21 April 2009


Well, if the previous post didn't make you want to visit us, I don't know what would. Except for maybe everyone's favourite Australian kiddie-entertainment band--the Wiggles!!

Today, they played the Enmore Theatre, which is right across the street from my work; and I have never in my life seen so many prams. The theatre even had a flipping valet service for the prams! They took up at least 300 meters of the footpath. Total insanity.

17 April 2009

We're famous!

This picture is from the South Sydney Herald. Our home is a blight on the streetscape!! I put a green rectangle around our specific abode, since the whole street has ugly rollerdoors that all look the same.

If you want to read the full article, click on the image below--

Ahhh...remember when Craig and I had a front door that really looked like a front door? When the local newspaper never had need to question the beauty of our home's greeting area? Good times. I really miss those times.

16 April 2009

Sound the Trumpets!

If you've been reading T.E.A.E.T.! for a while or have talked to us since we've been down here in Wolverinia*, you might recall being irritated by our persistent whining over the lack of reputable places for drink here in our fair harbour town. I grew up believing that any city offering as many pubs as Sydney is as close to heaven as our wispy mortal shells might be able to attain, but to stumble into 99.9% of Sydney's so-called "hotels" expecting anything like a positive experience is at best naive. I won't bore or disgust you with the details, but let's just say that it's been a more dreary and depressing year than it would've been if we'd spent some of it in the kind of delightful drinking holes we left behind in Atlanta.

The tremblings of something better were already registering when we arrived in Sydney with the news of new bar licensing laws, but it's seemed like an eternity since June without much to show for it. The first big blow to the monolith of the grubby pub scene came (as far as we're concerned) with the opening of Yulli's, a little bar/restaurant in the hippest bit of Surry Hills that offers a clandestine vegetarian menu and a really fine beer list. We definitely became familiar faces there within a few weeks of first coming across it. The only drag is that the place got too damn popular too quickly--clearly validating the beer list, in my twisted logic--and, since it's just a cafe and not a real bar, it has a hard time walking the line.

I happened to be up in Paddington working a little under-the-table gig I got recently (thanks, Richard) and on my way home passed what was a hotel in the old style, but warmly-lit with a new sign outside: THE LOCAL. They had the number "150" scrawled grandly on a chalkboard outside and something told me this was important. Two days later, a contact of mine who knows a thing or two about good beer tells me I need to go to this new place, the Local Taphouse. Sure enough, my intuition was correct: finally a proper craft-beer bar with 150 beers had opened in Sydney and I had missed the boat.

Nija and I finally made it up to the Local on Easter Sunday--which offered glorious weather--after a jaunt through the newly-reopened Paddington Reservoir. We had thought about going the previous night, but we decided it would probably be too busy. It was quiet when we walked in, really the perfect speed for a Sunday afternoon. The decor was just right, a kind of ramshackle collection of old odds and ends arranged charmingly in a converted hotel-pub, numerous pleasantly distinct seating areas, an elegant upstairs dining room. The whole thing is like a finely-built upright piano from 1912 that's had more than one profane drinking song banged out on its keys.

We ordered a "paddle"--literally a freshmen-ass-whomping fraternity-style paddle with five holes in it--of five craft beers. Three of them were Australian--by itself remarkable--and the other two were good selections from abroad.

Lookit them sitting there, all the colo(u)rs of the beer rainbow, just waiting to warm our bellies! After polishing off this palette of delight, another was in order, so we called for an encore of the Bridge Road 'Chevalier' Saison from NE Victoria. Best of all, the prices at the joint are surprisingly reasonable given the uniqueness of their wares and their high-profile spot in Sydney's most ludicrously expensive neighbo(u)rhood.

You might say that in the Local Taphouse Nija and I are trying to find some hint of the Brick Store, but who could blame us? There are definitely strong similarities to be found (compare the two bars' websites, for example) and clearly the two places are working from the same basis of cultural material. The Local is different enough to feel like a new experience, though, and it's an experience we'll be having lots more of this fall and winter.

So sound the trumpets, folks, a good beer culture is finally awakening in this town!

