New Pad

When you come to a new country, there are always surprises.  In the first few days, there are a ton of them– different currency (bills are waterproof plastic, different sizes and the coins go up to $2), two different flush buttons on the toilet, and no “surrender” in blackjack, to name a few– but after a week or so, you get used to these minor differences.  But the cool part is when something comes up out of the blue.  The other day, I was talking to a local, and he was telling me that he just got back from a “holiday” to the States, and that he went to the Caribbean while he was there.  

“Where in the Caribbean?” I asked him.  

“Jamaica and Cuba,” he says.

“Cuba? I thought you weren’t allowed-” Then it dawned on me:  Just like every other country in the world, Australia doesn’t have that stupid trade embargo with Cuba!

…So I’m sitting here, smoking a Montecristo straight from Havana, chilling on the balcony of my BRAND NEW APARTMENT!  Seriously, this place can’t be more than two years old.  I got the apartment by stupid, dumb luck: the company I’m consulting for had a lease signed through the end of October for a group of three guys from another company, and their contract ran out-  so who did they decide to put in the apartment for the rest of the lease but yours truly.  I moved in just this past Saturday.  Also, I’m on the 39th floor, which allows me to take photos like these:  

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I was so excited about the new apartment that I even made a video about it. I made this video 10 days ago so don’t be confused: the first 2 minutes or so of the video is of my old apartment, and the last 5 minutes is of the new apartment. 

disclaimer: the video is a little rough around the edges, and I only had a vague idea of what I was going to do before I started rolling.  I promise to transform into a smooth on-camera personality before I post any more videos.  it’s 7 minutes long, so you can just fast forward to about the 4:20 mark and you’ll get the gist of what’s going on.  I’m a little ambivalent to actually put this video on here, but screw it- check it out:

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State of Origin

I went out to a sports bar last night to watch the third and deciding State of Origin rugby match.

What is State of Origin, you ask?  Well, a week ago I had never heard of it either, but it’s basically the coolest thing ever.  Imagine the following:

Every summer, weeks after the NBA finals are over,  the greatest American basketball players are brought together for a best-of-three, winner take all, East Coast versus West Coast showdown.  But not some BS exhibition like the NBA All Star game.  These teams are determined based on where you actually grew up.  It’s Brooklyn vs Compton, Marbury and Sebastian Telfair vs Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis. Players from the midwest, well, they will have to watch on TV because this is a coastal battle, and nobody from either coast would ever sit out of this game.  The radio waves are filled with Mos Def and Jay Z rapping about how the East Coast is going to represent, but then Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube come back with their own rhymes about the West Coast squad.  The deciding game three is set to be played outdoors, in Coney Island, at the home stadium of the East Coast Ballers.  The place is packed and there is serious pride on the line.  Everybody in the country tunes in as the broadcast grabs ratings that only the Super Bowl could touch, and the game is played with an intensity unseen in any professional league.

Pretty cool, right?  Now, just substitute the Australian state of Queensland for the East Coast, New South Wales for the West Coast, white people for black people, and Rugby for Basketball, and that’s State of Origin in a nutshell.  

The bar was packed with people and enthusiasm for the Queensland Maroons, who play their home games here in Brisbane, about a 10 minute walk across the river.  I naturally rooted for the home team, why not?  Unfortunately, this game was not in Brisbane but rather 500 miles away in Sydney, home of the New South Wales Blues.  I met a girl at the bar who was from New South Wales and a fervent supporter of the Blues no less, which put my newfound Queensland pride to the test.  But I stuck with the local team anyway, which was maybe a mistake, as the girl ditched me shortly after the game ended. 

After a riveting game featuring about six lead changes, the Maroons held off a late try from New South Wales and prevailed, 16-10, to defend the Origin Shield for the third straight year.  Glory for Queensland!! The bar went crazy and the atmosphere was pretty rowdy.  I was sort of sweating the broad who ditched me, but my sorrows were replaced with quite a distraction:

All around them, a bunch of drunk rowdy Aussies, thrilled about the rugby match, were cheering wildly for these two.  And, if you look closely, you can see a crumpled maroon Queensland jersey in the bottom right corner.  What a strange night!

 

Photography

Ahoy mateys!  Actually that’s pirate, not aussie… ARRRGH!!! Ha ha ha.

So right now I’m sitting on a bench in the Queen St Mall… I had heard that there was free internet here but I was wrong.  So I probably won’t end up posting this until I get back to my room and pony up some cash… sigh.  It’s time for me to come to grips with the fact that internet is going to be a perpetual struggle: I’ll be looking at the standings instead of watching highlights, forgoing the latest south park episodes, and resorting to the theater of the mind when it comes to naughty videos.

