Friday, December 29, 2017

Brisbane

An Introduction:

My trip to Australia had been derailed and stalled for several years since my last international endeavor to Taiwan in 2013. A bevy of reasons sprang up that kept me from going down under, ranging from having to move apartments to spending all my travel money on a World Series ticket. And topping it off was a logistical nightmare. The Australian Baseball League just plays on the weekends (Friday-Sunday), and to see all six teams in six cities in two weeks required a great deal of break-neck travel with slim margins for error that really didn’t leave me much time for actually seeing Australia.

And it took such a long time to get there. I mean, a long time. The best-case flight from New York to Sydney was over 20 hours, which would lose me a day going out (and murder me with jet lag coming back). And that alone was a daunting commitment for someone as averse to long plane flights as myself. While there were less language issues (in theory) than my Asian trips, this one was the most logistical quagmire. Even after trying several times to plan out the trip, it never quite worked out, and I was secretly a little relieved when things kept coming up to prevent me from having to see those plans through.

The longer the delays went on, the closer the trip came to my work sabbatical. My current place of employment has a policy that after six years of continuous service, they will throw in two weeks of “free” vacation that you can combine with two weeks of your regular vacation for a paid month off work. If I held out for that, my planning for Australia would become a lot more flexible, and spending a month there could justify the interminable plane flight, even in my mind. Clever as I was and the ABL schedule being what it was, it made a lot of sense for me to back my sabbatical into January. I was on-call the week between Christmas and New Years for 2016, so I had flex days that I could take to definitively secure that week as completely off, so I would expand my time in Australia out to five weeks instead of four. All of a sudden, this seemed like a plan.

Just before my work anniversary at the start of July, I got my official approval for my sabbatical from my boss, and so I bit the bullet and purchased the expensive plane ticket to Australia. Once I bought that, I was committed to going and planning out the rest of the trip, because I wasn’t going to throw that much money away. The stress of buying the big ticket behind me, I took some time off to do some research about internal travel within Australia and the ABL itself. This involved various message boards, as well as king of funny Internet cat pictures, Reddit.

All I was waiting for was the final ABL schedule to be released. It usually came out in June, but thanks to the MLB dropping their direct sponsorship of the league, of course it was this year that the schedule was delayed until late July. When it came out, I started my planning in earnest fairly quickly. And of course, it would turn out that Sydney was not a good place to start the trip, so I would immediately have to get on another domestic flight as soon as I arrived, after a plane flight taking most of a day. (It would later turn out that I could have gotten a direct flight to Brisbane that would have saved me an extra couple hours of travel, but what can you do?)

I got the order of the cities worked out, then I planned out the internal flights (using only Qantas after overwhelming advice to avoid the discount air carriers in Australia), and managed to get those sorted out with only a couple of expensive missteps thanks to not paying attention to my departing and arriving cities--those are important in air travel, kids! Finally, I was able to book my hotels for most of the trip. I left the very end, where I would be bouncing between Canberra and Sydney, open so I could be flexible at the end of the trip.

So what about baseball in Australia? This was the first time where I was visiting a country for a trip such as this where baseball was a decidedly minority sport. Asia is mad for baseball, and even in the Americas, it as worst in the top five sports for each country. Australia is a sports-mad country. Their hearts and souls, however, belong to cricket and Australian Rules Football. Then come rugby and soccer. And then swimming and basketball and golf. And somewhere below that lies baseball, above badminton, but below cycling.

Baseball does have a long history in Australia on the club level, and it still has a strong following at the non-professional level. Several professional leagues have existed there throughout the ages, the most recent a re-incarnation of the Australian Baseball League (ABL) that was a wholly owned subsidiary of Major League Baseball. The league served—and still serves, without direct MLB control—as an alternate Winter league for prospects, as well as a feeder league of talent to the MLB. Several dozen native Australian players have made it to the major leagues, with even more percolating through the American minors, as well as the Asian baseball leagues.

But as a professional sports league in Australia, it is marginal at best. Most of the fields are club-level affairs that have been renovated to respectability, located on the outskirts of the main cities, inconveniently far from the city center. If looking for comparisons, they are roughly at best AA or lower facilities in relation to the US minors, with A/Rookie-ball-level attendance. The fan bases are largely made of local club fans or expatriate Americans and Asians, depending on the multinational makeup of the cities they are in (or at least by). As the league scrambled to find new financing after the MLB pulled out, there is still a real threat that the league will go under, as the previous incarnation of the ABL did. But fans they do have, and, as with most Aussies, they are friendly and sports-oriented, and for all their sake, I hope the league finds its footing for the future.

Australia itself was a revelation. After being so caught up—especially recently—with the situation in America, it was even more of a welcome change. And it wasn’t just the separation from the daily stress brought on by the ending embarrassments from government. “No worries” has become a largely ironic catch phrase in New York, uttered in professional circles in a way that absolutely leaves you no doubt that there are, in fact, things you should be worrying about. But it sincerely may as well the Australian motto. It was refreshing to be in a country that did not take itself seriously, and where religion was such a non-factor in public discourse, as opposed to its toxic influence here. If Australia was personified as a person, it would a bloke who would be up to try anything once to see if it could be done, and—win or lose—would have a beer about it afterwards, happy with the effort.

Australia has a lot of weird parallels to America beyond their roughly similar lifetimes, and in a lot of ways, Australia is an alternate, better version of what America could have been. They faced many of the same challenges at around the same time, and while neither country is perfect, you can’t help but look at Australia and think they somehow are the better of it. Or at least they are trying. Can you imagine, for example, Americans starting their July 4th celebrations by mentioning the Native tribes they displaced? Or handing out anything other than American flags? For as bad as Australia’s history with the Aborigines has been, at least they are doing that.

It goes on and on. So many things are arranged there to keep things non-serious and casual. There are no stringent dress codes for restaurants, and there is no tipping. (One of the few places with enforced dress codes is the members’ areas of the various cricket clubs. Cricket is serious business in Australia.) That alone was a bastion of unreal logic completely foreign to Americans. People are friendly and accommodating, and everything isn’t a life or death struggle between good and evil (unless it is sports related, in which case, all bets are off). While America is always at a 7 or higher, while Australia is at a 4 or less. And it was nice. No worries, mate.

(And one of the deepest philosophical ideals in Australia is the concept of “mateship.” Wouldn’t it be nice if that was the hill upon which Americans were willing to die? A complex understanding of what it essentially means to be a good friend?)

