Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm with the Tour

Driver says, "You don't know where this bus is going to?"
Old man says, "I just want it to get me through
Hey, I'm staying on the ride, it's gonna take me somewhere"

Patty Griffin. "Stay on the Ride"

All right, No more tales of public transport woes. Yesterday we marched (all right, I stepped, dragged my leg, stepped, dragged my leg ...) to the Rialto Bridge. After looking at the ticket window for about five minutes, we finally decided that was where you get your tickets, went up and bought a VenicePass that lets you ride the water buses and get into museums.

The weather was as glorious as you could ask, so we decided to ride the water bus just to check out the sites along the Grand Canal. We didn't know where we were going, just doing a random tourist thing. Or at least that's what I assumed. It did strike me as funny, though, how we ended up with Linda studying the map and saying we should get off. Guess what, we were back where she first met her Italian heartthrob. I will chalk it up to coincidence. Besides, he wasn't anywhere to be found today.

The city is drop dead wonderful. Everyone knows so much about it from movies, but it really ends up not only fulfilling its promise but exceeding it. Linda noticed perhaps the most remarkable difference between Venice and any other city we have visited. Last night, around 9pm, we stood on the sidewalk and heard nothing but people. No cars, of course, no horns, no brakes, no sirens. Just this incredibly quiet beautiful city with only voices in the air. Some of our MANY pictures are here, but we both took lots more yesterday. When we get home, we may try to revive the slide shows people used to subject their friends to in the 50s.

OK. I will close by explaining the pictures at the top.

As you can see from her fairly good impression of Princess Leia with two of her three new scarves, Linda is continuing the Accessorize My World Tour 2008. Handbags, glasses, scarves, gloves. Who needs designer outfits when we have so many accessories to choose from?

And the top picture is one of several combos that were playing at outdoor restaurants around St Mark's Square. The instruments vary a little with each, but at their heart is the accordion. Finally, after 50 years of wondering what I could do with the musical skills I tried to learn as a kid, I have discovered a place that actually values them. And just in time, apparently. Once I converted the euros Linda spent on accessories to Aussie dollars, I decided I may just have to pull out the old squeezebox one last time.

Va bene.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another Fine Mestre We Found Ourselves In

That's a view I had much of yesterday afternoon as we continued our grand tour of northern Italy. It is a tunnel beneath rail tracks that offers people the option of going left to Mestre or right to Marghera.

The problem with being in this tunnel is that we were trying to go straight ahead to Venice. The other problem was that we had already dragged all our luggage down there.

It's a relatively simple trip from Verona to Venice - no more than 75 minutes by train. Being the sort of people we are, though, Linda and I had decided the trip was lasting way too long and got off early.

Not that we really meant to do so. We thought we had arrived in Venice, but it really is the problem with not speaking the language - although I doubt that the Italians understood the muffled voices coming from the loudspeakers on the train.

I also have developed Kennedy's First Law of Train Travel: Just because most of the people in the car are getting off doesn't mean this is your stop.

So there we were, at first not even aware we were in the wrong city, but suspecting that there should be more choices than Mestre and Marghera. It didn't help that there were no elevators at the station, so we had to make a couple of trips down the steps to get all our bags down to the tunnel that we didn't want to be in in the first place.

To give full credit to Linda, she volunteered to go out of the tunnel and figure where we should go. It's full credit because at this moment, there was a terrible rainstorm. (The credit is somewhat diluted, though, by the fact that she realized that if I accompanied her we were likely to spend the night trying to get out of the tunnel.) Anyhow, I stayed, taking pictures of nothing until Linda returned to tell me that her new friend at the Avis outlet said we needed to lug the bags up the steps again and get on another train.

In fact Linda the Scout made so many extra trips up stairs and down corridors to see where we needed to go, that she can be said to have truly visited Mestre, whereas I never made it out of the tunnel. She assures me I didn't miss much.

I could fill in further details, such as the man half my size who saw me struggling and grabbed our biggest suitcases and jogged up to the top of the stairs with them for me. I could talk about holding up trains as we loaded and unloaded more luggage than the rest of the people in the cars combined. But I am getting tired of writing about how we don't cope well with local transportation. Trams, taxis, trains. No matter what it is, we seem to have a problem.

But in the end we always arrive, have a ready-made excuse to go to the bar asap, and sleep really, really well that night. We are leaving the room now to see Venice in the daytime. Pix with the next post.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Venice It Going to End?

We arrived at Venice in, shall we say, a way we had not planned when we set out this morning. Linda says everyone needs to have a train story to tell, and I guess this is the story we now have to tell.

Ordinarily I would be recounting our misadventure in the blog, but something even more interesting happened when we finally did get to Venice. We boarded this boat with our luggage to take us to our hotel, and halfway there Linda said to me - obviously forgetting I was her husband - "Isn't the guy driving the boat the most gorgeous man you've ever seen?"

I post the picture above to let you decide, but suffice it to say that the vote was tied by the time we got to the hotel.

I am somewhat used to this. Linda doesn't fall for too many types (or at least not so overtly that she lets me know) but she does have an incredibly soft spot for Italians. Her first heartthrob - at least in my time with her - was Frank Langella, especially after he had just done Dracula as the sort of guy who most women wouldn't mind sucking their necks.

Then the serious hots set in with Dennis Farina. He was in Cop Story and quite a few movies, and every time he was on screen Linda went, shall we say, just a little bit girly. Then he got the lead role on Law and Order when Jerry Orbach died. He was horrible and the show went south, but Linda never noticed. Although I think even she thought he was wearing thin as she kept commenting primarily on his cashmere coat and scarves.

But now it's the guy driving us to the hotel. When will it end?

God - we're in Italy for more than a week. How can I compete? Somehow I just don't think making her laugh and giving her great back rubs can compete with whatever it is that drives this lady of mine completely round the bend when she sees these Italian specimens.

More on Venice and the trip here tomorrow. For now, I need to think. Buena notte.

Arrividerci Verona

Just a quick post as we get ready to pack up and catch the train to Venice.

We spent yesterday afternoon in Verona, and some of the pictures are here.

Verona is a nice place, very old with plenty of ruins and yet plenty of modern shops. You can guess how that shakes out between Linda and me. The Arena dominates the center of town. It is the third largest amphitheatre in the world, and must have been even higher on the list at one point since it was built before the Roman Colisseum.

