Thursday, November 27, 2008

Melbourne Day 11: Phone keeps on ringin’

I swear, in the 11 days since we started our honeymoon, my phone has never been this busy. It’s ridiculous. I’ve even gotten sick of the Bowser theme ringtone that Ted gave me, as cool as it is. I swear, you’re never as popular as you are when you attempt to go away.

Tanja and I had a late start due to one of us having a big ole sleep-in, but then we went to Koko Black chocolate café and started the day with a Belgian hot chocolate. Then it was off to Federation Square to see the Rennie Ellis exhibit. For those of you not in the know (and too lazy to Google search) Rennie Ellis is a former journalist who had been candidly photographing Australians on the streets, on the beaches, in pubs, at sporting functions, and even in Kings Cross for roughly 40 years. His shots are sincere, often funny, but all very interesting. We bought the book for the exhibit “No Standing, Only Dancing”. Check him out if you get a chance.

After that, I was starving, so we stopped at a middle-of-an-alley café for proscuitto-capsicum-and-olive pizza for Tanja and a steak-bacon-and-onion sandwich for me. It was strange. The cafes (all 8 of them) are all along the edge of the alley, and the tables are in a shared clump in the middle, with a space between the tables and the cafés for pedestrians, so the waiters are ducking people to get to you. Loud, and the woman next to us liked her cigarettes, but fun and good food. Then shopping and browsing. I got two CDs (after MUCH deliberation, putting back about 10), Dignity and Shame by Crooked Fingers and Electric Version by the New Pornographers (a Canadian band Neko Case sings with). I also saw a book called “I’m a Lebowski, you’re a Lebowski” which examined the cult following of the film The Big Lebowski. Looked cool, but too expensive. We then found a comics/sci fi/nerd store called Minotaur (like galaxy, but with 20% more nerd) and I geeked out for a bit. I got the 3rd Buffy Season 8 comic, and the first two Ex Machina trade paperbacks. Tanja also found the original book of The Prestige, by Christopher Priest. Again, I put a whole heapin’ helpin’ of stuff back. Self control, thy name is Lucas.

Dinner was at the laksa place at the base of the apartment building. I had a mixed laksa, and Tanja had a duck broth with noodles and pork wontons. Very good. We then picked up some yogurt for the strawberries we had at the apartment and headed back.

I’ve got a theory about pedestrians in Australian cities. Now, in Sydney, people tend to put they heads down and bull through, often knocking into you, your arm, or your bags. It’s a trait I dislike. I recall last time I came to Melbourne, I remarked that people seemed to respect personal space more and no one hits you. I’d like to revise that slightly. No one hits you, that’s right, but they constantly SEEM as though they’re about to. If you’re walking along at a good clip and stop to tie your shoe and look back, you’ll see a whole throng of people nearly run into you, then leap around you without actually touching. Similarly, we were leaning against a wall downtown, sorting out our shopping and I saw a man and his companion walking towards us on a collision course. We were there before he appeared. He saw us. He made eye contact. They continued walking closer, and closer, and then stopped dead a few inches from me, with a confused look. I returned a look that said “Well?” and he stepped to the side and kept going. So Melbourne pedestrians ignore others just like Sydneysiders, but they just handle near-collisions better. So basically, if you’re in Melbourne, and someone cuts you off walking and looks like they’re going to hit you, don’t worry, they’ll pull some gyration and miss you. Unless you gyrate to avoid them. Then you throw off the whole dynamic. It’s like dividing by zero. The universe implodes.

Melbourne Day 10: The Wentworth Syndrome

Got on the plane this morning (after hearing some funny names over the airport intercom, Worsley Kingsford & Mrs. Chimay) armed with World War Z: The Oral History of the Zombie War and Tanja in tow. Arrived in a surprisingly sunny Melbourne (weather guy wrong YET again) and made our way to our new digs for the week. It’s on Liverpool street in between Bourke and Little Bourke streets. It’s not a hotel, but a fully-furnished apartment larger than the first flat Tanja and I shared. Big honking TV, DVD player, leather lounge, fancy carpet, futon, view over all of Melbourne. Very swish. Then we went out for a walk to get a view of the neighbourhood.


