a cuppa tea with me

So I think I told you about my recent toe-dip into the world of online courses? Where I signed up for the wonderful Blog with Pip eCourse with the supernice Pip Lincolne? And I actually kinda sorta did it? You might have noticed a few little changes around here – a bit of a spring clean, if you will – like my fancy new banner (thanks so much Katie!!), and a whizz-bang updated About Me page, and a few other little bits and bobs.

Anyhoo. The other bloggers and I are partaking in a big ol’ cuppa-tea-and-a-biscuit sesh. In the VIRTUAL WORLD! And I’d like to invite you too! You can get to know a little bit more about me, and if you like, you can do the same on your blog, or post a comment about what’s happening in your part of town. Hang on a tic, Imma gonna pop the kettle on and get us some donuts.

Let's have a salted caramel donut instead

Aforementioned donut (it’s salted caramel)

So! I’m Wembolina (obvy), I live in Melbourne (in Victoria, not Florida), and I’m a researcher & writer by day, a social-media-type person for a few different companies after hours, and a cook/dog-walker/cat-patter/reader/crafter/writer/downloader-of-great-TV-shows by night! I live with my luvverly fella and his two (teenage) daughters as well (but I haaaaaaate the term ‘stepmum’, because I don’t have warts on my nose and I don’t lock them in the cellar and we actually all like each other quite a bit). I’m trying to be better at going to the gym and I secretly love the big crossword that comes out in the summer newspapers… I’m also weirdly protective of our wheely bins.

My favourite things to do are eat (!) and drink (!!) with people I love, and people I am getting to know. Having giant Jenga parties with new friends, where we chow down on excellent food while drinking white wine spritzers is in my top 10 things favourite things to do, along with strolling aimlessly with le pooch, watching Degrassi with the girls, and having excellent adventures with my fella.

Some nerds playing giant Jenga.

Some nerds playing giant Jenga.

My favourite place to be? Eeep, am I getting old? It’s in my backyard… Watering plants and eating tomatoes and chatting to whoever might be around.

Favourite food and drink is a toughie for me, because I love just about ALL food and drink! But because we’re in the midst of a heatwave (so it’s sadly not ideal tea-drinking weather) today my faves would be an icy cold beer and a big slice of watermelon. Maybe not together though.

Remember this guy?

This guy was so evil I had to eat him…

I find in-spa-ray-shon in many, many things; weird things I see, conversations I have, and things I read. But the best inspiration comes from people around me – I’m pretty lucky, because I have some wonderfully ace people in my neck of the woods, who make me think differently and outside da box ALL the time!

This year I made a resolution to educate myself more. I want to know more about how brains work and how people operate, so I’ve been reading books on thought processes and the like. I loooooove learning new things, so I’m keen to do more course-type things too (especially around WRITING!).

Some favourite blogs… Well, there are blogs I’ve been reading for aaaaaages (and always love) like Meet Me At Mikes, My Darling Lemon Thyme, banana meet-cute, Gourmet Girlfriendand nothing matters when we’re dancing and ‘Voir Tales (among others!!) to blogs that I’ve discovered through doing Pip’s course, like Grow.Cook.Sew, Little Wolff, miss and misters and Think Big, Live Simply. There are SO many MORE incredible bloggers who have done this course, and I’m super excited about getting stuck into what everyone’s been doing!

So that’s me! What about you? What are some of your favourite things to do, food to eat, places to be, inspirations and blogs, and what do you want to know more about in 2014? And what would your reaction be if you discovered your wheelie bin had been INADVERTENTLY TAKEN BY A NEIGHBOUR/THIEF ON BIN DAY???

surfin’ safari

waves

Whoever woulda thunk that someone like me would be able to hang loose, bro? Not I, said the fly, with my little eye, I would NEVER have thunk I’d be able to casually stand on a board, in actual water, and actually ride a wave to the shore.

