A Crumpet Always Falls Jam Side Down

The three weeks we spent back in the The Land Down Under in 2017 was all about living in Melbourne again; staying in Albert Park where I once rented a flat, walking down to the beach, catching the tram into the city, shopping at the South Melbourne Market, and being a tourist in the city where you live. On most days we caught the number 12 tram at the Mills and Herbert Street corner; just down the street from our single fronted, fashionable weatherboard Victorian Airbnb house. The stylish Miss Colombia Cafe was on the corner by the tram stop; it soon became our mid morning hanging out spot. Every morning we would order a flat white and watch out for the number 12 to go wobbling down Mills Street on it’s way to Fitzroy Street. By the second day we knew how long it would take between trams, and when they would return up Mills street on their way back to Collins Street and beyond; we gave our self two trams to finish our flat whites.

image source:jmcadam

Miss Colombia was everything a Melbourne cafe should be; friendly staff, good food and coffee, and a good neighbourhood vibe. It was a locals haunt; the communal tables were shared by mums with their preschool little ones, young and mature couples adorned with colourful tattoos, and hipsters with big glasses and bushranger beards. And it wasn’t just locals hanging out to drink coffee. Tradies were popping in to grab one of their favourite take away brekkie snacks; a flat white, and an order of smashed avocado with Persian Fetta and a couple of poached eggs on multi grain toast. It wasn’t uncommon to find a dog, or a couple of dogs, hitched to the parking permitted sign post on the footpath. By the second morning three of the staff new us, and we would have a bit of a chat; by the third morning they knew our coffee order. When I think back, I should have taken up a counter staff’s offer to swap print shirts; the Albert Park hipsters are having their milk textured, and their coffee needs satisfied by a John McAdam doppelganger barista.

image source:misscolombia.com.au

The Melbourne cafe is a coffee shop that also offers creative food. Two Hands opened in New York in 2014 and is one of several Australian owned cafes serving up versions of Melbourne’s avocado smashes in the Big Apple. Other Aussie cafes attracting a crowd include; Little Collins, Brunswick, Flinders Lane, Sweatshop Coffee, Hole in the Wall and Bluestone Lane. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Aussie flat whites and avocado smashes now have more than a foothold in New York. The chalkboard menus in Melbourne cafes will always have some type of avocado smash, french toast, smoked salmon, and a pulled pork bagel; and you always add a poached egg to whatever you order. I think the success of the cafes in the Big Apple isn’t because of the food or the coffee they serve, it’s because of the experience they offer. What if there was a Melbourne style cafe in every US city? Imagine being able to grab a smashed avocado with chilli, coriander, feta cheese and cherry tomatoes on seeded toast as well as experiencing that Aussie thing to start off your day.

image source:jmcadam

Experiencing a little bit of the The Land Down Under culture and tradition shouldn’t stop with the Melbourne cafe. Aussies love their seafood; nothing beats the standard order of a piece of flake and chips from the local fish ‘n chip shop. You can bet a penny to a quid when you’re at the local with a few mates for some good pub food a barramundi fillet will be ordered way before a peppered kangaroo fillet with seasonal greens; and there’s always a serious rivalry at the table to see who’ll grab the last salt and pepper calamari ring. Anytime you’re unwrapping a fish ‘n chip shop’s parcel of golden goodness you’ll be surrounded by family and friends telling the same old stories of yesteryear, or creating new stories for tomorrow. The seafood experience is an Aussie indulgence that all of the US should be allowed to enjoy. I’ve got no doubts that Aussie fish and chip shops would meet with the same success in the US as the Melbourne cafe did in New York; and there’s no need to build shops because it wouldn’t take much to add the The Land Down Under fish and chip shop vibe to Five Guys burger restaurants.

image source:jmcadam

The new style restaurants would

  • serve home made potato cakes that are dipped in batter just before being dropped in the deep fryer
  • only serve home made chips; frozen chips from a bag would be unacceptable
  • include a hamburger with the lot on the menu; has the options of beetroot, egg, and pineapple.
  • have walls decorated with Chiko Roll and ocean fish posters
  • offer fried and steamed dim sims that only come frozen and from a plastic bag
  • have a wide multi coloured plastic strip hanging in the front door to keep out the flies
  • keep pickle onions in a plastic jar on the tables with their price written on the side of the jar with a felt tip marker
  • provide salt and vinegar on the tables in recycled soft drink bottles with holes poked in their screw top cap
  • keep soft drinks in fridges with a sign on their door which says; please select before opening door
  • have retro 1980’s arcade machines with games such as Frogger, Centipede, or Ms Pac-Man

image source:tripadvisor

Each shop would have a handwritten chalk menu board above the cooking fryers. You’d stand at the counter and watch the fish and potato cakes being dipped in batter, thrown into a wire basket, and plunged into the hot bubbling oil in the fryer; chips would be added after a few minutes. The master fryer would know just when to raise the basket of golden goodness from the oil, and how to bump it on the edge of the fryer to drain just the right amount of hot oil from the golden chips, and crunchy fish and potato cake batter. The golden pile would be sprinkled with salt and wrapped in paper.

Just as you’ll find America’s national sport on every television screen in the US in summer you’ll find cricket on every television screen during an Aussie summer; it’s video white noise in every hotel bar, airport lounge, and home electronics shop. And there’ll be a TV alongside every barbie; so when you turn the snags and chops, or throw a bucket of king prawns on the grill, you won’t miss the last wicket to fall, or the last four slogged to the boundary. It makes a lot of sense to add a few cricket rules to baseball. World Series games would be world series; eleven countries currently have a national cricket team and compete in test cricket matches. And if the excitement of baseball isn’t enough already; it would be quadrupled because the run rate of a game would increase. Over three hundred runs is a good average runs total for a side batting first in a one day cricket international; imagine that in baseball. The average television audience for the ICC Cricket World Cup is 400 million. Around 1.5 billion people tuned in to watch the coverage of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015; now that would be some audience for a Doritos television commercial. I’d suggest the following cricket rules be introduced into baseball.

image source:jmcadam

  • each team plays one innings; an innings is limited to fifty overs
  • an over has six consecutive balls
  • each bowler can only bowl 10 overs; no bower can bowl consecutive overs
  • after a bowler delivers six balls they have completed an over so another team member must bowl the next over
  • after the batting team has lost ten wickets, or fifty overs has been played, the teams switch roles
  • after each team has batted for an innings the team with the most runs wins
  • batsman don’t have to run
  • batsman must wear their helmet, gloves, leg pads, thigh guard, arm guard, gloves, box, and carry their bat with them as they run between wickets
  • Each team has a twelfth man to use if a player is injured during a game

image source:jmcadam

What could be more Aussie than talking like an Aussie? Cricket has a language all of it’s own. Putting a little cricket into baseball would open a treasure trove of Aussie lingo to the average American; every day would be talk like an Aussie day. Forget about peppering your conversation with throw another shrimp on the barbie, and that’s not a knife; this is a knife. Start using any of these in your everyday conversations.

call it stumps: each of the three upright sticks or wickets during a cricket match. The stumps are pulled out of the ground when the cricket is finished for the day. Used to end or finish a task
carried the bat: a batsman who was able to play throughout the game and was not dismissed; a rare feat in test matches. Used to refer to a person doing an incredible job or task
easy wicket: a pitch of slow pace which favours the batsmen. Used in place of an easy task or a comfortable position in life
good innings: a player scored a lot of runs during a game. Used to refer to a long and fulfilling life or career
pearler: a very good delivery of the ball by a bowler. Used to describe something that is impressive or excellent
slog: means to hit the ball so hard that it reaches the boundary. Means to work very hard
sticky wicket: used to describe a damp and soft pitch which could make it extremely difficult to play on as the ball would be going anywhere. Used when a person is in trouble or faced with awkward circumstances

Tony Benneworth from the ABC Radio best summed it up with; it’s been a very slow and dull day, but it hasn’t been boring. It’s been a good, entertaining day’s cricket.

