From Austin to Oz. I'm planning to flee the country for 7 months - working for 4 and traveling for 3.
Departure = 03 Sep 2003 / Re-entry = 03 Apr 2004

Monday, September 29, 2003

Men After Work

Last saturday night after the Australian Football League (AFL) Grand Final [the "Australian Rules Football Superbowl"], Robin and I came home from an all-day BBQ and somehow got stuck watching 80s videos on TV until about 2AM --- Madonna, Blondie, New Edition. Ah, the 80s. The are becoming "cool" from right under my nose, and I am powerless to stop it.

Watching the videos reminded me of a time when Robin and I were sitting in a Sydney bar earlier this month. It was late on a Friday night, and we just wanted a beer, unaware that most of Sydney had started drinking way before we did, still clad in their smart bidness attire. While Robin went to "powder her nose" (because girls don't have any vulgar ways to mention bodily functions like boys do - ha!), a song started playing that envelopped the whole bar to sing along, especially the groups of men with loosened ties and a cupboard of empty, foam-ringed glasses seated on their tables.

Which song?
Which song could enrapture a full Sydney bar on a late Friday night?
Which song could enable a saloon full of strangers to sing at the top of their lungs?
Which song?

"...I come from a land Down Under..."

Queensland pet "turtles"?

Brisbane is the capital of the State of Queensland, Australia. Tomorrow, I am planning to visit the Queensland Museum. It is only about a block away from our building. While surfing on the museum's website earlier today, I learned heaps of Queenslander things to whet my appetite of what I will see. One of the exhibits that I think is supahkool but whose mere thought I know will make the girls scrunch their noses, squeal like piglets, flap their hands up and down rapidly, and hop in a jagged circle (I don't know why girls do this; they just do.) is the one of the MEGA-ROACHES:

"Queensland has unique giant cockroaches, quite unlike those from any other parts of the world.

There are about 20 different kinds of giant cockroaches. All are wingless, glossy dark brown and stout bodied and are sometimes mistaken as turtles. They live in deep burrows in the bush and feed on dead leaves, which they drag down from the surface. The females give birth to live babies, which they care for in the burrows for up to 2 years. The most popular exhibit in the Inquiry Centre is a live colony of Macropanesthia rhinoceros, the largest cockroach in the world. They make interesting pets and are available from some pet shops as 'macrobugs'.

Recently, Museum entomologists found a site near Middlemount in central Queensland where the cockroaches were the largest ever recorded. These record-breaking giants weighed more than 30 gm each (the weight of 2 sparrows) and measured 80 mm long. "

Sunday, September 28, 2003


Our roommate Julia has joined the South Bank Fitness Club, just around the corner from our apartment building. No, literally --- about 25 metres from our front door. Anyway, I found out tonight that if I sign up with the fitness club and mention her, then Julia receives a FREE BOTTLE OF WINE! How Australian! And, if Robin joins and mentions Julia sent her, then, yes, ANOTHER bottle of wine! Sure, I have noticed that some restaurants offer a free glass of wine with the dinner special, but I had no idea that a gym would offer a bottle of wine as a membership incentive.

Now, will a 750ml bottle of vino fit in my water bottle holder? ...

Drunkly buff or buffly drunk, JRG

Friday, September 26, 2003


(From Brisbane's newspaper The Courier Mail:)

"Here's a site you'll want to bookmark and visit again and again as Brisbane's city-dwelling peregrine falcon Frodo's family hatches and grows.

Keep Frodocam open on your screen and watch these spectacular birds care for their eggs and young. "


(This is an excellent way to spend oodles of seconds. JRG)

Monday, September 22, 2003

... and in today's Aussie news

Skippy to the rescue

A female kangaroo has saved an Australian farmer's life by alerting his family that he was lying unconscious in a field.
The kangaroo banged repeatedly on the door of the family home in the state of Victoria, until the farmer's wife came out. In a scene reminiscent of the 1960s Australian children's television series Skippy about a resourceful kangaroo, the animal then led the woman to her husband. Leonard Richards, 52, had been checking his property for storm damage, when he was knocked unconscious by a falling branch on Sunday. He could have died had he not been found so quickly, an ambulance paramedic told Melbourne radio. "The farmer's wife followed the kangaroo because he was acting out of character," he added. Mr Richards' 19-year-old son told Reuters news agency: "It was so lucky. Dad could have been there for hours if it wasn't for her (the kangaroo)." She was once wild, the paramedic said, but had been adopted by the family because she was blind in one eye. Mr Richards was taken to a Melbourne hospital with suspected head injuries, but was allowed home on Sunday night.

