Thursday, February 24, 2011

Strewthy Ruthy

Missing: Stubbie holder.
Ever since I fell on the ice at Central Park and fractured my wrist I've dreaded opening my mail box for fear of a monumental hospital bill. Sure I have health insurance, I even double-dipped and got travel insurance too, but with the way the U.S. system works it seems you're always putting your hand in your pocket, no matter how hard you'll break it.

Yesterday, the postman was much kinder to me.

I'd received mail from home before, with two Christmas cards getting here on time and another arriving in January. But having been away from home for a while, I'd begun to miss certain tastes from there that really feel like they're half a world away.

Sara was lovely enough to get them delivered to me.
Mars bars, Freddo Frogs, Caremello Koals, Mi-Goreng and Milo.

Better yet though, she wrote a lovely note that was no doubt, sweeter than any of the contents.

We used to live together in a hostel in Edinburgh, and it wasn't unusual for us to get a bus into town and stroll another 45 minutes down Leith Walk on our way to an Asian supermarket. We'd stock up on things like Milo and Mi-Goreng and she'd share with me all of the other treats she'd come across. When we weren't eating 35p packets of food she'd teach me how to cook soups and lentils, the kind of things I eat all the time at home.

I remember that she came to see me off at Waterloo station before I left Edinburgh. She bought me a bagel and cried as we said good-bye. I wish I had found better things to say to her, but a giant lump in my throat stopped me from talking. It was one of the tougher moments of my first year abroad, and made losing my bag (complete with passport, ticket home, computer, camera etc) seem emotionally insignificant.

When she arrived back in Australia I took the morning off work to pick her up from the airport. It didn't matter to me that I would have to stay back at work on a Friday, it was great to see her again. We ate the noodles she'd introduced me to in Edinburgh and drank tea like we were back on the other side of the world.

She moved 1000kms away to Melbourne, but was never more than a phone call away. Better yet, we've both found time to travel between the cities and spend time together. She even spent $75 to see Ryan Adams play a terrible show with me.

I last saw her in January 2010. She had recently come up to Wollongong and went to the North Gong before we followed that up with ice-cream at the beach. I was down in Melbourne two weeks after for another friend's wedding and Sara drove round Tullamarine apart numerous times trying to find me before her and her new Yaris whisked me off her apartment.

As much as I loved Chicago, her parcel really made my week. I can not wait to get into the food, and re-reading the letter has proved a lovely distraction from all of my school work.

To top it all off, when I brought back my box of flavour to my room I was greeted by a postcard from India on my desk. Brenna has been there for the last few months and despite the delays in the Indian postal system, her missive arrived.

I miss the pair of them immensely, and even being thought of while being so far away is flattering in itself.

So, if you're ever far from someone you're thinking about take the time to write them a letter or send them a card. It's a few minutes of your day and a dollar or two from your wallet. Just like tipping a little bit extra, it will mean more to the recipient than the effort does to you. Heck, it might even make their day.

The Postal Service - The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
Seems to suit the post, you know?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dear Chicago, You'll Never Guess...

Admittedly, going out is not the best way to prepare for a long journey on the road, but at this stage of my life, staying up until 5AM is still easier than setting the alarm clock. I didn't plan it, but a Thursday in Amherst is always a bit of fun. Dicky Peach and I pushed our way onto an already crowded bus and headed into Stackers for a night on the jukebox. Sam joined us later and for a few hours we broke up the terrible tunes of the American youth and were surrounded by lovely company.

On our return to Cashin Sam and I again broke our meat embargo...but this time it was deliberate. It had been months since I had eaten chicken wings, and the consequences frightened the hell out of me and any plumber within a 100 mile radius. That wasn't enough to stop me from picking apart a few pieces after a belly full of beer. A few days later I again rediscovered why I won't be eating them ever again, but before that...

