Friday, October 28, 2011


As I do the final draft of my next memoir, A Broad Abroad in Iran" a memoir about living in Iran during the revolution of the 70s, I feel a need to post this somewhat revised blog to get myself in the writing mode.

In the 70s, with the revolution already in motion (of course we expats had no clue), the Iranian people seemed unhappy, cross, maybe even pissed that westerners had invaded their land.

In retrospect, it’s somewhat easier to look back and understand why the Iranians so hated Americans, but at the time we assumed they weren’t happy campers and let it go at that. In our ignorance, we thought the shah was all about bringing his country up to the 20th Century, and not leave it lagging in the Old Testament days.

Hiring expatriates from all over the world to help bring his country to a new global respect seemed like a generous undertaking. But, retrospection is a wondrous tool. We seem to want to look at casualties “after the fact” and then sort out the problems. But, at the time, we didn’t know there were problems.

The people wanted their country back. Back from the onslaught of foreigners hired by the shah to make more money for his coffers. I guess ignorance is bliss, as they say, because we went on our merry way thinking that we were welcome. Oh how wrong we were!

What I did take notice of was the country and the incongruity of it all:

The well-dressed driver of a Mercedes-Benz lays on his horn as he is surrounded by a herd of sheep. They slowly meander across the potholed dirt road, brushing against the front, sides and back of his gleaming car with their filthy, wet coats, while he screams obscenities at the sheep, the herder and at his illiterate countrymen that would allow this to happen.

A chador-clad woman stands in the street. As she waves her arm and tries to hail a taxi, her chador rides up revealing a forearm dripping with a fortune in gold bangles, while an ancient, blind woman squats at her feet, begging for money or scraps of food.

A towering mosque laden with gold and jade, stands in tribute to the incredible architecture of centuries past, while beggars with limbs missing seek shelter in the shade provided by its magnificent minarets.

In the capital city of Tehran, a theater marquee stands twelve feet high and pictures a female strapped to a pillar; she is wearing black fishnet stockings, garter belt, stiletto heels, and black bra with cleavage pouring forth. Lined up on the sidewalk and spilling over into the dirty streets are throngs of men, salivating as they wait to enter the theater. Walking by the theater and on both sides of the street are other figures, covered from head to toe in the traditional black chador, eyes, nose and mouth the only indication that they are women, yet having to hide every strand of hair and femininity to insure they do not cause a man to have “unholy thoughts.” Hellllooooooooooooo!

Okay, now I have to get busy and sell it.

Agents, feel free to contact me!

Friday, October 21, 2011



Melbourne was the last top on our tour. This beautiful place is Australia’s second largest city, an extremely popular destination for expatriates from all over the world. Melbourne enjoys a mild climate with four distinct seasons. The city is located just a few kilometers inland from Port Phillip Bay, where we were to go the next night, with the main part of the city on the northern bank of the Yarra River, with its historic Victorian bridges. The city has a European feel about it with its many historic buildings and attractive cobblestone alleys. Green and leafy, it also has many beautiful public parks, gardens and decorative fountains. It is also seen as multicultural, a shopping and dining capital, with a wide range of shopping malls, markets and specialist shops and dining options to suit all budgets and tastes. They certainly suited ours, as we explored almost every mall we came to, and there were many.

We were so tired by the time we got to Melbourne, that we just wanted to check into the hotel and crash. The hotel was The Crown Plaza, and it was the size of a huge plaza. It had rooms going and coming. Escalators and elevators. Doors and windows and subterranean byways! We noted also that an enormous casino took up the other side of the block from the hotel, and was called, of all things, The Crown Casino. Much later we discovered that at one time our hotel had been the casino, which made sense to us after all the strange little byways. This “Crown” person seemed to own half the city, or more. We could hardly wait to investigate.

We were a bit put-off when our van pulled up to the hotel. First off, we’d just left a 5-star, the Shangri-La, in Sydney, and were accustomed to a palatial setting; secondly, the hotel was rather dingy and the entrance was downright unappealing in its shade of prison grey. We looked at each other, rolled our eyes and wanted to bolt. Stop! This isn’t where we want to be; we’re 5-starers! But, we soldiered on.

Inside it wasn’t quite as bad, but had a strange architectural design; not like any hotel either of us had ever seen. We checked in, were given room keys and proceeded on our way. Hey, what the heck? First off, there was a set of escalators, no elevators, which made us roll our eye yet again. We took the escalator up to a large open area that had a lovely view of the Yarra River from its many-many windows, with various cozy sitting areas placed along its immense walls. It looked for all the world like another lobby area. But where were the rooms? We asked a passing porter where we were. “Oh, no worries, just hop on that lift to your floor.” Now we are getting nervous. An escalator to nowhere, then a lift to another strange sitting room, again with various overstuffed chairs grouped around windows for excellent views of the city, but still no rooms. The place was deathly quiet, no evidence of any tourists who might be staying here. Once again a porter happened by. “Can you please tell us where our room is?” “Oh, sure, no worries, just follow me straight away.”

Another set of elevators and we were at our room. The porter opened the door for us, and we stopped. Ginger sniffed and made a face: “It stinks in here.” I took a whiff and had to agree that it smelled rather old and musty. Then we opened the drapes. An over-sized picture widow looked down on grey, ugly metal rooftops of some sort. We could see the river about three blocks up the avenue. Okay, stop again.

