Wow! What can I say? I've just had the most wonderful relaxing week here in Perth, Australia. I wanted to let you know a little of what I've been up to.
My flight took 24 hours (door to door). Oye veh. But it was alright, I slept, read, and watched very stupid movies. I was picked up in Perth by my Aussie hosts, two Rockabilly/Lindy Hoppers - Rob and Liz. They are this wonderful couple all of you would fall in love with instantly. They "live the lifestyle" - their home is from the 1930s, and all their furniture is classic '30s-40s. They play swing music all the time. So you can imagine, I'm as happy as can be. They are also the perfect hosts for a vacationer, as they are both on holiday, as well, and have been free to take me out every day on little site-seeing adventures.
The first day I got here, we took a walk around their neighborhood (Swanbourne), which is kind of Beverly Hills type place on a smaller scale. We just talked that night about life and swing dancing, and then I fell into a heavy coma sleep (as you can well imagine) after my journey.
The second day, they took me for a lovely walk to their local beach. Perth is situated on the West Coast, and really reminds me of California (albeit, in the 1940s). It's lovely with fresh air, clear high skies, palm trees, "gum" trees, bougainvillea, hibiscus, and other tropical flowering plants everywhere.
Some of you may know that I've become a VERY amateur bird watcher (or "twitcher" as they are called over here... as they "twitch" [tick] off the birds listed in their bird book guides as they spot them). So I am having an absolute field day here because of the abundance of birds. I have seen Pink and Grey Gallahs, Ring Necked Parrots, a Kookaburra, Black Swans, a Purple Swamphen, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Australian Shelducks, and EMUS!!! Yes, three Emus actually ran across the road in front of car yesterday (like squirrels in the U.S. - only a lot bigger at 6' tall!). If you have no idea what I'm talking about, quick, find an Australian bird website and look these up. Gosh oh golly gee!
Anyway... on this walk to the beach, we trekked through "bush" (nature). It was some sand dunes, the likes of which I'd not seen before - very rugged and filled with gum trees. I'm picking up the local lingo quickly. Here's something we passed on the way to the beach in the bush... an old "dunny" (an outhouse).
The beach was stunningly beautiful. It reminded me of El Segundo beach without the refinery, steam plant, and waste treatment facility.
I swear the sky is higher here. You look up at the blue dotted with clouds floating by and it all just seems to be further away than at home. Read Bill Bryson, and you'll see that I'm not the only one with this observation.
On the following days, we took some little jaunts around Perth, which really does have to be one of the most beautiful cities I've ever had the pleasure to see. It's situated, not only on the coast, but also on the Swan River, which winds through the city over and over again. This means that there are vistas galore at any turn (plus endless varieties of water birds - wahoo).
On Friday, I went horseriding (as it is called here, not horseback riding, as we call it, "Where else would you ride the horse? On its head?!"). This had to be one of the best rides I've ever taken (outside of the one next to the Egyptian Pyramids). We went through bush land, sand dunes, and then right on the beach. We saw camels (which had been brought to Australia over a century ago for long journeys), kangaroos, and one exciting visit from a huge spider (they have so many poisonous spiders here, it boggles the mind). I survived without breaking anything or being anyone's dinner, and had a superb time. It was the first time I've ridden since my accident four years ago, and it was beyond great to be galloping down the paths through the bush.
Friday night was a lindy hop dance at "The Mustang," which is a local bar. There is a dance every Friday night with a great small band - Harry Delux. This was the first time I saw all my friends from last year. I had a many wonderful dances, and, with their humidity, sweat more than I've done in ages - yikes.
The next days were filled with visiting friends, some more site seeing and general fun.
Monday and Tuesday, Rob and Liz bundled me in their car and we took a road trip down south to visit Liz's folks in Busselton (a small seaside holiday town). They've retired down there. It's such a cute town, the kind where you can leave your house unlocked, doors wide open, without a worry.
Now here's something we did that I bet you haven't done in a LONG time. We went to a drive-in movie!!!!! I know I haven't been to one since I was a teenager. This Busselton Drive-In is one of two left in Western Australia. As we drove in and they asked "How many?," Liz responded "Two adults and one child" (meaning me, and as a joke). But the attendant took the money and handed the change. To make matters worse, I actually had the car light on at the time, so I was in full view. I don't know if I should consider that good for my ego or not....
We saw "Looneytunes," which I don't recommend, even if it's the last movie on earth, and "Something's Gotta Give" - which, if you haven't already seen it three times, you should run, not walk, to rent and see it (get it on dvd, so you can watch it again with the director's and Jack Nicholson's commentary). Anyway, we had such fun, all comfy with our blankies and pillows.
The next morning, we got in the car and drove out to Liz's childhood farm (which her brother, Greg, now runs raising cattle and grapes - the perfect dinner for you non-vegetarians). On our way over, I asked to stop along a turn off to take some photos, which they did, and I did. When we piled back in the car, Liz turned the key, and we heard that all dreaded sound - nothing... or should I say "click, click, click". So there we were, in the middle of the bush, with a dead battery. Liz and I walked back to the main road (a two lane country road), and waited for a car. One came along with four elderly people, we successfully flagged them down. They tried to jump the battery, to no avail, so they drove Liz up the road to the nearest farm. It turned out (and this is a small country after all), that the farmers were friends of Liz's parents. They were happy to help, we phoned Liz's folks, they picked up a battery, drove it over, and we installed it, and in a brief three hours, were on our way again. The really nice thing was that I had wanted to take a look around, and I got to! While waiting we saw a huge flock of the Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. It was threatening rain, and the lore here is if these birds are making a lot of noise and fussing and flocking around in the air, sure enough it's gonna rain. It didn't, happily for us, as we would have had to just sit in the car, rather than get to wander around looking at field lilies, and "snotty grass" (it's actually called that!), and following a local butterfly.
