A Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins On An Escalator

At times I listen to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio Overnights podcast when I traipse around the neighbourhood for my morning walk. As I wander through the streets lined with mature trees I muffle the traffic noise by adjusting the volume of my Walkman so I only hear ABC’s Overnights guests reminiscing about the school Tuck Shop, passionately talking about who was the designated cook in their kitchen and what was their signature dish, or Captain Cook and the Endeavours voyage as told through the eyes of the cabin boy. I wonder if the producers at ABC radio planned on entertaining someone on the other side of the world when they created the Overnights podcasts.

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I don’t notice the front yards without fences in the streets; I’m remembering back when mum helped out at the Tuck Shop at Williamstown Tech. On the days she was a Willy Tech canteen lunch lady we got to buy our lunch; a rare privilege and we walked a little taller. But we made sure we were never close enough to the canteen for mum to see us; we were of the age where it would be so embarrassing if your school yard mates saw you talking to your mum.

Mum was the cook in our kitchen. Her signature dishes was boiling all the veggies in the same saucepan to within an inch of their lives; and when she got a Sunbeam electric fry pan chucking any type of meat, except a roast, into it to cook. Mum’s Sunbeam changed how she cooked in the kitchen; the gas stove was only used for roasts, and boiling vegetables. The Sunbeam spent half it’s life in the cupboard, and the other half on the kitchen table. It cooked sausages and rissoles for our breakfasts, reheated mum’s home made meat pies and sausage rolls for tea, and grilled lamb cutlets and chops. And it heated water to warm up cocktail frankfurts. Cocktail frankfurts are a miniature version of a saveloy, which is akin to a hot dog. It wouldn’t be a true blue Aussie party if it didn’t have a bowl of “little boys” on the table, and a bottle of tomato sauce next to it. I loved cocktail frankfurts.

There was a time, when as soon as I got home from Willy Tech I would head straight for the dining room and sit glued to the wireless listening to the The Air Adventures of Biggles, Superman, The Adventures of the Sea Hound, Robin Hood, and Hop Harrigan. Back then, the only vegetables I would eat were peas and potatoes. Every night just as the serials were ending, mum would bring a plate with a couple of grilled lamb chops or cutlets, and boiled peas into the dining room for my tea.

And now the serials of yesterday have been replaced by the podcasts of today; aural distractions about everything for when you’re walking, gardening, mushroom hunting, or meditating. Recently I discovered Lindsey Green’s People Movers Podcast. Lindsay confesses that at one time she didn’t spend much time thinking about escalators and how much of a difference they’ve made to our lives, but once she started paying attention to them she couldn’t stop. I had downloaded Escalators in Melbourne from Lindsay’s website and as I rounded the corner of Elmwood Park Drive, and passed the No Dogs Allowed On Golf Course sign on the course’s wooden fence, I pushed play on my Sony Walkman

this time we will stay a bit more local and learn about the history of escalators in Melbourne. Melbourne’s first escalators were installed in Swanston Street’s elegant Manchester Unity building; my guide for the tour was a woman named Chloe Martin, she is studying a Masters of Fine Art and was previously a guide for the Louvre in Paris.

I stopped in my tracks. Usually I only stop to pick up lost golf balls; Lindsey had used a guided tour of Melbourne’s Manchester Unity Building as a resource for her Escalators in Melbourne podcast. A little over six months ago, after an elegant Sunday Brunch of champagne, Shakshuka Eggs, and dessert at the ground floor arcade, art deco 1932 Cafe and Restaurant, I joined Chloe for a guided tour of the Manchester Unity Building.

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The soaring Manchester Unity building sits on the corner of Swanston and Collins Streets in Melbourne’s Central Business District. It was constructed in 1931-32 as an Art Deco Gothic inspired office and retail building. Chloe told our group that the basement served as a tea room and cafe, and the ground and first floors were designed as shopping arcades. There aren’t many shops left on the ground floor but you can still imagine the joy of shopping, and strolling the arcade from Swanston Street through to Collins street, and to Howey place. Chloe shared that the building had Melbourne’s first escalators when it opened; one from the ground floor up to the first floor shops, and one down to the basement level; though there was no escalator down from the first floor arcade, or up from the basement tea rooms. Chloe talked lovingly of the escalator to the first floor. When the building opened it was described as a magical staircase, and it received 60,000 visitors; a nurse was on hand to treat people if they needed medical assistance after their ride on the magical staircase. The original escalator to the first floor is still there; the outside wood panelling has been refurbished and the wooden moving stairs have been replaced. I looked forlornly at the non moving magical staircase; it was Sunday. I placed my hand on the stationary handrail, and vowed to return to ride the magical staircase.

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Chloe ushered the group into the restored lift and when we arrived on the first floor gathered us into a circle and prepared us for our journey through the restored first floor mezzanine, the boardroom, and the rooftop terrace. A lot of the building had fallen into disrepair when Dr Kia Pajouhesh, owner of the dental practice Smile Solutions, bought the mezzanine first floor. The refurbished shabby, vacant retail shops and offices of a by gone era became the dental suites of Smile Solutions; complete with period detailing. Over the years Kia acquired more areas of the unique Manchester Unity Building, and now Smile Solutions operates twenty five surgical suites across five floors and the five story tower. He has restored much of the 1930s building, and nowhere is his commitment, attention to detail, and diligence reflected more so than in the iconic boardroom. A pair of shoes found in the wall cavity and thought to be left behind by one of the workers in 1932, either on purpose as a tradies ritual, or for when they would return the next day sits on the floor.

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The Meal and Tour isn’t about one mans personal journey, and how a one room, one dentist practice expanded into a service of over eighty clinicians consulting to more than 90,000 people. I’m not exactly sure if it was on the rooftop terrace, or when the group was waiting for the lift, but Chloe let the cat out of the bag. It wasn’t meant as a Smile Solution’s boast, self-aggrandisement, or pretension, but she let slip that Smile Solutions is the official dentist of the Collingwood Football Club. There was a lonely cheer from a Collingwood supporter in the group. Even though the group only numbered a little over twenty, some on the outer fringe hadn’t heard Chloe’s comment but word spread quickly; like a bushfire in the Mallee. And affectionate chorus’s of ‘Carn the Doggies, ‘Carn the Hawks, ‘Carn the Tigers erupted. I learnt later what Chloe didn’t tell the tour group was that; Smile Solutions is the official dentist to the Australian Open, the Melbourne Grand Prix, and was the official dentist to the athletes in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. And Smile Solutions is the official dentist to the Collingwood Cheer Squad.

image source:aflfix.com

Back when, a cheer squad was a group of adolescents, or young adults, dressed in duffle coats covered with badges emblazoned with the names and jumper numbers of their favourite players. The cheer squad proudly wore their team jumpers, beanies, and scarves, and gathered behind their home goal posts, and waved their floggers whenever their team scored a goal. Floggers, six foot long sticks with massive amounts of streamers taped onto the ends have been banned; there was nothing like a sea of floggers waving behind the goal posts. Cheer squads no longer wear duffle coats, and they don’t wave dangerous floggers so I’m not sure what an official dentist to a cheer squad does.

The Melbourne Football Club’s website lists the following as the duties of the official club cheer squad; it’s known as the Demon Army. I suppose any of the duties listed could cause an impacted wisdom tooth, bleeding or sore gums, periodontal disease, or cracked teeth.

