Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Top 5


1. Express myself creatively: Write a post for this damn blog (I exclaim this endearingly) at least fortnightly. Continue attending choir practice with my singing group, The Poppet Shoppe Singers.
2. Improve my communication skills: Call my mother at least once per week. Respond to friends emails and messages no later than two days.
3. Read more, as in finish my book that I've been but three chapters away from completion for over a month, and start a new one (suggested reading?...)
4. Explore Melbourne: Do the touristy things around Melbourne - aquarium, art galleries, zoo, museums, etc. Complete a barista training course. Go out to at least one gig per week, and attend one or more of the 8+ festivals occurring in or around Melbourne in the next three months.
5. Continue to travel: i.e complete an epic cycling adventure, including, but not limited to, a 1200km journey from Melbourne to Sydney. Visit and cycle around Tasmania, New Zealand, and Asia - at least Beijing, Thailand, and Vietnam, maybe Japan.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

"There have been times I've had to work on my birthday and couldn't have been happier to be doing so, heh!"

My Dad said this to me when I told him I would be working my new job on my birthday, and he was very right - it's a good feeling to have a job and a source of income, whether you are a broke traveling man on another continent or just plain broke. This cafe job is great environmentally, as it is located in Queens Park, in the western suburb of Moonee Ponds (check out the photos from this link, it's a pretty thorough document of the area, including Queens Park and the cafe). The main outside seating area overlooks a large pond with a huge fountain, there is a play ground for the kiddies, a swimming pool (definitely jumping in there after hot sweaty days soon to come), and a lawn bowling facility near by as well. The cafe itself used to be the house of the park grounds keeper, very homey feeling indeed.

My first day was Thursday, I was told to come in for a couple hours to help out with dish washing, as the day before they were absolutely slammed and could've used the help. Well, this day was no different and they were once again very busy, which meant the "couple hours" turned in to seven hours; and never did I not have a towering stack of dirty dishes. I hustled and bustled my dish pan hands rising plates, latte cups, the tiny espresso cups used for shots and baby-chinos (see this article about this redonkulous drink), cutlery, muffin tins muffined with excess batter, mixing bowls of many sizes, water cups - well these didn't need much rinsing, but you know sometimes they had lipstick on them. Load after load went into the mini-industrail hot water rinse - no, BLASTER! It'd take maybe 20 seconds to do it's thing, then another 20-30 seconds of cool down time. Then I'd take out the load let it dry whilst I loaded up another rack, hand dry the previous rack and the cycle went on all day, with hand washing breaks every now and again for the tea pots and "pretty plates" with gold leaf design for the tea cups and sweets. Washing dishes for seven hours really isn't all that bad, you can really get in the zone huddled over the sink. When you get in to your routine all of the sudden two hours have passed in what seems like a blink of an eye, but you've washed, dried, and restocked about 20 racks of dishes. And when you're on dishes duty, you have time to get acquainted with the master chef, Lock (for short and because I don't remember nor did I ever understand what his full name was...). We talked about music and bands we both liked; traveling abroad and within Australia, how different Sydney and Melbourne are and how he won't go to Sydney unless he has too, because people can be really rude there, Sydney's pace is faster even though it's so wonkily constructed and organized, it's more congested and can feel impersonal; we talked philosophy and philosophers, existentialists, pre-Socratics, Plato, Aristotle, and that in his opinion Plato probably made up Socrates; and we talked politics as usual. Five hours flew by and then all of a sudden time started to draaaaaagg on, and I realized that I had only eaten a healthy bowl of Weetabix and Sustagen (a combination introduced to me by my Sydney mate Simon), a strong cappuccino from Dench, and a latte made by Rachel, our brilliant barista, that day. Since business slowed up a little bit around 4 or so, the manager extraordinaire, Maggie, came back and came to my rescue and made me my first "jaffle," basically a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. I finished the day at 6p with a feeling of great satisfaction from a hard days work and the knowledge that I'll be getting paid!!

