Opera House Moment

I've discovered a little secret: At six o'clock every morning, cruise ships pass through the Sydney Harbor. From my window at the YHA, I rush to catch a glimpse of them as they glide by, these floating, glowing giants, slipping past Sydney without a sound.  As they pass they look the Opera House in the eye, just her height, barely clearing the harbour bridge by a hair.  To watch these ships pass at dawn feels like a privilege.  A rare spectacle.  Their presence is mysteriously … [Read more...]

Home or a weird, dream-like version of it

  No birds in Sydney this morning.  The constant monotone of continual fog horns woke me up.  I opened the window to my hostel’s amazing view and the veil of fog was so thick it covered the entire bay.  The Sydney Opera House, which I can normally see from here was gone.  Invisible.  I couldn’t see past the next block. The looming bridge was the most striking of all objects engulfed by the low clouds.  The gigantic, metallic, stick-like structure soared over the water and went … [Read more...]

The Gigantic Magnifying Glass and Matching Midgets

Easter Sunday does not so much conjure memories of Easter egg hunts, chocolate bunnies and pastel-colored peeps as it does going to mass dressed exactly like my sister, Jess.  Easter, for me as a kid, meant a frilly dress, fold-down socks and terribly uncomfortable patent leather shoes. I've always hated patent leather and I've never liked peeps.  You can only imagine how happy I was to dress up exactly like my kid sister. One of those years in the infamously unfashionable 80s, our Easter … [Read more...]

You Don’t Have to Let Yourself Go, Just Your Pants

For the second time in a year I'm surrounded by boxes and a looming list which must be completed in the next thirty days.  Why?  Because I'm moving.  Again. That and I'm desperately trying to lose ten or fifteen pounds.  How am I doing this?  Well, you should see me.  I set up my computer on the ironing board and tune into Zumba classes on YouTube.  I feel ridiculous and probably look even more ridiculous.  But it's the only way I can my heart rate going enough for me to sweat like it's going … [Read more...]

Let’s Have a Kaikai: a post grape-picking pow-wow

As with anything, it's not the grape-picking that's interesting.  It's all that surrounds it. Austin and I spent last Monday practically in silence.  We were tired and it was hot.  You wouldn't think of New Zealand as hot but let me tell you--it isn't the temperature of the air.  Here, it's a sun factor, the added temperature of the sunlight.  There's no ozone in this part of the world and so when the sun blazes down it feels fierce unlike any sun I've ever felt.  It's pure, amped-up heat; the … [Read more...]

Secrets and Truths: Picking Grapes With Alice

My picking buddy from Oklahoma didn't show up the other morning.  We were out a vineyard called Woodthorpe (pictured below), a good forty-five minute drive into the hills.  You had to drive past the Maori cemetery and the old wooden church, past ramshackle stucco houses, past a goat tied up on the bank before turning off down a long gravel road.  (The picture above is a view from the long gravel road.)  I figured Austin and his green gumboot van were lost so I paired up with someone new.  Her … [Read more...]


Austin drives a frog green 1986 Mitsubishi van with GUMBOOT written backwards on the front, cows on the sides and two stencils of roosters spray-painted on the back.  There are three seats up front and a bed in the back where he sleeps.   He bought it for $1900NZ in Auckland when he first arrived. I got to ride in it today when we traveled from one vineyard to the next and let me tell you, people STARE.  Especially old people.  They also usually frown while they stare, which makes things really … [Read more...]

Smoko, The Flaming Lips, The Damned and Not Carking It on my First Day Picking

Here's what I knew about picking grapes before today: Zero.  Nada.  Zilch. Here's what I know about grape-picking after a full day's work: Not a whole lot more than I did before. But I know a few other things now. This is Larry.  Larry used to teach high school before he became a viticulturist.  It was 8am when he stood on a crate attached to the back of the tractor this fine but slightly foggy morning and said, "Those of you who are new, well, you'll learn as you go.  By smoko … [Read more...]