09.11.2016 - 12.11.2016
Wednesday, 9 November
Election Day in the USA
Today dawned with such hope and promise… the presidential election had finally arrived. Happily, I had voted while I was in Scotland back in September; as a Hillary supporter, I was hoping to call Hillary “Madam President” by day’s end. She may be a divisive person, but there is no one more qualified for the office of President of the United States; I was proud to cast my vote for her. The polls would be open throughout most of the day and it would be the afternoon before any results started to come in.
I was up earlier than I had expected today, but it gave me time to have a relaxing morning before heading out on my day tour. I walked over to the Kings Cross area of town to grab a bite to eat; I quickly realized that this isn’t the best part of town. I saw several homeless people who had obvious mental issues, as well as a couple prostitutes. After walking around for a little bit, I headed over to the pickup location for my day tour to the Blue Mountains.
The tour bus was (thankfully) not very full for the day’s trip (perhaps 12 people in total); I like smaller groups as things seem to be able to run smoother. There was another solo guy on the tour and we said a quick hello to one another before the tour started.
We drove for about 45 minutes before reaching our first stop, the Featherdale Wildlife Park. This is a small, interactive animal park with animals from around Australia, including kangaroos and koalas. We could walk around and pet the animals as we passed by them; several animals were free to roam around and in some areas we could enter their enclosures.
My first stop was the koala sanctuary, where they had several different koalas. They were all up and eating, providing some great views of the animals. One area had a koala that we could pet and get a photo with him, which was fun.
Walking to the next section there was a guy with a snake, letting those who wanted to hold it; I avoided the snake and went on to look at the birds. The park had a plethora of birds, from macaws to hawks to cockatoos.
The kangaroos and wallabies were really fun to see; they were so inquisitive and were obviously quite used to humans. Several came right up to us and we could reach down to pet them.
The park even had a huge crocodile, far bigger than any of the crocs we had seen in Africa! He was lying around in a pool, but soon began to move about. It was amazing getting to be so close to the croc; I snapped a few photos and send one to Chris, letting him know that I “took care” of the croc, just in case it was trying to hunt him down…
The park had an enclosure for the Tasmanian devil, but the animal was not out for us to see, which was disappointing. I went into the bat enclosure, which was very cool to see them flying around and hanging from the ceiling.
After leaving the park, we drove up into the Blue Mountains; the mountains are actually quite small, not getting my higher than 3,600 feet in elevation; even the guide referred to them as hills rather than mountains. We made a stop in the town of Leura for lunch; I walked down to a local bakery to have a meat pie for lunch. I ordered the kangaroo and tomato goulash pie, which was delicious!
As I was walking back to the bus after lunch, a violent thunderstorm began; the lighting and thunder was intense and VERY close. Seconds after we boarded the bus the rain came down, which was quite lucky. The other solo guy ran back in the rain; he had found a place that was showing the election results and lost track of time watching them. This caught my attention and we began to discuss the election.
His name is Shane; he’s from Ireland, but currently lives in New York. Throughout the afternoon, we kept checking the news with our phones for the latest updates. After lunch, just the east coast polls had closed and Hillary was leading Trump by 2 electoral votes.
Our next stop was at Scenic World in the Blue Mountains, which was nestled right next to the stunning Three Sisters. Our tour included admission to the three rides that they had; we were dropped off on one side of the valley and took the Skyway across to the main visitor center. The Skyway is an elevated cable car with glass panels on the bottom, allowing us to look straight down at the rain forest.
Shane and I decided to head around the park together and took the cable car from the visitor center down to the forest floor to walk around. The cable car was quite steep, which was exciting, and it provided even more great views of the entire area. Once we reached the bottom, we got out and decided to take the longer walking path around the forest. The forest was quiet and peaceful; there was not much to do along the path besides just admire the beauty of the forest.
To get back up to the visitor center, we took the scenic railway, which is the steepest passenger railway in the world, running at a 52 degree incline! We wanted to get the front seats, so we waited for the next car and then got in. At the front there was just a wire mesh to keep us from falling forward and out of the train. The train ran backwards up the mountain while playing the theme from Indiana Jones; the path was incredibly steep and it was exciting to ride it backwards.
