Sunday, 30 September 2012

A.R.T. Vegas 2

Day two; we meet the relatives and drop in to the M&Ms store (I haven't seen so much expensive, branded crap that no one really needs in a long time. What a marketing coup!) then head to New York New York for a ride on the roller coaster. It was little hairier that I was expecting....

It shoots out of the complex and back in - and provides great views over Vegas - if you can keep your eyes open

On from New York, via Excalibur to Luxor for lunch, (are you getting a picture?) Apparently you can see that spotlight  on the pyramid from the moon....


And again, nothing is as close as it looks and the service at lunch isn't great so it's nearly 3pm before we know it. We decide to see Divas the show - and again, it takes ages to get the people behind the counter to just sell us some tickets!! We walk much of the strip via the volcano at The Mirage (which only operates from 7pm) and the Pirate Show at Treasure Island (also starts at 7pm.) We're all tired and hot and the show doesn't start until 10pm so we head back to the van for a beer, a swim and a rest.

The volcano we didn't see.

WE did see the ship but not the show.

We allow 2 hours to get back to 10pm show - and we still end up being rushed! Divas is a show with female impersonators performing everyone from Madonna, to Bette Midler, Lady Ga Ga and Katie Perry. There is some discussion when we collect our tickets (yes, we only get a voucher at MGM and need to be there early to get actual tickets - quite a procedure) around the shows suitability for a six year old. "It might be kinda confusing - you know, men dressed as women." I don't mention the lady-boy, Jennifer, Sass befriended at the Patpong market in Bangkok when she was three. And anyway, being so late, she falls asleep pretty quickly.

Vegas feel a lot like Disneyland for grown ups. Aside from the acres of casino and multitude of bars (there are people walking around drinking cocktails from meter long plastic containers) there are, predominantly older hispanic people, on the streets handing out cards with pictures of nude girls ‘who want to meet you’. Sass is fascinated by these, as many cards are abandoned on the footpath so she keeps picking them up. There’s also free magazine stands called Little Darlings which are basically catalogues of girls – she’s drawn to those as well. The sex industry here appears to be pumping (pun intended).

It take another hour to get back to the RV so it's well after midnight when we get back. The next day we drive through eerie and hot Death Valley where road signs say to switch off your air conditioning for the next 20 miles! (We didn't.)

We arrived at a picturesque RV park in Bishop.

Friday, 28 September 2012

A.R.T. - Vegas part 1

Two days in Vegas and my feet are killing me! And no, unlike some of the ladies on The Strip, I am not wearing killer heels, merely by Havianas. The buildings are so large and their signage so clear they appear so close to where you’re standing and an easy walk…

We arrived at our RV park at Circus Circus – check out the neighbours front garden!

(Bugger - it's on my camera and I can't get it off - the fake grass and flowers and solar lights will have to wait...)

As it so happened, by brother Will, his partner Angela and her niece Sarah were all in town. They swung past the park (as I did yet more washing) before they headed off to their chopper tour of the Grand Canyon and we headed into town. Over the top is an understatement in Vegas and curiously, it’s almost impossible to get into any venue in any hotel without passing through a couple of acres of casino – with a six year old who keeps yelling ‘can I play a game?’ and plonking herself down at any available seat at any opportunity.

First stop – The Venetian where we took the gondola through the imitation canals under the imitation blue sky to the real singing of our paddler.  As an activity, the cost per person per minute (including tip) was probably comparable to the helicopter ride. But it had to be done.

What we quickly learnt was that everything takes much longer than you think. The line up for the tickets was ridiculous given how few people there were in the queue and many people were behind the counter – chattin’ away – to each other! A fellow Australian sidled up and gave them a little serve – they could not care less. Tickets purchased, get to line to get on the gondola – oh, no, these tickets are for in 40 minutes time. (None of the chatters mentioned that.) Anyways, (yes, that was deliberate and not a typo!) time to grab a bite at the food court.

