The customer is not always right #2

*sitting at my desk with two clients finalising their holiday*

Me:  So here you are, all your confirmation details for your Queensland holiday.   Make sure you check that everything is in order etc…

Lady:  I get a bit nervous going to Queensland.

Me:  Oh really?  Why is that?

Lady:  Because they hate Victorians up there.  We always feel unwelcome.

Me:  Oh, I’ve never felt that in Queensland.

Lady:  Yes it’s true, they hate us.  It’s not like my old country where we all got along and nobody had a problem with anybody else.

Me:  Oh yeah?  Where do you come from?

Lady:  Yugoslavia.

Hmmm,  I’m sure the people of Vukovar, Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Bijeljina etc may have something to say about that, lady.  I can’t imagine a Queenslander slaughtering me and my family because I’m Victorian.

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Dean Turner – my own reflection

Driving to work yesterday listening to the radio, I heard an announcement that left me speechless, shocked, almost enough to make me pull over and process what I’d just heard.

And that was that Dean Turner, bassist of Magic Dirt, had lost a nine-year battle with cancer.

When I got to work I reached for my phone to message those I knew who would be equally shocked by the news.  As I scrolled through my phone book I’d lost contact with many of those who I used to go to Magic Dirt gigs with, who I used to spend hours with debating the best Magic Dirt gig, the best Magic Dirt album, favourite members and so forth.  I suppose that’s why the news had escaped me and I only learned of Dean’s passing a week after it occurred.  What was equally shocking was that I’d walked past a poster two weeks earlier advertising a Magic Dirt gig at the Corner Hotel last Saturday night (again, that I’d had no prior knowledge about) and would certainly have attended if I wasn’t going interstate that weekend.  After hearing the news, I’ve spent most of the day reflecting on my own memories of Dean and of Magic Dirt as a whole.

I can proudly declare that Magic Dirt’s “Life Was Better” EP was the first CD I purchased in 1995.  Makes me pretty cool, doesn’t it?!  Hey, the first cassette was the Ninja Turtle soundtrack but at least my first CD gives me some street cred!  It was actually purchased by default.  I had $20 pocket money which was intended to use towards a Smashing Pumpkins album.  When I arrived at the CD store it had already sold out.  Deciding what else to purchase as the money was burning a hole in my pocket, I passed the bright orange Magic Dirt LP sitting in a RECOMMENDED rack.  Having heard briefly of the band from a sister’s friend who thought they were the next best thing since sliced bread, I took a risk and bought it.  To this day it was one of my wisest impulse buys.

The following year Magic Dirt released the Friends In Danger album which again, I used my pocket money towards.  As I was purchasing the CD the cashier said that Magic Dirt were performing at Wall Street (now Hi-Fi Bar) for an all-ages gig along with Tumbleweed and Warped.  Awesome!  Just one problem, convincing my mother that me and my fellow 13/14-year old friends can look after ourselves in the city for an afternoon gig and get home safely.  Mama wasn’t having a bar of it, so what did I do?  I spun a bullshit story that a friend’s older brother was coming with us so we’d be under adult supervision.  Of course no supervisor came, and my mother with the mind of a KGB agent discovered my lie.  I paid for it with a grounding for a few weeks, but fuck was it worth it and I’d do it all over again if I had the chance, for that gig was THE best, most energetic, raw, unreserved show I have ever attended to this day.  Although Tumbleweed was headlining, you wouldn’t have known it by the crowd’s reaction to Magic Dirt.  Kids throwing themselves from the upper railings into the mosh pit, running around the stage and throwing themselves into the crowd, screaming, yelling, sweating profusely, it was incredible.  After Magic Dirt’s set another friend and I timidly approached Adalita to sign our tickets, which she did gracefully.  I still hold that ticket to this day.  My friend then declared himself the Number One Magic Dirt Fan In Our Group which I allowed to happen.  He can have Magic Dirt, I can have Tumbleweed.  Fair and square.

The following year my friend’s reign fell as he sailed towards the skate-punk genre.  I launched a full scale bloodless coup and stole the title as Number One Magic Dirt Fan almost overnight.  In that time my bedroom became a shrine to Magic Dirt, printing every single picture from the (relatively new) Internet from the school library and plastering them in every centimetre of my bedroom.  I had all of my Magic Dirt t-shirts signed by the band, distinctly remembering Dean’s signature with a smiley face attached to the end on each signature.  Not long after the coup, Magic Dirt announced another all ages gig down the road from my house.  Hurrah!  The anticipation was amazing.  Magic Dirt playing 5 minute from MY house!  Maybe they can come back to my place for coffee and cake!  We rocked up to the gig, as always expecting to stalk out Adalita (we all had teen crushes didn’t we?) to sign every inch of our t-shirts, tickets, posters, CDs and Coke cups.  Disappointed that we couldn’t find her, we saw Dean and Adam wandering around the lobby area mingling with the crowd.  My friends and I approached them not expecting a whole lot.  What we got though were two friendly, easygoing and talkative guys who told us what the band was up to, where they’re going next, who they’re going with etc.  My mate being a bass player himself drilled Dean for tips who obligingly gave him a small lecture on techniques, the proper equipment, how to achieve the perfect sound and so forth.  Me, I’m not musically gifted, but we all still gathered around and paid more attention to Dean than we’d ever given any of our teachers throughout the whole school year.  We learned more in 10 minutes at a gig than we did in some of our weekly classes.  In fact, my mate (who would never to this day admit it) even imitated Dean’s motions to a degree during his band’s gigs, facing away from the audience towards the amp or drummer, knees slightly bent, hair hanging over his eyes.  That night the band rocked and I was on a high of all highs, not only because Magic Dirt were great and they were playing in our ‘hood, but because so many people from school also attended and finally understood what I was on about for so long, and that Magic Dirt wasn’t just some little garage band that was reserved for the airwaves of community radio stations, or indie stations where the presenters sound like they’ve just coming down from a bender at The Tote the night before.

My stalking got to the point of ridiculous when I even dragged my girlfriend at the crack of dawn out the front of the ABC studios in Elsternwick so we could chat to Magic Dirt as they finished filming their “Recovery” set.  Fortunately it wasn’t all in vain as we got to have another chat with Dean, who gave us 5 minutes of his time to talk utter shit when he probably wanted to go home and get back to bed.  Dean was becoming my favourite band member.

