Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blue Sky Days; Swan Filled Nights

Once more, the weather was proved wrong. The rain was not falling, in fact that skies were blue over head and it was warm. Scratch that, it was hot. Hot in Australia? Who would have ever thought such a thing to be possible?

I made my way down to the Opera house – passing a protest, haven't seen one of those for some time - and finally was able to take my pictures with the blue sky in the background, and light sparkling over the water. I asked a girl taking shot after shot of her boyfriend sitting on a concrete bench, to do me the favour of taking a snap for me. I assumed she knew what she was doing, having an DSLR and snapping madly (mind you, as I've said before, in this world where an SLR seems standard, it is no longer a dead give away of skill. The shot she took for me, had my head merging with the opera house. She also made me move to the left, when I had predicted her framing and situated myself to the right of the shot, on the edge of the frame, the house to the left.

Still – I assumed she knew what she was doing, she saw the view screen after all. This was a mistake. This caused the merge. Looking afterwards, I saw that I was in a most perfect position. Then she asked me to take a few snaps her here and her beau. I obliged, and it reflected on how lucky people were who shouted out for me to take their shots. In the crap shoot that is random firing, I'm not saying I'm the best – but I know how to frame, how to zoom, and when wide and zoomed shots work. And I take a few, leaving people with a delightful image. The only thing I leave to chance is the exposure. Without live feedback, or the desire to move off of the camera's auto setting, I take some good quick shots if I do say so myself.

Every now and then I run into others who know what's what, and it's bloody wonderful. Some of my favourite pictures this trip have been ones of me taken by others. Now that they're shots of me, and my favourite of the trip, speaks all to loudly of my ego – but never mind that, shall we?

I was able to accomplish a goal I'd desired for this whole week. I was able to find a seat near the water, across from the building, and just read. Not only was I reading, but I was reading a book that made travel seem exciting and wonderful and new again. And The blue around me, and the subtle heat from the sun (when it wasn't behind the clouds – quickly passing) transported me to a Caribbean (one with a mental climate control switch, that didn't leave me hot and humid as a tourist in Thailand.)

Hours were spent here, before by alarm blared, letting me know that it was time to head down to the train station and off out to Campsie. Campsie is a suburb of Sydney, which seems more like a forgotten street within the city itself. Where Toronto has all its neighbourhoods connected to one another, one street over, Sydney leaves these lesser, dirtier, more interesting streets half an hour away by train. There is only the Central Business District, and then nothing for miles, in Sydney. It's beautiful, but about feels about as real as Downtown Disney. It's a dream of a city. One, in which, Bruce Waynes parents would have never been gunned down outside the theatre, because dark alleys are things not present withing the inner core.

There is a certain artistic beauty about a city designed to be nothing more than a CBD, but also a lifelessness. Wandering the Campsie area for twenty to thirty minutes I was able to get a feel for what else was out here on the outskirts of the Greater Sydney Area. And if there was more time, not to mention a train day pass, I would love to explore each and every stop along this orange line.

Melbouresque life does exist here – it's just better hidden, is all.

What was I doing out in Campsie? Waiting for Anna, of course, who picked me up in her car – always a delightful treat – before we headed out to ANZ stadium. ANZ Stadium was the former Olympic stadium used when Sydney hosted the Olympic Games. Now it hosts the Sydney Swans AFL team.

Anna had never been to a game. How could someone live in the country where the best sport in the world is played, and never have seen a game? So off we went. You wouldn't know she was new to the experience, however, as she was rocking a Swans jersey, and wrapped in their team's scarf. Apparently these items had been borrowed from a friend, but from the casual observer, she was a fanatic, the same as any other in attendance.

Once the game started, this would be proved a fallacy, but for the moment...

Before the game we had to take a bus from the parking lot to the stadium. Then we were treated to, “three time Grammy award winning Train,” playing their three hits. While I am not against seeing free live music, (so noted by the terrible terrible Jonas Brothers live performance I watched at Disney World back in December.) it seemed like an odd place to have Train play. Still, it got me saying, “Three time Grammy award winning artist, Train!” all night. In such contexts as, can you believe we say Three time Grammy award winning artist, Train!? Or, I just love Three time Grammy award winning artist, Train! And also derivations on Man that Three time Grammy award winning artist, Train, they'd just the coolest.

So that was a benefit.

After the “ball testers” (umpires) got the game underway with the first bounce, the dis-love of sport was apparent in Anna. She was confused by what was happening, but had no desire to learn the rules. Which I respect. Then she would cheer for the swans as her outfit would lead one to believe she would. But if the Pies did something exciting, then she would turn and cheer for Collingwood.

All I could think was how I wish I had my blue and yellow “Sport” hat. On the plus side, if you're cheering for sport, you never get disappointed (except when the sport is bad – like the Swans' inability to catch the ball – ever – and the Pies inability to kick goals. They still won by a good five goals, or so, the Pies did – which did me fine as I was supporting them, but they should have led by at least ten.)

The second half was a great improvement on the first, but the fireworks were missing. Both teams seemed like they just weren't really trying. Although it was far worse for the Sydney Swans, who you just had to feel bad for at some points. It was embarrassing like when you're watching a movie, and want to turn away from the awkward conversation transpiring on screen before you.

Still – it was AFL – and even a bad game of AFL ranks high on my list.

While Anna would not be a convert to this love, and may never watch another game in her entire life, I still enjoyed it. And hopefully she did too.

Then it was just a matter of a quick drive home, and sitting with her as she attempted to find parking for the night of clubbing which was her immediate future. Mind? Going home to sleep. Far less exciting – but I just didn't have the shoes for it.

You would think finding a parking space would be a straightforward task – but not in this city. No. We circled blocks, drove streets, and raged while others flipped on indicators before we could spot the opening. Also – those who take a space in a half, were cursed with the greatest of all pains and sufferings.

At one point, thirty minutes into our quest, I pointed out a spot right in front of my hostel, that was opening. The car was leaving, and with a great illegal, and impossible to navigate, U-Turn she switched lanes, and set up – right beside the car that wanted to escape. She had misjudged distance by one meter, and thus lost the space.

I was hit many times, this not being uncommon from my Asian friends, as if it were somehow my fault. I suggested that perhaps I should say nothing in the future? More hitting, obviously, transpired.

I busied myself switching through the various mash-ups on her iPod trying to find one where I liked both songs. But these would inevitably be hard rock or hip hop songs, which just made her more wacky and pumped up. Soft music, I would come to realize, was the key here.

And so soft music it was. No bruise is the best bruise.

One hour later, her friends called to see where she was, and said they were going to a different club, down by the Opera house. Anna switched to a street travelling to the water, and at that side of the city, one hour after our quest began, found a spot in seconds. I said nothing about how we could have parked there, and walked, much quicker in the beginning. I had learned that vocal utterances were not for the best.

What followed was a silent, and beautifully juxtaposed transition, as she went from steering wheel biting fiend, to calm, quiet, composed woman, applying makeup in her rear view mirror, under the soft warm glow of the overhanging streetlight.

A calm and composed girl stepped out of the car, hugged me goodbye, and after a quick picture, wandered off into the night to join her friends lost to the dance. A perfect end to a great week in the city.

As I walked home, I mourned my forgotten gift of fruit, left in the back of her car.

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