I still had a few hours to kill before our planned departure to Chicago. A 7-seater van was procured, but instead of the work I had originally planned, I opted to pack in the dark, watch TV and keep my roommate up. Eventually the clock did some laps and just before 6AM, we were all crammed into the van.
Double Denim Dicky Peach

Dicky Peach's shoulder is not nearly as comfortable as I needed it to be, and after nodding on and off for a few hours I was the first to make grumpy remarks. Chicago bound, the anticipation and the onset of cabin fever meant the hours ticked by ever so slowly. It took an eternity to reach Buffalo, and by then I was sleeping like Da Vinci, 20 minutes every few hours.

As much as I had romanticised road trips from books and films, the reality was proving to be far different. Cramped, sleep deprived and longer than I imagined. The 8 hours to Buffalo were beginning to hurt, but we were only halfway. Worse still, due to red-tape and my fear of driving on the wrong side of the road, no one else could help out with the driving. For all my complaints, it was really nothing compared to what she had to put up with.

Once past Buffalo and a few naps in between we made it to Ohio. I was really drawn to Cleveland last time I visited it-it's a perfect representation of American industrialisation. It could be amazing, the city's highlights stand to the side of Lake Erie, and the skyscrapers and built up areas indicate a level of wealth and beauty. Yet, there is something about the city holding it back. It's the place that could have been, and a place I'd like Wollongong to be. If you want to see America, and all that is, then head to Cleveland.

The view of the city came and went, and part of me wished we were stopping there as well. As we left it behind the sun began to set over Ohio's rural parts and before long, we were in Indiana. Before long, we were finally entering Chicago past the White Sox stadium, then finally into the downtown area. It was around 11PM, and a marathon effort.

Despite the exhaustion of the trip, I was buzzing about being in Chicago. I remember sifting through countless basketball books and magazines when I was 9-10 years old and planning my life around going to the University of North Carolina and then living in Chicago, just like the man I admired most at the time, Michael Jordan. I applied to go to UNC on exchange, but my subjects didn't work so I had to pass on that, but it was 15 years of dreaming that ended when I stepped out from the car onto the tarmac. To me, the place was more myth than reality. A brilliant sporting city, with two black Skyscrapers overlooking everyone in its surrounds and a massive lake that freezes in a winter I can still only imagine. It's home to Batman, another hero of mine growing up, and to Roger Ebert, a hero of mine as a man (please read this, you're a poorer person for passing it over. Every meal you eat will taste better. Every word you speak will resonate longer and every girl you kiss will be sweeter). Still, not all childhood aspirations workout. As the reality pushes forward, I'm approaching my 25th birthday both unqualified and unemployed.

It was late when we arrived, and being collectively knackered it was remarkable we even walked the few blocks it took to get food. For a meagre $5, I treated myself to a Dr Pepper and a lice of the famed deep dish pizza and almost immediately succumbed to the food sleeps.

In the earlier hours of the next day we set off to see the city. We crossed the river and I got to see Marina City with my own eyes, rather than the printed pages of books or pixels of my computer screen. There were tales that Chicago was an outstanding city for architecture, but to have it validated so quickly was a bonus.

Better yet, stores of torrid weather had yet to prove true, as the sun shone brightly on a beautiful winter's day. Through the city's streets and under the railway tracks that were above us, we made it to millennium park where families were not falling over on the ice skating rink while everyone else was mesmerised by a giant chrome bean.

The bean had masses enthralled, and is one of the best pieces of public art you'll ever see. The city's skyline reflects in odd shapes while you can choose to manipulate your own body into a series of different shapes that would take months in the gym. Though amused, Sam and I wandered off in search of water. Living in landlocked Amherst, I'm always ecstatic to see large bodies of water, even if it is a lake. Our venture to Lake Michigan was punctuated a stop at Frank Gehry's insect like pavilion. Even with the sun out and a beautifully clear look, the lake still featured ever-present icebergs (dead ahead!). Alas, our venture to the water had ended, and we moved onward to Willis tower.