My next shift was the following Sunday, 11-5:15, working the kiosk in the back of the cafe as ICE CREAM MAN Man man!!! During the week the kiosk is closed, but on weekends when the weather is nice, and on this day it was particularly gorgeous, the back station which faces the playground area is opened to serve ice cream bars and fruit pops, juices, sodas and water. My duties also included folding the serviettes for the cafe, since there is quite a bit of down time between the screaming onslaughts of children. Each interaction went like this: child approaches without parent demanding an ice cream, politely I respond with something like "Where is your Mom and Dad?" or "Did your parents give you money for ice cream?" but almost every time my words were completely ignored and they ran off, then child returns with parental money machine and, with the oil of Olivier, would proceed to ask for an Icy Twist, rainbow Paddle Pop, or Bubble O' Bill. If they didn't know what they wanted the screaming request for ice cream was immediately turned to stone silence as they very carefully deliberated which item they truly wanted. Standing in the kiosk watching kids all is definitely my favorite job thus far, children are so fascinating. There was this one kid there with his Dad, I swear he was in early training for the World Cup. This kid had the most insane ball control and juggling skills, he could kick the ball up on his feet seven or eight times and then pop it up and catch it on the nape of his neck like fucking Ronaldo, and this kid couldn't have been more than 11 years old! Freaking wicked. Another young boy, who came back for two ice creams was quite perceptive, and asked me what country I was from, and seemed genuinely interested. Being ICE CREAM MAN Man man wasn't all easy peasy, I had to MATH, gah! In the kiosk there isn't a proper till or calculator so I had to do all the totaling and change back in my head, as well as keeping a tally of all the items sold with pen and paper. At the end of the day Maggie the Manager input the totals in the new electronic till up front... I definitely missed a few marks in the assaults, but I can say the money was all properly mathalized. Not to braaaaaag or anything, but in my group interview for a customer service representative at the IMAX theatre here, we were given a four problem math quiz which asked us to total four items and provide correct change; I finished first, NBD (And as a side note, after that quiz, we played with Legos for a half hour; though I didn't get the job, it was the best group interview ever!). After closing up the kiosk and restocking the freezers, I was put on floor mat washing duty - scrubbing the large rubber mats, one from the kitchen and one from the coffee station. Scouring the hard rubber mats free of espresso grounds and burned toast, egg, and muffin batter with my brush and soapy water, I felt like I was really becoming part of the team; doing the things that are required to close up the cafe, the things you don't think about when you're grabbing a take away strong skinny cappuccino with 2 sugars, sitting down to buttered scones and tea, or ordering three icy poles whilst wrangling your children. I felt more camaraderie when the five remaining employees sat down to burgers in the park after the long busy beautiful Sunday, and dissipation of hunger pangs to boot. I left the cafe, strolling through the park back to my bus stop, once again feeling satisfied from a days work. Closing a case at the law firm back home, boxing up the thousands of documents you've printed read and summarized, and finalizing with the client, whether happy or not with the outcome, has its sense of accomplishment and reward, but I find it's not as immediately or physically as satisfying as a job that is labor intensive and mentally hyper-stressful like a cafe job.

Monday, October 25th, 2010, was my 24th anniversary of birth to this here world. I was greeted in the kitchen that morning by my housemate, Sam, who offered to make me a cup of birthday tea, which I had with my birthday bowl of birthday Weetabix and birthday Sustagen, mmmmmmm... I was at the end of a grocery cycle, so it's all I really had, but sustaining nonetheless. I hobbled out the door to the 504 bus stop at the end of the block that goes out to Moonee Ponds interchange, not 5 minutes from the park and cafe. I say I hobbled because I did myself a little injury playing some pick up ultimate frisbee. I strained my right hamstring a tiny bit on this big bike ride I did almost three weeks ago now (a post to come all about that...) and then when I played frisbee I actually injured the damn thing. As long as I don't do that again or ride a bike (ugh, so depressing) for a good couple weeks, it'll be fine. My housemate, Justine - puppeteer, children's entertainer, alternative medicine enthusiast, and wonderful goofball - gave me some Arnica and Panaway essential oil to treat the ole hammy, which have been helping in conjunction the brace she also gave me to wear. I arrived at work to happy birthday greetings from manager Maggie, Julie, my Canadian co-worker, master chef Lock, and new wacky kitchen hand Simon. As soon as I donned my apron, I was running coffee, seating a 4 top of cranky old ladies who complained about their slightly burnt raisin toast and "okay" cappuccinos, refilling water glasses, and taking the new delivery of bottled drinks upstairs - not so good for the leg, but it was feeling good that day anyway. It was fairly busy all day with a rush from 12:30-2, but nothing the five of us couldn't handle. This was my first real day of waitering at the cafe; it was also my first interaction with the new electronic till system, which I picked up all right. All will become easier with practice. I already find that some of the tasks are becoming automatic, like asking if the customer wants sugars in their takeaway, reeling off the different flavors of ice cream bars when they ask for just a "Paddle Pop" even though all the varieties we sell are on a board right in front of them, and asking what table they are sitting at before they start to order so I get their order in the system on the table not for takeaway, or at least before they walk off, haha. I finished up right at 3, and headed back on the bus to North Fitzroy so I could get to the grocery store and then head to the park for the birthday barbie! I invited several of my Aussie friends to join me in Edinburgh Gardens, where they have free electric grills and large picnic tables, for some meat grillin', beer drinkin', and frisbee flickin' (stationary though because of the leg). I freaking forgot to bring my camera, IDIOT! But I had my iPhone and captured a few shots:
(from left to right playing a bastardized form of Bananagrams, but resulted in histonkulous dirty phrases: Carolina and partner Chris, Emma, Laura, and housemate Sam)

