"Australia 1999" story # 21


Lismore, New South Wales
May 4, 1999

Australian Mick (the hero!) came to get me when my bus stopped short in Ballina. We got back to Southern Cross University, where I was happy to see that Jewish Jeremy had also survived his travels.
     When I´d last seen him, he was on his way to Sydney to stay with Kory, who we´d met during the Cairns orientation. I´d known Jeremy to be lazy and poor at keeping contact with people, so I asked him: "Does Kory even know you´re coming?"
     "I hope so. He´s gotta meet me at the train station!" said Jeremy.
     As it turned out, Kory hadn´t had a clue he was coming.
     Jeremy told me now that he´d ran into other SCU vactioners in Sydney and spent his nights on the floor of their hostel, an act I commended him for.
     He didn´t want to hear any of my praise, though, as he was in the middle of hosting one of his one-man complaining parties (they were usually bashes). This tirade was due to him having his first Aussie-rules football game earlier in the day. He was disgusted because he´d played only one quarter.
     The sport is an odd one. Two teams advance a rugby ball to their ends of the field by punting, passing, and something I´d call "popping" (batting the ball with their fists) the ball to teammates. In such a skill-demanding game which involved "popping" the ball, it´s easy to see why Jeremy was struggling to keep up with his deft Aussie teammates.
     Before the weekend was over, the poor guy would cheer up. He introduced me to an activity on Sunday he liked almost as much as complaining.
     "Stack´s on." He told me the name of the game. He had me sit on the thin carpet of his suite. Some of his suite-mates gathered around me: Craig, a wise guy of Indian descent; Michael, a small 25-year old; Clarky, a baby-faced guy with dark, spiky hair; Dan, a talkative guy I called "Dave"; and Jim, a chubby, pointy-chinned guy with long, uncombed hair.
     I started to worry. "Hey," I said to Jeremy, "didn´t you yell ´Stack´s On!´ yesterday when you jumped on Cath? You guys are gonna jump on me!"
     "No," Jeremy assured me. "I yelled ´Fat´s On!"
     "Oh," I said, apologetically.
     It only took me a few seconds to see past this pathetic fib. A few seconds too long. "Stack´s On!" they screamed, and they were upon me. Like vultures, they came from above. Each armed with a couch pillow, he jumped on me from every angle and furniture piece, pinning me mercilessly beneath the stack.
     The "Stack´s On!" veterans enjoyed a hearty, drawn-out chuckle at my expense. Finally, I clawed my way free, grabbed an unused weapon from the nearest chair, and piled on the new victim. It´s a pretty fun game. Seeing Jim fly through the air with a beanbag below him was a thing of beauty.
     Before the playing was done, Jeremy saved face from the previous day´s Aussie-rules debacle. He took on the taller Craig and Clarky, one at a time, and pinned each decisively.
     Exhausted from the game, some of us went out for dinner. Over Pizza Hut, Michael explained that Jeremy rarely spoke in the suite except to complain about how crappy Australia was compared to the United States. I found this quite funny, and Jeremy complained about the restaurant´s crappy selection of Australian music.
     Jess found the "Stack´s On!" participation of her boyfriend, Clarky, quite funny, as we talked ourselves to sleep that night for the final time. Roommate # 3. A very sweet girl. I was gonna miss her.

