Example: Bob spent so much at REI on camping equipment, he had to dumpster dive for his entire vacation to Jellystone National Park.
Can you use vacation poor in a sentence?
Example: Bob spent so much at REI on camping equipment, he had to dumpster dive for his entire vacation to Jellystone National Park.
Can you use vacation poor in a sentence?
This morning I remembered why I take the train to work: rush hour traffic. I thought I was smart by leaving early and my commute still took me an hour and a half to travel what would normally take 30 minutes. In the process, I managed to listen to The Very Best of Belinda Carlisle, Vol. 1 in its entirety–twice! (And she had more hits than you think.) Here some ideas I came up with of how to amuse yourself if you’re stuck in rush hour traffic:
01. Get out of your car and encourage others to join you in a spontaneous conga line.
02. Perform a playful strip tease for the trucker next to you with a good view of the inside of your car.
03. Crankcall the Department of Transportation from your mobile phone.
04. Beep “Shave and a Haircut” on your horn and try to get another commuter to too back “Two bits!”
05. Put your gun to your head and call a local radio station and tell them you’re going to blow your head off if the other drivers don’t let you through. (It helps to cry desperately and laugh maniacally between sentences.)
06. Download Grinder to your SmartPhone and find out which closeted married me and are cruising one another in the cars around you.
07. Jump in someone else’s car and tell them the doctor said its best for you not to be alone when you’re stressed, especially now that the meds have your violent outbursts under control.
08. See how close you can pull up to the car in front of you without actually touching it.
09. Fling your door open if another car tries to drive on the shoulder and cut around everyone in front of them.
10. Blast Whitesnake from your stereo and strip down to your bra and panties and writhe around on the hood of your car, like Tawny Kitaen in the “Here I Go Again” music video. When traffic starts to move, the men will definitely let you go first.
You would think it’s hard to find some alone time in Time’s Square on New Year’s Eve, but you’d be wrong.
On December 29, 1999, 2Fs decided we should drive up to New Jersey the following day and venture into New York City to watch the ball drop in Time’s Square.
The idea sounded exciting, but I had just returned from visiting my family in Texas, where I had contracted a virus that caused me to sleep through Christmas and beg my parents to shoot me and put me out of my misery. We spent December 26 in the emergency room, where I received fluids and antibiotics. The doctor told me I would need to rest, as I would not have a lot of energy for the next month. I laughed and told him I’d be running on a treadmill by the end of the week … then fell asleep from exhausting myself from laughing.
I slept a lot on the drive from Georgia to New Jersey, occasionally taking the wheel so 2Fs could get some rest. We arrived in Brunswick close to midnight on the 30th.
We woke up the next morning and took the train into the Big Apple. I had never been to New York City before. I was shocked that it wasn’t all skyscrapers. The brownstone buildings fascinated me.
We ventured into Macy’s to see for ourselves what David Sedaris had gone on about in his “Santa Land Diaries.” Saint Nick had the day off, but Mrs. Claus was pinch hitting for him that day. I was sure that she was really just a man in drag, but Jeff assured me that she was just a nice girl with an abundance of facial hair with a desire to make children happy. Despite our different theories, we agreed that based upon her looks, Santa must really love her.
After grabbing some authentic NYC pizza, 2Fs and I headed down to Times Square. It was only 5:00 p.m. We had seven hours to wait. I was already exhausted, so I took my antibiotics and tried to tough it out.
For the record, you’ll never find any native New Yorker in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, with the exception of pickpockets and serial killers. Everyone else is from out of town. Jeff and I watched as a drunk Israeli flight attendant lifted up her shirt to show everyone her breasts. I was surprised she didn’t seem colder, as it was chilly. My drugs kicked in and I began to feel woozy. Two Asian girls in front of me began to converse in Spanish.
I remember telling 2Fs I was going to take a nap and wait me before midnight. I sat down on the ground and pulled my head and and arms into my big, puffy Perry Ellis coat. The advantage of being surrounded by so many people all packed together is that we insulated one another from the cold; my coat also served as mini pup tent. I slept well, waking only when someone knocked over a beer bottle and soaked my butt with their brew. I was too tired to care. The crowd disappeared and I slept as if I were all alone in Times Square.
