Monday, May 30, 2011

MICF Road Show 2011: Gladstone- Inexplicably Disproportionate Mystery People (and the Library!)

Greetings from Gladstone, Queensland! Let me tell you a little about the place.



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?!

**Call me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

MICF Road Show 2011: Warburton- Where Even the Casual Racism is Quaint

For the record, readers, I'm in Cairns at the moment. Cairns is awesome. I'm sure blog-worthy adventures will unfold here, but in the meantime, I'm going to do my darnedest to catch up on writing about towns I've already been to. And to declare, officially, that I know exactly what my last thoughts will be and what I will feel like should I die in a plane crash.

In the middle of a genuinely scary, shaky landing the other day, I didn't find myself thinking, "Holy shit, I'm going to die!" or "Why me, God? I have so much to live for!" or "I hope my friends and family know how much I love them." No. The actual thought in my mind was, "Oh, really, Qantas? You're going to KILL ME now? First you lose my buddy's luggage for the second time in two weeks, THEN our flight was delayed, and now THIS? You're actually going to kill me? This is subpar service, Qantas. Subpar!" Now I know this about myself. If I go down in a plane crash, I will die annoyed with the service.

Let's all hope I don't die in a plane crash. I don't think that level of self-righteous, white, middle-class consumer annoyance would be good for my soul as it passed into eternal rest. But enough of that. Back onto the road show!

I almost don't even want to tell you what a wonderfully enchanted little hamlet Warburton, Victoria is because I'm afraid when word gets out, its adorable cafes and quaint river picnic areas will be overrun with scarf-wearing, espresso-drinking, Palahniuk-quoting tourists from Melbourne*. I had a feeling I was going to like the town when I checked into my hotel room to find not only this hallway of beds

but also, around the corner, a full double bed.

If there's one thing I like in a hotel, it's the ability to provide me with three times the sleeping options I actually need. It's not often I get to feel like, "Man, if I just had two kids, I could get my money's worth out of this place!"

Warburton had me at triple beds. And then, there was this view from the hotel

which I'm sure the kids would have loved, had they existed and been able to be there.

I walked downtown (which I really should put in quotation marks) and despite feeling good about the place, I didn't expect to find much I could eat. I mean, rural Victoria is not generally a bastion of gluten-free and vegan dining. In fact, in many places in rural Victoria, chicken is listed as a vegetarian option. If you order it, the waitress laughs in your face, spills beef blood on you, and calls you a "poof"**.

Almost immediately, though, I found this sweet little cafe

and I marveled at the amount of lunch selections at my disposal. At least two vegan sandwiches with gluten-free bread! Various fresh-squeezed juices! Cookies! Soup! (Okay, maybe that doesn't seem like a lot of options to the omnivorous eye but to dietary-restricted me, it's an orgy of delicious possibilities.)

After chowing down on some pumpkin soup and toasted gluten-free bread (FYI: never attempt to eat non-toasted gluten-free bread, unless you like choking down glue paste), I went to meet up with the rest of the crew who had settled into a cafe at the other end of downtown (a few steps down the street).

It doesn't matter if this cafe has anything for me, I thought. I'll just hang out. I've already struck gold finding such a delicious, healthy soup. That will keep me going for days, as I sift through the culinary wasteland of chips and garden salads available at town pubs. That soup really hit the spot. It was perfect. It's all I need. Just me and ol' soupie, friends for life as he sloshes around in my stomac--

Oh, that's nice, I thought, glancing at the menu. They offer gluten-free pies at this cafe. Well, too bad I don't eat meat. If I ate meat, maybe I could...Oh my god, what's that? Gluten-free VEGETABLE pies? Is that even a thing? Am I actually going to have the chance to indulge in one of Australia's most iconic foodstuffs, without getting horrible stomach cramps and/or compromising everything I believe in? More importantly, am I actually going to have the chance to say "Gimme a dog's eye and dead horse?" (This is rhyming slang for "a pie and sauce." For real. Australians are weird.)