On the way we see a devastatingly tall and handsome man, applying (and assume selling) make up to an woman in her late 50s. She’s batting her eye lashes as her poor short, skinny husband stares straight ahead and tried to smooth over his comb over, looking extremely uncomfortable.

After we finally have our ride, we buy tickets for the Variety Show at 7pm. It takes us the full hour to get about 5 hotels up The Strip on the bus. We can’t find the theatre, find some fellow patrons and the seven of us negotiate more acres of pokies to finally reach our destination by 7.04pm. The show is hilarious – I won’t try and translate, it won’t work. But Geoff was called up as a volunteer, which added to our entertainment. We had sore cheeks and tummies from laughing so hard.

Over the road to The Cosmopolitan for dinner with the relatives before heading back to the RV park.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A.R.T. 3

What a drive to Bryce Cannon! The distance here are enormous. But again, the destination did not disappoint. Here's a shot. I reckon the local indigenous population were well aware of it, but it was 'discovered' by Ebenezer (there's a name you don't hear much these days) and Mary Bryce, a couple of Mormons with a wagon train and god in their hearts. As the info board quoted, "It's one heck of a place to lose a cow."

On the way out of Bryce, we saw a car accident that had recently occurred between a mini van and another car. It was ugly. There were at least six emergency vehicles there and we saw another four headed there on way back to Hatch. It seemed like such a remote area, yet their ability to respond so quickly with so many ambulances and fire trucks and sheriffs was impressive.

We pulled up at an RV park in the tiny hamlet (do they have hamlets in the US? Sounds a bit British...) called Hatch and it was the friendliest place we've been too. We had dinner at our one option - the steakhouse over the road that didn't serve alcohol. I guess we were in Utah. But from the RV manager to the waitress at the steakhouse and the owner/waiter at the Galaxy Diner where we had breakfast to he woman in the 'antique' shop, everyone was just delightful, friendly and helpful. The Galaxy Diner was classic America and the guy, run off his feet waiting on all the tables, still managed to sprint out to the road when we were hesitating to ask if we were coming in and then guide us to a 'drive through' park around the back. Next minute, there he was filling my coffee cup every 4 minutes - heaven!

From Hatch it was on to Zion National Park - and for once, some greenery! It's beautiful but a bit of drag that you have to park and get on and off shuttle buses. Elle and I signed up for the one hour horse ride along the Virgin River - and got mules!!! We were at the back of the queue as they asked each person how much riding they'd done. They'd already told me 60% of their guests have never been on a horse. I pointed out to Elle that this line of questioning was just a forma;ity as clearly we'd be getting whatever was left in the mounting yard. Elle and I can both ride and yep, we got the mules. As suspected, there was no riding required but it was a very pleasant hour along the river in the late afternoon when the sting had just gone from the heat of the day. And gee that beer tasted good when we got off!!

This is exactly the trip - but this fuzzy pic is off their promotional website....?!

We found an RV park just out of the National Park, had a quick dip in the pool, did a couple of loads of washing and had barbecue for dinner (the meat here is all really good) before sitting around the fire. These RV parks are so well set up.

On to Vegas.....

Sunday, 23 September 2012

A.R.T. 2

This RV is seriously like the tardis. From the out side it looks small, but in here - it's remarkably roomy. However, our RV is not a patch on some that we've seen. They are HUGE, towing cars for when they get there (every think for brand new Jeeps to Mini Cooper convertibles), boats, jet skis, kayaks, quad bikes and push bikes. In the parks at night, I have seen TVs bigger than we have at home, dogs, cats and even a chandelier. They have awnings that appear and disappear from the roof, satellite dishes, side sections that slide out to make alcoves and fairy lights.

Here's our humble abode....

And one of the others.....
 It's deceptively big -  look at the esky - I had to be back a long way to get it all in!

Anyway, back to the trip.... we were last in the car park at McDonald's - on to Lake Powell. It's a pretty controversial lake as it was formed by the Glen Canyon Dam for recreation and some water supply. It does look amazing to see this massive body of water where clearly there should be dessert and maybe a trickle of river. 