Last weekend a group of friends (who I shall refer to as ‘the crew’) and I spent the weekend in a dinky, yet rad, holiday house on Phillip Island, eating pizza, drinking alcohol, and playing Chuck Klosterman’s Hypertheticals. Let us not discuss that ‘the crew’ would all put their own love of the sun ahead of their ability to save another from a random bear attack – seven days later, this is still a sore point.

On Saturday morning we headed to Smith’s Beach, where we met our intrepid leader, Adam, who would be showing us the surf ropes. I instantly made a MASSIVE dick of myself when I requested that everyone in ‘the crew’ – including Adam – call me Brody.

“Why Brody?” Adam enquired.
“Ummm, only after the most significant surfer in the history of early 90s cinema. Ever heard of Point Break?” I smugly replied, only in words far less smug, eloquent, or facetious.
“Urrrm, you mean Bodhi?”

Obviously I meant Bodhi. From the most fabulous surf movie ever made that I have seen. I smacked my forehead in shame…

Anyhoo, on with the lesson. After my Patrick Swayze faux pas, we squeezed ourselves into some tres attractive wetsuits and were partnered with our boards (mine was a 9 footer we’ll call ‘Boardie’). And then, we were off to the beach. ‘The crew’ had now grown to accommodate an 11 year old boy called Deagn, so you can imagine how adept we – a bunch of 30ishes – felt. He was an excellent surfer, who later liked to yell “SMAAAAASH” whenever it appeared one of us might fall from our boards.

Once on the sandy shores of Smiths Beach, we did some cool stuff like:
– Lay on our tummy’s on the sand
– Pushed our chests out and up in a weird sunrise-y yoga-type move, while lying on our tummy’s on the sand
– Fake paddling (on our tummy’s) on the sand
All while a bunch of 6-8 year olds were already riding waves in the ocean.

I’ll be honest. I was not at all into the idea of a surfing weekend. While we were on ‘le world tour’ Rich and I had expressed an interest in learning to surf when we were in Costa Rica, and as soon as I saw the rough waves and ‘real’ surfers, I totally lost my nerve and started to see all the scary things in it; I’ll look like a derb; I’ll crack my head on the board; I’ll get eaten by a shark. When a friend suggested this weekend, I said no and firmly crossed my arms.

But then, I thought about it. Much like the weekend I recently spent horse riding, if I don’t like it, I can always get off and walk (except that I wasn’t actually allowed to get off and walk – instead, I was relegated to the back of the group to ride with two experienced riders who were 9 years old, and, subsequently, I will never get on another horse as long as I live). If I don’t like surfing, I can just sit on the beach and do the meat pie run.

So I gotsta tell ya, it felt pretty momentous getting out into the water and actually standing on a surfboard. And actually staying upright and actually SURFING that flipping wave all the way to the shore (which I’ve never seen a real surfer do, but hell, I felt like a pro). Yes, I was in waist-deep water. Yes, Adam the instructor was pushing the back of my board and telling me when to paddle and when to stand up. But still, I did it.

After 2 hours in the water, getting up, getting dumped, getting thrown around, getting SMAAAAAAAAASHed, our time was up. Waterlogged and bedraggled, we carted our boards back to the shop, stripped out of our uber-flattering wetsuits we had grown to love (and got back into our ‘Melbourne’ civvies), and celebrated our upright achievements with potato cakes and ginger beers at the general store.

While I don’t think it’s super likely I’ll ever ‘just rent a board and ride some waves with the dudes’, I’m pretty chuffed it’s something I did. Just. Did. Too often we get caught up in what we can do and what we think we can’t. I read a quote the other day that said something like: “You can or you can’t. Either way, you’re right”. So when adventures like this present themselves, go with it. You’ll surprise yourself.

You might even do a little gasp when you realise what a point break is.

kiedis_wasteoftime

“That would be a waste of tiiiiiiiiiiime!” says Anthony Kiedis.  To which I reply, No, Surfer Kiedis, it would not.

wembolina’s melbourne list

Bucket list. I don’t really like that term. It makes me feel a bit sad. One of my all-time, absolute favourite magazines has a section in the front, where they interview chefs and foodie-type peeps and they ask them what they’d want their last meal to be. People salivate over this stuff (literally!), but it always kinda makes me feel a little bummed out. I don’t wanna think about my last meal. Or ‘things to do before I die’. I just wanna eat and have adventures and be happy and when my time’s up, I hope it’s quick and that there isn’t a giant pavlova I have to get through before I give life the ol’ heave-ho.