The next encounter with Magic Dirt is one I’d rather forget, but unfortunately it was recorded and the tape lies somewhere in the depths of storage where I hope it has slowly decomposed into a heap of dust.  All Year 10 students are given a communications project which now in retrospect seemed pretty ambiguous, which luckily allowed me to do an interview with none other than Magic Dirt.  Magic Dirt had a lull for a while so I wasn’t sure when I would get the chance to interview them without contacting their management which I was too shit scared to do.  Magic Dirt was doing an underage gig in the southern suburbs, conveniently located near my girlfriends house so I seized the opportunity.  I would make rock journalism history!  I would ask the questions nobody else asks!  I would make Richard Kingsmill look like a novice in nappies!  There was one problem though – being the dumbfuck that I am, I had left all my material, all my questions etc at home, which was two long train rides away from my girlfriends.  To turn around and go back was out of the question without missing the gig, so I soldiered on, went to the gig, unable to fully appreciate it as I was shitting myself for what lay ahead.  All I was armed with was a dodgy hand-held tape recorded which was prone to chewing tapes, spitting them outand calling you a cunt.  After Magic Dirt’s set I approached Adalita and asked in my most pussy voice “Ummm…uhhh…hii…umm…can I please…umm…do an interview thing….for my communications project…umm…is that OK?”  “Yeah sure, come back now.”  Well fuck me, is it that easy to get backstage with rockstars??  That slightly boosted my confidence somewhat until I sat down, Adalita and Raul sitting opposite me, Dean and Adam leaned up against a wall behind them.  I was shaking, stuttering, muttering, murmuring, probably frothing at the mouth.  When I announced that I had no questions, the band took it in their stride and improvised with their own.  We went from the underage gig scene to Eurovision, from the current state of Australian music to Nutelex, from Magic Dirt’s fanbase to foreign languages and anything else in between.  What I perceived to be as a complete and utter disaster, facing total humiliation in front of the band I idolise, was taken with a grain of salt by the band who thankfully saw through my nerves and did their best to be professional in front of a total fuckwitted 15 year old.  Surprisingly, I got an A+ for the project!  Thanks Magic Dirt!  I have never forgotten that!

The next few years were kind of a blur.  I was overage (or at least passed for it), would get annihilated at Magic Dirt gigs and hardly remember the set and wake up thinking if they actually played any of my favourite songs (I have it on good authority that most of the time, they played at least one or two).  Magic Dirt was also going through a new phase in the music they were producing which had a more pop/radio-friendly style to it, something I wasn’t yet used to but adapted to nonetheless.  I still faithfully attended as many shows as I could, sans tape recorder and permanent marker to sign my shit, but would still engage with mindless chatter with any of the band members that crossed my path (thankfully they didn’t remember the Chelsea Incident, probably because I got a cosmetic surgery afterwards to conceal my identity from them).

It was only after the release of Snow White that I thought that Magic Dirt was no longer for me.  In fact I distinctly remember buying  the CD, putting it in my car CD player, driving home and then calling a friend (another MD fan) and asking what the fuck it was I was listening to and if they’d put the wrong CD in the cover.  Probably an immature outburst, but I was disappointed, and a bit angry.  After time to reflect I just came to the conclusion that as I had grown up, Magic Dirt had grown up too, albeit against my will.  Where was the feedback and distortion before, after and druing the songs?  It was replaced by clean guitar sounds.  And Adalita’s vocals?  Why isn’t she screaming?!  Because her voice had mellowed out.

Then something incredible happened.  Magic Dirt changed labels and with it came back much of their old sound that made me jump up and down like a knob in my teen years.  And once again, I was jumping up and down like a knob!  I went to a Corner Hotel gig and I was re-born praise be to Allah!  It was like a time machine.  Distrortion, feedback, screaming, stage banter, they were back!  Things were looking up again.

While I was in Greece I closely followed the bands movements (maybe they’d decide to do a show in Athens?!) and caught snippets of the new album that was due to come out in Australia.  I was excited to say the least and couldn’t wait to get back to Australia and get the album and see them live again.  In March of this year Mr T and I were fortunate enough to catch one of their gigs together (good timing on Mr T’s part), and they did not disappoint.  Mr T saw the light.  The energy that they gave that night was incredible, even if they weren’t the headlining act (You Am I were).  In fact, Magic Dirt’s show was so powerful that it made You Am I’s show slightly underwhelming.  We left satisfied enough with Magic Dirt’s set.

After writing all of this it’s incredible to see how much of an impact Magic Dirt had on me as I was growing up.  I’d attached songs to certain moments, some bad but most of them good.  I ran across Melbourne to go to Au-Go-Go Records 10 minutes before closing time after discovering they were giving away Magic Dirt poster packs.  I kicked over a street sign in Ashburton after discovering they’d cancelled an underage gig they were due to do there (incidentally I lost my virginity that night…talk about sympathy sex!).  I lost my mother’s trust for the better part of 1996 just to attend one of their gigs.  I traded memorabilia of other bands to get Magic Dirt items like posters, vinyls, magazine clippings etc.  I sent Magic Dirt albums to friends in Greece by the bulk.  I fought with friends over who was a bigger Magic Dirt fan.  I made fucking Magic Dirt pins (laaaaaaaame)!  Yep, I was sick in the head.  In some regards I miss that feeling of having something to obsess over like I did with Magic Dirt, within (legal) limits of course.  Analysing each song, each lyric, understanding what they’re writing about and who/what it’s about, why they changed their sound, and a plethora of other questions.

Learning of Dean’s passing brought back all the good memories of Magic Dirt from the past 15 years that I’ve been listening to their music.  While it’s hard to imagine a Magic Dirt without Dean, it’s harder to imagine Australian music without Magic Dirt.  While I never knew Dean personally, or beyond the brief chats before or after gigs, he was the band member who struck me as the most approachable and the most willing to give his time over to fans who really have a whole lot of nothing to say, but he took it in his stride.

Thank you Magic Dirt for playing such a pivotal role in my teen years and to a degree, my adult years.  It’s been great, and hopefully will continue to be.

World’s worst tourists IMO

After much reflection on the latest survery regarding the world’s best and worst tourists, it got me thinking about my own experiences of the nationalities that were rated.  I’ve seen stereotypes smashed, stereotypes re-enforced and stereotypes leaving me utterly confused.  So here is my own reflection of the international travelling community:

DISCLAIMER:  I will attempt to avoid sweeping generalisations and so forth, but I may get carried away (as I do) so I apologise in advance.

Australians – naturally it makes sense to begin with my own nationality.  My fellow compartiots are a tough one.  I’ve seen the good, the bad and the hideously ugly which can occur all from the one person in the space of one night.  Unlike citizens of the northern hemisphere, Australians are quite naive, sometimes innocently, sometimes not.  On a whole, we don’t speak a foreign language (the few basic phrases of German/Italian/French/Indonesian from high school hardly count especially since they’re forgotten after graduation) which hinders our ability to assimilate in a foreign country unless accompanied by fellow Anglophones.  We are also more likely to read up on the best bars/pubs in our destination rather than the history of the country.  And finally, the appalling dress sense.  OK, I’m not saying I’m a fashionista and I like wearing sandals in hot weather as much as the next person, but wandering around Prague in Rip Curl board shorts, Havaiana sandals and a Billabong singlet top (to display a Southern Cross tattoo) isn’t doing us many favours in the fashion department.  Yes it’s wise to dress for comfort, but it’s also wiser to dress respectably and not like you’re dressed for going to a mate’s BBQ.  Furthermore, Australians are pisspots.  It’s no secret.  Australians drink to get drunk.  The thing about drinking beer just to quench a thirst is bullshit.  This habit is a double-edged sword for our reputation.  While any bar/pub/club in the world can make an annual profit in one night of a group of Aussies getting shitfaced, it also leads to an increase in obnoxious behaviour from those who can’t handle their drink, or can’t differentiate between a public bar and an 18th party in a Narre Warren backyard.  All in all though, Australians are generally polite, easygoing, willing to give anything a try (either for bragging rights or general curiosity), and can bring life into the dullest of atmospheres.  If it weren’t for the dress sense, the loudness after a night of binge drinking and the belief that pink skin is actually a tan, I’d rate us higher!

