29 June 2010

ATL to SYD to ATL again

Well, I said I wasn't going to post on this blog anymore, but as you all know, I'm sort of a liar.

I haven't had a moment to figure out Wordpress since I landed back in this big smoggy forest-filled city, but I already have so much to tell you, dear friends.

The flight from Sydney to Atlanta was murder. Nasty, long and brutish. We had individual screens for watching movies and TV shows, but really, after two movies, I've had enough. They were good movies, some Almodovar, some Hitchcock, but still. My vegetarian meal was disgusting, so I couldn't eat it. I got really hungry. Luckily, Monika from the Alfalfa had given me a snack pack full of raw organic cashews, dried mango, and chocolate. It saved my life. I couldn't sleep, because I had a headache, so I took a Panadol (which is an Australian Tylenol) and promptly endured a pretty vicious allergic reaction to that. I'd never "lost my lunch" on a plane before, and wow, that is not a good idea. I do not recommend it. In the end, I had a headache, I couldn't take a painkiller, and I had no food in my stomach, which only made my headache worse.

Horrible. I was hoping to buy some food in the LA airport, but between customs, passport check and boarding my connecting flight, I had no time. I'm not too proud to admit I bought a can of Pringles on the flight, and I scarfed all the reconstituted potato mash I could get my hands on.

But then, finally, I was at the Atlanta airport, and my mom and dad and Lynn (Craig's mom) were all there with smiles and hugs and–importantly–food. Lynn even brought me a piece of the old-fashioned vegan cake from Javamonkey. For y'all Aussies reading this, Javamonkey is one of my old haunts in Decatur, GA. A coffeeshop I used to work at, a cafe that has been my third place for years.

And as my parents drove me home, I felt what probably everyone feels after years away from a place. A strange sense of same but not, intangibly different, essentially unchanged. The big church by the highway is still there, and kudzu still reigns mighty over the trees. The Georgia State University dorms, where I lived my first years away from home, are now Georgia Tech dorms, and my parents' house has a new water heater and a new roof.

Yes. It's weird to come home. Everything tingles with familiarity, but nothing sparks with knowledge. I keep having these moments: "Ah, yes! I remember Dekalb Avenue... but I don't remember where it leads." Flickers of memory, but they're not connecting up yet. The city right now for me is like the star-filled night sky... I just can't work out the constellations.

I've been told that I am talking just a bit strangely, and my friends look at me funny when I call their pets "little mates."

And I've had an eventful week. It's hot here. Really hot. I got a cold because of the weather change, and I'm still not quite 100% yet.

My niece and nephew have been well-occupied in their summer vacation. Last Thursday, I witnessed my first ever swim meet. I've never been particularly athletic, and I certainly never got into swimming, because I'm afraid of water. I'll wait for you to stop laughing.

So, swim meets are new territory for me. Have you ever been to one of these things? They take ages. We sat in the stifling heat for hours watching kids race, or occasionally wander, through the water against the clock. My nephew (we call him Nanu) swam his little body to shreds, finishing second in his heat on the backstroke. And then, he won his first ever heat that night, too! Freestyle! It was super-exciting.

My niece, called Nanki, had a gymnastics camp last week, so I've been lucky enough to witness some gymnastics dance routines, as well. It feels really good to connect with the chickens again, with my own little mates. And hanging out with my family again, especially my dear sister, has been lovely. We never stop being amazed at how different we are, and how much we still like each other.

On Friday, I caught up with my pals Jeremy and Katie and Lemuel. Jeremy and Katie are the kind of young people who totally have their shit together and already own a giant a house with 3 bedrooms and two bathrooms and a back garden and a front porch and a shed. And an alarm system, because the only neighbourhood they could afford all that in was Grant Park, which is sometimes still a little bit rough. They also live with a giant Maine Coon cat named Terzaghi, after this guy. Jeremy is a civil engineer, with a slightly unnatural love of rocks and soil, if that goes any way toward explaining the cat's name. The cat is so big, he had to turn himself around about 5 times to fit in this box. Like he had to screw himself into it. But he likes being in boxes, so he was happy.

And Lemuel is the kind of young person who plays the drums with members of the B-52s and occasionally tambourines his own hands to pulp. 