*The country formerly known as Australia has changed its name in a deal with 20th Century Fox to promote Hugh Jackman's new vehicle, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Iiiiiiiiiiiiit's true! Please change your maps and globes with whatever permanent marker is available.

10 April 2009

Yum Cha!

I went out on Wednesday night for drinks with a bunch of volunteer producers of Final Draft, the radio show I'm working on at 2SER. Check me out in the "producers" column! You can hear my first contribution in this episode of our podcast.

Well, after a few drinks, it became clear we needed food, and someone suggested Chinese food, as we were easily stumbling distance to Chinatown. I was lightly concerned. 1) I've never liked Chinese food. My family used to go, once a week, to Empress of China II on Johnson Ferry Rd., and it was gross. 2) I like being vegetarian, and even the menus in most Chinatown shops don't speak English, much less the waitstaff. The combination of 1 and 2 meant I could have ended up eating something gross and suddenly not be a vegetarian anymore.

But should I tell everyone that I wasn't comfortable with Chinese food, with Chinatown? Should I make the whole group bend to my picky desires? Probably not. The fact was I'd never even eaten in Chinatown, and it had been years since I'd given Chinese food a go. Also, Sydney is really different from Atlanta, right? I mean, I'm practically in Asia here--the Chinese has got to be different. I spent a few minutes trying to decide what to do. I know a few vegans that eat dumplings in Chinatown, so it can't be all bad. Also, I know that Chinese food in America isn't even close to Chinese food. So, maybe it'll be ok. I had been afraid of bubble teas until my new pal Aaron made me try one during Chinese New Year, and I love those things now. After all that pondering, I decided not to say anything, largely because we were already at the restaurant and ordering. I said it was stumbling distance from the bar, but I guess it would be more specific to call it pondering distance. Turns out there were several vegetarians in the group, and they knew what to order. Ma-po tofu, noodles, and vegetarian dumplings. The noodles probably had eggs and the dumplings definitely did, but I'm not even pretending to be vegan these days, so I wasn't that worried. As long as I can't taste the egg in your delicious birthday cake, I'll eat it. And the same goes for Chinese noodles and dumplings. The verdict? Chinese food is pretty good. Oily and comforting, exactly what you need when you've been drinking maybe a little too much with excellent company.

We talked about books, movies, and radio, and I started to feel a little sad. If I go to Canberra, I won't be able to hang out with these radio people any more. I might hang out with new radio people, but I really like these ones. For the first time, I felt like there was something specific about Sydney I would really miss. Canberra has another radio station and another food co-op, a nice lake instead of a beautiful harbour, but it doesn't have these specific people. Sydney's got nice restaurants, but so does every city. No wonderful Benedict from New Zealand who thinks he doesn't have a Kiwi accent, no extra-nice Paul Kildea who does the killer interviews. It probably won't stop me moving to Canberra, but it does feel really nice to know there's something about Sydney I'll miss.

Speaking of things I'll miss, yesterday Paul finally left this lonely lonely island once again. He had a few hours in Sydney before his plane left and I met him in Chinatown for a delicious bubble tea. He was hungry, so we decided to eat Chinese, and I had my newfound sense of confidence after the previous evening's adventure. Neither of us had ever had Yum Cha, essentially Chinese tapas. I decided on some steamed vegetarian rolls, we shared a cheap plate of noodles, and Paul got some "combination" dumplings. I think those are made of a mythical animal, part beef, part pig, part antelope or something. Who knows? He ate all of them, so they must be good.

I think it's a little funny that he had Yum Cha for the first time about six hours before he landed in Beijing for a nine-hour stopover. We did get those bubble teas, and then Paul left, for miles away and no time soon. I'm going to miss him, but we had a fun time on his last visit. I hope to see him again soon.

And I hope Final Draft does another drinks and Chinatown night next month; I'll take pictures next time--

07 April 2009

Wanton Sustenance

We were so proud of our kitchen performances this weekend, we had to share--

First off, we accomplished our very first vegan Wonton Soup! Look at the adorable wontons I folded with my own hands. They're almost as cute as Cinco. I got the recipe from veganyumyum.

