Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Drinking Consultants

The Republican McCain-Palin campaign later applied "Joe the Plumber" as a metaphor for middle-class Americans. - Wikipedia
Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. - Benjamin Franklin

King and Godfrey's, Lygon Street
Sitting in the Q32 bus on my way home from work. I was absorbed in reading Great House on my Kindle. February, New York. Dusk. I glanced up and stared out the window in front of me.

The sunset was a vivid pink behind a postcard silhouette of the Manhattan skyline. It reminded me of those ghastly "paintings" on velvet that bogan families put on their walls in Australia last century. Those "paintings" of horse heads and pretend Polynesian girls ...

I thought of taking a photo, but would the camera catch the outrageousness of the garish scene? And in any case I was too late. The sunset disappeared as the bus descended from the Queensboro Bridge into the depths of Manhattan.

So soon the Australian-ness of my vibe had gone, and though only five weeks had passed since my trip to OZ, my Australian life was once again, history.

Was I really there just last month? What had I left? A land where "drink consultant" is a profession. Where the Sex Party is a political organization. Where people while away their days socializing. Well that's the impression. And even if it isn't quite true, I like to pretend that it is.

As I walk the streets of Melbourne on my all too infrequent trips back home I'm reminded of Joni Mitchell's "Carey". "And we'll laugh and toast to nothing and smash our empty glasses down."

My friends enlighten me. It isn't all play and no work and in any case, maybe these people you see in outdoor caf├ęs are out-of-towners, tourists. The real Melbourne people are working in offices, earning a quid because everything is so expensive. Right!

Near the Alfred Hospital - Visiting Hours Over - Australians at Play
Late January, 2011. The tellie is full of commentary and scenes of the Queensland floods which were in full force. Television in Australia is becoming like CNN in America. The same scenes, the same interviews played over and over again. The Aussie journo's knack of sniffing out the village idiot in every town, means we have to put up with scenes of little Aussie battlers sitting outside their flooded homes drinking beer. Of hoons on surfboards in rivers that have burst their banks. "Dreadful" say my friends. "What will the rest of the world think of us!"

Corner of Elgin and Lygon, Melbourne
Our Prime Minister Julia Gillard keeps embarrassing everyone by appearing on television in the midst of the flood and its victims, smiling plastically at the camera. I ask my brother, "Is she putting on that accent, trying to sound working class?" "No," he informs me, "She thinks she's talking posh."

I'm reminded of this when back in New York, a colleague tells me that he saw Julia Gillard on television the previous evening. I try to change the subject, as if by hearing about her in a distant land I'm somehow tainted. But he persists. "Is she low class?" he asks. "Probably," I mutter. "She doesn't sound like you," he's saying as I move away.

Universita Restaurant, Lygon Street  Carlton
Yep I'm back. Back in America where there IS no "working class". For my Australian readers - when Obama et al talk of the "middle class" they mean working class and middle class. People who work. The people with blue collar jobs are "low class". Republican states are "red" states. Democrat states are "blue". They've got it backwards. The conservatives aren't "liberals". "Liberal" doesn't apply to economic policy but to social reform and being left wing. Barack is the President's first name and not something you do for your favorite footy team.

The other side of the world seems like the other side of the world. But there is one small mercy.

I don't have to listen to Julia Gillard.

1 comment:

chinamonty said...

Remember Julia was born a Pom!

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