I'd booked a Colorado River 'smooth water' half day tour. Again, the accommodation of George's needs was totally thoughtful and helpful. We get onto an inflatable  pontoon raft and start our trip down the river. Our guide is Megan, a pretty girl in her early 20s with the most excruciatingly painful way of talking. I think her true calling was a presenter on Sesame Street. You'd think we were a bunch of pre-schoolers with her slow annunciation of words and silly jokes. We arrived as a small waterfall, "and this where we guides...(pause for effect) take a shooooower!" as she angles herself around the small flow for our supposed amusement. Oh dear.

At John Lee's Crossing, the only place early settlers could cross the Colorado making the guy a relative squillionaire, Geoff asked why he's been a fugative before he started running the crossing. Megan explained (slowly) that it was a contraversial story. There was trouble between the early settlers and the Mormons, how the Mormons were persecuted because of their belief in polygamy (she almost welled up at this bit, so I figured which side of the contraversy she was on, and like 75% of the population in the neighbouring state of Utah, she was one of the 'persecuted'). The Mormons and a wealthy caravan of settlers had a big fight, the Mormons were scared (read 'justified'} so rounded up all the good folk of the caravan party and killed them. "And John Lee took the blame for the whooooole thing!"

Almost as entertaining was the American couple about our age that I attempted to strike up conversation with, starting with where they were from (Mississippi). When they asked me and I said Australia, he said that's one place they're planning to go - there and New Zealand. 'When's that?' I asked. 'Oh in about 9 years time,' he said, seriously. Okay.... 'We'd go for at least 2 weeks being so far and all. It'll be after we retire at aged 57." Wow. They were so dazzled by the 'fast-ish' bits of the river, I suggested they look at jet boating in NZ. 'We love to travel,' he assured me, 'we've just been to Colorado recently and now, here we are!!" Yep - one whole state away.

We saw the reserve's eleven 'wild' horses on the river bank - apparently an infrequent sight. Mrs Intrepid Travelled was in awe - 'Oooh my goooosh! Hooooorses!" she gasped. She and Megan had clearly attended the same elocution classes. 'They're just sooooo peaaaaceful.' Perhaps there are no horses in Mississippi. What would I know.

At the end of the tour, I was fulling expecting Megan to announce that today's trip had been brought to us by the number 5, the letter B and the colour - yelloooooow!

Next stop, Bryce Canyon.

PS Yes, there should be more pics but I left the connection for my camera at home so need to use my phone or get Elle to email them... I will try harder.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


I'm typing this from our RV - the one we're spending 3 weeks in on our American Road Trip (A.R.T.)  After a sprint to the end, as always, we finally got on the plane on Sunday morning to arrive in LA some 14 hours later - yet before we took off. Weird. All feeling somewhat shattered, we spent the night in an airport hotel.

I was really looking forward to the amazing American service. I have a feeling a few fellow antipodeans may have spoilt it for the rest of us. At dinner on that first  night, the waiter with a quick ear and poor English, seated us and then was clearly at pains to wait on out table. 'Would you like to look at menus?' He seemed genuinely surprised. And yes, we did tip him but cut it shy of the 15% just to reinforce what our fellow Aussies have started.

W collected the RV with much excitement which evaporated the moment we pulled out. Christ, it's huge. And the we're on the wrong side of the road. Again, I've been banned from driving by Geoff - and rightly so! We manage to get to a Walmart with some directions from a limo driver, no GPS, no phone, no map and me gasping more expletives in front of the kids than I think I ever have over their entire lives. But we made it. And it kept them quiet.

Back on the freeways armed with an old fashioned fold out map and you really do have to hand it to the Americans - their road naming (numbering?), signage and directions are brilliant. If we can get an RV out of LA and still not be screaming at each other, well, that was all thanks to them.

