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JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Australia, part 8

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I was in Australia—and sort of drinking it in as much as I could.  I take large numbers of notes, I hear little snatches of conversation, I’ve got a whole notebook full of strange comments I heard people make.  In fact, I’m sitting in a living room with a group Australians, and these were “hip” Australians.  You might say, in any society there’s a certain group of people who are on top of it, who run the television stations, the big wheels in a society.  I happened to fall in with a little group that day.  Now don’t assume that that’s where Shepherd spent his time and they aren’t the real people.  I spent a whole day in a supermarket, running around talking to the little people.  In fact, they were so little that I got a crick in my back bending over talking to them.  And living with them too.

However, this particular group was discussing a national election.  There was a candidate who proposed upping the defense budget.  He said, “World conditions mean that we have to do this—Indonesia is looking with big eyes at us.”  One of the guys I’m talking with is very mad.  He says, “I think that guy’s out of his mind.  He’s an idiot, raising the defense budget like that!  I say we’ve got taxes enough and I think what we ought to do is let the Americans defend us.”

Let the Americans defend us!  The guy who said that is a top commentator on Australian television who is an Australian. The rest of the group agreed with him wholeheartedly.   I’m not saying that is a universal experience.  It is one experience—and a curious one, isn’t it?

On the other hand, it’s a wonderful country.  It’s an exciting country.  And every minute you’re there you feel all kinds of paradoxes.  You’ve heard that expression so many times.  They describe every ridiculous country you visit as a study in paradox.  Well, I submit to you that mankind is a study in paradoxes.  Because every country in the world is paradoxical.  It’s all paradox everywhere.

But very few places, from the standpoint of an English-speaking country that I ever visited—is more paradoxical, obviously and outwardly than Australia.  It’s a fantastic country for that.  On the one hand they are very, very Victorian.  Very Victorian  in their morality code.  They’re constantly banning books there.  On the other hand, here they’ve got a nightlife center that features truly obscene shows.  Openly and completely.  And grandmothers go to see it.  Now, what is it?  Which is it?  You don’t know.

Everywhere I went, the Australians did not like the English.  That’s an experience I had.  They love Americans by and large, but most Australians I talked to have a great anti-English feeling.  I suppose it’s the kid brother feeling.  After all, they were members of the Empire and the Commonwealth.  And this is a thing you hear all over Australia, from Darwin to Sydney and over to Melbourne—the great pride thay have is that almost all of them are descended from prisoners.  It was originally a penal colony.  Their comment is, “Of course, you realize, our population was selected by some of the greatest judges in England.”

australian convictsFirst Australian Immigrants

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That’s what Australia is fighting.  They want to be a modern, big, industrial nation.  Now, right below that article, is another to show you an idea of what really happens.  The nuttiness that happens all over the world happens in Australia too:

Naked Man Stops Traffic in Kings Cross Road

Traffic came to a standstill and crowds formed on the footpath when

a naked man walked nearly five-hundred yards down the white line

in the middle of Bayswater Road, Kings Cross last night.

As he walked down the road he gesticulated wildly.

Reactions were mixed.  Some watched in silent wonder

and others laughed and pointed,

and most of the women quickly turned away.

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I’m reading this clipping from the front page of a daily Australian paper.  It says:

kangaroo-laying5The Kangaroo is Out

“The kangaroo image of the Australian economy is out,” the Australian Secretary Roland Wilson assured the prospective U. S. investors yesterday. “Contrary to the impressions of many outside our shores, Australia does not consist exclusively either of water-less deserts peopled by wandering tribes of Aborigines tossing chunks of gold or iron ore at kangaroos, or of lush oases of green grass on which muscular young men and women pursue a small rubber ball with contrivances made of sheep’s intestines,” Sir Roland told his laughing audience.  “True, we have sheep and we owe a great deal to the intestines of the men who raise and sheer them, but the kangaroo is out.”

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“It’s an exciting country.  And every minute you’re there

you feel all kinds of paradoxes.  You’ve heard that

expression so many times.  They describe every

ridiculous country you visit as a study in paradox.

Well, I submit to you that

mankind is a study in paradoxes.

Because every country in the world is paradoxical.

It’s all paradox everywhere.”

–Jean Shepherd

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JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel. Australia Part 7

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The next afternoon I get invited to an Australian home.  I’m sitting in the backyard of this beautiful California-type home.  All glass and all tile and there’s a magnificent emerald-green swimming pool.  They’re serving steaks at least four inches thick, they’ve got seven bottles of wine, and the girls are wearing bikinis and the men are bronzed and they have not worked for six weeks.  They go in for twenty minutes or so and fool with a paper clip in the office.  Everything’s a game.  Here these guys are, bronzed, eating the steaks and sitting out in the sun, and out in the driveway is a Maserati convertible.  I can’t believe it—this is Australia!  Somehow you have the idea that Australia is rugged.  And I am beginning to feel that I am a primitive.

An Australian man is sitting opposite me and he says, “You know, there’s one trouble with you Americans.  You just got too easy a life.”  And he believes it!

I think, this is a peculiar scene.  We’re sitting there and eating the dinner.  You really realize that it’s another world and another way to live.  And you keep getting the impression that you understand it.

We finish eating and now the time has come for casual, after-dinner conversation.  We’re sitting there.  These beautiful women there are talking—the wives and the girlfriends, and I’m all by myself talking to these chicks.  And all of a sudden I get the eerie impression that the party has left.  And there’s only me left there—with the women.  All the men have gone!  Absolutely, every last man has disappeared and it’s just me and nineteen chicks.

I say, “Gee, where are all the men?”

And this woman next to me suddenly—it was a transition like I’ve never seen in a woman—she says, “All the damn fools have gone into the next room to talk!  This is an Australian custom!  They don’t talk to the women, you know!  You can tell you’re a foreigner.  You’re here talking to the women!  Australian men never talk to the women, you know.”

And all the women at once went on just like that—Boooom!  And you can see that every last Australian woman wants to kill every Australian man—in the dark, with a dull stiletto!

And I want to know what’s going on in the next room—what the heck are they doing out there?  So, here I am with all these women, and they’re all saying, “Gee, you just don’t know how it feels—we love Americans here!”  (These are the women, see.)  “You certainly treat women like human beings.”

And I’m thinking of the Village and I’m thinking of Playboy.  Treat women like human beings!  So I say, “Yes, that’s true.”

I’m an American.  All these women are gathered around me and they’re coming closer and closer and closer.  I’m beginning to sweat.  And the kookaburra birds are going cucucucucucucucu! and the koala bears are squirting up there in a tree.  And I say, “Excuse me a minute, girls.”  And I go into the next room and here are the men—and the men are telling dirty stories.