The answers are yes and yes! Here's a picture of that heavenly pie. (I only thought to add sauce after I took a quick and greedy forkful. I need you to know that before I hoed into it, the pie was a pristine work of art.)

The strange thing is, I didn't even make a smiley face with the sauce. That's just how happy the pie was to see me, its ideal devourer.

How amazing to find two gluten-free-friendly places in one tiny town! I thought. Wow! What a boon! What luck! I mean, there's no way I could--

I'm sorry, what? Scones and treats and they're all gluten free? Well, slap a kangaroo on the cheek and call me Sheila! Stab a koala with a spork and sing waltzing Matilda! Kick a crocodile in the snout and spin Olivia Newton-John in a circle! (These are traditional Australian expressions of disbelief.)***

Just when I thought Warburton couldn't get any more full of love and light and amazement, I ducked into a little spiritual shop. (You know, the kind of place that smells like burning grass, sells crystals, and has far too many owl figurines.) What should I see there, but this beautiful candle, made up of hundreds of smaller candles.

It was so lovely, I thought I'd check it out from another angle

when the woman at the counter said, "What does that sign say?"

"What sign?" I asked. She pointed.

Oh. That sign.

It may have been my bristling at the passive-aggressive way in which she indicated to me that I shouldn't be taking pictures of the candle, or it may have been my innate impudence which prompted me to then take pictures not only of the "No photo's" (cringe) sign, but of the woman herself

who was actually quite pleasant. Oh, Warburton, I thought. What a dream world! So many gluten free options, so many choices of hotel bed, and even your restrictive signs aren't meant to be taken seriously. I really think this is a town I could li--

"You're alright," the woman at the counter said. "It's just the Asians. They drive me crazy."

Warburton. Warburton. Warburton. You were doing so well.

*For the record, I like scarves and espresso and Palahniuk. I also like running perfectly innocuous things together until they sound like insults. Then again, I'm just a wet-haired, pajama-wearing, blog-writing, cookie-eating, music-listening, hangnail-having comedian.

**This is a blatant lie but it creates the mood I'm going for, so I think it is acceptable. (See also: romantic candlelight.)

***Another lie.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

MICF Roadshow 2011: Nambour and Redcliffe - What's On

There are three things you need to know:

1. I'm writing these posts all willy-nilly in terms of chronology and geography, so don't let that trouble you.
2. I'll take any chance I can to wedge the word "willy-nilly" into a sentence.
3. I think that lists sound more complete in threes.

While there is a lot I could write about Nambour, I'll let the "What's On" board at the local pub speak for itself.

And that's Nambour. Now, on to Redcliffe!

We're actually staying in Scarborough, so I don't have much experience with Redcliffe. (Sorry, Redcliffe. I do know that you are the adopted home of the Bee Gees, though, and that's something.) Pretty much everything on Scarborough's main strip is closed on Sunday, so I can't say what that town is like either, other than it's remarkably uneventful. Luckily for Scarborough, though, it has a lovely little beach.

Which gets even lovelier, if you stop and look at it close up.

And if you get really close, you may see that even rocks can express emotions.

Hey, little buddy. Why are you so sad? What's going on? Why the tiny tear? Have you seen something that upset you? Surely, this is an idyllic little seaside town, with the beach right here and a beautiful park up on the hill. Certainly there wouldn't be anything disturbing in your immediate area. There wouldn't be any strange, unexpected plant-like growths that would be weird, or unidentifiable to the North American eye, or unmistakably penis-shaped. There's nothing to be sad about, little guy. Turn that frown upsi--

Oh. Oh, goodness. My.

