Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Postcard From Lake Tahoe































































A few more group shots and random shots. The first pic is us with a former workmate of Ann's (and briefly and sporadically mine) who we bumped into completely unexpectedly in downtown San Francisco. The chances of that happening are so slight. We didn't know he was in SF and he though we were in Europe and had no idea we were in SF. If we'd left to go out a few minutes earlier or if we hadn't taken the F car and had walked instead we might not have run into each other.

Turned out he and his party were going to Napa the following day, same as us. We hooked up for dinner (oh crap - I have to post a photo of the chicken we had for dinner... weirdest damn thing ever) and he told us about a place he wanted to go to afterwards. Place that serves food from an old caravan, stays open till late with a fire in a big tin drum. We didn't know about it but it sounded cool. By coincidence, a friend of Kat's (called Turtle) was there, a random friend she had met at this year's Burning Man. Turtle is well connected in the Napa wine scene and drove us around to some pretty special wineries the following day. We were treated well and tasted some spectacular wine, stuff you just don't get in Australia. Quite amazing how it all came together. At the end of the day we went back to Turtle's for dinner, drinking and darts. And much hilarity. It's great when you meet generous, like-minded people.

Also in these photos is Group Shot With Golden Gate Bridge, Group Shot With Alcatraz, a couple of Group Shots with Lake Tahoe and a shot of Napa and one of our place in San Fran, which we are returning to in a couple of days.

Right now we are enjoying a lazy Christmas day in front of the fire while drinking a very large bottle of Mumm bubbles. We'll go for a walk by the lake and sink into the outdoor hot tub a bit later before roasting turkey and mashing potato and drinking eggnog. There is still snow everywhere even though it hasn't snowed for a few days. They are expecting a storm to blow through tonight with more snow tonight and tomorrow. We're going to take snowboarding lessons tomorrow and see what happens. Hopefully I'll get as hooked on that as I am on darts. I am soooo getting a dart board and French Bulldog when our new life starts in Melbourne.

Have just listened to Younger Brother's Last Days of Gravity and am now listening to Zoe Keating's Into The Trees, and all is good in the world.

I hope your Christmas is as good as mine is.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Postcard From San Francisco
















Long time between blogposts. We're in San Francisco now and I'm behind with photos. These are a couple from New York, part of what has become The Group Shot Collection. It's basically just the two of us with a famous thing in the background. We were taking the soup tin shot and a friendly American offered to take a photo of the two of us and we couldn't explain that the point of the group shot is that we take it ourselves. We said yes please and thanked her because it was nice of her, even if it did defeat the purpose.

So New York was a revelation. I didn't expect to like America but New York is brillliant. And I thought New Yorkers were meant to be arseholes but for the most part the people were really friendly. It's a hectic city that really has so much to offer... so long as you can afford it.

San Fran is not so spendy and also has a lot to offer. We're staying in The Mission District and there are so many quality eating places. It's ethnically diverse and there is some really good quality food for really reasonable prices. Some areas are potentially rough in a way you don't really experience in Sydney with some very dodgy looking characters around, but so far we've been left alone. It doesn't feel threatening, exactly, but you do feel it's wise to keep your wits about you.

We rode bikes across The Golden Gate bridge to a beatiful little town called Sausalito and caught a ferry back. We went to Alcatraz yesterday and that was a haunting place. Very atmospheric as they haven't really upkept it since it closed. There are still bullet marks and grenade marks in the floors and walls of some cells from the attempted escape and seige of 1946. Very poignant were the accounts (recorded voices of one-time prisoners) of how close San Francisco was, but how out of reach as well. Apparently when weather conditions were right the prisoners in some cells could hear the sound of celebration from the mainland on New Year's Eve. I know these were hard-core criminals, but you can't help thinking about the impact this must have had on the humans they still were.

Anyway, it was a totally harsh place. Really interesting to have been.

At the other end of the accommodation spectrum, we found this really beautiful Victorian mansion/ B&B to stay at. We booked it as a splurge for two nights because it's close to dear friend Kat (who is the main reason we've come to San Fran). We mentioned to the owner that we're in town for a couple of weeks but need to find somewhere within our budget. He offered to do us a deal and that's just what he's done. He's a real character and seems to have taken a shine to us. He moved us to one of the premium rooms instead of a budget one and said we could have it until someone else books it and it's just so Goddamn lush. We move into a smaller room when we get back from a short trip away, but even the smaller room is plush and comfortable.

Side trip tomorrow to the Napa Valley for some wine tasting, then on to Lake Tahoe. Snow is predicted in Tahoe every day. The Dreaded One, Kat and myself will be having a white Christmas (my first ever) and we have a place with a kitchen so we can roast a Christmas dinner too. Snowboarding is on the agenda, which should be interesting.

Oh - last night... the weather has been grey and rainy here since we arrived. There was a full lunar ecplise last night but it didn't look like the cloud was going to clear. The three of us went for dinner and came back to our room to play board games (Jenga and Monopoly, lots of laughs) but we climbed up onto the rooftop to check on the moon just in case. Amazingly, the cloud was breaking up. We had seen glimpses of the moon earlier and it was brilliant white and as full as it gets, but through the thin wisps of cloud you could see the shadow eating it away. We went back up a little later and it was in total eclipse and glowing deep read.

It was apparently the first full lunar ecplipse to take place on the Winter solstice in 372 years, which was pretty special. Back downstairs my laptop was tuned into Psyradio and The Dreaded One said of the current track, "That sounds like Barry."Sure enough, it was a track called Lucid Dreaming Pt2 by our friend from Sydney who produces under the name of Third Drop Reflection. Weird time to hear a track by a friend being played on international radio.

Back soon, hopefully, with more group shots.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Warney Version 2

Okay, so the previous post was to be the next Grumpy column but the editor said they couldn't run it because they might get sued. I kind of thought that might be the case because I just lifted a story from a paper and substituted the names, which is clearly a copyright infringement. Personally I'd be happy to see a copyright case like that go to court because it would be brilliant publicity, but I think in the end it would b the paper taking the magazine to court and they wouldn't see it for the laugh that I would.

So. I whipped up the following on the flight from New York to San Francisco. It chewed up almost an hour and was a lot of fun. The quotes are real, the rest is made up and not only did I get to have fun with the story itself but I got to have a poke at gossip journalism. The Ed loved it which is a relief because I had been worried that she might not like me pushing the same idea when she had asked for something else.

Read and hopefully enjoy while I sit here icing my knee after a 15km bike ride from San Francisco port across The Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. I need to get more exercise.

Grumpy



In what has been dubbed by media sources as one of the most unlikely love-matches in the sporting and entertainment industries, Tsunami can reveal that everyone's champion league bowler and one of the world's most smouldering model actresses have severed ties with their former spouses to be together.



Fred Flintstone and Jessica Rabbit are officially an item.



Fred Flintstone has confirmed wide-spread rumours that his turbulent relationship with Wilma is off again, releasing a statement saying that "Sadly and unfortunately, Wilma and I split up a while ago. Our close friends and family were informed at that time."



The pair have remained close throughout the protracted separation for the benefit of their daughter, Pebbles.



"It is a private matter so we did not make it public. Wilma and I remain friends and will continue to be good parents."



Model and actress Rabbit, also a mother of one, confirmed via Twitter that she had separated from her millionaire husband “a few months ago.”



"Our close family and friends were aware of this," the model wrote.



Since grainy images of the pair canoodling at a London hotel emerged, websites and magazines have been running hot with the news, with many believing the story to be a hoax.



As if,” said one reliable source. “I mean, c'mon,” the source added. “Like, yeah, right,” he elaborated. “WTF?” he concluded as he giggled off into the sunset.



Reflecting such disbelief, another source is quoted as saying, “Pffft. Flintstone and Rabbit? Get outa here. She's way too hot for him and he's kind of... well a bit of a schmucklehead, really. He's a caveman and she's, like, classy and stuff.”