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This guidebook said one fascinating thing.  They said there are three stages through which you go with an Australian.  The first stage is you’re impressed by his unbelievable friendliness, and that is the truth.  An Australian is like a true noble savage in the Rousseau -ian sense.  He just says, “Hiya, pardner,” like Indiana cubed.  “Hiya, buddy, hiya, pardner.”  Oh boy, everybody talks that way.

This book is put out by Life Magazine.  It’s a beautifully written piece and very true.  They say the second stage is if you have made one false move, when you have made the slightest slur on Australian womanhood, the flag, the sky, the weather, you just look too long at a guy in a bar, or maybe you just walk funny.  This second stage you better get over very quickly.  Because the Australian hits very hard, very directly, and completely.

And the third stage is when they don’t even notice you.  Then you’re one of the people.  Then you can hit guys.  And that’s the way Australia is.  It’s like the last of the frontier.

You don’t really understand role reversal—where women are obviously becoming more masculine in America, and the men are going in the other direction.  You don’t really recognize this until you get to Australia.  The Australian men—you never saw anything like them.  These guys all look like they’re roughly nine feet tall.  There’s a kind of genuine being-ness about them.  And let me tell you!  Men—have you ever dreamed about the ultimate woman?  Each man has in his little mind’s eye that thing called “the girl.”  I’m not talking about your dream girl, but the ultimate woman.  Well, they still exist in Australia.  Women are really women.  Men are really men.  There’s a sense, in the middle of the afternoon, when you walk down the street, a kind of dialog that goes on.  You go into a coffee shop.  There’s a bunch of men sitting there.  And they’re really drinking coffee.  They’re not reading poetry, standing up there playing guitars, talking about their soul.  They’re sitting down there dropping down coffee.  And there are women sitting there drinking coffee and being women.  It’s a very exciting feeling.

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I don’t know what it is about America.  We’re the great dreamers of the world.  Are we the idealists or are we bubbleheads?  Or are we just plain dreamers?   I don’t know.  When you get out into a place like Australia and you walk around in the boondocks—they are only about an hour-and-a-half from Indonesia—they have a totally different view of the entire situation.

And it’s not a pessimistic view.  It’s kind of a realistic view that says, “Well, that’s the way it is.”  It’s a curious view.  You want to shake them—“What do you mean, ‘that’s the way it is’?  Why don’t we sit down and talk it over.” They just look at you and take another pull on their gin bottle.

I talked to one Australian who was a jet fighter pilot in the Australian Air Reserve.  I said, “Bruce, gee, it’s just a shame that the world is in such a mess, that it seems like every twenty years it develops a giant boil and it just comes to a head and it pops.  That’s all.  Just a terrible thing.  If we could only decide to become rational, blah, blah, blah.”

And he smiled.  For a while he didn’t say anything.  Then he said, “You know, you sure talk like an American.”

You begin to have a strange, perverse affection—for the nuttiness of your own country.  You really do.  We have a tendency to put our country down.  We like to think our country is the nuttiest of all countries.  This is a great illusion on the part of almost all the commentators I know.  Most of the guys I know who do commentary about the world—and I know many of them—have never really been anywhere.  You really begin to understand that Man is a really fascinating, paradoxical, nutty creature when you travel around the world and see Man—not just Americans or Indians or Englishmen—but just mankind.

I must point out that of all the countries I have traveled to in the last two or three years, the most paradoxical of all—it would be a fantastic feeding-ground for humorists if they really could get up the guts to do it in that country—is Australia.  Australia is a wildly divergent country.  In the sense that the people are very different from what they say they are!  On the one hand they have very strict laws about obscenity.  The strictest anywhere that I have ever seen in my life.  They look through your luggage, when you come into this country, with a fine tooth comb.  And if you’ve got a copy of Playboy, forget it!  The guy in front of me had a copy of Mary McCarthy’s The Group, which was a best-seller in America.  They confiscated it.

On the other hand, do you know that they have more of what you could call deviant clubs, openly operating right in the middle of their show business district, than any other major city in the world?  What do they stand for?  Which thing is the real thing there?

On the one hand, all the people that I talked to were talking about censorship and about Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  A couple of years ago that was a big issue in America.  Do you know what is being sold under the counter now in Australia?  Not Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but the transcript of the trial about it!  This book of the court proceedings is illegal to have in Australia.  The court proceedings!

lady chaterly trial

So, while I was in Sydney, they were talking on the radio and I could hear different people calling up, and panel discussions about that issue.  What was so curious about it was, hearing them talk, they were all against censorship—but they were all for keeping Lady Chatterley’s Lover off the stands!  They really were for censorship but then they really weren’t.  So you couldn’t tell what they were for actually. austraalia flag

People ask me, “Didn’t you find anything good about Australia?

Oh, yeah, of course!  I think Australia is one of the most wildly interesting countries I’ve ever seen in my life!  Fantastically interesting country.  But one of the things that makes it so interesting are these dichotomies, these splits between what they say they believe in and what actually happens there.

I went down through their version of Times Square, which is where three or four streets come together and it’s called King’s Cross in Sydney.  There are a lot of Chinese restaurants and shows and so on there.  I was struck by one thing—there were more outright—what you would call—“obscene” shows running.  Wild stuff—there it is!  And nobody says a word about it.

On the other hand, Playboy, which is just a comparatively innocent magazine—the little foldout is about as offensive as the yearly calendar from Ed’s Garage in some small town in Vermont.  And here’s the fascinating part of it.  I’m with some very distinguished guys—a judge, a publisher, a general manager of a TV station and they said, “How about let’s go out and having a little of Sydney’s nightlife?”

I said, “Gee, that would be interesting,” so twenty minutes later I am in the club with these guys and their wives.  We’re all going to enjoy nightlife.  What do you think we went to?  A transvestite review.  That is the biggest thing in Sydney!  There are about ten of them running full blast!  The entire spectrum of it—you talk about blue!  They’re incredible.  Everybody is just sitting there talking, and later we get in the car, and we have seen this insane show, but nobody’s talking about it.  We drive a bit and they get on the subject of censorship, and the man in front was very much in favor of them keeping that kind of terrible stuff, that would undermine the young, out of Australia.  That kind of thing like Mary McCarthy’s The Group.  And here’s the kicker—in this club there were at least thirty or forty kids, that I would assume were no more than thirteen or fourteen, watching this show.  So I couldn’t figure out which—

I made a little mention of this on the way.  I said, “You know, that was a pretty peculiar show we just saw.”

The response:  “Oh, wasn’t it charming!”
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I have to explain myself, first of all.  I do not pretend to be an expert on any of the countries I visit.  I do not go there for that reason.  I heard a man this morning being interviewed and he’s talking about people who go to a country and come back and they write a book and they become an expert on that country.  They’ve been there three days.  And I agree with him.  This is a real evil in our world.  But I am merely trying to tell you what it feels like, what kind of impressions are crowded  in on you, what kind of sensations you have, if you are an American suddenly dropped into the middle of a foreign country.

