Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hava NaGAYla

Q:  What’s gayer than a gay pride parade?

A:  One of the biggest gay pride parades in one of the world’s biggest gay cities!

The Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is Sydney’s take on a gay pride parade.  It’s not just a parade – it’s a whole 2+ weeks of gay plays, parties, exhibitions, BBQs, boat cruises, movie screenings, and other events – with the mother of all gay pride parades thrown in at the end for good measure.  Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade brings in more international tourists to Australia than any other annual event.  The pink dollar is strong.  And it’s very gay.

Very, very gay.

And since I’m gay (shocking), I thought it’d only be appropriate for me to march in the parade this year.  After watching the parade from the sidelines last year (drunk), I thought I’d go for a more involved (and sober) experience this year.  So, I signed up to march with Dayenu – Sydney’s GLBT group.  I was one of around 80 gay Jews, pro-Jewish gays, pro-gay Jews, and pro-gay/pro-Jew heterosexual gentiles to march in our float.

We had a massive 3D Star of David on the back of our truck along with a few cute gay Jewish dancing boys.  Blasting from our speakers:  dance remixes of Hava Nagila and Shalom Alechem, along with that massively popular song that you always here in clubs – you know the one that’s like “do do do do do do do do do do do do… Barbra Streisand.” Seeing as Babs is a big Jew, it was only fitting.

Being in the parade means you can’t really watch the parade, but there was plenty of eye candy in the waiting area.  These guys were from the float lined up next to us:

Our float was sixth in line, nestled between the Muslim float and the Christian float.  Great.  Half of our group photos during the parade have big signs that say “Freedom to Love Jesus” in the background.  Is that ironic or just plain unfortunate?  Good planning, parade organizers.

But, I didn’t even notice those signs until looking at pictures afterward – partly because they were behind us, but mainly because we were having WAY too much fun to look back.  The crowd was estimated at several hundred thousand, and being right at the beginning of the parade, they were all riled up.  The parade route must’ve been well over a mile long, and the whole way was packed with spectators on the side of the road and up on balconies.  And don’t forget the TV cameras!  The whole parade is televised live.

For those who want a bit more comfort, you can always splurge on one of the “Glamstands” that we encountered along the way.

The whole thing was an incredible adrenalin rush and I don’t think any of us calmed down for hours.  While the most glamorous of the gays went off to a massive Mardi Gras Party held at Fox Studios, a group of us grabbed Thai food (we were starving!) and attempted to see how long the lines were at the clubs on Oxford Street.

Massive failure.

Our friend Adam came to the rescue and invited us all up to his balcony for mandatory drinks until the wee hours of the morning.  No sweaty, crowded clubs – just champagne, vodka, tequila, some gay music on the iPod, and excellent company.  Could it have gotten any better?  Nah.  It was an absolutely incredible experience… and I’m already counting down the days until next year’s parade!

Neil + Me

David + Briyah + Me + Elcid

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tale of the Budgie Smuggling Lollipop Man

As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, Australian English sometimes seems like a whole different language to American English.  I’ve been here in Australia well over a year now and it amazes me that I still learn new words and new slang on a near daily basis.  Many items have different names in Australia:  French fries are chips, tank tops are singlets, gasoline is petrol, and so on and so forth.  Most of these are pretty easy to figure out and I’ll admit that I use them now even when talking to Americans here.  But frighteningly often, somebody will say something so bizarre that I can help but tilt my head and say “huh?”  Last night was the perfect example.

David & Elcid hosted a small get together at their apartment and the topic of conversation quickly turned to their impending trip to Perth and how the weather was still warm enough there to hit up the beach.  I’m not exactly quite sure of the context, but someone then said something about “budgie smugglers”.  I looked up at the speaker with the same face that a cow has when it looks at an oncoming train:  “Huh?”

