Saturday #36: My Last Night in Sydney

I wrote the entry for Saturday #35 on the morning of Saturday #36. Today I’m sitting down to write the entries for two Saturdays – numbers 36 and 37 – but please don’t read too much into this. I don’t want you to think that I’m losing interest in keeping my blog up-to-date just because I haven’t kept this blog, well, up-to-date.

It occurred to me yesterday that I could write about the particularly good day that I had on Saturday #37 and hope that nobody notices the missing entry for Saturday #36. I doubt that would work as several friends have already asked about the missing Saturday and they’re no doubt waiting for a full report.

Another option would be to invoke the old “I Was Drunk And Don’t Remember” defense. That one might work. It’s not entirely true but the people who know me well might fall for it.

The truth is that I wrote the blog entry for Saturday #35 from my bed and posted it around 10:00 am. I got up, showered, and when I came back to the room the other guys had opened a 6-pack of Toohey’s. Each of us was due to leave the city within 24 hours and someone had to drink the pack of beer that Chris simply couldn’t take with him on the plane to Bali. I like to think that we chipped in to help him resolve a very serious dilemma.

The hostel’s basement bar opened at noon and someone suggested that we head down there for “just one more” since this would almost certainly be the last time we would see each other. I didn’t want to be seen as a party-breaker so I complied. I think that “one” turned into “two”, but it might have been “three.” I’m not sure. Okay, maybe four.

I was sober enough to realize that I was in for a late night so I went back to the room for a nap around 2:00. I can assure you that not a single drop of alcohol passed my lips between 2:00 and, oh, about 3:50.

I felt totally refreshed and ready for a 2km walk to Oxford Street when I left the room at 3:45. When I got into the elevator I remembered that I had loaned my iPhone charger to one of the guys in the bar so I headed to the basement to retrieve it. The guys were still occupying the same seats and a fresh-poured icy cold Carlton Draught was waiting at “my” seat. It would be wasteful and, frankly, quite disrespectful to turn down a pre-poured pint of Australia’s favorite (cheap) draft.

By 4:00 I was back on the street and headed to the corner of Oxford and Crown to meet an old friend from Canada. I spent Christmas and New Year’s with Randall and his partner Manfred and now Randall was eager to hear about my 40 days in New Zealand. I made good time and arrived at the pre-arranged meeting spot a few minutes early.

When I spotted Randall he was standing in the doorway of the Columbian Hotel. Wouldn’t you know, he was blocking the entrance to one of the busiest bars in the neighborhood during the busiest hour of the busiest day of the year! We certainly didn’t want to create a potential fire hazard so with only two choices – wading out into the sweating masses on Oxford Street or retreating into the air-conditioned comfort of The Columbian – we chose the latter. All in the name of safety, you know.

Once inside The Columbian it was hard to miss the fact that Saturday #36 was the final day of Sydney’s World Famous Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras celebration! The patrons and the bartenders at the Colombian were in a festive mood! I seem to recall Randall saying, “Two Cooper’s, please.”

The bartender placed four beers on a tray and said, “You won’t have to wait in line for the next two.” What a thoughtful young lady!

Now do you believe me when I claim the rest of the evening is largely a blur?

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I do recall attending a house party from about 6:00 to 8:00. A friend of Randall’s lives about a block from the parade route and each year he has a gang over to his house for a pre-parade barbecue and a few drinks. After a nice feed of barbecued sausages and chicken wings, and a couple of gin and tonics, everyone retreated to the garage where a large-scale arts and crafts project was well underway.

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The project consisted of strapping together sets of four and eight milk crates that Rod had collected over the previous year. We then carried these cubes down the alley to the parade route and found a spot well back from the curb. The cubes were stacked two and three levels high to create something they call ‘The Wall.’

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Apparently Rod and his friends have been doing this for years. I felt that we would block the view of the latecomers who would be stuck behind us but I realized that I’m probably not the one to argue with tradition. My main concern, I said to myself, should be getting on and off ‘The Wall’ without breaking an arm or leg.

One thing I do remember is that Sydney’s parade is much more polished than the somewhat organic parade that winds through Toronto on the third Sunday of June. In Sydney the dancers are pre-auditioned, the marshaling is tighter (fewer gaps), and the parade route much wider than Yonge or Gerard Streets. But the biggest difference between Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade and just about every Pride parade in the rest of the Western World is that it’s held after sundown!

The use of rainbow colored spotlights on the dancers, floats, and even the facades of buildings that line the street really adds to the overall spectacle.

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I am reasonably sure that I’d remember attending Nick Jonas’ spectacular after-party so I’m going to say that I didn’t. But then I’m not entirely sure. If photographic evidence exists, please forward it to me for a cash-reward.

I do recall that I had to be up very early on Sunday morning as I had pre-booked a window seat on the 7:32 train to Melbourne. I slept like a baby for about 10 hours and 57 minutes of the 11-hour trip.

“Sir, this is Southern Cross Station. Are you getting off here?” asked the porter who had just tapped me on the shoulder.

“Ah, yes, I am… Thanks… Sorry for drooling on your window.”

“Welcome to Melbourne,” he said.

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