However a reliable source who can be named has confirmed that as bizarre as they first sounded, the rumours are all true.



Good old Fred,” a Mr Rubble chuckled. And chuckled. He kept on chuckling and saying good old Fred until our correspondent grew old and died of natural causes. Police say there are no suspicious circumstances.



Also not suspicious is that we at Tsunami are as willing as the next reputable media outlet to quote more unnamed sources.



"It's more than just a fling. Jessica is really falling for Fred," the friend of someone told someone. "They have grown very close and there is an intimate bond between them. The only thing standing in their way is the geography.”



When pressed on the issue of geography and what this had to do with anything, the source looked a bit sheepish and shrugged. “I don't know. I think Jessica must have failed geography at school she must be hoping that Fred can teach her a thing or two about geography. Because of all the rocks?”



The chubby and jocular Flintstone is to host his own talkback show next year, and the pair's flirty tweets broached the possibility of Rabbit appearing on the show, rumoured to be called Stoney.



I'd love to interview you on my show,” tenpin bowler tweeted, immediately sparking a flurry of rumours that he would like to interview Rabbit on his show.



If I make it to Bedrock next year I'll definitely do your show,” Rabbit cooed – as much as it is possible to coo on Twitter, sparking a wave of confirmation of the flurry of rumours that the smouldering sex siren would, in fact, be appearing on the show.



Yabadabadoo,” Flintstone enthusiastically tweeted in reply, leaving no doubt that the eruption, the veritable Big Bang of rumour and speculation over the likelihood of such a mismatched match was undoubtedly worthy of our most careful speculation and closest examination and analysis, the details of which we will bring to you as they emerge.



After all, weirder things have happened.



Grumpy is freelance writer Lee Bemrose, leebemrose@hotmail.com

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Flintstone, Rabbit In New Year Rendevous




















SEXPOT Jessica Rabbit plans a rendezvous Down Under with new love Fred Flintstone as the spin king yesterday confirmed his relationship with his ex-wife, Wilma Flintstone, was over.

Flintstone acknowledged on his website that his on-off-on romance with Wilma, with whom he has two children, was off again.

"Sadly and unfortunately, Wilma and I split up a while ago. Our close friends and family were informed at that time," Flintstone said.

"It is a private matter so we did not make it public. We remain friends and will continue to be good parents."

Mother of one Rabbit also took to Twitter to confirm she too had separated from her multi-millionaire husband Arun Nayar "a few months ago".

"Our close family and friends were aware of this," the model wrote.

Confirmation that both the model and the spinner are single clears the way for them to go public with their romance, after the pair were snapped pashing at a London hotel last week.

A friend of Rabbit's told a London newspaper there was chemistry between the couple.

"It's more than just a fling. Jessica is really falling for Fred," the friend told the Daily Mirror.

"They have grown very close and there is an intimate bond between them.

"The only thing standing in their way is the geography.

"Fred is mesmerised by Jessica. She's the first person he has felt so strongly about since his divorce. They have so much chemistry."

Rabbit is tipped to arrive in Australia this month and attend the fifth and final Ashes Test, starting in Sydney on January 3.

The face of Estee Lauder cosmetics is an advocate of breast cancer awareness and is keen to promote the Pink Test, which supports the Jane McGrath Foundation.

Flintstone spent yesterday with his children, Pebbles and Bam Bam, at his Bedrock mansion.

Long before he was caught publicly canoodling with Rabbit, Flintstone and Wilma had agreed to end their relationship.

They continued living under the same roof for their children's sake, but in separate bedrooms.

The flourishing relationship between Flintstone and Rabbit began when they met at the Goodwood horse races in England in July.

The pair sent dozens of flirty messages to each other on social networking site Twitter.

The flirting culminated with reports the pair spent two nights together at a hotel while Flintstone visited London to shoot interviews with Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson and singer Susan Boyle.

Flintstone has tweeted about how he would love to interview Rabbit on his Channel 9 show Freddie.

"If I get to come to Sydney for Breast Cancer Awareness I'll def(initely) do your show," Rabbit tweeted last month.

"Yabadabadoo," Flintstone tweeted in reply.

The buxom beauty is the star of one of his favourite movies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Courtesy of the Herald Sun, kind of.



Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tipping Point

Grumpy in New York


Welcome to The United States Of America, the land of have a nice day and tipping. Tipping, tipping, tipping. I was aware that this ridiculous concept had – like so much American culture – infected parts of the world where it was not required (try tipping in Portugal and they think you are mad... they'll accept your 10%, but they'll be laughing their arse off on the inside at your stupidity), and I was aware that it existed here because the basic wage in the hospitality industry was embarrassingly low, but I was not aware of just how entrenched and how fundamental it was to every transaction. Well not every transaction, but most transactions involving food and drink.


Brief history – tipping apparently came about in the Great Depression of the 1930s as a way of restaurant owners keeping staff on without paying them, leaving the staff to rely on their good service to earn their tips. Quite a nice story, really.


Cut to now. HELLOOO - IT'S NOT THE 1930S ANYMORE. Sure, things might not be as good as they could be right now, but overall it's just not as bad as it was during The Depression. Why, then, is the hospitality industry in the good old U.S. Of A still underpaying their staff and forcing its patrons to fix it up by paying for fake smiles and forced bounciness? And it's complicated too.


Just off the plane, The Dreaded One and I asked how much for a cab from the airport to Manhattan. “Fifty five bucks - not including the tip.” It was $7 for the subway which would be quicker and a lot more adventurous, so we took the subway. I'd kind of thought the tip for the cab would have been a couple of dollars or just rounded up to the nearest dollar, but ooooh no. In restaurants now they give you three suggested levels of gratuity – 15%, 20% or 25%. I've read that if you go to an expensive restaurant you are automatically expected to pay 25%. You don't have to go all out to clock up, say $200 on a meal. So that will be an expected $50 you also hand over to the waiter for doing their job. And at bars? You buy a drink and it's say, $12 for a JD & coke, but you add another dollar on for the tip. In fact they give you loads of $1 notes in your change because you are expected to pay a tip for each and every drink you buy. Needless to say, you don't stay out getting shit-faced very often.


You do tip waiters. In some cases you are supposed to tip the host, the front person who shows you to your table. You don't tip behind the counter people. You do tip cabs and hair cutters. If someone grabs your bags to help you with them (dude, I've made it around the world without little you by my side to help me so back the fuck off), you are expected to tip them for each bag they have groped. If a hotel guy takes you to your room and points out where the telly and the bathroom is (one guy actually did this – he even opened the closet door and told us it was the closet and closed the door again), you are supposed to tip them. You don't tip housekeeping staff... unless you have stayed three days or more, then it's a dollar a day. It was all so confusing I was starting to see visions of pugs in top hats (and wondering how much I should tip them).


And check your bill if you're with groups of friends before adding on your tip because in all likelihood, the restaurant has already kindly added on an extra 18%tip.


You start to question quotes like the one on the horse-drawn carts that take you around Central Park. Average price between $20 and $50. But does that include the tip? How much is the tip?


The end result of all of this? I will probably not do the horse and cart thing. I will not get pissed at bars very often. I'll eat out less and will probably only go to one reasonably nice restaurant while I'm here because otherwise I will be broke. It's already an expensive city, the last time I looked the Aussie dollar was doing okay but was still a few percentage points behind the American dollar, and alsotooaswell – start paying your hospitality people a basic wage, American hospitality industry. You can do it. Presumably you know about cost breakdowns, profit margins etc, stop being so lazy. Or greedy.


I'm guessing a lot of the hospitality industry like the tipping system because I've seen some bar staff rake it in. But the overall effect... well I wonder. I'm not a tight-arse and I am tipping what is considered the appropriate amount (when in Rome etc), but I can't be the only person who just can't afford to spend as much as I would if I wasn't expected to throw away extra chunks of my hard-earned cash at (almost) every transaction.


