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Brian Fleck

The Aussie snake diet

walkin'

Sit down because I have something shocking to tell you about our recent trip to Australia: I lost my appetite.
I can hear you pleading, “say it isn’t so, Brian,” but it’s true, I simply wasn’t hungry in the land down under.

When will we learn?

Walkin'

Criminals in 18th century England were thought to be inherently defective. They needed to be separated from the law-abiding populace and there were two options: execution or exile. With the American victory in the Revolutionary War, convicts could no longer be sent across the Atlantic, so a new exile station was sought. The bush of Australia proved to be just the ticket. On our recent trip to Tasmania, we got to visit one of the first, largest and cruelest of these penal colonies opened on Botany Bay, on the island of Tasmania, in a place called Port Arthur.

Go farther with kilometers

Walkin'

We went to Brisbane to visit Sabra’s sister Lisa, who moved to Australia more than 30 years ago after marrying Alan, a native of Australia. We went to Tasmania because Lisa recommended it. That’s how we wound up in Hobart one rainy afternoon in late January.

Great Aussie ideas

Walkin'

As I write this we are on our last day of our visit with Lisa and Alan, Sabra’s sister and brother-in-law, who live in Brisbane.
We stayed the first three nights at their house and used the days to explore the city by bicycle and foot. Then we traveled about 60 miles north to an area known as the Sunshine Coast, where Lisa and Alan have a beach house, soon to be a retirement home. Located on an estuary, the house was a short walk, or swim, to the ocean.

Crikey on an eskie

Walkin'

We’ve now been in Australia for nearly a week and I’m still finding it all a bit disorienting.
Starting the moment we drove away from the Brisbane airport, the first thing that jarred me was how the traffic– auto, bicycle and pedestrian– was all on the wrong side of the road. It’s confusing and dangerous. While I haven’t had a chance to drive yet, in just a few days I’ve managed to walk into several people and caused cars to come to screeching stops as they dodge me toddling about on a bicycle, or as the Aussies say, “on a bikie.”

Off to Australia

Walkin'

Of the 10 deadliest snakes in the world, five make their home in Australia.
The Death Adder, despite its most ominous of names, comes in at only number nine. Able to strike and strike again in a little over a 10th of a second, its bite can cause death in as little as six hours if not treated. Then there’s the tiger snake at number six, which can kill in just 30 minutes. At number four is the Taipan, injecting venom capable of killing 12,000 guinea pigs (my source doesn’t list how many tourists).

Traveling whirlwind

Sabra and I have been on a whirlwind driving tour visiting family this holiday season.
I can’t help but feel a little guilty driving long distances.
The burning of fossil fuels is causing all sorts of problems from political instability; to global warming; to making Texans, who otherwise might not be able to handle a job at McDonald’s, insanely rich. I’m all for taxing gasoline heavily and using the proceeds to build sustainable renewable energy for our country and world. In the meantime, we like to travel like everyone else, especially when gas is selling for $2 a gallon.

Merry Christmas

Walkin'

One of my earliest Christmas time memories is melting crayons with my cousin Suzzie on an exposed heating duct outside our apartment at the Glenview Naval Air Base. Originally designed to be living quarters for pilots, the buildings were turned into low-income housing through the Chicago Housing Authority.

String Theory part II

Walkin'

In the last couple columns, I’ve explained how our household always had a large supply of string: yellow from Marshall Field’s and white from the News Agency.

String Theory

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Besides the yellow string Dad brought home from Marshall Fields there were also skeins of generic white string fetched from the News Agency.
It was just one of his several part-time jobs.

Yellow string, green stamps

One of the benefits of Dad working at Marshall Field’s, the upscale department store based in Chicago, was the string.
It was used by the package delivery drivers, my father’s job for 50 years, to secure items returned by customers. Field’s had a very liberal, no-questions-asked return policy, and would even send a deliveryman out to pick up the package, tie it with string if needed, and return it to the store.

Blame it on the dogs

Walkin'

I’ve been putting off replacing the plastic mat underneath my chair in the upstairs bedroom that doubles as my office. A man’s home may be his castle but in my case the only estate I am sovereign over is the office and the garage.