Motto

"All the time I'm not writing I feel like a criminal." -Fran Lebowitz

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rogue Travel Dispatch - SCHEDULE NOTE

Hey, guys - just a note. I've been trying to post my weekly travel dispatches on Sunday or Monday. But next Sunday and Monday I will be on a train, so I'm shooting to post my weekly update when I arrive in Adelaide on Wednesday. Thanks for listening, and I apologize for the inconvenience.

#RogueTripWMWD - 31.07.2014

Wrote today. More outline stuff...(smiles, bounces knee)
Fremantle, Perth, Australia - 31.07.2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

#RogueTripWMWD - 30.07.2014

Wrote today...outline of the novel starting to shape up...(smiles)
The Little Concept, Fremantle, Australia - 30.07.2014, 10a

Rogue Trip Playlette - 29.07.2014

EXT. NORFOLK HOTEL PUB - NIGHT

The MAN sitting opposite BILL at the picnic table took a sip of his pint. "So whaddaya think," the man asked. "Taking this trip the right decision?"

Bill twisted his mouth, thinking about it. "I dunno," he said. Then he shrugged. "It wasn't the wrong one."

#RogueTripWMWD - 29.07.2014

Wrote yesterday...
Perth Zoo, South Perth, Australia - 29.07.2014, 1p

#RogueTripSOTD - 29.07.2014

Fremantle Station, Fremantle, Australia - 29.07.2014, 10a

#RogueTripPOTD - 29.07.2014

Perth Zoo, South Perth, Australia - 29.07.2014, 1p

Monday, July 28, 2014

TRAVEL DISPATCH, WEEK THREE - 22.07.2014 - 28.07.2014

DATELINE: PERTH, AUSTRALIA - 28.07.2014

In Adelaide (again), I was FaceTiming my friend Jim in Los Angeles, trying to figure out if there was ANY possible angle I could hold my computer that didn’t make me look horrendous, so I almost didn’t hear the question. “So, how long’s this train ride tomorrow?”

“Thirty-six hours,” I replied, as I thought, “Keyboard on the belly is out.”

“Thirty-six hours?! What are you going to watch?”

“Watch?”

“Yeah, Billy. Watch. What have you downloaded for the ride?”

“Oh, there’s no WiFi on the train,” I said. Holding the laptop high above my head was okay, but made my arm hurt. “So I figure I’ll just try to read some.”

“Read what?”

“Well, I’ve never finished ULYSSES, or INFINITE JEST, so-“


“What?!” His annoyance made me lower the monitor to eye level. “A day and a half with nothing but ‘difficult’ novels? Are you trying to depress yourself? Go on iTunes right now and download some movies.” I watched him pull up a website. “Here,” he said, “Top 100 movies of the 80s. Let’s go down the list.”

And we did. And by the next day, as I boarded a train that would carry me 2700 kilometers, including a stretch over over 400km of utterly straight track, I was prepared with movies like AT CLOSE RANGE, WAR GAMES, and VISION QUEST, movies I had already seen and could watch while shutting my brain off as the miles peeled by. I've seen VISION QUEST at least fifty times.

SHUTE: You're a bleeder. And I like blood.
LOUGHTEN: Yeah? How 'bout your own?

I also boarded with a newly discovered lesson:

SOPHISTICATED ROGUE’S TRAVEL TIP #5©

“Don’t be a hero.”

I’m going to go out on limb and imagine that James Joyce, were he asked what he thought about someone determined to finish his masterpiece ULYSSES while trapped on a train, would reply, “What a maroon.” Were someone to conduct a seance and bring the spirit of David Foster Wallace forth, asking him what he thought of me tackling INFINITE JEST while sleep-deprived and hungry, he would call me an idiot. He might have eight footnotes about the etymology and history of the word ‘idiot’ and lists of historical moments of other idiocy, but he’d call me an idiot.

I’m planning to be on the road a long time. There are going to be times where trying to make headway through a difficult novel is appropriate, and there are going to be times where that attempt is lunacy. I learned that last week. My week was bookended by Melbourne in the beginning and Perth at the end, but was mostly taken up with “transit time” where I’m just in motion, getting from one spot to another, not really able to enjoy myself as I go. I’m starting to consider these times almost business, as in “I have to take care of getting from point A to point B before I can relax and enjoy myself.” Perhaps as this goes on I’ll get better at unwinding while I’m in transit, but now, three weeks in, I have to find distractions.  Stupid movies from the 80s and “light” novels are going to help. Entertainment that causes my mind to wander, to dwell on the mile after mile of nothing, are not.
Cook, Australia - a town?