Grumpy is Lee Bemrose (leebemrose@hotmail.com). He suggests a 15% gratuity for reading this column. Have a nice day.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Postcard From Brighton

I've been very slack with blogging. I've been pretty slack with writing generally, although I am toying with the idea of applying for a creative writing course when back in Australia. I've never really been into the idea of studying writing and I'm not sure even now if it's for me, but it might be a fun thing to try. I think I've always felt that the short story award so many years ago and the few stories published and short-listed proves that I can do it so that's enough. But what the hell. Who knows.

Anyway. Last day in Brighton today. The above photo was taken in Prague, not Brighton, but it kind of captures my mood of late. Read into it what you will.

So how has Brighton been? Mixed bag of lollies indeed. In the first hour of being here we got caught up in student demos which threatened to turn into riots. There were riot cops out in force, dogs, 'kettling', helicopters... it was full-on.

Then there was snow. There were a few light falls, then one night it really came down. So pretty, so delicate and gentle. Being Australian I'm used to thunderstorms, hailstorms and heavy rain, all loud and potentially destructive. But snow just drifted about and settled gently, not making a sound. At times in the orange light outside the pub The Dreaded One and I sat in that night, the snowflakes looked like embers from a fire as they flurried about. Strange that such a beautifully gentle thing as snow fall can cause such havoc. Roads closed, trains got stranded, schools closed, airports shut down. It was amazing.

It was an impressive dump and it was such fun to be out amongst it. I've loved the cold and the sound of snow under-foot. And the smell of the snow. When it first started coming down I noticed a strange smell I hadn't noticed before and couldn't quite link to anything else. The smell persisted and I started to wonder if it was the snow, the way you can smell ozone just before rainfall. I said to The Dreaded One, "This might be a stupid question, but does snow have a smell?" She didn't know. I've never really experienced snow before so I thought maybe this was a common thing.

I googled and sure enough, lots of peopple can smell snow. Described variously as clean and ozone-like, I wondered how it was that I'd never encountered the concept of snow odour.Very distinct.

We made the most of this early, freak fall. Snow fights and sliding down hills and just generally being out in it. It turns everyone into children. So nice to hear the shounds of the protests and police sirens replaced by the hoots and child-like laughter of children and adults alike.

The snow has gone and life has returned to normal, except for the hangover of blame. The debates going on about who is to blame for everything turning to shit because of the snow is amazing. It seems each time this happens - heavy snowfall - the country grinds to a halt and someone is to blame. I don't know. I think it doesn't happen often enough for there to be proper systems in place to cope with it (if it happened for six months of the year every year I'm sure the situation would be different), and if that's the case just ride it out. But the Brits love to blame someone, and they love to do it with anger.

Speaking of anger, I also saw a ridiculous pub fight break out. The argument was over someone taking a bar stool that someone else had been using. Classic case of class divide because one guy was working class and the other sounded and looked a bit of an upper class twat. The twat kept baiting the blue collar guy by questioning his intelligence because he wanted to punch someone over a barstool. He had a point, but the other guy did back off at the urging of his mates, but that the twat kept making things flare up only proved that he was, in fact, precisely as stupid as the other guy. At one point the shouting even included questioning which of them was the more authentic Brightonian.

I don't know whether we are more egalitarian in Austraia or whether it's more that you don't get such distinctly different classes at the same drinking hole, but I'd never seen anything quite like it. Funny and disturbing. We got the hell out when furniture started flying about and other patrons started getting involved.

We also took part in an artwork designed by Thom Yorke from RadioHead. This involved us standing around in blue ponchos with thousands of other people assembled to look like King Canute while a plane flew over and took photos. It was bitterly cold and about as much fun as it sounds, but strangely fun.

And today is our last day in Brighton. We're off to Oxford tomorrow for a couple of nights because people say it's nice. Then it's back to London for one night before we fly out to New York.

Hopefully I'll ge back into regular updates. And posting more photos. God, I am so behind.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Found: One Gold Ring

We're walking along a street in Paris when this guy just in front bends down and picks something up. He looks around at us and holds out a man's gold ring in the palm of his hand, his expression asking if I had just dropped it. It takes about half a second for me to think it's not mine and clearly it's not his but one of us may as well have it. I instinctively put out my hand and he gives the ring to me.

It takes another second for me to realise the ring is still warm from body heat; if it had been sitting on the cold stone for even a couple of minutes it would also be freezing cold. I look around for who might have dropped it and see a well-off older guy who has just removed a glove and realise the ring must be his. I move to approach him but the young guy who gave me the ring has moved off, thought for a second, then decided to ask me for a small reward for returning the ring.

I pull out a few coins without looking and give them to him whilst keeping an eye on the older guy.

But the young guy wants more money. I have only given him 50 cents. I know where he's coming from - it's an expensive ring, he has done the right thing, the least I can do is reward him decently. Maybe the ring is worth several hundred dollars, maybe more, so what is 10 or 20 Euro in comparison? Problem is, I'm not going to pay paper money for a ring I am about to return to its rightful owner.

I give the kid 2 Euro to get him out of my way because the old guy is moving away now and I really want to give the ring back to him.

But the kid gets shitty with me now and starts demanding more money because it's for food. This really pisses me off. He has simply done what he though was the right thing to do - why expect money for that? I wave him off, leaving him shouting in exasperation. I chase after the old guy.

"Did you just lose a ring?" I ask him.

He looks at his watch. He can't speak a word of English. I point at his ring finger. I show him my rings. I pull the gold ring out of my pocket and mime finding it on the pavement. He does not recognise the ring and walks away muttering.

So. Suddenly I am left with a solid gold ring and now way of returning it to its rightful owner. I look around for anyone looking for a lost ring. It could be anyone. By now they could be anywhere. I feel bad for them and don't know what to do. I think about taking it to the police. I think about selling it. I'm just not sure.

We talk about what an odd thing to happen this was. About the frustration of feeling the owners body heat in the metal. About the pushiness of the kid and how dumb he was to think it was mine when it was in front of us and not behind.

Next day, standing outside the Louvre, looking at the Seine, a fresh faced girl approaches us from behind and says look what I just found, a gold ring.

The Dreaded One and I look at each other. Oh yeah?

"Yours?"the girl asks.

"No," we both say.

"Is it gold?"

We shrug.

"You take it. For good luck."

"No, you keep it for good luck."

She leaves us alone to look for another victim.

What I like about all this is that it's an inventive scam. If you get sucked in properly and hand over the 10 or 20 Euro I've since read occurs, you have your own greed to blame. You know this supposed gold ring is not yours, but you realise that 20 Euro is a damn good price for this chunky ring. Hell, who knows how much it's worth. It's a good little scam.

I now know where the warmth of the ring came from. I'm glad I only forked out a Euro or two (it will make for an amusing addition to our coffee table collection of trip memorabilia), and I amused to think the old French guy probably thought I was trying this local scam on him.

And I am very glad I didn't hand it into the police or take it to a jeweller to be valued. They would have gotten a good laugh out of it though.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Grumpy In Prague

Latest Grumpz column. This was verz last minute and I wasn§t sure how it would turn out but the editor simplz replied with lots of hahas and LOVE IT in caps. Zou have to like a response like that.

I have heaps of photos to share but am on someone else§s computer, so I can§t post anz photos just zet of mz adventures in Prague.


Grumpz In Prague


Greetings from mz new hometown, The Cyek Republic§s capital, Prague. It§s been prettz non-stop since I arrived a few dazs ago. I have friends here which is a good thing because thez know all the cool places to go and thez know how to speak the local lingo which is a good thing because the further into Eastern Europe zou go the weirder the languages are. In Spain, France, Italz and Germanz, if I stare at a slab of writing and summon all mz mental powers, I can generallz get the gist of a bit of it. But in Cyek, forget it…

Whoa. I just read over what I§ve written here and either I§ve picked up a Cyek accent or this is one weird-arsed kezboard. Or it could be the beer. I§ve been drinking rather a lot of Cyek beer… and Absinthe. Mazbe the green fairz is making me see funnz shapes and mispellings where there are none. How is this looking for zou, mz fair editor… am I coming across as a little under the weather or simplz merelz… I forgot what I was going to saz.

