Day 7 - Sydney Harbor
I woke up at 6:30am, thinking it was 8:30am. Damn time change! Uncle Gerry's house alarm is equipped with a motion detector, and although Mum had told me the security pass code the day before, a combination of being half asleep coupled with a sense of panic flustered me, and I forgot the code within the 30-second timeframe I was allotted to enter it into the keypad. Next thing I know, this awful shrill noise filled the house. I grabbed my hair, and a zombie-like Uncle Gerry exited his bedroom half asleep, entered the code into the keypad, and shuffled back into his room, oblivious to my obsequious apologies. At least he didn't seem pissed! Anxious from the loud alarm, I was unable to go back to sleep immediately, so I typed another journal entry. At around 8:30am, I went back to sleep. When I awoke around 10:30am, Gerry, Mum and Auntie Carol were sipping tea in the kitchen. After I wished everyone a good morning, I again apologized for the earlier disturbance. Nobody was particularly upset, as it had happened before with previous guests. Carol did mention, however, that they received a snide comment from one of their neighbors about "Oh by the way, thanks for the wake-up call."
Today, Mum and I were in for a real treat. As we are both big seafood lovers, Gerry and Carol took us to Sydney's fish market on the Harbor. We got there at about noon, and the place was hopping with local families, tourists and fishmongerers. The place was comprised of a myriad of individual stands that sold similar items at slightly different prices, but it all looked so fresh and delicious (conversely, if you hate seafood, you would want to vomit). I wish I hadn't eaten breakfast an hour later than everyone, but after viewing the selection of gigantic king prawns, lobster, scallops, crab legs, and oysters, and many other types of seafood I was confident I would be able to make room in my belly for the forthcoming feast. We purchased a kilo of king-sized prawns, half a kilo of oysters, a quarter kilo of scallops (Mum's absolute favorite!), and some freshly baked bread rolls, all for under $60. I had been trying to cut out white bread from my diet, but there was no abstaining from white flour during my time in Australia! As we sat down, I realized we had nothing to drink, so I took everyone's order, and fetched us some soft drinks. Coke zero for Gerry and Carol, Passionfruit soda for Mum, and I enjoyed a mango soda. Although the facility had a few dozen tables, we were lucky to chance upon one as another family was leaving. After all, it was Sunday afternoon, and a picture-perfect one at that. A combination of a cool breeze, warm sunshine, a few hopeful, hungry pelicans and a keen anticipation of the upcoming holiday season made for an altogether festive atmosphere.
After our sumptuous lunch, we drove around to Vaucluse, arguably the ritziest residential neighborhood in Sydney. In fact, you could call it the Beverly Hills of Sydney, what with the prevalence of beachside houses ranging in the $5-10 million range. Gerry does pretty darn well for himself and his family, but I could sense a slight inferiority complex as we drove around this part of town. After all, the Mandersons weren't born rich – they didn't have a brass razu growing up (Aussie for pot to piss in). But Gerry attained substantial wealth through hard work and kicking ass in the business world. On top of this, his humility about his success makes him that much more likeable, as he can still identify with working class folks and their struggles in this troubled global economy we are mired in.
We stashed Gerry's Lexus alongside a park near Bondai Beach, walked around, and took some pictures. I saw some blokes tossing a yellow rugby ball around, and approached them to look at the ball. They told me it was actually an authentic game ball used in Australian Rules Football. In a game situation, it's not to be thrown, it's instead punted with your fist, similarly to an underhand serve in volleyball. I tried a couple times, failed miserably, and then showed them how "gridiron" players in the States throw a football. Although the shape is similar to an American football, it's bigger and rounder, so throwing a spiral is much more difficult. Regardless, I showed them the grip, and how to throw, although I'd be lying if I told you I threw a tight spiral. We tossed it back and forth a few times, I thanked them for sharing with me, and I rejoined Carol, Mum and Gerry. I actually had to make a trip to the loo, and I noticed something that is quite common in Australian bathrooms: a yellow metal box that is a receptacle for needles. I asked Gerry if there was a significant number of diabetics in Oz. He replied not really, and asked why. I then mentioned the yellow boxes in bathrooms I had seen (this wasn't the first one), and he said that they're there to encourage junkies to dispose of dirty needles. My response to him (and the government for installing these yellow boxes) was, " If you're a junky, do you care more about hygiene or keeping your needle so you can get high again later?" I dismissed this as a lame PR stunt by the Aussie government, who can thump their chest and say they're preventing sharing of needles and, subsequently, disease. But I'd be curious to know how many needles are actually collected, and if this warrants the cost of the government footing the bill for the installation and maintenance of all those yellow receptacles. My gut tells me that money could be better spent elsewhere. But enough about junkies and needles…
Nearby was a picturesque, precipitous seaside cliff called "The Gap" (no, they don't sell denim there), which was the scene of a famous crime that took place 13 years ago. Gordon Wood is a man who worked for an Aussie billionaire, and had broken up with a girl he was afraid would expose his boss' dirty laundry to the media. Wood was just last week convicted of pushing this ex-girlfriend off the cliffs at The Gap to her death. Problem is, the dumbass helped the cops locate her body, claiming she committed suicide (The Gap is also a notorious place where people leap to their death). Since there's no way cops could have found her body without his help, they surmised that he had to have had a hand in her death, and he was convicted to 17 years for second-degree murder (on top of the thirteen he had already served behind bars). It's been front-page news here in Sydney. Go ahead and Google "Gordon Wood murder."
After we left Vaucluse, we headed to the Harbor area near the Opera House called Circular Quay (pronounced "key" – I took a ferry there with Mum a few days earlier),and a touristy section rife with expensive pubs/restaurants called The Rocks. We took some fine pictures in the setting sun in front of the Opera House and the famous Harbor Bridge, had a drink on the water at a classy bar, and upon the conclusion of our fun afternoon/evening, ate yummy dinner at a quaint, tucked away restaurant in Gladesville called Paolo's. I had beef ravioli, and the food was better than the modest décor of the restaurant.
When we got back home, we flipped channels on the TV. I saw that an episode of The Tudors had just begun, and told everyone how this show was a huge hit back in the States. Neither Gerry, Carol or Mum had seen it before, so we watched it. Since Gerry liked the show, he proceeded to put the series on "Season Pass" on his IQ (Aussie for DVR/TiVo) . Remember: Aussies are about a year behind on American TV from American audiences. Afterward, Mum showed me the video of when I went to Birdworld with Gerry in Kuranda in Queensland, and although hearing my recorded voice makes me cringe, the video was fun to watch. Before I went to bed, I double checked my fantasy football lineup, made sure there were no last-minute injuries, and shut out the lights, envisioning total domination in my last week of our league's regular season before the playoffs begin.