Aunty Annie, and the Four Short Stories...

I am a firm believer that any good adventure is full of stories of discovery, awe, a bit of free porn, and some cops!


A beautiful friend of mine did a wonderful thing for me this week.

She paid for a return airfare and accomodation in Sydney so that I could see the Annie Leibovitz exhibition before it left our shores for good.

Those of you with no social life may have read my Journals over the last few months and been aware that things have been a little crazy here in Brisneyland and I just haven’t been able to find the time [or the dollars] to get down to see this show.

But… it turns out I have beautiful friends, well one at least.

I suspect I have more.

But I digress.

… as I am want to do.

and right now I am listening to Sting live in Berlin.

Sting always inspires me to write.

See?… digression at its finest!

Friday morning I set off on my 24hour adventure to one of the worlds great cities.

I lived in Sydney when I was a few years old – so I have no real memory of it, but over the last 3 years I have been visiting it more and more often… to see my friend, go to concerts [with my friend], attend rallies, and stay in posh hotels … with my friend.

I find I am loving Sydney more and more with each visit. It is like I am discovering something that everyone else already knew about.

I am the “no plans, minimalist adventurer”. I like to travel very light, with little or no plans except where and when I arrive and leave. All I took with me was a small back-pack [a “day-pack”] So with a fresh pair of socks & jocks and a clean RedBubble Tee, I set off for The Rocks in the town by the sea…

So at 1130am on Friday I stepped off the plane into an unfamiliar airport and looked around for any kind of map that would give me some idea of where to go next. [yes I like to travel THAT unplanned!]

Really all I knew was that the exhibition was at the Museum of Contemporary Art [MCA] and that it was in a part of Sydney called “The Rocks”. I knew where that area was – having attended that very spot for a rally last year, and I knew that area was near “Circular Quay” having once caught the Ferry to Manly from there many years ago.

But don’t ask me for a street name or directions from the airport.

Hell, I didn’t even know where the airport was in Sydney.

I could have been 100km from Circular Quay for all I knew.

I had decided against a taxi for financial reasons, afterall if I was a long way from the city [a reasonable assumption] then I figured a taxi fare would probably bite me like a hungry snake.

Shuttle busses didn’t seem a real option since they were far and few on the ground… so I wandered across the road to the train station where I found I could catch a train for $15 that would take me straight to Circular Quay!

Sydney trains have a certain smell.

Well to be fair, all trains have a smell about them, a mixture of diesel and something, and grease, and cleaning product, and I don’t know what… but Sydney trains smell distinctly different to other trains.

Its kinda like how New York smells different to Barcelona or Rome, or London…

The smell is overpowering, it is inescapable and pervasive, and not at all unpleasant [ if you like the smell of train fuel] and deeply evocative of my early childhood in Sydney. In fact that smell is one of the few things I remember about Sydney from when I was very young.

So there I was sitting on a bench at the platform breathing in the dark oily smell of the Sydney rail network, and loving every second of it – when the train arrived. One of the old double-decker trains that are unique to Sydney, … old and extensively tagged by local spray-can artists.

So I took a seat downstairs … and 30 minutes later I got off the train… 200 metres from the MCA.

I knew this was gonna be a good adventure!


I have never been a huge fan of Annie Leibovitz’s work. Its just not my style. Its excellent work, just not my style. But its like the Rolling Stones… you may not like them but you should go see them… just so you can say that you have seen the best of the best.

You know what struck me about the exhibition which was a blend of her commercial work and her personal work?

That they are just photographs,

The world is full of them.

There is nothing especially amazing about them.

Well, they are terribly terribly good, but they are just images.

I have seen just as good, and bad, by the members of RedBubble.

I was not dumbfounded or awestruck.

Except for one.

… and it speaks directly of my personal taste in photography.

There was a huge black & white image of some trees.

yes… it was a very grainy image.

Two things I love… B&W and grainy.

I came back to look at THAT image several times.

Her happy snaps were interesting and deeply personal, but despite her reputation, they were just happy snaps no more or less. No amazing artistic talent shining through just an incredible insight into her personal life.

Many Photogs [me included from time to time] have derided “happy snaps” as somehow being less deserving of respect as a form of photography, but without them we have no memories of our lives, our friends and our families.