Americans and Canadians:  please take a moment and ponder “budgie smugglers”.  Take a wild guess in your head, and if you’re so inclined, share with me your thoughts.   I’ll get down to the answer at the bottom of this post.  In the meantime, here are a few odd ones for your reading pleasure.  A few of these actually make sense:

Ankle Biters:
This is a name for children.  Implying that those little shits are out to bite your ankles reveals the true hidden agenda of the pro-children movement.  I like it.

Slippery Dips:
This is a name for a slide – like a slide on a playground.  Why they simply don’t call it a slide is beyond me (after all, you do slide on a slide, so it makes sense), but slippery dip isn’t bad.  It sounds funny and actually makes me snicker a bit.

Away with the Pixies:
If you’re “away with the Pixies”, that means you’re daydreaming.  I find this to be an absolutely acceptable alternative to plain old “daydreaming”.  Clever Aussies…

Woop Woop:
When something’s out in “woop woop”, that means it’s really far away.  The American equivalent would be East Bumblefuck, East Jesus, BFE (Butt-Fucking Eqypt), or Guam.

But there are a few that need some serious explanation…

Fairy Floss:
Can you guess what fairy floss is???  Well, it’s cotton candy.  The last time I checked, cotton candy actually vaguely resembles… of all things… cotton.  Just look past the bright blue, pink, or yellow artificial coloring and the mass of fuzziness on the stick could pass for a bundle of cotton if you only take a quick glance.  At no point in time does the mass of fluffy sugar on a stick resemble floss.  And please allow me to also point out that cotton candy in all its sugariness does absolutely the opposite thing for your teeth as flossing does, so to call it “fairy floss” is a tragic misnomer, unless the fairy they refer to is the tooth fairy because all that sugar is bound to cause a few teeth to rot and fall out.  Also, the term “fairy floss” always gives me the imagery of a homosexual in a G-string.  And depending on the homosexual in question, that could be either a very grand or an extremely horrifying sight.

Lollipop Man:
Take out a piece of paper and write down your top 10 guesses for what a “lollipop man” is.  Ready?  Set?  Go!  Ok, let’s see your list.  I imagine it may include any of the following:

1.  Someone who works in a candy store
2.  Owner of a candy factory
3.  Old man next door who gives sweets to neighbourhood kids
4.  Creepy guy with a lollipop fetish
5.  Person addicted to sweets
6.  Mascot for a lollipop company
7.  Pedophile who tries to lure kids into his van with lollipops
8.  Mythical creature that reveals itself only when trick-or-treating
9.  Anyone with a rare disease that causes the skin to produce sugar
10.  Anorexic person with a strikingly large head

If you put down any of these, well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you are 100% incorrect.  A lollipop man is a crossing guard.  Seriously:  a crossing guard.  They are called “lollipop men” (or “lollipop women”) because the crossing guard signs they carry resemble lollipops – a big circular sign attached to a narrow wooden stick.  If I was five years old and was told that there was a lollipop man on the corner, I sure as hell wouldn’t cross the street until he gave me a damn lollipop.  Is there anything more ridiculous than calling a crossing guard a lollipop man?  Oh wait, that reminds me:

Budgie Smugglers:
Have you had a chance to properly think this one out?  To assist in your analysis, it would help to know that “budgie” is short for “budgerigar” which is a species of small parrot found here in Australia.  So, is a “budgie smuggler” someone who illegally traffics budgies across international borders?  No.

Budgie smugglers are Speedos.  That’s right.  They call those little teeny tiny man bikini things “budgie smugglers” because apparently it looks like men wearing Speedos are smuggling a parrot in their crotch.  The last time I checked, penises don’t have wings on them nor do penises have beaks or claws, but that might actually be a great way to teach kids the abstinence-only sex education that the far Christian right always push for.  “Ok girls, make sure the razor-sharp claws on his penis don’t puncture anything, and be careful not to let the beak rip off parts needed for future reproduction.”  Scare tactics like that would put an end to the teenage pregnancy epidemic and stop the spread of all sexually-transmitted diseases amongst the youth of America.