I think I’ll put on a pair UGG’s and sit out in the backyard in a full lotus position and start chanting the mantra; salad must be served with the meal. It would be good brain training for next time I’m at a restaurant and the salad is served before the food order is brought out.


Miss Colombia Cafe

Glossary of Cricket Terms and Sayings

Saltwater Grill; Fish and Chips takeaway

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.


Good news, hipsters: Melbourne Bitter to go on tap

Aussie airport Smartgates to be ditched for facial recognition

Singapore to test facial recognition on lampposts

What Men Do Better Than Women

At the corner of Swanston and Flinders you wait with a throng of Melburnians for the traffic lights to change so you can become part of the surge crossing the road and heading toward the clocks of Flinders Street Station. Flinders Street is Australia’s oldest train station and is the busiest suburban railway station in the southern hemisphere. Back when all suburban trains would finish their journey at one of the station’s sixteen platforms. The train driver and conductor would swap positions and the train would leave to go back to where it came from. The clocks under the main dome of the station have always shown the departure time of the next trains; they date back to the 1860s. Melburnians have always, and still do, meet under the clocks. I stopped under the clocks and looked back to the Young and Jacksons corner I had just crossed from; a new throng was beginning to form. I waited for the light to change. And there it was again; a green female pedestrian traffic light; a pedestrian light no longer gender-coded. I stood under the clocks and started to muse about gender coding.

image source:apnoutdoor.com.au

Describing a girl as a tomboy seems to be falling out of fashion. A tomboy girl was a girl who took an interest in and enjoyed activities that had been conventionally coded and culturally accepted, as boy stuff. Shops in the U.S. have now removed gender-based labels from their toy and bedding shelves. The bedding area doesn’t have labelling suggestions for boys or girls, and the toy aisles are identified by what’s in them; an action figure aisle or a doll aisle rather than specifying a gender. Chemistry sets and LEGO toys aren’t in a boys section, and play kitchens and dolls aren’t in a girls aisle; they’re in the kid’s area.

In The Land Down Under the state of Victoria is changing its school uniform policy; girls will have the option to wear shorts or trousers, instead of dresses and skirts. And so girls who like to kick the footy will be able to do so in a pair of shorts instead of a dress or skirt. And wearing trousers or a pair of shorts should make a girl more comfortable when she ducks under a desk to plug in her laptop. The school uniform has become gender-neutral.

image source:yvg.vic.edu.au

At last, society is becoming gender nonconformist, and gender expansive. Activities and interests are no longer being coded as a girl thing or a boy thing. But I think there are some things that are just men things; things that men excel at, and are even better at than women.

Moving the Lolly
Most Australian men’s urinals have deodorising blocks resting in the bottom of them. Urinals tend to collect a lot of liquid, so the blocks are put there to neutralise the smell of the urine that doesn’t wash down the drain. The scented block isn’t called a deodorizer; it’s a cake, puck, biscuit, or trough lolly. Regardless of what it’s called, it’s there for one thing; to overwhelm the persistent scent of standing urine. Most men’s dunnies at pubs and sporting venues have an against-the-wall urinal; either porcelain or metal. A classic against the wall unit will comfortably accommodate up to eight men.

image source:jmcadam

Usually, there is a hinged floor grate to stand on and some sort of water flushing fixture. There is a drain under, or beside the grate because when you’re aiming against the wall the stream is directed toward the floor. Several trough lollies usually sit in the drain; the more lollies a urinal has, the less sanitary the place. This rule doesn’t apply to sporting venues. After a few beers with the boys, the challenge is always offered to see who can move the lolly the greatest distance. Some maintain the secret to being on target with the lolly and moving it is the angle your stream hits the lolly, and varying the angle during the lollies journey. Others claim the secret is controlling the amount of stream dribbling and maintaining control of its velocity from the start to the end, but a technique that allows control and mastery of the stream begins with just guiding it in circles around the lolly.

The Comb Over
Men welcome and applaud hair loss. We choose to proudly announce and flaunt the progression of our hair loss with a comb-over; combing long strands of hair from the sides or the back of our head over the hair loss area. As the area of visible scalp expands we strategically lower the hair part so more hair can be placed over the balding area; the part moves to just above the ear or to our neckline. Men start wearing the comb-over at any age; abandoning it only when there is no longer sufficient hair to cover their baldness. The comb-over is adaptable and on some reaches the height of tonsorial artistry.

image source:mirror.co.uk Donald Trump: President of the United States. Showcases a stunning two-directional double comb-over. Not to be confused with a classic side part comb-over. The pièce de résistance is the classic traditional ducktail at the back.
 image source:royalinsight.net Prince William: Duke of Cambridge. Not a great comb-over because the fine strands of hair that are swept across and over the top of his head don’t really cover the bald patch and thinning hair.
 image source:darkhorizons.com Jack Nicholson: Film star. Wears the comb back. A style sometimes worn just before the comb-over. Good for covering receding hair and some thinning bald spots. Can be combined with the comb-over for a stunning look.
 image source:buzzfeed Marco Rubio: US Senator. Features a feathered comb-over. Feathered hair was popular in the seventies and eighties and today it is described as subtle and airy. People combine it with the comb-over to look more playful and engaging.
 image source:dailymail.co.uk Sam Cochrane: Suitor on The Bachelorette Australia. An exceptional comb-over combing a man bun with a mullet. Scraggy strands of hair have been pulled from the back of his head over the forehead. Outstanding.

Taking Rubbish to the Tip
There’s no other way to say it; men are just better than women at taking rubbish to the tip. We excel at hauling dirt, wood, furniture, household electrical items, appliances, corrugated iron, or anything no longer useful to the tip. I remember going to the Williamstown tip a few times with dad. I can’t recall any other meaningful father-son activities that we did together; activities that became opportunities for shared learning promoted my self-confidence and character development and caused me to pass into manhood and grow into a well-rounded, successful, man. There’s nothing like throwing rubbish out at the tip with dad. The tip was a short drive down Kororoit Creek Road; the houses lining Kororoit Creek Road stopped several hundred feet before the tip. There was a dirt road leading into the tip and you followed a weaving corrugated trail toward the swarming flocks of seagulls to unload your rubbish. The weaving corrugated trail would change its route every time you went to the tip. The Callander and Cody families lived on the tip. It was before bulldozers and bobcats; it seemed they raked and moved the rubbish by hand to eliminate mountains of dumped rubbish. And I think they salvaged what they could sell. The tip is now a housing estate.

image source:livescience.com

Consuming Large Amounts of Beer
Men are designed to drink beer better than women; they have a larger build, more blood volume, and less body fat than women. Because body fat doesn’t absorb alcohol all that well, the alcohol level in a women’s bloodstream after a night out drinking will be more concentrated than in a man’s bloodstream. And men have about ten per cent more water in their blood than women; we are better equipped to dilute alcohol so after doing a few rounds, men will have a lower concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream than women. The higher alcohol level in a woman’s bloodstream means that more alcohol will travel faster to their vital organs and brain than it will with a man. Excessive amounts of ridicule have been levelled at beer bellies. Some say that drinking beer can put on weight; claiming that if you weren’t drinking beer your liver would be metabolizing and burning fat cells from food instead of switching gears to work on the alcohol. But I like to think that instead of suffering ridicule, all of us men who like bending the elbow should be admired and saluted.

image source:jmcadam

We acknowledge the health benefits of beer. It has been suggested that beer can lower the risk of kidney stones, protect us from heart attacks, reduce the risk of strokes, strengthen our bones, decreases the chance of diabetes, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, cure insomnia, stop cataracts, and cure cancer. Men know that they have been built to drink beer instead of  Zumba workouts, muscle-sculpting Pilates, or Shake Weight routines.

