June: The 6th month of the year named after the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage and the wife of the supreme deity Jupiter.
There was a lot going on June 2015… Like, little rug rats got out of school to return to quiet neighborhoods and terrorize the seniors.
In England Pertertide was a religious coming of age in June.
It was Tourette Syndrome awareness month especially significant because I know that the Tourette syndrome explains why liberals talk the way they do.
June was also African-American Music Appreciation Month, Caribbean American Heritage Month, Gay and Lesbian Pride Month (which is puzzling what with June being named after the institution of boy/girl marriage), Great Outdoors Month, National Smile Month and National Oceans month.
In June you had your International Men’s Health Week, your National Famine Commemoration Day, your Seersucker Thursday, Queen’s Birthday, National Dairy Goat Awareness Week, your take your dog to work Day, your Inventors’ and Rationalizers’ Day, your St Peter’s Day and, with God as my witness, you had Petertide.
Andy Griffith was born in June, as was Angelina Jolia, Jim Nabors, Prince Philips, Kellie Pickler, Kenny G, Boy George, Donald Trump and Mike Tyson.
June’s birthstones are pearl, alexandrite and moonstone. The birth flower is rose. The zodiac signs for the month are Gemini (until June 21) and Cancer (June 22 onwards).
With all this happening, Brenda and I made our own plans to get in the swing of things too. Actually the end of May for us was spent in large measure getting ready for June, and our goin’ and doin’ lasted through the 5th of July.
We have come to call this period – for lack of any better way to express it – the 2015 Grand Parker Petertide.
Mid-day 5 June 2015: Left our three dogs with Alma, Brenda’s care giver, at our Las Vegas condo and took a cab to the airport.
The Yorkies were sad to see us go. The alpha animal of our 3 dog group is the only female, Bella. If you have followed these threads before you will know she is very smart – I often come into the house expecting to catch her reading the newspaper. At night when we are home she will sit with Brenda, watching TV. I kid you not. And she’s following the action on the screen ready to pounce on any dog or horse that comes on… yapping “Don’t come in here… Don’t come in here I’m telling you. This is my place.”
In getting the luggage down the week before we left… Bella was as usual on hand supervising and she did not like those suitcases. Did not like them out and open in the guest room. I know my dog. She would look in the guest room, and then turn to look up at me with serious doubt and a “What’s goin’ on?” expression on her dog face. “I don’t like this,” she’d be saying.
Alma, on the other hand, was glad to see us go. She now had 3 – 4 weeks to just hang around, feed the dogs, get the mail and get fat. I told her I was going to weigh her when we get back and she’d be in serious trouble if she’s grown a big behind.
But anyway, Alma assisted Brenda to the cab, asking as she helped her, “Now you’ve got your passport, you got your ticket, you got money, you got your credit cards… where’s Jim? Don’t leave without Jim.”
Mid-afternoon 5 June: Arrived Phoenix for the Air America reunion. Delivered speech 6 June on my book The Vietnam War Its Ownself to about 100 Air America reunion attendees, most of whom stayed awake during the entire thing. Evening banquet several people were recognized including TV and movie star Monte Markham, whose brother flew for Air America. Monte talked about recent events in his professional life and added some stories about his brother’s Air America experiences. But the best time was just hanging with ol’ friends.
7 June: Brenda and I flew into Los Angeles airport on Southwest, for my money the best domestic airline flying. We went from terminal 1, where we landed, to terminal 3 where we checked into Virgin Airlines for our direct flight to Sydney, Australia.
The plane was almost new. We flew regular economy and it was state of the art with plenty of room. As luck would have it, we sat amid a group of Australians returning home from a stateside vacation and in the 16 hours of shared air space we developed friends with these good people… developing sort of a community up there over the Pacific.
I am sorry that I told one of the men Brenda and I were on this trip because we had inherited big money from a Nigerian woman we had never met before. I told them the bizarre story of getting this unsolicited email from a law office in Lagos telling us about this windfall and – although we had many who didn’t believe this, who told us not to do it – we sent the law firm our banking information and in two days we had more than $500,000 deposited in our checking acc’t. Apparently it is the thing now for rich Nigerian women to give money to random Americans and I would think Australians too. So I told the man to be on the lookout, if he should be so lucky, for an email from Nigeria.
