Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My best Monday

Tuesday afternoon here in Oz and I'm sitting here watching the Red Sox get beat by the Rangers. The Sox held an early lead, but just gave up three home runs in the sixth inning. I've listened to or watched a handful of painful Sox losses this year.

As you can see, City Slickers gets the nod as my photo this week. The film has always been one of my favorites. I like how Mitch goes on a soul searching journey with two of his best friends. They have some great conversations along the way about life and memories. There's one scene where the friends talk about their best day and worst day ever. I didn't experience my best day ever yesterday, but it was a day that was better than most days.

Before I get into that day, I'll mention that the last week cruised by. I'm not sure why that was, but I felt good about it. My weekend was very quiet. I stayed in and watched whatever TV was on. Saturday night, I was pleased to discover the Saturday night movie was Happy Gilmore with Adam Sandler. That made me feel a bit warm inside as it reminded me of home.

A big craze going on here is Master Chef Australia, a reality TV show about cooking where contestants make new dishes each week and are judged by top chefs and food critics around Australia. It is easy to get hooked on the show even though most of you know I don't cook. It's much like the Biggest Loser craze here. Everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. The final episode was Sunday night, so I watched that. It was entertaining. The final dish the two finalists were judged on was an amazing looking chocolate dessert. When I started my health kick, I had a hard time watching the show because it featured amazing looking meals at the time of night where I really wanted to eat but wouldn't allow myself. Now it's not difficult.

Now back to Monday. Monday was the best Monday I've had in recent memory. I guess I'll go back to the night before first. On Sunday night, I looked at a pile of books that my roommate Steve had lent me back in January. I recall telling you that I read Into the Wild, but after I lost my job at Coke, I never went back to the pile of books. Well on Sunday night, something inside said to put the laptop and the su do kus down and go read something. And that's when I picked up the book The Alchemist. I read the first 20 pages and decided that it would be my Monday project to read the rest.

So Monday morning, I heard someone rustling around when I woke up. Usually my roommates are at work by 8am. It was Steve. He told me had the day off. Then he asked if I wanted to go for a drive through the Royal National Park and down to Sea Cliff Bridge. A few months back I posted a couple pictures of me down near the Sea Cliff Bridge. My Mondays are almost always reserved for a good walk and a fun hockey game, so getting invited on a day road trip was the most exciting thing that could have happened to me.

Before we left, Steve went to the supermarket and asked if I wanted anything. I said I wanted 300 grams of chicken breast in the nicely cut slices, not the messy chunk of sandwich meat that is also available. Steve returned with 300 grams of uncooked chicken. I looked him dead in the eye and said, "But Steve, you know I can't cook..." It was beyond my belief that when it came time for him to decide whether Ryan wanted cooked or uncooked chicken, that he would decide on uncooked. I actually kind of pouted about it for a little bit, but while I was on my walk decided that maybe it was a sign or a blessing that he bought the uncooked. Then I dropped any negative feelings I had and went on walking. More on the chicken in a bit.

Back to the drive I was about to partake on. What an amazing drive it was! It took about 30 minutes from my hometown of Gymea to get to the National Park. Steve was a great tour guide, telling me that it is the largest National Park in all of Australia. The day was beautiful. Not a cloud in the sky, sun shining bright. It's not as if there's big gate that you enter when arriving, it's just a road with a sign that states you are now in the Royal National Park. The road was windy and surrounded on both sides by tall bush. It's hard to describe what I mean by bush, but very thick wildlife, so thick that it was nearly impossible to see through it.

On our way through the park, Steve decided to show me where he grew up, so we took a left turn towards Bundeena, a little town of about 3,000 people. It was a 20 minute detour, but again, just a fun drive with good views - and good music that Steve had playing. Bundeena had one mechanic, one liquor store, one general store. For you New Hampshire friends, it was like driving through Troy or Marlow, except that it was in Australia.

We stopped at Steve's mom's house. She offered me a Schweppes's ginger ale in a glass bottle and a couple of cookies. She was very gracious. It was nice to meet Steve's mom and also his cat. We didn't stay long because we still wanted to see Sea Cliff Bridge. Before we headed back to the main road, Steve showed me the ocean side properties and let me get out and take a picture. Interesting tidbit: Steve took a ferry to high school everyday growing up. How cool is that?

After I got my picture of the beach in Bundeena, we headed back to the park towards Sea Cliff Bridge. This drive was different than the part of the park we'd already been through. It really did look a lot like driving through the backwoods of New Hampshire. Steve said the only difference was the types of trees I was looking at. He was right. There were parts of this windy road that were completely covered by trees, like going through a tunnel. And all the while, the sun shine was poking through the trees. It was peaceful, I couldn't stop appreciating the view.

