Swagman #5 – The Apartment, The Job – Sydney, Australia

Swagman #5 – The Apartment, The Job
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Big changes in the apartment. First Andrew (the landlord) took away the toaster and sandwich maker because Brenton didn’t clean the kitchen like he was supposed to. I went to make toast, since all Joe and I had at the time was bread, and the toaster was just gone. The French girl moved out and an Indonesian girl and her 17-year-old Aussie boyfriend moved in. About a day after they arrived Brenton was evicted for not paying rent. After Brenton left a Japanese girl moved in, and the toaster reappeared. Not sure what we have to do to get the sandwich maker back, but Andrew wants us all to play basketball tomorrow so we may have make the game more interesting and play for it. Winner gets toasted sandwiches.

Aki is leaving on Monday, which is discouraging because she is one of our favorite people here. She has been teaching me and Joe Japanese, most importantly how to say “Aki is beautiful”. She loves that we have taken an interest in her language and culture, so she decided we should go out for a grand traditional Japanese dinner at one of her favorite restaurants in the city. There is a tremendous amount of Asian immigrants in Sydney, and the influence can be found throughout the city. Although Australia isn’t really known for its cuisine it has such a large amount of immigrants that you can easily find good food from just about every culture.

Joe and I were the only people in the crowded restaurant that were not Asian, and the only words we knew were hello, good morning, and thank you. Aki knew everyone, and when she would introduce us to a woman she would tell us her name and we would then tell the woman she is beautiful in Japanese, at which point Aki and said woman would laugh hysterically. Since the menu was written in Japanese we put complete faith in Aki to order for us, on the condition that she didn’t tell us what anything was until after we had eaten it. I will say first and foremost that everything was delicious, and that sake helps loosen any culinary inhibitions. We later found out that we ate fish, chicken, chicken gizzard, chicken heart, some sort of crab patty, cow
tongue (tastes like steak-ums), and various forms of sushi. The entire meal only cost us about $20 each.

Last Monday I prettied myself up and hit the town for a job. I had been to about ten different pubs and was about to call it a day when I wandered in to St. Patrick’s Tavern on King Street, right off of the pedestrian Pyrmont Bridge. I spoke to the man behind the bar for maybe a minute and was hired on the spot. I would start on the floor collecting glasses, cleaning up, etc. I celebrated by buying a guitar, and that night Joe and I sat in the main room and made up songs for Aki.

My first day of work was busy, but the other bartenders insisted that it was a slow night. When I walked in I went up to a female bartender and asked if Denise was here. She looked confused.

“Denise?” she asked.
This is when I remembered I was supposed to ask for Elisabeth, so I said that name instead.
“Liz? I thought you said Denise,” she said. I laughed heartily, which isn’t technically lying.

The bar is basically a pub during the day and a club at night. I think of it as a plub. The musical selection is limited, meaning I basically hear the same songs at least three times a night and now know all of the words to Come On Eileen. They had a live band the first night, and I’m pretty sure that once the band finished for the night the DJ spiced things up by playing the recorded versions of every single song the band had played. The patrons were rowdy. I tend to think of pub patrons as pretty docile people, whereas clubs lure out guys with no neck who look like they stepped out of a mugshot. Some guys looked like they wanted to kill me for taking away their glass when there was still some melted ice in it. One drunk guy scolded me for taking away a glass without asking if he was done, even though it was clearly dry. I waited a few minutes for him to forget who I was and then came back, at which time he confessed that he hated someone on the dance floor.

“You’ve seen him?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” I answered.

“The people behind me don’t like him either. There may be some trouble.”

I looked behind him. There were two girls talking over drinks. They certainly didn’t seem to be conspiring.

“Maybe even death,” he said and nodded. Well, more of a half nod because his head went down and didn’t come back up.

There was no death, just a mess to clean up at the end of the night. We finally closed up around 6am, and I went next door with two of the other bartenders for a few beers. One was from the Czech Republic, he has been here for four years but his parents want him to come home. He will travel home in five months, stopping off in New York where he dreams of seeing an NHL game. The other bartender is Irish, has been in Australia for a year and a half but has never traveled outside of Sydney. “Some day,” he said.

He then told me that St. Patrick’s is actually one of the roughest pubs in Sydney, but one of the best paying. He and I shared a cab up to Pyrmont at around 8:30am and I slept until 3:00.

That day I got to know the brother and sister who own Quick Fix Cafe, where I keep myself full of caffeine every day. When I told her where I work, she said “Oh, I’m not fond of that place. A bit rough for me.”
“Aye,” her brother said without looking up from the cappuccino machine.

So, of course, Saturday night there was a fight, and it was big. But security was involved right away and threw the offenders around quickly and were efficiently violent enough to make me happy that I’m on their team. The ‘plub’ was twice as packed as it was on Friday, and there was a steady amount of glasses to collect, broken glass to sweep up, and ashtrays to empty. The mop came out frequently because, despite how much people pay for drinks, they dump most of it on the floor.

The people are a mixed crowd – most are thrilled when I clear their empty glasses and bottles and give a “Cheers, mate”. If they hear me talk they want to know where I am from, and then the follow up question is usually if I think rugby players are tougher than those in American football, which they call gridiron. Some people help me clear the glasses, some prefer to throw them on the floor. I’ve been pinched twice by female patrons as I’ve passed by. One girl hooked my arm and swung me around a few times like a squaredance. So after my first weekend of work I’ve decided that there is nothing funnier than a guy performing what looks like a choreographed dance to Ice Ice Baby, and there is nothing more dangerous than a drunk girl dancing with a lit cigarette.

Can’t wait until next weekend.