The man turned and in an excited way told his wife my story. She leaned forward in her seat with a look that said – “Do no play with my feeble minded husband.”
I tend to wax euphorically when I like something… as if I’ve received a special gift from God… and that’s the way I’m thinking about the pleasant 16 hour flight. Watched a couple of movies, saw several TV Parks and Recreation shows for the first time (which I liked), talked with our neighbors, ate two good meals, read a little bit and then we landed in Sydney. It was relaxing… due in large measure to the fact the plane was staffed with people seriously intent on making our travel as comfortable as possible.
We arrived at 6 am on a Wednesday morning (having lost a day crossing the international date line) and the Virgin Australia corporate policy of consideration to its passengers continued as some ground crew lady insisted on pushing Brenda through customs and out to where David Hartman, our travel agent, had a car waiting….
But in getting outside the terminal, holy mother of God, it was cold. It’s early June and it’s cold?… Yeap… June’s part of their winter. I told the driver the upside-down weather was the reason they talked funny.
Cris, our driver, said yes indeed Australia is special and went on to tell us interesting stuff about this big island/continent on the ride to our Holiday Inn hotel downtown Sydney.
Population 23 million. Something less than Canada’s… closer to the population of Texas. Land mass: about the same as the continental US…. Circumference is 10,000 miles. Perimeter of the US is 11,000 miles. On the Australian island of Tasmania 99% of the people live within 30 miles of the coast. In Australia itself 85% of the people live within 30 miles of the coast. Rate of exchange: one US dollar is equal to .77 Australian. Australia’s closest neighbors are the three sections of the island of New Guinea (aka Papua Island) to the north and New Zealand to the east.
People from these two places are crazy, according to Cris. Papua New Guinea has the least developed people in the world…… Cannibals, most of ‘um, he said. Oh they might not admit it, but when the white guys and their cameras were gone, they wouldn’t turn down a little BBQed pigmy ribs and ice tea.
And New Zealand people are powerfully liberal according to Chris… which puts them on the same level of crazy as the stone age New Guineans.
Tough part of the world, Cris said, especially now what with China just to their north going bonkers with their money and thirst for resources.
Asked him what local people were talking about and he said Sports and Politics. High price of housing. Said the average cost of a condo or house within an easy commute of the downtown area cost around a million.
Asked him what he thought about Americans and he said Kings Crossing area of Sydney where we were staying had many good restaurants and was convenient to the harbor and the Opera House. Yea thanks I said, but what about Americans?
“Ah ha,” he said with a smile. “We love you Yanks.” We’re part of what Australians consider the English speaking commonwealth of nations, Anglosphere or something like that… Though the Australians probably have a greater kinship with the Canadians, they have national history that is tied to England. And have learned how to get along with their crazy New Zealand neighbor. The world’s a dangerous place filled with cannibals, he said. Within this 5 country group united by language and culture, we stand together to survive. USA is the big dog of our group. “We’re family, bloke,” he said
Or something to that effect.
Once we got to the Holiday Inn and checked into our rooms, we met up with our traveling partners, CJ and Walt Berwicks. No jet lag to speak of.
Ate at a nearby Thai eatery – one of a dozen or so international restaurants within a couple of blocks of our hotel.
We jumped on a topless tour bus after a two hour meal of chit chat and spicy Tom Yom Joong… well actually with Brenda in a wheel chair we didn’t actually “jump on” the bus… but as a foursome we are just sort of used to helping her do normal touristy thing… like getting up the winding stairs to the top deck of that bus.
As seen in that ride, downtown Sydney is easy to like… clean. No traffic jams. An urban area that just makes sense. Had heart. Or stand up character or something that makes it more than tall buildings and sidewalks. I think with the distinctive Opera House so prominent from so many venues, the whole place was just unique and distinctive. Sydney’s one of a kind.
The Darling area along the inner harbor is under major construction, but other than that the city’s finished. Not much in the way of wood structures or brick. It’s mostly concrete, glass and mortar… no old sections at all. Just modern and neat. Safe looking. Functional.