The stadium is so big that in its day it could actually hold every citizen of Verona, which would have given the local lads a tremendous home field advantage when the gladiators from Tuscany came in for a match.

The other pictures will show you a market that has reportedly been operating for centuries. And some of the things on sale there would probably prove that.

Just down the street is the building where tourists can see Juliet's balcony. The guide book took all of the fun out of this by pointing out that the building is not the Capulet's grand home but a refurbished 13th-century tavern. Doesn't matter, people flock to the spot and the walls are crammed with the names of loving couples either in graffiti or on what look suspiciously like PostIt notes. The last two pictures of in the album (one of which is at the top of this post) show these walls and if you look really carefully you will see "Linda and Don" just to the left of "Adrian and Rocky" and below "Tom and Nicole". I told you this was an old place.

Anyhow, on to Venice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

If It Ain't Neo-baroque, Don't Neo-fix It

That's me in our hotel outside Verona. And Linda swears that reflection from the camera flash was pure accident.

Anyhow, this place is called the Byblos Art Hotel, and it is one of the most interesting buildings I have ever been in. I think it comes close to being more interesting than Verona itself.

The hotel used to be Villa Amista, a 15th-century Italian villa, and there are lots of things about it that show its ancient heritage. The villa was abandoned after World War II and it was only about six years ago that a group decided to rebuild it and turn it into a hotel. To be exact, an art hotel.

It's owned by this modern art collector. He is obviously a wealthy art collector because he has used only a small part of his collection to decorate the hotel. He is also a T&A man, because I have never seen so many naked bits of women hanging on the walls of a hotel.

You can walk from the front door to our room and see about sixteen pairs of boobs in a variety of paintings, statues and photos. There are so many, I thought the guy might be starting a new hotel chain called Breast Western.

But it isn't just the topless thing. There's plenty of bottom to go around, too. In fact I don't think the Texas White House has as many pictures of bush on the walls as this place. Last night we were seated in the dining room under a photograph of about 20 naked and nearly naked women sitting at a table eating oranges. I am no art critic, but I think we were supposed to draw some connection between taking the peels off or something. I am also pretty sure Linda didn't buy it for a moment when I said to her, "Isn't it interesting how their faces are the things you notice the most?"

The one good thing is that Linda picked the place, so I don't have to think up excuses as to why I chose to stay here. And in fact, I would have to say that the overall effect is quite magical. On the outside the place looks so traditional and classical - until you notice the decorations on the staircase. But once inside, the lobby is an amazing thing to behold. It really does delight, and every room carries on that theme. And there's much much more here than just the nudes.

The people in the hotel are all fond of telling visitors that each room was designed by Alessandro Mendini, and he is a master of a style called neo-baroque. I think that means, funky furniture, lots of primary colors, bright, gaudy chandeliers and lots of T&A. Lots. But as I say, it is great fun to be in this place, and we will remember it fondly.

I've put some pictures up on Shutterfly, and you can check them out here. You can also go to their site, and go to the art section and check out the pieces. We have a very slow connection so I am going to wait to upload our Verona pictures when we're in Venice tomorrow. Verona is a really nice place, and I will write some more about that then, too. (Also, it's really hard checking the links to the pictures here, so if they aren't correct I will fix them tomorrow.)

But I have two tidbits (writing in this hotel, I nearly used the older spelling of titbits) that I don't want to let go, so consider these as a pair of postscripts.

PS: I was still struggling with a bum knee and worried about injuring it getting our luggage off the train when we arrived in Verona. There were these two men waiting to get on - turns out they were Texans - and when they saw my problem, they jumped right up and took over, taking our bags down before they climbed aboard. I can genuinely call them Two Gentlemen in Verona.

PPS: I originally asked Linda to pose with that picture at the top of this post. She looked at it and said, "No way. I know something like that will end up on the Internet." Since this blog is really about retirement and not travel, I find it worth noting that I later decided to ask her to take my picture and then I made sure it got on the Internet myself. See how your concerns change when you don't work anymore?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

One Small Step for Man

I thought I would record for posterity Linda making her first purchase in Milan, the fashion capital of the world. Surprisingly, it was for a pair of gloves and a scarf - absolute essentials in Sydney's climate. Most surprisingly, she has done very little other shopping here. About the only thing she bought besides the gloves was a handbag, which now makes two for the trip (the first was in Lisbon).

I am starting to think that Linda thinks she has enough clothes to pretty much take her into that age when other people have to dress her and just choose the loosest thing they can find. So instead, in the past few years she has been accessorising. She has more handbags than the pope has rings, but still she approaches them with a gusto formerly reserved for blazers in neutral colors made of natural fibers.

Milan has been a bit of a bummer. I have done something to my right knee and it has severely impaired my walking. Yesterday we only walked a bit before I called it a day and by last night I was seriously contemplating a visit to the emergency room.

But this morning I could at least move forward without yelping, although I sighed enough for Linda to lose all sympathy and become annoyed. Anyhow, faced with not seeing much in this city or watching my knee balloon up like, well, a balloon, I decided to push it a bit today.

It was baby steps most of the way to the Duomo. Then occasionally I would start to feel I was bulletproof and take some normal strides. Then I would feel a sharp stabbing in my knee, yelp appropriately, hobble, whimper, rest and resume baby steps.

Anyhow, I did manage to shuffle to the Duomo and it was worth it. It is one of the grandest churches I have ever seen. All these gothic spires and of a size that I wouldn't go in it had it been built today by lowest priced contractors.

The leg has cut into much more sightseeing, but I think the fashion shops are pretty much the ticket here, so I am not too unhappy. The hotel we are staying at has been really nice and their kitchen is fantastic. They operate on the premise that if you don't order a starter, they pick one and give it to you anyway because they want you to have a good meal. Love the Italians.

Tomorrow we take the train to Verona, home of Romeo and Juliet - or at least the guy who wrote the first version of the story. You can see some of our pictures from Milan by clicking here, and they mostly show the Duomo, the plaza around it, the hotel, the street where our hotel is and some of the cuter dogs that you see everywhere around here. Ciao.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

You Talking to Me?

Buon giorno. We arrived last night in Milan.

Linda chose this part of our trip, and I know very little about it. It did seem to me that all I noticed last night were lots - and lots and lots - of high fashion shops. When I asked her what there is here that I may be interested in, she told me that there's a very big church not far from the hotel.