So I’m gonna do what I need to do.

Australia has roughly 23 million people living in it, and it seems like all of them are living on the edges. Sydney, Melbourne, and now Perth, I’m finding are bustling metropolises (Perth joins the list as the third straight city whose public transportation system beats Los Angeles’s in every way). The three cities I’ve visited so far have each been dynamic, seaside havens full of interesting people and modern ideas. But the interior of the continent is like a donut hole, surrounded by flavor but devoid of anything you can taste for long. I appreciate it, and I’m already growing fond of the country as well as the city, but it has wound up oppressing me at times too.

I’ll be in Perth for the next week, and I’ve already hit the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Australian Museum (basically it’s Natural History Museum), enjoyed the pub nightlife both in the city and in Fremantle, the chic suburb in which I’m staying, and it’s funny, periodically I remind myself that there are stretches for thousands of miles that have no people whatsoever. Having to bounce back and forth between those extremes almost makes one schizophrenic, and once you factor that in, being able to understand my mood swings makes a whole lot more sense.
Art Gallery of Western Australia - 27.07.2014


But sometimes it only takes one person.

I’m a cranky misanthrope. That’s the polite way to put it. I don’t approach people, I don’t start conversations with strangers. I’ve always been the sort of person who could be by myself. All my life I’ve been the type of person who sees someone moving down the aisle of an airplane and prayed that their seat wasn’t the one next to mine. I want the spare seat. No more. The charming osteopath from England who talked with me all the way from Melbourne to Adelaide, and the energetic university student from Korea who traveled with me from Adelaide to Perth, both conversation partners were enough to weather the storm. The Australian countryside is magnificent, and the clouds hovering just above the farmland, the prairie, the desert, those clouds seemed close enough to reach out and touch or float up to if I only jumped from the train. But they captured my mind as well as capturing my mind.

To have someone to sit next to, to talk to, to listen to, to hold onto as ballast as I wondered if I might just keep moving on what had turned into an Australian countryside hamster wheel, has been crucial, and part of the larger point here. Planning this trip, I don’t think I anticipated just how tough it would be to be by myself. It's been tough; there have been moments where it's excruciating. So being able to talk to someone, anyone, has been the difference between simply going on this journey, and appreciating it.

So I’m making it my mission to start making conversation with people. I've narrowed down the openers to, "Hi, my name's Bill. What's yours?" and "Hi, my name's Bill, and if I don't have a conversation with someone I just might lose my mind."

One or the other. And I’ll be armed with 80s movies I’ve already seen. The fifty-first screening of VISION QUEST might stop the bleeding.


*SOPHISTICATED ROGUE’S TRAVEL TIPS© are meant to be for entertainment purposes only. The title of the tips, the tips themselves, and in fact the sobriquet “Sophisticated Rogue” itself are meant to be ironic, wry, and in no way literal, and if you don’t know that by now, well, (sigh), Jesus, c’mon, dude…

#RogueTripWMWD - 28.07.07

Wrote today...
The Little Concept, Fremantle, Perth, Australia - 28.07.2014, 11a

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

#RogueWMWD - 26.07.2014

Wrote today...
The Little Concept, Fremantle, Perth, Australia - 26.07.2014, 3p

Friday, July 25, 2014

#RogueTripWMWD - 25.07.2014

Wrote yesterday...
Indian Pacific Train from Sydney to Perth - 25.07.2014, 8p

#RogueTripPOTD - 25.07.2014

This was a brief stop in Cook, Australia, part of the train ride that took us over 450km on an utter straight line, apparently the longest stretch of straight-line train track in the world.

It felt like it.
Cook, Australia - 25.07.2014, 9a

#RogueTripSOTD - 25.07.2014

Cook, Australia - 25.07.2014, 9a

#RogueTripPOTD - 24.07.2014

Publishers Hotel, Adelaide - 24.-07.2014, 3p

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

SOPHISTICATED ROGUE'S TRAVEL TIP #4©

“Be 5’ 6” tall.”