A few minutes before twelve, 2Fs woke me up. I yawned and slowly got to my feet. Still half-asleep, it seemed to stare at the ball in real life when I had seen it time and time again on television. The crowd counted down and after it finally popped, 2Fs popped the cork on the bottle of champagne we brought with us. I tilted my head back and peered up into the nighttime sky while millions of different colored squares of tissue paper fluttered down from the sky. Two thoughts occurred to me: I’ll never forget this moment for as long as I shall live; and I wish my butt were dry.
People never believe me when I say that I’m painfully shy. Yes, I have acted in plays, sang & danced in musicals, and given speeches in front of large audiences. However, if you put in a room with people whom I don’t know and ask me small talk with them, I would rather have my eyeballs pecked out by a schizophrenic chicken.
I was reminded of this when I attended the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop on the campus of Dayton University this past weekend. I found myself in the company of about 350 women, aged 25–70. I felt like a lone drop of testosterone in a sea of estrogen. Sure, there were a few other men there, but it was mostly married women with children. I’m neither married nor do I have children. What would we talk about?
During the workshop sessions, I learned tips about blogging, social media, travel writing, humor writing, selling my work, and getting published the ass-backwards way. It’s one of the few writers’ workshops that I’ve attended where I felt I got something of value from every session. And I must say that the keynote speakers at the lunches and dinners managed to be both inspiring and hilarious.
I dreaded the lunches and dinners, though. But I had a plan: Just ask a lot of questions and get my dinner companions talking about themselves. If that didn’t work, I figured I would feign death and slide under the table.
As it turned out, things went pretty well. I sat next to friendly people and asked them questions and they answered them. Then they asked me questions and I made up a bunch of lies to sound more interesting. I just kept telling myself to breathe deeply. (I think the wine helped, too.)
I found that Erma is alive and well at her writers’ workshop. At first it seemed like the Cult of Erma, because the speakers kept referring to her in the present tense. I worried we might raise her from the dead between the main course and dessert. I feared that I might feel compelled to castrate myself and eat poison-laced pudding before the mothership arrived. I soon realized how many writers still felt influenced by Erma’s accomplishments and I began to understand. To still have that influence 16 years after her death is amazing. The treat of the whole conference, however, was hearing her husband, daughter, sons, and her former secretary read their favorite Erma Bombeck columns. It was very moving.
By Saturday the weather had turned colder and I was beginning to tire from a schedule that was jam-packed with one event after another. Back in my hotel room, I was very tempted to skip dinner and just relax. But I had a feeling that I might meet someone really interesting, so I forced myself to get up and head to the ball room.
I met Bill, an 88-year-old former Presbyterian minister and army chaplain. He was a bit hard of hearing, so when I talked to him, Bill had to put his arm around the back of my chair, twist his neck around, and I’d speak into his ear that was farthest away from me. This is going to be a long night, I told myself. Then I thought, You know, maybe you should change your attitude, mister. Be patient. Who knows what gold nugget may come from this conversation.
A few minutes later, I found myself in a deep discussion with Bill about religion, climbing Mount Everest, and fitness. Suddenly, Bill pulled out his billfold and whipped out a black and white photo in a plastic accordion sleeve. It showed a debonair young man with pencil moustache flexing his huge muscles in swim trunks. It was very Charles Atlas-esque! Having been a stick most of my life, the photo impressed me. I was also blown away by Bill’s ease to reveal the picture to me. Then it dawned on me that I needed to respond.
What does one say to an 88-year-old, retired Presbyterian minister when he shares his beefcake photo from 1956? Gee, Bill, you were hot! No, that’s the equivalent of telling a man that he looks really pretty. You know, that would make a great profile pic on Match.com. No, he was married. Plus, it could hardly be considered a recent image. I took a deep breath and the answer came to me.
“That’s awesome, Bill,” I said. “I hope that when I’m your age, I’ll feel confident enough to show half-naked pictures of myself to younger people to prove that I was once a hot mess.” It didn’t quite come out the way I had imagined, but Bill smiled and nodded. I decided at that moment that when I grow up, I want to be just like Bill.
Although the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop taught me a lot about writing, networking, and marketing myself, the greatest lesson I learned from the weekend was that buried treasure is all around me if I dig through my fear. This was proved further to me the following morning when I met Leslie and Nicole as our bags were being searched by the TSA at the Dayton Airport.
When you visit another country where English is not the native language, it can be challenging. However, everyone quickly learns the phrases to ask where to exchange currency, be directed to the restroom, and where to find the U.S. embassy if one gets in trouble in a foreign land. Here’s a list of 10 helpful foreign language phrases that will come in handy while vacationing abroad.