That sounds like a fair trade to me. One more old church for me and dozens more new stores for Linda.

Getting here last night was, well, it was interesting. We had an uneventful flight in from Lisbon and then met the taxi driver from hell, Milan's own latter day version of Travis Bickle. I will call him Traviso.

Our fun started when we walked to the car. We are not overloaded with luggage this trip. Two regular sized suitcases and two small totes. Traviso, however, thought it would be more interesting to become a professional taxi driver if he bought a car that could comfortably fit inside an SUV.

Traviso struggled with our luggage, grunting, shoving, muttering some Milanese curse under his breath. I took the carry-on bags and moved to put them in the front seat. No! Traviso barked, racing to place the bags there himself.

OK, so Trav has a small car and is a bit funny about passengers loading their own bags. If that was all, no big deal. Unfortunately, that wasn't all.

The Milan airport is quite a distance from the city itself. So much so, in fact, that the taxi fare was greater than the airfare from Lisbon. Had we known, we would have simply bought parachutes and got out during landing.

Traviso obviously was in no mood for such a long trip, although I cannot imagine what other trips he would expect when he parks in the taxi rank at the Milan Airport. Anyhow, I can accurately report that the airplane had travelled somewhat faster than the taxi did, but only marginally. And at least the airplane had set aside a room where you can pee.

One of the benefits of having been brought up on the old Imperial system is that I still have to calculate what the metric means. So there is actually a period of calm between seeing 180 k/hr on the speedometer and figuring out that means we're cruising down the highway at over 110 miles per. At least I now understood why no one was passing us.

Once in Milan, Traviso proved particularly adept at cutting between lanes, nearly running down bicyclists and pedestrians and, in one stunning maneuvre, making the whole car vibrate as the wheels rubbed against the trolley tracks for a block or two.

Anyhow, we finally got to the hotel and unloaded the baggage. Mind you, it wasn't our hotel and when the bellman told us we weren't far from the one we had booked, Linda and I had to decide whether to drag our bags or force Traviso to put them back in the car and drive us to the right hotel.

It wasn't much of a decision. If he hadn't killed us already, he wasn't likely to for a few more blocks. And watching him reload the luggage (grunt, shove, mumble, curse) seemed the least we could do. Actually it was the least since we made him pay for his error by not paying any more for the last few blocks.

Down to breakfast now. Then the old church. Not sure what else I can do after that to keep Linda out of the shops. Maybe lots of discussion at breakfast about the world's credit crisis.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Fare Thing to Do

That's Linda reading the guide book trying to figure where the hell we were. Oh, we knew we were in Lisbon. We even knew we were in Placa Martim Muniz. We just didn't know where that was. And we really didn't know how to get from there to where we wanted to go.

Mind you, we weren't unhappy being here since both of us thought there had been a chance we would be trying to talk our way out of jail at the police station because we had just fare jumped the trolley that brought us here.

We boarded the trolley after wandering around Castelo de Sao Jorge, the big castle on the waterfront here. We had intended to pay when we got on, but we just didn't know how. Don't worry, Linda said, we'll just watch how other people pay and do that.

So at stop after stop we watched people board, pull out a card and swipe a machine at the front. It started to look like we were the only ones wanting to use coins until a young couple got on pretty far down the road. They counted out their coins and started talking to the conductor.

Linda and I leaned forward trying to catch what was going on, but never did figure out what was being said. We did note, however, that the young couple put their coins back in their pockets and got off the trolley.

Something about only three more stops, Linda said to me. What should we do, I asked. She decided we would go to the conductor at the end of those three stops and confess that we had boarded without paying. Which is what Linda did a few minutes later.

I don't take money, the conductor snarled at her and pretty much told her to get off the trolley. Getting kicked off wasn't so bad given that we had reached the end of the line. The only problem was we had no idea where this end of the line was in relation to where we had wanted to go. That, and a nagging feeling that the transit police were going to come running up to bust us any minute.

We found where we were on the map, but had no idea whether we were heading toward our goal or away. I made a decision. We began walking. Three minutes later, I noticed that the castle where we had been earlier was looming overhead to our right. I made another decision. We turned around.

Only a few minutes later, we were in a great part of Lisbon, walking around plazas and down to the water. Our goal had been to get to the area called Restauradores, figuring it would be the logical place to have lunch.

Turns out Restauradores is named after the men who died fighting in the War of Restoration and has nothing to do with restaurants. It also turns out that, as fate would have it, the area is nonetheless full of restaurants. I suspect the Portugese saw how many hungry English speaking tourists kept showing up here and decided, Hey, let's open some restaurants for the idiots.

Anyhow, once there we had a lovely lunch, did a spot of shopping. Quick report. Lisbon is a beautiful city. The castle is old and only interesting for the views. The trolley conductors won't take your money, but they seem willing to let you stay on to the end of the line.

Pictures on Shutterfly here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

We Are Now Resuming Regular Transmissions

Davy wrote yesterday, annoyed that I had not been posting from Lisbon. Certainly there were interesting things I had seen here, he suggested, a little bit of culture perhaps? His nagging made me feel guilty enough to write a post but there was precious little culture in it. What he got was the previous one about being stuck in the middle of my very last job assignment and really not wanting to be there.

Because of the conference, we have been hotel-bound and really haven't taken in much of Lisbon or its culture (unless those Japanese-style snack crackers in the bar are a Portugese dish). We would have done some tourist stuff this afternoon, but last night's party left us so tired we needed naps in order to be able to go to tonight's celebratory dinner for the team that put on the conference. I know. It's a tough gig and all of that, but last night was the first time we succumbed to the lure of the social bits of the conference.

We've been the leaders among the well behaved ones here, skipping the festivities and late night partying on the first two nights. OK, we were so jet lagged we couldn't stay awake, but nonetheless I still want some credit for moderation even when excess was not an option.

Linda and I do tend to behave during the first few days when we are running these things. We have learned that moderating the morning session of a conference and having to listen to the four or five Powerpoint presentations while you are sleep-deprived, dehydrated and hungover is actually less desirable than being condemned to the first three or four rings of Hell for eternity. And it seems to last even longer. So we missed some of the nightclub madness that everyone was talking about at breakfast.

