I’ve always liked the origin of the name “January.” It comes from Janus, the Roman god of beginnings. Janus had two faces and governed the past and the future, peace, doorways and bridges. It makes sense, then, that I began January looking at a bridge.
For my first holiday season abroad, we waited at the water to watch the Sydney Harbour fireworks, a display I’ve dreamed of seeing for years. Huddled with new friends made over the last year, Brendan and packs of mostly drunk Aussies and Europeans, we spent the time leading up to the main event grilling veggie and beef burgers on a later-to-be-stolen barbecue, rapping to old 90s hip-hop and playing my favorite card game, Asshole. The 12-hour vigil proved worthwhile.
Brendan and I spent New Year’s Day dressed to the nines with two couples at Royal Randwick. It was my first time there, and I bet on a horse in the first race we witnessed and won a hefty $16, half of which was spent on ice cream at the concession stand. My only regret is that I wasn’t there earlier in the day, when a horse named BiggieTupac competed. He lost, but his name may help end the East Coast/West Coast feud once and for all.
The next weekend’s first came in the form of our trip to a Sydney baseball game. For $10 a ticket, we got to watch the Sydney Blue Sox lose to the Perth Heat. We learned that baseball is not the same everywhere. Back home, all nine innings are usually accompanied by fans cursing loudly, drunkenly trying to coach the players and taunting the opposing team. To our great dismay, only an occasional protest erupted from the stands, packed to the hilt with roughly 300 guests. They even applauded when the other team hit a home run. WTF?
We decided to take the lead and began yelling the wonderfully multisyllabic name of Perth’s first baseman. We got one angry look and some muttered swearing. We later found out this player is actually American. Whoops.
Bonus: we saw three people in the stands wearing Phillies shirts, and one even posed for a picture. Utley, did you know you’re also loved Down Under?
The next day, I had my first dip in a harbour pool (Dawn Fraser in Balmain) followed by my first Australian celebrity sighting. Our posse met up to see a free performance by Arrested Development at Martin’s Place as part of Sydney Festival, a three-week line-up of free and ticketed music, dance and theater. We stopped by the Sheraton for pre-show drinks only to discover the band itself on the steps. The members were enormously gracious, introducing themselves and posing for a picture. Their concert an hour later rocked.
Then last night, I saw my first outdoor movie at St. George’s OpenAir Cinema courtesy of a Christmas gift from Brendan. We watched “The Town” on a huge screen with the city, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge in the background. Not bad.
It’s only mid-month, so we’ll see what other newness is in store. What firsts have you had in the New Year?