First off, in case anyone was concerned, I am alive and well and more than 2,000 miles away from the fires in Victoria. They are pretty horrific. Nearly 200 people have died already. Australians aren’t very used to large-scale natural disasters, and this one is hitting home hard. It’s nice to know that my current job has contributed to the relief efforts, but we’ll get to that in a bit.Where were we? Ah, yes. Darwin.
Darwin was getting way too hot and boozy. Before I left the Top End, I took a three-day tour of Kakadu National Park. I expected to encounter all sorts of freaky Aussie critters, and I was not disappointed. We saw frilled lizards, emus, pythons, crocodiles, dingoes, and wallaroos (too big to be a wallabie, too small to be a kangaroo). But the creatures that I will remember most from my Kakadu experience were the thousands upon thousands of flies that were buzzing around my sweaty head at any given moment. Australian flies crave the salty goodness of human perspiration. It is widely known that I am The Sweatiest Man in the World, and when The Sweatiest Man in the World went to Kakadu, The Sweatiest Place in the World, a perfect storm of Sweatiness erupted. The flies of Kakadu greeted me like manna from heaven. From dawn ‘til dusk, they never left me alone. They didn’t bite. Instead they just buzzed and crawled all over my face, occasionally creeping into my eyelids as I tried to appreciate ancient Aboriginal rock paintings (many of which are sex education literature in hieroglyphic form).Still, Kakadu was pretty awesome. We did some nice walks and took lots of dips in spectacular swimming holes. The highlight of the trip was our first night of camping, when I ate kangaroo meat and played a didgeridoo under a full moon while dingoes howled in the distance – my most quintessentially Australian experience so far. I barely got a wink of sleep and the tour group was kind of lame, but it was still a good time. It was our tour company’s last trip before they shut down for the wet season, and our guide made no secret that he was trying to score an English girl from another tour group at the campsite as a year-end bonus. Not sure if he succeeded.After several farewell drinks with my Darwin friends, I took to the skies and flew to Perth. Flying over the vast expanse of Western Australia was humbling. Gazing out my window, I could see astoundingly little evidence of human development – just miles upon miles of desert punctuated by the occasional mine site or dirt road to nowhere. The in-flight movie was “Mamma Mia,” so many of my future reminiscences of the Outback will be scored not with “Waltzing Matilda” or “Blue Sky Mine,” but with “Waterloo” and “Dancing Queen.” Thanks, Qantas. And for the record, Pierce Brosnan can’t sing for shit.
If Darwin is Australia’s version of a Texas oil rig town, then Perth is an Aussie San Diego – nice weather, great beaches, suburban sprawl, a mellow populous, not a whole lot of character, but still a nice place to live. My buddy Sam got me my current job, which involves me standing on the street and encouraging strangers to donate money to charitable organizations. It’s not as hard as it might seem (I got promoted!). You just gotta learn to deal with constant rejection. If I get four sign-ups a day, I’m doing well. The easiest people to sign up are recent African emigrants, and there are plenty of them in Perth. I’ve signed up folks from Sudan, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe (I had no idea there were so many white people from Zimbabwe). Black, white, male, female, old, young – the Africans are very charitable and generous. Without a doubt, the hardest demographic to sign up is suit-wearing, white dudes. Shocker.
I suppose that I can’t get through this entry without mentioning the election of Barack Obama. I watched the results come in at The Fox Ale House, one of the pubs I worked at in Darwin where my buddy Carboni was nice enough to let me put on the big screen TV. A girl from California strolled by the pub and watched it with me. As nice as it was to hear Australians cheering and applauding the speech of a soon-to-be American president, it was great to be able to share that moment with a fellow Yank. Hope home is treating you well, Marie! As for the inauguration, I was at a hostel in Busselton where I had to wake up at 1:30 AM to watch live coverage. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a live inauguration, not even for Clinton. I was hoping for some momentous “The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear Itself” quote from Obama, which never really surfaced. But I suppose the fact that such a seemingly decent, intelligent, charismatic and inspiring person who just happens to be a black man became the president of the United States in front of a crowd of millions of proud, hopeful and motivated Americans speaks for itself. America, FUCK YEAH!!!!
Back to Australia…
Perth was Heath Ledger’s hometown. As big a city as Perth is, its isolation gives it a small-town familiarity, and all the locals seem to know someone who actually knew Heath or at least knows one of his family members. His Academy Award nomination for “The Dark Knight” came on the anniversary of his death, and made front-page news here. Assuming (and it’s a safe bet) that he receives a posthumous Oscar, it will be interesting to see how Perth reacts. I wonder what it must be like for his family to walk around Perth, where “Dark Knight” merchandise is inescapable, looking at images of their boy and his now iconic incarnation of The Joker displayed on posters, DVDs and t-shirts in every other store window. If any Ledgers are reading this, you have my sympathies.And if there are any Academy members reading this, how the hell could you not nominate “The Dark Knight” for Best Picture and Best Director? What the fuck is wrong with you people? The movie is beloved by audiences and critics the world over. It has a great story, terrific acting, and superlative technical artistry. It is now the second highest-grossing movie ever made. You gave the film eight other nominations, but just couldn’t see it in your crooked little hearts to give it the big ones, presumably because it is based on a comic-book character and therefore must be kid stuff - incapable of exploring significant psychological or dramatic terrain. That attitude is snobby and retarded. Why does Stephen Daldry have three (THREE!!!) Best Director nominations to his credit while Christopher Nolan has zero? The man has never made a bad movie. You weren’t even this mean to Spielberg in his early days. Wake up, douchebags!
Ah, well, at least some other genuinely decent movies got nominated, and it will be fun watching my former boss tackle the hosting duties.
Perth will most likely be my last major stomping ground in the Land of Oz. My vague plan is to save up money here, see a bit more of the outback (not sure where or what exactly – somewhere ABBA-free, if possible) and then head homeward in April. My big dilemma now is deciding which way to go. Next time you’re near a globe, find Perth and then find Boston. I am nearly as far away from home as the North Pole is to the South Pole. I could go east or west and spend about the same amount of money and travel time. As nice as it is, how the hell did I end up here?
Shameless Self-Promotion Alert!!!!
Click here to view the trailer for "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," the movie that completely consumed my life just a year ago. After all the hard work that thousands of people put into the production, it is hugely gratifying that the trailer looks as good as it does, biased as I am. I was physically present for pretty much every shot that features a motorcycle, helicopter, explosion, mountain scenery and/or Hugh Jackman fighting with Liev Schreiber. When I was a kid and fantasized about making movies, this is the kind of stuff I saw myself working on. The movie will be released on May 1st, and I hope it lives up to the trailer!
In the meantime, dear readers, I hope you all survive the Global Financial Crisis with your life savings intact. For those in the movie biz, try to get gigs on funny flicks – Hollywood thrived during the 1930s thanks in great part to cheaply made screwball comedies. To all my “Pineapple Express” buddies, keep Judd Apatow on speed dial, and please put in a good word for me!