I am not sure why people who go to conferences and conventions feel the need to party like there's no tomorrow with people whom they won't see again until next year. Actually, now that I have written it, I can see clearly why they do it. You might feel a bit awkward having one of those evenings with the people in the workstation next to you who can then keep reminding you of it every time they need someone to run out for coffee.

But do it with the sales guy from Germany and the editor from Canada and you're pretty sure that no one is ever again going to discuss with you that there were easier ways to get to the loo than crawling under the tables at the club.

Anyhow, the conference is over and we are celebrating at dinner tonight. Our host is my now-former boss David, who has exquisite taste in wines. We've had our naps and we will be ready for fun, even if everyone else has burned their candle at both ends and can't contemplate raging on. What's that music I hear faintly in the distance? Why I believe it is Alicia Bridges. Isn't she singing, "I Love the Nightlife, I Got to Boogey."

Retirement has resumed. The holiday is on. Culture tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Retirement Interrupted

We are here in Lisbon at my final company meeting. That's the spectacular view of the city and harbor out of my window. We had a bit of a walkabout on Sunday before the meeting began but very little was going on here on Sunday. We will check the city out more fully on Thursday after we get through this meeting, which is becoming the psychological equivalent of a blockage in the lower region of my mind.

I worked on the agenda, chose many of the speakers, travelled 32 hours to get here, have chaired two panel sessions, hosted two of the general sessions and conducted half a dozen video interviews with various speakers.

I wish I cared just a little bit.

I retired less than three weeks ago and I am here this week because it would be irresponsible to hand off such a large event to someone else so close to the date. Besides, prior to retirement, I thought it would be no big deal to put in a couple of days this month to finish a project that had taken months to organize. I had underestimated how quickly and how fully my mindset would shift to another mode once I was no longer working.

For the past year, I have had a running joke with the people who worked for me and with David, my long-time friend and, for the past couple of years, my boss. TITSWC, I would say to them when they described a problem, an idea, or even a bit of gossip. That's pronounced tits-double-you-see, by the way, and of course it stands for Tell It To Someone Who Cares.

We all had a laugh when I first used it, although I noticed David wasn't finding it funny toward the end of my time as our results started to look like I might have really meant it all along. But the fact is I didn't mean it even in my final weeks, when there really wasn't much to do but figure out what to throw out and what to leave for someone else to throw out For even then I really was still interested in even the small details of what was happening to the company.

But not today. TITSWC isn't a joke, it's a full-on plea.

Today I listened to speakers tell about ideas that could make huge profits for the company. Tell it to someone who cares, I kept thinking. Tell it Davy, to Linda, to Susan and Jess and Pascal. But please don't make me listen to it.

I chaired two panels dealing with topics that were on the agenda because earlier this year they had been very important to me. The panelists had great ideas and insights, and I was able to keep the session lively with my questions. And all the time I am sneaking peeks at other people's wristwatches so no one would realize I just wanted this to be over. Pleeeeeease end this session, I was screaming inside. I really, really, really don't care about what you're saying. Hey guys - TITSWC!

But of course, it wasn't that they weren't interesting. It's that they weren't interesting to me anymore. Or maybe it is that they really are not interesting, and I am just not kidding myself anymore. Or, as you're probably thinking at this very moment. TITSWC.

No matter, when Thursday morning rolls around this three-day interruption to my retirement will be over and that will be that. I won't have to think about the business anymore and probably won't as we wander off on a European holiday.

This conference will fade into a distant memory soon enough. About the only thing left to do will be to find out how I did on the ratings the attendees gave for those panel sessions I ran. I won't be very pleased if I don't get top marks.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Rise of the Silver Surfer

Just a quick post this morning as I get ready to take my last official (and officially paid) trip for the company to oversee a conference we organized prior to my retirement.

But I didn't want to miss the chance to share two reports that were in the news yesterday. Scientific American had a podcast that reported on a paper that will appear in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (and I thought our computer titles were niche!). It seems scientists have proved that surfing the web actually improves brain function in older adults.

Scientists at UCLA have found that surfing the web "sent blood rushing" into key areas of older people's brains. The more they surfed, the more blood went rushing. There was no mention of where else the blood rushed if the seniors cruised the adult sites.

THIS is where you can read the text of the podcast. Going there is strongly recommended for all of you over the age of 60.

This web surfing bit is good news because Jennifer Huget of the Washington Post reported some less encouraging news here. The headline reads "Drinking and the Shrinking Brain" and you can pretty well imagine where that report goes.

Looking at research done by a scientist at Wellesley College, Huget cheered me up by pointing out that the brains of all older people shrink, but the brains of older people who drink shrink even faster.

The only good news I could gleam from the report is that scientists don't really know what effects we see from a shrinking brain. But let's be realistic - hands up all of you who think having your brain shrink is a good thing! Yeah, I am sure the only ones who would vote for that one are drinkers.

So what science gives with one hand, it takes away with the other. It's pretty clear to me that the safest course from now on is to cruise the web while I'm drinking. Oh wait, that's what I do already. Lucky me.


PS We are flying to Lisbon this afternoon, so posts will be irregular for the next couple of weeks. Of course, with all that time in the plane, I may just write a lot. But past history leads me to believe that I am much more likely to watch the remake of "Get Smart" a couple of times rather than actually do something resembling work. Especially when I've had a few brain shrinkers with lunch.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Australians All Let Us Rejoice

G'day. Today is the 20th anniversary of the day Linda and Jason and I left Boston to move to Sydney. It has turned out to be the most significant lifestyle decision we have ever made. Our careers, our closest friends, and our precious granddaughter have all come about because of that move.

When we first moved here, we didn't know what to expect so we bought books and carefully studied Australian movies for hints of what life in Oz would be like. The books told us to expect businessmen in shorts with knee socks. The movies told us to expect characters like Mad Max and Crocodile Dundee. At least the movies gave us a hint of what to expect.

We read about Strine, but quickly learned that not every woman we met actually wanted to be called "sheila" although the men didn't mind "bloke". Certain phrases did prove helpful - "pissed as a newt" and "two-pot screamer" come to mind. But there were more difficult challenges as we attempted to navigate between the English we spoke and the English we heard from everyone else.

Certain words were toxic. For example, my Yank friends and family need to know that "rooting" here is pretty much the same as "screwing" there. No one in America would blink when Linda said she rooted for the New York Giants, but our Aussie friends were a bit taken aback at that. Although, as I recall, a few of the women in the office asked for the team's phone numbers when they travelled to New York.

