I woke up somewhat early on New Year's Day and finished up several last minute projects, like Truckin' and an article for Bluff magazine. I also uploaded some free music over at the Phish blog. So if you want a copy of Trey Anastasio's latest instrumental album or want to hear one of the greatest James Brown concerts of all time (Paris 1971), head over to the Phish blog to download some kick ass tunes.
When Nicky finally woke up on New Year's Day, we walked over to Nick's for breakfast. It was one of the few places open in Hollyweird on Jan. 1st and I always had a tradition where I'd eat at Nick's before I left LA.
After breakfast, we did laundry and packed while I watched the NHL Winter Classic on NBC. Hockey outdoors. What a cool concept. It was a mix of rain, snow, sleet, and whatever else. I loved the concept and the game went into OT which was great for the suits at NBC.
After hockey and some random college football, we had last minute errands like the bank or the drug store. We drove over to Nicky's parents house so I could pick up my international cell phone. I had it delivered to their address and we spent a short time hanging out with Nicky's parents since she would not see them for another month.
We also went to see a flick... Charlie Wilson's War, based on a true story. Aaron Sorkin wrote the script and Philip Seymour Hoffman was the biggest surprise in it since he outshined Tom Hanks. I enjoyed it, but dug Juno much more.
We had seen Juno the night before and that was hysterical. Nicky had originally read the script many years ago. She dug through her closest and found an early draft written by Diablo Cody, a former stripper from Minnesota. I read the screenplay in an hour on NYE, so I knew what to expect. It did not disappoint me and was one of the best flicks I has seen in some time.
Check out the trailer for Juno...
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My last meal in LA was at Canter's deli and I went with Pastrami on a kaiser roll and an iced tea. It was pretty packed since not too many things were open. The one thing I miss the most about leaving America is the iced tea. I knew I would not have a decent iced tea for a month and got my last fix.
Showcase dropped us off at the airport and we were pretty early. We farted around the bookstore and newsstand. I bought the year end issues of both Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. Check in was quick as was the security line. Our Quantas flight was delayed by about 15 minutes. For a New Year's Day flight, the flight was packed.
Nicky and I both had aisle seats. She was one row in front of me. We were in the middle section and both had people next to us. My guy annoyed the fuck out of me. He took up the entire arm rest and kept invading my space... and that was before we even took off. I knew it was going to be a long 15 hours. Say hello to Mr. Xanax to ease the pain.
I read one magazine and read an entire Jack Kerouac novel... The Subterraneans before we even reached Hawaii. I had not watched any of the inflight movies and was holding out to the last minute since I had seen most of them before.
After the meal service (a bad piece of rubber chicken and free red wine), I put on The Bourne Ultimatum, which I had already seen three times. I passed out halfway and ended up sleeping for almost three hours - which is almost the same amount of sleep I usually get.
I played some video games on the inflight system. There was a golf game that was confusing at first, but I finally got the hang of it. That killed a couple of hours.
I popped a second Xanax and passed out during the first few minutes of The Simpsons Movie. I woke up with about thirty minutes to go in the flick and was up for the rest of the flight.
The guy next to me kept spilling over into my seat. I got up a lot and walked around totally bored. I had finished the one book I brought with me and read both magazines I purchased. Nicky slept most of the flight so we didn't talk much.
At some point, I caught a cold on the flight and had a runny nose once we flew over the Fiji Islands. I listened to my iPod for the rest of the flight (I'm on a Sly and the Family Stone kick) and barely ate the crappy breakfast they served which included rubbery bacon, but a tasty muffin.
I got flagged at immigration because my visa didn't match my passport. I was told to sit off to the side while one guy snatched my passport and disappeared for about ten minutes. There was a slight error in the first initial of my middle name. My passport listed "D" but the visa said "T" and I had to wait until everything was cleared up. When the immigration official returned, he grilled me about why I was in Australia and where I was going. He wanted to see my return ticket, but I had an e-ticket so I showed him a printout of my itinerary (which has me flying up to the Gold Coast and then to New Zealand). He eventually approved my visa and allowed me in the country. Whew.