Sears/Willis tower had graced the background of my phone for two plus years. Whenever I was looking for motivation to do well at university so I could go abroad I only had to look at the screen of my brick-like Nokia for inspiration. It's the tallest building in the U.S. and there was no point in aiming for second best. Like Michael Jordan as a kid, the Willis Tower was another realisation of a longheld ambition.

...only the line to go to the top was 3 hours long. We all elected to brave it, the day was too beautiful to risk losing, and if spending 17 hours in a car previously wasn't enough, we were again in close quarters for another three as we slowly meandered our way to a series of elevators taking us to the top. The building's design was first demonstrated by holding 9 cigarettes together and have them raise up at different points. As we made it through each durry we slowly climbed up to the skydeck.

The views of the city were amazing, and the clearness of the day gave us vision for miles. The windows left a lot to desire for, but seeing the John Hancock Center stand tall with Lake Michigan in the background bypasses any grievances. The three glass boxes that are built externally to building received a workout that would cause any engineers heart to momentarily stop. Seven of us gathered inside one of the fishtank like platforms, and for numerous attempts did our best to all jump at the same time. It was equal parts stupid and fun, but had it gone wrong, it would have been a great place for the story to end.

It didn't, and we wandered on to some other pizza joint that was full. When we finally found a place to grab a bite and a beer the sun was setting and the cold was creeping in. After one round the girls were already feeling the effects of the beer and for the next two hours did their best to psyche out Dicky Peach and Sam. It didn't work, and we after a quick pitstop back at the hotel we all ventured back out again.

I had originally planned on doing some light stalking on a musical hero of mine, Bob Nanna. Unfortunately his usual appearance wasn't on this week, as he is off adding to his musical history at the moment. What I missed out on  on this trip will be more than made up for when the new album drops, and if anything I hope to be back in Chicago.

Anyway, back to the bars! The previous night we had seen a bunch of girls inappropriately dressed for the cold and the whole city seemed drunk. We went looking out for our own deep dish slice of this, abut all we found was one bar that was too busy. When that stopped being fun we found an Irish bar and with Harp and Smithwicks on tap, Dicky Peach was immediately at home. Alex, by this stage was somewhere far from planet earth. He struggled his way through ordering a beer and when Sam and I left him reports filtered through that he spent the latter part of the night chatting to a homeless man (the conversation began when he threw something at Dicky Peach, but missed and hit the hobo). Tani's tiredness has crept in, and she was nodding off in the bar while Renita was still trying to psyche out Sam with her advances.

On the return to the hotel Dicky Peach had taken a fatherly tone to Alex as he tried to coerce him into shutting up and sleeping. Northern Ireland's next Liam Neeson was channelling his best authoritative figure in an attempt at keeping Alex quiet. It worked to a point, but the next day when Alex had misplaced his wallet (he thought it had been stolen again) he made a commotion until he discovered it...along with all the condiments and other pieces he had stolen the night before.

While Alex was trying to figure out what had happened the night before and Peach made plans to see the ice-hockey, Sam and I walked out into the streets to see more of the city. I had previously noted how much I missed rain-the sound, the smell and how the snow was almost placid in comparison. That all changed when I went outside, and almost immediately it started bucketing down. Unlike Amherst, where at the moment it rains and freezes causing people like me to slide down hills, the Chicago rain just kept falling and falling. I heard the sound, I smelt the smell, but when my shoes and jacket soaked through I no longer missed it.

After an hour or so I made it to Art Institute Chicago and left Sam to walk to the planetarium. I was there to see Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, but as soon as I saw the large Seurat I had my own Cameron moment from Ferris Bueller. It was amazing to see the impressionist paintings up close, and while they can leave one feeling inferior, they can also make you try harder than you normally would. That complex feeling of inferiority and inspiration followed me throughout most of the gallery. In reality, I'm just another guy from Wollongong who likes a holiday, but in my time I've been privileged enough to see some of the world's finest galleries and pieces of art. I may not have any formal qualifications, and I've not read a great deal on the topic, but for what my opinion entails, I feel the Art Institute Chicago is the best gallery I've been to.
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Daydream Nation!

