A Ride On An Escalator Begins With One Small Step

Late last year I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Sydney; a refreshing breather between a seventeen hour non stop flight from Dallas Fort Worth and a five hour flight to Perth. It had been some time since I was last in Sydney. Ten years ago our Qantas flight from Los Angles was late in leaving the US and so I missed my connecting flight to Alice Springs. It was no worries for Qantas; in a flash they had us rescheduled on tomorrows flight and put up for the night in a hotel. And so we had a winter’s afternoon to idle away in Sydney. I remember wandering the Haymarket, and in a fourteen hour lack of sleep induced lethargy stumbling past the boutiques, jewellery shops, and delightful cafes and restaurants housed in the opulent Queen Victoria Building. Then came the long faltering walk down George Street to a cold, wind swept Circular Quay; the opaque mid-afternoon sun had turned the Bridge and Opera House into gloomy silhouettes. Winter is a great time to visit Sydney.

image source:jmcadam

Ten years before the afternoon of cold winds and wintry sun I’d spent a few days enjoying the harbour city. I remember being woken each morning by the screams and cries of the white cockatoos in the trees alongside the balcony of my Macleay Street hotel. I could have been in the bush but I was just a stones throw away from the pimps, prostitutes, and party goers of Kings Cross. Back then Bondi Beach was the most famous beach in the world but not the most popular beach in Sydney; it’s foreshore was waiting for the fast food joints, souvenir shops, pubs, and the crowded buses disgorging an unending stream of sightseers. Watson’s Bay was a charming quiet retreat where you could enjoy Doyles’s fish and chips with the seagulls. And the Olympic Stadium was being built at Parramatta.

There’s several options to get from the airport to downtown Sydney. I decided on the Airport link train. Some would say I wasn’t able to think straight seeing I’d just deplaned after a seventeen hour flight from Dallas Fort Worth. I didn’t pick the train because it only took thirteen minutes to get to the city; I took it because it stopped at the heritage listed St James underground station. As soon as I boarded the train I discovered time travel isn’t like it is in science fiction. There’s no swirling lights, magnetic storms of chronitons, or spinning dials and warp engines; it’s a sleek silver metal cylinder racing though a dark tunnel.

image source:skyscrapercity.com

I stepped onto St James’s 1930s train platform from a double-decker silver train carriage. St James and its one stop away sister station Museum were Australia’s first underground stations. St James’s platforms and concourse have many of their original features; it’s said to be one of the most ornate station interiors in the New South Wales railway system. The platform walls are a distinctive cream tile edged with green, and the lighting is refurbished thirties. If you look closely you’ll see period advertising signs and original exit signs. The concourse is defined by the same cream and green tiles and is framed by decorative wrought iron; the supporting steel columns, ornate stairs, lights, and clocks add to the station’s ambience.

After steering my wheelie spinner suitcase through the Art Deco concourse and down a couple of concrete stairs, I entered the station’s pedestrian subway tunnel; also lined with ceramic cream tile and edged with green tile. I walked toward the light at the end of the tunnel. My shoulders stiffened and I tightened my grip on the handle of the wheelie spinner; the light was a powerful, irresistible force pulling me toward Market Street and the QT Sydney. I had learnt sometime ago that there’s no coincidences in life; everything happens for a reason, and that includes meeting certain people at a certain time. I would soon be introduced to the Directors of Chaos.

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The QT Sydney is a dramatic Art Deco boutique hotel fashioned from a heritage, modern conversion of the historic State Theatre, and what was once the Gowings department store buildings. The Directors of Chaos are decked out in edgy black leather and vibrant post office box red wigs. They patrol the QT’s entrance to meet and greet guests; and if you’re so inclined they’re more than happy to spend some time just chatting, giving directions, or offering suggestions of what to do in Sydney. It’s easy to be overawed by the QT’s quirky interior, fashion-forward eclectic room design, their mini cooper you can reserve to tootle around Sydney, the unique cocktails at the urbane Gilt Lounge bar, and the eye-catching Gowings Bar & Grill, but I was enthralled by the lifts. The lifts detect how many people are in them and then play appropriate music. If you’re by yourself they’ll play “Are You Lonesome Tonight” or Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself”. If another person gets in the lift you might get “Let’s Get It On”, Just the Two of Us,” or “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor, and with four or more people you could get Prince’s “1999” or Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance”; they’ll farewell you with a “Hasta La Vista Baby”, or “I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing”.

