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Very quick post as I have  to check out in fifteen

My hotel in Charlotte has been a suite. Two sections and wonderful view which I foolishly didn’t get at night

The room was the size of my house.

And yesterday I took this picture.

Wesley’s consulting room and home to

TERRORIST BEARD!!!!!

I am so lucky they don’t do DNA samples when you come into a country. And my beard was really wooly then too…

Goodbye.

Joyful Noise

Wesley and I attended the St Peters Episcopal Church yesterday for Worship. A quick aside, the church is delightful, the acoustics amazing and they have this world-renowned choir which travels far afield to sing.  It’s an amazing church of which I would love to be a member.

However, not the point of the post. I truly hope not to embarrass him however Wesley has many skills however singing in tune is not always his forte. I completely get this. My eldest nephew, also with many skills, cannot hold a tune.  The day got ahead of us so I didn’t actually get a chance to tell him this story and as the day progressed I really wish I had told him this earlier.

A pet peeve of mine. I can sing and possibly in tune. Some people cannot. It’s all good. There is nothing that annoys me more than when someone who may be loud or out of tune is told to shush. My youngest nephew told his brother this very thing before I came down on him like a tonne of bricks.  The point of singing, whether you belong to a choir or sing in the shower, is to express joy.  You are so full of happiness you burst into song. That should never be squashed, especially if you’re out of tune. Or loud. Or in perfect pitch.

It annoys me when people squash other people’s happiness. It occurs so rarely.

So my pet peeve over, I am in church with Wesley and we are singing our hearts out. And we get to one part off the service and we’re singing. And I have to stop singing. As Wesley sings this song completely perfectly. So I listen to my friend sing the entire song. I don’t sing another word. All I can hear is his voice. And buddy, it was beautiful.

But then everything you sang yesterday was beautiful.

OK chronologically this is a bitch. I am all over the shop at the moment.

While in Maryland I had to get a new carry on luggage case to replace the one I lost. Fantastic excuse to go to shopping though I tend not to buy clothes till I’ve lost more weight. So we bought a really nice carry on case.

I was desperate for some new sunglasses as I tend to be hard-wearing on them (ie sit on them, crush them in the boot, drive over them…)

Prices here were way, way cheap so I bought two pairs. Raybans. So obviously I will have automatic cred.

This was one:

Seriously, how could anyone not want to tap that?

Ok this might be long. There were sooooooooooooo many quirks to observe.

I’ve mentioned the price of things. It remains insane. And you know how the Swiss are famous for their cuckoo clocks and watches.  This is 4o thousand less than my house.


The driving here is mental. Not just because they drive on the wrong side of the road but because, to be fair, I suspect the Swiss attitude is kind of tightly wound. There appears to be a mindset here of embattlement, possibly because they are the only country not to embrace the European Union yet.  My family describes it as having a Swiss moment.

Have you heard of the Gnomes Of Zürich? Does that not sound completely charming. Sadly no. The Gnomes of Zürich was a term coined by British Labor Party politician Harold Wilson in regards to the Swiss bankers. The name has stuck. Fascinatingly the Gnomes come out for an hour between 1130 and 1230. We walked through the streets of Zürich at that time and the place was hopping. Loads of people in suits. Then the clock struck at 1230 and they disappeared. Like Gnomes.

Speaking of lunch time evidently you never have lunch in Switzerland at 12. All the Swiss seem to have their lunch then. There is no other time. Evidently it’s like eating time at the zoo.  I didn’t experience it at that time but I can attest that eating at 1 was like having dinner in a ghost town.

They have purple potatoes here. Evidently they are purple cos they are full of anthocyanin, which is good for memory and preventing cancer, evidently.  They taste just like white potatoes. It’s like eating martian food.

You will never not know your time here. There are clock towers on almost every street corner. On the other corners are churches. With bell towers. Bell song is constantly heard, this is very pretty except in the middle of the night. Between that and the clock towers there is 24/7 noise. Which can get annoying to be fair. No wonder they desensitize themselves with cuckoo clocks.