Americans – now that anti-Americanism is out of fashion after the election of Obama, people are actually beginning to give the Yanks a fair go.  To be fair, I’ve always thought that American tourists have had it a bit rough without much justification other than it was cool to hate Americans.  On a whole I have generally found Americans to be more knowledgeable about their destination than any other nationality (they go above and beyond the Lonely Planet guides), they know a smattering of the local language and will give it a go even if they commit linguistic attrocities, they maintain their dignity while drinking (MOST of the time) and they have a wicked sense of humour.  Once on the Metro in Athens, a middle-aged American couple from the deep south were struggling to work out the (not so) complicated metro line, with Ampelokipoi their destination.   Scratching their heads studying the map, they turned to me, phrase book in hand, and the man attempts to communicate with me by saying “Umm…meeeee…uhhhh..meeeelaaaat…um…meeelaaatayyyy arrrrr…ummm..aaaangleee…umm….angleee…ka?”(milate agglika? = do you speak English)  I turn to him and say “Well I struggle but I make myself understood most of the time.”  Well, guys, you would have thought I’d made the joke of the fucking century the way these two folks started chuckling, tears running down their cheeks, slapping my shoulder yelling “OH MY GOD YOU HAD US!  YOU MADE US LOOK LIKE FOOLS!  OHHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHA YOU GOT US GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!”  By the end of it half the train was either giggling or looking in horror at such a disturbance to their text messaging or random scowling at society.  Sure you get the occassional dicks who show no regard for the rules (OK, Americans are the prime offenders at using cameras in places that cameras are forbidden, THERE I SAID IT!) but overall, they shouldn’t have any need to stitch Canadian flags to their backpacks any longer.

Brits – so like I said before about Australians like to drink?  Well, most Australians have the decency to vomit, piss their pants and pass out in the privacy of their hotel room.  The Brits do it on the street in full display of the world as if it’s the norm.  Mostly.  Frequently.  You know.  Anyway.  Brits and Aussies are like peas in a pod when it comes to travelling and have similar habits.  Brits usually don’t speak another language, they’re fond of the bottle and they swear like sailors.  It’s a match made in heaven.  However, one thing that separates the Brits and the Aussies is the British passion to complain and become defensive when confronted.  I remember once at a bar in Croatia where a British family had taken a seat beside us on the lounges, and the mother and father kicked off their sandals and put their feet up on the seats opposite them.  A barman kindly requested that they remove their feet to allow more chairs for other patrons, to which the father replied “But these seats are on OUR table, no one else will be sitting on them.”  Yes, agreed the waiter, but it is still best not to place your feet on the seats, so if you could kindly remove them it would be very much appreciated.  He was then told by the mother “Well that’s a bit bloody rude” and grabbed her handbag, sandals and rushed her spawn and husband away.  The waiter muttered something along the lins of “pichka” which was warranted.  Another incident, a British couple in Rome sat at a cafe drinking water from bottles that they removed from their backpacks.  The waiter, again kindly, advised that they must purchase something in order to sit at the table.  Fair enough.  The freckled redhead then spat out that it was hot and they needed to relax!  Yes, fair enough again, so why not purchase a gelati from the gelati bar where you have just sat yourself down then?  They left.  Overall, Brits are hilarious, awesome fun and good natured and are amongst my favourite travelling companions…if they just eased up on the whingeing for a bit. =)

Greeks – Greeks ranked surprisingly low in this survey which surprised me.  Generally I’ve seen Greeks travel in packs, either as a tour or with the whole family in tow.  This can have a positive and negative result.  The positive is that Greeks usually reserve their Greekly habits for their own kind rather than inflicting them on the local population.  For instance, a guided tour of Greeks through Prague Castle were among the most quiet, attentive and respectful group I saw.  They didn’t photograph when they weren’t allowed, they maintained a distance to allow others to pass and they gave the guide their undivided attention.  However, at Prague Airport on a flight to Athens we noticed the true colours come out.  The “queue” ended into a game of dodgem luggage trolleys as those with the most amount of luggage attempted to barge their way through to the gate.  A woman eith a trolley loaded with Louis Vuitton trunks ran over Special K’s foot only to receive a vitriolic spray in return.  A translation wasn’t required.  Miss LV got the point and retreated back to her position in the “queue”.  When on the plane, and isn’t this just classic, the game of “Excuse me you’re in MY seat” and “Can I please sit by the window?  I always get bumped by the trolley” and “I need to sit next to the toilet because I have bowel problems” began until one “wise” gentleman bellows to his fellow passengers that we should all relax because we’re all Greeks here, whatever that was supposed to mean.  Beside me a teenage metalhead who obviously didn’t get enough sleep during a recent metal festival bellowed back “Yes we’re all Greeks and that’s why we can’t even sit in our allocated seats!”  I can’t say I’ve ever travelled with Greeks but from what I’ve seen most of them are respectful, usually speak enough English to get by and keep a relatively low profile.

New Zealanders – Kiwis are generally fine, but I’ve noticed they have an annoying habit of making comparisons to their own country.  The fjords in Norway are nothing compared to Milton Sound, the beaches of Spain are shit compared to the Bay of Islands, the Eifel Tower has nothing on the Sky Tower in Auckland etc.  Other than that, they’re pretty cool.  Just don’t call them Australians and you’ll get along like a house on fire.

Japanese – really, what is there to say about Japanese tourists?  They’re just the angels of the tourism world.  They smile, they tip generously, they dress well and they have cute accents which makes them even more adorable, not to mention the peace sign in every photo opportunity (what’s with that anyway?).  They deserve to be ranked number one.