Wynyard underground station is a drop kick away from the QT. As I left The QT and headed for Wynyard I thought I could faintly hear Aerosmith’s “Love In An Elevator”. The Directors of Chaos must have been hearing something because their feet and hips were moving to a crazy beat; as if they belonged to the music. Or maybe it was the Espresso from the Parlour Cucina that caused the movement.

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I stared up at Interloop, the wooden escalator sculpture mounted in the station’s concourse, and slowly began to understand the concept of stationary motion. I waited for Interloop to play the appropriate music as the number of commuters below it changed and shifted; would it play Neil Sedaka’s “Stairway to Heaven”, Sarah Vaughan’s “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven”, or the “The Stairs” by INXS? The sculpture is the work of Sydney artist Chris Fox and was created from the station’s original eighty year old wooden escalators. The twisting accordion-shaped sculpture was recycled from the treads and combs when the station’s original four wooden escalators were removed and replaced with upgraded modern escalators. And it seems that Chris wasn’t to keen on the concept of a musical escalator.

Fact is stranger than fiction. Three of the St James’s original wooden escalators were installed in 1932, which is the same year the first escalator was installed in Melbourne. The soaring Art Deco Manchester Unity building, on the corner of Swanson and Collins Streets, housed Melbourne’s magical wooden staircase.

image source:visitmelbourne.com

The magical staircase hurried people from the ground floor arcade to the first floor shops and the basement level tea room; but there wasn’t a staircase down from the first floor, or up from the basement. It’s said that 60,000 visitors rode the magic staircase on opening day and that a nurse was on hand to treat people if they needed medical assistance after their ride on the staircase. The original escalator to the first floor is still there; the outside wood paneling has been refurbished, but unfortunately, the wooden moving stairs have been replaced. It was Sunday, and I was alone in the Manchester Unity building’s ground floor arcade. I put my hand on the stationary handrail and vowed to return to ride the magical staircase. As I turned to leave I thought I heard ever so faintly from behind the decorative paneled lift doors

I’ll build a stairway to heaven
I’ll climb to the highest star
I’ll build a stairway to heaven
Cause heaven is where you are

Twenty years after enjoying fish and chips with the seagulls at Doyles I returned to Watsons Bay to see if they tasted as I remembered them. Now it’s said that a lazy person doesn’t deserve food; before a filet of battered barramundi could pass my lips l’d have to climb the steps to the Gap Lookout. The path to The Gap is across Robertson Park from Watsons Bay Wharf and Doyles. The steps rose before me. I let my hand fall on the handrail. I pulled on the handrail as I pushed on my legs, and slowly made my way up the steep stairs to the lookout at the top of the cliffs. The Gap lookout rewards you with stunning views of the coastline, the harbour, and Sydney’s skyline. As I marvelled at the panorama and caught my breath, I wondered if there was ever a plan to install a wooden escalator to the scenic overlook platform. I reckon the Not In My Back Yard brigade must have put a stop to it.

image source:jmcadam

As I sat in Sydney airport waiting for the boarding announcement for my five hours, across Australia flight to Perth, I thought back to that next morning’s flight to Alice Springs ten years ago. I remember being a little muddled after the plane landed. We were ushered to the back of the plane and onto a towable passenger stairway to deplane; I’d only deplaned using a towable passenger stairway in Belize City. My mind cleared up when I saw the Fruit Interstate Quarantine Bin by the airport terminal’s door to the tarmac; I was In Alice, not Belize City. I had no intention of climbing Uluru but I was going to ask permission to put my hand on the Rock. Uluru is 276 miles or 445 kilometers southwest of Alice so a tour with a sunset viewing is a good eighteen-hour day. It’s worth a couple of hours of sleep to feel the spirit of Uluru. With a good old sing-a-long in the bus you’re there and back before you know it.

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You’ll need to excuse me. I feel an urge to ride the escalator in Von Maur’s department store at Westroads Mall. I much prefer the Von Maur escalators to the escalators in Dillard’s department store at Oak View Mall. At Von Maur a grand piano, and player sit on the ground floor alongside the escalators; the skillfully played jazz, popular music, and Broadway tunes waft up the escalator bank reaching the third floor Home and Gifts department. I so much enjoy a musical escalator ride.