A last word on cursing: The Internet truth seems to be that “cunt” is every third word out of every Australian’s mouth. And while Aussies are not shy about cursing (or anything else for that matter—such a shy and retiring people, the Australians; I hope they come out of their shells soon), I went five weeks without hearing it once. Take that as you will.

Without further ado, let’s get on to it.


On a Plane Flight Lasting My Entire Natural Life


JFK Airport
Waiting to leave at JFK

Tuesday, December 26, 2017
Jamaica, Queens

Outside the Game:
The whole pre-flight experience started on Christmas, when I was unable to complete my online check-in for my flight for the next day. Stable and calm traveler that I am, this had little effect on me, except to turn me completely into a raving lunatic who was ruining Christmas evening for everyone at my parents' house. Good times, good times.

I eventually returned home that evening and managed to get some sleep. Because my flight did not depart until late afternoon the next day, I was even able to get a decent night's rest with the lack of a ticket hanging over my head.

I woke up the day after Christmas and spent the morning disassembling the holiday. I had only put up a fraction of my regular holiday decorations because of the upcoming trip, and the tree and what little else I had was packed away into their boxes, and all the gifts were quickly deployed to the most appropriate places I could find for them.

I was still unable to check into my flight. A call to Qantas yielded the same result as last night's call: They didn't know why I couldn't check in, but everything about the flight seemed fine, and I should check in at the airport. At JFK. On the day after Christmas, which, thankfully, wasn't a heavy travel day.

Fueled with this information, I completely repacked my suitcase out of nervous energy. I waited until the last minute to book a car to take me to the airport for 2 PM. I dropped off my rent checks for my apartment and parking space and then proceeded to drive myself crazy until the car service picked me up at 1:55 PM. I was only wearing my light spring jacket, so I quickly dove into the waiting car.

My driver told me confidently that there are road problems all over the place, but that he knows the fastest way to get us to JFK. I have no choice but to believe him. There are a number of backups and delays on the route that have me completely on edge, but we at least keep moving forward, so I beat down all my anxiety and sat quietly in the back seat.

Despite all this, my driver dropped me off at the International terminal about an hour after picking me up--roughly the normal duration for a drive of this kind even without problems. I thanked him profusely, and then quickly scurried off to find the Qantas check-in line.

And what a line it was. It had already expanded beyond the civilized confines of the rope maze by the time I had arrived. I plopped myself down on the end of it and prepared to queue stoically like an Englishman.

Shortly thereafter, a rather large Australian family dragged themselves in line behind me. As a matter of fact, the line began to get exponentially longer as soon as I arrived, to the point where it had no longer just jumped the ropes, but was menacingly zigzagging across the entire terminal and around a bend, obscuring its end completely.

Now the family behind me were the first "real" Australians that I had run into on this trip. The parents were mostly concerned with sluggishly maneuvering the carts with the family's accumulated luggage on it. The youngest ginger son, however, had no such burdens, and began talking to me so quickly that there was perhaps no chance of stemming it. Lengthy questions that I didn't even have time to answer were quickly followed by even more lengthy monologues on whatever was on his mind. His mother eventually saw what was happening and gave me a pained smile before feebly trying to make him stop before I told her that we were all in for a long haul anyway, and it is not that I had anything better to do until we got through this line. In addition to his strong opinions on jellies, I was able to find out that they were from Brisbane, and that they were taking a direct flight from LA to Brisbane instead of going through Sydney.

Now, when I had originally booked my flight to Australia, I did so back in June, before I had any idea where I was going first internally. I had no idea what my schedule was, and I just wanted to book a ticket to lock me into the trip, as well as getting as good a rate as possible. After the schedules were published, it turned out that Brisbane would be my first stop, and a relatively short jump from Sydney. This was, of course, back when I had forgotten about the International Date Line and losing a day completely, but I digress. It hadn't occurred to me to look into if there was a direct flight to my first destination, which was doubly ironic especially considering all the stress I had about making the connection once I got to Australia.

At any rate, after a half hour, I was being served at the Qantas counter. I was able to check in to my flights to Sydney with no problems, but she was unable to get me a boarding pass for my flight from Sydney to Brisbane. Now I was completely stressing about the time necessary to make my connection once I landed in Sydney, and I think sensing that, the lady at the counter took pity on me and let me take my carry-on bag with me even though it was slightly above weight.

With this significant success under my belt, I then waited in another half-hour line to get through security. I'm not sure why international security is always worse than domestic security, but there it is. International Airport Security: People from nations all over the earth get together to be scanned and dehumanized in the most annoying an ineffective way possible.

I was settling into the pathetic numbness that helps travel pass more quickly, and I was eventually through security, to almost immediately discover that my flight was delayed for a half hour. Having insanely copious amounts of time to kill, I traded $100 American into Australian dolleroos and got dinner at a sandwich shop. With even more time still to kill, I called Qantas to see if I could change my flight from LA to the one directly to Brisbane and save me some of the time I was losing with these delays, but it would have been cheaper for me just to buy another ticket at that point.

So I waited.

It was at the revised boarding time, so I went up to the gate, and boarding was promptly delayed another half hour. The good news was the red-headed kid found me, talked about how different I looked for some reason, and kept on going. The parents at this point were in the same mental state as myself, as were nearly everyone waiting to board.

Eventually, boarding did begin after the second delay. I was on the very last group to board, but I managed to get in at the head of that group. Rushing down to my exit row seat, I was able to store my carry-on bag in an overhead bin and stuffed my small backpack under my seat. As I was in an exit row, there was no seat in front of me, just bulkhead. The two seats next to me cost extra to book, and I found out why mine was not. The bulkhead door extended out into my seat space for a good bit, though I was still able to stretch out my legs around it, albeit somewhat uncomfortably.

Thus safely on the plane, take-off was delayed for a half hour for some reason. It hardly mattered at this point.

Eventually, we did get airborne. This was only the first leg of the flight to Sydney. We had to change planes in LA after a 5.5 hour flight. I was able to get some sleep at the very start of the flight, but I was up for nearly all of it, and in retrospect, it somehow felt longer than the connection flight to Sydney. There was no WIFI on the plane at all, first of all, which I'm sure probably caused some Millennials on the flight to actually die, but it just felt longer to me.

The older couple next to me in the expensive exit row seats did not have such problems and were out like a light for nearly the entire duration of the flight. I was left to the mercies of the entertainment system. I ended up watching a "comedy classic" of 60s Australia called They're a Weird Mob. It was about anti-immigrant racism during the period, sort of. An Italian immigrates to Australia to work as a writer at his brother's magazine, only to find out that it has folded, and the brother skipped town. He eventually has to work as a laborer with some salt-of-the-earth Aussies to pay the debt, learn the ways of his new home, and--because movie--end up romancing the Irish daughter of the housing magnate who foreclosed on his brother's magazine and is competing with the small-scale construction outfit he works for. It was a truly bizarre experience. In the end, the lead is able to get the prejudiced Irish father to accept him asking for his daughter's hand in marriage by pointing out that Pope was Italian, and if the father hated all Italians, he hated the Pope.

