Friday, November 11, 2011

An Abundance of Aussies

By now, you all know about my awesome friends Down Under—friends made ‘by chance’ and under the most coincidental of circumstances.

First came Jack—big brother, lifter of spirits, co-writer and major pain in my behind—this man has been the topic of several of my columns, and has even contributed to “Observations” in the past. And when Jack wouldn’t take payment for his editing services on the sequels to Grumble Bluff, many of you helped me settle up with him. You came to a charity benefit night at Nostalgia Tavern and raised $1,700.00 to donate to Jack and Ali’s pet charities: Alzheimer’s Association and Hospice/Home Health Care. You even autographed his poster (which I’m sure hangs in a prominent place in his home!)

Several of you met my “mate” Larry when he came to Maine last summer. For a month I dragged him around with me; all the while listening to him gripe about what a “third world country” this was because he couldn’t get decent cell phone reception in our mountains. The poor man found ONE rock at my parents’ camp he could call out on--if he stood atop it (with left foot held out at a 29 degree angle)--and ONE turn-out between Greenville and Shirley where he could park in order to “phone home”. He pissed and moaned at me endlessly--and I split a gut, laughing at him.

You followed Larry’s “cell-phone saga” to its conclusion. He bequeathed his “piece-of-shite” telephone to Josie-Earl when he left the States, so she could use up his remaining pre-paid minutes. And then--we held the “Battle of Antique vs. State-of-the-Art”. My WWI era Luger 9mm was victorious over the high-tech cell phone; and with 2 shiny bullet holes piercing its metal armor, I mailed the contraption back to Larry in Oz (after a rousing conversation with Australian Customs, who’ve come to know me well [reference “The Great Spud Smuggling Debacle of 2009”]!). Larry was vindicated, and to this day, he says the phone is a great conversation piece--not that he needs any prompting to tell a tall tale!

Yep. Jack and Ali, Larry, Ali g and KK, Dozy and CP, Pete and Naomi. I’ve been blessed with “An Abundance of Aussies” from Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.
Dozy lets me crab and whine about the cruelties of life and she repays me in kind! We can’t decide which one of us is better at “whinging” (an Aussie term, pronounced WIN-jing). This woman always makes me smile--and she’s responsible for supplying me with the only sexy earrings I own. She's also the only person on earth who has gifted me with elephant dung.  Does she know me well, or what?  (I would have paid good money to see her collect and dry it for shipping!)

Ali g is a shining light—always kind, generous, and a little (okay… a lot!) irreverent. He gives excellent advice, and I appreciate it all the more when I ignore it, and regret it, afterwards. He’s educated me about the wild, testosterone-charged world of Rugby, and he’s made me fall in love with Australian folk singers. He’s a favorite uncle, a wise friend, and a mischievous troublemaker. I can’t wait to look into his smiling eyes.

Peter W. is my absent-minded professor—brilliant, gentlemanly, and generous to a fault. And CP is so much smarter than I am that he makes me completely comfortable in my boneheadedness! I know I can’t compete with him, so there’s a certain relief and consolation in acknowledging that I don’t even have to try.

Yes, I’ve been blessed with an abundance of Aussies.

Coincidences. Flukes. Some of the links tying me to these friends are beyond belief… but I’ve already told you about the gossamer strands of fate that connected me to these wonderful people. And now…I’m going to mention another amazing stroke of luck.

I was wandering the aisles of Trantens’ Store…grubby in my sweat shirt and pants; having come from packing boxes and moving furniture at my office. I was feeling a tad ‘down-in-the-dumps’—and a little sore and tired. Pushing my cart, I passed behind a gentleman in the bakery aisle just as a loaf Pepperidge Farm whole-grain bread slipped from his hands. He quickly recovered it before it fell to the floor.

“Slippery stuff, huh?” I said. (You know me…silence is NOT an option.)

