Two Yanks Downunder

A blog about the experiences of two Americans on their first visit to the fabulous continent of Australia

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Joltin The Coast or saved by MPR

"Where did John say he wanted to take us?" I asked Wendy.

"I thought Jolton was what he said" she replied.

So I got out our detailed map of WA and took a look. Well, a quick scan yielded no return so it was time to take off the glasses and give things a more thorough going over. After that failed too, unfolding more of the map was my next option. Now, we were going to pin this down I thought. Maybe not so fast.

Then it dawned upon me, the Australian propensity for shortening things must come into play here. For example, they commonly refer to their own country as OZ or an injured footy player will tell the media that "the doc says I need an op on the knee" meaning operation or surgery.

That was the trick, a few hundred miles north of Perth was the city of Geraldton, which by trick of accent filtered through the telephone and the untrained ear of a recently arrived American could come across as Jolton.

So, there I was later Thursday afternoon headed up to Jolton (sans Wendy who had to work) with our landlord John at the wheel, which is in fact on the right side of the car. We drove up along the coast at first and then cut through part of Perth and wound up on the Band Highway. John pointed out many interesting features of the land and with his background as a farmer could indicate the more fertile farms, however, although much of the land was green, no crops were tall or lush and he said that this was the worst drought since 1940 and the worst known conditions since they began to keep records about 150 years ago.

Still there were many interesting plants and trees all over. It somewhat reminded me of the Texas coastal plains between Houston and Corpus Christi with semi-arid looking land and shorter scrub trees and plants. However, to the east there was a long mostly unbroken ridge line which seemed to be significantly more lush. I believe that he called that area the Darling range and stated that it was significantly richer soil and had more rainfall and consequently more productive and varied agriculture and grazing.

In the area that we were driving through, either agriculture or mineral sands mining were the main ongoing pursuits. The mining had evolved more recently and was part of the boom economy that has been present in WA for many years. Also, fisherman had been benefiting from high demand for their catches and so Geraldton had become home to a growing number of wealthy individuals since the 1990s. The port is undergoing an expansion and seaside business and residential development in full swing.

By the time we arrived in Geraldton five or so hours later it had gotten dark. However, there was an extended period of dusk since the sun sets into the ocean and then the light is reflected by the sea and also by the clouds. We checked into our respective hotel rooms, had a wine at their bar and then walked across the street for a seafood dinner.

Over dinner we discussed a variety of topics and then without warning John decided to pull one over on me and put me on the spot with our young waitress, Cora. I guess that having heard about American ingenuity much of his life, he wanted to see things unfold in an impromptu situation. Or maybe this is just one of those things that businessmen do to one another when they are out of town, conversational practical jokes?

Basically, he told her that I was a visiting American who was involved in the film industry back home. I was suprised to hear this but maintained a poker face since surely she would just nod or remark politely "How nice" with a hint of disbelief or doubt.

However, I would not be so fortunate. She immediately stated that she had a good friend who was having growing success in acting and writing in local theater and so she had an interest in the world of entertainment herself. Next, she asked if I was acquainted with or associated with anyone notable or famous!

A glance at John showed that he was just sitting back waiting to see what I could come up with and that there would be no help from him in extracting me from where he had manovered the conversation. So I was really on my own, and only a quick recollection of something from MPR enabled me to avoid sitting there dumbfounded or being forced to indicated to Cora that my dinner companion was having a bit of fun. After all, he was treating me to dinner, so maybe I had to do a sort of dance in order to earn it?

How you may wonder, could I be saved by Minnesota Public Radio? Well, they interview lots of people. Many are well known, but others are behind the scenes in various pursuits, editors, agents, etc., and I realized that a supporting role was my way out even though in order to pull out of the situation I was on stage so to speak.

(Documentary Don with his buddies at MPR Diana Nyad, Rudy Maxa, Heather McElhatton etc.)

Back to the conversation. I told Cora that I was two or three layers behind the scenes, that I did research for documentary films and short films. In that position, I was far removed from those in the public eye, that it was the bosses of my bosses that even had any contact with anyone that she would recognize. So, I guess I passed the test but I will never really know if the story was in the least credible.

After dinner, we went over to a local World War II memorial devoted to the HMAS Sydney. This fighting ship was sunk in November 1941, just prior to the outbreak of the conflict with Japan, with a loss of all 600 plus lives off the west coast of Australia. It encountered a German ship and in the firefight both ships were sunk. Some of the German crew survived and were later rescued by Australians. It is from them that the country found out about the Sydney and there was much grief in the nation.

In the last few years there have been attempts to locate the wreckage at the botton of the sea, but they have been unsuccessfull. There is quite a controversy about where the ship could be located. Based upon the witness testimony of the Germans, it could be in one spot, but based upon the research of scientists who know the ocean, it might be in a location much further from where the witnesses say.


At 10:48 AM, Anonymous min said...

Notloj? I get it, it's a pun.
Why didn't you tell them you were Geena Davis? You could pull it off!

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Wendy and/or Don said...

Geena Davis was at another table that night. He had to be sure and think of someone she wouldn't know!


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