Monday also marked the end of ten days for me without classes. I lamented this fact over a breakfast bowl of ice cream - a BIG bowl, because it contained two litres of ice cream and a melon-sized bucket of my most cherished Australian food, Milo.
     The short-haired blonde, Luke, was the genius who´d introduced me to this banana split innovative topping. It´s a dense, calorie-packed chocolate powder. With ice cream, it tastes like cold, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet dirt. Mmmm, dirt!
     Luke loved the stuff. One night, he´d been drinking, and we sat around talking about how great it was. He said, in his sideways outback accent, "They even made a movie about it: Milo and Otis. Otis wouldn´t taste too good, though."
     As I ate, Iowan Talya entered. The tall, poofy-haired girl resembled a fuse, and her laughter was easily as ignitable. All it took for her to explode into an uproar was to see me with ice cream at this early hour. The thin girl was all sweet tooth and funny bone. For three minutes, she talked to me, and she didn´t stop laughing the whole time except to sample the ice cream.
     Energized, I was ready for Video. In class, we told of the scripts we´d written. Mine was an episode of "The Crocodile Hunter" co-starring the writers of "Southpark", Trey Parker and Matt Cole. It was a retaliation to the Southpark episode which mocked the Crocodile Hunter and suggested he shoved his thumb up animals´ butts to subdue them (I´d taken a lot of heat for that episode from Crocodile Hunter opponents, especially Raquel). In my script, Southpark´s writers wrestled crocodiles and snakes haplessly, causing Steve and Terri Irwin to say, "Oh my God! You killed Trey Parker!" ... "You bastard!"
     My class went on to have a demanding discussion about television shows. Surfer Tom offered this: "My grandfather used to tell us he watched three generations of his kids watch Gilligan´s Island and not once did he see any of them crack a smile."
     I visited the other Yank surfer, Ryan, in the afternoon to find him playing his didgeridoo. Blowing until red in the face, he sounded like a puttering boat motor in a billabong of toads. He was going to the brown deserts of Central Australia soon, and he wished he could bring it to play in the outback. Man, would that be an awesome scene.

My latest scene was the floor of Peta´s room. Peta was a dark, curly-haired Australian with the soft eyes of a playful puppy. We liked riling ourselves up at bedtime disussing the guy or Elkie who we liked, thus exciting ourselves too much to sleep.
     Our first official roommate duty was to go bowling with Jess and Clarky. The event called for a girls-vs.-guys competition, with dinner on the line.
     "We´re gonna whoop you guys´ butts!" Peta proclaimed boldly. It was especially bold of her when considering she´d only bowl a thirty-one.
     "Skip Lomar!" said Clarky at the lanes, "that´s what they used to call me." It took a moment, but I noticed he was referring to the alley´s high scores list, headed by a Mr. Skip Lomar with a 290-something.
     We bowled a practice round. I knocked down nine pins my first try, leaving one pin left. One pin left!? It appeared my "big ball technique" was going to be brought out early.
     Normally, I used a lighter ball. But, with one pin left, I polished off the 16-pounder. I layed it down slowly and spinlessly, and it reached the end of the lane on-target, marking yet another confident spare for the "big ball technique."
     Play began. Clarky and I dreamed over what delicassy the girls would cook us. Rack of lamb? Filet mignon? Fried ice cream!?
     The guys took a big lead, despite a surprisingly unproductive stretch of "big ball" attempts. Clarky took his turn; we watched; he knocked over nine pins.
     It was a tense moment. Clarky was involved in a close dinner bet of his own with Jess. I jumped to my feet. "Use the big ball technique ... use the big ball technique!"
     For some odd reason, I was able to convince him. He layed down the 16-ball. We looked on. The ball traveled slowly down the lane, on-path for the solitary pin. I cheered excitedly. Clarky clenched his fist. Well before being halfway there, the ball took a dreadful turn. A second later, it was in the gutter. Clarky grimaced, and I avoided his eyes.
     At a later moment in the match, Clarky again was faced with a one-pin situation. "I know," he said, giving the thumbs-up, "I´ll use the big ball technique."
     To my horror, he was only kidding. He turned his thumbs-up upside-down, and blew his tongue at me. "Pffff!"
     In the end, the guys handily secured their free dinner of fajitas and fried ice cream. Clarky, however, came up short to Jess ... by one pin. We figured it had ultimately been the "big ball technique" that had given him the loss. The good news was he´d scammed his bet so that he could make Jess whatever he wanted, which, as Jeremy knew, would probably be some crappy Australian dish.

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