Once we got to the top, we decided to take the train back down the mountain so we could get the best views from the front of the car. We hopped over the railing and got back in line for the first car. Going down was even more exciting than going up; we had to hold on to the safety bars to steady ourselves. Sadly, the ride is a short one, but we were able to just stay on-board and ride it back to the top again.
By this point the storm clouds had caught up with us and the views of the mountains and valley was obstructed by the clouds; we were lucky to have seen what we did when we arrived. We drove on to Echo Point, which would normally afford some spectacular views; all we saw was clouds. There was a walkway leading down to the first of the Three Sisters, which Shane and I followed. It was raining lightly as we walked along; in a short time, we took the steep stairs down to the Honeymoon Bridge and to the base of the Sister. We were able to see more of the Sister from this close vantage point, which was nice.
Before heading back towards Sydney, we checked on the election results; Hillary and Trump were neck and neck; far too close for comfort…
We had a 90-minute drive back into town, where we drove by the Olympic Village and then stopped at the riverfront, where we got off the bus and boarded a boat to take us back into town. The rain hadn’t let up and we were thus unable to see anything as we sailed down the river and into Sydney Harbor. Shane bought us each a beer, which we drank while monitoring the election; by this time Trump was taking the lead, but the west coast polls had not yet closed, so there was still hope!
By the time the boat reached the city, Trump was further in the lead… Shane and I knew we needed to get some drinks. We’d talked about going out after the tour and the election results just fueled that.
When we arrived in Sydney, we got off the boat at Circular Quay and walked over to a nearby bar, naked Buckley’s, to have some drinks. We sat at a table and were nearly done with our first beer and Shane was checking the BBC News on his phone; suddenly he tossed in down on the table for me to see: Trump had been declared the winner. We were both stunned, shocked and in disbelief at what had happened. We both swore, cursing the results, wishing they were somehow an elaborate joke.
We sat at the bar and had two more beers, lamenting the election results and discussing our fears for the future….
BEGIN POLITICAL RANT
My gut reaction was one of revulsion that Trump would live in the White House, be addressed as “Mr President” and shown the due respect. By winning the election, he has cheapened the office of the presidency. How could we go from Barack Obama… to this man?
How could a man like Donald Trump win the election? A man who has openly and repeatedly declared hateful, bigoted, xenophobic, racist thoughts and ideas. A man who had insulted and offended every single minority. His candidacy started out as a joke, one that we never took too seriously… until it was too late. Even so, the idea that such a horrible person could become President of the United States was unthinkable.
Trump represents the resurgence of the white, Christian, straight male; the one group that has oppressed every other group in society for centuries, during which time they have held the reins of power. In recent decades this power of theirs had been threatened: they were no longer able to keep minorities down; women’s rights in the early 1900s to Civil Rights in the 1960s to Islamic rights in the 2000s to gay rights in the 2010s. These minorities were finally getting treated equally, with the respect they deserve, but this threatened the power that these man held. Trump is the logical backlash against these equality movements; the last hurrah of the white, Christian, straight male. Looking at the voting map of the US, it is quite clear that the old South had indeed risen again…
What terrifies me most about a Trump presidency is the fact that the Republicans now control all branches of government. The Republican Party may now pivot and embrace the hate-filled rhetoric of Donald Trump, making it the party platform.
The powers of the White House are now at the disposal of a temperamentally unpredictable, childish bully. Anytime anyone insults him, he flies off the handle to fire back at them. Now that he has real power, what can’t he do in retaliation? He will be a target for intense ridicule from around the world. How will he react to North Korea’s hostile behavior? We cannot have a president take drastic action; we need someone to carefully weigh the consequences of their actions, which Trump has never been able to do; he acts on impulse, without thinking. This is not the type of person who should have control over national security, the military and, most frightening of all, nuclear weapons.
With the Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate, they can pass any legislation that they see fit. With Trump as president, any right-wing, conservative and bigoted law will easy be signed into law. Republicans can now overturn the Affordable Care Act, pass discriminatory legislation aimed at oppressing minorities (along the lines of House Bill 2 from North Carolina).
There is already one vacancy on the Supreme Court, with one or two possibilities to follow during the next few years as the two liberal judges are getting older. This raises some serious fears as the vacancies will be filled by conservative judges, which will give them the majority on the bench. This could lead to serious setbacks for minority rights: Roe v Wade could be overturned, gay marriage could be banned, etc.