1. Should an oracle warn you of impending doom before heading down to check out the nude beach in Mykonos, tell the hotel clerk, Εάν πεθάνω, παρακαλώ γλιστρήστε κάποιο καθαρό εσώρουχο στο γυμνό corpose μου προτού να καλέσετε τη μητέρα μου., which means, If I should die, please slip some clean underwear on my naked corpse before you call my mother.
2. If you find yourself suddenly needing feminine protection in downtown Tokyo, ask, 最も近いタンポンディスペンサーに私を指示するか, which translates to mean: Would you please direct me to the nearest tampon dispenser?
3. If you find yourself suspect amongst the other people in the Baghdad, tell them, simply state: ، ولی من در واقع يك سطل زباله انتقال كانادا خنک…, which means: I may appear to be an obnoxious American, but I’m actually an effortlessly cool Canadian.
4. If a pimp attempts to barter with you while on holiday in Moscow, say, То очень великодушное предложение, но моя дочь нет для сбывания, which means: That is a very generous offer, but my daughter is not for sale.
5. If you’re an organic food enthusiast and find yourself being offered a local delicacy in India, politely ask, बहाना मुझे ये मुक्त रेंज बंदर दिमाग?, which translates to: Excuse me, are these free-range monkey brains?
6. After spending two hours on a tour bus with a German family with unruly children, say to the parents, Ihre Kinder haben mich die Tiere nachprüfen gelassen, die ihre Junge essen, which means: Your children have made me reconsider animals eating their young.
7. If a French person comes up to you on the streets of Paris and playfully asks if that’s a baguette in your pocket or if you’re just happy to see her, reply,En fait, c’est une baguette dans ma poche, bien qu’it’ ; s beau pour vous voir, aussi bien, which means: Actually, it is a baguette in my pocket, although it’s lovely to see you, as well.
8. After you arrive in Amsterdam, if you discover that you have forgotten your husband’s CPAT machine back home and he has dreadful sleep apnea, say to the concierge, Hebt u iets dat ik mijn husband’ kon dempen; s snurkt met, nog hem niet eigenlijk verstikken?, which means. Do you have something that I could muffle my husband’s snores with, yet not actually suffocate him?
9. Should you hire a driver who seems to be on a quest to take you to ever wot with a bald Buddhist nun in Thailand, say to the driver, ไม่ ต้องการ ทัวร์ ท่องเที่ยว วัด ใด เพิ่มเติม ใน วัน นี้ — - i am พระพุทธรูป ก็ จะ ออก มา !, which means: I do not wish to tour any more temples today–I am Buddha’d out!
10. If you accidentally wander into a gay bar in Rio de Janeiro and someone of the same sex asks you to dance, you may politely decline by saying Nenhum obrigado, I’ m apenas aqui para a música do disco, which means: No thank you, I’m just here for the disco music.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned feather dusters from all flights, following an incident at the Kissimeecoochee International Airport (KIA). Over the weekend, Bud Hopkins, 56, a truck driver, and his wife, Mildred Hopkins, 54, a greeter at the local Wal-Mart, were arrested by Homeland Security for plotting to tickle torture and assassinate Gerald T. Buttes, President of the Tastee Doodle Fast Food Franchise, which is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
It seems that the couple were upset that Tastee Doodle had removed the Apple Chili Streudel Dawg, a hot dog deep-fried in an apple streudel and smothered in chili, from the menu.
““After we wrote several letters and never got an answer, we decided we had to take matters into our own hands,” said Bud.
Security at the airport was tipped off when Hopkins attempted to pass through with strange bulges beneath their clothes. Bud had stuck a feather duster down his pants and claimed to be an exotic dancer heading for a local ladies’ night performance at a at a hen party in Chattanooga. Mildred said she was pregnant with an alien lovechild.
““What’s so unsettling about this situation is the fact that these aren’t your regular feather dusters,” said Air Marshall Ed Irwin. “These are industrial strength feather dusters that sell up to a dollar more than your usual feather duster and they can swish all the fur off a baboon’s ass in seconds.” When this reporter commented that baboons do not actually have any fur on their behinds, Irwin threatened to arrest him.