The little word "off" also added meaning. In both countries "pissed off" means angry. In America, you don't even need the word "off". But here "pissed" by itself means drunk. So it was that Jason was telling one of his new friends that his mother was not happy with something that had happened. "My mother is really pissed," he told him. Undoubtedly feeling that deep secrets were being shared, his friend replied, "Yeah, mate, I know. My mother's like that every night."

But not all language barriers came from not understanding the local idiom. I recall one night when Jason and I drove to the local bottle shop to get some beer and a bag of ice. We had been in Oz about 2 months, and I was acutely aware that lots of Aussies didn't understand my accent. I learned to speak slowly and loudly, which didn't help them understand me but did make them feel I was condescending, as well as incomprehensible.

I asked the guy (the bloke) at the bottle shop for a bag of ice. He stared at me blankly. "Ice," I said with no response. I stretched the word out - Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice. No luck.

I was feeling pretty frustrated. In the back of my mind, I am thinking that if I can't even be understood saying the word "ice" than I am in for difficult times in this country. I moved to the definition phase of communication: "You know, frozen water in little cubes," I said.

"Oh! Oice!" he said. "Why didn't you say so?

When I told this tale to my co-workers, two things became clear. One, all the Aussies knew what I meant when I said the word "ice." And two, every one of them knew immeditely that this guy was from New Zealand. The Aussies then told me about the Kiwis. And I started to feel much more at home as it became obvious that even a Septic like me had a few rungs up the ladder on some others.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Red Letter Day

Today is my father's birthday. Because he is the poet laureate of our family, I had toyed with writing a poem for him to match the one he wrote for my 60th birthday. I re-discovered how hard it is to write poems -- especially the old-fashioned kind that rhyme, which is his style.

Rhyming is much harder than most people appreciate. It's hard not to end up with a meaning that doesn't make much sense just to use a rhyming word. Or there are those words that nearly rhyme but really don't and just sound jarring. I would bet it is no coincidence that there are no words to rhyme with "poetry". I certainly had my share of problems trying to write my Dad's life story in rhyming couplets.

His names - John or Red - are easy enough to rhyme, but what do you do with the rest of his story? Is there a rhyme for Kennedy? He was raised in Wallingford (galling lord? falling board? calling horde?). And let's not even think about Vermont.

His Navy time was in San Diego, which probably rhymes with lots of other Spanish words but none that I understand. And he worked for Keebler in Rutland, Syracuse and Philadelphia.

OK, Keebler rhymes with feebler but I need to figure out why I would mention Jutland in a poem about my Dad who has never been to Denmark. I've come up with "fear a noose" to rhyme with Syracuse. The challenge really becomes how to work all of that into a poem about my father's life since I am quite sure he has never been chased by a lynch mob. And I still haven't tackled Philadelphia, but it's probably OK to cheat with Philly in which case there are scores of rhymes.

Here's the draft I was working on:

And so the young man from Wallingford
Answered the plea of the calling horde.
He packed his bags and move to Rutland,
A lovely town that's not in Jutland.

He had married a girl named Norma Faye,

And their marriage lasted more 'n a day.

Over time they had two sons
Whom they called their honeybuns.

By now he was working for Keebler,

But the lure of Rutland proved feebler.

So Red and Norma and Bob and Don
Packed their bags and soon were gone.

Off they moved to Syracuse

Where an angry crowd made them fear a noose.

See what I mean? It's really hard to work that lynch mob into the story. I mean, this is a real life, not an episode of The Simpsons. I did toy with:

Off they moved to Syracuse
Where they would never hear a goose.

I suppose that at least has the merit of being true, but really it was about this time that I had to admit that this poetry gig just wasn't my forte.

So with a profound sense of how much work it is for him to write his poems, I leave the field in disgrace. Nope, no rhyming poems from this son. The king lives. Long live the king. Happy birthday, Dad.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Manly Man

That's Ian. He's the company's photographer. I call him Picture Boy. He calls me Boss Man.
Actually, he used to called me Boss Man. But now there's a new boss in his life. I know it was my choice to leave, but it wasn't easy the first time I heard Ian call Davy "Boss". Ah well, now that I have started this in motion, things are bound to change and I need to get used to it.

Ian was quite annoyed with me and let me know it last night. "You rabbit on in your blog about the bloody Boston Red Sox," he told me last night, "but not one word about Manly." Ian, you see, is a rabid supporter of the Manly Sea Eagles, and when they became rugby league champions last week he thought I should write about it here.

It hadn't occurred to me to write about the game, but when he talked to me I figured I could crank out a short piece, Then I heard Ian call Davy "Boss", and the deal was sealed. There is no way I am writing about them now. And I am going out this weekend looking for someone new in my life whom I can call Picture Boy.

But it probably won't be so easy now that I am no longer the Boss Man.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hey Babe, Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Well I'm going down, going down a hard road.

Just don't know, don't know where I've been.
But I think I've been walkin', I'm walkin' round in circles.
Can't even find a friend.

Leon Russell
Out in the Woods

There are a lot of words that do not describe me well. Just starting with the letter A, I can think of agile, acrobatic and athletic. (Mind you, achy and arthritic also begin with A so it's not a complete wipeout.)

Moving on to the letter B, the word bushwalker is another that does not describe me. Mostly because I am big and bumbling. But also because I am a big fan of civilization and its advances, which clearly include pavement and concrete. After yesterday I am even surer of that position.

Looking to get home the easiest way possible, I entered the Gore Cove Track after reading the sign at the entrance. It said it was a moderate-grade walk and only .9km to Vista St in Greenwich. Quick calculations on my part - 900 meters is less than 1,000 yards - 10 football fields. That's not far, I thought, and even I should be able to handle something called moderate-grade.

The sign said the walk to Vista St was 25 minutes. And then it went on to describe the flora and fauna I could expect to see on the walk. "Keep an eye out for locally rare bird species," the sign urged - as if I would know a rare bird from a common one. "This walk will delight wildlife watchers," it added.

Anyhow, the sign lied. In fact it lied repeatedly. And when it wasn't lying, it was misleading. Let me tell you how.

