"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Thursday, 30 October 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 43: There Will Be No Rodeo

The Woolshed on Hindley Street has its own mechanical bull so that all the drunk people who attend the joint can make fools of themselves and entertain the equally drunk crowd. Jerida reminded me of its existence, so we made plans to go on Sunday night.

We checked the pub's website to make sure it would be up and running. It said it was available to use every night of the week. But when we turned up to the venue, it seemed to me to be very closed. Our friend Brooke, who knew of the plan, speculated that it didn't open until 9 o'clock. So we went to have dinner and came back. Still not open. What was going on?

'I just Googled The Woolshed,' said Brooke via text. 'It says it doesn't open at all on Sundays.' Back in town, Jerida and I sighed heavily and gave up to go home. We'd have to come back on Tuesday, when I was next free.

We got back to the carpark that I'd left my car in and put in the ticket to pay. And it never came back out again. Jerida and I watched as the machine made a lot of really unhealthy-sounding grinding noises, and then spat out a receipt saying "Error. Your transaction did not process."

'Press the intercom button,' said Jerida. I did, and nothing happened. Jerida tried pressing it. Still, nothing happened
'I tried that!' I said.
'Well, you never know with you,' she retorted.
Yeah, I guess that's true...

We stood there for another 10 minutes, pressing the intercom button, looking around for inspiration and then giving up and pressing the button again.
'There's another intercom button at the exit gate,' I said. I walked over there and tried the dirty green button. Nup, nothing. We stood for another 5 minutes, Jerida at the pay machine and me at the exit gate, taking turns pressing those darn buttons, expecting something to happen. What did we think that there was someone on the other end just taking a nap and pressing the buttons enough would wake him up?

I started looking for a phone number to call. Couldn't find one. A sign above the machine said "Secure Parking, Plaza Hotel." So we rang up the nearby Plaza Hotel to see what they could do about it.
'Plaza Hotel, this is Andrew.'
'Hi Andrew, we're stuck in the carpark next door. Are you able to help us?'
'Oh for goodness... We've got nothing to do with that carpark. I don't know why people keep calling us about it.'
'Because it's called 'Secure Parking Plaza Hotel?'
'Well we didn't name it that. Try calling Secure Parking.'
'Do you have their number?'
No, sorry.'
'Okay, well... have a good night.'

Okay, what's our next move. The internet? Jerida looked up Secure Parking on her phone.
'Let's see, contact us... You can email them... There's no phone numb- oh wait, here it is.'
I called the number.
"Hello, you've reached Secure Parking. Our offices are closed at the moment. Please leave a message after the beep and one of our representatives will contact you as soon as they can. Alternatively, if you're at one of our carparks now, you can use the intercom button to contact a staff member immediately."
'I can't press the intercom, it's not working! We're just stuck here, after hours, and we can't get out. If you can get back to me before tomorrow morning, that would be great,' and then I hung up without leaving a return number because I knew that wouldn't happen.

'Where's the nearest Secure carpark to here?' asked Jerida. 'Maybe we could got there and use their intercom.'
Good idea. The nearest one turned out to only be a few hundred meters away. We made our way there and pressed the intercom.
'Hello, Secure Parking,' came the voice of our saviour.
'Hi! We got trapped at one of your other carparks and the intercom won't work!'
I won't go into how long it took her to understand our predicament, but eventually, she took down my phone number at got us to walk about to the original carpark. She called us back once we were there.
'Okay, I've had a look at the machine, it doesn't seem to be working.'
'Doesn't it?'
'No. So what I'll have to get you to do is drive your car up to the exit boom gate, lift it up by hand and then put it down behind you once you've driven through.'
Can they be lifted by hand? I walked over to the boom gate and tried to lift it. The moment my hand hit the bottom of the gate, it flew up and tucked itself neatly aside, waiting for its car to pass. Man, turned out to be pretty darn easy in the end.

So Tuesday came around and we met up in the city again. This time, Brooke was able to join us. I had been nervous for the last two days - as far as this challenge is concerned, the new week starts on Wednesday and I don't like leaving things to the last day, just in case something goes wrong. The Woolshed's a big place, so when we got inside, I thought I'd ask a bartender where to find it.
'It's around that corner,' she said. But it won't be open until Wednesday at 9:00.'
'Right... Thanks for your help,' I said. I walked back to the girls and said 'Have you got a spare 25 hours to kill?'
'You're kidding me, right?' said Jerida. 'Don't these guys update their website?!'
'We've got a more pressing issue,' I said as we walked out of the pub and down Hindley Street. 'We now need to think of a good new thing for me to do within the next four hours. What ideas have we got guys?'
'Hm...' said Brooke with a cheeky smile on her face. 'Have you ever done shisha?'
'No, and I don't plan to.'
'Have you ever worn a tutu?'
'Have you ever been to Strats?' I retorted, referencing the town's low-class strip club.
'I have actually, have you?'
'Um, no...'
'Have you ever walked down the street wearing nothing but a barrel?'
'Ever been rolled down a hill in a barrel and then into a river?'
'Ever done the splits in a phone box?'
'How even... Never mind, I've seen how flexible you are.'
'Oh, I've got it! Have you ever had escargot?'
'Hey no, I haven't!'
'There's this little French restaurant we're coming up to that Jason took me to once. I think they sell it.'
'I'm in, let's go!'