It took us all day to do that so our first night in an RV park saw Eleanor hooking up the sewage in the dark. That ought to address her private-school-princess syndrome. I've put her in charge for the entire trip.

The next morning our elderly American neighbours stated to Geoff "You're from England". Actually, Australia. "Hard to tell," she said, "being the same accent and all." Geoff just agreed.

Day three, the Grand Canyon and finally the holiday has started. A chopper ride over the prairie (I'm calling that, okay, it makes it sound more American) and dropping down to the bottom of the canyon was breath taking. A quick trip in a boat up and back on the Colorado River and back in the chopper. Unusually, given the US is unbelievably accommodating of people with disability, the effort to get to the river and back from the chopper with George rivalled some trips we've had in Borneo and Laos, and in honesty, probably didn't warrant it. But as I suffer from FOMO, I had to do it to know that, so no regrets there.

Onto the Skywalk - the glass deck that hangs out over a 1.2km drop to the bottom. Elle did a couple of cartwheels just to freak out some other tourits.

Another huge day of driving today to get to Monument Valley but well worth it. Geoff and Elle had a shoot off - for the best pic. Here's one of Elle's.

And finally, we're tracked back to town to discover the only RV park within a cooee is back out at Monument Valley. So here we are, tucked in a car park behind McDonald's so we can avail ourselves of their free wifi. It's glamour all the way for us.

PS No time to get Penny to proof read sorry...

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Typo

In adland, we have a document called the Conference Report. Sounds grander than it is - it's pretty much the key decisions and actions from a meeting distributed to all and sundry to ensure there's no misunderstanding.

As an Account Manager, my life was ruled by Con Reports - they had to be written, typed, checked by my boss and physically sent within 48 hours of the meeting, preferably 24. These days email has taken the pressure off a bit as not only can you distribute faster, but most of the back and forth is already captured in writing. Never-the-less, old habits die hard and if it is a significant meeting and the team are under the pump, I'm more than happy to bang out the report.

The handy thing about a Con Report is that if you need evidence of what was decided, especially when there's money involved, there it is. Nothing sinks the heart of a junior advertising exec faster than when their boss asks 'We'd have that in a Con Report wouldn't we?' and they know that on that occasion, they didn't get to it. Ouch.

It's not hard to see why they get overlooked. Rumour has it they're never read, even by anyone who happened to be at the meeting, client or agency. I subscribe to the position that it doesn't matter - we've done our due diligence, read or not.

So earlier this year, when a question was raised about a client approval, I proudly suggested to my colleague Mel that she dig out the Con Report I vividly remembered writing. And dig it out she did before falling about laughing, uncontrollably - and proving the theory that they go unread. I had signed off the report:

Mother Who Works

Distributed to about 12 people weeks ago and not a soul had noticed. What a difference an 'O' makes!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Are We What We Eat?

I caught up with my friend Anthony yesterday - you know, the one who got his shirt off at the fireman's lunch. Let me repost that pic for your viewing pleasure!!!

We were catching up to talk about his brand of men's skin care, Lqd (pronounced liquid), which has been especially formulated for the skin of men who take exercise seriously. Although I confess, I use much of the range and love it - in particular the Hydrate.

Anyway, after we'd put in a good couple of hours, we grabbed a bite to eat at the cafe next door - Anthony had the beef burger and I had the tart! Perhaps we are what we eat after all?

Saturday, 8 September 2012


Last Friday night I was lucky enough to go to prison. The Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, formerly known as the Deer Park Metropolitan Women's Correction Centre (security level: maximum) to be precise. I went with a couple of friends to see their annual play put on in conjunction with the amazing Somebody's Daughter Theatre Company (do hit this link and check them out, but to give you the idea, their charter is 'Bringing down the walls of difference and indifference through the arts....')
It's not a public event as such, but as a previous volunteer, my friend has arranged tickets for the past two years. No charge - just your full name and DOB for a police check.