Weather closed in and we went back to finish what was left of the day playing bridge in the Holiday Inn café off the lobby. And catching up on our separate lives. The Berwicks had actually arrived in Australia a week ahead of us to spend time with old friends in Adelaide – two retired Australian policemen and their wives. One of the main items of discussions with these men, who had spent their lives in the service of their country, was the lack of good to be found in the local aborigines… which they discussed in impassioned, disdainful detail…
Next day bad weather from sun up to sun down… so we only ventured out for a long lunch at an Indian restaurant that had a good vantage of the King’s Crossing area and spent the rest of the time in the hotel café/bridge playing center. But it was very pleasant. Cards were terrible for the guys, but it was relaxing…
11 June. We boarded Royal Caribbean’s Legend of the Seas for a 14 day cruise that would take us up the northeast of Australia, then up through Indonesia to Bali and finally into Singapore.
The Sydney Opera House as seen from the balcony of our cabin on the Legends of the Seas
Saturday 13 June: Our first cruise stop was at Brisbane and it captured our hearts. Urbane, modern and sunny. Green parks everywhere. People were so damn friendly we were initially cautious that we were being hustled. We took a ship-provided shuttle into the downtown area and then to a “closed to car traffic” bustling promenade that looked right out of a travel magazine. Came up on the Brisbane Orchestra setting up for a free mid-day concert and then down the way there was a street magician from Scotland that did some amazing sleight of hand, the orchestra’s music in the background. On to a lunch of local seafood…a meal accessorized by the purchase of three local newspapers. Well fed, we strolled the downtown area with a sense of wellbeing. It was more American than British… almost Canadian in its feel, a feel aided by the cool weather. Different from America a little bit, but homey in a big city way.
Just off the ship-shuttle to downtown Brisbane
The Brisbane Orchestra setting up for an afternoon concert.
Street magician swallowing a balloon.
Lunch at Jimmy's
Colorful hat lady out for a stroll.
15 June: Ship pulled into Arlie Beach. While the others took the harbor time to chill out, I took an excursion out to the Great Barrier Reef.
Because the weather was bad in close to shore we went out to one of the outer most diving spots. Knuckle Reef.
I didn’t have a bathing suit, and had no plans to actually get wet. We docked at an anchored pontoon boat and after the rush of people off the tender to either go snorkeling or scuba diving, I wandered off to find some good vantage point on the pontoon boat to watch the others swimming around… to find that all the lounge chairs on the top deck had been secured by those people swimming… some had left towels, others loose sundries… every single lounge chair was taken. So in looking around I saw one chair where there was only a beach bag sitting square in the middle. My plan was to set the beach bag off and take advantage of the chair until the owner of the beach bag returned from swimming and then I would get up and defer to person who had initially claimed this chair as his/her domain.
Only this is what happened… as I was reaching down to pick up the beach bag, the lady who owned it yelled out from across the lounge area, “HEY, DON’T STEAL MY BAG!!!!! PUT MY BAG BACK DOWN!!!”
Felt like a thief the rest of the stay out there at Knuckle Reef.
Mock up of the Knuckle Reef anchored pantoon boat. Note the lounge chairs on the top deck
Folks snorkling off the pontoon boat
Glass bottom boat to get non swimmers ups close to the reefs
Fish swimming outside the pontoon boat observation basement. Notice the small fish at the bottom of the picture. He seemed to notice me when I walked up to the window and stayed within my view. He came up next to the glass right before I took this picture and seemed to be mouthing words… I know it’s crazy and for sure I can’t fish lip read, but he seemed to be saying… ”Why…” ”Did…” ”Wilson…” ”Throw…” ”A… ” “Pass…” ”On the…” “Two Yard line?” But I could be mistaken.
The excursion was good in that I can say forevermore that I went to the Great Barrier Reefs, but all I got was that good story about the lady thinking I was stealing her bag. From what I saw and heard from others, it was good down there, but not as good – it seems to me – as snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, Oahu, Hawaii, which is blow your mind colorful with exotic fish and stuff swimming right up to look you in your goggles.
Going back to the cruise ship we passed the Hamilton island resort where villas go for $10,000 night… and according to the voice coming from the tender’s loud speaker, business is booming. Owned by Australian billionaire Bob Oatley, the place was built with the idea of being the best in the world. Keep that in mind the next time you have a hundred thousand dollars to spend on a week’s vacation.
