Monday, December 29, 2008

Zoo for Two

(my titles are getting so bad, I know.)

Blacktress' Log, Star Date Monday, 29 December 2008.

Today I went to Taronga Zoo with a Swedish lawyer I met last night while at work. Talk about randomness!!

So, I went into my Sunday night shift determined to have energy (and buoyed by the fact that we close at 1am on Sundays), and got off to a decent start. I started at 6pm, and actually prefer the bar when it's relatively quiet and people come in to order food, have a beer, and just sit around. It's alot easier to get along with folks when you don't have to shout over music and they aren't working their ESL skills while blind drunk. It's at these hours that I can be my best, chatting up customers, making them laugh, and making transient vagabond friendships.

Two older Australian guys came in around 6:30, and I instantly made a joke about them being on the prowl, which they appreciated. Then, a third guy came and joined them, and we all got to talking--where are you from, how long are you here, the usual. The third dude was visiting from Sweden, so I instantly mentioned my Swedish friend/inspiration to earn some street cred. They went off to play pool, and I started chatting with others. I got a break (finally!) and as I tried to eat*, they pounced on me, mocking my large flavourless meal. Out of nowhere, Swedish guy sits next to me.
"So, what are you up to this week?" He says, as though we're old mates.
"I'm off tomorrow, so I think I'm going to go to the zoo." I mean, he wanted to know, so I told him.
"Oh, I'd love to do that," he said. "What time are you going to go?"

Next thing you know, we've traded numbers and we've got a 1:30 E.T.A.

Um, okay. This is what moving to a foreign land is all about. Meeting randos for zoo trips and just going where the day takes you.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the bar, there's Shane, another customer who I'd met the week before when I was off the clock. I was talking to him while my homegirl chatted up his hot friend, simply doing my sacred wingwoman duty--which was completely selfless seeing as Shane is about five feet two inches tall.

Now, those of you who know me know that what I'm looking for is a TALL glass of milk--not a shot glass! He also had scary eyes that made me uncomfortable, so you can imagine my surprise when he took my phone (it was out cause I was checking a text) and put his number in it. I'm telling you, male confidence never ceases to amaze me. Of course, I deleted his number post haste. When he came in last night and stood on his tip-toes at the bar (I kid you not, tippy tip toes!) he asked me "where I've been."

Um, what's with randoms coming to my place of employment and questioning my whereabouts?? These blokes need to slow their roll!

Just when it couldn't get any better, this 21 year old who came in Saturday night clearly mistook my awesome bartending/social skills as a sign of interest. He was really nice and funny and he was my favorite customer--primarily because he ordered simple drinks and boxed annoying dudes out of my area. And because I'm bored and living life on the edge (and because I have a pay-as-you-go phone that can be ditched at any second) I gave him my number thinking he'd be too drunk to call, or that we could just do a friend thing.

Oh, how wrong I was. I'd ignored his text the night before (which said, "so when are we going on our date?"), and he came into the bar AGAIN on Sunday and sat right in my section with his friend. I asked him how old he was, and I burst out laughing when he told me. (For some reason, me being 47 didn't phase him.)

As the night gets busier, he comes up to the bar and says, "What's the best restaurant you've been to in Sydney?"

"Oh, Chat Thai would have to be it. Tiny place, great food, always packed."

"Ok, I'm going to take you there on our date."

Oh good lord. I'm such an accidental cougar.

Anyway, back to the Easy Swede (which, ironically enough, is a signature cocktail we make at the bar. I couldn't tell you what's in it, though--I always sort of make it up or read the menu when someone asks).

We meet up at Circular Quay at 1:30 today, both hungover. For some reason I thought it was a good idea to drink an entire bottle of wine during staff drinks after work, and have been paying the price all day. We stopped to get a quick bite to eat, then took the ferry to the zoo. The Swede is 29 years old, has been practicing law less than a year, and has been to Sydney several times because he has family here. He's very buff, sort of like a Lego man, and also worked as a prison guard.

Yes, I went to the zoo with a Swedish former prison guard. LOVE IT!

The conversation went pretty easily. Swede was quite unimpressed with the zoo because most of the animals were in hiding or inert--although, to be fair, as we rode the Sky Safari up to the top of the zoo, we did see that one of the elephants had a massive boner, so I'd say we scored.

Early on, during the "Australian Walkabout" exhibit where you can take great photos of kangaroos, we came to a startling conclusion. The barrier in the exhibit is about 3 inches high, and yet the kangaroos didn't move. It's like they had no will to live or desire to escape. Clearly, these animals are being given sedatives to keep them complacent and zoo-friendly. I mean, look at him:

I am, like, totes in this kangaroo's George Foreman (grill) and it's not even batting an eyelash.

The only animal with the good sense to try and be free was this lizard we saw as we were being kicked out about 10 minutes after closing time:

For serious. This lizard was just on the pavement, heading toward the ice cream truck. I figured he was going to climb in and try to get a ride off the island. I think I saw its cousin in the reptile room only 10 minutes before.

After a couple of hours at the zoo we grabbed some dinner and chatted. He told me about this famous case he worked on back home, in which a woman killed the children of her ex-bf's current lady. Of course, being the weirdo that I am, I was fascinated by the case and kept making comparisons to CSI, which he didn't appreciate. He apparently grew up in the "mean streets" of Sweden, and is very comfortable "with all sorts of people," having many Iranian, Arabic, and African friends. He's even dated a black girl, so you know he was clearly feeling the blacktress. At first, I thought we were just being friendly, but we he said I could "google him" instead of "googling myself," I knew there were some sex in the subtext.

All in all, it was a decent day. I'm glad I fought the urge to stay inside and watch tv, and I may have even gotten New Year's Eve plans out of this. Yay for doing things!

Oh, I should also add that, while looking at the red pandas, we met a lovely Caucasian family from Boston. How? Well, I hear a little girl whispering and the dad saying "ask her!" And I turn around.

"Excuse me, but we were wondering how you get your hair like that?"

Ah, another lesson in black hair care. I leaned down to the girl's level and took it slow, explaining that no, I didn't do it myself, and that it took 6 hours. I'm glad I caught her early, to educate her on the black plight before she embarrassed herself at a liberal arts university.

*Note to self: never order vegetarian lasagna at a backpacker bar. It does all sorts of bad things to you.

C'mon Ride the Train

Yeah, so just wanted to put this up in case you didn't believe me. JAGER TRAIN!!!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I May Be A Quitter, But At Least I Don't Litter*

I have to quit my job.

For serious.

This place is just a bizarro world in which I'm the town crazy, only I'm the one walking around thinking logic and spouting talk that makes sense.

My first inkling that this was getting to be too much was when I started my shift at 8pm on Tuesday to find the place packed. I was shocked; the drunkards don't arrive until 10pm at the earliest. I then followed the crowds gaze and discovered that there was a bikini contest going on. Ladies from all over the world paraded around in their finest beachwear as the crowd clapped and hollered.

The announcer introduced each girl as she walked across, praising her virtue.
"Sarah is from England, she likes vodka-lemonade and Italian men!!!!" At which point Italian men would whistle and English guys would boo.

After the contest, I noticed a few of my female coworkers were wearing bathing suits under their work shirts. Apparently, they had participated in this contest. Ah, to be 18, pierced, and full of confidence.

My next tip-off was on Christmas Eve, where I worked 6pm-3am, and the night started off with a "Jager Train." For only $6 (down from the $9 normal price) patrons could buy a shot on the jager train, which was set up all along the bar. The goal was to break the Australian record for longest Jager train. Instead, it just meant that people got drunk and annoying way earlier than usual.

I've also been sick like whoa recently--probably because I sleep odd hours and eat way too much fast food at 4am. My body is rejecting this lifestyle and telling me to sit my ass down. I even had to leave my 10pm shift on Friday after only 2 hours, because I could not breathe and the bad house music was making my head pulse even more.

Last night (Saturday) I worked 7pm - 3:30am, without a single break. What's curious about this is that the cute blonde girls always get breaks, and sometimes get to even skip out on clean-up if they start work before 8. One of the girls, who started an hour after me, was told to go out for a cigarette break and no one even told me we were shutting down my side of the bar. Um, I think I'm being oppressed, and I'm hella pissed. I'm gonna have to bring this up with Obama, cause these white folks are straight trippin'! This shit's reminding me of plantation days.