I like to go to a country with that feeling.  Just drop me down there and let me walk around.  And I make sure that I get around, as you can probably tell.  I really get around in a country.  I travel, I do as much as I can, I walk and try to experience a country.  I do not try to analyze the country.  Because even the country itself can’t be analyzed by those who are in it.  Even by those who have lived there all their lives.

   T O U R I S T   → ±   T R A V E L E R

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[Note: Shepherd traveled to Australia in the Spring of 1965;

Playboy was only sold in Australia from 1979 to 2000 (?)]

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Stay tuned–just one more Australia  post.



JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Australia, part 6

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They like to think they’re like Americans.  And yet they’re like “big-time-Charleys.”  And loud—you never saw such a crowd.  I get invited to a party and I figure, it’s a frontier country, informal.  Remember that I’m a traveler and you don’t carry patent leather shows and all that, but I figure I’ll get all dressed up.  I put on my white shirt, my paisley tie with the crawdads on it, my sports jacket and a fairly clean pair of slacks.

I get there and a butler leads me up the staircase and immediately I’m in the middle of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers party.  I’m surrounded by fifty guys wearing formal evening dress.  And I’m standing there and they’re making polite chatter, and this is Australia, a strange country of true contradictions.  They’ve got red faces, they’re real loud, yelling, hollering.  And what are they talking about?  You would think a crowd like that would be discussing the latest novel, they would be talking about Edward Albee.  Oh no.  I get in the middle of a group and one guy’s saying, “Oh, I say, should have bashed him the side of the head!  I say there, that damn referee!”  They’re all yelling about some idiotic football game in the most slobbish terms.  Talking like that, I realized—here’s another contradiction. After about two or three days in this atmosphere, it became suddenly, without any warning—Sunday.


You have to understand something about Sunday in Australia.  If you can imagine an entire continent being turned off—like they just turned the switch!  It all stops!  It’s dead!  It just stops!  And I wake up and I look out of the hotel room and for miles around it’s as though there are just toy buildings—nothing.   The city has stopped.

On April twenty-fifth, a beautiful Sunday morning, it was ANZAC Day, commemorating the fatal attack at Gallipoli and in honor of all who had fought and died in Australia and New Zealand’s wars.  In the middle of town, at four-thirty in the morning, there were thousands and thousands and thousands of people gathered, having a silent religious service.  I had never heard about this.  So I observed this for a while and then came back and had breakfast.

And then it began.  This unbelievable, strange, folk-historical ritual.  And that morning I hung out of my hotel window because I happened to be on the main street where the parade was all happening right below me.  And I watched those marching figures.  It was not like any parade I have ever seen in America.  It was silent except for the drums and the pipes.  The men, and the women who were nurses, march in groups, all silently.

There is part of that paradox.  The Australians, on the one hand, like to believe they’re separate from England, and on the other hand, I have never been in a country that more celebrated the English way of life and the old Empire.  The entire city was ringing with that sound.  Broooom! Broooom! Broooom! And you could hear those pipers for miles and miles and miles.

I hear in the distance—one of the most eerie experiences I ever had—I’m standing on the fifth floor of this hotel and I hear in the distance the sound of bagpipes skirling.  And I hear drums.  The kind of drums that are not being beaten in Sunday-afternoon-friendly-fashion.  They’re genuine martial drums.  The kind that go Broooom!  Broooom, brooooom!  Broooom, broooom!    And they’re coming closer and closer and closer, and then I see millions of people have gathered.  It is ANZAC.

anzac poster

You know what ANZAC Day is?  It’s like being in Oz and seeing a great national holiday celebrated, with the Wizard himself up there in the front with the baton going.  How can you explain that back to the people in Cleveland?  I can’t tell you exactly what it was about except that it was the one time that I have been in an English-speaking country and I have felt completely, utterly, totally foreign.

Let me tell you what this was.  ANZAC Day is the biggest holiday in Australia.  It’s as if you took the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, if you took Christmas, if you took every holiday we’ve got, piled them all on top of each other and then multiplied them by ten.

ANZAC Day is the celebration of the great battle at Gallipoli.  It was at that moment that Australia became a country—not just an island.  They became a country, and thousands of Australians died in a strange battle at Gallipoli.

Here’s what they do on ANZAC Day.  Thousands and thousands of people march in silence—but really march! You know, we’re used to parades in America and everybody sort of walks along, they’ve got a big sign that says “SHAME!” or they’ve got one:  “HOW LONG?”  In Times Square today there were seventeen different demonstrations going on simultaneously, most of them cancelling each other out.  And nobody paying any attention to any of them, guys handing out leaflets and yelling.  Free-form anger.  Whatever America does is rotten. Oh, wow, terrible, terrible, it’s all of us, you know.  We’ve done it all.

And to the Australians, this parade is a very—serious—and, in fact, almost a— religious occasion.  So, you see all these units.  It’s really a very peculiar sense of time, too.  Each unit, in all the armies going back fifty years, march.  All the old soldiers come from everywhere and they march in their unit.  Some units have only one man marching.  Maybe just one guy is carrying the flag of a unit where nobody is left alive.  They have a big sign that says “317th Artillery ANZAC Brigade.”  And there’s nobody alive.  The people applaud.  The next unit comes and you see this big banner that says “6th Infantry Brigade,” and underneath the banner it tells where they fought.  And there’s three guys left—one ex-corporal, one sergeant, and a lieutenant.  And they march.

anzac parade

All these people are marching past.  And they are laying a wreath at the base of the big monument that they have to all the soldiers who have died and all the ones who fought.  The last one in the parade is the most spectacular unit.  A group of spitfire pilots.  They have a big RAF eagle up in front and underneath it says, “Spitfire Squadron 614.”  This squadron fought at the Battle of Britain and had one of the highest percentage of casualties.  It’s interesting to see old fighter pilots twenty-five years later—walking in the sun.  An eerie sight—fighter pilots, remember, and they are marching along, and in back of them is a fife and drum corps.  Just marching.

Overhead, suddenly, you can hear this wild sound.  I can’t believe it.  I hear the sound of Bwawauuua!  It sounds like no other aircraft, anywhere else in the world.  It is the last Lancaster bomber in the world that is still flying.  Flies over just as these guys are laying these wreaths at the foot of this monument.  It is Sunday afternoon in Sydney, Australia.

And little old ladies lining the streets are crying.  And little old men stand there who fifty years before had fought at Gallipoli.  They just stand there in the sun.

I turn on the radio and I can hear this commentator giving the history of each battalion as it went past.  He says, “This is the Seventh Armored Corps, that fought at El Alamein, their casualties were seventy-five hundred over the period of eighteen months.  Their commanding officer….”  You hear them go past.