Seriously, that is the climax of the film. And then the stuck-up Irish family drop tea-time pretenses, and they all have a beer-fueled barbie.

I swear. Look it up. They're a Weird Mob. 1966. It made an inflation-adjusted $26 million.

With all my delays behind me and that classic film ringing through my consciousness, there was a PA notice about an hour before we were to land asking if there was a doctor on board the flight. I swear to Jesus, I can't make this stuff up. Everyone awake at this point was wondering if we are making an emergency landing in Reno at this point, but there was eventually another announcement that said we would be met by paramedics at the gate, and that no one else would be let off the plane until the passenger was taken off.

I had a weird mix of emotions that ran the gamut to hoping whoever was afflicted was okay, while also simultaneously wishing nothing but the most vile evil upon them. This was abated, slightly, when it was announced that all the connecting flights were being held for our plane's arrival.

We eventually landed, and while we were waiting for the passenger to be taken off by the paramedics, one of the cabin crew scolded me about my backpack under my seat. We were finally able to get off the plane and in the late Tuesday evening of Los Angeles, rush to the connecting flight. As I had all my bags with me, I was one of the first to make it to the gate, only to find that the boarding of the flight to Sydney was delayed because of technical problems. Every single time I set foot in LA, bad things happen. I swear to god.

There were Minority Report-looking scanners at the gate. With nothing better to do, I talked to one of the guys at the gate and found out they are face-scanners, and they aren't working. We are eventually going to board by going around them, and once again, thank you TSA: I feel so much safer.

While I was waiting, I talked with an older Australian couple who I recognized as being in my row from the last flight. It turns out that they were doing exactly what I was, which was going to Sydney first and then almost immediately taking the same connecting flight to Brisbane. They were relatively confident that even with the delays so far that we could make the connecting flight, so I was somewhat buoyed by their optimism.

LAX Airport
LAX, less than halfway there

We eventually got to board the flight, and all convention was thrown out the window as they were just trying to get the flight boarded as fast as possible. They had the first-class folks go in one entrance, but they simultaneously boarded everyone else through the other. I and the older couple were able to zoom back to our same seats on the new plane and stow all of our bags in the overhead and sit down. They were in the center aisle, with the service bulkhead in front of them, while I was still on the hump seat of the exit row, with the door intruding into my space, again.

The old couple from the previous flight were replaced in my row by an older lady at the end and a guy in his mid-thirties sitting next to me. It turned out that he was born in the US on the west coast, but immigrated with his family to Australia when he was young and had dual citizenship. He was just having a vacation in the US and was heading home. We talked a good deal once we both found out we were geeks. He traded me an Australian plane headphone adapter for some Zzzquil, which they apparently don't have in Australia yet.

We had plenty of time to talk, as they couldn't get the door closed on the plane, so there was yet another delay. We pretty much talked through the dinner service, and then he took the Zzzquil and slept the rest of the flight. I had my dinner, but I only got drips and drabs of sleep during the flight. This time was supplemented by a lot of movies and TV shows and little naps. As significantly longer as this flight was, it seemed to go a lot faster for whatever reason. I had my tablet with me, but I didn't use it at all for both flights, and not just because there wasn't WIFI on this leg of the flight either.

I took a longish nap right at the end of the flight and woke up to us coming in for a landing at Sydney and getting my first glances of Australia out the window on the way down.

At least this was over.

The Accommodations:
Spent it all on the plane to Sydney


On a Day That Didn't Happen



Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Nowhere

Outside the Game:
Thanks to crossing the International Date Line going west, this day didn't happen. Take it up with Greenwich.


On a Triumphant Entry


The Train to Brisbane
Australia from the Train

Thursday, December 28, 2017
Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Outside the Game:
I arbitrarily start the day as I got off my flight from LA to Sydney. It was early, early Thursday morning, after getting on a plane on Tuesday late afternoon, and depending on when you started the clock, I had been traveling a minimum of 22 hours at this point. I needed, quite badly, to get off this plane.

The old couple also trying to make the Brisbane flight and I both had our bags and got off the plane and headed on our way as fast as we could. We had about an hour and twenty minutes to catch our connecting flight, as after everything, we only landed about 10 minutes late.

The first hurdle was customs. I was confronted with a passport scanning machine for the first time in my life. I threw my passport on, a light was green, and I went on my way. As I had all my bags with me and didn't have to wait for baggage claim, I was one of the first people to meet the facial scanners at the second customs station. Whether it was because I looked like death after being in a plane for nearly a day, or because the machine sensed my inherent hostility to it and all its invasive technology kind, it rejected me, and I had to go to consolation line and be seen by a human.

As I was ahead of the crowd, thankfully, the line was still rather short, and as soon as I got on the line, another wave of people from my flight came through and got rejected by the face scanners, making the line behind me rather long indeed. I even saw the husband of the old couple from my row tagged on the very end of the line, but my luck was still holding out.

I was told ahead of time that the customs workers were the only people in Australia who weren't overtly friendly all the time. I was duly ready to be professional, but after a cursory look at my documents, the women behind the counter waved me on my way. I'm not even sure she asked me a question. I marched straight through the nothing to declare door, and then I was safely in Australia.

I just had to get to my flight. This apparently involved going to the transfer terminal. To get to the terminal, I had to go outdoors for about three seconds to get to the domestic transfer station. For those three seconds, I suddenly felt summer. When I left on Tuesday night, it was about 27 American degrees, minus wind chill. And now it was suddenly 27 Australian degrees, with a bright, shining orb in the sky.

I was unable to spend much time pondering this mystery of the universe, as I still had to catch my flight to Brisbane. There was no line at the domestic desk yet, so I was finally able to get my boarding pass for my Brisbane flight, but I did finally have to check my overweight carry-on, which was a lot less of a concern for me now. Both I and my bag were going to be staying the same country at this point.

After that, I had to go through Australian domestic security, in case I had met up with my terrorist friends somewhere between getting off my flight and here. It was a cursory affair of me throwing my backpack on a scanner and going through an X-ray machine. A patient older gentleman stopped me from taking off my shoes and pretty much walked my half-awake person through the scanner.

