Sunday, July 29, 2007


The Weekend

Friday was a day to leave everything behind - work, running, everything - hang out with some friends and have some drinks. First group at Transport in Fed Sq before I met up with a new group at Y&J's across the street. They had a band doing covers, everything from Bryan Adams to Pink to Chilis. They were all right but probably sounded a bit better after a few drinks. Left around 1 and was still able to grab a tram home so a good night overall.

Saturday I had an outdoor coffee at a St Kilda bakery on Acland St with Sal-boy and Dean-o as they made their way up from Virginia to NYC, picking up revelations, epiphanies even, on the way - of course the big ones coming in the big town. That's all I had time for because I needed socks.. that's right, socks. I walked it to Chapel St, music in ear, another coffee in hand, meeting the best parts of any dirty old town - where only your feet can take you. Through the alleys, the secret ways of the locals, what the driving tourist doesn't have time to see and what the walking tourist doesn't dare to see, past the local shops on the south end of the street that haven't yet been touched by the consumerism and name-brands of Prahran - yet. I ducked into a CD store for some inspiration but came out empty handed, then into the sport shop, had a look around, stood in front of the sock display, read the tags for each pair, and walked out with nothing added to what I carried. I pressed on north in search of an Asian grocer I had heard about and got all the way to the Yarra before I decided that it was time for the tram to take me home, the only gain was the experience of the walk and added knowledge of the street and that was good enough for me.

I needed to be at Balaclava Station at 6:30 but missed the tram to get me there by 5 seconds. Another came 10 mins later and took me to the station but I heard the 6:29 above me leave as I crossed to the station. That's ok, I was alone, I wasn't the one that was late. Two more additions to the party before the 6:49 took us to the CBD and dinner in Hardware Lane, outside with a band playing to the side, and endless throngs of people walking past.

End of alley jazz club, invisible to those not knowing - with directions from the musicians that lit up our dinner we had table up front. Drummer in soft hat backwards, glasses, tongue out, "yeah!", feeling it. Shaggy haired upright bassist, smile on face, head bobbing. Pulled together pianist, business hair, business shirt, business pants, belt even, with business attitude but jazz soul through fingers to keys banging on piano strings. Gorgeous, Filipino/white, shaking hips, in green dress, ruffled, raising voice and soul to share stories of love and life. Bodies swaying to the jazz, beer bottles tapping to the blues - good night.

Sunday was more coffee and reading. It has warmed up a little here in Melbourne and it doesn't rain as often so it's possible to sit outside during the day and at night if they have the gas heaters. Normal day, checked the Sox score, grocery store, went for a run, took a nap. I also finally finished "A Short History of Australia" by Manning Clark. If you want to know the story of this country I strongly recommend that you do not read this book because it just takes time away from reading a history that you can actually make sense of. I'll let you know if I find one.

This week should be about refocusing on running and getting back to the schedule after pulling my calf muscle a couple of weeks ago. It feels better but I'm going to need a 2 week build-up to get back on schedule. Should be alright, I feel good and still have 10 weeks before the race. Maybe go out one night if I have the time. And I still don't have any socks.

Friday, July 27, 2007


Just talking

I think Wily Mo is reading my blog...

July 26 @ Cleveland
Pena - 4-5, 4 RBI, 2 R, 2 2B, HR

Hi Wily! Love your stuff.. really.

Comment reply:
"Hey how bout those Jays!" -Doogie

Jays.. Jays... Oh! You mean the Blue Jays. They're still a team? They're all right but not a threat; they're 10 games back but in an underperforming division. Three scenarios - Sox and Yanks keep on keeping on and go 1, 2 (whichever order); both teams explode and there's a race in the end, leaving TO way behind; both teams fall apart, Jays take the division, and get slaughtered in the ALDS by either LA, Cle, or Det.

