Sunday, March 28, 2010

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 24, 2010, “HOW DO YOU SCREW THAT UP?”

I went swimming today. I know! I make it sound exciting don’t I? No, the reason that this is actually an important part of my day, is because I went lap swimming, for the first time in a very long time. I got to the pool, put my stuff down on a nearby plastic red chair, walked over to the medium speed lane and hopped into the water, placing my goggles tightly over my eyes. I went for an hour, back and forth, again and again, stopping every so often to catch my breath and figure out what it was that I was making myself do. I used to hate swimming. I felt like a bowled in fish, enjoying no part of the action I just described, free style stroking my way through a rectangular, laned, body of water, where clumps of hair float around, bandaids wade and most likely children have peed, at least once, within the time that you are there. Hence the heavy chlorination.
Tired, and raccoon faced from my goggles being too tight, I hurried back home where I was to meet Lauren. I ran into the shower and tried to hurry, but the poor thing, still had to wait for me and my always late self. We walked over to an adorable little cafe, a good ten minute walk from the house, that I had wanted to check out for a while, wondering if perhaps there would be some availability in the job department there. I couldn’t possibly be that lucky.
Made, was about the size of my room. Inside a few tables, a large lounge curving around the back corner connecting to some tables and of course, the kitchen or bar at the front. Everything was made using one oven, a hot plate and a crepe maker that they had set up behind a bar at the front. A woman and a man were the owners and did all of the cooking, drink making, waitering and everything else included in the running of a small cafe. 
Lauren ordered crepes with strawberries, I got baked eggs. Both were delicious, her crepes bountifully stuffed with slices of red berries, my eggs atop a spanish tomato sauce hinted with smokey paprika and sprinkled with parsley, served with toasted bread, just enough butter spread on them for me not to feel to bad about eating them. After we had eaten, our bellies full of food, I asked the proprietor if she was in fact looking for an extra member of staff to cook. That she was not, however she did need a Saturday runner, and told me to bring her my resume. 
“See! You just walk into a place and there’s magically a job for you.” Lauren said, something of the sort.
New Market Station was directly across from the cafe, and Lauren left there to head back into the city. Not sure which platform to get onto, I called to two women heading up the ramp for their train. 
“Scuse me!” I yelled, “Does that Platform go to the city?” They nodded. “Thanks!” Lauren later told me that as she stood up on the platform with them, waiting for her train, they came up to her and told her she had a very cheery friend. I laughed.
At 5:30 that evening, I left the house again, this time heading for, non other than Lygon street to meet Clorinda. It was the last day of the Suzuki Night Markets, held every Wednesday at Vic Market and so I wanted to make sure I got the change to go. To my surprise it was not at all what I had expected. I thought a small tranquil little set up, a few food stands and maybe some other junk. No. There were at least 1000 people, walking around, sipping wine, chugging beer, eating, laughing, sitting, as music played in the background, lines waited for their choice of food and pans sizzled. It was completely unlike what I had imagined. The entirety of Vic Market was taken up with people, art stalls, clothing stalls, junk stalls and restaurant stalls serving up to the public.
We had a quick look around, not sure as to what we wanted. 1 in 3 people were walking around with these yummy looking plates of what was supposedly Indian food, and after seeing enough of them go by, we decided that’s what we wanted. Poor choice. After waiting in line for a long 15 minutes, we got up to the front, starving and each ordered the “Monsoon” plate. They rang a bell, yelled our order and a minute later, our food was slopped down onto a plate and given to us. What ever it was, it was not indian food, it was not cooked and it was not good. What a waste of money.
We gave the food another chance and decided to go for Lebanese food this time, getting one thing to share between the two of us. A much better choice. Hummus, falafels, spiced sausage, braised beans in tomato, large couscous and chick peas with sweet onions, dolmas, pickled vegetables, and pita all served to us in a little box. The mezza was delicious and we sat on the concrete outside amongst many others and enjoyed our food and atmosphere. Dessert time. But what to have, what to have... 
Trying to go somewhat healthy (minus the sugar content) we decided on a lemonade slushy. Surely this would be good. Lemon, sugar, ice, refreshing on a hot summer day, and light enough that our full bellies wouldn’t burst, with just the right amount of sweetness. It should have been perfect. After handing over our six dollars for a not very large cup filled with lemon slush, we excitedly looked at it for a while before Clorinda allowed me to do the honors and take the first sip. My excited smile turned slightly straight and my eyes went sad.
“How do you screw that up?” I said. Clorinda laughed, tried it and then made the same expression. Really, how do you screw that up. Bitter, yet too sweet, and overly watery, it was the worst lemonade I ever had. 
Ultimately, the market was not as good as I had hoped. The food overall seemed too expensive and not very good. And not to mention the crowds, there were just too many  damn people. None the less, we still had fun. We decided to get out of there, going for a little walk around where Clorinda taught me since we were on King street, the next would be William, followed by Queen, then Victoria. Hence, King William, Queen Victoria, a good little trick to know incase I got lost. 
Back on Lygon, I turned into my insane self and was transformed into my Barislaki alter ego. Sitting on a bench close to Papa Gino’s, I yelled “Haloo” in accent at most of the people passing by just trying to enjoy their nights. A majority of them smiled, waved, said hello or just ignored me, but then there were two. 
Lygon is notorious for the so called derogatory termed “WOGs” (Western Oriental Gentlemen). In Australia, dating back to 1909, the term wog was used to describe insects and grubs. In the mid 1900s, it was a slang term for illness. Today a wog is an ethnic slur, usually for those coming from a Mediterranean and/or Middle Eastern background. In essence, it’s just another stereotype, that can be taken badly if said to the wrong person in the wrong context. However, like every other stereotype, there are also those that aspire to be image, and so, Lygon is where we go to see the Italian wogs.
As I said hello to these two large, muscular, shaved head italian men, in a normal accent, he one looked back at me pointed to us, and told us to “get ready for the way back”. What did that mean?
“You’re going to get us killed!” Clorinda shouted at me. Surely I wouldn’t. Right? We waited a few minutes, continuing to sit on the bench, when we saw them heading back this way. Without thought, we hopped up, ran around them dodged under their arm, and I began yelling loudly about what a beautiful street this was and my homeland back in Barislaki in my alter ego accent, looking the man dead in the eye as we passed them. It worked like a charm as we quickly passed them, ran further down the street, and then wiped the nervous sweat from our brows.
When the coast was clear, we went back to the bench and Clorinda sat while I stood up and attempted to teach people what I called “the shuffle” as I did the grapevine, chasing a poor Japanese man a good 10 meters away from our spot in effort to get him to try it. He resisted, I looked crazy and others passed us, looking at me like they had never seen a carefree person in their life. 
It neared time for me to leave, as the last bus was about to come. Clorinda walked down to the bus stop with me, until the bus came. She walked back to the lolly shop, telling me that she was going to run, as she didn’t know what characters lurked around the corner from earlier in the evening. I laughed to myself as I sat on the bus home.

