Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Royal National Park

All the campsites were full so a group of friends decided our weekend hike in the Royal National Park could be done in a day. We took a train at 6:15am to Otford and from there hiked ten hours to Bundeena through stunning unspoilt Australian bush and scenery.


unseen, but infested.
It was wet in the morning, which meant lots of leeches for the first hours along the trail. Everytime we looked down, another one of these tiny brown squiggles was trying to burrow through the mesh in our shoes. Freak out! They came from seemingly nowhere, and they were everywhere. If you saw this happen in a horror film, you wouldn't believe it. Eventually, the little suckers succeeded in leeching blood from each one of us except for me (clearly they are not into blood with high alcohol content). And when they were discovered attached to the skin when taking shoes off for an ocean swim, they were no longer little brown squiggles but bigger, bloated brown sacks of host blood. Smashed to death against rocks, they exploded in red!

It was a longer day than anticipated - especially after taking dubious shortcuts during low tide.
Lifesaving pal Nisha prepared the most amazing lunch and snacks for the boys. Note the napkin on her foot -- site of leech discovery. 
Below is wedding cake rock, a famous photo opp near Bundeena, and the end of the line after a most memorable 10 hours. From there we caught the old-time (1939) Bundeena ferry into Cronulla and straight to the pub!

Jesseonthebrink

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hoosier Hospitality

Indiana Governor Mike Pence last week signed the The Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. This law institutionalizes intolerance in Indiana – although it's the religious who are shouting about not being tolerated. The RFRA allows Indiana businesses to refuse service to certain individuals by citing their "deeply held religious views". Here is Mike Pence signing this bill into law, surrounded by nuns, Friar Tuck, butter churning prairie pastors and homophobes (one shown here equates gays with bestiality). Is this how you want your lawmakers to look like?
Indiana: A Theocracy in the heartland.
Say you want to patronize a business that purports to serve the public in Indiana. But the bigot owner of the business doesn't like that you are gay. Or Muslim. Or black. Or a divorced woman. Or they just don't like the look of you. They can now cite their beliefs and tell you that you are not welcome. Go find that other water fountain marked "sinner". This bill is nothing but updated (if you can call this regression an update) segregation.

And Pence is facing the justified wrath of not only equality-minded citizens, but major corporations including Apple, Salesforce, the NCAA, now even a boycott by the state of Connecticut. Nobody is telling the deeply religious that they can't practice their faith. Nobody is suggesting they cannot follow the dictates of their god, but here's a tip: if you want to serve only those who think, walk, talk and believe the same as you – do not purport to serve the public. Not that anyone would want to patronize a business that might turn them away because you don't share the same belief system, but how are we supposed to know before being turned away in hurt and humiliation?

I propose an amendment to Indiana's bill that states if you are not willing to serve everyone based on your deeply held bigotry, don't hide behind the newspeak of Religious Freedom Restoration. State it up front, outside for all the world to see, with a big fat sign on your business door: "No gays" "No Atheists" "No Mexicans" "Christians Only". Proclaim it loudly, boldly, for all the world to see just how loving you are. Segregation by any other name smells just as rotten.






Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Holding Out For A Hero

Hey you big hero, check out my latest essay in this month's Advocate.

(fab illo by Daniel Zalkus)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Queens Land

HIt up north for a quick getaway to that Great Barrier Reef, before it becomes an Exxon oil refinery. Still rather marvelously fishy, folks. Get at it while you can. NYC friends Wayne and Iqbal flew over the frozen Hudson to head with us up to Queensland for a few days of perfect summertime paradise.
Jump for my love!
The Real Housewives of Whitehaven Beach...
...or a chance to use my selfie stick.
Whitehaven Beach is advertised as the most gorgeous beach in Australia, but it was "stinger season", stingers being the teeny tiny but potentially deadly Irukandji jellyfish. Being so far from an airlift to the hospital (already it was a 1.5 hour catamaran ride from Hamilton Island to this remote stretch of sand) if we wanted to go in the water we had to wear these clunky stinger suits. 
A bit like the garden of Eden - all we wanted to do was eat that apple. So we did jump in this perfect water without the suit for a few moments at a time, and then scream bloody murder because who can resist that kind of hilarity? Almost as funny as my picture of this drunk guy Wayne's cartwheel. 
From Hamilton Island, which has its own airport and is just two hours from Sydney (and all owned by one person, apparently) we also took an excursion to REEF WORLD. Which sounded tragically touristic, but we went anyway - because now we can say we've been to REEF WORLD... which is this very large pontoon way out on the Great Barrier, Hardy Reef to be exact, a full day excursion that caters for the lowest common denominator, including the Chinese who can't swim.
Reef World
And for REEF WORLD visitors who can't or don't swim, Chinese or otherwise, there is a semi submersible and even a viewing area below deck… just look what they spotted.
"Look, it's a Merman!" "More like ETHEL MERMAN."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The World's Last Pen Pals

In 1988, I wrote to the Australian consulate fishing for a pen pal. I was in love with marsupials, and I also hated my life and constantly thought of far-flung lands, far away from the war zone of Fowler Junior High. I received my very first letter from Merryn in March of that same year, and we wrote furiously back and forth across the Pacific, sometimes every single day. I couldn't wait to race home after school because opening the mailbox to find her letters was the highlight of my day. 

