Arrival at Sydney

The title here is a bit of a reference to Elizabeth Bishop’s “Arrival at Santos.” Bishop is usually appropriate to my state of mind
in travel, but even more so for this trip:

...Oh, tourist,
is this how this country is going to answer you
and your immodest demands for a different world,
and a better life, and complete comprehension
of both at last, and immediately...

Sydney is lovely from the air, and as punishing as I always fear the 13+ hours in the air will be, this trip was easy. We had a long layover in San Francisco (which is incalculably nicer a transfer than LAX) and a great flight across. The plane was only about half full, and the Qantas cabin crew could not have been nicer. (It never seems to hurt that the stereotypes about cabin stewards hold fairly true — as a gay couple asleep on one another’s shoulders, we always seem to get extra-friendly treatment.)

Qantas never disappoints — after dinner we were served hot chocolate and marshmallows, after which we both passed out. (In my case the Ambien might have helped as well.) We both slept something close to eight hours and woke refreshed to a nice breakfast and friendly chats with our new friends on the crew. The plane had a new state-of-the art video on demand system but with such a nice rest, three iPods between us (don’t ask!) and a bag full of magazines David only managed to get through one of the dozens of options.

The most touching kindness, though, was found in the customs hall on arrival. Countless times arriving back in the States — including after our wedding in Vancouver — we have had to, in one way or another, split apart or bureaucratically disavow each other. “Single,” not married. Made to queue in one line for citizens, one line for foreigners, with no exceptions for a unit that the US refuses to recognize as family. Seeing the signs in Sydney, we decided to press our luck in the line for “Australia and New Zealand Passport Holders and Families.” After a short wait, we walked up to a podium manned by a quintessentially Aussie-looking twentysomething bloke. He asked no questions of us and, not batting an eye, said “Welcome to Australia.”

And welcome we feel. Apparently this is how this country is going to answer us, our demands for a different world, and a better life, which I refuse to call immodest.

We’re here in Sydney awaiting our flight on to Adelaide, very much looking forward to three weeks away from work with David’s folks. We’ll try to post along the way, but if I post too much people at work might wonder about our “no internet in the outback” party line. In the mean time, we hope all of you in the northern hemisphere enjoy the last of summer 2007.

Not “Yellow”-Bellied

I know that I should be writing about how happy I am that Karl Rove is leaving–but isn’t it obvious? Instead, I had to share this. I kinda love this woman.

Karaoke singer attacked after starting song
Woman punches man on stage

It could have been the Coldplay song “Yellow” that upset the patron of a Wallingford neighborhood bar. Or perhaps it was the karaoke singer who belted it out.

Employees at Changes, on North 45th Street, said they don’t know, but the ensuing melee just past 1 a.m. Thursday was one unlike anything seen at the bar before.

As soon as the man on stage started singing about the stars in his best Chris Martin impersonation, the woman reportedly said: “Oh, no, not that song. I can’t stand that song!”

Witnesses said her distaste for Coldplay quickly took a violent turn, and she leaped at the would-be crooner, shouting expletives and telling him that his singing “sucked,” while expressing the same opinion of the song, according to a Seattle police report.

She pushed the man and punched him, all in an effort to stop his singing.

Other patrons went to the singer’s aid and hauled the 21-year-old woman outside.

“It took three or four of us to hold her down,” said Robert Willmette, one of the bartenders at Changes.

The woman, Willmette said, “went crazy” when she got outside, punching him twice in the face, and throwing blows at the others gathered around her.

But the person who drew most of the music critic’s ire was an off-duty Seattle police officer. The off-duty officer identified herself as a cop, gave her badge number and had another patron call 911 to request help for an officer.

The response was fast and overwhelming, with both patrol officers and Gang Unit detectives converging on the normally tame neighborhood bar.

“They blocked the whole street off,” Willmette said.

According to the police report, the woman’s rage only grew when the uniformed officers arrived.

The officers took the woman, whom Willmette described as “a little hippie girl,” to the ground, but she was still able to head butt the off-duty officer several times before she was handcuffed.

After treatment for injuries she suffered in the scuffle, the woman was booked into the King County Jail for investigation of assault. She was also held on a warrant issued for a previous theft charge.

The off-duty officer also went to the hospital, for treatment of several cuts, scrapes and bruises.

Later Thursday morning, bar employees were shaking their heads over the woman’s bizarre behavior.

According to the night bartender’s notes, she had just one drink — a single shot of J√ɬ§germeister.

She didn’t appear to be one of the regulars who flock to the bar for its karaoke nights on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Most are regulars who come for the pleasure of the singing, and the police are rarely needed.

“She was just crazy,” Willmette said.

Places I have flown to

I spent some time wandering down memory lane at, trying to remember the places I’d been to by air. Remembering the places you’ve been to is easy, but when there are layovers involved trying to remember how you got there is tricky. Anyway, I think this is pretty close. I’m sure there are a few places I’ve left off, and I’m sure I’ve missed or mistaken some stopovers here and there. And it doesn’t count places I’ve been to by train (many cities in Europe), by car (many places in Southwest and Northwest USA) or boat (mainly Alaska and some European cities I visited via ferry).

Places I have flown

(Click for a full-size view.) Counting the flights shown alone, I’ve flown 72% of the way to the moon and spent two full weeks of my life on planes. But each leg is only counted once, and I’ve crossed the Atlantic at least 30 times, the Pacific 10, and done Europe-Australia 5 times. So it’s probably safe to triple those numbers. Scary!