The Trouser Cough
Men enjoy letting one go in public. Ever since we were young lads in a schoolroom we’ve challenged each other to let one rip. The coup de grâce was always the silent, but deadly smelling one that wafted throughout the room, with nobody knowing where it came from. But if the general agreement was that it was a winner, then everyone claimed ownership of the Master Blaster. As the legitimate owner of the Blaster, you would sit back at your desk with proud smug satisfaction. Men have no problem letting a loud one rip in mixed company and we’re usually praised with resounding cries from the mates with; the mighty chocolate lips has spoken. And there isn’t one of us who hasn’t challenged a partner to a game of Dutch Ovens; putting both of your heads under the bedsheets after you’ve just let one go and then seeing who is the first one to crawl out from under the sheets. The first one out is the loser.

I think it’s time that I slipped into the Chloe Bar at Young and Jacksons and ordered a few pots of the ice-cold amber and toasted the famous nude portrait; just as men have done since 1909.


The Urinal Shop

Young and Jacksons Hotel: Chloe

How a Fart Killed 10,000 People

How Would You Like Your Potato

When you come to a fork in the road, take it. Yogi Berra. (1925-2015)

The other day I went to an office supply store to buy a cordless mouse; they had the Logitech Wireless Mouse on sale. I bounded into the store and asked to be pointed in the direction of the mouse on sale. I was confronted with a rack full of Logitech Wireless Mice; Logitech M310 Wireless Optical, Logitech M510 Wireless Laser, Logitech M525 Wireless, Logitech M187 Wireless Mini Optical, Logitech M185 Wireless, Logitech M320 Wireless and Logitech M325 Wireless. And at least six different colors for each: thirty six wireless mice options to choose from. I asked the sales associate what was the difference between the Logitech M320 Wireless and the 525; he responded with the 525 is bigger but the 320’s advanced optical tracking provides smooth, precise control, on a wide variety of surfaces. So I picked the 325 and I think the color was brilliant rose.

mouse red

image source:cnet

My first visit to the states was in mid February in the mid to late seventies. I landed in San Francisco around ten at night and when the airport shuttle left me at the downtown Greyhound depot I was anxious to find some where to stay. I had no insight as to where I was in San Francisco. I knocked on the window of the Greyhound depot information booth and disturbed the attendant from his football game: I didn’t recognize it as a football game at the time because I was more familiar with Victorian Rules Football, later to become Australian Rules Football. I asked him if he could recommend a place to stay. There was a mumbled response, the sliding window was closed as he turned back to the football game. Outside the depot a fellow Australian I had sat next to on the airport shuttle was just rounding a corner; I hurried up to join her and asked where she was staying. She replied that she had booked a hotel through a travel agent in Australia before leaving: I thought that if I walked with her and when she got to her hotel, I would ask if they had another room: Simple. They didn’t have any rooms. The smiling hotel receptionist said there were several hotels a few blocks down the street but cautioned that we were on the fringe of a neglected area of town. I found a room in a decayed hotel in the neglected area of town.

cable car

image source:pixabay

The next morning and the next day I explored San Francisco and the first thing I discovered was that the neglected area of town was close to the Powell and Market Street Cable Car Turnaround. The second thing I discovered was that you don’t ask to buy a biro at a corner store. After two days in San Francisco I boarded a Greyhound bus for Nebraska.

We stopped early morning at a Denny’s in somewhere in Colorado for breakfast; the stop was 30 minutes. I sat at the counter ready to order something to drink and eat; coffee just appeared. Back then I was more of a tea drinker than coffee so I pretended the coffee wasn’t there. I never really looked at the menu and when asked what I wanted I timidly ordered toast and eggs. And then I was confronted with how would I like my eggs. Somewhat befuddled I replied what do you mean. I was asked how would you like your eggs; fried, scrambled, poached or boiled. Now I’m no stranger to eggs. Every Sunday night nanna and granddad would walk down from Eliza street for the traditional salad tea. The salad was left over cold lamb from the Sunday roast, iceberg lettuce, beetroot, sliced tomato, sliced radish and sliced hard boiled eggs, all smothered with Heinz salad dressing. Mum used to boil a couple of eggs for at least twenty minutes and when they were cold slice them with her prized Bakelite egg slicer.

egg slicer

image source:pinterest

Mum didn’t make poached eggs often and she had a special egg poaching saucepan that held a tray, that held four shallow cups for eggs. Once the water was boiling she assembled the parts on the stove and timed it so the egg yolks were hard but runny. Mum’s poached eggs were special and no one could poach eggs like mum. We always had mum’s poached eggs on toast.

I have always had a special place for fried eggs when done right. Together with beetroot they make the quintessential aussie burger with the lot; meat, lettuce, egg, bacon, pineapple, cheese, beetroot and sauce. The aussie burger is the crash pad of the fried egg. A fish and chip shop would be rated on the quality of it’s burger with the lot.

fried egg

image source:pixabay

With only twenty minutes left before the Greyhound left for Nebraska I quickly answered fried, only to be confronted with “and how would you like them; over easy, over medium, over well, over hard, sunny side up, basted or broken.” I was confused and flustered and couldn’t answer the waitress; I could only think of the fried egg that was crispy on the bottom with the yolk ready to burst and the quintessential aussie burger with the lot at the fish and chip shop in Melbourne Road, Newport.

Choices and more choices. And I didn’t know what any of them were. I was afraid of making the wrong choice. The Greyhound was leaving in fifteen minutes. I was mentally paralyzed by the choices. I panicked; why didn’t they have the fish and chip shop fried egg. No breakfast I muddled back to the waitress. I left the counter and went back to the Greyhound.

I remember my first sit down restaurant meal in Nebraska. I wasn’t used to the salad that just comes with your meal being in a separate bowl and being served before the meal. My salads were the meal: Salads around the kitchen table with nanna, granddad, mum and my brother; left over cold lamb, iceberg lettuce, beetroot, sliced tomato, sliced radish and sliced hard boiled eggs all smothered with Heinz salad dressing. When the waitperson asked and what type of salad dressing would you like I wondered silently why he was asking; salads just come with Heinz salad dressing. I responded with excuse me, hoping to gain some extra mental time to understand what the waitperson was asking me. The waitperson quickly came back with; italian, ranch, thousand island, french, blue cheese, honey mustard, russian, or the house special. Being in Nebraska, known for it’s open range cattle country, I ordered ranch only to be challenged with; original, light, fat free, buttermilk, cucumber, or bacon. I choose original and became mentally bewildered and seized with an anxiety attack.

ranch dressing

image source:jmcadam

What if I had made the wrong choice. What if I didn’t like ranch original. Would cucumber fat free have been a better choice. Did Nebraska have ranchers or did they have cow stations like Australia had sheep stations. Now I only order ranch original or blue choice salad dressing before the waitperson even gets to the and what type of salad dressing would you like. Ever since I eliminated having to choose a salad dressing munching on a salad has become worry free.