Within a one. Block. Radius. We have five wine bars, a laksa house, a Japanese tapas restaurant (figure that out), a microbrewery (eeee!) restaurant that specializes in 12 kinds of chicken parmigana, a Greek restaurant (whose menu advised you to ask for lotsa bread and feel free to make a mess), the James Squire Brewhouse, a proper English Pub called the Elephant and Wheelbarrow, two bookstores, a comic book shop (two doors down!), and Blessed Mary, mother’a Jesus, a Tiki Bar/Thai Restaurant called Mai Tai Hawaiian Bar.

And that’s just within a block and a bit of where we’re staying.

We nearly had a heart attack looking for a place to have lunch. Tanja had a dose of what I call the Wentworth Effect.

Allow me to explain.

In Terry Pratchett’s book The Wee Free Men, young Wentworth Aching, aged 3, is kidnapped by the Queen of the Fairies. Wentworth, a perpetually sticky child is perpetually wanting sweets. As the Queen is looking to please him, she puts him in an entire room full of sweets. However, he sits in the centre bawling his eyes out without touching any of them. The reason? Total sensory overload. By moving towards one part of the candy, he is automatically moving himself away from some of the other candy. Which is tantamount to blasphemy. So he sits in the middle crying.

Tanja, and I are feeling this because we have 5 days. That’s 10 meals (5 lunches and 5 dinners, unless we turn breakfast into a practice-lunch) with which to experience ALL OF THIS. Fair breaks your heart. But we’ll manage. J


After a quick wander-around, we decided on Parma’s Restaurant & Microbrewery for dinner. We each decided to go with the specialty of chicken schnitzel parmigiana, Tanja getting hers Mexican-style with salsa, sour cream, jalapeños and guacamole, and me getting mine with Italian meatballs spiked with tarragon. What was delivered was a piece of chicken schnitzel the width and diameter of a football. Huge. Very tasty, though. Complete comfort food. It came with side orders of chips and salad which was completely unnecessary. On the beer side, I started with the “Hopinator” double India Pale Ale (7%, amber colour, very rich caramel flavours with warm malt and a surprising finish reminiscent of natural yogurt) and moved on to the 2 Brothers Growler (5%, American Brown ale, very dark, malty, followed by a left-turn in flavour, turning to milk chocolate with watermelon hints, which as I consumed became raspberry, strange and full of character). Tanja had a Victorian Riesling and a Mountain Goat pale ale. I also grabbed two bottles for the fridge back at the apartment: The Grand Ridge Brewery Black & Tan Ale & Stout (I’ve never seen a pre-mixed Black & Tan before. You get the hoppy, crisp up-front taste of the lager, followed by the rich chocolate taste of the stout. Highly satisfying) and a Holgate Brewhouse White Ale (which I have not had yet).

Tanja and I are both very full now. We’re going to watch some Star Trek and not think about food.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sydney Day 9: And the Big News?

We watched the Good News Weeks Awards, but felt it was a touch too long.

Byron airport security found a pocketknife in my backpack that even I had forgotten about. The scary thing wasn’t that I forgot it was there; it’s that Sydney airport security missed it on the way TO Byron. Brrr.

The ride in the Byron-to-airport van left me so bounced around that I had headache, nausea, and a twitch in my upper lip for the rest of the day.

Got back to our lovely house to find the garden flourishing (except the jasmine), the bread mouldy, the champagne still in the fridge, and the chocolate still edible.

Tanja is helping me get rid of liquor bottles with a teensy bit left in them… by drinking what’s left. It’s effective.

Leaving for Melbourne tomorrow morno!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Byron Bay Day 8: One Day More

Well, it’s Sunday again, and it’s our last full day in Byron. Tanja and I were discussing the differences between our two trips to Byron. We decided the previous trip had been more back-to-nature, whereas this trip was far more practical. We (and by we I mean Tanja) slept late until 11:30 (I woke up around 8:30 an passed the time reading comics on my laptop). We headed into town for lunch, remarking upon the few schoolies we saw, most of whom were sleeping off the previous night. We had salt-and-pepper squid, and got some chocolate-covered goji berries from an organic store. Not sure what the big deal with those is, they tasted like raisins. We bought some pendants at a bead store: I got a little tiki guy, and Tanja got a polished wood piece. We walked up the beach to Belongil, where we stayed last trip and stared enviously at the houses there. We also saw a little kid of about 8 stomp out sulkily with his skateboard to tool around on the street clearly thinking his parents were mental for taking him out of his urban paradise to this wind-swept beach place. Walking back we were paced by a tiny Silky Terrier, who kept running up to sniff us, but wouldn’t hold still to be petted.

