Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 300: Sunday Sessh

I waited all year to come out to Alumbra. We attended an event hosted by Alumbra for New Years and had a blast, so I couldn't wait to go to the actual club. Sunday's are titled Soul Session. R&B here means Hip Hop music but also includes R&B. Thats how you know you're in the right venue. I'll make it quick,

Just our style! Being the last day of "Four days of Fun" we sprung for VIP which included food, champagne, (sham pag knee) and Belvedere. Our people showed up right on time and it was pure foolery from there on!

I'm going to miss all of you!!

Day 299: Cop-a-Cabana

Sorry, not those type of skills. I'm talking CopaCabana. We're Baacckkk! I had to get one last look at this spot. The food has yet to disappoint and the music is always great. We started our night here and spent most of the evening dancing merengue and salsa. Eventually we made our way out of Fitzroy and back into the city. We landed at Gin Palace and finished the night with some extraordinary cocktails. This place is definitely worth a try. Think old harlem speakeasy. The bartenders are chefs but with spirits and half the enjoyment of the experience is watching your cocktail take shape. With James Brown bumping in the background, a well worn in leather man chair, and all I need is a fresh stogie to complete the feel.

 Of Course you would Adam!

Day 298: Steak & Shake

I have had my eye on this steakhouse the entire time I've been in Australia. What took us so long to try it out? Well it had good reviews, but the bad reviews were really bad! But they had a great website and the pictures spoke 1000 words. So I was torn. Torn for 8 months until I said, I wouldn't be happy with myself if I didn't at least try it and form my own opinion. So we went.

Vlado's is the name and meat is their game. Its run by Vlado, an 83 year old man who has soo much pride in his meat that he displays it in a case in front of his grill station, where he is the only cook. He chooses only the meats he wants to cook. The menu is set, and the only options you have are the wine menu. He serves up only his finest wagyu, rump, and fillets with a minimal marbling score of 8. The meat is cooked to med/med-rare (American Rare) and its blasphemy to ask for a sauce. The only condiments are a in house mustard and horseradish. Here, its all about the meat. The only vege's come at the beginning of your meal, a simple british salad and the best! Best (mayo-less) coleslaw I've ever had, ever! Then you are served Vlado's very own blended sausage made of beef and pork, followed by a meat tasting platter of calves liver, pork fillets, and beef fillets. MELT IN YOUR MOUTH GOOD! 

The waiter then comes out with a meat display for you to pick your cut, Diana and I both choose a porterhouse. The servings were well spaced and the steaks were cooked to perfection! This place was a time warp. Old 70's style decor, but not cheap and cheesy. Close quarters but not right on your neighbors lap, cozy dining, and attentive staff. However, its definitely no frills. Vlado is focused on his meats and thats it. There are no sides of baked/mashed potatos. There aren't vegetables available as a side. Nada. So I think thats where a lot of people went wrong. They didn't do their research, before going. Their expectations were to high. While there are better (if you like the bells and whistles-frankly who doesn't) Steakhouses out there, Vlado's did not disappoint. And because I went in with low expectations I was quite impressed with the whole experience.

We met up with a few of our friends later in the evening. We ended up at a lounge named Baraki. The live band was great, playing a lil funk, soul, R&B, and even a little hip hop! The crowd was live and no one was too cool to dance!


Peep the milf creeping up on Mike, hahaha...

Day 297: Australia Day

Today is Australia Day. It is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, the date commemorates the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the proclamation at that time of British sovereignty over the eastern seaboard of New Holland.

So I asked my Aussie friends, 
"Hey Aussie friends, what do you guys do to celebrate Australia day?" 
To which they replied, 
"eat lamb, have a barbie, and drink tinnies" and the other, "Eat lamb, drink, and fight with ethnics I think" "remember.. we did orginiate from criminals!"

So if you want to celebrate Australia day, thats how you do it folks. Hilarious if you ask me. We started our evening in St. Kilda. We went to the Twilight Market by Luna Park, and it was a lot of fun. There were several food vendors, Capt. Calamari and the Belgian Waffles, among our favorites. As well, there was plenty of clothing and accessory vendors as well....trouble! 

In any case, today marked the first of my "Four Days of Fun." To bid myself farewell, I scheduled "events" so to speak so I could see everyone before I left. Tonight we ended up at old faithful, Kingpin Bowling. We grabbed a few drinks on the water front and finished the night at the arcade! Sometimes you gotta keep the fun simple. I had a lot of fun with my P.I.C. and am looking forward to the weekend!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Day 296: Computerizing

Being "away from it all" for four days was very refreshing. We just had to socialize with the other people on the bus, eat, take in all the beauty, and read. The only computerized part of the trip was our camera.

Let's not front: we missed our laptops and cell phones. So, we've been inter-webbing and computerizing for the last two days lol.  So what! Don't judge us!