…in less disturbing news, I was walking through the Brisbane Botanical Garden yesterday and took this phenomenal photo of a native australian bird nestled in a native australian tree…

(note: you can click on pictures for a closer look)

…and I naturally assumed that I was a prodigy at the art of photography, that I was just quiet enough to sneak up on this precious, gentle feathered creature to get a rare glimpse into australia’s natural wonders.   Well I was pretty pleased with myself, taking such gems as

 and

 Not bad, right?  Did you see the bumble bee in the middle of the flower?  That’s some authentic shit right there.  Turns out my bird photo was no fluke!  

Well, I’m walking around, thinking I’m the next Ansel Adams, and you can imagine my indignation when I came across the following sight!

 

 

and here comes his friend to join him!

It turns out that all I had seen was some bullshit australian pigeoncrow all along! You should have seen them chowing down on Mickey D’s while cars whizzed by not more than a yard away from them.  Once they got the fries out of the bag, there were a bunch more of them, circling around, hoping for a piece of the action.

What a bummer!   My photographic reputation has been damaged but I refuse to give up: I hereby resolve to get a ridiculously adorable photo of a Kangaroo baby peeking out of a mother Kangaroo pouch before I leave this continent.  That’s a promise.

It’s official.

So I landed in Brisbane, Australia yesterday, a good 9,800 miles from home.  For anyone who hasn’t heard,  I came here to work (an aspect of the trip I’ll be willfully ignoring in this space until further notice), and I will be here until I come home for Christmas, and I’ll most likely return for a good while longer after that.

A few observations from my first 24 hours upside down:

First things first: the girls are pretty hot, but not shockingly so.   Perhaps if I had come straight from Hartford I might have been more impressed, but coming from New York, especially the New York summer, when the tank tops are out and the booties are on display, I was satisfied but not surprised by the Aussie females I’ve seen in the first 24 hours.  They are mostly thin, though I definitely saw some fatties, but they are not so diverse:  there are asian girls and white girls, but basically nothing else.  Still, I would say that their average attractiveness is a slight notch above everywhere I’ve been besides Amsterdam- maybe it was all the weed, but I distinctly remember seeing beautiful girl after beautiful girl there.  They are not as tan as I expected, although in fairness, it is the “winter” here (more on that in a bit).  Having said all this, actually meeting and conversing with an Australian girl will have to wait for another day.  Or at least until later on today.  

 

Right now I am sitting in a McDonald’s, which I patronized not for the funny bacon or the TINY orange juice..

…but for what I had heard was free internet.  Try again.  Try $5 for 15 minutes of internet.  Well, yea that’s a ripoff, but surely I have internet in my hotel, right?  Well technically, yes.  I can pay $10 for 2 hours of internet.  But if I go over 20 megabytes of data transfer, I have to pay 10 cents per megabyte extra.  To put this in perspective for normal people, I had hoped to complete my download of the fine cinematic work Superbad off of I-tunes, which was about 25% complete when I left the US.  Well, if I want to complete that download, I’ll have to pay no less than ONE HUNDRED AND TWELVE dollars in data transfer fees.  Not to mention I’ll have to pay per megabyte for every espn.com, youtube, and youporn video I watch, and you can see why I’m in a crabby mood.  From this point forward, David Schmerson (my brother suggested I remove my actual name from this post) will never again take prepaid monthly unlimited internet for granted!

(full disclosure:  the exchange rate from the australian dollar to the US dollar is roughly $1AU to $0.95US, so you can shave 5% off of the prices I mentioned for the American amount.  Not much consolation.)

So what about the internet, though, the whole point of this trip was to get away from that shit, right?  To FREE myself from the SHACKLES of technology and FIND myself?  Well, I don’t know if that was exactly the point, but this place does look promising.  First of all, the weather is insane.  Yesterday, June 27th, which would be the equivalent of December 27th in the northern hemisphere, it was dry, breezy, with a high of about 78 degrees.  If the winter is like this, I’m a little scared to think what the summer will be like.   Did I mention that there is a big Casino right by the river?  Did you know that Australians gamble away more money per capita than any other people in the world? (and if you don’t think I’m counting on this factoid to help me out at the poker table, you’re crazy.) Also, did you know that Australians drink more beer than anyone else? This seems like a good place to repeat that the girls are pretty hot.  How could I NOT have fun here?  I know that question was rhetorical, but I sincerely hope not to find out the answer.  With that deep and haunting remark, I’m off to traverse the Brisbane River for the first time.   More to come!