There is one other possibility that is even more fearful: that Trump will repudiate his campaign rhetoric and promises, which he used just to win over the voters and get elected. If this happens, no one will have any idea where he stands on any issues. He would have been elected based on what he said during the campaign, but if he abandons those ideas, we’re venturing into no-man’s land, which can be even more dangerous.
I will acknowledge that Donald Trump has been elected president, but I cannot and will not accept it. I will do everything I can to combat his hateful policies at every turn over the next four years. The rights of minorities must be vigorously defended and championed!
END POLITICAL RANT
Shane and I made our way over to the Opera Bar, which was just a short walk away down the waterfront. It was getting late, but we each needed to have something to eat as we drank. We ordered some food and another beer; the view from the bar of the harbor and the Sydney Harbor Bridge was amazing. My friends from Melbourne, Mat and Kelly, had suggested drinking here at sunset, which would be spectacular. We sat around chatting while we ate and drank, talking mostly about the election as we were still in shock, but also about traveling (our shared passion) and movies (Shane has a shared love of films like I do - he likes "One Hour Photo", enough said!).
We then hopped in a cab to head over to the Darling Harbor area, where we wanted to go to a bar that Shane had visited the day before, called Beer DeLuxe. The taxi driver didn’t know the bar, but Shane was able to provided directions that got us there. The bar was right on the waterfront, but they were getting ready to close when we arrived. We spent a long time discussing the election and then beer with the bartender while we had a beer. We ordered one final beer and sat out on the terrace while they closed up the bar. It was a relaxing way to unwind and distress, commiserating over the devastating news together.
We then walked along the waterfront for a little bit, chatting some more. We were both happy to have met one another; it made the day tour more fun to spend with someone, as well as gave us something to do during the evening. We decided to spend the next day together as neither of us had definite plans; I was really happy with this idea as it would make the day more interesting and fun to hang out with someone.
We were planning to call an Uber to come take us to our respective hotels, but we ended up grabbing a taxi instead. Our taxi driver was from Sri Lanka and was an outspoken Trump supporter, which baffled us. We told him that we were upset by the election and the driver would not stop talking about Trump, which was quite annoying. We dropped Shane off at his hotel, with he and I making plans for the following day. When we got to my hotel, the taxi driver kept talked about Trump for about 10 minutes while I was trying to get him to shut up and charge my credit card.
Back in my room, I turned on the news and got online to absorb more of what was happening back home. I was in total and complete shock. I was numb. I was speechless.
My friends back home and I had been texting throughout the day and they were all sharing the same feelings that I was. We were going through the grieving process: anger, disbelief, sadness. One minute we would be mad as hell; the next minute we’d be in tears. One of my main concerns was what this would do to women’s rights; Trump is a misogynist and that attitude for four years could set women’s rights back by decades, preventing another chance for a woman president for years to come.
I finally went to bed around 02:00, sad and dejected by the day’s events.
Thursday, 10 November
Today was my last day of my short stay in Sydney and thankfully the weather was supposed to be nice, so wandering about the city would be pleasant.
Shane and I planned to meet up and spend the day together until I had to catch my bus at 19:00. I took it easy in the morning, watching the news and catching up on the latest from the election debacle. The news was not pleasant; I watched Hillary’s gut-wrenching concession speech, which was possibly the most difficult part of the past two days.
Shane and I messaged one another via Facebook and I headed off to his hotel at 10:00; I had to check out of my hotel by that time, but Shane graciously let me bring my bags over and keep them in his room during the day. His hotel, the Y Hotel, was right by Hyde Park and was quite nice – I would definitely stay there when I return to Sydney.
Our first stop was a small café near the hotel so Shane could have some breakfast; I’d eaten at my hotel, so I just grabbed a coffee. After that we walked through Hyde Park, stopping to admire a memorial to all those who have died in military service to Australia; the memorial was a series of large bullets.
Nearby was a large building that we went over to check out; it turned out to be a memorial for World War One. Inside was an eternal flame and a very interesting statue that was housed on the floor below. Outside of the memorial was a reflection pool, which was rather pretty with all of the trees surrounding it.
We continued heading north, towards the Botanic Gardens and the Opera House. On the way we passed by several interesting buildings, including a massive church and a very pretty fountain. At one point we took a sidetrack into a courtyard of an old building, which was rather quaint.