17 June: The Legends of the Sea pulled in to Cairns just up the coast from the Whitsunday island chain and the four of us did the down town area. Most of the town was one story buildings. Sort of a frontier settlement. Lot of the SUVs driving around had the exhaust up the side of the front window to allow for forging rivers in the outback and, in the front and back, long antennas. These were vehicles made for this part of the world. Raw arid Australia lurked at the city’s limit.
The many aborigines walking the street of Cairns seemed out of place. There was something about their protruding foreheads and sunken eyes that made you think they were in town from some local Jurassic Park.
Downtown Cairns. Notice the exhaust of the SUV up over the front window. No antennas that I can see on this rig, but most had tall whip units in the front and back. Unknown woman on the right.
Some tourist eating Greek food downtown Cairns
19 June – Mid morning we docked in one of the northern most cities of Australia, Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory. There was – on the one hand – the sense that this was a small county seat town, like you’d find out in the middle of Nebraska, but then they got these new skyscrapers in the downtown area. This dichotomy was explained by a friendly tour guide who took us on a 5 hour ride around town to see local military land marks.
You see, he said, underwater off the northern Australian coast is a large natural gas field. Shell is investing $15 billion in building drilling platforms to go get that stuff and the Japanese are building a $34 billion dollar refinery just outside town to cool the liquid gas Shell gets into a solid, for use in Japan.
Everything should come on line by 2016, but $50 billion or so is a lot a cash to suddenly visit this small place… a story that reminds me of what’s happening to parts of North Dakota what with the exploration of oil there.
Our guide, a former policeman in the Northern Territory and now a Darwin city commissioner, did a great job describing the Australian “Pearl Harbor” on 19 February 1942, when hundreds of Japanese war planes bombed the Darwin harbor, killing 300, and sinking many allied war ships.
It was part of the history of the War in the Pacific I was unaware, that our good guide made come alive. While everything to this point… Sydney, Brisbane, The Barrier Reef, was good and worth the trip, this for me was the best. I could see from a high vantage the 283 Jap planes dive bomb the unprotected ships in the harbor below again and again, some skimming the town, bombing the hospital, and then heading back out to sea. Really I could see it.
Plaque commemorating the Japanese attack on Darwin
21 June –This day The Legends of the Seas pulled in off the southwest coast of Bali. Our 4 person Parker/Berwick group had been here for ten days in 2008. We had eaten at all the great restaurants and in the end encountered the great rouge monkey of some holy place… plus Brenda and I had visited Bali 5 times before when we lived in South East Asia and just wanted to get away. There was an unnamed place we used to stay on the other side of the island from Kuta. It was popular with Eurotrash. The soothing sound of the crashing surf nearby put life on pause. Straw roof bungalows were $25 a night and we could rent a jeep for $25 a day. $50 and we owned the island. There, back in 1990s Brenda, got a two hour facial, massage, pedicure, manicure, shampoo for $17.50. Grand local meals on the economy in the 80s and 90s could be had for a couple of bucks plus drinks. It was different from, say, the Hamilton Island resort with $10,000 a night villas down near the Great Barrier Reef, but I think in many ways better. You know what I mean?
So anyway our thinking was that we couldn’t top our previous trips to this Bali paradise, so only Brenda and I ventured off boat to haggle with some local ship-side venders for knick-knacks.
Bargaining went like this.
“I’m looking for a gold Rolex.”
From a crowd of venders… “YES, YES, YES. I got the island’s best Rolex watches.” Watches would be thrust in our faces from a dozen outstretched hands.
One person caught my eye, “How much for this one?”
“I’ll give you $5.”
“I take two.”
I’m not real, real sure the watches are gold, though.
Formal last night on the Legends of the Seas. That’s the ship’s captain who seemed so happy to be there. His last name was Speaking, I think, because couple of times every day the loud speaker on board ship would boom, “This is your Captain Speaking.”
23 June: We pulled into Singapore as the sun was coming up. It was the like the opening to a movie where there in the distance was something that caught the morning sun, and as we got closer it was an enormous city sitting – it seemed – on top of the water. And then we were at the dock of this city, as if to start the movie.
Since our hotel wouldn’t let us check in until 2 pm, David Hartman, our travel guy, had arranged for us to be picked up in a Mercedes min-van by a local guy, for a 5 hour tour of the city.
I forgot the guy’s name, Dennis or George or something like that, but his English wasn’t very good. Born and raised in Singapore I don’t know how he had gone so long with only a basic understanding of the language, but he did give us the best quote of the trip.