This afternoon, I'll board another Australian train, the Indian Pacific from Adelaide to Perth. The journey will take a breezy 36 hours.

Uh.

This thought wouldn’t be so crippling if it weren’t for the knowledge that my seat on the train itself will prove crippling to my (strapping) six-foot, two inch frame. I’ve spent a long time trying everything in order to sleep on an airplane, to no effect, and now applying that same brainpower to the quest for restful sleep on a train, I’ve drawn one conclusion:

You have to be short.

Pretty simple. If you’re 5’6” tall, you’re going to be able to curl up, you’re going to be able to have enough leg room, you’re compact enough to fold yourself into any seat. If you’re over 5’6”, it gets problematic. Over six feet tall, you’re doomed. And there’s no answer, save for - simply be 5’6”.

Problem solved. Now, I beg your pardon, I’m off to find a hacksaw before heading off to the train station…


*SOPHISTICATED ROGUE’S TRAVEL TIPS© are meant to be for entertainment purposes only. The title of the tips, the tips themselves, and in fact the sobriquet “Sophisticated Rogue” itself are meant to be ironic, wry, and in no way literal, and if you don’t know that by now, well, (sigh), Jesus, c’mon, dude…

#RogueTripWMWD - 24.07.2014

Adelaide, Australia - 24.07.2014 - 11a

#RogueTripWMWD - 23.07.2014

Wrote today...
Adelaide, Australia - 23.07.2014 - 7p

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rogue Trip Travel Logistics - 23.07.2014

I wanted to let the two readers out there know what's happening the rest of the week and how it may affect the blog. I am currently in Adelaide trying to make a better go of it than last week. Jury's still out. Tomorrow, however, I board a train to Perth which leaves tomorrow (Thursday 24.07.2014) at 6:40pm Adelaide time (2:10am Thursday Los Angeles time - Adelaide is 16.5 hours ahead, not 16 or 17, making it Australia's version of Indiana.) and does not arrive in Perth until 9:10am Saturday 26.07.2014 (6:10pm Friday Los Angeles time). I will not have access to WiFi during this time. So please allow some time for the next updates to come. Once arriving in Perth, I'll be there for a week...

Thanks for your attention.

Rogue Trip Playlette - 22.07.2014

INT. BUS - 7:30AM

BILL sits in a window seat, listening to an Adam Carolla podcast on his iPhone as the bus pulls away from Melbourne. He laughs at something on the podcast. The OLD WOMAN sitting in the aisle seat next to him, wearing silver hair most likely cut around a silver bowl, looks at him. Bill laughs again. She continues to look until he meets her eye.

BILL: Oh. Sorry. This is just funny.

The old woman says nothing.

BILL: You know, you gotta have some entertainment when you're on the road, right?

Hearing something in the podcast, Bill laughs again. The old woman looks at him, and starts to bring her hands up in a "May I listen?" gesture but then, thinking better of it, stops and puts her hands down. Bill smiles.

Five minutes later, Bill coughs - once - and frowns as he sees the old woman pull up the collar of her coat over her nose in panic, like the baby in the chase scene of RAISING ARIZONA. But, still. 

#RogueTripWMWD - 22.07.2014

Wrote yesterday, but no pic; apologies...it was a bedroom.

Monday, July 21, 2014

#RogueWMWD - 21.07.2014

Wrote today...
Derrimut, Victoria, Australia - 21.07.2014

Dispatch, Week Two - 14.07.2014 - 21.07.2014

DATELINE - MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - 21.07.2014

“I need to figure out a way to sleep on trains or swear to God, I’m gonna kill myself,” I said aloud, shifting in my seat from one side to the other for the millionth time, and trying to find a resting place for my feet.

The Indian Pacific Train
Nobody on that car of the Indian Pacific train going from Sydney to Adelaide that Thursday morning heard me. It was 2am and most everybody else in the car was sleeping, and snoring, and what’s more, at 45 years old I was the youngest person on the train by at least twenty years. Apparently the primary clientele of the Australian rail system is pensioners who haven’t decided to trust airplanes quite yet.

