Friday, January 29, 2010


Today we got back in the car again and drove six hours northwest to my childhood town of Armidale in the Northern Tablelands. As soon as we’d checked into the motel, I slipped into my running gear while the rest of them headed to the pub. I didn’t run particularly well, but every step released a floodgate of memories from a happy but partially forgotten childhood. Passed our little Newling primary school where our ten-year old hands are embedded in cement to commemorate the bicentenary, by my piano teacher and the house where the dog who bit me lived. There goes the doctor’s surgery where my second brother and I hid under a table when our youngest brother was screaming wretchedly as the doctors tried to fix his split tongue. Sprinted past the grounds of the Anglican Church where we endured a weekly torture of lengthy sermons and bad singing, and into the playing fields where we used to run cross-country. Around the course I ran, following the arrows painted on the trees, the course the same now as it was when I was a nine year-old kid. It had just rained, cooling the air from its thirty-four plus temperature and soaking out the scents of the sweet, raw Australian bush.
It might be the nostalgia talking, but I could see myself living here again…

Thursday, January 28, 2010


While I get dressed in my running gear, I am seriously pondering three major concerns I have already identified with running a marathon.
In no particular order…
1. Boredom. Forty-two kilometers is a very long way. Am I allowed to run with an iPod? What is the protocol here? Is it runner-acceptable to accompany my grunts and groans with some Living End and Muse, or am I expected to endure my compadre’s suffering as part of the whole experience?
2. Bathroom Needs. Most runners have had the unfortunate experience of heading out too soon after a morning cup of coffee. The chance of this occurring is already causing me great concern. Like most women, I have a healthy aversion to the humble port-a-loo, but am also very aware that forty-two kilometers is far too far to be carrying any extra weight.
3. Hunger. I am like an infant. I need to eat every three hours. And since it is supremely unlikely I will finish within that time, I am going to have to choke down those glucose gel thing-ohs and pretend they’re food.
It is odd I realise, to focus on such matters at a stage in training where I can’t run long enough for any of them to become a problem, so I shelve them and head to the backyard to instruct my foreign husband in the peculiarities of ye old hills hoist. No more dryers for this American; welcome to the washing line.
Like most Australian mothers, mine has quite a system for optimum hills hoist drying capacity, and it is this philosophy I try to pass onto my new recruit.
Hang small items and delicates close in, leaving sheets and towels for the outside rung. That way, even in winter when the sun is not as strong, your clothes should still be dry by the day’s end. Give your shirts a good shake out first, then peg them on the seams, or consider hanging them on coat hangers to try and get rid of a few more wrinkles. (That last hint is mine because in terms of household chores, I would rather scrub a toilet with a toothbrush than iron, so I am always looking for ways to make the job easier).
Cultural lesson over, we head inside, hat and suncream on, laces tightened, iPod’s strapped to our arms. I don’t mind drying clothes the old school way, inhaling the smell of sunshine in freshly laundered sheets, but I will happily embrace technology when the occasion fits. I program my music, start the first song, and pound up the road to Muse’s Absolution.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I have a friend who considers the fact that human legs are capable of moving faster than a leisurely stroll, a complete and utter travesty.
That one would make use of these ill-advised biomechanics marks you firmly as a misguided fool.
I, however, have always loved to run. Without it I think I would be medicated for anxiety. It’s very cathartic for me, like a cigarette is to my husband – a hit of calmness for my needy soul, a drag of introspection, a moment of self.
Auditioning in New York…lonely in London…isolated in the Northern Territory…
Running allows processing time, a legitimate and socially acceptable way to deal with my daily struggles.
Conversely, landing a gig in theatre, getting engaged, being paid for my first writing piece, these are the victory runs. My step as light as a Springbok’s, my pumping arms filled with the thrill of success.
Today’s run is particularly significant; it is my last one on US soil for quite some time. For after seven and a half years away, I’m returning to my hometown of Sydney, Australia and before a fourteen-hour plane trip, the best thing anyone can do is stretch the jiggles out of you.
I am beating a path around the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, the largest of its kind in the world and a Mecca for the city’s many pavement pounders. They’re a serious bunch here too. Most are decked out in sweat-slicking, microfiber, colour-coded outfits and many run with bum-bags stuffed with water bottles and those gel packets designed to get you through a marathon.
Which brings me to the main focus of this blog…my husband, two of my three brothers and I, have made a commitment to run this year’s Sydney marathon. (One brother has dismissed it as an exercise in stupidity, and won’t even get up to hand out drinks along the way).
Now. While I have been running for most of my life, my husband is a chef. He has every bad habit a runner should abandon. He is perpetually quitting smoking, lives by the motto that there is a meal in every beer, and if liquid fuel is unavailable, can always locate a twenty-four hour diner to satisfy his sodium, fat saturated taste buds.
But alongside the cholesterol likely coursing through his veins, run equal parts stubbornness and determination. Where I will rely on preparation and planning, Gregory will cross that finish line with the same pigheadedness he shows me when I suggest a salad sandwich over his burger and fries.
It should be an interesting few months.
But for now, I run in the rain drenched San Franciscan air, reading with interest the Tsunami evacuation route posted along the road, drinking in the view not dissimilar to Bondi’s and knowing that in approximately twenty-four hours I’ll be doing exactly the same thing on the other side of the Atlantic.

