Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 9 – Tennis and Euchre in Gladesville

Day 9 – Tennis and Euchre in Gladesville

What is typically referred to a "lumberjack breakfast" here in Australia, Auntie Carol makes almost every morning. I am constantly treated to a morning feast of eggs, toast, cereal, fruit, and often bacon for breakfast. Back in LA, I'd be stuffing myself if I had an orange to complement my cereal. I wonder if, once I return home, I will be able to return to such a simple meal plan. If so, I had better hit the gym more regularly!

When I first planned for this trip back in February, my agenda was purely recreational, as this was intended to be a vacation sandwiched between Thanksgiving break with a few sick/vacation/personal days tacked on. However, when I lost my job at Sony in May, I entertained the possibility of taking advantage of my dual citizenship and doing a little job hunting down under. So, with the help of an Aussie entertainment professional I worked with for a few weeks in November in Beverly Hills, I began applying for Australian jobs online today. Village Roadshow is a prominent film production company that has produced movies like Gran Torino and Yes Man, among numerous others. However, in Australia, Village Roadshow is an enormous entertainment entity as the parent company owns movie theatres, theme parks, as well as production companies based in Oz. I've still got a few more companies to apply to, but in the meantime, I'm glad I commenced the Australian job hunt because perhaps it signifies that perhaps I'm mentally prepared for a semi-permanent change of scenery.

At 12:30PM on Tuesdays, Monday Night Football comes on in Sydney. I watched a bit of that until Aunt Carol picked up Sally's kids from school. To quickly recap the kids' situation, both Ethan and Cooper are afflicted with mild autism. Ethan, 6, is more on the high-functioning side, but although he reads at the level of a nine year-old, he can be a bit shy around strangers. Cooper, 4, is generally more extroverted after he meets someone a couple times, but at this stage, he seems to be a slow learner. For example, Ethan was more receptive to swim lessons than Cooper, who still doggy paddles in the pool. I was no exception when I met these boys, but I found a way to endear myself to Cooper, and eventually Ethan.

There is this strange tribal-looking mask that the boys like to play with. It's basically a caricature of a black man with red cartoonish, bulbous lips, huge eyes and a semblance of an afro. Uncle Gerry calls it the "Obama mask", which perhaps suggests why Cooper likes it so much. After Cooper was being a bit unruly, I put the mask on, and then he soon seemed to lighten up. We played for a bit, and I rediscovered what makes most 4 year-old boys squeal with glee: the illusion of flying. After I was certain Cooper warmed up to me, I grabbed him by his ankles, swung him around the living room a couple times, and tossed him gently onto the ottoman. When he would land on the soft furniture, he laughed like I hadn't heard him laugh before. Although he was crying and fitful at first when he first arrived at the house from school, I seemed to have cheered him up by swinging him around clad in a weird mask.

Soon thereafter, Aunt Carol prepared what was probably one of the naughtiest afternoon snacks I've ever seen and tasted: two scoops of vanilla ice cream topped with Smarties (Australian M&M's) and green jelly beans. She referred to this ritual as "having a party", and asked me if I would like to join the party. Although this is a treat I would normally deem too decadent for my own derriere, I obliged, because, after all, who doesn't like a party?

Sally later came by to pick up the boys. While she chatted with Carol, I read them Cinderella from their worn book of fairy tales for what was probably the umpteenth time. Sally soon left with Ethan and Cooper to go back home to her house a couple kilometers away in Melrose Park. My afternoon would then shift gears toward more competitive activities.

Uncle Gerry, who had been working on his laptop in his office for most of the afternoon, came downstairs and asked me if I was any good at tennis. I qualified my skills by stating that although I don't necessarily embarrass myself with a tennis racquet, I'm not exactly ready for Centre Court at Wimbledon either. He said I don't need to be dominant at the sport, just decent. Gerry belongs to a tennis club in Gladesville, and the group of 50-60 year-old men that Gerry's known for years get together every Tuesday night at the club to eat snacks, drink beer/whiskey, play tennis and a card game called Euchre. I had never heard of Euchre before, let alone played it, so after I agreed to accompany Gerry to the club later that evening, I went online to research the rules of Euchre. I then walked down to nearby Mitchell Park to review the rules I printed out so that in case I stunk up the joint at tennis (I was a bit rusty), I would at least hold my own at cards. When I came back, Aunt Carol had embraced the true spirit of Thanksgiving by preparing a feast of leftovers from last night's dinner.

Gerry and I were running short on time, so we wolfed down our turkey, mashed yams, pea, carrots and stuffing, and were soon on our way after grabbing a 6-pack of beer from the fridge. When we arrived at the club, Gerry introduced me around to the various guys at the club. Their ages ranged from early 30s to mid 60s. In spite of the disparity of their ages, they all seemed quite comfortable around each other, and I instantly got the notion that these guys look forward to Tuesday nights as a night they can get away from their families for a few hours, and let their proverbial hair down (those that still had hair, that is). My performance on the tennis court was as expected. I won two games, and lost two. We all played doubles, and I remembered that I tend to lose my cool on the tennis court when I make unforced errors. Already struggling to subdue my identity as the bombastic Yankee, I found myself cursing up a storm when I hit the ball into the net. I soon realized I was the only one yelling such custom profanities like, "Shitcockfuckballs," so I resolved to compose myself. When Gerry and I teamed up for our lone game of doubles together, we got smoked 7 games to 1, although I served a couple of aces!

After a great deal of serving strictly as a spectator, I finally sat down to try my hand at Euchre. Although I made some rookie mistakes, I seemed to have had a positive effect on the game, as my partner said he hadn't been dealt such a good hand in months! We finally finished our game at around 11:30pm, and since it was Tuesday, it was past time to go.

When we got back home, Mum had stayed up late, and told me to pack some warm clothes for our trip to Melbourne the next morning. I had dealt with some uncomfortably hot and humid weather thus far during this trip, so being told I needed to pack sweaters seemed ludicrous at that moment. Regardless, I stuffed a couple changes of clothes as well as a sweater and my jeans that I had worn maybe twice while I had been down under. As I drifted to sleep, I was excited about heading south to a place I hadn't been since I was five, the last time I had seen my maternal grandmother before she passed away.

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