Anzwaz. So. Prague. I went to possiblz the cooloest club I§ve ever been to. It§s called The Cross, and it hands down beats anz other club ever in the cool pants department. Contemporarz metal sculpture for furniture, nooks, crannies, art on the wall and rammed full of friendlz, unpretentious people. I wanna live in that place. If zou§re ever in Prague, do check out The Cross. Come and saz hello §cos I§ll probablz still be there.

Also another club worth checking out is 02. Mz friends said there§s a pzstrance night at 02. I said great, lets go. Thez said not sure because it§s a bit small. I said don§t care. Thez said no it§s reallz small. I said what are we talking here, a night club for hamsters­ insert question mark I can§t make the question mark kez work. Mz friends said not it§s for humans but it used to be a toilet block in the local park. Well that sealed it – never been to a club night in a toilet. Not an actual toilet.

Indeed, this place was tinz. If six people were on the dancefloor, it was crowded. It was hilarious bacause there were waaaz more than six of us on the dancefloor towards the end of the night. We told the guz running it that he needed to build a bigger dancefloor. He scratzched his chin, looked around, then got a couple of his bozs to tak√© some of the tables and chairs outside. Now zou could fit twice as manz people as six on the dancefloor… that would be 12… sorrz, brain in szrup mode… and now I§ve distracted mzself and can§t remember waht the next bit was going to be.

We took a break from clubbing and drinking and stuff for a daz and went forest hunting. This wasn§t about shooting animals in a forest, it turned out to be a hunt for an actual forest.

There§s meant to be heaps of them just out of Prague, but we couldn§t find a single one no matter how much mud we trudged through. We found lots of fields and there were lots of trees scattered about that if all squished together might have made nice forests, but no actual forests. We did find a place with some prettz water at that base of a steep cliff but unfortunatelz the fog was so thick we couldn§t see the prettz water.

Reallz nice fog though.

Two more things I§ve learned whilst in Prague… damn can§t find the colon kez. So anzwaz, to more things are 1 – zou don§t want to go to a nightclub in Prague. Well zou might, but not for the same reasons zou might want to go to a nightclub anzwhere else in the world… well mazbe thez could be the same reason… what I§m trzing to saz here is that nightclubs in Prague are brothels. And I mean that in the same waz I saz the 02 club was a toilet. Zou want to dance to loud music, zou go to a dance club or a music club. Zou want to paz a stranger to have fun with zour wang, zou go to a nightclub.

Lesson B is… that is, number two lesson I§d like to leave zou with, is don§t spill the Absinthe on the bench when zou are trzing to do that thing with the fire and the sugar cubes and the spoon with holes, because that shit WILL make the bench go on fire.

Okaz, gotta go. Friends have just called to ask if I want to go to the toilet again. Got to put out the fire and head out.

Grumpz is freelance writer and gzpsz, Lee Bemrose. Contact him at leebemrose@hotmail.com

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Grumpy At The Colosseum


Grumpy


When you go to Rome, this is what you do: You find the Colosseum. It's not hard because it's a really old, big thing. You go down there with your map and you mingle with the people. There will be lots of people because everyone wants to experience this big old slaughter house. Pick your target. Walk up to them as you look at your map, puzzled expression on your face.


“Scuzee... can you tell me where the Colosseum is?”


Regardless of their nationality, they will understand by the words scuzee, Colosseum and your puzzled expression and the way you are carrying the map that you want to know where the Colosseum is.


“There,” they point.


You don't look at where they are pointing, just at their face. Then back at the map. “I think it must be around here somewhere.” You circle an area on the map where you think the Colosseum must be.


“Turn around. Look up. There. There is the Colosseum. Behind you.”


You continue looking at the map. “See, I came down this road, took a left and I think I should have maybe gone right at that fork... do you have any idea where it is?”


They think you are mad and so they move away, telling their spouse that they think you are mad.


You turn around and there are some guys dressed as Roman Centurions. They make their living by wandering around in these costumes, brandishing their wooden swords and letting you pay them for taking your photo with them. Pretty silly way for grown men to make a living. Still, they are your next targets.


“Bongiorno, Centurions,” you tell them.


“Bongiorno. Photo?”


“Yeah in a minute. Steady on. Firstly, I need to know where the Colosseum is. You must know about the Colosseum? The big stabby place? You know Colosseum?”


Long pause. “Si... yes.”


“Do you know where it is?” You ask. “I can't seem to find it on my map.”


“Eh... turn around. The Colosseum, it is behind you. You cannot miss it.”


They look at each other and burst into Centurion laughter. They say something in Italian about crazy foreigners and the Colesseum. They laugh some more of their Centurion laughter.


“But I can't find it,” you push on. “I need to find the Colosseum on the map. I thought it would be easy to find, but I can't find it. I've been looking for ages. I thought you might be able to help...”


“Signore... I assure you, the Colosseum is right behind you. Trust me. You are at the Colosseum. Look.” The Centurion points with his wooden sword.


You drop your shoulders a little and turn around. You eyeball the Colosseum for a couple of moments, then turn back, open the map again and say, “Okay. Fine. But where is it on my map? I've narrowed it down to this area but I just can't quite pinpoint the exact location on the map...”


There is about as much point in doing this as there is a point to this column, but you will enjoy yourself. And you can take this with you anywhere you go. Eiffel Tower. Sydney Opera House. Statue of Liberty. The Pyramids of Giza. Amusement every time.


Grumpy is Lee Bemrose, freelance writer at leebemrose@hotmail.com He still can't find the Colosseum on his map.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Postcard From Pisa and Florence


Seems I haven't written anything here since I was in Levanto... probably because I haven't written anything here since I was in Levanto. It's hard to do all the touristy/traveller stuff you have to do and find the time to sit down and write about it too. You lose half a day in transit even for short hops and researching the new place and booking accommodation and train tickets in foreign languages chews up as much time for a long stay as it does for a short one. Then usually we arrive (the city rejoices) we and head out to get a feel for the place.


From Levanto we went to Pisa, mainly because I wanted to see the Leaning Tower. We were a bit naughty and booked a five star hotel a little out of town because we'd never experienced five stars before. It was kind of our style, but kind of not. And we only did it because of my new best friend booking.com which comes up with some amazing deals. Quite frankly, Park Hotel Argento in Levanto was a bit better than Abitalia Tower Plaza in Pisa, and it had one less star. Both were luxury places, but Levanto is Levanto (soooooo pretty) and Pisa is Pisa (not so pretty, but with pretty bits and a fascinating history). And the emotional shower in Pisa wasn't a patch on the one in Levanto. You getting the impression I liked Levanto? So peaceful. Actual quiet when sitting outside watching the sun go down. The quiet you get when the doof has packed up and everyone has gone but you've decided to camp over that extra night... real peace. And when the surrounding villages up in the hills chimed their bells, each village just out of sync with the others and with its own arrangement of bell-ring... so peaceful.


Anyway, Pisa. Loved seeing the tower. Was very quickly annoyed with the crowds all doing that silly photo of pretending to hold the tower up. First guy who did that shot, funny guy. Everyone else... oh just stop it.