We finally reached the Botanic Gardens and began exploring it on our own. The area was part of a larger park, right on the waterfront. We were both really impressed and pleased with the area; Shane commented that he wished that Central Park in NYC was more like this park; I had been thinking along similar lines not two minutes before he said that!
We stopped to take some pictures in front of the Opera House before walking over to see the building up close. From the balcony of the Opera House we were able to get some great views of the Harbor Bridge.
We still had most of the afternoon left to us, so we decided to take one of the ferries out on the harbor as we walked over to Circular Quay. We picked the ferry that went over to Darling Harbor, which would allow us to explore that area of the city for a little while. We stood in the queue to get the ferry tickets and barely made the boat at 13:05 (we were the last to board). To our delight, the ferry didn’t go direct to Darling Harbor, but made two quick stops (including one at Luna Park), which allowed us to take some truly amazing pictures of the Opera House, the Bridge and the city.
Once we docked at Darling Harbor, we decided to walk around and eventually head over to the fish market for lunch. The harbor area was teeming with people; we took the long way around the harbor. Christmas decorations were staring to be put up, including a large Christmas tree; we both commented that it all seemed so out of place, especially since the weather was so warm! Christmas is supposed to be cold!
The fish market was about a 20-minute walk away from Darling Harbor; it was fun just walking through a different part of town as we made our way over there. When we arrived at the fish market, we were both rather disappointed: it didn’t appear to have any of the restaurants or actual markets that we’d expected. All we saw was a large parking lot and what appeared to be a large warehouse, but no storefronts. We walked around and discovered that the warehouse was where everything was located, we just couldn’t see it from where we entered.
Inside there were several different restaurants, selling all kinds of seafood. We explored the area for a bit before settling down to have lunch. I had a minced meat pie, while Shane had sushi, prawns and clams. We were both really pleased with the food; we sat outside to eat right by the waterfront; the birds were everywhere, eager to get scraps of food.
After eating, we walked back over to Darling Harbor and then tried to decide what we wanted to do for the rest of the afternoon. We only had a couple of hours left before I needed to head to the bus station. We decided to head over to the Queen Victoria Building mall for a little bit. The mall was massive, with four floors of stores; there were some really interesting clocks and decorations around the mall. We stopped in a couple of stores, including one called The Art of Dr Seuss. It was filled with large paintings of his work, which were really interesting to see – but they were insanely expensive (in excess of $10,000 AUD); one statue was priced at over $25,000 AUD!
We also went into a hobby store, which was filled with some really fun things, like action figures from the Terminator and TONS of the vinyl pop figures. We wandered around the store, admiring some of the things they had, and then discovered the model train section in the back. The prices for some of the trains and the model buildings were outrageous! The store had a large display with several trains running on it; it was encased by glass, but there were four buttons on the outside. Shane pressed one of the buttons, which did nothing. I then pressed the other three and it stopped one of the trains. Then we noticed that the buttons were stuck. Shane quietly said “I think it’s about to go!” and I agreed, so we quickly made out way out of the store.
We stopped in a small café to relax and grab some coffee. The café was small and quaint; it was nice to just sit back, chat and get some energy again from the coffee. When we finished, we got up to leave and walked right out of the café – and I suddenly realized that we hadn’t paid! We rushed right back in, paid and then left. We honestly just forgot; I think we were in a bit of a zombie trance, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. We were laughing about it as we left the mall and headed back to Shane’s hotel.
Back at the hotel, I checked through my bags and repacked a few things to get ready for the bus ride that night. Shane turned on the news and we got caught up on the analysis that was going on. Shane then pulled up a trailer clip for the next season of Planet Earth, which showed a lizard escaping from dozens of snakes – it was so cool to watch!
Finally, it was time for me to leave. I was sad to have to say goodbye to Shane; we had a lot of fun over the two days in Sydney. We were both going to be in Melbourne on Saturday, so we made tentative plans to meet up again there. Shane walked me out to the elevator and gave me a big hug before I left. Even though we’d just met the day before, I felt like we’d made a good connection and we’d keep in touch, no matter where we end up living in the world.
The short walk to the bus station took me only 15 minutes; I arrived early, so I grabbed some snacks from 7-11 before getting in the queue for the bus. The bus was packed, but I was happy to find that the bus had ample led room, the seats were very comfortable, and there were USB charging ports at every seat! As we started the journey, the bus driver turned on a movie (“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”), but I fell asleep less than 30 minutes into the film.
