Food, Art, and Home

Monday we got up at a reasonable hour, packed up, and headed back to the Cairns airport and onward to Sydney. We took a taxi to our next Airbnb site, a room in a 2-bedroom apartment, a 3.5-story walkup with our 50-lb suitcases. There was just enough time to shower and then to walk to Quay, the most stunning restaurant of the entire trip. Despite its being a view restaurant (the Sydney Harbor bridge and the Opera House were both visible from our table) and its having been around eleven years, it was really, really good. There was a choice between an eight-course tasting menu and a four-course ala carte menu. With each of us picking four courses, it became a less expensive but equally tasty eight-course tasting menu. The sommelier picked wine pairings for each course as if we’d ordered the official eight-course menu, and she explained each one and why she chose it. The most memorable dishes were the pig cheek with shiitake and scallops on top, the wagyu beef in a chocolate black pudding with crunchy grains on top, and the eight-texture chocolate cake. Their menu changes every so often, but there are many dishes which were made famous by their appearance on Master Chef, a very popular reality TV show — many clients come from South East Asia to have those dishes specifically, so they can’t remove them from the menu.

We noticed that Sydney was having a Biennale of Contemporary Art, so we decided to check it out. We started Tuesday at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which had Biennale exhibitions on two of its levels. On our way to the next venue, we stopped at the State Library galleries to see the World Press Photo winners for 2011. We continued on the free ferry to Cockatoo Island, Sydney’s equivalent to Alcatraz (it had contained a prison) where many pieces of industrial equipment and many empty industrial rooms were adorned by various pieces of whimsical art. One contained chains and other objects made of white Styrofoam in a rather colossal scale, reminding us of the room-sized Thomas Rentmeister piece we’d seen in Perth — we’ll have to send him pictures. One contained colorful circular paper constructions; at the end of the gallery you’d see how these could be folded up and would have the appearance of a machine gun, a handgun, or a bullet. One space was littered with letters, which the audience would arrange, refrigerator magnet-style. Eventually the sun got close to setting, and we caught the free ferry back while the catching was still good.

Architecture and industrial design are the true arts and nowhere is this more apparent than in a contemporary art exhibit in a factory space. Diligent people spent thousands or tens of thousands of hours imagining and designing these spaces and hundreds of thousands or millions of hours constructing them and populating them with beautifully proportioned machines; and some gal waltzes in and reversibly defaces them with a few yards of store-bought fabric (whose manufacture itself is a long art story) and writes three paragraphs about how she is exploring the space between Heidegger’s withdrawaland the Collective Mantra which challenges the Discrepancy of Art and Ideology in Aesthetics and Politics of Freed Time, and we are expected to pay attention to her and not to the room.

Grant Proposal Writing is also a true art.

There weren’t any post cards at the shop. Art is not serious unless there are post cards. I took instead, some free post cards advertising an entity I had never heard of, and whose line of business was completely unclear, even upon long examination. That’s really the best use of advertising dollars, isn’t it?

We met up with our friend Brendan from the old Opcode days, who took us to Vini, an excellent Italian restaurant in his old neighborhood which has a “regional dinner” every Tuesday. This week it featured the cuisine of Basilicata: the most memorable was the aroma of the braised pork, and the strength of the hard cacio cavallo cheese. Brendan sent us home on the train, and recommended not going to Kings Cross, the closest stop to where we were staying. The next day we read a news story about a murder there, so I’m glad we didn’t go.

We returned to Fiji for three more days relaxing with our friend Siral. We slept, found the one place in the area with an espresso machine, slept, snorkeled, slept, and saw a small zoo with pettable iguanas and brightly colored birds, including a peacock which was presenting. And did some shopping and more sleeping, and a bit of eating. Our flight back leaves at 10:30 on Saturday night, arriving at LAX ten hours later at 1:30 Saturday afternoon, and then at SFO at 6:30.

We had 43 hours of Saturday. We spent the first part of Saturday driving around Nadi and going to Siral’s house where they spent the afternoon drinking kava. It is always wonderful coming here and having the delicious Indian food cooked by Siral’s mother, but we always are the only ones at the table because everyone else is drinking kava and doesn’t feel like eating. Our flight left at 10:30 on Saturday night, arriving at LAX ten hours later at 1:30 Saturday afternoon. Customs coming into the U.S. was retarded but I’m not going to say anything more about it because it’s too easy to get on lists that instruct officials to hassle you. When we emerged, we found out the value of “reconfirming”: our flight to SFO had been renumbered and rescheduled for an hour later. Whatever: we got there at 7:00 Saturday evening.

Adam and Jenny picked us up at the airport and took us out for hamburgers. It was a fun trip, but it was nice to be home.