Monday, February 16, 2009

Slice of Life: Adventures in Brisbane 2

The last of the Brisbane days: Karl and I had an Eggstravaganza in which we discovered the house was alarmingly low on groceries and cooked eggs all the ways we knew how; I played late night Scrabble with Sven, who couldn't quite believe that Americans really do spell "colour" without the U, and found this hilarious; Karl told me great stories about traveling through Eastern Europe; the fourth roommate's father showed up to collect some of his things, and I hid in my room. I did laundry, helped with dinner and dishes, played the piano for the first time in years, sounding out a copy of "The Scientist" by Coldplay that I found in the piano stool. In short, it was a brief, fleeting home.

On one of the last mornings before he was to start medical school, Karl threw a "Hey, I'm Back!" party at his house. The drinking lasted from 4 PM until 2 AM (well, I had been out in the city by myself, so for me it was 5 PM until 2 AM.) The evening consisted of loads of Karl's friends coming around to make sausages, welcome him back, and drink steadily into the night. As I've mentioned, Australians drink a lot. This particular night represented the most alcohol I've ever consumed in one sitting, although to be fair that sitting lasted nearly nine hours. And I would like to say (if I haven't already) that the sort of drinking in which Australians regularly parttake did not, at least under my watch, result in any of the obnoxiousness and generaly disgusting behavior I associate with those amounts of alcohol. Everyone is just the same, only better and more animated. In short, they can hold their liquor.

The party was great fun. I enjoyed the sausages and the company; at one point I attempted, slightly bleary with champagne, to explain the basis of the Revolutionary War and American race relations to several interested Aussies. It actually reminded me a bit of the simplified explanations I offered Lisu people when I lived in China, although in this case my handicap was liquor rather than linguistics. At one point late at night, once those who would depart early had "piked" (Aussie slang for bailing early), we and the remaining partygoers, including most of the Traveling So and So's (see last entry) repaired to another house about fifteen minutes walk away. There we spent a few hours in the aptly-named Shed, a converted garden shed at the back of the house now outfitted for video games, jam sessions, and general hanging-outage. Again I was struck by the overarching familiarity of the setting; the Shed was somewhere I recognized from my own adolescence, the kind of place we frequented when we wanted time all to ourselves, in basements, garages, and parks.

Against a background of Wii bowling (I did better than I expected), the So and So's had a great time jamming using the available instruments and with Karl joining in on guitar. Between bowling turns I sat back and listened, watching the jam turn from slow experimentation to a rollicking dance party (I took a video that I wish I could post , but it's unfortunately too big.) Around 2 Karl and I walked back to the house carrying his fire twirling staff, and he taught me some basic tricks as the suburbs slept around us.

Eventually the day came for departure, and my regrets about lack of time, about the walls that don't come down and the connections that aren't deepened came back full force. I started to face a newly-built fear of the nomadic existence I'll lead for the rest of the year. Making homes throughout the world sounds (and is) wonderful, but the reality of leaving them was, and continues to be, formidable. My ability to bond with and get attached to people is something I like about myself, but is it a practical way to live during this year? What would be the consequences of purposely turning that instinct off? I'm really not sure.

In any case, I went to bed the last night with knots in my stomach and slept perhaps the worst sleep of my life. I left Karl with a copy of Roald Dahl's "Going Solo" from the used bookshop we'd explored in the West End and pushed on, packing my things and leaving this one home for Bundaberg and a new advenure. (I'll give you a clue, it includes sea turtles.)

Karl, Woody, and the lead singer of the So and So's in the half-light of the Shed

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