That’s not the most appealing opening paragraph, is it? No… But since ‘that’ movie came out a few years ago, bucket lists seem to be popping up all over the place. Time Out recently had a ‘101 Things To Do Before You Die’ feature in their magazine, which made me think “Hmm… Having adventured about the world over the past few months, there are so many fun things to do in this fair city…. Maybe I should make my OWN ‘Things to do’ list (without the morbidity factor) that might inspire activity and adventure for Wembolina readers?”.

So here goes. This is a list of things I’m super keen to do, and things I’ve done that I would whole-heartedly recommend to ANYONE – visitors and locals alike!:

Kayaking at Studley Park Boathouse

Hire a kayak for one – or make a date of it with yo beau – and paddle up the river towards Fairfield. Once you get past the ‘Sunday Driver’ row-boaters, you’ll find yourself virtually alone in the bush (which is weird, given you’re about 5 kms out of the city) – just trees and birds and the occasional ‘pro’ kayaker. On hot days you might see (gulp) a snake slithering across the surface of the water. YUCK! I don’t think they can leap into your boat though, so you should be safe (should be). If you go far enough, you’ll find yoself surrounded by sleeping fruitbats, which is eerie and creepy and kinda like something out of a horror flick… And it stinks a bit too. But it’s totally worth it.

You can also kayak through Docklands at twilight, which I’ve never done, but am SUPER keen to!

Horseback Winery Tour in Red Hill

I did this a few years ago with a bunch of peeps I didn’t really know, and now we’re all totally besties, so I HIGHLY recommend this. You head to the stables in the morning, get paired with your horse, don some tres fetching Drizabone jackets and a helmet, and then you’re off! Most of the trail is along dirt roads through farmland, but you do a few canters and the like through vineyards and paddocks, which is pretty spesh. We hit up three wineries, got a little sozzled, and finished the day with lunch at the Red Hill Brewery. Woot!

Peninsula Hot Springs

We went to the Hot Springs after our horse-riding booze-fest, and it was pretty nice, but VERY busy. There were a few moments where I felt like I was in a bowl of Human Soup, rather than having a ‘relaxing unwind’ in a thermal pool. No matter. If you went on a weeknight or in winter, I reckon it’d be quite a bit more sublime. Would deffo recommend cooking yourself in the sauna and then jumping into the icy plunge-pool – totes invigorating!!

Warburton Rail Trail

O snap, this is ANOTHER adventure I had with my new gang of besties (we are actually a real gang – I’ll tell you about it some other time!) and a fun weekend away if you are sans car. Ride your bike to Flinders Street Station (or some other station), get on a train to Lilydale (a charming ‘burb that has neither lilies nor dales), and cycle your way along 38kms of old railway line to Warburton. There are a few cafes and pitstops to make along the way, and it’s a relatively easy ride (until you hit the mofo hill on the way back – but if I can do it, anyone can!!). We spent the night at a house in Warburton and moseyed back to Melbourne the next day, but not before filling up on scones and coffee at The Patchwork Teahouse.

Having a little rest on our way to Warburton

Penguin Parade, Phillip Island

Do you know that I have lived in Melbourne my whole entire life and I’ve never even been to Phillip Island, let alone seen the penguins strut their stuff along the sand in front of 8000 snap-happy tourists? This must happen. Because penguins are in my top 5 favourite animals of all time.

(Thanks to Chris Cohen for his genius penguin translation; please note that these guys are NOT fairy penguins, you won’t see them doing this on Phillip Island)

Women of Letters

Why have I never been to this? I love sassy ladies, I love writing, and I love letters! Held once a month at the luvverly Thornbury Theatre, WoL celebrates the lost art of letter writing with some of Melbourne’s finest creative lady-folk – writers, musos, politicians, et al. I’M PUTTING THE NEXT ONE IN MY DIARY!!! I’M DEFFO GONNA GO!!! Plus, at the end of the afternoon, you get to drink wine and pen a letter of your own.