And if those aggregious crimes against the blacktress weren't enough, the DJ last night played terrible music, the worst of which was a.... dance remix of Tracy Chapman's 'Fast Car'. I kid you not. It was horrible, and I think Tracy, if she were dead, would have rolled over in her grave. In fact, I bet she had nightmares last night which caused her to roll over in bed.
And this song was played TWICE--along with a dance version of 'Wonderwall' by Oasis.

Clearly this is not my element. I did not come down under to spend most of my waking hours reeking of beer, insecurity, and work visas. I can't even do a weekend getaway, and the city is hella wack (um, don't know why I went late-90s-California on you, sorry), and I'm in desperate need of an escape. With an ever-changing schedule, even taking a class is out of the question.

And remember mom's old saying: when you start taking shots of whiskey to get through your day at the office, you know it's time to get the hell out.


*trying to find the silver lining here, and figured rhyme was the way to go.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Why I Want a Vampire Boyfriend

OMG, guys. I just got back from seeing the 10:30am showing of Twilight, and I am one smitten kitten.

As you know, since seeing Daniel Radcliffe's penis (and incurring his wrath) my love for Harry Potter has waned. I need a new teen heartthrob to take his place--or at least fill the void until the 6th movie comes out. Cue Cedric Diggory, stage left.

I was totes swooning over Ced in the HP films, and I think a guy I dated back in the day sorta looked like him. In fact, it was with that guy that I first saw the preview for Twilight, and knew I'd have to be there opening day to see my two favorite things: pretty white people with problems, and vampires (arguably could be seen as the same thing).

Many of you may not know this about me, but I'm totes into vampire lore. The whole creature-of-the-night, no-need-for-earthly-desires vibe is really hot to me. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my jam and my jump off, and I spend many a lonely Australian day/night/dusk watching episodes on my computer.

Oh wait, have I said too much?

Anyway, I went into Twilight quite excited, though unsure of what to expect. I haven't read the books--how I didn't know they existed is beyond me (I clearly need to start hanging out with more middle schoolers). All I had to go on was the trailer, which was all overcast and blue-tinged and sexylike--and filled with Diggory. The movie just came out in Sydney, and I'd been waiting for a free Tuesday so I could go. See, movies here normally cost $18, but on "tight-arse Tuesdays," they are a low-low $10.

I kid you not.

Anyway, despite my sore throat, I pulled myself out of bed, figuring I could always take a nap post-cinematic bliss. I arrived to find I was one of 4 people in the theater--all older women. Should I be worried? I thought as I pretended to check text messages as I waited for the film to start. 5 minutes before showtime a gaggle of giggling girls came in, thus cementing my own inappropriateness.

The movie began, and I instantly found the female lead to be dull and boring. However, this was overshadowed by the intense sex appeal that is Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen, all pasty and dark-eyed and tortured and repressed. From the moment he started dry heaving in biology class, brimming with desire for Bella, I knew this was going to be a good old time. Edward was so socially awkward, which I absolutely love in all men, and he wore the cutest cropped pea coat that I just loved on his slender frame. Overall, I wasn't pleased with what the film did with vampire lore (um, what is with the whole "in the sunshine I bling like Diddy's watch" nonsense?), and it reminded me of Buffy and True Blood and others I'd seen, but the repressed teen lust was through the roof. I kept just waiting for them to do it, and all the panting and almost-kissing was driving me nuts.

Well done, director, well done. I also admired some of the casting choices, including an attempt at multi-racial classmates and PETER FACINELLI (from 'Can't Hardly Wait') as the father of the vamp crew.

So, you know how I'm not interested in any members of the male gender, right? How I think they're all dumb and boring? Well, I found myself intensely turned on my Edward Cullen, which leads me to one conclusion only: I need a vampire boyfriend.

I mean, imagine how interesting he'd be. There's no way I could be bored, cause he'd have, like, a century worth of stories. He couldn't be dumb, cause he'd have seen it all. And yes, while a 100-year-old man probably has a lot of baggage, he also must be pretty damn mature.
I think this makes perfect sense. If you're still not buying it, here's a handy list.

Reasons A Vampire Is Better Than A Regular Boyfriend

- Super-human strength.
- The whole "I shun earthly desires and walk the night" is so hot.
- He has no problem feasting on the blood of humans-- a vegan Israeli investment banker couldn't do that.
- He will get his whole family to dismember anyone that comes after you. Um, instant street cred--hello?!
- Ability to scale great heights = best seats at every concert.
- He could kill you at any moment. Which, you know, just adds an element of spontaneity that most men lack in relationships.
- Just his desire to be with you shows that he's not afraid to follow his heart--or whatever he has in its place.
- His parents are probably dead, so I don't have to worry about his mother liking me.
- Will always be young and hot. Ka-ching!

Um, so obvi this is something I need to make happen. If you know any vampires, or any pale, sullen orphan boys who are faster than a speeding bullet, let me know.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Practicing What I Preach

I am really proud of myself today guys. I honestly, directly, and respectfully told a bloke I'd gone a few dates with that I was not interested.
This is a first.

Usually, I just punk out and stop calling, or make up excuses until he gets the picture. In the worst cases, I keep dating the fool because I think a) I have no right to look a gift horse in the mouth or b) I have nothing better to do, so why not eat some thai food and maybe have some sex?
(See most previous blog entries for proof of this thinking at work.)

But I'm about breaking old habits. I didn't rearrange my life in a new land just to make the same old mistakes. I am, like, 46-year-old high school freshman Jerri Blank, turning my life around. This time, when I make the same mistakes, I'm gonna doing it for all the right reasons.

Who is this bloke, blacktress? you may be wondering. Well, remember my brief mention of an encounter in a kebab shop on the eve of my birthday? That's the one. We went out on three dates, on the second of which he brought me a BOUQUET OF LILIES.
I knew right then that this was too much.
He's 27, an engineer, and very nice. But he's also short and dull as dishwater--the latter being way more important than the former. He also doesn't know me very well, so I find his intensity suspect.

I've had work at the craphole every night this week, giving me no time to hang out with him or anyone else. While I knew we could perhaps go to dinner before one of my 10pm shifts, I didn't really think a good meal was worth the inevitable post-dinner make-out session that would have to take place. I initially thought my busy schedule would allow things to fizzle naturally, as it had been only three dates, and in the early courtship phase, it's important to strike while the iron is hot. Besides, I felt a bit weird "calling it off" in a formal manner when it had only been 3 dates--wouldn't that seem like I was the one making things intense? He's also super laid-back (you know, true Aussie style), so I didn't think he'd be all up in my face or too broken up about us not seeing each other.

So you can imagine my surprise when I was at work last night, a line 5-deep in front of me, pouring beers like a machine, and look over and see HIM STANDING THERE.

In the words of Whitney Houston, Oh hell to the no!!! He had the nerve to come to my place of employment-- univited and unannounced-- and then push me to make lunch plans for today. This is not what the blacktress wants! When I saw him I was furious, so angry that it even surprised me. I mean, after all, it's nice to be wanted. And he's a nice guy who seems to enjoy my company. Why am I so put off by his interest?

Basically, I'm in a survival mode, and just getting through each day down under is a struggle. Factor in a 5:15am bed time, a need for 8 hours sleep, some personal time, and maybe even grocery shopping before I head back down to the bar and do it again, and a guy just doesn't fit in. And to keep pushing for me to hang out makes me feel put on the spot in a way that doesn't respect my own choice. If I want to see someone, I will make an effort. Give me the time to do so, and then see if I'm even worth the bouquet. I mean, I know that if the guy isn't even bringing anything to the potluck, I will not keep inviting him over. Clearly, he wants a girlfriend, which means he should stop wasting his time with me and go find a boring small girl who will love being driven in his car and will put all his flowers in vases and kiss him with delight when he comes to her job. In the words of 3LW, No, I'm not the one.

It's funny. I can suddenly cut a guy off now, with no fanfare and with complete certainty, whereas back home I'd settle for any Tom, Dick, or Harry. I've got no one here, but back home I had friends and options for a Saturday night, and no need to sit with so-and-so when I could be hanging out with people I care about. Here, I've got about 5 good acquaintances and don't see much of anyone. But, you know, better late than never.

I called him up about an hour ago, as I said we'd make plans for lunch then (just to get him the hell out of my building). I told him I didn't think we should see each other in a dating capacity. He asked why. I said it seemed he wanted more than I did.
"Okay, all right," he said.