Getting in is quite a process with metal detectors, sniffer dogs (not the cute little beagle types you see at the airport, the big scary Alsatian ones), empty pockets and photo ID your only hand luggage. No phones, no bags, no scarves, no tissues. Entry is in small groups and time consuming so once in, guests explore the art exhibition. The themes were perhaps predictably about freedom, choice and empowerment but no less poignant for it. There was a pencil sketch of a young boy of about five and a comment by the artist that this was done from a photo of her son she'd not seen since he was two. In truth, I couldn't look at it for long for fear of tearing up - which in the palpable atmosphere of high-school-esque excitement and festivity, seemed down right selfish.

Like last year, the play was written by the women and surprisingly (maybe that's my own prejudice) sophisticated. And yes, there were moments I needed to stare at a spot in the middle distance to contain my own emotion. I couldn't help but take stock of what I've done and where I've been in the past year - from quitting my corporate job and starting my own business, from our Christmas adventures with the kids in Asia, to countless fun-filled dinners and outings with friends, the ballet, movies, concerts, plays, lectures, pilates and exhibitions, the coffees and walks, runs in the sun and just being at home with Geoff and the kids in front of the fire with the footy on and a glass of red. I recognised many of the women from the year before and knew their year had been spent here. Right here. Within the confines of this razor-wired enclosure in the industrial (and increasingly residential) wasteland of Melbourne's outer west.

But it got even more fraught when I considered these women's children. It made me wonder who exactly was being punished. These women look like women I know, mums from school, colleagues, friends. But perhaps a shabby upbringing, a wrong crowd, circumstance or a couple of poor decisions - and here they are. The journey here seems potentially, and frighteningly, direct.

I don't know what the solution is and I do believe that crime requires retribution, but is this really the best we as a society can come up with? I know it sounds so cliched but if the money spent there was redirected to supporting women at risk before they offend, could that at least reduce the incidence?

The night concluded with a supper (and soft drink, no wine of course) prepared by the detainees before we headed back out, in small groups, to a bitterly cold Melbourne night and the trip back in a comfortable European car to our warm Eastern suburban homes, our families and a whole other world.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Boyfriend

Elle went to a party at The Royal South Yarra Tennis Club (or RSY as the young 'uns call it) a few months back. The Club holds this annual spectacular specifically for kids in Year 8. But not just any Year 8 students,  they need to be either fully paid up members or one of the lucky, but restricted member's guests.  'What's that about?' I asked my friend Penny who knows about such things.
'Oh it's to make sure they're mixing with the right people', she said with more than a veneer of irony. Yes, really!

So a few weeks later when Elle said she'd been to the movies with a boy, naturally my first questions, in a Prue and Trude voice, were; 'Are his parents members of the The Royal South Yarra Tennis Club and do they have a beach house at Portsea?' Just to be absolutely sure they're the right people.
'No', she snapped, 'Kooyong and Mt Martha'. Seriously, I laughed so hard my tea went up my nose - and I hate that.

'And are his parents aware that we have absolutely nothing to offer in that regard?' We are members of no club and have no holiday abode to speak of, aside from our tent. She didn't really care. I took that as a good sign.

She's always said she's going to get married on a boat - to Leonardo DiCaprio.

'Shall I book the boat?' I asked, cheerfully. 'No,' she barked and gave me what was probably a well deserved withering look. But this was just too tempting for a mother like me.

So how shattered was I, when asking about her BF at dinner last night, she casually mentioned they'd broken up? Damn. And I just told some friends at coffee on Saturday that she had a BF - I'd lied! Geoff and I pushed for details. 'Why do you want to know?' she asked. 'We just want to make sure you're being appropriate,' Geoff said. 'No we don't!!' I countered. 'We just want to know!!' She did tell us and it was pretty interesting to get an inside view of the 13 year old's relationship. I just hope she always feels so comfortable with spilling the beans.

The Moroccan Bath

The girls and I have come up to Dubai for a few days to escape the Melbourne winter. It's in the 40s so we've thawed out - quickly. ...