I called the front desk. “This room is unacceptable,” I said. “We’re supposed to have a room with a view, all we see here are views of tin rooftops.” She said she had no such order but would be glad to upgrade us to a room with a nice view, for quite a bit more money. We squabbled a bit, and finally gave in, paid through the nose, and ended up with a lovely view of the city, the river, and nightlights. Spectacular. Every night at dusk, they would send up fire-flares around the river, lighting up the whole area.

Our first tour was that same evening. We’d much rather have flopped down and slept, but had only two hours before the scheduled departure. The tour was in the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. The train car, built in 1869, was used right up to the abandonment of the cable tram system in 1930, over 55 years. Later, an electric tramway system was adopted to replace the cable cars. The Colonial Tramcar restaurant is the proud recipient of four national tourism awards and nine Victorian tourism awards, a nod to its excellence and professional service. The tramcar restaurant is a major tourist attraction for visitors to Melbourne. The train had undergone extensive rebuilding and refurbishing to ready for a first-class dining experience. We tooted around the city as we ate in splendor: a three-course dinner, along with an incredible dessert, all made by a famous Melbourne chef. Drinks were included. As many as you like, mate!

I finally found a boyfriend. He said he owned the train; I found out he was a conductor!

The next day we were scheduled for a 12-hour tour around the famous Bells Beach Road and the great ocean road and its miles of golden sandy beaches, shear cliffs and amazing rock formations. From there it was more of the same and we both felt we couldn’t do 12 hours of sightseeing. We opted instead to take a city tour and enjoyed it immensely.

On the city tour we visited Captain Cook’s home, set among what felt like a five city block park. It was breathtaking. Exotic flowers and greenery everywhere you looked. It was amazing to see how they lived in those days; the house could not have been more than ten-feet square, with straw mattresses and wood plank floors. The word Spartan comes to mind.

The rest of the day we spent strolling the beautiful walkways along the city and Yarra River. We’d stop, notice an ice cream shop nearby, order 10 scoops and then sit on a park bench and pig out. We told ourselves that we were talking off all the calories. That night we visited the casino. We were overwhelmed as we walked inside. it was over the top: 500 table games and 3,000 slot machines. Dozens of restaurants, food courts, movie theaters, and dance halls. Amazing! Around all the entrances and side-rooms, goon-like guys were stationed, looking for all the world like Mafia goons. Ginger innocently pulled out her camera, when a large, ham-bone-size hand touched her shoulder. She whirled around to see the goon, who had a goon-look on his face. "No cameras allowed" he said in his well-rehearsed goon voice. We played a couple machines, bid the goons goodnight and went back to our hotel and bed.

Our last cruise was 9.5 hours, but well worth it. Our tour took us to a cattle farm where birds, kangaroos, and wombats ran amok. Ginger was brave enough to walk up to the roos and pet one, but as I’d just seen a lady get a swift kick in the leg from a pissed-off roo, I decided I’d pass. Walking back to the main ranch house, the owner had some great-looking sausages on the barbee. I couldn’t wait to try one. She grabbed a slice of white bread, slapped a sausage in the middle, poured some tomato sauce (we call it Ketchup) on it, and handed it to me. I had it digested before we even paid for it. On the bus later in the day, someone asked if anyone had tried the kangaroo sausages. Did I try one, he asked. HELL NO! I answered, as I felt a giant heave in my belly, followed by a rather loud belch! I still denied it.

After eating a kangaroo, I would pass on the Koala kabob!

The tour bus drove along spectacular beaches and scenic coastlines of Phillip Island. We could see wildlife jumping and frolicking in the sea grass and hills as we passed by. We stopped at the famous Nobbies rock formation overlooking one of the most treacherous expanses of water in the world, Bass Strait. I jumped out and took pictures, but would not venture out on the point for a better view, which of course is exactly where Ginger went. However, her camera card was full, so I used my iPhone, which does not do that majestic scene any favors.

At sunset, we were all gathered around the water at Summerland Beach, waiting for the little penguins to perform their nightly ritual. They can have as few as 10 or as many as 1000 come ashore on any night. They were so adorable as they waddled up the sand to their nesting places. It was most amazing.

The next day was a free day, so we decided to check out a few things we’d heard about: the famous old jail where people were beaten, hanged and lost forever. It was bone-chilling walking through the cold, cement enclosures. Then we were led into a sort of police station for interrogation and fingerprinting. It was supposed to mock a real arrest, and the gal did a great job of it. "Drop your pants,” she thundered to one goofy-looking guy, “I think you’re hiding contraband.” We all laughed. “What’s funny,” she growled, “now you can all drop your pants.” We stopped laughing.

After the jain, Ginger wanted to see the Skydeck, an 81-foot monster that is supposed to be the highest building in the Southern hemisphere. The elevator shot up to the 81st floor as if it were only three or four floors. I leaned against the wall of the elevator, trying to become invisible. Again, Ginger dragged me out to enjoy the spectacular view. Well, it was amazing, as long as I stood ten feet back from the glass walls.

The next morning we bid farewell to a beautiful country and wonderful people. Our flight was a bit late, but everything else went smoothly; Customs, Immigration, no body peeking booths. Once in the air, Ginger put on her mask, closed her eyes, and I didn’t see her face again until we landed at LAX. I, of course, stayed awake to help the pilot fly the plane. Everything was great.

Then we landed at LAX.