  • Exclusive 2018 Demon Army cap to help you stand out behind the goals on match day
  • The best seats in the house on match day
  • Access to purchase reserved seats at away games
  • The chance to walk on
  • A place to share your passion, and meet new Demon friends
  • Demon Army welcome booklet

On Monday morning I returned to the Manchester Unity Building and stood before the escalator. I slowly put one foot out, took hold of the moving hand rail, and gingerly stepped onto a moving stair. I became a little light headed as the magical staircase carried me to the mezzanine first floor dental suites. I gathered myself and took the lift down to the ground floor. I was a little unsteady walking to the Switchboard Café; a Café serving coffee from what was once the building’s old switchboard cupboard. If only a nurse had been on hand. I spent some time recovering, sipping a flat white, sitting on a seat in a small glass box opposite the Café. Outside a hot dry November wind was busy rushing down the drafty laneway arcade.

image source:skmcadam

I may not wait for summer to fade into autumn before returning to WestRoads mall to walk three laps of the upper level, and two laps of the lower level. I could use my early return to the mall to work on an improved exercise regime; combining mall walking with escalator Pilates. I think an hour riding the mall escalators would be a great way to combine low impact endurance and muscle stamina with postural alignment.

 

People Movers Podcast

Switchboard Café

Manchester Unity Building

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A Good Beginning Makes A Good Ending

Back when I was growing up in Williamstown there was little choice as to what footie team you barracked for; if you were born and raised in the working class western suburbs you barracked for Footscray. Fooyscray’s mascot was the British bulldog, and the boys were collectively known as the Doggies. I’ve forgotten the number of cold, dank, winter Saturday afternoons I stood on the sloped terraces in front of the grandstand at the Western Oval. I stood with the brotherhood of Doggie faithful; the air, thick with the perfume of meat pies and tomato sauce, and cigarette smoke and beer. We drank our beer, and cheered the boys on with affectionate obscenities and insulting encouragements. And we welcomed the last quarter with the tribal ritual of a pie in one hand, and a beer raised in the other; our salute to the sound of the siren that started the final onslaught. It was a penny to a quid that the four n twenty would be either hot enough to burn the roof of your mouth or on the cold side of warm.

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Not long ago I went back to the sacred ground. I thought about taking a couple of Melbourne Bitter long necks in a paper bag, or a thermos full of hot of tomato soup and some sandwiches wrapped in grease proof paper, but instead went empty handed. I stood in silence. The turnstiles were gone. The driveway we had walked along had gone. The scoreboard had gone. I stood in front of the metal statue of Ted, and remembered the times we barracked from the terraces; and now he stands at the entrance to where the boys no longer play. Back then it was the Western Oval, but we called it the kennel. It’s now the Whitten Oval, and the boys use it as their training ground; it’s main attractions are a souvenir shop, a childcare centre, and a conference and convention centre. The kennel had changed.

I didn’t want to change from being an Aussie. I went back to Australia every couple of years after I first moved to the US. I didn’t do tourist things; I stayed at mum’s place, spent time with aunts and cousins, and hung out with friends. I was back home living in Oz. It was before e-commerce; before you could buy genuine Australian foods online and have them delivered to your door. When I left to return to the US I’d stuff my bags full of Cherry Ripes, Violet Crumbles, Twisties, and Minties. I didn’t bring back hats emblazoned with kangaroos and koalas, T-shirts printed with G’day I’m an Aussie, or any plush Aussie animals and toys.

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I have always tried to keep in touch with what was happening back in Melbourne, and Australia. Years ago an aerogram or a letter from mum, stuffed with newspaper clippings of Footscray and Williamstown news, would arrive in the letter box every month or so. When ever I wrote to mum and reminisced about her sausage rolls, shortbread, pavlova, and meat pie her handwritten recipes for them would be in the next envelope in the letter box. I still have some of my favourite mum recipes.

When I lived in Springfield, Illinois, I’d spend an afternoon, every couple of weeks, in the library catching up on what’s happening in Melbourne three weeks ago by reading the most current copy of the The Age on the newspaper rack; it was a time before the internet.

As time went by the trips back to the The Lucky Country became every three to four years; and then even longer. When I left to return to the US I didn’t have to load up my suitcase with Cherry Ripes, Violet Crumbles, Twisties, and Minties because the Internet had arrived; I could go online and order all the Clinkers, Freddos, or Fantails I wanted. And my news and updates about what’s happening in Melbourne and Australia were now tomorrow’s headlines; I was reading the The Age, and ABC News online. A large selection of Australian foods that included sausage rolls, pasties, biscuits, jams and spreads, and other tastes of Oz were just a mouse click away, so I no longer asked mum for any of her recipes.

image source:huffingtonpost.com.au

YouTube evolved with the Internet and I watched the doggies playing their brand of footie sitting on a couch, instead of standing with the faithful on the sloped terraces in front of the grandstand; though I still saluted the boys with a few cold ones. I searched YouTube for the The Masters Apprentices, The Twilights, Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs, Ronnie Burns, and other singers and groups I don’t remember, who performed at Berties, Sebastian’s, and the Thumpin Tum; Melbourne’s legendary live music discotheques of the sixties. And as I found the black and white tributes I sang once again, loud and out of key, to myself; when I looked up I would see the sea of umbrellas hanging from the ceiling of the Tum, and the velvet curtains and antique furniture of Berties. I would sit with Andrew Lambrainew in the front seat of his white Ford Fairlane, outside the Ormond Hall in Prahran, drinking from long necks to prepare our self for the music and girls of Opus. It seemed as if there was a mod and rockers street fight every second Saturday night; we would lock the car doors and watch the floundering fighters. And so we divided our Saturday night’s between Berties, Sebastian’s, the The Thumpin Tum, and Opus.

image source:radioinfo.com.au

And when I shouted the words of Let the Little Girl Dance in disharmony with Grantley Dee I was back standing on the esplanade at Williamstown Beach. If you looked through the large back window of the 3AK mobile studio broadcast caravan, you could watch, and listen to, the AK Good Guys Grantley Dee and Lionel Yorke playing the hits. During the summer holidays the AK Good Guys team did their radio shows live from popular Victorian beaches; when I wasn’t at the beach mum’s Bakelite kitchen wireless was tuned to 3AK.

YouTube also allowed me to watch Australian television shows of the sixties and seventies. I giggled once more at the double entendres and ad-libbing that was the staple of In Melbourne Tonight with Graham Kennedy, Hey Hey It’s Saturday, Blankety Blanks, and the The Paul Hogan Show. It was like I was back in the Springfield library reading the newspapers from three weeks ago; but this time I was watching Australian television from forty years ago. I didn’t watch any current Australian television; I didn’t know what to search for. My Melbourne and Australian television YouTube watching was as up to date as my last visit back to the The Lucky Country.

image source:nfsa.gov.au

Over the years I slowly adopted American words and expressions at the expense of Australian sayings, phrases and words; I’ve tried to keep the Australian pronunciation of words that are common to both languages. On the first few visits back to the The Land Down Under I didn’t have an accent, but I had an accent in the US. I’m still told that I have an accent in the US, and now I have an accent in the The Land Down Under. I like to think that words roll off my tongue with a harmony of warmth and melodic foreign sounds.

Beechworth is a well preserved historical gold rush town in north east Victoria, Australia. Ian was dressed in period costume; waistcoat, faded black boots, low-slung belt, hat and moleskin trousers. His face was surrounded by long grey whiskers that resembled a mutton chop beard. He was our guide for our walking tour of Beechworth’s Historic and Cultural Precinct. The Precinct is made up of honey coloured granite buildings that were the home of the Superintendent of Police, Telegraph Station, Courthouse, Powder Magazine, and the Chinese Protector’s office.

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At the start of the tour Ian gathered our small group outside one of the heritage gold rush buildings to introduce himself, and for the group to introduce themselves. Ian heard me say I was from Nebraska in the United States, and from then on I was the yank. Ian regaled us with a blend of humour and facts, and when anybody answered a questions incorrectly he pretended to berate and mock the innocent drongo. I carefully constructed my answers to Ian’s questions around what I had learned in school about Victoria’s gold rush history; Ian was impressed with the yank. And Ian was further impressed with the yank when I reacted to an Ian joke, or risque question, with a response laced with my own humour. I chatted with Ian for a short time after the tour; he thought I was American and I never did tell him any different.