Reading about life on a 2,580-acre sheep farm in Armidale, NSW gave me a glimpse outside the hell I was living and allowed me to imagine I might one day escape. She wrote about riding horses past roos, gum trees and noisy galahs, and always how Presbyterian Ladies College was screwing her up. She'd nobly try to convince me that working at McDonalds was not uncool in Oz, or that I shouldn't commit suicide but wait and do it later because just think how much worse life will be at like age 24. We'd sign our letters "friends forever" and I'd receive awesome mix tapes with songs by stars no American had heard of: Johnny Diesel, Jason Donovan, Bros, Kylie Mole and Minogue…

My dad took me to meet her in 1990 and since then we've only met in person a handful of times, but in all these many years we have never stopped writing. It's several times a year now instead of several times each week, but opening the mailbox to see my name written in her messy scrawl is still the highlight of my day. And today she's 40. Happy Birthday, Merryn. You're the lady love of my life!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

El Culo Del Mundo Se Va Ensuciando... Vamos Tercermundistas!

Surprise, Argentina! A prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, is found dead alone in his home a day before he was to testify to a presidential cover-up of Iran's involvement in the bombing of the AMIA building, which killed 84 Jews in 1994. They want to call it a suicide.


For her part, President Cristina Kirchner now claims that his suspicious death surely was orchestrated by forces plotting against her government. I lived in Buenos Aires at the end of last century and then president Carlos Menem, a man so corrupt it cost him the life of his own son, was also implicated in covering up the bombing - he is of Syrian descent. Menem had also previously pardoned all those responsible for the murderous atrocities of Argentina's 1970s Dirty War, claiming the perpetrators had acted under "forced obedience". I always felt for the Argentines – so intelligent, so beautiful, and yet so impotent; blithely resigned to living under a patently corrupt system that will never see justice.

If you're curious for more about Argentina's dirty dealings ("a labyrinth that leads not to justice, but to new labyrinths") and the people's justified cynicism, this piece is excellent.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

War Paint!

This is very cool. I'm so honored that artist Paul Richmond has painted me for his series, War Paint. I can always count on Paul's talents to make me better looking than I am! This portrait is titled, His Darkness. Check it out on Paul's website here. "They understand too well the liberation into savagery that the concealing paint brought." – Lord of the Flies, William Golding.

These are the reference photos I sent him a few months ago, so you can see how he improved upon the original. I'm also totally digging the background fleur de lis pattern he created.



Here's more of Paul Richmond's statement on his series:

"Body painting serves a variety of purposes from spiritual cleansing to battle preparation. My War Paint series draws upon this symbolism to investigate the construction of identity. The modern masculine form becomes the canvas, a painted object of his own creation. Reality and abstraction compete with the figurative foundation of each piece to make the subjects' inner struggles more tangible. The application of pigment is suggestive of their psychological states, the color of their self-made armor exposing more than it conceals. This work also challenges conventions around masculinity and the male form. My goal is to invite understandings that reach beyond the immediate surface and reveal the complexity of the individual." 


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Royal National Park

What's the best thing to do when a blizzard's not bearing down? Summer! Had a most magnificent weekend away with friends that first included a trip through the Royal National Park just south of Sydney. Inside is a beach, Watamola (I can only remember this Aboriginal word because it sounds like Guatemala with no G), that's on the ocean but has a lagoon on one side with cliff-jumping rocks!

 A little picnic so perfect...
 Even a kookaburra came by.
Lagoon swim with Sophia.
Rock jumping was filmed multiple times, but this slo-mo suicide is the only time Simon's finger wasn't covering the lens.. 
video

Next stop - outreach surf lifesaving patrol down on a little beach called Coalcliff... life is good.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Fresh Fruits!

Arrrghhh, been a struggle to get into the new year. I might have overdone it at the totally amazing Tropical Fruits Festival up in rural Lismore, NSW, where Mardi Gras meets the State Fair! There were so many of our group camping together on the showgrounds it was almost a compound - with various glamping frills including luxurious blow up pools. 
It was a high concept party theme this year: Art Deco Dance. Jazz Age, but without the prohibition! Lots of Gatsby, flappers and after an agonising few months of deliberation, it was decided that we would go as an army of slutty Charlie Chaplins. Hats off to Denton for coming up with the costume. The worst part about it was having to be silent.
Me and Simon -
Okay, that didn't really happen.
Thanks for the selfie stick, Bam!
The Tramps!
All-night dancing, fireworks, costumes galore, queer cabaret, and ART...
A vintage lifesaver!

