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Mike's Random Thoughts From The Road #9
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while driving through australia one night a storm of random thoughts entered my head. i pulled the car over, avoided a kangaroo, and wrote out this list. enjoy.

1. ah vegemite, that cornerstone of australian cuisine that men at work introduced to the world in their song “take cover” (she just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich.)

vegemite sandwich? no. they love it but they don’t eat sandwiches of it....that would be too much vegemite.

too much?

just an ultra-fine layer on a piece of toast in the morning, that’s the way you eat it they say.

listen, if food is good there’s no such thing as too much. examples for you:

i would like a bigger chunk of chocolate please.
yes of course i’d like another piece of pizza.
can i have another scoop of ice cream? please mom, pleeeeeasssse?
screw the glass! get us a pitcher of beer you cheapskate!

limiting amounts is for when you take medicine - not for when you eat food. if aussies actually liked the stuff they’d be eating heaping bowls, not eating barely perceptible amounts of it. for example, the first time i ate vegemite was in st. petersburg, russia when an aussie friend squirted some from a yellow travel tube onto my finger. i gobbled it up quickly and almost puked. “oh,” he said. “you ate too much of it.” that’s when i first heard of this nonsense too much.

oh here’s more. the say it’s an acquired taste. i love that phrase, acquired taste. the following scenario demonstrates that logic:

a guy takes a bite of something he’s never tasted before. “oh fuck this is horrible!” he says with a twisted face as he spits the offending substance on the floor. “it’s like eating pig shit! whew....god that's bad. ok, now let me take another bite.”

that just doesn’t make sense.

it makes as much sense as living in a first world country but eating waste for breakfast (vegemite is yeast extract which is essentially waste.) i heard that when the aussies sent cases of vegemite to the starving people in africa they got it all back with a note attached that said “we’re not THAT hungry.”

maybe the africans hadn’t acquired the taste yet....

2. driving in the outback of australia is an adventure - it’s like driving through an obstacle course where all the obstacles are moving. it’s especially dangerous at dusk when it’s not dark enough for headlights to be effective but you can’t see the road anymore. you basically are driving blind and, of course, that’s when the creatures come out: two foot longs lizards and snakes crawl across the road, flocks of strange birds dive-bomb your car, and kangaroos the size of small trees fling themselves at the front of your speeding vehicle. they have those cute yellow signs all over australia warning you that kangaroos may be present on the road, even telling you for how many kilometers you can expect them. why do they do this? they aren’t contained in certain areas - kangaroos are bouncing on the roads everywhere in oz, except in sydney and melbourne. institute a national policy that when someone buys a car you tell them this as you hand them the keys:

“change the oil every 10,000 kilometers, get the tires rotated every 20,000, and, uh, oh yeah, try to avoid the hundreds of marsupials that will chuck themselves at your headlights - this is your official warning.”

and as far as that warning for how many kilometers you can expect them, (e.g. kangaroo crossing next 10km, next 50km, etc.), does the highway department have some sort of agreement worked out with them about where they can cross? shit, if you can negotiate with kangaroos why not eliminate the problem altogether and tell them to stay COMPLETELY OFF the road? they've literally got tens of thousands of square kilometers out there without any road on it...what are they doing on the roads anyway?

furthermore, the signs are so cool that most people are taking pictures of them instead of looking where they are going. those signs are superfluous in the outback. it’s like putting up a sign that says the sun is hot - obvious. put them where they aren’t needed, like in sydney. put a huge one right in front of the opera house. since everyone wants a picture of the opera house and a picture of a kangaroo sign, they can help people conserve vacation time and film by making it possible to get a photo of both simultaneously.

and one more thing: those kilometer warning signs are so small (and so worthless) that while people are squinting to read them to find out how long they need to watch for them they are probably running over kangaroos. they think the kangaroos appreciate the signs but they don’t - they are practically putting targets on their backs.

3. i’ve driven approximately 22,000 kilometers in australia and am proud to report that, although several have flung themselves at my car, i have never hit any kangaroos. i got a few snakes, at least one lizard, and two birds though.