Awkward phone hang up, and we were done. It took less than two minutes.

Note that I didn't say I wanted to be friends. Quite frankly, whether we're dating or not, he's still boring. And, as I've learned with all this alone time, I can be bored all by myself--at least then I don't have to worry about entertaining or trying to pry personal tidbits out of my companion like a cat burglar trying to open a safe.

I think I've finally found the perfect description for Sydney. Sydney's sort of like the hot-but-dumb older sister who isn't mean-spirited, so she gets to skate by on her looks. But, you know, she doesn't really have all that much going on upstairs. Do you know what I mean? While I left NYC because it was too intense, with it's "who are you? what are you making of yourself?" attitude, I definitely didn't come to Sydney for a non-stop, drunken party (that's what college and the first two years out are for). So, you know, now I've got to find ways to get myself inspired and active--and that doesn't include dating someone just cause they're there and happen to have a car and good taste in foliage.

I feel much better now that I made the call. I also feel like it wasn't so bad, and perhaps now I can stop being immature and create good karma by being up-front with people. Lord knows I've spent way too much time wondering why I wasn't called back. (See possible answers here.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

And That's Why They Call Me Sojourner TRUTH.

Sunday night's Christmas party was, indeed, a shit show.

We all met--hostel staff and bar staff--at the bar, where we had free beer and wine for about an hour. We then got into a rented bus, which took us to a nearby Lebanese restaurant. Our managers had arranged for all the wine and beer to be dropped off beforehand, so bottles were ready and waiting when we arrived. The drinking continued as everyone opened their secret santa presents.

It seems that the theme of dirtiness is really among the bar staff, as the "reception crew" (as we call those who work above ground in the hostel) tended towards more appropriate gifts. I, for instance, got a little box of cards that listed the 50 places to see before you die. Sweet. Appropriate for a traveler like myself.

One of the managers, on the other hand, got a whistle shaped like a vagina that he wore around his neck all night.
Joe, in reception, received porno magazines. The subject: women over 60.
Mai, who also works in reception, got a glow-in-the-dark water bottle shaped like a penis, which she promptly filled with red wine.
Lena, one of my coworkers got the best gift of all--a vibrator.

So, as you can see, my cock ring fit right in. My recipient loved it, and was quite excited. So excited, that later in the night he told me broke it by trying to fit it on his wrist.
What a waste of a good cock ring.

Here are some pics from the dinner, just to corroborate my story.

These are my managers.

One girl was given a box of pads as her gift (I kid you not). Staff members immediately took great fun in opening them, soaking them with red wine, and affixing them to their body.
Clearly this was a heavy-flow day.

The glow-in-the-dark penis water bottle I mentioned earlier.
Note: the person holding this is not the actual recipient of the gift. Penises all around!

Um, I could show you more, but I think this is all you need. Imagine how the other patrons in the restaurant must have felt?

The Day the Music Died

So, as you know, the bar where I work is a haven for the foreign crowd. As a result, most of the music played is the sort of common-denominator pop music that is sure to please everyone from Bombay to Berlin. While the DJs do a good job of keeping the dance floor full, I've learned that the songs are pretty much the same each night. So, in the vein of The Lonesome Lumberjack, I offer a list.

Songs That Make Me Want to Shoot Myself in the Pinkie Toe Just to Take The Pain Away
aka Tunes I Hear At Work Every Night, from the '80s, '90s, and Today:

"All The Small Things," by Blink 182
"Hotstepper," by Ini Kamoze.
(tell me you remember this song. You know, the hotstepper. The lyrical gangsta. Excuse me, mister officer / Still love you like that....)
"Informer," by White reggae singer SNOW. If you don't know this one, I'm gonna jog your memory.

"Ice, Ice Baby," by Rob Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice.
Okay, while this song can occasionally bring about ironic fun, hearing it every single night for two weeks straights makes me as angry as Mr. Van Winkle (Did you see his Behind the Music? Dude is cray cray!)
"Pokerface," by Lady Gaga. Never heard of this chick before I got here, but she's all the rage. And I want to stab her eyes with a spork.
"Groove Is In The Heart," by Dee-lite.
Yes, Dee-lite.
"That's Not My Name," by the Ting Tings.
Okay, I get it, whatever, it's not your name. What is your fucking name, chick? Oh, how about Bane of My Existence. Wait, too long?

I can only get my energy up when they play JT--for some reason he never gets old.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A White Christmas

Blacktress' Log, Star Date 14 December 2008.

I am becoming a total creature of the night, guys. The days of short shifts three times a week are over, as I'm on the roster 6 days a week now. Today is sort of a day off, but tonight is the staff Christmas party--oops, I should say Holiday party to be politically correct (but let's be real, there are no non-Christians on the staff. We silence those voices). Our boss handed out names of other staff members for Secret Santa, and I got a guy named Patrick, who works in housekeeping.

My original plan was to buy him a bottle of wine and call it a damn day. However, we were all talking earlier this week and I mentioned I had to buy a guy's gift, but he wasn't a bartender. Of course, not knowing who Patrick is, I have no regards for his anonymity, and just told them it was him. Even though he's not on the bar staff everyone knows him, and immediately laughter filled the room.

"Oh, that'll be easy," said one my pierce-tongue young things. "Just get him something filthy. He'll love it."
"What?" I said, partially confused. This is not how we do things Up Over, and I certainly thought the Brits (who I affectionately call 'the colonizers') would have a dash more class than that on this holiday season.

Then again, I should have known that the people who brought us the "quick fuck"--and, as I discovered two nights ago while getting a snack, enjoy KETCHUP ON PIZZA (clearly these palates are not refined)--would have crazy ideas of Santa's goodness.

Just then, Tracy, the only bartender over the age of 21, came over and asked what "we were on about."
"She's gotta buy a present for Patrick," PTYT said.
Tracy burst out laughing. "Yes, something really filthy. The grosser the better."

Okay, now, I haven't met this Patrick person, but I'm already uncomfortable. How would you feel if, when someone mentioned your name in the context of gift-giving, the first words out of everyone's mouth was "oh, get him something dirty!!" Is he a registered sex offender, or a just a run-of-the-mill deviant who is very open about his leanings?

Which then leads me to: what defines "really filthy"? We're talking animal porn, or just alot of full-frontal with lesbians? Yesterday two of the PTYTs went to a sex store called the Pleasure Chest and bought their gifts. (Apparently, down under, 'tis the season to be horny.)

Cat got her secret santa, one of the guys who works in the kitchen, a Kiss The Chef hat and some shorts that have lip around the crotch area--perfect for a penis to fit through.

Howie, one of the glassies, got his person some anal beads.

I feel very out of my element. It's not that I'm a prude, I just think a sex toy is the kind of gift that should keep on giving, and one you should purchase for yourself. And, seeing as I've never met this person and have a $10 limit, there's really not much I can go on besides what can only be described as "an intense heterosexuality."

So, um, I'm thinking a cock ring, and then two condoms from my own stash (lord knows I'm not using them anyway).

I'm bringing my camera tonight. This "holiday party" is sure to be a shit show.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Workaday World

Blacktress' Log, Star Date 11 December 2008.

Last night I had dreams of pouring jager bombs and saw cold, barely sanitary steel when I closed my eyes.

So, turns out the illness I've been fighting is a sinus infection, and I had the good fortune of being able to go to the doctor and get medicated yesterday before going to work. I'm now officially on an antibiotics regimen, but this didn't make the 6-hour shift go by any faster, or stop my nose from running as I leaned in to decipher people's drink orders.

It also didn't help the wave of nausea that passed through me when hearing the following requests:
Vodka with water
Shot of jaeger with tabasco sauce

So, as I mentioned before, my coworkers are very friendly....however, they are also out of control, which puts a limit on the time I can spend with them. For instance, when one of the managers said, "Yeah, that sweater says 'rape victim'" I didn't quite know how to respond. In fact, he's really into making jokes about rape--especially raping the female staff--and I didn't think this was something we could joke about. The other girls at work seem to find it funny, so maybe I should just ride this new wave of "shock comedy" and see what comes of it. Does this means AIDS is officially comedic fodder? What about the Holocaust? Can I go there?