In a telephone interview, Buttes stated that the Apple Chili Streudel Dawg had been removed from the menu for health reasons, after lab elephants had dropped dead after eating a diet of Apple Chili Streudel Dawgs for less than a week. “It was a difficult decision because it had been on the menu since my grandaddy opened the first Tastee Doodle in 1936–and some of the female staff said that it was good for the complexion–but the Board of Directors and I felt like it made more business sense to encourage our customers to choose healthier options from our menu that would allow them to live longer and come back and spend more money at the Tastee Doodle.”
When asked why she and her husband had settled upon tickling Buttes to death, Mildred replied, “I wanted that varmit to die laughing, so I could wipe the smile off his face.”
The whole point of my friend Tim coming along on the trip was so that I wouldn’t have to drive the entire 825 miles from Atlanta to Burleson by myself. It’s a 13-hour shot down Interstate 20, and my butt is usually numb by Meridian, MS.
I had recently purchased a used 1995 Miata, and I had sold my 1991 Geo Storm to my parents, so I needed to drive my old car home to Texas. Since Tim had once lived in Dallas, too, I figured that he might enjoy seeing some old friends. When Tim agreed, I thought my problems were over, but they were just beginning.
We left at 6:00 a.m., so that we could arrive in Dallas to have dinner with a mutual friend. I had loaded up the CD changer with a mixture of music to keep us entertained and awake on the trip: rock, alternative, disco, dance, techno, and jazz. However, Tim brought some CDs of his own, and insisted that I hear a new song by a singer named Ricky Martin, entitled “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Looking back, it foreshadowed a much longer drive than I had imagined.
We stopped in Meridian, MS for an early lunch, and to give my blood a chance to return to my behind. The trip was off to a great start. Tim and I were having fun reminiscing about our hilarious adventures in Dallas. I should have taken note at how many of those memories were much funnier in hindsight than at the time they were occurring, as well as how many began with a phone call in the middle of the night that began with Tim asking, “Jef, what are you doing?”
After lunch I let Tim slip behind the wheel, and I leaned the passenger seat back for a nap. The last thing I remembered before I fell asleep was the CD changer flipping to the disco CD and Tim saying, “I’m going to take the next exit and use the restroom.”
When I woke up a few hours later, my body felt so relaxed and refreshed from both my nap and knowing that we she only be a few hours from our destination. I opened my eyes and saw a pelican sitting on a post beside the highway. I guess my mind was still dulled from sleep, because it took me a moment to question why a pelican would be so far inland. Then a sign whizzed by that read: SWAMP TOUR. I sat up. I never recalled seeing a sign for a swamp tour on my previous trips home. Before I could say anything to Tim, we drove out onto a long bridge that extended over one of the biggest bodies of water I had ever seen. That’s when I saw the sign that read: NEW ORLEANS 11 MI.
“Tim, what are we doing in New Orleans?” I said. “That’s not on on the way to Dallas!”“You know, I wondered why New Orleans was getting closer …”
I fell back into the seat and moaned. How could this have happened to me? I had planned so well! “Tim, you’ve driven between Atlanta and Dallas at least 20 times since I’ve known you. How could you possibly get lost?”
“It’s Donna Summer’s fault,” Tim said. “I guess I must have taken the wrong highway after I stopped at that gas station,” he said. “As I got on the ramp, I was searching for that Donna Summer song, so I could play it again. I like the way it goes duh-duh-duh-duh-duh duh-duh-duh-duh-duh at the beginning.”
In my head, I calculated the time it must have taken to drive from I-20 down to the coast. “Did it ever occur to you that the scenery looked different?” I asked.
“Well, I was enjoying singing along with the radio so much,” Tim said. “You really do have wonderful taste in music, especially–”
By the time I managed to stop and ask for directions, I discovered that the 13-hour drive had now been extended by eight hours. I tried not to be angry with Tim as we drove in silence along I-10 W, then connected to I-49 N, but I could not comprehend how this could have happened. Now, I would end up driving hours more than if I had just driven myself.
“Where are we?” Tim asked.
“Somewhere in rural Louisiana,” I said.
“You’re not taking me out in the middle of nowhere to hand me over to the Ku Klux Klan and watch them lynch me, are you?”
I sighed. “No, right now I would probably want to hang you myself, but that’s not going to accomplish anything.”
“Do you want me to dr–”
“No!” I turned on the radio and the gentle sounds of jazz filled the car. By the time we stopped for dinner outside of Shreveport, I was able to laugh about the situation a bit. I also decided that we were close enough to Dallas that there was no way that Tim could get lost.
Tim reached for the CD changer. “Where is that disco CD?”