On the way back to the room, we saw a young guy sunbathing on the tiny roof next to the balcony of his third floor hotel room. I was nearly stopped in my tracks imagining all the things that could go wrong as he stood up.

We’ve settled in on the hotel balcony for the late afternoon, nibbling on pistachios and Lindt chocolate and working our way through the last of the beer in the fridge.

As for holiday books, I’m out. I’ve been prodigious in my reading. I‘ve read:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Nation by Terry Pratchett
Beer: A Gauge for Enthusiasts by Greg Duncan Powell
Cuisine De Moi by Ben Canaider (writing as Gavin Canardeaux, an imaginary celebrity chef)
Nearly all of the latest issue of The Word magazine.

This is not counting the comics I’ve read via the laptop, which include:
The last 9 issues of Invincible
The entire Iron Man Armour Wars epic
The entire Marvel Zombies catalogue
Half of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier (but to be fair, it’s 190-odd pages)

This evening we plan to give the Orient Express another shot. Then tomorrow morning back to Sydney via El-Jet-Plane-o.


Okay, Orient Express was amazing. We had prawn and pork wontons and sang choi bow. Mains were crispy duck in plum & mandarin sauce and a yellowfin tuna and Atlantic salmon sashimi plate. Everything was fragrant and lovely and the waiter was friendly and knowledgeable, plus we got a bit of a show when a yobbo and his blonde missus swanned up to the table next to us and, not liking the price point of the mains, ordered the entire left side of the menu. Then had to ask the waitress what a wonton was (she even used her hard-of-thinking voice, “woooon taaaaaaa-oon).

On the way back here, we got more glimpses of the Northern Reticulated Australian Schoolie. While both genders are vocal, it is the female of the species which is more distinct, often shouting the same name of someone either down the street or right next to them for hours on end. The male seems to only vocalise during courtship displays with other males, with such distinctive calls as “Give us a farkin hug, ya!” and “Dan’t touch moiy! Dan’t!” ringing about the forest. Even our local little country pub had been taken over. The locals themselves had fled, leaving only a seething mass of teenagers, and an 80-person line for the door. I think we’e timed our exodus from Byron perfectly.

Byron Bay Day 7: Twas The Night Before Schoolies

Finally got our breakfast-out, with a Spanish omelette with chorizo for me and one with smoked salmon and feta for Tanja. Great way to start the day, and it forced us to get our backsides out of bed to get there while they were still serving breakfast.

We did our poking about the shops again, with me finally getting that Tiki mug (not that I wasn’t half-smug about it), had some gelato, and bought presents. The weather was unusually hot, stingingly hot and ridiculously windy. Like hat-blowing-away, tearing-shirt-from-back windy. So much so that we weren’t walking along the beach for fear of being sandblasted.

Also, as it was Saturday, it was the unofficial first day of Schoolies Week. All of the matriculating youngsters drive up here in packs to surf and drink and generally make nuisances of themselves to the locals. The population on the streets seemed to have tripled and every shady spot was packed full. Possibly thanks to Schoolies, this seemed to be the day for noticing people. So here I shall chronicle our more noticeable noticeables:

A rather large couple making out horizontally on the edge on a park, not ten feet from the path we were walking on. We gave an eye roll and kept going. It was only when I glanced back, I got the view of the *ahem* full moon as his board shorts were nearly to his knees. And she was wearing a dress. Gee-yargh! Didn’t need to see that! Public forum
A kid who looked about 15, and fish belly pale with no shirt, sitting outside the store with 5 cartons of VB beer, two grocery bags full several loaves of no-name white bread, and another bag full of bags of chips. All he needed was a jar of vegemite and he’d have the breakfast of champions.
A couple of young guys, a younger girl, and an older woman walking down the beach, the two guys suddenly, and without warning start wrestling with one another. Throwing each other around, eventually one tossing the other violently onto the sand. “I hope they’re brothers,” I said to Tanja. “Otherwise there’s a whole homoerotic subtext they might not be ready to deal with.” “Why is it okay if they’re brothers?” asked Tanja. “Well,” said I. “Then they’re just being brothers.”
Later in the evening, while walking back to the room, we spotted on several street corners groups of 8-10 young men. They all had beers in their hands, were talking quietly, and all facing inwards with their heads down. It was like a very slow rugby scrum.