What is going on with the Royals - they had a nasty schedule after the break, didn't they? Cle, Bos, Det, NYY and went 1-2, 2-1, 2-1, 1-3, respectively, with the obvious high points being the series against the Sox and Tigers and then shutout the Yankees in the last game to avoid the sweep.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Let's respond to some comments

"I'm not ready to give up on Wily Mo just yet"-The Hobester on Jul 20 post. I'm sorry, what? What logic could possibly go into that statement? He's hitting .197, has 3 errors (playing outfield with only 310 innings - Manny has 1 E in 737 innings, Crisp has 0 E in 778 innings), and will swing at anything. My favorite WMP moment was when he was just brought over to the Sox and we lost Arroyo so everyone was already pissed and I was at an April game in Baltimore, which always brings a lot of Sox fans. First time this dude is up he swings at and misses the first 3 pitches that he sees. Next time up he swings at the first 2, then, I don't know he was distracted or something - maybe a bird flew by - and he lays up on a pitch.. the entire stadium erupts in applause.. you don't have to swing at everything.. but that's how he does it, watch him next time. And Hinske's numbers aren't much better. Think about this - it's October and we're in the bottom of the 9th against the Yankees in the ALCS, we're down by 1, Drew's on the bench because he's made out of glass.. Do you really want Wily Mo going up against Rivera's cutter? Heeeeellllll No. I'm not saying that we need a superstar backup OFer but let's at least have someone force some pitches or put some contact on the ball even if it's not in play.

Umm.. Lester's going to do very well.. ok, that game already happened. I like the idea of Tavarez back in the pen though.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Picture of the Week

Last week's answer:
Who - Me and Jill (niece)
When - October 2006; my early b-day and going-away party
Where - Parents' house; Haverhill, MA

Friday, July 20, 2007


I'm never going to sleep again...

I might have mentioned before that I was hoping that this weekend was going to be a nice quiet weekend that I could sit around, read a bit, and just get some rest. And then I was invited to the footy for Saturday night - St Kilda vs Hawthorn. One game.. that's alright, I can handle that. Then the next day I get a, "How do you feel about doing some snowboarding this weekend?" "Umm, I'd love to but I have the footy on Saturday.." "That's alright we're going on Sunday." "I'm in." Ok, now we're getting a little tight but that's ok, I still have Saturday during the day and I can take it easy on Friday... Today (Friday) I got a text message "want to go to the footy tonight? I have free tickets." "Hell yeah."

Let's recap: Friday - footy (Bulldogs vs Geelong, should be a great game), probably going out after that; Saturday - maybe actually getting some rest, maybe doing some laundry, footy; Sunday - waking up at 4:30 to hit the slopes at Mt Buller; Monday - start it all over again. It's a good thing that I'm uhh, injured and can't run this weekend. We'll start that back up on Monday as well.

Alright, the Sox blow. What the hell is going on? I've seen a few 9th innings on Gamecast and I think they've all been 1-2-3's. Does JD Drew do anything? At least Lugo's hitting again. What's he on? A 8 or 9 game hitting streak. I certainly have not become a Lugo fan but this is impressive - he's hitting an absolutely horrid .218 (but like .350 in July) but he has 43 RBIs; how does he do that? He only has 72 hits for the year. One stat that I like to see is Wily Mo - 127 ABs and 26 hits (.205), let's trade that dude. We've got to pick it up here, July was supposed to be our easy month. What happened?

Hey - everyone have a good weekend.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Check out this line...

July 16, 2007

Boston 4
Kansas City 0

There's not much more to say about that...


Picture of the Week

It's all about the winning for you Hober, isn't it? I'll post the scores next week... And someone did get last week's - and, no, it wasn't Hober. I'm also a little disappointed because no one had creative answers even if they didn't know what the picture was. I was ready to give out some points too. Maybe I'll post some of the good answers.

Last week's answer:
Who - There really wasn't one - how about the guy standing on the bridge in the distance?
When - I don't know, it looks like summer
Where - Lake Chocorua from the summit of Mt Chocorua in New Hampshire


Boarding Mt Buller

4:45am... the alarm is beeping like crazy... louder than usual, it seems... "stop it!"... "whose idea was this?"... hit the snooze button... staring at the ceiling - it's dark but a little bit of light from the streetlights comes in through the window... "Why am I doing this?"....... "This is crazy"..... "All right - let's go."

I didn't know much about snowboarding in Australia. I knew that I was going to Mt Buller, which I've been to before but in the summer, and that it was about 3 hours away. I also knew that once I got up there I would either need to take a bus from Mansfield or rent some tire chains to drive up the mountain. The chains are precautionary - the village of Mt Buller is close to the top of the mountain and you have to drive through switchbacks the entire way up, or what's worse, the entire way down. On top of that, most Australians have zero to little experience with driving on ice and snow and Melburnians are VERY cautious drivers. Otherwise this is just a scam to take more of your money - 16 bucks to have these things sit on the floor of my car and, yes, they do check at the gate to make sure you have them. There was no snow or ice on the mountain where I was driving.