French – hmmmm, what a strange bunch they can be.  My experiences with French tourists has usually been all negative, however I will avoid generalising all of them as boring, tight-lipped non-events.  Many years ago when I was staying at a hostel in Athens drinking at the bar, a group of French tourists walked through the door to which the barmaid yells to them “Bonjour!  Au revoir!”  Curious as to why she bid them hello and farewell in the same sentence, she explained that the French walk in the bar, look around, turn up their noses and walk right out again.  She was right.  It even became a bar game it was so common. Another time I was working part-time at another hostel in Athens behind reception, kindly giving tourists wrong directions and ferry times.  The French always approached the counter with “Bonjour”, and then a glance which says “I will not speak to you in English because you should speak French and if you don’t then I will not give you the time of day.”  I would then politely advise the Francophones that I do not speak French beyond hello, goodbye, please and go fuck your mother.  I guess the latter phrase has been used more frequently than the others.  Another time in Prague, a waiter approached a French couple in English, requesting their order.  The male then launched into a full order in, yep, francais.  The waiter was perplexed and had the decency to give his high school French a fighting chance.  Eventually he gave up and said “Look, I speak English and Czech and a bit of German.  You choose.”  The couple walked off.  To conclude, apart from their insistence of using French which they actually consider to be a universal language outside of France and Africa, I guess they don’t bother me that much.

Italians – oh dear, where to begin?  I had mixed reviews about the Italians in Italy from various visitors, and when in Rome I actually found them to be pleasant, helpful and supportive in my attempts to communicate in the small bit of Italian that I remembered from high school (INCLUDING Old McDonald Had a Farm!).  I left with a high regard for the citizens of Italy…until I arrived in Dubrovnik.  Much like the French, they only addressed the service in Italian, they hung out with other Italians in no less than packs of 250 personas, they were aggravatingly loud, frustratingly rude and no concept of respect for the people around them.  I first thought this must be because they’re drunk, but no, it was the same scenario in the mornings too (unless they were permanently drunk).  All ages, all regions, all genders, I do not discriminate (LOL) in my disgust for Italian tourists.  From Dubrovnik to Ljubljana, from Vienna to Prague, there was no change in their behaviour.  Upon returning to Greece I talked with a friend who had gone to Ios for a few days with a cousin from abroad.  My first mention of Italian tourists sent him into a full-frontal assault on his own experiences, of gangs of 20 Italians singing the national anthem in full outdoor bars, their lack of communication skills in languages other than Italian, and their general sleaziness.  Granted, he was travelling with a group of 20-something Australian girls so I won’t criticise the Italians on that angle.  I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe I was being too harsh?  Maybe I should give them a second chance.  Well, that idea flew out the door when one day as I was departing El Venizelos Airport, I witnessed a young security guard get charged at by a family of 15 Italians who were requesting something to do with the stazione.  The guard looked at me, frightened, and said “Do you speak Italian?”  I said “No, English or Greek.  Tell them to learn a universal language.”  In between this the Italians were relentless and did not retreat.  As I was walking away I finally hear “LOOK, I DON’T SPEAK FUCKING ITALIAN!  ENGLISH?!?!  ENGLISH AT ALL?!?!”  Mi dispiace, but Italians rank as the worst tourists in my personal poll.

I had a dream #1


Welcome to this new segment, where I share with you, my dear loyal readers (pfft), the inner workings of my mind as I sleep.  I have been told on various occasions that my dreams are surreal, intriguing, warped, and totally fucked up.  You be the judge.  The jury is still out on this one.

I was at my mother’s house for a BBQ one evening with Special K, my brother, his partner and a family friend of ours.  As we were sitting around dining on something that I don’t remember, I look up to the sky to see it literally glowing with missiles flying over Melbourne’s sky.  We all looked at eachother with a wtf look, so one of us bolted inside to turn on the evening news, where Peter Hitchener matter-of-factly informed Melburnians that North Korea had launched missiles towards Honolulu, which just so happened to come via Melbourne.  Geographically retarded, huh?  Well, it’s a dream.  Anyway, Peter then went on to inform us of the latest AFL results, so we went back outside watching as the sky glowed with North Korea’s not-so-secret arsenal.  Suddenly my mother says “fuck this shit” and ducked deeper into the backyard to unveil a fucking colossal-sized machine gun, apparently capable of knocking these missiles out of the air.  So mummy takes her seat, aims the turret towards the sky and blasts the evening to pieces.  She unleashed hell on South Korea.  Thousands of bullets heading towards the missiles like a convoy of fireflies.  As we watched as Rambo Mami took on the evil commies, we realised that the entire neighbourhood had the same idea, and they too were blasting missiles outof their air with the latest in backyard furniture!

The next morning we investigated the surrounding area and, whilst rummaging through a park opposite mum’s house, we notice a rocket half embedded into the ground with it’s fins still sticking out, and beside it a young girl throwing rocks at it.  My mother screams “Stop throwing rocks, you stupid little bitch, before the whole fucking thing explodes! ”  With this, the girl disappears.  No sooner we disappear we realise that we were slightly peckish, and my sweet tooth was getting the better of me, so off I go, skipping through the park (well, not really skipping) to our local convenience store, and as I enter I am taken aback by an obnoxious display of memorabilia dedicated to, who else, but Michael Jackson.

Then I woke up.

Pretty cool, huh?! =D

I predict a riot

They did this for the lolz

They did this for the lolz

I got a call from my dad last week.

Me:  Hello?

Dad:  Hey, mate.  How are things?

Me:  Oh yeah, same old shit.  You?

Dad:  Yeah, about that.  Did you watch Foreign Correspondent the other night?

Me:  Nah I forgot.  Why?

Dad:  There was something on it about the riots in Greece last year.

Me:  Oh yeah?

Dad:  Yeah…I didn’t realise Greece was that fucked up.

No sooner I finished the intriguing conversation with my papi I went to the ABC website and watched the story “A Greek Tragedy” (cheesy title, huh?  I thought that it had been done to death after the 2004 Olympics).  It got me thinking…

It’s been half a year since the riots occurred in Athens (which I missed…I always miss the civil unrest damnit!) and in that time there have been sweeping reforms, a change in policy, a more ambivalent attitude from the government and law enforcement agencies towards citizens, as well as a greater appreciation for those who are employed to protect the people of the Hellenic Republic…

HAHAHAAHAHAHHAHAHA I HAD YOU GOING FOR A SECOND THERE, DIDN’T I?

OK OK, now let’s be serious, and TO BE FAIR, the government DID introduce a law in order to curb violence and bring the perpetrators to justice, by banning the wearing of hoods during public demonstrations.  That’s progress, surely?!  Oh yeah, there was also a cabinet reshuffle too.  And finally, there was the introduction of a special task force whose sole duty is to target the cells responsible for blowing shit up in Athens and other cities in Greece.

Now taking a look at the bigger picture, what has actually changed for the better?  After the riots the government was on the cusp of collapse from pressure inside and outside of the parliament but for some reason they’re still ruling.  Why?

The plethora of scandals which fill the newspapers and TV news programs fill the average citizen with a sense of disillusionment that a government can still function when their time and resources are devoted to protecting their mates instead of serving the people that they’re elected to represent.  Whenever there appears to be a possibility of the government losing their one-seat majority, they are saved at the last minute by a vote in their favour of a withdrawal of an inquiry, either because it’s too time-consuming and there are better things to do, or because the further a judicial body investigates, the more likelihood there is of dragging members of opposition parties into the fold where they may have played a role in a scandal.  How can an opposition party effectively accuse a ruling party of inappropriate conduct when their own members are doing their own bit for self gain?  Best to back off before the shitstorm drowns the lot.