Burkes department store in Williamstown had sat at the corner of Stevedore Street and Douglas Parade since 1926. It was over the road from Nelson Brothers funeral parlor; where the funeral service for my father was held. Burkes also had a smaller store, by the Newport railway station, in Melbourne Road. Burkes stocked men’s and women’s clothing, haberdasheries, bedding, linens, and window treatments. I seldom wore jeans as a youngster but I think mum would occasionally buy us a pair from Burkes: blue denim straight leg jeans. Shopping for jeans was accomplished by the abrupt request to the sales attendant a pair of jeans please. After answering the what size question you had the jeans. Recently I mulled over whether I should buy a pair of jeans.

denim jeans

image source:jmcadam

In the department store I became disorientated and lost when I was surrounded by blue jeans; there were levi, wrangler, lee, calvin klein, diesel and more. I was surrounded by relaxed fit, regular fit, slim fit, boot cut, straight leg, big and tall, classic fit straight leg, classic fit boot leg, slim fit rigid boot cut, retro relaxed boot, premium performance, stretch, and fire resistant. And then there was stonewashed, vintage, prewashed, medium rinse, antique, trail worn, and sanded black fabric. There was at least one hundred different combinations of styles and treated denim to choose from. I was blanketed by a tremendous wave of fear; my heart was pounding and beating on my chest and it was getting harder to breathe. I was trembling and shaking and I broke out into rivers of sweat. I snatched up a pair of jeans without really looking; they had the same appearance as the jeans from Burkes and were labeled classic fit straight leg rigid indigo. I never wore the jeans. I kept wondering if I could have chosen better. The premium performance had to be called premium for a reason: And I probably would have looked better in the retro relaxed jeans, sitting low on the waist.

My granddad obviously understood choice overload and was so far ahead of Alvin Toffler and Future Shock: I think I now understand why he only took beetroot sandwich’s everyday in his kit bag for all those years he worked at Buncle’s. He refused to be subjugated to the tyranny of small decisions.

But I ponder if choice tasking is the new multitasking.


Too Many Choices Can Lead to Bad Decisions

Watch Build Your Own Biggest McDonalds

The Rise of the No Choice Restaurant

Sitting on the Throne

When I was a young boy growing up not many houses had inside bathrooms. We didn’t call them bathrooms; dunny, shithouse, lavatory, and throne were the most common names we used. The dunny at Peel Street and at my nanna’s place was a tall freestanding enclosed shed holding a toilet with a pull chain, and they were a modest distance from the back door of the house.

john back veranda

When my father and granddad enclosed the back veranda of Peel Street with glass louvred windows the dunny became a lavatory because it was sort of inside, but it didn’t have a sink. There was a small light in the lav so when we sat on the throne we could prop the door ajar with our right knee allowing just enough light from the louvred windows to read a Mandrake, Phantom or Commando comic.

I don’t remember much of the evolution from swinging my feet when sitting on the throne to executing the perfect squat angle in Asia and the Middle East but I do know that there were subtle transformations in my bowel movements, lavatory protocol, dunny etiquette and throne customs. One of the most influencing forces was my mother refusing to let us sit on the public toilets in a camping or caravan park. She spent many hours of my young life and my brother Peter’s exhorting on us the frightening diseases and maladies that we would be struck down with if we ever rested our bums on the public throne; we listened wide-eyed and terrified as we tried to imagine what was sliming, crawling, and mutating under the rim, on the seat, and somewhere in the bowl. I don’t remember any of the infirmities or sicknesses that she told us about only that plague, scab, pox, typhus, and cholera were used a lot. I do remember one of the first times I had to run the gauntlet of the wooden dunny seat: it seemed every time that I had to run the gauntlet it was a first.

We went camping and then caravanning as a family for several years when I was a young boy; the voyagers were mum and dad, nanna and granddad, and my brother and me. My mother overcame the challenges of using the public lavatories at the parks by having granddad, make a wooden dunny seat. It was only the seat, no folding down top. When the family went camping we all had to carry the seat, along with paper, to the brick bunker that housed the unsanitary four or five cesspools.

toilet block

At the beginning of each camping trip, I became a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. I didn’t launch a complete fast but I did limit my intake of solids. I was striving to cause my bowl activity to be nonexistent. I didn’t want to run the gauntlet of the wooden dunny seat. I kept telling my mum I wasn’t hungry because of the excitement of doing all the new holiday callings: She understood.

It is extremely hard for an adult to hide or disguise a big wooden dunny seat they are carrying; it is impossible for a small boy. The seat seemed to stretch from my armpit to my waist. I thought it was better to walk slowly with the seat instead of running. Running would only draw attention to oneself and besides, what would you do with the seat; swing it with your right arm as if it was a relay baton. I avoided the well travelled walking paths and shuffled and crept as I navigated through a tangled maze of tents and caravans to the public lavatories. It was all in vain. As soon as I was spotted with the dangling wooden dunny seat everyone would stop their games of pick up cricket, end to end footie, British bulldog, or something just made up with a gum tree branch and a rock and it became a scene from a Peckinpah movie: An intricate, multi-angle, quick-cut montage of normal and slow-motion images. In slow motion, the adults and children would point and laugh and their mouths would be forming words I couldn’t hear. They would lope alongside me mimicking; I felt as if I was the campground target of ridicule. I ran the gauntlet of the wooden dunny seat.

toilet seats

About ten years ago I stopped and stood in front of King Edwards’s oak coronation chair in Westminster Abbey.

In 1296 Edward I of England invaded Scotland with a bloody attack on the town of Berwick. Upon his conquest, he took as a spoil of war the Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone. The stone was the Scottish coronation stone. Edward had a Coronation Chair made and placed the Stone of Scone under it so all future English Kings would be crowned sitting in the chair and on top of the Stone of Scone. Whenever English royalty sat on the throne they were also sitting on Scotland.

Berwick-upon-Tweed is still a traditional market town and is only two and a half miles from the Scottish border. It is the northernmost town in England. For more than 400 years it had been consumed in the historic border wars between the kingdoms of England and Scotland; it changed hands thirteen times and the townspeople were known as the dissenters.

As well as being a descendent from Australian Royalty, a poacher sentenced by the English court to transportation to the Australian penal colony, I am also a descendent from two dissenters of Berwick. So they could be married in Scotland the dissenters crossed over the halfway mark of the Bridge at Lamberton Toll.

Bridge at Lamberton Toll

The English returned the Stone of Scone to Scotland in 1996. The stone is proudly displayed in Edinburgh Castle.

When I gazed upon the stone for a second time my Scottish ancestry and the myths of the McAdam clan became facts of existence. I thought back to the lectures my mum used to harangue us with about sitting on a public throne. Her long inventory of diseases that included the plague, scab, pox, typhus, and cholera were not forebodings about the looming maladies that were going to strike us down: it was the proud spirits of my ancestor’s whispering their presence. They were flyting with savage tirades against those who had slighted them. I was too young to understand. The wooden dunny seat was a symbol of Scottish nationhood and freedom: the Stone of Scone.

Today I would proudly run the gauntlet of the wooden dunny seat; I would hold the seat with arms stretched skyward and scamper not just on the walking paths but throughout the camping ground and caravan parks; just as the torchbearer carries the Olympic flame.

The wrath of the Scots is still divided. The Scottish independence referendum took place on September 18th 2014: The No side won with 2,001,926 votes over 1,617,989 for Yes.

I still wonder however why my mum made us wear plastic sandals in the showers at the camping grounds and caravan parks; we weren’t allowed to stand on the concrete floor.

World Toilet Day Song

The Coronation Chair

Red Back on the Toilet Seat

Before the Movies there were Pictures

When we thought we were too old for Market Day at the Dandenong Market our cousins Andrew, Peter and Bruce would each take the Blue Harris from Dandenong and stay for a few days of the school holidays with Nanna in Eliza Street. I don’t remember very much about Andrew, the oldest cousin, coming to Newport but Peter and Bruce’s stays in Newport combined a coming of age without a loss of innocence. Bruce and I would watch television all afternoon causing our young teenage minds to be shaped by the daytime schedules of channels nine, seven, and ten and the 1940’s American movies they broadcast.