Chris is featured in one of my photo albums, in person looking a lil' bit goofy (my bad, one of those funny photo faces caught between words or expressions) and represented by his beautiful white Leggaro fixed gear, Kenny. Carolina, his partner, is incredibly sweet, charming and sharp. Emma and Laura are very good friends with Chris, and a hell of a wacky duo. Emma is quite the quick wit and fiendishly funny; Laura brings up quirky topics to ponder and discuss, and is thoughtful, goofy and fun to be around.

(one of the phrases that came out of bastards Bananagrams, which entails grabbing a handful of tiles and making the dirtiest, most revolting sentence possible)

(Flora, Louise, Gen, and Kieran)

I've mentioned Louise before as my bike and bakery friend; Kieran is an incredibly talented musician with a phenomenal voice and knack for writing great lyrics. Gen and Flora are in a band together as well, newly named The Flashcoves, and I recorded one of their songs on my point and shoot which turned out pretty well. I absolutely love their voices, they harmonize so well; this video doesn't do them quite justice, but it's what I got:

Flora is one of the wonderful Aussies who put the whole idea of living in Australia in my head when we met back in the summer/fall or 2008 in Austin when she was studying at the University of Texas. She and her family put graciously hosted me for my first two and a half weeks I was here in Melbourne. Her parents, Judy and Graeme, are a freaking riot. Judy is so honest and matter of fact, and with sharp wittiness that reminds me of my own mother. And Graeme is brilliant ramblin' muso with vast knowledge of music history. They are both teachers/administrators at university in Melbourne. Flora also, in cahoots with my mother, brought my birthday cake!

(It read "Happy 24th Birthday John!" which was met with some confusion as I am known by my middle name, Aden, in Melbourne, so people were like, "Man, you got the wrong cake!" But Flora's explanation that it was my mother who ordered the cake and she has naming rights, sufficed to appease my briefly befuddled Melbourne mates)

Others in attendance Sophie, one of my other Austin/Aussie connections as well as fellow hip-hop appreciator (she bought me a ticket to Sage Francis and we almost saw most of his concert, haha an amazing present nonetheless!), and her housemate KJ; Joey, one of Sophie's best friends and whose dad got me in to the big bike ride I'm in the process of writing about; Warren, one of Louise's best mates and quickly becoming one of my favorite people as well; and the lovely Kate, better late than never. Kate, also an Austin/Aussie connection and reason for living down under, allowed me to stay and look after her one bedroom flat for three weeks while she visited America. It was a wondrous birthday down under!
Since the next day here was technically still my birthday in Austin, I treated myself to a brunch at Dench of poached eggs, with salmon, asparagus, dill cream sauce and incredible bread:

Then I went and bought a few iconic and neat Melbourne postcards to write back home. I decided to go to another coffee shop to go compose the cards, Atomica on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, one of the cool spots to go, much like South Congress in Austin, full of the bohemian culture with lots of alternative, artisic shops, cafes, restaurants, and trendy pubs. On top of the strong cappuccino pictured above, I had another strong cap, and a flat white at Atomica. I definitely over caffeinated and felt excessively wired and jittery, like a fly that's been swatted at and missed, in fear for its life flying at twice its normal speed, erratically running into windows, people, and inanimate objects. I managed to write two out of the three cards I wanted to post that day before I had to get up and move on to something else. I started to walk down Brunswick Street when the sign in front of Little Creatures Dining Hall, the restaurant of the Little Creatures brewery nearby, advertising their new IPA. IPAs, and other craft brews are only just now coming in to popularity and production. Talking to many a local who have traveled to around America say Australia is about 5 to 10 years behind in beer trends and micro brewing. I treated myself to a few pints (570 ml, bigger than US pints that are only 473 ml) of the golden amber, mild and smooth, not too hoppy with a sweet fruit and nutty finish, and a bowl of Kalamata and green olives, a regular Aussie pub accessory. And to wind out my birth day 2, I stopped at a bottle shop, a.k.a. beer and liquor store, for a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Scotch Whiskey. I had a glass of Scotch and milk on the rocks with a piece of my delectable birthday mud cake, and my celebration of birth was complete.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Screw this chronological BS!!!

Else, I'll never get anything posted. Hokay so, its October 20th and today is the first day I wore shorts - Spring is here! The sun was up, the sky was blue, it was beautiful, and so were the Roos - err something like that, heh. I've only had a short break between warm seasons coming from the end of Texas summer to the tail end of Aussie winter, which is mild and never dipped below freezing, but I am a man who likes his hot sun, wiping sweat off his brow, and prefers to be half naked to bundled up in a parka. So, to start the day off right, I made some breakfast tacos and a cup of tea, took a shower, and hit the park with my new housemate, Sam. First, we grabbed a cup of coffee at Dench, a fabulous bakery/cafe around the corner from my new digs, and also where my friend and fellow bike nut, Louise, works. We tossed the ole 'bee around Edinburgh Gardens for an hour or so, I showed him a few things to help improve his throw, and he found frisbee to come quite naturally. He also found that he was a freaking magnet that day for loose change, as he discovered $6.25 in the park! That's almost enough for two meat pies! Sam was going to take me to a good pie shop after frisbeing (sp? well, I like that so I'm officially making that the new participle verb form), but after laying in the sun at the park said frisbee session, we opted for water back at the house and I chose to eat my groceries while Sam went downtown for Japanese. I made a fantastic Moroccan Sweet potato, carrot, and chick pea soup last night, and by last night I mean I started at about 8:30pm and didn't finish clean up until 11:30pm - it was a good late night dinner anyhow. I fetched a fresh loaf of sour dough from the local IGA, because it's cheaper than Dench and I'm still broke at the moment (I'll address this issue in a moment), and made myself a tuna sandwich to go with a bowl of my soup. Making tuna sandwiches with the right spices, i.e. dill weed, cayenne, and some pepper, is something my mother taught me, but nearly every time I make a tuna sandwich I think back to my Denton, TX days when I attended UNT and lived with my best mate, Bryan. We'd always have tuna and ramen noodles on hand, classic cheap college cuisine; I'd whip up a couple tuna sandwiches for Bryan and me when we were chilling in our apartment playing Onimusha 1, 2, 3, 4, Soul Calibur II and III, or Dynasty Warriors. Then, mid-semester, Bryan had to move out of our apartment, something about rent being too expensive, and I went to the cupboard to get the dill weed for my tuna and there I found a note scribbled by what looked like a 3rd, maybe 5th grader, on a paper towel that read, "Your dill weed has been taken by the Spice Pirate, you lose 20 spice points." I was struck both with hysterical laughter, and with horror that I couldn't have any dill weed in my tuna. It still makes me laugh, and I always look over my shoulder when I go for the dill weed looking around for the Dread Spice Pirate!!!
I digress, as I mentioned earlier, I am broke, but only momentarily so, because I FINALLY GOT A JOB!!! I am going to be a waiter at this cute little cafe in the middle of this park in west Melbourne. It's called Oliver's Garden and it overlooks a pond and is near a little play ground, so it's frequented mostly by parents with their children, and the elderly out for a stroll in the park. Tomorrow, I'm going in for a few hours to help out with the dishes, learn more of the day-to-day and learn the new register system that was just installed today. The cafe has apparently been around for a couple decades, but has just come under new management in the last 6 weeks, so everyone is new, as is the menu, so I feel better coming into a new establishment where everyone is learning the ropes rather than having to try to find my place with people who have been there for ten years. Since I arrived in Melbourne, a month and a half ago now, I have been worrying too much about money and jobs, stressing and not having as much fun as I should be having down under! In the last week or so, I've been doing meditation and clearing my mind of negative thoughts and I've been in a much better state of mind, and voila! I've got a job! I also am hoping to get another cafe position located in a community gardens. Like Oliver's Garden, it would be a great environment in which to work. And there's also a coop bike shop there that's open on the weekends, so that'd be super rad as well!
Alright, well that's all I got for now, hopefully I can get these posts flowing a bit more regularly, and I'll get around to my past experiences when I can.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taxi Cab Confessions