We made a couple of stops throughout the night: two 20-minute rest stops and then another to pick up some more people. Aside from those stops, I managed to sleep during the majority of the bus ride.
Friday, 11 November
When we arrived in Melbourne, it was just after 07:00, so I stopped at Starbucks to grab some coffee and breakfast. I then spent a couple hours reading as I couldn’t check into the hostel until 10:00. Thankfully, the hostel was only a 5-minute walk away from the bus station. When I arrived to check in, the two guys at the front desk were very friendly and helpful; when they found out that I am an American, a look of pity came over their faces and they said “I’m so sorry!” I said that I didn’t want to ever go home and one guy joked that I could just stay in Australia!
My room was quite nice; two bunk-beds in a rather large room. The bathrooms were clean, with plenty of showers as well. One of my roommates was named Michael and he was visiting from Prague; we chatted for a few minutes and then connected on Facebook; he offered to show me around town anytime that I come to Prague.
I spent some time hanging out in the lounge area of the hostel before leaving to go meet my friends Matt and Kelly. I had met them last year during my trip to Iran; I had come to Melbourne specifically to hang out with them. Kelly was pregnant (the baby is due at the end of the month). I took the tram out to Port Melbourne to meet up with them. It was so nice to get to see them again!!
We went to grab some lunch at a local restaurant; we all had burgers and they were amazingly delicious! I devoured mine. After lunch, Mat had to head back to work, so Kelly and I took a drive over to the beach. The weather was cool, with a slight breeze, but sitting in the sun warmed us up; we could both had happily stayed there all day. The water was so clear and a beautiful shade of blue.
Kelly then suggested that we head over to the Shrine of Remembrance, located in the city’s botanical gardens. This shrine was in memory of all the casualties from the wars in which Australia has taken part. When we arrived, they were cleaning up from a service that was held earlier in the morning for Remembrance Day. The shrine itself was a massive building; inside, several wreaths had been placed and there were various flags of the armed services. I walked up to the balcony, which afforded me some amazing views.
Downstairs there was a museum about Australia’s involvement in various wars, which was very detailed and interesting to explore. We were both really impressed with the facility.
We then decided to head into the city to grab some drinks and wait for Mat to get off work. We went to a rooftop bar and had several drinks. The bar had some fun cocktail drinks…
Mat met up with us and we had a couple more drinks before heading out to grab dinner. Most of the restaurants were packed, with long wait times; Kelly decided to head on home and let us have a night out on the town. Mat and I had dinner at the Hofbrauhaus; the band played one or two German songs, before starting to play some awful American music. We quickly let once dinner was through and made our way to another bar.
We ventured over to a whiskey bar, which I rather liked. I’m not a big fan of whiskey, but the atmosphere of the place was great. We had a whiskey from Tasmania and then decided to move on. Mat took me to a bar named the Butterfly Club, which was perhaps my favorite bar that I’ve been to on this trip. The main floor was decorated like an old mansion, overflowing with an eclectic collection of trinkets. The lower floor had a stage where a guy was playing piano and singing. We went down there and listened to him perform for a while.
He was playing “The Lonely Goatherd” from The Sound of Music when we arrived and everyone joined in and sang along. Then he played “I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys, “Oops I Did It Again” by Britney Spears, and then “Stop” by the Spice Girls. During the last song, he taught us all the hand gestures that go along with the song and we all joined in. It was great fun!
The last bar that we went to was full of old arcade games, including the TMNT and The Simpsons. People were also playing Donkey Kong County 2 for the SNES on one TV; other TVs had Mario Kart 64 on them. We played an NBA game, TMNT and the Simpsons before calling it a night (it was nearing 1am by this point!). Mat walked me back to my hostel before heading off to the train station to head home.
Saturday, 12 November
I was up somewhat early this morning, despite not getting to bed until around 02:00. I grabbed a quite breakfast and then went out to explore the city a bit on my own.
As I was walking along, I came across an outdoor Christmas concert being performed for kids. I stopped to watch them for a little while, though I had clearly shown up near the end of the performance. They got the kids to start chanting for Santa, who soon rode in on a motorcycle… driven by Captain America. Even the MC was surprised: “It’s SANTA! Oh, and he’s being driven by… oh, it’s… Captain America…” They all got up to sing and dance for a little while longer, before heading into the department store next to the stage.
