Monday, November 26, 2007

Australian Coast: Wrong Place, Wrong Time

I'm now on Australia's northeastern coast, near Brisbane, in an area called Surfer's Paradise. I'm on the ocean in a nice hotel. I have a minibar and free herbal tea. The weather is warm and dry. There's only one problem: I have a little company, namely about 33,000 kids with really bad accents who just graduated high school. (It's like being stuck in South Boston on high school graduation day -- the major difference is that its worse here because the Australian kids can all drink legally.)

My Hotel: Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise, a significant upgrade from my Asian guest houses and hostels.

My room has two beds, either one would pass for a queen bed in the places I was staying in Asia. I have a balcony that faces the ocean. I have a bathroom with a separate shower and tub. I have a minibar and room service. There's a nice pool. I have a menu from which I can choose the type of pillow I want.

Options from the Pillow Menu:
Rubber Pillow: soft yet supportive, never lumps or flattens.
'V' Pillow: Shaped pillow, perfect for sitting up in bed, reading or watching TV.
Contour Pillow: ...Best suited for those who like to sleep on their side.
Feather Pillow: A soft downy feather filling, especially made to move when you sleep.

So why am I depressed?

My first night at the hotel, I went to check out the sauna. I'm in there talking to a 53-year-old married guy. He's reminiscing about his single days visiting Surfers Paradise and Melbourne. He recalls leaving a bar with "a bird under each arm." He reminds me that women all want "a good rooting, too." (I think he said "rutting," but with his accent it was a little tough to tell.) Anyway, he suggests some bars for surefire action in a part of town called Cavell Avenue.

I ask the concierge how to get to Cavell Avenue. He says I don't want to go there. It's all "schoolies," kids who just graduated high school. One of the other concierges estimates there are 33,000 of them up there. I've never been fond of drunken high school kids, even when I was in high school.

The concierge suggests two bars in the opposite direction, Prince Albert and Moo Moo. In all fairness, I've never been much for cruising bars by myself, especially in large anonymous vacation resorts. (This area is like a lot of resort cities in Florida: lots of high rise hotels, shopping is a major form of entertainment for visitors, many people driving pricey SUVs for no reason at all -- it's not like it's ever going to snow here. Gambling is legal here.)

Moo Moo: Nice, adult bar/cafe with outdoor smoking area. I get a beer at the bar. Two women who I'm sure are nice people check me out. In a place like this, I can usually work up the courage to talk to one or two strangers. I'm not feeling particularly brave, so I don't respond. Besides it's crowded and they're not cute.

I'm not having fun. I don't know anyone. Everyone seems to know each other. I'm getting anxious and my mood is spiralling downward, as if I was flying a combat aircraft and just got shot in the wing. I stand around drinking my beer, by myself, in the middle of the room where I stick out. People are just ignoring me. I feel invisible. I've got to get out of here.

Prince Albert:
This is a sports bar and live band bar rolled into one. Interesting combination. It allows me to go to the bar, people watch, and not feel self conscious because I can just watch TV. I get to the bar and they have American football. Bingo. In the next room is a really bad rock band playing tired American tunes from the 60's and 70's. No surprise, everyone is white and a really poor dancer. The band quits and they start playing dance and techno music, much of the same music I heard in Asia. The dancing doesn't get any better. (I've become spoiled: most of the people in Cambodia -- male, female, young, old -- were very sexy dancers.) The Football game is over. I do a couple of laps around the bar area. None of the women are throwing themselves at me. It's time to go home.