Still, the tower is wonderfully kooky. It has an elegance, but it's a silly elegance. Didn't climb it, did sit and admire it. Did go to all the attractions in the Plaza Del Duomo – there's a museum with amazing fresco work from about a thousand years ago, the cathedral, the Baptistry (beautiful moment in here when these angelic voices started harmonising into the great chamber. We were up on the second level way up high and peered over the edge. I asked The Dreaded One who was doing this. She said that guy there, and pointed to a single figure with his head tipped up to the high ceiling of the dome, and sure enough, he was sending out notes of varying length which would soar up to the ceiling and bounce back, and he would open his mouth and harmonise. The acoustics were so perfect that he could get three notes, maybe four, going at a time. After a few minutes in which everyone inside had stopped in their tracks to listen, he moved off. You have to love that kind of stuff), and the Opera Museum, I think, which was a general museum of all things Pisa. Oh yeah, and the memorial cemetery which has gone through a lot of shit and was nearly destroyed during the war but which is being restored to full splendour as I write. I love that these things survive and that people care enough about them to ensure they survive.


We were in the museum soaking up the very rich history of Pisa, and there were hardly any tourists in there. It was kind of good because It was quiet and I got some shots of the tower from angles you don't normally see, and the toilets were without queue and that's always a good thing, but it was kind of depressing that just outside the walls there were thousands and thousands of people taking those stupid photos and buying junk souvenirs and that was their experience of Pisa.


We explored on foot, quite enjoyed parts but it wasn't really our place. Was happy to have been, happy to leave.


Florence is a bit different. We are not here for long enough. Dumped our stuff off and went straight out to the Ponte Vecchio... no - lunch first, then the Ponte. It's the only one of the original 13th century bridges across the river to survive the war. Fucking disgusting how much great architecture and art has been destroyed by war. I'd like The War to pop around to mine one day (except I don't currently have a mine) so I can kick its Goddamned retarded arse. And I know, yes, human loss is tragic and unforgivable in so many ways, but we are transient anyway; the stuff we leave behind should not be transient but should be a reminder of the beauty we are capable of. In my opinion.


We checked out this strange bridge of jewellery shops and gelato bars, had a look at the size of the Pitti Palace, walked back into the centre of town to look at the Uffizi Gallery, spotted the great dome of, erm, one of the great domes, and realised that we had bitten off more than we could possibly chew in three short nights.We booked an ectra, feeble night in Bilbo's Florence holiday home.


Next day, nothing was open. It's nuts. The crowds this place pull are immense, and all of the major attractions close on the same day. I love your titties off, Florence, but get a clue and stagger your closing days. Where is the sense in everything being closed on the same day? In fact, here's an idea – with unemployment being as high as it is, hire extra staff and stay open all week. It can be done. The big dome... Brunelleschi's Dome was open on Monday and fuck me you should have seen the crowds. Because nothing else was open. Nuts.


So we went shopping. The markets are amazing, sprawling through the streets in a massive maze of shopping and shopping and shopping. It felt wrong to know that Leonardo and Dante and Michelangelo and their cronies were about and we were going shopping, but what else could we do? Sorry Renaissance masters, we tried, we really did.


The Dreaded One bought a stunning one-off coat made from a variety of dead things' fur (it's a bit nice) and I picked up the biggest winter jacket I've ever owned. I kept seeing coats that seemed good but she kept saying they're not big enough for me in the UK and New York in winter (it's true, I'm not good with cold), so in the end I have this thing that weighs about my body weight in feathery down filling and weather proof shell. If it warms up a little here (which it does with annoying frequency – everywhere people are taking off winter jackets to be in T shirts as soon as the sun comes out only to have to put them back on again a few minutes later when the sun goes), I take this coat off and it feels like I'm carrying a sleeping bag around. All I can say is, UK and New York? You'd better be reeeeeally fucking cold.


Yesterday we went to Galleria Dell Academia which houses the statue of David, amongst other artistic treasures. I'd been planning to see the rest of the stuff and leave David for last. Kind of like how you eat your vegies first and save the roast lamb for last. But fuck me if I didn't take the first turn and THERE HE WAS. In all his glory. Brilliant. So the rest of the Academia was going to be nothing but vegies. Awesome.


Different galleries have different policies about photographs. Some you can, some you can't, some you can so long as you don't flash. I checked around and couldn't see any signs. Besides, we'd just gone through airport-tight security and they let everyone in with their cameras so it must be okay. Still, best to be discreet and don't flash. I took a photo of one of Michelangelo's unfinished sculptures and FLASH! Shit. I put the camera away after switching off the flash and looking around like it wasn't me you didn't see me you can't prove it.


Nothing. Cool.


Took in a few more of the unfinished sculptures because they really are amazing. Everyone bangs on about how he was releasing the figures from the stone, but it seriously appears that way. They really appear to be struggling to get out of the stone.


But the towering figure of David under his dome really pulls you in. I approached some of the way but still kept a distance, took the camera out, raised it above my head and fired off a shot without the flash.


“NO PHOTO! NO PHOTO!” came a cry that was to become amusingly familiar.


They have a little sign on the wall just before you reach David saying that no photos or video are allowed, but that's it. So everyone assumes it's okay to take photos and the caretakers or whatever they're called (Gallery Shouters?) spend all their time shouting NO PHOTO! NO PHOTO! It's a bit stupid and a bit funny. I couldn't help thinking about the interview process... “Right well your CV seems quite excellent. You've almost got the job. There's just one more little test...”


Also, this is a flash mob prank waiting to happen. It would be a cack. Get hundreds of people in there (again, they let you take your camera in) and at a given point everyone goes totally paparazzi on David's arse, flashes popping all over the place. These people take the NO PHOTO thing very seriously... they would have a seizure. “NO PHOTONOPHOTONOPHOTO... NO YOUYOUYOUANDYOUNOPHOTO!!!!!!”


Ahem. I do take the art seriously, but my mind also wanders a bit.


Statue of David. Awesome chunk of rock and it awakened my interest in the story of David. Stayed up late reading about the statue and its history as well the biblical stuff. This is what does it for me with art – the portraits of wealthy people and royalty don't often do it for me, but if there are great stories in there, ya got me. I love the stories.


Spent most of today in the Uffizi, and stories and stories and stories. I'm even getting a bit interested in reading the bible because there are some amazingly good stories there. A lot of blood thirsty, angry stories, but they are powerful stories nevertheless.


And I saw a painting of the story of Ulysses today, told in pictures on wood in the 13th century, and I'd forgotten how well I know that story. That one rocked my childhood. The story of Ulysses and Penelope and the faithful dog Argus. Great story and one I should read again.


Okay, there is more to tell. Stuff about our Hobbit Hotel in Florence, about the room in the Uffizi of statues all cowering from overwhelming forces with hands raised but who I suspect started the whole thing of taking photos of holding up the Leaning Tower, about stuff and stuff and stuff, but The Dreaded One is back from having her hair cut before we leave for Rome tomorrow, so it I'll leave this lengthy ramble here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Via Dell Amore





I had read about this place years ago without ever imagining I would be here. Couples in love, they engrave their names on padlocks and lock them, then throw away the key. Cynical bastard that I can be and cold to tradition, I love this kind of shit. Lately I've been seeing cathedrals and memorials of war and so much art dedicated to Christ being murdered, but here was a living, growing monument of love. And it was a bit fucking cool.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Grumpy With Testicle

Grumpy


Recently at a cool little place in Southern France called San Rafael... a restaurant across the road from our hotel looked a bit cool. Kind of place I really wanted to go to. But the entrance was a bit weird and the place just didn't seem to be open. Off-peak season so plenty of places do close. But I kept an eye on it anyway. The door was closed and there were security cameras there, and a buzzer like it was really exclusive. After two days I googled it and there appeared to be two restaurants in the same area with the same name, same paintwork, same menu. Odd. Then I got my Sherlock on and realised I'd been keeping a close watch on the back entrance of the restaurant. Oh I am sharp.


Unfortunately this wasn't the most embarrassing thing to happen in San Rafael.


The restaurant was very French. The menu was all in French. I recognised the word canard so I ordered that dish because I like duck a lot. The Dreaded One recognised the word for veal and ordered the veal. Bottle of French pinot noir and all was good in the world.


