October 22nd: Sydney

Sharon was off to church, so I headed to Olympic Park and the Paralympics. The lines to pick up tickets were very long, but I eventually made it in. First stop was the SuperDome, where I watched France take on Nederland in men’s wheelchair basketball. The game has a savage gracefulness, like combining basketball with a demolition derby. Next, I headed to Olympic Stadium, where I saw a women’s wheelchair 100m final (T53), and part of the men’s discus final (F11). A quick train ride and I was back to the Opera House to meet Sharon at the Sunday markets.

We next caught the ferry to Manly, where we went to the beach, then she started the walk to Spit Bridge and I got some lunch at Ocean Foods. I purchased fish and chips, deciding on Barramundi fish so I’d know what my new belt tasted like (very good). Next, I went parasailing. I got a ticket, and the boat left from Manly Wharf. Once the boat got going, they attached the parachute to a winch and let it unfurl. I got in a harness, attached myself to the bottom of the parachute, then they let the winch go. It felt like I was sitting on a swing, except for being 400 feet in the air. It was a great view, and I was disappointed when they finally winched me back in. After we finished, I laid out on Manly Beach until it got chilly. I took the ferry back, met up with Sharon, and stopped by Go, which had a vegetarian buffet. I had a Bondi Cola, which tasted like a diluted Pepsi. Very laid back way to spend a birthday.

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

October 21st: Sydney

The sky was overcast, so we decided to head to Koala Park. It took about an hour and a half, but it was worth it. We saw wombats, wallabies, and peacocks, and got to pet dingoes, kangaroos, and koalas. The dingo was very similar to my favorite dog, the husky. We also got to see baby koalas. We headed back to the city, and the markets at the Rocks. I picked up a hat and a belt made of Barramundi fish. On the way back, we stopped at Philip’s Foote for dinner, where you choose your meat, then barbeque it. We returned to the room to do some laundry. We returned to Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair to see of they’d set off fireworks again, but no luck. I did get some photos of the Opera House at night.

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

October 20th: Sydney

A beautiful, cloudless day beckoned us to the beach. First, Sharon had met a girl who was performing at noon at Fox Studios, so we walked over there. The girl, Sandy Klose, was performing as part of the Pacific Circle Music Conference. They gave us visitor’s passes, then we grabbed a bite to eat. They were running late, so we watched a band called Saratoga first. They weren’t bad, but Sandy was really good. She sang and played a standup bass. I liked her songs, and the way she maintained her stage presence when the low frequencies of her bass caused a speaker to fall on a plant.

Next, we caught a bus to Coogee Beach. We bought some homemade ice cream, then started the walk to Bondi Beach. The view was great, but after two and a half hours, my feet hated me. We had tickets for the Symphony, and couldn’t stay to enjoy the beach. We returned to Potts Point, changed, and headed to the Opera House. The performance was great, particularly Bernard d’Ascoli the blind pianist. At intermission we enjoyed the fireworks exploding nearly above us. On the way home, we stopped at the Fountain Cafe to check email and get a bite to eat.

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

October 19th: Sydney

I was scheduled to skydive this morning, but steady rain dashed that plan (the previous two days had been overcast). We decided to take the ferry to the aquarium. The aquarium was fun, but we were a little depressed to learn that reef sharks could be up to seven feet long, and some of the little ones are aggressive. When we exited, the sun was out, so I called the sky diving place and they said to come right out, so we’re on the train now. That was something.

Phil, who also turned out to be my tandem partner, picked us up from the Liverpool about 2. It took about half an hour to get to Picton, where the Sydney Skydivers Centre is located. I had to wait for one girl to jump before I could jump. It looked fun, but I was getting a little nervous. I put on a jump suit and harness, and got goggles to go over my glasses. Phil gave me instructions on how to do the tandem jump, then we got in the plane and took off. It was very crowded in the plane with me, him, the pilot, Natasha (another girl who was jumping), and her instructor. We had to climb to 10,000 feet to jump, and as we rose through the clouds and the air got colder, I got a little more nervous. Still, I was determined to go through with it, and said nothing as Phil strapped us together.

When we were at the right altitude, they opened the door and the other two jumped. We were on our knees, and shuffled to the door. Phil put a foot on the strut, then I did, and he launched us into space. I didn’t have time for fear, to feel the cold, or even to scream for the scant few seconds we were in freefall. I could barely feel him hitting me on the shoulder in the signal to spread my arms and legs. Suddenly we bounced, and I knew that he’d opened the parachute. I could see the landing zone south of us, and I just sat back and enjoyed the magnificent view. It turns out that the reason they turn in midair is to slow down so that the wind doesn’t carry them past the landing area. It left me mildly queasy, the only bad part. It only took a couple of minutes to get close, then I tucked my knees up and he landed first, then I set down so hard I jarred my ankles. It was amazing and I think roller coasters will pale in comparison for me now.