Speaking of that evening, we had a lovely dinner at the Pacific Dining Room. We started with cocktails (Coconut and Chilli Martini for me, a Falling Water for Tanja which had Campari, blood orange, watermelon, and mint), then moved on to small sharing plates. We got bread, warm olives, proscuitto with flatbread and onion jam, cured kingfish done in a pastrami style, carrots with air-dried beef and sheep-milk yogurt, and a tomato salad with ricotta and baby leeks. Then came the mains, also shared: reef fish (snapper) in red curry on a bed of rice, cucumber, and sliced wontons; and chicken something-or-other with carrots, baby leeks, and cooked in a bacon reduction sauce. The fish was excellent, but the chicken brought the house down. For dessert we each had a glass of Hungarian tokaji. Tanja had little mini ice-creams covered in Madagascar chocolate, and I had a pressed apple, which was comfit apple slices with little icicles of toffee. VERY nice. We tipped like drunken sailors and toddled home for the night, ignoring or avoiding the drunken adolescents.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Byron Bay Day 6: It Burns! The Goggles Do Nothing!

When we got up this morning, Tanja decided that we required exercise, so suggested a walk up to the lighthouse and down the promontory that the gods has sent us away from last time. We got dressed and headed out. Well, sort of. I, wearing my usual t-shirt and shorts combination, made it about 5 seconds into the full sunlight before making a sort of “arghargharghargh” sound and pulling a u-turn back into the apartment. Sunburn, you see. You know when you spray a cockroach with pesticide he runs away and then starts to run in a circle, slowly dying? Yeah. Like that. I then slathered on about an inch more sunblock and put on the only long-sleeved shirt I brought. That way, instead of feeling like I was walking under a blowtorch, it instead felt as if I had already been seared and was placed under the grill to cook further.

We walked up to the lighthouse and were lucky enough to spot a pod of dolphins off of one of the cliffs. And me without my camera. It was very cool. We went down to the promontory, and then when we went to go back up, arrived at an impasse: we had walked down approximately 5 hobillion stairs to get there and after the first 30 or so I was knackered. Maybe it was the sunburn messing with my stamina, but I couldn’t do it. Tanja found another path around with far fewer stairs, but I was worried there for a moment.

Once back in town, Tanja talked herself into letting herself go lingerie shopping. She got things. That’s all I’m saying. After the thing-getting, we got some giant sandwiches for lunch. I got a tshirt with an octopus eatinga guy on it (it’s cooler than it sounds!) and new CDs from Jackson Jackson and Gogol Bordello (whose gypsy-punk stylings Tanja liked, shocking me). Picked up groceries, and a mixed six-pack of beer (Grolsch, Byron Bay Premium Ale, Kokanee, Northern Rivers Stout, James Squire I.P.A., and Coopers Sparkling Ale, and a pint-bottle of Little Creatures Pale Ale because it came in a friggin‘ pint bottle). Came back, went swimming in the ocean, lazed around drinking beer (the Grolsch, which was excellent, and the Byron Bay Premium which was equally excellent) then headed out for dinner.

We went to the Byron Beach Café, which we found by the strangest way: we followed the big arrow on the sign reading ”Byron Beach Café”. I had tempura prawns, one hell of a steak, and a molten flourless chocolate cake with strawberries for dessert. Tanja had oysters with salmon roe and champagne, Atlantic salmon in a dill reduction sauce and a white chocolate and raspberry crème Brule for dessert. We shared a lovely bottle of Mornington Peninsula (NZ) Pinot Noir. The restaurant is right on the beach so we had the most incredible view at sunset. Then we came back, watched some Star Trek , and drank some Northern Rivers Stout (which tasted EXACTLY like chocolate-covered coffee beans).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Byron Bay Day 5: Beach Blanket Bingo

Moderately early get up for one reason and one reason alone: solid blue sky, hot weather and a sandy beach. Brought the iPods along, though we only used them briefly: I watched the Rifftrax for Point Break on an Australian beach. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think? Felt like my shoulders were getting a bit toasted, so put on a t-shirt and headed into town for lunch and things (you like things, right?).

Also finally realized something: when I got my haircut on the 1st of November, the stylist managed to make sure the front bits were just barely not long enough to tie back with the rest of my hair. I’m really feeling that here, where the sea breeze is always behind you and your hair is always in your face.

While Tanja was taking money out, I noticed a sign advertising Bundaberg rum and it’s new redgum-filtered line, styled Bundaberg Red. I started laughing, and tried unsuccessfully to explain why a poster advertising “Red Rum” was so funny. She didn’t get it.