As I said in my previous post, this past Sunday I attempted to bond with them by going to the house party they were throwing. Almost all of my coworkers live together, 4 to a room in a 2-bedroom apartment about 3 blocks away from the bar. I can't imagine what the wait for the bathroom is like, or how anyone gets their freak on, but they seem to be fine with it. To paint a picture of who I roll with in the workplace, here are some...well, pictures:

This is D. He is very nice. Sometimes I think he is high when he is not. As the party progressed, the box of wine he's holding became a fashionable headpiece. As for what's written across his torso--"I'm a WALES, LIKE!!"
I don't know what that means.

This is C. She is 18, has a pierced tongue, and I love when she calls a customer "Right Cunty"--not to their face, of course.

This is someone's ass. That is a tattoo on their ass. It says "I'M DRUNK."

I could go on, but I have to go blow my nose.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Go Shawty, It WAS Your Birthday....

So, the beginning of my 25th year has been interesting. An attempt to celebrate with dancing, drinking, and merriment was a total bust, as the bars were lame, there were too many popped collars, and the DJs refused to play Rihanna. Sunday, the actual day of my birth, was nice, as I was roused from sleep with many text messages sending good tidings, and an offer for lunch. Seeing as it was damn near dinner time when I woke up, I thought it behoovy of me to get out and enjoy the day.

It ended up being a hodge-podge, with a one-on-one lunch with a friend, then a semi-date with a dude I met at 2am the night before in a kebab shop, then a stop at a house party thrown by my drunken underage British coworkers. When I came home and checked my email, my inbox was bombarded with news of facebook wall posts and e-cards, which made me happy. I keep thinking America has forgotten all about me, but thanks to the interweb, I'm still alive and kicking. The e-cards also help me keep in touch with my roots. For instance:

From the Elite Gay Visionary, of course.

This one was actually sent to me by more than one person. I love that Pearl Harbor Day is still present in people's minds. In a way, it makes sense: considering some of my shenanigans in life, it's quite fitting that I was born on the anniversary of a day that will live in infamy!

I guess 25 does mean I'm getting up in years, and I certainly do know how to ensnare a man (for a night, anyway). I hear 25 is the age where your ass starts to spread--how will that effect my cougar wiles?

I'm currently nursing a cold, trying my darndest to stop it from turning into strep throat or a sinus infection--lord knows what this "traveler's insurance" of mine actually covers. Back at the bar tomorrow night to enable addictions and attempt to decipher accents and crazy drink orders. You know, like a SNAKEBITE: half beer, half cider, topped with grenadine.

Gag me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

No Holds BARred

Blacktress' Log, Star Date 12/2/2008.

It's about 2pm Tuesday afternoon--or 1400 hours for those on military time. I woke up about an hour ago, still fatigued from my first full shift as a bartendress.

Yes, the blacktress is earning her keep! Last week I applied for work at a bar near the city center that's popular with the foreign/backpacker crowd. It was a weird process, as the boss was very flaky and much of my hiring was due to me calling him and him making a last-minute decision. For example:

After an interview last Tuesday, he said he'd call me the next day to set up a trial shift. This means he wanted me to come in and work. He wanted to see me--this is fact. So, Wednesday comes and I get no phone call.
Thursday comes and goes, no phone call.
Finally, sick of the waiting game, I call him up on Friday at 2pm to see what the deal is.
Manager: "Hey, how are you going? Actually, someone canceled their trial, so can you come in at 6pm tonight?"

Cut to me, four hours later, standing behind the bar like I know what's up.

At the end of that shift, he says he'll slot me in for Monday, and let me know the exact time.
Yesterday, at 1pm, I'm calling him and getting NO ANSWER, as I wonder when my shift is. He then TEXTS me an hour later, telling me to come in at 10pm.

I thought working on a Monday would be a nice way to ease me in to the process, for where I come from, Mondays aren't usually poppin'.
Clearly (and as the night would go on to prove), I was an idiot. I keep forgetting that being on the other side of the world, things are opposite of what they'd be in the land Up Over. The thing is, backpackers are on vacation, so every night's a party night. They are in it to win it and will not stop until they can't feel their face and are making out with a dude from Croatia.

The place was packed and in full swing, and I pretty much got behind the bar and hit he ground running. I was instantly overwhelmed and confused, unable to understand many of the foreign accents and needing things repeated over and over. Luckily, I was told to shadow Laura, a really nice English girl who was super fast and knew the way backwards and forwards. Having been awake since 4am and in a state of stress and panic all day, I wasn't as sharp as I should have been, and also have a lot to learn.

This is what happens when you lie on your resume.

I realized that I don't like serving girls, or guys with groups of girls, because they always order complicated things and are quick to give a female bartender an attitude. This is especially frustrating when said female bartender is new and has no idea what the customer is talking about. For instance, when someone says:
"Hey, can I get two QF shots?"

What the fuck is a QF shot?!

I repeated her order with my confusion obvious, and she looked at me like I was a retarded, three-headed hydra. And I'm thinking, "Oh, what bitch, you're so fucking cool you have to abbreviate everything and expect me to read your mind?"

A "QF shot" is a Quick Fuck shot-- a combination of (wait, let me see if I can get this right) Midori, Kahlua, and Baileys. I'd never heard of it, it looks as disgusting as it sounds, and it's all the rage with the English.

Have you ever heard of Vodka Raspberry? It's vodka with raspberry cordial. Never heard of it before yesterday, and it looks pretty narsty. However, it's quite popular. I'm also supposed to know that when someone orders vodka-raspberry, I am to add lemon soda to it--even if they don't say it!

Oh, and what about "white wine with lemonade"? Well, by lemonade, these crazy foreigners mean "lemon soda" -- but do NOT think this means 7-Up or Sprite. No siree, those are sweeter, lime-flavored, and do not count.

Do see what I'm up against?

Guys, I just want to meet people and enable addictions-- am I asking for too much?
I had grand illusions of working in a nice, local pub where I'd get to chat with kindly people--preferably during the early hours, which would enable me to have a social life. Alas, I'm on the 10p-3a shift, getting yelled at by strangers who are lined up four-deep for jager bombs.

On the plus side, the other girls I work with are pretty nice, and helped me out. I tried to look to them for inspiration, especially my dear Laura. I asked her how long she'd worked here, and was pleased to hear her say she'd only been here two months. Maybe it'll take time, I thought. She's so good in two months, maybe I'll get there quickly, as well.
"Have you worked in a bar before?" I asked her, hoping she'd say no.
"My parents own a pub in England, so I've been in pubs my whole life."
Well, there goes my inspiration. Laura's been up in the pub since she was 11, which is of course why she makes serving 10 people at a time look so effortless.

My ego is further crushed when I learn that Laura is only eighteen years old. In fact, all the girls on duty last night were under 21. And they're just slinging and mixing like some fucking Coyote Ugly extras, while I'm standing around wondering what the hell is in a "Norwegian Sock Jug."

I got home at 3:30 am last night, my shoes soaked through with dirty soap-water, and my jeans wet up to my knees. I smelled of beer and insecurity, and couldn't wait to shower. It's now 3:15pm, and I've got less than 7 hours before I have to get out there and do it again.

Um, how badly would you guys judge me if I quit?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Remember, Remember, the 1st of December

I'm really happy that today is December 1st. Primarily because it brings an end to the Australian month of MOvember. The Movember event raises awareness around men's health issues, with a focus on prostate cancer and depression in men. Basically, dudes all over the country grow intense facial hair and people sponsor them to do so, raising money for the organizations.

This is a wonderful thing for men to be doing, and it's cool to be able to look at a guy and see that he's about supporting the cause (separate the wheat from the chaff),* but the drawback is that for the last month 1 out of every 3 Australian men has looked like a pedophile--or Burt Reynolds. Imagine walking down the street or hitting up the club and seeing a bunch of this:

Okay, well, not as bad as the guy on the right, but I'm trying to paint a picture here. You should see what google showed me when I image-searched 'pedophile'.

I'm also glad because my birthday is in 6 days. Although I'm going to be celerbating it when I'm back in NYC in 2009, turning the big 4-8 (or 25, or 211, depending on which of my alter egos we're going with) will be fun. And it'll be the first time my birthday isn't during freezing weather, which makes dressing sluttily so much less awkward.

* or, you know, tell which guys really likes to keep his upper lip warm. Sometimes it's just a dude rocking a mustache and they don't get why everyone else has been stealing their look.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Tell-tale Signs, II


Answer: Every man I've ever dated.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Be Thankful You're Not THIS GUY

Or a blacktress.