My last hurdle to making my connecting flight was catching the bus to the domestic terminal. Sadly, I arrived just as the bus was pulling away, and had to wait for the next one. I was eventually joined by a guy in his 30s from New Zealand, and we talked a bit as we waited for the next bus, which arrived after about 10 minutes.

A short drive later, and I was at the terminal for my flight to Brisbane with time to spare before boarding started. I was pretty amazed that I had not only made my connecting flight, but made it with time to spare before boarding. I spend this valuable bounty by changing all but $20 of my money into dolleroos and then wait for boarding to start.

Sydney International Airport
Sydney, briefly

It was a cattle call for boarding, and everyone got on at once. I was at the front of the group and plopped down in my seat, amazed and dazed and half-awake. I didn't even register if the older couple from the US flight made it on or not.

I immediately passed out for a little bit and woke up as we were taking off. The flight was only about an hour, and I don't remember much of it. It was mostly spent using the blessed WIFI on my tablet and sleeping. They gave us some Aboriginal breakfast bar to eat, which I scarfed down at some point.

One thing, though. I landed even more jet lagged that I did when boarding, because Brisbane is an hour ahead of Sydney, even though it is only slightly east of Sydney. There was something significant about that last hour change. I was finding my feet in Sydney for the brief time I was there (or perhaps it was just relief about being out of the giant metal tube), but the last hour change on the half-hour flight really broke my back somehow.

In due course, I was in Brisbane, a little more alert and trying to figure out which baggage claim was for my flight and if I had just imagined checking my carry on before the flight or just forgetting it in Sydney.

To my relief, my bag did show up, and then I went to the information counter to buy a ticket to the train to downtown. The old ladies at the counter were greatly amused by my half-conscious Americaness, and helpfully told me which bill to give them for the ticket and slowly counted out my change. One of them even offered to walk me to the train station, but I was fairly confident in my ability to find it at this stage of the day.

I walked out onto a disturbingly bright train platform with sky for miles and miles, and quickly retreated to the shade before I burst into flames. It wasn't just hot; it was extremely humid as well, steaming my glasses completely up. In short order, the city centre train arrived, and I dragged myself on, excitedly finding out that they had WIFI on the commuter trains as well. I spent most of the trip emailing people and watching funny cat videos.

With my maps, I knew that my first hotel was relatively close to the aptly named Central Station. I just didn't know how to orient myself. A quick talk with a friendly train attendant pointed me to a road I knew on my map, and I trudged slowly up a steeply inclined road with all my bags. I figured out the correct turn, and halfway down the street, I eventually came upon my hotel.

The first thing I saw was that the restaurant in the base of the hotel was closed. So much for room service. A greater part of Australia closes down on Christmas Day and doesn't open up until after New Year's or mid-January. They know how to do the holidays right down there.

I pulled myself together as much as possible and walked up to the counter to ask if it was too early to check in or not. The lady behind the counter said my room was ready, and gave me my key. I then had my first experience with the slowest elevator ever. The somewhat narrow hotel had over ten floors and only two elevators, and the cleaning staff was using them rather extensively to do up rooms. Even when they had no such impediments, I would come to find that these elevators were not in a hurry under any circumstances.

I eventually got up to my room, and encountered my first "apartment hotel" that seemed to be the standard in Australia. Everything in Australia is more expensive than normal, except for hotel rooms, where for what you'd get a basic single room in a major city in the US, I had my own suite, with balcony, living room, and kitchen.

I did some preliminary unpacking, and then took a shower to wash the travel and humid stank from my person. Thus refreshed, I figured out a way to get my air conditioner to stay on once I left the room and then headed out into the early afternoon of Australia.

On the way out, the counter women gave me a map of the general area, including short cut alleys and side streets to get me to the train station faster. I used these short cuts to get back to the train station, and then I completed my new country ceremony by having a number 1 meal at McDonald's. Or, as they call it in Aussie land, "Maccas." They had big digital ordering stations where you order and pay by credit card, so I used those, and then sat down to inhale my Big Mac meal.

Maccas
So many countries, one #1 meal

Thus fortified, I headed out to try another trick I had picked up in Japan. My first day there, I decided, almost by luck, to head to a park and walk around, and that did wonders for re-connecting me to the world outside the steel tube. Brisbane is known for being a city where a sizeable percentage of the city is parks, and there was one of the largest right by my hotel, the Roma Street Parkland.

Roma Street Parkland
Pond at the Roma Street Parkland

After a bit of false starts, I eventually found it, and it was truly massive. Walking around the lakes, waterfalls, and bamboo gardens really helped reset my biology in some fundamental way. I also encountered two particular Australian things during my travels. One was that they had a designated space by the barbies (BBQs) for alcohol consumption in the park. The other was a warning about wildlife in the area, specifically birds that would aggressively swoop at you. It helpfully suggested not to run and to protect your eyes, or simply avoid the area completely. It was very reassuring.

Bird warnings
Wildlife Warnings

I had a nice discussion with the old man in the Hub visitor center at the center of the park. I told him how much I appreciated the park and how proud he should be of it, and he was quite chuffed.

I eventually wandered into the city center again and ran into workers disassembling the city's Christmas tree. This had me running into the City Hall Museum right across the square. I went inside and got the low down on City Hall and Brisbane, as well as a special exhibit on "Chairman Mao's Last Dancer," a Chinese ballet prodigy who migrated to Brisbane in the 80s. There was also a free tour up the clock tower, but it was out of tickets for the day, so I resolved to come back later for that. I made my first impulsive purchases at the museum store and went on my way.

As I went back out into the late afternoon, I had to get some shopping done. I stopped off at the tourist office to get another map and directions to the nearest chemist and office supply place. On my way out, I was engaged by a solicitor for an Australian charity, who eventually realized I was a foreigner and couldn't sign her petition. I had two quick stops at the chemist to buy toiletries and vitamins (which I decided to buy locally instead of pack) and the stationers, where I picked up envelopes and other sundry supplies for my record keeping.

I almost immediately also ran into my first hobby shop in Australia, and I had a quick look around the hobby and game store before heading back out towards ANZAC Square and the memorial for my last tourist stop for the day. On the way back to the hotel, I was stopped by another student solicitor. She more immediately recognized me as American, but wanted more details about me and my trip before she would let me go back to my hotel.

Central Station
Central Station

I finished unpacking all my gear and integrating my new purchases before taking another shower and heading out for the evening. I decided to take a walk through the Botanic Gardens that ran around the southern part of the city before heading back towards my hotel.