I thought I had a terrific plan. I’d purchase a two-month rail pass that would allow me to travel from Sydney to Adelaide to Melbourne, back to Adelaide, to Perth, back to Adelaide, up to Darwin. Sure, Australia is actually quite larger than the United States in terms of surface area, and sure, there were legs of the trip that would take over two days to complete, but I’d read and I’d write and I’d have time to think. I'd use my time wisely.

Well, choosing to try to read Infinite Jest and Ulysses when you’re exhausted simply doesn’t play (and I apologize to the spirits of Messrs. Wallace and Joyce for my arrogance on that score). Writing when you’re sleep deprived…well, you’ve probably read the results of that in past posts. Finally, it turns out that left on my own to think…yikes. Apparently I swear to God all sorts of things.

The week had started off tremendously. Still in Sydney, on Sunday night I was invited to a dinner party my host was having. It was full of lively characters who I got to listen talk and debate and argue and joke about Australian politics and entertainment, stuff I knew nothing about so I could just listen and enjoy. Later, I was asked about my plans for the rest of my Sydney visit. As I’m discovering on this trip, whenever you visit anywhere, people who live there demand to know your itinerary because they want to advise you as to where to go, and usually it’s a wise move to not plan anything and just take a local's counsel on the matter. So when a dinner guest heard I had two more days in Sydney, he insisted I go to Watsons Bay, which is on the coast of the city, looking east over the Pacific (which amused me in and of itself). Everyone agreed that Watsons Bay was lovely and turned back to discussing some Australian businessman who was currently being tried for murder.

Ignoring the conversation, David grabbed a sheet of paper, and began to draw furiously, finally giving me a fine map of Sydney proper which included a detailed section of Watsons Bay. It included drawings of both the ferry I would take to Circular Quay, and the ferry that would take me from Circular Quay to Watsons Bay, complete with directional arrows, and several lighthouses that I was to hit while I was there in order to get the full experience. I’ll check, but I believe he drew some birds flying over the harbor as accent.

He handed me the map, which I will cherish forever, and pointed out the way to proceed. “First, you can have lunch at Doyle’s. Use their takeout, the actual restaurant is quite expensive. Then, you’ll go up to the Gap,” he said, at which point the conversation turned from murder to suicide, discussing how the Gap is so picturesque that it’s often a site for people ending their lives, yes, yes, similar to the Golden Gate Bridge, what a shame that was, how the government was working to eliminate the temptation, so on and so forth.

David seemed impatient with the group. “Yes, yes, all right,” he said, pointing back to the map. “Well, go to the Gap, and if you decide to commit suicide, commit suicide. Once you’ve recovered, go on to Southpoint, down here,” he indicated, “where there are some beautiful lighthouses, and then…”

Watsons Bay was as advertised. Simply gorgeous and relaxing, both a nice complement and contrast to the city of Sydney itself, which is bustling while being slower-paced than an American city, to me anyway. It’s been explained to me that since Australia isn’t that old, the historical buildings aren’t so old that they don’t still have value, so rather than just knocking them down, they revitalize them. So you see trendy bars and shops in cobblestone buildings, and I’m guessing there’s a law that says no pub that ever opened on a corner can be razed, no matter how old. The lack of oppressive absolute modernity everywhere you look seems to slow things down. I enjoyed myself immensely, met a number of wonderful people, and was concerned that the first place I visited would prove to be the highlight of the entire journey. But I was happy.
The Gap at Watsons Bay


And then I got on a bloody train.

If getting the rail pass was my first mistake, deciding not to book a room in Adelaide after being on a train for almost a full day, was my second, and much, much larger one. Figuring I’d save some cash, and that I had to be up for my connection at 7am anyway, I’d just hang in a bar until closing and then crash in the train station.

No. The Adelaide train station is content not to be Grand Central Station, and closes at 9pm or so. Thus, I had no place to go between midnight and 7am. I wound up bouncing back and forth between a McDonald’s and a Hungry Jack’s (Burger King), feeling guilty that I wasn’t buying anything and not wanting to overstay my welcome at either place. By the time I got on the train to Melbourne, for eleven more hours, and then a bus for another hour before finally arriving in the city, I had my first severe thoughts of, “Just what the Hell have I gotten into here?” It’s was truly a demoralizing day, and the thought of “39 more weeks of this?” was truly trying my spirits, and not the best way to think. If you had offered me a ticket home, I would’ve taken it except, uh, I don’t have a home at present, which wasn’t very pleasant to realize either. If you had offered me a noose, I might’ve taken that as well. Friday was a long, ugly day.