Monday, October 17, 2011



We had a pleasant three-hour flight to Sydney. Again, a beautiful airport, so clean you didn’t want to walk on the shiny floors. We found our luggage and then looked for our shuttle driver. A grouchy-looking man stood by the door. He didn’t seem to be looking for anyone. He held a sign, but it was turned toward him and we couldn’t read it. “Norwood party?” I asked. “Yes,” he growled, “follow me.” He took our luggage, all 200 pounds of it, and began walking. And walking. And finally I hollered up to him, “Excuse me, sir, are we walking to our hotel?” He turned around, gave me a hateful look, and said: “No Madam! You didn’t order a private shuttle. I had to park two blocks away!” Sheesh! What a grouch. “What country are you from, Mohammad?” I innocently (not really) asked. I knew he was from the Middle East by his accent and his grouchy face. I really just wanted to say, “Khale shoma chatore” which means, hello, how are you? hoping he might be nicer. He turned again to face us: “Australia!” he growled,” then turned and kept walking. Ouch! I’d hit a sore sport. Ginger was afraid I was going to start a Fatwa and gave me a pained look that said, “Shut T.. F… Up!” Mohammad spoke no more, and drove like a mad man to our hotel, while we flew around in the back of the shuttle.

We finally arrived at the front of The Shangri-La Hotel, the most beautiful hotel I’d seen. He dumped our luggage on the ground, and took off. Ouch again! We walked along in awe. So ornate, all glass, gold and granite, with dark mahogany wood and enormous windows everywhere. Then we were led to our room. The bellman opened the door and the first thing I saw was a King bed. “OH NO!” I cried. “We ordered two Queens. I can’t sleep with her, she snores!” The poor bellman looked bewildered. “Call the desk, please, and get us another room with two queens.” Ginger stood at the window overlooking the harbor and a most incredible view of the city, skyscrapers, blue sky and white thunderheads. “No!” she cried. “I won’t snore, I promise. This is fine. We’ll take it.” “No,” I cried, “She snores.” The porter stood rooted in the hall, waiting for a final directive. I finally picked up the phone and spoke to the reception desk. “This room is unacceptable. We ordered two queen beds.” The desk sent another porter up to move us to a room with two queen-beds. Ginger pouted, I smiled, and we were led to another beautiful room with the same amazing view. The sun was pouring in through the immense windows as we stood admiring the scenery below, when we noticed the room was very warm. I asked the porter to turn on the AC before he left the room, which he did, but added that the room was warm because the sun was beaming in the window, and would cool off as soon as the sun moved on. After we unpacked, hung clothes, put our things in the bathroom, the room still felt warm. I called the desk yet again. This time they sent up an engineer who discovered that the motor to the AC had burned out and could not be fixed until the next day. He called the front desk to report this, and I took the phone from him. Helloooooo, we are not happy. Ginger’s in the background hissing: “Get us a free dinner, get us a free dinner!” The manager apologized and told us she was upgrading us for our troubles to new room with a view of the Opera House, which I thought we were going to have in the firs place. I told her she might want to assuage our pain by offering us a complimentary dinner. She acquiesced, but only 50% off. Ginger was pissed. Later that night, we accepted her offer. The restaurant was beautifully appointed, glass floor to ceiling on three sides to enjoy the beautiful city of Sidney at night. I politely ordered just a small bit of food, Ginger ordered the beef, lamb, and pork, as well as the potatoes, veggies and wine. It was a lovely dinner at $134 for the two of us, but of course only 50% did we pay. Our third and last room, was lovely; now we not only had the opera house view, but were fortunate enough to see a fireworks display from our huge window that first night.

The first few days we cruised the beautiful harbors; Sydney and Darling. The Sydney Harbor is often referred to as the most beautiful natural harbor in the world, and we could see why. The Circular Quay is the hub for the ferries that carry hundreds of tourists around the 149 miles of shoreline every day, all day. As we cruised along the miles of beautiful water, the captain pointed out an area along the way, where homes were worth upwards of $30M. We could live here.


We also took a one-hour guided tour of the famous Opera House, the largest in the world, and were amazed at its vastness and splendor. The building was begun in 1957 and finally, after many setbacks, was completed in 1973. It is admired internationally and proudly treasured by the people of Australia. It is a graceful piece of urban sculpture in patterned tiles, glistening in the sunlight and invitingly aglow at night. The acoustic are world renowned, with the seats specially made to grasp and contain the sound coming from the stage. The way it was built, every seat in the house receives perfect audio, while the actors on stage use no microphones. Amazing!

Because I can normally make friends on an iceberg, I picked stranger’s brains everywhere we went. Never know what you might find out if you ask. All of the people we talked to were most helpful, happy to give us names of places to see and directions. One couple told us about a ticket we could purchase which would give us transportation on bus, train and ferry for one week. We learned a lot about the city, the country, and its people; things that most tourists might never know.

The next few days we did trains, planes and automobiles; well, not really planes or automobiles, but we did ferries, buses and trains. One of the trips was a two-hour train ride to the Blue Mountains, where we stopped at several small cities, circa 1800s, with old churches, shops and homes. In one restaurant, in a back room, they had an RCA Victrola with a Caruso record on the turntable as if waiting to be played. The restaurant was built in the 1800s, and the owners had kept the original decor, with wood carved benches and tables, cash registers from the early 1800s, and pictures of visitors from days gone by. We also managed to scarf up some of their wonderful meat pies that are famous in Australia.


We also visited Manley Bay by ferry. We walked along the shoreline, which reminded us of the Caribbean, with its aquamarine water, palm trees, white puffy clouds and white sandy beaches. We also had to try the famous fish and chips that Aussies are so crazy about, plus their wonderful homemade ice cream.

