Q: But can the iPad handle my Wii?
Q: But can the iPad handle my Wii?
San Francisco looks ugly and squalid after Sydney, especially around the 101/280 interchange coming back from the airport, especially in the rain. I was glad to be back in California anyway, even if I am missing the fire-opal water at Shark Beach and schmoopily watching grainy videos of Peter Allen singing “Tenterfield Saddler.” Happy Australia Day.
But San Francisco’s beauties do reveal themselves shyly, to the patient eye: breathless empty roads at midnight, the Dolores Street palms standing straight in the orange pools of streetlights; unnecessarily cool air startling your throat and needling your exposed skin; the lemon-and-silver sun after rain.
Despite various tragic events, I am enjoying an extended period of uncomplicated happiness.
She’s the turquoise blob in the middle :)
My God. I turn my back on this hemisphere for, like, five minutes, and they flatten a country, flood California, abandon desperately-needed health care reform and sell democracy to the highest bidder. What the fuck, Americas?
Back in San Francisco, still under the tidal influence of Janny’s excellent cooking. We had a proper Janny-style lunch of smoked salmon and capers, pugliese, spinach and avocado salad, raw carrots and tomatoes. The lashings of tea was our own innovation. Dinner was steak panfried and cut against the grain, with steamed peas, corn and broccoli and roasted carrots and butternut squash. Raspberries and blueberries for dessert.
ETA: Rach’s jetlagged roast butternut squash
Choose a butternut squash with a long neck and a small bulb. Cut off the bulb, peel the neck and slice into 5mm circles. Quarter the circles. Toss in a roasting pan with salt and olive oil. Roast at 450 Fahrenheit until just caramelized.
They were sweet and savory, crisp around a silky puree. Claire had to be force-fed one, and then she ate two helpings.
This morning was the second last time I woke in the bedroom with the glass wall, listening to the lorikeets screaming in the trees outside. The second last time I showered in the downstairs bathroom with the sunlight shining through the bricks. The second last time it all reminded me of my wedding day.
I don’t think I’ll ever love a house as I have loved this one.
Met a friend in a park in Birchgrove. “Dude, you live in Paradise,” I observed, and he agreed. Afterwards I went to Adriano Zumbo and picked out an array of jewels, including Through The Looking Glass With Jessica Rabbit and Clancy the Rains Are Coming. And the passionfruit tart for which he is justly famous. Adriano served me himself and was adorably pleased that I’d made the pilgrimage all the way from SF.
My father-in-law and I are the only sweet teeth in a family that leans towards the more astringent pleasure of olives and juniper berries and limes. His eyes lit up when he saw the shining confections. They tasted of summer and heaven. He ate with relish and asked for more. Afterwards, we had two nearly coherent conversations with him – “What’s under a floating floor?” “Concrete!” and “You fell in love with me at first sight, didn’t you?” “Oh yes.” Janny told him Claire’s comment on Janny’s wedding photo: “You had much less wrinkles, Janny.” Richard laughed.
It was more than we’d had from him in weeks, and it was our last visit on this trip. I have no idea how to end this post.
It’s been an amazing trip, basically a very good Patrick White novel come to life. I won’t forget having coffee with Aly at the Brisbane port cafe, watching container trucks plough through the wetlands like a Jeffrey Smart painting in reverse. I won’t forget seeing Barbie and Ron again, or saying goodbye to David. Egg tarts, David Malin, Rushcutter’s Bay, Pymble, Redfern, Summer Hill, Bronte, Glebe, Gleebooks, Ariel and Berkelouw.
Three and a half weeks seems about the right length of time. For three weeks I get completely immersed. Then one morning the kids and I wake up and in spite of the fact that there are mangos and rainbow lorikeets here, in spite of the fact that my love for my Australian friends and family gets more intense with every passing year, in spite of summer, we all suddenly miss shabby old San Francisco and our micropartment and our American family and even our wholly reprehensible cat. That time is now.
This morning we went to see a Festival show based on Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. It’s about people who run away, and what they find, and the stories they share when they get there. I cried, of course, but for the beauty and sorrow of it and not because I was feeling sorry for myself. How novel! Australia always used to hurt me and make me feel angry and guilty but this year, for whatever reason, it didn’t. Skud told me it wasn’t Australia I disliked so much as Sydney, and when I got here I realized it wasn’t all of Sydney but only a tiny and unrepresentative sample. The rest is vanilla milkshakes and bats in the Moreton Bay figs.