Bought myself a Transformers t-shirt and a beachy new hat and ogled jewelry with Tanja. Lunch was calamari and chips from the pub. With beer. It was there that I realized that though my shoulders had been spared a sunburn, from just above my elbows down to my hands were bright red. Eeeyow. Bought some aloe vera cream to help stave off the ouchies.

Went swimming on the way back to the hotel, and the water was bathwater warm. Now feel absolutely covered in sand, even though I’m not.

Tonight we were to go to dinner at The Orient Express for fancy Asian food. We waited a while as we were still stuffed from lunch. As we went to leave at 7, we stood outside the door with our umbrellas watching rain fall. “Just give it a minute,” says Tanja. “It’ll slow down.”

10 seconds later a gust of wind blow my umbrella inside-out and lightning struck in the distance.

“Bugger that,” says Tanja. “I’m not going anywhere tonight. Don’t we have a flyer for a pizza place?”
We did. The place was in Suffolk Heads which is a little ways off. We looked through the menu, selected, then called. By this point, the storm was raging outside.

“Oh, we do deliver to Byron Bay, sure, but not tonight. Tonight the storm’s too bad. Sorry.”

Luckily we had some sourdough bread, leftover washed-rind and blue cheeses, fruit, and some beer left over. A subsistence supper, but needs must when the Devil vomits in your teakettle. Or, at least, sends a storm your way.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Byron Bay Day 4: A Moment’s Respite

After our longest lie-in yet (until 11!) and a resurgence of the headache I had the first day, we set off with the intent of getting breakfast at a café, then seeing Quantum of Solace. Got to the café we had chosen, only to realize they had stopped serving breakfast. Feeling slightly bad (and getting dirty looks from the waitress), we finished the coffees we had ordered, assuring the waitress that was “all we wanted” and scuttled off to another café. Which was also not serving breakfast. Our third choice had the breakfast menu up on the blackboard, so we assumed it was still on. Wrong. Oh well. Luckily this was the Twisted Sista café, where everything (including the cups, salads, quiches, sandwiches, and smoothies) was huge, interesting and good. Tanja had a vegetarian frittata, and I had a very fresh tandoori Panini. It was during this brunch that we saw our first bit of blue sky since we arrived. Huzzah!

After lunch, shopping. Tanja bought two shirts she had her eye on. I had to tell her afterwards that one of them was a men’s shirt, despite the odd cut and plunging neckline (it was for hipsters). Still looked good. Also got more books. Tanja got a book of Byron Bay stories, and I got Ben Caniader’s Cuisine De Moi.

After shopping and walking, we felt we deserved a glass of wine. To the pub! After some chardonnay for Tanja, and some inferior Riesling for me, I went to the bar to grab something more palatable. Luckily, they had Mount Gay Barbados rum, and I was a happy chappy.

Once emerging from the pub, we realized that it had become a full-fledged blue-sky’d sunny day! The wind had blown away all the cloud and it was finally Byron weather. We wandered up and down the beach (tacitly deciding that we would see the later 007 show), then swung back into Byron for fish-and-chip dinner. Then back to the pub. We’d been at the beach! We’d had fish and chips! We needed beer! Unfortunately, my headache decided that was the moment to come back, and trip to the chemist for Panadiene was required.

Then the Bond movie. I won’t spoil, don’t worry. Boatloads of action, like tons, and a bit shy on plot, but it IS a Bond movie, after all. Tanja seemed to get more into it than I did, but that’s not the movie’s fault. It seems that ever since Iron Man, for some reason whenever I see movies at the cinema they leave me rather cold. It happened for Dark Knight, the new Indiana Jones, and now for Quantum of Solace. I don’t know what it is. I find myself having trouble following/getting into the plots and feeling a bit under whelmed. I’m weird, though.