I also didn't know how the mountain or the snow would be. I knew that it would be wet snow, similar to the Northeast of the US, and that it really doesn't snow very often but they're having the best winter for snow in 15 years. Mt Buller is the closest large ski area to Melbourne and the summit comes in around 5920ft, close to the altitude of the highest mountains in New Hampshire (Mt Washington is 6288). The difference? It snows at sea level in NH - even though I do complain about the cold in Melbourne, I don't think it's ever been below 40F. And when you tell the Aussies that you're going boarding they're almost apologetic about the snow and the mountains. So my expectations weren't high.

To add to that the last two times that I've been snowboarding were for a week in Colorado in March of this year and a week in Austria and Switzerland a year ago. Even with all of this against it, I would have to say that the snowboarding at Mt Buller was awesome. The snow was great, the mountain was cool, the trails were nice (albeit, a little short).

I made my way up the Maroonda Hwy - I've been this way before so there was nothing new. The speed was pretty good and I was making good time but there were quite a few other cars on the road aiming for the same destination that I was. At this point I had intentions of taking the bus from Mansfield but as I got closer I realized that there was no reason to. I stopped in Mansfield to pick up a coffee and a bit of breakfast and also to rent some chains. The first place I tried to get chains in also rented ski equipment and winter clothes and was just mobbed with people but had a huge rack of chains by the door. I was sort of waiting in line and an employee was walking by and said, "can I help anyone?" I jumped in hoping that I could bypass the line since I didn't really need anything else and his reply was, "try the BP up the road, they have heaps of chains." Ok, he's sending me to another business, to me that says "get out while you can." But even the BP was packed with people and I waited in line for 15 minutes. Finally it was my turn and I spewed off my tire size like I knew what I was talking about and he came back with, "have you ever used chains before?"; of course; "on this car?"; yes; and even though he gave me a questioning glance he handed me the chains and I was on my way. To tell you the truth I've never used these things before and even though I'm sure I could figure out how to put them on I have no idea. Australians are confused by this because they don't understand the concept of driving in the snow without them - "so did you have a 4wd in the States?"; "no, I drove a little Honda Civic"; "how deep was the snow?"; "I don't know, I'd probably drive in up to 6 inches or a foot of snow with that car."; "really? I can't believe that."

The next line was to get into the parking lot at the base of the ski area, I'm still unsure of why this is so difficult, and then waiting in line for lift tickets. this is what makes boarding here such a production - you have to drive there, get the chains and if you don't have equipment you have to rent that, wait for the cautious drivers to drive up the mountain, watch everybody park, wait in line for the tickets while everybody uses a credit card, and then wait in line for the lifts. It's also expensive:

Gas - I used about 3/4 of a tank but I'm driving a Corolla but gas is also expensive here so let's say $40
Chains - 16 bucks for rental
Park Pass - this is ridiculous; $30; this might be per person too (I was by myself so I'm not sure)
Coffee - 2 dollars - this is actually a really good price
Lift tickets - $92
New goggles since I left my sunglasses in the car - $59 (actually I needed new goggles anyway - anyone remember the ones that I had with the red scratch across the lenses?)

Total - a lot of freaking money - this better be a damn good time

I took the lift from the parking lot and not from the village so I was glad to see that there was a place at the top to get some 59 dollar goggles and some breakfast. You people have pasties in MI, right? And from my time there it seems that you're all very proud of that but you know that they're English, I hope? And because of that they're all over Australia too and they have veggie ones, which is good for me. Melbourne also has meat pies, which they're big on, and you can have either one any time but they're big for breakfast. So, I was in line (yes, another line) and looking forward to a veggie pasty if they had any (that's not always the case). I got to the front and inquired about what I sought but the girl behind the counter came back with, "what do you want?"; I repeated, "a veggie pasty"; "I'm sorry?"; after a back and forth exchange and repeating what I was looking for 5 times she said, "oh, you mean pasty." Here was the problem, I was asking for "pasty" and pronouncing the 'a' as in 'ass' but she was looking for the 'a' to be pronounced as the first 'a' in 'pasta'. Come on, chickee, it's not that much different and anyone that has seen the word in print can make that jump, give me a break here. The next problem, I was looking for a veggie pasty, "do you have any veggie pasties?"; "Aren't all pasties veggie?"; "Umm.. I'm not sure" I was pretty sure they weren't but she should know better than I do, I would think; "Let me check"; she runs off to ask someone; I'm holding up the line; she's back; "No, they're all meat"; that's quite a difference from your original answer.. "Thanks, I'll have a muffin."