The restaurant in question seemed more like just a gap between buildings, but it was well-decorated and obviously fancy. The busboy who seated us looked like he had homework to get to, but he was very proper and eager to please. As he sat us at our table, Jerida looked around.
'I just realized we're very underdressed,' she said. 'At least this is a first for me, I've never been to a fancy restaurant in denim short-shorts and a hockey jersey.'
I know how you feel,' replied Brooke, scanning through the menu. 'Have you ever paid more than $1000 for dinner?'
The meals did seem awfully expensive. But I've certainly paid more for my experiences in the past. The chef came out to our table.
'Would you like to hear about today's specials?' he said in his stereotypically French accent.
'No thanks,' we replied. The girls had just decided to order desserts and I sure knew what I was getting. As the chef trudged off, I leaned over the table and whispered
'Was that bad etiquette? Did we just offend him?'
'Probably, replied Jerida. 'Further proof that we don't belong here.'
The busboy returned to take our orders, Still trying to be the utmost professional.
'I'll have the escargot, thanks,' I said.
'I'll have the creme du caramel,' said Jerida.
'And I'll have the poached pear,' said Brooke.
'Excellent, and would you like all those at the same time?'
'Yes,' I said. 'And preferably in the same plate.'
There was a moment's hesitation as the busboy took in that last sentence, then his face broke and he snorted with laughter, quickly collecting himself before the manager could notice.
'That will be out soon,' he said and he moped off, embarrassed.

The conversations we had while we were waiting for our food were of a very high standard, They were the type of conversations I point to and go "This is why I'm friends with these people". Here's a selection of some of my favourites...

Brooke: (Showing off the amount of French she can speak)
Busboy: Would you like any drinks at all?
Michael: I got this. Mais oui 'ave some watere?
Brooke: No Michael. Just no.
Busboy: (trudges off laughing again)

Customers who have just entered: Oh! You're wearing a Boston Bruins jersey! That's where we're from!
Jerida: Hahaha, lovely to meet you! (turns to us) Great, call more attention to how I'm dressed.

Brooke: My Dad's last name is Irish.
Michael: And your Mum's last name is Scottish, right?
Brooke: No, Walsh is very Irish.
Michael: You're from all over Brittain.
Brooke: No... I'm just Irish.
Michael: Oh yeah...

Brooke: I can do accents really well.
Jerida: I can't do accents at all.
Michael: I can-a do-a a veddy good-a Italiano accent-o!
Jerida: (laughing) That was the worst accent I've ever heard!
Michael: What's-a wrong-a with-a my ac-a-cent?
Jerida and Brooke: (more laughter)

Michael: See, I know that failure causes laughter, but I don't like people seeing me fail. It's quite a conundrum.
Jerida: Yeah, I think that sums you up perfectly.
Brooke: There are so many things going through my head right now that you'd fail at!
Michael: Doubt it.
Brooke: Ballet, diving, singing, dancing, doing accents...
Michael: Alright, let's not-
Brooke: Gymnastics, horse riding, basic etiquette...
Michael: Okay, I get it!
Brooke: Cooking, medicine, DJing...
Michael: Alright!

Jerida: I guess they'd have like, snail farms for the escargot right?
Michael: Holy... (leans forward and whispers) How do snails reproduce?
Brooke: Hahahahaha! That would be the slowest sex ever!
Michael: And who's house would they go back to?

Michael: Where did your nickname come from?
Brooke: Chook, it rhymes with Brooke.
Michael: Makes sense...
Brooke: And if you say may name like (makes chicken noises)
Michael and Jerida: (laughter)

So at last our food came out. Brooke's dessert looked amazing.

Jerida's food looked pretty good too.

My food... Not so much.

They seemed to have mixed in the snails (have I mentioned that escargot is snails? Seems pretty important) with equal amounts of ham and spinach, possibly to mask the flavour. I very slowly pierced one of the snails with my fork...

It was okay, but not great. They had a bit of a chewy texture and tasted strongly of garlic. I later found out that the sauce in was mainly liquefied garlic. It actually reminded me a lot of seafood. I hate seafood.

Jerida tried some too.

And she wasn't a fan either.

That was a lot of lead-up for one little moment of experience. As we were leaving, Jerida breathed a sigh of relief.
'I feel better now. I explained to the manager why I was dressed like this.'
'You're kidding. What did you say?' said Brooke.
'I told him we weren't planning on coming here tonight. We were going to go ride the mechanical bull at The Woolshed.'
'Did he forgive you?' I asked jokingly.
'Oh yeah, he said his sister did that once. Apparently, she broke the bull.'
'Yeah. Apparently there's footage up of it on YouTube.'

Monday, 27 October 2014

My Top 10 Favourite Posts So Far

Thanks to the ridiculously kind work of Robyn over at Life by Chocolate, I've found myself with a lot more house guests than I used to have. They all came over to read my Improv Night post which, while they said was funny, wasn't one of my favourites. Here's a list of my favourite 10 posts that I've done so far, with 10 being the best and 1 being the least-best. Some of them are as popular as I think they should be. Others have sadly faded into obscurity...

  1. Being Benchpressed - A very quick post from a (so far) very short series called A Piece of History. It's footage of a strongman lifting me over his head.
  2. Art Project - Inspired by old episodes of Art Attack, I thought I'd give painting a go.
  3. This Takes a Sudden Turn - It was going to start as one thing, but ended up being a completely different thing.
  4. Art Versus the Artist - An interesting study on whether an artist's personal life can be viewed separately from their work.
  5. What Do You Think of Me? - Someone described this post to me as confronting. I started up an anonymous message board and encouraged as many people as I could to post on it. It was fascinating seeing what turned up.
  6. Just a Great Night Out - A night out I had with my good friend Rusty to celebrate the end of my show at the Adelaide Fringe Festival (which I also wrote a post about).
  7. Groceries - Believe it or not, I'd never done the grocery shopping for my household. My attempt at it was... interesting.
  8. An Exciting Opportunity - The time a couple of family friends tried to convince me to become a coffee salesman.
  9. Pole Dancing! - Of course, the one Robyn talked about on her post. I had a lot of fun doing this and the videos make it a lot easier to digest.
  10. The Buttercup Gang - A post I wrote which explains the core group of friends that I talk about so often in this blog. I barely talk about myself in this post, and yet you'll probably understand who I am more from reading this than any other post.
I'd also like to mention the friends I've made so far who can now effectively say "I knew him before he was cool".