I think the American term “banana hammock” is much better than “budgie smuggler”.  If I pulled off a man’s Speedo and there was a banana there, I’d be disappointed but at least I’d have a good source of potassium and B vitamins.  If I pulled off a man’s Speedo and out flew a parrot, I’d be seriously freaked out and angry.

I hate birds.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Stop & Pause

Australia isn’t the best place for people who don’t like bugs.  This place is full of bugs of all sorts, but the two most notable are spiders and cockroaches.

Everybody knows about the spiders – they are big and scary and some of them are hairy.  Some live in webs and some live in little burrows in the ground and some decide that they want to live in your house, especially after a big rain.  It’s fun.

The cockroach problem isn’t nearly as notorious as the spider issue, but it probably should be.  Summertime in Sydney sees the cockroaches coming out in full force.  The big ones live outside, and you won’t see them during the day, but they roam around on the sidewalks at night when it’s cooler.  They are EVERYWHERE.  The big cockroaches can fly and they are fucking scary when they do.  It doesn’t matter how high up your apartment is.  They’ll fly all the way up onto your balcony at night.

The little cockroaches are everywhere too – especially inside.  They can’t fly, but they can nest like crazy.  The Cleveland Street house had a nest of them which we finally realized was in the back of our microwave.  Yeah, we got rid of that.  The little roaches come inside and nest in the back of any warm appliance, usually a fridge or a microwave.  They enter through cracks in walls or under doors or sneakier ways like via the tubes leading in and out of your dishwasher.  Once we started using the dishwasher more and we replaced the microwave, the little nighttime roach problem at the Cleveland Street house magically disappeared.  Thank god.

What fazes me most is the nonchalance that Sydneysiders have with roaches and spiders.  When looking for apartments, I’d ask about the bugs.  The response that I always received was that there were roaches and spiders (some more than others, and even in new buildings), but it was always followed by “But that’s just Surry Hills” or “Well, that’s Coogee for you” or “But it’s not too bad for Darlinghurst”.  WTF people???  It’s not just Surry Hills or Coogee or Darlinghurst – it’s every fucking neighbourhood – completely consumed by cockroaches!  EEWWW!

To deal with this ever stressing problem of bugs, I’ve had to make a few adjustments to the way I go about my day.

1.  I put food away immediately, and I never leave dirty dishes in the sink.  The last thing I need is to attract the little roaches and have them start an infestation.  This is a major change from Seattle where you could leave shit out on the kitchen counter for days and there still wouldn’t be a bug in sight.

2.  I try not to look down at the ground when I walk at night.  That way I don’t see the giant cockroaches which populate Sydney sidewalks.  If I don’t see them, do they really exist?

3.  I never wear flip-flops at night during the summer.  I stick with closed-toe shoes if I’m going to be out after dusk.  The last thing I need is to feel a cockroach scurrying across my toes at night.  Just the thought of it makes me shiver with pure fear.

4.  The first thing I do when I wake up, before I get out of bed, is open my eyes and look around the room just to see if there are any obvious bugs, like the large spider I found one morning during my last week at the Cleveland Street house.  I woke up and it was just sitting there… on my ceiling… doing its spider thing.  I ran downstairs and got Vicky, because she’s braver than I am, and I implored her to exterminate it.  She captured it in a little tupperware container and set it free in the back yard.  And I thought:  “But what if it comes back?!?!?”

5.  Whenever I enter a room, I usually stop and pause for a moment.  I then scan the room for any sign of a bug.  I quickly look at walls and ceilings and furniture and countertops and anywhere that I may expect a bug to be sitting, especially if I’ve seen a bug there before.  The bathroom was the one place that I always checked thoroughly as it was the site of my first encounter with a spider.

Now that I’m out of the Cleveland Street house, I’m hoping and praying that the bug situation will be better at the new apartment, and so far, so good.  My hope is that one day I will be able to stop living in fear and will not have to stop and pause and check every room before entering it.