Now I ask you, as an American—what could have been a more strangely foreign celebration than to see this?  At the outset, this guy I am with and I, both looking down, thought it was funny—we thought, “Oh, it’s a parade.”  Because we kept thinking about American veterans who run around and throw water bottles out of windows and yell and holler.  But this is a solemn occasion.  And ten minutes after starting to watch it, we can’t do anything except sit and watch.

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You know what was playing on TV that night?  On the Beach.  It’s a story about the end of the world that comes as the result of an atomic war, and it takes place in Australia.  And the Australians keep running that movie.  It runs every night.  Somehow they want to think they’ll be the last ones left.  I asked an Australian about the kind of “To hell with it all” quality that comes through about Australian life.

He says to me, “That’s the way Australians believe.  I’ve lived here for over forty years.”  And he says, “Australians are on one long party.  It’s in the air, I guess.”  He says, “Every time I go to New York, I’m constantly amazed at how serious everybody is.  Everybody is doing something.  But in Australia it’s a party.”

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More Australia to come



JEAN SHEPHERD Travel–Australia, part 5




You know that the greatest house that I ever saw, the greatest single house that I have ever been in in my life was in Sydney.  I was invited to come out by this guy—and he wasn’t a rich guy either—I rented a car and drove out to a suburb of Sydney which was on a big hill.  I saw some other cars there and I parked.  It was a party they were having that night and I was the guest of honor.  So I’m all excited going there.  I climbed up the steps, a long row of steps, carved stone steps chopped right out of the undergrowth, just going straight up in the darkness.  I couldn’t believe what I saw.  This house was built on the face of a sheer rock cliff and it was built in four levels—carved out of the stone!  The stone was hollowed out like a cave and on each floor of the cave was a cantilevered floor walled totally with glass, and connecting the four of them was a circular staircase that hung in space, so you walked up the staircase with glass between each floor, with the bedrooms on the top floor.

You looked out of this thing—it was like four big glass bubbles hung onto this stone cliff and you looked out and you saw this tremendous expanse of Sydney laid out below you like an enormous carpet of blue and green and white glistening lights.  And beyond you saw the bay of Sydney, which is one of the most beautiful harbors in the world.  You see the Pacific stretching all the way to the Antarctic.  I’m floored!  Here was this beautiful place and of course, traveling and figuring I’m in a frontier country, Shepherd has come tastefully dressed a new pair of chinos and his J.C. Penny sports jacket.  I’ve got my wash and wear Teflon shirt with a sponge-rubber tie, and I’m standing there surrounded  by this group of people all dressed completely to the total nines—these people were wearing tuxedos, evening dresses, in Australia!  Guy walks up to me and he says, “I hope you don’t mind, mate, we thought we’d go a bit formal tonight.”

I said, “I’m pleased that you thought about that.”  And I thought, “I’m in the most elegant place in the whole Western World!”

And this guy came up to me wearing a suit right out of a Fred Astaire movie, and the chick he was with dressed like Ginger Rogers and I thought, “This is the ultimate sophistication.”  They hand me a tray.  He says, “Of course I realize all you mates back there love this drink called a martini.”

I say, “That’s right, mate.”

And he hands me a martini, the most obscene martini I ever had.  It was like a martini made out of Diet Yoo-hoo with an olive in it and all of a sudden all of their civilization crumbled into nothing.

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“Acquiring a taste for your martinis”

He said to me, and he was being nice, “I’m kind of acquiring a taste for your martinis, you know.” I thought, “Holy smokes, if he acquires a taste for this, where’s the next step?”

And so, friends, each man has to grab his own brass ring.

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End of Part 5

Stay tuned for ANZAC DAY


JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Australia, part 4

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I want to tell you this about Sydney, Australia.  For those of you who don’t know anything about Australia—and most of us don’t.  I’ll frankly admit I knew very little even though I read seven books on it before I went.

If you can imagine civilization as a big, mainline railroad track and all the countries are a different train and they’re all roaring along toward god-knows-what goal.  You know, we use that term, “progress.”  Now progress means movement, it means to be transported from point A to point B to point C to a recognizable goal.  I mean, this is “progress.”  But what is the goal?  Well, that’s a pretty hard thing to answer.  If you can imagine all the nations of the world on this railroad track, some of them are going faster than others, some of them have these fantastic, streamlined trains, like—America! And they’re going hell-bent-for election.  Broooooooorowaaaa!  And they’re barreling along that track. And then there’s another one going chuga chuga chuga chuga—it’s trying to make it and its hollering, “Wait for me! chuga chuga chuga.”  These are other little countries, they’re like England trying to make it, see, and you’ve got a couple of others like France, but they’re all on the same railroad track.

Now, if you can imagine one country that somehow has gotten off on a siding.  It turned left, or right, it got off the main track and is now in the roundhouse.  That’s Australia.  And they can see those tracks—way off in the distance, and they can hear those other trains going Woooooooowoo whoooooo! screaming off toward progress.  And they’re in the roundhouse.  They’ve been there for maybe ten or fifteen years.  They’re forty-seven-million miles from anywhere.  Ever looked at the globe?  This whole big mess, see, and everything is all swinging here—it’s all going—fistfights and bombs and everybody’s yelling and hollering and rock-and-roll is going on.  Way down here on the bottom, barely hanging on, is Australia.

australia on globe

Barely hanging on.

And once in a great while they hear from the other side of the world that something’s breaking out.  But what they hear down there is after it stopped!

They’re hanging down there.  I’ll have to explain something else about Australia.  I have a feeling that the physical surroundings that we live in have far more effect on us than we ever admit.  We’re much more like an animal than we concede, you know.  By that, I mean, a turtle that lives in a certain kind of pond, with a certain kind of water, is going to be different from the same kind of turtle that lives in another pond with another kind of water.  And another kind of weed to eat.  And that’s the way we are.  The people of Australia are affected by where they live.

Let me explain how Australia looks.  The first place you land, at least on the trip that I took, which came down by way of Karachi, Pakistan, came through Calcutta, came down through Singapore and then we finally flew over Indonesia.  Boy, that’s really gettinn’ out there, man!  And the pilot says in seven languages, “Attention, passengers, we are flying over Fiji Islands to the left, under the left wing you will see Borneo.  We will be in Darwin, Australia in forty-five minutes.  Will you please prepare to land.”  There I’m sitting, and underneath me is Borneo.  It’s dark and mysterious down there and the plane is flying at thirty-five-thousand feet, whistling along through that stratosphere, and then we begin to come down.  And you know when the big jet planes start coming down, your ears start popping, and they’re throwing in the brakes and they throw out the flaps and you hear this Whisgawhoooooooo and she sort of jumps and you can feel it sort of hovering in the air.  And there’s nothing but darkness out.  And it’s Australia.