Fairy lights
Fairy lights

A good deal of restaurants were closed because of the Christmas holidays still, so I grabbed a burger at MosBurger and headed back to the hotel. Thoroughly warn out from all the walking, and jetlag, and everything else, I was quite quickly able to get to sleep for the night.

The Accommodations: 


Punthill Apartment Hotel, Brisbane
Punthill Apartment Hotel, Brisbane

For my stay in Brisbane, I was staying in the perhaps unfortunately named Punthill Apartment Hotel. As mentioned, this was an "apartment hotel," as I would continually run into in Australia. The apartment opened up into the bedroom, dominated by the king bed. There was a pull-out couch next to the bed, and across from it was a full kitchen (with silverware, cooking utensils, and appliances), with an island that turned into a desk with a TV overhead. Next to both was a balcony that overlooked the hotel's pool and exercise area. Next to the kitchen was the bathroom, with it big glass shower with rainforest showerhead. And next to the bathroom was the big closet, with a whole bunch of organizers inside.

It would turn out to be one of the smaller rooms I would book for the trip, but it was still a mind-blower as the first place I stayed for the trip.


On Closures, Walking, and Aussie Baseball


Holloway Field
Holloway Field, 2018

Friday, December 29, 2017
Adelaide Bite vs. Brisbane Bandits
Holloway Field
Australian Baseball League
Brisbane, QLD, Australia
6:30 PM

Outside the Game:
And so I woke up in Australia for the first time. Thanks to jet lag and time differentials, I was up quite early, to the point I had to wait for things to open up. I spent some time shuffling around my room, taking a shower, getting dressed, laying back down, checking the Internet... anything to pass time until the decent folk of Brisbane were awake.

Breakfast
Man's gotta eat

The restaurant in the lobby of my hotel was closed, but the restaurant in the lobby of the hotel next door, the "O Bar," was open for limited holiday hours. Squinting against the too-blue sky, I wandered in, got a seat, and ordered up a rather extensive breakfast. And then I sat back, blearily staring at the too-bright morning from my table.

"Are you a Seppo?" came a voice from further in the restaurant.

I was not prepared for the question for many, many reasons. The first being that I had no idea how to answer it.

"Huh?", I elegantly replied.

"A Seppo. Are you a Yank?"

I would subsequently discover that Australians inherited rhyming slang of a sort from England. For those not familiar, "mincers" means "eyes," because "mince pies" rhymes with "eyes." If you don't know the original rhyme, the rhyming slang is gibberish.

So back to me. The Australians have a habit of giving their objects fun nicknames. McDonald's is "maccas," for example. "Septic tanks" are "seppos." "Septic tank" rhymes with "yank," and there you have the origin of a rather unflattering association for Americans.

Thus began my first day in Australia.

To be fair, he was just taking the piss, which is pretty much the standard form of communication in Australia. They don't take anything too seriously--except cricket, I suppose. The refrain, "No worries" comes from Australia, where they mean it legitimately, as opposed to the near inherently sarcastic usage of the term by account people in advertising firms in the US.

After breakfast, I had to procure a cell phone for emergencies, since my American flip-phone burner special would not work internationally. I walked down to the main shopping drag in Brisbane and went into a mobile shop. I was the only white guy in there, as the store was filled with Chinese tourists, and the staff were all of Chinese extraction, for some obvious reasons. I was quickly assisted, got the cheapest phone possible for usage, and a data plan that ran exactly a month, which was perfect for my purposes. However, they needed my passport to complete the transaction. So I had to march all the way back to my hotel and all the way back with my passport to finally procure my phone in the dwindling morning.

My phone in hand, I texted my contact info to my landlord and my account manager at work, and then called my parents. Of course, I got their voicemail.

I headed up to the northwest of town to where the oldest buildings in the city were. Unfortunately, all the museums in these buildings were closed because of the holidays. Undaunted, I headed across Victoria Bridge to the west side of the city to the cultural area.

Victoria Bridge
Crossing Victoria Bridge

The Victoria Museum was open, and to my surprise, had a large special exhibit on Roman gladiators, which I might have gone to. Perhaps. And bought a ton of stuff at the exhibit-specific gift shop. Maybe.

Victoria Museum
Nothing says "Australia" like gladiators

After seeing the rest of the museum, I had lunch at the museum restaurant, with a nice Aussie lamb pie and ham sandwich. And then I headed back out in the afternoon sun and humidity.

I walked down the South Bank Park, going through the Peace Pagoda and passing the Wheel of Brisbane. I found the artificial "Streets Beach," a giant fake beach that they put in about twenty feet from the actual river. It was absolutely packed on this Friday afternoon.

Across from the bottom of city center, there was Queensland Maritime Museum. I paid my way in and got an audio guide. One of the staff, clearly bored due to the slow crowds, gave me the rundown of the place and told me a horrible story about the oyster boat in the museum.

The boat, it seems, was too small to have a cat on board, and so they had problems with rats and cockroaches on long trips. The crewmen would wake up to the pests eating the webbing between their fingers and toes, because that was the easiest part of a human to eat without disturbing them. There. Now you can live with the visions of that in your head, too. You’re welcome.

Queensland Maritime Museum
Nightmare fuel boat

After that bracing story, I went around to the various ships in the museum. They proudly had Australian Jessica Watson's boat that she used to be the youngest woman to circumnavigate the world solo. They also had the tiny "Happy II," which some crazy Canadian tried twice (and once successfully) to sail from Canada to Australia, only to be kicked out for not having a passport. There was also the WWII destroyer HMAS Diamantina. The self-tour directions for the ship were not exactly clear, and several other tourists and myself kept getting crossed up and lost in the boat, crossing paths multiple times.

There was also an indoor museum with more naval regalia, which, of course, exited through the gift shop. Thanks to my overly extended visit on the destroyer, I was looking a little worse for wear. The concerned staff at the shop made sure I was buying a ton of water to take with me. Even with that, the walk back to the hotel was torturous, and I had far over-extended myself on my first full day.

After the Batan Death March the length of the city back to my hotel, I took a shower and then collapsed on the bed for an hour or so, missing room service, but waking up in time to head out to the first game of my trip.

The ABL chunks their season into four-game "series" that run from either Wednesday to Sunday, or Thursday to Sunday with a double-header on Sunday. This series would run Thursday to Sunday, with a double-header on New Year's Eve, but I wanted to get the first game under my belt.

Baseball not being nearly as popular in Australia as America, all of the ABL stadiums are generally out in the suburbs and far from the city center. Thankfully, Holloway Field, home of the Brisbane Bandits, was easily accessible by train from Central Station, just down the street from my hotel. With a stop at the ticket counter, I purchased a transit card with the requisite funds and then was quickly off on a train heading in the correct direction.

