Smoke and Mirrors

In a perfect world . . .

Category: Akubra Hats


Oz, family, vacation, love, life

We will go to bed tonight, with family in the air.
Safely and softly to land.
They will be home again.
Godspeed and God Bless.

3 Weeks

3 weeks are winding down and I just can’t believe how fast its gone.
The biggest part of me feels sad that Maureen and Mark will be flying out on Friday afternoon,
the smaller part feels very happy that they will be going home to family and friends.
(I know, a bit selfish)
This is a picture post of some of the places we’ve seen and things that we’ve done these past 3 weeks.
Look for more pictures and many future posts about this most special of vacations for
Pamela, me and the girls.
This has been like a little slice of  heaven . . .

Yet to see . . .

Listen for the bullwhistle

Pretty simple post.
Get here.

The blog may be a bit quiet for the next several days.
Hoping you all understand.
Will be back next week with my Akubra on.
A future youtube video is not out of the question.
Stay tuned, folks


Mark, watch out for the flying  bullwhistle . . .


Logan, runway, airport

When I started this blog over 5 years ago,
I had no clue as to just how much it would transform my life; the many people I’ve met, to the
relationships I’ve formed have amazed, humbled and yes, inspired me.
Maybe it was my heart splashed on the pages here that have brought some my way.
Many having been caught up in the same labyrinth I somehow made it through.
I’ve gained friends and lost some.
Made people cry and made them laugh.
What amazes me most is the unexpected things, the deep friendships that just ‘happened’.
Next week, Pamela and I will drive to Logan airport (read: Arrivals!)
to pick up two people that have not only forever changed our lives but have
found their way into the heart of this family.
They understand us as we understand them.
(although they both can still take the piss out of me at will. I guess I’m an easy target)
They will spend the better part of three weeks with us as we make our way
through a list of ‘to do’s’ that has been building since last August.
There will be music, food, drink, cigars, music, didgeridoo, laughter, jokes, sightseeing,
a long-awaited 4 day trip to the North Country and some very special conversations at midnight.
And I just aquired a nice CharBroil  ‘No-Oil’ infrared Turkey fryer.
The boys are going to have us some fun!
Mark has taken notes on several notable Boston eateries that he wants to visit. (no worries, she’ll be right mate)
Maureen just wants good cheeseburgers and pink lemonade. (after your Cincinnati Chili!)
I ask that you say a prayer for their safe arrival here.
This year we will have connectivity (unlike last year!)
Watch for some funny blog fluff.
Pamela, the girls and me are jumping like maggots on a barbie as we wait.
Our trip to Logan will be complete only after we see 3 Australian Akubras.
I will definitely be wearing mine.
There’s one Akubra  :smile:


ps. I will personally be happy when Maureen and Mark see the gorgeous skyline below . . .

Boston, skyline

Douglas Adams on Australia

God willing, Pamela and I will be traveling to North Queensland, Australia in 2011.
It’s a long story as far as my newborn love of a country I’ve yet to see but know that
most of the story is already here on the blog.
Troll the tag ‘Australia’ and I think you’ll begin to see why.
We have taken into our hearts two people from the ‘Godzone’ and will be spending
three wonderful weeks with them this coming July.
That said, I found this essay tonight from a favorite writer of mine and thought it was worthy
of a pass along.
Adams has amazed me for years if only for his twists of ideas and language.
When I saw his thoughts on Australia, I had to share this.
It is, for the most part, a tongue-in-cheek look at a country/continent/ island  most of us barely understand.
Pamela and I feel like we’re getting close though.
And we love it, vegemite/Bundaberg and all.
I just want to see the Southern Cross.
Too much to ask?
I think not.
*btw-Pamela is not laughing about all the insects, spiders and other yukky, crawly things Downunder.
I told her, get a stick.

This is Douglas Adams and his deepest thoughts on Australia.


Australia is a very confusing place, taking up a large amount of the Bottom half of the planet.
It is recognisable from orbit because of many unusual features,
including what at first looks like an enormous bite taken out of its southern edge;
a wall of sheer cliffs which plunge deep into the girting sea.
Geologists assure us that this is simply an accident of geomorphology and plate tectonics,
but they still call it the “Great Australian Bight” proving that not only are they covering up a more frightening theory, but they can’t spell either.

The first of the confusing things about Australia is the status of the place.
Where other land masses and sovereign lands are classified as either continent, island, or country,
Australia is considered all three.

Typically, it is unique in this.

The second confusing thing about Australia are the animals.
They can be divided into three categories: Poisonous, Odd, and Sheep.

