Uncommon Ground
Volume 4 Book 3 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 3)

Sydney at sunrise.
[ Book 4-2 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-4 ]

February 15-18, 2005.
Starting in Sydney.
February 17:
The first thing that hits me about Sydney Australia is that it's really clean. It also seems to have made a great deal of effort to preserve its past. So, alongside the gleaming skyscrapers there are 18th and 19th century perfectly preserved buildings. Ancient brick buildings labeled "Sailors" or an old worship center. Even a castle.

Pulling up to the cruise center.
Sydney harbor bridge in distance.

Stevedores in Sydney, not an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue.
Why are Australian men so hot to Americans, like in the movies these days?
Maybe it's because they actually are hot.
It's like everywhere you look, it's another potential
model or movie star.

A staircase near the docks in Sydney.

L. to R first row: Rich Bloch NFL/NHL arbitrator (and magician).
Susan Bloch, constitutional lawyer and teacher at Georgetown,
Brian Ly, Flight attendant and real life survivor from Viet Nam,
Ruth Bobeczko, friend; Charlie Landa, also flight attendant.
Back row: Former ambassador to Argentina Tex Harris, with wife Jeanie,
Jim Brochu with wife Steve.

In Sydney, we met with some old friends, most of whom we met on other cruises. Ambassador Tex Harris is considered a hero in Argentina where he was stationed. It was my first time to meet him and we got into a really great discussion about dialoguing with people with whom we have great disagreements.

Tex and I totally involved in conversation.

Tooling around Sydney, we stopped in a little diner where Jimmy came face to face with a meal he couldn't get enough of: It's a meat pie covered with mashed potatoes and peas.

Jim falls in love.

Mysterious Japanese photographer.

The famous Sydney harbor bridge.

Sydney is a beautiful city.

We also had a task for this trip: making a movie; something we could shoot on the fly without a script using passengers and locals. My friend, Steven Bradford, a film school teacher in Arizona, gave me the plot idea, that there was a famous reclusive film star from the 30s onboard...

In fact, as we toured the opera house, we started giving out lines of dialogue, beginning with our tour guide. The beauty of it is that because we're on a cruise around northern Australia, then up to Brunei (Borneo) and on into Hong Kong, we have all these fantastic locations. (And isn't this a much more entertaining way to make a "This is what we did on our vacation" video. Who needs a bunch of shots of people standing around posing?).

Speaking of which:

Jim & Steve prove we were there!

My other goal was the same as always: Write as many songs as I can, trying to finish at least one.

After our day ashore, we made our way back to the ship and were ready to begin the cruise. I was doubly excited to be on this cruise because we were about to run into a friend we haven't seen in 20 years on the very cruise where Jim and I met. His stage name is Neal Austin but we call him Nigel Olsen, but his real name is Neal O'Connell which, until today, we thought was MacDonald (long story I'll tell later).

His first ship job was during the run of my first ship job. Neil Nigel Austin Olsen MacDonald O'Connell was there when I met Jimmy. Ship life being what it is, not only haven't we seen him in 20 years, we didn't know where he was. We weren't even sure it was the same Neil Austin. Jimmy had seen his name on the printout of this cruise.

I love Nigel. He was the ship's magician (who they wanted to fire at first) and I was the ship's pianist (who figured out the system of how to keep the Greeks happy -- be invisible and make the passengers love you and give them the credit for anything good you or anyone else does). He was from England. I was from New York by way of Texas. We both endured the hated Greeks who ran the ship. We would have lots to talk about.

Leaving Sydney.

So, that's the set-up. We were ready to begin.

[ Book 4-2 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ]
[ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] -- [ Book 4-4 ]

© 1996-2005 by Steve Schalchlin.
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