Jimmy from JimmyFungus.com
Gorilla Bananas from The Japing Ape
Fredulous from Fredulous Yo
Debra from She Who Seeks
The Princess from Cocaine Princess

And the friends I had from an old blog who I've managed to reconnect with.

Kinley from Kinley Dane
Bryan and Brandon from A Beer for the Shower
Ken from Ken- inatractor
Becky from Just Passing Through

And of course, huge thank you to Robyn. Keep being awesome!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 42: Improv Night

I don't even know exactly what I went to on Wednesday night. My friend Matthew - one of the first friends I made in stand-up comedy - invited me to come and do some improv comedy with him and I just said 'Yeah, sure.' I was expecting some sort of open mic-type scenario where average punters could come along in teams and give it a go. But it became clear that that wasn't the case when we were having pizza beforehand and I looked at my watch and mentioned we'd better get going. Matthew waved the suggestion away and said that's just a loose time. We'll get there when we get there.'

"There" happened to be a dingy little pub on Hindley Street that was completely empty save for one man writing on a whiteboard in the middle of the room. What few tables and chairs there were had been turned up at the edge of the room and the only place to sit was a couch that ran along the wall.

The man in the room was Josh. I think he was preparing for a show in the Adelaide Fringe, and he had a group of people who would get together every week and practice for it. Two more people turned up - a tall, muscly guy named Jack and a lanky guy with a small walrus moustache named Shane.

'Alright, let's get started,' said Josh. 'The first game is called Freeze. Jack and I will start acting out a scene, anyone can shout "freeze" whenever they want and the actors will freeze. Then they tap one of them on the shoulder and replace them, starting a completely new scene.'

It took me a little while to work up the courage to participate. I was trying to think of something fast enough to keep up with the actors, who were talking very fast. When I finally called freeze, Jack had lifted Josh onto his shoulder and Josh's feet were resting against the wall.

Shit, what am I going to do with that? I thought I may as well dive right on in, since I was already wading into the deep end. I tapped Jack on the shoulder and he transferred Josh from his broad shoulder to my tiny frame. The only thing I could think to do was to swing him around and sing the theme from The Bodyguard. not a good start. The next time I went up, Matthew was sitting on a stool, leaning at a table. So I sat down across from him and presented my arm for an arm wrestle. He grabbed it and we stared into each other's eyes.
'One...' he said.
'Two...' I said.
I lunged across the table and pretended to make out with him. The crowd liked it. That was better.

Two more people arrived at that point. A small-framed girl in business attire who was named Angie and a shy-looking friend named Leah that she'd brought just to come and watch. We began a game called Reasons, where we begin a scene and the reason behind the scene is revealed to the actors half-way through. For example, I was paired with Angie and told I was her boss. I'd called her into a meeting to fire her, but I wouldn't know why until they wrote the reason on the whiteboard and showed it to me. I sat down at the table and pretended to be writing some memos when Angie knocked on the door.
'Yes, hi. Please sit down.' Angie sat down opposite me. 'Now, how's your work been going?
'Yes, good thanks.'
'Really? Keeping up with it okay?'
'Yeah, absolutely.'
'Okay... How long have you been working for us now?'
'This is my third week.'
'Right. So you haven't really had a chance to settle in. That's a shame, because I don't think it's going to work out.'
'What do you mean?'
'We're going to have to let you go.'
'But, I've started here! You can't let me go!'
'I've got no choice.'

Josh came up on the stage with his whiteboard.
'Excuse me sir, here are the files you wanted.' He showed me the whiteboard. It said "Crippling fear of leaving the house". Typical over-analytical me, I didn't think it made sense. If she couldn't leave the house, why was she here? If she was here, why would I need to fire her for it?
'I have to let you go because you keep making fun of my crippling fear of leaving the house,' I said and the audience chuckled.
'What, that's ridiculous!' she said. 'I'm not making fun of you!'
'I heard you, you were making fun of me.'
'Well maybe if you weren't trying to run this business from your house, it wouldn't be so sad.'
'I like running it from my house. All my stuff is here. You guys have just made yourselves at home. You've filled my bathtub up with ice and beer, it's unacceptable.'
'Well I hope your house gets hit by an earthquake!'
'I'm going to have to ask you to leave. Open the door, run through it and shut it very quickly if you can.'
'Fine!' and she stormed off.

I was happy with that, we'd gotten some good stuff out of it. The next game we played was called Lie Detector. At any point in the scene, Josh could press a buzzer on his phone and whoever had just talked would have to pretend that the last thing they said was a lie. I was paired with Angie again. We'd made a pretty good team last time.

'Okay, here's your scenario,' said Josh. 'Angie, you like women.' Angie looked at him strangely. 'Yes, I know. You like women in this scene too. You've sent off to Japan for a mail-order bride. But what they've actually sent you is a male-order bride. Take it away.'

