Thursday, December 01, 2011
And it is happening because I AM IN THE YUKON. That's right. The Yukon(1) .
How did I get here? you and I might be wondering right now. I'm not really sure. At this point, it's a haze of all-day multiple plane rides and a whimsical email I received in August, which went like this:
I found out your name by google searching for "vajimjam". I got 1 result.
You invented that.
What are you doing in November? Want to come to the Yukon?
That's crazy. Vajimjam. Maybe I should feel proud?
I totally want to come to the Yukon in November. How serious is this offer? ;)
So now I'm here in Whitehorse, half expecting to run into this guy.
Yukon Cornelius! Until today, that pick-licking cartoon character encompassed the extent of my knowledge of the Yukon. I knew it was filled with gold, the fog was thick as peanut butter, and one had to watch out for Bumbles (2) . That was about it.
I've only been here for a few hours, so I don't know much more yet. But I do know that I'm pretty into Whitehorse. It's homey. I mean, look at this scene I discovered when I went in for an interview with the CBC.
Okay, the Christmas tree I discovered; Dave and the dog I posed. But still! They were up for it. And nothing says "home" to me like a seasonal tree and a person who is willing to do what I say (3).
After the interview, I checked out a few shops on Main Street, scored some winter boots (Hey, icy winter clime: SUCK IT), and went for dinner at Ruby's, one of the most charming (and delicious) vegetarian restaurants I've ever been to. At the risk of rambling on, I'll let you read for yourself how cool Ruby is here. (Seriously, read that. How cool is she?!)
Ruby and her husband Pierre hooked me up with this plate of deliciousness:
I just realized that to you non-vegetarians, that mostly monochromatic plate of mush might not look terribly appealing. But to vegan, gluten-free, traveling-all-day, up-since-4 a.m., 2-hours-of-sleep ME, it looked and tasted and smelled and felt like actual heaven. I couldn't eat it all (having stopped off at Burnt Toast Cafe for truffle oil fries when Ruby's wasn't open, something that Ruby herself gently admonished me for) so I asked for some to take away.
"How big are your coat pockets?" Ruby asked.
"Not nearly big enough to contain my love for you," I said. Okay, I didn't really say that, but I wanted to.
I am currently finishing up that meal in my hotel room using plastic coffee stirrers as makeshift chopsticks. And you know what? As I bite roasted tofu off a stirrer, gravy on my lip, I don't feel like a pathetic traveling comedian with a delicate digestive system, lonely and alone and lonely in a remote hotel room in the middle of a cold, desolate, and unforgiving landscape a stone's throw away from actual Russia. I do not. I feel like a king.
So, thank you, Ruby. Thank you, Whitehorse.
And though it's only 8:30 p.m. now, I'm getting ready to hit the hay, which I'm pretty excited(4) about. I'll leave you guys here. Tomorrow: dog sledding!
(1)There seems to be much debate about whether it is most properly referred to as "Yukon" or "The Yukon." Some think that calling it "The Yukon" is marginalizing, because one would not say "The Ontario" or "The Quebec." Others think that because it is a territory (i.e. The Yukon Territory), using the definite article is not only acceptable, it is preferable. I've decided to pitch my proverbial tent firmly in the "The Yukon" camp. Why? I just like how it sounds. And while normally I would be inclined to ask around and see how most of the Sourdoughs-- those are people who have spent at least one full turn of seasons in The Yukon-- refer to the area, I will not. Because I feel that making a strong decision based on nothing but a gut reaction and then sticking to that decision, naysayers be damned, is exactly the sort of single-minded and hard-knuckled spirit that forged this great land. Long live The Yukon!
(2)Um, I'm pretty into the Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer Christmas special. And no, not just because I bear an uncanny resemblance to Hermey.
(3)Yes, I realize this could be unhealthy.