We were to leave for Melbourne the next day, when we heard about Quantas engineers’ impending strike. They had already started canceling domestic fights out of Sydney, and other cities in Au. Now, what the heck were we going to do if they canceled our flight to Melbourne. Oh well, “No worries, mate!”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011



Again, we were amazed by the sparkling airport, as well as the friendliness of the Aussies as we alighted from our plane in Cairns. You could have eaten off the airport floor tiles. High-end stores from all over the world, gourmet restaurants and gleaming lavatories. Wow! We looked like a couple of country bumpkins just let off the farm. Of course, every turn we had to stop and ask someone where the hell we were. The roads, the buses, the trains! The whole place, city, airport and train stations were like Grand Central Station, and we were two nuts from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” And everything is downhill. My aching knee!

We had a pleasant shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel. Clean streets, with a moderate amount of traffic. The hotel was The Pacific International; A 4-star, by the looks of it. Bright, gleaming lobby with friendly smiles all around. Porters eager to assist with our luggage, and the biggie here was we were told "No Tipping." Can you belive it? I felt guilty every time I signed for room service, or the coffee bar. A couple times I did add a tip. Can't teach an old dog new tricks, as they say.

The first thing we saw from our over-sized window was an enormous casino across the street from the hotel. I'm sure it's the largest one in the world, but then I haven't seen them all--yet. It looked like some sort of Sports Arena for the Lakers. I made a mental note to take my money there for a visit before we left town. Our room was lovely, spacious and bright. We tested the beds like Goldilocks, and deemed them "..,just perfect." We dropped our luggage and then had the daunting task of emptying our suitcases and restructuring the mess inside. We needed cooler clothes. We’d just left Brisbane, which was in the low 70s, and were headed into the rain forest the next day, which would be in the 80s, and humid.

After the clothes mess and the late hour, we were too tired to go out and ordered room service. As food is higher than our national debt, we decided to split a hamburger, fries and a dessert. We expected something on a tray, but when it was delivered, there stood a gentleman with a huge collapsible table, and one little hamburger in the center. Quite embarrassing. Anyway, he struggled and got the table inside. We sat in our jammies, with the table crammed between the queen beds and pretended it was the most elegant meal we’d ever had. We sipped our water as if it was the finest wine and sent our compliments to the chef.

The next morning, our shuttle took us to the train station for a ride up to see the Rain Forest. The train was circa 1920s, with pictures of days gone by everywhere. The ride to the top was a tad nerve-wracking, at least for me. Ginger loves speed and death-defying rides, so she smiled while I turned a shade of Dolce & Gabanna green. The train stopped along the route (way too close to the edge of the mountain) for picture-taking, while I stayed put on my seat and tried to envision green, flat golf courses. I took a peek out the window once, and was startled to see that the track itself was lying on ground that looked like one good rain would take it downhill. Help! More “S” curves and then we reached the top. Incredible! There seemed to be hundreds of different colored trees, different sizes, and different varieties, all reaching for the sky. At least four shades of greens and velvety browns. At the top we caught the Sky Rail, (or should I say Ginger caught it and dragged me along with her). The view looking down was unbelievable! At some points we couldn’t even see the ground below for miles, it was so dense.

While at the top, we were given ample time to stroll through a myriad of tourist shops, ice cream and bakeries. Our tour included a delightful complementary buffet that we promptly inhaled. The waitress asked if we’d like coffee or tea, and we both ordered iced tea. We chatted with two couples at our table during the meal, and then proceeded outside for the Aboriginal interpretative dance and talk. Halfway down the walkway, a very panicked waitress came running towards us, waiving a piece of paper in the air. “You forgot to pay for your iced tea,” she wheezed. We'd both assumed the drinks came with the buffet, and told her so. She was not happy. “Madam, coffee and tea were offered with your buffet, not Iced Tea.” Well, another $30 made its way into the AU economy, but we were not ugly Americans about it. We waited until she was out of earshot to bitch about “…the nerve….”


We took the sky tram back down to visit a small little zoo, where sweet little Koala bears napped in the trees. I was a bit disappointed in the Kangaroos; all they wanted to do was scratch and stare. I’ve yet to see one up and hopping about, which is a bummer. However, we were offered a picture of a hopping kangaroo for $50, which we declined. We walked for what seemed like miles, weaving our way back to the bottom of the hill. Ginger detoured a bit when she met a bushman along the way. She has all the luck!

That night, to reward ourselves for all the walking we’d done and the strain on my poor knee and back, we visited the casino. Wow! Again! Amazing. It had to be the largest casino I’d ever been in, and spotless. I wondered why I didn’t smell any smoke as we entered, and then found out why. They said there was a smoking area outside! Do you believe it? In other words, no smoking anywhere in the casino. I was amazed. There were tables and chairs for just sitting and lounging right in the middle of the gambling areas. So thoughtful! We decided to have a snack there, but the devil made us order sweets; I had a very modest-sized muffin, while Ginger took what little money we had left and had a piece of carrot cake the size of a slot machine. Such pigs! We donated about $20 and decided we’d leave.

Tomorrow we’re off to see the Great Barrier Reef.

In the morning a shuttle delivered us to the jetty where we boarded a monstrous catamaran to take us to the Great Barrier Reef. The cat ride took one and a half hours to arrive at the reef; the view was glorious and the azure water was breathtaking. They tied up the Cat to a floating barge, which held all the snorkeling and SCUBA diving gear, all the food, along with tables and sun chairs.

