Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Sydney Frost

I've been in Sydney for almost four days and I believe I have not seen all of it, unfortunately. In fact, Sydney is an enormous sprawled-out place that has a gorgeous harbour, an impressive bridge, miles and miles of suburbs, and an Opera House that just won't go away. The day I arrived, I took a short bus ride from the airport and stowed my bag at the train station, then wandered towards the harbour. I ended up, of course, standing next to the abovementioned opera house, icon of Sydney and internationally renowned architectural curio. It was quite grand. As I stood there contemplating its majesty my eyes glanced at the performance schedule posted next to me and I realized that a matinee of "The Marriage of Figaro" was to begin in 30 minutes. I went to the box office to inquire about availability of tickets and how many weeks of food money I'd have to part with to see the show, but before I spoke to anyone a kind elderly lady named Mary gave me a free ticket. Apparently her friend couldn't make it. Figaro was entertaining and funny as well as being serendipitous.

The following evening I returned to the Opera House to see (hear) a radio play being performed live by Tug Dumbly and other actors, written by my host Benito di Fonzo, which was about the disappearance of the Opera House itself. But the Opera House did anything but disappear. Everywhere I went in Sydney, from Dulwich Hill to Bondi Beach, its image haunted me from a million postcards. Furthermore, I went to see an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art that had a hall of mirrors focussed on one floating live image seen through a many-times-reflected window: the image of the Sydney Opera House.

Walking along a narrow lane lined with quaint rowhouses overlooking Darling Harbour, just below the span of the Harbour Bridge, I was passing an incongruous-looking construction site when I heard a strange noise, like a crunching sound. The site -devoid of construction workers - became even more incongruous when I saw that the sound had come from the vicinity of a black rabbit that was sitting near a pile of cinder blocks. The rabbit regarded me calmly, as if to say, "Hey bud, whadda YOU looking at?" He then hopped behind a sheet of plywood, and more crunching sounds ensued. Curious animal encounters. Then today, I was standing momentarily in front of the massive statue of Queen Victoria that stands quite permanently in front of Queen Victoria Place shopping center, eating a spinach sushi roll (I was, not Victoria), when a little dog spoke to me. "My name is Islay," he said. "I used to be the beloved companion of the great Queen Victoria. Because of the many good deeds I've done for deaf and blind children, I've been given the power of speech," he said. If you come to Sydney and stand next to the statue of Queen Victoria he will probably talk to you too. But you may have to make a donation.

Tonight I will perform at Bardfly, Tug and Benito's weekly performance series at The Friend in Hand. I'm looking forward to it. Tomorrow morning, I betray my newfound friendship with this impressively odoriferous city by returning to Melbourne on an early morning flight. I couldn't resist.


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