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Pitch, stygian, tar-coal black.  And we’re coming down through that darkness Weeeeeeeeeeee!  Weeeeeee!  And then you see one or two tiny yellow lights, just flickering.  How exciting!  These are the lights of Australia!  People are living down there.  And you’re coming down.  And then you feel those landing gears come down into position.  Bragagagagaga! And you’ve got the seatbelt snapped.  You know that slight moment of panic when the plane is coming down?  Like—this is it—it’s been all for nothin’—to crash on a lonely, unsung, forgotten landing strip on an alien continent, ten million miles away from Hessville, Indiana.

I’m looking out of the window.  And then they turn on the landing lights.  Gunnnnng!  Reaching down through the darkness.  You see nothing!  Just a lot of mist swirling by Weeeeeeeee!  And then suddenly there’s that landing strip and you see green stuff going past and Guuuuuuuuung!  She goes Ayaaaaaaawuuuuu!  Gunnnnnnnng!  Whoooooooo, they reverse the engines and then the voice comes on.  They say it on every airline, believe me, if you’re crash-landing in Antarctica, that voice will come on:  “Will you please keep your seatbelts fastened until the plan comes to a complete halt.  Thank you.”

We’re rolling along and I’m looking out, and I can’t see anything!  We’re in Australia!  It’s black out there!  Pitch!  Stygian darkness!  And the plane is swinging around with the interior lights lit. You don’t know what day it is, what month it is.  You lose all sense of time and they keep bringing meals, I’ve been eating all the way from Central Europe.  I have eaten everything from rare Swedish hors oeuvres to Indonesian food, I’ve drunk nineteen kind of liquor.  You’re drinking martinis at seven in the morning.  Your head’s buzzing for one-hundred-and-fifty-thousand miles.  I say, “Oh, this I left the Limelight for?”

Now we are in the Outback.  The plane slows up and Weeeeee weeeeee, and you see those little trucks come out of the darkness.  The guys with the baseball caps.  And the doors open.  I get up and my kneecaps are crooked—I’ve been on a five-thousand mile trip.  No matter what they do—the in-flight movies and all that jazz, they give you fancy food—nothing!  They do nothing for your kneecaps.

I start getting off the plane and then it hits me!  I get hit with a wave of heat that just rolls over you—Boooooom!  It is the kind of heat that we get maybe once every ten years.  It’s four in the morning and it’s about a hundred degrees and about ninety-percent humidity.  You walk down the little metal steps and they give you a transit card.  And now I am in Darwin, Australia.

Let me tell you about Darwin.  Darwin has twelve-thousand people, very widely separated.  Darwin is a tropical outpost and we spend about twenty minutes there on what really amounts to nothing more nor less than an extended fighter strip.  In the darkness there are a couple of fighter planes.  It’s an airbase for the Australian air force.  That’s all.  They sell stamps.  It’s the native economy.  A plane comes in every seven months and people buy stamps.

Then we took off again and we’re heading out over Australia.  Australia is the size of the United States.  We’re going to Sydney.  It’s roughly like taking off in San Francisco and you’re heading for Portland, Maine.  But what’s in-between?  Indianapolis?  No.  The Howard Johnsons?  No.  What is in-between Darwin and Sydney?  Oh, ha, ha, ha, ha—boy!  You have no idea!  Between Darwin and Sydney is Hell’s own acre.  It is a desert, man, that does not stop.  This is the desert they created when they wanted to prove how rotten deserts can be.  It makes the Sahara look like Westport.  I’ve been over the Sahara and it looks magnificent when you’re flying over it.  I’ve been over Death Valley.  This is a desert that is really a desert.  It is deserted.  There’s nothing! 



They say that there are certain places in this desert where in all of recorded time, there has never been one drop of rain.  There are vast areas of this desert where nobody has ever walked.  And you’re flying over this thing.  You look down there thirty-five-thousand feet, and the dawn is beginning to break.  It’s like you’re flying over some vast, wall-to-wall carpet that is kind of coco-colored, and it’s like somebody has spilled coffee here and there.  That’s all.  And once in a while you see a little plume of smoke where there’s a fire that’s broken out just because of rotten-ness.  It’s like the earth is just being rotten—that’s all.  You have the feeling that this is the moon, it’s not the earth.  You can’t make contact with it.  We’re flying on and on and on and on and on, the plane is going on forever.

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And then, suddenly—Sydney.  Well, I can only say that Sydney is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.   Sydney looks like San Francisco squared.  Magnificent city, with that unbelievable harbor! sydney

Sydney–that unbelievable harbor.

These beaches, fantastic comers coming in, and these hills.  And there it is, sitting right there, and the old plane is coming in and the sun is shining down, and I say, “Oh boy!  This is what I came for!”  And she’s coming down closer and closer, and into that airport.  We stop.  And I’m out on the runway.  Sydney, Australia.

Well, I want to ask you—what does it do to people who are living forty-seven-million miles from the mainstream of civilization of the Western World?  Next to a desert.  You know, just about a hundred miles outside of Sydney, they got kangaroos, believe me, that are nineteen feet tall.  There was a lady who said to me, “Oh, ya, I used to feed the kangaroos every morning.  They come to the door, I feed them.”

I say, “How big are they?”

“Oh, they be big, like that!  They reach out and grab ya, almost killed me one day.”

Yeah, very affectionate.  They have mixed marriages there too.  Oh, kangaroos are very aggressive.  The men hate them—they go out and shoot ‘em and yell at ‘em.  It’s all jealousy.  You know that whole bit—it goes all the way back, deep inside.  So here are these guys, living a hundred miles from this!  This desert.  These kangaroos.

And right on the other side is the ocean.  What kind of an ocean do they have there?  Is it like Jones Beach?  Oh, no!  They’ve got sharks in that ocean—in fact, the sharks—you can see them out there, they are shoulder-to-shoulder.  It’s like Sixth Avenue in the subway at rush hour.  The sharks out there with their eyes happily looking in at you.  They’re just looking in at Sydney, and you can see their fins, they’re jostling, hitting each other, waiting.  They’re waiting for the surf boarders to come out.  And they say, “The sharks are not so bad this year.”  They mean that you don’t hear them yelling.

Here, these guys are living in between this!  On the one hand the sharks and the ocean.  On the other hand the desert.  What kind of a guy does this breed?  Well, I’ll tell you—you never saw anything tougher than an Australian.  I got a guidebook—one of these very polite guidebooks.  Every guidebook you ever get says the natives are nice—if you understand the native customs.  Like human sacrifice.  If you understand what it’s all about it’s not so bad!  They do it real quick with the boiling water, you know.

This guidebook said one fascinating thing.  They said there are three stages through which you go with an Australian.  The first stage is you’re impressed by his unbelievable friendliness, and that is the truth.  An Australian is like a true noble savage in the Rousseau -ian sense.  He just says, “Hiya, pardner,” like Indiana cubed.  “Hiya, buddy, hiya, pardner.”  Oh boy, everybody talks that way.