Tirau is about a forty minute dive from Rotorua. It’s a quaint New Zealand, North Island town and is known for the corrugated iron dog and sheep buildings on the main street. Across the road from the corrugations is the The Twisted Café. We stopped in for lunch at the The Twisted Café, and after I had chosen a slice of homemade egg and bacon pie I started chatting to the lady behind the counter.

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Lady behind the counter: Gidday where are ya from?
Me: (with swagger in my voice) G’Day; Australia, Melbourne
Lady behind the counter: Fair go bro, no you’re not; with a twang like that you can’t be from Melbourne eh
Me: (in a conciliatory tone) Yeah I’m from Melbourne; but I live in the US now
Lady behind the counter: I bloody knew it
Me: (concerned about driving to Rotorua) Think there’ll be rain today?
Lady behind the counter: (with a quizzical look) What do ya want to know about the marines?
Me: (with a charming smile) Cheers; hooroo

I don’t think many supporters wanted the Footscray Bulldogs to become the Western Bulldogs, or for the boys to move away from playing footie at the old home ground. I didn’t want to change from being an Aussie. I’ve now lived longer in the US than I did in Australia. A lot changes over time; I just don’t think you really notice it when you see it changing every day. The Aussie tradition I’m still holding onto is wearing shorts.

image source:jmcadam

I’ve worn shorts from when I first lived in Lincoln, Nebraska; way before you ever saw saw the United Parcel person or the postman in shorts. I still don’t wear a ball cap but I might start wearing a bright yellow Cricket Australia one with the Australian coat of arms on the front. I don’t think I’ve ever worn Australia on my sleeve so maybe I’ll wear it on my head.

After all that out of key loud singing my mouth feels like the bottom of a cocky’s cage; I think I’ll go out back and down a few neck oils.

 

Western Bulldogs

Australian Music 60s & 70s

Beechworth, Victoria

What If A Cucumber Sandwich Had Wings

The paddocks in central Nebraska were barren, and a sickly pale brown colour; most were covered in the corn stubble from last years crop. They had yet to become a sea of waving green as it was still too early in the year to be the start of spring. The early morning air was crisp, and the sky was clear and blue. Don Streeter led us across Brewster Field to the cluster of air plane hangers. Before we pushed his Cessna 172N from it’s hanger he unplugged and removed the engine heater, and did away with the designer cowling blanket. The sky was now a filtered blue with a few stratus clouds making their unhurried way across the horizon. Don completed the pre-flight inspection and we taxied onto the Holdrege airport runway; the barren, sickly pale brown colour paddocks were soon below us.

image source:jmcadam

Years ago a trip to the airport was enjoyable and speedy. There were no long queues or waiting; you arrived ten minutes before your flight and walked through a gate, and onto your plane. When I think back, I vaguely remember walking out a gate at the Essendon Airport passenger terminal to a TAA DC-3 resting on the tarmac. I must have been ten or twelve years old; we were flying from Melbourne to Tasmania with mum and dad, and my brother for a holiday. It would have been Trans Australia Airways, instead of Australian National Airways, because Aunt Bet’s husband’s sister worked as a hostess for TAA. We walked up the stairs into the plane, and then uphill along the aisle to get to our seats. I don’t remember flying to Tassie; but I remember going to the Blow Hole at Port Arthur. We must have rented a car, and dad must have braked or swerved; what happened next became the “when we were in Tassie” story. I must have been sitting on mum’s lap because I was thrown forward when the car lurched, and hit my chin on the dashboard; my teeth cut into my gums, and my mouth became a bloody mess. I don’t remember it happening but the story got retold and retold; causing me to remember the event. Whenever it was told mum’s calmness and bravery, and spur of the moment nursing skills, were talked about in great detail. And I was the brave little soldier who didn’t cry when he hit his chin on the dashboard of the car.

image source:jmcadam

I had disordered hair and a beard, and would have been wearing an Indian kurta, scarf, jeans, and sandals when I walked through the gate and onto a BOAC plane at Delhi airport. Delhi was my last stop after drifting through the Middle East, and into India along the ill defined Hippie Trail. I spent most of my time in Delhi wracked with intestinal pain; alone in a stark room, curled into a fetal position on a flimsy mattress. One afternoon when I was shuffling through the crowded, colourful, laneways and streets of Delhi, I stopped and rested in a small park. I only have uncertain memories of negotiating the price of a plane ticket to Melbourne with the young man in the park. I gave him Greek drachma’s, and we agreed that the stranger I had just met would return in the morning with a ticket, and we would ride to the airport together. I would pay him in US dollars for his service when we got to the airport. Early next morning I waited in the park; the stranger appeared. I only have scattered memories of the Tuk Tuk ride to the airport; I gave the young man the last of my US dollars.

image source:littlebigtravelingcamera.com

As I walked into the airport I wondered if I was clutching a genuine BOAC ticket. I only remember the food being served on a plate and using cutlery; the knives and fork came sealed in plastic sleeves. Some would say that airplane food was dreamed up by a culinary school drop out, but I remember the food as being outrageously delicious; I’d just spent the last few months wandering through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India eating mostly street vendor food with my hands.

I did a few other international airplane trips during the seventies. Melbourne’s brand new Tullamarine Airport had replaced Essendon Airport, and you now boarded your plane through a jet bridge. Security was some bloke giving you the once over, and if he thought you looked OK and weren’t a galah, then you boarded the plane. Back then, airports didn’t look like shopping malls. Going to the airport was stress free; you didn’t have to run the gauntlet of duty free shops, remove your shoes and belt, load up plastic tubs with stuff taken out of your bags and pockets, or worry about body imaging. You’d show up at the airport fifteen minutes before your flight and walk to the jet bridge with your friends or family; after a few kisses and hugs you were on your way.

image source:csmonitor.com

I thought back to those times at Tullamarine as I joined the writhing security screening line of bored and excited international passengers at Houston Intercontinental Airport. The line folded back on itself several times; the swaying people, shifting backpacks, rolling luggage, and moving carry on bags caused the line to constantly change it’s shape. The writhing line split into smaller lines as it moved toward the security screening stations. It was soon my turn to remove my shoes and belt, and load up the plastic tubs with the contents of my carry on bag and pockets; I stepped into the X-Ray machine. Upon stepping out of the full body scanning machine I was approached by a TSA agent. When they were slipping on a pair of latex gloves they asked if I would prefer my body pat down in private; I stood on the rubber mat in the designated space near the main screening area, with legs apart. The agent waved a hand held wand over me, and then explained they were going to run a latex gloved hand up one of my legs, across my groin, and down the other leg. As the TSA agent was thanking me for my cooperation I asked what had triggered the pat down. The imaging machine had detected an outline of a memory card embedded in my thigh.

image source:nationstates.net

It took all my strength to resist the overwhelming urge to walk through all of the imaging machines; similar to walking through a transit station’s X-ray metal detector to enter a safety zone. The TSA agent farewelled me with a nod, and I was soon sitting in the departure lounge, sipping coffee and trying to recall if I had put the camera’s memory card in my shorts pocket when it fell onto the airport floor in Chicago, and then put it back into the camera case when we deplaned at Houston. Could it have left some type of magnetic image on my thigh; somewhat akin to being irradiated with highly charged radioactive particles from a Gamma Bomb explosion I thought.

