April 10th, 2002


That pesky E-mail of mine.

Damn it, my E-mail still seems to be mighty fucked up. If you send me mail, it'll probably bounce; no thanks to whatever hosting company is currently taking care of marmot.net. In the meantime, use this one:

Sorry about the bother.


Ma'am? Is that your fax machine?

I don't think I've startled anyone so much in ages as I did last month in Tasmania - we stayed the night in Oatlands at a Georgian B&B, renovated by a Californian from Humboldt County, and run by a fairly ordinary expatriate English woman. Just after breakfast, her fax machine started ringing, I think, and I suddenly realized that its ring tone forms the basis of a song on the Max Tundra album Some Best Friend You Turned Out To Be. As you can imagine, I was pretty happy about this epiphany, and asked her excitedly if what was making that noise. Now, I suppose it is a little upsetting when large American guests start asking you about the bloody fax machine ring tones after breakfast, but hey, I was nearly ecstatic at the time, and I wasn't thinking. I know, I should have stalked the device that was making that noise surreptitiously so as to avoid upsetting the poor dear, but I let my excitement get the better of me.

Later on, during the drive to Interlaken, I verified that Tundra had indeed sampled the ring tone. What an amazing guy. Aren't we already long overdue for another release? Hm?

Melbourne, today.

I've already slept in this town for three nights and I have to confess that I haven't really seen anything of the city yet. So, when Dan wakes up, I'm sure we'll eventually head into town to have a look at the place. From what I've seen so far, this is possibly the first city in Australia that I'd want to live in. The weather feels like home, even, and I had a rice ball with bonito from Daimaru department store for lunch on Monday that was almost like being back at Dobashi market in San José.

Now, there's a big flower and garden show on, so I suspect that's where we'll be for most of the day. The only other thing I hope to check out is a cleanskin store down at the market in Prahran. For those of you who aren't familiar with cleanskins - I didn't know what the word meant until yesterday - they're basically wines without labels or identifying marks (such as branded corks). They are required by law to have small labels on them telling you what grapes are in it, where it's from geographically, and what the vintage is, but that's it. It's kind of like that $2.99 coffee that Trader Joe's used to sell in the white cans - remember that? (The idea there was that they took leftover batches of arabica coffee and sold it cheaply, but you couldn't ever be sure what it was or if it was any good.) So, there's a store down there that sells nothing but cleanskins, and I'm feeling lucky. Who knows? Maybe there's a bunch of weird stuff they couldn't sell any other way - I know it's absurd but I'm fantasizing that maybe there's an experimental Hunter Valley vin de paille that was totally unsaleable, or that there'll be an accidental bargain from a large contract sale to a hotel chain that fell through. Who knows?

In any case, it's a beautiful day outside. I'm going to go make myself some coffee and think about what to do with the day.

Questions, questions.

Where can a man get a decent haircut and beard trim in Melbourne?

Dan and I are starting to plan for a trip to Bali this October. Has anyone ever been there? Can anyone offer tips on saving money on the flight from Perth to Denpasar? It's running around A$1100 at the moment, which is fairly pricey (considering that you can get to Hawai'i for the same amount of money, which is a heck of a lot further away, or that you can actually buy a flight from California to Denpasar for around A$1300).

Why is pumpkin so popular in Australia? I'm grateful that it is, but also very surprised. Same goes for swede, by the way...

I find, much to my surprise, that I'm enjoying Vegemite. Is this a sign of danger? Can anyone tell me where to find Gentlemen's Relish in Australia so as to stop this creeping Austrophilia?

Is that even the right word, Austrophilia?

Wine, yet again. (Sorry.)


Dan and I polished off a bottle of the 2001 Charles Melton Rose of Virginia tonight. Now, that was something. That wasn't like anything I've had before, it was very good value at about US $8, and I'm very impressed. Thanks Julian for the recommendation.

We also stopped by the near-original Dan Murphy's today. The actual original store is now lying derelict across the street in Prahran, but its replacement was staggeringly good. I could easily have spent all day there fantasizing about ways to shoplift, but instead I chose three bottles and got out of there.

Now, Julian's talked about Hunter Valley aged semillon, but the store only had three different kind-of aged semillons. One was a Rosemount from 1998 that looked fine at $20, another was something probably rilly good from the Hunter at $42, and I settled for a 1995 Clare Valley semillon from Mitchell. It may well be over the hill but I didn't really want to pay more than $20. (I'm also ignorant enough not to have known at the time that it may be too old.) I also went home with Chandon's first red sparkling wine (pinot/shiraz) which has only very recently started shipping at $18, and a bottle of 1996 Tahbilk marsanne, which I'm really looking forward to. (That was $20.)

Dan picked up two bottles as well: an incredibly beautifully packaged bottle of McLaren Vale zinfandel, and a 1995 Penfolds shiraz/mataro/grenache blend. In fact, the Zin is probably the best looking bottle I've seen since I got here. Woooohooo. Well, we'll get around to it sooner or later!

A public promise.


I promise you that some day we will return to France. When we do so, it will not be a shitty, drenched, chilly, dog-turd-ridden Parisian November, but rather a sunny Provencal springtime. There will be lavender, actual good food, and probably lots of Etap Hotels.