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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

I’ll Have The Takeaway To Go

Every time I wear an oversize pair of lobster claws I start thinking about crayfish stacked in neat rows in a fish shop window. Growing up I didn’t know about lobsters; only crayfish and yabbies. I remember going yabbing a couple of times; it must have been in my late teens and with a few mates. We had driven somewhere into the near bush just outside of Melbourne to find a fresh water stream. How to catch yabbies is just something you grow up instinctively knowing how to do; the same as you know what brussel sprouts taste like, that rain will make you wet, and kangaroos can’t walk backwards.

image source:jmcadam

I found the most successful method for yabbing to be:

  • Crack open a VB
  • Tie a piece of meat to a few feet of string
  • Tie one end of the string to a stick and push the stick into the bank
  • Throw the end of the string with the meat into the water
  • Crack open another VB
  • Wait until the string pulls tight; a yabby has grabbed the meat in it’s claws and is trying to make off with it
  • Crack open one more VB
  • Pull the string slowly back to the bank
  • When you can just reach the meat and the yabby scoop them out of the water with a net; or use a shoe box or anything from the car boot that can be used as a scoop
  • Crack open yet another VB
  • Repeat the above

Most times you’d buy a fresh cray to cook at home in a pot of boiling water, or to save yourself some work a red coloured cooked one, from the fish and chip shop. I didn’t eat a lot of cray; If I had to I’d crack open the claws for bits of fresh white meat. I never sucked the head to savour what some people claimed was the most moist and flavourful of the cray. I don’t think crayfish have a brain so I don’t really know what you’d be sucking out of the head when you did the head suck; probably chunks of crayfish fatty gel stuff that’s been spiced up with the seasoning’s from the boiling water used to cook the cray.

image source:pixabay

Even though Australia was introduced to a new range of smells, tastes and ingredients at the end of the Second World War by Italian, Greek, Turkish and Lebanese immigrants it took time for these new ethnic cuisines to transform Australian restaurants, and culinary traditions. Instead, it seemed as if every fruit shop, milk bar, and fish and chip shop was owned by a Greek, Turkish or Lebanese family. And the Italian immigrants opened pizza shops. Australian takeaway was transformed; it became more than a pie and sauce. Takeaway fish and chips became a Friday night treat when we were growing up. Dad would drive to the fish and chip shop in Melbourne Road and come back with a newspaper wrapped parcel; the newspapers were moist with the frier fat from the fish and chips, and potato cakes, that had soaked through the papers.

image source:foodandtravelfun.com

Newport’s Melbourne Road also had a pizza shop. Back then pizzas were exotic and mysterious; and the names only added to their mystic. I remember the Capricciosa and Neapolitan; we only ordered what we knew. The Capricciosa came with tomato paste, cheese, chopped ham, mushroom, and diced olives, but sometimes you would ask for no olives. And the Neapolitan was tomato paste, cheese, mushrooms, chopped olives, and anchovies, but you never ate the anchovies. The backup pizza was the Capri; tomato paste, cheese, chopped ham, and mushroom. And then the Italian pizza shop owners started to make the Hawaiian; tomato paste, cheese, chopped ham, and pineapple. I don’t think mum liked pizza. At first we didn’t have it as a Friday night treat; but as teenagers it was not uncommon to see a Capricciosa on the kitchen table.

I grew up with fish and chips and pizza as takeaways, and the pie and sauce from the corner milk bar or cake shop. I don’t count the Chinese shop in Williamstown’s Nelson Place as a take away. It was a sit down restaurant, but you could take your own saucepan into the shop and have it filled with your own takeaway. People would queue up on Friday nights for a saucepan full of their favourite takeaway Chinese food; sweet and sour pork, chop suey, or fried rice. The Chinese was also a great stop after a Saturday of consuming ice colds with the mates for a takeaway bag of steamed dimmies.

image source:deanoworldtravels.wordpress.com

There’s a lot I don’t remember from the sixties and seventies but I do remember the first McDonalds that opened in Melbourne’s Swanston Street. Macca’s had been building a presence in Melbourne’s suburbs since the early seventies, but the opening of an overseas takeaway shop in the centre of the city caused the next transformation of the takeway. A few years ago when I was back holidaying in Melbourne it seemed as if I came across an American fast food shop with every step I took, every corner that I turned, and every outing down a suburban street; Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Hungry Jacks (aka Burger King) and Subway were everywhere. I could have been in any main street USA. Last year when I was back in Melbourne the Americanisation of the Australian takeaway was all but complete. Not only was Krispy Kreme, TGI Fridays, Dunkin Donuts, Mrs. Fields, Gloria Jeans, Starbuck’s, and the Outback Steakhouse now on every second corner but most of the fast food shops had added a drive through and a playground for the little ones, and had introduced extended open hours. Seven Eleven was also on every third corner; each with an over supply of cellophane wrapped, tasty, corporate takeaway meat pies, pasties, and sausage rolls.