What I found interesting in this story was the fact that a member of the Australian media was granted access to interview the family of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, the boy who was shot dead by a police officer on the 6 December, as well as access to the boy’s own bedroom which appears to remain untouched.  I didn’t have to ponder for long why I haven’t seen the Greek media granted the same privilege.  There would be a journalist, microphone in hand with the logo of his channel, picking up random items in the boy’s room with accompanying comments such as “This was the boy’s skateboard, which he used one day before he was gunned down in cold blood on the streets of Exarcheia”, and of course the melodramatic music in the background to give it that added effect.  Then to conclude, the screen will move back to the studio where the “panel of experts” will discuss at length the wrongs and rights of what happened to Greece that night, and attempt to outdo eachother in the “my voice is louder than yours so you will shut the fuck up” competition.  I could be wrong.  I don’t have full access to Greek TV nor do I wish to as I have been exposed enough to the lack of integrity of most journalists of commercial channels in Greece, who could sensationalise a story of a kitten trapped in a garbage bin if the press room was a bit slow, which of course would also be argued by the likes of celebrity journalists in their respective window.

The most sickening aspect of this story was of course the short yet torturous interview with Alexis Kougias, the celebrity lawyer representing the police officer responsible for firing the fatal shot.  To those unfamiliar with this man, he is an attention whore who dates models and then gets bitchslapped by them, and would have represented Adolf Hitler on charges of genocide if it was in his time knowing that he would gain more slots on news programs.  What astounded me though was his tone.  It was like he was attempting to convince himself of the bullshit story that he was spinning, but not quite believing it himself.  Sorry Alexi, different country seeing your botoxed face now and no one in Australia is falling for that bullshit.

What I also appreciated was the view from the police officers, which no one in Greece thought to ask during the riots.  They make a pitiful wage along with most other Greeks, their bosses are tyrants who wield their power for their own benefits, they work a roster which can change in a days notice with no regard for personal commitment and they are working in a nation which has little to no respect for the job that they are doing, or at least trying to do.  Undoubtedly there are some cops who use their position in authority as an excuse to bully those of a “lesser standing” in Greek society (immigrants, junkies, teens etc), but why should they all be tarnished with the same brush?  A cop shot a kid.  All cops are murderers?  Once a cashier was extremely rude to me as I was making a purchase.  Does that mean all cashiers the world over are ill-mannered?  Of course not!  In my first year of high school I was the most disruptive student in the classroom.  Instead of allowing me to corrupt the entire class, they simply moved me to a better-behaved class where eventually their good behaviour would rub off on me, and it worked.  See?

Don’t let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch.

Australian immunity does not exist

Why do Australian travellers believe that they are immune from punishment if they commit an offence in a foreign country?  Do some of these people consider themselves above the law because they are far more superior than those in the country that they are visiting?  Do they think that the advice and warnings that the Department of Foreign Affairs issues on its website are merely scare-mongering?  Or do they travel to a foreign country under the assumption that the Australian embassy/consulate(s) in that country will vehemently defend their innocence and free them of any wrongdoing?

Today’s leading story on all (two) of Melbourne’s newspapers, as well as the commercial TV news programmes, is the arrest of Annice Smoel , a mother of four from suburban Melbourne, in Thailand for allegedly stealing a bar mat from an Australian bar in Phuket.  Her friends claim it was a prank and they put the bar mat in her bag, a claim which fell on deaf ears with Thai authorities.  Reports that Smoel did a runner on the police who had to chase her, and then cop a mouthful of abuse from an intoxicated tourist, have done nothing to support her cause for leniency.  We then the family accusing the Thai authorities of disrespecting Western women, and then accusing the Australian government of failing to pressure the Thai government into releasing Smoel to return to her family in Australia.  Obviously it would be very distressing for the children and the family of this woman to be kept in a Thai prison, and the outrage that has been poured through by the media seems to back the claims that the Thai police have overreacted and Smoel should be released immediately.  Maybe they did overreact, but let’s look at the picture from another angle.

I don’t believe she was simply arrested for the theft of a bar mat.  If she had simply advised the undercover police in the bar that it was clearly a prank, with the back-up of her (not so funny now) friends, then I’m sure the authorities would have let her go with no more than a stern glare and a warning to behave.  But no, that would be un-Australian.  Instead she hurled abuse at the police, attempted to bolt, and when caught she offered the police officers a bribe to let her go.  She has clearly been apprehended for more than just a bar mat.  Which leads me to this…

When the fuck are my fellow countrymen/women going to learn that there is no immunity for tourists in foreign countries, especially Australian tourists?  Who are any of us to think that we can travel to a country, flaunt the law under the noses of the local people, and then when apprehended, be so rude as to believe the hype that the police are corrupt and will accept any notes that  you throw their way?

Australian tourists usually travel with good intentions and represent their country in a positive light.  I am beginning to wonder if the recent surge in cheap flights, accommodation and packages to sun-soaked exotic destinations like Thailand are beginning to attract a different type of traveler, much like those that polluted and exploited Bali before their tourism industry took a hit after the Bali bombings in 2002.  These types of travelers consider their destination as a personal paradise in which they can drink themselves into oblivion, display blatant disregard for local customs and laws, roam in packs with those of their own nationality and go back to their hotels to pass out thinking that their behaviour has no consequences.

Time and time again we see Australians finding themselves on the wrong side of the law abroad, particularly in South-East Asian countries, for an array of offences that carry very harsh penalties which may seem extreme in a country like Australia where the penalties for serious offences carry a pissweak sentence at best.  When Schapelle Corby was sentenced to 20-years imprisonment for allegedly bringing in marijuana into Bali in 2005, Australians acted in such a hateful blind rage that some went even as far as to demand refunds from the money they donated to Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami that killed around 130,000 Indonesians.  The nation had fallen over for the poor girl who was oblivious to the fact that there were drugs hidden in her boogie board bag.  Years down the track, after her brother has been convicted in Australia on drugs-related charges and her sister is happily basking in her new fame by posing for men’s magazines, we began to develop a sour taste in our mouth that maybe innocent Schapelle was not so innocent, and may have been more involved than we wanted to believe.  Not long afterwards, the Bali Nine were accused of drugs smuggling into Bali.  Two received the death penalty, six received life imprisonment and one received 20 years.  Once again, the Australian media was whipped into a frenzy on how the harsh penalties imposed on these nine Australian citizens should have been more strongly opposed by the Australian government, and that the consular officials simply did not act in the best interests of these young yet stupid Australians who were clearly duped into acting as drug mules by others serving their own self interests.  In the same year, Van Tuong Nguyen was executed in Singapore for the same offence of drugs smuggling which was also met with protests from the Australian media, public and the government who were once again hindered in their efforts to influence the decision of the Singaporean justice system.  Then this year we have Harry Nicolaides who, while living in Thailand, was sentenced to prison in Thailand for publishing a book which insulted the Thai royal family which is a punishable offence in Thailand and caries a prison sentence.  Fortunately for him, he received a royal pardon and was allowed to return to Australia after serving six months in prison, but not after his brother publicly accused the Australian government of doing next to fuck-all to help his brother’s situation.