It started with the name, Gore Cove Track. A track is well-defined, something you can follow easily. But this was more like a path that just disappears part-way through. I had walked about 300 meters, when the path just wasn't there anymore. I looked around, took a few steps in one direction, a few in another. Time to guess which way to go, Right or Left.

I chose Right. I chose wrong.

I was soon walking through prickly things and stepping around fallen branches, and I was pretty sure I was no longer on the path. I could have backtracked, but I didn't even know which way that was.

Then I saw a jogger - a jogger! - running on the path. Technically, I saw the top of the head of a jogger, because he was about 30 feet below me. There didn't seem to be any way down there from where I was short of sliding down a big rock face. I considered taking a chance, but I wasn't sure I wouldn't keep rolling all the way down to the mud flats. But at least I now knew my goal was to get lower, and I kept in that direction until I finally found a reasonably safe way to slide down to the path.

And of course, that leads me to the second lie because there was no way this trek was only 900 meters with all that extra walking, stumbling and sliding I had done. Let's not even talk about the 25-minute guideline, although that was probably always dicey given my speed.

The bit about keeping an eye out for birds was pretty misleading, too. Oh sure, you could look for birds, but every step of the path involved a rock, a root or some other obstacle designed by Mother Nature to trip you. Given how many times I did trip even though I was watching the path, I am also pretty sure there would be no delight for the wildlife watcher in me since it surely must have sounded to any fauna that the ghost of Hannibal was bringing his elephants along the Gore Cove Track.

But the sign's Big Lie was surely at the end. "Moderate-grade walk" the sign had declared. But there staring me in the face was a 3- or 4-storey climb up steps made from rough rocks to get to Vista Street.

Surely no one can get up there without a rope and pulley, I thought in despair. It was at this point that the jogger raced by on his return leg and then did a reasonable impersonation of a gazelle as he went up the steps. I cursed him as he became smaller and smaller and finally disappeared.

Oh well, since the option was going back, there really was no option. So it was up three steps, hands on hips, gasp, gasp, gasp. Repeat. Repeat 20 or 30 times.

Since this post was not found scribbled on the corpse they found halfway up the climb to Vista St, you know I made it so there is only one more thing to add.

Sitting on a bench at the Vista St Lookout trying to get my heart to beat no more than 4 times a second, I was approached by a fit-looking Irishman about my age. He was visiting the area and was looking for the Gore Cove Track.

"It's right there, mate," I said. "Pretty steep walk down and then follow the path for about 900 meters till you get to Berry Island Reserve. If the path seems to disappear for awhile, just stay low and you will find it again."

"Thanks," he said. "It's always good to talk to somebody who knows what they're talking about."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lost in Transition

It's been one week since I started walking and already I can feel the difference. Yesterday was a breakthrough. I walked about 45 minutes without stopping to catch my breath once - and I even tackled a few steep hills. (Mind you, my definition of stopping is very precise -- a full and complete lack of movement. Shuffling the feet forward even a few inches does not constitute stopping.) The best part of yesterday's walk was that I went into parts of Greenwich where I haven't been before.

So today I decided to move it up a notch and also further explore this place we've lived in for eight years. Feeling fitter and ready for a good walk, I headed off. My mobile phone needed charging, so I left it at home. Didn't bother to pick up my wallet or keys. Just me and my iPod.

I didn't expect to get lost so close to home.

Silly me. I didn't know that you could walk into Wollstonecraft, the next suburb over, without some sort of indication that you're doing it. Oh, I wouldn't expect a border crossing, but at least a sign that read "You are now leaving Greenwich. Have a good day and come back soon," would have helped me to turn around fast.

But no, on I walked, secure in the mistaken belief that Greenwich Road where I live was just one block to my right. I didn't even question it when I got to a little wooden bridge built in the 1800's. The sign said I was entering Smoothey Park.

Anyhow, I exited Smoothey Park eventually and saw the sign for Shirley Road. I realized I was at the bottom of the Wollstonecraft peninsula at Berry Island Reserve. It hit me - no phone, wallet. No choice but to keep walking. And, frankly, I had by now walked further than I had intended and climbed more hills than the von Trapp family.

It's not like Greenwich was all that far. I could see it from the Reserve. Unfortunately, there was a small body of water between me and home. So I started walking back up the hill toward civilization when I saw a sign. It was the Gore Cove Track --- to Greenwich!

Now I had worked with Seppi, a guy who was a bushwalking fanatic. He was known for nearly killing people who went for these walks with him. (Obviously he was German, and believed that if it didn't kill you it made you better.) He is most famous as the guide who miscalculated how fast his group could get out of whatever place he had brought them. As dusk turned the trail dark, the young daughter of one of our co-workers forlornly asked, "Mummy, are we going to die?"

Hearing the reports of Seppi's bushwalks, I had vowed to never take one - with or without him. And at the time, the odds were pretty good that I would have kept to that vow. Today changed everything.

Tired and just wanting to get home, my slightly cooked brain thought "Shortcut!" not "Bushwalk!"

More tomorrow on the consequences of that mistake.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What We Have Is a Failure to Communicate

I am not posting today. Everything I have started to write has turned out to be blah-blah-blah, and I am out of ideas.

I tried writing about my good timing in retiring on the same day that the retirement funds of the world have come under threat from the global economic meltdown. The more I thought about it, the less I could see the funny side.

I watched the US presidential debate, thinking I might write about that. Halfway through I was ready to scream. I can't take it anymore. I cannot listen to Obama. I cannot listen to McCain. I have heard both of them say the same things so often that I would actually prefer to be stuck on a cross-country bus trip behind two 13-year-old girls who talk non-stop about the cool things the hot boys in their school said to them, why Angelina doesn't deserve Brad, and the next big color in nail polish. Anything but more McCain and Obama.

Sarah Palin made an idiotic charge that Barack Obama was "palling" with Bill Ayres, a violence-prone anti war guy in the 60's now called a "domestic terrorist". I thought of writing how stupid the woman is, but realized the world doesn't need one more of those essays. I thought of writing of my own brush with the anti-Vietnam War radicals (Benjamin Spock and Philip Beringer) back when there was a Vietnam War to be anti, but remembered I didn't have much more to say other than I met them.

That led me to think of writing about how some of us had organized an anti-war movement in the Catholic seminary I was in in 1967. The punchline is that it was the priests who were the biggest supporters of the Vietnam War, obviously feeling it was up to the North Vietnamese to turn the other cheek first. You can draw your own conclusions about that, but there really wasn't much more to tell.