Angie sat at the table and stared off into the distance. I walked up behind her and in my most comically deep and blokey voice, I said
'G'day, did you order a male order bride?'
'Yeah, where is she?' replied Angie.
'She's right here!' I said, motioning to myself.
'No, that can't be right, I ordered a woman. Can you go get her for me?'
Before I could stop myself, I said 'Yeah, sure,' and walked off. I had to figure out a way of getting back on track, so when I reached the side of the stage, I jumped back onto the other side of the table and said 'Just kidding, it's still me!' That got my biggest laugh of the night. I had settled into the whole improv thing.
'No, I didn't want a male, I wanted a female!'
'Well, I'm whatcha got. We may as well make the most of it.'
'Don't you have ANY women there?'
'Nope, not one.'
BUZZ! The buzzer went off.
'Well, we do have one Japanese woman, but she mostly does our admin.'
'I mean, sits around doing a lot of cocaine.' I don't know why that came out.
'Well why can't I have her?'
'She's too busy living it up on that sweet, sweet male-order money.'
'I can't do this, I've never been with a man before.'
'I have been with a man before. But I didn't like it.'
'I did like it... But I don't want to try it again.'
'Look, you won't regret it. I'm very good in bed.'
'Okay, that's a lie. But I'm very thankful afterwards.'
'No, I can't do this. You're going to have to go home and send me my money back.'
'But I just got here!'
'I've been here for a while, watching you.'
'I don't care, I don't want a male bride!'
'I, uh... Really?' She said to Josh on the sidelines.
'Look,' I said. 'There's no point fighting it. This is clearly only heading in one direction. Let's head to the bathroom and make love.'
She huffed a grabbed my hand and we walked off stage together to strong applause. I was really happy with that one. The scenes were getting better and better.

Next - a game where audience members would place us into weird position and we'd have to act out our scenes without moving from those positions. I was paired with Shane, the hyperactive one of the group. All night, his brain had been darting back and forth around the place at the speed of light, drawing connections between things that were weird, but hilarious. We were told that we were long-lost brothers that were reuniting at the airport. Matthew came up to mould me into my position and Leah came up to work on Shane. Shane was slumped on the ground and leaned against the wall and I was faced in another direction with my rude finger sticking up at him.

'Fuck you man, I'm looking for my brother!' I said to the apparent homeless person in beside me.
'I've got news for ya man, I am your brother!' he said in his drunken drawl.
'Jerry? Is it really you?'
'Well it's not Alvin and the Chipmunks, is it?' he said, dropping the drawl.
'Wow, Jerry it's great to see you!' I was still turned away and sticking my rude finger up at him. 'How have you been?'
'How have I been? I'm a mess! I've had to do terrible things to stay alive. Those antelope never saw it coming,'
'Oh Jerry, I'm so sorry to hear that.'
'That's nice, can I have some money?

The audience members came back on stage and remoulded us. Shane was stood up and I was put on my knees, facing him, with my hands clasped together.
'Please! Let me go!' I cried. 'I've given you all the money I have and I've had to beg for money from others to keep paying you!'
'Yeah yeah, back to the begging floor.'

I was faced away from Shane in a bow (head on the floor and bum in the air), so I couldn't see what Shane looked like.
'Look mate, I don't know what you're game is, but I don't swing that way. I'm more of a lady-boy kind of guy. Which is why I'm standing like this.'
'Look, I've gotta be honest. I can't see how you're standing. I'm too busy begging to pay your support cheques.'

I was stoop up again, facing Shane, but this time with my hands over my eyes.
'You're a disgrace!' said Shane. 'Our mother would be ashamed of you!'
'How am I supposed to fund my singing career (laughter) if you keep standing there with your hands over your face?'
'Well, I-'
'I think I might have to fire you.'
'Look! I've already had to sell my eyes to keep up. Don't you think I've paid you back enough?'
'Pfft, no! You've got like, eight other organs left haven't you? Now get back on the operation table!'
And scene.

There would be two more scenes to act out tonight. The first one was called "Secret Word, where actors were given ridiculous words to try and weave into the conversation. Myself, Josh and Jack were a boy band, being interviewed by Matthew, the talk-show host. He was given a list of words and we were given a list of words, and whoever got through their list first would win. Josh and Jack were too fast for me on that one.They powered through the list while I sat next to them shouting "Yo, dawg!" and "Fo' sho'!" at regular intervals. They somehow knocked out the last three words (monkey, Monopoly and quest) in one go to narrowly beat Matthew. Then Angie and Leah left and the guys rounded off the night with a Mystery Job Interview.

Matthew and I were going in for a job interview conducted by Jack. We simply had to figure out what the job was during the interview.
'Hello guys, how are you?' said Jack in a slightly creepy voice.
'Now, I'll get straight to it. How much experience have you had with women?'
Matthew: 'Oh yeah, a bit...'
Me: 'Tons. Can't shake 'em off.'
Already I was thinking it was some kind of pimp job.
'Really? Okay... And what's your experience with men?'
A very INTERESTING pimp job.
Me: 'They love me.'
Matthew: 'Can't complain.'
'Interesting... How much influence would you say you have over men?'
Matthew: 'Well, I'm perfecting my mind-control device at the moment...'
'Really? I'm not sure a device like that would be useful here, but I'll make a note of it.'
'I appreciate it.'
'Now, obviously you'd be spending  lot of face-time with the clients. How are your people skills?' I thought I'd test the water here.
Me: 'Oh, fantastic. I blow people's minds.'
'...Do you?
'Yeah! I rock their world. They always come back asking for more.'
'I'm sorry... More what?'
'Um... Y-you tell me...'
'Do you actually know what the job is you're applying for?'
'Yeah absolutely! Keep going.'
'Alright then... Are you both currently in relationships?'
Okay, this must be something to do with interaction between men and women. What jobs fall into that category?
Matthew: 'No, I'm not.'
'Why's that?'
'I'm abstaining from sex for a year.'
'Interesting.' I couldn't tell if that was a good answer or a bad one. 'Well our clients may try and have sex with each other, so we need someone who's knowledgeable in that area.'
Hm... Where do men and women constantly try and have sex with each other? And why would we need to oversee that? Jack got the signal from Josh to wrap it up.
'So I'm going to cut straight to the chase. I'm still not convinced you guys know what the job is, so unless you can tell me right now, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.'
Me: 'Oh, that's unnecessary. This is clearly an interview to be... the workplace... harassment... officer?'
'Oh, good guess!' yelled Josh from the audience. 'But not quite!'
'It's a dating coach,' said Jack.

