Ode to the Jet Cat

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Circular Quay
Sydney, Australia
January 21, 2006

The F/V Sir David Martin, a jet-drive catamaran (JetCat) that made the 6.5 nm voyage from Circular Quay at downtown Sydney to the ferry dock at the seaside retreat of Manley at the northeast extreme of Sydney Harbour in about 15 minutes. Aside from the fact that it shaved at least 40 minutes off of a trip by car or an hour by bus, you could not ask for a more beautiful urban commute. For years when I would go to Sydney on business – especially in the mid-1990s – I would stay in or around Manley.

Between October and April I’d rise with the Sun, usually around 4:30, don my trunks, and head to the beach. I’d spend an hour or so body surfing, head back, shower, dress, and take a leisurely walk down the Corso shopping street to the ferry wharf. I’d buy a ticket, have a leisurely breakfast, hop the JetCat and grab a seat outside on the top deck, enjoy the legendary view for fifteen minutes, and be at the office at Chifley Tower downtown an hour before my colleagues. Brilliant.

Alas, the JetCats are gone, claimed by the rising costs of maintaining the speedboats as they aged. The ferry is still there, still a spectacular journey in almost any weather, and my decade-long love affair with the Antipodes has long since run its course. But it was brilliant while it lasted, especially as an antidote to the constant background stress of living in China.

Strolling to my table at City Extra, an immense cafe at Circular Quay notable less for the unique quality of its food than the variety of edible comforts on the menu and the ability to sit down, plug in, and balance your day between productivity and the best people-watching in the Southern Hemisphere. It was my hang-out, and many good times – and good meals – were had there.

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Sydney Gulls

Sydney Opera House
Sydney, Australia

I was on something of a junket, getting an orientation on Motorola’s business at the Haworth offices in Sydney. There for five days, the briefings managed to fill about a day and a half. As a result, I spent a lot of time buying and playing with my first SLR camera (the Canon Digital Rebel XT) and getting sick from some virulent antipodean spores growing in my top-floor hotel room at the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour.

It was supposed to be a great week on my own, the trip a mini-reward for turning our little business into a going concern. It turned out to be a nightmare, and the last time I would go to Australia for over a decade despite having once considering becoming an Aussie myself.

Anyway, this photo is one of the best pictures I have ever taken. Sheer luck: the light was right, the composition superb, and the subjects interesting. It is one of the very few pieces of extant evidence that somewhere deep inside of me there is a mediocre photographer.

A Last Glimpse at Sydney

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Sydney Skyline from my table at Darling Harbor
Playing with the New Camera
January 9, 2006

Relaxing after a full and long morning (and early afternoon) of work, having a latish lunch of Barramundi fish and chips.

I was away from home and just starting to feel the effects of a virus that I suspect was the result of something growing in my hotel room.

This, as it turned out, was my last trip to Australia after annual trips between 2000 and 2006. I loved Oz, especially Sydney, and wanted to see us living there when/if we ever tired of living in China.

But Sunny had always sworn that, as much as we loved Oz, the place was out to get us, and a thoughtful look back on some of our misadventures and frustrations might suggest as much.

I don’t ascribe such malevolence on the part of the land itself. I figured that it was just G-d trying to make as clear as possible that Australia, while a wonderful, less dense California doppelgänger with a delightful accent, was for us no substitute for California.