QT Sydney


Gap Park (Watsons Bay)

A Little Chafing Is A Dangerous Thing

I’ll bet you a penny to a quid that if you line twenty people up and show them a photo of a coat hanger bridge with the sails of an opera house behind it they’d tell you it’s Sydney, Australia. Most people know about Sydney because of it’s harbour and famous landmarks; not to mention it’s world famous beaches, bronzed Aussie lifesavers with zinc slathered noses, and beach goers wearing pocket size Speedos. Now I’d be one of the first to admit the iconic Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the sheltered beaches and eye catching surf beaches, make Sydney one of the most visually stunning cities in the world. But if you live in one of Sydney’s sprawling suburbs instead of one that lines the harbour or beaches, then it’s no different than living in any other ho hum city.

image source:jmcadam

Sydney’s a crowded, sprawling, congested city. It’s jammed narrow CBD streets follow the blueprint of the lane ways and roads of the convict era; most of the main thoroughfares still funnel down to Circular Quay and the harbour. The harbour seems to have a life that’s a far cry from the frenzied hustle and bustle of the narrow, crowded, overflowing city streets; the jam packed city streets have been replaced with the easygoing waters of the harbour. The grid lock of footpath walkers on auto pilot, staring into their smart phone, has become a meandering flotilla of yachts, power boats, runabouts, and green and yellow harbour ferries.

Sydney’s thirty two green and yellow ferries are in constant motion. They’re forever slipping away from Circular Quay to bustle around eight different harbour routes and twenty nine wharves. If you don’t ride a ferry as part of your daily commute, then deciding which harbour trip to enjoy can be a challenge. I think the thirty minute ride across the Sydney heads to Manly Beach is a must for everybody; and it’s been a classic Sydney adventure for over 100 years.

image source:nsw.gov.au

As I ambled towards Circular Quay’s No 3 wharf and the Manly Ferry I felt a slight tingling in my groin. Once onboard I sat on an outside lower deck, wood slatted, bench that ran the length of the ferry and waited with anticipation to feel the vibration of the engine. The smooth chug of the engine propeled my noble green and yellow craft away from Circular Quay, past the Opera House and Sydney’s waterfront mansions, and across the harbour toward the Heads. Whenever I squirmed or moved on the wood slatted bench the tingling in my groin became more that slight.

As my ferry dipped and swayed through, and across, the sparkling harbour waters I began to softly sing:

Farewell to old England forever
Farewell to you numb-skulls as well
And farewell to the well-known Old Bailey
Where I always did look such a swell
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ay
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
And I’ll see you in Botany Bay
Now there’s the Captain, he’s our commander
There’s the bosun and all of the crew
There’s the first and second class passengers
Know what we poor convicts go through
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ay
Singing too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy
And I’ll see you in Botany Bay

My singing grew louder with every too-ra-li oo-ra-li ay, and I was soon swaying back and forth on the wood slatted seat in time to my boisterous singing. Every sway I took caused the tingling in my groin to become a sharp irritation. As my green and yellow ferry passed the Heads and started to approach Manly Wharf I put all I had into one last too-ra-li oo-ra-li ad-dy.

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The tingling between my legs became unrelenting the closer the ferry got to Manly Wharf. I looked back at the two headlands that formed the Sydney Heads, and pondered. What could be causing the sharp groin tingling? Could it be salty sea spray inflaming an irritation? My thinking immediately travelled back to the mid seventies and Bangkok, and a severe case of chaffing in my groin caused by sweat drenched undies. I asked myself; Could I possibly have chaffing in the groin? I started to mentally check off what causes friction when skin rubs against skin.

    • Clothing that’s too tight or too loose
    • Long distance exercise activities like prolonged walking
    • Excess moisture from sweat
    • Fabrics that don’t wick moisture away
    • Sensitive skin
    • Heat and hot weather
    • Extra body weight
    • Salt residue on skin from sweat or ocean water

Without doubt I had chaffing. The day before riding the Manly Ferry I’d spent a warm summer morning walking throughout Barangaroo Reserve wearing loose walking shorts; there were times when I manufactured a generous sweat. It was Bangkok all over again. I quickly put two and two together. The chaffing would’ve been aggravated by the salty sea spray when the ferry was buffeted by the waves and swells caused by the Bass Straight waters colliding with the waters of the Harbour. When the spray evaporated it would’ve left crystals of sea salt on my skin; the crystals would then cause micro abrasions to the chaffing.

image source:sydneycoastwalks.com.au

The green and yellow ferry glided into Manly Cove and nestled itself alongside the Manly Jetty. I got slowly up from the wood slatted outside deck seating and shuffled along the Jetty concourse. I tried to keep pace with the sightseers and tourists heading to the Corso; the wide open pedestrian mall lined with shops, cafes and pubs that guides people from the ferry to the surf beach. Each step I took along the concourse was as if I was wearing 80 grit sheets of sandpaper on my inner thighs.