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The Outback Steakhouse restaurants in Australia have dropped some of the exaggerated, pseudo Australianisms that you come across in the American franchises; you’re not going to find a kookaburra wings party platter, Aussie cheese fries, or Alice Springs Chicken and Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp on the Down Under menu. The American Outback Steakhouses promote the Alice Springs Chicken and Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp as an 8 oz wood fired grilled chicken, topped with sauteed mushrooms, crisp bacon, melted Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, and Honey Mustard Sauce, paired with shrimp that are hand dipped in batter, rolled in coconut and fried until golden. And it’s served with Aussie Fries.

Alice Springs is a remote outback Northern Territory town, rich with Australian pioneering history and culture, halfway between Darwin and Adelaide; it’s surrounded by red dirt and mountain ranges. You’re not going to find a lot of plump chickens or mushrooms around Alice; instead you’ll find bush tucker. Outback Steakhouse could easily introduce genuine Australian menu selections, table service, and takeaway traditions into it’s 1,000 plus worldwide restaurants. I would ditch the Alice Springs Chicken and replace it with a selection of either kangaroo fillet, crocodile patties, camel rissoles, or an Aussie burger with the lot; meat, lettuce, egg, bacon, pineapple, cheese, beetroot and sauce. And any menu selection should be cooked on the table with a make shift barbie.

image source:jmcadam

The Outback menu needs to be Australian; no Aussie is going to call a prawn a shrimp. Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp should be Gold Coast Coconut Prawn, lobster tails would become cray tails, Alice Springs Chicken becomes The Alice Chook, and Outback Center Cut Sirloin would be Back of Bourke Scotch Fillet. Ordering at the Outback would become something like:

Outback Steakhouse Server: G’day mate, how you goin!
Guest: G’day mate!
Outback Steakhouse Server: Wanna blow the froth of a few while yu take a squiz at the menu?
Guest: I’ll wrap the laughing gear round a VB; I’m as dry as a drovers dog
Outback Steakhouse Server: Only got Fourex or New on draught
Guest: No worries, mate! she’ll be right, just give us yu top drop
Outback Steakhouse Server: And for yu tucker?
Guest: Coat of Arms Burger; how much emu is on it?
Outback Steakhouse Server: No worries; fair size patty, same as the kanga

If Outback Steakhouse adopted these modest suggestions it would become more than the home of juicy steaks, spirited drinks and Aussie hospitality.

image source:mashable.com

Long John Silvers tried to make a go of it in Australia a little over 10 years ago. They thought they would be successful by just serving Fish, Chicken and Shrimp Platters with Hushpuppies, Baked Cod with 2 sides and Hushpuppies, and Family Meals made up of mix and match fish and chicken; and not follow the eleven rules of a dinkum Aussie fish and chip shop.

1. Owned and run by a hard working immigrant Greek family
2. Serves only own home made chips from their own potatoes; frozen chips from a bag are unacceptable
3. Serves only own home made potato cakes that are dipped in batter just before being dropped in the deep fryer
4. Only sells pickled onions out of a plastic jar on the counter; the price must be written on the side with a felt tip marker
5. Cannot sell any food that doesn’t live in the water; pizza, kebabs, green beans, corn, onion rings, and chicken is a no-no
6. Has a multi coloured plastic door strip to keep the flies out
7. Fresh fish is displayed on crushed ice in the front window
8. Must have fried and steamed dim sims that come from a frozen plastic bag.
9. Prices are written in chalk on a board above the fryers
10. Soft drinks fridge has a sign which says; please select before opening door
11. Only have salt and vinegar in recycled soft drink bottles with holes poked in the screw top cap on the counter; tomato sauce is forbidden

