Left the hotel in Sydney today; am spending the next few days at the home of the delightful Heather Doering Mitchell and her family. Heather is Cornell class of 1989 and an old drinking buddy. We’re in Roseville, an hour or so north of the city. As a friend explained to me yesterday, this is the Australian Dream: every family with their own house and their own yard. Hence, staggering suburban sprawl—but the houses (and the yards) are nice. There’s a stunning bougainvillea out in the back in full bloom: an eye-wrenching shade of purple. Also the ubiquitous jacaranda, the tree which will be one of my most lasting visual associations with my trip Down Under. Heather has two kids whom I’m meeting for the first time today: Campbell (age hey-did-you-know-I’ll-be-5-next-week) and Tom (18 months). Campbell is obsessed with airplanes and airports. The house is full of hand-made signs telling you which way to the taxi stand, where you can park, where the fire extinguishers are, and what you can (and can’t) bring on the plane in your carry-on bags. Right now he’s telling me about the train that runs through the basement that will take me to the Sydney Airport.
While I’m here Heather and I are hoping to do a coupla touristy things that I never got an opportunity to do while running around with the queers. We’ll see how it goes.
For instance—I realized on the bus on the way out here that I have no photos of the Sydney Opera House. Every time I saw it I thought about how it is one of the most-photographed buildings on Earth. And how striking a thing it really is when seen in person. But I never did get around to taking a picture…
I did get lots of photos of Hugh making up Jim for the Black Party. That will get a gallery unto itself upon my return, mark my words.
wait! what happened on Friday?
Oh, right: the Pink Flamingo.
I guess I should start this report with one final piece of historical information: prior to these Games, Team New York Aquatics had not won a Pink Flamingo competition—has not even placed in a PF competition—in the last several years. In recent memory, even.
Here’s how our PF went.
Little Nikki Webster skips out onto the beach. She spreads her towel, applies sunscreen, and promptly falls asleep (looking as though she had been hit with a rock). As she sleeps, she dreams of the sea life of her beloved Australia: a wiggly green worm, a pink jellyfish, a couple of big random tropical fish, two graceful nudibranch. [sign holders hold up sign 1: “Nikki’s Nightmare: SOUTH PACIFIC”] [music: from the Sydney 2000 opening ceremonies, Nikki’s underwater fantasia theme]
The fish swirl enchantingly about the stage…until Auntie Jack and Thin Arthur arrive! They wake up Nikki and throw her into the pool. Auntie Jack shouts at her to “Swim damn you, or I’ll rip your bloody arms off! And I will, too!” Her dream has turned into a horrible nightmare! The happy sea life is replaced with fish skeletons and signs reading “Toxic Waste” and “No Swimming” and “Danger” and they all swim around her menacingly. Aieee! [sign holders hold up sign 2: “Nikki’s Nightmare: SOUTH PASSAIC, New Jersey”]
Little Nikki finally escapes the horrible toxic waters and drags herself out onto the deck, exhausted. Where is she now? It’s some kind of…cheesy tiki bar? [sign holders hold up sign 3: “The Bada-Bing! Lounge welcomes the Sopranos’ Tiki Night!”] The cast of the Sopranos strides into the bar and glares at her. [music: “Got Yourself a Gun,” aka the Sopranos Theme]
Suddenly the music changes. A man in a sailor’s hat strides onto the stage and sings “There is Nothing Like a Dame.” He sounds suspicously like Bernadette Peters, but who’s counting? He spies Nikki and plants a big one on her lips. Nikki finds this unsettling, but she is quickly distracted by the beginning of a fabulous synchronized swimming display, to an orchestral arrangement of the same song.
35 seconds into the synchro, the Sopranos become bored. The swimmers are summarily executed; their corpses drift aimlessly in the water. [music abrubptly cuts off]
Nikki screams. It’s all going horrible again! And now the big tiki heads at the back of the bar stand up. Inside are three Nikki Clones, dressed just like her! They begin to dance [music: Kylie Minogue, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”] and move towards her menacingly. The corpses of the synchro performers stand up and do the same. Nikki screams again!
Showing the pluck that made her an international star, for about 17 minutes, Little Nikki begins to sing her big ‘aren’t we all one big family and isn’t the future bright’ number. [music: Sydney 2000 opening ceremonies, Nikki Webster singing “Under the Southern Sky”] The entire ensemble joins her in a series of interpretive hand motions. Vendors appear in the stands selling Nikki t-shirts and “Nikki on a Stick” fashion dolls. Nikki is raised on the shoulders of the crowd triumphant.
And then the Sopranos fit her with a pair of cement shoes and drop her in. The ensemble waves a happy goodbye to little Nikki (except the lounge singer, who weeps despondently). Exeunt. [music: Sydney 2000 opening ceremonies, end-of-Nikki’s-dream-everybody-leaves-the-field theme.]
Yes, we did all that in under 5 minutes.
And the crowd went wild! The locals ate it up! They recognized Nikki and Thin Arthur and Auntie Jack right off the bat! (Which is a good thing, because the Americans had no idea what was going on.) They loved the fish! We won the “Best Interpretation of Theme” award, which was a case of Aussie Chardonnay! And we took third in the overall judging!
Jubilation reigned. Much of the PF squad went to the Sydney Tower’s revolving restaurant to celebrate. Spectacular view.
Yesterday, we went to Palm Beach, another trip well north of the city. Great beach, and then late in the afternoon there were parasurfers, who were amazing.
Last night: the closing ceremonies—much less grand than the opening—and then the Farewell Party, at which a few thousand people danced until 5 am. Extremely fun, but clearly much easier to do if you’re on heavy drugs, which I would like to stress I was not. I wore my olive green neotrad Utilikilt.
That’s all for now. There’s an almost-5-year-old who is parading up and down the hallway outside this room singing “Eleanor Rigby.” Between that and the lack of sleep, my ability to construct sentences is collapsing catastrophically.