Eventually, however, I got to Melbourne, met my first host there, had a glass of wine, and was able to both vent and decompress a bit before she took mercy on me and allowed to crash to sleep after a half-hour. Melbourne has been lovely. Saturday night, I went out with a friend of a friend, to grab in order: coffee (Australia and in particular Melbourne are nuts for their coffee) on Degraves St., a veal parma near Flinders, and a couple of drinks in a couple of bars that were hip and happy and a nice balm for my improving attitude. Sunday, I hit the Royal Gallery of Victoria (“Museum Guards of the World” installation TBA), and wandered the city, through the Botanical Gardens, through Federation Square where they built a courtyard and museums on land that wasn’t leveled off to a truly weird, wonderful effect, through Chinatown, and down Flinders St..

Federation Square, Melbourne

Melbourne and Sydney have a moderately fierce rivalry that is not altogether a joke. Whenever I told someone in Sydney I was going to Melbourne, and whenever I told someone in Melbourne I had just come from Sydney, there would be a mildly acerbic comment about the opposing town, and I would wait for the smile to indicate it was all in good fun, but that never really came. Melbourne considers itself to be the artistic center and feels Sydney is fine “because the Opera House is great even if everyone's seen it in a million pictures already, and if you want to go see monuments and such.” Sydney seems to not really consider Melbourne, so perhaps the rivalry is similar to, say, Los Angeles and San Francisco. But Sydney should consider Melbourne. Melbourne is dynamic, creative, and I’ve enjoyed seeing that energy.

Today, however, I’ve relaxed and had a lovely walk in a dog park at Williamstown, a little ways from downtown. I woke up and decided, “You know what? I don’t have to go full speed every moment. I don’t have to maximize every second. That’s how you wind up in a Hungry Jack’s alone at four in the morning watching Sky News cover the Malaysian Air tragedy on a grimy television mounted over the bathroom door and finding it so surreal you can barely function enough to walk back to McDonald's to wait over there.”

And you know what? Williamstown was pretty damn picturesque and I got a bunch of great photos. It was lovely. The last few days have made me realize that throughout this, I’m a)going to have bad days and b)there will be good days after those bad ones and c)it was up to me to realize that and ride the bad ones out.

Williamstown
So we’ll work on that. “…And if you decide to commit suicide, commit suicide. Once you’ve recovered, go on to…”

Now if I can only figure out how to sleep on a train…


P.S. I have booked a room to stay in the next time I lay over in Adelaide.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

SOPHISTICATED ROGUE’S TRAVEL TIP* #3©

“A little OCD goes a long way.”

Being obsessive compulsive gets a bad rap. People hear you’re compelled to return to your front door in order to verify (and often, re-verify) that you’ve locked it, every single morning before you leave for work, they’ll start to look down their noses at you, and in general, checking to make sure you haven’t left the oven on when you haven’t cooked a meal yourself since that pot luck back in 2005 could be considered an unproductive use of your time. It's got a stigma, that's why it's abbreviated!

But traveling is another matter. Having a system where all of your important items are kept in the same place at all times can often save time and stress, and goodness knows, you need to save your stress!

So, I have developed a system where I put specific items in the same place before I leave every single morning. My sunglasses’s case goes in the front pocket of my day backpack. My Kindle goes in the front slot of the backpack, my laptop in the back slot. My passport goes in the same place every time I “reset” myself (No, I’m not telling you where I keep my passport, you jackals. I’m not falling for that!). So when you need to pull something immediately or, say, fifty times during the course of the day, you develop the muscle memory to do it the same way every time.

You can even make an OCD game of it - pat your hoodie pouch every hour on the hour to make sure your iPhone is still there (is doesn’t matter that you can still hear music in your earbuds, that doesn’t mean you haven’t lost your iPhone, you know!). Unzip your backpack and confirm your international adapter is still in the inside pouch at quarter past every hour. Every half-hour, check for your passport in your - OH, NO YOU DON’T.