“I’ll find it for you,” I said, putting his hand back on the steering wheel. “Just keep your eyes on the road.”
I settled back into my seat. I was exhausted, but I didn’t dare fall asleep. I had this eerie feeling that once the left shoe had dropped, it wouldn’t be long before the remaining shoe did, as well.
The right shoe dropped about 90 minutes later just outside of Longview, TX. As soon as I saw the flashing blue lights behind us, I realized that Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” was playing again. I told Tim to pull over. Tim kept on driving, his hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel, while he stared into the rear-view mirror.
“Tim, pull over!”
“Jef, I am a little black man in the middle of nowhere in the South! This is how we disappear!” I had never been confronted with this side of my friend before. I didn’t know what else to do, so I slapped him across the face. Tim let out a yelp and braked, while I grabbed the wheel.
We managed to pull over on the side of the road without wrecking the car. Tim fidgeted in the seat. As we heard the highway patrol car stop behind us and the door open, Tim turned to me and whispered, “Please tell everyone to remember me laughing, never the tears.”
“Relax,” I said. “The highway patrolman is black.”
“That’s even worse,” Tim hissed.
“Because they’re always trying to look good in front of the white cops,” Tim said.
Before I could argue with Tim, the highway patrolman was beside us and asked for Tim’s driver’s license. As Tim made a great show of looking for his ID, I now understood what that this was really about.
“Where’s your driver’s license,” I whispered.
“You know, officer, I think I may have left my ID at the club last weekend,” Tim said.
I rubbed my temples. Why would anyone knowingly agree to help someone drive a car 800 miles across three states if he knew he didn’t have a driver’s license, let alone speed!
I snapped out of my self-pity, though, when I heard Tim’s voice getting louder. He was arguing with a cop. My mind raced ahead and pictured Tim grabbing the officer’s pistol, followed by them struggling left, right, left, before the gun went off and shot me between the eyes. I realized that the patrol car probably had a video camera in it, and the last few minutes of my life would end up on COPS. I decided that I was not ready to die in an effort to promote bad television.
I leaned across Tim. “Officer, I apologize. I didn’t realize that my friend didn’t have his driver’s license, or I would have never let him drive. We’re on our way to drop my car off to my parents outside of Forth Worth. Obviously, I’ll take it from here.”
A few minutes later, after I managed to talk the highway patrolman out of giving Tim a ticket, I counted up the hours in my head that I had actually ended up driving with Tim helping me: 17 hours. That was four more hours than if I had just driven myself.
“Can we hear that Donna Summer song again?” Tim asked.
“No,” I said, brushing his hands away from the radio. By this point, I was pretty sure that Donna Summer shared the blame, too.
Ten years ago, Jeff, Reid, Laura, and I flew to Australia. It was a dream vacation for me, because I’d always felt an inexplicable affinity for the people and the country. I thought that perhaps I’d lived there in a past life, but as it turned out, I lived as a traveling minstrel in Medieval France (which I have no interest in, but that’s another story).
Out trip hit a snag on September 11, 2001. We were originally supposed to fly from Atlanta to Los Angeles, then catch a 1:00 p.m. flight on Ansett Airlines to Australia and land in the evening. We anticipated getting a good night’s sleep, and awakening refreshed to see the city. However, due in part to the worldwide grounding of planes after the terrorist attacks, Ansett Airlines went belly up. Our travel agent managed to book us on a Qantas flight, but it didn’t leave until midnight. Suddenly, we changed from having an hour to board an international flight to having a 12-hour layover. We discussed whether or not it would be safe to continue with our plans. Did anyone want to back out? We unanimously decided that we didn’t want to live our lives in fear. If we died on our way to Australia, at least we were going somewhere we wanted to go.
In case you’ve ever wondered how long it takes to fly form L.A. to Sydney, it’s 17 hours. They feed you a lot and you can watch lots of movies. I opted to stay awake for the first meal, then took a sleeping aid. I slept great for most of the flight, although Reed and Jeff said that I’m quite active while I sleep. Evidently, I punched a few people in the face as I moved around suddenly. At one point, I shot my arm in the air and left it, as if I had just been declared the winner in a boxing match. I woke up a few hours before we landed and felt refreshed; the others were dragging.
Even though we lost half a day in Sydney, we managed to visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Manly Beach, Circular Quay, and the Rocks. One of the highlights was climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which offers a spectacular view of the city. After we had booked the climb, we found out that Laura and Reed weren’t crazy about heights. They both, however, did a remarkable job and were glad they did it.