Around The World With Jami Epstein ©2010 Jami Epstein       All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 15, 2010

WEDNESDAY MARCH 10, 2010, “DO YOU WANT A TICKET?”

Do you ever look out at the sky and decide that your mood will go along with the weather? Bright blue skies, puffy white clouds and a shining sun providing warm weather usually entails me being somewhere outside soaking it all up, being bright and sunny myself. Moody clouds, shadowy skies and cold chills, usually mean I’m in the mood to curl up inside with a blanket and a glass of tea and drowsily bum around the house all day, wishing it were sunny. As I woke up this morning at 8:30, I yawned, stretched and looked out through the window. Lurking through the glass were ominous gray clouds, a smokey dark sky and a cold wind. Thus, I felt my eyes turn to tired slits and I opted for the blanket option. 
After a while of laying around, I forced myself to get out and go swimming. Usually when I do some form of exercise, it wakes me up. I get the endorphin rush and begin to, not only at that moment but for the rest of the day, feel better, more alive, more awake and happier. Today, I got to the pool, did not want to be there and while swimming continuous laps, I felt my eyes closing slightly and my strokes grow slow. I gave in after 40 minutes, cutting my workout 20 minutes short; shame. 
Back at home, I quickly got myself ready, packed a little salad up and went to Lygon to meet Clorinda for her lunch break. Once in the shop, I handed her a present, Rom’s cookie she had left home, smashed in a little bag, resembling more the look of dog poop, than a cookie. She closed the shop and we sat at the park a block away from the lolly shop. Seeing as it had been raining lately we didn’t sit in our usual shady grass spot, but rather in the middle on the large squares of concrete, in between grass. We both took out containers of salad, oddly enough both containing chick peas and munched on the healthy meals. Then it was fruit time and finally, after eating her cookie, Clorinda had to go back to work. 
On my way home, I was walking on the same side of the sidewalk, towards an older woman, as she walked towards me. I believe she was Ethopian, draped and covered from head to toe in colorful clothes, only her face and hands remained in view. I moved over so she could pass and she smiled, then began to talk to me. I couldn’t hear her, so I turned off my music and stopped. 
“Do you want a ticket?” the little woman asked. 
“Uh..”
“I bought a day ticket, but I go home. Do you need a ticket?” She was too sweet. I didn’t, but I thanked her and smiled. She grinned back and pulled her trolley up the hill as she continued on. It only takes one bit of kindness to make someone’s day and her sweet gesture and kind smile made me smile all of the way home, and for that matter, the rest of the day. 
Things didn’t get much more exciting after that. I walked Zoe using a strap I found since I was unable to locate her leash. Folding laundry and organizing my suitcase was quite fun though. And I baked quadruple chocolate cookies before Rom returned home where we ate dinner while we watched a movie. I went to sleep, still smiling from one woman’s delightful nature and her smile.

©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

SATURDAY MARCH 6, 2010, 4 SEASONS, 1 DAY, I’M STUCK IN A HAIL STORM!

Today my friends, was an extremely epic day for tourists, locals and what ever you call me, alike. Today I witnessed Melbourne weather at its pinnacle. Melbourne is known for its weather. According to Rom, the first day I came here, the first bus ride we were on, she told me, you could conjure up a conversation with anyone, just by talking about that day’s weather. Upon coming to Melbourne, some of the first information given to me was that you never know what to expect with the weather, so just expect it all, it could be 4 seasons in a day. Along with some clever advice, dress in layers. 
Up to this point, I hadn’t really seen too much of a change in conditions. They were a bit bipolar from day to day, one day being extremely hot, the next day dreary, however today changed my presumptions completely. When I woke up and looked outside, it was gray, leaves fell from trees from the slight wind that had blown them off and it looked like a terribly ugly day. However 90 minutes later, when Rom left for the city where we would meet up later and I left for my run, the weather decided to heat up a bit, clouds shifted and the sun came out. I came back home, showered and was ready to walk into town, asking Francesca first what the weather was supposed to be. Apparently it was supposed to be thunder clouds. 
“So much for that!” I said with a smile as I gazed out at the sun. Oh,   if only I had known. 
It was hot and humid outside and I was sweating as I finally made it to the cheese shop in Carlton to hand in my resume. As I started to make my way back to the center, trying to make my way up to Cumulus INC. with my newly filled out paperwork, the bright sun began to damper away as dark gray clouds began to flood the sky. A chill spread across the town and a harsh wind began to blow. This was not looking good. 
On Russell street, at least 20 minutes away from where I needed to be, it began to hail. I’m not talking baby pieces that fall for 15 seconds. They were golfball sized pieces of ice, falling from the sky, smashing into cars and pedestrians on the street. I quickly ran for cover. lucky enough to be within close range of a bus stop, where I stood with a few Asian tourists. Pretty soon things got worse, when along with hail, more hail came, flying quickly and being swept towards us with help from the wind, along with a sudden downpour of heavy rains. I ran inside a sweets and nut shop behind the bus stop and decided to hang out in there, scoping the aisles for things I wanted, coming out of there with popcorn and barley. The young man behind the register laughed as a herd of people crowded inside for safety.
“Is this normal?” I asked him. He laughed and shook his head. 
“Like once every 5 years?!” he exclaimed. Good to know I was here for something exciting then! 
I made friends with a lovely Canadian kid while we waited inside for the hail to stop and the downpour to lighten up. Finally when it went from intensely heavy showers to just pouring rain, I figured it might be the lightest it would get for a while and ran off to Melbourne Central to meet Rom. All through the streets girls were screaming as their hair got wet as if they were made of sugar and people ducked under any space available for shelter. I ran through a long underpass with an open roof to get into Central, getting myself even more soaked than I had already been. I arrived to Rom looking like a wet dog. Inside of the bathrooms were girls waiting in line for the hand dryers holding their sweaters up to them getting their panties all in a know because they had wet clothing. I embraced the look.
Getting home was fun. We waited 40 minutes for 4 delayed announcements of our train. Finally it came and as we exited Macauley station to get to Rom’s house, we realized we were in a bit of trouble. The entire street below her home was flooded. Bikes road through deep waters, people waded through it pulling up their pant legs until they realized it didn’t matter anymore and the best to have been seen, 2 girls sitting in a a canoe; priceless. Rom and I took crazy pictures, standing in a drawer we found there for protection, then ran inside the house where it was safe, dry and warm.


