Monday, August 29, 2011

You might as well train

Since I flew into New York last Monday we've had an earthquake, a hurricane, and tornado warnings. It seems my spell as Bringer of Gorgeous Weather is over! Hurricane Irene ended up being a bit of a fizzer for us New Yorkers. We dutifully emptied supermarket and hardware store shelves of torches, batteries and bottled water. We filled our bathtubs with water to flush our loos if the power went off. We evacuated (or not), and we stayed off the streets. But nothing really happened... CNN was trying to keep the fear factor going, but it all got a bit silly. Which is not to say there weren't people and places badly impacted by the storm (touted as a hurricane "the size of Europe" and "unprecedented" in its potential to cause damage to cities along the east coast), but Manhattanites aren't likely to put their lives on hold again so readily the next time a big storm threatens.

I caught up with Gordon and Joanna again on Thursday for "afternoon tea" (not a traditional tea, but a bite to eat at tea time) at the Algonquin Hotel. There is no longer a round table; instead, an oval table presides under a painting of the "New Yorker" writers and editors who used to meet here regularly for lunch and to share witticisms, criticisms and general bitchiness.

The hurricane danger has passed, and I have a marathon to get trained for. As Dorothy Parker said, "You might as well live."

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The beagle has landed

Hong Kong

My feet hardly had time to touch the ground in Hong Kong. Cathy N met my plane and deposited me at the door of my hotel, Butterfly on Wellington. I'll definitely stay there again. It's right near the Mid-Levels escalator and the Graham Street wet market, whose days are numbered. Friday morning I had coffee with Bernadette Longley, a publisher with Macmillan, at the Excelsior Hotel in Causeway Bay. Called in to see my accountant, Millie, then had a lovely vegan dim sum lunch with Cathy H-F at the Lock Cha Teahouse in Hong Kong Park. She is doing the Maclehose Trailwalker event again this year. Lunch was swiftly followed by afternoon tea with Cathy and Bec N at the Mandarin Oriental. Great to catch up on all their news. I was feeling overfed by this stage and passed on dinner invites in favour of an early night after drinks at the Foreign Correspondents' Club with Chris D and Polly.

San Francisco

I was met at San Francisco airport by Annie W, a Dead Runner friend from Aptos. We checked into our hotel (Parc55 near Union Square), then walked to the bay end of Market Street to get a bite to eat for lunch. (I had Vietnamese summer rolls.) On the way back we met Rita and Douglas, who had come up from Monterey Bay. It's great when online pals become real ones. We went out for dinner to a Brazilian restaurant on Market Street. I had a huge salad.

Sunday morning we had an hour's run along the bay, Rita and I wearing the tiaras I had bought in Hong Kong. We were called "princesses" by a street person, and we chatted up two Russian sailors who were minding a Tall Ship that had sailed from Vladivostok. Breakfast back at the hotel together before Rita and Douglas headed home.

In the early afternoon, Annie and I were part of a conference call with some other Dead Runners about the DRS world conference to be held in Texas in February.

Walked with Annie over to the SF Museum of Modern Art to meet my former Hong Kong friend Francine B and her service dog Lola. I had last seen them in that same spot in May 2009. We had a coffee, then saw a couple of excellent exhibitions at the Contemporary Jewish Museum: Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas at home; and Charlotte Salomon's amazing small paintings that tell the story of her life before she died at age 26 in Auschwitz.

I did some work before Annie and I went across the road to an Italian place for dinner, then worked on until 11.30. I had only two hours' sleep before getting up to do some more work, then headed with Annie to the airport at 5 am. It was fun spending time with her. We'll meet up again at the DRSWC.

New York

I worked for three hours on the plane. As we banked over Manhattan I could see my building! It's the most amazing city to see from the air.

Cabbed it to my home in Manhattan, on the corner of West 97th Street and Central Park West, and unpacked my suitcase for the first time in three weeks! I then went to Whole Foods nearby and stocked up on salad stuff.

Yesterday was my first full day back. At 1.51 pm there was an earthquake measuring 5.8 along the eastern seaboard. I didn't feel anything, but friends in Brooklyn and Maryland said they felt it.

Had dinner with Gordon and Joanna R, who moved back to the UK from Oz about four months ago. Gordon is here to promote his novel Mice, which is published in the US by Penguin. We went to a burger bar near the Rockefeller Center. Jo and I had seafood salads. I'll catch up with them again tomorrow.

Today has been a big work day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sydney sojourn

I've had a fun week in Sydney catching up with very special friends. (And working!)

On Sunday morning Katie M and I walked from Newtown to Bondi Beach via Centennial Park and Bondi Junction. With a breakfast stop it took us three hours, and we chatted the whole time. Katie and I have worked on many, many book projects together since 1994, and it was fabulous to have that quality time with her. She worked at The Law Book Company after I left the company in 1983. We met up with Frannie and Karla from Albury, and 80,000 other City to Surfers.

Had dinner with my best pal from the LBCo days, Gina, on Sunday night. Lots of shared memories of people and places from the early 1980s, including the much-missed Brad Alick. Lots of laughs. I'd forgotten how funny Gina is.