But of course, just as soon as I get complacent, I’m sure to find some giant spider lurking right in front of my face or just above my head.  What a life…

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Goodbye Cleveland, Hello Brothel

When I first arrived in Sydney, I found a room in a house on Cleveland Street as a temporary base of operations for the new Australian chapter of my life.  The house was old, but it had been renovated and proved to be fairly comfortable.  It was convenient – on major bus lines to everywhere and only a 15 minute walk from the gay scene and the main train station.  The housemates were great – except for the obnoxious Vietnamese guy – and we went through several iterations so there was always something new.

First there was Mayra, Cade, and me.
Then Mayra, Oscar, Jim, and me.
Oscar left and we were down to Mayra, Jim, and me.
A short stint of Mayra, me, and Sam…
Was followed by Mayra, me, Vicky, and Nick.
We then became me, Vicky, Nick, and Vince.
And finally me, Vicky, Nick, and Marie.

It was a bit of movement over the course of 14 months, but it was an awesome learning and social experience.  How often does a nice Jewish-American boy have the opportunity to live with a Japanese-Brazilian girl, a true-blue Aussie, two Catalans, a Russian-Australian guy, a Malaysian-New Zealander-Australian, a Canadian dude, an obnoxious Vietnamese, and a Frenchie?

I’d say not very often.

What was supposed to be a place to stay for a few months while I got my bearings (and a job) turned into a home for over a year.  It was a good run, but like all good things, it was time for the house on Cleveland Street to come to an end.  After very slowly looking for a few months, I stumbled upon a room in an apartment which was just too good to pass up.  So, two weeks ago, I packed up my stuff and headed north… just a few blocks… to a new apartment in the heart of the Surry Hills neighborhood.

My new apartment has the potential to make many a Sydneysider green with envy.  A spacious downstairs living room, dining room, and kitchen opens up to a lovely private courtyard with a big table and BBQ (a must in Australia).  Upstairs, I have a good-sized bedroom with my own private bathroom.  No more waiting for the shower, waiting for the toilet, or waiting to brush my teeth.  I hate waiting.  I have a massive walk-in-closet which I’ve already filled up and the unit comes complete with a clothes dryer and screens on the windows – two things that I’ve been missing dearly ever since I arrived in Australia.

I used to share my house with three other people.  Now I’m down to one.  It’s not as social and interactive, but it’s a welcome change.  My commute to work has shortened from 35 minutes by foot to 18 minutes by foot, and I have many friends who conveniently live in the area.  I’m a 7 minute walk from Central Station and a 7 minute walk to all of the bars.  The apartment has two other features which I find absolutely great:

The first:  my apartment sits right across the street from a brothel.  Yes, a brothel.  Hookers, and prostitutes, and whores, oh my!  Brothels are legal in Australia (as they should be), but as an American, it’s a bit strange to think about a brothel outside of Nevada.  Now, obviously, I won’t be needing the services of a brothel (sorry ladies, but lady parts are gross), but it’s fun to watch and see who comes out from the front doors.  I just watch and judge, watch and judge.

I like judging people.

The second:  a little café is located in the front of my new building.  This isn’t just any café – oh no.  This is a… bruschetteria.  That’s right.  And it’s called: Bruschetteria.  As the name implies, the café serves bruschetta.  And more bruschetta.  All types of bruschetta actually.  It’s not just tomato on toast – but eggs on toast and veggies on toast and salmon on toast and bacon on toast and any sort of savoury breakfast food or combination of foods that you can think of… in bruschetta form.  It’s actually a pretty neat concept.  A group of us went for brunch there last weekend and the consensus was that it was good.  Really good.


Another thing to note:  the bruschetteria features a Nutella coffee.  A Nutella coffee is a latte with Nutella in it instead of sugar or other sweeteners.  I tried it.  And it was so good that I think it aroused me.  Yep.  It was orgasmic.

I was worried when I left Cleveland Street that I would have to walk 15 minutes back to my old neighbourhood to see my cute baristas.  But I was delighted to find that the bruschetteria has a gorgeous Italian owner and an adorable waiter from some yet-to-be-determined central European country.

