Strange Radiation

Andrew Willett, unreliable narrator.

flowers and bats

Spent the first half of yesterday wandering through Sydney’s lovely botanic gardens. They’re huge, immaculately maintained, and free. Took many pictures of plants…and then we turned the corner and went into the Palm Grove, and saw the inhabitants.
And I don’t mean the palm trees. The Palm Grove is home to thousands of grey-headed flying foxes. Spectacular; they hung like huge leathery melons off the trees’ higher branches. We were surprised at how active they were—you expect bats to be asleep and therefore inert during the day, but they squabbled amongst themselves if they were feeling overcrowded, and every now and then one would go zipping through the air in search of a better perch. They were magnificent, with wingpans that were easily a couple of feet across. My digital camera displays the typical lag when you push the button, so it’s not great for that kind of fast-twitch photography, but I spent many minutes making a valiant attempt to get a shot of one of them in flight. We’ll see if anything came of it. It’s not an insect-eating species, which would explain why there are so @#$%^&* flies in this town…they’re frugivores. Apparently the entire colony spreads out across Sydney every night to feast on the fruits and flowers of the local trees. Tempting to go over there at sunset to see that happen.

pf 101

There wasn’t time for that yesterday, though, as I had to get myself out to the pool for an in-water pink flamingo rehearsal. The performance is this afternoon, you know.
I guess it’s time to give the uninitiated that explanation I’ve been promising. The Pink Flamingo Relay began innocently enough. Don’t these things always? Years ago, it was just a “fun relay” held at the end of many meets on the gay swim circuit. Each team in the meet would send four swimmers; the swimmers would swim a relay race in which a pink plastic lawn flamingo was passed from swimmer to swimmer as a baton. Pretty straightforward.
Predictably, TNYA became bored with this after a while. One afternoon our relay representatives strode out onto the deck in big crazy drag: hats, gloves, black spandex sheath dresses. And then swam the race while wearing all it. The other teams were amused until we won the race. The crowd went berserk. TNYA blew kisses to the throngs and wore their laurels with style, baby.
The next time somebody threw a PF at a meet, everybody showed up in drag. Surprise. And things went along this way for a little while, until somebody decided that the teams should be properly announced as they arrived, so now each team was providing the announcer with a little script to read as they entered the field of play.
TNYA eventually got bored with that, too. So at one fateful meet they carried out a cunning plan. It was a tribute to Marlo Thomas in That Girl. The announcer began to read his script, talking about how lovely Ann Marie had fallen into the photocopier at her latest new job. Enter our relay team: four men dressed in identical A-line dresses, bright sunshine yellow with white flowers, wearing matching gloves and flip-flop sandals and perky flip wigs.
The announcer went on. The photocopier was out of control; Ann Marie, without the handsome Ned to bail her out, couldn’t contain the forces she had unleashed.
And suddenly the pool area was filling with Marlos. The entire team was streaming in through every available door, in perky flip wigs and sunshiny A-line dresses. Marlos were in the stands handing out resumés. The crowd, of course, went wild, as mobs of Marlos took their places to cheer on the relay team. The officials sounded the starting beeper…
…and TNYA, drunk on the limelight, moved in for the kill. 67 Marlo Thomases decided to pile into the pool from either end of lane 4. Flip-flop sandals bobbed across the surface as the two mobs of Marlos met in the middle. The other teams swam on, valiantly trying to preserve the athletic dignity of the event, but the giddy Marlos laughed and splashed and waved at the crowd. The crowd loved them back. Chaos reigned.
Who won the race? Nobody seems to remember. But precedent had been set once again; history had been made. From this point on, the skit that got your team out onto the deck was vastly more important than the race they swam when they got there. Cast lists swelled; musical numbers and costumes and props and choreography were dragged in; synchronized swimming became de rigeur. The modern PF has pretty much dispensed with the race entirely. Leave it to a bunch of queers to find a way to include a floor-show competition in a swim meet.
At last report, more than 1500 people had purchased tickets to see the PF competition today. It’s considered one of the highlights of any Gay Games or IGLA championships. It gets the media coverage that the rest of the swim meet—hell, pretty much the rest of the Games—generally doesn’t. A guy from San Francisco set an American record the other day in the pool, but the thing that brings ’em in is the prospect of seeing that same guy dressed as a dancing vegetable, or perhaps doing his best Esther Williams in a French maid’s uniform.
This year, the PF theme is “South Pacific.” We’ll be presenting a thing that (without giving too much away) incorporates that darling Nikki Webster from the opening ceremonies from Sydney 2000 with old Aussie TV shows, Kylie Minogue, and the Sopranos. It’ll be brilliant. Trust us.
Don’t ask who’s wearing the pink dress, though. I don’t know. No, really. No idea. You can’t make me tell.
Anyway, I gotta go now.

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2 Comments

  1. Brockway Kim

    Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.

  2. Huh. Drive-by epigrams.

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