I thought of writing about things that go bump in the night (that would be Qantas flights).

I considered writing about how happy I am that I am not running the company in this terrible economic year, but then I remembered that Davy reads this and I don't want to get him too depressed in his first week on the job.

So there you have it. Zilch. Squadoosh. Nada. Writer's block. You can't say I didn't try. But no post today. I will try again tomorrow. I am working on a piece about how Linda complains that I don't turn off the taps. Now if I can only think of something else to say about that.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Boiling Frog Update

Following on from yesterday's post for those who care, cites Research Professor Emeritus Victor Hutchison of the University of Oklahoma's Zoology Department as conducting experiments that prove that frogs will try to get out of water that is being slowly raised to boiling temperatures.

You can read about it here and if you want to know about this professor who tested frogs in boiling water you can go here. A word of warning, the official U of O site describes the professor as having four current areas of research interest.

The first is, as you might have guessed, "The physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles to include determinations of the factors which influence lethal temperatures". In other words, he's really into finding out if you can get a frog to sit still while it is being boiled.

The last one is also curious: "The role of melatonin in ageing". I cannot get rid of the image of him getting a bunch of senior citizens to sit in a room, observing whether they move as the lights gradually grow dimmer.

Anyhow, score one for Google and retirement. Research mission accomplished.

Fallen Angels

Dear me, Suzzie.

Nope. Don't know what that means, but I remember my Great Aunt Faye used to say it all the time - or at least I seem to remember her saying it all the time.

I thought of Aunt Faye today as I watched the Boston Red Sox playing the baseball playoffs. Aunt Faye was the sister of my mother's mother, and she became a favorite aunt first to my mother and then later to me. Having no children of her own, she did the things most adults would never dream of doing with a great nephew, things like spending massive times playing games with me and making sure my favorite food was always served.

I thought of her today because Aunt Faye was a Red Sox addict. Even in her last years, she would sit in her bedroom with an earplug from her transistor radio listening to the Sox, who were most likely struggling in vain back then. "Dear me, Suzzie," was a pretty good indicator that something had just happened to the team's fortunes.

Three years ago the Red Sox became famous even to non-baseball fans when they won the World Series for the first time since dinosaurs roamed New England. Here in Sydney I joined with what turned out to be hundreds of thousands transplanted New Englanders in every corner of the world in celebrating the end of the curse that had stopped our team from becoming champions for so many decades.

Then two years later, they were again World Series champions. And today they just beat the Los Angeles Angels, the best team in baseball this year to advance to the league championships. If they win that, they play in the World Series again.

They have gone from being the team that never could win it all to the team that expects to win it all. Their lifelong fans - and that is just about all of us who has ever lived in New England - still can't quite believe it. But we're not complaining, believe me. It's as if, having our wildest dreams come true, whatever baseball gods smiled on us that first time so enjoyed our delight that they decided to give it to us again and again.

Aunt Faye passed away long before the Sox reached their glory, but their failure to become champions never stopped her from listening to every game and cheering for them. As I said, I thought of her today.

I watched the game. The Angels trailed the whole game, and then tied it in the next-to-last inning.

I couldn't stand it. The thought of watching Boston come so close and then just let it slip away was too much. I put on my cap and went for my walk rather than watch the end of the game and the possibility of a Sox collapse.

As soon as I came in, I clicked on There was a picture of the Red Sox piling on one of those happy-man-hug-piles that winning teams seem prone to make. They'd come through in the ninth inning and won. The Angels had fallen, and this Doubting Thomas had but one thought.

"Dear me, Suzzie," I said out loud in an empty room.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Lost Weekend

Linda is home this Monday, because it is a work holiday. Had I waited to retire one more week, this would have been my holiday, too. But I didn't and it isn't.

Were I still working, I would have relished sleeping in a bit and then really enjoyed having nothing to stop me from watching the Red Sox in the playoffs and whatever NFL games they are showing us,

But I am not working, so I am waking up as I would on any other day. While I am still looking forward to the sports on TV, I also know I will be able to watch them whenever they're on from here on out.

I've lost that special pleasure we get from not going to work because, well, because I don't ever go to work anymore. I noticed the same thing this weekend. It was the first weekend of my retirement, but I realized that weekends don't mean an awful lot when they don't differ from the other days of the week.

This weekend I had none of the special chores and errands that I used to be able to only fit in on days off work. Oh, that's not to say that there weren't some chores that Linda asked me to do this weekend, but that's part of our deal. When we got married, I remember her rewriting the vows from "love, honor and obey" to "love, improve and supervise."

(Actually, that's a joke. LK leads from the front, doing so much work around the house that I usually end up getting off my fat butt out of sheer guilt.)

This is all a bit unanticipated. I have such a vivid memory of loving the last day of the school year before summer break when I was a kid. Since I pretty much liked going to school, I believe it must have been just the idea of complete freedom that appealed. I am starting to think, though, that it might just have been because there was a finishing time, that the first day of the next school year was always coming closer so those lazy summer days were just bright islands in the dark sea of homework and tests.

It will terrify Linda to know that I also vividly recall being bored out of my skull about half way through the holidays. But that's another story and I really don't want to go there now.

I should make it clear. I very much like not having to go to work and it's not even remotely a problem that I have lost the feeling that holidays and weekends are special. However, I do wonder about the future.

Just as it's easier to understand hot by being cold, I wonder if it's easier to appreciate not working when you're working. I wonder if this business of having every day off means I will become the equivalent of that famous frog in the pan of water that is sitting over a very low flame. You know the one - the frog just keeps getting hotter and hotter but the temperature rises so slowly it doesn't notice it is being boiled until it croaks - in both senses.

Which makes me wonder a couple of things. First, is that really true? Are frogs so dumb they don't notice they're being boiled? Second, if it is true, what mad scientist first thought of the experiment and conducted it?

Or was it one of the great accidents of science, where this guy's pet frog accidentally sat in a pan of water that was being heated to cook dinner? Fourth, if some scientist actually did conduct this experiment, how many of them went wrong - and how ugly would that have been? And finally, who would be crazy enough to let their peers know they were boiling frogs in the name of science?

