Friday, July 29, 2011

And She's Back

Man, I guess I was a little burnt out on blogging after all those trip posts. But I'm back! A little over a week now. Tonight is my stand-up comedy debut. "Debut" sounds a bit fancy for stand-up, but I feel like the occasion warrants it. I'll be performing with five other students from my comedy workshop, plus three professional comedians. We had our dress rehearsal last night, and it went reasonably well considering that two days ago I had no clue what I was going to say. Now my biggest fear is getting up there and blanking--unlike in a play, no one can save me. Luckily, it's a friendly audience, in case I do get a case of the thousand-yard stares.

Just had a massage and a facial. Which might sound a bit decadent, but frankly, I've been trying to find any excuse to be out of the house between 9-5 each day. David's at work, and thank goodness J is at Splash camp, or this wandering Jew state would be worse. At least I've made it to the gym every day. So, we returned home to a lot of progress on our new bathroom, but each day that progress seems to get slower. Tile had to be re-ordered. Glass door never arriving. I know I'm being spoiled since we've only been around for a week of this and they did complete the drywall and other messy stuff in our absence. But I'm seriously looking forward to stripping that @#$%&* muslin taped across our bedroom floor and vacuuming the hell out of it. Our bed is filled with drywall and splinters.

We made it to Comic-Con as planned the day after (!) our return, and even Jarrah held up pretty well. She did sleep through Penn & Teller, but considering they were promoting a show called "Bulls--t," I'm mighty glad. That and the Buffy sing-a-long with a surprise visit from Nicholas Brendon (Xander, squeeee!) were the highlights of our two days. I'm just about done with Comic-Con, and not because it isn't all kinds of awesome. It's just it's reached a critical mass such that you have to wait at least two hours (that's right, two HOURS) for any panel you really want to see or you won't get in. And we're talking halls that hold 5,000! I likened the situation to waiting 2 hours for Space Mountain, getting right up to the ride and hearing "Sorry, we've decided to close it." That just sucks, and it happened to us four or five times. I was especially sad for David and Jarrah that we made it THIS CLOSE to Dr. Who and were turned away.

Other than construction and Comic-Con and comedy, what other "C's" have taken our time? Hmmm. Let's introduce some other letters. David and I went to a fun party at Sunset Cliffs (there's a C!) while Jarrah had a blissful sleepover with her friend Nathan--she was so happy to be back with people her own age. And we had dinner with Joy and fam after the Con on Sunday, and that was great, too.

Oh, we're gearing up for 48 Hours, too--it's next weekend already, oy. We have a planning meeting this weekend and are assembling a killer team. Of course, every year I'm convinced I will blank on the funny, but I just need to keep the faith.

I've been out every night this week rehearsing and I've forged some sweet bonds with my fellow and sister comics. Putting on a play is very bonding, but something about preparing one's most embarrassing personal information for public ridicule has a way of speeding the process.

All this excitement has got me seriously tired. And no naps or sleeping in, due to the bedroom situation. I actually resorted to a catnap in my car (more Cs) yesterday; I was so desperate. My left eye has been twitching fiercely. Saturday I hope to stay in my pajamas for most of the day.

But first, tonight! Think good thoughts for me, won't you, Readers?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day Twenty: Erskine/St. Kilda

Today was our last day before our return travel, and hence, a little bittersweet.

We commemorated our last hour at the Lorne resort by breaking some rules, flouting the "do not feed the birds" sign on the balcony and drawing nearly a jury's worth to the railing for some bread. David said when he turned away to feed one, another leaned in and pecked him! Those cockatoos are ginormous up close.

After getting ready (Lorne will forever be remembered as the site where I had my first INDOOR shower while overlooking the ocean--something about the way the bathroom window is situated) we walked the Lorne beach for a bit. The sun was trying to break through, but struggling with the huge clouds. Then we stomped up and down Mountjoy Parade (I just love saying that) a couple times before settling on a breakfast place called, oddly, Arab. We enjoyed reading the paper under the cozy heat lamps, but the food was just ordinary and once again the service was strange and protracted.

From the street of shops we drove straight up a residential street until it became the rode to Erskine Falls, about nine kilometers through the Otway Forest, much less threatening by day. The hike to the falls was only 300 meters, but it was straight down some extremely muddy and wet (more like puddly) steps, treacherous going down and gaspy coming up. But the view was worth it, as you can see.

Sated with both forest and sea adventures, we hit the Great Ocean Road for the last time on our way back to Melbourne, and made excellent time, arriving in St. Kilda midafternoon. St. Kilda is a funsy, hip suburb of Melbourne, with lots of bakeries, bars and cafes, and known for its nightlife. It's also the home of my brother-in-law, Ben, which is why we chose it for our last night.

The Hotel Urban is right in the thick of things, only a couple minutes from the beach and sandwiched between bars, and inside it's completely adorable. Also the staff is so sweet, and they have free wifi, croissants and trashy mags. Love it here! Our bed is even known as "the Urban Snorer," and if you have a thousand bucks, you can get one to go. And where else does the hotel conditioner have the description: "Your hair is like a lover, ignore it and it will run off and shag your best friend?"

We'd only been here five minutes when John and Joan arrived with the young one, and we were all joyfuly reunited, at least until the crying for cupcakes began and that whole parenting thing started in again. Ben joined us, too, and since this is his hood he took us to a cafe he likes, where the popcorn chicken actually has popcorn in it, and I sat on a bar stool so high I felt like a little girl swinging my legs. We also visited his house, with his many guitars displayed on the wall, which was fun, and strolled the shops of Ackland St., ending up in a bookshop where Jarrah bought me The Great Gatsby as a "prezzie" for the plane--how did she know?