It's always a camp check-in with Steve and Jack.
Choreography! Presented by the radical faeries...
Innovative Art Deco statues...

Henry and Josh rented this amazing retro caravan, Lucille.
This thing showed up in our pool, thrashing, and nobody any paid attention!
DJ Kitty Glitter at the decks.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie #Liberte #Solidarite

To be clear: If your god needs to be "avenged", your god is nothing but a pathetic baby and you its suckling slave. The assassination of 12 thinkers at the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris today is yet another outrageous attempt of radical Islam to dim the bulb of civilization. The only way to ensure there can be push back against barbarism is the unfettered freedom to question, criticize and, yes, lampoon your paranoid unscientific delusions. When are we going to be done saying religion is off limits? Nothing is sacred across all divides. Nothing, unfortunately, because we could all choose to sanctify, practice and worship love and kindness.
translation: "Love is stronger than hate." We shall see.
As to those suckling slaves, Salman Rushdie says it best. And he should know:

"Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry, becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. “Respect for religion” has become a code phrase meaning “fear of religion.” Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire and, yes, our fearless disrespect."


Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Xmas!

Happy Christmas! It's always an unconventional holiday down under... I spent it on Bondi Beach with my fellow surf lifesavers on patrol. 
Hope nobody is drowning in the background.
We got there at 6:30 am to set up decorations and breakfast.Welcome to patrol 13, Bam Bam!
The day started cloudy but it all lifted into a perfect summer day, with Bondi calm as a bathtub.


Which made for easy work.... ended up swimming the bay with a few of our crew. Absolutely stunning. And speaking of gorgeous, look at my godson Yonah!! This is from last weekend...



Young to old were in fine form this silly season. We recently hit up my local Legion Club for their holiday party which included entertainment, dinner and UNLIMITED booze, all for just $25. There was a full house of oldies, full band and full-on dancing... and these characters, let me tell you, they are unforgettable.

One old lady came in on a walker assisted by two nurse aides. The aides told me that "Sandy" was in her 90s and had come directly from the hospital. She had recently suffered a stroke, but she was not missing this party! Sandy may have come in a walker but we never saw it again. She was too busy waving her hands in the air on the dance floor.
Sandy, in purple, at left.
The nurses told me that I should refer to her as "sexy Sandy", so I went and chatted with sexy Sandy and discovered she had two horrible husbands, now deceased. When I said I hoped she had a terrific third husband, she replied, "I'm still waiting for him."

And then when the band took a break... who sat down at the piano and started riffing? Sandy.
Sandy at the keys, nurse aides standing by.
Show off!!
When the hour got late, too late for even the nurses who had by that time left the building? Sandy.

Who do I want to be when I grow up? SANDY.



 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hey, That's Swell!

Check out all these swimmers coming out of the water at the end of the annual Bondi to Bronte ocean swim. I chickened out on doing this one because I'd just done a triple ocean swim up in Curl Curl the day before. So instead I went down to the beach to watch the finishers navigate exiting from Bronte's notoriously gnarly surf.

Reminds me of the end of the Last Unicorn, when all those unicorns are released by evil King Harrod and they come spilling out of the sea.

But the unicorns caught a good wave, didn't they? The swimmers kept getting yanked back by the swell, or slammed into the surf, or sometimes both. Imagine swimming way out into the ocean a couple of kms and then, exhausted, contending with this.
video

Some of those water safety crew had to literally haul people back onto earth. Now I wish I had swum it. I never like to miss a chance to be graceless!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Humanity Held Hostage

Of all places in the world, peaceful and safe Sydney was the site of a saddening, maddening siege this week that left two innocent hostages dead. The people of Sydney have shown their true colors in the aftermath, making #illridewithyou go viral - to show  solidarity with Muslim Australians who feel shunned or bullied wearing their hijabs and burkas.


In addition to sorrow for Tori Johnson and Katrina Dawson and their families, I am sorry for this peaceful, civilized people having to grapple with the fact that some immigrants will never assimilate to their peaceful and open-minded way of life. Liberal, welcoming Sweden is facing tough choices between their values and continuing to import those who will never share their values – for if they don't compromise now they might lose their whole society later. It is an unfortunate conversation, but it is a conversation that absolutely has to happen. 

At the same time, I feel for peace-loving Muslim asylum seekers being held in indefinite off-shore detention by the Australian government. This hostage-taking ISIS wannabe has surely put the last nail in the coffin of their hopes at resettlement in Australia.

 I long for the day that religious fanatacism will be treated for the mental illness that it is. Truly, it is the enemy of our species.