I’m sure that Long John Silver’s will try it one more time Down Under, and because Red Lobster, Captain D’s, or a start up US fast food seafood restaurant will want to expand into the The Lucky Country, my suggestion would be to Australianise the US franchise shops with the fish shop rules as soon as possible. Australianising would put them on a good wicket for a move into the Lucky Country.

image source:jmcadam

But there still are lots of family owned traditional fish and chip, pizza, Middle Eastern and Asian shops nestled in suburban shopping centres; and they uphold the tradition and heritage of the time honoured Australian takeaway. I really should think about doing a takeaway make over to my dinners. I could do a burger with the lot by adding a few lettuce leaves, beetroot, pineapple, and a few strips of bacon to a Jimmy Dean sausage, egg and cheese, English muffin sandwich. Even though a pizza with prawn cutlets and roast beetroot would take a bit of work I think it would be a winner:

Roast Beetroot: Drizzle a couple of beetroot with water, wrap them in foil and roast for 45-55 minutes. Let cool, then peel and slice thinly
Prawn Cutlets: Butterfly half a pound of tails intact, peeled, deveined prawns and whack each one with a rolling pin. Dip each prawn in flour, egg, and breadcrumb. Deep fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with salt
Preparation: Take a half cooked Thin Crust Lean Cuisine Margherita pizza and add the roast beetroot and prawn cutlets; finish cooking

 

Australian food and drink

Australian food history timeline – First Australian McDonald’s

A time when we were all rapt for a Friday night of fish and chips

Nobody Likes A Wayward Lump

It was that time on a summer evening when the sun’s shadows have reached their full length and the night is beginning. We had just left a Fish House and Oyster Bar restaurant. Omaha is better known for it’s steak houses than it’s seafood restaurants; maybe it goes back to the days of the Texas cattle drives when cattle were driven north to meet the Union Pacific railhead, or maybe it was Omaha’s livestock market, that at one time was the largest in the world. I was still savouring the faint, remaining taste of the remoulade and muffaletta relish from a Shrimp Po’ Boy when my attention was shifted back to the road lane I thought I was driving in; the front driver’s side wheel had thumped into a raised curb. I straightened the car into the lane and waited for the steering wheel to start juddering; the tyre had hit the curb with a large thump and I was certain the wheel was now buckled, or part of the front suspension and axle was bent. I thought no more about the taste of remoulade and muffaletta relish; I sped up and braked several times, and finished off with several jerking left and right sharp weaving turns.

image source:jmcadam

The left and right weaving and veering caused me to sway slightly in the seat; and I was taken back to those nights in the Land Down Under when I was driving the Mini Cooper home after bending the elbow with the mates. I’m not proud to admit it now, but once or twice, I would have had one too many ice colds and so I would close one eye to stop seeing double. With the double vision gone I would focus on the center line of the road and try and keep the Mini straight and parallel to the line. And the next morning the Mini wasn’t where I thought I had parked it the night before.

I didn’t feel any vibrations in the steering wheel so I thought no worries, she’ll be right; no damage done.

Most times when I’m driving on the interstate I follow the speed limit, or set the cruise control to just about five miles above the limit. It was in the early evening, the day after the tyre thump into the curb, when I accelerated to a 65mph speed limit, cruising speed, after leaving the on ramp. For the next 10 minutes I blissfully cruised Omaha’s Interstate 680. The next morning I was stopped in my tracks as I walked toward the car; my eyes became fixated on a large bulge on the sidewall of the front driver’s side tyre.

image source:consumeraffairs.com

It was if the tyre had developed a sebaceous cyst; filled not with fluid but hardened with air. As I stood staring at the tire cyst my right hand instinctively moved under my left arm pit and I started to feel for the lump.

For as long as I can remember I had this small lump just below the armpit on my left side; sometimes I would cradle the lump with my index and middle finger and jiggle it. Years ago the lump was diagnosed as a blocked gland; I was advised by the doctor that if it got any larger then I should see a doctor. After forty years the lump got larger. I never really noticed the lump getting larger but I started to feel the lump with the inside of my left arm; something I hadn’t felt before. I stood in front of the recessed bathroom vanity cupboard above the sink. I’d already removed my shirt, so I raised my left arm, and looked at the reflection of the lump in the vanity mirror.

image source:jmcadam

It was large. I cradled the lump with my index and middle finger, but before I could jiggle it a stream of yellow tinged, diluted blood red liquid, squirted onto the mirror. I let the lump rest for a couple of days. I raised my left arm, and this time instead of cradling the lump, pushed on it with my index finger; it released a stream of tinted red liquid. Overthe next several days I grew weary of cleaning and sanitising the vanity mirror so I waited until I was showering to squeeze the lump. BAM !!! a geyser of liquid onto the tiled wall. I pride myself on being a quick thinker; after several days of spraying the shower tiles with a  reservoir of tainted liquid I thought that I should see a doctor.