Now you’re not an anal-retentive freak, you have a system! You’ll have some order in what is clearly a disordered world, and thus save your stress for much more important things, like “Is that drunk guy looking at me funny because he can tell I’m American, or is that drunk guy looking at me funny because he wants to fight me? And if he wants to fight me, is it because I’m American?”

I’ll start you off. Your earbuds always go in your ears.


*SOPHISTICATED ROGUE’S TRAVEL TIPS© are meant to be for entertainment purposes only. The title of the tips, the tips themselves, and in fact the sobriquet “Sophisticated Rogue” itself are meant to be ironic, wry, and in no way literal, and if you don’t know that by now, well, (sigh), Jesus, c’mon, dude…

#RogueTripSOTD - 20.07.2014

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia - 20.07.2014, 12n

#RogueTripPOTD - 20.07.2014

Flinders Street Station - Melbourne, Australia - 20.07.2014 - 10a

#RogueTripWMWD - 20.07.2014

Wrote today...
Derrimut, Victoria (near Melbourne), Australia - 20.07.2014, 8p

Friday, July 18, 2014

#RogueTripSOTD - 19.07.2014

Sunshine, Melboure, Australia - 19.07.2014, 11a

#RogueTripWMWD - 19.07.2014

Didn't write yesterday, was way too tired (Judges' Ruling - more than 24 hours without suitable sleep...Acceptable Day Off)...but wrote today.
Derrimut, Victoria (near Melbourne), Australia - 19.07.2014, 1p

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

#RogueTripPlaylette - 15.07.2014

"Sydney's been so nice," I said, "Such a nice start to this whole, whatever this is. I suspect it may be all downhill from here."
"You need to have no expectations."
I nodded. "That's what I do. I lower my expectations. That way-"
"No. You need to have NO expectations."

#RogueTripWMWD - 15.07.2014

Wrote today...
London Hotel Public Bar, Balmain, Sydney, Australia - 15.07.2014, 1pm

#RogueTripPOTD - 15.07.2014

Gladstone Park, Balmain, Sydney, Australia - 12n


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Dispatch, Week One - 07.07.2014 - 13.07.2014

DATELINE: SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. MONDAY, JULY 14, 2014

It had happened on the first day, the very first day, goddamn it. It was supposed to be at least a little smoother than this. After finding the perfect occasion, a nearly twelve-hour flight from San Francisco to Aukland, New Zealand, to finally be able to actually sleep on an airplane, and getting through customs without a hitch (it appears that going through the wrong line and seeming mildly stupid to the exasperated agent may be an asset, here), I found the shuttle train into downtown Sydney with ease, then the bus to the home in Birchgrove where I was being hosted with even more ease. I had arrived. I was on my way. Nine months, around the world. Here we go. With a strong sense of “New Chapter Beginning!” swelling between my ears, I knocked on the door.

And, nothing.

No answer. I knocked again. Nothing. I double-checked the address; yes, right house. I walked around, and found another door. Still, nothing. No one was home. Despair. As I trudged to find a cafe with wi-fi so I could email my host, with my gargantuan bag aiding and abetting gravity's wickedness on my shoulders, all of my fears curb-stomped my positivity into dust blown towards oblivion. Now, I hadn’t been so deluded to assume that I was going to go on a nine-month trip around the world and not run into a single problem overseas, had not been such a Pollyanna that I discounted any possibility of any obstacle presenting itself, but on the first day? In an English-speaking country? Less than two hours after I had arrived? This was already a disaster, and had nine months of a nightmare pregnancy followed by giving birth to a demon of self-loathing and regret written all over it.

In the Charlotte Cafe, after I had emailed my host (my phone service had already been disconnected, how naive had I been? Did they make a rube more stupid than I was? Just because I said, "than I" that didn't mean I wasn't stupid...), I drank cappuccino and fretted. Where was I going to stay? What was I going to do? Was the future going to be this difficult? Was it an omen, a clear sign this all had been a terribly misguided notion? Should I just turn around, take the bus and then the train and then the plane right back to the States? No matter; I was probably going to die, right there in the Charlotte Cafe, wasn’t I?

I heard my name. “Bill?” the counterwoman asked me. I nodded. “Your friend is coming here to pick you up and drive you back to her house.”