Have we even been snowboarding yet? I'm back outside and at the top of the trail, strap in and wiggle my way to the edge, I lean forward.. and we're off. The first run since March. 30 seconds later I'm at the bottom. Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration but the trail was short.. and to make it worse, the line for the lift was gigantic. Maybe even enormous. But you know what it wasn't? Ginormous. You know why? Because ginormous isn't a word, I don't care what the people in Merriam-Webster's marketing department say. I believe in the evolution of language and even believe that literary sources that coin a term that enters the country's lexicon deserves notice but to choose a group of letters that some people call a word just because it is seen in print and is used as a novelty or, even worse, wins the "favorite word that isn't in the dictionary" contest is no reason to degrade the language by putting a fad into the record of what defines our spoken language for our time. You know what I'm going to do? Next time I get a new dictionary I'm crossing that bad boy out. How do you feel about that?

Where was I? Yes, so the snow was great - it wasn't powder but it wasn't too wet. It was packed but it wasn't ice. It was nice, you could grab an edge and make clean turns and you wouldn't kill yourself if you took a spill. I think this one was a blue and there was no way I was waiting in that lift line again so I headed up to some other blues. Buller has two sides, the North Slopes and the South Slopes - you start out at the North Slopes but the South Slopes have fewer people and more blues and blacks. I worked my way up to the summit and from there you have two choices: Summit (blue) and Summit (black) - blue keeps you on the north side and black takes you to the south side. We might as well get started.. down the black. It was steep but really not that steep. I played around on the south side for a while on the blues and blacks and it was fun. The trails were wide - very wide (compared to the Northeast of the States), some of the blues had a lot of people on them but the blacks were empty, the moguls on the blacks were gino... really big, which took a lot out of me.

I came to a stop at a food hut about halfway down the mountain and decided to rest for a bit because my leg was bothering me. That's when the trouble started. When I first strapped my board on in the morning I realized that my legs were tired - from running of course - but it was my front leg, the one that doesn't get detached from the board all day that was hurting. Two problems with this, the backplate of my bindings might have been too far forward and my legs are constantly in the state of recovery, when you put them in the same position for a few hours - like in a slight bend forward - they fall apart. The left leg hurt a little while I was boarding but now that it was out I was in serious pain - it was either my achilles or my calf muscle, I couldn't tell. Now I not only had to put the board back on and get down the hill, I also had to get back up the hill and board down the other side. I adjusted the backplates and made my way down the hill and up the chairlift. Next I had to get back to the village to grab the shuttle back to my car, which requried a quick glide down a green trail. Oh my god. It was "Demo Days", which meant every tourist that has never seen snow, never mind been on snowboard or skis, was lying on this trail in huge groups trying to get down the hill on borrowed skis and snowboards. Somehow I navigated by all of the moving obstacles and was the last one to squeeze myself onto a bus as it pulled out of the parking lot.

I got to the car and started down the mountain but my windshield was covered in filth from the salted roads. I don't need to use washing fluid very often and I'm always returning a rental car so I never have to add any but I was out and I needed some. I had to drop off the chains at the BP anyway, I'll pick some up. It's the little differences that make the good stories and interesting conversations. I looked around for the pallet of washing fluid that you usually find outside of gas stations in the States but there was nothing. I looked in the store.. they must keep them out back. I also don't know what they call it so I tried to be descriptive, "hi, I'm looking for some washing fluid for my windscreen"; inquisitive look, "what are you looking for?"; "umm, washing fluid for my windscreen.. you put it in the tank in your car" as I showed the approximate dimensions of the reservoir with my hands; "oh, I know what you're after"; he brings me a bottle that's about half a liter; "Uhh.. I was looking for the stuff that uh you put in your car for cleaning the uh windscreen"; "yeah, that's it you just squeeze some of that in there"; "uh ok" and I paid and walked out with it. Later I learned that they put water in their reservoir and this just makes the windshield especially clean - I guess they're not concerned about the water freezing or anything like that.

I got back to my apartment and thought about getting some food - I didn't have any in my apartment - but I was in too much pain to even walk down the street to get anything. So I pulled together the last remaining food in the house and called that dinner. I was also supposed to meet up with some people to watch the rugby game but that was definitely not going to happen either. The next day my body gave me a message: "I'm freaking tired! Leave me alone!" So that's what I've been doing.. running has stopped for a few days, which is fine, and I've been working on getting some sleep, which I badly need.

