"Australia 1999" story # 31


Sydney, New South Wales
May 30, 1999

Arriving in Sydney, I went straight to Macquarie University, where I had friends. And those same friends would have, now, a Syndey tourist named me sleeping snugly on their couches.
     But, I was a graceful tourist. The music of the darling-blue of the city's Darling Harbour, which with its many prying-like-fingers inlets splits Sydney apart, cause me to ballroom-dance. My two left feet whisked me to all the sights. My tour of Syndey would last five days, making this dance a five-step:


Danny from Brooklyn was my first host. I was excited to see this character. He still had his New-York-City-cool-guy-"yo!"-from-the-streets way of talking, while contradictorily having still his blond big-blue-eyed troll-like head and braces. He was living the high-roller's life in Sydney, going out on the town almost every night and spending $100 at a time.
     Even so, he joined me in huddling like scrooges over $5 bets at the StarCity Casino blackjack table, beside Asian tourists in business suits throwing out $75 a hand. Some of these other tourists tripped up doing the Star Shuffle, as did Danny who lost $50. But, I won big, maintaining grace, and Danny convinced me to share a pricey (in my opinion) cabride home.


Wooed by Kory's charm and wit, I changed partners mid-waltz.
     My pal, tall baseball-loving Kory from St. Louis, and I rode the Manly Ferry to Manly Beach the next day. Our ferry shared the surface of the Darling Harbour with white, modest-sized, moored sailboats. We rode under the famous Harbour Bridge, away from the shiny modern skyscrapers of central Sydney that gleamed dangerously sharply on the harbor's deep silvery blue.
     Manly Beach was small, with yellow sand, and surrounded by rocks. I took a cold, May swim, and Kory and I mocked a one-legged bird. Manly Beach was bordered by some new, urban development and small, touristy shops where I gracefully ordered a four-scoop ice cream cone.
     Later on, I gracefully bought a 2-litre of Nuts About Chocolate ice cream and boarded a bus with Kory headed back to Macquarie University. I became separated from Kory and sat down next to a lady made of marshmallows. I offered her some of my ice cream, and a plastic spoon, as I prepared to eat it. Most strangers, I've learned, will reject such an offer, but, to my surprise, she accepted. She ate a very large deal of the ice cream, too! She told, as we rode, that she attended Macquarie but wasn't doing too well in her classes. The moral of this story is that you never should offer your ice cream to someone who looks like she's made out of marshmallows - unless you like to share your ice cream, and I very much do. She was one of my favorite strangers ever.
     -- Whups, I'm falling behind here!


In an uncommon touristy move, I opted on Day Three to ride a train two hours up the coast to visit the small city of Newcastle. My Australian love, lemon-green-eyed Elkie, had told me good things about her native city, and I wanted to see it for myself.
     The city looked graffiti'd and industrial at first. I went to the beaches within the city; the beaches being the only thing to do here. They were small, empty of people in late-May, and full with large slabs of rock in the water that made swimming difficult.
     After a brief sleep, I started tracing the coastline towards another beach. A hilly green park rose up and offered lookouts for a vast blue sea. However, the park's greenness and the sea's blueness didn't complement each other but clashed as brilliant shades competing for people's full attention. Below the hill, a seaside rocky ledge contained eight-legged starfish which I, exploring, at first thought could've been blue-ringed octopi.
     I got to Bar Beach. It was long, with soft sand and few rocks. Cliffs hovered to both sides. I thought Newcastle must've been a nice place to live, and realized how bad it would've been for Elkie to leave this clear-skied beach town for cloudy Lismore.
     Two students on the beach told me Newcastle University was nice, and Elkie and I had entertained ideas of transfering there, so I rode a bus to check it out. Tall trees loitered by the buildings, giving the school a New England feel.
     The university's The Forum athletic complex found me wandering, and by paying modestly I could go indoor-climbing on their wall for the first time ever. I expected to challenge kids to race up the wall, but it turned out to be much tougher than I'd thought. The wall was 54 feet tall, and getting lowered down took forever.
     You could choose climbs with difficulty ratings from 7 to 25. I climbed climbs with difficulties 9, 13, 14, and 12. The 14 had a brief, underside-clinging, right-angle ledge that I could only just overcome by pulling myself up with my knees on the grips. (The safety rope may have given me a necessary boost here, I'll admit.) The activity was tremendously fun. My forearms ached afterwards, but I was happy my survival instincts hadn't allowed me to fall.


The next day, I woke up on Kory's couch in Sydney.
     Sydney, like Newcastle, like most Australian cities, had a lot of green and parks in it.
     But, on this day, my big event would be taking place in a building. A building (sentence fragment alert!) with a crazy, unique roof that resembled a bunch of shell-bra barnacles living on top of each other. I paid $15 for a student's seat at the Sydney Opera House.
     The inside of the House was small yet big, fancy yet quaint and comfortable. The featured performer in this symphony was a seventeen-year-old phenom violinist. She worked the bow so fast and played Mozard so sweet.
     During intermission, before the Strauss second half, in-between mingling with sophisticated old people, I looked through haphazardly slanted windows to the Harbour Bridge. It was all big and heavy and dark and metal and massive and bustling. The bridge's supports glided over-top of the sun-ray-bending Darling Harbour like a pianist's hands on the keys. The brother of a girl I was going to school with sometimes dressed in black, got out his climbing gear, and scaled the bridge at night. I was in Australia now, between two national landmarks: in Australia, BAM!
     ... That night, there was a party at Kory's house. Kory was drunk and he decided that, as I tried to sleep, he was going to let the air slowly squeak out of all 130 balloons he'd blown up for the party. Eee-eee-wee-ooo-wee-oww! I only succeeded in stopping him and his evilly-smiling face after nine balloons. His was the most annoying act I've ever witnessed.


The Blue Mountains, an hour west of Sydney by train, were my destination for the final day of the trip.
     From the Wild-West-like town of Katoomba, the Blue Mountains were accessible. A lookout point near the town saw a great land of natural beauty open up before it. Below it, the rock plateau fell abruptly to a bumpy canyon floor full of life, full of many kinds of trees raging over every free space, full of squawks of birds. Across from the lookout, long sandstone ridges crowned the forest. One formation, the Three Sisters pointy rocks looked like seahorses. Even the air in front of the lookout, hovering so high above the valley below, seemed more alive and healthy than most air.
     Hiking down through the mountains, I saw some awesome large trees. Some birds had beautiful, high-pitched calls, and others screeched horrific like velociraptors. Large, curly-tailed birds hung out near the trails, so I chased them. There were waterfalls falling through the rock, and a most-inclined railway up the mountain at a 52-degree angle.
     This was just about all the gracefulness I could take. I caught the train back to Sydney and said good-bye to the city.

- peace and leisure.

Sydney (2) - +$100, +$5
Semester to date - -$237.50

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