“Wow,” I said, relief filling my lungs like oxygen. “She doesn’t have to make such an effort. I can manage.”

The counterwoman shook her head and smiled. “You’re in Australia, Bill,” she said.

And so I am. Sydney is lovely, and strikes me as so naturally and effortlessly hip that a hipster couldn’t possibly create it on a drawing board if he had a lifetime and an endless supply of Pabst’s Blue Ribbon, a ripping pair of block-framed glasses, and the coolest muttonchops since Jeff Tweedy. I keep being reminded of New Orleans’s French Quarter combined with the beach cities of the South Bay in Los Angeles. To me, it combines a sophisticated, modern downtown, with all the fresh, sparkling glass and metal of Vancouver, with neighborhoods that have stood the test of time, their buildings not torn down but reutilized and revitalized until they look like something out of “Lovely Quirkitude” magazine (copyright pending). The city has caused me to begin work on a theory that a bustling and effective ferry transportation system is essential to a cool city. I’ve taken a million pictures of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House, and I feel like that hasn’t been nearly enough. I’ve gotten my coffee at the Charlotte every morning - “You’re the American. I remember you.” - and have walked the city’s neighborhoods every day. I’ve hit four museums in as many days, strolled the Botanical Gardens, watched kids learning to play rugby, and failed only in my quest to find a pub that was showing the World Cup Final. The businessmen wear black suits and bright shirts with no ties and the businesswomen wear long, straight hair and off-white raincoats. Everyone has a confidence and most everyone walks, and I try not to catalog every single difference I note with chagrin between this town and Los Angeles. I merely smile to myself whenever anyone apologizes for the city's public transportation system.

There are concerns, of course. With natural hipness comes expense. I have my morning coffee at the Charlotte despite clenching my teeth each time at hearing the price, and I try to limit my drinking to one or two pints per evening. I keep telling myself, “You’ll save money in India. You’ll save money in India. You’ll save money in India,” to the point where I’ve hypnotized myself to convulse should I have to even open my wallet in Mumbai. But while sharing the bar at the London Hotel in Balmain Friday with a man who claimed to have traveled the Earth “more than a few times,” the man advised, “Don’t pay attention to a budget. Don’t pay attention to an itinerary. Just live and have fun until the money runs out.” Which is great, provided the money doesn’t run out before I board the train for Melbourne on Wednesday (it won’t).

Everyone I tell my plans to here not only doesn’t laugh at me, but is encouraging and pleasantly envious and occasionally even claim to be inspired themselves, continuing the wonderful energy everyone back home (and presumably, you who are reading this) gave me to the point where I can’t possibly thank you all enough. No one save one or two of you (the “I hope it works out,” with a shrug hilarious in its solitude) has been anything other than magnificent in your encouragement of this idea, to the point where I wonder just how fucked up I was, how much of a desperate mid-life Hail Mary this might be, that everyone who knows me thinks this is just the solution for what ails me…

If you're reading this, chances are excellent that I miss you specifically, and chances are only slightly less excellent that I miss you enough that it aches.

I hope you’ll indulge some of my thoughts regarding how this trip treats me in order to get some of the more basic details and the pictures. I hope you’ll endure the running gags. People keep telling me this trip will change me. We’ll see, and you’ll read, I guess. So thanks for reading, too. I don’t want this to be so masturbatory that it turns everyone off, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious to see what effect this whole thing has…


Whatever. It’s too late for me to wonder or worry about that. You’re in Australia, Bill.

#RogueTripPlaylette - 13.07.2014

EXT. STREET - AFTERNOON

BILL approaches an OLD MAN.
BILL: Excuse me, sir? Do you know where I can find Parramatta?
OLD MAN: Parramatta? Ah, Jesus, you're not even close. You're miles away!
BILL: (frowning) Really? Parramatta Road?
OLD MAN: Oh, Parramatta Road. (points) That's right down there, about a  hundred yards.
BILL: (stares) Thank you.

#RogueTripSOTD - 13.07.2014

National Gallery, Sydney, Australia - 12.07.2014, 11a

#RogueTripPOTD - 13.07.2014

Hyde Park, Sydney, Australia - 12.07.2014, 12n

Saturday, July 12, 2014

#RogueTripWMWD - 12.07.2014

Dick's Hotel Public Bar - Balmain, Sydney, Australia - 12.07.2014, 4pm

Wrote every day this week...