We had dinner at a yummy Malaysian place called Chinta Ria, which we all enjoyed but Jarrah had a number of meltdowns. After a childfree couple of days, David and I are a bit overwhelmed by Jarrah's constant demand for attention (and we're all tired, after all) so we called it an early night. We have to leave here in the dark tomorrow. Jarrah has just fallen asleep in her smaller version of the Urban Snorer. Hopefully I can soon do the same.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Day Nineteen: Great Ocean Road

Wow. Just woke up to the most incredible view outside our window--ocean as far as the eye can see. And a big bunch of white cockatoos in the tree only a few feet away. And the sun starting to come through! Maybe we'll have nice weather for our epic drive today!

We had our first "home-cooked" meal of the trip this morning, seeing as our kitchen could support a dinner party. I must say, it didn't hold a candle to the superb breakfasts we've been having. The sourdough was a vague beige with no discernible sour flavor, and the instant vanilla coffee (called "Jarrah!") tasted a bit like melted-down plastic wrap. Oh well! We're alert and ready for our adventure.

Just returned, a little past 9:00, after a full day on the road. Because I'm a total chicken about driving on the left, D did it all, and with a bad cold, too. (I better not get it!) Aside from the last bit, the drive was stunning, and the stops even more so.

We began with a twisty section between here and Apollo Bay, a sleepy little town where the Great Ocean Road sights officially begin. Despite the blue sea to my left and forests to my right, I had trouble staying awake (lousy sleep last night) and was glad for a little stop to clear my head. We went to Cafe 153 across from the Visitors Center for a "snack," and Readers! You must go there if you come this way! I wish I had taken a photo of my pasta with rose sauce, chicken, mushrooms and grana padano. Because? I think it's the best pasta I've EVER had. I was actually mournful that I couldn't finish all eight pounds of it and didn't have a way to store the leftovers on the road. Actually, when you combine with last night's dinner in Lorne and a late-afternoon scone the size of my head in Port Campbell, I'm thinking the Great Ocean Road is the foodiest middle-of-nowhere in the world.

Onward, to Mait's Rest, a rainforest walk in the Otway Forest. It was only about a mile, but wow, it was like we were in South America or something. (At least when we could escape the tour bus crowd.) Huge frondy ferns bending over the wet, muddy path, and trunks covered in kelly-green moss. Everything all cool and damp and quiet. Bliss.

Next stretch of the drive wended through a lot of open fields with cows and sheep--for some reason, the cows are almost always black. It seemed quite a while before we hit Princetown, the beginning of the most scenic patch of the Great Ocean Road, and I joked that we were going to get there right as the sun set. (It was more like 3:00.)

Between Princetown, Port Campbell and Peterborough, the wonders came fast and furious. First, the famous Twelve Apostles, of which eight remain above water (though we only spotted seven.) They rise out of the water in a group, looking eerie and cool. I liked the signs that said "You are an idiot if you go outside the fence, an idiot who is going to fall and die." I'm extrapolating only slightly, Readers. The lookouts were jammed with tourists so even though those Apostles are lookers, I didn't enjoy this one as much as some of the others.

Of which there were several. We visited London Bridge (missing one of the arches now, which fell on January 15, 1990, stranding two tourists on the new island--they had to be rescued by helicopter, and I'm thinking they now have the bets cocktail party story ever) and The Arch and The Grotto (loved this one, especially since we were alone down there, and I couldn't tell it was cool until I reached the bottom) and Loch Ard Gorge, where we got to walk on the beach and it began to rain. The Loch Ard was a shipwreck with only two survivors, an 18-year-old girl and the ship's steward who saved her. The whole area is riddled with shipwrecks.

I wanted to walk on the beach, but we couldn't find the one on my little map, and we ended up at Wild Dog Cove, a small beach with a tiny, hidden staircase to the bottom. We had it all to ourselves, and David showed me all the cuttlefish washed ashore, and we found some cool shells, too. I loved it except I got spooked at the end that wild dogs were going to get us, even though David said it was just a name. As we were leaving, I actually saw a huge dog emerge from the bushes and I screamed, and then David cracked up when the dog's owner appeared right behind it.

It was a cold day, probably not more than 55 degrees the whole time, and sometimes sprinkling, but we really warmed up from what I called "guerilla sightseeing," lots of running up and down staircases. We also started doing iPhone self-portraits to commemorate every stop, which delighted me immensely, especially since they look totally green-screened for some reason, like postcards. Don't they?

Right around sunset, we returned to London Bridge for the march of the tiny penguins (I know, it sounds made up, but I'm beginning to learn to expect the unexpected in this wild land) but sadly, they didn't appear. It was getting cloudy and dark, so we had a quick break in Port Campbell before hitting the road.

A long road. Ugh. I stayed totally alert the whole time because it was so horribly dark and there seemed to be no signs and everyone drove so fast. We broke it up with dinner in Colac (I joked that it sounds like a medicine; David agreed), pizza that I liked but David picked off every mushroom. And then the last stretch, twisting through the Lorne-Otway Forest, was sheer horror, even though I'm sure it would have been very pretty by day. At night, dripping with rain and wrapped in fog pockets, the deep primeval forest encroaching on our car ("the road! it's going to be washed away!" I kept wailing) pleased me not. Twenty kilometers felt like 100.