We signed up for the snorkeling, but elected to have a thirty-minute massage before going into the water. The masseuse expertly rubbed out all our old age aches and pains, and we felt young again as we donned our masks and snorkels. We then joined a group of young fantastic-looking males (I think they were extras for a new weight-building contest). Well, now that I think of it more clearly, there were about six old ladies, hanging on our rubber raft. Ginger floated lazily and happily. I struggled to keep afloat with a porcine octogenarian who had to prove to her grandson that she could snorkel, while she held tight to my arm, and kept falling against me, grabbing me, and kicking me in the groin. I thought I was going to drown. She held on tight, dragging me under with her. I finally gave her a kick in the groin and snorkeled off. Okay, I didn’t really do that (but thought about it). I helped her get her gear on right, taught her the sniff and blow technique, and then pushed her under.

A beautiful blue fish, about three-and-a-half feet long, floated up to us as we snorkeled. Evidently, this fish has been entertaining swimmers for some years. Everyone reached out to pet him, which he seemed to enjoy. His body had the feel of velet. I can’t imagine how my skin would feel after years in the water. When I finally emerged, I was freezing. I asked around for a towel and was told that most people had brought their own, but they did sell them at the main desk. I assumed it would be 5 or 10 dollars for a beach-size towel, but was given a small bath-size towel and charged $20. It’s grey, it’s short, it’s ugly, has no embroidery claiming that “I snorkeled with the sharks” on it, but damn’it, twenty dollars is twenty dollars. I’m bringing that towel back home with me.

They set out a beautiful buffet on the barge, and offered cocktails and sweets. We laid out in the sun, then back to the coast. We were in bed by 7 p.m., ready for our next exciting trip: Sydney.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

DAY ???

So confused, not sure what day it is. They have strange times here, drive on the right side of the road and also the wrong side of the bus, so how can I keep up? When I say “excuse me, can you tell me…” they say, “No worries, mate!” and offer you that wonderful helpful smile. Yesterday was kind of a lazy day, just what the doctor ordered. Our tour for the day was to be a trip on 4-wheel-drive jeeps around the island, while the forest ranger showed us and told us the history of the island; its wildlife and dangers. When we checked in at the desk they did indeed tell us the tour was cancelled as all roads were closed, and those that were open, were for fire personnel only.

We had a small little bungalow, with a beautiful pond at our front patio. The birds swooped in and out of our view as they chased one another in this beautiful setting. We sat on our patio and drank one for the folks back home. Our walkway was a wooden path, elevated about three feet off the ground, which we imagined was to keep the fierce Dingos, deadly spiders and creepy crawlies from taking a nibble or two from our epidermis.

Ginger and I decided to “have a walk” as they say here, and headed for the beach. The boardwalk from the resort was a winding, tree-covered maze with assorted low-hanging vines, trees of incredible beauty we’d never seen before, and also home to many cranky poisonous snakes. We walked a little faster with eyes skyward. We found our way to the jetty, which led us to a beautiful white sandy beach, where we did the normal touristy thing and took pictures, all the while watching for the infamous Dingos. Beautiful! I can imagine the excitement the Aborigines felt after sailing from wherever (no one is sure where they came from, other than it was about 4000 years ago). Just seeing the beautiful island after years at sea, and being able to come ashore, must have been a dream. As Bill Bryson says in his book: “A Sunburned Country,” it was NOT Cook who discovered Australia, but rather the Aborigines, long before Cook ever pulled on his big-boy pantaloons.

The rest of the day we spent strolling through coffee shops, eating every goody in sight, tourist shops, and learning about the wildlife. At 7 p.m. we joined in a ranger’s talk about the Dingo. I raised my hand. “I’m a little worried when we walk the beach or the long wood path to our cabin. What do we do if we encounter a Dingo?” The ranger chuckled. “No worries,” she said, “we have a high fence around the whole camp; they can’t get into the resort.” Well fine! The bus driver really got us. But she did say we might encounter them on the beach. She told us the Dingo was brought here hundreds of years ago by explorers from Asia. They run and attack in packs. Rather than charge their prey, like a Wallaby for example, they wait until the animal is on the beach scrounging for food, then walk toward their prey until it backs into the ocean and drowns. When the carcass comes ashore with the tide, the Dingos “have a go at it.”

We inadvertently sat in on a bird talk, of all things. Actually, we were about to walk out of the room after the Dingo talk, when the ranger immediately put the bird video on the screen. Not wanting to appear rude we sat still (well sort of, Ginger’s head did much bobbing). But after 800 species fluttering, squawking, and eating worms, I decided it was time to go. Plus, Ginger had fallen asleep with her head on her chest, and someone in the back mistook it for a bird call.

We are taking the ferry back to the mainland today, and will be dropped at the airport and fly to Cairns; hopefully without any skin missing.

The next morning we were bussed back to the Cairns airport. We entered the airport, hauling two gigantic bags apiece, and stopped dead in our tracks. There were no check in counters, no agents that we could see, nothing but fat little check-in machines six inches on center. Everywhere we looked they stood like little Martians awaiting to fly off. I was afraid if I slipped something in the slot it would take a bite! I frantically looked around, found an agent behind a post, earnestly looking busy. It was more like a pillar which was holding up the roof, complete with a flip-up desk and a computer underneath. I looked pathetic and begged her to help us. We had a 2:15 p.m. flight and it was now 2:05. She gracefully agreed to help us; otherwise we’d still be in the airport. The machines are incredible. I’m surprised the US doesn’t have them. First you have to check in, either by typing in your name or passport. When it recognizes you, it spits out your boarding pass. Then you must run to another funny-looking machine, a bigger Martian, and slide your boarding pass into its open yaw. The machine asks you how many bags you have, you answer, then it says: weight please, at which time you grunt and slide your luggage onto its base tray. If you are overweight, you are taken to jail…just kidding, but if you are overweight, you must either lighten the load, or find another suitcase, or pay $9 billion dollars. After going through all this, we ran like idiots to the security area, where we were in line for another ten minutes. I guess no one cared if we missed our plane. We had no hotel, had no idea where we were, but as luck would have it, our plane was delayed AGAIN. But this time to our advantage.