©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

Sunday, March 14, 2010

WEDNESDAY MARCH 3, 2010, IT FEELS SO NICE TO BE CLEAN RIGHT NOW

Today, the highlight of my day was taking a shower. Monday morning, after going for a swim and returning back to the house I was unable to shower, as movers were in the house, loading their truck full of boxes for the new house. I left soon after covered in chlorine. The next day, in the new house, the bathtub/shower was filled up with random art works and framed pictures, meaning yet another day without a shower. For those who know me, they know, I have to shower everyday, every morning. It’s a clean thing. Not anymore. 
With Rom at school and Francesca at work, I went for a run, only to come back, to get to use the shower. It was the epic climax of my day. A shower! Running water, soap, shampoo, I could conditioner my drying hair! I stood under the water, singing in my head, “So Fresh and So Clean Clean...” while I massaged shampoo into my scalp. Oh the joys of things we take for granted everyday.
©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 28, 2010, HUBBA HUBBA BOLLYWOOD BABES

We were running late. Both of us. Rom had just finished blow drying the dog, as there were no towels in the house and then she herself had to jump into a quick shower. I used that time to apply my “cat-like” eyeliner and find my “silk” scarf. I had to dress up, we were going to the theatre after all. It was finally my time to see the stage production of BOLLYWOOD! It was a good 25 minutes after we had set to leave the house and we were finally out the door. 

A chilly day, I still arrived in the City, a muggy mess, walking at Rom’s slow pace, a fast pace for my short stubby legs. Lauren sat on a bench in front of Melbourne Central, on Swanston street, looking at her phone, dressed ever so lovely, as she waited for, what she thought was just me. We walked by her, without her noticing, and then came straight up to her face. 
“Oh hi!” She said with a smile to me. “ROM!” she screamed with an even greater smile as she ran to hug her. We walked together to the cheap Vietnamese restaurant down the road, where we sat, talked and ate large bowls of Pho, before we had to head off to the show. Rom left us at that, off to do her own thing while we were about to marvel in the glories of the Bollywood show. We walked down to the theatre at the Arts Center, a good 5 minutes beyond Flinder’s Street Station and headed inside. A large percentage of the audience was made up of white Melbournians, while the remainder was filled with large indian families, grandmothers, sons, wifes, children, generations coming together to see this fun filmed performance. They were dressed in their best, from scarves, to shoes, to earrings, to one grandmother who wore the most beautiful radiant sari, a bright orange, with purple trim and gold pattern. I couldn’t help but stare for a while at the colors and the way it made her glow. Lauren agreed and we both began to think of how badly we wanted to go back to India. Lucky for us, the trip was already in the works. 
We went to sit now, trying to hand off our tickets to the ticket man, who told us,  “Right place, wrong time.” Then told us to come back when they announced it. As soon as we turned around and went back up the three stairs we had come down to get there, the announcement was made.
“Oh, we were 23 seconds too early.” I made a joke. He obviously didn’t get my sense of humor, as he apologized. Hmph. Into the theater now, I couldn’t help but become even more excited. I had been waiting for so long to see this and now I was finally able to. 
We sat in our seats, K7 and 8, waiting anxiously for the performance to start, while a giant curtain containing old version copies of famous Bollywood movie covers (in the style of Gone with the Wind) covered the stage and very eccentric, trippy beated global music played in the back. A woman sat down a seat away from me and within 5 minutes of being on her own, began to talk to us. She looked like a wealthy older British debutant going to see the opera, dressed in a black dress and black stockings, surprise surprise, black shoes and a little black sequined purse. She had perfectly placed slightly curled, wavy short gray hair and the only things missing were silk gloves and opera glasses (AKA classy binoculars). She asked us if we took a Bollywood class. Must you take a Bollywood class to come and enjoy this excitement? 
“No, do you?” I asked. She nodded. 
“Oh yes. The rest of my class is somewhere up there.” She said pointing up to the balcony. “But there aren’t very many people here. When I booked it told me it was all full.” She began to blabber on some more, in which point I slightly tuned out, as I couldn’t understand a word (nor did I really care) of what she said. Good thing for us, her friend showed up a few minutes later, dressed in a jeweled, bright pink, very indian almost sari-esque looking get up, with a large piercing in her nose and sat down next to the classy white broad. She had just come back from overseas and I was trying to figure out where she was actually from. She had an accent, but it was not Indian and she herself was not indian, although from looking at her, I could see she really really wished she were. Seeing as the two of them were together now, one might think they’d carry on their own conversation now, right? Wrong, they continued to talk to us, pestering us about their Bollywood class, until finally they decided that they’d be “bad rulebreakers” and go take the empty seats in the middle. Thank god. Now the family just arriving, passing us to get to the middle could deal with them. We watched as they strolled up, looking at the women and then looking at their tickets. Somehow the ladies convinced them to sit next to them and Lauren and I looked at each other, wide eyed, relieved that they would not be talking to us again (... or so we thought).
The show started. I was already smiling. Within the next hour, it only got bigger. Bollywood Merchants was the story of a rich girl, Aisha, growing up in Rajastan under the care of her religious, ex-Bollywood choreographing grandfather Dadu who stopped because Bollywood was getting too provocative. She danced in his temple, the dance of the gods, with her childhood love, until, she could not keep up anymore, falling to the floor, telling him she wanted more than this, she wanted to leave for the big city of Mumbai, for non other than Bollywood. Needless to say, the story was cheesy, overly dramatic, filled with musical numbers and absolutely jaw droppingly wonderful. I fell in love. They had the same dancers doing every number, running back and forth for quick costume changes, remembering an absurd amount of routines and I sat there in wonder watching them all move in precise time, fluid, every little hand movement, every little detail perfectly done. It stunned me to chills and I wished I were a Bollywood dancer. 
Intermission came and I turned to Lauren, grinning from ear to ear. I was so absurdly happy. The old broads were passing us now to get out for the 20 minute pause, asking us if anyone had moved into their seats and telling us, “that was just the beginning” of the story. 
“You’ve seen it?” I asked. 
“Oh we’re in it.” They answered. I looked at Lauren, both of us puzzled as ever and we tried to figure out what they were talking about. When the 20 minutes were up, they walked back through asking us the same questions as before and heading back to the middle to watch the finale. 
After choreographing a number of block buster Bollywood films and being known as one of Bollywood’s lead choreographers, Aisha talks to a handy man on break who used to work with her grandfather. She realizes now she must go back to see him as he is sick and in doing so, meets up with her childhood love, the hunkiest actor of them all, nearly shirtless in every scene, showing his defined back, chest, arms and 12 pack abs. He looked like a mix of martial artist, break dancer and dancer as he shined on stage and continuously ripped his shirt off and did back flips off stairs throughout the entire play. He asks Aisha’s hand in marriage (well not literally, as he was mute the entire time) and a wedding is had. Then she goes and does the ritual god dance for her grandfather who dies in the process. The last scene is her winning an award for best choreographer and doing a number on stage with all of the dancers, about disco, a number her grandfather had made up, the inspiration that created her love for this genre. This dance went on for at least ten minutes before the curtains shut and the audience asked for more. Like any good concert, there was an anchor of “time to disco” and then the curtains shut again. However this was Bollywood, so there had to be a final number during the credits. The dancers were all out, doing specialty moves and stopping to hold hands and cry “JAI HO” a few times, before the curtains shut for real. I was in awe of the whole thing, so so happy.
We parted ways as Lauren went to her tram and I walked home, replaying the story in my head the entire time back. I opened the door to see Rom sitting on her bed where she asked me how it was. I told her it was amazing explaining the story.
“That sounds awful.” She said sincerely with a smile. Oh Rom, you just don’t understand Bollywood.