So as you can see I have presented just a few examples of Australian nationals who have broken the laws in foreign countries, been caught, and paid a penalty either by imprisonment or by execution.  While some of the penalties may be questionable by our standards, it is exactly the ignorance of some people that lands them in these sorts of situations, or even worse, they know the penalty of the offence but are still willing to take the risk.  For crying out loud, even the friendly flight attendants inform passengers who are descending upon certain Asian destinations that crime of drugs trafficking carries severe penalties, including death.  *gulp*

Smoel didn’t smuggle drugs.  She didn’t cause any direct harm to anybody except for herself.  She did however commit a crime, whether it be theft (if proven), or whether if be insulting a body of authority, or even attempting to offer a bribe.  Once again the Australian consular officials have to act as the scapegoats of angry Australians who demand that they to their utmost to persuade the government of the country to release their national, but failing that to send in an SASR team to rescue her from her Thai hell and return her safely to her family while the Thai police stand on the ground shaking their fists and yelling “I’ll get you one day!” as the helicopter flies off into the sunset bound for the homeland, just like in the movies.

All of the aforementioned are adults.  All of them have made their own decisions as adults and all of them have paid the price for bad judgement and are paying, or have paid, the price for their bad adult decisions.  Using the Australian government as a fallback isn’t going to help anybody, as DFAT quite clearly mentions on its website, as do the websites of the embassies and consulates.  Why should my money be paid towards the efforts of our government to defend those who have knowingly committed a crime?  It’s high time we stop passing the buck onto the government to act as our defense when a national is in a predicament in a foreign country.  Slandering the government on national television/radio/newspapers certainly does nothing to support yor cause either  We all expect foreign visitors to Australia to respect the laws of our country.  If a Thai tourist drops a cigarette butt on a street, he will receive a fine.  If an Italian tourist doesn’t wear his seat-belt, she will receive a fine.  If a group of Japanese tourists drink beer in a public area, they will be fined and possibly charged.  If a Zambian tourist drives 2km over the speed limit he too will feel the wrath of the law.  You see?  We demand the same respect of our laws as other countries expect in theirs.  Sure the penalties may be harsher, but that’s an unwritten contract you must adhere to as soon as you enter that country’s borders.

I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of Thai prisoners in Thai jails, Singaporean prisoners in Singaporean jails, and Indonesian prisoners in Indonesian jails who are serving harsh sentences for much lesser crimes.  They however don’t have the luxury of crying foul to officials.

Herald Sun, fuck you! You killed Eurovision!

I am prepared for the backlash of my next bold statement.

I love Eurovision!

No really, I do.  It’s hilarious.  But not only that.  It’s the one time of the year that the rest of the world can laugh at Europe rather than continually being in awe of it.  But aside from the laughable performances of most countries, it is actually quite enjoyable and makes for great theme parties.

Unfortunately here in terra australis, we do not receive a live broadcast of the event therefore we can watch the final on SBS at 7:30 on the Sunday evening.  I guess SBS figures there aren’t enough Australians who are insane enough to wake up in the wee hours to watch a live broadcast of the contest.  They’re probably right.  Besides, Eurovision is one of the top 20 most watched programmes on SBS annually so I doubt they’d want to fuck around with the broadcast when they’re on a winning note.

The delay of the broadcast means that each Eurovision Sunday, I maintain a vigilant act of avoiding all news broadcasts, radio and Internet as well as switching off my mobile so I avoid learning early who the Eurovision winner is before the Sunday night broadcast.  Only one year have I successfully been able to avoid finding out who the winner is, and that was because I was IN Europe, watching it live.  It’s a painful Sunday, being closed off from the world, but I suffer for art.

So this morning my girlfriend, Special K (not as in “don’t lick the window” special) and I are sitting outside, drinking our morning coffees, chain smoking our cigarettes.  As I was very cautious of which websites to visit, Special K surfed past The Age website which had:

euroage1

You see?  It doesn’t give much away unless you’re a Eurovision tragic and you can recognise these two singers and which country they are representing.  But as you see, it isn’t announcing who the winner actually is, it’s just a teaser, so in order to learn who the winner is you would need to read the article.  Thinking that the coast was clear, I decided that I had enough coffee and cigarettes to ease my nerves before jumping over to the Herald Sun website for my daily dosage of journalistic bullshit, stories about bogans getting ripped off by other bogans and then bogans make comments that these bogans are just hard working little Aussie battlers trying to get a fair go etc, and opinion pieces by mindless nobodies who consider themselves celebrities who attempt to outdo each other  in causing a stir for the readers to comment about.  So, off I go to the HUN, and what greets me when I open the website:

rybak

You see it, don’t you?  Do I need to enlarge it?  Readers, are you SURE that you are now aware who won Eurovision 8 hours before the show is broadcast on TV tonight?  Does it need to be any larger?  No no, I think they got it just about right, don’t you think?

Herald Sun, you pack of cunts.

As Special K performed emergency cigarette-lighting and coffee-repouring on me before I swallowed my tongue, woke up, tore my heart out of chest, ran down the streets in my underwear, located the editor of this black and white toilet paper and rammed my organ down his throat, I received a text message from a friend who also maintains the annual vigil which read:

“Fucking HS!”  My sentiments exactly.

Now that my anger has subsided, I have to question the logic of the Hun to do this and spoil the surprise for the thousands of Australians who watch the song contest.  Was the excitement too much for the staff at the Hun that they thought, out of the kindness of their hearts, that they would share it with the rest of the nation?  Or did they wake up in a particularly bad mood after mulling for hours last night on which article to print on the third page, probably something related to another battler whose getting thrown out of his/her house because he/she hasn’t paid the rent for the last 6 months because of their gambling addiction and is now crying foul against the bureaucratic bastards who are kicking a man while he’s down…sorry I lost track.

I just don’t understand the logic of it.  I hope the Hun now has the decency to inform its “readers” as to why it killed numerous betting competitions, themed parties and a general enjoyable evening of badly pronounced English, white pants and the nation’s annual French numerical lesson.  Why can’t they stick to reporting stories, you know, the kind they’re good at?  Like some 5-year old boy losing his puppy, or some AFL footballer who went on a bashing/raping rampage in a nightclub about 4 hours after he attended a charity event for children with terminal illnesses, or who Paris Hilton is screwing this week, or who is behaving in an Un-Australian manner.

