THE OUTBACK AND SO FORTH – Thursday, 8 March

I read the news today. Oh, boy. The oldest message-in-a-bottle ever found was just discovered north of Perth. It dates from 1886 and had been part of a German experiment to map the ocean currents. This must blow Sting’s mind.

From behind the wheel of our vehicle, we stare at a great plume of smoke rising from where the airport should probably be. Uh-oh. As we approach, it’s apparent that the fire is quite some distance to the south. What’s with the smoke? we ask the woman at the ticket counter. “Bushfire,” she says. “But the rain last night.” “It doesn’t matter, it’s lightening.” The flight to Perth is effortless.

Our lodging is a motel not too far from Perth airport. We drop our bags and call a cab into town. After a crucial bento box meal, we venture to the Apple Store to retrieve the laptop. It’s as good as new, meaning it’s a fucking tabula rasa. All everything, every shred of my nonsense, has been wiped from its memory. Such a bittersweet reunion. But thank you again, Apple Care. I purchase an Aussie power converter as a show of good faith.

Then we set off for the Nostalgia Box, an interactive video game museum that showcases every game console manufactured since before the days of the most primitive Pong. Ali is pumped, because she works for an organization that runs a summer camp where kids design their own video games. This is the mother fucking lode. We try our hand at PacMan to no real avail but playing against each other in Pong gets the blood flowing. The score seesaws back and forth. So tense. I believe her to be the ultimate victor. We have time to kill before our dinner reservation, so Ali naturally aims us toward a bookstore.

It’s next to a barbershop. I duck in for a trim. Ali has gently chided me for my shaggy look for a while now. “A one-and-a-half (clipper) and just tapered down the back,” I say. The stylist nods. Clumps of not-very-long hair tumble down the nylon. She asks if I’d like to have my eyebrows trimmed. I decline. “You’re not Scottish?” she says. I look startled. “Scottish men never trim their eyebrows.” That explains so much. Ali’s new sandals, it turns out, are meant for maneuvering from the chaise to the poolside bar, not for distance walking. I hope her blisters aren’t too bad.

Our dinner destination is obscured by the hip lack of signage. We’re given a lovely window table with a view across the Swan River. Prominent is a luminous green needle-shaped tower that apparently houses a set of bells given to the city by the Queen herself. As twilight deepens an enormous message scrolls continuously across the façade of a nearby twelve-story building. It reads ‘# (something) THURSDAY’. Uh-huh. That’s right. Today is Thursday. Only when we’re back on the street after dinner,  do we discover that the message reads, #LET’S THURSDAY. Oh, Australia.

We choose the tasting menu w/ non-alcoholic beverage pairings. The ingredients are first-rate, but the concoctions and, indeed, the presentation are way too fussy. I mean – emu jerky dusted with desiccated myrtle? And why does everything require a garnish of wattle seeds? And the pseudo-gin beverage that tastes like turpentine. The service starts out brisk and attentive, slows to casual, and eventually succumbs to inconsiderate. We have completely exhausted ourselves, anyway.

Back at the motel, we resolve to rally at 4am for the 4:40 bus to the airport and our 6:05 flight to Alice Springs. I conk out at ten but am fully awakened at two when I notice a spinning yellow light outside the bathroom window. It can’t be an emergency; no siren. Still, that’s the end of the snooze.

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