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The River Diaries
Sunday, February 4, 2001 (continued)
a cool day now turning sunny after a deliciously gray beginning
It was scorching hot here last week and will be over 100 degrees by Thursday. Grayness, clouds of any sort, means protection from the desert heat. When I see the weather map on telly [television] here, I look to the measurements of Alice Springs, the encampment right in the middle of the red center, against which to measure Melbournes heat. Once having been there, I can never forget what the heart of this country is no, I correct myself, there are many hearts to this country wherever Aboriginal peoples walk and claim the old country, there is a beat of Australias old heart.
You must remember that I am here as a stranger, a wanderer, tied to this place by my love for Di. I did not come here to see the sights, to tour the cities or swim among the coral reefs though on every car ride we take together, I see something new, something unseeable in my other home. Melbourne is my other city now or for as long as I can manage the trip to get here. Because I do not feel too well, I have to work out some of the same negotiations with life I did back in Manhattan doctors, bedrooms, weakness in the face of others strengths. For days before we left New York, Di and I talked about what my being ill would mean for her busy life, did she really want to include this potential disruption in her life over and over she reassured me that it all would be easier if we were in the same place together.
The Trip Over
Coming to Australia for New Yorkers starts with the plane trip, the 21-hour contained odyssey 32,000 feet above the earth. This is where the journey starts, with the recognition of the immensity of distance, where the sense of provincialism starts as one leaves the known borders, the known oceans behind. We flew in darkness for the whole trip, the sun coming up three hours out of Melbourne when we were still above the Pacific ocean. Darkness to Los Angeles, a two-hour break in the LA airport where we exercised in the waiting hall, where Australian accents could be heard in the food courts, young people out on holiday, returning for the new school year, Latin American and Asian families replacing Anglo ones then the call from Qantas and, even knowing what we faced, a small town of people willingly filed into economy class to begin flying home.