Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Monday, December 2nd, 2019 at 1:10 am

It’s “smoky Sydney,” tonight.  This afternoon the sky was bright and blue, but around 4PM, the strong winds had turned the air a dingy pinkish-yellow from a bushfire somewhere near the city.

I am staying in the area known as The Rocks, the site of the original colony, where the oldest remaining stone buildings were built with convict labor and almost every block contains a historical marker about the early years of what would become the nation of Australia.

My historical memory should have served me better than it did at lunch today.  I should have known, based on the bad fish tacos I have gotten everywhere other than San Diego,  that the chances of an Irish pub in Australia knowing what fish tacos were all about were (shall we say kindly?) approaching statistical zero. Indeed these examples were crimes that really should be prosecuted. Flour tortillas instead of corn? Sweetened cole slaw instead of raw cabbage?  Avocado sauce? Mayonnaise dressing?  That there were three of these monstrosities on the plate was a good example of the expression “kill it before it multiplies!”

Not being a breakfast eater, to have lunch be a bust can be problematic, especially when evening rolled around and the smoke was too thick to want to leave my room (no room service here). Google to the rescue!  A search for “Happy Hour Sydney Rocks ” produced a hopping pub a block away, where Aperol Spritzes ( my go-to drink) were $5– cheap in USD but here, with the Aussie dollar at 68 cents, practically free. A salad and TWO Aperol Spritzes later, I am back in my room no worse for the little bit of time in the smoke.

I probably wouldn’t have bothered to post about this, but something melancholic and pretty wonderful happened while I was in the pub. All of a sudden on the other side of the room a group started singing the birthday song to a friend. Wow, I thought—December 2!  Whoever the person was, he or she shares a birthday with my son Adriano.  My beloved boy only stayed in this world 22 years, and I am closing in on spending as many of his birthdays after losing him as I had with him.  So when the birthday song broke out, I sang along quietly over in my corner, adding his name.

December is a tough month for me, marking both his birth and death. But today, halfway around the world, I sang out his name. Happy Birthday, Adriano. I carry you tucked safely in my heart wherever I go.

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