I continued on my walk and discovered a sign posted on a lamppost: “Stop Trump!” along with information about a protest rally that was starting in 15 minutes. I quickly got on my phone to get directions to the rally starting point – I had just enough time to make it, so I rushed over.
When I arrived I spoke with some of the organizers; when they found out that I am American, they all just said “I’m sorry!” and encouraged me to take part in the protest. The crowd was around 100 people or so; several signs were being held up saying things like “Fuck Donald Trump!” and “Can’t Build a Wall. Hands Too Small!” The age of the protesters ranged from students to the elderly, which was encouraging to see.
The rally consisted of several people getting up to speak to the crowd; they had someone representing the various minorities that are now threatened by Trump’s election victory: women, immigrants, LGBTQ, and Muslims. Between the speakers we would yell and chant out various sayings. The press had quite a large press presence at the event as well – I was even captured in several of the photos, including one from the local News 7 (I’m in the yellow circle below).
After about 45 minutes, we turned to march through the streets of Melbourne. The police, who had been peacefully monitoring the event, escorted the group through the city. I was right near the front of the crowd and we shouted the chants as we walked; the favorite chant was “Fuck Donald Trump!” People along the street would stop to take photos and several chanted along with us. It was thrilling an exciting to take part in this event, to do something to get my voice heard.
I left the protest crowd after about 20 minutes of marching so I could continue walking around the city. I walked over to the old exhibition building, which is a wonderful Victorian-style building situated in a beautiful park.
I spent some time in the park, before turning around to head back. On the way, I stopped by a beautiful old church and another couple of parks. My route back took me down to the riverfront and over to Batman Park.
When I returned to the hostel, I grabbed my computer and headed out to grab a coffee. Shane and I had made plans to meet up at some point during the day, so I decided to relax until I heard back from him. He sent me a message and told me that he was at Pilgrim Bar with his friend, inviting me over.
I walked over to Pilgrim Bar, which is located right along the riverfront, next to Federation Square. Shane and I gave each other a big hug when I arrived, before he introduced me to his friend Renee. Renee and Shane had been at the bar for a little while, so I had some catching up to do with the drinking. Soon enough I’d had a few beers and was feeling good. Renee was really awesome and crazy funny; I immediately hit it off with her. Shane and I both said how great it was to get to see one another again; when he introduced me to Renee, he put his arm around me and described how we’d bonded over the election travesty in Sydney.
As we were drinking our beers, Shane noticed a couple lying on the grass across the river from us. The woman had climbed on top of the guy and draped a blanket over them… and it was quite clear that they were fucking! Shane used his camera zoom lens to make sure… and they definitely were fucking. People were walking by on the path not 10 feet from where they were lying on the grass. We were laughing and fascinated with it.
After having a few beers at Pilgrim Bar, we decided to head out to a different bar. I suggested the Berlin Bar, which Mat had told me about the night before. It is a bar that uses the Berlin Wall as inspiration: the bar is divided in half, with one side being quite decadent (the West) and the other side being bery sparse (the East). We decided to give Berlin Bar a chance, so we headed out.
The walk to Berlin Bar took about 20 minutes… and it was an eventful 20 minutes! We had to cross Flinders Street, a large and very busy street with several lanes of traffic and tram tracks. Did we wait for the crosswalk sign?
Like true drunk tourists, we simply jaywalked across the road; I can still see Shane calmly walking across the street, arms outstretched, while Renee and I laugh and run after him.
Our next stop on our adventure through Melbourne was a fountain that was a stone wall with a slow stream of water cascading down it, which allows people to put leaves up on it to make pictures. There were some leaves already up on it, but Renee showed us how it works. She tried to make a smiley face, but the water pushed several of the leaves down the ‘face’ so we decided that it was a ‘stroke face’ due to the sagging. Shane was more… mature? … and he just made his initials out of leaves.
We stumbled on to Berlin Bar without making any other stops or sidetracks. When we reached the building, we walked into the bar… and I was instantly let down. I didn’t see the stylized differences that Mat had mentioned; the people in the bar were douche; in short, it sucked. …and then I realized that we were in the wrong bar! Berlin Bar was on the floor above us!