©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

SUNDAY FEBRUARY 21, 2010, I’M LOST AND GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION

I wasn’t sure what to do with my day today, so like every other person who’s unsure of what to do, trying to find something to do, I walked. I walked into town, over to Brunswick street, down both ends there, back around the long way following the tram, until all of the sudden I wasn’t sure where I was. Something about it was familiar to me, I mean I recognized it, but that didn’t help me to figure out how to get back. I was in a giant green park filled with happy people, sitting, walking, frolicking, children throwing footballs back and forth with their fathers, middle aged women picnicking with full glasses of wine, rosy cheeked and laughing. I had been through here before, I was positive. I saw a couple power walking and decided, seeing as normally locals do exercise outside, I asked them how to get back to the city.
“Well...” they responded as they pulled out a map. “We’re just like you, tourists from Sydney.” Just my luck. They pointed to the map showing me where we were, and I pointed to where I wanted to be, thinking if I just head over in that direction, I’ll get there. Right... with my so called map reading skills this could be interesting. 
I headed through the park, curving around where I probably shouldn’t have and was brought out to another street. Uh huh! I remember. I passed a place serving St. someone’s hospital food, and remembered it from the first day walk I took with Rom where she dragged me the long way around and we walked all day for miles upon miles. I passed it, then the museum, with the imax and the interesting jungle gym set up in bright florescent colors with children climbing the odd tubes, and remembering which day we walked by it when I was first with Rom, went that way. I asked a person along my way, just to make sure, “The City’s that way right?” pointing in the direction I was going. He shook his head and pointed the half a mile back in the opposite direction I had already walked. Never trust me with a map I tell you. I headed back over the already walked path and stopped to ask 2 more men getting into a truck as I neared for the city. They pointed straight ahead and soon enough, I was near Parliament. Then continuing on, Chinatown and finally, back to Elizabeth street. 
I know where I am! The walk home seemed longer than ever as I just wanted to get home. Upon arriving there, I kicked off my shoes, grabbed a glass of water and sat down. I had done my 5 hours of walking tour for the day and now it was time to relax.


©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 20, 2010: THERE’S NO ALCOHOL IN THIS, WAIT, ON SECOND THOUGHT...