Next year, I’m going back to Europe for Eurovision Week where nobody can ruin it for me.

Schadenfreude

The P-Plater (probationary) in his “hotted-up” Commodore VT who was ducking and weaving in and out of traffic this morning, tailgating everybody (including me) despite the traffic flowing at the speed limit or over, whose hard efforts came to fruition after he made a breakthrough in the left lane so he could get up to at least 95km in the 70km zone.

 Much to his horror (and the delight of myself and undoubtedly other drivers) another “hotted-up” Commodore was waiting for him around the bend.  This other Commodore had a distinct advantage over our adolescent P-Plater though.  It had police lights.  Oh, and police inside. 

Busted.

The customer is not always right #1

Im pretending to give a shit.  Really, I am.

I'm pretending to give a shit. Really, I am.

Working in the travel industry certainly has its ups and downs.  While it is incredibly satisfying sending people away to unwind, relax, explore, get wasted, find themselves or whatever else, the job does come with its downers (as all jobs do, maybe except if you’re working on Getaway, or you’re a Oligarch, that would be pretty sweet).  One of the negative aspects of this position is the sheer geographical stupidity of some people.  While I rarely take calls these days due to other imperative tasks that require my full concentration such as shooting rubber bands at colleagues, or using Google Translator to send dirty messages in Dutch/French/Bulgarian to the equally dirty girl in the administration section, I decided to put down my coffee and answer a call from a woman who sounded to be in her mid-50’s with none of the wisdom that supposedly comes with age:

Me:  Good afternoon ………………………………….. how can I help you?

Fucktard:  YES!  HELLO?!

Me:  Hi, hello.

FT:  Yes, good.  Now, my mother and I are planning our dream holiday!

Me:  Oh that sounds great!  What exactly did you have in mind?

FT:  Well, it must be 5 STAR!  And it must be somewhere WARM!  And it must be TWO BEDROOM!  And we must be able to walk out of our room and step out straight onto the beach!

Me:  Excellent, sounds like you have it all worked out.  Where were you planning on going?

FT:  It MUST be Santorini.

Me:  Sure.

FT:  Or somewhere in Italy.

Me:  OK, not a problem.  And when are you planning to go?

FT:  In June.

Me:  Hmmm, we may not have much accommodation left as it is high season in Europe and it is now May but I’ll see what I can find and…

FT:  Yes you will or else it won’t be a dream holiday!

Me:  OK *ahem* sure.  Well if you don’t mind holding the line for one moment I’ll call one of our suppliers and see what they can provide.

FT:  Yes.

*Me calls supplier*

Me:  Hey it’s me.

Supplier:  Hey what’s up?

Me:  Yeah, get a load of this fuckwit.  She wants 5 star accommodation, TWO BEDROOM which backs onto the beach in JUNE in SANTORINI or ITALY!  Can you fucking believe it?

S:  Are you fucking serious?  What a fucking idiot!

Me:  I reckon!

S:  Well I guess we better get our arses over there are build something because we have fuck-all left for this summer.

Me:  Fuck.  Well me what you’ve got and I’ll try and convince this nuffy to go somewhere else.

S:  Sure, we have blahblablahblahblahblahblah and blahblah.

Me:  Cool.  Thanks champ.  See ya later.

*returns to client*

Me:  Thank you for holding there.  Unfortunately I couldn’t locate availability that coincides with your EXACT request however I can offer some alternative accommodation in maybe Spain or Portugal.  Would this be of any interest?

FT:  No!

Me:  Oh?

FT:  That wouldn’t be a part of our dream holiday now, would it?!

Me:  Well, some of these resorts are also excellent standards as well.  It may be worth having a look at them.

FT:  OK, tell me.

Me:  Well, we have this one resort on the east coast of Spain just outside of Valencia that has blahblahblahblahblah…it doesn’t exactly back onto the beach but it is just across the road which is very convenient.

FT: No!  That is NOT part of our dream holiday.

Me:  Well, I apologise but you must understand that it is high season and trying to find accommodation of such description one month before departure…

FT:  Well WHERE ELSE can we go?!  I don’t want to go to Spain or Portugal anyway.

Me:  Well how about Malta or maybe Croatia?

FT:  Hmm, maybe, BUT MY MOTHER CAN’T FLY ANYWHERE MORE THAN 4 HOURS AWAY!

*chokes on coffee*

Me:  Umm…ahhhhh…ummm…but you were just asking for Greece or Italy?

FT:  Yes.

Me: Greece and Italy are both in Europe.

FT:  Yes.

Me:  You live in Melbourne, correct?

FT:  That’s right.

Me:  It is at least a 20 hour flight to Greece or Italy.

*silence on the other end of the line*

Me:  By plane!  20 plus hours!

*still silence*

Me:  If your mother can’t fly for more than a 4 hour period, you would have to fly from Melbourne, to Darwin, to Bangkok, to Mumbai, to Dubai, to Athens or Rome.

*FT sighs*

Me:  Can I…?

FT:  Well that’s just ruined our dream holiday, hasn’t it?!?!?

*OH I’M FUCKING SORRY!  I knew I should have invested in that massive super sized tugboat that could just hook up to Europe and drag it across the Pacific to bring it closer to Australia for your convenience!*

Me:  Well, maybe we can find somewhere CLOSER to Melbourne within a 4 hour flight range, yes?

FT:  Like what?!

Me:  Maybe Fiji?

FT:  No, no way, all those bloody coups…

Me:  OK, well then how about Thailand?

FT:  No, bloody hell, no.  All those diseases in Asia bloody bird flu and all that crap, no.  We don’t want to go to Asia!

Me:  Well…how about Tahiti?

FT:  No no no too bloody hot.

*So, back up a second.  You want to go to Europe in summer and stay somewhere near a beach, meaning that you have the intention of bathing in the warmth…oh fuck it*

Me:  Well I’m afraid we’re running out of options then.

FT:  What do you have in Queensland?

And there we have it.  Half an hour had just been stolen from my life.  In that half an hour I could have replied to at least 10 emails, stolen the majority of stationary from the back cabinet, printed all of my lecture notes/tutorial notes at work’s expense, and gone outside for 2 cigarettes.

I will be consulting my legal team to decide my next step.  I’m hoping a legal precedent will be set in which I successfully sue somebody for abruptly stealing something that I will never get back.

A grave injustice – a street name catastrophe

When I moved to Athens I dreamt of living on a street with a funny name.

OK no I didn’t, but I wanted me name to be some quintessentially Greek.  I wanted a street where I could quite happily give my address out to randoms because I was so proud of my uber-cool street name, a name that would have made my friends back in Australia seething with jealousy, a name that would convince people that I am actually living in Greece and I didn’t duck off to London with my tail between my legs like other before me.