The outlook for this week is probably the same as the last few but with less running. Saturday I'm heading to the footy to see my Saints (St Kilda) take on Hawthorn. Even though this is the most exciting season in years (or so I'm told) and any of 10 teams can make the finals, the Saints (I picked them because I live there - I thought it was a good reason) have been destroyed by injuries and sit somewhere towards the bottom of the standings but we're slowly moving up. A win against Hawthorn (2nd place) would be a big boost for them, I think... but, again, I don't know what I'm talking about. This also means that I'll be missing the next Australia vs New Zealand rugby match that will be finishing off the Tri-Nations Tournament. That's all right, though, they can do it without me.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Picture of the Week

I would be VERY impressed if someone got this... But it is recognizable (hint - the closest lake is the discernible feature)

Last week's answer:
Who (L 2 R) - Stef, me
When - After Suzi's wedding, July 2006
Where - Somewhere between WV and MI

Monday, July 09, 2007


18, 18, and 18

18 seemed to be the theme for this weekend, although, I think I could have done without any of them.

The first 18 came in the middle of the day Saturday and was concerning my long run for the week. I had to change my long run from Sunday to Saturday because I had plans on Sunday that would have made the run absolutely horrible so with a little shuffling of the schedule, I had myself out in the cold rain doing a slow but long 18 miles. As you progress through training it's amazing to see what your body becomes used to. I can do 10 miles like it's nothing and Saturday I got through the first 13 without even noticing anything - actually, I was questioning whether or not I had added up the miles correctly. And the time just flew by, I didn't think I had been out there long enough to have run that far. But the great thing about this training schedule is that every 2 weeks the long runs increase by two miles, and whether it's mental or actually physical, the run doesn't become difficult until the last two miles each time. And to explain to those that have never done long distance running - it has nothing to do with being "winded" - at this point running is a natural state and the limiting factors are leg fatigue and fuel consumption and the last two miles are tough because your legs need to get used to that distance.

18 number two - on Sunday I was able to take care of my annual golf game - I think I have consistently played golf just once each year for the past few years. Six of us met up at a course in Werribee to try out this stupid skill (it's not a sport, people, quit fooling yourselves), it was cool but sunny, the course was wet but not exceedingly so. I actually did a lot better than I expected to and it was fun but still reinforced my belief that I have no interest in pursuing this hobby.

And the final 18 actually came this morning when the Tigers scored scored 18 runs in the 3-game series against the Red Sox. As I'm sure you know, I really could have done without that one. No excuses about "well, we had Tavarez and Gabbard and then Dice-K was off..." The Sox just sucked it up - we couldn't even do anything when Detroit had 5 errors on Sunday. Am I concerned? No. I think the team is tired and needs the All-Star break to recoup. We still have a great team and an easy month coming up and with the lackluster AL East, the Sox should be playing in october. And if the Tigers keep playing the way that they are then maybe we'll get a chance to play them again... But they need to take care of Cleveland before they can worry about being around in the fall.

The upcoming week is a normal one for me, nothing exciting. But I'm hoping to head up to Mt Buller on Saturday to do some snowboarding. I'll keep you posted on that.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Celebrating the 4th of July

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
-Thomas Jefferson

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
-Abraham Lincoln

Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation, whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure.
-Abraham Lincoln

Our safety, our liberty, depends upon preserving the Constitution of the United States as our fathers made it inviolate. The people of the United States are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.
-Abraham Lincoln

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.
-John F. Kennedy

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
-George Washington

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Picture of the Week

Aww, look at this one...

Last week's answer:
Who (L 2 R) - Darren, Dina, me, Julie, Hober
When - March 11, 2007; Detroit's St Patrick's Day Parade
Where - Downtown D-town

Monday, July 02, 2007



Ahhh, Sydney... Everybody has to go to Sydney, right? It is the premier city of Australia.. Arguably of the Southern Hemisphere. When you tell someone that you've been to Sydney the most likely responses are "Oh, I've always wanted to go to Sydney," or "I loved Sydney". Well, I have a different story to tell...

**Caution** - If Sydney is your dream holiday location or even on your "Top 10 Places Before I Die" list then you may not want to read this post.

