The day after my â€œmirageâ€ drinking experiement, I still woke up insanely early. I grabbed my passport and wads of hundreds so that I could once and for all get some damn Australian money…even if it was all coin.
I walked toward the casino and the guard stopped me. â€œSorry, Miss…the casino has a…where are your parents?â€
I was awake, but still jet lagged and suffering some lingering effects of my mystery drink drinking, so I wasnâ€™t quite clear on what was happening, so I said â€œWhat?â€
â€œYou have to be 18 to enter the casino.â€
Still laughing my ass off, I hand him my passport. He is stunned.
To find out that I am 29. Bite me.
â€œYou look great…Iâ€™m 34…wow…sorry…well..wow.â€
Now, in his defense I was wearing a green hooded sweatshirt and jeans, with the hood over my head, so I might have looked even younger than I usually do, but hey, it brightened my morning.
Where. Are. My. Parents.
I got money and went back up to the room. I had requested a late check-in for noon, so when Mary went off to breakfast, I lounged about surfing the net and then went off to breakfast at 10:30. I went back to the hotel restaurant where we had eaten the day before and ordered the same continental breakfast we had the day before.
I could no longer charge the meal to the room, so I had to plunk down my credit card. Imagine my horror when I found out that this feast was costing me $42!!! FORTY DOLLARS FOR BREAKFAST!! Two days in a row! Who am I, Imelda Marcos?? Really!
Of course, having already ordered it and placed my card on the counter, I couldnâ€™t walk away, so I sucked it up and paid the bill.
And now, how does one Dawn Summers get $42 worth of breakfast? Well, first, she gets a latte and a cappuccino. She then takes one of everything…including some gross pinkish sausage thing. Then she orders the lamb and porridge off the menu. Gets glasses of grapefruit juice, orange juice and some purple looking beverage. Next, we grab fistfuls of fruits…oh yes, watermelon for days.
By the time I was done, my table, for one, was covered with so many plates, cups and glasses, you would have imagined that the small delegation of diplomats from Luxumbourg had just eaten breakfast.
Satisfied, I figured that while I probably only ate ten dollars in food, I certainly racked up at least fifty bucks worth of them cleaning up this mess.
I got back to the room at 11:20 and there was a cleaning dude walking in the door.
â€œHey! I got late check out,â€ I yelled to him from halfway down the hall.
â€œOh sorry,â€ he said, pulling back his cart and letting the door close.
I squeezed past his cart and stuck my keycard in the door. Nothing. I did it again. Red light continued to flash. What the hell.
The cleaning guy was still standing there.
â€œUm…can you let me in.â€
â€œNo. Sorry…you go to front desk.â€ Yeah, turns out no matter where you go in the world, Mexicans still do all the housekeeping.
I went down to the front desk where I was informed that even though I had asked for late check out. A request I had to wake up early to ask for because they couldnâ€™t make the determination before 7 a.m…..my keycard was disconnected at 11.
â€œWell, give me another keycard.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s the name?â€
â€œHuh…well the name on the room is Mary Romanov…I can only issue a card to her. Can you call her on her mobileâ€ â€“ pronounced like the acid in your stomach.
(Mary at this point was, of course, in the poker room cracking out.)
â€œNo she doesnâ€™t have a cellphone (emphasis in plain American English mine) weâ€™re visiting from the U.S. (and your stupid country doesnâ€™t sell disposable cellphones, you , you …idjit) Dude, all of my stuff is in the room, I need a keycard.â€
â€œWell, I can have a porter escort you.â€
And so this is the part of the story where Dawn Summers gets an armed escort to the room to collect her belongings in five minutes or less and shakes her fist at Sydney, vowing never to return to their stupid, stupid city.
So, as you know, I had something like four days to plan my trip to Australia. We were going to need lodging for a lot of nights and with two major events going on in Melbourne, housing was tight.
California April and her friend Maura, belong to a timeshare dealie, so they were able to get space for one week in a place called Mansfield. Itâ€™s about two hours outside of Melbourne in the countryside. All of this was apparently in the email in which I said â€œyes, sure Iâ€™m in to share space with you in the coutryside about two hours away from Melbourne.â€ So you can imagine the surprise of everyone when weâ€™ve driven about an hour away from Melbourne, I say to the car â€“ â€œwait…where are we going? Are we not staying in Melbourne?â€
Maura and California April were kind enough to pick Mary and I up from the airport after our stay in that awful, awful Sydney. I added my name as secondary driver on the car, although when I checked out the speedometer and said â€“ â€œoh cool, youâ€™re going 140! Whatâ€™s the lowest it goes to?â€
Maura stared at me through the rearview mirror and said â€œuh…zero…should she really be driving?â€
(To Crackhouse crew: Shut the hell up.)
