Mama This Surely Is A Dream
by GringoSoos

You either know those girls or, as in my case, you are that girl.

The girls who will scream ROADTRIP! every time a potential vacation is considered, the girls without licenses or car, without any sort of idea of how big the United States really is but the vague impression that driving from New York to California won't take too long (“a couple of days right?”).

Like my exuberant companions around me screaming ROADTRIP!, I knew in the back of my mind that no such feat could in reality be mastered. Despite the plans we made, the finances we budgeted, the bikini outfits we devised, we would never have the kind of experiences the pre-college teens seem to be living out in PG-13 movies. No drive-thrus, no hitchhikers, no road trip playlist.

Two weeks ago, on my way from Charleston, South Carolina to Daytona, Florida, I realized I was wrong.

I have been on so many ten or fourteen hour plane rides that the six hour drive between these two states seemed like a breeze, no big deal. I thought we'd leave Charleston after breakfast and make it to Florida in time to catch some rays and get at least a little uncomfortably sun burnt. This was where my realization, nay, my epiphany occurred.

We'd just left the Wendy's drive-thru, I was sitting shotgun and a very old song came on the radio. Well, when I say old, I mean mid-90s. Old enough for it to be a pleasant surprise when it came on the radio, but new enough for my big sister to have listened to the very same song on a very similar road trip over ten years ago when she was my age. It made me realize the unaging tradition of road trips and our ability to be affected in the same way as the people who took them before us. My sister and my Dad and my aunt, even Jack Kerouac, all got in a car with their friends and drove through America. Like me, I'm sure they didn't consider it a big deal either to begin with, just a means to an end, but I bet when they got out of the car at the other side, they privately savored the lack of a quick ninety minute plane ride (because come on let's admit it, all you can see on a plane is the clouds and perhaps a surprisingly sad rom-com, that, no, what, I swear I'm not crying at, I'm just tired, and this cabin is dusty).

So for all the girls like me who nodded along with the suggestion of a road trip, while secretly rolling their eyes and doubting its ability to live up to the Hollywood hype, you just have to sit back and be patient and you'll eventually find yourself in a car with the right people, at the right time, experiencing a rite of passage. Oh, and don't forget to turn on the radio.


The Big Smoke
by GringoKev

Caesar crossed the Rubicon for one, Dickens wrote endlessly about one, the Greeks left a giant horse outside of one, Japan has the biggest one and you are probably in or around one at this very moment.

But why have cities so captured the human imagination?

If you look at them from an outsider’s point of view, from a rational and objective perspective, the whole thing seems pretty absurd. Imagine trying to describe the whole city situation to a complete foreigner. And I mean a real foreigner – like aliens, or this guy - someone who is pretty much unaware of human civilisation.

“So, like, you put yourself in a small box. You might have some grass if you’re lucky but it’s pretty likely that your box will be stacked onto some other boxes. It will definitely be next to lots and lots of other boxes. Uh, and like some of these boxes will be labelled different names like ‘shops’ or ‘office’ or ‘restaurant’. And yeah, so you just like spend your life commuting between these boxes. Oh yeah and to get from box to box, you get into another box, that farts out smoke”.

Catch my drift?

This is not to say that I detest cities and wish to move into a rural hippy commune with no electricity or paved roads. Gosh no. I mean, where on earth would I get my vegetables? Peas come out of a freezer, right?

Still, there is something strangely alluring about the country and open road that appeals to us big bad city folk. I’m going to hypothesise that it has something to do with the warm feelings that come from a combination of nature, freedom and the successful splitting of a block of firewood. And besides that, non-city people are just relaxed.

I went down to the Victorian coast with a few friends a couple of weeks ago and at some point on the long and undulating curves of the Great Ocean Road we were graced with a roadblock. We were also told by the cheery looking sign-holder that the delay would be around 20 minutes.

Now I want you to think now how drivers in a city would react to such an obstacle. A cacophony of angry horns, cursing and abusive questioning is what springs to my mind. But perhaps I’m just a biased cyclist.

I think that what followed encapsulates perfectly what is wrong with our modern city life and what is right about the country. Firstly, the 20-year-old sign-boy squatted near our car and happily chatted to us for a few minutes. He also seemed genuinely interested - the presence of two pretty girls in the car notwithstanding - in my backseat guitar playing. We then got out of the car to have a look at a whale that had been spotted quite far offshore. Now cities may have cool cafés and galleries but a whale. ‘Nuff said.

We all gathered excitedly on the side of the road – twenty or so people, including the construction workers and sign-boy – and did a bit of communal whale spotting. We had a bit of a chat, a bit of a laugh and drove off twenty minutes later. There was not a word of discontent, not an unfriendly face, nor a shimmer of impatience or anger from anyone who was forced to stop.

Perhaps it says more about human nature than cities themselves that I was genuinely surprised by this warm and spontaneous community experience.

Now I’ve just got to get hold of a dolphin costume and we can start making Melbourne a happier place.