By the time I reached the baggage claim, Nicky had picked up our bags and was in line for customs which wrapped around the room three or four times. It was a massive line and eventually one roving customs agent asked to see our customs cards. Since we did not have anything to claim, he sent us to the express line. Ninety second later, we were outside flagging down a cab.
I had to pay for my own room the first night (the other 19 nights were paid for by my employer) and since the casino was too pricey, so we stayed a few blocks away at a Travelodge. We stayed there a couple of nights in November and it was better than average and inexpensive. Our room was ready on our arrival even though it was not even 11am and check in was at 2pm. We dropped off our gear in the room and went to find food. After a quick bite, we popped more Xanax and slept. We were supposed to meet up with friends for dinner at 7:30pm and wanted to get some rest to adjust to the jumping of time zones. Heck, we lost an entire day. We left on Jan 1 and got to Oz on Jan 3.
I was super tired since I barely slept on the plane. Nicky was asleep by 2pm and I couldn't sleep. I finally passed out around 5pm and The alarm woke up up at 6pm. I went back to sleep and Nicky jumped in the shower to get read. She woke me up again at 7pm and I finally dragged my ass into the shower and dressed. It took less than 10 minutes.
We were supposed to meet Jules and Graham for dinner at Rock Pool which is one of the best restaurants in all of Melbourne. They wanted to celebrate a few things... they both just got new jobs and had gotten married a few days earlier in Tasmania.
Rock Pool is an amazing steak joint featuring the best beef in the world. Most of my Aussie friends told me that I had to eat there. In my two previous trips, I never had the opportunity to eat there, so when Jules asked me if that's where we wanted to meet up, I quickly said yes.
I ordered a plate of San Daniele Prosciutto for my appetizer while Nicky went for sashimi consisting of Ocean Trout, Yellowfin Tuna and Hiramasa Kingfish with organic soy dressing. Jules went with grilled king prawns and Graham picked a ham and salami tasting plate with Spanish ham and the local chorizo.
For the main course, Jules and Graham ordered the Dry Aged 36 Month Old Grass Fed Beef Rib-Eye on the Bone which was about 750g. It was a dish for two and we ordered the same thing. Delicious for sure. Our sides were their famous "Mac and Cheese" along with grilled mushrooms and onion rings.
We also drank three bottles of Shiraz (which Jules picked out) during dinner. We had no idea... but the dinner lasted almost four hours long!!! When we left, we ran up almost a $600 tab and it was almost 11:30pm. Time flew. We had so much fun hanging out and talking and catching up. Jules and Graham are tons of fun, and spending quality times with them are one of my favorite things about Melbourne.
In my previous two trips down under, I spent my first meal with Jules and Graham, which has become a tradition. In January, they took me out to an Italian place on Lygon Street then cooked me a BBQ the next day. In November, we went to their house for dinner and wine. So it was fitting that we ate together at Rock Pool.
After dinner, we headed up to a lounge and drank another bottle of wine. By then it was way past Midnight and we were all punchy and exhausted.
I was up early on Friday and wrote for a bit. Nicky eventually woke up and we checked out of our hotel. Check out time is at 10am at most hotels in Australia. With all of our gear, we walked a few blocks and moved into the Crown Towers, which is the swankiest hotel in all of Melbourne. The Crown Casino has two hotels and in my previous trips I stayed at the Promenade. It's nice, but the Towers is definitely a step up... sort of like the difference between the Mirage and the Bellagio.
Even though it was 10am, there was a room ready for us. We went downstairs for breakfast and ended up bumping into several of our co-workers down in the poker room. I cashed about 2K in US bucks at the cashier. Half of that was "playing poker" money and the rest was spending money.
We went back up to the room and I did some more work, as Nicky watched CNN and followed the results in the Iowa caucus. Obama won the Democratic side and poor Hillary took third. Slick Willy stood behind Hillary during her speech and looked humiliated, while the folks at Obama's rally seemed all fired up. Alas, it's still too early to tell and in the end, I honestly don't think it matters since politics is rigged.
I've been in Australia for almost a day now and I think my body has adjusted much quicker than in my previous two trips. For now... ask me again in a few days.