I had brought my tablet with me because I had download an app that had offline maps of the entirety of Australia. Ain't technology grand? While reviewing the route on the train, I realized that once I got to the correct station, I just had a one-turn walk to get me to the stadium.

I got off at Newmarket station, followed my directions, and was at the stadium in no time. Holloway Field was in the middle of a suburb. I would later find out that Holloway Field had been there for over 50 years, and the suburb had grown up around it. I did my walk around the park, and found out they were doing batting practice. A ball flew over the fence, and I was just about to keep my new souvenir, when a gentleman walked up to me and asked me to throw it back. So over the fence it went. As I was walking around the park, I found another one that had been there a while, so I kept it. So there.

It was clear that things weren't going to happen until an hour before game time, so I wandered off to see what I could find in the area around the park. I found two things.

One was a mall a couple of blocks away. I wandered around for a while and was introduced into the Australian chain "The Snitz," which sold various breaded cutlets and chips. And it was there I had dinner before heading back to the park.

The other was some disturbing graffiti in the sidewalk of the suburb as I was walking back. It read, "Nazis rule, OK! N*ggers". This was a bit disturbing not just for the sentiment, but the fact that no one saw fit to have it removed. It is always important to realize when travelling that no place is perfect.

A little over an hour before the game was to start, activity had picked up tremendously by the stadium, and I headed in.

After the game, I retraced my steps back to the station. Another person from the game and two Friday night drunks shared the platform until the train to the city center arrived. I ended up in the quiet car, which had two policemen in it with another drunk, and everyone was quite quiet, so whatever.

At Central Station, I got out and made the short walk through the alleys back to my hotel. After waiting for the slow elevators, I got to my room, did some organizing, took yet another shower to wash the humid off me, and went to bed.

The Stadium & Fans:


Home plate to center field, Holloway Field
Home plate to center field, Holloway Field

While baseball isn't a huge deal in Australia, it does have a big club following in sports-mad Australia. The Windsor Royals was the Victoria club team, and Holloway Field started as their home park over 50 years ago. Over the years, it was upgraded, and the last round of upgrades were to lure in the ABL Brisbane Bandits. Now two murals on either side of the seating areas celebrate both teams.

Holloway Field is an odd one--a club field upgraded over decades to eventually house a professional club. The entrance to the park is just a chain-link fence by the first base area. A practice field lies just outside that gate. The stands are all one area huddled around home plate, running from third base to first base. Nearly every part of the stand, and the club boxes, are named for some Victoria baseball luminary, and there's even a retired number on the outfield wall.

The scoreboard is a solar powered thing that shows the barest of stats. The main concession stand is at the top of the grandstand behind home plate, next to the press box and a club area. The bare pickings at that stand are supplemented by an area with food trucks by first base and a picnic area with tables. There is also a bar stand and the main concession trailer in that area as well. There's special seatst by the dugouts at field level, as well as the super-special seating area by home plate that seems de rigueur even in Australia.

Also, of note giant spider webs are everywhere. Everyone else wasn't acting scared, so I kept it together, but there were literally giant spider webs in every non-disturbed surface of the stadium. I was frankly terrified.

The crowd was commiserate with the stadium. It was a modest-sized crowd, but it was in a modest-sized stadium, so it felt the right size. People were still active in the game, and there was even a contingent of visiting fans for the Bite at the game. The home fans were led by a group of Taiwanese die-hards that were cheering one of the team's recent acquisitions from the CPBL and kept getting the crowd to do the wave throughout the game.

The on-field action was led by an entertainment team. The bandit mascot didn't make an appearance, but I found the MC to be particularly interesting. In addition to reading off the stats for the players and what happened in the inning, he was also helpfully explaining what they all meant in a comic book didactic kind of way. "The pitcher leads the league in ERA. ERA means earned runs allowed per nine innings..." "I am going to smite you with my hammer, Mjolnir. Mjolnir is invulnerable and always returns to me." There were also dizzy bat races and give aways and quizzes and the like that will be familiar to anyone who has ever been to a minor-league game in America.

One thing you definitely won't find in America was the post-game celebration. The Bandits won this game, and afterwards, the fans all got to go out onto the outfield and hang out and talk with the players. Everyone was acting like this always happens, but it was exactly the first time I had ever been on a professional field in my entire life.

So that happened.

At the Game with Oogie:


Yankee Dog
The Yankee Dog

This being my first baseball game in Australia and my first full day in Australia, I was still learning my way around. I managed to buy a general admission ticket without incident at the ticket booth, but there was a young girl selling programs by the entrance. It was A$2. I tried to give her one A$1 coin, and then two A$2 coins, and she thought I was the funniest thing in the world. "Can't you use money?" she asked. I resisted the urge to toss her into the bushes, which was big of me, I think. Once again, she was just taking the piss. She didn't mean anything by it. I was still getting used to it.

I ended up buying a "Yankee" hot dog at the "Mr. America" concession stand, because I kind of had to. All orders came with a little American flag. I bought some baseball cards and a hat at the various small concession stands before settling into a seat on the home side of the field in the GA area.

The seat offered a great view of the game, with the exception of the netting everywhere, though the molded plastic seats were not exactly what you'd call "comfortable." After sitting in one for the entire game, I resolved to spend some money on reserved seats going forward.

There was a group of three young men behind me who clearly knew something about baseball. Based on subsequent experience, they may have been part of a local club team. And older couple was in front of me and two middle-aged women were on my other side, and they clearly knew a lot of what was going on. They took notice of me scoring, but in a rare bout of Australian cautiousness, I don't think they got up the nerve to ask about it.

The Game:

First pitch, Bite vs. Bandits
First pitch, Bite vs. Bandits

So this was my first entire in the Australian Baseball League, and in many ways, it would be indicative of the type of play I would see in my remaining games there.

It began when the first Adelaide Bite batter was hit by a pitch. Two one-out walks loaded the bases until a fortuitous grounder to third led to a double play to end the inning. The Bandits would go in order.

The Bite led off the top of the second with a homer to left, and then went with nothing more than a two-out walk. Brisbane started the bottom of the second with a walk and a single, but they couldn't get anyone across. In the third, Adelaide managed another two-out walk, and the Bandits went in order. The Bite had another two-out walk and nothing else in the fourth, but Brisbane woke up a little. The bottom of the fourth started with a walk and a single. A one-out walk loaded the bases, and a hard smash to third got the runner at first with a great play, but the man on third scored to tie up the game at one before a strikeout ended the threat.