Day 295: Soul Food

A lil taste of Americana

As soon as we arrived back in Melbourne I had to cure this wing fix! We headed to TGI Fridays and all I ordered was this. Wings. After 5 days of "bush" food this was a relief. I can't wait to get back to my local, or not so local bar in the Bronx and hit up WING NITE!!!
Now on to recovering,
That is all....

Day 294: Kings Canyon

One word:


What was I thinking?? I didn't sign up for this. I hate heights, I can't stand it. I remember visiting the Intrepid in grade school, and it was the worst class trip ever. However with age comes a certain amount of confidence and I've noticed a decrease in my fear of heights. Still, this was extreme. I didn't realize we were actually climbing up the canyon and then proceeding around the rim. Lucky for me the natural beauty of it all overrode my fears and I was able to conquer this natural wonder. As soon as we got off the bus, I thought I was in a movie. I mean, its was unbelievable. Diana and I took several moments to just stand still and listen. To think. To feel the breadth of history surrounding us. There were only two moments during our hike that I had to stop and recollect myself. Once we got to the first section on top of the canyon, there was a stretch about 50 yards long and only one person wide, along the canyon wall, the other side was a 300meter drop!!! No fence, no guard rail, nada!! The other time was descending the canyon, it was the creep up to the edge and climb off and down the canyon part, the holy crap what if I fall off and die thing that had me a bit hesitant. Once again no fencing or guard rails, just rocky steps down.  

Diana never ceases to amaze me. She is such a source of strength for me. When I think of what she has done, and the things we will continue to accomplish together, it makes me excited for the future. She did drive me crazy continually walking up to the edge and looking down. Or climbing up the rocks on the edge of the rim, Diana, what if that rock slips! Ack!! 

Day 293: Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta
Kata Tjuta

The Outback holds no prisoners.... Unknown remains where we collected our firewood!

Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas, are a group of large domed rock formations. The alternative name, The Olgas, comes from the tallest peak, Mt. Olga. The hike was about 6 or so miles (9km) and took the better part of the morning. We woke up around 4:30am and made it back over to Uluru for sunrise. Shortly after the sun crested over Uluru, we were back on the road and headed to Kata Tjuta. It was amazing. I wish the pictures could do it justice. We saw water falls, climbed up steep valley's, in and out of rock formations, and thru parts of the Outback that looked like a Dinosaur would appear at any moment. This land before time!

We left the Olgas and headed to our new camp site. On the way we stopped to see a huge salt lake surrounded by beautifully silky red sand. It was unbelievable! We took a minute to reflect and then proceeded to the roadway were there hadn't been a car sited in hours. Except for the one that snuck up on us right before we decided to jump in the middle of the street....AHHHHHH! We made another stop to collect fire wood. Dude, with what tools? Apparently true Aussie blokes can chop down trees with their bare hands, or at least get their tour members to do it. After being speared by several pieces of splintering wood in 105 degree heat it was time to go....bandaids, Diana where are the bandaids?!

Once at camp we built a fire, and got dinner ready. What an amazing sunset to put us to bed...

Day 292: Uluru - Ayers Rock

The ride through the Outback looked like this the whole weekend

The loneliest gas station

 Today we left Alice Springs at 6:15am.

Left on a small bus with a group of people we'd get to know along the way.
Kissed our asses and civilization goodbye!
Prayed our Ipod and Camera batteries would last at least three more days.

"Goin' places that I've never been.
Seein' things that I may never see again

And I can't wait to get on the road again.
On the road again -
Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We're the best of friends.
Insisting that the world keep turning our way

And our way
is on the road again."
                         ~ Willie Nelson

We would be meeting our friends from Melbourne, in Yulara. They decided to fly further into the Outback to avoid the agony of the first 500km in the bus. Jen and Adam boarded the bus shortly before our hike around Uluru. Long pants, tee-shirt, and shirt with long sleeves. I started to sweat as soon as I saw them. But, they must have gotten the note about your skin burning up and falling off, so I don't blame em'. 

Quick Facts:
Uluru is the Aboriginal name for this site. On 19 July 1873, the surveyor William Gosse sighted the landmark and named it Ayers Rock in honour of the then Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. Since then, both names have been used. The sandstone formation stands 348 m (1,142 ft) high (rising 863 m/2,831 ft above sea level), with most of its bulk lying underground, and has a total circumference of 9.4 km (5.8 mi). 

Brief History:
This site has major cultural significance to the Agnanu Aboriginal Tribe. So much so that certain areas of the rock and surrounding area cannot be photographed/filmed. This is so serious to their people, that if one of them sees a prohibited picture of one of these sacred areas, they must tell theirs elders, who are then served penalties as severe as DEATH! Also don't be an asshole and climb the rock. Its disrespectful to the Aboriginals and not condoned. The path to climb was installed by station owners trying to increase tourism in the area. However the original path up the rock was significant in that it was a  part of that men's maturation/becoming a man ritual. 