In Sydney, Laura began using a tag line that we would hear throughout the rest of the trip: “You know, I was thinking …” Meanwhile, Reed went for his morning constitution and was approached by a prostitute. This seemed to astonish him the same way visitors to Yellowstone National Park react to a bear sighting.
On our final night in Sydney, we had dinner down at Circular Quay and hailed a taxi back to our hotel. We climbed in, and before Laura closed her door, the taxi lurched forward. To say the driver put the pedal to the floor is an understatement. Looking out the window, the stars in the night sky changed from points of light to streaks of white–it was just like the jump to hyper space in Star Wars. This was when we made another discovery about Laura: When she’s frightened, she curses like a sailor, especially when the vehicle she’s in is airborn. Somehow, I managed to fall asleep in the cab; Jeff told me I probably fainted from fear.
We flew to Cairns next, so we could visit the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. It was at this point that a great debate started between Jeff and me. Jeff said that the “r” in Cairns is pronounced subtlely; I told him it was silent. (He had also told me that there was no such word as Aboriginese, only Aboriginal people, which later led to an unfortunate scuffle between me and security in the National Portrait Gallery when I took a picture of a card under a painting that used the word Aboriginese. Again, that’s another story.) I asked a few locals about whether the “r” was pronounced, and they looked at me like I was mental.
As it turns out, I must resemble what foreigners visualize as Australian, because I had several people approach me and ask suck questions as:
Does the water really go down the drain in the opposite direction in the Southern Hemisphere?
Is it true that all Australians are extremely fond of ABBA?
How do Australians celebrate Halloween?
I was surprised to discover that Halloween is a new concept to Australians. I assumed that all children around the world went trick-or-treating on October 31. Sadly, it’s not the case for Aussie children, although dressing up and attending Halloween parties is becoming more popular with adults. We celebrated Halloween by eating some elaborate Halloween suckers that my neighbor, also named Jeff, had sent with me for us.
While in Cairns, we had a great dinner at Fish Lips. (I think Laura was doing a night dive that night with some Scottish boys she had met, because I don’t remember her being there.) I ate bugs, which are similar to crab, but look like the facehugger from the Alien movies. The owner gave us some free shots and sat down and chatted with us for a while.
The Great Barrier Reef was fantastic. I wished that I had learned to dive before the trip, though, because whenever I’d swim to the bottom of the ocean, I’d start to take a picture, then bob up to the surface. Jeff and I splurged on a helicopter ride above the Great Barrier Reef. The trip almost ended there for me when I nearly walked into the helicopter’s rotor.
We also visited the Daintree Rainforest. If you go there, don’t touch anything. Everything will kill you, or produce a sting that lasts for days and will make you beg others to shoot you. The flowers are very pretty, though.
Alice Springs was next on our trip, which I have already written about here. We spent three days camping in the Outback with some Europeans, who not only eat sandwiches open-faced, but also with a knife and fork. We visited the Olgas, Uluru (AKA Ayer’s Rock), and King’s Canyon. Our bus broke down in the middle of the Outback, where there is nothing. Laura and Reid led us all in a singalong. I learned that although some Europeans can’t speak a word of English, they do know every word to the theme song from Gilligan’s Island, among other American TV shows.
While we were in Australia, Kylie Minogue had just released “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.” None of my group knew who she was. I, however, had been a club kid of the late ‘80s/early ‘90s, so I did. This was before her American comeback a few months later. No matter where we went, you heard the hypnotic beat of that song followed by Kylie’s voice coming from radios. The music video played on TVs. Ms. Minogue smiled back from the cover of every women’s magazine at the checkout lanes. Kylie Minogue was like bacteria–she was EVERYWHERE.
Our travels took us to Melbourne next. Although our travel agent had advised us that we were arriving the night before the Melbourne Cup, a Thoroughbred horse race where the nation truly comes to a stop. What she had failed to do was arrange transportation from the airport to our hotel, which was an hour outside the city. We managed to rent a car, but arrived near midnight. We had never eaten dinner, so we were starved. We were overjoyed when the night clerk offered to whip something up for us in the closed restaurant. The after hours menu was limited; it was actually just chips, which is Australian for french fries. Beverage options were limited, too. While everyone else had beer with their chips–XXXX and Victoria Bitter (V.B.) being their favorites–I opted for wine. Unknowingly, I chose a dessert wine. Have you ever had a dessert wine with french fries? Well, it put me off sweet wines for the rest of my life.