Peter was the middle cousin and I think the couple of years difference in our ages and how old we were gave us school holidays without a loss of innocence; the days were filled with two major undertakings. One was designing and constructing complex Hornby O Gauge train layouts on one side of the Peel Street backyard, and the other was taking the train into Melbourne to go to the pictures.

We didn’t just go to the pictures we went to the one-hour newsreel shows. On the elected day of the newsreels, we would be anxious to catch the first off-peak train into the city: the first after 9:00am. And we knew we had to be on the return off-peak back to Newport before 4:00pm. We had about six hours to navigate the central business grid of Melbourne to choose the best two newsreel offerings and have sandwiches or a meat pie at Coles Cafeteria.

Coles Cafeteria
coles cafeteria

The newsreel theatres were small theatrettes in the basement of buildings housing retail shops or tucked below picture theatres. The concept of the newsreel was to screen back to back an eclectic blend of short featurettes. A one hour program was made up of one or two weekly newsreel, cartoons such as Tom and Jerry or Donald Duck, Popeye, a Pete Smith Specialty, the 3 Stooges, or a Scotland Yard mystery. The program would run continuously through the day with no intermissions and you could stay in the theatre as long as you wanted to: even all day. In the late fifties Melbourne had six newsreel theatres; Century, Albany, Star, Times, Savoy and Tatler.

Tatler albany theatre

We knew the location of each theatre and would walk the Robert Hoddle grid comparing the programs at all six theatres; a Pete Smith Specialty versus a 3 Stooges comedy, Bob Dyer’s record shark catch versus a Trade Fair opens in Melbourne, or a Casper versus Sylvester. The decisions while not causing grief or distress were agonizing. We would go to one newsreel in the morning and then head to Coles for lunch and to digest what we had just seen. In the afternoon we would sometimes sit through one and a half of the program just to see the Pete Smith Specialty a second time. And then back to Flinders Street for the off-peak return to Newport.

I only knew movies as pictures, and pictures were no longer than twenty minutes. The exception to the twenty minutes was the Saturday afternoon matinee feature after the intermission and the serials. The feature was usually a Tarzan, Lone Ranger, Robin Hood, or a Western and the serials or cliffhangers were Zorro, Roy Rogers, Rob Roy, a G-Men thriller, or some other thriller. We would go to the matinees at the Hoyts Regent in Ferguson Street; the theatre would inhale a collection of excited pre-teen boys on Saturday afternoons who quickly found their seats downstairs and waited in anticipation for the lights to dim and the curtains to open.

theatre inside

It was a regal picture theatre: reserved seats in the upstairs balcony with ushers with torches to take your ticket and escort you to your seat, a ticket box, and a concession stand to buy Jaffa’s, Minties, or a Peters ice cream. The ice cream could never be taken into the theatre and had to be purchased and eaten in the foyer or outside during intermission. There was a milk bar over the road from the Regent and sometimes we would go there because of the varied choices of ice creams and lollies.

A  Hoyts Regent

The matinees added to the fine print to my definition of pictures; you could never eat anything in the theatre when you are watching a picture.

Several years later as a teenager, I would go to the Friday evening pictures at the Regent with Andrew Lambrianew and we would meet up with a collection of other rebellious pubescent teenagers. We would start off sitting in a row of seats and the lights dimming was a signal for action to the ring leaders; their intent was to outsmart the torch-carrying ushers. They would provide enthusiastic loud comments to the images on the screen, roll Jaffas down the aisle, or throw Minties and Fruit Tingles at the projection screen. As soon as the rear door opened and the torch-wielding ushers appeared everyone in the row would crawl under the seats and rows to disperse. If you were caught you were escorted from the theatre.

Peer pressure caused me to sit with the daredevils and I suffered embarrassment and fear at this Friday night at the pictures rite of passage. If only I could have looked into the future: I was being initiated to what is now the tradition of audience participation and callbacks of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and the Sing-a-Long-Sound of Music.

The Regent was demolished to make way for the North Williamstown Library.

st george theatre

The St Georges in Yarraville became a picture theatre in 1910 and projected its last picture in 1958. In 1960 it became the Universal Dancing Classes Ballroom. I was a young teenager when I first caught the train to Yarraville and walked into the St George with Andrew Lambrianew. We were there to learn to dance. Under the guidance of Pat McGuire and his wife, Marjorie Andrew and I would no longer have two left feet but would glide across the floor showcasing the waltz, pride of Erin, foxtrot, progressive barn dance, and evening three-step. I think we also thought we would meet girls. So off we went: I think it was Thursday nights.

Mum made most of our clothes and she made a blazer and slacks for me to wear when I was dressing up to go out. I think that she had made them so I would grow into them or maybe the loose, baggy, fit was some cool late fifties early sixties look that I didn’t know about. But she was the seamstress. The boys lined up behind Pat and mimicked his footwork as he counted off the beat. The girls were lined up behind Marjorie. There was some magical communication between Pat and his wife because they both knew when we had conquered the dance step and it was time to practice: the boys were sent to one side of the hall and the girls the other. Most time it was boy’s choice and you had to go and ask a girl to dance. I was very shy and bookish and still in scholarly competition with John Colville and Robert Ballard when I was learning to dance, and my best going out clothes didn’t help my self-image. After refusals from various girls, I would be back sitting by and learning against the boy’s wall listening as the speakers introduced Max Bygraves crooning Any Dream will Do.

Everyone danced the progressive dancers. I spent my first progressive dances stepping on every girl’s feet, forgetting when to change partners, and not knowing if there was a difference between the beat of the barn dance or the three-step. I was never asked to dance when it was girl’s choice.

If only the St George’s lights would have dimmed and the curtain opened to show Tarzan travelling to India to save hundreds of wild elephants who were in danger. Andrew spent most of the time dancing and hitting on the girls. I soon didn’t like going to UDC and must have talked Andrew into also not wanting to go. My mother was disappointed when I told her I wasn’t going to dance classes at the old picture theatre anymore. I don’t think I wore my dressing up going out blazer and slacks ever again.

I still don’t dance. When I saw the movie Strictly Ballroom I wondered why Pat and Marjorie never taught us young boys, the paso doble.

Rocky Horror Picture Show

Strictly Ballroom


I Love the Smell of Penny Bungers in November

A few years ago it became legal for people living in Nebraska and inside Omaha city limits to purchase and shoot off fireworks between June 25th and July 4th. Just before July 4th I trawled one of the many fireworks for sale tents that have mushroomed in Omaha. It was my first venture into a fireworks tent. I did go to a fireworks barn before it was legal to shoot off fireworks in Omaha. It was across the Nebraskan border in either Missouri or Kansas. I hesitated to buy anything fearing that when I crossed back into Nebraska I would most likely be stopped by a state trooper and upon the vehicle search the fireworks would be discovered, not so well hidden, under the spare tire in the boot. Surrounded by fireworks it was difficult to dismiss thinking of the Gunpowder Plot and some say the traitor Guy Fawkes; the thought of buying whiz bangs and blowing up Parliament was with me as I left the barn and I adopted a swagger as I walked toward the car. I spun the wheels and sent a cloud of dust sky ward and I was soon pounding down a dirt road alongside the interstate; bootlegging and moon shining, a fireworks runner outsmarting and outdriving the law.

There were no Catherine Wheels, Tom Thumbs or Penny Bungers in the Omaha fireworks tent but I did find boxes of Sydney Harbour Bridge for thirty plus dollars. I wondered if a Paul Hogan aerial repeater was in the box. Hoges had been a painter on the bridge before Crocodile Dundee fame. It is normal for all Melbournians to possess antipathy for anything Sydney. I knew there had to be a bigger and better Melbourne Federation Square box somewhere in the fireworks tent. All of us who hung out together called the milk bar on the corner of Douglas Parade and Bunbury Street Dashers: named after the owner who we thought was so slow and deliberate at doing anything: maybe he was just old but we never thought of that. You would have never found a box of Sydney Harbour Bridge at Dashers.