I didn’t touch the lump before seeing the doctor; 3 days of just looking at the lump in the mirror. And on some days there was a slight dampness on the underarm of my shirt and an odour from under my left arm. I wondered if all the under the shower pushing and squeezing had caused the lump to become infected. I sat waiting in the chair in the examination room. I held my left arm high above my head and the doctor moved in closer to look at, and touch the lump. She pushed on the lump.

image source:pixabay

She instinctively jerked back when the thick liquid squirted out and got most of herself out of the way in time. Some of the cheesy, blood diluted, liquid erupting from the engorged lump under my arm landed on her head and chest; but most ended up on the floor, and some even streaked across the room and onto the cupboard doors. She kept pushing and squeezing; draining the lump. I left with a supply of antibiotics, the lump covered in a blanket of gauze, and a follow up visit scheduled for next week. As I walked away from the nurses station I overheard the doctor asking if they would call maintenance and request a clean up for the room.

The lump oozed for the seven days leading up to the follow up visit; and grew in size. The doctor must have remembered the cheesy, blood diluted liquid, and the room clean up from the last visit because this time she placed a wad of dressing over the lump before pushing and squeezing. At the end of the appointment I was scheduled to see a lump doctor in two days.

There’s not a lot to do when you’re sitting just waiting in a doctor’s examination room. Because the magazines are usually old copies of either Time, Sports Illustrated, Good Housekeeping, People, Reader’s Digest, Parents, or Men’s Health I sometimes spend the time playing a game of things in a doctor’s examination room. Whenever I play the game I always get first the; exam table, chair, sink, computer, scale, wall mounted blood pressure measuring device, and cupboards, and then I really start looking around.

image source:jmcadam

Without having anything to write on the things in a doctor’s examination room game becomes difficult. The more you discover things the more challenging it becomes to remember the extra things you find; but that’s part of the game. I didn’t have to wait long for the lump doctor. She drained the lump and did a quick examination. I don’t remember laying down on the examination table but I was lying on my right side with my left arm behind my head facing the lump doctor’s nurse who was sitting on my right, and the lump doctor was explaining it would be best if the lump was removed. It was a restful and calm conversation and I babbled on about how I become anxious at the thought of surgery, and she would have to recommend really good drugs to soothe my distress. As I was about to ask when will you scheduled the surgery I was overpowered by a cheesy, putrid stench. I think it was pungent odour that caused the nurse to move away, The lump doctor cheerfully said that I wouldn’t need surgery; I didn’t feel the anaesthetic numbing injection, but she had lanced, drained, and cut the lump out. She pushed gauze into the lump cavity; explaining that it’s best to keep the cavity open so it doesn’t seal up and prevent healing from the inside. Besides, keeping it open allows more time for draining. For next week a visiting nurse removed the packing, cleaned the wound, and repacked the gauze every morning; and after a check up from the lump doctor repeated the cleaning and dressing for another week. The cavity shrunk from a wound I could have pushed my index finger into, to a small chamber.

image source:jmcadam

At the third week check up the lump doctor expressed her concern that the lump cavity had healed from the inside; and she would have to chemically roughen up the hardened chamber wall skin to allow soft tissue healing. During the next week the hardened skin stayed hard and so it needed to be cut out. The surgery was scheduled, and my distress was soothed with good drugs. The wall of hardened skin was deeper and wider than the lump so the new wound was stitched. And I now have a small scar instead of a lump just below the armpit on my left side.

As I looked at the lump on the tyre I thought how fortunate we were that it hadn’t released a stream of air that would have caused the sidewall to collapse when we were tootling down Interstate 680 at 65 plus miles per hour. I drove slowly to the complete auto care shop and had the tyre replaced. You can’t tell when a lump will erupt; it seems that lumps just decide that for themselves.

 

Sebaceous cyst: Treatment, Causes, and Symptoms

What Makes a Po-Boy a Po-Boy?