I strongly suspect that happy snaps may be the most popular, and possibly the most important style of photography in the world.

And that I think is what I got from the exhibition.

Not “oh wow, Annie is awesome” but a strong lesson from one of the greatest photographers: that my thinking and approach to photography was flawed.

I guess we all get different things.


So, outside to a lovely cafe for lunch.

Nice view, if a bit overcast.

And sitting not 12 feet away is Jana Wendt.[pronounced “Yana Vent”]


[image courtesy of the worldwideweb]

For those of you who don’t know her, Jana is a cultural icon in Australia having presented news and current affairs on Australian TV for the best part of 20 years or more.

She still looks awesome.

Now I have met more famous people than most of you have had hot dinners, and there was a time when celebrity impressed me about as much as, well as much as a thing that doesn’t impress me very much!

But I found myself sneaking looks in her direction and thinking to myself “its Jana!”

I even texted my sister to tell her that Jana does indeed look a lot like our cousin Sally. My sister texted back that when she was in Sydney last year she was having lunch in the exact same cafe, not two table from Barry Humphries!

For those of you who don’t know… Barry Humphries is another cultural icon in Australia… most famous for his character Dame Edna Everage.

Aint Sydney grand? This would never happen in Brisneyland!


After lunch [and a few more sneaked peeks at Jana!] I left on foot and under rain for my hotel, which I knew was in a street off George Street two or three blocks from the The Rocks.

I told you I don’t really plan anything, didn’t I.

30 minutes later I had found it… the Amora Hotel in Jamison Street.

Posh.

Very nice.

Five Star and everything.

Checked in, went up to my room on the 13th floor, and, well, it was very nice.

Great view, awesome bathroom.

TV didn’t work.

So possibly only Four Stars maybe?

I wasn’t going to worry about it, but when my friend arrived for the night she suggested I complain.

I am not one to complain at the best of times, but I told the front desk, and they gave us a new room.

… on the 20th floor!

… a suite!

Never stayed in a suite before.

Nice, really, very very nice.

I guess that is how rich people live.

My friend and I were enjoying the view from the lounge room when we noticed a young man in the office block not 30 feet away from us.

… and an attractive young woman who after a few kisses and cuddles – disappeared from view for a few minutes.

possibly to tie his shoelaces.

… possibly not.

From the look on the young man’s face, and the direction of his gaze, I would suggest not.

When the young lady stood up, my friend and I, having enjoyed the free show, waved at them both in appreciation of the 5minutes of entertainment.

Granted, I think the young man enjoyed the entertainment much more than my friend and I did, but I am a firm believer that you should never pass up good free live theatre!


The next day, which is today in fact, I made my way back to the airport, now that I am a master of the rail system in Sydney… at least insofar as getting from the airport to The Rocks and back!

I am on the plane, in an exit row [oh god – the legroom!] with no-one sitting beside me! God is obviously smiling on me!

For those of you who are not 6 feet 4 inches and 120[something]kilograms… leg room on domestic flights, well any flights, is a rare and treasured thing!

We taxi out to the runway, and we wait.

and wait

… and wait a bit more.

While the stewards walk up and down the aisle looking very purposefull!

Then over the PA comes the voice of the Pilot:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I have some bad news… it seems we are having a slight technical problem in the cockpit and we have to return to the airport to get the ground crews to check it out.

Have I mentioned how much I hate flying?

I really hate it.

This announcement is not helping.

Back at the airport, we are told to remain in our seats, so we do, and we wait.

and we wait some more.

After 30minutes six large Federal Police board the plane, looking very… purposefull.

At this point I suspected that either the cops were moonlighting as aircraft technicians, or someone was in trouble.

As it turned out – they were not moonlighting as aircraft technicians.

A shortwhile later three passengers were escorted off the plane.

The worst part was that they went quietly.

I mean, we were delayed for 90minutes, and we got no “floor show”?

Geez, when the Federal Police board a plane you at least wanna see one person taken out with a “sleeper-hold”, or with their arm forced up behind their back.

Something

I mean … no-one even got tasered!