I was thirty pages away from finishing one of the books Dawn 2 and Alceste got me for Christmas, so I was a little anti social for the first leg of the trip. And then I fell asleep, so I was antisocial for the second leg of the trip.
I woke up again as we were pulling into the â€œMansfield Country Resort.â€
Whatever youâ€™re picturing right now: think, the opposite.
We creeped along a dusty road which was flanked on both sides by hundreds of white feathered cockatoos.
The girls oohed and aahed.
They wanted to get out and take pictures.
I wanted to lock the doors and U-turn the hell out of there.
We were late for checkin, but the managers left us a key to our cabin at the mailbox on the roadside.
We were cabin number seven.
The place looked like your run of the mill, camp ground cabin…with a electric stove, fridge, two bedrooms and two baths. We also had a washer and drier.
Mary and I shared the back room, California April took the master suite and Maura snagged the sofa bed.
I had promised to buy them dinner for picking us up from the airport, but when we got to the restaurant, I was introduced to a new style of dining.
There is a waiter. She does bring you a menu and tell you about the specials. She does not however, take your order. Each person has to go up to a counter on the other side of the restaurant, place your order and pay for your dinner. You then go to a bar on the other side of the room…might actually be next door and do the same thing for your drinks. Itâ€™s like the junior high school cafeteria!
Dinner was fine, but the restaurant was one of these open air, faux indoor dealies, so flies were everywhere.
Oh, and again, this is one of those times when whatever youâ€™re picturing itâ€™s three times bigger and a hundred times more everywhere. Australian flies are as big as grapes and they love people. And peopleâ€™s food, faces, hands, legs, eye lashes…you name it, they are all up on it. I spent equal parts of my meal, chewing and swatting.
I had a couple of glasses of wine, so was pretty much ready for bed by the time we got back to cabin 7. I stayed up playing Scrabble with Maura, until she cried uncle and vowed never to play with me again…why do I never learn to keep the games close…at least until the trip is over…stupid, stupid.
I was the first one up the next morning and I was desperate to partake of some internet action.
They didnâ€™t have computers out here in the Mansfield Country Resort, so I packed up my laptop and headed out. The brochure said the front desk was open at 8:30.
It was 8:15, but I figured, Iâ€™d be the first one there.
It was like a seven minute walk. The sun was already pretty hot and the flies were buzzing. I stood outside the locked door until the big hand on the general store clock hit the six.
When the hand hit the seven and I was under full siege by the flies, and jumping out of my skin everytime the cockatoos squawked past, I pounded on the glass door.
â€œSorry, love, we donâ€™t open till nine.â€
What the hell kind of eight thirty, is nine??!
Instead of walking back, I sat down on a bench outside the store and fired up That seventies show on the laptop.
I canâ€™t say I saw very much, between the sunglare, batting off flies, stomping on ants and imagining chopping the stupid â€œsorry, loveâ€ woman up in teeny tiny pieces, I was more than a little distracted.
Finally, at 9:05, she lets me inside.
â€œOkay, you need a local dialup number and I can get the cord for you.â€
She repeated her instructions.
I searched my memory of the nineties for information on what the hell dial up is.
Okay, I vaguely have a clue…but why would I have an Australian dial up number?
She was little to no help. Mostly no.
â€œWell, do you want the cord to give it a go?â€
Sure. Why not.
I spent the next twenty minutes of my life opening various applications and hoping for a miracle. None came.
I gave her back her stupid cord and told her what she could do with her go.
Okay, I didnâ€™t really.
By the time I got back to the cabin, most everyone was up.
We went to town and had breakfast at this place called the bus stop cafÃ©. It was called the bus station cafÃ© because it was next to the bus station.
I ordered a half stack of pancakes and something I thought was cranberry juice, but which turned out to be black current juice.
Red is red.
Again, it was the same “order and pay,” go to your table to wait.
So, turns out that my â€œhalf stack of pancakesâ€ was a pancake. It had a huge white dollop of some cream colored substance on top and a couple of packets of syrup on the side.
â€œWhatâ€™s that?â€ I asked pointing at the dollop.
â€œProbably butter,â€ April said.