Being the (sophisticated) Viking that I am, I finished my meal before The Dreaded One and she asked me to help her with her meal. More than happy to because I like veal almost as much as I like duck. I tucked into the veal whilst continuing to regale her with hilarious stories that spill so easily from the head of this bon vivant and raconteur. After my fifth mouthful of veal, I stopped talking and stopped eating, because all was not right in the world.


“What's wrong?” The Dreaded One asked.


“This veal...”


“Yes? Good?”


“Weird. Weird texture. I've had it before.”


“Ah.”


“By accident. It's...” I scrutinised the lump of meat on the end of my fork and continued chewing.


“I don't think it's the flesh of the veal,” The Dreaded One offered.


“If it's not the flesh of the veal... what is it?”


“I think it's an organ of some sort.”


Then it came to me. “Testicle!” I accused.


“Don't jump to conclusions. It's not necessarily testicle.”


“You knew it was testicle all along, didn't you. You tricked me into eating testicle!”


“I don't think it's testicle.”


“I can't believe you made me eat something's testicle.”


“I didn't make you eat testicle. I offered it to you and -”


“Ha! So you admit it is testicle,” I accused as I aimed my fork with its bite-sized piece of testicle skewered on the end. “Why didn't you just tell me it was testicle before I started eating it? You think it's funny to trick someone into eating testicle?”


“It might be something else altogether. Like brain or liver or -”


“I've eaten testicle before – by accident – and I know the texture of a testicle when I put one in my mouth.”


Clearly I was making a rock solid case because The Dreaded One stopped arguing back.


“Yeah, well, you can laugh now – 'ho ho ho, I made Lee eat testicle' – but I will have my revenge. Oh yes.”


“You know – for someone of such average intelligence, you really can be so very silly.”


“Whatever. But I will have my revenge.”


And I will.


Grumpy is Lee Bemrose, freelance writer at leebemrose@hotmail.com He knows that revenge, like testicle, is best served cold.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A sandwich? Yes, I would like a sandwich. Oh, a sandwich.

So we're in the tourism place looking for info on getting a boat from Saint Raphael to St Tropez and there's a woman having a deep discussion with the tourism human in wounded English. I can't help but tune in, and the information she is trying to get out of him is where is a good place to get a sandwich. Seriously, unless you are blind (and given the distinct lack of walking cane or guide dog, I assume your eyes are okay), get outside and take a fucking look around. Tourism guy didn't graduate from Tourism Uni to tell people where to find a good sandwich... although he was good enough to mark a place on the map that does good sandwiches as well as home-made doughnuts.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Grumpy In Provence

More or less... oh fucking hell I can't get rid of the bold and italicised. Anyway, this will be more or less my next Grumpy column in Tsunami Mag. Much more has happened involving little tiny street sweepers, little awful hamburgers, attacking hedgehogs and oh so much more, most of which you can read about on facebook in my photo album. Had a great time last weekend. I love everyone involved. Especially the little tiny street sweepers.

Grumpy in Provence


Friends were driving from Madrid to pick us up in Barcelona for the drive to Arles in Southern France. We thought the address of the hotel would be enough. We thought wrong. They didn't have GPS and assumed they would be able to drive straight to the hotel without a local map. Barcelona is reasonably big, so while they drove in circles with us on the phone trying to describe various local landmarks, we waited outside while night fell. Suddenly it felt like this was going to a loooooong drive.

The friends made the same assumption about heading to a little town called Arles, knowing that it was near Avignon, near Nimes, near Montpellier, near...

Fortunately we had GPS on The Dreaded One's new phone. Unfortunately The Dreaded One's new phone turned out to be almost out of juice. A loooong drive indeed.

Fortunately our friend Danny LeopardTron did an impressive job of marathon driving and we made it and went to a party full of mostly nice, non English-speaking French people. At a random point a fight broke out between two guys who didn't know each other. Broken glass, blood everywhere, much fighting and screaming. And because all the shouting was in French, I still didn't know what started it until much later. Apparently one guy called the other guy gay and that's about the worst insult you can give a French man. I'm happy to say that everyone else was mildly traumatised and it took a while to get the party going again. I am glad this is not normal behaviour.

There was another party the following night. Police were called to this one but not because of violence. A random guest barely known to anyone else wasn't enjoying the style of music being played (everyone else was loving it) so he called the police claiming to be a neighbour with a noise complaint. The music was turned off for a while and the sound system and decks moved inside. Bloody odd thing to do. Needless to say, the guy was not exactly popular after that.

It was a good party other than that. Sprawling and messy. There was dancing to awesome music, talking, people having sex outside, the usual. The French who did speak English were very nice people. At some point while The Dreaded One slept I was hanging out with my crazy French Moroccan partner in crime and a bunch of her French friends. It was cold so we went inside. We found an empty room with a mattress on the floor and we all snuggled up under the duvet, just like a bunch of girlfriends. My friend even said she felt like we were having a pyjama party. My partner in crime translated at times and when she said they were talking about how often they had sex, I thought I should go, but they said no no no and made me stay. I probably heard all sorts of lurid confessions because there was much giggling. I don't know whether it's a good thing or a bad thing that I don't understand French. It wouldn't have surprised me if a pillow fight had broken out because girls just wanna have fun.

Although the room was tucked away upstairs in a building next to where the music was playing, The Dreaded One walked in, still looking sleepy. She didn't look at all surprised to see me under the covers with my sistas, knowing that it was all innocent enough. And I certainly didn't feel guilty, just mildly girly. I later asked her how she found us and she said she had wandered about and someone told her, “Your uzband, he eez upstairs wiz zee women.”

Am I enjoying myself in France? Merde oui.

Grumpy is Monsieur Lee Bemrose. He is a freelance writer now miming his way through France. Contact him at leebemrose@hotmail.com

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Not A Postcard From Barcelona

Hola from Barcelona.

What should have been a short trip went a bit epic. Our flight was delayed by an hour and what should have been a short 40 minute flight stretched big time. Also, I booked us into a place slightly out of the city centre and after negotiating the metro system... we left the hotel in Ibiza at 5pm and didn't check in until 11pm. Still, we did well and were in good spirits. Found a local tapas bar around midnight and tucked into some ok food and a good bottle of Crianza Rioja. I haven't read up on Spanish wine so I'm not sure what that is exactly, but I think Rioja is the region and Crianza is the grape varity. It was nice, recommended by the waiter who seemed to like us and all was good in the world.

I really enjoyed my last day in Ibiza. I like the place a lot. I think like Byron Bay in Australia, the place itself has a magic about it that has been largely engulfed by modern times and tourisn. Like Byron, you need to have x-ray vision to see the initial attraction that started drawing people to it. I suspect that most of the superficial people who flock to these places on short stays to party don't have this x-ray vision. I can't explain it. And as with Byron, I wish I could have experienced it earlier in time. Don't get me wrong, I like the partying, but it's like the place itself has something. A vibe. A quiet voice that... oh just laugh now at my hippie shit mumbo jumbo. I know what I'm talking about.

So yeah, proper sad to leave. Haven't felt that way about leaving a place since I left Melbourne last time. That was pretty intense, as you'd hope given that The Dreaded One and I have decided to leave Sydney and move to Melbourne.

We had lunch with a good friend who introduced us to other friends. As with doofer friends we've spent time talking to away from the party vibe, it's just kind of reassuring to realise there is quality there and that you have other stuff in common and that there is proper friendship there, I talked at length about how much I'd love to get the job at Dumbo Feather, told him about my conversation about psytrance with Warren Ellis from Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, we talked about music, he told me (this is my friend Ben, not Warren Ellis) about dipping prawns in concrete and making a chess set, and it was exactly the kind of intelligent and silly conversation I enjoy.