Last one - I became the interviewer and Josh was the applicant. Jack picked the job title... Rhino Slapper. I liked that.
'So! I see you've got nice strong hands there. That's going to help with the job,' I said.
'Yes, I work them out daily. Pulverizing animals.'
'Oh good, so you've worked with animals in the past?'
'What kinds of animals?'
'Well, the animals you'll be working with are approximately 8 million times bigger. Will you be okay with that?'
'These were some pretty big ants.'
'Okay, well-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
'Where are we at the moment?'
'At the circus.'
'Ah, I remember now. We're at the circus.'
'I just said-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
'Will these animals be high maintenance? Because that may be a problem.'
'Well yeah, you may have to show them who's bos-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
'Nothing. Never mind, go on.'
'Okay, so will you-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
'What would my hours be like?'
'Ah, that'll be a problem.'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
*sigh* 'Go ahead.'
'What would you like me to do with these animals?'
'Well, you-'
'You would be-'
'You would be using your h-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?

I was in a fit of giggles by this point. I tried in vain to ignore him and keep a straight face. Jack was giving me the "wind it up" signal.
'So you'll need to be able to avoid horns. Have you ever worked with horned animals?'
'Yeah, rhinos and bulls.'
'Oh really? Should have mentioned that at the start of the interview.'
'I'm weird like that.'
'So do you want the job?'
'Yeah, I'd love it. What is it?'
'Nah, I'm just pulling your groin. This job I've applied for is a... bull... pummeller?'
'Get out of my office.'

So that was it for the night. It was fun, but overall I wished I was better at bouncing off people and not just worrying about what I was going to say next. I guess I'll have to go back and practice.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 40: Fat Men Wrestling

Asia Fest was on this weekend, bringing with it Adelaide's first ever genuine Japanese sumo tournament. I saw the commercials for Sumo Mania on TV and the posters stuck up all around the city and decided I had to go.

Now, since starting this new experience challenge, I've gotten a lot of interest about it from friends. They've been suggesting new things for me to try and inviting me to try stuff. Some have even asked me if they can tag along. But what I've found is that people's excitement seems to end the moment there's a decent amount of money involved. I found this out when I tried to recruit someone to come with me to Sumo Mania. The first person I tried was a friend named Michael, who's a fellow stand-up comic and producer at Fresh 92.7.

'Sorry, I can't make it to open mic. I've got salsa class,' I told him.
'Hahahaha! That's one of the best things I've ever heard! What's made you start doing a salsa class?'
'I've been trying a new thing every week this year and blogging about it.'
'That's so cool! Can I join you on your next one?'
'Yeah absolutely! I'm seeing a sumo tournament this weekend.'
'Oh that's even cooler! I'm there, man!'

Sounded like it was locked in, but a few days later, I tried to get in touch with him about buying tickets. It took me days to get a hold of him and when I did, he'd hit the brakes hard.
'Oh man, I think I might be working now. I need the money. Sorry!'

That's okay. I'm sure there are others who'd love to see some sumo. I tried a new friend I've made recently named Charlotte. She was keen.
'It's a bit pricey though,' I warned her. 'The ones I'm looking to get are in Gold class. It's $76 concession. There are cheaper options, but it looks like they're practically in a different postcode.'
'Oh... Well then I may have to pull out. Sorry.'
Okay then...

I tried Mitchell. He's always up for a good time. Plus, he'd agreed to come with me to Avcon.
'How much is it?' he said.
'$76 concession, but there are cheaper options... There's Silver and Bronze too.'
'I'll pass. I'm not doing that again after Avcon. Sorry.'

I was beginning to lose hope. A little while later, I got a text from one of my best friends Dimi.
'Hey, are you doing anything Saturday? It's been a while since we caught up.'
'Hey, yeah I'm busy Saturday. But on Sunday I'm going to see a sumo tournament. Do you want to come to that?'
'I dunno, does it cost much? I have no money.'
'Never mind. Sorry.'

That's it, I was just going to go by myself. Going places by yourself isn't that hard, is it? What was I worried about? It's not like I'd have a big sign over my head saying "Hey, I couldn't find anyone to go with!" It's not like people will stare at me with that sign and think. "Huh, what a loser." It's not like I can only enjoy myself if I've got someone there to enjoy it with. I had to face facts. Those were the exact reasons why I was scared to go on my own.

I turned up to Rymill Park where Asia Fest was happening. The lineup was enormous. I got to the front of the line and said
'One adult, please, with a ticket to the sumo.'
'Just one?' said the girl behind the counter. Was that judgement in her voice?
'Yes... Just one,' I said.
'Which section do you want?' I chickened out of going Gold class. I'm not a student, so it would have cost even more for me - $96.
'I'll go Silver thanks.'
'That'll be $69.'
She gave me my sumo ticket, a little Asia Fest booklet and what looked like a plane ticket. I joined the cue to get in. When I got to the front, the lady tore my stub and said
'Have a nice trip.'

That was nice. They were painting this as a whole "taking a trip to Asia" thing, rather that just a bunch of stalls set up in the middle of Adelaide. I found it cool. The first thing I needed to do was find food. I'd just come from work and I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I had $20 in my wallet and a quick investigation revealed that there were no ATMs or eftpos machines. I'd have to choose wisely.