Victoria’s Parliament House is at the top end of Melbourne’s Bourke Street. It would be safe to say that most Melburnians have only visited Parliament House on a school excursion, for wedding party photos, or when they were holding a placard as part of a protest gathered on it’s sweeping steps. Most Melburnians confuse The Old Treasury Building for Parliament House. The last time I was anywhere close to Parliament House was in the seventies when I was a proud participant in the school teacher’s strikes and marches . A few months ago I slowly walked up the sweeping steps, and there wasn’t a bride or placard in sight. I was at Parliament House for Afternoon Tea.

image source:skmcadam

Afternoon Tea used to be an everyday event, but now it’s more likely to be something special in a hotel or restaurant. Nowadays, Afternoon Tea and High Tea are often used interchangeably; however most people use High Tea to suggest an extremely formal Afternoon Tea. Back when, Afternoon Tea was known as Low Tea and was served in the late afternoon. It included a teapot of loose tea with milk and sugar, and a selection of cucumber, tomato, tuna, ham, sardine, egg, and smoked salmon sandwiches; scones with butter, clotted cream and jam, and assorted cakes and pastries were also part of Afternoon Tea. Afternoon Tea was served on a lounge, or low table. High tea was an early evening meal eaten between 5:00 and 6:00 pm. It substituted for both Afternoon Tea and the evening meal, and consisted of cold meats, eggs, cakes, and sandwiches. High Tea was eaten at the main, or high table.

The Strangers Corridor restaurant serves members of Parliament and their guests, or strangers, when the Victorian Parliament is sitting; when it’s not sitting the public are welcome in the restaurant. Strangers Corridor is a wood paneled room with red velvet chairs and stain glass windows; accents of gold, and red and pink tones suggest a sense of taste and sophistication. I think one of the best kept secrets in Melbourne is the Afternoon Tea served at Strangers Corridor; freshly baked scones with jam and cream, exquisite pastries and finger sandwiches on tiered stands, and freshly brewed tea.

image source:jmcadam

It was a non-sitting Parliament day when I slowly walked up the sweeping steps of Parliament House. After the associate checked my name on their High Tea reservation print out list they escorted me through the door to the security screening station. I loaded up the plastic tubs with the content of my shoulder bag and pockets, and asked if I needed to remove my shoes and belt. I stepped into the walk through detector and paused for a moment; I wondered if I should mention the magnetic image of the memory card embedded in my thigh. Knowing that the layered strawberry vanilla slices, and the cucumber finger sandwiches were waiting I said nothing. I walked through and out of the detector without any alarms sounding, and was escorted through Queens Hall to Strangers Corridor. I eased back into a red velvet covered chair in a traditional leather booth, and as I watched the light shining through the stain glass windows play onto the white linen I slowly sipped champagne, and ran my hand along my thigh to feel for an embedded memory card.

image source:skmcadam

Travelers today spend a lot of their time waiting in airports. World airports are now morphing into community spaces; you can while away your airport hours in yoga rooms, beer halls, butterfly gardens, leisure zones and rooftop swimming pools, shop in luxury stores, and eat in upscale themed restaurants as you wait for your connecting flight. I would suggest airports start opening exclusive Tea Rooms, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of their other shopping and dining areas so you can idle away a few hours of airport time enjoying a posh Afternoon Tea. And you would only have to go through security screening one time.

 

The Best Places for High Tea in Melbourne

History of Parliament House

This Is What Your Flight Used To Look Like

You Get Out Of Something What You Breathe Into It

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Last year the forgotten memories of my travels through the circles of Industrial Chemist Hell were roused from the deep recess of my mind. Soon after boarding the Air New Zealand 777-300 I was nestled into my seat and tapping the seat back touchscreen; cycling through the hundreds of hours of movies and TV shows, hoping to find something that would entertain me for the next 13 hours. I kept coming back to Wonder Woman. I read, and reread the plot summary until I had it memorised; she was raised on a sheltered island and trained to become a warrior, and then the Amazon Princess, Diana Prince, discovers the endless war going on in the outside world. She embarks on a journey to end the war of all wars whilst discovering her true power as well.

And then I became lost in thought; how closely did my life follow Wonder Woman’s. I was raised in an idyllic age of innocence in the sheltered city of Williamstown and trained to become an Industrial Chemist; a scientist who mixes chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds. My white lab coat would be stained, and frayed with acid burns, after the second day on the job. I would be my own discovery team, and wallow in complex research projects. I discover the seventies, the world of change and uncertainty, and embark on a journey of discovery; searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary whilst uncovering my true self. The bumping of the approaching drink trolley distracted me from my ruminations.

My first job when I finished at Footscray Institute was as an Industrial Chemist at Spartan Paint’s West Footscray factory. The laboratory I was in didn’t have beakers, Bunsen burners, test tubes or any of the apparatus usually associated with a chemistry lab. It was a Process Control lab in which scaled down formulations of proposed automotive paints were mixed, and tested to assess if they met car makers’ specifications. The paints were tested for orange peeling, viscosity, flow, metallic solid suspension, natural and artificial weathering, and adhesion. To test for weathering a paint sample was sprayed onto small metal panels. Each day I took the small painted panels to the weather testing racks that were in a paddock over the road from the factory; I also collected the panels from the racks that were ready for lab testing.

image source:sheffieldmetals.com

As a Paint Scientist I collected samples when a truck load of paint solvents was delivered to the factory, and took the samples to the lab for quality control testing. I must have been a Paint Scientist for about nine months when I started thinking that there must be more to being a Paint Scientist than changing painted metal panels, and carrying solvent samples to the lab; when will I mix chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds, and invent new products. I started to find reasons to leave the lab and I would wander aimlessly through the different areas of the plant. I found myself stopping to talk to the lone worker in the solvent holding area. The air he breathed was thick with the smell of benzene derivatives, and organic ketones. There was no ventilation, and no one was required to wear protective clothing, or use a respirator. Every conversation I had with my solvent caretaker confidant was always interrupted by his constant sniffing of a folded scrap of material. One day he shared that he soaked scraps of material in different solvents; spending his days at work, and at home sniffing solvents.

image source:californiadetoxhelpline.com

I left Spartan Paints within the year; I never did develop new and improve products, or invent new automotive paint formulas.

My second job as an Industrial Chemist was in Process Control at The Olympic Tyre and Rubber Company. Olympic Tyre was also in West Footscray; across the railway line from Spartan Paints. Process Control tested and analysed the raw and process materials, and the finished tyres to ensure everything met Olympic’s standards and quality. I still remember the first time I saw the laboratory; beakers, flasks, measuring cylinders, condensers, and other lab glassware glistened in the stark laboratory light. And I thought how I wouldn’t be shackled to the mundane, routine, day to day testing of melting point, moisture volume, dry mass volume, percentage of heavy metals, tensile strength, density and refractive index of raw materials and different rubber mixes. I would be my own discovery team, creating new synthetic polymeric compounds, and reinventing the world of automobile tyres.

image source:jmcadam

I sat at a desk in a huge open area, upstairs from the lab. The desks were arranged in groups of four; a clerical worker sat facing me and another clerical worker sat alongside him, and my supervisor sat beside me. I was a Tyre Product Scientist. Twice a day I would go into the factory and collect samples of raw materials at the rubber mixing mills, and samples of batch rubber at the different mixing and extruder machines. The factory air was laden with the smell of sulphur and rubber, and the scent of polymers and monomers; it was dense with fine particles of suspended carbon and moist from the heat of the curing presses. It was the era before ear plugs, safety glasses and helmets, protective clothing, and respirators and ventilation. I took the samples to the Process Control lab for quality control testing. I sat at my desk between the morning and afternoon sample collection walkabouts reading trade magazines about the tyre manufacturing process; it was an era before the Internet. The days were a duplicate of each other, and after several months I started thinking that a Tyre Product Scientist has to do more that collect samples of raw and process materials, and carry samples to the lab; when will I create new synthetic polymeric compounds and reinvent the automobile tyre.

