Monday, April 29, 2013

Virgin Member

OK, this one IS a FWP.

Flying Virgin to NZ, economy class. Bummer enough, right? Virgin is not Star Alliance but has an agreement with Singapore Airlines for club lounge access. I check-in at the priority counter and the lady says that there is no Virgin lounge in International in Melbourne, but I am welcome to use the Air New Zealand lounge or of course the Singapore lounge. Huh, go with what you know, right? I find that the Singapore lounge is under renovation and the sign directs me to the United lounge. Steely looks from both the SIA person and the United person.

"Virgin is not Star Alliance."

"But the SIA lounge is closed, the sign directed me here."

"Yes, but Virgin is not part... "

" But Virgin has reciprocal lounge access with SIA."

Disbelief. Dubiety.

"Virgin is not... "

" I can get into the Virgin lounge (at Perth which doesn't have a SIA lounge.) when I am flying Singapore."

The SIA guy calls his boss. He goes red. He is under-trained.

"I am still sorry sir, but because this is a United lounge and Virgin is not part of Star Alliance, the reciprocal agreement cannot be applied."

Smug look from United person.

Go to New Zealand lounge.

"I am sorry sir, I but Virgin is not part of Star Alliance." (There is a sign outside the ANZ lounge welcoming Virgin customers.) "Your SIA membership doesn't cover the ANZ agreement with Virgin."

"Oh fuck, just let me in...!"

He did.


(Vindicated: my ticket was sold as an Air New Zealand flight.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In Which E@L Resists Anything But Temptation.

After having explained to friends at the excellent bistro in the Builders Arms Hotel in Gertrude St (not the attached restaurant Moon Under Water unfortunately - no time to make an advance booking) that the most rewarding thing for him about the long-term (2 years) successful weight loss behaviour E@L has been exhibiting, is the sense of being in control, of feeling like you are in control of your life and your body. Oh yeah. Total control. Have another glass of Yarra Valley Pinot, E@L, and talk to us about taking command.

However, indeed, he says, "No thanks, no more wine."

No? Done, thanks. Desert? Nope. No more room. Not me. (Wise man.)

Hang on, is that Amaro with caramelized orange for a disgestif? Well, seeing as how he skipped the wine...

Willpower. Apart from that Amaro of course, E@L is a tower of self-control and strength and psychological power held in check. He can hold his own against a sea of troubles.


But let's take advantage of getting home early, E@L, it's only 9:30. Read that China Miéville on your Kindle (Embassytown). Relax. A take-away latte from Pellegrinis maybe while you read it? Sure, it's just around the corner. Maybe have a look in the window at The PaperBack, three steps across the lane, just, you know, old habits...


E@L is in the lane, lit red by Pellegrinis' cursive neon, looking at his latest latent purchase - The Examined Life, How We Lose And Find Ourselves, Stephen Grosz - when a voice tries to pull him away...

"Mate. Ma-ate. Ya got some coins? A few bucks? The refuge wants $15; I need a more coins ya know. Anything would help, thanks cobber."

E@L shrugs. Resolve, steely, see it in action. He pulls out the few coins from his right pocket, in which he rarely puts money. "There ya go, mate. All I got."

That's all he is going to give the pest. Doesn't even have a drugged baby unconsious on his lap, we mean, hey, get serious here! It was 60c. Hmm. These days, when some extra steamed veg with your grilled fish at the hospital cafeteria is $4, when that shot of Amaro and its caramelized orange is $15. Yes, 60c is not a fuck lot of money, is it?

He's hardly registered their weight in his hand. "Ya got some other coins? Seriously I don't need much. Just bit more would rooly rooly help."

E@L sighs, takes a moment, then digs deep, deep, into his other pocket. Pulls up some golden-colour discs of unequal size, genuinely all he has in coins. "Here ya go. No, hang on, that one's a Singapore dollar. Won't help you much."

"Oh, cool, give us a look. Singapore? Amazing." He nods, genuinely interested, passes it back. Then, ever the professional, asks, "Do you have any notes instead, notes would be brilliant: for two nights they want ...(indistinct)... for a room. A bed, you know. It's getting cold, eh?"

"I only have $50s, mate, I'm sorry." Now, E@L wouldn't advise saying that to a person on the street anywhere else but this part of Melbourne city. Might as well say, "Pull a knife, rob me." But this guy is a beggar, not a thief. He's there almost every time E@L walks in the upper reaches of Bourke St in the evening: he's just this homeless guy, bit of a drug problem sure, maybe not his fault, maybe he's an ex-CEO who took a hit in the GFC. E@L has never felt threatened by people asking for money...