This book is put out by Life Magazine.  It’s a beautifully written piece and very true.  They say the second stage is if you have made one false move, when you have made the slightest slur on Australian womanhood, the flag, the sky, the weather, you just look too long at a guy in a bar, or maybe you just walk funny.  This second stage you better get over very quickly.  Because the Australian hits very hard, very directly, and completely.

And the third stage is when they don’t even notice you.  Then you’re one of the people.  Then you can hit guys.  And that’s the way Australia is.  It’s like the last of the frontier.

You don’t really understand role reversal—where women are obviously becoming more masculine in America, and the men are going in the other direction.  You don’t really recognize this until you get to Australia.  The Australian men—you never saw anything like them.  These guys all look like they’re roughly nine feet tall.  There’s a kind of genuine beingness about them.  And let me tell you!  Men—have you ever dreamed about the ultimate woman?  Each man has in his little mind’s eye that thing called “the girl.”  I’m not talking about your dream girl, but the ultimate woman.  Well, they still exist in Australia.  Women are really women.  Men are really men.  There’s a sense, in the middle of the afternoon, when you walk down the street, a kind of dialog that goes on.  You go into a coffee shop.  There’s a bunch of men sitting there.  And they’re really drinking coffee.  They’re not reading poetry, standing up there playing guitars, talking about their soul.  They’re sitting down there dropping down coffee.  And there are women sitting there drinking coffee and being women.  It’s a very exciting feeling.

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So I’m in Sydney now.  Brisk, clear, brilliant air, and these red-faced guys.  Everywhere you walk around in Sydney you see red-faced people.  Their faces are all bright red from two things.  The sun and gin.  This is a drinking country.

You know another thing, they’re maniacal about censorship.  Playboy is banned in Australia.  I arrived in Australia and immediately one of the local columnists  discovered a Playboy writer was in town.  And he called me. “I say, chap, you write for Playboy, don’t you?”

I say, “I indeed do.”

He says, “You realize, of course, you chaps are banned out here in Sydney, you know.”

I say, “I know.  I’m perfectly aware of that.”

“Of course it’s a ridiculous situation.  Everybody’s laughing about it, you know, but you are banned, you know.  What do you intend to do about it?”

I say, “Don’t say anything, but I have brought in my luggage, hidden way down near the bottom, where all my underwear and the soap is, a copy of the May issue of Playboy.  It’s an advance copy and I’ve got it hidden in a copy of The Christian Science Monitor.” 

And there I was in Australia with a contraband copy of this magazine.  How this columnist knew I was there I don’t know.  “What do you intend to do about it, chap?”

I said, “Well, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.  I passed a coffee shop right down there by the hotel called the “Wimpy-Burger Palace.”  they have outdoor tables there, see, and I’m going to sit at high noon there at the Wimpy-Burger Palace, and I’m going to unfold my copy of The Christian Science Monitor.”  I’m going to order myself a double Wimpy-Burger and some iced coffee.  I’ll play it right to the hilt.  And then I will spring out my copy of Playboy and ostentatiously, I will unfold the center foldout!  At high noon, and sit there in front of the fuzz and say. “Miss May, oh, wow!”1965-02-dd_022_playboy_cover

February, 1965 issue–

containing Shep’s Beatle interview

He said, “Really?”

And I said, “Yes.”

He said, “By George, when do you intend doing this?”  He’s taking me seriously.

I said, “I will be there at high noon on Monday.”

Well, I had no intention of going at high noon on Monday and reading Playboy at the Wimpy-Burger Palace on Pitt Street in Sydney. But I found out later that he was there with two photographers and the Chief of Police.  I almost precipitated an international row.

They also have very strict drinking laws.  They’re maniacal about their drinking laws.  They have gigantic bars on every corner and they’re only for men.  Immediately after work they’re jam-packed with guys.  And they’re all laughing it up.  Because it closes at six.  Immediately after six, the streets are paved with drunks.  What a country!  It’s a nutty place.  It’s not only “down under,” it’s upside-down under.  Everything is slightly out of focus.

You may think they’re just like Americans—well, they aren’t.  This friend of mine I was traveling with keeps saying, the only thing they share with the English is they have a vague English accent.  Outside of that, they hate the English.  They’re always yelling about the English and they love Americans.  And they love American television shows.  When you travel around the world, being an American, generally you have a feeling of vague cultural inferiority.  You go to an English party and you feel kind of clunky, like a clod when you’re an American, but in Australia, for the first time, I felt very, very genteel.  Very cultivated and cultured—I’m from the home office.  I’m from where they created “Naked City,” I’m from the home of “Ben Casey,” I’m from where “Dr. Kildare” originated.  Yeah, me and Elvis, we come from the same root stock.

 austraalia flagEnd of part of Sydney

Stay tuned


JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Australia, part 3

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Well, ten minutes after I get to Australia, this buddy of mine says, “Listen, you really want to see some sport, you really dig sports?”

I say, “Yeah.”

He says, “I’ve got this friend, Freddy, he’s got a boat.  We’ll go out and really have some sport.”

I say, “What do you do?”

He says, “Well, you know, just it’s a big sport here in Australia.  Come on out.  I’ll surprise ya.”

I say, “What is it?  You like fishing?”

“No, no, wait till you see, mate.”  He says, “Come on, let’s go out.”

We went out in the boat.   The Pacific Ocean is a curious kind of dark jade green and it stretches all the way from Australia to the Antarctic.  We went around a big bend in the shoreline and there was a bay and these beautiful combers come rolling in.  They have a surf in Australia that you just wouldn’t believe—It just comes in, these long waves just come rolling in endlessly.  Well, I see these boats out in the water.  I’ve got on my bikini bathing suit, the whole bit, and these Australians, of course, have giant muscles.  Muscles all over.

We’re out there in the boat and I say, “What’s going to happen?”

He says, “Wait till you see, mate.”

And then I see.  Here is a boat near us with two Aussies in it and one guy has this little motor going like mad, and the other guy’s standing up in the bow, both dressed in these bikinis.  All of a sudden the guy in the bow is hollering at the guy at the motor, who is maneuvering the boat and I can’t see what they’re trying to do.  The big combers are coming in, the guys are yelling back and forth and the guy in the bow goes schoooo! and he dives in and he bobs up like a cork and he’s moving like you never saw—he’s moving like a shot through the water!


I say, “What’s he doing?!”  And then I see.  He’s got something in his hands!  He is holding the fin of a shark!—guys dive in and jump on the back of a shark—and they grab ‘em by the fin!  The object is to see how far you can ride the shark before he disembowels you or something.  He’s riding on the shark and the other guy takes out after it with the boat and they’re yelling and hollering, “Oh woo oh!” and you see the guy who’s sitting on the shark—there’s a wake going up around his chest because the shark is about two feet under water.

