Big Country

13 04 2011

Jeffrey and THE ping pong table

Gonna go ahead and start off by saying this will likely be my final blog post from Australia.  I’m in my last week here, with my return trip to the states scheduled for Monday morning.  Some 24+ hours of travel later, I’m hoping to be greeted by Ma back in what they call “the southern part of heaven”, aka Chapel Hill, NC (I think it’s a self-proclaimed tag-line).  It’s been awhile since the last post and in my aged state, my memory is wearing thin so I may have forgotten some of the more intriguing moments of the past couple weeks.  I’m also feeling some pressure to keep things entertaining for my audience, but unfortunately my creativity is only about as consistent as the number of good movies John Cusack made post-1989.

When we left off, I had another week left in Wollongong with the Gregsons.  To spice it up a bit, Grego and I tripped it north to Sydney for a weekend.  We revisited the Olympic Park track and watched Robbo’s inspiring steeple debut (8:55) in rough conditions.  We then followed the meet up with some stellar kebabs and crashed at Grego’s girlfriend’s place, tucked comfortably below the international airport to ensure that we’d be up with the roar of the first engine at the ass-crack of dawn.  We met a couple others for a group Sunday long run in downtown’s Centennial Park, which, in my brief experience, convincingly rivals Central Park (nothing personal, NY).  The only good thing about a long run is following it up with a Last Supper-sized brunch (pretty sure it was some sort of banquet).  Grego’s gf, Jess, himself, and I joined Tricky for a true Australian brekky on the beaches of Bondi.  Supposedly Bondi Beach is where it’s at. “Like the most bodacious beach in the world,” as stated boldly by Grego and confirmed by the eleven others who religiously watch TV’s “Bondi Rescue,” a show where the manliest of Aussies risk life and limb to secure lost cell phones, massage one another with tanning oil, and every so often, yell “Shark”, quickly adding, “just kidding” amidst testosterone-juiced high fives with the other guards (I know now why Ryan digs the show so much…).  Usually, the beach is packed crotch to buttcheek with Aussies eager to ride the waves or cruise the beach looking for hotties.  Unfortunately, I think we caught Bondi on an off-day.  After peer pressure forced me to take a dip, alone, just to say I’d fully experienced Bondi (who really cares? I’ve been to Wrightsville, that’s gotta be good enough), we called it a weekend and returned to the Gong.

A quick fast-forward of the next week: a daring jump from a 3-story building into a bay of sharks with Grego’s bff and triathlete stud, Aaron Royale, surviving a ferocious riptide, also with Royale (seeing a pattern?), a legitimate deep-tissue massage at a back-alley brothel (no happy-ending, I sware), a grueling long run up Devil’s Peak overlooking the Gong, and to culminate the week, my first live experience of an in-your-face Australian Football game, complete with headless chicken-like coordination and a down to the wire finish that saw the Swannies come out victorious!  I’m told that’s a good thing.  With a hug, a kiss, and a proper spanking, the Gregsons sent me crying down to Melbourne for my final two weeks.

So that takes us to the 5th and final couch I will surf on for this trip, metaphorically speaking.  I arrived at the Riseley’s after staying one night at the boss’s place in Melbourne where I was treated to my very own candle-lit fish fry.  It wasn’t Friday night, but by golly, he really out-did himself (thanks Bidders).  Describing the Riseley’s estate via blog post does not begin to do this place justice.  Tucked away in the country about 30 minutes outside Melbourne, Tricky and I agree that this place could easily earn its spot in an episode of Cribs alongside Akon and Lil Wayne with its vast interior, acres of uncharted backyard, and a jacuzzi (they all have jacuzzis, right?).  A maze of bedrooms, a half-dozen bathrooms, a VIP lounge with shag-red carpets, a room exclusive to ping-pong, an indoor pool, and a squash court for a basement have kept us more than entertained.  Jeff even has a room just for his personal collection of empty shoe boxes; he’s strangely attached to them and spends his free time constructing shoebox monsters and really neat forts; never gonna grow up, bud, you and Peter Pan both!  The house is perched on a plot of land complete with its own petting zoo; chickens, bunnies, horses, exotic birds, wallabies…if you can name it, it probably lives on or around the perimeter of their land.  The Riseley family is just as nice as their crib is fly.  Something in the milk in Australia, if they drank milk, has produced a legion of unbelievably self-sacrificing moms as dedicated to generosity as U2 is to making mediocre music.  Wendy Riseley is one more mom in a long line of moms during my travels who has unquestioningly graced me with shelter and food.  “Big Mama” runs the household and takes care of any living creature under her roof, from the American to the dog to the rest of the individuals lucky enough to receive her attention.  She’s the closest thing to a real-life Mama Berenstain, spoiling each and everyone of us and coating everything we eat with 100% Australian-made honey.  Mr. Riseley is a working man, disappearing at all hours of the night to work his shift as a vegetable wholesaler; although definitely more likely he’s Dexter’s apprentice, throwing on a pair of latex gloves every night and using any number of torture items to ensure the streets of Melbourne stay clean.  He says the stains are from the newest batch of fresh tomatoes, but I’ve got my doubts.

Trickadonis made a celebrity appearance at the Riseley’s and forced me from the queen to a mattress on the floor.  But it’s a small sacrifice to make to have a 24/7 play buddy on call.  Ping-pong, Playstation, truth or dare.  You name it.  And to top it off, my main man accompanied me on an all-afternoon excursion to the Melbourne Zoo AND put up with my misguided and slightly inaccurate commentary on every other animal.  I’d like to add: when I say ping-pong, I’m not talking about a gentle game that a couple of school girls would play while waiting for the curling iron to warm up.  I’m talking about truly epic games, spikes, volleys, exhilaration, despair.  I’m talking competition, like Kobe vs. Lebron or Federer vs. Nadal.  With that being said and a left bicep the size of Popeye’s, I consider myself the Nadal of table-tennis, mimicking my game off the Spaniard with all the topspin to prove it.

Each morning, Jeffrey corrals us for a session in the bush, an outing to any one of the handful of nearby National Parks perfect for soft-surface running and thriving with wild kangaroos.  Guber is a good bloke, organized, methodical, and professional.  He’s only got a year on me, but my youth and inexperience in the pro-scene is very evident in comparison.  The guy might be the favorite to win the Australian 1500m national championship, but I know Guber, and deep-down he’s a country boy just like myself, raised on a farm on a diet of pure cattle milk, chasing chickens barefoot and wrestling naked with the hogs.  They make fun of us, Jeff, but we’ll fight ’em together, on the backs of stallions with fists full of free-range eggs.

Race this Saturday.  Jeff and I are in the 1500m and Tricks doing the 800m.  Afterward, probably be what the kids call a “rager” on Sunday night to send me staggering on my way home the following morning.  Next blog will find me in a new time zone and hemisphere.  In the meantime, entertain yourselves with updates to my other pages (biography/training strategies) and remain calm until I post again.

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