Dragged from the archives as my post about last night in Charlotte alone still hurts to read. Maybe one day.

Apologies for the lack of chronology. I am playing catch up. This occurred last Sunday the 8th:

So how do you get from this:

To this?

You have this man (and yes, that is the genuine look of disgust on his face, which still cracks me up) take matters into his own hands.

All the while telling me off for looking like crap. Which just made it more entertaining.

After being shorn like a sheep, I headed to Baltimore to catch up with Ray.  After being burned by American Airlines before I now pay the extra to fly first class. This sounds grander than it is. It means a wider seat and more leg room which is wonderful. In terms of refreshments I got a packet of pretzels. The reason I do this though, and it turned out to be money well spent, is that more often than not, American Airlines are always late. As was the case this time. We did not depart until seventy minutes after schedule. And that’s when the extra leg room kicks in.

Money. Well. Spent.

The man sitting next to me was reading a book: “The Theology of Christianity” and he was asleep for most of the time we were waiting on the tarmac. When he woke up and realised we were still on the ground, the expletives flew. “Oh you gotta be f***ing kidding me!!!!!! What type of f***ed up c*** airline is this????? You f**king people couldn’t f***ing fly sh*t!!!!!! What c*** organised this sh*t????”

I pretended to sleep through his tantrum.

The Theology of Christianity, people. Look it up. It’s got the best words in it!

I was travelling back from DC yesterday, taking the Greenbelt to catch up with Ray. It’s the start of rush hour and the seats are getting filled. An African-American lady sits next to me and she wears a really nice hat.

We start-up a conversation, initially about her hat then she tells me about her 15-year-old daughter and how she is looking for colleges for her.  We have a great chat between the train stops, I learn about her life  through her wonderful high voice.  She tells me she was 35 when she had her daughter.

So I ask her how can she be 50? Firstly she is amazed I was able to do the maths. So I tell her, genuinely, that she looks in her late 30s. I swear to God I truly believed this.

She looks at me then bursts into tears. She then hugs me over and over, thanking me for the compliment and telling me that I was the most wonderful person in the world and that I had made her day and I was wonderful…..

She kept crying and hugging me; fortunately we reached her stop almost immediately after the outburst of joy. She thanks me and tells me I have made her week.

I am a bit rattled. I am used to spontaneous expressions of emotion at work however never had such an encounter on a train.  And I am secretly pleased.

I will never meet her again yet some fat, balding australian tourist was able to make her cry with joy. All by being honest.

The wonderful thing of travel is though tiny, silly unexpected moments that you will never forget till you die. That was really sweet.

Following last year’s visit to the shooting range, I wanted to return again this year with Ray to see if I still had my skillz.

Yep. Still do.

Despite my arm being completely annoying due to the tennis elbow, I still managed to get serious aiming in.  In fact, I could see really well.  Ray and I were discussing this target. See the absolute dead centre kill shot…

Well Ray was arguing that I was off centre and I could see I had a total bullseye. I pulled up the target and yep, deader than a dead thing.

The spooky thing is how good I am it. Also how I get off on the smell and taste of the gunpowder, the thrill of the shooting. Only one other event excited me last week.

I was much better with the Magnum than the Ruger, which has a kick (the larger holes on the target.) I’ve decided in honour of that to grow a huge great Tom Selleck moustache. It will go with my gun.

Following last year’s successful merging of our blogs (more successful for me than him really – I got way more hits), The Brad and I had a further team up last night. (And apologies to the regular readers that I am jumping around chronologically in the blog, I have loads more about to Charlotte and getting here to Maryland to post.) The Brad is so up to date though and has already posted his write-up here.