They could have tasered someone. These are the Australian Federal Police, – if they aint trigger-happy with the taser-gun – then who is, right?

but alas no.


So that is the tale of Aunty Annie and the Four Short Stories.

Its like I said at the start… I am a firm believer that any good adventure is full of stories of discovery, awe, a bit of free porn, and some cops!

Comments

  • Richard Keech
    Richard Keechalmost 4 years ago

    Great story Byron
    I used to work at Amora so glad to hear they still have the same high standards, hope you ate at the restaurant there’s some fab stuff on the menu

  • Glad you liked it Richard.

    I was very impressed with Amora. I have stayed in a lot of Hotels, and Amora is definitely one of the nicest. Excellent staff too.

    We didn’t eat at the restaurant unfortuneatly. By the time my friend arrived it was too late, so we wandered down to The Rocks for dinner.

    – BYRON

  • Lenka
    Lenkaalmost 4 years ago

    Wow! I love these short stories, Byron :) Just let me know if you’d publish a story book, I would seriously consider buying it :)

  • Thanx Lenka!

    If I was to write a book, it would have to be in instalments… I have so many great stories to tell.

    – BYRON

  • Lenka
    Lenkaalmost 4 years ago

    I have so many great stories to tell.

    That’s great, just begin with Vol.1 ;)

  • TextureoftheSin
    TextureoftheSinalmost 4 years ago

    Now that was a cool trip!

    I always seem to find that when I travel I get put in hotel rooms next to people having very loud sex. I’m spared the visual but not the sound effects……very pornographic ;)

    Can’t say I’ve ever seen people escorted off a plane though!

  • I have to wonder about the people that got escorted off the plane, they all looked too old to cause any real trouble.

    – BYRON

  • Mel Brackstone
    Mel Brackstonealmost 4 years ago

    You have all the fun :)

    I know the annie image you mean, it’s very compelling viewing! One of my favs for sure.

  • I just love images of trees done in that style.

    – BYRON

  • Traceyisanozzy
    Traceyisanozzyalmost 4 years ago

    Byron, you NEVER fail to deliver something dramatic, hilarious and interesting, with a bit of spice :)
    Sounds like you had about a weeks worth of fun rolled into one!
    And turns out you didn’t even NEED the tv after all hahahaaaa….
    Love your writing, and I agree, you should so write short stories, you are a master at them…
    Loved what you got out of Aunty Annie’s exhibition too….
    I’ m gonna go read this again, was SO great to get home from work and read this with my first coffee after a lonnnggg day!! So thanks!! :))

  • Thanx Tracey, glad you enjoyed it.

    Funny thing, in my family I am the story-teller, and my sister is the one who makes the photographic record… because I have always steadfastly refused to do family-photos.

    My sister actually takes much better photos than me, but in a different style.

    I however write and tell stories waaaay better than her.

    – BYRON

  • It was an amazing 24hours.

    I believe that holidays should always have stories.

    Years ago I went on an adventure and had no money [ooops] the only way I got myself out of trouble was to sell my watch at an all-night pawn broker to get enough money to catch a 3 hour bus ride to where my parents were staying … all I had left was 20cents when I arrived… enough to ring them and get them to pick me up.

    This was in the days before ATM/Cash Machines and mobile phones.

    – BYRON

  • Traceyisanozzy
    Traceyisanozzyalmost 4 years ago

    PS…..and I can’t believe you didn’t take a photo of Jana with your mobile at least!! :(

  • wellll, I was wearing this shirt:

    …and dressed all in black [as usual], and sitting less than 12 feet from Jana, so it would have been very hard for me to “sneak” a photo.

    Besides, I am not gonna be that photographer… the arsehole who interrupts people who have the right to enjoy their day as much as the next.

    I think it behoves all photographers to act with more manners and grace than that.

    … that and I hate papparazi,

    – BYRON

  • JanT
    JanTalmost 4 years ago

    What a hoot! Superbly entertaining. I’ve missed out, I think, Byron. Have a backlog of your writing to read! I read and look forward to your critiques in your PC&A group, but hadn’t wandered back here. Tsk.

  • you will have to catch-up Jan. Fortuneatly you can now scroll thru all journals in order, and it is really easy to do!

    – BYRON