Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sydney in two efficient days

One thing that surprised me in planning my two week trip to Australia is how little detailed information there seemed to be about workable itineraries. I also wanted to post here a little about my trip, so people can see what I'm getting up to on these travels and understand why I want to meet them and a little about what it might be like to meet me this way. So I created a separate page/tab at the top where I will link all of these travel posts for people who are interested in these areas and/or hearing my goings on. If you're not interested, you can probably just skip these posts?

I flew New Zealand Air (very nice flight attendants, and apparently John Travolta can still sell luxury goods there). 

I got into Sydney in the morning. I found out right away that the reservation for two nights at the Megaboom Hotel was for the wrong days, starting the day preceding, and there was no availability for my actual days. The front desk person was not only not helpful, she was antagonistic and tried to thwart every attempt I made with whomever my booking provider (Expedia?) was to resolve my issue. She wouldn't let me extend, wouldn't let me cancel the reservation, and wouldn't refund me anything. Ok. It wasn't until the end of a 40 minute debate that she conceded that she could put me on a waiting list to extend my stay and ask her manager about a partial refund. 

I noticed arguing with the customer to be a common thing in Australia. I guess it's because there's not really a tipping economy? And there is a high minimum wage. The incentive therefore is not to please a customer, but to avoid losing one's job. So when I asked for anything that wasn't apparently completely standard, I often got pushback and even antagonism. Maybe it was my sociopathy shining through and rubbing people the wrong way, but I chatted with some of my new Australian friends about it and they seemed to confirm the trend of lack of customer service.

It was nicely located, though, and I walked around my neighborhood to the lovely Queen Victoria Building, the Town Hall, and then a little bit of Darling Harbor.  

My new sociopathically minded friend (diagnosed ASPD). S came to meet me at my hotel for a day walking from Bondi (Bond - eye) beach to Coogee, a beautiful walk with many great sea cliffs (sea cliffs are my jam, as I had told S when he was planning the day).  As the Uber driver suggested, we kept walking into the cemetery area and even beyond. There are salt water pools filled by the ocean that people swim laps in. Beautiful, truly, and I'm used to beach beauty. 

Bondi is a hotspot, all these jacked up dudes (apparently many of them from steroids, per new friend S) strutting around scantily clad. There are surfers, but not many. Most people seemed to be out for fun, which emphasis on fun is apparently an Australian cultural thing. S and our Uber driver got in a bit of a fight for verbal dominance to explain to me how the Sydney lockout laws have killed certain once vital neighborhoods because Australians want to be able to drink freely and flow freely from establishment to establishment until dawn. Very similar to the Brazilian mentality, and S was a little surprised when I told him that having last calls for alcohol at 2:00 a.m. is very common in the U.S. But apparently random acts of violence are common (as new friend and fellow Australian M told me when I met him in San Francisco, more on that later). M thinks it's because there are no guns but people still need to blow off steam or demonstrate aggression to other people, so bar fights are not unusual.

After Bondi, S showers in the very good public facilities they had there and we head to the hip and gay-ish neighborhood of Newtown to meet some of his friends for drinks.

Day 2. My new friend J was up the evening prior holiday partying Australian style, so I had the morning and early afternoon to kill. I started in the neighborhood known as the Rocks, a 12 minute walk from my hotel. The Rocks is the oldest neighborhood in Sydney, with tons of history about the very first attempts at colonization and has this very great app with audio tour and augmented reality functionality that will show you what the neighborhood used to look like at various time periods using old illustrations or photos -- Walking the Rocks. It took me about an hour or two to go through the neighborhood/tour audio.

Larrikin Culture
While in the Rocks, I learned about Australian larrikin culture.  It's an Australian specific word defined as: "a boisterous, often badly behaved young man. a person with apparent disregard for convention" or as Wikipedia has it "a person who acts with apparent disregard for social or political conventions". *cough sociopath* It was initially used to describe the street gangs that frequented the Rocks (e.g. the Rocks Push) in the 19th century and was derogatory. The street gangs, no joke, dressed in gang specific dandyish outfits with the male larrikins distinguishable by their high heels and pointy boots and the women (donahs) wearing huge colorful hats. The fact of being associated as a Larrikin was often an excuse to bring the full force of the law down upon your head:

The Queen must surely be proud of such herioc men as the Police and Irish soldiers as It takes eight or eleven of the biggest mud crushers in Melbourne to take one poor little half starved larrakin to a watch house. — Ned Kelly in the Jerilderie Letter, 1879.[10]

(Also, is Dawn Fraser, famed Australian swimmer and described as having a "larrikin" streak a sociopath?)