Bruschetta, Nutella coffee, and new cute baristas to look at.

I like my new home.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Got (Flavoured) Milk?

Milk is big in Australia.  Really big.  Maybe it’s because there are so many cows here (Australia is the world’s biggest beef exporter).  Or maybe it’s because Australians have historically been a short people and they really want to their bones to be strong so they can grow taller.  Or maybe it’s because Australians want to get revenge on cows for their embarrassing disappearing act back in the 1700’s (the first cows brought to Sydney managed to break free from their pens in the middle of the night and they weren’t found until decades later when Australians finally carved a route from Sydney over the Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia… the first thing those explorers saw on the other side were cows grazing in the meadows).  Whatever the reason, milk is big.  And parents will do anything to get their children to drink milk.  And for those stubborn kids who don’t like the taste of milk… well, there’s the perfect solution:

Flavoured milk!

I’ve seen a lot of weird things in Australian supermarkets, but the wide variety of flavoured milks is by far one of the most noteworthy.  It’s not just one company that makes flavoured milk – I’ve counted at least ten.  You’re probably thinking that it isn’t that strange – mainly because you probably had tons of chocolate and strawberry flavoured milk as a kid in the US.  And while that is true, chocolate and strawberry flavours are just the tip of the iceberg here.

Chocolate not enough for you?  Try Double Chocolate, or even Chocolate Mint flavoured milk.  Are you really into desserts but don’t really like chocolate?  Don’t fear:  you can pick up a bottle or two of Cookies & Cream, Vanilla Malt, or Caramel Swirl flavoured milk.  Were you a strawberry milk fanatic as a kid?  Yes, Strawberry milk is readily available, but have you tried Mango flavoured milk?  How about Tropical Berries?  Banana?  Banana & Honey?  And they give them cool names too… like Smooth Banana or Banana Buzz.  How much fun is this?!?!?

And milk isn’t just for kids anymore.  There are some treats for the coffee-enthusiast adults too!  How about trying some varieties of flavoured milk such as Iced Coffee, Strong Iced Coffee, Double Strength Iced Coffee, Mocha, Café Latte, Espresso, Double Espresso, Premium Blend Espresso, Caramel Latte, or Cappuccino?

Looking for something a bit different?  How about Honeycomb flavoured milk?  Want a little kick with that?  Try the Chocolate Honeycomb.  And for a bizarre trip of the tongue, they even have Spearmint.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder:  there’s Egg Nog flavoured milk for Christmas! 

With all of these options to choose from, it’s no wonder that Australians drink more flavoured milk than any other people on the planet.

I decided to have a little milk tasting one night to see what it was all about.  I picked up six different flavours of milk across four different brands, and my housemates were the guinea pigs that gave me feedback.  The results were as follows:

Chocolate Mint:  tastes sort of like paint, or toothpaste.

Vanilla Malt:  tastes just like a milkshake!

Honeycomb:  smells just like the very popular honeycomb candy here in Australia (an almost buttery smell);  tastes “completely artificial.”

Mocha:  tastes like a chocolate thickshake.

Iced Coffee:  tastes “no good”, and a bit bitter.

Strawberry:  tastes different than the Nesquik powder that is popular in the US;  it tastes more like children’s medicine.

Check out the ingredients – this really is just flavoured milk:

And look who got in on the action:

Why aren’t they expanding this into the US???

And what happens when your kids just want every flavour under the sun?  You can always just buy a bunch of regular old milk and then buy a variety of flavouring straws to go with them – thus saving space in your fridge and preventing all those bottles of milk from going sour before the little shits can drink them.

The flavouring straws come individually wrapped and contain little flavouring pellets.

You can see an up close view here:

The pellets dissolve into the milk as you drink through the straw, leaving a virtually empty straw at the end:

I was feeling a bit adventurous one night, so I stuck one of the chocolate flavouring straws into a glass of Vanilla Malt flavoured milk.

The results:  delicious!