When I had stopped, stared and done my lap I tried to meet Sam at the aquarium so we could see some whales. I've seen humpbacks play off the coast of the Illawarra twice before, but getting up close would have been something else. When the rain continued to pelt down I was doing my best aquatic impression, but when it came time to go inside, the line stretched all the way outside and around the corner. Instead, Sam would have to put up with more planetarium as I joined him and the girls there.

The lake was choppy due to the weather, and we braved the outside again before a large black Cadillac people mover pulled up. We were told it was a limo, and without much hesitation I, along with everyone else jumped in and headed for Gino's East for more deep dish pizza. The menus all had activities for kids on the flipside, and I smashed everyone when it came to finishing the race, but in fairness, the girls beat me when it came to the eating competition. For all of its loveliness, there's a limit to how much deep dish pizza you can eat in a day (it's three slices).

The remainder of the stuff was more reserved. With the rain not relenting, we left Tani alone to get her car sleep while the rest of us smoked victory cigars and stank up the whole place. Knowing we had another marathon car trip ahead of us, we all played it relatively least until the cigars finished.

The trip back did not disappoint in terms of its difficulty. It was another 17-18 hours in cramped space with what felt like unlimited monotony. Street signs became more and more amusing, with one declaring "Correctional Facility Area, Do Not Pick Up Hitch-Hikers", and another advertisement offering "Fireworks, Swords & Knives, Pepper Spray and Stun Guns. I also had a lady threaten to call the cops on me, because I desperately needed to pee and the side of her gas station seemed good enough (I did my best to write the word 'Sam' in the snow so that I at least had an alibi).

We finally made it back to Amherst at around 2AM, and everyone was equally shattered. It was a lot of work for two days, but Chicago is a great city and every minute there is worth 35 hours in a car. While the two days was not enough to really appreciate the place, it's simply whet my appetite to return. When I return home the same background will adorn my phone, and the same motivation will exist. Chicago is an amazing place, a culmination of so many things I had wanted for a long time, and now that I've been there, I can't wait to formulate new reasons to go back.

Stereophonics - Step On My Old Size Nines
It's not doppelganger week, but this song has been rolling around in my brain for the last few days. Enjoy the finest Welsh exports since my uncle Chris.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Despite the opinions of my hosts, Philadelphia Cheese-Steak is not exactly an inspirational choice for demonstrating American culture to me. The only thing more disgusting than the radioactively-fluorescent cheese was the essay I had to write about the experience. Despite all the enjoyment of studying abroad, in way too many cases, the studying part has been a disappointment. I don't have proof, but I doubt there are many professors who idealised about students writing about the most disgusting food in western culture.

With that rant over another began. To celebrate the completion of what may well have been the most irrelevant and redundant piece of work the academic world has ever seen Sam, Oliver, Max and myself ventured to Stackers. The crowd out on the Friday seemed older than usual, with the young-uns presumably falling over their feet at a house party somewhere. Despite this age, every guy in the bar dressed in an untucked and oversized shirt that looked like they were back in school trying on their Dad's work clothes. This coupled with Timberland boots caused particularly disdain, to the point where we would toast and bring our plastic cups together in celebration of not acting like one of these American college student sheep types. One guy, complete with tan Timberland boots even had the audacity to join our group's celebration despite "not knowing what the hell your cheers-ing".

Oh well, if being obnoxious snoots wasn't going to the get us into trouble we thought we'd break the monotony provided by awful hip-hop by playing The Strokes and Electric Six's Gay Bar over the jukebox. There was no reaction from the crowd to the latter, but that was because the song had been turned down.

The bar lights came on, and we'd still not found trouble. If there was one place to find that, it would be Sunset, and our feet ploddered and slipped on the icy footpaths that led the way. The street was full of police cars, and we assumed they'd been given one of their regular visits. Alas, it was for someone else on the foremost street of Amherst's party belt.

