A Bob Djurdjevic Column, February 2000
MELBOURNE, Feb. 20 - Finally, for some even lighter fare, here is a real life travel vignette which the TiM editor wrote this weekend in Melbourne, Australia, and sent it as a literary postcard to his daughters and some friends:
"Could not help but think of you two, and your visit to
Melbourne with us in 1994, as Mom and I were walking around the city
today. Our hotel (Hilton) is
at the edge of the Olympic Park, where that tennis center and other sports
Mom was a bit off with her yesterday's temperature assessment (in
the 90s). Actually, yesterday was 40C (well into the 100s F). Today, it
has cooled off somewhat (28C) but it is more humid.
On our way to the tennis center, I saw another huge sports arena
still under construction, but almost finished.
I asked a lady passer-by what that was going to be.
"Another tennis center."
"Another tennis center a few hundred yards away from the
Australian National Tennis Center? (where the Australian Open Grand Slam
tournament is played). What
on earth for?"
The lady smiled and shrugged.
"Why not?" she said.
"And you're paying for it," Mom bravely added.
Later in the day, I asked three more Melbourne residents why a
second huge tennis center was being built.
Nobody knew the answer. But
they all suspected that they were paying for it.
So go back to the part of my Sydney lecture which deals with the
three preferred creatures of the New World Order - ostriches, sheep and
sardines, and you can count some Melbourne resident among the ostriches.
After lunch, Mom and I walked through the parks to the
magnificent Australian War Memorial Shrine in a park south of here. You
may remember the one we took you to in Canberra.
This one is every bit as large and well kept.
We were lucky to get there just in time for a wreath-laying
ceremony. Afterwards, I
talked to the Aussie colonel who laid the wreath. The announcer said his
name was Col. George MacKenzie, so I was wondering if he was maybe related
to the Canadian Gen. Lew MacKenzie (the former UN Commander of Sarajevo in
He replied tongue in cheek, "well, I am sure we are, maybe
three or four generations ago."
Then he asked me where I was from, and we had a nice little chat.
After that, Mom and I talked to a couple of guards of the War
Memorial. Being her usual shy
self, Mom asked me, looking at their hats, "wonder what those
So I turned to the two soldiers and said, "my wife would
like to know what those feathers are."
"They are kangaroo feathers," one of the soldiers
replied. "Kangaroos are
really hard to catch, so their feathers are very rare and special."
"You wouldn't be pulling my leg, would you?" I asked.
"Nah. Would we
ever do that?"
"You know the little pouch the kangaroos have?" the
second soldier joined the conversation.
"That's where the feathers come from."
does a chicken have lips? "Nice going, lads, except that we have more
kangaroos on our land than you blokes have probably ever seen au naturel.
So you should find yourself another Yank tourist to try your jokes
Then the first soldier got serious and told us that they were emu
"That's a much better use of emus than the other one I've
seen in Australia."
"Turning them into emu pies."
Everybody laughed again.
What I didn't tell him is what another good Aussie friend of ours
told us over dinner in Canberra, back in 1994, when you girls were with
us. "Except maybe for France, Australia is the only country in the
world which eats its national symbols" (emu and kangaroo).
After that, there was a regimental ceremony rehearsal in front of
the Memorial which we watched for a few minutes. Hope this is not the best
Aussies have to offer in their army.
The regiment looked to me, even as a lay person in military
matters, as a rag-tag bunch of soldiers who could not even line up
straight in a row.
As we were leaving, we passed a male and a female soldier leaning
on a stone fence along the side of the Memorial.
We smiled to each other and said hello.
Then looking at their feathers, I added, "I see you two have
lost your kangaroo feathers."
The two cracked up."
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