|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
|Rights||In Copyright (InC)|
|Rights Holder||Tonya Auden Stiles, Moab, Utah|
|Publisher||Digitized by J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah|
|Paper||Canyon Country Zephyr|
SNM cae rc apmmererere neem An Australian Notebook #1 WHERE THE MOON IS UPSIDE DOWN It's like a T ime Travel trip into the Past..but how long will it last? By Jim Stiles Prologue: This is the first installment in an infrequent series of stories about a few trips I've made to Australia. In fact, I’ve been to the Land Down Under five times since 1996. After so many visits, I still love Australia, although I know longer see the country through the same rose-tinted lenses that I was surely wearing when I first arrived. I was hungry for a change from American Culture and overpopulation and overdevelopment, and on that first drive across the continent, I thought I'd found Paradise. The truth is, Australia has its problems just like the rest of us...maybe even more. Environmental and social issues are part of Australia’s daily headlines; its small size, however, suggests that, despite those problems, there could be a successful resolution. Hope...it makes all the difference. But THAT story is for another installment. For now, it’s nice to bask in the memory of that first very innocent and wide-eyed journey. And please note: this is not a travelogue and should not be used as such. After Australia receives its world-wide olympic coverage this September in Sydney, the rate of American-style madness just may accelerate at a rate faster than you can buy a ticket. In fact, if you even consider traveling to Australia after reading this story, I will track you down to the ends of the Earth and slap you senseless. Besides, I doubt if any of you could handle the flies... I went to Australia because of a recurring nightmare. I dreamed that I owned a little cabin that sat by itself in a sagebrush meadow in the middle of nowhere. It was a lovely and idyllic place...the perfect escape. But in my dream, | discovered that a subdivision had been built around it and that my beloved rustic cabin was now just another house on a paved street-in suburbia. Australia, | pondered. Yes, that distant island continent. Kangaroos and koalas. The Southern Cross. The Land of Ex-convicts. Crocodile Dundee. Aborigines. I looked it up in my atlas and was reminded to my great delight that Australia, a country with a land mass just slightly less than the United States, had a population of just under 18 million people. At last count, the U.S. exceeded 275 million with no real sign of slowing down. Surely, with that kind of tiny human population, Australia must be more habitable. Granted, the country is run by white, English-speaking people, usually the Kiss-of-Death for any culture, . but the reduced numbers mean that while there may be as many greedhead morons per population, the number per square mile of space is greatly reduced. (Later I learned that the population density of Australia is 2 humans per square kilometer v. the U.S.’s 26 per square kilometer. So the chance of encountering a greedhead moron is 13 times greater in our country.) And then I read that Sydney, the largest city in Australia, looks forward to hosting the 2000 Summer Olympics. Maybe I should go now, I considered. The next day, I bought a ticket with a January 1 departure date. I put it on the Visa card. I was prepared to go into debt if I had to, but one way or the other, I was headed Down Under. Then I learned that my old friend, Reggie-Gubbins, would be in Australia at the same time. In fact, Reggie planned to be in the country for six months and hoped to buy a car there. For years my English friend had hitchhiked around the U.S. and I had frequently been his chauffeur when he was in the Four Corners area. I had let him drive my vehicles from time to time and he had once even run my ex-wife's car off a cliff at Arches National Park. Reggie emerged without a 3B UNITED STATES Night views of the U.S and Austsalia from earth orbit. Australia, a country with a land mass just slightly less than the U.S., has a population of just less than 18 million people. At last count the U.S population exceeded 275 million... The reduced numbers, mean that, while there may be as many greedhead morons per thousand, the number per square mile is greatly reduced. No one had warned me. I had been at my little hideaway just a few weeks before and there was no hint of the new development. Stunned and horrified by the sight of it—they were modulars—I jumped out of my truck and ran to the door. On it was nailed a note from the builders that said, "We were going to tell you about the subdivision but just didn’t have the time. We hope the improvements we’ve made to your home will more than compensate you for any convenience the recent construction has caused." I took the padlock off the door, walked inside, and discovered that the developers had carpeted my house, wall to wall. True, it was a lovely polyester blend, but they apparently thought a bit of Monsanto would more than appease me for the "inconvenience." And that is when I always woke up—breathing hard and sweating profusely. scratch but the Pinto was totaled—Gubbins wasn’t the best driver in the world—-so he mostly depended on his feet and other people to get around. But now, for a change, Reggie would be behind the wheel. "I'll meet you at the airport in Sydney," he said, "and we'll just take off.” It sounded perfect. I was grateful it was only a dream, for now at least, but I’d had the feeling lately that the awful threat of Reality was gaining ground on my nightmares, faster than | imagined possible. Here in Moab, subdivisions are rising from sagebrush plains almost overnight. Small rural western communities are becoming havens for urban refugees and living hells for those of us who came here years ago, in the days when nobody wanted to live in dusty little redneck towns (i.e, before espresso bars). I attempted to create "my own" reality. I tried to ignore everything around me and live somewhere else in my own mind. I tried to pretend it was 1939 and listened constantly to old time radio shows. I rooted for the Cubs against the Yankees in the World Series. I supported a third term for President Roosevelt. But it didn’t work. I could not overcome the view from my window...or my recurring dream. . Finally, I got so desperate | started listening to Art Bell’s wacky late night radio (years before Art mysteriously quit the show and retired from public life), trying to get some inside information on where and when to expect the next UFO landing—I wanted to leave. And then a friend of mine said, "Maybe going all the way to the Betelgeuse star system is a bit drastic...have you considered Australia?" * It had better be an improvement, I demanded; in Moab, my mood was deteriorating. “Improvements’ of another kind were happening everywhere. I watched the old Meador house on Main Street get bulldozed into oblivion and replaced by a Taco Bell in a matter of weeks. I saw the horse pasture on 4th East turned into the fake stucco Mill Creek As the weeks approaching my the notion that my soul’s salvation to fantasize about the Land Down imagined vast tracts of wilderness. thought of a sparkling clear sky. departure crept by, I came more and more to consider awaited me in Australia. Depended on it, in fact. I began Under. I dreamed of empty roads and quiet towns. I I envisioned kangaroos peering in my tent at night. I Pueblos. I saw the last piece of open ground on the north highway give way to a new motel. I saw...too much. Too much ‘improvement.’ Australia had to be an improvement on these ‘improvements,’ I decided, or else. On December 30, I finally checked the bags I’d packed in October and boarded an enormous United Airlines 747 at 11 pm on a Tuesday evening in San Francisco. Thanks to the International Dateline I skipped over Wednesday altogether, and landed in Sydney at 8 am on Thursday morning. It was a long and brutal and weird 14 hour flight, suspended in the inky blackness of a night that refused to end. Outside my window, in the long darkness above, the stars and constellations rotated and shifted in the night sky. The change was subtle as the 747 powered us south at near-supersonic speed and unnoticed by any of .