And here's the payoff. Tomorrow's a workday. But not for me. I can google to my heart's content until I find the answers to these questions, all while I'm watching Monday Night Football.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Andrew's a Real Turnoff

My friend Andrew came over last night to rescue me yet again from machines that weren't doing what the advertising said they would. This time it was an Apple Time Capsule that I had bought to go with my Macbook. It does three things: works as a wireless network, connects multiple PCs to a printer and, the real reason I bought it, backs up your Mac automatically. It was one of my first purchases made because I no longer have a company to do these things for me.

Like most things Apple, the Time Capsule was dead easy to set up and install. And, like many other things Apple, it didn't work properly at first.

(I could also add that like most Apple products it has great design and a stupid name.)

I spent hours and hours trying everything I could to get it to connect to the Internet, but it just wouldn't budge. I tried dozens of different configurations, spent too many hours reading the manuals and the online support pages, reinstalled it six or seven times.

Once again, I was a beaten man and had to call Andrew who has in the past figured out how to solve the problems of so many of the gadgets I buy on impulse. You might think he would be getting a little tired of having to learn a whole new product just so I can have a play - especially as he is no longer obligated to take care of me now that I have retired. But AG is a gentle man and a gentleman and he just doesn't complain.

So last night he fiddled with the Time Capsule and was getting nowhere just about as fast as I had been. Then I looked away for a moment. And when I looked back, there was the Internet on the screen. Andrew was smiling, not quite a gloat, but satisfaction. I certainly would have gloated had it been me.

When I asked what technical wizardry he had brought to the party, he told me one of his trade secrets. Just shut everything off and let it rest for awhile. Often when you turn it back on, voila, it works!

That was eerie. Just that morning my Dad had told me that his digital TV was having problems, and when he called the repair people they couldn't make it for a couple of days. They suggested unplugging the TV for awhile and then starting it up again. Yep, it worked.

Andrew calls this "self-healing" and I am a believer. I can think of so many things - from car windows that wouldn't work and suddenly did to cable boxes that wouldn't record for two months and just decided to start doing it one day.

And it's kind of a nice metaphor for life, I think. If something isn't working too well, just disconnect and have a little rest. Chances are it will fix itself somehow.

Of course, it's not really that easy. I too had turned the Time Capsule off many times, only to have it continue to fail. Yet Andrew did it once, and it worked. So I think there's a little bit of magic and a lot of savvy in also knowing how to turn it on, as well.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

(Nearly) Dead Man Walking


3,112 steps.

That's how far it is to walk from my house to my former office. Technically, it's 3,112 steps, seven sits, three coughing fits, and enough sweat to fill a gallon jug. When you are as out of shape as I am, the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and then doing it again can become a bit challenging.

Actually, the walking isn't all that challenging because going really slow is always an option. It's the strategy of taking a walk without looking pathetic that is the challenge. My goals this morning were simple. One, get to the office to retrieve my car. Two, not have some Good Samaritan observe me and call an ambulance. Three, have enough breath to be able to say, "Bugger off," to anyone asking if I need help.

I had considered adding a fourth - not let anyone more than 15 years older than me pass me - but decided not to be competitive. It turns out that was a very good idea, on at least two occasions.

I had really underestimated how out of shape I was, and I ended up resorting to a bit of play-acting to avert total humiliation this morning. I hadn't gone all that far before it felt that my lungs were about to schedule a stop-work meeting, I stopped walking but quickly pulled out my mobile phone and read a message. Mind you, they were messages from weeks ago that I had already read (and have now read five or six times).

Anyhow, I was hoping anyone seeing me would think, "That guy stopped walking because he just got a text message." I do realize it's far more likely that they thought, "That big guy over there gasping for air is probably dialling an ambulance." But at least I felt I was able to gasp with a shred of dignity.

That is part of the problem with this walking-as-exercise bit. It's very public and I cannot get past the feeling that total strangers are looking at me and deducting style points faster than the Russian judge when the Bulgarians are on the high beam.

For example, I had noticed that most of the early morning walkers and joggers listened to music. So I planned to listen to my iPod, but I only got halfway through the first Credence song before I saw my reflection in a shop window. It hit me that there was a Grand Canyon-sized gulf between the hip, slick, slim iPod listeners dancing to the music in their ears on Apple's ads and an overweight, bald guy bent at the waist gasping for air. I took out the ear pods and put them in my pocket.

But I know that this will all get much better if I just stick to it. So my goal is to follow the advice of Mr John Walker and Sons and "Just Keep Walking".

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head

OK. It's a bright new day, a brave new world. I woke this morning to the bright sunshine of freedom, a world without limits and full of potential.

I decided to ignore all of that.

Instead, I woke around the usual time and checked my e-mail. Now that I have completely entered the realm of the business world's seriously unimportant, I got what I expected - squadoosh. Nonetheless, I am beginning to think that breaking this habit of checking e-mail all the time is going to be harder than trying to simultaneously stop drinking, eliminate carbs and fats from my diet and exercise an hour each morning.

Oh hell, those three things are what I'm doing tomorrow when I plan to launch a Bailout Program for my bloated body which analysts fear is bordering on the edge of collapse. My sensible side insists it is necessary to avert the total collapse of the system and restore confidence, but the other half of me says it's not right to bail out a body that got that way through its own excesses and greed. The vote will be close.

You can probably tell that I have lots more time on my hands. I haven't got past telling you that I woke up and checked email and this post is already longer than Sarah Palin's resume.

OK, so after checking email and reading the news sites, I walked downstairs on my first day as an unemployed old guy. I cleaned the kitchen. I made coffee. I went back upstairs and emptied the waste baskets. I cleaned out one of the desk drawers that contained, among other things, boarding passes from an airline that went out of business seven years ago. I went to the hardware store and bought insect spray to get rid of aphids on our plants. I bought under-bed storage boxes for all the clothes I am removing from the closet. Linda and I filled them and stashed them under the bed. I had lunch. And now I am writing this blog and it's only 12.30.

And they said retirement would be boring!

And then just like that - boom! As I finished writing that last sentence, Patty Griffin's "Oh Heavenly Day" played on the iPod. I stopped what I was doing, closed my eyes and listened to what may be one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded, realized I was sitting in my shorts and T on a sunny workday Wednesday in Sydney listening to great music and writing about it for my family and friends. And in a few hours Linda and I will be going to a party with people who have meant the world to me. Oh heavenly day, indeed. Maybe this gig will be as much fun as I have been hoping.