Laura and Reed begged off our car trip up the Great Ocean Road to see some limestone stacks called the Twelve Apostles, so they could sleep late. It was a beautiful drive and the Twelve Apostles were magnificent. We were gone all-day and didn’t catch up with Reed and Laura until the next morning, when we learned that Reed and Laura had gone into Melbourne on public transportation. At some point, Reed returned to the hotel to do laundry while Laura went off with a crack-addicted prostitute to listen to live music or something.
We took a train to Canberra, Australia’s capital. It was interested to see Oz from a different perspective, the backs of houses with laundry drying on the clotheslines. We found out about mid-way that the train doesn’t actually go all the way to Canberra, so we boarded a bus for the rest of the journey.
The travel agent had tried to talk us out of Canberra, but Reed, Laura, and Jeff had all worked in government and were interested in seeing Parliament House. Had we known that there were so many interesting places in Canberra, we would have scheduled more time there. In addition to the National Portrait Gallery and Parliament House, we also visited the Australian War Memorial, which was very moving. Our less touristy wanderings led us to Target for cold medication for Reed, and a local movie theater where we saw Lantana. I bought a Mars bar at the concession stand. When I bit into it, I noticed that it didn’t have any almonds in it and went back to the concession stand with my defective candy bar, where I discovered that Mars bars do not come with almonds in Australia. When we returned to hotel, we watched Lantana win Best Picture at the AFI Awards on television.
When morning came, we boarded a small plane that flew us back to Sydney. I use the word “flew” loosely. It’s one thing to experience turbulence; it’s another when the flight attendants throw their arms up in the air and scream. Anyway, we made it back safely.
I hated leaving Australia. I’ve visited many places I liked, but I always looked forward to returning home. I didn’t feel that way this time; I wanted to stay. I almost cried when we boarded the plane for L.A., and I’m not easily brought to tears. I’d love to return to Australia one day, but until then, whenever I long to remember those two weeks, I slip Kylie Minogue’s Fever CD into my stereo. As soon as I hear the first view hypnotic beats, I’m in Australia again and Kylie is EVERYWHERE, just like bacteria.
It’s difficult to find any humor about the events of September 11, 2001. However, probably the most humorous and moving experience related to the terrorist attacks happened on the other side of the world in Australia.
After my employer released me to go home early after watching the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapse on television, I decided that I would do what anyone would do at such discombulating moment: I went shopping for a beach towel.
Since I was graduating from The Art Institute of Atlanta with an associate degree in Multimedia & Web Design, I decided that I wanted to celebrate by taking an exotic vacation. I had always been fascinated by Australia, so I convinced Jeff, Reid, and Laura to go with me. Since we were scheduled to visit Sydney (Bondi & Manly Beach) and Cairns (Great Barrier Reef), I figured that I probably needed a beach towel. And as I visited one store after another, I’d pick up a towel and consider it, then think, Almost 3,000 people died today and nothing’s ever going to be the same again. Eventually, I just grabbed a blue one and paid for it. I don’t even like shopping. However, I didn’t want to go home, either. There was nowhere to go, in fact, that you could escape the aftershocks of the terrorist attacks … and the unknown of what would happen next.
A week or so later, my travel agent contacted me to explain that Ansett Airlines of Australia had gone under due to some financial problems from the grounding of all flights on September 11, so our 1:00 p.m. flight had been bumped to a midnight flight on Qantas Airlines.
As my vacation approached people began to ask everyone in my group if we still planned to fly to Australia. “Aren’t you afraid?” a co-worker asked. “I wasn’t until everyone started asking me if I was afraid to fly,” I said. “But I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend the rest of my life afraid of doing anything. Now get out of my way, I need to use the copier.” Of course, that was easier to say before I arrived at the airport.
Flying used to be fun. You could practically take a rocket launcher onto your flight without anyone batting an eye before September 11, and afterwards you had to check an ever expanding list to find out what was now anathema. Overall, we didn’t have too much trouble until we made it to the security check point at LAX for our international flight. We now had to remove our shoes as we went through the metal detector. I watched a security guard scream at a man who appeared not to speak English and was presumably flying back to Mexico. The guard kept trying to make the man take off his shoes by screaming “Sabado! Sabado!” and the man looked bewildered, because I’m sure he was thinking, What about Saturday? Why do you keep screaming Saturday?