It is true that of the 10 most poisonous arachnids on the planet, Australia has 9 of them.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that of the 9 most poisonous arachnids, Australia has all of them.
However, there are curiously few snakes, possibly because the spiders have killed them all.
But even the spiders won’t go near the sea.

Any visitors should be careful to check inside boots (before putting them on),
under toilet seats (before sitting down) and generally everywhere else.
A stick is very useful for this task.

Strangely, it tends to be the second class of animals (the Odd) that are more dangerous.
The creature that kills the most people each year is the common Wombat.
It is nearly as ridiculous as its name, and spends its life digging holes in the ground, in which it hides.
During the night it comes out to eat worms and grubs.

The wombat kills people in two ways:
First, the animal is indestructible.
Digging holes in the hard Australian clay builds muscles that outclass Olympic weight lifters.
At night, they often wander the roads. Semi-trailers (Road Trains) have hit them at high speed, with all 9 wheels on one side, and this merely makes them very annoyed.
They express this by snorting, glaring, and walking away.
Alas, to smaller cars, the wombat becomes a symmetrical launching pad, with results that can be imagined, but not adequately described.

The second way the wombat kills people relates to its burrowing behaviour.
If a person happens to put their hand down a Wombat hole, the Wombat will feel the disturbance and think
“Ho! My hole is collapsing!” at which it will brace its muscled legs and push up against the roof of its burrow with incredible force, to prevent its collapse.
Any unfortunate hand will be crushed, and attempts to withdraw will cause the Wombat to simply bear down harder. The unfortunate will then bleed to death through their crushed hand as the wombat prevents him from seeking assistance.
This is considered the third most embarrassing known way to die,
and Australians don’t talk about it much.

At this point, we would like to mention the Platypus, estranged relative of the mammal,
which has a duck-bill, otter’s tail, webbed feet, lays eggs,
detects its aquatic prey in the same way as the electric eel,
and has venomous barbs attached to its hind legs,
thus combining all ‘typical’ Australian attributes into a single improbable creature.

The last confusing thing about Australia is the inhabitants.
First, a short history:
Some time around 40,000 years ago, some people arrived in boats from the north.
They ate all the available food, and lot of them died.
The ones that survived learned respect for the balance of nature, man’s proper place in the scheme of things, and spiders. They settled in, and spent a lot of the intervening time making up strange stories.
Then, around 200 years ago,
Europeans arrived in boats from the north.
More accurately, European convicts were sent, with a few deranged and stupid people in charge.
They tried to plant their crops in Autumn
(failing to take account of the reversal of the seasons when moving from the top half of the planet to the bottom),
ate all their food, and a lot of them died.

About then the sheep arrived, and have been treasured ever since.
It is interesting to note here that the Europeans always consider themselves vastly superior to any other race they encounter, since they can lie, cheat, steal, and litigate (marks of a civilised culture they say) – whereas all the Aboriginals can do is happily survive being left in the middle of a vast red-hot desert, equipped with a stick.
Eventually, the new lot of people stopped being Europeans on Extended Holiday and became Australians.

The changes are subtle, but deep, caused by the mind-stretching expanses of nothingness and eerie quiet,
where a person can sit perfectly still and look deep inside themselves to the core of their essence,
their reasons for being, and the necessity of checking inside your boots every morning for fatal surprises.
They also picked up the most finely tuned sense of irony in the world,
and the Aboriginal gift for making up stories.

Be warned.
There is also the matter of the beaches.
Australian beaches are simply the nicest and best in the entire world.
Although anyone actually venturing into the sea will have to contend with sharks,
stinging jellyfish, stonefish (a fish which sits on the bottom of the sea, pretends to be a rock, and has venomous barbs sticking out of its back that will kill just from the pain)
and surfboarders.
However, watching a beach sunset is worth the risk.

As a result of all this hardship, dirt, thirst, and wombats, you would expect Australians to be a dour lot.
Instead, they are genial, jolly, cheerful, and always willing to share a kind word with a stranger, unless they are an American.
Faced with insurmountable odds and impossible problems, they smile disarmingly and look for a stick.

Major engineering feats have been performed with sheets of corrugated iron, string, and mud.
Alone of all the races on earth, they seem to be free from the ‘Grass is Greener on the other side of the fence’ syndrome, and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence.
They call the land “Oz”, “Godzone” (a verbal contraction of “God’s Own Country”) and
“Best bloody place on earth, bar none, strewth.”
The irritating thing about this is they may be right.

