Sunday, January 07, 2007

First 24 Hours in Melbourne

My room at the Crown Casino is pretty swanky. The bed is comfortable and the shower is strong. The water is drinkable in most of the cities and I tried it out. Not too shabby. It will save me a few bucks everyday buying bottled water.

The local TV is interesting. I love watching TV in other countries to see what they see. There were plenty of US stations and a couple of Fox channels. I'm in Rupert Murdoch land so that makes sense. Australians love horse racing, and there are two channels dedicated to the sport. BG would be in heaven.

The casino has over 40 restaurants including a large food court that is dominated by Asian food. There's a hotdog and spuds place and a pizza place but all the Asian food looks interesting. There's Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Thai and Malaysian eateries. I had a delicious Green Tea milkshake for $4.50 at the sushi bar and I nearly jizzed in my pants. For lunch on Saturday, I ordered a pressed chicken breast sandwich with cheese and spicy mayo. I sat outside along the Yarra River and ate while I brushed away a dozen or so flies.

I cashed about $1,000 US at the casino cage and got a decent exchange rate. I got $1,200 Aussie Dollars which I'm going to use $1,000 to play poker with and keep $200 as spending money. I lost about $100 shooting craps and I've yet to play poker.

During a quick tour of the vast poker room, I bumped into some old friends that I know from covering poker in Las Vegas like Dr. Tim and The Barracuda, who is an Aussie. I also saw a few poker players and familiar faces that I know including Shannon Elizabeth, who played in the first event (of thirteen events) at the Aussie Millions.

During my first few hours in Melbourne, I was in that travelers haze where I was very uncomfortable with my new surroundings. I walked around the casino for an hour or so soaking everything in as I felt completely out of place. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep, but after a quick nap all of that changed.

After barely sleeping on my flight, I was exhausted. I asked for a wake up call and passed out for two hours. I eventually woke up and headed down to the lobby to meet my friend Jules for drinks and dinner. I felt normal again when I met up with Jules and Graham. Hanging out with locals always seems to give me the confidence that I'm not a total freak in a strange land.

Although Jules is Canadian, she's been living in Melbourne for almost two years. Her husband is a Kiwi who has been living in Australia for a very long time. Both helped me adapt much easier by giving me random social tips. One of those things was figuring out what kind of beer to drink. My buddy Aussie Garth suggested a lager called James Boag's, as did Graham. They were both right. Smooth and tasty.

We drank at Servo in the casino, an outdoor patio cafe/bar along the Yarra River. We drank for a while before we hopped in a cab to Lygon Street, which is considered Melbourne's Little Italy. We dined at a swanky place called Domini. I ordered the Tri-pasta which was a combination of gnocchi, spinach tortelini, and linguine Bolognese. Amazing dinner.

We headed to a pub down the street and sat outside. I switched to pints of Stella as I soaked up the Saturday night scene. I like to people watch and observed. We drank and talked about a spectrum of topics as I really got to get to know Jules and Graham a little bit better. My only previous interaction with Jules had been when she grabbed my ass at the bar in the MGM sports book last July. She became forever enshrined as part of the CBGC, which is an acronym for the Canadian Butt Grabbing Chicks. She and her buddy Kat from Toronto molested a slew of us during a bloggers gathering. And I loved every second of it.

We drank until Midnight before we headed back to the casino. By that point, I was spent and the beer made me sleepy. I passed out in my clothes and woke up four hours later. With a splitting headache, I took the fourth longest piss of my life. I drank two glasses of water and popped four Motrins. I called for a wake up call and finally undressed as I crawled underneath the covers. It took me a while to fall asleep, but I finally fell out and logged for four straight hours of slumber. I had about eight hours of sleep total inside of a nine hour stretch. That's a ton of sleep for me.

I woke up hungover, but somewhat refreshed from the lack of sleep. I put on ESPN and they showed the NBC feed of the NFL playoff games. I felt better knowing that I'd be able to watch the games, although I have to get up at 5am to watch the Jets game on Monday morning. I'll suck it up for Gang Green.

I uploaded a few pics and wrote for a while before my 11am brunch with my boss Caldwell. He gave me my mobile (cell) phone and now I have an Australian phone number! We also brainstormed about ideas for our radio program which we'll begin taping segments as early as Monday. We don't officially go live on the air for almost another week.

We ate outside the casino at an Italian place that had breakfast and pizza. A weird combination. I asked for an iced tea and it was very strange. Caldwell spent a lot of time in South Carolina, so he appreciates a good iced tea. This one was super sweet and might have had a splash of lemonade or something bitter. At any rate, I drank it all. I ordered a free range omelet with undercooked bacon, cheese, and onions with two pieces of toast. Eggs down under. Not too shabby. The waiter gave us a bowl filled with assorted jellies including Vegemite. I offered Caldwell $500 US to eat a small portion. He refused. Vegemite is prop bet heaven but tastes like shit.

I charged up my phone and called my mother to let her know I was alive. I also called Nicky in LA because she was missing me and wanted to hear my voice. I kept both calls short (under two minutes) before I sat down to write my first article for Poker News which I tentatively called Aussie Arrival.

I have a few hours to kill before I head over to Jules and Graham's house for an authentic Australian BBQ. I'm craving another Green Tea milkshake and itching to play cards. Time to feed my addictions.

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