(4)Excited for real. This is about seven hours earlier than my usual bedtime. This means, I can sleep a ton and still wake up at 7 a.m. or something! I'll be like a whole other person! A Yukon person! I'll go out for early morning coffee and vegan/gluten free treats (I spotted a bakery today; this town has thought of everything), and I'll write in a cafe and figure out what jokes I'll do in my show and walk around and feel like a productive member of human society. Do you know when the last time I voluntarily saw 7 a.m. was? Um, NEVER.
Monday, June 06, 2011
I have about eight towns to catch us up on, and I will do so whimsically, with very little regard for geography or linear time. (Hmm, maybe my time in Nimbin affected me more than I thought it did.) I'll start with Sale, Victoria.
Sale is a lovely little town that cares a lot about its local football team. Make that teams. Sale is home to not one but two Australian rules football teams: Sale and Sale City. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see any of Sale's football games, but we did drive to neighboring Maffra to catch the Maffra Eagles in action.
Yup, that's the action. Don't let the picture fool you, though. Country footy(2) is AMAZING. It's got all the excitement of regular football, with none of the player scandals! You can barrack(3) for your favorite team completely free of the moral dilemma that ensues in professional football, where barracking for your favorite team is kind of ruined by knowing exactly how many rape and assault charges its players have been brought up on in the previous six months. Country footy is just good, ol' fashioned fun.
As far as I can tell, the key elements of enjoying country footy include: driving your car up to the edge of the field, eating meat pies, yelling at young men in shorts, eavesdropping on the coach's address, and running onto the field to kick the footy during half time. I'm happy to say I engaged in all but one of those activities. (Try to guess which one!) If it weren't for vague undercurrents of homophobia, I'm pretty sure I could be quite happy living in the country and supporting my local footy team every week. Go Eagles! Look alive, boys! Keep up the hustle, number 17!(4)
Another wonderful thing about Sale was the effort the venue manager put into our back stage area. Not only did we have a GLUTEN-FREE snack tray...Wait, sorry. I can't just move on from that. I need you to understand (Or remember. How's it going, Future Me?) that snack trays aren't just a thing that all venues provide. We'll usually have some waters and soft drinks back stage, and we may see the occasional biscuits(5) or Cherry Ripe. A snack tray in itself is notable, and an all gluten-free snack tray is...is...I don't even have the words. I won't foist pictures of it upon you, but you can trust that much photograph evidence of this gluten-free snack tray exists and that I refer to the evidence in times of scarcity and need, so that I may hope and have faith in a better future.
In addition to the gluten-free snack tray, we found dinosaurs back stage!
And for some reason, in our two nights at the Esso BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Centre, the dinosaurs invariably ended up in this position,
rapt as the pterodactyl preached on about how, one day, they would all end up as oil, gas and coal, making possible the very companies that sponsor the Esso BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Centre in which the dinosaurs were currently housed(6). Mind-blowing.
As fun as Sale was, I couldn't stop thinking about Warburton. You may already know Warburton(7) as the gluten-free cafe haven I wrote about earlier.
On our second day in Warburton, after chowing down on yet another beautiful vegan, gluten-free breakfast at Good Food, we decided to take a little stroll.
Just when I thought Warburton couldn't get any more adorable
we stumbled upon this tiny house. Then, we found this gorgeously picturesque river
complete with ducks!
"Well, that's gotta be it," I thought. "There's NO WAY this town could get any more quaint."
Oh, except for that "Please don't ride your horses here" sign. Oh, and these signs, posted on the antique shop door.
If you can't quite see the post-its, they say "Back in a minute" and "Sorry have a funeral today. ? opening time." I could quite easily write an entire novel based on these notes, but I'll leave you with just a few thoughts. I love a shopkeeper that is comfortable enough to disclose the potentially very personal reason why they are out of the shop, and who is also optimistic enough to think that the funeral will only take a minute. I want to meet that shopkeeper. I want to buy his or her wares. The notes broke my heart and made me smile, a feeling I usually only get when I watch sleeping kittens fall off the things they're sleeping on.