I walked the 10 minutes from the Rocks to the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb, which was fun and beautiful, but also super expensive? And again, same thing applies re customer service here -- it took forever to get our gear on because we just had one person helping us, there was a ton of stopping on the bridge but no tour information on the buildings or the skyline or anything above just the very most basics, the photos they took were all sort of horrible, like they're not using any good technology or filters or figuring our good angles or anything. I noticed this a lot with Australian tours or activities, just ok being a little mediocre and a passable image of the thing it is supposed to be, like a sad looking amusement park cheeseburger. Because this bridge climb could have been much cooler.

New friend J met me at Bridge Climb because I was running late and she was running early. We walked together back through the Rocks to the Sydney Opera House, didn't take a tour because the guy said they sort of suck (true?), but took a ton of photos from every angle. The best angle is landside, the furthest corner from the bridge on the high point. Make sure that you take a ton here because people keep walking in front of the camera.

The best photo I got, though, was on the Manly Fast Ferry. Very cool trip, because it's basically a tour of the harbor. The fast ferry is just the right speed, and our boat was filled with drunk people wearing santa costumes for a planned pub crawl. Once off at the ferry, walk directly away from the ferry building with everyone else across the narrow isthmus to the actual beach.

Manly is fun, but also there is a lovely walk to Shelly Beach, which has one lovely restaurant, but stops serving food after lunch. There are a few little lookout hikes, spend some time exploring the hill overlooking Shelly Beach.

When we came back into Sydney, we walked through the Botanical Gardens on our way back to my old hotel, swinging by St. Mary's Cathedral, then grabbed my bags and went to my new hotel in Surry Hills, also a hip neighborhood, grabbed a bite to eat, made out, went to sleep. Surry Hills, by the way, is the home of female mob boss Kate Leigh.

So I stumbled upon the history of razor gang wars in Sydney in the 20's. The reason they're called razor gangs is that they banned handguns in Sydney in the beginning of the 20th century, so they'd go around razoring each other up for their share of the cocaine, sly-grog (speakeasy), and prostitution trade. The two main mob bosses were both female for some reason, Kate Leigh, and Tilly Devine, and they were arch rivals. From what I've read, Kate would do some of her own enforcing, killing at least two men and often getting in fist fights with people (sociopath maybe?), although most of the time she hired thugs to do her dirty work. Tilly Devine was also known to be a potentially lethal woman, although for whatever reason I feel like Tilly is more a victim of her terrible circumstances (forced into prostitution as a pre-teen). Maybe it's the fact that Tilly always seemed to have a chip on her shoulder about being more glamorous than most upper class people? Also the main cop going after them was also a woman! Liillian Armfield. This is like a television show begging to be made (not a smallish budget Australian television show, which already has been made, but more like an HBO miniseries). Thank you Australia for providing us the source material for the all female cast biopic about razor wielding mobsters that we deserve.

Next morning I took a bath and watched tv, then took the Airport Train back to the aiport (great and fast, btw, and you can buy single tickets). The rest of the traveling I did was by Uber for convenience and efficiency, although Sydney's public transit is supposed to be great.  

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Humans of New York Sociopath

A friend sent me a photo of this Humans of New York post where the featured New Yorker self-identifies as a sociopath. It was recently posted with a fresh and ongoing comments section, if people feel like following along or contributing to what has become a debate on various topics.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Anyone from France and England?

Or western Europe? I'll be in Paris from 2/17-2/24, maybe other places in France just before or after, London before or after (depending on people's schedule) and maybe other places in England, if I can make it around -- again, either the week before or more probably the week after.

Also, Russia in March, although I haven't gotten any replies yet on that one, so I might have to shift that around to later.

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