Somehow, nature hit me in the bulls eye yesterday. If I had chosen a flight 3 hours earlier or 3 hours later, I would probably be in Sydney right now and I would not be writing this post. I would be emerging from the Wattle Hotel on Oxford Street, heading to a long purposeful march through a city I have hankered to visit for decades.
But no! The dust storm of the century hit me ... and pretty much the entire East Coast of Australia ... between the eyes. Sydney was the land of the red horror. Meanwhile, I was trapped in the Gold Coast airport figuring that luck would not abandon me, and I'd still make it out. After four hours, they canceled my flight. I'm probably out about 200 bucks, but I might end up getting some of that back if I pursue it diligently.
But that, of course, is not the story.
The not so big secret of Australia is that it is the driest continent. It also is sustaining one of the most rapid population growth rates in the world. And, speaking of bulls eyes, it is feeling the earliest and most devastating effects of global warming. The causes of this unusual dust storm are drought, warm spring, and denuded farmland. The red dawn in Sydney was the sight of people waving goodbye to the topsoil that has fed them for a century.
Even so, there we were stuffing fast food garbage into the bins at the airport which serves this explosively expanding tourist spot with nary a care other than our shattered plans to photograph Sydney Harbor from the Manley ferry, or whatever equivalent mattered by person. I actually grabbed a water bottle from a girl's tray as she dumped it into the garbage and told her that was recyclable ... the recycling bin was 6 inches away, so perhaps it was too much trouble for her. She gave me a pissy look.
I sat for a while across from a large happy Chinese family ... speaking Chinese, but I thought they were Australians. The older boy, obviously the family's apple-eye, pouted and pushed away the boxed individual pizza that Auntie brought him; the pizza went straight into the garbage. The boy later stretched and yawned in front of daddy who took a moment from his interminable cell phoning to rub his scion's fat belly. Meanwhile, the considerably skinnier and younger girl was left to her own devices.
On the upside of the people watching in the terminal where no one left, a surfer dude unconsciously pushed his T-shirt up and picked at his navel.
In the course of my slow resignation to the aborted Sydney trip, I ordered two coffees from the same place ... we established that the correct order is double-shot, short pull espresso, half full in a small cup ... and was charged a different amount for each order. They botched the second one, but I downed it anyway while looking out the window (photo above), peering into the gloom in hope of catching a few rays of hope from above. I tried to read my book ... a fevered popularization of the Greek/Persian Wars of the fifth century B.C.E. called Persian Fire. But even the cavortings of Darius could not distract me from my disappointment.
Later, I had a nice night out with the family instead of cruising The Oxford. I will report on that shortly. But right now, I want to feel sorry for myself ... which, as the Republicans will point out, is so much more important than doing something about the headlong dive into disaster into which our accumulated selfishnesses is pitching our planet.
Photos by Arod. Top one of the runways at the Gold Coast airport, bottom one of mannequins inside the airport ... one of a long series of mannequin photos.