I’m not sure what the fellow said when he responded, but my ears have grown accustomed to the unique articulations of my pals Down Under. Those three or four words the stranger spoke infused me with a sense of well-being.

“Is that an Australian accent?”

It was. And that’s all it took to set me off. In typical style, I proceeded to (in all probability) tell the poor bloke the story of my hum-drum country life. At a minimum, I peppered him with questions, and told him about my Aussie pals. Soon, we were joined in the bread aisle (aka the “toiletries, peanut butter and Stove-top Stuffing aisle”) by his companions Heather, Barb and Norm.

It turns out--Allan grew up just around the corner from where Jack lives. Not kidding. Right down the road. (You know how big the continent of Australia is, right? It’s HUGE! What are the chances, I ask you!??) And there were other coincidences, too. I was grinning from ear to ear when I left the store, and I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Jack. And Larry. And…well, everyone! I’d entered the supermarket dirty, dusty and down-in-the-dumps, and I departed with a smile. What luck!

Today I received a surprise gift. I can’t adequately express how delighted I am. Two weeks ago I spoke with Tracy at the Irregular, who told me “an Australian” had dropped off an envelope for me. I knew it had to have come from Allan and Heather…for how many Aussies are there in Kingfield on any given day (besides our good friend Rosemary at Daisy-A-Day Flower Shop)? Before I could retrieve the envelope it had passed from family member to family member until finally—today—I was able to take possession.

What a delight! Standing in my parents’ kitchen I opened the envelope to find an original painting by Allan English! It is lovely…wondrous, colorful, peaceful; a true reflection of “home”. These Australian visitors had been drawn to our town from 10,000 miles away by the descriptions and photos of our autumn foliage; and while here, Allan perfectly captured the view seen through a window of the Kingfield house he rented.

These visitors are long gone. They left town to travel to Maine’s beautiful coast, and then they planned to visit Nova Scotia before heading back to the southern hemisphere. I only spoke with them for a few minutes—in the middle of a busy grocery store--but in that short amount of time, they enhanced my life. And now I have a permanent reminder of how small this old world is—and how lucky we are when we connect with people who, it seems, were in the right place at the right time—just when they were needed.
Photos: Aussie flag: G. Dowling
Jack on Moreton
Jack on Moreton--after fund-raiser in BAR (i.e. pub, i.e. tavern....!!!)
Larry and Kaz
Luger and Larry's cell pone
Dozy and African elephant (in AFRICA!)
Ali g and KK in Papua, New Guinea
Pete W. and Larry in NSW
Allan English watercolor from window in Kingfield, Maine, USA, October 2011
Photos I've taken at The F.A.R.M. in the past, which I thought might give evidence of what a wonderful job Allan did capturing Maine's autumn...


  1. You are a good friend, Karen. I think I like you. Don't send me any of those Aussies down here, though; they'd change the Mississippi river's flow.
    But I do like Jack's pirate face in the signed poster, compleat with handlebar mustache and (Easter?) basket.

  2. What a lovely read that was & such a beautiful painting ! Your new friends must have fallen in love with you just like the rest of us Aussies (we have such good taste you know). That's a lovely collection of photos too (Mana is the name of my friend)& I am so proud to be included !
    Big hugs xxxxxx

  3. Hmmph - my word verification was 'oldeme' about rubbing it in.....hmmph

  4. Hah!!! Even 'olde' is spelled olde!


    Hiya Dozy and M.M.! Thanks so much for reading and commenting. I'm under a deadline here, but I wanted to pop in and thank you!

    ( tell the elepoo story... :o)

  5. I know - that's why I thought to mention it....phht !

    As for the 'elliepoo' I'm sure you can tell the tale much better than me, however I have just sent you a pic to remember me by......heheh


  6. I'm really not that smart.

    Live long and prosper,


  7. Ah, and he's modest, too. :o)

    Hey, CP. You're awake awfully early this morning.

    Happy Monday to you, my friend.