#RogueTripSOTD - 12.07.2014

Darling Harbour Ferry - Sydney, Australia - 12.07.2014, 10:30am

#RogueTripPOTD - 12.07.2014

The London Hotel Public Bar - Balmain, Sydney, Australia - 12.07.2014, 10am

Friday, July 11, 2014

SOPHISTICATED ROGUE’S TRAVEL TIP #2©

“When traveling, never ignore advice. In particular, never ignore advice from your bowels.”

A year of so ago, I was discussing the evolution of quantum mechanics vis-a-vis the politics of the scientific community in post-World War II Great Britain with a friend of mine when suddenly, I had to fart. Then a minute or so later, I had to fart again. With the third fart came the recollection of an epiphany I once had. 

So I asked my friend, “Say, Friend. How old were you when you connected the fact that you were farting a lot with the knowledge that you would soon have to take a crap?” I might've said, "dump?"

“I dunno,” he replied. He thought. “Eight? Nine?”

“So, not forty-four?” I asked.

He laughed, then looked at me quizzically. “No,” he said. “Not forty-four.”

I was reminded of this conversation on Wednesday morning while I was waiting for a bus in downtown Sydney, as I casually backed near the wall of a bank and surreptitiously passed gas. The reminder caused me to immediately start searching for a bathroom. It wasn’t easy; in these situations, it never is. I am convinced the God in which I believe simply wills me to require to take a shit in public (bookstores inspire a notoriously Pavlovian reaction in me; thank Him that they’re disappearing), and then does everything in His power to prevent me from finding a john. In this case, there was a mall, but it was far down the street and it was disguised as a church. There was a bathroom in the churchmall, but its one stall (one?!? I was in the First World, no?) was occupied. Finally, the doddering fool who was occupying the space I so desperately wanted finished INFINITE JEST, stood up, flushed, and after taking an hour to figure out how to button his pants (I’m speculating), he stumbled out of the stall as I shoved past him, slung off my monstrous sack, and did my business. I had made it.

But, a close call. Every call in these circumstances is invariably a close one. Because in the movie of life, if flatulence is the plot point in Act One, you don’t have to be Syd Field to know where Act Two is going, and where the climax in Act Three might end up. Further, while traveling in unknown cities, the movies seem to go much, much faster and pack in far much, much more action, and the obstacles to the goal of the hero seem much, much more pressing.

Decipher this metaphor as you will. 


So, to economize, “Broken Wind = Break Into a Trot”. Do not wait. Perhaps this requires three sentence fragments. Do. Not. Wait. A traveler must be prepared to instantly drop what he’s doing and adapt to a new agenda to drop what he’s doing. If “I didn’t have to go then,” is an tolerable defense against the accusation, “You should’ve gone before we left!” the first fart while walking on a city street disqualifies any further excuses. Walk into the nearest coffee shop, restaurant, mall store, church, or bank, and pretend with hand signals and stammered English that you plan to purchase something, light a candle, or take out a home loan as soon as your most urgent need is satiated. And, never stop moving. With earbuds in, a fifty-pound backpack strapped to your shoulders, and an utter ignorance when it comes to where the nearest men’s room is in a foreign city, you procrastinate at your peril.

*SOPHISTICATED ROGUE’S TRAVEL TIPS© are meant to be for entertainment purposes only. The title of the tips, the tips themselves, and in fact the sobriquet “Sophisticated Rogue” itself are meant to be ironic, wry, and in no way literal, and if you don’t know that by now, well, (sigh), Jesus, c’mon, dude…

Thursday, July 10, 2014

#RogueTripWMWD - "The World Is My Writing Desk" - 11.07.2014

Wrote today...
Charlotte Cafe, Birchgrove, Sydney, Australia - 11.07.2014, 12pm

Rogue Trip Playlette - "Charlotte Cafe - 11.07.2014"

INT. CHARLOTTE CAFE, BIRCHGROVE, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - 12:45pm

BILL approaches the counter.

COUNTERWOMAN: (smiling) You’re the American. I remember you.