No Country for Old Men

Friday

This weekend, I and my dad have chosen to meet up with another father and son pairing for a couple of nights of debauchery, albeit under the guise of “Patrick’s Bridge Climb”. See, we got Pat a voucher for a Harbour Bridge Climb last year for his 21st birthday, and six months later, he’s finally worked up the courage to tackle (figuratively) the thing. To celebrate (and execute the actual deed), we have appropriately met up in Sydney, as Gerry is already there for some conferences, and Pat’s flying down tonight (they live in Brisbane). For an unknown reason, my Dad offers to pick Pat up from the airport, inexplicably forgetting the amnesiac qualities that Sydney’s one possesses. Sure enough, when we eventually turn up there, it takes us at least four round trips of the place (and numerous phonecalls) to spot Pat, thus making us late to collect a guy who’s already had his flight delayed by an hour. Politely, Pat declines to berate us/take his anger out on us/ beat us to death with his suitcase, and within a few minutes we’ve met up with an already tipsy Gerry at the hotel. It appears that Gerry has been frequenting a pub for the past couple of hours, and though he claims to have only had four beers, he lets slip that they were pints. In the words of the immortal Will.i.am, I gotta feeling. That tonight’s gonna be a good night, That tonight’s gonna be a good night. Blah blah blah…masel tov!

(Isn’t anyone else annoyed by the grammatical faux pas in that first line? “I’ve got to feeling” is not a real sentence, you idiots. Then again, the Black Eyed Peas isn’t a real band.)

After a dinner at which I proved my knowledge of Italian food was unmatched (Pizzeta= baby-sized pizza) the four of us entered the Orient Hotel, a semi old-fashioned pub on The Rocks. This instantly got off to a bad start when we were charged a fiver each just for entry. I can understand if it’s an unbelievably packed establishment, presumably adorned with a dance floor and DJ, but this was just your average pub- beer on tap, footy on the television, singer/guitarist playing Crowded House covers in the corner. After one beer, though, the Orient was irrevocably changed, as it started to smell like a sewerage pipe had exploded. If there’s one thing stereotypically manlier than beer, then it would be farts, so you would be right in saying that males often have a strong smell threshold. But imagine if someone farted on you, locked you into an airtight toilet cubicle with the scent, and left you there for ten minutes. Well, that’s essentially what this place smelled like (I’d imagine), and within a minute or two we were out the door. The silver lining to this story was that Gerry somehow managed to badger our cover charge out of the bouncers, a guilt trip that provided the money for the next round.

Scoping out the variety of drinking spots that litter The Rocks, the dads agreed (us sons have no say whatsoever, which is fine with me if I’m not buying drinks) on a pub whose name now escapes me, but which I know for sure was created in 1828. If this is Australia’s oldest pub, then I am stunned that it took the settlers forty years to work out that a communal drinking place is a good idea.

Setting foot inside this pub, I was immediately struck by one small (but significant) detail: the people here were old. Now I’m not going to make any jokes about the clientele having remained unchanged since the bar opened (oh wait! I just did!), but it would be fair to assume that Pat and I were below the median age by about thirty years. It was apparent that this was a place our fathers were extremely comfortable in, as they instantaneously set about making new friends and generally embarrassing us. They try introducing us to these people whom they are talking to, but soon realize that Pat and I are dead wood- basically, we’ve reverted back into a designated driver-like state, standing there smiling at people who pass us, but generally avoiding the drunkards. And for a ‘mature’ bar, there really were a crazy amount of people draining those social lubricants. One fellow in particular had had his fair share, and spent the night wandering around, vociferously screaming at everyone and being a general douchebag. At one point, he walked up behind my Dad, who he’d talked briefly with before, and did some kind of karate chop to the crotch that I thought was reserved for twelve year olds. Dad laughed off, yet turned to me and warned, “You wonder how fights start”. Fortunately, the biff was not brought back, and the 47 year old bully left shortly afterwards to enjoy a domestic with his wife. (No, that’s not a joke.)

The old men soon become enamoured with a certain gent from South Dakota who went by the name of Casey. Casey was a farmer (or so he said), and his genial nature, combined with an inability to open his eyes more than 3 millimetres, saw the three of them fastidiously making plans to go to dinner tomorrow night, and then party like it’s 1999 once again. I was tempted to ask him about his knowledge of Chuck Klosterman, my favourite writer and a North Dakotan native, but was put off when he compared the geographic division between North and South Dakota to that of Australia and New Zealand. When it was pointed out that there is a fairly significant body of water lying between our country and New Zealand, he neglected to reinforce his argument, and just stood there laughing.