I didn't want to leave Warburton. It had everything for me. Gluten-free food, tiny river houses, eccentric shopkeepers, ducks. This is how I felt before we got into the car,
completely oblivious to how much amazing Road Show goodness was yet to come! (And completely oblivious to the lesbian at the ATM behind me. As for how I know she was a lesbian, trust me. I know. I have ways.(8))
(1)Anyone know a good therapist?
(2)I speak Australian now. It's full on.
(3)This is how Australians say "root for." "Root" means to have sex. Needless to say, Australians get a huge kick out of Roots Canada.
(4)All things I actually yelled.
(5)AKA Cookies. I need to get back tah North America befoe I completely moph inta an Ozzie, mate.
Oil, gas, and coal deposits are really remnants of ancient muddy swamps. Dead plants accumulate, and, over time, pressure turns the mud and dead plants into rock. Geologists call the once-living matter in the rock kerogen. Earth’s internal heat cooks the kerogen. The hotter it gets, the faster it becomes oil, gas, or coal. If the heat continues for long enough after oil forms, all the oil might become gas. The oil and gas then creeps through cracks in the rocks. Much is lost. We find oil and gas today because some happened to become trapped in porous, sponge-like rock layers capped by non-porous rocks. Fossil fuel experts call this arrangement a reservoir."
Don't say this blog never taught ya nuthin'.
(7) It's a little bit casually racist, which I'm choosing to ignore for the purposes of this post.
(8) Most of my ways involve stereotyping people based on how they are dressed. Also, eye contact.
Friday, June 03, 2011
We didn't take too many photos of Surfer's Paradise. Despite the name, Surfer's Paradise doesn't feel terribly paradise-like, unless your idea of paradise contains flashing neon lights, lots of offers for $9.99 cargo shorts, and quite a few novelty condom shops. (And hey, we're not judging you if it does.)
This is what Surfer's Paradise looks like from a hotel balcony.
As you can see, Surfer's Paradise is not unlike Meg Ryan's face. Pretty, yes, but also overwhelmingly built up and commercial. The spirit of Surfer's Paradise is perhaps best captured by the gigantic television constantly blaring into this courtyard.
We might have been tempted to say that Surfer's Paradise has no soul, if it weren't for this
statue of a dog named Matey. Any city that: 1. names a dog Matey and 2. erects a statue to that dog is fine by us.
We can understand what made so many people flock to Surfer's Paradise in the first place, with beaches like this.
(We won't tell you about all the concrete we had to carefully crop out of the photo to get that pristine-looking shot because that might spoil its beauty.)
Speaking of beauty, on our way out of Surfer's Paradise and on to Ballina, we decided to stop by Nimbin. Nimbin, if you don't already know, is Australia's renowned hippie enclave, sister city to Woodstock. It's located in what's known as the "Rainbow Region." Just as we were leaving Surfer's, what should appear?
That's right, a rainbow, also known as God's signal that he approves of gays.
But nothing could have prepared us for the site of Nimbin, a small strip of almost impossibly bright and colorful shops nestled in the mountains. Let us tell you, Nimbin takes that "Rainbow Region" stuff pretty seriously.
We'd heard that a lot of pot-smokin' goes down in the 'bin (Okay, we never heard anyone refer to it as "the 'bin.") but we didn't expect to be offered pot LESS THAN FIVE SECONDS after we shut the car door. We also didn't expect to be offered pot so regularly and consistently throughout our stroll of the town that we finally just had to avoid eye contact with every single person on the street. Which actually wasn't too difficult, considering the street looks like this.
Even if you don't choose to partake in the 'bin's main export, Nimbin itself will mellow you out and trip out your eyes. There are signs and symbols everywhere. Signs like
and, of course
FYI: That is comedian Dave Callan, not a Nimbin resident. Dave did blend in pretty well with the Nimbinians though, considering at least 57% of their male inhabitants look like wizards.
The Nimbin people are an interesting bunch. If I had less regard for my own personal safety, I would have snapped more photos of them for you. (Sorry. We can't keep up with referring to ourselves in the plural anymore. It's driving us crazy.) I did manage to get this one, though.