So, as you can imagine, being a foreign woman of color down under can sometimes be a doozy. It's amazing how many things people have said to me that could be deemed offensive. Luckily, having attended an elite private school where people never left the 20-block radius of the Upper East Side, I'm not easily offended. More often than not, such comments just reveal the speaker's ignorance in a manner so blatant that I'm shocked that they don't feel shame.

And not all of these comments have to do with race (though most do). When I mention I'm from New York City, people suddenly get excited, as though the little man inside the TV has stepped out of the little box and joined them on their couch for evening tea. I mean, we all know America and it's major cities--New York in particular--have appeared all over the world in the form of television and movies. But I guess I didn't realize how deeply these images were emblazoned in the minds of millions.

For instance, while sitting in a car with some random stylish Asian students on our way to a club downtown, we made small-talk. I told them I was from New York, and one girl got really excited. She didn't speak English very well, and first began pointing at me with her thumb up, jumping up and down in the car. I was sorta confused, but waited for her to find her words.
"Do you have a gun?" She asked, sincerely and excitedly.
"What?!" I burst out laughing--not at her, but just the thought that I'd have a gun. Did she mean, like on me at that moment? She seemed to happy for me to be a criminal, so that couldn't be it. I was dying to know more.
"In New York City, everyone have guns," she said matter-of-factly.
"No they don't!" I was cracking up now, trying not to make her feel bad and keep it light, but quite eager to clear up the situation. "New York's not really more dangerous than any other place. If you know how to behave, you're fine. I mean, it's not like I walk down back alleys, pull out my wallet, and start counting my earnings. You have to think a bit, and you're all right."
She nodded, her wide Hello Kitty eyes understanding.

The thing that's so interesting is that I can't get away with shit like that. If I said to her, "Do you know tae kwon do?" I'd be seen as a racist, ignorant American--so typical of a person from the land of the Big Mac and George Bush. I can't express a lack of knowledge because it would come off as insensitive and stupid, yet for some reason my blackness seems to warrant a display of foolishness--why do we think that is?

Take, for instance, this conversation I had online with an Aussie bloke earlier today. We met through an online dating site-- I know, I know, guys, I need to stop, but old habits die hard! Lord knows I can't even try to find a man til I handle my own scandal (get a job, get my head right), but I want to meet new people and I'm thoroughly bored, being jobless and all, and can't keep talking to the same 4 people I know here. Besides, I want to see who's out there and what my options are.

Well, turns out, not many. Much like late-80s crooner Lisa Stansfield, I, too, have been around the world and I-I-I, I can't find my baby. All I'm finding are completely inappropriate cray-crays who think it's acceptable to say whatever, whenever (uh-oh, now I'm getting all Shakira on it). Check this out:

me: so, tell me a bit about yourself
kanchan says: you look good and sexy for a black lady
me: "for a black lady"? are we normally unattractive?
kanchan says: it's how African's are generally referred as, isn't it?
me: no, i wasn't asking about the word black
kanchan says: nothing intimidating I guess
kanchan says: oh, people genrally dont get attracted, that's true
kanchan says: go on please
me: go on with what? i asked you to tell me a bit about yourself. you just told me i was attractive, despite being black. it's still your turn to take this conversation to a good place.
kanchan says: but i've seen some beautiful girls going to black dudes and some handsome white men going for black women
me: what is your point?
me: i'm not sure what you're getting at with this whole subject line
kanchan says: I mean some peple get attracted or for them physical beauty is not important
me: ok
me: i don't think we'd get along very well. bye!
kanchan says: I just wanted to chat with you

Okay, am I on glue, people? He "just wanted to chat," yet his conversation topic involved a discussion of me as some sort of exception to my normally hideous, monkey-like race. He also insinuates that those who date black people could perhaps be doing so because physical attractiveness is a non-issue--because perhaps you're only with the negress for her witty banter.

This dude completely had no clue how idiotic and offensive he was being. And, alas, he's not the only Aussie to go there. I'm finding those that are attracted to me are in it for the thrill of....well, I'm not sure what exactly. Transgressing? Going to the dark side? If I'm out with a guy or having a flirtatious conversation, I have to keep in mind that his interest in me may simply be physical.

"Well, duh, Sojourner, you weren't born yesterday!"
No, of course not, I was born in 1797 on the Hardenburgh estate. But, it's not simply the possibility of a man going after a hook up. It's that he may not even be attracted to me so much as intrigued by me. Excited by the opportunity to go there. That he may very well just want to be able to tell his mates he slept with a black woman.

Now, don't get me wrong--this could totally be the case in the land UP OVER, and in the city that never sleeps. But I guess, lacking a sense of PC-ness, it's a bit more blatant down here, and it touches a nerve in a way that gets me a bit riled up (as you can tell by the length of this post).

Let me hand it over to Lisa and Barry.

(I chose this youtube clip of this song because I think it fits in with the interracial issues)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Blacktress' Horoscope, According to CLEO Magazine

November 23 - December 22

You are entering a critical position in which trying conditions of anxiety and worry may be experienced. Changes are par for the course, resulting in a break-up of existing conditions or separation from close ties. Social activities may be at a standstill or prove to be a disappointment.

I think Australian magazines may be on to something here. But, to be fair, they're about 6 months late.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Addictions Uncovered

Here's an email I just got from my mother today:

can i drink the rest of the jim beam that was in your room? it's straight jim with nothing else in there, right?

I don't know what makes me more uncomfortable: my mother cleaning my room; her finding Jim Beam in there; or her asking to drink it.

And, to be honest, I can't even remember if there's anything else in it. I do tend to pre-mix.

My response:

"hahahhahah1 wqhat? jim beam in my room? um, yeah."

You can tell by the typos that I am so embarrassed, I could just die.

Do you think this email is some sort of reverse psycholoogoogoly* she's trying to work on me across the international date line? How can she make me feel ashamed when I'm on the other side of the world?

Damn her, it's working!

*not a word.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Career Moves

The premiere of Australia is taking place mere metres away in downtown Sydney. This means that Hugh Jackman--or, as I like to call him-- HUGE JACKED MAN-- is as close to me as he will ever be.
I must find a way to get inside him. I mean, inside the PREMIERE--yes, that's what I meant.

Anyway, I digress.

As you know, I've been down under over a month, which means being funemployed is no longer as fun as it was upon arrival. The boredom, coupled with my dwindling funds means I'm going to have to find work, stat.
The thing is, though, I don't really like working. Or waking up early, or not getting alot of money. So I'm starting to think outside of the box when it comes to means of employment. I chatted about it with my Elite Gay Visionary, and I think I may have found the job for me.

me: oh, and i may be going in to interview with a GENTLEMAN'S CLUB!
EGV: really??? i thought you nixed that idea?
me: i don't know should i just go in for the meeting?
EGV: you are naomi campbell
me: she may tell me i'm fat and kick me out immediately
EGV: you obviously have to go
me: think she'll make me strip? and then make me put ice cubes on my nipples?
EGV: maybe she'll give you ice cubes and ask you to impress her
at which point you take out a nail file and turn it into a miniature dolphin
you're just too amazing, elite gay visionary.
or maybe she'll give me a flute, tell me to spread my legs and play the australian national anthem
EGV: hahahaha
me: there are so many possibilities
EGV: i love how we've combined circus act and gentlemen's club.
we've obviously never been in one.
you should tell her you have great director skills and will stand on stage and tell girls what to do
me: i would love that
be in the wings just yelling at them "step, ball change!! now lick it....LICK IT.....LICK IT!"
EGV: haha step ball change
dance magic dance!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tiamo, Te Amo

"Thou canst be harmed by man nor sword, for now Macbeth is an undead Lord!!!!"

This is a line from "Macbeth Re-Arisen," the production I had the privilege of seeing Wednesday night at Trades Hall, in Melbourne. As previously stated, it likes to think of itself as a cross between "Shaun of the Dead" and Shakespeare--you know, as natural a combination as peanut butter and jelly.

Prior to the show, I had dinner at Tiamo, an Italian restaurant recommended to me twice over by both "Let's Go!" and a lovely shopkeeper at a clothing store where I bought a $10 skirt. After miscalculating the distance and walking in scorching heat, I arrived to find the restaurant packed, but luckily there was a bar with seating. I sidled up between two older gentlemen and asked for a menu. The older waiter pointed to the chalkboard behind him, where there roughly 10 options. I like that they keep it simple.

"You support him?"