The rest of the night was patently uneventful, with the blaring exception of Gerry and my dad pausing on the walk home to piss on the wall and into a pot plant respectively.

Saturday

Jesus. It’s 6:45 in the morning, and I’m already awake. My neurotic tendencies have, once again, gotten the better of me; this time, it is my ambivalence towards foreign beds. In my own sleeping headquarters, I could sleep for literally the entire day. No matter how many times I would hypothetically wake up, as long as I didn’t get up and have breakfast, or shower, or do anything stupid like that, I could lie in a catatonic state with ease. However, this scenario is absolutely reversed when staying in a hotel and the likes. Then, I transmogrify into one of the greatest REM avoiders this world will ever see. A speckle of sunlight flitting through the curtains? I’m awake. Early morning AGB? I’m awake.

With nothing really to do except get up and sit around, I decide to use this quiet time to get a bit of reading done. My consumption of David Foster Wallace’s exposition on the Adult Video Network Awards is going so enjoyably that before I am aware of it, the time is 9 o’clock, and the guys are up. Pat is tinged green, though I presuppose that’s more to do with his imminent bridge climb than any alcoholic dalliances. The dads, though, are worse for wear, death warmed up- any number of lame clichés can be used to describe them. Basically, they look like the typical uni student after a night out, minus the trendy clothes and full head of hair. To my utter amazement, they manage to digest a large breakfast about an hour later without as much as a mouthful being regurgitated. Of course, my amazement is due to my ignorance of hangover-coping methods that differ to mine. Whereas I prefer to lay prostrate for as long as possible, and only eat once my internal organs threaten to cannibalise each other, I guess the normal person goes for a big ass coffee, accompanied perhaps by a grease-laden breakfast of bacon and/or eggs. I really cannot understand how anyone can do this, as just the thought of solid foods is generally enough to send me sprinting to the lavatory.

Addendum: At breakfast, we all ordered the big breakfast (bacon, sausages, eggs, baked beans etc.), only to be informed that the sausages and baked beans would incur an additional cost. Is it just me, or is this behavior, charging for something which you assume (and the menu concurs) is included in the meal, just a little bit ridiculous (and even illegal)? If you go into MacDonald’s and see that the Quarter Pounder is $4.45, proceed to order it, and then get told the beef patties are an additional 50 cents each, you’d be a bit outraged, wouldn’t you?

After breakfast, the four of us traversed up to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, as Pat’s bridge climb, the excuse we used for this weekend, was in half an hour. To whittle away the time until the ascension of the bridge, we doddered around an exhibition/museum that was, in fact, dedicated to the Harbour Bridge itself. Here, we learnt innumerable factoids and figures about this architectural wonder, none of which will ever come in use in situations, or even conversations, anywhere, anytime. Ever knew that sixteen men died building the bridge? Ever wanted to know? Exactly.

The fathers decided that while Pat was completing the Bridge climb, they’d head back for a siesta of sorts. I had beaten them to the punch, though, and arrived at the York Hotel about twenty minutes before them. As I entered our complex, I could hear that someone was already in one of the bedrooms. My conscious mind immediately skipped ahead to the worst scenarios possible, and I deduced that the intruder was more than likely a thief, a serial killer, or Bert Newton. Approaching with hesitation, I peeked around the corner of the door, and was greeted by a maid. Now, this may seem like a nice alternative to the aforementioned possibilities to you, but I was wishing that it had been a thief instead. And this is because I have no idea (nor does anyone, for that matter) on how to act when someone is cleaning up your filth. I ended up going with the lame joke/ thanking approach, and just went and watched the television with my feet on the couch- even if I feel uncomfortable with this scene, I at least want to maintain an illusion of comfort.

Dinner tonight was preceded, predictably, by a few beers in a pub. A slight outrage on my behalf took place, as I was quizzed for my ID for the second night running. The bouncers may have felt I was trying to surreptitiously follow these two old men in, in the hope that I could sneak an underage beer or ten. However, the truth of the matter is that I was just catching up to them, as I had just escaped from a Ken Done speech in one of his own galleries. Well, to be honest, I was actually a latecomer to the trials and tribulations; I spotted the Ken man himself orating, presumably, on just how great his infantilised artwork is. Purveying an open door, I assumed this meant I was welcome to join the teeming crowd, and listen to the words of Australia’s most overrated artist; instead, I was greeted with numerous icy glares, and quickly got the message: get out, you giant.