The guy pulls the shark up so you see its nose and it is mad!  You see these two little red bee-bees looking around—it’s not often you have a guy sitting on the back holding on the fin!  And the shark dives, sounding, diving straight in the water and the guy lets go, ruuuup!  Up he comes like a cork and the boat goes over there like mad to pick him up because instantly of course, what happens is the shark wants to do something about it.  So the next trick, the second act of the drama is whether or not the guy can get to the boat.  It’s not over yet, he’s swimming like mad and with that I see the shark coming around with the big fin and they drag the guy into the boat and they all cheer and laugh and then they’re all set for another big moment.  They wait for another shark.


Well, I thought to myself, “This, boy, what an event for The Wild World of Sports!”  You know, there is something about living on the frontier (After all, Australia is a frontier compared to the rest of the world.) that makes people have a sense of—I don’t know what it could be except—courage.  Fantastic physical courage.  They really have got this thing, so I was very impressed by all the stuff I saw.

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End of Part 3

Sydney, Martinis, and ANZAC DAY to come

Stay Tuned


JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Australia, part 2

Australia is a Very Exciting Country

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You know, Australia is a very exciting country.  I’ve been to Australia, and I just want to say that of all the countries I’ve been in—now I’m not talking about beauty because that’s something else—probably the one that is physically exciting beyond any stretch of real estate I’ve seen in the world—is Australia.  Boy is that a wild place!  Oh, I’ll tell you!  Wild in more ways than one.  One of the things that I remember about Australia is the absolutely unbelievable women.

A lot of people wouldn’t like Australia and I’ll tell you why.  Because Australia—if you have intellectual pretensions, if you’re an intellectual type, you’d probably flip in Australia. It’s a totally physical country.  Yes it is, it really is a physical country—it’s one of the things I remember about it—the first impression I had.  Of course I read a lot about it when I went over there, but nothing you read about any place has anything to do with the actual reality when you encounter it.  It’s like living in Indianapolis or someplace, you can read all you want on New York but the reality of New York is very different from what you’ve read, because here it’s all hitting you.  It’s a very personal reaction.

In Australia, because of the climate, because of a lot of things, they’re practically all physically-oriented.  Well, it’s not a coincidence that the Prime Minister who was here a couple of years ago died skin diving in very dangerous waters.  As a matter of fact, in Australia the theory is not that he drowned but that the sharks got him.  The sharks, of course, are famous in Australia.


Oh boy!  That’s what I wanted to tell you about Australia that I remember.  I went to the beach there and of course their whole world, their beach-world, is very different from ours.  It’s a way of life there so they don’t make a big issue of being at the beach as people do here in America.  Here, you go to Jones Beach, it’s a two-and-a-half-hour trip, it’s a big holiday.  But it’s every day there.  It’s ten minutes from wherever you live there because everything’s right on the coast.  So the people are very different at the beach.  They’re really cool and really on top of it.  Nobody’s pushing to have a good time, they’re just—they’re like animals.

And you wouldn’t believe their bathing suits!  Did you see on television a couple of nights ago the movie The Endless Summer?  A big sequence of that beautiful movie—I love that movie—a big sequence was shot in Australia.  And the one thing, the very little sex in that movie showed these two guys who were supposed to be, well actually, they were just surfboarders, but the only time they mentioned sex was in Australia when they saw these women there.

australia swimsuit

tntitaniumTITANIUM POUCH.PRICE: AU$20.00
Now why it is—Because from the time they were little kids they’ve been swimming like five miles a day and they have tremendous physiques.  I mean really!  It’s obscene, I’ll tell ya!  That, that—Believe me, I was with a guy who had these thick glasses—a very nearsighted guy in Australia.  And it’s the only time I’ve ever seen—The temperature was eighty-five degrees that day—His glasses actually clouded up.  It was—was sickening.  One chick walked by and you saw a crack came in his glasses.  Just a—the dynamic kinetic heat just generated inside of him, see, just broke his bu—And why?  Because they’re so oriented to the outdoors, that their bathing suits—here’s the curious didactic quality about it and also it’s a paradox.  It’s also, simultaneously, a very prudish country.

They’re very prudish.  You know that Playboy is not even allowed in the country.  [It is now.]  Can you imagine what they would do with Times Square?  Playboy is not allowed in the country!  That’s considered unbelievably obscene.  Well, so, on the other hand you go on the beach and these girls are walking around—believe me, they have bathing suits that are made out of like Band-Aids!  I’m serious!  You never saw anything like it.  You don’t even see how they can stay on ‘em.

And they go past you and the men—I’m serious, the men have bathing suits that—you know what a very hip bikini would be here—they make that look Victorian.  So here you are out on the beach—eighteen thousand people that are totally naked—I mean really.  You can’t believe it.  And so I’m walking around digging the scene, see, and I’ve got my bathing suit on, which, of course, I bought at magnificent Alexanders before the trip.  And it was a very hip one by American standards and here in Australia I’m looking like grandpa Charlie.  so this Australian guy I’m with says to me, “Hey, mate, a very interesting swimsuit there, mate.”

And I say, “Yes.”

“Your grandfathers?”

So I say, “It’s a museum-piece, it’s camp all the way.”

So I bought myself one of those swimsuits.  I had to, just for self-protection.  It was a great moment.  I put this thing on, the breezes are blowing over me and I go out on the beach.  I’m holding newspapers up all around me.

Ever since I bought that thing I’m kind of afraid to take it out in the States.  I’m thinking of trying it once at Jones Beach.  I’d get arrested.

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End of Part 2

Stay tuned for Australian Sharks,

Sydney, Martinis, and ANZAC DAY


JEAN SHEPHERD–Travel–Australia, Part 1


Jean Shepherd,  preceding  this wide-ranging trip, mentions various countries he will visit before describing his arrival in the northern Australian city of Darwin. He talks about visiting Australia on at least two different occasions, beginning each with a prologue, describing what he anticipates doing. I include both prologues here because they each add something to our pleasure in his excited anticipation.

In addition to his descriptions of the trips themselves, Shepherd, a few times, diverges to a related topic regarding the nature of Australians and humans in general. The diversions are typical of Shepherd’s habit of diverging from whatever his main topic–they add to the surprise and entertainment factor of his broadcasts. I offset these paragraphs a bit to distinguish these from the basic descriptions of locations.

Shepherd will display his usual descriptive strategies—acute observation with its attention to detail that makes it come alive. He love the varied sounds in different parts of the world.  Among other things, he uses tone and pacing of voice, and exuberant enthusiasm, and he uses his voice to capture the exact sounds he hears, represented here as best one can in type.  He is a master, a vocal magician!

He delights in describing the ordinary occurrence that most would not think of, but which everyone recognizes once Shepherd goes about his right-on descriptions. His perceptions described are entertainments unto themselves.  He delights in describing the experience of being in a plane about to land, and one receives the thrill of recognition—yes! that’s exactly the way it is!