Exam Room Furniture

What If Dishes Could Wash Themselves

Recently, water began seeping onto the kitchen floor from under the dishwasher and leaking into the basement to form a small rivulet on the basement floor. I used a turkey baster to remove the shallow reservoir of water that was sitting in the bottom of the washer and then fished around in the outlet drain to remove a few of the plastic prongs that had broken off the upper dishwasher rack. Bob’s your uncle I thought and so I started to survey the washer’s control pan on top of the open door. Twenty plus years ago I you had to push was auto wash and dry. I stared down in confusion at the choices; rinse and hold, eco wash, delayed start, normal, and quick wash. I selected quick wash and closed the door. I smiled when I heard the water starting to swish around inside the washer; it was working. But then water appeared from under the washer and another rivulet appeared in the basement.

image source:pixabay

The dishwasher repair man after manoeuvring the washer out of it’s snug cubbyhole and performing a series of tests, and cellphone calls, concluded that the drainage pump was the problem. We got the dishwasher twenty plus years ago from rummaging around in the returned appliance section of Omaha’s own furniture, appliance, electronics, flooring and home decor shop. We were told the brushed nickel ASKO was returned by an interior designer; it just wasn’t right when it was stationed in the new somewhat finished kitchen. The price, though discounted because it was returned, was still more than a Whirlpool or Kenmore. It seemed that twenty plus years ago mid westerners weren’t impressed or didn’t appreciate environmentally friendly, Swedish designed, water and energy efficient dishwashers.

The dishwasher repair man told us that he would have to order a replacement drainage pump from ASKO; his company didn’t keep parts on hand for a twenty plus year old Swedish dishwasher. A phone call a few days later to the appliance repair companies head office confirmed that the replacement pump would cost around $470.00; without installation and labour. And it would take a week or more once the pump was ordered for delivery. Our ASKO was the cadillac of dishwashers so we spent a couple of days weighing the pros and cons of spending $600.00 on a twenty plus year old appliance; or buying a new one.

image source:jmcadam

We decided on a new dishwasher. Omaha’s own furniture, appliance, electronics, flooring and home decor shop has incredible selection of energy efficient dishwashers that are guaranteed to quietly clean the dirtiest plates, glasses, and silverware while you help yourself to an ice cold sherbet. We hovered around a stainless steel Bosch 24″ recessed handle built in 300 series; a dishwasher engineered by German perfectionism and precision.

On the top of the open door along side the push button controls was a transfer that proclaimed Silence Plus. Our soon to be dishwasher was rated at a 44 decibel noise level; light rainfall is about 50 decibel, someone whispering is 30, a dove call 44, and a babbling brook around 40 db. Our Bosch 300 series should sound like doves cooing, sitting in a tree by a babbling brook during a light rain shower; a delightful sound to have in the kitchen.

image source:pixabay

Omaha’s own furniture, appliance, electronics, flooring and home decor shop prides itself on offering a sale every week; the name of the sale changes but the price of everything remain the same. There is a small flat screen alongside each appliance that displays the just in time sale price of the appliance; area of the shop are wired into the internet and constantly trawl competitors prices and in real time adjust their sale price to match the competition. As the sales associate approached I closed my eyes for couple of seconds. Maybe it was a MATRIX thing; I was going to trawl the net and find the real price of a Bosch 300 series. I was sitting on the floor in an Afghan carpet trader’s shop in Kabul’s Chicken Street. Afghanistan was a welcoming state of chaos and confusion after the omnipresent military of Turkey and Iran. As soon as we crossed the Iranian border in local small bus the Afghan passengers shared their hashish. I spent a lot of time in Chicken Street shops chatting, smoking and drinking tea. I learned to dip sugar cubes into my tea and, at the right soggy time pop them to into my mouth, and then sip my tea. I never did buy anything, but I learned that arriving on a final price was part of the process; haggling was expected, and if you paid the first asking price you were considered a fool. After a few visits the shop owners didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t buy anything; our conversations became long social storytelling journeys; always over shared small short glasses of sugar sweetened tea. I spent more time interacting with the locals instead of being a sightseeing tourists.

image source:thedisastertourist

When I opened my eyes I knew my destiny; I was going to barter and not pay the real time sale price displayed on the monitor. I turned to the sales associate