We went to the Opera House to see if they had any standing room only tickets for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, but they were sold out. We went shopping so I could get some nice pants in case we went the next day. After we got back to the apartment so I could get the second battery for my camera, we decided to visit the AMP Centerpoint Tower to see the view and eat. The view was great, but we were too late for the restaurant. After we took the associated Sky Tour (which was quite amusing), we tried to find a place to eat, but everything in the Central Business District was closed by 10. We returned to King’s Cross, where we ended up on a side street at a place called the Iguana Cafe, where I had grilled octopus and a daiquiri like drink called a Red Corvette.

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

October 18th: Sydney

We went our separate ways today. While Sharon did the bridge climb, I went to Fox Studios. The Simpsons had a reworking of the episode they visited Oz, plus some behind the scenes stuff. I expected a little more. Titanic: The Experience made up for it. From a waiting area, they draw back a curtain, and you walk up the gangplanks into the ship. You go to a big “Third Class” room, where the purser talks to you, pretending time passes until there’s a bang and the wall behind him opens and water starts pouring out. Depending on which line you are in, you exit right or left. To the right, you go into storage, then the boiler room. It’s very hot, and you “drown”, then exit up the grand staircase. To the left, you go up to first class, and beg the purser there to let you in. The boat is tilting now, and you rush out to the lifeboats. You board, and the ship sinks (it’s also so cold you can see your breath, adding to the realism. Other things to do there include the TV tour (it has a nice recreation of Mulder’s office), and the sound theater (32 channels of surround sound puts my 5 channels to shame).

I went back to the room (stopping by a market for some food), then returned to Fox for the Hodern Pavilion next door. I was pleased to see that Green Day hasn’t changed in the nearly six years since I last saw them. They played all the hits, and took requests off Kerplunk. They still try a medley of covers, and I was amused when Billie Joe asked if anyone liked Ozzy, then had to clarify, “I mean Ozzy Osbourne”. Afterwards, I was pleased to note that a fleet of buses was waiting to cart people back to the city.

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

October 17th: Sydney

We bought travel passes at Central, then headed back to our room. We picked up breakfast items at a convenience store (we have a fridge in the room), then went back out for dinner. We decided on the Bourbon and Beefsteak Bar, and I had an “American steak sandwich”, which was a steak between two slices of bread. Sharon had sauteed prawns, we enjoyed it. After that, it was time for bed. A good 12 hours later, we were finally on Sydney’s schedule. Unfortunately, the sky was overcast and we cancelled our plans to go to Manly Beach in favor of the Blue Mountains (The guy at the front desk said Sydney weather was unpredictable, and the Blue Mountains more so, so we might as well go today as any other). I write this from the train there, which will leave in another twenty minutes.

Things I know now from the train trip: collision=smash, Target and K-mart are everywhere (along with McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Century 21), pharmacist=chemist.

Now we’re on our way back, after four hours of walking. We got off the train, had a bite to eat at the Poppyseeds Cafe, and commenced walking. We walked to Cliff Drive and took a path to the Scenic Skyway. We took the skyway, then took the railway (world’s steepest) down and walked to see Katoomba Falls from the bottom. We took the railway up, then took the trail to Echo Point. We looked at the Three Sisters, then walked back to town, and are now headed back to Sydney. We went to Arun Thai for dinner, right next to the hotel. I had Tom Yum Goong (prawn soup; I liked the fresh jalapenos) and Ped Ob Num Paung (roasted duck; very tasty).

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

October 16th: Sydney

I’m writing this from the Botanical Gardens. Sharon and I took a taxi from the airport, the hotel let us check in at 8am, so we showered (thank God) and changed. We are eating in a cafe in the Gardens, having taken pictures of the flowers, birds, and the Opera House. I had “wedges” for lunch. Turns out it’s not a sandwich, like I thought, but fried potato slices (I should have known when the cashier asked me if I wanted tomato sauce and handed me ketchup when I assented).

Now in Hyde Park. Saw bats at the Gardens, the Opera House, and the Circular Quay. We cashed some traveler’s checks, I picked up some tickets, and now we’re letting the jet lag make us nap.

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

October 14th: Los Angeles to Sydney

The flight to LA is nice. I’ve never flown on a 777 before. I especially like the TV monitors in the back of the seats, and you can surf. LAX has funky columns outside that change color at night, and a restaurant that looks like a spider. The flight to Sydney is long. I haven’t been on a 747 either, but I don’t like it as much. It’s cramped, and I have a hard time sleeping. I watched Frequency (and For Love Of The Game to LA).