All in a Box
Sydney Harbours
johnfireworks2 fireworks tent

For weeks before cracker night we would save our pocket money and forage the neighborhood for Tarax bottles or any other soft drink bottle that had a refund. Sixpence or a shilling would buy a large assortment of mixed crackers at Dashers. The crackers were stock piled for bonfire night but some were set aside to practice the cooking of the spuds celebration on some of the days and nights leading up to bonfire night.

Bonfire night, also know as cracker night, is observed on November fifth to commemorate the capture of Guy Fawkes and by burning an effigy of Guy Fawkes who was a member of the Gunpowder Plot. We didn’t really care about Guy Fawkes and the plot to blow up British Parliament. It was just an excuse to blow up letter boxes, throw penny bungers down street drains or at each other, lob tom thumbs anywhere and everywhere, shoot sky rockets from milk or beer bottles, build a bonfire, and bury potatoes in the ashes of the bonfire.

We built our bonfire on the grassy area on the Strand where we played end to end football and pick-up cricket games. In the weeks leading up to the lighting of the bonfire and cracker night the gang: Andrew Lambrainew, Ray Cowmeadow, Alwyn Robertson, my brother Peter, and sometimes Froggie Norton, and Butch and me, would spend after school until teatime and all day on weekends knocking on neighbors doors asking for anything that was flammable. Some neighbors had been saving combustibles for months. We dragged and hauled car tires, paint cans, mattresses, furniture and anything wood; anything burnable: anything that burnt with a thick acrid black smoke. The neighbors also lugged their own rubbish and piled it onto the bonnie. We wanted to have the biggest and best bonfire on the Strand. The bonfire grew and stretched into the sky and seemed to spread out as you watched it. After tea we would sit into the night guarding our bonnie from other gangs intent on stealing and plundering to better their own bonfires.

On November fifth, as the daylight dimmed, the neighbors converged on the bonnie. The little ones would be dressed in their pajamas and dressing gowns and they would be made to hold their mum’s hand to watch the lighting of the bonfire. We would throw and spray petrol and any other flammable liquid on to the base to help with the lighting. There was no choreographed to music pyrotechnic display with the sky always full of fireworks for twenty minutes ; the Catherine wheels would spin, the little ones free from their mums hands would write their name with sparklers in the dark, and sky rockets would burst randomly in the sky and we would throw a few tom thumbs and penny bungers.

It must have been a genetic DNA inheritance because over the years our simple actions with sparklers were transformed into rituals and cracker celebrations. No one taught or told us but we knew we had to keep a cache of bungers, sky rockets, and tom thumbs for the cooking of the spuds celebration. When the fire had burnt down and everyone had gone home we would throw our potatoes into the ashes and let the ritual of the cracker fight and the spud celebration begin. You just sort of knew how to hold tom thumbs between your fingers and when they started to explode be able to throw them accurately at your best friend. Aiming a sky rocket in a milk bottle and lighting it while your human prey ducked and weaved took a steady hand and a keen eye. You never just threw a lighted penny bunger during the celebration; you would quickly put it in a can and then throw the can with the bunger. It took skill and timing to heave the can and have it close to your target when the bunger exploded.

New Type Sky Rockets
Where’s the Milk Bottle
sky rockets john&skyrocket

After fishing the spuds out of the ashes we would sit together as a small band of brothers. We used our soot covered hands to wipe the specks of burnt rubber, paint, black carbon, charred fabric and ashes away. We didn’t taste all the carcinogenic dioxins, hydrocarbons, mercury, lead, chromium, and arsenic; the spuds just tasted of burnt rubber and smelt like petrol.

I think a lot of things that we did were just preparing us for some later similar occurrence or transformation that we will experience; we just didn’t know it at the time. The cooking of the spuds celebration was laying the ground work for me looking at the burning bodies on the Varanasi ghats on the banks of the river Ganges. I remember my eyes stinging from the smoke and the smell of sandalwood scented smoke and barbecue. None of our spuds exploded and the spud soul was never released.

Those were the days: the days we didn’t have to license our fun hormones.


Sydney Welcome 2015 Fireworks

Man Killed Launching Fireworks off Head

The Gunpowder Plot

The Tooth Fairy Left Me a Cyborg

When I read the headline in the Age Fake dentist operating in Melbourne’s northern suburbs I at first wondered why anyone would want to be a dentist so bad that they would just do it without any schooling. As I read further it was about Mr Velipasaoglu who was trained as a dentist in Turkey but was not qualified to practice in Australia. So I wondered what makes a person a qualified dentist; and where do dentists come from.

Throughout the fifties and sixties, dental hygiene and management weren’t really practised in Australia; it certainly wasn’t in my family and the catchphrase about teeth was if they start hurting get them taken out. But I think there was a degree of hurt that would concede a visit to the dentist was in order and curative work could be considered.

I thought back to what I remember about my early dentist experience. I don’t remember his name but my mother kept repeating that he was a relative of ours; some distant cousin, or something as obscure and that he wouldn’t hurt us. We rode our bikes everywhere in Williamstown, even to the dentist; 72 Electra Street Williamstown. The building was a non-descript double-fronted cream brick veneer structure, the second building down from the corner of Douglas Parade and Ferguson Streets.

There was a waiting room to the right as you went in and the surgery was on the left. I vaguely remember waiting in the waiting room wondering what the strange odours were. I didn’t smell chloroform or ether again until I was studying chemistry at Footscray Institute of Technology. I know my mother would never tell us an untruth, but it did hurt. Sitting back in the chair you knew when the drill would stop spinning because you would watch the chains and pulleys slow down as the drill was pushed into the tooth. And that’s when you had the different levels of pain, and there was also no escaping that burning smell. How I dreaded each visit but I did have more fillings. I think that this dentist relative of ours wore rimless glasses.

When I was old enough to no longer listen to my mother I never really went back to the dentist again. Fillings fell out and new cavities appeared, and I ate a lot of soft foods. Whenever we journey back to Australia the meat pie and sausage roll are the first on my list of must-eats. Some habits just die hard.

They say that America is the land of opportunity. So I decided I was going to save my teeth and give them a new life. And I would eat hard foods that needed severe chomping: the chewing of sound and fury. I braved bone implants, bridges, caps and root canals, fillings and extractions to reach crunch domination. Three dentists a periodontist and an endodontist have been part of the save the teeth team. I remember my first visit to the first of the three dentists. I don’t think he looked in my mouth; the hygienist pushed a probe between the gum and the roots of my teeth and she repeated numbers as she wrote them on a chart. Two four, four eight, eight eight, sixteen two and so on. She then cleaned my teeth. When the dentist came into the room the hygienist shared the chart she had written the numbers on and all I overheard from their hushed conversation was; bicuspid, bite and bifurcation. We made two follow up appointments: to extract a front tooth and prepare a bridge and then to struggle with three fillings.

Save the teeth was set in motion.

I think the dental office was in a building on South 17th street but has since been demolished to make way for the Omaha skyline landmark First National Bank of Omaha Corporate office. But all I could see, my body tense and rigid and my hands clenching and gripping that arms of the chair, as I lay facing the window, was a huge ceramic pot containing a lonely amaryllis bulb. I was referred to the periodontist by my first Omaha dentist, Dr Steve Wachter: it was soon after when he saw his last gum tree.