Thursday, September 18, 2003


I had a job interview today to be -- get this -- an XBOX DEMONSTRATOR! Yup, that's right, I am trying to be a smarmy salesman in the mall that peddles gizmo boxes to Aussie families and university boys. A high-tech drug dealer. "Your first game is free, kid, but the next time you gotta fork over a wad of Aussie dollars for your next hit." HA! I'll make friends superfastquicklike, just like a bartender. Everyone likes the bartender.

I find out on Monday if I was accepted for training, which would occur the following Tuesday. The job only lasts a month. Perfect. Then, after the job is over, when I strut my stuff about town, everyone in Brisbane will know me as the "Texan Xbox guy". Not a bad title, that.


I came back from the interview to find our friend David in the lobby, a beer in one hand and a laptop computer sitting on his thighs listening to a college football game on-line. (Yeah, sure the game started at 10AM Brisbane time, but it's always a good time to drink beer, eh?) So, which game? The one that just so happened to pit his university against mine: Virginia Tech v. Texas A&M.

David is an alum of Virginia Tech, thus, he is a "Hokie" (a castrated turkey). I don't see how that mascot can strike fear into the hearts of the opponents, but my uni's mascot is a collie -- REVEILLE'S ONE TOUGH BITCH, THO!

Anyway, since David and I have only know each other for 1.5 weeks, we already have rival university tension between us, as we sit in the lobby listening to the game.

Game just ended. The Ags ran out of time. Now, it's off to the National Festival of Beers!

Ah, what a tough Friday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003


When Robin and I were in Sydney earlier in the month, we passed a busker (street musician) who was playing steel drums with a Trinidad & Tobago flag sticker on the outer rim of one drum. What was he steeldrumifying? "Fernando" by ABBA. As of a few days ago, we discovered that he has followed us up the East Coast of Australia to the Queen Street Mall in Brisbane.

All I could think of when re-hearing him is the line in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert when, after hearing hour upon hour of ABBA songs from the collection of drag queen Felicia aboard the bus named Priscilla, the transsexual Bernadette tells Felicia, "No more fucking ABBA!"

(But, I must admit, "Fernando" on the stell drum does have a light, crispy sound to it, like the fish & chips to which Robin & I have quickly accustomed ourselves. Happy.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Mexico, lindo y querido

Happy dieziseis de septiembre! Happy Mexican Independence from Spain in 1810!

I miss Mexico today.

I miss the food. I miss the colors. I miss the aromas. I miss the homemade tortillas. I miss all of Texas being Mexican for a day. I miss the tequila, margaritas, Dos XX, chips & salsa, and horchata. It's good to miss things, tho.

Yet, am I one to sit around and wallow in nostalgia? Nope. I found some white corn tortillas (in the "ethnic breads" section) during an earlier trip to Coles supermarket (and to think that back in Austin, I was such a snob that would only buy tortillas made as close to the Mexican border as possible. I refused tortillas made in New Jersey, Chicago, --- even Fort Worth, Texas), so I was prepared to find things to fill them, such as arroz con pollo, tacos, salsa, guacamole, pico de gallo, carne picada ... and I tried my best. Jasmine and basmati rices from Thailand, India, and Australia. Tomatos from Italy. A huge bunch of cilantro -- about the same size as a large head of iceberg lettuce. No avocados. No jalapenos. There was an extensive amount of Old El Paso products, made in Oz. Ewww. Reminds me of Lausanne, Switzerland with Old El Paso products made in the Netherlands. Huh? Furthermore, no “hot� salsa. Just mild and medium. One looked promising, made in Byron Bay (home of Julian Rocks), yet only came in mild & medium. Looks like we'll have to make homemade salsa with what ingredients we can muster.