Sea Cliff Bridge was a great experience again. This time I had the chance to get out of the car and walk it. Steve had never been there before, so he was happy to be there for the first time. There are only four or five bridges in the world like this, where the bridge is constructed out over the water to protect motorists from falling rocks and mudslides. Before this bridge was constructed, often motorists had to deal with falling objects. What amazes me is that this bridge wasn't started until 2003 and completed in 2005!

One cool aspect of the bridge. On the metal railings, people have placed hundreds of Master Locks, all engraved with something like "Joe and Ashley 9-3-07." I guess it's a popular thing for couples to do, profess their love for one another on an engraved padlock out on a bridge. I should get one made that says "Just Ryan baby! 7-21-09...." Or as they would write here: 21-7-09.

We also saw a deer stuck in the middle of the bridge. Poor fella. The bridge is 600 meters long and this deer had no idea where to go. I didn't see if it safely returned to the side it came from, but it had a long way to go.

We then headed back home, I had packed a great lunch and enjoyed that on the return trip. Then I think I fell asleep as I always do.

Last night was my third to last "Hockey Monday" as I call it. There were two goalies and two full teams to play against each other for the first time in awhile. We lost something like 16-9. I had a couple early goals, but didn't play exceptionally well. It didn't bother me too much as there isn't a lot riding on these games. I took one fall that has my hip a little sore today, but no real injuries.

After the game, I had to wait around and watch the second game. Usually I play second and get to go right home. While I was watching, the score keeper had a bunch of donuts. I haven't had a donut in probably five months at least so when she offered me one, there was no way I was saying no. It was chocolate frosted with chocolate sprinkles...my favorite. It tasted phenomenal. Then when I went to resume watching the rest of the game, one of the players wives gave me a piece of Cadbury chocolate. I found it interesting that a few minutes before I received these two gifts, I almost bought some junk food from the concession stand. I really didn't want to buy anything so I decided not too, kind of disappointed that I wasn't going to have anything "fun."

With that said, I want to talk more about the book I mentioned, The Alchemist. Before the hockey game I had finished most of the book. Without giving too much away, a shepperd from Spain is trying to find his Personal Legend, or dream. It involves him going on a long journey by himself, away from home. Along the way he looks for signs or omens in order to achieve this dream, because he doesn't know himself how to find it. I couldn't help but feel like I related to the shepperd in some way. Here I am thousands of miles from home, looking for something I'm not quite sure of. So when I was given that piece of chocolate and that donut last night, my mind was stirring about what the sign or omen might be!

I was talking to a friend, Ellie, who I went to college with. I agree when she said that it was a religious story without being too religious. I'm not a very spiritual person, yet this book was something I could still grasp and enjoy.

So last night after the game, I went right home and finished the story about the shepperd and the Alchemist. It says in the notes that over 20 million copies have been sold and that famous world leaders have been seen reading it. I thought that was pretty special. I'm not sure where I remember hearing it but somewhere it says "You don't choose the books you read, the books choose you." In this case, I kind of feel that.

Finally I'll return you to my 300 grams of uncooked chicken breast. With the help of Ellie and my Up with People friend Katie on instant messenger, I was able to cook my first ever chicken. It was comical. It involved me dropping it on the floor and making a mess of the kitchen. I thought to myself "This is why I get the cooked sandwich meat." I maybe overcooked it a little, but I have a few sandwiches worth of chicken to eat in the next couple of days. So I really should thank Steve for buying me that chicken (he didn't charge me because it was only $3.) I'm a few baby steps closer to finding a woman, er, learning to cook for myself.

Thanks for reading up on one of my better days. There are only five more days until the 11k road race and just eight short days until my trip to Adelaide and Melbourne. Time is flying. Check back in again Thursday or Friday for my weekly list. Have a great week. Talk to you soon.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite dialogues from City Slickers:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger]
Curly: This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
Curly: [smiles] That's what you have to find out.


Judd said...

Ryan...that was a great post. Your best, most well written one yet. Loved the way you brought it full circle with the chicken in the end.

Now I am absolutely not a religious person, but your chicken story reminded me of a tale they force fed me in catholic school:

"Give a man a fish and me will eat all day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat a lifetime".

I think Steve taught you a valuable lesson, eh?

I enjoyed the Alchemist as well.

When is your last day in Sydney? Will you be here on the 15th August (that is 15/08/09 in Australia, mate).

ellie said...

Haha it was surreal reading about myself on someone else's blog!

Sorry I fell asleep before you could cook the chicken. You should have videotaped it!

Oh, and a slight correction: I think The Alchemist is spiritual without being religious. Close enough :)

I agree with Judd...a very well-written blog post indeed!