"It's OK," he says to E@L brightly. "$50's are OK. I can give you change in $20s."

... pause...

You are telling E@L you have change for a $50?


E@L enters the book-store, glancing on the New Non-Fiction shelves. Can't see the book he wanted to browse through, looks across to the counter and he hears the customer there talking to the saleswoman. He looks away, then back over his shoulder and sees a tall man, maybe late twenties, early thirties, a bald patch taking over some scalp under the fair hair at the crown. He is wearing fair trousers and a has a red scarf over a fawn-colored jacket. What a fucking dork. E@L sees the bookshop lady. She is also of that age. A little bit of white throat showing down to the second button of her white shirt, then her knitted cardy. Curly hair, a bit unruly, small eyes with almost a tired squint, smiling. It's almost time to close. Long day dealing with pseudo-intellectual dip-shits.

"Well", he was saying, "you're a woman, you must've really enjoyed A Room Of One's Own! It's very good, yeah? It would be very good, I mean, you know, having somewhere to do that, you know write, or... have a room."

E@L is stunned. What are we allowed to say in the world today?

He can hear hear her laugh, though. "Yes, what is it? Five hundred pounds a year and a room of one's own. Would be very handy."

"Yes, we could all do with that!" he says. Then, E@L could gather somehow, he awkwardly pays for his Mrs Woolf purchases and closes the door just behind E@L's back. (It's a small bookshop.)

E@L steps across and asks her about his book.

"I've got the Lost part down pat, but need to brush up on the being Found."

"Yes, we are all a little lost," she says, smiling. "But not this book." And she pulls a copy from a pile of unsorted paperbacks on the floor by her counter.

"Excuse me," he says, "but I couldn't help overhearing just then. Did that guy really say 'You are a woman, you must understand sexual stereotyping?' or were my ears not taking that in properly?"

She laughs again. Eyes not so small really, they're just emeralds crouching in laugh-lines, dimples (God E@L loves dimples), smiling with not too much gum, all nice teeth, curly hair, the flouncy type. Maybe E@L sees something of what made the other guy make a fool of himself for...

... See that willpower in action as E@L resists falling in love.


E@L negotiates the gauntlet of hipsters (one has an oversize paperback copy of Chomsky On Anarchy in his hand) and moves down the aisle towards the back of Pellegrinis, to where the cakes are. Just to have a look. Old habits.

"What's that one?" he asks, just out of interest. E@L can only see the outside of it, thick, fruit on top.

"Almond cake. Apricot on top." Pause. "You want whipped cream?"

See his resolve, firm as a whipped cream, see his character come to the fore... No. Neither did E@L.

E@L sighs. Some charity, a book, and a cake with cream to go with that latte.

Awesome willpower, E@L.


E@L is in that hotel room of his, alone. The meal was excellent. His friends are good, talking about getting married in New Zealand. The Mieville book is good. The Grosz book is good. The cake and cream were good. Awesome latte of course.

He can't resist, and puts Bjork on the iPod...

... and smiles to himself.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Partayyyy!!! ZZzzzzzz...

The 15th year of being an expatriate hit E@L yesterday - yes April Fools Day, everybody laugh. But who is the joke on? E@L booked the pool-side BBQ area and called up 6 or 7 hundred of his most intimate friends of whom 6 or 7 turned up.

But now it's 4am and the departing guests seem to have left most of the worst parts of the evening on his dining room table.

E@L looks at BBQ cold cuts and the soggy salads and the plastic cups of - OMG what is that? These trays of snags and elaborately marinated chicken wings and spiced steaks; long anticipated soon forgotten points of Epicurean delicate essen, cooked to perfection under supremely challenging conditions in extreme situations (E@L has no hairs left on the back of his left hand). There were missing ingredients and lost sauces, but it all went down well enough one guesses. Nobody complained of not having enough chicken wings, hey! But there are the foggy times; the usual did I put my tongue into what, whom, when?...

More crucially, it's the odd "did-I-really-open-that?" bottles of vintage red, half drunk and even less appreciated, lying on their side.

What a fucking mess. Gin. Sprite. Tahini. Ugh.


The Aussie Rules football replay is finally finished and E@L staggers up to looks around. How to sort out this fuck train-wreck? Without his fall-back position - Call The Mouse! - he reaches for Bruce's Rules for Tidying Up Efficiently, viz:...

"If, within the next 24hrs, you are not going to drink it, eat it, or fuck it, throw it out."


Chin chin!


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