It was Saturday. Which meant Saturday Night. Normally when I’m home in LA, Saturday night means work. Here, Saturday night means going out. It means I can drink, being over the age of 18...and it means I get to be carefree, hanging around with friends, relaxing and having a good time. I like Saturdays.
The plan was to meet in front of the Lygon Lolly Shop at around 7. I got there, wearing my somewhat dressier than usual clothes, drenched in sweat, as I had walked there, refusing to take public transportation unless I have to, on an extremely humid day. I was smart. Clorinda waited there, as did Lauren and we grabbed a table outside the store front where we could sit and wait. A little bit later Melissa and her “girlfriend” arrived, a bubbly hot blonde, I connected with quickly over our love of hip hop. Imogen came soon after, a gorgeous little red head, ballerina’s physique, wearing liquid eyeliner and her ocean blue indian silk scarf. We all headed off to dinner, the large group of 6 of us walking in a crowd through the crowds of Lygon. 
Past the Italian section and over to the Asian part, we settled for Thai, where they gave us our own private room, upstairs. Perhaps too embarrassed to have us noisy excited young girls, be seen by their more normal customers trying to enjoy their quiet dinners. All of the girls but me and Mel (the designated driver) shared a bottle of white wine and one in particular was more so affected by this dosage of alcohol that the rest. 
After dinner we headed off to Brunetti’s for some delicious dessert, where the slightly tipsy one (she knows who she is) talked about how happily tipsy she was. We shared a little white chocolate and raspberry cake while the others got gelato and stood around like hawks waiting for a table to open up. Finally one did and we sat for a while before our next outing. 
Down the block to the car park where half of the group got into the car with the new arrival Sara and her parents. Clorinda, Mel’s other gf and I got into Mel’s car where we yelled out the window to timid Japanese tourists and genuinely thought we were thugs while listening to T-Pain. Yes, we know we’re cool. 
Russell Street came, and we parked the car, walked a few blocks and met up with the others at a little Irish pub where Mel’s boyfriends’ friends were doing a little jam session. Drunk men dancing and spilling beer everywhere while their slightly more sober counterparts tried to get the beer out of their hands, took up one section. While the other was filled with a group of guys, standing around holding bottles of VB and trying to look cool as they eyed the only group of girls (us) in the joint. A drunk woman talked into Lauren’s ear, attempting to speak in whispers, actually screaming and spitting in Lauren’s general direction. It was steaming hot and smelled of old booze, and so Clorinda, Lauren, Imogen, and I decided to take a little walk outside while the other 3 stayed behind. 
We walked around the block and sat ourselves upon a bench when Clorinda’s feet began to ache from her heels (the reason why I’m always in sneakers). Imogen, Lauren and I began to discuss India when a couple sat down on the bench next to us, the wife covered in fresh detailed beautiful henna. They were struggling to take photos so I volunteered to take one for them. Very thankful, we got to talking, where we all commented on the ink and how we longed to go back. They smiled and we left them to their romantic evening out on the Melbourne town.
We walked back to the pub to watch the band play a song and finally left, up the street to Madam Brussels. A line was out the door and after ten minutes we were let in. Not without a struggle though. The man at the door seemed to have a bit of a problem with the fact that my ID was from California and my passport info was only a copy. 
“You might want to bring your actual passport next time. When I was 16 I went to London and I just used a fake ID from somewhere else so they’d have to let me in.” He said, looking at me as if that’s what I was doing. Clearly!
“Just cuz you’re a douche, doesn’t mean I am!” was what I wanted to say to him, but instead I smiled, told him I didn’t want to lose my important document that was my passport, and that’s why I have a copy that they’ve accepted every other place that I’ve needed document, and thanked him for letting me in with a fake smile and cold bitchy eyes. Made me feel better at least. 
Madame Brussels is very posh. The ground is covered in astroturf; old style couches and random classy garden chairs are placed around little glass tables. You don’t get your drink by the glass, but rather by the pitcher; made for two to four people. Clorinda, Lauren, Imogen and I shared something containing rum, amaretto, apricot liquor and some other stuff. It came in glass pitcher, like the one mom would fill with lemonade and hold in one hand, a plate of chocolate chip cookies in the other and bring them out to the garden (well not my mom, but the good’ol wholesome American moms in the movies). A wooden stick was placed in it to stir everything around and I used it to pull out chunks of dried apricot. 
Lauren poured us all some and I took a sip. It was good, not the best from the little experience I have in drinking, but it was good. My only problem, I turned to Clorinda and pointed to my glass.
“There’s no alcohol in this.” 
“Oh yes there is.” She said back. I seem to have a problem with cocktails; I can never taste the alcohol. I remember this one night at work when Margaritas were brought back to the kitchen. I, being the underage one, didn’t get one, however there would always be someone to share with me. Our resident tequila expert took a sip, made a face and told me it was “too strong” as he handed it to me. I took a sip expecting it to be rank and rather enjoyed the pleasant taste of lime and sugar, with a subtle undertone of tequila. This man does straight up shots no problem, but somehow this was too strong for him and I could handle it. I liked the tequila laden cocktail more than my fellow mexican shooter, solely because of the fact that I could not taste it. Hence my problem. 
So first glass, down, second being poured for me, I began to feel very giddy. I stood up attempted to do our very cool dance and in doing so, began to see the room spin. I sat down immediately, turned to Clorinda, slapped her arm, pointed to my glass and said, 
“There’s definitely alcohol in this.” She nodded and made a happy face, feeling it as well. 
Imogen left early to catch her train home and Mel needed to get going as well, so the rest of us followed, leaving the bar to go home. The girls waited before driving off for Lauren and I to hail our cabs and then we said goodbye. I jumped in the back of a yellow taxi and asked the man to take me to Macauley station.
“Macrey sleet.” He yelled out. 
“Macauley Road, Macauley station. You know it? Or Kensington station?”
“I know Macrey sleet, or Kerington load?” This was gonna be more difficult than I thought.
“So you know where it or not? Macauley Road? near the station?” I finally realized that he was trying to say Macauley street all along and so we drove off. I talked to him. He was originally from Bejing, and been in Australia for 23 years, and had traveled around the states a bit. He liked San Diego and Tucson. He dropped me off at the station, I paid him and walked home, trying to be careful of opening the door as it was after 2 in the morning. I slept quite well that night.



©2010 Jami Cakes   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 13, 2010

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 19, 2010: THE ZOO IS NOW CLOSING