So The Brad and I headed to Outback Steakhouse for, he said giggling behind his hand, a genuine Australian meal. Now while the decor was not as evil as I was expecting (for indeed I have been here where my eyes bled)

(Can I just mention in my efforts to keep up with The Brad I  am writing this in Ray’s car heading towards the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.  I am rocking all over the place cos Ray likes his speed. )

The menu at Outback, of course, was delightfully inane. Their speciality is a ‘Bloomin’ Onion” which is carved fried onion that you peel off the petals of the onion and place it in some sauce.  It was pretty but I’ve never seen one in Australia. Nor have I seen cheesy chips (fries with cheese on top…bleh) anywhere other than England.  We didn’t have either of these though.  In fact we had kookaburra wings (chicken wings) and The Brad had some Mahi  Mahi (a type of fish) and I had a Melbourne Steak which allegedly is a “really tasty porterhouse”. But, in actual fact, was a really sinewy T-bone that was impossible to eat. I had to get Brad to look away each time I took a mouthful of sinew and had to spit it out.

The Brad is fun company. We discussed the world’s problems and then some. We had our requisite Doctor Who discussion and, now that I’ve seen it, the Curse of the Black Spot was complete plop, Brad.

Then we got kind of deep. We had this fascinating discussion on evil in the world and how sin is responsible for this. As a Anglican with a low to moderate knowledge of the Bible versus the Religious Education Teacher  who knows his stuff backwards, it was Daniel versus goliath all over again.  I considered it a tie (well I thought it was a tie and Brad would be too polite to disagree with me.). I was impressed.  With the quality of the conversation and the fact that we could agree to disagree on some topics without killing each other.

I  left him with homework which I hope he does. I was worried I was overwhelming him with my religious questions, I didn’t want to seem like I was one of his student nor that meeting me was a continuation of work, which is always a pain. Again he was polite and said that my questions were far more… cant remember the word but let’s say intense… hehe.. than his students.  Yay me, dinner with intensity. Poor bastard.

Fortunately the meal and the waitress were far more impressive than our last visit.  We had pictures taken together in front of this scary ass three-dimensional map of Australia.  If you believe the map, where I live has a giant wheat sheaf cutter standing on top of my capital city.

I was appalled at how fat I looked in my picture (silk purse and sows ear… my personal trainer is going to have a fit) so asked this very kind lady to take a picture of us in front of the outback sign. She was a bit challenged, shall we say, as to taking pictures. We were in the frame but, God love her, so was half of Maryland.

The night was incredibly pleasant. I had fun. Brad had fun (I think.) We get together again next year to discuss which of us was right with our Doctor Who theories. The genius thing about meeting new people is what they teach you. And finally, The Brad gave me a nugget of wisdom I will take to my grave.  I was complaining that everywhere I went I took the sun with me, despite my desperate need to be rained upon.  Brad asked if I had read Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and was referring to this quote:

“And as he drove on, the rain clouds dragged down the sky after him for, though he did not know it, Rob McKenna was a Rain God. All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him and water him.”
Douglas Adams (The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide)

Now, through the power of The Brad, I realise I am a Sun God and the bloody sun is worshipping me by keeping me away from the rain and snow and cold and all the things I would much rather.  I am sure this could be marketable….

I attended the AIDS Walk Charlotte 2011 run by RAIN (Regional AIDS Interfaith Network) this morning. I’ve attended a few AIDS and HIV awareness walks and benefits over far too many years, including RAIN’s own Gay Bingo last year.

We started early meeting a the Gateway Village Atrium which is a lovely open space in (I’m guessing) downtown Charlotte. It was here that the first of a few concerns started to hit me. The first being that hardly anyone was there.  Dont get me  wrong, there were loads of very enthusiastic volunteers, including Wesley, who had been there since the crack of dawn to make sure the event went well.  However, in terms of walkers, there was maybe (and, again, I guess as I don’t have the complete numbers yet) 1500 people. In a town as big as Charlotte (pop roughly a million plus) with an extremely large gay population (way more than similarly sized Adelaide) this was a pitiful number. The weather was beautiful. No excuses there.

The next thing that I noticed was the speaker system was inadequate for the venue. Perhaps people closer to the front heard what people were saying but the speakers where I stood allowed only white noise. I had no idea, from what people were saying, about the event. A minor complaint but a fair one.

