Monday, April 24, 2017

Sherry and Jeanne's Big Adventure Down Under

I'm going Down Under for a week of sun and fun with my sister Sherry.
(pic by Deb Edwards on Manly Beach, a Northern Beach of Sydney, Australia)

And work. Lots of work. Art work, lots of it.
Sorting out the will of David Edwards, a retired research physician I worked for in NY before he moved back to Australia, curating the art estate of his late wife, Margery Edwards.

(internet pic)
She made lots of black paintings in her last years. 

Speaking of black, here at JFK, black pants and leggings are the preferred travel attire.
Also spike heels - the latter not my first choice. Or second. Or third...ever, especially on a plane... you will note from this accidental pic I took of my shoe.

I'm leaving on a jet plane, Friday evening, flying Qantas.

I leave NYC behind as the sun sets in the west, 
coincidentally the same direction I'm heading. What are the chances?

I follow the sun.

Manhattan restaurant menu? Nope. Qantas flight. All food and drinks for free!
I want one of those Australian Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noirs!
On USA airlines you get peanuts and the boot. Literally. 

(internet picture)

...dragging 69-year-old Dr. Dao off the plane after he
questioned his need to be bumped. He's now collateral damage of their overbooking policy 
with teeth missing, facial surgery needed, and lots of internet coverage.
And no doubt a huge settlement from United.
Just last month the same airline kicked off some women for wearing leggings!
What??? According to my research, three out of four women would
not be able to enter the sacred United inner sanctum. 

Flying, flying, flying...

Landing...landing...landing... Los Angeles, where all genders can use the bathrooms.

At LAX I meet my sister Sherry and once again we're up and away.
 Flying, flying, flying...

...crossing the International Date Line and the equator at almost the same time
which seems kind of cosmic to me. What are the chances?

On we fly through the black hat of night, over 13 hours
while an entire Sunday disappears as if it never was. 
Where has my Sunday gone? This is some kind of dark magic.

What's President Coolidge doing down there, lurking in the darkness?
Research reveals that this is where a ship of the same name,
a former luxury liner transformed into WWII battle mode, was mistakenly
sunk by two Allied mines off the Island of Espiritu Santo. 
Due to the quick and effective rescue efforts of Captain Henry Nelson, 
only two men out of 5000 didn't survive.
Compare that with today, when our "President" and his military men can't even
keep track of their ships,
as in Trump warning North Korea that a big bad military aircraft carrier,
a veritable ARMADA was coming their way,
 while the ship was actually steaming in the opposite direction3500 miles away,
on its way to take part in joint exercises with the Australians. 

Sherry and I have this in common with the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson!
More dark magic.

It's Monday 6AM and we're in Brisbane,,,

...where I'm loving the Abstract Expressionism on the airport walls.
This is very advanced interior design.

And look! Palm trees! Or maybe palmettos? Something tropical, anyway.

Sherry is looking cool and composed, until we get to Customs.
Well, actually she stays cool and composed - was she born in a custom's line? -
 while I stumble around in a passport-clutching daze.

Sherry gets me through the hoops, including standing on the green line
while dogs sniff and the mean-looking official woman glares into our sad small souls until finally informing us we're "free to go."

Up we go again, this time in a prop plane! They still exist!
I worry that it's broken, but apparently not, because here we are again...

...flying, flying, flying...

...flying, flying, flying...
...until we land in Gladstone, where we see some familiar logos.
They even have Woolworths here, 
a grocery chain that took the name of the iconic American "five and dime" which 
disappeared along with its famous lunch counters back in the last century.

We had planned on flying to Rockhampton, but ever since Cyclone Debbie visited in late March,
it's been closed. We're diverted to Gladstone
where we board a shuttle bus for an hour-and-a-half ride to "Rocky."
Just what we need, a long bus ride.

Imagine what the scene was like two weeks ago after Debbie did her worst.

Above, a fun gun shop; below, a lovely Gothic-style church.

Guns and God - am I in Wyoming?
Just kidding. After a horrible mass shooting twenty years ago, Australia conducted a huge gun buy-back and have not had a similar massacre since. Unlike the USA, which is still in thrall to the National Rifle Association, the NRA that keeps America unsafely armed to her teeth.
Australian comedian Jim Jeffries has a great bit about gun culture here.

Back to our big adventure, we finally we arrive at
Luke and Janine's incredibly beautiful home in Yeppoon
where they will host us for four lovely perfect-weather days.

(Sherry's pic)

This place is awesome!!!! Sherry gives it five stars.
Even the local ants give it five stars.

Blue greets Sherry with a big Aussie kiss.

Below, ripples!

The next day we get some fabulous sightseeing in before the arrival of Pete and Deb, when
the real work will begin.
We ferry to Keppel Island for an afternoon of facing down the mouth of danger.