**Disclaimer** - I'm not saying that it was a horrible city or that I had a bad time - it was a lovely city and I enjoyed it for the most part - I'm just saying it wasn't as advertized. 1) I could have been tired.. I fell asleep on the plane. How significant is that? My first trip to Australia back in 2002, or whenever it was, I flew from Boston to Detroit to Tokyo to Singapore (had a 7 hour layover) and finally to Perth.. it took me 35 hours and I slept for maybe 2 of those. I've been known to fly for 24hrs straight without sleeping. This was an hour flight in the middle of the afternoon and I slept most of the way. 2) It's winter, it got up to 60F but that's not the Aussie weather that you're looking for. 3) I'm not exceptionally familiar with the city and spent all of my time downtown.

Landmarks and Downtown

Ground that I covered

But here we go..

The flight out of Melbourne was easy, of course, Qantas must run 15 flights to Sydney a day and the approach into the airport went right by the city and had great views (try to get on the right side of the plane for this approach). Getting to city central is easy too, the train station is under the airport and takes you right downtown. My first impression came as I left the Central train station and found myself in a flood of people. This doesn't happen in Melbourne unless you're in a tourist area - Sydney is a real city. The next thing I noticed was that the streets were dirty.. and then somewhere behind me I heard a famiar sound; something that I haven't heard in a while - somebody just honked their horn! And at someone else for doing something stupid. Again, this doesn't happen in Melbourne, they're too tolerant. I was beginning to like this place.

I had a map of downtown Sydney imprinted in my brain, I didn't have a hardcopy, I knew where my hotel was and where the major landmarks were, I just didn't know where the train station was on that map so I didn't know my starting point. So I wandered a little bit through Chinatown and eventually found my way to Darling Harbour where I found an Information Centre that gives out free maps and my hotel was at the corner of Liverpool St and College St, right on the corner of Hyde Park. The hotel was kind of nice and my room was on the top floor (15th) and had a balcony that can fit one person standing and maybe a plant but it had some views anyway.

I wanted some food and was looking forward to seeing the town at night and some of that "outdoor culture" that I was told about. This is where the problems started. I wandered for hours through the shopping district, again to Darling Harbour, even through Pyrmont, then the outskirts of Chinatown, and back to Hyde Park and didn't find anything. I finally settled on a pizza/kabob place that was good for finishing the meal and then scurrying off but not so much for having a relaxing dinner. The next idea was to find a pub but even though there were a few hotels (pubs) on some corners, they just didn't have the right feel to them... I was tired enough as it was and would be walking all the next day so I just called it a night.

The plan was to see the Harbour Bridge, the Opera house, the botanical gardens, the art museum, and finish the day off with some dinner and the Australia vs New Zealand rugby game (which, incidentally, was being played in Melbourne). I grabbed some coffee and a pastry and started to wander north through Hyde Park (very nice), up through the shopping district where I caught my first glimpse of the famed Sydney Harbour Bridge, along the east side of Darling Harbour, and to the Observatory, which was surrounded by a nice park and was on a hill that provided some good views of the harbor. But most importantly, the observatory is right next to the Harbour Bridge, which can be crossed by pedestrians. I made it halfway across to take some pictures of the city and of the opera house, which was just off to the side. It was a nice walk and I could see some people doing the Sydney Harbour Bridge walk, which I am told could be the best thing to do in Sydney but it's expensive and I wasn't going to do it by myself. I was walking on the road level - for the bridge walk you go up onto the top of the bridge.

After coming off the bridge I found myself in my favorite part of town - The Rocks. The Rocks is the oldest neighborhood in Sydney and it still looks that way. There are many old buildings and some nice restaurants and cafes in the area. There's also a small market where you can buy some useless stuff.. I'm sure some people would appreciate it. I stopped at the front of a souvenir shop to look at some postcards and this woman came up to me and asked if I would like to come into the store. I will but I'm looking at these postcards, I tell her. Of course - so she doesn't say anymore.. but watches me... from three feet away. She was freaking me out so I grabbed a couple of the cards, paid for them and got the heck out of there. I went to a nearby cafe and picked up another coffee (I was drinking flat whites this weekend) and a muffin (raspberry, toasted with butter) and made the short walk through Circular Quay to the Opera House.

