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.


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,

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 ( 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.