As he does from time to time in his travel stories, Shepherd takes the opportunity to complain about the then-current anti-American sentiments he finds in the turbulent, confrontational 1960s, not only around the world, but in America itself—he finds the good and the bad almost everywhere in the world.  Not a super-patriot, but a lover of his own country, he dislikes unfair simplifications.

Jean Shepherd loves Australia.  He gives us a startling description of living with sharks, comments on Australian prudery, and gives a somewhat different take on his experience at a party in an extraordinary house on a Sydney hillside.  As always, he describes his very personal observations and comments regarding contrasts between cultures.

Despite his love of Australia, Shepherd does not deny himself the pleasure of disparaging some aspects of it.  Australians discovering his attitudes must be torn between pride and wrath.

Pay special attention in one episode to his description of Australian women at the beach. He is overwhelmed.  In over a thousand Shepherd programs heard so far, this is a rare time that he has been encountered incoherent.

Let’s begin with one of his introductions:

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We are going to go—I’m using, of course, the “editorial we,” meaning me—me and my flight bag.  I am going to leave this Sunday via a plane, and I’m going to arrive at Frankfurt a couple of hours later.  You know the marvels of the jet age.

And then, from Frankfurt I will take off in another aircraft on my way to Athens.  Mysterious, romantic, ancient, decadent, smelly Athens.  I’ll be in Athens for a while, I’ll futs around, and walk around, blow my nose and yell, and then I’ll get back in a plane, and a few hours later, guess where I will be.  I will be in Cairo for a moment, and then the plane takes off once again, on its way to mysterious Bangkok.  I’ll find out if what they say about Bangkok is true, and I’ll report to you if what they always say is true.  Then I will leave Bangkok and I go to Singapore.  Sinister, mysterious Singapore, that plays such a strong role in the great dramas of the sea written by Joseph Conrad.  The mysterious, decadent waterfront, where the British cannons all pointed in the wrong direction when the Japs snuck up from behind.  What a fiasco.  It was one of the great fiascoes in history.  And then I’ll fool around in Singapore and then I will leave Singapore and the next moment I will be in the ancient land of India.  I will be in Karachi, New Delhi, and then, finally, after dining sumptuously on sacred cow, I will land at Darwin!  Darwin, named after Charles Darwin.

This is where Darwin sailed around and—what was the name of his boat?  No, it was not the Pequod.  And it was not the Bounty.  No, it was not the U. S. S. United States.  Yes, that’s right, The Pinwheel—you’re right, yeah, I remember that it was The Pinwheel.  The H. M. S. Pinwheel.  Yeah, what the name of the captain?  Somebody named Horatio Hornblower.  The famous cruise of the—what’s the name of it?  Well, anyway, I’ll be in Darwin, which I understand was bombed during the war, wasn’t it?  Japanese laid a couple of eggs right on there.

And then I will get back in a plane and I will be on my way to Sydney, and then I will go all over Australia.  I’m going to go Outback—I’ve made arrangements.  For those of you who love to travel—to me, traveling is the ne plus ultra of life.  It is it.  The roses come to my cheeks.

And then I made arrangements to get my hands on a private plane in Sydney, and I’m going to fly all over Australia as much as I can in the time I’ll be there, which should be about ten days, and I’m going to go Outback and I’m going to fly all the way back into the wilderness.  Back there where they tell me the kangaroos are so thick that they have to buzz the ground about five times with their airplanes to clear them out before they can even land.

And I’m going to go back into the sheep country, I’m going to go out on the Great Barrier Reef, I’m going to fish for sharks.  They have the greatest—I understand, some of the greatest deep-sea fishing in the world off that barrier reef there.  I’m going to make the whole scene there.

I’m going to find out what they say—you’ve heard what they say about Australia.  I’m going to find out if what they say about Australia is true.  And I’m gonna report it to ya.  A lot of things they say.  Well, for one thing, they say that the water—when you’re letting the water out after you’ve washed your hair—the dirty water in the sink—that it revolves a different way than it does here.  I’m gonna watch that.  I’m gonna make very sure that that’s true.

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I’m taking with me my Uher tape recorder.

uher portable end 60s to end 80s

A Uher portable recorder model (from end of the 1960s)

I have a beautiful little tape recorder and I’m going to record sounds—not interviews.  I’m not going to walk around and say, “How do you like being a native of Bangkok, friend?”  Nothing like that.  I’m just going to record sounds, because to me, one of the most fascinating parts of going to other countries, one of the most interesting things, is the way different countries sound.  They really do sound differently from each other.  The sound of America is very different, for example, from the sound of Holland.  How do you think Holland sounds?  Just walking around the streets at two o’clock in the morning, opening your window and listening?  Doesn’t sound like America.

When I was doing the Beatles piece in Playboy a few months ago, I was particularly fascinated by the sounds of Scotland at two o’clock in the morning.  Forever and ever and ever the sound of Scotland will be the sound of old steam locomotives coming through the hills with that peculiar English/Scottish whistle—Weeeeeeeeeuu.  You know that crazy whistle they’ve got—Weeeeeeeeeuu!  You hear Chuchochuchuchuchuchuchu woooooooo!  Chuchuchuchuchushep card beatlesAnd there’s a kind of wonderful dark blue, golden quality to the sound of boats.  You can hear ships.  One night in Dundee, for example, I could hear the sound of buoys and they have a special kind of buoy that doesn’t sound like the ones in Maine.  Buoys, the sound of water, the sound of the harbor in Dundee, that sort of fits in and makes all the sounds distinctive and real there in Dundee.

I’m going to record how it sounds in Bangkok.  Have you ever wondered how it sounds at two o’clock in the morning in Bangkok?  What do you hear?  Well, you know, that’s an awfully hot country and I’ll guarantee you’ll hear a lot.  And I’m going to put the old microphone out the window and turn the gain up and just record the sounds of a Bangkok night.  And I’m not just talking about street sounds or night spots or night clubs—just the way it sounds.  Ordinary sound.  I’ll record sounds in Germany, I’ll record sounds in Athens, I’m going to record sounds in Singapore.  And you can hear how all these different places sound.  And I intend to have them on the air as soon as I get back.  I’m really beginning to get excited.

Shepherd introduces his beginning to talk about Australia by commenting again about sound as a fascinating part of his world, and repeats his general enthusiasm for–and the importance of–travel as an important human activity.

I have just returned from a trip half-way around the globe.  One week ago tonight I was lying in a seamy sack, feted temperatures of one-hundred-and-five degrees, humidity one-hundred-seventeen percent, in the heart of Bangkok and I could hear off in the distance, the wind is tinkling the temple bells ever so gently, and the sound of those great fans moving through the air above me, plowing their way through an endless wall of mosquitoes.  And I lay there thinking what a great thing it is to travel.  How beautiful travel is—and wishing I’d brought some Ex-Lax.

Australia is a Very Exciting Country

austraalia flag

End of Part 1

Stay tuned for Australian Sharks,

Sydney, Martinis, and ANZAC DAY