This is where I'm going to start with the whining. Sydney has some very nice architecture - except for Sydney Tower, that thing is horrid - and the Sydney Opera House is probably the most famous. But the feelings on that building go either way, some people think it's the most beautiful thing they've ever seen and others say that it should be dragged out to the ocean and sunk to the bottom. No matter which way you lean, it's instantly recognizable from the multitude of photographs that are splattered anywhere Sydney is mentioned. There are many things that fit this profile, you know them well, everyone does - the pyramids, the White House, the Taj Mahal (I'm not putting the opera house in the category of these landmarks, I'm just comparing its fame). But even when they are so well known by photos, even enhanced by the photos, there are some that make you stop short when you see them, maybe even take your breath away, or just surprise you. The Sydney Opera House did not do this for me. It was big - huge even - but it was just there. The same with the Harbour Bridge - it was a very nice bridge, artistic and functional, but, again, just a bridge.

Next was a walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens, which I liked a lot because it had a collection of very strange trees and some cool birds walking around but not too much for flowers or smaller plants. The path brought me around Farm Cove to Macquerie's point for a view of the Opera House with the Harbour Bridge in the background and then I stopped at a cafe in the park for lunch before I went into the art museum. I spent a couple of hours in the museum, which was a lot busier than anything outside. I won't bore you with my thoughts of the art - let's just say that it was less than inspiring.

I had accomplished just about everything that I had intended to for the day and there were still a few hours before the rugby match started so, again down near Hyde Park, I stepped into a pub. The young, woman bartender, whose pulchritude did not go unnoticed by this bar patron, came over with a "What ah ya aftah?" - "I'll take a Carlton" - "Schoonah?" - "Do you have pints?" - and she returned with "Not in this country, mate" with just enough accent and sass that anyone would feel smitten. And I - with my renowned smoothness with the ladies (sarcasm) - responded, rather defensively, with "Uhh, well, we have them in Melbourne." To which she said in a soft, possibly hurt voice, "Well, I've nevah been to Melban." I felt bad - I really did - but I can't help it if I'm socially inept. Right? Anyway, when I ordered my second schooner, she gave me a huge smile - she even smiled with her eyes, which had me smitten all over again and I felt that she had forgiven me (or, more likely, had forgotten who I was) and I never asked for another pint the rest of the time that I was in Sydney.

I went to the hotel to drop my gear off (books and such) before I headed out for the dreaded search for dinner and pub for the game. Dinner came easy enough at a pizzeria and I found an alright place across the park and over a couple of blocks from the hotel to watch the game. I even had a seat. I was drinking VB - schooners, of course - and watched the Aussies come back from a terrible first half to beat the All Blacks for the first time since 2003. Go the Aussies! With that last item crossed off the list, I headed back to the hotel for some sleep.

There was only one thing that I wanted this morning: a coffee with breakfast outside under the sun. Would I find it? You bet I would. I walked over to Darling Harbour and found a few cafes with outdoor seating and a great view of the city. From this spot the city looks very familiar.. like a place that I've been to before but I can't think of where. It's been bothering me all weekend. I had a coffee and brekkie, read my book in the sun on a Sunday morning and I was happy and loving Sydney.

I took a walk back to the Opera House (feelings hadn't changed) but the wind forced me back away from the harbor and I then met up with a parade going down Macquerie St for Reserve Forces Day. I watched that for a short while, walked past the Sydney Tower (still horrible) and thought about some lunch and how I might get back to the airport. A couple of streets into Chinatown I saw an Irish pub and knew that I had to go in. Stepped up to the bar and ordered a Guinness and while she was pouring I had a perusal of the menu, which I wasn't very interested in so I took my Guinness over to a table and had a go at finishing the book that I was reading ('The Wayward Tourist' by Twain - it's good). About five minutes in I noticed a sign on a pole near me that said "Guinness - beer of the month; $5 pints". I thought, "that's pretty cool and, yes, I do recall only paying $5 for this, it's not often that you can get a pint of anything... wait a minute.. I'm drinking a pint. They do have pints in Sydney!" My thoughts even warranted the exclamation point. But rather than run off to tell my old friend from the day before, I finished off my beer (two of them, actually - just to be sure), finished my book, and got on the train to the airport.

And that was Sydney. A nice town but it didn't strike me the way that I was told it would. Going through a guidebook after my wanderings, I really didn't see anything in there that I had missed. I haven't given up on it yet, I fully intend to go back in October when the weather's nicer and I know more of what to look for and I don't have to see the bridge or the opera house (although, that is why I'm going) or the god-awful Sydney Tower. The trip was frustrating and a lot of the places just didn't feel welcoming. But come October I'll be able to make a better estimate, I think.

And the pictures:

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