No Lights No Lycra

A good friend of mine went to her first No Lights No Lycra thinking it was a yoga class, and wondered why every one was dancing up a storm to bangin’ 80s tracks when she walked in. Warm ups? Not very zen. Not very relaxing. But once she got into the swing of it – following the ‘dance like no one’s watching’ mantra, because NO ONE IS because THE LIGHTS ARE OUT – she cut loose, Kevin Bacon-style, and has been going to the weekly classes ever since. I love dancing, and I love 80s n 90s tunes, so this is definitely an evening I could embrace!

Volunteering at the Collingwood Children’s Farm

In my quest to brush up – nay, perfect – my gardening skillz, this is a great way to learn about dirt and compost and what to plant and when. AND! You’re surrounded by behbeh cows and goats and guinea pigs, so it’s a pretty sweet venture. The last time I was at the Children’s Farm, I saw a cat with no ears bite a small child. But that kid was pulling its tail, so I think it’s warranted.

Learn to crochet

Well helloooo, I just did this TODAY!!! Learning the art of the granny square has been on my list of things to do for about 4 years. Fingers crossed I’ll be well on my way to completing a ye olde woollen rug in no time! There are a ton of places you can wield a needle around town, but I did it at Thread Den. Morris and Sons also looks like a pretty great place to partake in a few lessons, and they have wool and needles to die for. 

Look at what I did!!!

Be an extra on Offspring (or be discovered and offered a leading role – I’m not fussed)

Since my all-time favourite Melbourne-filmed TV show RUSH was sadly AXED last year, I have had to focus my Australian drama sights on another show. Offspring. Which is quite a bit better than Rush, really. Less guns and car chases and loud music, but not enough Sgt Joshua *swoony sadface*… Offspring is filmed in my neck of the woods and I always seem to be stumbling across shoots (I promise not in a stalky way – it’s just that I walk my dog a lot, and your two main shooting locations are across the road from my work – HONEST!!!), so it makes sense that one day I should be asked to ‘sit at the bar with a friend, laughing into your white wine spritzers’ or ‘stroll with conviction down Smith Street, with your eco-friendly shopping bag tucked tightly under your arm’ or ‘cycle gaily down George Street, but MAKE SURE YOU’RE WEARING A HELMET!!!’. But seriously, this is a great show. Well done, writers. Well done, cast and crew.

Picnic lunch at Heide Museum

Make some salad and sammies, jump in the car, and head to the Heide Museum in Bulleen. On a nice day, you can sit on the grass amongst the sculptures, soaking up the serenity (and art) as you munch on yo lunch. On not-so-nice days, book a table at Cafe Vue, have a little tipple, then stroll through the museum admiring the luvverly artworks… A nice activity to do with your folks, if you’re after something parent-friendly.

Sign up for a Broga class

My ace pal Jennie started up Broga a few months ago, following a trip to Thailand where she got her Yoga license – yay! Geared towards the fellas – but ladies are most welcome (phewf, so I can sign up!) – Jennie works with small groups, and posts handy tutorials on her blog. I’ve done a bit of yoga and pilates over the years, but always feel like a bit of a brittle ol’ stick when I’m surrounded by elasticky pretzel ladies. The small class size – and Jennie’s hilar sense of humour – are mega appealing to me.