The Bite jumped back in the lead with a one-out homer to right in the top of the fifth, but stranded a two-out single. Brisbane fought back with leadoff back-to-back doubles to tie the game again. A ground out moved the runner to third and a sacrifice to right brought him home to give Brisbane the first lead of the night, 3-2.

Adelaide struck out in order in the sixth, but the wheels on their pitching bus came off in the bottom of the inning. The Bandits started with a homer to right. A one-out single was followed by a double that made it second and third with one out. The next batter homered to deep left, bringing in three runs and chasing the pitcher. The new Adelaide hurler gave up back-to-back singles, and then walked a batter to load the bases. A single brought in two more runs, and Brisbane had batted around. Another single followed, and a ground ball cut off the run to home, leaving the bases loaded, but a long fly to center finally ended the inning at 9-3, Bandits.

The Bite got a leadoff walk in the seventh and nothing else, while Brisbane started the bottom with a blown 3-1 putout that got their leadoff runner on. A one-out homer to left brought in both runs before to quick fly-outs ended the frame at 11-3. Adelaide showed some life with a one-out homer to dead center in the eighth, while the Bandits had a one-out baserunner thanks to another error, but did nothing else.

Adelaide managed two singles in the middle of striking out for the inning, and thus the game ended with the home team winning an 11-3 shellacking of the visiting Bite.

The Scorecard:


Bite vs. Bandits, 12-29-17. Bandits win, 11-3.Bite vs. Bandits, 12-29-17. Bandits win, 11-3.
Bite vs. Bandits, 12/29/17. Bandits win, 11-3.

As there were no scorecards with the programs in any of the ABL teams, I was using my trust BBWA scorebook.

This game was rather straightforward scoring-wise, but it did have more than average of three things: walks, home runs, and errors. There were 10 walks, 6 home runs and two errors. All of this was to be found as indicative of the ABL due to the poor fundamentals that many of the players exhibited, as well as the very thin pitching to be found in the league (as most of the excellent pitching talent was immediately sucked away by the US or Asian leagues).

Also of note is that in the long bottom of the sixth, the second baseman for the Bandits got his first career hit in the ABL.

The Accommodations:
I was at the Punthill for the entire trip. Outside of some morning plodding and a shower-and-nap stop-off during the day, there was nothing of note.


On a Day of Random Touristy Crap


Clock Tower
City Hall Dome from the Clock Tower

Saturday, December 30, 2017
Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Outside the Game:
I woke up the next day with my dogs barking loudly. My feet and I were not on speaking terms, and I had blisters that were rapidly outsizing the toes that spawned them. And so another day of walking awaited me.

Second breakfast
Man still has to eat

I went to the restaurant at the hotel next door and had another decadent breakfast before heading back out into Brisbane. The first stop was the clock tower tour at the City Hall museum. I was up super early, so I was able to get in on the first tour and got a good look at the city and the back of the clock. I then took the City Hall tour, seeing the renovations and the history uncovered by the renovations, and ending in the auditorium in City Hall with its giant organ--which is not a euphemism. It is in fact the largest pipe organ in the southern hemisphere.

Clock Tower
Behind the clock

I was content to do touristy things all day. On my way to the Wheel of Brisbane, I successfully called my parents and got that obligation out of the way. I bought a ticket for the Wheel and even got my own pod thing to myself. Not content with the heights of the clock tower, I went higher still, in air conditioning, while a pacific voice pointed out objects of interest in the skyline. In any case, I was happy not to be walking.

The Wheel of Brisbane
Inside the Wheel

I did hoof it down to the restaurants on River Bank Quay (pronounced "key," the first of many inaccurately spelled keys I would come across in Australia). There was an Italian place called Popolo that I picked out. It was technically a "sharing" restaurant, but I knew what I was about. I got a nice table right by the river, a bottle of Pellegrino, and then I managed to graze through three courses of a quite leisurely lunch while not walking at all.

Popolo
A man's gotta have lunch, too

I got lost trying to find the train station by River Bank, but successfully made it back to my hotel from Central Station, where I took a shower to wash the afternoon off of me while also cleaning up my scorecard from the night previous.

My destination for the evening was Brisbane's China Town. I don't know if I decided at any point to visit all the major China Towns in Australia or it was just a natural extension of my eating habits. Brisbane's particular locale was a way off to the northeast of city center, but it was a warm night with the humidity low, and after resting my feet most of the day, I walked it down there. A few of the restaurants were closed due to the proximity to the holidays, but there was one "down home" looking Japanese gyoza bar that caught my eye. It was a traditional Japanese layout with the kitchen in the center of the rail seating. A very Australian guy with a disturbingly perfect Japanese accent was my waiter, and he got my order of a big bowl of pork ramen and some fresh-made pork gyoza. The place also had a fine whiskey selection, and I had a Yamazaki Single Malt Distiller's Edition with my delightful meal.

China Town
The depths of China Town

Full of warm things, I headed back to my hotel, but I had a stop off on the way at Woolworth's, which is a supermarket in Australia and not a five-and-dime as in the US. I got some food and sundry laundry supplies and meandered back to the hotel.

I flopped on the bed and for the first time on the trip, turned on the TV, where I was immediately greeted by cricket on the sports channel. When I spent a year at Oxford during college, I had almost by necessity learned about cricket and even played a little on an informal club team. (I could bat decently well, but I was an abysmal bowler.) Now, cricket has always been the unofficial official national sport of Australia, which, like every current and former commonwealth country (except Canada) enjoys nothing more and derives a great deal of national pride from beating the English at the sport.

Cricket's popularity had been on a wane, especially with younger people, which prompted the creation of T20 cricket. Unlike test matches (which can literally go on forever) or one-day events (that have limited innings but still last an entire day), the turn of the current century saw a single-inning, limited overs variant develop that was "only" as long as a baseball game (~3 hours). This shorter and more dynamic format has led to a great renaissance of popularity in cricket, especially with youth, and has spawned popular national and international leagues that have shrugged off the more stodgy formality of top-level matches. (Colors beyond white, for example, are allowed to be worn. Some in England still have not gotten over their vapors at the mere thought.)

Needless to say, the Aussies are bonkers for it, and they have both men and women's professional T20 leagues. I was amazed how fast the sport all came back to me and also how the hypnotic quality of cricket took over again. I left the TV on to see if I could remember the rules alright, and then realized I had watched the entire match.