Friday, May 20, 2011

MICF Roadshow 2011: Morewell, VIC - Luxury and Indulgence

Hi everyone. I am currently writing from the sunny sub-tropical paradise of Noosa, Queensland, located on the aptly named Sunshine Coast. When I woke up this morning, this is the view that greeted me:

I should tell you now that in this blog, I will be sharing with you some spectacular photos that hint at a life of luxury and indulgence. My life is indeed blessed and magical (Self-affirmation: My life is blessed and magical. My life is blessed and magical. My life is blessed and magical.), but I don't want you to get jealous. I don't want you to question the blessedness and magicality of your own lives, which I'm sure are amazing, even if your lives right now consist of you sitting home staring at a computer screen, reading about someone else's international adventures with no alternative but to accept the words they make up as they are writing about those adventures. I don't want you to start to resent me (critically-acclaimed comedian DeAnne Smith) just because I am fully living my dreams, traveling throughout a wonderful and beautiful country doing exactly what I love to do. I don't want you to look around at what I assume are your shabby home furnishings and feel anything less than great about what I'm sure are your best efforts at eking out the least depressing existence you can manage with your (perhaps limited) level of intelligence and ambition. I can only hope that you don't feel too bad as you read this and see that this leg of my road show journey started a few days ago in illustrious Morewell*, Victoria, where my accommodation looked like this:

Yes, that's correct. If there's one thing that whispers luxury and indulgence when it comes to motel accessories, it's red towels. Luxury and indulgence. That's what red towels mean, and I think we can all agree. Luxury. Indulgence. We all agree. Red towels in a motel don't mean "Hey, we can't afford better towels" or "Look, we don't know how to use bleach" or "Gosh, blood stains sure are stubborn!" No. Red towels = Luxury + Indulgence. WE CAN ALL AGREE.

Oh, and I don't want to brag, but that's not all that was in my motel room. There was also-- and brace yourself to keep envy from engulfing you-- a purpose-built heated tool to remove wrinkles from fabric. But it doesn't stop there. Oh no. In addition to that, my room also housed a small, foldable table with a heat resistant surface on which to wield that tool.

I know you haven't seen such quality upholstery before, so I'll walk you through it. Those are deformed facsimiles of Disney characters Mickey, Pluto and Donald Duck, engaged in the sort of philosophical debate with which self-reflective world travelers of my caliber are often confronted. "What fruit do I like most?" they ask. The answer is, of course, "I like pineapple most." What this somewhat surreal fabric is doing on an ironing board intended for adult use is something you don't need to trouble yourself over, readers. Just sit back on your Ikea couch and be content with the mediocre success you've achieved. Let's just say there are some things in the world of luxurious and indulgent world travel that you just aren't ready to comprehend.

*If you're wondering why I didn't talk about the town of Morewell at all, it's because I was only there for about 16 hours. I'm sure** there are many wonderful attractions in Morewell about which I could have written extensively, had I had more time there.

**I'm not sure about that at all. But if someone*** from the town of Morewell should read this, I don't want them to feel bad.

***I doubt anyone from the town of Morewell will read this.

MICF Road Show 2011: A Wide Brown Land

Guys! Welcome back to the blog.

Yes, I know it's been a, um, year since I've last written here. But let me just say, in my defense, that I've never claimed to be consistent. Also, in my defence, I don't even spell common English words consistently, when two versions of those words exist and are both equally acceptable. In fact, in the past, I've been described by friends as "consistently inconsistent." And I think that description really fits, except for when I don't.

What I'm trying to say, is here we are. I'm back on the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Road Show and I want to share my experiences with you, via this blog. I also want to share my experiences with you via interpretive dance, intricate papier-mâché masks and West African Polyrhythms, but some things will have to wait. (Papier-mâché takes a long time to dry and I'm not even sure what West African Polyrhythms are. Plus, I'd need to enroll in some kind of modern dance class. It might be years before I get that all together.)