And it's pretty typically Nimbin. In one shot, you see a young dreadlocked mom, a spaced-out, wide-eyed child, an old hippie dressed in clothes that are not from this earthy realm, and a sketchy man. In Nimbin, these are the people in your neighborhood. They're the people that you meet when you're walking down the street, they're the people that you meet each daaaaaaaay!*
Look closely and you will also see Rainbow Cafe and the Nimbin Musuem, which we'll get to in a minute. First, the Nimbin store sign that says it all:
I'm convinced the store is really named "Perception" and they either ran out of room for the N and thought "Whatever. We're not slaves to the alphabet in this town. Fuck the man!" or it was a mistake that no one has noticed to this day.
"Dude, here's that new sign you ordered for your store, Perception."
"Thanks, man. It's awesome. The rainbow background is just so...well...like, it's rainbowy, you know what I mean? All the different colors. That's great, man."
"And the heart. Is that chalk? That is sweet, man! I'll put quotes and stuff in there. You know, like consciousness-raising kind of shit. Quotes and stuff. In the heart. That's so symbolic, man."
"And the ivy. Is that, like, silver vine? You're a genius, man! 'Cause that's exactly how it is! Like, you know, plants, man, they're just light. They're just light. Because everything comes from the sun, you know what I mean? And the plants take in the sun and so, like, they're really just made of light. That's what plants are. That's what they do. No. No! That's what they BE. They're so awesome, man. Holy shit. Oh my god. And we eat plants and we're made of plants so really, like, we're made of light. We're made of light! Essentially, man, if you think about it, if plants eat sunlight and we eat plants, we eat the sun. Are you following me, man? That's happening. That's what's happening. We're doing that every day. It's beautiful, man. Hold on. Wait. I just thought of some new lyrics for my band. I'm gonna write this down. No. I'm gonna paint this on a wall. Yeah. I'm gonna paint this on a wall. Do you have any paint, man?"
"Any paint, man?"
"Did you say something?"
However the sign came about, the message on it is always good to hear: "A smile is the lighting system of the face, the cooling system of the head and the heating system of the heart."
Those are words to remember. Or would be, if the entire town of Nimbin wasn't covered in words to remember, which makes remembering any of them that much more difficult.
The "museum" is where you'll find most of these words of wisdom. According to the museum's website, the museum "is an effort to communicate the history of Nimbin through the eyes of a hippie." That's an accurate description, if you replace "communicate the history of Nimbin" with "jam as much junk as possible into every square inch of eight dank rooms" and replace "hippie" with "manic, disconnected, borderline schizophrenic drug-addled brain."
The museum is truly a site to see, and I'm afraid that photos alone don't do it justice. Winding your way along the rainbow serpent path
you'll come across stuff like this, which assaults your eyes with so much incongruous visual information that it's nearly impossible to remember where you are or what you're supposed to be doing, let alone focus on what's in front of you.
Is that solider? A British flag? A framed picture of Jesus? What's that stuffed horse doing there? Why is there a plate with a picture of Einstein on it? Why does the plate say "Sponge Finger Addict?" What does "Sponge Finger Addict" even mean? Where am I? Why is any of this happening? What's written on the side of that tiny cow?
Oh. But before you can either 1. be disturbed by the implications of "Female Vermin" written on the side of a tiny cow or 2. question what it has to do with the history of Nimbin, just look up and to your right.
A collection of suspended kitchen implements! And then the words of wisdom begin.
"Gee, you are you!" I think I get it, Nimbin. Very cute.
What? A monk lives contemplating his feelings?! If that's true, Nimbin, I've been a monk my whole life! And all of my girlfriends have been monks, too. In fact, most lesbians I know are monks. All we do is contemplate our feelings. This is great news.
Thanks, Nimbin. I'm going to keep that all in mind. No, scratch that. I'm going to keep that all in heart.
