Monday, September 06, 2010

From the land Down Under, part 1

Fact: the jetlag returning from Melbourne to New York is killer. Killer. I feel like crap, exhausted with a low-pressure headache lurking in the back of my sinuses.

But a trip to Australia is well worth this hassle. Man, do I love it there!

First, the timing was just right. To begin with, the political action was primo: The country is stuck with a hung parliament and as of writing, still doesn't have a functioning government. Basically departing PM Julia Gillard (Labor) and Tony Abbott (center-right Coalition) have been spending the past 10 days or so wooing four independents — and they've been driving a hard bargain.

Then, the Sheila and I landed in Melbourne as the regular footy season was ending and Grand Final week was starting. This is the equivalent of the playoffs for Australian rules football. I went to my very first game, Collingwood vs. Hawthorn, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). What a civilized experience! We walked there as the stadium is right in the center of town — and is surrounded by a river and parks, not acres of parking lots. Then we bought general-admission seats for a mere A$20 each. Try that at Yankee Stadium! The 'G, as it's known, is a beautiful venue that feels more intimate than its 100,000 capacity would suggest. We picked seats way up so we could have a good bird's eye view of the action.

The game itself was incredible as Aussie rules is fast and fun. These guys run around a gigantic oval-shaped field so they're in tip-top shape. And as in soccer, there's no time-outs: The action keeps going. I have no idea why this sport is played only in Australia. Anyway, the favorite Collingwood Magpies lost to the underdog Hawthorn Hawks in a crazily suspenseful game, so my introduction to live footy was a really good one. (Game highlights here.)

Next: Why the Melbourne café culture rocks.

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