I think it was the sun today (which was covered by late-breaking cloud in the evening and a thunderstorm in the last 20 minutes), but it felt for part of the day like we had just arrived and that we were re-energised. It was good.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Byron Bay Day 3: Wrath of the Dogs

After a bit of a lie-in, we took advantage of the lapse in the rainfall to walk up to the Byron Bay lighthouse. The views were breathtaking, as always, and we noticed a gamut of German, Scandinavian, Dutch and Austrian tourists. We think there might have been a sale on Europeans at the duty free and everyone stocked up. We went up to the highest part of the cliff and looked down onto the long spit of land that is the most Eastern point of mainland Australia After a moment of consensus, we decided to head down. Not five minutes later, it started to rain, and the wind to blow freezing cold. The rain was completely horizontal. Luckily, I had my hoodie, and Tanja brought my umbrella, so we were shielded as we took the hint from a higher power and hightailed it back up to the lighthouse. Of course, as soon as we hit the parking lot, the rain went away and stayed gone for ages. We took this as a sign and went into town to get lunch. We walked along the beach (casually having a look for the Byron Beach Café, which is still a mystery)

Just before we sat down for lunch, we saw an odd-looking gent pulling a three-wheeled vacuum cleaner on a dog leash. The vacuum had a little which hat and was covered in stickers. The man referred to the vacuum as “Eddie” and was explaining to people that Eddie had been surfing, Eddie’s been skiing and Eddie’s now going to the pub. Stopped in at Mokha and had a Mediterranean salad (for Tanja) and a BLT with wedges (for me). Afterwards, some shopping.

Ho’okupa Surf shop was a bi stop for me. It’s all Hawaiian in tone and product, so lots of tiki stuff. I’d have bought the whole shop, including the giant stone Tikis, but I contented myself with a shirt and a pair of shorts. Tanja, after initial hesitation, got herself a beach bag/handbag which is very cool. They had locally-made Tiki mugs too, for 39.95. I would have gotten one, but apparently I “have too many Tiki mugs.” Go figure.

Though Tanja was tempted by the 80s influenced designs in one shop, we stopped for coffee to recharge our batteries. I had a bowl of latte (a BOWL!), while Tanja contented herself with a mug. We ordered a banana-raspberry muffin, which took forever to arrive, but once it did, we were flummoxed. A dish of freshly whipped cream, raspberry sauce attractively arranged about the plate, and the muffin itself had banana cream inside. Wow.

Some more shopping around, and then a stop in the pub to hide from the sudden rain. Tanja and I discussed the ramifications of kids accompanying their parents to the pub. Ran to the newsagent, got magazines, and Tanja, sick of sharing my umbrella, bought one of her own. What I saw, and she didn’t, was the pattern. It has big giant Golden Lab puppies on it. All over it. Heh.

Now we’re back at the room, and the news is saying rain all week, except Friday when it’ll be warm for one whole day. Oh well.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Byron Bay Day 2: Rain keeps fallin’, rain keeps falling’ down…

Well, it’s still raining. It will stop intermittently, but the cloud cover is constant, and when the rain works up, it’s going for ages. Hopefully, this won’t be a repeat of our second Noosa trip where the monsoonal rain pinned us inside to the breaking point.

Today was moderately uneventful, but in a good way. Wandered into town, had a look around. Tanja bought her first pair of sunglasses in ten years (Fendi, very nice), and I got a sticker for my laptop that says “Slap the Goon: something this bad needs to be slapped!” (for those who don’t know, “goon” is horribly cheap Australian cask wine, and “slap the goon” is trying to build awareness that Aussie wine is more that goon, something I heartily approve of). Next stop was the bookstore. I got the new Terry Pratchett book “Nation” and the Greg Duncan Powell beer guide that I’ve been eyeing for two weeks. Tanja got two fiction books set in ancient Egypt (which she explained is her reading comfort food). Then we went for our massage.

Tanja went in for hers, while I sat on the beach and read my beer guide. Turns out Knappstein is highly rated. Good choice, me! Tanja came out of her massage all rubber-necked, and then it was my turn. I can liken the experience only to being put through an automatic car ash, but in a good way.

Of for lunch to a café called One One One. It’s slogan is “A jug of wine, a loaf of bread, and thou.” I argued that it should be “thee” instead of “thou”, but Tanja assured me they have it right. Lunch for me was a massive but incredibly tender steak sandwich with roast tomatoes and a green relish (and when I say big, I mean it was the size of a toaster), complimented with a glass of NSW 3 Bridges Durif. The wine was almost a bit big for the steak, but it was a nice glass anyway. Tanja had an equally big roast pumpkin sandwich with salsa verde and ricotta with a glass of sangiovese rosé. Followed it all up with coffee for me and chamomile tea for Tanja. Oh, and a slice of spiced chocolate and nut torte with crème fraiche for us to share.