Just out of curiosity, why do we have alarms if we get angry when they go off? Or clearly, it’s just me. I had to get up. I had more things to finish for the picnic,  I had  to go for a run and I had to pick something up from the veg shop; I didn’t have much time. I finished roasting the lamb, another hour and a half in the oven, while I did some sit-ups and blasted music, waiting around for the damn meat to finish. Not knowing if it would tenderize or just get drier, I decided to take it out, and let it rest covered in all of its delicious juices. While it rested, I went for a run. It was 11:45 when I left. 
I got home around 12:30, the girls were meant to be at the house at 1. I organized a few more things, checked the lamb, finished the bean salad with the exception of the cheese, cleaned up; by this time it was nearly one. I jumped into a shower and cleaned myself up quickly, wrapping myself in a towel and running to the front door to see if anyone was there. Lucky for me, no one was and as I went to my room to change, I noticed a text telling me they would be late. Oh thank jeebus.
I took my time to get ready seeing as they were still in the city. With my computer in the kitchen, I talked to my aunt on Skype while placing everything nice and organized into the eco friendly bags. All of the sudden I hear a knocking on the window. Unexpected, I blurted out an odd “WAh” and then began to laugh. Clorinda and Lauren were here and had to sneak around the back way. Apparently they had been there for the last 20 minutes banging on the front, but I heard nothing.
“We thought you were on a run. Or mad at us for being late.” Lauren said. 
“We tried to call you.” Clorinda added. I checked my phone. Missed calls, new texts. Whoops. Well all was fine now right? 
“We couldn’t find a picnic blanket.” Lauren said. I had an idea, running to my room grabbing a large plastic green tarp. They brought a few other additions, berries, figs, water, and napkins, handing to me the feta cheese to finish off the bean salad. I cut it up, mixed it in, and placed it into a container. We were ready and it was time to head off. The question now though, was where was this to take place?
Originally we had said the zoo, but now we weren’t sure. The zoo it was. Stopping firstly to grab the arugula from the veg store up the street, we then walked down to Macauley station, where we waited with bags in hand for our train. We got on, being happy noisy girls excited for food, other passengers giving us odd looks for all of the bags we had in hand. It was 3:30 by the time we got there and we all got in on concession paying our $20, taking the first spot of nice grass we found to sit and eat.
We had quite a spread. Oregano and garlic roasted lamb, Green and wax bean salad with mint, tomato and feta, Lentil salad with sauteed veggies and pinenuts, roasted spiced cauliflower and chick pea salad, and arugula with lemon dressing. I handed out the plates, yellow to Lauren, pink to Clorinda, blue to me, and told everyone to dig in, starting first by placing some arugula down as a base. They grabbed a bit of each and we all began to dine. It was silent for a minute and I knew that was a good sign. They liked it. Seconds and thirds later, we were done. We had devoured everything and now it was time for dessert. We wiped our plates clean with paper towels and each took a lemon bar. I scattered berries around my plate, and then drizzled the mint and lemon macerated strawberries I had made earlier on top. The girls did the same. Yum. Lucky for us, as they finished the first, a second was placed onto their plates. What kind of good jewish “italian” would I be if I didn’t provide enough food. It is my job to make people eat and have them enjoy it. We gobbled down the second plate, cleaned up and all sort of passed out on our plastic tarp. That was until ten minutes later, an announcement came over the PA, telling us “The Melbourne Zoo will be closing in 20 minutes.” We hadn’t even been there an hour yet.
We grabbed our bags, threw out the trash and raced around in a crazed manner attempting to see as many animals as we could in the short time available. We saw a sleeping snow leopard and some dirt before the next PA announcement came on, giving us a ten minute warning. 3 sleeping lions, before the 5 minute warning came on and 2 meer cats. Two boys were coming from the direction we were heading, before the “now closed please make your way to the exit” announcement was made.
“What’s down there?” I asked. 
“Oh there is the entrance, but they will not allow us to see more.” He said to me in what seemed to be some sort of european accent.
“Damn it. We just got here.” I said. 
He smiled. “Oh that sucks and you paid. Oh.”
“Alright thanks.” I said. We walked away now, where Clorinda grinned at me.
“Good job asking the cute ones.” she said. We attempted to get into the blocked off areas, and followed some chinese women over a bridge trying to see more. Another “now closed” announcement came on. 
“I’m glad to see there are others not listening.” Clorinda exclaimed. I think it was just cuz they didn’t understand. Finally realizing everything really was closed, we made our way to the exit, Clorinda terribly upset, she didn’t even get to see the gift shop, and then even more upset as we missed our train by about 26 seconds. 
“DAMN YOU MELBOURNE ZOO!” She screamed. We waited around for 25 minutes for the next one, watching Asian tourists wave back and forth and take pictures of each other from opposite sides of the platforms. Finally the train came.
Back at Rom’s now, I hung my laundry, we loaded the dishwasher and sat around relaxing before heading over to Lygon. As we were attempting to cross the street to catch our bus, we got caught in the middle, when our bus rode by. I waved him down and he stopped and waited for us, as I tried to get the cars passing to stop, by holding out my hand. Lauren and Clorinda stood with stunned expressions both nervous that I would kill myself and laughing at the odd ritual routines I grew up with. They couldn’t believe I got the driver to stop. They both validated their all day tickets. I only had a 50. The driver smiled, and moved his head in the direction of the back of the bus, in approval that I could get on. Such a nice bus driver. He was honestly adorable, smiley and super sweet to everyone the entire ride. We thanked him when we got off and he smiled and continued on his path. 
Bruentti’s it was, and we went and got our caffeine fixes for the day. Lauren left soon after that, and Clorinda and I walked over to Central to give Dani some lemon bars. We walked back to Lygon, and I used my “I only have a 50” on the bus ride back.