4. kangaroos aren’t the only problem out there. one night as steph and i were driving along a deserted highway toward uluru (ayer’s rock) i had the scariest moment of my visit to oz, maybe of my life (keep in mind i went surfing, hand-gliding, and sky-diving in australia.) it was dark outside, the worst time to be on the road, but we were only 45 minutes from the campground so i pushed us on. i was driving way too fast, 140 km/hr, down the desolate two-lane road which rose and fell, twisted and curved over the rolling hills of the red desert. i had my high-beams on which barely lit anything. we had seen signs warning of stray cattle on the road so steph was on cattle watch in addition to her standard kangaroo-duty. we hadn’t seen any cattle yet so i was confidently speeding along. as we came over a crest though there were two huge steers blocking the road. “GOD DAMN IT!!!!” steph shouted from shotgun. “WHOA SHIT!!” i said as my stomach dropped to the floor - i thought we were fucked. i was driving on the left-side as you do in oz, and thought i saw an opening to the right of the cows. i swerved as i lightly touched the brakes but the cow on that side starting walking right into my path. i looked quickly at the other beast and saw that he was looking back at me with no intention of moving. i jammed the wheel to the left and the car shuddered, straining to stay on the road. we whizzed by the cows half on the shoulder, half on the road without grazing a single bovine hair.

i thought i handled it well and said so (when my heart started beating again) but since i had promised her we would be off the road well before sunset steph wouldn’t speak to me for a week.

5. speaking of driving, what is the deal with u-turns? why does everyone hate them? i mean everyone except for the guy who just fucked up and needs to make one? i’ve been on the roads all over the world and that big sign with the circled-X through a U is everywhere - every government on the planet condemns them. i swear if we removed all those signs and melted them down we could build enough shelter to house the entire world’s homeless population.

maybe i’m just stupid (fuck you!) but i have never understood why the u-turn is so taboo. i’m convinced that if they asked everyone to compile a list of the 4 most hated people in the world it would look exactly like this:

1. murderers
2. americans
3. rapists
4. u-turners

leave the u-turn alone i say. if you don’t want us to make them anymore stop making steering wheels that turn that far....

6. and finally.....

i love canadians and so does the rest of the world, which is why so many coward americans out here wear canadian clothing or flat-out claim to be from canada; they are afraid of the hassle they may get if it's known they are american.

let me tell you something about these people: if i caught them doing it i would kick them in the balls if they had any. do they disown their child if he behaves embarrassingly in public? no? then i say have some character and stick with your country in good times and bad. if you won’t then maybe you should consider relocating - maybe to canada where you are probably claiming you are from anyway. if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. besides, if someone hates you simply because you are american - something you have absolutely nothing to do with - fuck 'em. you don't need bigoted friends anyway.

don’t get me wrong: canada is a wonderful country with wonderful people and wonderful music (especially the tragically hip) and i would be proud to say i was canadian if i was, but i believe americans should have the guts to tell the truth if someone asks where they are from. it’s their opportunity to be an ambassador to the united states and maybe change some minds about the “typical” american. that’s what i do. i answer “america” when asked and then put my best foot forward. i think i have changed a few minds along the way...and i've made lots of new friends. i've dismissed those few close-minded people who shunned me because my mom was in america when she had me.

no, i never claim canada as “my home and native land”....well, except when i meet someone new and i piss them off somehow; i always take advantage of the similarity between the american/canadian accent:

“jesus mike. you are a total asshole. where are you from?”

“canada. go fuck yourself, eh?”

7. don't worry my neighbors in the great white north, your international reputation is so stellar and secure, a goon like me won't ruin it single-handedly.

8. but seriously for a moment...for the first time in my life i've experienced discrimination, probably a dozen times or so that have been serious - all about something i have absolutely nothing to do with. as i said earlier, my mother was in the united states when she had me, i was completely helpless and had no say in the matter. i am proud to be an american but, in fact, i have nothing to do with it; i was born that way. i have always hated racism with a passion. i hate that people discriminate against homosexuals. it took me 33 years to finally learn firsthand (at a small level at least) what it actually feels like. the experience has solidified my resolve: disliking someone automatically because of something they have nothing to do with, sexual preference, skin color, nationality, whatever, is a disgusting, ignorant, ridiculous choice. when i come across those people i am embarrassed for them.

9. note: at the end of random thought #4 i said “...for a week.” i actually meant 10 minutes but a week sounded funnier, didn’t it?

keep on keepin’ on,
mike

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