There are some traps for the unsuspecting traveler, though.
Do not under any circumstances suggest that the beer is imperfect, unless you are comparing it to another kind of Australian beer.
Do not wear a Hawaiian shirt.
Religion and Politics are safe topics of conversation (Australians don’t care too much about either)
but Sport is a minefield.
The only correct answer to “So, howdya’ like our country, eh?” is ”
Best {insert your own regional swear word here} country in the world!”.

It is very likely that, on arriving, some cheerful Australians will ‘adopt’ you on your first night,
and take you to a pub where Australian Beer is served. Despite the obvious danger, do not refuse.
It is a form of initiation rite.

You will wake up late the next day with an astonishing hangover, a foul-taste in your mouth, and wearing strange clothes. Your hosts will usually make sure you get home, and waive off any legal difficulties with “It’s his first time in Australia, so we took him to the pub.”, to which the policeman will sagely nod and close his notebook.
Be sure to tell the story of these events to every other Australia, you encounter,
adding new embellishments at every stage, and noting how strong the beer was.

Thus you will be accepted into this unique culture.
Most Australians are now urban dwellers, having discovered the primary use of electricity, which is air-conditioning and refrigerators.

Typical Australian sayings:

* “G’Day!”

* “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.”

* “She’ll be right, mate.”

* “And down from Kosciusko, where the pine clad ridges raise their torn and rugged battlements on high, where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze at midnight in the cold and frosty sky.
And where, around the overflow, the reed beds sweep and sway to the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide. The Man from Snowy River is a household word today, and the stockmen tell the story of his ride.”

Tips to Surviving Australia:

* Don’t ever put your hand down a hole for any reason whatsoever. We mean it.

* The beer is stronger than you think, regardless of how strong you think it is.

* Always carry a stick.

* Air-conditioning.

* Do not attempt to use Australian slang, unless you are a trained linguist and good in a fist fight.

* Thick socks.

* Take good maps. Stopping to ask directions only works when there are people nearby.

* If you leave the urban areas, carry several litres of water with you at all times, or you will die.

* Even in the most embellished stories told by Australians, there is always a core of truth that it is unwise to ignore.

See Also:
“Deserts: How to die in them”,
“The Stick: Second most useful thing ever” and
“Poisonous and Venomous arachnids, insects, animals, trees, shrubs, fish and sheep of Australia, volumes 1-42”

Two Flowers

flowers, gardens, Impatiens, odd, impossible

There are things that happen in our lives that occasionally defy space, time, gravity and logic.
While we experience these types of phenomena on a daily basis
we are sometimes too busy to see and embrace it.

There are two areas that require attention in my backyard: the lawn and the flowers.
I generally mow the lawn while Pamela tends to the flowers.
The flowerpots lining the yard and hanging from the shed looked especially good this year
but the garden looked like some fat lady sat on it.
The poor appearance of the garden had something to do with the amount of rainfall we had in June.
It rained 28 days out of 30 and the garden flowers suffered.
Pamela hates weeds and is constantly plucking them from the garden and the mulch that surrounds the outside of the yard. I tell you this so you understand that she has a keen awareness of all things growing in the backyard.

As I said before, all of the Cape Cod goodbyes were difficult but nothing could have prepared me for August 2nd,
the day Maureen and Mark left.
Pamela & Hannah went with me to the airport that afternoon.
The skies were greyslate over Boston and the tone in the truck was a bit somber
compared to the first drive to the Cape two very short weeks ago.

We somehow managed the ‘goodbyes’ and went our separate ways, more difficult than I ever could have imagined.
I was walking and wearing my Akubra, my arm around Pamela.
She took my arm and placed it over Hannah’s shoulder who was hurting more than Pamela.
This would be our hardest and saddest goodbye.
We got home and tried to keep busy straightening up and getting the house back in order for the work week ahead.
I poured a few fingers of Maker’s Mark and made Pamela a Rum Swizzle.
I was in the kitchen on my laptop when I heard Pamela yell from the backyard, “Hey Michael! Come here!”
She was standing by the enormous hostas (so big I call them Jimmy Hostas) staring at the ground.

“Look at those two flowers.”

“Yeah,” I said, in that low to high tone I use when questioning her.

“They weren’t there before. I swear. I’ve never seen them.”

“Then how did they get there,” I asked.

“They’re Impatiens. They need to be planted.”

“And you didn’t plant them?” I asked.


She got teary and said, “It’s Maureen and Mark. They didn’t want to leave. They didn‘t.”