Me: What’s your best price on the Bosch 300
Sale Associate: (after glancing at the small digital monitor alongside the appliance) $800.00 plus sales tax
Me: That’s tourist price; for me $300.00?
Sale Associate: (swiping and pinching at his iPad screen) I’m sorry but that’s not possible
Me: (smiling) Best price?
Sale Associate: (swiping and pinching at the iPad screen) $800.00 is the best I can do
Me: Do you have chai; is there a place we can sit?
Sale Associate: Aaahh, I’m afraid not
Me: Let’s not let the conversation turn ugly. We don’t have to haggle over the price. Final Offer; subtract the sales tax on $800.00 Final price.
Sale Associate: (swiping and pinching at the iPad screen)
Me: Surely you have the authority to approve my generous offer and you don’t need the approval of a manager
Sale Associate: (with a flourish of the iPad) Done
Me: And free delivery and installation; and no charge to carry away away the old ASKO
Sale Associate: I’ll have to charge you half price for the new installation materials
Me: And now we can have tea; two sugar please

I popped the just dissolving sugar cube into my mouth and sipped a little of the warm tea through the cube from the small short glass. The Bosch 300 Series dishwasher was scheduled to be delivered in a couple of weeks.

And so for the next two weeks we washed dishes in the kitchen sink; just as mum washed the dishes in her small kitchen sink after every meal. There was a wall mounted gas water heater to the side of the sink. Mum would put a dish drainer on one side of the sink, and after she gave the dishes a quick rinse in the hot soapy water that she had just washed them in would set them in the drainer to let the soap suds start draining.

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Every Sunday night nanna and granddad walked down the street from their place for tea. We always had cold left over roast leg of lamb; and we always had it with a salad. And there was always a selection of mum’s freshly baked cakes on the table for desert. As soon as we finished our cakes and cup of tea, mum would start washing the dishes. Either granddad or nanna would grab the tea towel and start drying the just washed dishes before they had time to collect in the drainer; soon the tea towel, damp with the soap suds from the wet dishes, would have to be replaced with a new dry clean tea towel.

Mum also soaked her vegetables and salad lettuce in the kitchen sink. She would peel the potatoes for Sunday’s roast, and then soak the cut up large bite sized pieces in cold water in the sink. The potatoes were put on a tea towel to dry before she put them in the roasting pan with the leg of lamb; the fat and juices from the lamb, together with mum’s left over lard bubbled in the bottom of the pan to produce perfect roast potatoes.

image source:jmcadam

We only new iceberg lettuce for our salads. Mum would tear the leaves apart and soak them in cold water for a couple of hours before Sunday’s tea. The lettuce leaves were also put on a tea towel to dry; radishes and celery was also soaked in the kitchen sink. Whatever in the kitchen needed washing, or whatever food needed soaking and washing, ended up in the sink. Though I don’t ever remember mum scouring and cleaning the sink. The sink emptied into a gully trap on the other side of the kitchen wall in the fernery.

As a young boy, I only had the wireless to follow the ball to ball action of the Ashes series. Every other year the Australian cricket team would travel to England to play five test matches. June through August was the middle of Melbourne’s dank, chilly, winter. The daytime matches were broadcast live each night to Australia. On those foggy winter nights I cocooned myself in a sea of woollen blankets; the radio was a whisper, and I was lulled to sleep by the erudite details of play by play test cricket. The captain of the fielding team, whenever he used his fast bowlers always set a slip cordon with a gully. I listened as the commentators described the gully trap whenever it was set.

image source:thecricketmonthly

The gully is behind square of the wicket, on the off side at the end of the slips cordon; sometimes it is called fourth slip. It’s a close catching position and the fielder at gully can expect forceful shots from the batsman. In the 74-75 test series the great Australian fast bowlers Lillee and Thomson left the English batsman battered and bruised. Captain Ian Chappell was at first slip, brother Greg at second, Dougie Walter at third, and Terry Jenner in the gully. It was test cricket and the gully trap at its best.

The Bosch 300 is sitting proudly under the counter in the kitchen. I rather liked not being a “stick everything in the dishwasher” type of man the last couple of weeks. It’s hard to go cold turkey not washing dishes; the kettles approaching the boil on the stove so it’s time to chuck the dirty sharp knives into the sink. I’ve moved the Band Aids into the cupboard next to the sink.

 

Everything and the Kitchen Sink: The Memoir of a Dishwasher

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