image source:buerolandschaft.net

I found other reasons to leave my desk and the trade magazines, and I wandered aimlessly through the different areas of the factory. The operators of the milling and extruding machines were dwarfed by their mechanical masters. It started with a slight wave and nod of the head as I was passing, and soon I was stopping for a short time; I watched in silence, spellbound as he became master of his tyre building machine. In perfect synchronisation with the moving drums, and levers and foot pedals, he reached for the different sheets of rubber; he layered the inner rubber, bead, sidewall, and tread. I watched him build Olympic tyres. My brief stops grew into long delays, but we only exchanged nods, and an occasional thumbs up; he didn’t speak English. We shared the smell of sulphur, antioxidants, and rubber, and breathed the damp, powdery carcinogenic air. I don’t remember his name. The days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months; I wandered the factory floor, stopping to watch in silence, the tyre builder. That afternoon was no different than any other; I left my desk tidy, hung my white lab coat in my locker, clocked out, and walked out of the Olympic building.

image source:pixabay

And for the next forty plus years I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking back to when I wanted to be a scientist who mixed chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds; a scientist whose white lab coat would be stained, and frayed with acid burns after the second day on the job, and who would be his own discovery team and wallow in complex research projects.

I was so immersed in Wonder Woman that the bumping of the approaching meal trolley didn’t even distract me from the colour and movement on the seat back touchscreen. We had just arrived at Dr. Poison’s lab. The disfigured, diabolical chemist was pioneering a deadly new form of toxic mustard gas; it couldn’t be stopped by protective masks. And my forgotten memories came flooding back. I was the scientist who was going to mix chemicals to create new synthetic polymers and compounds; my lab coat was going to be stained and frayed with acid burns. I had inhaled air laden with biohazadeous pollutants and powdery granular particles of synthetic compounds. I had breathed air dank with the heavy mist of evaporated ketones, aldehydes, and benzene derivatives. I pushed pause, and was soon in deep thoughts about Dr. Poison’s facial prosthetics; had she suffered a severe injury from inhaling toxic, radioactive chemicals, or had she just made a dreadful mistake when mixing chemicals in her lab.

image source:screenrant.com

I wondered if two years of continuously breathing toxic air could cause tissue or cell damage and if your body heat, and the natural pressures inside your brain, could cause a catalytic polymerisation reaction of contaminates transferred to the blood in your lungs, causing them to become biocellular regenerative reactant. If that was the case then the lungs would be able to hold incredible amounts of air; was I able to hold my breath for hours, able to breathe out massive gusts of air to create gale force winds, and suck in air to generate vortexes. On the seat back touchscreen the mind boggling, computer generated, green screen digital finale of Wonder Woman was unfolding.

The one thing I took with me from the years studying chemistry at Footscray Institute was to live life according to the scientific principle; observe, create a hypothesis, and experiment to test your theory. I had to test my biocellular regenerative reactant hypothesis. I needed a controlled environment with calibrated instruments to measure my breath flow and lung capacity. Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. Two weeks later we were confronted by bright flashing lights and arrows, and a line of waving torches escorting cars into a corridor of cones; a booze bus stop. The police woman politely explained that I was about to undergo a random alcohol breath test; she was going to request a sample of the air in my lungs to determine the concentration of alcohol in my body.

image source:scramsystems.com

Police Woman: Sir, please take a deep breath and blow into the mouthpiece.
Me: No worries.
Police Woman: (questioning the reading on the calibrated breathalyser and replacing the mouthpiece) Sir, would you mind taking another deep breath and blow again.
Me: No worries.
Police Woman: (after looking at the second reading; with a puzzled looked, and replacing the mouthpiece) Sorry sir, but it doesn’t seem to be working correctly; would you mind blowing into the mouthpiece again.
Me: No worries.
Police Woman: (quizzically looking at the reading on the calibrated breathalyser; conferring with another team member and replacing the mouthpiece) Sir, we’ll give it one more try; I’ve never seen this before, a deep breath, sir.
Me: (after taking an incredible deep breath and with a knowing smile) No worries.
Police Woman: (after checking the calibrated breathalyser) It just doesn’t seem to be working properly; thank you sir for your cooperation; have a wonderful evening, or what’s left of it.
Me: No worries, see ya.

As I drove out through the cones and onto Westgate Bridge’s Williamstown Road Yarraville on ramp I smiled, and repeated several times; observe, create a hypothesis, and experiment to test your theory.

I think I’ll start blowing up a balloons with my nose. Sureshgaur from Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India claimed the record of 10.62 seconds in 2014 for the fastest time of blowing up a balloon with your nose before it bursts; it shouldn’t be a problem to crush Sureshgaur’s record.

image source:jmcadam

 

Olympic Tyre & Rubber Co.

Victoria Police Fake Alcohol Breath Test

The Origins Of Wonder Woman

Good Feng Shui Is The Smell Of A Hotel Room Carpet

After I moved to the US I went back and visited the The Land Down Under every two years. Mum still lived in the house I grew up in, and I would always sleep in my bedroom. Nothing in the house ever changed; it stayed the same as it was when I was a young boy. Time never stands still, and the years between the visits when I sleep in my bedroom became every three to four years. You never know it at the time, but there came a last time I stayed in the house I grew up in; mum moved to a private nursing home.

image source:jmcadam

Instead of visiting the The Land Down Under the year mum moved we spent some time roaming Southern England and Wales, sightseeing London, and after Christmas window shopping at Harrrods and Oxford Street. Our return flight to the US left Heathrow the afternoon of December 31st and arrived in Detroit late New Years Eve, and our Omaha flight was scheduled for early next morning; it made sense to stay in a hotel close to the airport. I made the room reservation online before leaving for Britain; I remember falling into a mind numbing trance when the price of a night’s accommodation appeared on the screen. I kept repeating in a soft whimpering stammer; New Years Eve 1995, room at hotel inside Detroit Airport, hundred dollars a night. I vowed I would never pay a hundred dollars a night again for a hotel room.

image source:jmcadam

The airport was deserted when we deplaned; our British Airways flight was the last flight into Detroit for 1995. After flying the Detroit-Heathrow route for more than 50 years British Airways discontinued it in March 2008.

I never thought the day would come. When I visited mum in the nursing home I didn’t stay in the house I grew up in. The Savoy Park Plaza Hotel was on the corner of Spencer Street and Little Collins Street opposite Spencer Street Station. The stairs to the Spencer Street pedestrian subway tunnel were on Little Collins Street, outside the entrance to the hotel. The Southern Cross Station was still an architect’s abstract doodling on a serviette after a few rounds of bar drinks; the sweeping undulant roof that was to define the new station was still a dream. Our room was refurbished with a theme of subdued, timeless elegance. In the mornings I would stand, looking out the room’s window, watching the goods wagons being shunted; the tangle of railway lines that made up the Spencer Street Yards separated the Station from the Goods Sheds. The interstate and country trains, and the Blue Harris and Red Tait’s, roamed the tangle of railways lines trying to find their assigned platforms; just like chooks running around when they don’t know what to do.

image source:jmcadam

I remember the Savoy’s marbled lobby and the touch’s of Art Deco design, and the open light filled Wintergarden cafe, provided a relaxing retreat to enjoy an afternoon cup of tea. The Savoy was the first hotel I stayed at after I had vowed I would never pay a hundred dollars a night again for a hotel room; it was more than a hundred dollars a night.

Mum fell off the perch not all that long after we had visited. The house of my memories was sold at auction, and the bedroom that I always sleep in had become just another room in someone else’s house.