[Originally published at GoHither.Net]

Concerts

I just saw Matthew Sweet at the 9:30 (amazing show), and there’s much more to look forward to: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Eddie From Ohio, Equality Rocks with Melissa Etheridge and k.d. lang, Earth Day (It’s a free concert and rally at the Mall, hosted by Leonardo DiCaprio and featuring Carole King, Clint Black, David Crosby, Keb’ Mo’ and James Taylor), NIN, Eric Idle, Jimmy Buffett, and the Dave Matthews Band (oh, and maybe Roger Waters if I’m not completely broke. 🙂 ).

[Originally published through the emmet swimming email list (ONElist/eGroups/Yahoo Group)]

Nuts and Bolts, Nuts and Bolts – We Got Screwed

I’ve been listening to a lot of Nirvana this week. Trying to understand why someone would do such a thing is never easy, and this is no exception. What I can’t accept though, is the attempt to make Kurt Cobain into another John Lennon. He’s not the “voice of our generation”.

Kurt didn’t want to talk about it, but he obviously had an unhappy youth. He grew up in a small logging town east of Seattle, filled with macho guys quick to make fun of anyone who didn’t fit the mold, such as Kurt. I can’t blame him for carrying a grudge, but it’s nothing different than what happened to me, or people I knew in school. Refusing to conform to the norm is never accepted, but Kurt was apparently really stigmatized. He thought if he could make music, all the pain would go away.

It didn’t, of course. His vision of Nirvana was success on the level of Sonic Youth, a major label contract, but not selling enough to be a household name. Instead, Nirvana achieved worldwide acceptance, and Kurt was adored by the people he despised He hated every second of the fame. Sure he had money, but now people wouldn’t leave him alone. He was constantly badgered to help out here, donate money there, and give ’til it hurt.

That coma he went into last month as a result of drugs and alcohol was apparently another suicide attempt, with note. This understandably freaked people out, and he was urged by his wife and band mates to seek treatment. He agreed, but left after a couple of days. I don’t know if we’ll ever know why he took this way out. He had been talking about quitting the band, but that solution just wasn’t good enough. Now it’s revealed that he was having horrible stomach pains, which is why he turned to heroin in the first place.

I personally don’t see it. Suicide is just an easy way out, forcing everyone else to deal with your problems because you just can’t handle it. But I digress.

Make no mistake, I do like Nirvana. I think they’ve made some great music. Soon after “Smells Like Teen Spirit” started getting big I bought Nevermind. I was impressed. After seeing Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Garth Brooks top the charts, it was refreshing to see some angst filled screaming overpower them all. I loved the album, and bought their first album Bleach, a couple of weeks later. A no frills album that sounds like a bunch of demos, it shows a promise that was delivered.

I was never deluded though. As good as Nevermind sounds, the lyrics are no more developed than Bleach. They just sound like a drunk guy spouting off, attempting to be wise, like “it’s okay to eat fish/’cause they haven’t any feelings” from “Something in the Way” or “when I was an alien, cultures weren’t opinions” from “Territorial Pissings.” They didn’t get much more intelligent on their last album In Utero. Witness “Like most babies smell like butter/his smell smelled like no other” from “Scentless Apprentice”.

I’m not saying that guy was a bad singer or songwriter. He had some legitimate angst to get rid of, and he managed to communicate that through his songs. How can you listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and not think that this guy is really pissed off? About what though? At the end of the song he sings “a denial.” A denial? Of what? I got the anger, but I didn’t see the message.

I don’t see Kurt Cobain as the voice of my generation. He wrote some good songs, but he wasn’t effective at communicating what he felt, and I think he gave up instead of trying harder. So who is the voice of my generation? I think it’s Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam.

Pearl Jam has only had two albums, but they’re both incredible. Eddie is capable of taking a subject such as abortion, incest, or gun control, and letting us know exactly what he thinks about it, in “Porch”, “Daughter” and “Glorified G.” When he gets personal is when he’s at his best. “Black” just captures the emotions I feel at the end of a relationship perfectly. And when he sings it live, you can see him reliving that feeling. And he can use a song to communicate on different levels, as in “Even Flow” where he tells a story about a homeless man, while showing his rage about the system that causes homelessness.

Eddie manages to channel the angst many of us feel and tell us exactly why he’s angry. I never felt that Kurt was anywhere close to mastering communicating anything more than a general rage. I can’t support the idea that a guy that just screamed is the voice of my generation. I don’t think my generation would just give up like that either. I don’t like a lot of things that are going on in the world, but I can tell you what they are and why I don’t like them – like Eddie can, and like Kurt never could.

[Originally published in Expulsion, an independent George Mason University student newspaper]