WERE OFF TO CAIRNS: Or as we were told: pronounce the city as ... Canns-as in soda cans; Cahn, as in James Cahn; Cains as in Cains and Abel. Also, another fact we learned: do not pronounce “Aussies” with an “S.” it’s “Auzzies” with a “Z.” If you pronounce it with an “S” you’ve immediately branded yourself as a feraner! “Please pronounce it with a “Z” it’s much more friendly!” Okay mate, no worries, there!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


It’s 1:30 a.m. your time, and 8:30 a.m. AU time, but we’re a day ahead of you; very weird indeed. We left the USA on October 1st and entered AU on October 3rd, with only a fifteen-hour flight. That means we lost one whole day out of our lives. Where did it go? Do we feel any different? Not sure yet. But what happened to our cells, did they just blow away into extinction? Are they patiently sitting in a holding pattern at the International Dateline waiting for us to return? Do they just glob into us as we soar by? What if someone else’s cells grab on and we lose ours? These are things I’m contemplating as I sit on my veranda overlooking a beautiful marsh at the Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island. Every now and then an excruciatingly beautiful bird, yellows, red and purples, lands on one of the strangest looking flora and fauna at the edge of our veranda, I’ve ever seen….but I digress. Back to our 2nd day, which happens to be our first day…or something like that.

Arrived in Brisbane at 8:30 AU time. We were exhausted, then had to push, pull, and tug our heavy luggage through Customs, then through another line that checked to make sure it was our luggage we were walking away with. Found our shuttle to hotel, Siebel Citigate Hotel. It was nice, but certainly not a four-star, which was what we expected. Ginger dropped like a rock into bed. We didn’t feel well so we decided to stay in. She got comfy in her jammies while I started organizing my messy luggage and bags. I decided that I didn’t want to carry around my heavy computer bag, so would find another bag and ship this one home. We ordered room service, and split a grilled turkey club and fries; $23 plus $5 tip. Food terribly high in AU. I showered, and we slept about one hour, then we took a walk to see the city.

A great little shopping area about a block from the hotel. We noticed that everyone was so friendly here, and ready to help with directions or any questions you had for them, from wait staff to cleaning ladies; from desk clerks to salesgirls. I might add the girls have the most beautiful and creamy skin; not sun lovers like the So. Cal girls I suspect.

I found a luggage place on our stroll and bought a small, wheeled carry-on that would hold my computer. I planned on sending my current, heavy, thick and old computer bag home via post. However, after some rational thought (unusual for me), realized that would not be cost-effective, so returned the cute, lightweight one the next day. Viva the Return Queen. I’m afraid both Ginger and I are going to be seriously over-weight (airlines and body) by the end of the holiday. We started out heavy, just under 50 lbs. that the airlines requires, and have added a few things along the way.

We found a beautiful cathedral on our walk and stepped inside to see the most gorgeous pipe organ, which I felt rivaled any I’d seen in Europe. As we entered the church, dressed in sweats and looking rumpled after a 15-hour flight, a woman approached us: "Hello, are you here for the wedding?" Really????

We stopped at a coffee shop, sampled all their sweets and of course ordered them. We both ordered coffee, but when the salesgirl asked us if we wanted “flat white” or “tall black” we stared at her. “Huh?” “Flat black” with their accent sounded like “Flight Blike.” Eventually we learned that they don’t brew coffee like we do in the States; it’s made like our lattes, with steamed milk if you want cream, and cost as much as our new cars. We headed back to the hotel in sprinkles, and I organized again, fell asleep at 7 p.m., Ginger watched TV, then slept.

I awoke at 2:30 a.m. and could not sleep. Tried for another hour then got up, put on my face, dressed and left for the lobby, hoping I could get a “Flight Blike” downstairs. When I pushed the “lift” button, I heard the elevator making strange noises and lots of grinding. I had to push it several times to get it to the 9th floor. When I stepped in, I pushed a button for the lobby. The door closed but the lift did not move. I waited. I pushed again and suddenly I was dropping—it felt like three floors—then came to another teeth-jarring stop.

I froze. OMG! I looked for the red emergency button, pushed it, but no sound. Nothing. Quiet as a mausoleum! The emergency bell must be ringing down in the lobby, I thought. Surely someone will be calling me on the lift phone to tell me not to worry, be there in a sec. I pushed it again after a few more rapid heartbeats. No sound. I grabbed the railing, held my breath and pushed the G button again, and the damn thing dropped again, then another grinding noise as it slammed to a stop. Then silence! I pushed the red button again. Nothing. OMG! I thought about a YouTube I’d just seen where the guy was stuck in an elevator for about 36 hours with nothing but a briefcase. OH NO! No Panti-liners! In fact, no nothing. What if this thing free-falls to the basement? I’d be flattened against the ceiling with a terrified grimace on my face when they found me. I pushed again, and held on to the railing. It hesitated then slammed down to the G floor, where the doors opened as nicely as you please. I expected to see paramedics and hotel employees standing there as the door opened, prepared to give me sympathy and a free stay. Instead, the place was eerily quiet. I walked to the reception area, quiet. Found a cleaning lady and asked where is everybody? She called and a front desk clerk materialized. I was still shaking as I approached her desk. Did you not hear me call from the emergency button on the elevator? No, she heard nothing. Are you okay, she asks with mild concern. Well, just shaken up a bit, I said. Can you get me some coffee? Yes, I’ll call room service for you and have them deliver it here in the lobby. Oh, thank you. After that terrifying episode I felt coffee would be most welcome. I also KNEW there would be no charge, as after all, I was nearly crushed to death on the ceiling of the lift.