The Quest in Flinders Lane, now known as Flinders Landing, was the second Melbourne hotel substitute for the house I grew up in. The Quest was one of a new breed of accommodations; a warehouse refurbished into a complex of boutique, serviced apartments. The small kitchen didn’t compare to mum’s, but you could still whip up a good serving of cutlets or rissoles for tea. It was back when Flinders Lane was still Flinders Lane, and Hosier Lane was only a cobbled bluestone laneway. The Gas and Fuel monoliths at the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets had been demolished, and the busy railway lines were being roofed over to create Federation Square. The Quest was over a hundred dollars a night; however it was discounted at the Travellers Aide booth at Tullamarine Airport.

image source:facebook

Over the next several years there was an assortment of franchise and private hotels, family bed and breakfast homes, guest houses, and country inns and pubs, in Scotland and Canada, a collection of US towns and cities, New Zealand, and the Australian towns of Castlemaine, Brisbane, Cairns, Alice Springs, Hobart, Beechworth, and Melbourne, that became a home away from home. Never paying a hundred dollars a night again for a hotel room became easier said than done; I’d reckon that it shouldn’t be all that hard finding a night’s accommodation for less than a hundred dollars, even when you eliminate budget hotels with plastic chairs and ashtrays outside the room, and hotels close to the outlet malls with rooms with heart shaped baths, or champagne towers and Greek columns.

From back when I stayed in cheap inexpensive hotels, I had a thesaurus of filters, such as threadbare, dilapidated, heart shaped, rodents, cockroaches and mould, crumbling masonry, pigeon droppings, shared bathrooms, and water damage that I used when making a hotel reservation. I remember a stark room in New Delhi. It had a small rickety bed with a flimsy mattress on which I would drift into and out of sleep. I spent most of the time wracked with intestinal pain, and folded into a fetal position; crawling and shuffling across the concrete floor to a small room with a hole in the floor to expunge watery liquids. I would stumble into the street to buy bananas; only to crawl back into the small room with a hole in the floor. When I didn’t eat, I tried to venture into the pulsating, chaotic streets of New Delhi; most times bouts of searing pain caused me to double in two. And I shuffled along with the other Delhiites through the crowded, colourful laneways and roads.

image source:npr.org

The first room that I slept in, in the US was a small shabby room. I arrived in San Francisco late at night. The Greyhound shuttle only got you from the airport to the downtown bus terminal; I had no idea where I was in the city; alone in a strange city, late at night with no where to stay. I walked with the fellow Aussie I had chatted with on the flight from the The Land Down Under, and we headed to the hotel where he had booked a room. I thought I would stay at the same hotel. The smiling receptionist explained there were no vacancies, and suggested the best option was one of the hotels a few blocks down the street; but cautioned it was on the fringe of a blighted area. The room was sparse and had a small rickety bed in the corner; a basement type window was set high in one wall, and the outside footpath with only shuffling legs of pedestrians, was all you could see through the top half of the window. And for three nights the police car sirens caused me to drift into and out of limited, restless sleep. The neglected area was close to the Powell and Market Street Cable Car Turnaround.

image source:dreampalacekovalam.com/

For the trek last year to the The Land Down Under we thought about couchsurfing, monastery stays, and hostel dormitory rooms; but instead turned to Airbnb to search for accommodation that was less than a hundred dollars a night. Albert Park is an inner suburb or Melbourne, nestled between the beaches of Port Phillip Bay and Albert Park Lake. It’s known for its stunning Victorian and Edwardian period houses, and leafy tree lined streets; I rented a flat in Albert Park before gentrification and upper-class affluence became the norm. Airbnb provided a refurbished , single fronted, stylish weatherboard Victorian house. It consisted of a bedroom and a modern bathroom off the main hallway; the hallway opened into an open well equipped kitchen and pleasant living space. A small outdoor patio with a BBQ was off the living space.

image source:jmcadam

It didn’t take long before I was back being an Albert Park local; catching the tram into town, walking the leafy streets, and shopping the local shops. One morning I came across a similar house to our Albert Park home with an auction sign on the front fence. The next Saturday I joined the other interested buyers on the footpath for the auction. The house was a fully renovated Victorian with an upstairs addition; a small front bedroom with an open fireplace was the only original feature left of the house. The interior had been gutted and the house now had a small enclosed central bathroom with a concealed laundry, and a small hallway opening into a combined living space made up of a small kitchen, and a dining and living space; folding doors opened onto a tiny courtyard. The upstairs addition contained the main bedroom with walk in robes; I tried to imagine a queen size bed in the space. A shower and toilet were squeezed into the left over space. The bidding started at a million dollars. The house was sold for just shy of a million and a half dollars.

image source:jmcadam

After the auction I sauntered back to our over a hundred dollars a night house. I put the kettle on the stove in the well equipped kitchen, poured a cup of tea, and retreated to the small outdoor patio with a BBQ. I sipped slowly on my hot tea, dipped an Arnott’s Tic Toc, and allowed myself to ponder; our over a hundred dollars a night Albert Park house was a million dollar house. I was staying in a million dollar house. Before leaving Melbourne, and the million dollar Albert Park house, I checked the value of mum’s old house; it isn’t up for auction but it’s estimated value range is $870,000 – $1,099,999. The bedroom that I slept in through my childhood and teenage years is now just another room in someone’s million dollar house.

As I reflected back on not upholding my vow of never paying a hundred dollars a night again for a hotel room, I decided that my failure was really a success; every failure in life becomes a foundation to build on. And as I dipped another Arnott’s Tic Toc into my cup of tea I vowed; on future holidays I will only sleep in million dollar houses.

 

Arnott’s Tic Toc Biscuits

Southern Cross Station Redevelopment Project, Melbourne

South Melbourne and Albert Park

You Can Only See The Change From The Footpath

I went back to Australia every couple of years after I first moved to the US. As time went by the trips back to the The Lucky Country became every three to four years; and then they grew even longer. The last two trips back Down Under were in 2016 and 2017. Whenever I went back I would walk the streets of Newport and Williamstown; the streets I walked and bicycled as a young boy and teenager. And whenever I walked those streets I saw my gentrified memories. At first the changes in the houses and shops were subtle. The Victorian and Edwardian houses, and the 1920’s and 30’s weatherboard houses that lined both sides of the street where I once lived were slowly being renovated and refurbished. The charm of Williamstown and Newport was being discovered; the homes of the working class were selling for a million to two million plus dollars.

image source:jmcadam

Just over six months ago I stood on the corner of Williamstown’s Stevedore Street and Douglas Parade and stared; Burke’s had been refurbished into six shops. The emporium had been at the corner since 1926; I was intimidated by it as a young boy. I wouldn’t go into the shop without mum. Burke’s sold men’s and women’s clothing, haberdasheries, bedding, linens, curtains, and everything else. Inside the shop a wooden floor separated the glass display counters of the different departments; and each department had a shopping assistant, ready to serve, waiting behind their glass display counter. It was all so polite and formal; except for the tangle of overhead cables, and the small metal cylinders flying back and forth along the cables. I was mesmerised by the cylinders, and fantasised I was watching Squadron Commander James Bigglesworth bank and roll his Sopwith Camel in the skies over WWI Europe. I would stand spellbound, and my eyes would follow the whistling sound of the cylinders as they sped along the cable; a clunking sound announced their arrival at their destination. The cylinders carried money from the different departments in the shop to a raised central cashier’s booth. After an assistant made a sale the customer’s payment, and the docket were put into a cylinder, and it was attached onto a two wheel carrier hanging from the cable. The assistant pulled a cord and the cylinder was launched along the cable to the cashier’s booth; the cashier put the receipt and change back into the cylinder, and sent it back to the department.