After I walked the barren maze of the taxi waiting zone with my carefully balanced trolley, I was appointed the cab at the front of the line, which thankfully was a station wagon to fit my bicycle case and two large bags. I hopped in the front seat with the Pakistani driver, who plugged in the address of Simon's parent's house in to his GPS (CHEATER!!!). The cab driver was friendly as we discussed the purpose of my visit, my work experience and family. It was when I mentioned that my father is a blues musician that he got really animated and interested. He asked if I liked music, and before I could answer, he started rummaging through his console next to him, swerving a little, and slowing down to 30km/h on the highway with a posted speed of 70km/h Out of the wreckage of contents of his console, he pulled out a burned disc, and popped it in his CD player. He went on about how “This guy is the best, the best!” and “Do you know the tabla? He is the best! And he sings, beautiful, amazing and plays harmonium” “No body does this, no body can do what he does. He is the Best!” He put in the CD labeled "Medhi Hassan" and chose track three off the album. Let me just say, I love me some tabla and harmonium, so it was a pleasant surprise when I heard the slow seductive push pull of the harmonium's chords, mixed with the rhythm of the tabla from steady and smooth to roaring around beats, as if you were standing in a brook and then stepping beneath a waterfall, all the while Mehdi's melody is seamlessly passing through the quarter tone Arbic scale to paint a mystical melancholic picture. I mentioned to the driver I had first been introduced to the tabla by my steel drum teacher and mentor, CJ Menge, who also taught tabla method, and I still wish that I had taken a lesson... As for harmonium, my friend Elliot Cole, who is a world class musician, and only learning more now that he's at Princeton working on his doctorate in composition; he uses the mighty harmonium in some of his compositions. I told this much to my new music friend and driver, and we were digging the CD all the way to Rose Bay. When we pulled up to Simon's parent's house, he fished out a CD jacket and handed me the disc! I was floored, I really did dig the music, and I had never been gifted an album by a cab driver before. I graciously accepted the disc, paid the exorbitant $60 for the lengthy ride, and unloaded my luggage to the curb in front of my new home for the next two weeks.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010


On the flight from Auckland to Sydney, I had a brief chat with the guy sitting next to me. I noticed on his seat monitor in front of him he was listening to Mika – like if Queen, Prince, and Madonna had a three-way, and Mika is the baby Eddy Mercury birthed from the spliced seed of Madonna and Prince – I asked him if he had listened through to the bonus track on Life in Cartoon Motion, a favorite track of Bryan and I from our Denton days together, a beautiful haunting song on piano with dark and ominous tones, sorrowful and reverent vocals full of suspensions – he said he hadn't. I followed up by suggesting, if he liked Mika, that he would probably like the Bird and the Bee, their album, Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future, is also on the Quantas airline's music library. He works for Quantas as a(n) _______ - can't remember, but it sounded boring and corporate-y and like he was much too young to be doing that sort of work, in my opinion.

We landed and disembarked – “I'M IN AUSTRALIA!” I exclaimed to myself, and later out loud when there were fewer people to think I was another deranged tourist. I went through the passport check, and went to the baggage claim, the one worry I had, it was killing me: did my beloved bicycle make it all the way???! To my surprise, all my bags made it to the carousel. SO relieved, I balanced my three beastly bags on a trolley, and once again, thanks to my first class tickets, I was placed in the express line through customs. At the Aussie customs, my passport was stamped, but no visa requirement checked, and my bike was inspected for half a second, just to make sure I wasn't bringing in foreign terrain. Luckily, I had just bought the ultra slick, super narrow, extra thick hipster tires for Yoshimi, my steed, which makes her impervious to the mud-bots and dirt-droids.