And all kinds of things that have made me crazy for years and years are suddenly okay. I can’t put it any more precisely than that. Sydney hasn’t changed – well, it has, enormously, but it’s also exactly the same. And I haven’t changed either. I’m just as groundlessly opinionated and bitchy and well-meaning and tactless and incompetent and embarrassingly fond of you as ever, don’t worry. But Sydney and I are okay now, like childhood friends who had a massive falling out and made up and can’t remember, now, what any of it was about. The past isn’t sticking its knives into me any more. It probably won’t last but while I feel like this, while I sit in the house Richard built and listen to the cicadas and breathe the humidity, I am more grateful than I can say.
Every chance we get we’ve been sneaking down to Nielsen Park. The turquoise sky, the liquid sun. On Sunday I collected seaglass, green, brown and opal. Today the water was turbulent, the diffraction grating of the Heads sending big waves into shore. In shoulder-deep water I clung to Jeremy and kissed his salty neck, thirteen again but this time, happy.
The Observatory was a highly educational experience. In the bathrooms:
Julia: Are mutants really real?
Me: Oh yes. Not like in Futurama, living in the sewer, but there are lots of mutant frogs, for example.
Julia: What do they look like?
Me: The frogs? Oh, they might have an extra eye or an extra leg.
Woman coming through the door: I definitely walked into an interesting conversation here.
Me: My daughter was asking me about mutants!
Woman: Oh! Well, I was born with an extra finger!
Me: Yeah! Polydactyly is awesome!
We have been having the grandest adventures. Lunch and a swim at Barraba Station. The moons of Jupiter at the Sydney Observatory, on the 400th anniversary of their discovery. Tonight we bundled the children off to Hyde Park, well after bedtime, to the consternation of our taxi driver. The capoeira and circus performances would have passed muster in the Mission, more or less, but the laser show in the Moreton Bay figs was genuinely wonderful. We shared a minivan taxi back to Double Bay, and one of our companions asked excitedly: “Did you see the lights in the trees?”
“Yes,” said Jeremy proudly. “That was my brother.”
Every time I say goodbye to my mum and dad it feels more and more like ripping myself in half.
A long plastic fringe as a flyscreen in front of a milk bar. Endless afternoons at the swimming pool. Christmas cake with marzipan and icing. A bruise-coloured cloud cracked by a bolt of lightning. Covert glasses of Baileys in our hotel room.
It is the Australia I remember from my childhood.
With its art deco style and urbane hosts, the Playhouse Hotel is the ideal venue for a Roaring Twenties sex farce. Next time we should bring all our crushes, and no children.
The memorial site for the Myall Creek Massacre is very moving.
“This is your inheritance,” I said to Jules as we piggybacked on ahead, moving quickly so the bullants wouldn’t bite my sandalled feet. “I’m sorry it doesn’t have more honour.”
“What is honour?” she asked, and I was enlightened.
Claire said: “I am against the white people, even though I am white.”
I said: “But some of the white people behaved very well. William Hobbs reported the murders, and Governor Gibbs prosecuted them.”
“It’s complicated,” said Jeremy.
On the way home we rescued a snakeneck turtle from the middle of the highway.
The weather cleared in the afternoon and Barraba was a vast green bowl full of sunshine. Claire and Julia wore their Thanksgiving frocks. I wore the black dress I got from Jan, the ruby necklace I got from Mum, the pink pearls Jeremy gave me after Claire was born and the silver ring that Richard gave me just because.
“We’re eating outside,” said Andrew.
There were coloured bulbs in the grapevines on the trellis, and candles on the table. The lights twinkled from the bottles and wineglasses. Everyone had dressed for dinner. Ross had spiked his hair, Kelly was wearing a silver chain, Mum was wearing an indigo blouse with a red and purple enamel brooch. Their faces shone.
“Aly,” I said, “can I ask a huge favour? Jeremy left his camera at Sarah’s house.”
“We brought it,” he said, and there it was on Kelly’s lap.
I poured myself a glass of white shiraz.
Moments of perfect happiness are awesome.
Lamb roast on our last NYE at Cooper Park Road; fireworks; early to bed. Julia was ill all night and I slept, very badly, beside her. Up to write a book review and pack and zoom to the airport and jump in the absurd little turbo prop plane to Tamworth, where we found my Dad, my Dad! Intense conversation all the way to Barraba, and there were my mother and brother and sister and brother-in-law and niece and nephew! The kids formed a solid playblob for six hours. I gorged on Christmas cake and trifle. We played mahjongg. Now I am lying in bed in the Playhouse Hotel listening to rain on the roof.