The house looked shut off, with the windows darkened and the door firmly shut. Max opted to invite himself and us in through the side door. Inside was everyone, as welcoming and soberly challenged as always. Their green laser light was doing it's spiral thing all over the place as one girl invited me to dance on their coffee table. Without hesitation the smoke machine was brought out, and with time and the atmosphere fogged out, the night ended somewhere in the haze.

The smoke continued to parade around my brain the entire next day in what is often regarded as a hangover. Though not entirely responsible, a trip to Target in preparation for a party resulted in some questionable decisions. Firstly, I was shopping in the ladies section for a pink shirt. Secondly, finding one that read 'Love Blooms' with a picture of flowers was what I chose. Finally, the one picked out for Dicky Peach was even worse; the kind of fluorescent pink that causes blindness with the word love scrawled all over it.

In fairness to him, he was a good sport in ladies shirt. Sam also donned the pink, and Alex resisted until his attempt at shotgunning a beer left one of his countless Abercrombie polos soiled by some Keystone Lite. Eventually he joined us in pink threads and we headed to a party celebrating all of February's major events and our favourite, Valentine's Day.

The party filled up when some random punter brought along a whole heap of people no one recognised and I was picked out for being British (Australian!). No one really appreciated the themed shirts, and by the end of the night most people were too blitzed to really care. I was sat in the kitchen around 3 or 4AM talking to some of the people in the house when I was informed everyone else had left. Somehow, the whole party had shifted without my knowing, and that included my friends with it.

I had no idea how it happened, and despite the generous offer of a couch I ran down the street to catch up. The icy paths were a hindrance, and the school with the swing set we had previously played on was still snowed under, but I made it back-pink shirt still intact.

With the early celebrations of Valentine's Day since passing, when the 14th rolled round I was greeted by Amy, a friend from Wollongong who was staying for a few days. It was a lovely reminder of home, and opportunity to exercise my mouth in all the things about being back in Wollongong that no one gets here.

For 3 days I had someone in my ear saying "dead-set" and "heaps" and reminding me about how much fun I was having in months prior to leaving. She was there for the world cup, the night's we stayed in eating Chinese take-out and all of the parties (including the one for my going away).

Amy's trip resulted into more visits to Stackers than usual, but she was charming with my new friends over here. She was lucky enough to witness an old cowboy (literally, and the correct use of the word) croon his way through some country tunes as well as how easy it is to win free stuff from the generous Bacardi promotions girls of Western Massachusetts. Amy was the lucky recipient of a souvenir t-shirt.

As well at the general annoyance of my current schedule, it was a shame not to have more time to spend with Amy. With the accommodations and set up here it's hard to host guests, and she had to stay with friends in another building. It's an example of why, sometimes, I wish I were back at home. That independence is something fiercely lacking in this current existence, and only really returns when I leave campus to go out travelling. Nevertheless, her company was greatly appreciated. She got to experience a college town, the kind of cold that freezes hair.

I was sad to see her off, and she passed on some hugs from Brenna and Rowan at home. She was leaving to continue her road trip and I was about to start another one the next day. In preparation for my trip I did all of my washing, and when the load had finished I noticed some tokens and coins had magically appeared. Fantastic-free money! Only when I removed all my clothes I couldn't help but notice my wallet was staring back at me, only dark with the soapy water that soaked it.

I didn't care for the money that may have been damaged, the cost of replacing the wallet itself or the damage that may have occurred to the cards. Instead, my thoughts immediately went to the note both Amy and Brenna wrote before I left. In it they detailed the most disgusting things about living at Exeter, and since then I've carried  it around on me everyday. Fortunately the note was saved, and despite Amy heading off, Brenna being in India and all of us very far from home, I managed to salvage one of my favourite reminders of all three.
Exeter has never looked cleaner

*** Song
Hey Mercedes - Quality Revenge At Last
My favourite band from Chicago. Braid are 2nd, Wilco 3rd. Seriously.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The snow duldrums.

I knew I had taken too much of my cold and flu cocktail immediately after I woke up. Prior to that I had been sat in a large arena at half capacity.