Foodie things

What would a Wembolina post be without some food references? As the world’s biggest lover of a good meal (not proven), here are a coupla places I’m DESPERATE, on-the-edge-of-my-seat to eat at, plus some others that are a bit special, or just a bit great:

Loam, Drysdale – they FORAGE for food, then they cook it!!
Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld – all I know about this place is that the food is flipping incredible. And they often post photos of echidnas on Twitter. Food + Australian wildlife = perfeck (as long as the wildlife ain’t on the plate. Which I’m sure it is on occasion, but I don’t need to partake to that extent).
The Estelle, Northcote – order the degustation (WITH dessert), get your friendly waiter to match wines, and sit back and relax. The food here is ridonkulous – in a deliciously splendid way – but it’s the presentation that’ll knock your socks off.
The Everleigh, Fitzroy – go here and order a martini. Just do it. If you wanted to dress up like a flapper, it would not be frowned upon. This would be a nice place to have a drink with Morgan Freeman.
Afternoon tea at The Windsor, Melbourne – When I finally get around to doing this, I’m going to dress up like Elizabeth Bennet and tut at Mister Darcy’s lateness. While I eat sandwiches and little cakes.

Dirty martinis....

And so ends my ‘Things to Do’ in Melbourne post. Are you a Melbourne-ite? What are YOUR top things to do in our leafy town? Or what are you bursting at the seams to do? Tell me, tell me, so I can add it to my list!

and then what happened?

So. After we woke up from our nap, and after I’d churned out a blog post, Rich and I headed out onto the streets of Miami for a drink, some food, and to try to figure out what to do next. Our first stop was at ODB – The Other Daiquiri Bar – where we enjoyed NOT a daiquiri, but a mojito. We had two. We were seated next to the marina where I spied with my little eye some kind of finned beast bobbing out of the water; shark?; dolphin?; or too much rum in my mojito?

So our plans. What to do? This whole sitch had really put a dampener on things. Carol at the visa office was apparently sorting things with the Brazilian consulate, but neither of us had much faith that things would work out in our favour. We toyed with the idea of staying in Miami for a week, but were both dead against the idea of being in a city this big and frenetic and Don Johnson-y. Should we go to Savannah? Or San Francisco? Or head back to Central America? Or tweak our plans and re-route our way through South America? The thought of all that reorganisation and cancelling plans and booking new adventures made my head spin.

After a weird and not quite delicious meal, we headed back to our room. We emailed Carol again for an update (we’d had no word from her all day – our travel agent had let us know that she was working on it, but nada from Carol herself). We looked out the window. We wondered if it would be worth booking a room for the following night, given the difficulties we experienced in getting this one.

Then. A call. It seemed that Carol had some magic wand she was able to wave. It was a fella from the Brazilian consulate in Canberra. In a nutshell, he said:

  • We had the correct visas – there was no reason why the airline shouldn’t let us onto the flight to Manaus
  • He was faxing through a document to us on embassy letterhead, explaining this
  • He was also sending documentation through to the airline in Miami
  • Finally, he had worded up the Brazilian consulate in Miami; he had given us phone numbers of his embassy contacts, to be used only as a last resort

OMG. Carol must have a super dooper magic wand!!!

We were still not 100% convinced. We put in a call to the airlines head office – at this point, it seemed like the problem with our visas was emanating not from Brazil, but from the airline! Sheesh! Rich chatted to a fella named Manuel, who confirmed what Julio from the embassy had told us – our visas were fine to travel on. There would NOT be a problem getting onto the next mornings flight to Manaus.

So then it was all systems go. We hurriedly packed our bags, set our alarms for 2.45am, organising a wakeup call for 3am (just in case), then attempted to get some shut-eye. It’s really hard to force yourself to sleep at midnight, knowing you have to get up in just under 3 hours. It was not a very successful venture. Add to this that the night before we had been in the airport for eight hours, with zero sleep whatsoever.

Alarms buzzed and phones rang and we were UP! And we were dressed and ready and outta that room in 10 minutes. In a taxi. At the airport. Straight to the check-in counter. We were not faffing around. I did something I’ve seen other people do (and always mentally strike them down) and I bypassed the queue and headed straight to the counter, seeking out our un-friendly supervisor from the night before.

There she is. I’d know her pinchy face and ‘sympathetic’ eyebrows anywhere.

We showed her our official fax. We explained what we’d been doing for the past 24 hours. We told her there was no reason at all not to let us onto the flight. We were quite jubilant.