image source:notechmagazine.com

As I ambled along Douglas Parade towards the corner of Douglas Parade and Ferguson Street I started to think about the shoe shop that was once there; it had an upright X Ray machine in the doorway. The machine displayed an eerie image of bones, and a faint outline of your foot on a florescent screen. The shoe salespeople asked customers to put one of their feet into the machine so they could get an exact measurement of the size of their foot. There wasn’t a youngster in Williamstown who cared about the size of their foot; but we were all fascinated by the X Ray shoe fitter machine. We all crossed over the street whenever we came close to the Douglas Parade and Ferguson Street corner so we would be on the same side of the street as the machine. It was hard not to run as you got close to the X Ray shoe fitter machine. And then the moment came; you pushed your feet into and then out, then sideways, and then both together, into the opening of the machine. Back then we were innocent about electromagnetic radiation; we stared at the eerie florescent images on the screen as we moved and turned our feet. I wonder if that’s why my big toes are bent; and why my second toes have large bends in the middle joint. The shoe shop is now a real estate shop; auctioning what was once the homes of the working class for a million to two million plus dollars.

image source:google maps

Just as I had paused outside of Burke’s emporium I now hesitated on the footpath in front of Patterson’s furniture shop; there were no televisions in the window. Patterson’s is at the bottom end of Ferguson Street; just before the Cenotaph, and the Nelson Place and Strand intersection. The windows always displayed lounge and bedroom furniture, lighting, decor accessories, and the most up to date electrical goods and appliances of the fifties and early sixties. I watched television for the first time from the footpath outside Pattersons windows. I squinted at the small black and white television set showing the 1956 Olympic Games; all of us on the footpath wondered how it was possible to watch the Golden Girl Betty Cuthbert, Dawn Fraser, and Murray Rose when they were competing at the MCG and the swimming stadium. When the Olympics were not being broadcast we watched a black and white test pattern image, and sometimes black and white static; the footpath was a congested, crowded place. I never thought that staring at a screen that gave off some type of unknown electomagnetic radiation could cause my eyes to melt.

image source:commercialrealestate.com.au

And now, the windows that once bedazzled us with all that was new in the fifties and sixties were separate shops; the Yambuki Japanese restaurant, an Ella Bache skin therapy day spa, Cocoa Latte, H&R Block, and the YN alterations and clothing repair shop. I squinted at a verandah sign peering out from behind the Ella Bache’s skin therapy day spa sign; staring just as I did years ago when I stood in front of Patterson’s windows. And I wondered; what’s an organic dry cleaner. What would an organic dry cleaner dry clean. Would you take spandex bicycle shorts to an organic dry cleaner. And could you use an organic dry cleaner if the stains on your clothes were just conventional food residue.

The organic dry cleaner’s window featured a display of old Singer sewing machines. Mum had a Singer. She worked as a seamstress before she married dad and was an incredible sewer. Mum could make anything. She made my first grown up clothes; I was maturing into a teenager when she sewed my new blue blazer, and grey long trousers. They were about twice the size they should have been; they were made to grow into. I soon learnt that the organic dry cleaner’s did more than sewing, cleaning was their business; dry cleaning, and cleaning leather and suede, pram and baby seats, and rugs. They cleaned everything with an environmentally friendly, and chemical free service; and they used state of the art dry to dry technology which insulated fabrics from damage that water usually caused.

image source:slv.vic.gov.au

Mum never talked about water causing damage to our clothes; maybe the water was different back then. When our combined bathroom, mum’s washing room, was remodelled, mum’s copper was replaced with a washing machine with a clothes wringer, the cement wash troughs were switched over to brushed metal, and a briquette water heater was added to provide the kitchen and bathroom with running hot water. Even though mum now had running hot water to her wash troughs, and a washing machine with a wringer, her washing process stayed the same; soak the clothes for at least a day in cold water in the troughs but instead of boiling them in the copper throw them into the washing machine with Lux or Velvet, and then rinse and wring out twice to get rid of the soapy water before hanging everything on the rotary clothes hoist in the backyard. Mum used a bucket to carry the water from the one day soaking to water her passion fruit vine, and other assortment of flowering plants growing in the backyard; and that was her environmentally friendly, and chemical free process of washing clothes.

image source:jmcadam

At least three Australian fashion brands are now offering sustainable produced, non toxic, organic sleepwear, leisurewear, and underpants; all garments are made from GOTS certified cotton, where no toxic chemicals are used when it is spun, woven and dyed. Maybe there is a need for organic dry cleaners; there should be somewhere to take your stained organic knickers to get them cleaned. But then again, if Lux can get a load of nappies spotless there should be no worries with a few stained grundies.

Mum’s washing days were always Monday and Thursday; Friday was her grocery shopping day. She bought her meat from three different butcher shops. The windows of the shops displayed neatly arranged metal trays of sausages, mince meat, chops, cutlets, tripe, kidney, tongue, rabbit, and rissoles. The butchers served mum by scooping her order from the trays in the window, weighing it on the counter scale, and then wrapping each order in several sheets of white butchers paper; there wasn’t a polystyrene tray, shrink film, or vacuum pouch in sight. And the butchers wouldn’t be seen dead wearing a hair net, and their hands wouldn’t come within cooee of a pair of vinyl gloves.

image source:jmcadam

The sign on the footpath outside the butchers seduced me into the shop. There wasn’t a hint of sawdust on the floor; the butcher was dressed in a denim bib apron with rope straps, and was wearing a pork pie hat. The apron was detailed with a front statement pocket, and was protecting a black gingham check shirt.

Me: G’day mate
Butcher: G’day mate; before ya order let me get the missus out here so you can meet patty; just a little butcher’s joke, what can I do for ya
Me: I saw your sign on the footpath; what’s biodynamic lamb
Butcher: Ya heard of organic farming mate; biodynamics takes it a step further; it’s traditional farming that uses the universal cosmic forces in the environment
Me: Fair suck of the sav mate
Butcher: Na, fair dinkum mate, it uses the natural life forces
Me: (thinking to oneself) He’s gotta have a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock
Butcher: The healthful energies mate
Me:No worries mate; I’ll see ya later
Me: What do ya call a cow with no legs
Me: Ground beef; cheers
Butcher: I think I’ll use that one, see ya

I don’t think mum would have ever put biodynamic cutlets or tripe on a plate and served it to us. When I thought about the changes to the Ferguson Street shops, I wondered how long it would be before a biodynamic dry cleaner opened; where else would you get a shirt cleaned after you dropped a piece of biodynamic cutlet smothered in mustard cream sauce down the front of you.

Perhaps I was too spellbound by the small metal tubes flying back and forth along the maze of overhead cables, but I don’t remember ever seeing anything close to biodynamic organic underpants made from Global Organic Textile Standard certified organic cotton, at Burke’s emporium; a Chesty Bond singlet and Y front undies was as good as it got. I think Chesty Y fronts have morphed into Guyfront Trunks; which just goes to prove that whatever happened will change into something else.

