaco Consul and Zavite came in 14th and 22nd, respectively.  There were only 24 horses and one never started and one failed to finish, so really, my 22nd place horse was dead last.  Fail.

For the office sweeps and the sweeps at the restaurant, my horses – Holberg and Precedence – came in 6th and 8th – a nice showing but it didn’t do me any good.

Then there were my trifectas.  For my first trifecta, my horses finished in 2nd, 4th, and… 18th.  Great.  And my other trifecta:  1st, 3rd, and… 17th.  Even better.  I picked the top 4 horses and two stragglers ruin the whole damn thing for me.  Balls.

And as for Shocking and Zipping – the two horses that I bet money on?  Well, Zipping made a respectable effort placing in 4th – just shy of me winning some money.  And last year’s winner – Shocking – well, his performance was shocking.  18th place.  You know what that means…

The final damage tally:  I was out $52 for the day.  I’ll make it up next year…

Saturday, November 6, 2010

24 Horses, 1 Cup

Can you imagine the whole United States just coming to a complete standstill?  It’s hard to imagine, and it would take something huge to make it happen.  A terrorist attack could do it, but I can’t think of anything else.  Possibly a hurricane – but that would be more localized.  Aliens maybe?  Ok, probably aliens, but we’d probably just kill them and move on with our days.  And holidays?  Maybe a few, but not really.  So much stuff these days is open on Thanksgiving and Christmas that they hardly feel like holidays anymore.  We used to be confined to the typical Jewish Christmas of Chinese food and a movie, but now there are tons more options:  Indian food, brewpubs, TGI Fridays, and even some grocery stores will remain open.  Definitely not a standstill.

But in Australia, there is one thing that can and does “stop the nation”:  a fucking horse race.

I’m not even shitting you.  Horses.  Let’s compare.  The United States has the Kentucky Derby, which apparently is a damn big horse race.  But does anyone actually pay attention to the Kentucky Derby?  No.  Not unless you’re from Kentucky or have a gambling problem (those two probably coincide) or are Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman.


I had always heard of the Kentucky Derby – and I knew it was a horse race – a big horse race – but I couldn’t tell you much more than that.  I had never watched it, never knew about the fancy dress, and never really cared.  I’m pretty sure that’s the sentiment of most Americans.  I did watch it one year – only because my friend Nick’s boyfriend’s roommate was from Kentucky originally and they had a party at their apartment in Seattle.  I didn’t dress up – because I had no idea that I was supposed to, but even if I had been aware, I’m really not festive enough for that and I was too hungover to care anyway - but everyone else at the party was all gussied up in their most ridiculous best.  It was over-the-top:  suits and dresses and big floppy hats that could’ve doubled as bed covers.  Everyone was dressed like that!  Except for one chick.  This one chick was dressed like a slut in some sort of leotard thing.  Seriously.  I wish you could’ve seen it.


And everyone was drinking mint juleps (except for me, because I was too hungover).  And that was the first time I had learned anything about the Kentucky Derby, and then race started and it lasted for about 14 seconds and I was like “Is that it?”  Even I can run longer than that…  And it was just disappointment which then turned into me not caring anymore and forgetting all about it.

Until earlier this week.

It was Melbourne Cup week!  The Melbourne Cup is the Australian equivalent to the Kentucky Derby… but it’s huge beyond recognition here.  The whole country stops.  That’s not an overstatement.  The race is coined “the race that stops the nation” – and it’s true.  Offices close down – shops and cafes close down – even the cute baristas had a sign up:  “We’ll be closing at 1pm this Tuesday in preparation for the Melbourne Cup”.  We’re not even in Melbourne!   That’s like 12 hours away!  That’s like the equivalent of a Kinko’s in Baltimore closing because of a house fire in Louisville.

Is the Kentucky Derby even in Louisville?  I guess that doesn’t really matter.  Strike that question from the record.

Now, if it’s that bad in Sydney, just imagine Melbourne.  In Melbourne… it’s a holiday.  Literally – a holiday.  Pretty much the whole state of Victoria shuts down, and it is actually a public holiday – like Christmas or Thanksgiving or Memorial Day.  Schools are closed.  Government offices are closed.  Stores are closed.  It’s just like Christmas except all the Jews aren’t huddled together in a Chinese restaurant.  They’re hanging out with the gentiles watching the damn horse race too.  Can you imagine?     

All across the nation, people line up at the local TAB – a place where you can place bets – throw away a ton of money on it, and then gather in bars and restaurants and office breakrooms and homes – anywhere where there is a big TV - and watch in suspense.

And, being my first year in Australia and my first experience with the Melbourne Cup, I thought it only appropriate that I dive into the festivities head first…  details to follow in the next post, but I will say this:

I should’ve worn a helmet.