The area was split into five sections, labelled Vietnam, Japan, Korea, China and Thailand. Each section had its own entertainment and food options. After a lot of deliberation, I found myself in China Town. There was a girl at the entrance who was wearing traditional Chinese clothing and seemed to be stamping people's passports. What was that about? I looke at my own passport and noticed the following:
"For your chance to win flights for two to Japan, China, Vietnam, Thailand or South Korea, get this passport stamped at all five of our checkpoints located at the entrance to each country."
What a great idea! I got the girl to stamp my passport and went inside.

Now, food... Let's see, it was out of salt and pepper soft shell crab or something called peking chicken. I was interested in the chicken, up until then I'd thought that duck was the only thing you could peking. But the soft shell crab was more expensive and therefore more filling. If I only had one shot, I didn't want to be hungry later. It was probably also healthier, being seafood. Maybe I should-
I've only had deep fried ice cream once, but it was amazing. I had to have it again. I got out the money and approached the counter... Then sighed and made the grown-up choice.
'I'll have the soft shell crab, thanks,' I said sadly. What I got turned out to be deep fried anyway. It wasn't actually a healthy as it should have been and nowhere near as filling. I'd made a poor choice.

Back outside of China, I went searching for things to do before the show started. I walked past another restaurant and noticed that out of the speakers that were tied to the trees, they were playing a tune that I recognized as Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack", except the singers were singing in Asian. I had a little chuckle to myself at how foreign it made it sound, then I noticed something else that made me grin - the music was coming from a stage, where Fresh 92.7's own DJ Riley was standing at the decks. Riley's the guy who comes in after my news shift on Tuesday afternoons. He's got a great following and is a very interesting guy to talk to. I went up to him to wave hello, only slightly self-conscious about being on my own.

Just as I got there, someone else stepped in front of the stage with a microphone.
'Hi guys! I hope you're having a great afternoon! It's time to play our final eating contest for today. We're going to need six people to come up and race to see who can eat a banh mi the fastest. The winner will get two gold tickets to tonight's Sumo Mania. which starts in half an hour. How good does that sound?!'
There was a soft cheer from the small crowd that had assembled by the stage. Four people immediately jumped forward to take up a spot in the contest.
'That's great. Now we just need two more people!'
I looked around. No one was taking up the challenge.
'Come on, it's not hard. Two Gold tickets to see the sumo tonight!'
I thought about it. If I took part in an eating contest... I could win two Gold tickets... I had a silver ticket... That would mean, I could see the sumo in Gold... for the price of Silver... twice... at the same time!
'I'm in!' I said stepping forward.
'There we go, just one more!' said the girl with the microphone. On stage, Ryley saw me and gave me a wave. I waved back. There's that job done.

Once the sixth person came, we were each given our banh mi - a sort of bread roll with stringed vegetables and shaved meat inside - and lined up facing the crowd.
'Ready... Go!'
I took a huge bite. Argh, too big! I couldn't get my teeth onto it to chew it up properly! It was so hard to swallow I'm surprised I didn't choke on it. I decided to go for the opposite approach. Every bit from there was small, quick and manageable.  I nibbled through my banh mi at surprising speed. A quick look over to my competitors revealed that I was winning. Not that everyone was trying. The guy next to me had started showboating for the crowd, dancing to Ryley's eating music and high-fiving the kids. I thought I could relax a little - that was one less competitor that I had to deal with. But then he turned back around and I realized he had eaten twice as much as everyone else.
How in the...

I sped up even faster, but it was no use. Either this guy was an experienced speed-eater or there's something about drinking copious amounts of alcohol that slackens your throat muscles. He put the last bit of banh mi in his mouth and I threw the rest of mine away in mock anger.
'Hey dude, that was a free meal!' said the girl with the microphone.
Oh shit, you're right! I hate wasting food, why on Earth did I just do that! For a cheap laugh? That I didn't even get? This wouldn't have happened if I had a friend here with me,

I went around to other countries getting my passport stamped at each one. When I went to Vietnam, it was sitting over a lake, with bridges connecting each part of the country. There were couples in row boats  sitting on the lake and floating under the bridge.
"Ooh, row boats!" I thought, looking down from the bridge. "I wanna try one-"
My face dropped when I realized. Oh, that's right, I'm alone. Forever.
I shrugged and moved on, exploring the place until it was time to head to Japan for the Sumo.

When I got to the Sumo, I was faced with some surprising news. Signs had been posted up around the entrance saying
"Due to logistical reasons, tiered seating is no longer available. If you'd like a refund of your tiered seat, please see staff at the ticket booth."
Hm, that's interesting. I had to see what they meant by that and what they had instead. I stepped inside and found a small sea of plastic garden chairs. My ticket was practically around the outer ring, and I could barely see the Sumo ring through all the rest of the chairs. As the tent filled up and seats got taken, I noticed that nobody was sitting in the Gold chairs in front of me. Hm... Could I just take a closer seat? Staff weren't doing a particularly good job of guarding the levels. If the match started and there were still seats free, I might duck out and take up a closer one. Lucky I was on my own...

But it became clear that wasn't going to work. Not because there weren't any spare seats, just because as people sat down in front of me, my short-ass frame was blocked from seeing the stage by much bigger bodies. Not even inching closer would have helped. I needed to try something better.

I walked back outside the tent and approached the people at the door.
'Hey, you guys are offering refunds, right?' I said. The guys' faces dropped as they said
'Yeah' I smiled warmly at them and looked into their eyes - they were sales techniques that I'd learned during a short stint as a door-to-door salesman.
'That's okay, I was just wondering if instead of a refund, I could be upgraded to a higher level.' They brightened up and looked at each other.
'Ooh, I don't know, can we do that?' said one.
'Tell you what,' said the other. 'Ask the girl at the ticket booth, she would know better than us.'
That meant I had to psych myself up again. I took a deep breath as the boys ran around the corner and warned the girl I was coming. I walked around the corner myself...