When I first settled in Greece last year, I was staying with a friend who lived on Ipirou.  Hmm, not bad, but we can do better, can’t we?  I mean SURELY there is something better out there for me!  I deserve this!  If I had hauled my arse halfway around the world, leaving my beloved back home yearning for my return like Penelope awaiting Odysseus, then I wasn’t going to settle on any street with less than 4 syllables.  This was a crucial selling (renting) point for when I left the comfort of my foster family.

The school where I worked had acquired a few little apartments to cater for people like me, foreigners who can’t be arsed searching for an apartment close to work and battling with landlords/ladies as well as the headache of bureaucracy.  I asked my manager to present me with the available apartments and from there I would decide where to dwell for the remainder of my stay.  I went to visit the first apartment on the list which was on the first floor in a quiet (by Athens standards) street in Ano Patisia.  Not my first area of choice but it was a few minutes from work, and after enduring two hours to/from work for 3 years back at my previous (and current again) job in Australia, I would have settled for the cleaning closet of my workplace.  Anyway, the unit was a dump.  I don’t think it had been occupied for about 2 years and it was evident by the mountain of fast food fliers that were scattered around the kitchen floor, pushed through the gap between the door and the floor.  It smelt like a damp and unwashed teatowel and had about as much character as the cockroach that was scurrying along the bathroom floor.  Not even the juliet balcony won me over since it was basically a walk-out onto the street anyway.  Lame.  We move on!

I return to my manager and ask for something else instead.  She hails the company driver to take me to another apartment.  I bring along a friend as a second opinion.  I didn’t manage to catch the street name of where this apartment lies because the driver was hellbent on beating peak hour traffic (there’s an off-peak time in Athens?) so the speed at which we were going didn’t allow for me to take a glance at the street sign.  Whiplash would have been permanent.  We take the lift to the fourth floor, walk up a small flight of stairs and enter the penthouse of the building. Yeah, the PENTHOUSE!  Technically anything single-standing on the top floor of a building is a penthouse so it was a penthouse by default.  It had a bathroom about the size of my wardrobe, a kitchen that needed a decent scrub but definitely operational, a lounge room/bedroom which would have comfortably fit a double fold-out bed, a desk and a TV unit, and it had air-conditioning which is crucial in a top floor shoebox penthouse.  But the biggest surpirse came when we opened the glass door and shutter to walk out on to the roof of the building which was to serve as MY BALCONY!  I didn’t give a shit if other residents protested at my annexing common ground, it was mine and I wasn’t giving it up without a fight, which fortunately didn’t occur.  I would have lost.

So we roar back to the office, I sign the appropriate papers and before I knew it I was the resident of this new studio in Kato Patisia.  The next day I ask my boss the best way to walk from my casa to the office.  She drew me a small map with little icons representing florists, kiosks, parks etc and small arrows indicating the pathway.  She then included the street names on the small diagram.  I asked her “So where is this Hansen street?”  to which she replies “That is your street.”  What?  “Umm, my street name is Hansen?” I ask wearing my “wtf” face.  “Yes.”

OUTRAGE!

OUTRAGE!

AΙΣΧΟΣ!

That’s right readers.  I was now living in Athens, on a street called HANSEN!  Hansen?!?!  What/who the FUCK is Hansen and why does this clown have a street name after him?!  So what now, I write my address to my friends/family back home as HANSEN, KATO PATISIA, ATHENS?!

I was contemplating giving up the apartment on the basis that the street name was not impressive enough and had somehow stolen a significant part of my Greek cultural experience.  To put it in not so politically correct terms, I was gypped.

I mean really, what the fuck?!  If I wanted to live on a street called Hansen/Hanson, I could have quite happily done so back in Australia without any complaint.  Sure, the name is uninspiring, and some horrible things on this planet share the same name as my unfortunate street.  Exhibit A and Exhibit B.  And to add insult to injury, my building was sitting on the corner of another street, which is called CHRYSOSTOMOU SMYRNIS!  That’s right!  How Greek is that?!  Why did the developers of this building decide on Hansen over this gem?  I could glance down from my balcony/rooftop at the street sign Chrysostomou Smyrnis on one side, and then run over to the other side and spit down on Hansen.  And to make matters worse, the English translation varied depending on what end of the street the sign was.  On the Patision end I lived on Chansen, and from the Agios Eleftherios end I lived on Hansen.  When I had to call my bank back home to provide my new mailing details, I gave them the Chansen spelling because I was yet to enter the street from the Ag.El end.  “So, you live on CHANSEN (said “ch” as in “church”) Street..in Athens…in Athens, Greece?”  Even she knew this was some street name fail.

I mean for christ’s sake, there are like a million streets in Greece called Eleftherios Venizelos.  I would have happily settled with that!  I would have even been somewhat content with a street name of a remarkable date in Greek history where no one actually knows why it’s a remarkable date!  28 October, 3 September just to name two (there was an August one but I don’t remember.  See, unremarkable!)

“Well what street name would you like you ungrateful cunt where some people don’t even have a street to call their own?”, I hear you ask.  Good question.  Here are some suggestions I prepared earlier just by browsing Google Maps for potential:

Sikinou – I just like it.  It’s SiK!

Kallifrona – because it kinda sounds like California

Lesvou – because friends back home would find it funny

Agathoupoleos – because it’s long

Vasileiou Voulgaroktonou – for the reason above

Doksapatri – because I have a thing for the “ks” (Ξ, ξ) letter in Greek.  To have it in my address would mean eternal happiness

Vasilissis Sofias – a street name with royalty would have given me some sort of prestige, even if I was living in a bin

Archimandritou Parisi – to fuck up non-Greek speakers

Pipinou – LOLZ

Sokion – it has an Oriental tinge to it.  I rike!

Tositsa – because it sounds like a Mexican dish.  Arriba arriba!

Lithis – because it means “oblivion”

Friskou – hehe

But the ultimate is the one you see above:

BOUBOULINAS – ΟΔΟΣ ΜΠΟΥΜΠΟΥΛΙΝΑΣ.  Even writing it makes me giggle.  Sure, it’s not at all funny to native Greeks, but just think about it from a foreigner’s perpsective…it’s funny!  It’s a funny name!  It’s cute!  It sounds like a pet name almost.  “Come and tell me about your day, my little Bouboulina.”  I tell you, if I had managed to score a dwelling on Bouboulinas, I would never have left on principle that I would not give up such an awesome street name to return to something lame like Smith or Flinders or, God forbid, Hansen.

I’m sure this fervent Greek revolutionary would not appreciate my childish behaviour.  But I’m sure she was even thinking way back then as she was inserting a sword into the stomach of a Turk that one day, just one day, her name would be kind of amusing to somebody.

Oh yeah, and I found out who this Hansen dude is.  Certainly not as impressive as Bouboulina, but at least I knew it wasn’t just the City of Athens poaching names from foreign countries.  I knew they would be above such antics as that *cough cough*.  Please feel free to comment with more funny street names that I may have missed!