Another Ibiza moment that has come back to me a couple of times is dancing in a bit of a private area of Space. We had special wrist bands that allowed us into a next-to-the-DJ area fenced off from the crowd, which was fun if a little strange given that a couple of new friends said hello and chatted from the other side of the fence.

But there was this woman who kept looking over. I'm normally more than happy to not talk to randoms. If the music is good (Groove Armada were doing a DJ set and they were pretty good and close enough that I could have given them a wet willy if I was in a Bart Simpson mood) I'll dance with my eyes closed and keep pretty much to myself. But she kept glancing over and eventually I thought ok, go on then, and I made eye contact. She smiled. I smiled. Then she came over and asked me in a thick accent, "Did you go to the Boom festival?"

I dont know whether it was the clothes I was wearing or the way I was dancing or whether, as Ann thinks, she actually saw me there, but she recognised something, and it was nice. More than 25,000 peple were at Boom and he we were, two strangers in another place sharing smiles about a remembered party. It was a lovely moment.

This not a postcard from Barcelona. We arrived too late and have not done anything here yet. We intend to go to Parque Guell and Sagrada Famila and shop a bit. I remember the clothes here being pretty good. So when we've Barcelona'd ourselves a bit more, I'll send you a postcard.

Am happy right now. Am blessed with some pretty cool people in my life and am fortunate to be doing cool things. Thank you, Universe. You can be harsh, but you can be pretty cool too.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Grumpy In Ibiza

A version of the next Grumpy column. Will be posting photos on Facebook soon. Enjoy.


Grumpy In Ibiza


Our first night in Ibiza was a blast. A DJ friend got us into one of the big clubs, Space, and gave us drink vouchers. Apparently, he told us, drinks are a bit pricey, so this was all very good and much appreciated. The music was great, the club was way bigger than anything I've been to, and the crowd seemed like a typical club crowd with most people being there for the music. The dancefloor was rammed and pumping. We wandered a lot and personally I was just a bit amazed at the sheer size of the place. All in all, an excellent night.


Second night... all I can say is if you have connections, use them because The Dreaded One and I went it alone to Pacha and I had no idea until then what my friend meant about the prices - 60 euro each to walk through the door. That's roughly AU$90 per person. For an average Monday night with no headlining act. In fact I was damned if I could see a DJ at all. The night was called Flower Power and the music was hits from the 60s and 70s. There was no mixing and it felt like listening to a retro radio show. How did they justify that cover charge? Still, we wanted to experience Ibiza in all its forms, so best make the most of it. At the bar... two JD and cokes cost 34 euro. That's around the AU$20 mark for one drink. No fruit, no cocktail shaker or little umbrella, no complicated booze recipe, just bourbon and fizzy sugar. We've since booked our flights from Ibiza to Barcelona, and for the price of two drinks at Pacha you can fly from here to Barcelona.


It was probably the shock of all this that I got lost trying to get out later in the night. It certainly wasn't because I was drunk. The Dreaded One wandered off, I took a wrong turn and next thing I am hopelessly lost in retro hell. I kept wandering into the same rooms I didn't want to be in while Mama Cass banged on about all the leaves being brown and the sky being grey... I used to love California Dreaming but suddenly I never wanted to hear it again. For half an hour I was hopelessly lost while The Dreaded One kept texting from outside asking where I was and what I was doing. My eyes are pretty fucked and I can't read my phone without my specs so I didn't bother trying, but that was exactly what she was texting. Woopsie, sorry, how embarrassment.


Thing is, things have a way of balancing out. People like Nightmares On Wax and DJ Sasha will pop up at free gigs, you just have to keep an ear out. Nightmares On Wax at a beach club (Kumares) while the sun set was perfection (see previous post). No cover charge and the drinks were affordable and the company was cool. I'm hoping to go back there before we leave.


Also, on two separate occasions I was given 10 euro too much in my change. Then last night at the Gypsy Markets after watching the sunset at Cafe Mambo next door to the legendary Cafe del Mar we ordered some barbecued ribs (churrasqueiros) and a couple of glasses of wine from this stand-at-the-counter place, just after a summer downpour of rain that was really quite pleasant. The gorgeous Spanish waitress (who could shout brick walls to rubble... we ordered our ribs and she switched her vocal chords up to eleven to place the order with the barbecue guy and it was hilarious and strangely sexy. She looked like the kind of chick you just don't want to get into an altercation with... which was strangely sexy again... erm sorry, ending parentheses now so so you've to join the sentence back together after this overly long aside... she really was quite sexy though...) emptied the last of the wine from the bottle and glanced at me, knowing that the cup was not adequately filled. Was she daring me? Was there was a faint glint in her dark eyes? I fucking think there was. There was a pause and I was expecting her to take the money but I did a sad puppy dog face and asked in my most fluent Spanish mime if she could put more wine into the cup. She smiled as though I was being cheeky but obliged by opening a fresh bottle and topping up both cups. Then she turned away without taking the 25 euro I estimated the meal to cost.


Normally I am Karma Man and will tell people I haven't paid yet. I'm a shocker for it. But hell, maybe this was karma in action. Maybe the universe took pity on me for the night at Pacha, so to hell with it. The shouty but sexy senorita had clearly moved on to other customers, so I put my wallet away and tucked into the biggest, most delicious pile of ribs ever. (And secretly hoped that when we walked away Senorita Shouty was going to chase me down and... actually, end fantasy here).


I'm heading out this afternoon to Bora Bora beach club where the boobies and bums frolic on the sand to thumping dance music. Going to see if the universe throws any more money at me... actually, Universe, don't bother; I'm more than a bit grateful for the boobies and bums at Bora Bora. Mucho gracias.


Grumpy is Lee Bemrose, freelance writer, leebemrose@hotmail. He prefers cash but will accept boobies and bums.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Postcard From Ibiza


Well we finally made it to Ibiza. I always said I wanted to come here just once in my life. My life has revolved quite a lot around dance music and clubbing for some time now, although the doofing scene of partying in the wilderness has caused me to see clubs much less in recent years. So just once, I thought.

I was under the impression that Ibiza had lost it's charm a long time ago. I saw that Real Ibiza reality TV show years ago. Over time I've spoken to a lot of people who have DJ'd here or partied here or just have an opinion about the place. Some friends with taste keep coming back each year, but I've had a lingering feeling for a long time that I missed Ibiza's glory days, perhaps with a little hope that I was wrong.

Bottom line? I like nice things. I like music and culture and style. We're due in Barcelona next and I like Barcelona. Loved Barcelona actually, but we still chose to extend our stay in Ibiza. I like it here a lot. I've had nothing but a good time in spite of friends who have never been here assuring me that it's a horrible, tacky place with nothing to offer but drunk Brits. With all due respect, they have no idea. I thought maybe it was going to be a bit like Surfers Paradise in Queensland; it's nowhere near as tacky as that place.

Yes there are drunk Brits. Pasty flesh rubs shoulders with the taut and tanned. You will bump into ugly, tasteless people wherever you go. But even in the most crowded club or beach party, everyone I have encountered appears to be here to party and have fun. I have not seen any agro... well a couple of people got thrown out of Pacha by security but I don't know what that was all about and I don't care.

Ibiza town is a nice place. Stylish little town with plenty of good food places about. Ibiza is not all about house music, drugs and drinking. There is plenty of that if you want it, but it's very easy to get away from all of that.

The first night we were here we went to Space nightclub. We are very lucky because a friend works there and we got in for free and were given free drinks. This is the one downside of Ibiza's short party season; it can be shockingly expensive. 60 Euro will get you through the door. Enjoy dancing sober because the drinks are horrendously expensive. We went to Pacha the following night with no contacts, and it was 60 Euro each to get in, 34 Euro for two JD and cokes. And I have to say it wasn't really worth it. The night was called Flower Power and the music was retro. I like California Dreaming etc, but this was just one cheesy cliche after the next with no mixing and it wore a bit thin after a while. The place was rammed and I just couldn't get into the vibe. The vast majority were having a blast though, smiles everywhere, not an agro drunk Brit in sight. Maybe it was just the shock of handing out so much money for so little. I don't normally care what it costs to have a good time but that was a shock, especially when you do tha exchange rate math. We can fly from here to Barcelona (next Tuesday) for the same amount it cost for two drinks at Pacha.