A few minutes later a woman appeared with a tray of coffee, and a nice fat bill, with the room service charge added on to the coffee bill, which she handed me and which I accepted and signed. Doesn’t anyone care that I almost died? I signed the $15 charge. I’d just wait for the manager to assuage my terrified emotions, and also remove the $15 charge. When he came on duty he walked over to me with a sad look on his face. Did the clerk tell you what happened to me? Oh, by all means, he said. Sorry for your discomfort. I checked the lift and it’s a bit cranky, so I put a “closed” sign on it. CRANKY, it was downright hateful. I took an obvious sip of my coffee, expecting him to say he’d take it off my bill, but NO. Just smiled and walked away as I waived the $15 bill after him. He didn’t turn around.

After I’d recovered from my terror, Ginger and I walked to the shopping mall again, returned the carry-on, bought an umbrella and sun tan lotion; a dichotomy, I know. But we were told it might rain, but after the rain it would be sunny and beautiful.

According to our itinerary, we were to catch a tour bus to the Kingfisher Bay Resort. However, what we caught was a ride in a ratty, shock-absorber-less old shuttle bus. And painted on its side was: THE WORLDS BEST TOUR BUS. I don’t think so!!!! It was a looooong four-hour, bumpy ride, on seats that were part concrete covered in thin cotton. We were dropped at a spot, along with our luggage, where the driver told us: “Wait here for the shuttle to take you to the ferry. It’ll be along shortly,” then drove away, leaving us in an extremely cold environment, with our summer clothes, luggage and empty stomachs. Actually, it was an hour-and-a-half before that bus appeared.

We were told that around the corner there was a nice restaurant where we could grab a bite. We then had to haul our luggage with us, around many corners. The restaurant was lovely, al fresco, and cold. Ginger said the “seafood chowder” might be good, so of course I had to order that too, when what I really wanted was a hamburger. When they brought the dish, it was scary. Looking up at us was a pair of beedy little eyes, feelers, attached to five inches of prawn. I gagged, Ginger winced, and then asked the waitress would she mind de-shelling this creature, which she didn’t want to touch. The waitress was shocked, amazed and insulted that we would ask such a thing, but took both of the inert bodies back to the chef, and brought them back skinned and edible (which we were not able to eat). The chef probably spit on them anyway!

On the ride, the bus driver told us a little of the history of the island. He also told us to beware of the Dingos, as they ate people regularly. He also said: Anything that can bite, claw, scratch or maim you, would probably also kill you. Lovely! He said the Dingos usually came around the pool area of the resort, so we should be aware of that and not try to pet them or give them food. Hellooooooo, I think we got that.

On our ferry ride, they announced that the island was on fire, not contained yet, but they felt the resort was safe. We weren’t so sure. He also said most tours were cancelled for the next day because of the fire danger. It was a bit smoky as we came off the ferry, but he assured us that it would probably be out in a couple days. We were disappointed that it was dark by the time we arrived at the resort, and missed the beauty of it all, but when we leave here, it will be 8:30 a.m. and we’ll be able to see the whole landscape; ocean, island and forest.

Our room was a quaint little cottage, with a lovely view of the wilderness and plant life of the island. We will not be touching anything that could bite, claw, scratch or main us while here.

Monday, October 3, 2011



Saturday, 10/1: Dropped puppy at super-friend, Robin’s house, then drove to Joe and Gails’s house for a wonderful bon-voyage dinner for my traveling buddy, Ginger, and myself. Friends, Dave and Ginny, let us park our cars in their one acre yard, and we called for the shuttle to LAX.

The fist clue we were in trouble was the shuttle driver’s obvious lack of backing-up skills as he wove back and forth trying to avoid the brick columns along the path. He tried several times to back the old, tired Ford Van into the driveway, finally giving up half-way in. We dragged our luggage to the van, afraid if we didn’t, we’d miss our plane.

He asked what terminal we were going to. “To Brisbane on Quantas,” we said. “Which one?” he asked. “Is there more than one?” “Yes,” he replied as if talking to two children, “there’s Quantas in the Bradley building and Quantas in Terminal 4.” We looked at each other, nonplussed. I whipped out my cell phone and called our travel agent. “It’s Bradley,” she said, most irritated, “he should know that.”

Ginger climbed in and seat-belted up, then I slipped in. No seat belt. I found various and sundry straps, and several buckles that kept slipping under my butt as I scooted across the seat, but when we tried to make the connection, it was a no-go. When I complained that I couldn’t get these things to cooperate, the driver pulled to the curb, groused about missing a turn because he was listening to me grouse. He tired to belt me in and realized it was a lost cause. He then asked me to “lift up” so he could slip his hand under me and find the buckle. When I raised my rump, out slipped a little gas bubble, with just a hint of a sound. The driver jumped backwards like he'd been shot. Ginger giggled while I gave her a dirty look, then I began to laugh. The driver mumbled something in a foreign language that I’m sure were meant to call down a hex upon our families and their descendants. He found the elusive buckle, belted me in, then slammed the door. He jumped in the driver's seat and screeched off, as our necks flew back with whiplash. Geesh! It was just an accident. I had a lot of bubbles rolling around inside due to my fear of flying, so I say he was lucky it was just one, and small at that!