But I digress. Having made it successfully and without hassle through the Australian customs, there was one thing haunting me, was my mother on the next flight over to beat me for not calling her the instant I deplaned?! I immediately went and exchanged my greenbacks for Australian currency and a phone card, as my iPhone was from that point forward, simply a mini-computer. I rang my mother up just before she boarded the Midnight Mommy Express direct flight from Austin to Sydney, let her know I had arrived safe with all my luggage yata-yata. She was happy she could still get a refund for her express ticket and that I was safe and sound, but being that it was nigh on midnight in Austin, and she being a working woman, she was ready to turn in; and I was ready to find a taxi to take me to my one known contact in Sydney, Simon, who was at work, however, his mother had broken her ankle a week before and was home bound and around to meet me at their home in Rose Bay when I arrived...Great?! I went outside the airport with my trolley to look for a cab, and that's a whole other story....


Friday, September 24, 2010


A cornucopia of compadres came to say, 'ta ta for now,' and it was a long glorious HOT Sunday at the park. Friends, food, refreshments, frisbee, football (EU, both for alliteration and correctness), flapping gums, a few tears -fucking fantastic bon voyage! It was a good 12 hour 'goodby' bonanza, but I had to wake at a reasonable hour, for I of course had not packed on item for my evening flight the following day. I work better this way, under extreme pressure in that last minute, all or nothing moment. I like to think it focuses my mind on the important task at hand, but it's really just procrastination – or perhaps a Freudian move I was subconsciously making to keep me from going!?! Naaaaa, definitely procrastination and maybe a little ADHD.

My dearest mother helped me roll up my wardrobe to tetris them all in my luggage. A few more friends dropped by and helped me procrastinate a little more, and then it was time... for my mom to go get my last ThunderCloud sub for a while – a large roast beef, lettuce, tomato, onion, both cheeses, mayo and spicy mustard on wheat *triste. When she returned, with sandwich in hand, we loaded up the car with my luggage, I brought with me the following: Yoshimi, my beloved bicycle packed away in a hardshell shipping case that I scored on craigslist for one fifth of the original cost! thank you, Gran, for the bargain gene; one large duffleish suitcase full of clothes, 10 copies of my dad's album and 10 copies of the Marmalakes EP Wonder Winds; one large backpacking pack, from my Europe 07/08 adventure, also full of clothes, toiletries, and my MacMini, minus the power cord, and iPod with entire 120GB+ music library (I KNOW?! What an idiot! I still haven't gotten over that one), but luckily I loaded season 1 of Bored to Death, Glee, and full movie of Dear Reader: Wizard People by Brad Neely on my iPhone; this pack also has a small detachable backpack I filled with four books – On the Road (given to me by Michael, my ex-upstairs neighbor – fantastic cook, excellent talker, and gracious), Musicophilia and Existentialism both given to me by my mother (best bitchin' birther – Nuff said!), and Honeymoon with My Brother (given to me by Annabanana, my mom's bestie and a key player in my life) – Bananagrams (yes, I hyperlinked this because people must know the joy!), two light jackets for warmth and plane ride pillowage, The packs would be my two carry-ons. I left for the airport around 5:30, just in time for post-work Monday traffic... This would be an obstacle for anyone else, but for my mother, this was merely a challenge. One she scoffed at and threw caution right smack back in the face of that foolish blowhard, the Wind! Willikers!

The flights were completely bearable, thanks to my grandparents buying my Business class ticket with their stash of air miles. I can't thank them enough for that. I slept great in the deluxe seats with no one next to me, big hearty meals microwaved just a few seconds fewer than the Economeals, dry scorched and rubbery; and due to the free booze – three Bloody Marys Austin to LA, two champagnes and an orange juice LA to Auckland, and two Glenlivets on the rocks Auckland to Sydney. I also watched Exit through the Gift Shop, and the Best of Mr. Bean on in-flight entertainment.