Oh and did I mention I got lost trying to get out? These places are big. Home in Sydney has a capacity of 1500 or something. I think places like Space and Pacha are about twice as big and I took a wrong turn, The Dreaded One was engulfed by the crowd and I wandered lost for about half an hour. My phone buzzed with texts from The Dreaded One but my eyes are fucked and I can't read my phone without my glasses. I knew what she would be saying anyway - where are you what the hell are you doing I'm waiting for you outside. It was a bit embarrassing. I kept finding my way to the same rooms I didn't want to be while Mama Cass belted out that tune I used to like so much but didn't want to hear ever again. In the end a security guy saw and recognised my confusion and showed me the way out. He seemed a little amused. I like to think I'm not the first to have been lost in Pacha. I was fucking glad to get out.

Anyway, a night or two later we went to a place called, I think, Kumares. Beachside place where Nightmares On Wax were playing a live set as the sun went down. A totally classy evening, sand and couches and beach-beds, white wine, friends and fire twirlers. I remember looking around and thinking how can you improve on this? Upbeat chilled music (been into NOW for years now) surrounded by cool people while the sun and clouds put on a pretty show... I like Ibiza a lot.

We're going to try to get to Cafe del mar probably today. Might also go back to Bora Bora. It's a club that spills onto the beach, and around 4.30 the relaxed vibe ramps up a bit until the beach and inside the club are one big, thumping party, planes roaring in low for landing at the nearby airport with party-goers cheering a welcome to the new arrivals.

You can knock places you have never been to and I really did think I'd come to Ibiza just once and probably never come back. But I'm staying longer than I expected to and I really wouldn't be surprised if I find myself back here again. Next season, perhaps. Or 2012, around Boom time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Grumpy With Timid Travellers

We're in Denia right now (or "in denial" as The Dreaded One typo'd on Facebook), but my new Grumpy column is due so this is what it is. These people were so frustrating. But there is material everywhere.

Going to try my hand at travel writing too. With a Grumpy bent. There are a couple of comps about that appear worth entering. Wouldn't that be the best way to make a living? Being paid to go to interesting places and write about the funny shit you encounter there? May as well give it a bash.

Oh and I might be able to keep writing for Drum and 3D while here. No reason I can't. I just received an email from a guy who did a drag show last year and he wanted my story for quotes to use somewhere. He said it was his favourite piece in all the Sydney media. Not bad given that I'm straight and Drum is rock n roll and thre are quite a few gay street mags in Sydney. He wants me to cover his next show when I get back to Sydney, got me thinking, why can't I interview him (and anyone else) from here, write up the story and email it in? I'm writing Grumpy from here and it's being published in Queensland.

Anyway, hope you enjoy this Grumpy column.


Grumpy


I'm standing in an unnecessary queue at reception in a nice hotel in Lisbon. I'm allowed to be in a nice hotel in Lisbon because I've just spent a week dancing in the dust at Boom in Portugal, living out of a tent. I deserve a little luxury hit. The queue is unnecessary because the people in front of me are treating the information guy like a tour booking agent, which he more-or-less is. They have a facility to book tickets for you, but she's settled right in and is asking him all sorts of stuff that she should already know. Surely in these situations you already know where you want to go, and you book the tickets. Me, I just want 30 seconds of his time to get my password for wifi connection. But she's all elbows-on-the-counter while asking for his opinion on where he thinks they should go. Dad is gazing with lust at the hotel bar while Teen Boy looks very much like he's trying really hard to be invisible.


“Okay,” Mum says in the most annoying of Brit accents, “so we'll book a day tour for Sintra and the coast on Friday, another day tour on Saturday... that leaves Friday night free. What do you suggest we do on Friday night?”


Info Guy looks a little exasperated. “Well what do you want to do on Friday night?”


“Do you have restaurants and bars and things in the area? Not too far away because we'll get lost if we go more than five minutes away. Is there a show nearby that you can recommend?”


Dad pulls out of his bar-lust for a few agitated moments. “Darling, do we really want to do so much. Won't we be exhausted? Don't we want some time to just relax and take in all that we've seen?”


What he's really saying is can't we have some time to just sit in the bar and drink beer, like back home?


Invisible boy remains invisible, probably daydreaming about whatever game it is he uses to block out his awful reality... probably a game involving shooting family members with high powered weaponry.


In the end Mum hands over a huge wad of Euro for their day trips. Especially when you do the conversion to Australian dollars, it's a silly amount of money. Especially especially as I've just come from Sintra on the train for a two Euro. I spent a whole day wandering around the main attractions of the Moorish Castle, Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira. You could spend the best part of a day in each and there are plenty more. And the coast of Sintra as part of a day trip? You must be shitting me.


As for any bars or restaurants in the area... did these people run blind-folded from their taxi straight into the hotel? There are massive plazas of bars and restaurants just outside the hotel door. And if you walk a block or two away, you'll enjoy top quality food at half the price in authentic, friendly restaurants.


I feel sorry for timid travellers. Sure, these clowns can go back home and talk of all the wonderful sites they saw, but a quick glance is just missing out. Toughen up. Check out the public transport system and use it. Stay in a place. For the hundreds of Euro she was paying for these day trips, the family could have been in Sintra in less than an hour, stayed the day or two it really takes to experience it, then bussed it to the coast and stayed there at a couple of beaches for a couple of days. And time constraints be buggered; they have more days in Lisbon. I know because I've been listening to them for almost 20 minutes now.


And I've just designed a new game that involves timid travellers who get in the way of my wifi being blown to pieces by high powered weaponry.


Lee Bemrose is Grumpy with timid travellers. He's a freelance writer, leebemrose@hotmail.com



Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Postcard From Lisbon, From Granada

Grumpy

So far this trip has taken me all over the place, including many places I hadn´t intended to go. As I write I´m in Lisbon which had never been part of the plan. Consequently I haven´t boned up on any of the Portuguese basics like can I have beer please? I´ve just been going with the flow after partying at Boom for a week and have been to Sintra, the coast of Potugal and now Lisbon. And palaces? I´ve seen so many palaces and castles I´m seeing them in my sleep. Castles, castles and more fucking castles. And I swear I never want to climb another turret in my life.

Don´t get me wrong - I´m enjoying the hell out of it. So much freedom it´s doing my head in and I´m experiencing all sorts of cool stuff for the first time.

I used a bidet for the first time recently. It was a startling and strangely pleasant experience. It puts the “Ooh!” into Pooh. I think I may have a problem. I think I'm developing an addiction. I've started using the bidet even when I don't need to go to the toilet. The Dreaded One keeps banging on the bathroom door and shouting “Grumpy – what are you doing in there?”

“Nothing. Nothing, I swear.”

“You're on the bidet again, aren't you.”

“I'm not. I'm... I'm just doing normal bathroom things. Leave us alone!”



“Us? You and the bidet?”

“You leave the bidet out of this!”


Almost as amusing as the concept of the bidet is the number of times I´ve been offered drugs during the day in the streets of Lisbon. I think a week of partying has left me looking like a drug monster. In my first hour here I was approached by five dealers. Persistent bastards too.

"Psst - want some hash? No? Marrijuana? Coke, you want coke then. It´s good and cheap"

Over the course of the first night I clocked up nine different dealer, some repeat offenders. And often I´ve been singled out in a full outdoor cafe too, which isd making me feel a bit self-conscious. Maybe it´s time I shaved and tidied up a bit, although in reality I am fussy about my appearance and if I look like a hippy I´m the best dressed hippy in town.

And I´m clean from the top of my head down to my bidet bits.