I looked up from my book to see this older man looking at me expectantly. I stared blankly, caught off guard. He then pointed to the Obama pin I was wearing (I said I'd never take it off and I mean it) and raised his eyebrows.

"Hell yeah!" I smiled.
"He's a good-looking man, that Obama." He smiled in a knowing, sorta pervy way.
I didn't know how to respond.
"Him and his wife. That's a good-looking couple."
I don't know if you've ever heard of a "red flag," but if you were to look it up in the dictionary, it would probably show the line above as an example. In general, when one begins a discussion of politics with a comment on the physical attractiveness of the people involved, it indicates there's little knowledge of the issues. When you stare at a black woman and tell her Michelle Obama is sexy as she sits alone in a possibly Mafioso restaurant, there is little doubt that the flag must be raised and waved fiercely.

He asked where I was from, and introduced himself as Sam. He shook my hand and it felt a little greasy, and I made a mental note not to break my bread with my right hand. Just then, another older waiter came over and Sam said something to him in Italian while looking at me. They share a laugh, the waiter leaves, and Sam says, "He knows I love black women!"

I smile lightly and go back to my book, but Sam does not get the hint. He asks what I do for a living (which annoys the shit out of me), and I tell him I'm a writer.
"You want to write about me?" he says, crazy eyes bulging.
"What you got for me?"
"Have you heard of Toyota?" I nod. "Well, I know some things about them."
Sam is clearly a high-ranking Mafia official.
"I don't know if that'll be interesting, Sam," I say, trying to keep it light lest he pull out a pocket knife and put me in my place.
"Well, I got another one. You can write about the break down of my marriage."
I am uncomfortable.
There was an empty seat between us, and just when Sam asks if he can sit next to me, another older fellow enters and takes the seat. I silently thank black Jesus ("hair like lamb's wool"!)and wait for my rigatoni ragu to arrive. After I start eating, Sam leans back and says to me, "I'm gonna apply for a bank loan tomorrow morning so I can take you out for dinner!" chuckling to himself.

I looked down at my plate. I mean, I was at an Italian restaurant; it was a hearty portion, but nothing out of the ordinary. I silently wished death upon Sam, who up until then was just a slightly sleazy but relatively harmless old man. Now, he was single-handedly responsible for rekindling my 8th-grade eating disorder.

The man between us started chatting with Sam, and I was left to enjoy my rigatoni in peace. After about 15 minutes, he turns me and says, "So you're a writer?"
Clearly, Sam's can't stop talking about me.
I nod, and for the next 5 minutes he proceeds to spew titles of great Australian novels, asking if I've read them.
"Have you heard of Honeybee? It's about real things, like honey."
Seriously, he said this.
I failed him yet again and he became bored of me. He looked down at his empty bowl of minestrone soup and settled his bill and left.
Just then, a hyperactive 4-year-old took his place. He jumped on the stool and poked my boob, before turning to Sam and saying, "you're a stupid-head, mate."
From the mouths of babes.
Although I was thrown by the boob touch, it was more action than I'd seen since I'd arrived in this country, so I figured I'd let it slide. Besides, the kid--who I learned was named Nicolas--was like a cross between Crocodile Dundee and Problem Child, and I could not stop watching him sit up at the bar stool like he owned the place.

I went to tally my bill when the manager gave me a glass of wine and told me that Nicolas' dad would give me a ride to the theater where "Macbeth Re-Arisen" was playing. Completely stuck on this "balls to the wall" lifestyle, I had no qualms with getting in a car with a stranger and his 4-year-old child if it meant staying out of the heat.

While my meal cost $16--more if you count the wine I didn't ask for--the manager simply asked for $10 and then asked if I knew of any vacant apartments in Sydney. He explained that his son, Roberto, is a producer on The Bachelor, and needs to be on location for three months starting in January. I gave him some info and my cell number, and before I could even hop off my stool, he put his Iphone to my ear so that I could chat with Roberto.

Roberto and I were equally awkward and confused, but he appreciated the information.
As I headed out with the stranger and his child, the manager said he'd call me Friday and take me out to lunch.
I found this confusing but agreed, fully planning not to answer my phone for the next 48 hours.

I managed to make it to the theater with 10 minutes to spare, and was immediately directed to a bar area. I guess they knew the show benefited from a sauced audience. Done completely in Shakespearean verse, it took place after Macbeth's death, with him returning from the grave as a zombie, bent on resurrecting his wife and raising an army of zombies. The real crescendo was when Hecate gives him a chainsaw (to which he replied "groovy."-- i don't think that's Shakespearean) to slice and dice as he wished.

With no one to talk to, I sat in the theater at intermission and wrote down stuff, prompting the producer to ask me if I was from an international publication. I thought that was quite bold of her to assume that "Macbeth Re-Arisen" had somehow gained international notoriety in it's first week of performances, and I had been dispatched immediately to see the magic for myself. Although the beauty of crossing the international dateline alone is the ability to create any identity at any time, I said no, and she quickly got bored of me.

I went home that night feeling slightly drunk, a little violated, and more than a little confused. I have to go back to Tiamo and see how I can get on The Bachelor.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Free Walking Tours - You Get What You Pay For

Yesterday I went on a free walking tour of Melbourne's CBD, sponsored by the city of Melbourne. I was really proud of myself for not only finding something free, but for actually showing up at the visitor's centre and taking part in it. This tends to be the running theme of my travels thus far. I look up activities 24/7, read through my 'Let's Go! Australia- On a Budget' and 'Lonely Planet' guide while taking notes on what's cool, and trying to memorize the city map so I avoid looking like a tourist in public (although my nubian nature gives me away). When I reach a destination listed in my book or recommended to me by a friend, I feel as though I'm super human, as though I was able to bring something from the pages of a book to life, causing it to materialize in front of me exactly where the map says it's going to be.

I arrived at my tour with energy, ready to get the inside-scoop from a Melbourne resident. As I waited for the group to gather, Glenn came out to wait. Glenn was a 60-70-something year old pensioner (retiree, in Australian) who gives tours simply for the love of the game. The other two members of my tour were Anne, a middle-aged Swedish woman, and Tibia, a large German woman.
Both wore sensible walking shoes and had harsh accents.
Glenn asked us our interests so that he could tailor the tour to our needs. I told him I was interested in the arts scene, as well as seeing the tiny sidestreets for which the city is famous.
Anne and Tibia* said they were interested in history.

Ugh, way to start a snooze-fest, guys.

We headed out at 9:30 and started off strong, with views of St. Patrick's Cathedral, the historic Flinders Street station, and the architectural schizophrenia that is Federation Square.
Soon, however, it devolved into what I can only describe as getting what you pay for.
At one point, we walked through a shopping center, into the entrance of a hotel. Without explanation, Glenn took us into the elevator, up to the 35th floor, and we exited onto a floor that held restaurants and a bar.
"Believe it or not, this is the best view you'll get of the entire city," Glenn said. "But, to really see it, you have to go into the bathrooms. [beat] so I'll just wait out here while you ladies duck in and have a look."

I kid you not.

We all went into the bathroom, which had a floor-to-ceiling window through which you could indeed see most of the city. It was quite nice, was in a hotel bathroom. How were we even allowed in here without being guests? Where's the security?

Apparently, we weren't the only ones who knew about the view. After a minute, in walked three elderly women. One of them was tiny and Asian and I wanted to put her in my pocket when she said, "This is the most beautiful bathroom view I have ever seen."
I was dying to know what she was comparing it to.

We then walked through the restaurant, which was just finishing up breakfast, and looked out of the window from there. At one point, to illustrate Melbourne's penchant for "hidden gems," he took us down an alleyway into a small store that sold hats.

Seriously. We just walked in, he showed us the hats, and we left.

Glenn later tried to show us the banquet hall of an old hotel that used to be Melbourne's biggest and best, but there was a conference being held inside. Instead, he just described what it looked like.

At around 12:30, Glenn explained that if we wanted to see more, he just had to pop back in to the visitor's centre and sign out because he was only allotted 3 hours, but "was happy to continue on my own time." I wondered if Glenn was running from something in his sordid past by constantly giving walking tours, but refrained from asking. I politely explained that I had errands to run and thanked him for his time while Anne and Tibia decided to stay on board Glenn's derailed party train. While I think it's totally tender of Glenn to offer his time and loved the idea of getting a free overview of randomness, I couldn't give my whole day over to posing as a hotel guest so that I could admire architecture.