(photo by kind stranger)

Here's a buoyed up gum tree. I've never seen round buoys before! Something new under my sun.

Tracks on the beach.

Young men shovel Debbie-deposited sand out of the restaurant area.

I have a staring contest with a kukkaberra.
The birds on this island are crazy!
They swoop down to the tables, like this crow, and grab food
right in front of people! The kookaburra and the crow were apparently in cahoots,
taking turns to attack this table.

(see the flight of the crow here, with it's Aussie accent)

Until the kookaburra comes over to see what we have to offer.

Earlier, when I was enjoying a fabulous ocean swim, out of the blue a gull dive bombed me,
hovering and screeching like a demon over my head!
I waved my arms and splashed
and it flew away, but how weird is that?

(Photoshop dramatization of gull event)

Apparently Keppel Island itself is in the middle of a confusing situation involving developers who want to "revitalise" the island with a casino, golf course, resort, etc., a herd of wild goats who may or may not be good for the island's flora, and the sticky web of local politics and alliances that include a 2007 land trust giving 12 percent of the island back to the Woppaburra People who had been chased off or killed in various nasty ways by European settlers by 1902.

In the meantime, others are keeping watch over the island.

Sherry walks moodily along the shoreline of Keppel Island 
(she's the tiny speck on the edge of the beach).

Back on the mainland, Luke takes us on a tour of his world.
Below is Fisherman's Beach at Emu Park.

Above, Luke points out the highlights.
Below, these complex designs are made of tiny balls of sand
 thrown out of small holes by adorable little crabs.

(photo by Sherry)

Below are bones of some mysterious creature that we discovered on the path to the beach.
We took a couple of small souvenirs (rib bones?)
which may not have been a good idea because somehow
Sherry fell into the hill of sand lining the path (it wasn't me, I didn't push her like some said)
 and her camera hasn't worked since.
It's some kind of dark magic.

(last photo by Sherry with her brand new camera)

More dark magic under the full moon as
Luke poses inside the Spirit Sculpture by the Main Beach in Yeppoon,
with Sherry looking on.


Above, Luke and Pete are happy after one of our fabulous Yeppoon meals.
So now that Pete and Deb have arrived, the work begins.

Our work is accompanied by geckos, both living and not.

And David Edwards himself makes an appearance.
He is, after all, why I'm here in Oz, to figure out with the help of his family
the ins and outs of his incredibly complicated, detailed, baroque, byzantine will
that was made in New York in the 1990's and is now something that has to be dealt
with, involving a bizarre and endlessly complex mix of Australian and American death duties, 
estate taxes, lawyers on both continents, probate court, executor responsibilities, dozens of complicated lists of artworks here, there, and everywhere, beneficiaries who can't be found, 
etc. etc. etc. 

I worked for David in NY for about 12 or 13 years, much of which we spent donating 
Margery's artwork to art institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
and having exhibitions of her work, including one at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC. 
She died all too early in their huge Tribeca loft/studio in
1989 in her late fifties, from a heart attack.

But it's not all work. Luke conjures up some amazing trays of treats for us
to buoy us up for the grueling tasks at hand.

 While we work, Sher and Deb go to the local Yeppoon Zoo
and commune with some of the creatures.

(Pic by Deb)

(Pic by Sherry)

(Pic by Deb)

(Pic by Deb)

After a day of work and/or play, Sherry and I gaze upwards in amazement to see a sky darkened by 
a mass of what we thought were birds until the utter silence of the sky told us they were bats.

Flying, flying, flying. For a good ten minutes or more, the early evening sky was black with bats.
Every smudged black dot you see is a bat or two, or three.

Later, I show off the pickles I ordered at the Japanese Restaurant. 
It's our last night in Yeppoon,
from left: Peter, Deb, me, Sherry, Luke and Janine.

My first kangaroo sighting, on the restaurant/resort grounds. 

Deb and Sherry light up the darkness.

On the morning before we leave, I take some pics of Luke and Janine's place.
My room is flooded with green light.

Their yard is a ten acre place of wonder.

Jack above; Blue below.

Next to the house is a cabana-type structure...

...that overlooks the gorgeous pool.

We worked from this transparent table on our project - the best working conditions
I could ever imagine!

Luke and Janine share a quiet morning moment in the midst of our chaos.

Flying flying flying from Rockhampton airport (which has just opened) to Brisbane...

...from Brisbane to Sydney.

...where there's more people driving on the wrong side of the road.
Fortunately they're used to giving way to those on the right.

Sydney - a mix of old and new.

The Anzac Bridge is one of many bridges in Sydney, a city of harbors, sorry, "harbours," bays, 
coves, points, beaches, heads, heights and the odd island.
Pete and Deb live on Minnesota Avenue,
named not for the US state but for a pre-World War I US ship, part of the "Great White Fleet"
that visited Australian in 1908.