©2010  Jami Cakes

Thursday February 18, 2010: PREPARING A PICNIC AND FREAKING OUT PAPA GINO’S CUSTOMERS WITH MY PIZZA ART

I could hear birds chirping, rather, making odd moaning noises back and forth to each other; GET A ROOM! They didn’t and so, it was a sign, I probably should get my lazy ass out of bed, after all I had a lot of cooking to do!  I got up, went for a run, went to the supermarket so that I could be overcharged for California lemons in Australia and then began my cooking. While I began roasting the lamb, I cooked lentils, sauteed veggies and made a shortbread crust for my lemon bars. I had done the chick pea and cauliflower salad the day before, and all that I had to do the next day was get the arugula, or I had hoped. Lentil salad done, garbanzo done, lemon bars done, lemon dressing done, however I had a slight problem with the lamb. It had been roasting for nearly 3 1/2 hours and was still not falling off the bone. Parts were tender, the flavor was delicious, but it just wasn’t tender enough and I had to leave. My thought, take if off the bone, and cook it the next day in pieces back in the juice. Surely this would work no? 
It was Thursday night, meaning it was Papa Gino’s time. I was not hungry. I have my bad habit where I snack continuously while I cook, so needless to say since I had been cooking since morning and it was now early evening, I didn’t have a very big appetite. That however, never stops me from eating anyway, as I love food and am entirely a social eater. I met Lauren and Clorinda at the Lolly shop and we walked over to the park to hang out on the grass for a bit.  An italian boy decided to come close to us and pee in the bushes. What would compel someone in broad daylight, in a public park, where there’s a toilet a few feet away, to pee in a bush, is beyond my capacity to comprehend; I just don’t understand. None of us did as we sat there, staring like a bad car crash, not wanting to look, yet unable to look away, jaws open in pure disbelief. Overt your eyes. The worst part, as we walked away, he and his group looked at us weirdly. Excuse me, but I am not the one who just peed in the bushes. Some nerve. 
Papa Gino’s time and although we debated on whether or not to be healthy, we decided to get a large pizza with my strange requests on top of it, to share. Clorinda made me order seeing as I wanted basil and ricotta on top, and because I pronounced things funny. 
“I’m supposed to order cuz I’ve got the funny accent.” I said to our waiter, the so called “Goat Man” named this because according to Rom, he looks like the goat man from Narnia. 
“No, it’s not funny, I think it’s cute.” Thrilling, Goat Man liked my accent. Great. 
We sat there eating our pizza, until we were pretty full, all of us picking off the good bits of ricotta from the remaining slices. I took the leftover pieces of crusts and veggies and began to, yes, another bad habit of the mine, play with my food. I made a face and soon a body and Lauren covered the crotch with a piece of spinach so she wasn’t in the nude. The table of women next to us commented and I held it up to the guys making pizza, asking if I could get a job turning people’s scraps into artwork. He laughed awkwardly and went back inside. 
The restaurant began to fill up, with local Italians; a large family to our left scarfing down a plate of salami, only to be followed by a huge platter of a few kinds of pasta, the table to our right, consisting of a few men in their late 50’s. As Clorinda was in the middle of a story, I heard the head honcho of the table look at me and go  “Get bored?” I gave him a puzzled expression. “Your leg, did you get bored.” I looked down only to realize what he was talking about. Today was a day of bad habits. Besides snacking while I eat, I also like to draw in pen wherever I have skin showing, if I’m sitting down with a pen, and I have no paper. So thanks to me and my shorts, my right thigh was covered in atrocities of doodles. I agreed with him, and went back to listen to Clorinda. He didn’t seem to care, as he budded in again asking me where I was from. Why are you talking to me again? I answered again and then went back to listening to Clorinda where he budded in again. Responding one more time, I turned away a bit and began talking with Clorinda and Lauren. 
“Ooh he sure took an interest to you.” Lauren said as Clorinda went to the bathroom. Lucky me eh? 
It neared ten, and I bid the girlies goodbye, in attempt to catch the last bus, thinking it was at 9:56pm. I got there at 9:44, turns out I missed it by 3 minutes, and walked myself down to Melbourne Central, where I took the train home, sitting across from a nutcase who talked to himself for the entire 15 minutes I was on. How I love living in the city.

©2010 Jami Cakes

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010: “WAIT, YOU MEAN I GET TO FEEL LIKE A FOREIGNER AND BE A MINORITY AMONGST THE PEOPLE ALL WHILE STROLLING THROUGHOUT A FOOD MARKET? SOUNDS PHENOMENAL!"