Once started, we again bid adieu to Liz's parents, and toddled along to her brother's farm in Nannup ("up" means water in the Aboriginal language, so loads of names end with "up" around here). Greg met us at the farm in a tractor. But he went back to the shed and picked up the "Ut" (utility vehicle). We piled in the Ut, and he took us straight up a hill - and I mean straight up! I'd never been terrain riding before, and I tell you, my knees went weak in less than a second. He proceeded to drive around the ranch, up and over the hills, and into the cow pastures, along a river, and through his vineyard. I'd definitely never experienced this kind of ride before. It was amazing, and gave me a glimpse of what it might be like to do one of those camera safaris in Africa. Hmmmmm.... Wonder if anyone would like to learn some swing dancing in Kenya?
One of the highlights of the Ut excursion was riding through the cow pasture, as many of the cows were new moms with their youngins right at their sides. Many of the calves were just one day old. What a site to see these little guys walking and trotting along side their mums (think how long it takes a human baby to walk, and you'll know what I mean).
We had some tea in Greg's house, and then were on our way again. (Tea is the great revitalizer here.)
Oh my goodness, I now realize I have left out completely one of our other major activities - Op Shopping. "Op" means "Opportunity Shops" - or as we would say, Good Will or Salvation Army shopping. Both Liz and Rob love Op Shopping, and they know all the hot spots. I can only begin to list what I've found here so far: Three 1950's dresses (including 2 glamorous gowns which I'll wear at their Sunday ANZAC Victory Swing Ball), wonderful deco biscuit tins, some deco vases, pin-up playing cards, a 1940's air raid warden's whistle (for my country walks), and so on... I'm definitely a happy camper.
This weekend begins the big Hullabaloo event. I hope you've had a chance to look at their website and see all the fun activities (you still have time to hop on a plane and come over here!). I'll be djing at one of the dances, doing a performance with the teachers, and teaching a mess of classes (speaking of that, did you know that a bunch of kangaroos is called a "mob"?), and one ladies vintage hairstyling class. Amidst all of that, are loads of evening dances around town and a trip back to Rottnest Island for me (their equivalent of Catalina Island). I can't wait for the Hullabaloo to start and to come home with loads of new steps.
I hope you are all having a great week. I hope you'll have a good time at the Rhythm Club this Wednesday, and that everything was loads of fun last week. Take good care of yourselves and those around you.
See you next Wednesday at the Rhythm Club (the 28th!). I might be able to check my email during my travels, so if you feel like it, drop a line! firstname.lastname@example.org
I'll see you very soon!
Rusty Down Under
Here comes one of our most popular (and aerobic) Featured Classes -- CHARLESTON VARIATIONS. In this four-week series, we'll be going over as many Lindy Charleston Variations as possible. You name it, we'll do it! Back Charleston, Travelling Charleston, Around the World Charleston, Sailor Kicks, Kick Throughs, Fancy Entrances and Exits, Hacksaws, Quarter Turns, Full Turns, etc. Charleston is one of the greatest ways to spice up your Lindy Hop, and once you open the "folder", you've got a myriad of moves at your easy access! If you've never taken the class, you'll have the time of your life. If you've taken it one, two, or three times, come along and remember all those great lost steps and get a great workout at the same time. Level 3 and up.
As Rusty is still in Australia, we will not be having our monthly End-of-Series Party on April 25th.
As you've read, one of our precious swing dancers is currently serving a tour of duty with the Marines in Iraq. His nickname is Augie, swing dancing is his main passion. He'll be there for some time, and his job there is intense (to say the least). Jessica Densmore, came up with the idea of a "Care Package" from us to Augie.
We have the Swing Shift Rhythm Club (SSRC), which is a volunteer program where we, well, basically try to make the world a better place through swing dancing by community service and just plain old fun events. We often send dancers to hospitals and senior homes, and we get together to dance in fun places like the "Swing!" show and Disneyland.
Jessica, who coordinates the community service arm of the SSRC, came up with "Operation Augie Care Package". (What a gal!).
We put together an awesome "Swing Care Package" that we send over to Augie and his pals. Some of the ideas so far are:
* Swing Music cds
If you would like to participate in "Operation Augie's Care Package" with a gift or an idea, or even a small monetary gift to cover the postage or a gift):
EMAIL Jessica at email@example.com.
Or you could give her your care package gift Wednesdays at the Rhythm Club or Sunday's at Lindy By The Sea classes.
on behalf of the Rhythm Club/Lindy by the Sea and the Swing Shift Rhythm Club
P.S. If you would like to write Augie a letter, here's his mailing address:
what the heck a "gate"is? This was a phrase popularized by 1940's comedian,
Jerry Colonna, who would holler it out every time he was introduced on the
Bob Hope radio program. It was a friendly salutation to a swing cat (dancer
or swing music enthusiast).