It was followed by even more majesty: Australian popular culture cricket movies. The post-game film was Backyard Ashes, a film literally about backyard cricket. An affable Aussie bloke, with his meticulously manicured backyard pitch, finds out that a new British manager has laid off a bunch of his friends, and, to additional horror, moves in next door to him with his family and... cat, which somehow makes him a wanker. Somehow, the Englishman's anger when his cat is accidentally incinerated in the neighbor's oversized barbie makes him more of a wanker. For reasons, they decide to judge ownership of the cat's ashes (hand to god, this is the plot of the movie) with a backyard cricket match, between a team of uptight Poms and the salt-of-the-earth (and strangely multi-national) Aussies. Now, you'll never believe this, but the Aussie team wins, and in a gesture of good faith, gives the English bloke his cat's ashes back, and somehow everything is okay.

You're damn right I fought off sleep to watch this film in its entirety. But I quickly dropped off to sleep right afterwards.

The Accommodations: 
I was again at the Punthill, though I spent more time in the hotel than previous days. I had a long stop-off in the late afternoon, and then, as mentioned, I spent most of the evening on the bed watching cricket and cricket-related movies.

I had some short-lived excitement when I realized that my room had a dishwasher. I hadn't noticed it to this point because it was a drawer model that pulled out of the cabinets but just looked like an oversized drawer. Flush with this knowledge, I found washing powder and cleaned up all the glasses and whatnot I had used over the last few days and set them to clean on my way out the door to dinner.

When I was loafing around for the evening and had accumulated even more dirty dishes, I tried to use the dishwasher again, but found that it wouldn't open. I made a call down to the front desk, and they came up and took a look, and they confirmed it wasn't opening. They said they would try and get someone to look at it tomorrow, but tomorrow being Sunday and also New Year's Eve, they set expectations that it might not get fixed until afterwards.


On a New Year in a New Place


Wheel of Brisbane
Wheel of Brisbane on New Year's Eve

Sunday, December 31, 2017
Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Outside the Game: 
I awoke on New Year's Eve having slept oddly. All I remember was dreaming about being chased by a slightly skinny horse. I really don't have any more than that.

Instead of going next door and indulging in another decadent breakfast at the hotel restaurant, I decided to end the year with a more Australian breakfast. At Woolworth’s the night before, I had picked up some "Uncle Toby's Oats," which boasted itself, "Traditional 100% Australian." Can't argue with that. I also bought some decaf tea, and I used my room's kitchen supplies to cook up some brekkie in my room.

Australian breakfast
"Real" "Australian" breakfast

Thus fortified, I went out into the New Year's Eve morning and hit the main shopping drag in town in the Queen's Street Mall. I found a game store in the mall and did some shopping before heading off to the McArthur Museum, which, like many museums and businesses in town, was closed for the Christmas period. The museum itself is inside an apartment building, so it wasn't immediately clear it was closed, but the apartment manager let me in on the unfortunate news.

I consoled myself with a trip to Hungry Jack's. "Hungry Jack's" is the name for "Burger King" in Australia, because someone made an Aussie "Burger King" before the US "Burger King" got there. Regardless, I was able to order a Whopper Meal for lunch in a triumph of capitalism.

Hungry Jack's
Australia acknowledges no burger king.

At Popolo's the afternoon before, I was perusing my Lonely Planet guide for things to do this day, and came upon an entry for "Statler & Waldorf's." For those of you not Muppet-literate, they are the two old guys in the balcony of The Muppet Show and subsequent materials. Apparently, this place was a bar that featured the two prominently, and with most things closed anyway, it seemed like a good as diversion as any for the early afternoon, plus I was wearing my Dr. Teeth shirt. It was off on the west side of town, so I took a post-lunch walk out there, by Brisbane's main soccer and rugby stadium.

After a bit of wandering around, I used my map app to confirm I was at the right place. But the bar wasn't there. I wandered around until I found an open WIFI connection to discover that the bar had closed in the last year, and also, that I shouldn't trust my Lonely Planet guide anymore without checking the Internet.

However, on the walk back, I saw a van that someone had painted to match the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo, so it wasn't a complete loss.

Mystery Machine
Zoinks

I stopped back in at my hotel to get some things done. I checked into my flight to Adelaide the next day with no problems, I did my laundry in the hotel laundry room, and while that was all going on, I did some more shopping around town.

After my laundry was done, I took a shower and got dressed for New Year's. The big event was the fireworks down by the river, so I took a train to the West End early and walked around looking for a restaurant. I settled on the Punjabi Palace, which turned out to be a family-run Indian place. The food was good, and I filled myself with several courses of food and some wine before heading out around 7 PM.

The police set up barricades at the entrances to the South Bank parklands and were searching for alcohol, but otherwise letting everyone in. I walked up and down the riverbank while people were getting settled in and the festivities were preparing. They do two fireworks shows on New Year's: one at 9 PM for families, and then one at midnight for adults. I talked to some police at one of the ferry terminals, and he said told me where to go to get the best view.

New Year's Eve
Brisbane sign on New Year's Eve

I headed up to the area right outside Streets Beach and found a place to wedge in and wait. I was right next to an Asian family who had laid out a blanket for everyone and had a small barbie going with food. The father started talking to me and eventually his wife was offering me food, which I declined as I had just eaten. Eventually a younger couple filled in next to me, who apparently were watching the man's nephews. We also got to talking while he kept trying to wrangle his nephews, whom he referred to as just "bush kids." He said the population of New York City was probably a good chunk of all of Australia (New York state almost tops Australia, but the city is only about 4 times the size of greater Brisbane), but he liked how everyone from Brisbane would come out for the fireworks. I assured him that everyone in New York didn't go to watch the fireworks. He reckoned we had more to do.

After some chatting, the fireworks started, and it was a fine display. Everyone was loud, but it wasn't out of control by any extent. As soon as the fireworks ended, everyone packed up and headed towards the transit options. The trains and ferries were free for New Year's (as I was told by another police officer), so I decided to go back to the hotel for a while and go watch the midnight fireworks from Victoria Bridge.

Fireworks
Starting the year with a bang.

I got back to the hotel, turned on the TV, and promptly fell asleep. I did wake up just before midnight, went out to the balcony of my hotel room, where I saw the tops of the fireworks and the hullaballoo associated therewith, and then went back to bed.

This rockstar lifestyle is going to kill me one of these days.

The Accommodations:
I spent some time in my room at the Punthill doing laundry in the afternoon. While I was stripped down to a t-shirt, exercise shorts, and travel slippers, I bunked out in the lobby for a while housekeeping was in my room and I was waiting for the laundry cycle to end so I could dump everything in the drier.

One of the hotel staff I was familiar with was in the back and came out to see me on the lobby couch reading and burst out laughing. To be fair, she had a point.


2017-8 Australia