Quick stop for more supplies at organic grocer, Woolworths and butcher, then back to room. Tanja was the one napping this time, and I finished the run of Invincible I had on the laptop. I’m sad because I have no more.

A lady in the shop said we’re in for a whole week of rain, but I hope she’s wrong, so we can avoid the despondency of the Noosa trip. Or are we doomed that each time we re-visit a place, the weather will be wretched? You decide, gentle reader!

PS: I’ve figured out that I can plug in my iPod to the USB jack of the stereo here. Only issue is that you can just hit play, and it plays the songs by filename. So it’s a crapshoot what it’ll play next. I’ve actually heard a few songs and I have no clue what they are. Seems I should clean out the ‘Pod more often. Hey, I have 13000 songs! I can’t remember them all!

Byron Bay Day 1: Live from Byron Bay, it's Sunday night!

Flight was fine, coach ride as fine, got all our luggage. Zero stress. Nice change. No stressed out arguing as is so often the case when I travel. On the way through town, Tanja and I were pointing out landmarks from our last trip here like little kids. Got to the Inn, and the room is well laid out and has the Wireless, and everything. It may not be as rustic or Ewok-like as the tree house, but it has the benefit of a working kitchen and an indoor bathroom.

Headed into town. After a fruitless attempt to find the Byron Beach Cafe (turns out, according to Google Maps, it's ACTUALLY on the beach, not just near it) we went to Fishheads for lunch. Starter: Tanja - 6 oysters with wasabi, Me - salt and pepper bugs with chilli jam. Bloody great. Main course, seafood platter: Half a lobster, two scallops, bunch of Moroccan mussels, bunch of prawns, more bugs, a crab, smoked salmon, grilled salmon cutlet, chips, aioli, and a few lettuce leaves, crying in the corner because they're all alone. We enjoyed this with a bottle of Clare Valley Riesling, whose near-unpleasant-initial taste of lime juice changed completely once it got in with the seafood.

Got supplies (cheese, crackers, pineapple, kiwis, juice, milk, cereal, beer) and headed back to the room. Now, I don't know if it was the pressure dropping or the rising humidity, or the carrying of the bags, or the change of going from humid cool windy outside to stuffy inside, but I developed a REALLY bad headache. It was like crackling static electricity going from my left temple, down around my eye, around my jaw and into my neck on the left side. I took some painkillers and had a lie-down while Tanja read up on local history.

Later I felt better and, as it had rained and was just barely drizzling, Tanja suggested a walk along the mostly deserted beach. We walked along a sandbar, and marveled at how far the ocean recedes during low tide. We walked along for a little bit, then it started to rain harder. And harder. Admitting defeat, we decided to go back up the brick path we had taken down to the beach.

Except we couldn’t find it. After going back and forth in the now-driving rain, we ended up seeing two surfers run out of the woods at a point not from us. It wasn’t our path, but it was a path and that was all that mattered. We go up…and discover we’ve managed to misplace our path so badly that it was a ten-minute walk to get back TO our path. Beaches. They’re like gnarly ground.

We warmed up at the room with a James Squire Pepperberry Winter Ale and a Knappstein Reserve Lager. We watched the first two episodes of Spaced, but sadly, didn’t like it much. So now we’re watching Star Trek. Good night, blog.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wedding Dream List

With the wedding now less than a week away (eeeeeee!) I've been musing on the subject of wedding gifts. Most of the time, the gift is something for the couple's house (in the olden days, always a NEW house, hence the practical nature of most gifts and the creation of registries (who needs 15 toasters?). Tanja and I didn't go that way because we always thought it was a bit rude telling people what to get you. In fact, we haven't asked for gifts at all for the wedding. If some people want to get us things, fine, but otherwise, no worries. It was my mom asking what we wanted that got me thinking: if I were to make a list, what would be on it? What would be the price range? So, without further ado, my epic dream wedding present list:

[-]A bottle of green Chartreuse. The yellow stuff has become legendary around the office thanks to Ted, and I'd love a bottle of this. Rough Price: $75.
[-]Breville ikon™ 600 Blender. It's badass. Make crushed ice. Blends things. Like cocktails. Tanja's mentioned this to her workmates, but I think they'll go for one of the classier things she asked for. Rough Price: $239
[-]Star Trek Voyager Ultimate Collection. The entire series on DVD and it comes in a freakin' Borg cube! The assimilation of Tanja into liking Star Trek continues. Rough Price: $279
[-]An iPod Dock. I like the idea of one, like in the picture, with a screen so I can watch my videos on that.
[-]Mount Gay Extra Old Rum. One hell of a drop. I had some at Rambutan. Rough price: $54.95
[-]A set of really cool martini glasses. Due to the occasional drops and losses, my glassware now leans towards wine more than cocktails.
[-]Kinokuniya gift vouchers. Feed my comics addiction.
[-] Goldschlager. So pretty, has gold in it and tastes of cinnamon. Rough Price: Who knows? I haven't found it in Oz.
[-]A PlayStation3. We're into the pie-in-the-sky section of the list, now. I'd prefer a 60gig version, so it's backwards-compatible with my PS2 games, but I don't think that's on the market anymore.
[-]Something Tiki-related, I don't know. Tiki stuff is so thin on the ground in Sydney.

This is harder than I thought. Anyway, this is not a "what you get me must be from this list" list. This is just me being thoughtful.


I was at the gym yesterday and I saw on one of the monitors part of an episode of the latest Spider-Man cartoon, The Spectacular Spider-Man. I watched it without sound for a little bit, seeing Spidey hop around dodging energy blasts from a guy in a green suit that looks similar to Ultimate Scorpion, but without the tail. His mask was opened up partway through the fight and he seemed to have a sort of green Ghost-Rider-style flames around his head. I then plugged my headphones into the jack to see who the hell this guy was supposed to be. The audio came up just in time for me to hear this villian go "They're gone! Gone! My only chance at a cure!" as some bystanders run away. "It's your fault!" he ranted at Spidey, "and I'll make you pay!" Blast. Dodge. Blast-blast. Dodge. Then the villian stole some electricity from a nearby machine.

Then it hit me.

This is meant to be Electro.

What the fuck?

First off, don't draw electricity like flames. Draw it like lightning. Lighting is cool. Green flames are not. It used to bug me when Transformers would draw metal crumbling and falling apart like rock, so this is not a new pet peeve of mine.

Secondly, I hate Spider-Man fights where he's hopping around like a jumping bean avoiding hits and allowing tons of collateral damage when he should be fighting proactively, like, say when a civilian or two is nearby. The fact that they based the climax of the episode around a fight like this bores me.

Thirdly, Electro! He's an electrified goon! A mercenary! He enjoys his powers because he's basically a big bully. Picture Nelson Muntz if he could electrify things. The guys on iFanboy had this discussion where basically Spider-Man villians fall into three categories: those that are misunderstood out-of-their-control monsters (like The Hulk, or to some extent, Venom), pure evil (either homicidal or world-domination style, such as Carnage, Doctor Octopus, and the Green Goblin), and there are the powered bank robbers (such as Scorpion, Vulture, and Electro). All they want is money. Putting a tortured, "oh, I'm a freak, all I want to do is be normal"-Mr-Freeze-style-backstory on Electro is like putting an elevator in an outhouse. It don't belong.

I know it's a kids-oriented show, and they think by giving him this backstory, it'll make people sympathise. They might, it's true, but then having Spidey whomp this guy into oblivion kind of stops you from enjoying that sympathy.

But I digress.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Inconvenient Weather (reposted from The Lucas Letters)

"Dear All and Sundry:

The weather was very disagreeable today. Early this morning, it was overcast and misting lightly, but did not either rain, or stop misting. Then the sun came up more, but the low overcast cloud made it hot, but stuffy. And just bright enough to make you squint, but overcast and dark enough that if you wore sunglasses, it'd be impractical. Then a wind would come up and it would feel cold enough to need a jacket, but if you had the jacket, you'd be too hot when the wind wasn't blowing. And the wind was JUST hard enough to blow your hair in your face. Something must be done about weather like this. Perhaps some sort of committee. In any case, I'm chucking a crateful of hateful at this weather.

Had a bunch of people over for a Halloween movie marathon/dinner. Ted, Craig & Mel, Adrian & Tommy, Casey & Ryan all came and showed support for my addiction to having people over and hosting. Was fun. We watched Shaun of the Dead, and Scream, and Ghost Ship and Deep Blue Sea. Tanja made an Asian pickled salad and honey-and-soy chicken, and I made Szechuan beef and an apple cake (styled a "Granny Pudding" in the recipe) for dessert. It was proper marathon length, too. First guest arrived at 6:30 pm, last guest left at 1:50 am.

Less than two weeks until the big day!