And she shook her head and said “This is just a piece of paper. This changes nothing. You have the wrong visas.”

Despite the BRAZILIAN CONSULATE telling us we did. Aaaaarrrgggghhhh!!!! We started to get a bit tetchy then. It was becoming very clear to us that the decision not to let us board was coming from HER, not from immigration, or the Brazilian authorities. I’m not a violent person, but I’ve gotta tell you, I was so keen to flick her on the forehead with the biro she incessantly clicked throughout the duration of our dramaz.

Her eyebrows caterpillar-ing over her face, her forehead crinkling with each refusal to let us board, she finally brought out the ripper “It seems like you are having trouble understanding my English. I’ll get someone else.” And off she went.

Is this too boring? I think I might crack open the nutshell again:

  • A chap called Leonardo came over and he smiled a lot
  • He said he was going to send through our documentation to the authorities in Manaus (which is weird, because eyebrow-face said she’d already done that)
  • He said he was going to GET US ON THAT FLIGHT TO MANAUS
  • He ushered us along to another check-in counter, where a lovely lass tagged our luggage and issued our tickets and made small talk

Leonardo came back, and made a number of contradicting statements: firstly, that the issue was with the federal police in Manaus, not immigration (so how does ANYONE get into Manaus?? Weird); then he said that there wasn’t anyone actually at Manaus Airport at the mome for him to talk to and word up (soooo…. when eyebrows said she’d faxed through our docs to Manaus the day before, and earlier that morning, no one was even there to receive them/tell her that they would deny us entry???); then he said that we were OK to enter Brazil via Sao Paolo; then he said that he could definitely get us on a flight to Manaus, but not this flight to Manaus. The so-called ‘connecting flight’ would get us in the next day. More than 24 hours away.

I took a deep breath and dug my nails into the counter. Rich turned away and I think I saw some smoke come out of his ears.

I’m not even really sure what happened next. Leonardo said there was a flight going to Sao Paolo in a few hours and he would put us in ‘great seats’, but where did that leave us? If we were able to get on a connecting flight to Manaus, there would still be the uncertainty of not being allowed through immigration, even if we cleared customs in Sao Paolo. Boring. Besides which, it would be at least another 24 hours of transit. We called Brad – I’m pretty sure he had smoke coming out of his ears as well. After a hurried conversation, we decided:

Rio. We’ll go to Rio.

Leonardo booked us onto the flight to Sao Paolo. Brad booked our tickets from Sao Paolo to Rio. And that was that. Because the tickets were not being issued by the airline directly, Leonardo explained that we would need to clear customs and immigration in Sao Paolo, get our bags, re-check them, get our tickets, and then get on the flight.

Which would have all been fine, had our flight from Miami not been delayed by an hour. We landed in Sao Paolo at 8.45pm that night, ready to run to immigration and to the baggage carousel and to the ticketing counter.

Then, this happened:

  • The plane sat on the tarmac for 15 minutes after landing
  • Rather than pulling up at the terminal, we had to get a bus from the tarmac. Rich ran down the rickety plane stairs, and I followed suit, except I got stuck behind a 100-year-man being escorted down the stairs by a flight attendant and could not get past. Just as I got to the bottom and was running towards the bus, it drove off. Rich was actually crushed in the door holding his arm out to grab onto me, like he was Indiana Jones or something. I cried “Waaaiiiitttt!!!!!” and all the cleaning ladies about to board the plane to vacuum up crumbs all threw up their hands. The bus did not wait. I had to wait for the next one
  • Ironically, when we got to the baggage carousel, my bag came out straight away
  • Ironically, Rich’s did not. In fact, it didn’t come our for flipping ages

Then we did the unthinkable, and split up. I ran through customs and to the ticketing counter and, after a warbled exchange of attempted Portuguese, I was told that:

The flight to Rio was closed.

Did you feel the earth move, ever so slightly, around 11am AEST yesterday? Mayhaps you thought it was a little earthquake? Nay, it was me, banging my head against the ground in Sao Paolo.