We got all our bags loaded on the van, and we were all inside, me up in the front seat beside Dennis/George, when he turned to us and said, “Hi. I am your tour guide. Where do you want to go?”
It was like a pilot saying, “Hello and welcome aboard. This is your captain speaking. Anyone know how to fly this thing?”
We laughed and laughed, but I don’t think Dennis/George got the joke.
But as it turned out from what we knew of the city and what Dennis/George knew, we had a good 4 hours (at a price most people pay for one hour) drive around town. Went to the Botanical Gardens, all the big gov’t houses, the place where they got that boat/pool thing across the tops of three buildings that overlook the harbor. We went to the richest mall of all rich malls next the new convention/casino site down by the harbor and ended up back at the hotel around 2 pm.
It was like a visit to the future, where Asians were running the world. There was no deadwood or old buildings anywhere. Last time I was in Singapore was 1991, and this place 24 years later is like light years improved in infrastructure and roads and canals and such. Harbor is just right out there, but the times of the old junks are gone. This is cutting edge 2015 living. It is all business. No neon lights though. This is banking, and corporate Hqs and insurance and shipping lines and technology. Stock markets and futures, and financial market making.
This is also sinq-think, where everyone is expected to hold the city line on whatever issue comes up. You don’t believe nothing unless city hall comes out with an opinion one way or the other. No sense of the individual here. You look down the street and they are all dressed alike. Faces a little different, some of them, but not much. No blondes, or redheads or skin heads or people with much body piercing.
Makes you think maybe homogenous can be taken too far. Talk about a loss of identity. Don’t go there to live thinking you are somebody. You try to be unique and I bet the towns people will kill you.
But anyway we checked into the downtown Peninsular Hotel, and went up for a look-see at their exclusive roof top bar/restaurant where we met Irene, one of the shift managers. Of Indian extraction, she for some reason took to the 4 of us and for our entire time in Singapore made this place with the spectacular vista our place. We could see all of Singapore off Irene’s balcony. Never did we go 5 minutes without our drinks being charged. This place was supposed to be for people paying for big bucks rooms. Why Irene let us in without charge, like I said, I don’t know, but we sure appreciated it. It was a great ending of our South Pacific travel. Thanks Irene
Absolutely beautiful garden near center city Singapore
Worker watering the waterfall
What is becoming Singapore most famous landmark
Irene’s place on top of the Peninsular Hotel. Brenda’s is playing this hand so her brain is working… that’s why her hair is frizzy.
Notice the ships in the harbor off Irene’s balcony. Also notice that stadium mid frame. You think it’s on ground level? Well one person in our group didn’t think so and bet another member of our group $50 that it was elevated. Why? I don’t know why he thought that.
CJ firing down a Singapore sling at the Long Bar in Raffles
Front entrance of the famous Raffles Hotel. They check you at the airport to see if you have taken at least one picture of this place.
28 June: We left our hotel downtown Singapore at 4:30am on the 28th and arrived home in Las Vegas at 6 pm on the 28th. But this time we went via Tokyo (7 hours) and then on to LA (9 hours) and finally to LV (1 hour). We were flying Delta and the Singapore/Tokyo leg we had local stews. Tokyo/LA it was your run of the mill Delta people. First was OK, the other was simply no-thrills air transport.
Short trip to Las Vegas, as always, was filled with people going to “Vegas, Baby.” Everyone was laughing and drinking… and Brenda and I were saying to ourselves “Oh pls shut up. Just shut up with the singing already.”
Getting home we had the taxi drive slowly into the drive and then quietly we took our bags out and Brenda was getting into her wheel chair when one of the dogs heard us. I know y’all have had your special home comings, but those dogs of ours nearly exploded. Made us so happy.
3 July: I went to St Paul, Minnesota to speak to a Hmong gathering who were celebrating the 4th of July.
And now it is 9 July and I’m just getting down to writing all this up. My wonderful home, where I belong.
And the cruise, how was the Legends of the Sea boat cruise, you ask? That’s coming up soon.
Along with some articles from the newspapers we bought in Brisbane.
And something on a memorable character from Darwin’s “Pearl Harbor.”
And US gov’t ethics waivers, Worry Smith, Little Big Horn…
And other crap that’s accumulated.