But the city really is awesome. Tiny side streets with hidden bars (it's like having a Bourgie Pig on every corner), delicious foodstuffs, and cool stores. It's all there, and I am feeling the Euro vibe. Tonight I'm seeing a play called "Macbeth Re-Arisen," which touts itself as "Shaun of the Dead meets Shakespeare" (finally! thank god someone is reading my memos!), and tomorrow I'm heading on a wine tour of the Yarra Valley--Melbourne's nearest wine country. Let's hope I'm not surrounded by French Canadians.

Monday, November 10, 2008

You Can Still Find Me in the Club....

Blacktress's Log, Star Date, 10/10/2008.

Greetings from Melbourne!!

Fun Fact: Melbourne and Sydney, although they appear close together on a map, are actually a 15-hour drive or 90-minute flight apart.

Note: objects on map are farther apart than they appear.

I hopped on a cheap flight on VirginBlue today at 15:00 and arrived at 16:30--you know, 4:30pm in foreign and military time. As I made my way through the airport, I anticipated a long line, perhaps some questions as to my origins (no, I'm not Sudanese), or at least a baggage check.
However, I got from check-in kiosk to the gate in about 6 minutes.
I plugged in my confirmation number, chose a seat, and got a printed boarding pass. I then walked right to the security check-in, and was shocked to see that I didn't have to take off my shoes immediately. Not until I caused a beep from the machine was I asked to remove my boots. I took them off, walked through, and that was that.
No one once asked to see identification or a boarding pass.
There was no question about who I could be or whether my bags had been in my sight at all times.

I was shocked and baffled. I had to jump through more hoops to get a new pre-paid SIM card for my cell this morning. On a flight from NYC to Detroit, MI, I'd have to show ID, strip down to my undies, and probably submit to a retinal scan--and that city doesn't even have anything to destroy!

Is this relaxed approached because of Barack? Does everyone just feel safer now? I mean, I figured he'd get me black immunity, but I didn't think it'd kick in so soon overseas.

It's about 8:00 pm now , and I'm writing this post at the State Library of Victoria, where they have free internet, and about 50 computers for random vagabonds to use. Of course, I did not happen upon the library by accident, but looked up my free internet options well in advance of my trip. As I walked into the large, majestic library, where students are frantically studying for exams, I realized yet again that no matter how far across the world you go, some things are all the same.

The library is always going to be a club.

Why do you say this, Sojo? you may ask. Well, back in my days of higher education, I worked at the university library, or, as I was wont to call it, "the club." This is because, surrounded by a bunch of like-minded individuals similar in age and desperate for procrastination, there were more pheromones wafting around the place than at a summer camp social. The library became a place where bonds were forged and broken, where hook ups were reunited and ignored, where bad pop music played, much to the chagrin of other attendants.
If that's not a club, I don't know what is.

And here I sit, in Melbourne, Victoria, as couples whisper and giggle. As the guy to my left IMs some chick, asking her to meet him when the library closes (after the party it's the after party!). As randos eye-fuck the shit out of each other and call it studying.

I love it here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Tales From a Table For One

WARNING: The following post is totally random and makes no sense. Hopefully I'll have better stuff when I get to Melbourne.

Yesterday I walked about ¾ of a mile to get to Norton Street, the closest strip of activities to my new place in Lilyfield. Technically, Norton Street is in Leichhardt, a neighboring suburb known for its Italian restaurants and dubbed “Little Italy” in all my aussie guidebooks. Being a foodie, I am dying to try one of these fine establishments, but also being a solo diner, I prefer to attend eateries with the fewest amount of people.

So there I was, en route to Bombay Grill, the only Indian restaurant in Little Italy.

And it was 4:15pm

Sure enough, there was no one inside. In fact, the only staff member to be seen was mopping the floor, and I wondered if this was one of those quaint places that closed between lunch and dinner hours to “prepare.” Frankly, those types of places annoy me, as I don’t think a restaurant’s responsibilities should involve telling me when I can and cannot be hungry and decide to satiate that hunger. As I hesitantly crossed the threshold, he waved me in, but warned me to be careful of the wet floor.

There was a row of several hot options already prepared, which often turns me off--I mean, how long has that daal been simmering, and is it even fresh? However, in this lonely awkward state, I appreciated having my food immediately ready, avoiding the awkward wait for my entrée that sometimes makes me so nervous that I lose my appetite. I took a seat facing away from the street so that I wouldn't have to endure looks of pity from passersby.

Not content to simply eat my food, I immediately took out my latest book—one of the many I’d brought with me for moments such as this. As I re-read David Sedaris for the umpteenth time (he helps puts my own insecurities in perspective), I start cutting my chicken tikka massala with one hand while holding my paperback with the other. Suddenly, my fork decided I was not going to sit in peace, but rather embarrass myself completely. It was as if it was fighting my direction and said, “you know, you may want to appear nonchalant and comfortable being alone, but I know the truth, and I am going to out you.”

My fork slipped from my hand, fell into my plate, which was piled high with rice and sauce, causing some of my meal to splatter onto my lap, shirt, and even my glasses.As I began to wipe myself up, I thought, Thank god this place is empty and I’m alone. At least I can suffer shame in peace.

I then look up and see that the waiter, who I thought was in the kitchen, was actually staring at me from the back of the restaurant. Apparently, I’d caused quite a commotion, with the clatter of cutlery and all.

Great. Not only did I look like a toddler who’d just thrown a tantrum, but my klutziness was now real, having been seen by another party.

He brought me over new cutlery and napkins, and I thanked him sheepishly. Sometimes, I feel about as awkward as a middle school dance.

Today, an aussie friend of mine called me and asked if I wanted to see some stand-up comedy at a pub close to where I live. Even though I'd just gotten home, I raced back out the door to try to catch the next bus so that I could make the 7pm start time.

I end up arriving 30 minutes early.

I'm sitting at the bar, enjoying the rare chance to actually chat with the bartender (they don't do barstools in Oz--I think by making it unpleasant and awkward to sit alone, they're doing what they can to curb alcoholism). I'm not too worried about my friend and her BF showing up, and just grab a drink and chill. At 10 minutes to 7pm, I order food, so that it's ready by the time they arrive.

At 7:05, I get my meal and go to the back room where the performance is to take place.
I am still alone.

At 7:10, the show starts, and I'm sitting at my 4-person table, trying to eat my sandwich and provide moral support to the comedians. For some reason, when it comes to watching stand up comedy, I'm a total mom, smiling and nodding intently at each performer as though they're performing in their school's production of A Christmas Carol.

At 7:24, my friend and her bf arrive. I do not hide my annoyance, but I shake it off and proceed to watch the insane shitshow that was the Sunday night open mic at the Roxbury. Her bf takes a seat on the couch behind us, which I think is odd, but try not to overanalyze. My friend sits next to me for a few minutes, and then she gets up and joins her boyfriend on the couch.
I am confused.
I stay at my table for 4, which also happens to be under a glaring light, and finish my tofu burger.
Yes, tofu burger.

During moments of hilarity, I crane my neck in an almost Exorcist-like turn to make faces at the two people who had asked me to attend this event, but at some point on the way over decided that sitting with me wasn't part of the bargain. It seems, even when I am with friends, I am still at a table for one.

At 7:48, I left. The show sucked, and if I wanted to sit alone, I would have stayed in my room in Lilyfield. You that old saying, "I can do bad all by myself"? Well, quite frankly, the blacktress can do awkward all by her lonesome--even in an Indian restaurant while having an early-bird special.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We DID!!!

There were news cameras everywhere. When CNN showed images of Sydney, Australia, it was where I was. I got a text message from my Aussie mum saying I was on Australian news tonight. I traded numbers with countless people, suddenly bound by this camaraderie--so many of us joked that if it didn't go well, we were staying in Australia. I even asked one rando Aussie if he'd marry me. He laughed, then said "I don't know your name."
"Don't get caught up in details; this is a marriage of convenience."

I didn't think I would be crying today, but I was. Repeatedly.
When the jumbo screen tuned to CNN said "President-Elect Barack Obama" I felt more than I thought I would.
I felt a pride unprecedented. I felt as though who I was is now somehow more right, more worthy, because of what happened today. When I saw the First Family walk out and greet their crowd, my tears started flowing again. I couldn't stop. That this is finally America, this is seen as worthy, intelligent, beautiful, strong, powerful, positive. It's, as Sam Cooke sang, been a long time coming.