On my first visit to the periodontist, the hygienist pushed a probe between the gum and the roots of my teeth and she repeated numbers as she wrote them on a chart. Two four, four eight, eight eight, sixteen two and so on. Dr Swain was committed to saving my teeth; he peeled my gums back to expose the jaw bone for bone grafts and then stitched the gums back in place with the sewing dexterity that I thought only my mum could ever have. Swain deadened my jaw and most of my face with abundant amounts of lidocaine, articaine, and epinephrine but I was still tense, rigid and skittish. I would spend several hours in the dental chair on each visit and it was during my second visit that I thought about the heavy use of the numbers that were factors of two: two four, four eight, eight eight, sixteen two. And all the dental words that had the prefix bi. Maybe it was the lidocaine but my mind went back to form 5AB at Williamstown Technical School.

williamstown technical school form-5AB

Form 5AB. John McAdam 2nd from right top row. John Colville 4th from right top row. Robert Ballard 5th from right top row. Gunter Jergens 1st from left 2nd row. Kevin Thompson 2nd from left 1st row. John Savory middle 1st row.

We were two years past Mr Stonehouse’s class but John Colville and Robert Ballard and a lot of the form 3AB boys were still classmates. We were introduced to the concept of the new Math; Venn diagrams, intersection and union of sets, matrices, and numbering systems that were not base ten. It was the time of Sputnik and the Explorer satellites and we were told that computers were going to engineer the future of humankind and they used binary, octal or hexadecimal numbering systems. We mastered the subtleties of only using ones and zeros to express numbers and became masters of the binary number system; a numbering system that uses the base two.

I never put it all together before now. I started to look forward to my doses of lidocaine, articaine, and epinephrine because it unloaded my mind of daily occurrences and allowed me to focus on the fact that dentists and periodontists communicate mostly with a binary number system and in a language that contains a lot of bites. It was like a computer talking to a computer; they were humanoids. I mused over my epiphany every Swain visit; he had done all he could with bone grafts and scaling of the jaw bone and I was getting comfortable in his presence and was preparing to confront him about my humanoid theory when just like Wachter, he saw his last gum tree.

So I’m now back with the dentist I should have always been with: even though he has had to extract a couple of teeth he has also capped and filled others. He is a loyal save the teeth team member. Whenever he adjusts the chair so I’m in an upward prone position I turn away from the blinding white light and just whisper knowingly: convergent evolution humanoids. As soon as the instruments are put in my mouth I say things like; did you use a laser blade to shave this morning, or isn’t it around your lunchtime, are you going out for a byte. And when I leave the dental office; there is so much roadwork on Dodge Street I’m going to have to take the R2 detour home.

The drive to my dentists’ office takes me down two of Omaha’s major streets. Depending on my route I can pass; casual fast-food drive-throughs, coffee shop drive-throughs, pharmacy drive-throughs, furniture pick up drive-through, a bank drive-through, a library book return drive-through, a job fair drive-through and a pizza drive-through. Maybe they should have a dentist drive-through.


Crazy Alien Dentist App for Android

Frank Zappa Moving To Montana:Dental Floss Tycoon

Universal Numbering System

Standing in the Corner Watching Television

If it weren’t for Philo T. Farnsworth, inventor of television, we’d still be eating frozen radio dinners. Johnny Carson (1925 – 2005)

I really didn’t grow up with television. I first saw television from the footpath outside the windows of the Patersons Furniture Store in Ferguson Street, Williamstown. It was a small black and white television; at that time thought of to be extremely large, and I together with a large crowd that spilled onto the road watched as former 3DB radio announcer Geoff Corke who later was known as Corkey King Of The Kids introduced GTV9’s first test television broadcast: Everything’s fine on GTV Channel 9. We watched the black and white static mesmerized. The 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games were broadcast as a test transmission. Australia did well at those games; Murray Rose won three gold medals in swimming, and Betty Cuthbert became the Golden Girl by winning three gold medals in track.

image source:nma.gov.au

It seemed as if every shop window had a television set in it and every television was showing a black and white grainy image. The footpaths became congested places. I only knew that television sets cost a lot of money. Programming was only for a few hours each day and the test pattern was broadcast for the rest of the time that the three channels were on air; Melbourne had GTV channel nine and HSV channel seven and the government channel ABC channel two. So we were like many families and didn’t get a television when they first came out. Each afternoon after getting home from school and before tea I would sit glued to the wireless listening to the Air Adventures of Biggles, Superman, and the Adventures of the Sea Hound. Sometimes we would have a special night out: the family was invited to friends of mum and dad’s up the street to watch television.

image source:nostalgiacentral.com

After tea, we would walk animated up Peel Street and do all we could to contain our anticipation and excitement. We would only stay and watch TV for a couple of hours: bedtime was early for me and my brother and besides television stopped broadcasting around ten o’clock. Sometimes we would stay and watch the test pattern; it always followed the playing of God Save the Queen and the Australian flag.

And then we got a television set. The inside layout of our house in Peel Street was typical of a lot of houses built in the early nineteen hundreds. It had a central passageway with my mum and dad’s bedroom and lounge room in the front of the house and a few steps down the passage opposite the dining room the bedroom I shared with my brother. The kitchen was at the end of the passageway and a spare room that became my bedroom was off the dining room.

Peel Street
Lounge Room
Peel-st Peel-st-lounge-room Peel-st-passage

The lounge room was reserved for entertaining guests; it had a couch and a couple of large soft chairs and a glass door cabinet that housed and displayed my mother’s crystal, silverware, and other collectables. His Master Voice television sat supreme in the lounge room; the tube and those big valves were inside a honey-coloured wood cabinet that was on legs. My mother insisted that we had to turn the volume down when we turned the tuner knob to change channels otherwise we would break something.

Nanna and Granddad would walk down Peel Street after tea from Eliza Street every weekday night and stay until about 9:00 o’clock before walking back home to bed: just as we used to walk some nights up Peel Street years ago to watch TV. Nanna would sit at the kitchen table and do the Australian Post crossword while my mum sewed, ironed or knitted. Mum would sneak words into the crossword while she ate her dinner and at other times during the day. The Australian Post was a weekly picture magazine and was read by all of Australia; it was a curious blend of scandal, human interest stories, sensationalism, entertainment and pin-up photos. You always read last weeks and earlier Post’s when waiting for a haircut at the barber’s shop. While the ladies spent their time in the kitchen granddad sat with me in the lounge room. I’d stretch out on the couch and he would sit in a chair to soak up the television. I didn’t understand it at the time but within twenty minutes his head would drop to his chest and he would be asleep.

image source:pixabay

We always thought that cousin Bruce was too young to play in the paddock or go with us on Market Day to the Dandenong Market. Years later he would take the Blue Harris from Dandenong and stay for a few days of the school holidays with Nanna in Eliza Street. He would walk down Peel Street and together we allowed both of our young teenage minds to be shaped by daytime television; we watch it all afternoon.

That was the last that I remember of strenuously watching television. I do remember Eric Pearce announcing the Cuban Blockade. I was drifting into my teenage and professional student years and was deciding to watch sometimes only cool television. I entered the world of change and uncertainty; rock and roll, sixties and seventies women, alcoholic oblivion, The Masters’ Apprentices, The Twilights, and more: I gave little thought to television until London. Friday nights in London became must be home by 10:00 pm to watch Monty Python Show and must also be home on other nights to watch the Benny Hill Show and Steptoe and Son.

Kitchen Sink OWH

image source:johnmcadam

In 1991 the television show Everything but the Sink was created. It was broadcast on an educational television channel: the channel was one of the public, educational, and government access channels in Omaha provided by the cable franchising authority contacting with a city. The set was a 1960’s kitchen in limbo. I talked to my guests, read the paper, watched television, ate doughnuts and drank coffee. It became an Omaha cult favourite. I did radio talk shows and the daily paper tried to explain Everything but the Sink.