Perhaps the experience of Nimbin made me more perceptive, sensitive, and alert on my way into Ballina, where I was able to really appreciate not only Ballina's cute puns
but also what seems like the most sympathetic and considerate tattoo shop in the world.
There's Scentalicious Perfume Boutique (not just your common scents) and Tattoos Supa Hygiene, The Gentle Tattooist. I'm in love with the idea of a gentle tattooist. "I don't use needles and ink to get under your skin. I'm the Gentle Tattooist! I use feelings and emotions to make my indelible mark." Wait. According to that, most lesbians I know are gentle tattooists as well.
I know you're thinking, "Yeah, okay. So Ballina has a perfume boutique and a tattooist. But what if I have a lunch problem in Ballina? How am I going to solve my lunch problem? More importantly, will my lunch problem be solved easily or with great difficulty? How much will it cost for me to solve my lunch problem?"
Phew! Knowing that any lunch problems that may arise can be easily solved makes it possible to relax and enjoy Ballina's pleasant riverside sights.
Ah, Ballina. You're a cute little town. And I don't want to seem ungrateful for all the unique beauty you have to offer, but if only you had a bit more of the Nimbin spirit in you...
Does that say "Pieces from all realms?" All realms? Ballina, maybe you do have a bit of that Nimbin spirit after all.
*You will also meet dreadlocked 7-year-old children.
Monday, May 30, 2011
Now, I won't say that Gladstone is depressing. But I will show you this view from my hotel room.
That's not depressing. Look at the ocean! The sky! The construction! Clearly there's industry here. There's movement. There's growth. Growth that wakes you up at 7:30 a.m. on your day off.
Those of you with, like, jobs and stuff might be thinking that waking up at 7:30 a.m. is no big deal. And you're right. It is no big deal. Waking up at 7:30 a.m. is totally normal...IF YOU WORK IN A BAKERY. Since I am not a baker and I have no reason to be up at the crack of dawn makin' scones, 7:30 a.m. is like the left side of Mariah Carey's face to me. Which is to say, it's not something I often see* except on the other side. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against 7:30 a.m. as a time, but I'd much rather stay up until it then wake up at it. [Here's where I might make another allusion to Mariah Carey's face except that the simile is kind of forced and confusing at this point.]
Being woken up by construction at 7:30 a.m. on my day off might not have been so bad if I hadn't woke up at 5:00 a.m. on the day before. And waking up at 5:00 a.m. might not have been so bad if I'd had more than two and a half hours of sleep. And having two and a half hours of sleep might not have been so bad if I wasn't then on a four hour flight from Cairns to Gladstone. And the flight from Cairns to Gladstone might not have been so bad if the plane didn't touch down in Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton along the way. And touching down in three other towns might not have been so bad if it hadn't meant four separate take-offs and four separate landings, each with their own assault on ear pressure. And the four separate take-offs and landings might not have been so bad if I had been able to sleep through the incessant dings of the seat belt light going on and off or the flight attendants endlessly repeating the safety procedures. And the flight attendants endlessly repeating the safety procedures might not have been so bad if they had given us separate breakfasts on each leg on the flight, roughly every 45 minutes, despite the fact that we had just eaten and the whole thing was absurd. Oh, wait a minute! They DID give us breakfasts on each leg of the flight, approaching me each time as if they had no idea who I was, oblivious to the small orange juice containers building up in the pocket in front of my seat.
It's possible I arrived in Gladstone a bit cranky. But Gladstone needs to shoulder some of the responsibility here. Gladstone, are you listening? There is NO REASON for you to shut down your entire town just because it's Sunday. People still like to go to cafes on Sunday. And if all the cafes and restaurants are closed, people might like to shop for groceries. Yeah, shop for groceries. Now, I don't want to blow into your town with my hoity-toity, big city attitude but you might want to consider opening your Woolworth's on Sunday. It's just sitting there, stuffed with food, doing nothing but teasing me. Can you tell me, Gladstone, where or what a weary, sleep-deprived traveler is supposed to eat on Sunday? And don't tell me to go to Rocks@lt, the only restaurant that's open. I refuse to acknowledge an establishment with a @ in its name.