'Hi, the boys told me you had a question,' said the girl. I flashed my smile again.
'Yeah, I was wondering, because I can't see at all, instead of getting a refund, could I be upgraded to a higher category ticket that hasn't been sold?'
'What category are you in?'
'Silver.' She looked at a layout of tickets in front of her.
'...Alright, here you go. She said, handing me a ticket.' I looked at it, and for the tiniest of moments I almost lost my cool.
'Platinum! That's so awesome, thanks!' I said excitedly.
'Enjoy the show!' she said with a smile.

The seat was so much better. I was like three rows from the front and could actually see the floor of the ring. The show was kicked off by a man who looked like a monk. He came onto the stage and beat a drum, and the whole arena fell silent. The monk finished and Tom Rhen from Channel 9 news appeared on a side-stage to MC the night.

So it turned out that the whole first half of the show was to be a demonstration on what Sumo was all about and the intricacies of it. The head of Sumo Australia joined Tom on the stage and she began to talk about the spiritual, religious and historical aspects of the sport. She explained how there were different ranks and that the people we would be seeing tonight were at the level just below professional. So I think it's the same level as high-school basketball in the US and A-Grade amateur footy in Australia. But I don't think people were particularly interested. They just wanted to see fat people wrestling. I had to admit, I found the parts about having to purify the ring with salts and prayers interesting... But I also had to admit that I wanted to see the fat people.

So eventually, out they came, being introduced as they stepped onto the ring and lined up around the edge.
'This is Ooisato. He's 32 years old, 180cm tall and weighs 82 kilos.' Ooisato stepped on the stage. He was awfully skinny. I think I had more fat than him.
'This is Yotsugamine. He's 25, is 173cm tall and weighs 96 kilos.' Bit better, but still a bit on the skinny side. I could hear the crowd murmuring through their applause.
'This is Wakahizen. He's 18 years old, 168cm tall and weighs 116 kilos.' The crowd's voice went up as one at the joy of seeing an 18 year old with such substantial blubber. Now they were getting what they came for.
'This is Ugonoumi...
'This Hikarujenji...'
'This is Miyakojima...'
Everyone was waiting for the next big thing, so to speak. Could anyone beat Wakahizen's 116 kilios? They went through one more man called Miyakojima, then out walked an enormous man with huge sideburns. He looked like the Japanese Fat Elvis.
'This is Oowaka. He's 22 years old, is 185cm and weighs... 121 kilos.'
The crowd erupted. They'd found a new champion. But then one last person came out and the crowd fell silent. He'd caught their attention.
'This is Shiroyu. He's 25 years old... 179cm tall... and weighs 136 kilos.'
Well... I almost had to block my ears. The crowd loved him. He was their new star. The competitors lined up around the edge of the ring and bowed to the audience.

They all walked off except for Shiroyu and Yatsugamine, who took up places at opposite ends of the ring.
'Now, we'll show you some of the techniques that are used during a sumo match.'
Shriroyu and Yatsugamine took turns smacking each other into the ground with various thrusts, hooks, pushes, pulls and throws. As each man hit the ground, the resulting thud drew gasps from the audience. Afterwards, they stood up and bowed, leaving the stage.

Next, they brought on Oowaka and Miyakojima to demonstrate the protocols and manners of Sumo. They made it really funny and endearing to watch. Oowaka (the Japanese Elvis) showed us everything about what not to do, doing things like smacking Miyakojima to the ground before he was ready, giving him a giant wedgie and running around the edge of the ring, giving the front row high fives. After every mistake, the announcer would jump on the microphone and yell 'Oowaka, no! That's not how it's done!' And Oowaka would turn to her and appeal his innocence as if to say "What? What's wrong with that?" On the last demonstration, Oowaka threw Miyakojima to the ground and then jumped on top of him and layed into him with a flurry of punches. Then he jumped off the ring and someone handed him a pool noodle. In the style of WWE wrestlers and their folding chairs, he lifted it over his head and brought it down on Miyakojima's back. Then he turned to the coordinator and shrugged "What?" That was my favourite part of the night.

Finally, they brought on some children they'd invited earlier to take part in the festivities. The five kids came on in sumo diapers and skins and took turns taking on one of the bigger boys, Ugonoumi. An older Japanese man came out to referee the match, and he messed with each of the kids. He'd mime the starting position he wanted the kids to get into, then yell "No!" in his stereotypical Japanese accent and mime the same thing again. Eventually the match would start and the kid would always win. Then they tried putting all five on the kids onto him, and mysteriously, Ugonoumi won. So four of the sumo wrestlers came out and joined forces with the kids and they all worked together to push him off the stage.

There was a 15-minute intermission before the tournament proper started. After coming back, we were treated to a display of how the Sumo wrestler's top-knot is made - something that apparently a lot of Japanese people don't even get to see. The 18-year-old Wakahizen sat in a gown while a hairdresser combed camellia oil through his hair with a boxwood comb that apparently cost $500 to make. Behind me, a girl with very high heels and an impractically short dress gasped.

Then finally... the tournament. It was to be a sudden death knockout tournament with four rounds. The winner would get 30 000 yen prize money. I looked it up - that works out to just over 315 Australian Dollars. First out were Ooisato and Shiroyu. Shiroyu had apparently won both of the tournaments they'd had so far and was a VERY promising up-and-comer. He was aiming to win all five tournaments so he could impress all the officials back home and move up to the professional ranks. The much-more-ceremonial-looking referee started them off and they stood up and started having a sort of slap-fight. They flailed their arms like pistons into each other's chests, trying to knock the other person of balance. In just ten seconds, Shiroyu had pushed Ooisato out of the ring and disqualified him.