It's Easter weekend, and hot cross buns are ubiquitous.
Apparently this is a British tradition relating Good Friday to a sweet treat.
The cross symbolism is obvious, and the raisons and spices refer to his embalming.
Hmmm. Yummy rolls and the agony on the cross, of course, I get it.

Speaking of crosses, above is one of the doors that David Edwards made, 
now gracing the wall in Sydney, 
his painstaking attention to detail here serving his own art.
Below are the doors while still installed in his and Margery's Tribeca loft.

(photo by Debbi Sutton)

(Pic by Sherry)

Above, the back yard at Pete and Deb's;
below, the back yard at the place of the place we were staying in Sydney.
Beautiful, these Australian settings! 

Next to this back yard are big glass patio doors, easy for a big snake to crawl through!

It puts me through a dark moment of the soul before I realize it's made of wood.
Perhaps someone has a twisted sense of humor?
Below is another floor creature at another place in Sydney.
This one vacuums the floor and returns to its charging site when it feels a bit low.
Personally, I'd go find the wine bottle.
Chardonnay, preferably. Or "Chardy" in local parlance. Maybe more like "shah-dy."

In this neighborhood, you can see the city center in the distance.
I like this feature. It makes the suburbs seem more connected to the city.

Many of the houses are like the above, but every so often a modernist gem pops out of the mix.

Fun electric box!

Fun around the table at Pete and Deb's!
Sherry, Deb, Anton, Ned, Pete, me and Margot.

The next morning Sherry has some fun all by her selfie...

...taking a tour of Sydney while the rest of us work, work, work...

But that night, we all go to the iconic tourist mecca...

...the Sydney Opera House!
At least to the outdoor bar part of it.

Amazing night views of the skyline and the Sydney Harbor, sorry, "Harbour," Bridge.

The next morning we're back, taking a few moments out of the working day
to ferry around and see the city...

(photo by Deb)

Above is where they brought the convicts back in the day.
Below are some fun lollipops.

We spend some quality time in Manly Beach, Home of the "Budgy Smuggler."

Manly budgy smuggler in the flesh! What are the chances?
And also a classic VW Bug, just like the one I learned to drive a stick shift in,
lurching around the church parking lot for hours next to my patient father oh those many years ago.
Well, maybe this VW is a bit more tricked out than my dad's...

Lots of awesome waves and sun!

And hats!

(pic by Deb)

And bathers, surfers, wavers and sand shovelers!

(pic by Deb)

A couple of signs not seen in the USA.

And below, a warning about the dangers of predatory kookaburras.
They forget to mention crows and seagulls.

Toby's Estate Restaurant, where we have lunch, is absolutely, transcendently beautiful!

(photo by Deb)

Over a spot of wine, on our last evening in Sydney,
Margot converses with Pete and Deb about the work that's being done re. sorting out
Margery's works on paper, a huge job she's taken on with the help of her son Ned.

Monday morning, we pass through the beautiful Anzac bridge for the last time... get to the airport where we run, run, run (not really)...

...through customs...

...and fly, fly, fly, away from Sydney... Los Angeles, where I part from Sherry who will return to Minneapolis.

LAX sports some very cool airport art installations...

...that amuse me during my long, exhausting layover.
 I sleep the entire way from LA to NY, thus getting no pics
of the mountains and plains.
After leaving Sydney at 9:50AM, I arrive in New York on the same day at 7:30PM (or 19:30). 
My Monday is about 40 hours long.
Here's a handy time-zone chart that explains it all:

I land in JFK as the sun sets on our jaunt to Sydney, and I'm kind of speechless (finally) 
at the wonder of it all!
A few last words:
Thanks to all you Aussies who made it possible (you know who you are)
 and a special shout out to David and Margery Edwards. 
RIP, both of you, and rest assured that we're down here doing our best 
in our many labors, sorry, "labours" on your estate.

Some kind of dark magic!


  1. Wow, no really, wow! What an extraordinary adventure. Wishing, wishing, wishing I could have been with you! Magical place, Australia. June, July and August are winter months. Kangaroos are real. I'm glad you didn't get bitten by those super-sized insects. The internet likes to scare me with those creepy images. Sharing your adventure with your sister must have been so wonderful. Your friends certainly live in paradise. And, as usual, you find art, natural and man-made every where. The Margery Edwards work, seems apropos to Lent somehow. I love bats, those pollinating, insect eating, crop saving little darlings. One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross buns. The childhood tune I loved and the buns. Another great experience, thanks for the virtual trip!

    1. Thanks for virtually traveling with us, and for the cool and cogent comments.

  2. Thanks for the opportunity to visit that amazing country and get to know some very fun Aussies.
    Love, love, love,

    1. Glad you could come with! Couldn't have done it without you!