What do you say to a woman crying over two mysterious flowers
that have grown out of nowhere?
You don’t argue, for one thing.
You shake your head, agree, and give her a huge hug.
As a dear friend of mine once said of wonderful and mysterious things in this life, “Sometimes, it just is.”
I’m also thinking that those plant roots run quite deep.
Now that’s something I can definitely relate to . . .

2,592,000 seconds

time, blogging, trains, writing

I figured out that I spend approximately one month a year riding the train back and forth to Boston.

One month.

30 days.

720 hours.

43,200 minutes.

2,592,000 seconds.

I write, read, sleep, text message, eat, drink
and look out the slightly opaque windows and think.
I’ve been doing this for over 4 years and if it weren’t for my writing stuff and my
Ipod Nano (thank you M), I think I would have thrown in the towel years ago.

I will say that it endlessly fascinates me when I look back and read some of the things
I’ve written on the train; the original thought process with my cross outs and all.
It’s the true ‘me’ that not too many people see.
Pamela and the girls have seen much of it and one other special friend
but my journals tend to get sequestered soon after they’re filled.

The journal I’m currently writing in has
Beginnings, mishaps & didgeridoos’, ‘Akubra’, ‘Communion’ and ‘Serenissima’.
The corrections and edits are actually quite funny in a way; silly things,
inconsequential explosions of neurons misfiring and my internal editor trying to patch it up.
It’s a literary ER of sorts going on in my mind 24/7.
Though I’m very proud of much of my work, there’s so very much more to do.
Tough pill to swallow when I look at the stacks of yellow legal pads & journals filled with my thoughts, blues and dreams.
I currently have 7-8 stories waiting to see the light of day.
It makes me sad because I just don’t have the time to devote to editing them and finishing them in the fashion they deserve.
When they’re ready, the will let me know.
I honestly think that what I’m trying to do here is keep myself sane as I think about those 2,592,000 seconds.
You know what my commute needs?
A 20 minute neck massage times 2; into the city and out.
Maybe a rub or three on the soles of the  feet on the way home.
Hey, a writer can dream, can’t he?


Cape Cod, Hyannis, Baxter's Boat House, seafood, Akubra Hats, Aussie stuff

One night at the Cape all of us went to Baxter’s in Hyannis for dinner.
It was a beautiful night as we sat watching the ferries come and go in the harbour.
Not sure what everyone ordered to eat but no one was talking and I’m assuming it was all good.
I do remember that Mark got an enormous Fisherman’s Platter that looked incredibly good,
no, it was ‘call your cardiologist before eating’ good.
He gave me a fried scallop that was roughly the size of an Aussie cricket ball which I split with Pamela.
It was so good I had to go back up to the counter and get a side order for us to split.
I’ll never learn.
It was such a beautiful night that I suggested we walk Main Street in Hyannis and check out some of the shops.
While the womenfolk were looking at Cape Cod jewelry,
Mark and I wandered over to a leather store across the street.
The rich, earthy aroma walking in was almost narcotic.
I love the smell of leather.
Mark and I were immediately drawn to the hats hanging on a wall in the back of the store; there were porkpies, fedoras (ala Indiana Jones), top hats, baseball caps and one very special hat that I somehow missed.
Mark asked to see a now familiar hat on the very top row.
“Check it out, mate. It’s an Akubra made in Australia,”  He said,
as he showed me the inside label of his hat by the same maker.
I loved the hat he was wearing when he first showed up at the house and now I knew why.
He asked the price ($85) but by now Pamela and all the girls were standing next to us ready to go.
I wanted to buy the hat because I really liked it and I wanted to offer a showing of solidarity to Australia.
Alright, the solidarity part was my brain making up bullshit but I really loved the hat.
I could hear Pamela in my head saying, “You Have Enough Hats!
I’m thinking now there was a reason I didn’t get it.
Move forward in time to Logan Airport on the Sunday Maureen and Mark were leaving.
Pamela, Hannah, me and M&M were standing at the gate, all of us knowing what was coming next.
Mark patted Moe on the bum and said, “Alright. Let’s go. Let’s get this done.”
Probably some of the hardest words my friend has ever had to say.
The Tear Factory was now open for business but before it closed, Mark took off his Akubra and placed it on my head and gave me a huge bear hug.
“Take care of this for me until the next time, buddy.”
Translation: How Michael got his very first Akubra.
You never forget your first.
I don’t know much about the road ahead of me but I do know this; the next Akubra I put on my bald noggin won’t be from some leather shop in Hyannis, Ma.
I’m thinking someplace much more exotic . . .
Like Queensland, Australia

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