 

Cripes! Biggles Was Real

Shoe-Fitting Fluoroscope

The Melbourne 1956 Games

Never Lick A Touch Screen With A Mouth Full Of Coffee

I started shopping at a big box supermarket about six months ago; shopping means buying one each of the same two items. Every few weeks I push a shopping trolley through the aisles of the big box and fill it with a large 80 oz bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee, and a 12-pack of Victoria beer. Victoria beer is brewed by the Mexican brewery giant Grupo Modelo; the company responsible for introducing the world to Corona. I’m not a beer aficionado yet I’m going to drink Victoria, which some might call a dark golden pilsener type beer, in preference to Budweiser or Miller; and I’m going to drink any type of bock or porter over Victoria, Budweiser, and Miller. However there’s still nothing better than knocking back a cold Melbourne Bitter.

image source:carltondraft.com

I’ve got used to shopping at the big box supermarket. I think some shoppers are intimidated by the never ending aisles, the astonishing number of different products, and the overall starkness of the big box. I’ve developed a routine whenever I visit the big box; on each visit I greet the mature big box customer host with a nod and a G’day, wipe the handle of my empty shopping trolley with a sanitising wipe taken from a small container on a stand by the anti theft alarm security system, and push my trolley through and around the grocery section; always down the same two aisles. The first aisle is the coffee, tea, Milo, and hot cocoa aisle, and the beer, and wine and spirits is second. In no time my trolley is loaded with a bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee, and a 12-pack of Victoria beer, and I’m heading to the collection of stand alone, do-it-myself checkout systems at the front of the shop. Without waiting for the automated greeting from the stand alone, do-it-myself checkout system I insert my credit card into the system. I patiently stand, staring at the screen, watching an animation of something moving over a little black hole. I follow the moving something; back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth. I absentmindedly wave the bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee back and forth across the scanning bed; regardless of how I wave there are no beeps, and so I beckon an associate to the do-it-myself checkout system to finish the scanning, and navigate the lurking options of the payment screens.

image source:jmcadam

I’ve only managed to successfully check in three out of the four times I’ve used an airport self-service check-in. I didn’t really manage the three check-ins; they happened only after I beckoned a check-in agent to the self-service check-in kiosk. The agent navigated the series of touch screens needed to confirm my flight information, seat assignment, and print my boarding pass; after check-in they gestured toward the check-in counter. The counter associate requested my name, destination, boarding pass, and identification; keyboarding my responses into a computer. After checking my bag I was handed a bar coded luggage claim ticket. Sometimes I’m a little slow, and not process orientated; as I walked away from the check-in counter I pondered, except for checking in the bag, didn’t I just do all that stuff at the self-service check-in kiosk.

The fourth time I used an airport self-service check-in kiosk was in the International Terminal at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. I approached a collection of kiosks pushing a trolley loaded with two check-in bags, and an assortment of carry-on items. The first self-service check-in kiosk was out of order; I chose another, and waited behind a fellow traveler. We were soon chatting, and before long our chatter became questions without answers; we were a problem solving team trying to decode the digital hieroglyphics on the touch screen. We left the self-service check-in kiosk together and headed to the check-in counter. I stood ready at the check-in counter with my eticket, ePassport, and US permanent resident alien card.

image source:jmcadam

I first travelled on an ePassport a couple of years ago on a visit back to the The Land Down Under. The Australian ePassport has an embedded microchip which contains the information on the passport’s photo page as well as a digital image of the bearer. As we approached a stand alone kiosk in the arrivals concourse of Brisbane Airport’s International terminal the airline associate assisting us asked

ave you used SmartGate mate; give us yu passport. no worries

Before I could answer they had taken my ePassport and pushed it into a slot in the front of the kiosk. I responded to a couple of questions that appeared on the touch screen; had I been exposed to any contagious diseases, and was I carrying quarantine contraband. The kiosk dispensed a ticket.

grab yu ticket mate, we’re goin to the gate; you’ll see why they call it SmartGate.

The gate part of SmartGate is like an anti theft alarm security entrance system at a big box supermarket, but with a gate and a camera. To navigate SmartGate you push your ticket from the kiosk into a slot near the gate, stare at the camera, and when the gate opens grab your ticket and through you go. After collecting your luggage you hand over your ticket and your completed Incoming Passenger Card, to an Australian Border Force officer.

image source:couriermail.com.au

A year after SmartGate I was greeted at the Auckland International arrivals terminal by an associate directing arriving passengers to different immigration stations.

Associate:G’day; where yu from mate, what nationality
Me: G’day mate, Australian, but I live in the states now
Associate: Yu poor bugger mate, but go through eGate anyway
Me: Cheers mate, no worries

I had SmartGated and now I had eGated.

I’ve since learnt that SmartGate uses a form of facial recognition technology; it compares the image that it captures of your face, to the digital image it uploads from the chip embedded in your ePassport. Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection is in the process of introducing a contactless system of SmartGate at Australian airports. You won’t show your passport; instead you’ll be processed by biometric technology and facial recognition. The roll out out should be completed by March 2019.

image source:disruptionhub.com

As I thought back to my ePassport entry experiences at Auckland and Brisbane airports I pondered; why don’t supermarkets use grocery recognition technology. It wouldn’t take much to adapt the facial recognition technology used at airports to grocery shop recognition. In this day and age an image of every grocery item; fruit, booze, breads and bakery products, house cleaning and laundry supplies, and whatever else is on a supermarket shelf has to be already somewhere in a cloud database. All it would take for grocery shop recognition is to attach cameras around the inside perimeter of the shopping trolleys so as to capture an image of what’s put into a trolley. Software would compare the image from the trolley’s cameras to cloud database images. When a match is made the price would be electronically added to a shopper’s digital account; and to check out just insert a credit card into the trolley’s card reader.

image source:chicagotribune.com

The big box super market associate who finished the scanning, and navigated the touch screen options of the payment screens, loaded my bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee, and 12-pack of Victoria beer back into my shopping trolley. I stuffed the receipt from the system into the 12-pack, pushing it between a couple of bottles, and steered the trolley toward the anti theft alarm security system. As I passed the mature customer host they rewarded me with smile, and a thank you for shopping at the big box; and then transformed themselves into a theft prevention agent with, “do you have a receipt for the bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee and the 12-pack of Victoria beer”. I gestured into the shopping trolley and replied, “in the 12-pack mate”. The recipe inspection went smoothly, but it caused me to puzzle about checking a customer with nine bulging plastic shopping bags. How long would it take the customer host to rummage through nine shopping bags and match all the items to the receipt, and does the customer host have a special magnetic imaging bar code OCR wand they whip out on such occasions.

image source:occupy.com

I looked up at the security camera as I walked through the anti theft alarm security system and smiled. The captured image of my face was no doubt already digitised and uploaded to a cloud database, waiting to be called upon by facial recognition technology.

Apple has now rolled out it’s own face recognition technology. They claim Face ID will recognise a face in the dark, if you’re wearing glasses or a hat, or if you’ve grown a beard. Many people already use Apple Pay as a digital wallet for purchases in shops and online. I’m taking bets that Apple Pay and Face ID will soon be mashed, and we’ll have Face Shopping; swipe right for a digital payment, take a quick selfie, and select PayNow from the Face Shopping app. So whenever you shop at a brick and mortar, or on line, you’ll need to have your selfie stick handy. I would also suggest an app, or an Instagram filter, for a quick bit of digital smoothing out of the wrinkles, reshaping the nose and eyes, and body shaping, or adding virtual koala ears, nerd glasses, a butterfly crown, gold crown, or bunny ears to the top of your face before you select PayNow.

image source:jmcadam

Smile to Pay will also be a feature of credit cards. Credit cards databases will soon warehouse facial images, and facial recognition technology will be seamlessly integrated into all card payments. Ordering at a macca’s drive through will be as simple as inserting your card and announcing,”I’ll have a tomato relish brekkie roll”, looking into the menu camera and smiling to be authenticated for Smile to Pay, and then pulling up to window one.

I need to start practising taking selfies when I’m watching the shopping channels on the iPad; getting the angle of the head right, doing a quick whitening of the teeth, getting rid of any red-eye, recolouring any grey hairs, resculpturing the jawline, and adding a warm, neon glow to the selfie. Who knows when I’ll next see an Allan Moffat signed XY GTHO Falcon pencil sketch on one of the shopping channels.

 

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