I was instantly happy when we entered Berlin Bar! We entered on the Capitalist West; there were lush, comfy chairs and sofas, bright lighting and everything was well decorated. There weren’t many people sitting in the West though and I had my heart set on the Communist East. This area was more simple: hard chairs, small tables made of wood, stark decorations and lighting, two military cot beds in the corner. On the wall, they were projecting the movie “The Great Dictator” starring Charlie Chaplin. I was so glad that Shane knew the movie and loved the final speech just as much as me!
I ordered a beer; Shane ordered a Italienishen Hengst cocktail (AMAZINGLY good, with a small bar of chocolate in it!); Renee ordered… I can’t recall. I only remember Shane’s drink because of the chocolate bar, but Renee’s drink was equally delicious. I ended up speaking to one of the waiters, who was quite attractive; once again, I received the “I’m sorry” when he found that I’m American; we chatted for a bit before I returned to our table. Shane got up and asked another bartender if he was gay, but there was some confusion over who I was speaking about, so we never figured it out. Shane even asked our waitress and she coyly said that she’d find out (she didn’t).
We all decided to leave after having our one drink (the prices were rather high); on our way out, I decided to give the waiter my number. Per Shane’s suggestion, I gave him the piece of paper and said “I’m not sure if you’re interested, but I’m here for a few days.” And then left. (No, I didn’t hear from him.)
We walked outside and tried to decide where to go. Renee wanted to stop inside the bar on the ground floor, which was playing some good dance music. We went in… and Shane and I were quickly disenchanted with the place. It was filled with douchey guys and the vibe wasn’t very good; we left before having even one drink.
Shane came up with the brilliant idea of going to do karaoke! He found a place nearby and we set off into the night. We jaywalked across several more streets, being quite drunk by this point. The karaoke bar, KBOX, had private rooms, so we rented a room out for three hours and we got some drinks included. We opted to order pitchers of beer to share, rather than ordering individual drinks; we ended up going through four pitchers of beer during out time there. We eventually extended our stay by another hour and ordered some snacks, since we’d not had dinner (and it was 01:00 by the time we extended it!). We ordered some fries, dumplings, and veggie wraps.
We began going through the two song books: one organized by artist and the other organized by song name. Shane had wanted to sing “Just Can’t Wait to be King” from the Lion King, but they didn’t have the song. We all took turns getting up to sing songs, sometimes singing together or as a group. The room had three mics: one on a stand that was the best. Our song choices for the evening were wide-ranging and covered all genres. The songs that I can recall are:
Living on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
SkyFall – Adele (a duet by Shane and me)
Ghosttown – Madonna
I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys
Summer Lovin’ – Grease (a duet by Renee and me, though the song cut out half way)
Making Love Out of Nothing at All – Air Supply
Paint It Black – Rolling Stones
Wannabe – Spice Girls (Shane and me)
Rape Me –
Pretty Fly (For a White Guy) – The Offspring
Creep – Radiohead
Bohemian Rhapsody (all of us) – Queen (we all sang this one together)
Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Animals – Maroon 5
S&M – Rihanna
..... and YES, there are oodles of videos of us singing.... I have more videos than pictures.
By 02:00 we were all pretty drunk… but did we want to call it a night?
Renee had the brilliant idea earlier that we should get ramen for a very late-night dinner and she knew of a place nearby. The ramen place was only about a 5-minute walk down Russel St; it was packed when we arrived, so we sat in the tiny waiting area for a couple of minutes. When we were seated, we all ordered the same thing: shujinko noodles. The portion was huge and the food was delicious! We all devoured every last bite.
By this point it was nearing 03:00 and it was finally time to call it a night; Renee and Shane had a long drive the next day as they were heading out of town. Renee ordered them an Uber and I was able to walk back to my hostel (it was a straight shot down Little Burke St). When we got out to the street, Shane and I exchanged several big hugs, telling each other how much we enjoyed hanging out, how glad we were to have met, etc. I told them that I am awful with goodbyes and that I’d wait until their Uber showed up, which gave us a few more minutes to hang out together. When their car arrived we gave one another one last hug, promising that we’d see each other again in New York or Chicago… or somewhere in the world!
The walk back to my hostel was… difficult. I hate saying goodbye, especially to some amazingly great new friends who I’ve just met. Shane and I commented several times how we felt a strong connection to one another, like good friends, despite having only known each other for a few days. He’s a great guy, with a warm and caring heart. I can tell that we’ve got the start of a good friendship.