THE OUTBACK AND SO FORTH – Monday, 2 April

We claim morning chores (laundry, haircut, bullshit), but it being Easter Monday a lot of establishments are closed, like coffeehouses and barbers. We do manage to get some serious wash done in a nearby laundromat, which possesses a scary huge library of softer-than-Harlequin romance fiction, e.g, A Wish Fulfilled; Good Doctor, Good Lover, Good Dad; etc. I remain uncaffeinated and unshorn, yet my day begins.

We rendezvous at the house on Pier Street and Ryan shepherds us to a café high overlooking Gladstone harbor. Gladstone is the spigot through which all the natural resources of Queensland and the Northern Territory pass – coal, bauxite, timber, calcite, grain, electricity, LNG, crocodiles. Ships load and unload piles and stacks and containers and tanks and silos. After lunch, he gives us a tour of Gladstone’s industrial infrastructure. Ryan works at a plant on the outskirts that makes ammonium nitrate. It has a blast radius. If it goes up, it’ll take the whole of Gladstone with it. Most impressive is QAL – Queensland Alumina, Ltd., perhaps the largest plant of its kind in the world, dedicated to the refining of bauxite ore into alumina, the first step in the making of aluminum. It is a monstrous thing; a rust-colored Emerald City twice the size of the entire Magic Kingdom. From a hilltop, we ask lots of questions, all the while snapping photos that do not accurately portray its mass or menace. Ryan explains other such sights and we are guest-curious.

He drops us back at the motel so we can pull ourselves together before our dinner engagement with his mom, step-dad, and kids at the Hog’s Breath Café. The Hog’s Breath is a chain of nouveau saloons with American signage and state license plates serving as décor. Ryan’s parents are engaging; she wears an eye-patch that goes unremarked upon. Belinda is crook, apparently, so she won’t be joining us. The waitstaff woman who takes our group photo bears the nametag – Strawberry.

leave a comment.