It was starving, annoyed, and with a heavy heart that I went out to explore Gladstone. "What a crap festival," I thought to myself. (Yes, "crap festival" is a phrase I think to myself.) I perked up when I passed the library, though I knew there was no way it'd be open. Why would it be? It's not known as the Libr@ry, after all.
But with the tiniest shred of hope in my heart, I walked over to the door anyway. You can imagine my shock and surprise when it opened. If you're a total nerd with a thing for libraries,** perhaps you can even imagine my thrill at the opportunity to explore a new and quiet book-filled heaven of delicious dreams. You can not, however, even begin to come close to approximately almost imagining the utter euphoria that spread through me when I saw this:
It's not just a library book sale (my favorite kind). It's a fill-a-shopping-bag-for-$1 library book sale! It's complete madness! And it was enough to make me forgive Gladstone for everything. Maybe it was my new attitude toward the town of Gladstone that the woman at the counter detected when she let me have not one, but TWO shopping bags chock full of books for just one dollar. That's twelve books for a dollar! It was all I could do not to kiss her on the mouth.
Delighted with my new books, I bounded down Goondoon street
where I found this mural.
I thought the library book sale was a blessing, but this wall is filled with so many colorful depictions of life in Gladstone that I was transfixed.
First, there are the lesbians dancing, while another, more butch lesbian serenades them on the flute, reading sheet music from a stand magically hovering off the ground.
There's the black woman to their left, staring directly at the viewer and holding her arms up as if to say, "Yeah, my mouth and earrings look exactly the same. So what? You wanna go? Come on!"
Then, there's the single woman looking on with a mixture of encouragement and wistful envy as she takes her rat for a walk.
If you're wondering what the giant cat in the background is staring at, it's this wind-blown and surprised mime boy inexplicably kneeling over a girl who's reading and trying to twist her legs onto the same spatial plane as the rest of her body.
Behind them, there's this couple on the bench. He seems to be asleep reading the newspaper, while she's pleased to press a teeny tiny book against her skirt.
Just beyond them are the troubled newlyweds. The bride, somewhere between angry and vacant, storms off, while the groom silently pleads with her to stay, with what is the most genuinely expressive face of the entire mural. "I love you," his eyes whisper. "I don't mind if you have tiny feet that could probably never support your body weight. I can take gigantic strides for both of us, especially with my clown-esque right foot. Look at me, damn it! Look at me!"
Maybe the bride isn't cold-hearted. Maybe she's just contemplating their future lives in Gladstone. After all, it's not all dancing lesbians and random mimes. There are some undesirable characters around.
Luckily, the stinky hippie bum is out-numbered by these citizens: the terrified little boy step ladder, the blood-soaked blond woman, the huge unattended yet super intelligent literate baby, the gigantic man with a cut under his eye, and the eensy weensy little boy.
What is that mischievous little boy up to, anyway? Oh, he's just lighting that astronaut's shoulder rocket.
Which is directly aimed at an innocent and oblivious girl skipping past.
A girl who may or may not be sniffing glue with snake around her neck.
I'm sure whatever she's doing with that bottle is more pleasant than hunching over, picking flowers under a giant cat butt.
And it's certainly better than being the only Aboriginal woman in the scene, relegated to looking in sadly from the other side of the fence, while a kid with a really well-developed left buttock and massive left arm tries to get over to reach her.
Gladstone, you really came through for me. Sure, everything except Rocks@lt is closed on Sunday and you look like a ghost town. But you have this dynamic mural, which really tells your story. And you have the library, the incredible library. And, Gladstone, you even have this portent, a glimpse of the person I would become if I stayed here any longer than 24 hours. A person resigned to a life of deathly quiet Sundays, staring bleakly into the future as I haul my library books back home.
*Seriously. Check out photos of her. She's always obscuring the left side of her face. What are you hiding, Mariah? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING?!