Earlier, the watch on my wrist had told me it was 7:30, and it seemed oddly early for a concert to start. But then again, this wasn't the kind of concert that catered to an adult audience. All my international student friends and I scurried for our seats that were to a smaller side of the stage as soon as we heard sounds from the arena doors.

The arena was built around a rectangular courtyard that had been elevated so that everyone had a decent vantage. While the action focused on the larger sides of the rectangle, facing us on one of the short sides was the backing band, led by one W. Axl Rose.

It seemed unusual to see him performing again. He'd lost the plot 20 years ago, and this time his hair had seemed to have gone with it. For what it is worth he seemed to know his way around the guitar, but playing lead in Britney Spears' backing band doesn't exactly require Frank Zappa levels of talent.

I couldn't believe my friends had dragged me to this  concert, I would rather have been anywhere than sat there listening to this drivel.

Britney pranced around the stage in a parade of clumsiness. It was as if she had swallowed a bag of percocets and was fighting off the impending sleep. It would also explain how she had become numb to the taunts being thrown her.

It wasn't as if they weren't justified, she seemed to be toying with the idea of time signatures and rhythm. She held onto one note, melisma-ing it to the point of 30 syllables, for what seemed an eternity. As the notes kept warbling her face turned from the microphone, indicating that sonic crime of lip-syncing. The boos got louder, and being no stranger to them Axl did his best to curtail the situation.

He asked the audience if we knew where we were, only to answer immediately "you're in the jungle baby!". It was pitch perfect from 1989, but when he delivered his next speech his it was like a ventriloquist had their invisible hand up his arse. The timbre, the tone and the timing had all left him. We immediately knew he was lip-syncing from the same hymn sheet.

The audience revolted. It was like no other show I had ever been to. Chairs flew from the audience to the stage, and the ones that didn't have large enough wings to make the flight took out other members of the crowd. The animosity was switching from the performers to the crowd itself. I did my best to avoid the melee but the angry guy above me didn't notice. His chair throw, though vicious, was from too far away. The chair hit the back of my head and before I could react to the assault I was awake, laying back in my bed in snowy Amherst.

My nose was still blocked, my body ached - though not as bad as before - and I was still coughing. I fell back asleep and awoke a few hours later feeling much better. Clearly, I had taken too much of that sugary medicine. The journey it took me on was odd, like cutting through a field of snow instead of taking the cleared path, yet it got me where I wanted to be quicker than it would have otherwise. Maybe, every once in a while, it is worth getting your feet frozen and traversing through the snow.

And just so you know, I feel much better today, and am thankfully out of cough syrup.

Pearl Jam - Light Years
Binaural is probably my favourite album, and the least favourite by anyone who has followed the band beyond 1994. The artwork is perfect, with the cover being one of my favourite pictures of all time. The binaural recording on the tracks marked with an * has a warmth to it you couldn't get from any fireplace. It's like they were recorded for high quality vinyl, but at the pinnacle of cd sales. The bass guitar on every song sounds completely different, yet they get it right every time. Sonic swoon.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Infinity

If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up.
-Hunter S. Thompson 

Despite my injuries and history, 'snow' and 'day' rapidly became two of my favourite words on Tuesday. The odd-sounding squelch underneath my boots may rate alongside that of fingernails being dragged across a blackboard, but when class is cancelled because of the white stuff, I can see beyond my grievances.

I'd like to say I used the time productively, but in reality my aching coccyx and geriatric levels of balance kept me indoors. Sam and I watched his beloved Aston Villa falter in the comfort of my room, instead of a lecture theatre. As the opposition hit balls into the back of the net, our hopes and predictions of an upset deteriorated.

No matter, as per the Tuesday agenda we ventured to Stackers, with Max brimming with karaoke enthusiasm. The pennies were dropping into beers, and after enough we all felt the collective call to butcher 'Hey Jude'. The na na nas stretched on for an eternity, and Sam even requested to the host that the outro be skipped. It promptly was, and despite our choral talents, we were not the victors of a $20 voucher.
The room's temporary addition, courtesy of Worcester DC.