Monday, January 25, 2010


We left LA on our ‘visit the friends and fam road trip’ in a firestorm of drinks, dinners, a farewell luncheon with my geriatric ladies, and engaged in one of life’s most underrated cultural events – the humble garage sale; an early morning jamboree of bargain hunters, odd-bods and low-grade criminals walking the streets picking up rubbish as part of their community service. First stop was Vegas, the highlight being the bathrooms in the Paris Casino and the French/english phrases they pump out through the stereo system; “I think you’re cute too, but I would like to get to know you first.”
On to the Hoover Dam (architecturally impressive but a picture from the car window will suffice) then a leisurely stroll along the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Continued along the majestic Navajo trail – a landscape you’d imagine on Mars but littered with two-bit towns comprising of old tyres, red rocks and a miserable collection of half finished trailers.
All this brilliant scenery, I should point out, quelled my usual illness of driving narcolepsy and I made an excellent companion, always ready with a piece of chewy, a tidbit of news from the lonely planet or a helpful hand-wipe.
A night in Moab, Utah (mullets, 4 wheel drives and singers doing curious versions of ‘goodbye yellow brick road’) a morning exploring the magnificent Arches National Park, then a fabulous drive to Boulder Colorado, with a view of the Rockies and their dusting of freshly fallen snow.
Once Gregory got over the shock of his culinary buddy having become a vegetarian (if my husband were an artist it would be like telling him he could only paint in black or white) we enjoyed a hike in the Rockies, an afternoon of tobogganing (keeping our feet dry with the poor man’s North Face – socks, plastic bag and another pair of socks) and a delicious meat free curry.
Week two of no bra or makeup and we were ready to tackle the great mid-west, dodging a snowstorm by stopping in Kansas City, Missouri. Home to the greatest number of water fountains outside of Rome, and – apparently - to seventeen national historic sights – though unless they were referring to the seventeen-odd miles of cornfields I’m not buying that title with a three-dollar bill.
It was right about here that diabetes, high cholesterol and scurvy became very real possibilities as we abandoned fruit and vegetables and delved into delicious mid-west BBQ on our way to the windy city.
Frank Sinatra said it was his kind of town and apart from the vicious winter weather, I’d say it’s my kind too. Of course we were given rock star treatment from another of Gregory’s chef friends; staying in his suite complete with steam room, wine humidifier and enough medicinal marijuana to numb a herd of elephants. Cocktails at the top of the Hancock building, deep dish pizza, hot doug’s hot dogs, Mr. Beef, Arabian style tacos, dinners at restaurants Gregory’s been following for years, all rounded off with an exhilarating ice hockey game and a Christmakkah celebration where the Jewish and the Christians celebrated around a candle lit Christmas tree.
Five days later and our poor car could barely carry us to Canton, Ohio this time to enjoy a gaming dinner in an old converted speakeasy.
On our way we passed Gary Indiana, their welcome sign painted on the sewerage plant, and while the scenery was hardly impressive, the billboards were, sporting pro-life slogans like; “pregnant? Scared? Text options to 94685,”
and a diet tip to “choose right, eat small.”
Next stop Lewisburg Pennsylvania, where I dropped Gregory at his friend’s restaurant and spent the afternoon chasing Mennonites about the countryside – you wouldn’t think they could outrun me given that I was in a car and they ride a horse and buggy, but it was back streets and farm roads and they knew all the shortcuts.
Of course we stopped off in our beloved NYC, then headed to the country for a Llewellyn style Christmas, which meant brisk walks in the frigid air, tart whiskey sours and 5 nieces dressed up as Zoro.
A whirlwind tour through almost every east-coast state, (billboard highlight in Maine; “take the US out of my UTERUS”) then we pointed the v-dub south and headed for the very flat, very manicured and very religious state of North Carolina where we continued our anthropologic billboard study with gems like;
“VIRGIN – teach your kid it’s not a dirty word.”
“Following your friends is easy. Following your heart is brave.”
And possibly my favourite…
“Breast milk is the best milk. Eat at moms.”
I just knew I’d love the south and I wasn’t disappointed. Mark Charleston, South Carolina as a port of call one of these days, you won’t regret strolling through the old town, gas lanterns guiding your way, catching your heel on the cobbled roads as you gaze in wonder at the mansions, their white trimmed, black shuttered windows open to reveal secret walled gardens, individually decoupag-ed stairs and rich old antiques standing underneath dusty portraits of the men that made this town. Everyone greets you as you pass them by, and all I wanted them to do was invite me into their enclosed verandah so we could share some mint julep tea.
Of course, you can stand at the market where they used to sell the slaves, but if we condemned everyone for their past transgressions there wouldn’t be a country left to visit. Except perhaps Switzerland, and apart from chocolate and founding Red Cross, they don’t count.
Now in Florida, hanging out with the in-laws at their 55-plus retirement community, finding ‘gators far less elusive than the Mennonites, visiting the brilliantly done Kennedy Space Centre and slowly acknowledging that it may, in fact, be time to consider employment. Only one problem…even I wouldn’t hire me – who has a career synopsis that reads teacher, dancing plate and hostess for the mafia? I have a severe case of employment schizophrenia.
Then I remember we still have four glorious days in San Francisco before we fly home and I skip off to get changed for early morning water aerobics.
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