I leaned into the plate, stuck out my tongue and gave the dollop a good lick. Mary recoiled in horror.
â€œWhat are you doing?â€
â€œFinding out what this stuff is.â€ Duuuh.
â€œYou couldnâ€™t use…oh, I donâ€™t know…a spoon…or a fork?â€
Turns out my â€œa pancakeâ€ came with a hearty dollop of ice cream.
I rolled it off the pancake…the pancake with a cold center, and picked at my breakfast.
â€œHey, look at this!â€ Maura said holding up a flyer advertising a free beer festival up at Mt. Buller later that afternoon.
â€œHooray! Free beer! Letâ€™s goâ€ we all chanted in unison.
The nice man at the bus station cafÃ© told us we could board the bus to Mt. Buller by going next door or we could drive up by ourselves later that day.
We opted to drive.
Along the way, we saw a sign announcing elves crossing and then saw THE Keebler house!
I insisted that I had to get out and knock. HAD TO.
Of course, when I did get out and knock I panicked at the thought of something actually answering, because then I was just going to start running like a cartoon does, until they hit a wall and leave behind a body shaped hole of themselves running through.
Thankfully, nothing answered. No more than Mary, saying â€œwho is it?â€
The beer festival was not so much a beer festival, as a comedy show. Oh, I mean comedy show/ arm wrestling.
One of the coordinators tried to get Mary and I to sign up…but we passed. Thumb wrestling is really my game.
The comics were funny…a lot of American eighties movie based jokes…though I canâ€™t think of one right now for the life of me.
One guy told the story about how his friend got testicular cancer and had to have one ball replaced with silicon. And he was all â€œI kept asking him to let me see it and he was like no. And I said, dude, if I had a silicon nut, I’d show it off all the time. At dinner Iâ€™d just be all â€˜hold on a minute, let me just take out my nutâ€™ and Iâ€™d reach down and pull it right out. But my mate, he just wouldnâ€™t let me see it. So finally I asked him, did you get that from the private hospital or the public system? He said public system, so I said â€œokay, then, that means your nutâ€™s part mine, so out with it!â€
(You have to imagine it in an Australian accent. Itâ€™s hilarious.)
We watched the arm wrestling competition…a burly East German hulk of a woman won it for my gender. The menâ€™s competition was equally funny, there was this guy wearing a baby pouch on his chest competing against this dude wearing a pink shirt and the announcer was all â€œwhat the hell kind of menâ€™s competition is this…pink shirts and babies?
Oh, I was also pretty surprised that there were so many children â€“ of all ages, from babies to teens â€“ roaming around listening to the raunchy comics and drinking beer. Those Aussies just do it…differently.
We drove back to the cabin, I decided to cook some spaghetti since we had gone shopping and stocked the fridge. Apparently to Dawn Summers, food for a week, involves three shopping carts, two baskets and a huge bag of ice.
Mary, by way of reference, got a simple plastic bag consisting of a box of cereal and some granola bars.
I sat on the couch with my pasta and watched hours of that seventies show, until the gang came back from dinner.
The next morning everyone was up at the crack of ass. The cockatoos had evidently gone nuts and were squawking and yelling and flapping…everywhere.
Mary went out to take pictures.
There was a bird perched menacingly on the kitchen windowsill when I went out to make my toast and I screamed.
Maura came running out.
â€œBird tried to eat me,â€ I said flatly.
She laughed and went to get a camera.
â€œOoh, good thinking, so we know which one to report to the authorities.â€
After breakfast, it was off to wine country.
Our first stop was a winery owned by Ian.
I liked Ian.
He handed me wine and didnâ€™t stop handing me wine until I was sprawled out in a chair at the back of his winery. We told him that we had been up to Mt. Buller the previous day and told him about the Keebler house. â€œYeah,â€ he said â€œtheyâ€™ve got that for the kids…and the American tourists.â€
Then we got to talking politics and how much we hate George Bush. Hmm…looking back, we talked with him for a good hour, but I donâ€™t remember much more than that. Oh, and the Sylvia Riesling. I had lots of Sylvia Riesling. Oh and then he gave us a free bottle of champagne.
We then went to another fruity winery run by a guy named Malcolm and his snooty wife and stupid dog.
I made good on my buying dinner promise here and sprung for sandwiches and sodas for the group. I drank more wine and so have no further memories of this place.
Maura then drove us to a brewery.
Finally, having gotten me sufficiently liquored up, they announced that we were going to the Mansfield zoo.