Next was Yotsugamine versus Ugonoumi. This one was much longer and didn't have as much, um... slapping. They held each other and tried to tipped the other person to the ground, and this one lasted closer to 15 seconds. Yotsugamine - despite being one of the two skinny guys - won.

Hikarugenji faced Wakahizen next, and the crowd was definitely behind Wakahizen. He had a baby-face and was of course one of the heavier ones, so the crowd liked him. He won. The same was true for Fat Elvis Oowaka, who beat Miyokojima by falling on top of him.

So in the semi-finals, Baby Face Wakahizen faced Champion Shiroyu. I wasn't sure who I wanted to win, and I don't think the crowd did either. Shiroyu was the heaviest and the most talented, but Wakahizen had the most adorable chubby face. Shiroyu ended up winning in a forceful bout that made the crowd gasp again. That meant that French Fry Yatsugamine was to face up to Fat Elvis Oowaka. Looking at them, you wouldn't think that Yatsugamine had a chance - he was much shorter and certainly skinnier than Oowaka. But apparently Yatsugamine was a "technique specialist" someone who used his brains rather than his brawn. It ended up being the longest battle of the night, lasting a bit over 30 seconds. Fat Elvis won.

So... the final. It was probably the best possible match-up for what the crowd wanted. Fat Elvis was the crowd favourite, but Shiroyu was the undefeated champion. They were also the two heaviest competitors, so the battle was rough. They grappled for 25 seconds, getting closer and closer to the edge of the ring, until they both tipped over, twisting in the air, and Oowaka hit the ground with Shiroyu falling on top of him. Shiroyu was crowned champion for the third time.

But that wasn't where it ended. It was time for the celebrity portion of the show. I've talked before about the two football teams in South Australia and their decades-long rivalry. Well, they'd gotten one player from each team to step into the ring and have a go. From the Power (my team), they had Kane Cornes, the veteran midfielder who was about a thousand years old and the only player remaining from their one and only premiership-winning year. From the Crows was Taylor Walker, the superstar forward who was loved by practically everyone in South Australia - even a lot of Port fans. Walker had the height, the youth and the popularity on his side. Cornes had... I dunno, sympathy? They brought back that first referee who had dealt with the kids and he messed with the football players in much the same way. Then he told them to begin, and rather than the slamming of big bodies there had been with the pros, there was just a couple of false starts and hesitations before they haphazardly dove into each other. Walker had the best position, getting the lower ground and pushing into Cornes' chest while Cones held him in place and tried not to be knocked of balance. There wasn't much movement for a while, but then Cones finally lost balance and had to drag Walker down with him. It worked. Walker fell under Cornes in the same way that Shiroyu had won a few minutes earlier. This was turning out to be a great night.

When I left the tent, it had gotten dark. I wondered if there was still anything going on and was immediately met by a Japanese band that was playing on top of a small tower. There were women in kimonos doing some sort of slow step on a platform around the tower. And on the ground around that were people from the crowd who were playing follow the leader with the girls on the platform. I joined the crowd of people watching for a while, and then the song ended and the group of dancers on the ground dispersed. As the next song started, a smiling Asian girl came around handing out rice hats and inviting them to dance along. She came up to me and held out a hat. I stared at her. She smiled at me. I stared at her... She smiled at me...
'Oh, alright.' I said, grabbing a hat. I joined the back of the line and started trying to copy the moves of the girls to my right. I felt pretty comfortable - not self-conscious and awkward like I thought it would be. I even handed my camera to someone in the audience and asked them to take a photo of me.

After the song finished, I handed my hat back to the still-smiling Asian girl and left to see what else was going on. Huh. Turns out all the attractions were closing down. I realized that I still needed to get my passport stamped, so I rushed over to Thailand to see if I could get it.

'Nah, the girls have packed up for the night,' said the security guard. 'Sorry.' Bugger. Thailand was the only thing I needed! Oh well. Maybe I'll head over to Vietnam and find out how to spell banh mi for my blog. I headed over and found a food truck with a guy packing up outside. He was happy to stop working for a bot to sit and talk about "How hard I've fucken had to work today". His big bearded workmate came to join us and we sat there chatting for a while. Half way through, a security guard approached us.

'Are you all staff? It's after hours, are you all staff?' She questioned.
'Yeah, we're all staff,' said the first guy and the lady was satisfied with that and walked off.
'Thanks,' I said.
'No problem,' said the bearded guy. 'I'm gonna go light up, wanna joint?'
'Oh! Well, um... no. No I don't. '
'Suit yourself,' he said and he walked off.

I thanked the other guy and made leave myself. I crossed that bridge that went over the lake and found a couple that was still there, kissing romantically over the water, under the moonlight. Now I was back to being shitty at being alone. "Fuck you guys," I thought to myself. "Go be romantic elsewhere." I kept walking, and just up ahead, two ducks were standing by the water, preening each other's feathers. "Oh come on! Fuck you, little ducks," I thought and stomped out of Vietnam.

I know how I should end the night. Fried ice cream. I've gotta have me some fried ice cream. I fished around in my backpack for a little baggie of one & two dollar coins that I keep there for emergencies - if I need money for the bus, or the parking meter, or when I'm trapped in a place with no eftpos and a sudden hankering for Chinese food. I pocketed it and headed over to China, only to be met by a burly security guard. Next to the guard was a kid-sized whiteboard with the scrawled message

"China is closed."

Well screw this. I'm getting some fried ice cream, even if it kills me. Which, considering how little junk food I actually eat, it just might. I phined three Asian restaurants before I found one that was willing to keep their kitchen open long enough for me to get there. I got one for myself and one for my sister and we ate them at home, telling each other about our day.

It's nice to have someone to share stuff with.

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