Happily, I was able to find a bottle of Sauza Tequila Gold at the liquor store (AUD$43.50/USD$28.28). A bit spendy, but some times, one has to suck it up to celebrate. I asked the lady at the liquor store if anyone else had bought tequila today. She said, "No, why?" I told her that today was Mexican Independence Day. She said that there were a few blokes who bought a few bottles a long time ago. I continued by saying that we were trying to create a Mexican meal with what we could find in the supermarket. I mentioned that it's coming out like "Aussie-Mex". She laughed and said that they call it "fusion" nowadays. Tex-Mex is fusion, too.

Robin's USC chum David is popping in later to celebrate with us. David even mentioned that I should open up a taqueria while I'm here. The son of our apt. bldg owner, he told us that there are NO Mexican food places here in Brisbane. Hmm....maybe I'll make good on my idea of making tortillas and selling them while here.

Friday, September 12, 2003


Spring in Australia started 01 Sep 2003. As in Austin, the arrival of spring in Sydney and Brisbane fills the calendar with so many overlapping events that grab my attention and hold it like honey in a sopapilla.

Today is the Multi-Cultural Fest on the Queensland University of Technology (Robin's uni) campus, along with a Moon Fest. Across the Brisbane River is the weekly Arts & Crafts market. The Sunshine Coast Wine Festival started yesterday and runs until Sunday. (The Sunshine Coast is 100km from Brissie.) Next weekend is the National Festival of Beers, also in Brissie. When I return to Austin, people will ask me, what did you do while in Oz. I'll reply "played in the sun, drank lots of wine & beer, and smiled till my cheeks were Kung-Foo strong." That is, I'll say that to people IF I ever leave Oz.

Today is my birthday. Thirty-one. 29+2. 19+12. 62x + 15y. Create you own equation. So, wherever you may lie your head tonight, have a drink for me. Hell, have several. Intercontinental drunken stupor can only improve race & flag relations, no?

Tonight, we are going to the Brisbane Lions v. Adelaide Crows Aussie Rules Football semi-final game. Yes, the sport where the man in a white suit and hat drops down his forearms in a parallel karate chop. My uncle Juan loves that part.

Tomorrow, we are going to the Koala Park here in Brisbane, the world's first. To go pet 130 koalas & 130 kangaroos. Yeah, I know it's touristy. You'd do it, too. Don't lie.

Koala Park

Thursday, September 11, 2003


Australia loves pumkin, as do I. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin soup, pumpkin slices butterily sliding down your tongue along with the other vegetables in the meal I ordered at Thai Panic last night, just a few blocks from out apt. I love pumpkin, but not only because it is orange. Since a kid, I've always gorged on pumpkin empanadas and always looked forward to punkin pie on Thanksgiving. MMM.... Generally, I love gourds, especially gourds gone wild.


I have a new cell phone number here in BrisVegas. (For those in Austin, my bro Jacob maintains the RIBS one.)

61.04.0393.4545 (Australia's country code = 61, "04" is the mobile network prefix, and my telly numbah is 8 digits long.) Send me an SMS! --- but only if U R hott and kool, k?

Just for fun, I went to Phonespell to see what nickname doth have my OZphone. My favorites among what Phonespell spelt:



Last night's drunken grocery escapade: I've learned today that the US versions of "Raisin Bran" and "Rice Krispies" are renamed "Sultan Bran" and "Rice Bubbles", respectively. "Sultanas" are a type of grape. Limes come from Tahiti and cost $1 USD - each! Corn tortillas --- in the "ethnic breads" section of the bakery, alongside the chappati, Turkish bread, Afghan bread, and pita pockets. Further, I'm still readjusting to my geography here, as Robin & I bought organic coffee from East Timor (of which a % of every purchase goes to help rebuild East Timor), which sounds far-away, but is actually an Aussie neighbor separated by a few drops of agua. This I already knew, yet I am still trying to readjust my center of distance, where Bangkok is closer to Brisbane than is Los Angeles. Gimme a few months, mate.