The walk started, described as a 2 mile walk “through historic Fourth Ward in memory of those who have finished their journey.” (Quote taken from the official website).  And the walk was when I got really, really, really mad.  I am not sure what historic Fourth Ward is however the walk I took encouragingly started off heading towards the city proper then took a sharp left turn away from the city centre and walked past some neighbourhood houses (no one there), some closed shops (no one there), a factory (no one there), a cemetery (no one alive there), a bridge and some trees.  Then we were back at Gateway. By which time I was furious.

In the entire two-mile walk, with the exception of the police who had blocked the roads and the very few cars (three cars I counted – that’s three drivers!) impeded by the walk, no one saw us.  NO-ONE!!!! We rose awareness to some trees and a bridge. I was embarrassed and angry at this route. When I suggested to my friends walking that this was infuriating I was told we  need to “take small steps to awareness.” “This is Charlotte.” “It takes time.” You know what though.

Bullshit.

Charlotte, as far as I can tell (and Wesley who devotes his life to the treatment of HIV and AIDS clients, will confirm for me) is a beautiful city with a population of roughly a million, 8000 of whom are infected with HIV.  6600 know they are infected.  The infection rates continues to rise. Risk of infection and awareness of decreasing this does not occur by having a walk which literally screams we are embarrassed for our existence. Even assuming the walk was diverted to the back streets of Charlotte for the sake of traffic remains a pitiful excuse. I have not been in a city that needs more education and awareness of decreasing risk of HIV than Charlotte.  To then have the major network of support (presumably) acquiesce to whatever pressures are imposed on them to not allow them to walk proudly through the streets of Charlotte and actually RAISE AWARENESS of the disease and prevention is so, so, so sad.

I have never been in a walk that was so depressing. Not because of the illness we were supporting but the embarrassment with which it seemed to be held.

Another final thing, if anyone from RAIN actually reads this. AIDS and HIV awareness has moved forward all over the world in acknowledgement of the fact that the disease is no longer a death sentence, that people with HIV lead wonderful, fulfilling LONG lives with the benefit of adherence to treatment and todays improved medication regimes.  As such HIV and AIDS benefits I have attended over the world now focus on the positives of the disease rather than focussing on the (truly tragic) deaths that preceded the increased medical support.  To this end they have changed their names from AIDS to HIV, emphasising the hope of the disease and the positive lives people now lead with the illness. Some names other cities are now using are: Walk for Life – Finding the Cure, Hike for Hope, Hike for HIV, etc. I found this event still looking backwards, if I am honest.

If by chance you read this, please consider moving forward with your focus. There is still time to honour the dead however today should be about celebrating the lives and continued health of people living with HIV.  AIDS no longer equals death. It means life with illness, like diabetes, or epilepsy… I humbly suggest your message should emphasise that now.

And you should walk proudly. No more in the shadows. Next time I do the walk for you I want people to see me.

One from the vaults, pardon the pun. I am busy in Charlotte and don’t have time to scratch myself yet. Will write more soon. Here’s one from the cupboards till I can catch my breath.

I am cautious about calling the blog The Wacky anything. Last time I did that I started war with the French. However the Swiss are just blog gold. You turn your head and there is something else quirky to comment on.

So today’s discovery. They all have bomb shelters here.

That is just seriously awesome. Everyone here has to have a bomb shelter in their house or access to one.  Despite being neutral the country is armed to the teeth and has a system of secret tunnels in their mountains for their defence.  And there are bomb shelters aplenty here.

Here’s the family’s

The room is underground and the concrete walls are, at least, a foot thick. The door you see there is massive and incredibly heavy. You literally heave to move it. They use this room (rooms actually as this complex has two) as a drying room for clothes. So, in addition to the air filtering system in the concrete bunker, there is a heating system to warm the air and dry the clothes on the clothes lines that stretches across the rooms.

This is the cheery warning on the door.

The gist of it is the shelter would house 15 people (though God knows how – it wasnt that big) and it helpfully describes that the pamphlet of the measures to protect that population are available in the phone book, or some such. Which is something I always want to know when I open the phone book. And I love the concept that you can dry your clothes while you sit out the apocalypse. They have thought of everything.