We ate Mexican at Mi Barrio, a little hole filled with amazing Mexican food. You Sydneysiders have no idea. Mexican food here is so damn good. To finish the night, we bought some Sweetwater beer (note Terzaghi's box). That first sip of Sweet Georgia Brown Ale brought back so much that I love about the South, about Atlanta. I'd missed these guys a lot over the past two years, I had missed proper Mexican food and Sweetwater beer. It was lovely to see them all again.

Then on Saturday, I went to watch the World Cup USA v GHANA game at the Brick Store Pub with Lynn and Wayne (Boy Wonder's parents). I really missed this place, y'all. Back when I lived in Decatur, if the Javamonkey was my third place, then the Pub was my fourth. It was our local, and considering it's been rated the second-best beer bar in the world, you can see how it was a pretty amazing local to have. They ordinarily have no TVs, though they bring them in for World Cup, and they have a fabulous beer book. Over twenty beers on tap, and not a single Budweiser in the joint. Of Sydney bars, the Taphouse in Darlinghurst is most similar to the BSP, but it can't really compete.

It's surreal, being back in these places after so long. Some of the same people are working at the Pub as before I left. Craig was in a band called Gentleman Jesse and His Men, and Jesse was tending bar on Saturday, so I got to catch up with him. He's a lovely guy. A good sort.

What's more surreal, though, is being surrounded by people whose faces are painted with the American flag and who are screaming "USA! USA! USA!" I just haven't heard that in awhile. Lately, if anything, I've been hearing "Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!" which is Australia's oddly Jewish super-aggressive sporting event chant.

I drank my beer quietly and tried to look objective about the game, like I was just interested in good footwork and slide tackles, because secretly, I was pulling for Ghana. I've heard most expats get oddly patriotic, even if all they ever wanted was to move away from their home country. I guess I'm not like them. I still want the young, poor, underdog country to win. Every time. And I was happy when Ghana won, but I had to be careful who knew. Jesse quietly admitted that he was really enjoying seeing everyone's sad faces. Jesse has always had a highly-developed, nuanced sense of schadenfreude. Like a sommelier of other people's frustration.

That day at the bar, hanging out with Lynn and Wayne was beautiful. I really lucked out in the "pretty much in-laws" category. They've been telling everyone about me coming home. All their friends at the bar already knew my name and my plans and when Craig's getting here, and they all said, "I've heard a lot about you, and Lynn and Wayne-- they really love you." And we're all missing dear Craig in Atlanta, too. I stayed at Lynn and Wayne's that night, and got to see my Severine. She's fluffier (and a little chunkier) than she used to be, but she's taken well to living with her grandparents. She's happy. Or well, as happy as a peanut-brain can be, I guess. She purrs a lot.

On Sunday I caught up with Joe and Judith. We sat at the Pub (again) and talked for hours. In Australia, I missed these guys so much I sometimes ached for them. They run Love is Love Farm and are "good food" ambassadors to Atlanta. They've had a tough two years– the Atlanta storms last year flooded their farm and wiped out a lot of their soil. It was good to catch up with them, put the rough years behind us, and reconvene our friendship where we'd left it.

Yesterday, on Monday, I got to see Emma and Stefan-- we ate at some places I'd never been before, and chatted about news and the (sometime lack of ) quality thereof, because Emma works at CNN.

So, you can see I've had a busy week! On top of all that, I also got almost all my visa paperwork done– I'm just about to mail it in. I've still got loads of friends to catch up with and errands to finish, but for my first week, I reckon I've hit a good pace. My weather-change cold is almost gone, and the only big problem in my life now is that I miss my wonderful Sydney (and Wellington) friends and community.

And I am much, much too far from one very close friend in particular. Oh, mate. I miss you so.


  1. Craig, I miss you man. It's good to see severine....its been awhile since she would always skittishly depart when i awoke on the ol apartment couch.

    Friday was awesome. So awesome we should have made a shirt like the black people.



  3. Lem-- a family reunion shirt would have been awesome! Can we get one when Craig gets here, please?

    And Allen, lady, I see you tomorrow!

  4. Yes, like my beloved kitty I am also fluffier, though you'll have to tell me if I'm chunkier. I can't wait to get back and do a few loops in a Sweetwater carton myself...

    Our shirts could say "Reunited and it feels so good" and have musical notes on them, and the sun wearing sunglasses. Then underneath it could say "The family that stays together prays together".

    Today my word verification word is "prote," and it seems right. "I'm prote this afternoon, can we do it tomorrow?"