Despite the best efforts to dissuade myself, I joined the masses at The Pub on Thursday. Their Bud Lite and remixes of songs I don't like is not enough to turn my off from such an idyllic venue. But in all fairness, even if the bars aren't what I'd seek out, the company always is. 

...for the most part anyway. Max and I decided to leave early in favour of some pizza, and in doing so missed the brawl that shut the place down. We thought we'd Houdini'd our way on to an earlier bus, but the anti-climax that is the pub greeted us with our earlier companions and for me, a chance to see Alex and Sam try to throw eachother into the snow.

Still, if you consider a brawl a dangerous thing, then you should not visit Springfield, Massachusetts. The traffic did its best to warn us, but our class trip to MassLive, the online equivalent of their newspaper, The Springfield Republican, offered a great glimpse of downtown Springfield. In fairness, my trips to the city had not painted it in a good light. A bus station is not a fair indicator of a city, they're universally horrendous. However, downtown Springfield offered the same characters on newer streets.

The trip did prove worthwhile, as part of my class we get to write for their website (for free!) and get published. Even though I'm in my final year of study and type this thing out regularly I haven't had that ego boost of seeing my name on an article.

To celebrate this new achievement we partied at a house in downtown Amherst. Things were relatively timid, with the lack of loud music and no outdoor area. For the most part people stayed indoors, smoking the hookah and just generally socialising. However, on a Friday night, in a college-town with a party reputation this was too much. The long arm of the law visited just after midnight, forced everyone to leave (which they did amicably) and offered the residents a $600 fine. 

Now I can empathise with a warning, but shutting down a party that had barely begun with such severe punishment felt more like an exercise in over-policing than properly managing the situation. The bro-ish massholes in their baseball caps were the only ones close to remarkable state of inebriation, so for the rest of us we tried to continue the party elsewhere.

Cashin was the chosen venue, and when we didn't want to disturb everyone on the floor we moved to the basement. Again, the staff came down and threatened everyone with arrest for drinking in public. The behaviour of the people with authority in these situations is a bit of a laugh. When you've been living on campus for more than two years and can't seek out any semblance of independence by moving out you probably don't have the right persona to be placed in such a role.

We all reacted appropriately to the threat. I picked up Sam, put him onto the pool table we were all standing around and he and Joe wrestled. Ollie then stole the pool balls and we were forced upstairs to make more noise.  As Ollie offered the balls to anyone in the room, we sat around eating chocolate and finishing our beers. We had been on the run from the people inspecting the halls, hiding in other rooms and toilet cubicles for the sweets. It's remarkable, that the behaviour adults have to resort is such, but until people are treated like adults I doubt it will change any time soon.

Still, if that wasn't enough trouble, Sam and I decided to head into town on our own last night. I'd made a note to myself of missing the rain. Not the inconvenience, but things like the sound and smell of it. Saturday more than made up for it, but given the low temperatures and fiscally minded administrators of Amherst and UMass, no salt was throw down and sheets of ice formed anywhere they could.

After our crammed bus trip to town, we then had to walk the 100ft or so to the crossing on the ice, sliding and regaining our balance along the way. My legs were still, but my body was shifting in the same direction as any decline the path had. We were the first in the bar, while all the Americans 'pre-gamed', we drank like the rest of the world. Oddly, throughout the night we got more comments for our smell than our accents, leading me to believe that there was something errant about us. Alas, we stunk up the bars in a variety of company and had a smashing time.

It's Super Bowl day at the moment, and all of the Patriots fan who were once beaming and screaming their Massachusetts pride have gone into a mini slumber. I'm hoping the Steelers win due to their Wollongong connection. While the country waits for the Super Bowl result to be determined, all I can think about he good it would be to see the real Steelers playing by the beach in Wollongong. Forget what I said earlier about how much I loved the words 'snow' and 'day', I'd trade them both for some sunshine, sand and Steelers Stadium.

The New Amsterdams - Turn Out The Light