Saturday, October 20, 2007

hollyweird > melbourne

By Pauly
Melbourne, Australia

Nicky and I were booked on a 11:40pm Quantas flight. We spent most of the morning in Hollyweird prepping for our trip doing some last minute laundry and packing. I always eat at Nick's coffeeshop on my last day in California before I head back out on the road. It's a personal tradition and we wandered in for breakfast around 11am. I always tip their staff very well when I'm in town. They were happy to see me since I had not been there in several months.

After packing all of our stuff, we had several hours to kill. I suggested a flick. We decided upon Darjeeling Limited which is Wes Anderson's latest film. I loved all his previous work including Rushmore, Bottle Rocket, and The Royal Tennenbaums. I absolutely hated Life Aquatic.

We headed over to Century City which is an outdoor mall with a giant AMC movie theatre. Last time Nicky was there, she saw NPH (a.k.a. Doogie Howser or Neil Patrick Harris) walking out of Borders. As I rounded the corner, I nearly bumped into a woman pushing a baby stroller. It was Posh Spice with a bodyguard at her side. She didn't look as emaciated as you see in all those tabloid photos. I was bummed out that her BFF Katie Holmes was not with her.

Usually, Nicky and I have celebrity sightings at The Grove. The two most random were Rachel Bilson in the elevator and Frankie Munoz in the garage. Anyway, I caught a glimpse of one of the Spice Girls as we headed into the flick. The Joker was disappointed that I didn't heckle her.

In Darjeeling Limited, there's a full on ass-shot of Natalie Portman within the first five minutes of the film. That was the highlight. Everything else was shot on location in India. I didn't like it as much as Into the Wild which I saw the night before. But it definitely sat better with me more so than Life Aquatic.

We had our last meal at Zankou Chicken before Showcase took us to LAX. The check-in line was massive. We arrived 2.5 hours early and Nicky got fucked over. All they had was a middle seat for her and we weren't even seated together since we booked separately. The flight was full and they could not even seat us together. She went on minor tilt and managed to get it together. I asked about how much would it be to upgrade to business class. Heck, if it was within reason (under $1,000 US) I would have gotten her bumped up. Sadly, it was close to 4K and I declined.

I popped a Xanax shortly fater take-off. It only mellowed me out and didn't make me fall asleep. Instead, I stayed up for the majority of the 15 hour flight. I'd doze off for about 15-20 minute intervals every other hour. I got about 2 hours of total slumber. I fell asleep at the end of Ocean's 13.

Quantas has a personal video system with tons of movies, music, and TV shows which kept me sane. I also watched Spiderman 3 and two documentaries. One was The U.S. versus John Lennon, which detailed his deportation trial in the early 1970s after he started supporting big figures in the anti-war movement such as Bobby Seale from the Black Panthers. I also watched a documentary on the life of French painter Toulouse-Latrec, the short dude who lived in brothels in Paris, where he painted plenty of hookers. My kind of artist.

I watched two episodes each of The Office (UK) and The Office (US). I caught a couple of travel pieces on New Zealand and Australia as well. I thought I might read my book on Miles Davis or write. I did neither.

Our flight arrived in Melbourne ten minutes early. Immigration was a breeze, but we were flagged at customs. I wrote down on my entry card that I was staying at the Crown Casino and that got both Nicky and I sent to a line where my bags were inspected. I thought they were swabbing it for explosives. It happened the last time I was in OZ and happens from time to time during random searches at different airports. The customs agent told me that he was looking for drugs and asked if I had been in contact with drugs. I said no. Then, he asked me how much cash I had on me. I told him a few grand. He wanted to know if it was more than $10,000. It wasn't so he let us go. I had nothing to worry about, but it delayed out entry into Melbourne by fifteen minutes.

We arrived at the hotel/casino at 10am. Check-in time is around 2pm and lucky for us, our room was available. I thought that I was going to crash for a couple of hours. I popped two Xanax and didn't fall asleep until almost noon. We both slept to 6pm and wasted the entire afternoon. I guess we were tired. We had to meet work friends for dinner at 8:30. We showered and I took Nicky on a quick tour of the casino. The Crown is massive and the largest casino in the Southern Hemisphere. It's also the most Las Vegas style casino that I have ever been to outside of the US. Most of the European casinos are tiny and the vibe makes you feel like you don't belong. The Crown reminded me of Las Vegas.

We met up with Schecky and two other people I work with, Gaz and Cory-Ann, who are both Aussies. Gaz is a big swinging dick in Australia and he got us a table at Nobu, which was booked for months in advance. I had only been to Nobu once in my life (in NYC many moons ago).

Here's how Nicky described the meal:
For the first course, we had sashimi tacos, filled with lobster, crab, salmon, and whitefish topped with a spicy salsa, as well as Nobu's signature yellowtail carpaccio with ponzu and jalapeno slices. Heaven. Next, we were served a plate of oysters topped with a nest of crispy onion and caviar. I'm not even a big oyster fan but these were absolutely sublime. Two signature Nobu dishes arrived for the second course—crispy rock shrimp (Schecky's personal favorite) and the black miso-glazed cod. That cod is a desert island dish for me-- the fish was sweet, perfectly prepared, and melted in my mouth.

For the main course, we were each served a trio of beef. On the left was a dumpling with sesame sauce, in the middle were miso-glazed slices of kobe beef, and on the right was a skewer of kobe in a spicy chili sauce. As if that weren't enough, the chef prepared us a Waygu steak topped with onions and shiitakes. Waygu is like, beyond Kobe. It is the absolute pinnacle of quality, as our server explained...
Head over to her blog to see pics of our Nobu experience. And yeah, it was one of the Top 10 meals in my life. I thought kobe beef was the shit until I tasted the waygu. Unreal.

We had a few cocktails after our three-hour dinner and eventually passed out. On our second day in Oz, we had a couple of hours to kill before an afternoon work meeting. We walked around Southbank area and Nicky wanted to check out the aquarium. I went there twice in January and it's a fun place. We watched divers feed the manta rays and sharks.

After our work meeting, I went looking for a bottle shop to buy a couple of bottles of wine. My friends Jules and Graham lived about 15 minutes away and invited us over to their house for a home-cooked meal. When I was in Melbourne in January, Jules fired up the BBQ and I had my first Aussie BBQ experience. She traveled a lot for work in the past and knew the value and importance of a home-cooked meal when you're on the road. That's why I couldn't wait to head back.

She prepped a chicken with potatoes, onions, and bacon! She was kind enough to exclude veggies from my plate. We sat around and drank several bottles of Shiraz while Jules and Graham showed off their new dog as we caught up on my previous travels. We eventually stumbled out of their house after Midnight and passed out as soon as we got back to the casino.

I have not gambled. Yet. I might play some poker if I can squeeze it in over the next few days. Otherwise, I'm going to bet on some NFL games. There are three Fox sports stations in addition to ESPN. Fox Sports 3 shows lots of American sports like hockey, baseball, and football.

It's officially Sunday morning in Australia, and I start work in a few hours. I have to work everyday for the next nine days. My schedule is 6pm to 4 or 5am aside from a few days when I have to work noon to 4 or 5am (like today).

I'll post pics when I can.

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