Saturday, September 04, 2004

Of footy and possums

My first two weeks in Australia were spent in Melbourne, and I was starting to feel so at home there that I feel positively deterritorialized to be here in Adelaide, in Southern Australia. Adelaide is a well-laid-out town: a compact CBD (that's Australian for downtown) surrounded by a greenish belt, with a nice-looking museum and train station and state parliament just around the corner from where I type. I may look into the museum tomorrow, but my big plan is to go to a footy game. The finals are on. I know nothing about this sport. It's not soccer; it's not football. It's not even rugby. Australian Rules Football it's called, and it's uniquely Australian. All I know is that it's played on an oval, there are a bunch of men on the field and a ball and two sets of goalposts, and people here get very agitated about it. A large number of those excited people will be in the Port Adelaide stadium tomorrow afternoon to see the Port Power take on the Geelong Local-fauna (I've forgotten which exactly). I plan to be one of them, and I hope it will be very confusing to me.

Speaking of local fauna, I'd like to report that I've had my first encounters. Walking in the north-eastern Melbourne suburb of Northcote at about 1 am the other night, I came across a furry creature of definite non-feline and non-canine proportions, moseying along the sidewalk. When I got closer the creature scrambled into a tree about my height, and then turned its big glinty eyes on me, and we stared at each other for a while, only a few feet apart. It had tree-gripping claws and radar-dish ears and a long furry tail. It had marsupial written all over it, but I would not have been able to identify it to the police. I thought, it couldn't be a possum, because possums' tails aren't fuzzy. Right? Wrong. It was a possum. It climbed down from the tree when it lost interest in me and climbed another, leafier, tree, and I took a picture of it. Then, yesterday, on the road between Melbourne and Adelaide, I saw my first kangaroos. They were in a fence-ringed fauna park run by the local Rotary club in the Shire of Kaniva, along with some emus and wallabies. They never move one back leg without moving the other. It's hopping or nothing, as far as they are concerned.

Speaking of confusion, I'm trying to make mental notes of all the words that don't work as well here as they do "back home". I'm getting used to them and I hardly notice some of them, but I sometimes forget to use the local vocab and I confuse other people, which in turn confuses me because I don't know what they are confused about. For example, if I ask someone, "where is the bathroom?" I may garner a blank stare. Where is the toilet, on the other hand, is considered proper. Rather than downtown, it's the CBD. Rather than gas it's petrol, of course. Biscuits, not cookies, and muesli bars, not granola bars. Many of these are what I consider Britishisms, which complicates matters. But what would be a lorry in England, and a bakkie in South Africa, is here apparently sometimes called a ute. Australians are also fond, you see, of shortening words and making them a little more jolly. This is usually accomplished by putting "o" at the end. So a musician is a muzo, for example. Improv is impro. Or it can be done with -y. Mosquitos are therefore mozzies (rhymes with ozzy). And the new national hero is Thorpie.

I can't describe how much I enjoyed my stay in Melbourne without blushing. I did four performances (two at the Overload Poetry Festival, one at the MWFestival and one at Babble) and one panel discussion, and they all went over stupendously except perhaps the first one, which had me worried a bit. People came up to me at the MWF and said - really - that seeing me was the highlight of the festival. There were distinguished editors soliciting work from me and young women flirting with me. How can you beat that? Perhaps by meeting a number of people with whom I know I will remain friends, and people whom I feel very lucky to have met. Melbourne showed me a marvelous time, and Melbourne, I won't forget it. Come and visit me in New York anytime you want. All of you. How many are you, 3 million? That's not many. You can stay in my apartment.

I'm too slow for this bloggin business, really. This week I'm going to the wild red yonder, the outback, the dusty glowing red centre of Australia. I don't know if there are any computers there. So sit tight.


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