Once we made it to Australia, we spent time in Sydney, flew up to Cairns to see the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, then traveled to Alice Springs to experience the famous Outback. We arrived in the afternoon, dropped our bags off at the hostel we were spending the night at, then Jeff, Reid, and I wandered downtown. Jeff talked asked a few Aboriginal women if he could take their picture. They agreed, but then would turn away when started to snap the image. I had an inexplicable craving for apple pie, which is unusual because I don’t like apple pie. Then we heard a boisterous “Yoohoo, boys!” Laura pedaled up to us on a bicycle from the hostel.
“Did you rent that?” Jeff asked.
“Oh, are we supposed to rent them?” Laura asked, before spying a beer garden. “You know, I’m kind of thirsty.”
So the four of us ended up in a beer garden in the Outback, and were chatting with a nice German couple when distinguished man and woman strode in, followed by a crowd of photographers and reporters. He smiled and extended his hand to us as the paparazzi surrounded us. “I’m John Anderson, Deputy Prime Minster of Australia and I want to know we have your vote in next week’s election.”
Then Laura said, in her Southern drawl, “Well, howdy. I don’t know who y’all are, but you’re welcome to sit down and have a beer with us. This is Dieter and Uta from Germany, and they were just telling us how they met.” It was all I could do not to bust out laughing as media watched John Anderson anxiously.
For just a second, you saw a flicker in John Anderson’s eyes where he must have been thinking, Crimey, here I am dragging my wife around in the Outback with the media to get the support of the typical rural Australian and it’s just my luck that I walk right into a gaggle of Yanks. Then he smiled and explained that his position was comparable to Vice President of the United States. “I just want you know that we feel terrible about what happened on September 11 and we’re with you.” With just a few words, something inside me that had been hard and frozen since the terrorist attacks melted inside me. Sometimes we just need for someone to say that they’re sorry to make everything all right, and in this moment, I just needed to know that somewhere, even Down Under, someone cared.
Immediately sensing that there were no rural Australians in the beer garden, John Anderson spun on his heel and led his wife and the media onto more promising sound bytes, while Dieter told us all about Uta’s strudel.
While on a road trip this weekend, I was reminded of the many family vacations of my youth. I recalled one trip when I was quite young–five or six, I guess–and my father, mother, and older sister were traveling in our big-ass station wagon with our camper in-tow. We were somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico, driving with the windows cracked.
On this trip I had taken a little firefighter doll that my mother talked me into buying at K-Mart. I had wanted something else, but she pointed out this little fireman who came with a little fire truck and fire house and itty bitty ax and made me want it with a desire no five-year-old should ever experience.
Anyway, we had been driving for a few hours and I was in the doldrums of boredom. As I stared at the permanently splayed legs of my firefighter, I noticed that my passenger-side window would fit perfectly between. I carefully placed the fireman onto the glass, then removed my hand. He remained in place, buffeted by the wind. I smiled, then turned my attention to another toy. A moment later I glanced up to find a headless fireman straddling the glass.
I shrieked, as only a small child can. Needless to say, this startled my father and mother. Mother turned around and tried to figure out why I was in hysterics, while I choked on sobs. Finally, my mother noticed the headless doll on the glass and pieced together the story. My parents urged me to forget the doll, but I wanted that one. It was mine. I had bought it, and I had made a commitment to take care of it. Ultimately, this hinted at abandonment issues that would lead to many dumb decisions in my 20s, but I digress.
My mother sighed and put her hand on my father’s shoulder. “Ernie, you’re going to have to turn this thing around,” she said. “We have to go back for that little doll, or else we’re going to warp our son for life.”
My father gripped the steering wheel, his knuckles turning whited, and then cut a sharp turn and managed turn our station wagon and trailer around on a busy two-lane highway with just a slight gap to do so. It was one of those moments one reads about where parents rise to superhuman prowess for the sake of a child.
Driving back a few miles, my father pulled over. My mother got out of station wagon and dodged in and out of traffic, searching for the top of my tiny firefighter .
Eventually, she wandered back and tossed the top of my firefighter through the crack of the window. After she slipped back into the station wagon, she told me, “Don’t lose your head again, and roll up your window.”
I reattached the head and hugged my little fireman, fiercely. I considered telling my mother that he had been wearing a little fireman’s hat at the time his head flew off, but I decided not to push my luck.