I can’t seem to figure myself out; I’ve changed. I mean before it was like, if I had to get up, somewhat early to be somewhere, I’d wake up even earlier, to make sure I went for a jog before hand. Now I can’t even seem to get myself up either way; I’m tired. Perhaps its the fact that I keep telling myself I’ll go to bed at a decent hour, and instead stay up browsing through other people’s facebooks while trying to clear my mind and compel myself to write. It’s not seeming to work, it’s just making me bloody exhausted. 
None the less, when morning came, I skipped the 7:30 alarm, and decided to go for an afternoon jog instead, allowing a nice sleep in until 9. I got up, got ready                                                                                                                          and walked out the door, excited for what the day had awaiting in store for me. Nothing could bring me down, because you see, today was a market day and I love markets. That could very well be an understatement; I live for markets. They fascinate me, bring me closer to the community, the culture, the food, knowing exactly what fruit you’re getting, or what part of the animal lies before you. None of this shrink wrapped perfectly pink pork tenderloin bullshit. I wanna see the whole pig lying before me. That’s it, show me its snout. Oh yea baby. Not everyone feels this way however, and that’s why markets and farmers are slowly becoming less and less. I don’t cry easily, but the thought of these markets disappearing brings a tear to my eyes, or was it just the onion I was chopping?
Anyway, as I was saying, out the door, market, blah blah blah, walking along when suddenly, I wasn’t entirely sure as to where I was to turn next. I’m a terrible map reader  and although I had looked online several times the night before and even a few this morning to follow, when I got to the bottom of Kensington road, I saw the bus going to Footscray turn right, rather than left, as I had thought. A man riding a tractor incredibly fast coming out of a construction sight cruised by I was passing and I asked him which direction I was to go. He pointed back up the hill. I know I’m a terrible terrible map reader, but surely that wasn’t right. I argued with him, and he pulled out his iphone to take a look at a map. 
“Oh my bad,” he said, “It’s that way” pointing right at the end of the street. One day I shall conquer a map, but for now, I am still relying on directions in the form of human contact. I thanked him and carried on, that was until I got to the end of the street, looked around the corner and saw that I would be heading onto a highway. Surely Francesca was right, it was a terrible walk and I should take the bus. As I turned around to race to the bus stop, the 402 slipped past me, rushing onward to make its green light. Damn. Another ten minutes and I was on the next 402 heading to Footscray, an 8 minute ride. I wasted a ticket for that? 
Last stop and everyone got off, directly in front of a large building, where oranges, melons, and potatoes in large holding cases lined the outside walls. The building read “Footscray Markets” and I giggled with joy inside myself as I sat next to an indian man and waited for Lauren. I was the only white girl in sight; It was a lovely thing. 
A few texts later and we realized that we were in fact both there, just sitting at opposite ends of each the station. We finally met up, headed inside. I was smiling, Lauren was amazed at the colors and vast array of produce available to us. I felt like a giant happy balloon, filling with helium with every breathe, preparing to fly away and roam free. This balloon, however, was on some sort of trip, as it (me) shot from corner to corner, pointing out different veggies, and scanning with its eyes for what it wanted, poor sweet Lauren trying to keep up with it as it circled around in every which direction looking at every item available. 
I have a very bad habit in markets, tending to run around with something in mind, but not deciding on anything until I’ve seen everything (at least once) and the unlucky person who is nice enough to keep me company has to struggle to keep up. 
After making a small analysis on where and what veggies we’d get, it was time to check out the meat. Chinese men yelled out to us as we passed their large poultry stand, while middle easterners shouted about that day’s fish. One man smiled as went by  and I soon realized why when I looked back at Lauren’s face.
“Did you see that?” I hadn’t, and she brought me back to show me. “I never realized duck hearts were so small.” Lauren said, a shocked expression over her face. It got better from there. “JAMI! There’s a pig’s face! There’s an entire pig!” I love watching someone’s reactions when they see the actual animal they’re eating. It’s hard. You don’t think about where your meat comes from when its just a steak in front of you, but when you actually see it, and put the two together, it opens your mind. You truly appreciate the animal that died so you can eat it, and the butcher who prepared it for you. Imagine how hard it would be, to know each day you have to kill a certain amount of animals, clean them up, cut them up, and portion them for happy carefree customers to buy with ease, take home and eat, without even an ounce of acknowledgement. It’s got to take its tole on you eventually, and for that I truly appreciate both the animal and the butcher.
We searched for lamb. I hadn’t seen any. Surely they must have it. There’s goat. There’s ox. There’s odd bits of meat, lungs, arteries, and other goodies, but lamb? Finally a place, selling lovely looking meat and lamb leg. I asked how much it was. A fair price, but thinking we may be able to do better, I told the guy we’d come back. Another place was selling it for the same price, but it was not                                                      as nice looking, so we went back to Chinese man number 1, who in turn tried to sell me 2 legs. I had asked for the smallest ONE leg he had. Go figure. Back to the produce. 
I sent Lauren to get wax beans, while I picked green beans. She got bell peppers while I roamed for cauliflower. We got cilantro, mint, scallions, tomatoes, ginger, chili, and shallots, and the only thing we lacked were the lemons. Oddly enough, there were tons of limes, oranges, and grapefruits, but the lemons just didn’t look that good. With  most of our groceries in hand; Lamb, check, veggies, check, herbs, it was time for us to explore the food of Footscray and we went out to find somewhere to eat. Our first stop as we crossed the street was a large indian grocery store. 
The shelves were lined with Bollywood movies, spices and fast curry mixes. Lauren saw a bag of “Masala Magic” Lays and we both gleamed as we remembered eating them in India. She bought herself a bag and we thanked the lovely gentlemen working there. We strolled on, passing Vietnamese restaurant after Vietnamese restaurant, but Footscray was known to be an Ethiopian restaurant as well. Where were all those. Finally reaching a more white looking area, we turned back, still in attempt to find an African eatery. They were all closed, even though their hours read they should be open. Finally, an open one.
We walked inside to see a pool table, a few chairs and a poorly lit, dark room, the TV on sports and 2 Ethiopian men standing there chatting. They ignored us for a minute until one of the finally said hello, then he continued to chat. We stood there awkwardly until he asked again if he could help us. Asking for food, he pointed to the place next door where we turned, walked out the door and then back into the place next door. No one was in there. It was early, I mean who eats at 12 anyway? A beautiful Ethiopian woman told us to sit anywhere and we placed ourselves near the window. She brought us menus and water, too full to place down, and allowed me to pick it off the tray myself. Now, what to get?
We decided on sharing the vegetable tasting plate, an assortment of Ethiopian vegetarian dishes served with their bread. We asked if it was big enough to share. She didn’t seem to think so and so we asked her which meat dish she liked the best, ordering that. A few minutes later, a huge plate of food came out and Lauren and I looked at each other wondering how we would finish it all. A top the sour flat breads, lay types of lentils, carrots and cabbage, greens, and lamb. Next to it, lay a basket of more bread. I think the two of us would have been sufficiently happy with just the one dish! We ate, using our fingers to grab a piece of the bread off and pick the food up with it, then pop it in our mouth. The bread was like an air filled, flat sour dough pancake, and all of the veggies were filled with spices, chili, garlic and deliciousness. We couldn’t finish, picking little bits here and there as we neared the end, then sitting for a while in a food coma before leaving. 
Lauren headed on her train, I headed on my bus, stamping the same ticket I used before. It rang expired. I sat down anyway, getting a strange look from the driver who just ignored it and drove away. I sat next to a gorgeous woman with a head wrap trying to take care of her beautiful light black skinned baby boy. Her bag outweighed the cheap stroller though, as she put it on the handles, and the stroller fell over. That couldn’t be good for the kid. I held the stroller up for her as she went to pay the bus driver. Throughout the ride, the kid began to cry, trying to reach for his mother, begging for her attention. She ignored it, seeming to want her own time. I began to talk to him, where he stopped crying, smiled and reached for my hand. I wanted him, I was in love. He was too adorable, sweet, and innocent. I want one not my own of course, well not right now at least. I just want one. 
I begged my mom for years to have a baby for me. She had had her share of mothering (NO NOT FROM ME... from her 6 siblings of course) and for the sum of my childhood, every time I asked for one, she would respond with the same answer; “You are my miracle baby. But I already raised a family and I’m not having anymore.” I’ll just play with this cutie on the bus then. We reached Kensington within 12 minutes, and I, the head wrapped woman and her son got off, and went our separate ways. 
I arrived in house, holding more groceries than could fit in the tiny fridge and a leg of lamb for the vegetarian household. I prepped a few things attempting to make a bit of space, only to shove it back into the fridge. I made an oregano pesto to marinate the lamb with, the only problem, after putting all of the ingredients into the blender, I realized it didn’t work. I took everything out, trying to hurry so as not to let Rom’s Mom see the meat. I chopped everything frantically up by hand. Hand made pestos are not fun. You just stand there and chop chop chop, grind chop, with your knife until everything is smashed, but it did taste very lovely. I rubbed it all over the lamb, making sure to massage it into every crevice of meaty goodness and on top and under pockets of delicious fat. Bad timing, as Francesca walked in the door, talking about how hungry she was, only to enter the kitchen. 
“What is that?!” She asked. 
“Lamb.” She left the room, and came back when it was out of sight. Upon opening the fridge, she told me she had never seen it so full. I was only cooking for 3.

©2010 Jami Cakes