The driver was from some indeterminate country where they seem to like to hit every bump and hole in the road—at high speeds. We finally arrived at the Bradley building, where he off-loaded our baggage without a smile. Sorry! We dragged our 48 and 49.5 pound bags into the terminal, only to find that we were supposed to be at Terminal #4 “Bradley is for Auckland and Sidney, and Terminal 4 is for Brisbane and Melbourne. We left, dragging our 48 and 49.5 pound bags about a block down the road. “Good thing we’re early,” we said in unison. Our plane was scheduled to take off at 11:20 p.m. It was now 7 p.m. We had plenty of time.

I’d expected lines of irate travelers as they headed toward signs that read: Step right up. This way to the “See Your Privates X-ray Machine,” along with stern TSA Folks. The line was really not that long, but the Folks still pushed us ahead pretty fast. By the time I emptied all my paraphernalia from my computer case, crawled out of my shoes and jacket, we were almost up to the “I See Your Privates” machine. I began to fret as I neared the monster. I’d heard some horrible stories about these Peeping-Tom x-rays, and what they could see. I’d worn a panty-liner (extra protection against sudden onset of sneezing or laughing fits) for this fifteen-hour flight, and I, with my vivid imagination, conjured up what would happen as I entered said machine: “Ma’am, please step out and against that wall.” “Huh?” He then would talk to someone on his shoulder mic: TSA 1 to TSA 2 - Sir, I’ve detected an unidentifiable object in this lady’s underwear. What’s that, sir? Roger, sir! That’s a big 10-4.” Then he would turn to me and say: “Ma’am, I’ll have to ask you to step in this room with me and hand over that UFO you’re hiding in your panties.”

But luck won out. The couple in front of us were taking way too long to get their carry- ons into the little plastic carriers, so a TSA Folk waved Ginger and me into another line where we walked through the “I Can’t See Into Your Privates” machine and thus bypassed the whole Privates-Peeking monster. Thank you gods of travelers who wear panti-liners!

From the TSA area, we proceeded to the waiting area, found two seats and settled in. We had over three hours to wait for our flight. About ten minutes later, I began to fidget. I can’t sit here this long, I said. I'll get stiff. I need to walk. Ginger, being the sweet thing she is, suggested that I might want to think about the 15 hours of sitting ahead of us. So we walked. We stopped in a Duty Free shop, smelled all the wonderful perfumes, and then headed for the place we really waned to head to in the first place: Brioche Doree, a heavenly bakery on the concourse. We split a cookie, bought some water, and paid what amounted to my mortgage payment. I walked across the aisle to a bookstore, picked up a dime-sized bottle of aspirin and handed the clerk a five-dollar bill from my purse. “It’s nine-ninety five” she said without a smile. “WHAT?” Well of course I paid and groused as I walked out of the store.

Ginger waned a sweet roll so we ambled back to the bakery. Not wanting her to feel bad, I ordered a small fudge brownie. I reached for the strap of my purse, only to find no strap, hence, no purse. My heart fibrillated and I thought I would faint. Everything was in my purse; my boarding pass, my passport, my visa and cash, and cell phone, and most importantly, my extra panti-liners!

I knew it! I’d heard about all those pickpocketers at airports. They should all be rounded up and their fingers broken. Instead of worrying about panti-liner bombers, the TSA should be on the lookout for pick-pocketers and thieves.

What the hell would I do now? Ginger would have to go to Australia without me, while I roamed the airport like Tom Hanks.

I ran back to the books store, ready to scream at them for not being on the lookout for pick-pocketers and thieves in their shop, when I spotted the clerk who’d waited on me. She wore a smile, and a strap dangled from her pinkie finger, with my purse attached. OMG! Thank you gods of forgetful old broads.

Now, we’re sitting in the same waiting area. Thirty minutes after we were supposed to board, the agent announced we would be delayed because of engine trouble. Now, I’m a wimp when it comes to flying, terrified of all things that go “bump” during a flight. Did she have to say “engine trouble”? Couldn’t she have said they were taking an extra long time to clean up the mess that the last passengers left?

We finally boarded at 2:15 a.m. instead of 11:20 p.m., which amounted to seven hours of sitting, waiting for our plane. Once aboard, they served us a nice weight-watchers size meal of chicken cacciatore and caramel cream cake dessert. Ginger ate little, then pulled her blanket over her face and went to dreamland. I watched her, enviously, between runs to the head and back. Fortunately, we did have a wonderful bonus; we sat in Economy Plus, which is Quantas Airways concession to under-privileged travelers. Actually it was well worth the price we paid to bump up, as we had at least six inches extra leg room, which allowed us to pile everything on the floor in front of us. Unfortunately, the couple in front of us pushed their seat-backs all the way back, so that when we needed to step out into the aisle we had to put our bodies into the “Limbo” position and literally crawl slide our butts over the center divider, the outside arm, while praying we wouldn’t get our feet wound up in bags, blankets or purse handles in the process. We are hoping for a bulkhead row on our return trip. Maybe I’ll sleep then.

I envy people who can cast all fear to the wind and sleep on airplanes, like Ginger! I snuggled up with a blanket, put on my eye mask, stuck in earplugs, plumped my pillow so it was just right, then stared at the inside of the mask. I crawled out of all my covers and looked over at Ginger: mouth agape in a smile, and I hated her. When she finally awoke, about five hours later, I was so excited to have someone to talk to: “Hi, good morning!” She looked at me, opened her mouth, growled and then turned her head to the window. I guess she didn’t get enough sleep. Oh well, have to crawl over everything now and hit the lavatory again.

More to come tomorrow.