I've been wondering how best to organize these entries, because I'm already quite behind on the day-by-day method. Then I realized: I'll just do the gosh darn best I can and you guys can be grateful for what you get. Deal? Besides, it makes sense that I'm a little discombobulated. In the span of less than two days, I went from this:

to this:

In less than five days, I made these stops around the continent of Australia:

I started in Sale, Victoria, and I'm now in Noosa, Queensland. Now, please don't think that I'm complaining, because I'm not. I'm not the type of person to find travel stressful. I actually find it thrilling to wake up in a strange room and for a good few minutes have no idea what time it is, what day it is, or where on the planet I am currently located. Yeah! That's life, man! Livin' to the fullest! I like waking up full of questions such as Who am I? What year is it? What's this sticky stuff on my knee? Life's a mystery, dudes. Embrace it.

I will admit, though, that things almost got stressful when our flight was delayed in Darwin. But in addition to being placated with $30 vouchers for airport eats, we managed to sweet-talk our way into the Qantas Club Lounge, narrowly avoiding what would have been the unbearable torture of having to wait for an extra hour and forty minutes in the airport. (Read: among the common people.) No. We settled into the lounge, where we as inconvenienced Silver Frequent Flyers rightfully belonged, nestled in sweet free buffet luxury with our well-heeled peers and colleagues, tip-tapping on our internet-connected laptops, sipping cocktails and picking at extravagant meat and cheese platters.

Oh, the grandeur!

After nibbling on the many delicious gourmet offerings available to me in the Qantas Club Lounge (read: two watermelon slices and a gluten-free cookie), I still had a $30 voucher to spend at the airport restaurants, which consisted of Red Rooster and a "cafe" called something like Awakenings or Whispers or Kozy Momentz. I didn't really see what it was called, because the name was written in Papyrus font, which I refuse to acknowledge on a purely aesthetic basis. (This is also my policy on Gary Busey's teeth and the state of Pennsylvania*.) After buying a fruit cup ($7.90 and chock full of useless cantaloupe, the Pennsylvania of the fruit world) and a juice ($3.90), I still had $18.20 to spend. What did I do with this money, my friends? I did the only thing I felt I could do. I bought three slices of $5 banana bread.

It doesn't matter that thanks to both self-imposed and intestine-imposed dietary restrictions, I couldn't eat that banana bread. That's not what it was about. It was about the personal challenge of seeing if, in the seven minutes before I had to board my flight, I could offload that banana bread on strangers.** Let me tell you, it's not as easy as it may seem to offer haphazardly-plastic-wrapped foodstuffs to total strangers in an airport.

Let me rephrase that. It's actually really easy to offer haphazardly-plastic-wrapped foodstuffs to total strangers in an airport, but what's not as easy is getting them to accept those foodstuffs and then put those foodstuffs in their mouth and chew them and swallow them and ultimately allow those foodstuffs to become part of their body's cellular makeup. (Whoa. I don't think I realized how intimate the whole exchange was until right now.) But I did it! I got rid of all the banana bread, and with time to spare. I think I owe my success to the fact that I am nice and I look friendly, and banana bread is freaking delicious. To all the cynical people that rejected my no-strings-attached offer of banana bread, I hope that one day you will be able to open your hearts and allow the universe's eternal abundance of blessings to flow into and enrich your life. To the business man, woman at the news stand, and young mother that did accept my banana bread, I hope it was tasty and didn't give you gas. But if it did, you can blame the people at Tempting Treets (or whatever that cafe was called). I didn't make it. It's not my fault. Jesus, I was just trying to do something nice!

So guys, this about wraps it up for this blog post. I'm going to keep 'em coming (and do my best to catch up on the places I've already been), so stay tuned.

*My issues with the state of Pennsylvania are too complex and numerous to get into here. But trust me. Pennsylvania knows what it's done.

**The other option was bringing the banana bread onto the plane with me. Every fifteen minutes or so, I'd take out a piece, have one bite, and then set it aside. When the flight attendant came to collect garbage at the the end of the flight, I'd pile all my nearly-whole slices of bread into the bin. This plan was scrapped for two reasons. One, I really needed more than three pieces of bread to make it funny. Two, the idea was to confuse the people sitting near me, and all the people sitting near me were fellow comics. They'd either think nothing of it, and/or ask to finish my bread.