Then, we cooked them up in a delicious miso ginger broth, and for the first time in their lives, two very long-term vegetarians enjoyed the most comforting mouthfuls of food, possibly, in the world. Wontons are warm and squishy and chewy and savoury. Ignore the ridiculously dirty stovetop in the background.

Then, we woke up late on Sunday and were pleasantly surprised by the end of Daylight Savings Time! We decided to celebrate with vegan cinnamon rolls, American-style. Here, they call 'em cinnamon scrolls, and they're made using rolled-up puff pastry. It's all wrong here, guys. Upside down and wrong. Craig says cinnamon scrolls aren't wrong, they're just different; I'm not interested in his feeble and unprincipled aquiesence to inferior Australian pastry. Just try telling me you won't want any of these when you visit me in Sydney! Just imagine them covered in a lemon zest icing, and the vision will be complete...

04 April 2009

Strange strange times.

Living in Australia is sometimes a little like living in the past. We get movies and books a few months later, and a lot of news doesn't quite make it here. Usually, it doesn't feel that long ago; it just feels like maybe 2003 because all the hipsters are listening to the Postal Service here.

But other times, it feels very very strange. The last couple weeks, it's felt more like...say, the 1950's. We've had a spate of violence; a man was bashed to death at the airport during a brawl between rival gangs. Ah, you're thinking, "Nija, gang violence isn't a thing of the past." I know. But... they're motorcycle gangs! Men on motorcycles raging through town and wreaking havoc.

So here's what happened, according to the Sydney Morning Herald: three men were coming back from a "social thing" in Melbourne. One of the three was the president of the Sydney Hells Angels, the other was a member of the gang, and the third was just the president's brother--not a member of any gangs. They were ambushed by members of the Comanchero bike gang, and the brother was killed.

There's a huge racial component to the whole story, and the Sydney Morning Herald, ever the bastion of good journalism is happy to promote that angle, citing an unnamed source "close to the bikie community" saying this:

"The incident bolstered opinion in the bikie community that the Comanchero and Notorious were "rogue groups" that were not viewed as genuine outlaw motorcycle groups. They are out of control. They have a very strong Lebanese presence. They have a very strong leaning towards a much more radical approach."

Of course, the president of Sydney's Hells Angels has also been "...quite parochial in relation to patriotism...very vocal about the things going on in the Middle East, terrorism coming into Australia ... and on following the Australian way."

Wait a minute. Genuine outlaw motorcycle groups? What's an ingenuine outlaw motorcycle group? A strong Lebanese presence--is the source trying to say they're more violent? Thanks SMH! Why bother with an obligation to objective journalism, anyway?

Then just this past Monday, you would not believe it. The whole city fell apart.

There was a shoe factory fire in St. Peters-- they still don't seem to know why this happened. The really odd thing to me is that Sydney still has a lot of industry right in the middle of the city; whereas it seems like most industry is pushed out to the far far suburbs in Atlanta. You have to go to all the way out to Gainesville to see a lot of factories. That's partly why this city sometimes feels so trapped in the past to me.

And, on the very same day--there was a huge power outage that went all the way from the CBD to the Eastern Suburbs, which has rendered more than a third of Sydney's emergency alarms useless.

But then, there was a gas explosion on the 29th floor of a fancy apartment block in Bondi Junction--they think this was a ruptured gas pipe. This is where Sydney feels just like Atlanta; right next to all the ugliness of factories and public housing, you have huge million-dollar condo blocks springing up, a burden on the roads and the waterways. This is where Sydney is absolutely in the present, in 2009, where the past looks nostalgic and I can feel sad for the buildings that have been knocked down to make carparks. It feels incongruous to be able to bicycle in only thirty minutes from the 1950's on one side of the city, to the 2000's on the other. I know Sydney won't always be like this. Eventually, the whole city will have to catch up, because that's what capitalism does. But right now, the city seems almost broken in two, half-paralysed, a stroke victim struggling to be symmetrical.

Some people think the bike gangs were to blame for all the chaos last Monday; some think it was random chance. I think it was the sound of a crumbling city, choking in the grasp of very strange times.