The Australian government held the rights to the land until 1985, when the local Aboriginals semi-successfully won their lands back. Only for the Australian government to stipulate a 99 year lease back. However, the Agnanu have remained in control of the lands. During the time that land had been taken away the watering holes became contaminated, bush fires ravaged vegetation and wildlife. Once the local people regained control, they reclaimed nearly all that was lost. Awesome! 

Sunset during dinner in Uluru

Sunrise over Uluru the next morning

Day 291: We'll be OUTBACK

Statue in front of the "Second Hand" store in Alice Springs

We finally made it to the Australian Outback!! So excited we don't even know what to do with ourselves! Funny, not many Aussie's we've met have actually been to the Outback. Which doesn't surprise me since many American's have never been to the Grand Canyon or Mt. Rushmore....Hoover Dam? Shall I continue...

Well, our time in Australia wouldn't be complete without a trip to the Northern Territory. We arrived in Alice Springs, NT today. From here we'll jump on a backpacker's tour to drive about 1000 miles into the Outback. Then we will hike around 20 miles thru the desert to see sacred Aboriginal sites.

Firt Impressions:
Go to HELL, you mean Alice Springs??

Okay so this Celsius & degrees thing needs to be more equivalent. There has to be a better way to let people know that if you walk outside your skin will burn off!! Reading 41 degrees on my phone just doesn't equate to "put you face in the oven while its on pyro-self clean mode" hot. The only benefit, if there was one, is that it is dry heat. So you just dehydrate and stick to the concrete like a worm the day after it rains. Rant aside...

Alice Springs is a small town. One main strip with bars, restaurants, and community/cultural buildings. This was our base camp before and after our tour around the Outback. Surprisingly there were several facilities to learn about the Aboriginal's arts and culture. On the downside this would be a good place to see how they were utterly screwed out of there land. Humm..just took a negative turn there. But the Aussie's that decided to come over with guns and disease and say, you can have the Outback....have no GOD. They were literally, and as far as I'm concerned, sent to hell. Another story for another time.....moving on.

Day 290: "Leaves" me alone

in the middle of nowhere, and I'll still be fine......

We're city folk. But we appreciate getting away. Nothing can replace the conveniences of being able to walk out the door at 2am and getting a quarter water & cherry italian ice. Sometimes the sounds of bass blasting the latest dancehall reggae makes me sigh and say, yea I'm home now....Or papi in his dodge caravan (rimmed up of course) bumpin' freestyle, Boricua flag sticker displayed proudly, to make me say - I'd have it no other way. These are acute cultural, possibly even neighborhood specific references. However, as much as I identify, is as much as I can walk away and be completely fine. Not to say I'm turning my back. More so to say its already in me. Our memories. Our talk. Our swag? We're people of a certain vintage and while the world changes we have to hold on to those things that make us, us. But you also have to be able to adapt to change. You have to be okay with leaving certain things behind, by being confident that "its" all still within you. Here's a short poem I wrote, which this picture inspired.

"As I look up to the sky
 I think
 Sun glancing past my eyes
 I wink
 A grimace comes across my face
 slightly uncertain I continue to watch
 with a mind like mine I'm not alone
 with dreams like these,
 reality is the possibility
           - Adonis Long

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 289: Self-Motivation (9)

I took the time to print and post some of my Melbourne photos on the wall near our bedroom. I have to admit that I love the way they look. It feels so good to be able to physically hold/touch my photo than it is to see them on my laptop. Next step: frame them!

Day 288: Symbols of Commitment

Our engagement rings

This year we will witness three of our closest friends get married. It's just as rewarding to be a part of their milestones as it was for them to be part of ours. I look forward to the good married and family times to come!

Here are some bonus photos taken by Adonis from our balcony:
Photo by Adonis L.

Photo by Adonis L.

I'm so jealous I wasn't awake to snap these shots! Good job Adonis!

Day 287: Long Solo Walk

I went on a long walk today to run an errand. The store was on our side of the city which is noticeable quieter than the other side of the Yarra. This afternoon wasn't different. I enjoyed my tunes during the walk, loved the feeling of the warm air on my face, and the feel of the hot sun on my skin.

I know I'm married and I know I'm no longer "one". But, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy my alone time. Sometimes we need it.

Day 286: Cook Off #3

Ceviche Tartlets by Adonis 
Simosas by Yasmin

"Deez Balls" by me!

Kebabs by Omar

Curry Lasagne by Sangita

Yogurt Sauce Beef Dumplings by Adam

Baked Ziti by Adonis

Creme Burlee by Jen

Caribbean Banana/Lime/Coconut Pie

Losers have to wash the dishes!
OH yes... another delicious cook-off! Nine of us prepared our mains, entrees, and desserts. Our new friend Jen won the cook off with her amazing Creme Brulee, Judith came in second with her Caribbean  Pie, and I came in third place with "Deez Balls"!! My dish won best of food. I'm so excited that people love my balls lol!