I’m not sure what the psychological reason for this is, but I always gain a great deal of satisfaction from passing the bouncer test. It’s like they’ve affronted my actual existence, and the only way to defeat it is to prove I do, in fact, consist of a bunch of protons and neutrons (and maybe electrons? I’m allergic to chemistry). I like to imagine that they question their better judgment and fall deep into an existential mire; as it is, they probably just get a power surge from their ability to stall my night.

After a couple of hours, we travelled directly across the road to the nearest Thai restaurant. Thai food is undeniably the most omnipresent international cuisine in New South Wales these days; at last count, Terrigal had 34 different establishments in an 800 metre radius. These are, for the most part, excellent- who doesn’t love a bit of lamb penang?- but they’re dreadfully monotonous, and it turns into a competition to see which is the cheapest, rather than the best. Before tonight, I believed the scope for Thai food had been fully comprehended and explored. But a single meal changed all that.

The place we went to (I am just terrible with names) was irregular, to say the least. Designed like a mess hall, it required all diners to literally rub elbows with one another, in an intrusive yet comfortable dining experience. And I use the term ‘experience’ as appropriately as a journey to a restaurant can be, because this was something else. The service was out of this world; if your water got below half full, it was instantly replenished by a waterboy as eager as Adam Sandler. Of course, the menu was apparently way overpriced; being a uni student gives a false dichotomy on the value of things in the real world. My meal, the chicken mince (really? Mince?) with snake beans, chili, and holy basil (the only basil endorsed by the papal crowd), was a flavour explosion. I can’t describe flavour tangibly, partly because I’m not a food critic, and partly because I couldn’t be bothered, but let me assure that my taste buds were assaulted in a way Kobe Bryant would approve of. It was deliciously unique in taste, but the main thing that struck me was how hot it was. Let me justify my validation for ascertaining the spiciness of this dish; I have been known to eat the odd chili whole, without any hydration help. Earlier today, I stopped by The Chili Factory’s stall at The Rocks Markets, and ate (with consummate ease) their hottest sauce available. So when I tell you that this meal caused me real physical pain, that I was halfway on the path to tears, you can be assured that it was the hottest damn meal ever made. Further confirmation of this presumption was provided by the bill; whilst everyone else’s meals were listed according to their ingredients (i.e. green curry), mine was simply put as “Kapow”. KAPOW! A comic book sound effect designed to imitate the physical degradation of another human being was what my dinner was being described as.

Casey neglected to phone the old guys today; it’s fair to say they’re pretty upset over it. My theory is this: being married for 20 plus years has obviously (well, at least ostensibly) meant they haven’t been on a first date in that passage of time. So when they start making comments such as, “He really seemed genuinely keen last night”, it gives the impression a pseudo-date was in store; I mean, the guy was even going to bring his brother along!

To get over that South Dakotan heartbreaker, they decide that drowning their sorrows is applicable. And I must admit, I’m legitimately impressed with them. Not only did they outlast and outdrink us and our youthfulness last night, but they shrugged off their killer hangovers and got straight back into it tonight. Myself and Pat both agreed that we probably couldn’t have done such a feat now, let alone at an age closely resembling Michael Clarke’s batting average. (One observation on the Clarke/Bingle insanity that has clogged the newswires for the last week or two- it’s really strange to see such a story reported as though there are no villains or victims. Pretty much every incident like this that is reported is given a slant towards one party or the other; it creates controversy, which then perpetuates discussion and maintains interest in the story. How this filler has managed to stay in the public eye without a clearly defined camp division is beyond me.)

Bedtime came early tonight, as we all were suffering from the brutish physicality of a day strolling around The Rocks.  As I lay in bed, I recognised this weekend for what it really was: a passing of the torch. Myself and Patrick have reached that age, the time where shit starts to get serious, and the patriarchs of our families know this. But we also know that there’s a few years left before this reality completely sinks in, and thus in the meantime, we shall embrace the relative freedom in our current possession, and party in a way that will make our dads proud. If I have to pee on the wall to achieve this, then so be it.

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3 responses to “No Country for Old Men

  1. The second pisser !!

    Just a brief note, you got the facts wrong, G did the tree, S did the wall. Thai was “5 Sailors” Rest was on the mark ….good work…G & P

  2. Haha, much better description of the weekend than i was given by the pair from my family. However i am reluctant to show this to dad, as i think he may come away thinking that he is some kind of “cool dad”.

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