And maybe I don't have the right to feel that. Of course, there are still many red states, and I am not Obama.
But today, in Sydney, Australia, at the Democrats Abroad election coverage, I was surrounded by Americans, Australians, even Brits and Danes--and there was a sense of, as Aussies would say, "Good on ya, America."

Check out this shirt, worn by an Aussie guy:

Western Australians for CHANGE.

Since I've been here, I've gotten into so many conversations about the election. As I discussed Obama with one Aussie, she said something that stuck with me: "Like it or not, America's a superpower. When America sneezes, the whole world catches a cold."
With that kind of thinking, we owed it to ourselves to at least try something different. And today, not only did that happen, but we undermined the very foundation on which this country was built.

I missed being at home today, but I also felt, for the first time, that I was not alone over here. I hugged Aboriginals, I cried with people I'd never met. One Aboriginal man said to me, "You know, when there are whites and blacks at a party in Australia, the room is divided. You are seeing right now, what change is."

It seems that this time, America is spreading something that people actually want to catch.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Lady of Lilyfield!

Today's a big day, guys. I'm writing this post in my pajamas while eating my own place!!!

I moved into my place in Lilyfield 2 days ago, and so far so good. Well, except for the fact that I don't have a comforter and have been sleeping in 3 layers. Other than that, it's perfectly fine.
I'm in a part of a house that has been made into a precious apartment by an older couple. They rent out 2 bedrooms--one to a blacktress, and another to a cute German guy who has been here studying for 6 months.

I have never lived with a guy. It makes me fearful of being seen with morning breath and makes it near impossible to make a tooty--if you know what i mean. Luckily, I think I've scared him, too, because he doesn't hang out much and keeps his bedroom door closed. Yesterday, I got in at almost midnight (after helping BCB style the cast and extras for a TV pilot), and was shortly followed by the German boy, who clearly likes to hit the streets.

Lilyfield is a suburb in the "inner west," connected to the city by bus and light rail (a tram, basically). It's very quiet and boring, but I tried to see the bright side and remind myself that back home in Harlem, I journeyed at least 20 minutes when trying to see friends and have good times. However, the biggest difference is that I could get a train or bus 24 hours a day back home, and here, I have to rely on cabs after midnight.

And no cabs know where I live.
And, being foreign and new and all, I can't give them directions.

It makes for a really high fare and great frustration on the part of the blacktress.

I think the hardest thing about moving to another land is the little things--not knowing where to shop, not knowing how to get places, and not being able to just find a nice, cheap place to grab lunch. Making new friends is always rough, and being lonely isn't a shock. Neither is not having a job, or the fact that it will likely take me a while to get one; these things are rough whether I'm in NYC or NSW.
But when I'm searching on the internet for a grocery store and can't find anything closer than a mile, I lace up my walking shoes and wonder how the hell I'm going to make it a whole year here.

Okay, off to buy food and shampoo--nothing too heavy, though--I have a long walk back.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Tell-tale Signs

So, I'm not much of a photographer. I don't like having my picture taken, and traveling solo, I find it awkward to ask a stranger to take my picture in front of a building. Whenever I am around someone, I make them take my photo just so I can send something to my mother and show her I'm alive.

However, I do really enjoy taking photographs of random humorous things. Luckily, Australia is chock full of them! Take, for instance, the snapshots below.

This sign, which I saw while driving through Kiama with my Aussie mum, means Brake for Wombats.

This sign was spotted in Surry Hills, where I was crashing with BCB. Remember all the ladies of the night I was telling you about? Well, apparently, they've got a union!
(What do you think I'd have to do to become part of the $carlet Alliance? Could I transfer credits from my NYC escapades?)

This sign was spotted in the Hunter Valley. I mean, I don't know who this Lindeman character is, but he's a doctor, so I don't doubt him.

"Children Left Unattended Will be Sold as Slaves"
This was in the beer garden at a pub in a town called Jamberoo.

Okay y'all, this next one isn't a sign-- it's actually the cover and a single page from a book I found while wandering through the Rozelle Markets this afternoon. Sydney neighborhoods are big on flea markets, where people mostly sell clothing and used books and dvds. I wandered over to one woman's table and lost my mind when I saw this:

I kid you not, gentle readers. This is for real!!! It basically teaches kids to count to 10 and learn the alphabet using the shenanigans of 10 black children. I really wanted to take pictures of each page--hell, I wanted to buy the book!--but the $20 price tag and the woman's growing suspicion of me meant I could only take one more snapshot. After learning to count to 10 ("ONE went to Africa and then there were NONE") it went on to teach the alphabet.

Does this make your heart hurt a little bit? This book was published in London, by a British company. Who do you think was the target audience?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Three-Day Grape Escape - aka - the Blacktress Goes Sideways

I'm writing on location from the Hunter Valley, the nearest wine country outside of Sydney. The HV (not to be confused with the HPV) is magical, and every vineyard has a "cellar door," where they conduct free tastings. I got up at about 8:30 this morning and arrived at the HV at 11:30, and had about 10 minutes to use the loo and apply lipgloss (you know it's got to be poppin'!) before heading off on the afternoon wine tour.

The itinerary: 2 wineries, break for lunch, 2 more wineries, and then a cheese tasting.

My buzz is just wearing off.

I came solo, but connected through the IEP program's many hook-ups. I'm loving the fact that they let me come to their offices, dominate their internet, ask them endless questions, and haven't kicked me out yet. I also appreciate their willingness to get drunk with me without judgments (more on their "Canada party" later).

There were 4 other people on the tour, 2 pairs of pals who were all.... FRENCH CANADIAN!!! As they spoke their native French-Canadian tongue, my pulse began to quicken, for me all know how I feel about Canadians. I wasn't sure how to interact, and was already feeling awkward and lonesome.

Luckily, this changed after the first winery.

We headed to Drayton's, where the shopgirl was working her first day, and seemed to be quite generous. We tried, like, 7 wines and 2 ports, and were already giggly and tripping after 30 minutes, and our love of liquor acted as a cross-cultural bond that could not be broken. I was on the hunt for some Pinot Noir for BCB as a thank-you gift, so I tried to stay focused--which was nearly impossible considering I hadn't eaten breakfast and we were on to the ports before 12:15pm.

Our tour guide was Mike, a fair dinkum Aussie bloke who wore a loud Hawaiian shirt partially buttoned, allowing his tufts to gray chest hair to have some air. He and I chatted alot, seeing as I wasn't French Canadian and didn't have anyone else to talk to. He pointed out fun facts and cool locations, adding a hint of color and class to the tour.
"Oi, guys," he said as the FCs chatted, "over there is the Broken Back Range--that's where the gay cowboys hang out."
Oh, Mike, you're hilarious!!

At the second vineyard, we tried about 5 wines, but this lady was a pro, so we couldn't coax more tastings out of her. However, I did get a sample of the Aleatico, a wine so old that it's known to be Napoleon's favorite.
I think this makes me a dictator.

Over lunch, Mike and I chatted about the election, and about how I'm "not a normal American" because I'm traveling for so long by myself. "Most Americans come for a few months, over vacation, then head back. You're breaking the ice, Sojourner!" I'm all about the old weathery Aussie blokes, cause they are really friendly and random. Take, for instance, our trip to the third winery, the Bimbadgen Estate...

As we drove up, Mike told us about the concerts and events they often hold on the grounds, such as the upcoming concert with "Alicia Keys and that girl from American Idol--you know, 'No air, No air.'" Mike then proceeds to sing snippets from Jordin Sparks' "No air" for the rest of the afternoon in this really high-pitched voice, and for some reason, it never ceases to make me laugh.

Graham, the host of Bimbadgen, is another bloke, and as he gives us tastes he chats us up and ends up taking quite a shine to the blacktress. I tell him I'm staying for a year and he says, "I think you'll be all right here," after I make him chuckle with some one-liners. I reveal that I'm a blacktress, which he dubs a "very clever" term, and tells me their opening up a new theater in Cessnock--a town of about 5,000 just next to the wineries. He suggest I be their opening act.
As we head out (I unfortunately buy no bottles because I already picked up bottles at Draytons), Graham shakes my hand and says, "Blacktress, it was a pleasure meeting you. When you take over Australia, remember you started here first."

I think Graham is going to be president of my fan club.

I now write from the YHA common room, where I fight the urge to open a bottle of port--after all, I have been drinking for 4 hours already and it's just now 6:30.

Um, who am I kidding? I have an addiction.