Tired and weary, we left the airport in search of a hotel with a restaurant. It was after 10pm, neither of us had eaten since the night before, so a hotel restaurant, however was revolteh, was essential. We arrived at a Comfort Inn by shuttle bus, just in time to see a VERY buxom broad (clothes two sizes too small, lots of boob on display, denim hotpants – that can only really be described as denim underpants – and sky-high heels. And… was she wearing a blingin’ lettered necklace that said ‘TRASH’ or were my tired eyes playing tricks on me?) exit the lift with her goon boyf (or p to the i to the mp?) to meet his goon friends in reception. Nice place.

I’m not going to tell you what we had for dinner last night. But if you think about what’s likely to be left on a buffet table at the end of the night, I’m sure you’ve got a pretty fair idea. As I opened the lid of each of those stainless steel servers, a little part of me died…

But that’s enough wallowing. Because guess what? This mornings venture through the airport, onto the plane, and into Rio was SMOOTH SAILING!!! We are here. The weather is warm. The dogs are woofing. The streets are bustling. And… there’s no need to set the alarm tomorrow morning… Bliss.

rooftop cocktails

Last night Rich and I partayed up a storm in a PENTHOUSE in Manhattan, where we drank beers and cocktails and chatted to various peeps and gazed out over the balcony at a view that seriously rivals that at the Top of the Rock. My luvverly friend Emily was there and we chatted about cheese and ghettos and Brooklyn and friends, then we left and got burgers in the LES because there was no food at the schmooze-fest.

Today I feel like I have quite a bad headache and I am in desperate need of a cawfee…

p.s. Did I tell you that last week a guy asked me for my autograph?? True story. Mebbe he could foresee that I had a penthouse partay on the horizon and wanted to get in early in case I got signed by a music industry bigwig or Hollywood talent scout or met Tina Fey and became her right-hand-woman.

Well, that's quite a nice view...

greetings from asbury park…

… was the first studio album by Bruce Springsteen. Asbury Park was also the location for the latest All Tomorrow’s Parties, which Rich and I went to last weekend (a slight detour on our way to New York from Raleigh).

From New Jersey, we caught the train from Newark Airport to Long Branch, NJ, then caught a cab the rest of the way with a coupla other ATP patrons. Our cab driver told us numerous exciting tales about Jersey Shore (note: NOT the TV show), namely: how much the real estate was in Deal (“A million bucks!”); where the celebrities live in Deal (“Billy Joel, eh, he lives alorng here – can ya guess which house he lives in?? Eh, it’s that worn thaya, the house that looks like-a pianah”); various landmarks that had been badly damaged during Hurricane Irene (an apartment block with no roof, and a stop sign that was twisted the whole way around).

When we’d passed through Deal, the landscape changed quite dramatically. Our cabbie loudly declared “I hate driving through this parta town, what with all tha crime”, then said “Well, here we are – Asbury Park!!!” which obviously filled me with A LOT of confidence.

After checking into our hotel (and kicking ourselves for not timing our visit to coincide with the hotels’ Wig Party – “Party Hard in your Favourite Wig”), it was time to hit the town, see some bands and eat some food.

Despite the majesty of the Paramount Theatre and the old school sports stadium-ness of the Convention Centre, I love love loved the atmosphere of the Asbury Lanes (yes – a bowling alley band venue). We started our weekend there, watching Cults while enjoying a beer, and would return time and time again, for Thinking Fellers Union, bowling, food, bowling, beer, photos, trivia, and… more bowling. I am a terrible bowler, and sustained many injuries while we were here (a bruised thigh after an accidental cork with a bowling ball; three chipped nails; a grazed thumb; a nasty hangover, which could also attest to all the injuries….) but I had the greatest time…. And the entrepreneur in me (which, let’s face it, is not very big) is super tempted to open a bowling alley band venue on my return home. No wait, a bowling alley band venue ROLLER RINK!!! Is that outrageous?? Yes?? YES! I’ll do it!!