Now, remember the walkabouts in the Sydney zoo…with the paths and the no fences? Well, the Mansfield zoo is basically the wild. But they charge you twenty dollars to enter.
There was a duck just waddling around….a peacock strutting about, emus and llamas that come right up to you and try to eat you. Or actually, the animal food the Mansfield zoo tricks you into buying at the front.
I bought a bucket of this stuff and then refused to go anywhere near the animals.
Which totally works out because if you think the animals are shy, youâ€™ve got another thing coming.
This deer walked right up to me. I backed away, it inched closer, I backed away, it came at me. I threw a scoop of the food at him and ran.
As per usual, the flies were swarming everywhere and the sun was hot. I was walking with California April, when she said she was going to head back out to the river to find Maura. I said I was going back inside.
Of course…I had no idea how to get back.
Suddenly, I was alone and surrounded by animals, while holding animal food.
It was not a good time for our hero. I definitely thought they were going to eat my face and leave me for dead in the Outback.
I finally decided to make a run for the river and at least be surrounded by people when I met my fate.
Of course, when I got out there, Mary was hugging a kangaroo and trying to take a cameraphone picture with it and the other two girls were petting and feeding them.
So, not surprisingly, the kangaroos thought I too would be up for them touching me and they came right for me.
I screamed, dropped the bucket of food and hid behind Maura pleading for them to eat her and spare me. â€œIâ€™m not even eighteen, I have a lot of life to live!â€
Maura recovered my bucket, called me a dumbass and made me feed the stupid things while she took my picture.
We spent the rest of the afternoon out there, feeding more dangerous beasts and then watching the trainer feed the lions.
I made myself spaghetti again for dinner and watched more That Seventies Show.
We went to bed at eight oâ€™clock. And I was reaching the opening a vein point with the â€œMansfield country resortâ€ and itâ€™s non internet having self.
I went out with Mary to the pool the next day. It was a square thing filled with bluish liquid and was oh something like 40 degrees, even though outside was a roaring 90. I donâ€™t know how they managed it, but I swam for a good hour and a half and that thing never heated up. I basically left when some Australian children on holiday decided to play this game where they throw in an action figure and then all dive in to see who could get to it first. When the thing splashed at the side of my head, I knew it was quitting time.
â€œOh man, Mary, I canâ€™t do this place for another day. Iâ€™m going to gouge my eyes out.â€
â€œYeah, itâ€™s boring,â€™ she said tanning herself.
I grabbed my book…some Johnny Hot Rod book I stole from Karolâ€™s house.
Oh, where was I…oh, Johnny Guitar…I had read about six pages and it was terrible, so I went back to the cabin and watched more that seventies show. I had gotten through three seasons since coming to Mansfield. Now, the show is funny and all…but I was losing it.
When California April came back, she suggested that we go into town for bingo.
I was seatbelted and in the car as soon as she said â€œgo into.â€
â€œNot now, Dawn…itâ€™s at eight. Oh, and Maura and I are thinking of leaving here tomorrow and driving to Sydney. We can drop you guys off at the bus station to Melbourne, if youâ€™d like.â€
I wouldnâ€™t have to spend another day here. We were saved. Saved.
I nearly cried. And standing there, in the sunshine, being terrorized by cockatoos, I realized…the universe will always give you what you need. You just have to be patient.
I was in high spirits through the whole bingo experience. Even though dinner took three hours to come and bingo wasnâ€™t really â€œbingo.â€
In Australia, bingo is not played with the letters b i n g or o.
It’s mostly a fast talking auctioneer calling out numbers in a singsong tone until someone shouts out “complete” and then the auctioneer says “ticket is valid” and they start a new game. So, it would go something like “one three thirteen, two six twenty six, all threes thirty-three…complete! ticket is valid.”
Why they call it bingo? Search me.
After bingo, we took Mary to the cemetary so she could take pictures for her collection of cemetary pictures.
I canâ€™t say I liked walking around the graveyard at dusk. But I was firmly committed to running like hell in the event of zombies.
Mary disappeared at one point, and I was firmly of the opinion that California april, Maura and I should save ourselves, because that is what Mary would have wanted.
â€œYeah, she was so not going to help you,â€ Maura relayed when we got back to the car.
And yes, that may sound bad. But, dude, the black person always dies in those movies…nothing ever happens to the pretty white girl.
We stayed up playing poker and doing laundry knowing that the next morning we would be free.