Everything But the Sink
Playful Talk Radio

People still recognize me and acknowledge the program 25 years later. I suppose I was some sort of video viral blowout before YouTube and on-demand high definition digital video started narrowcasting across inter-connected devices. I wonder if all those people who watched the Sink were trying to become active participants in the stories that unfolded in the kitchen.

I still remember the great 1979 movie Being There; adapted from the 1970 novella by Jerzy Kosinski. Chance is a simple-minded, middle-aged, man and has lived his whole life gardening. Other than gardening, everything he knows has been learnt entirely from what he has seen and sees on television. When his benefactor the Old Man is discovered dead Chance is told by the lawyers that he must leave the townhouse he lives in so he packs a suitcase of clothes and takes his remote control and heads out into the world.

Maybe Grandad fell asleep in front of the television so he would forever hear God Save the Queen and watch the test pattern, or maybe he was channelling the concept for the future 1980 studio album Glass Houses and the lyrics for Sleeping with the Television On to a teenage Billy Joel.


I’m going to try going to sleep watching my smartphone.

Skyhooks Horror Movie

The Twilight Zone

Being There

You Can Take the Boy Out of the Market

Spring 2015 has arrived in Omaha Nebraska: the Omaha Farmers Market is celebrating its twenty two years in the old market neighborhood. Five years ago the market expanded on Sundays to the streets of a redeveloped AKSARBEN Village. We have lived in the AKSARBEN neighborhood for more than 25 years. Our house is a Bernie Quinlan drop kick away from the Village. Before the Village, the area was the Ak-Sar-Ben Race Track and Coliseum. The immediate area is still dotted with the Trackside Lounge, Turf Lounge, and the Fan Tan: providing a cold Metz, Storz, or Falstaff after a hot losing day at the races.

image source:jmcadam

Each Sunday morning sometimes over a hundred vendors and growers create a walkway down the center of parts of 67th Street and Mercy Road. Consumers can choose from seasonal fresh produce, free range organic meats, baked goods, and artisan breads and cheeses. The meats; lamb and beef are grass fed free range, and the steaks and chops are packaged in protective plastic film and are sold frozen.

The immortal race horse Omaha is buried at AKSARBEN beneath the Market; not all that far from the Parthenon Greek Pastry and Erick’s Enchiladas stalls. It took many years for me to appreciate the hallowed tradition of the name Ak-Sar-Ben: it is NEBRASKA spelt backwards. I think that man’s best friends are also eager for the Market. Leashed and outnumbering humans, they seem to enjoy themselves as much as the shoppers and are quick and impatient to make friends with each other.

My Aunt Peg lived in Edith Street Dandenong. My mum also had a house that she rented in Edith Street; the paddock as we called it separated my mother’s and Aunt Peg’s house. All I remember of our family visits to Dandenong was the 20 mile drive down the empty Princess Highway in the Austin A40 or Vanguard. It was sort of suburbs to Oakleigh and then country. Past Oakleigh the Springvale crematorium was a faint silhouette from the highway.

John & Brother Peter Dandenong PaddockI didn’t want to look at the distant building where they burnt bodies; I closed my eyes and pressed for the Austin to accelerate and bring us closer to two of my Dandenong cousins Andrew and Peter, and the hours we would spend playing in the overgrown paddock. As we got older we spent less time in the paddock and more time at the Dandenong Market: founded in 1866 it is Melbourne’s second oldest and second largest market. Aunt Bet, my mother’s younger sister, moved into my mother’s Dandenong house just after her marriage and my brother and I would be allowed to stay with Bet and Uncle Ken for a few days during the school holidays. I think my mum and dad would drive us at first, but as we got older and what was the last few market years we would take the train; over an hour ride on the red rattler from Newport to Dandenong.

Andrew, Peter, sometimes young Bruce, my brother and I would spend all Market Day Tuesday at the market. It was another Bernie Quinlan drop kick from Edith Street. Early morning we would rush down Market Street and into the cattle pens; we would walk atop and balance on the wooden planks that formed the chutes, pens, and gates. We would run along the wooden tunnels leading to the loading bays: closing and opening gates and sometimes being met with sauntering pigs, sheep, or cows. After going home for lunch we would share time between the stalls in the show grounds and what seemed the capacious roofed area crammed with tables groaning under the weight of fresh fruit, vegetables, clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags, and all types of haberdashery. Around 3:30 we would amble slowly past every stall asking if they wanted any help today packing up. Sometimes we were lucky and they wanted help and we knew we were guaranteed at least a threepence or maybe a sixpence. Late afternoon we would walk, exhausted, down Market Street to Edith Street. I was unknowingly preparing for future market days at the Grand Bazaar Istanbul, the Isfahan Bazaar Iran, the Covent Garden Flower Market London, and other street markets of the world.

By the late 1960s, Dandenong was officially a suburban area of Melbourne and the Lonsdale Street area was being transformed by modern buildings; Steve De George’s Café and the market were another era, and market day had become a memory. And Aunt Peg and Uncle Ian built their new house on the paddock.

The Queen Victoria Market began in 1878 and was built atop land that was part of the Old Melbourne Cemetery. It is said that the Queen Victoria Market is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. The Queen Vic is a vibrant shopping mecca for Melbournians and a major tourist destination. The market is made up of the Delicatessen and the Meat Halls, and 600 retailers in shed laneways and streets; you are tempted with fresh produce, clothing, shoes, jewellery, handbags, haberdashery, meat, poultry and seafood, gourmet and delicatessen foods, and more.

I don’t remember the first time I overloaded my string bag at the market but I do remember the Meat Hall. A variety of sausages, mince, chops, legs, and shanks were displayed in trays at the front of each stall. Within the stall and above the serving counter carcasses hung from hooks on metal rails and could be swung and tugged to a butchers’ table for cutting and chopping. The floors were awash with sawdust; to absorb any liquid that dripped from anywhere in the store. Shoppers navigated walkways framed with swinging meat. Each shop had a butcher out the front dressed in the traditional apron slimed with blood from the morning’s killing screeching the day’s specials.

Meat Hall
Fresh Produce John at the Queen Vic
Meat Hall VictoriaMarket JohnAtVictoriaMarket

These visits to the Queen Vic must have been the early seventies; the elapse of time can dilute a memory. I am confident that all Australian food and safety standards and practices were being followed. Maybe my memory is not diluted and I am just mashing the Meat Hall stalls with the street butcher shops and meat stalls of Afghanistan and Thailand. I didn’t appreciate the Delicatessen Hall when I shopped at the Vic. I would just rush through it picking up some cheese or bread not aware that I was walking the streets of a 1927 art deco village. The shops still have the same marble and limestone counters and the old wooden window frames and signage from when they were built. From an eclectic mix of thirty plus stores you can experience; bakeries and patisseries, artisan cheeses and breads, continental cakes, specialist tea and coffee, European sausages, and cured meats and more. At the top end of I shed is The American Doughnut Kitchen doughnut van. It has been parked at the edge of the market for over 50 years selling small, round, hot, jam filled donuts. It is a tradition to scald your tongue on the hot jam inside the donuts and to lick the sugar from your fingers and lips.

Dandenong Market was the first urban village where I walked among and atop grass fed and free range animals, watched the different vegetables appear in their growing season, talked to the farmers and producers, and touched just picked fruit and asked for free samples. I still enjoy meandering the markets and relish touching the non-irradiated, the non waxed or gassed in transit, and pesticide free produce; I wonder if that is my Australian Royalty descendent, a poacher sentenced by the English court to transportation to the Australian penal colony, ghosting his presence.

But I think Framers Markets should have shopping trolleys.

World’s Most Beautiful Markets

This Little Piggy Went to Market: The Wiggles

Omaha Farmers Market