Asbury Park makes you feel like you’re on the set of a movie. The falling down buildings, the boardwalk, the amusement parlours, the boarded up kiosks, it’s all very filmic and nostalgic and kinda romantic. The people were friendly, and I didn’t feel a hint of danger when we were there – but I guess when 5,000 hipsters converge on a town for a shoe gazey indie music festival, the reflections from all the black-rimmed glasses blind the crims and keep them at bay…

Johnny says 'Keep out'

A_BURY LANES

(earworm in Tina Turner voice) "Bowling! Bowling! Bowling on the river!!" (obvy not actually on a river)

I love this misunderstood alligator...

No crepes here...

new york, new york

Did you know that this is my 50th post? 50! I feel happy about that, and I feel happy to be writing about this milestone in New York. Wahooo!

The last time I was in New York was August 2009. Espying cheap flights at the travel agent on my lunch break at a particularly awful job in South Melbourne, I thought “Hmmm… I’m about to turn 30… I’m gonna celebrate my birthday with a solo trip to the Big Apple?!” Rich was away at the time, and I called him and asked “How would you feel about us not spending our birthdays together this year?” and he said “Fine” given that he’s not the most birthday-y guy around, and so I strolled back into the travel agent and booked my ticket.

I started off that adventure in Canada (which I’ve told you a little bit about in previous posts – namely my induction into the wonderful world of Piebird) and ended it with a week in New York. I’d been to NYC once before that, 2 years prior, when I stayed with my lovely friend Sandra in a fancy hotel on the LES while she was in town for a business trip. Our standout moment was a late-night trip to Magnolia Bakery for Red Velvet cupcakes, which we took back to our hotel and ate (in bed) while drinking the richest hot chocolate in the world. They were so rich, neither of us could finish the cupcake OR the hot chocolate. Which is saying something, if you know me.

But back to the birthday trip. I spent a few nights in Williamsburg, in a room with no fan and no window (which, in the middle of summer, are two things you really really want in a room), but the heat soon drove me to the glitz, and air conditioning, of Manhattan.

After a few birthday beers with an old friend at a bar in the East Village (and a huge slice of ‘birthday pizza’ for dinner) we made our way to a house party on the other side of town. When I heard the words ‘house’, ‘party’ and ‘Manhattan’ I immediately thought ‘penthouse’, ‘debauchery’, ‘peeps swinging from the chandeliers’ and ‘Chuck Bass from Gossip Girl’.  This party was not any of these things. When we walked in, there was a small group of people standing around drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and eating chips. Terrible music, that I have since blocked from my mind, surged through tinny speakers set up on either side of the room. There was no vibe. There were no chandeliers from which to swing.

This was not how I wanted to spend my 30th birthday. I wanted to walk through the city that never sleeps, back to my cosy room off Broadway, call Rich and talk about our days, and go to sleep.

I said “Adios Amigos” to my pal and his friends, took a handful of corn chips, and left the party into the hot August night. The party was a few blocks from my hotel, and I thought “What better way to spend this momentous evening than walking through Times Square, eating corn chips?”.

There was a spring in my step as I strolled confidently down a dark street towards Broadway. A man on a stoop wolf-whistled. I confess to blushing, just a little. A truck drove past and the man in the drivers leant out the window, jeering “Mmm hmm, break me offa piece o that”, while I looked around, a feigned “Who? Me?” look on my face, as I broke off my own piece of corn chip and crunched it in my teeth.

Out of the dark street, I turned onto Broadway and into the lights and hubbub of Times Square. My handful of chips were finished, and my birthday was nearly over. Back to my hotel and into the enormous bed with the too-big pillows and the too-cold air-conditioning (which tonight, was SUCH a blessing), onto the phone and there was Rich, asking about my day, wishing me a happy birthday, and a long distance good-night.

P.S. On another note, today we went to the zoo in Central Park and I fed alpacas!! It was amazing… We also saw two of the fattest pigs I have EVER seen, lots of terrifying snakes, some show-offy penguins, and a loudmouth seal.

Totes in my element...

Going to town, rubbing his chin on a log...