The burning in my groin caused me to once again think back to Bangkok and my sweat drenched undies. The streets were crowded, overflowing, and clogged with people, motorcycles, tut tuts, and buses, and the temperature always nudged the nineties, with the humidity matching the air temperature. Every mid afternoon a brief thunderstorm topped up the humidity. My undies were constantly moist from crotch sweat, and the rivulets of sweat trickling down my back. I didn’t know that my cotton Chesty Bond undies had very poor moisture wicking properties, and once they became wet they stayed wet for as long as you wore them. I soon discovered that Thailand’s own, Snake Brand Prickly Heat Powder was the unsurpassed remedy for extreme chaffing; but you had to show a little courage to get used to the lengthy after burn.

image source:bangkoknightlife.com

As I hobbled down the concourse the memories of the soothing power of Prickly Heat caused my mind to work overtime. Baby Powder had to be Australia’s Prickly Heat; it’s clinically proven mildness was guaranteed to help your skin feel comfortable. Just as a shimmering lake of water appears in the desert to a thirsty explorer an ALDI supermarket appeared at the end of the concourse. I saw supermarket shelves groaning under the weight of endless containers of baby powder and I smiled with relief; as soon as I emptied six ounces of baby powder down the front of my grundies I’d be bounding down the Corso, onto the white sands of Manly Beach, and into the world famous turquoise waters.

I shuffled down the ALDI aisles, dodging young bikini wearing wanna be trendsetters, vagabond surfers, and European backpacking travellers without backpacks, searching for the lost endless containers of baby powder. Without thinking I quickened my step down the aisles, only to be humbled by a burning ring of fire in my grundies. I tottered to the check out, and in a desperate, pleading, voice sought the baby powder

Me: G’day; where’s your baby powder
Aldi Associate: We don’t have any; ya best bet is Coles
Me: Where’s Coles
Aldi Associate: Down the Corso
Me: How far down the Corso
Aldi Associate: Within cooee
Me: Cheers

And so I shuffled off down the Corso, as if my knees were shackled, in urgent search of the Coles’ supermarket.

image source:jmcadam

Before I knew it I was holding a small paper bag with a container of baby powder, and frantically scanning the Corso for a public toilet; I needed a safe haven to be able to empty the container of baby powder into my grundies. The Corso is lined with restaurants, souvenirs shops and a great assortment of other shops, lots of tourists, but no safe havens to feel the soothing power of baby powder. After a painful eternity of hobbled shuffling I arrived at the tree lined promenade, the long stretch of fine soft white sand and turquoise waters, of Manly Beach; but all I could see of the world famous beach was a men’s changing shed and toilet. I staggered into the changing shed, whipped down my shorts, and in a deft movement of my right arm had the baby powder out of it’s small brown paper bag, and into my grundies. I squeezed and shook the baby powder. I don’t exactly know how much powder went into the gusset of my grundies but my groin was emitting clouds of white powder with every step I took. I sat at a picnic table on the promenade gently rubbing my knees and thighs together to press and pat the baby powder into the chaffing.

image source:jmcadam

After several minutes I stood and started out toward the beach. The burning in my groin had vanished. I stood gazing at the fine soft white sand and turquoise water, and was about to slip off my Teva sandals and charge across the sand to walk knee deep into the breaking waves, and along the length of the world famous beach. As I reached for the velco strap of my Teva I realised that my chaffing, and search for the chaffing elixir, had left no time to experience the unique charm of Manly Beach. In a little over an hour I’d be on a guided walking tour of the Sydney Opera House.

It was a speedy rush down the Corso to catch the four o’clock ferry to Circular Quay. As the green and yellow ferry passed the Heads and started to be buffeted by the waves and swells, I reached for my container of baby powder. I was sitting on an outside lower deck, wood slatted, bench that ran the length of the ferry so I turned towards the Heads and emptied a little baby powder into my grundies.


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A History of Snake Brand Prickly Heat Cooling Powder

5 Reasons Why Manly Beach Is One Of The Best Beaches In Sydney