TV: There is also an Australian version of the Weather Channel. As you could imagine, the only thing on the screen is the Australian continent. Also on TV, "Rickie Lake" and "Frasier", among bad US soap operas. No wonder the Aussies think that 'Mericans are nothing but backstabbing, cheatin', mistreatin', basketcase wackos. Then again, isn't "Neighbours" a slice of true Aussie life?

Monday, September 08, 2003


Sydney wears black like rice wears white.

Speaking of black, I walked into a cafe this morning at 07h30 and ordered a large espresso. (OK, OK, for those of y'all wondering why Julian is awake at 7h30AM, let me remind y'all that there is a 15-hour time difference between Austin and Sydney, so 07h30 in Sydney is 20h30 (8h30PM) in Austin, which is right about when I'm normally waking up. HA!) The guy behind the counter didn't understand what I wanted. Come to find out, "espresso" in Australian is "all-black." Expecting just a thimble of bean tar, instead, I received a very oversized coffee cup full of espresso. Whoa. I thought to myself, "I can't drink all that much espresso! I'll be up all day and night for the rest of the week. For days, I won't be able to stop shaking like a quarter bed in Vegas. I think that the coffeeman made a mistake. This huge cup for less than $2US? What am I going to do with all this coffee? How many coffee addicts could I feed for just the price of this one? Do I ask for a take-away cup and sip this for the rest of my Monday? ... (eyes scan cafe) .... Is anybody looking at me drink this entire cup?"


I'm coming back tomorrow. (wink)

Saturday, September 06, 2003


OK, OK, I know that I often bring up odd references to my name, and I how I never find any things (like keychains, pens, etc.) with my name on it --- although there are plenty of personalized things for people named Jennifer, Stephen, Quintana, Ignacio.... What I don't understand is how my name is not that unusual yet skips the lists of named trinkets. Think "Julius Caesar", "Julian Lennon", or "Julian calendar" (my favorite). I remember in elementary school not liking my name because no one else had it. There were scores of Michaels and Marks, but not another Julian. Not even in other grades. When you are small, being different is NOT good, and my name made me different. Insecurity.

So, yesterday, while meandering around The Rocks neighborhood of Sydney (Sydney's oldest neighborhood), I found a tourist tchotchke shop with one of those stands that holds small personalized license plates. Yes, the ever-present Christopher, James, Ann, blah, blah, blah. Why do I even look? Why do I keep hoping to find just a small little something with my name -- my six letters! my 3 consonants and 3 vowels! my dipthong! Why is it so semi-important? Well, I guess we all want what we can't have, right?

And, there it was, in the Austalian national colors: "JULIAN" in big, green letters on a yellow background with the word "Australia" in smaller letters above it. I told the shopkeeper of my glee. She responded, "Looks like Australia loves you." Indeed.

Monday, September 01, 2003

The Queen Symphony

(I arrive in Sydney at 06:10 AM on 05 Sep. After a quick nap, I'm gunna hop all over Sydney like a 'roo. Then, I'll tidy up to attend this concert.)

Sydney Opera House

Acclaimed British composer Tolga Kashif will conduct the mighty Sydney Symphony and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs in a six-movement symphonic work based on musical themes from 13 of Queen’s best loved songs.

Over three decades, Queen created the soundtrack for a generation with a succession of rock anthems including Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga and We Will Rock You . Now this electrifying symphony is giving new life to these timeless songs.

In a stunning departure from conventional orchestrations of pop music, Tolga Kashif has collaborated with one of the world’s great rock and roll bands to compose a new piece of modern classical music. The Queen Symphony was created with the complete blessing of both the surviving band members of Queen and Freddie Mercury’s family who also attended the world premiere performance in London last year.

The power of the full Sydney Symphony combined with the massed voices of Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and the classic songs of Queen will produce an unforgettable night in the Concert Hall.

Copland - Fanfare For The Common Man
Bernstein - West Side Story Symphonic Dances Interval
Kashif - The Queen Symphony

DURATION: 2 hours

Friday 5 and Saturday 6 September at 8pm