Greg T dates our first meeting to 1976, to the days when Saturdays meant Frenchs Wine Bar on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst. I used to go there to see bands, and Greg used to play there. Our friendship was really forged in the early 1980s. A fun dinner with him on Monday night.

Last night I had dinner with Chris P and his partner Heather at the Spanish Club, where Chris and I spent many evenings in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I met Heather about five years ago when they passed through Albury. Chris has always been a special friend, and I've really enjoyed both times I've met Heather.

I'm also enjoying getting to know Anne Z better each time I stay here at Australia Street Guesthouse. Yesterday we had a little photo shoot in my room.

Today I went up to Frenchs Forest to meet the people I've been working with for many, many years at Pearson Education: Sandra, Liz, Rebecca, Kathryn and Bernadette. Katie is the only one of the team I had met previously (in 1994 and last Sunday). So good to put faces to names and voices.

Tomorrow I'm leaving Oz and heading back to New York via Hong Kong and San Francisco.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The beat goes on...

Photograph by Anne Zahalka.

My feet have hardly touched the ground since I left Albury a week ago. On Monday I caught up with Susanna B, whom I met in Hong Kong last November. We had lunch, a great chat, and a terrific hug. Some people just seem like instant friends. That night, Barb and Bill and I had dinner with one of my oldest friends, photographer Bill B and his gorgeous partner Sally. Bill and I met in 1968, when he was an exchange student in Albury from the US. I've known Sal since the 1980s. I see them every few years. It's hard to believe we are talking about celebrating our 60th birthdays when we've known each other since our 16th year.

Tuesday morning I met up with Lorraine R, whom I met in Kuala Lumpur about a year ago when I was on my way to Italy. We were both running in the park beneath the Petronas Towers and got chatting. I had a coffee with Lorraine in Albury last week when she was passing through, and we arranged to run at 6.30 in Melbourne this week. I tripped and went flying just as we started running, and hurt my arm. We ran a circuit of The Tan together and had a good chat, then I ran another one on my own. By the time I got back to the apartment the arm had stiffened up and I realised I'd done some damage to it. Bill took me to The Alfred Hospital where I spent the morning having X-rays. It seems I chipped a bone in the radial head. Not broken, but the doctor said I'd need to keep it in a sling for six weeks. As it's turned out, after being fairly useless for four days, it's already coming good and I don't think I'll be using the sling from now on.

Hong Kong pal and photographer Jennifer B and I had afternoon tea at the Windsor Hotel. We caught up for the first time in years early last year, when I went down to Brighton and we had lunch and walked on the beach with her dog Tilly.

Finished the day with Martyn, who came by the apartment for a drink with B&B and to collect me and my bags. We go back to 1974, so we agreed we should rendezvous in 2014 for our 40th anniversary :-)) He took me to the airport on Wednesday.

I dropped my bags at photo artist Anne Z's guesthouse in Newtown, in Sydney (from where I started my travels in May last year), and went into Darling Harbour to meet up with Joanne B. We've seen a lot of each other in the past few months: Bali in December, and in Albury, Melbourne and Sydney in the past month. She was in Sydney for work for the day. From there I went to Suzie's hotel near Chinatown to have dinner and hear about her reunion last week with her birth mother and half-brothers. We caught up again last night for a quick drink before she caught her flight back to the UK. I'll see her again next August when I'm hoping to do another walk with Joanne and Tony.

On Thursday, Chris M (we've been good pals since 1973, when we were at uni together) had dinner after going along to a small function for Christina Noble. Good to see Kirrily again after meeting her for the first time at the ball in Melbourne last week.

Yesterday Anne Z and I had lunch, and I met gallery owner Nicky Ginsberg, who I've bought two artworks from over the years. Made a quick visit to the Art Gallery of NSW. Farewell drink with Suzie, then went to Potts Point for dinner with Marah B. She and Katie M gave me my first jobs for what is now Pearson Education when I returned to Sydney from Hong Kong at the end of 1993. I still do work for Katie, and I've worked with Marah on various art-related projects over the years. She now heads up the Biennale of Sydney. A good night at the end of a very busy week.

A sunny weekend, perfect for the Sydney City to Surf race tomorrow. My race pack never arrived in Albury, so I'm unable to join Frannie and Karla, who came up from Albury yesterday. But I have a Plan B and I'll see them afterwards.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

On the road again

After a month in Albury, and a week of farewells, I kissed my mum au revoir at Albury Airport yesterday morning and picked up where I had left off. I'm staying for a few nights with Barb and Bill in their apartment on Southbank, Melbourne. I'm looking at this Art Centre spire, which is only about 200 metres away and is lit up with blue lights.

JB and I spent last night at a Gala Ball marking the 10th anniversary in Australia of the Christina Noble Children's Foundation. Christina is a powerful, passionate speaker who made a big impression on everyone in the room. I sponsor a young boy in Mongolia through CNCF, and I spent two days helping out at the Foundation in Ho Chi Minh City in 2009.

JB's article about our holiday in Ubud, Bali last December was published in "The Age" today.

Barb, JB and I saw the very amusing British film "The Trip" today in Carlton. I saw it in Istanbul in April, as part of the Istanbul International Film Festival.

I'm feeling very excited about heading off again.