Out of my comfort zone, in my comfort zone

The place is a little nice to have let my type of riff-raff in, no?

It’s Friday at 5:00 p.m. and, with six hours left until my work week finishes, I’m flagging a little bit. I didn’t get to bed until nearly 3:00 a.m.

I mean, I can hardly complain: the reason for my late finish was because I spent three hours in a bar last night with dozens upon dozens of college kids, many of them attractive young women.

The kicker, of course, is that I wasn’t mingling (or worse) with the future leaders of tomorrow. I was on the other side of the counter, working my ass off to enable their Thursday night buzz.

Me behind the bar. My life takes some strange turns. But it’s given me a totally new perspective and appreciation for a culture I’ve long loved about the U.S.


The cords that bind us all

That's...that's a lotta wood, right there.

That’s…that’s a lotta wood, right there. It will become obvious what this is about.

Guess what yesterday was? Another column Sunday. But unlike most of my published stuff, the topic was a little more sensitive than the usual “bumbling through cultural differences” affair.

I wrote a version of this piece a few months ago, and was intending to keep it off the blog and save it for the book (which is literally going nowhere right now) because it reveals more than a little bit of vulnerability. GOD FORBID. Essentially it’s about the difficult adjustment that comes with making good, reliable friends from scratch, after having lived in one place all my life.

Over the six months between April, when I originally penned this, and now, obviously my situation has changed somewhat and I’ve got the benefit of a little bit of hindsight.

So read on for a glimpse into my psyche. Be gentle with me.


A mug for a mug

Each one of those tally marks represents $4. PRIORITIES.

Each one of those tally marks represents $4. PRIORITIES.

As evidenced by my history of column writing, sporadic blog posting and, in another life, grading university students’ papers the night before they’re due to be returned, I work best under deadline pressure.

In most cases, this brings out the best in me. The adrenaline flows, my brain kicks into a higher gear, and I end up producing something of a reasonable enough quality to be published in an actual newspaper.

But I’ve got a different sort of deadline looming, in one month’s time from today’s date. My brain will be in a considerably lower gear, and the only thing flowing will be bullshit.

You may have figured it out already: I’ve got 30 days to drink 47 pints.


Reader Questions III: Anniversary edition


I don't always celebrate with cheap sparkling, but ... oh yeah I do. Shit.

I don’t always celebrate with cheap sparkling, but … oh yeah I do. Shit.

Today (Down Under) marks one year since I got the good news: I had been approved for a green card.

As such, the second Tuesday in November will always live on in my memory: a day that quite literally changed the course of my life.

To mark such a momentous occasion, I’m finally getting around to aggregating a bunch of your questions that I solicited a week or two ago.

In related news, I’ve been kinda lazy on the writing front. In other related news, the first and second editions of this little segment are here and here.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s what my readers are curious about lately.


After the honeymoon: Reflections on the first year


It’s almost been 12 months since I immigrated. I can’t get my head around that.

As I’ve always said, this blog was intended first and foremost to be a strong record of the green card lottery process for other Aussies looking to take the plunge.

Along the way I’ve met a handful of other people creating similar bodies of work, to help hopeful immigrants navigate the red tape and culture shock.

One of those people, a chap named Simon, runs a tight ship over at BritSimonSays.com, which hosts a veritable treasure trove of immigration information.

Simon got in touch with me a couple of weeks ago to see if I’d do an email interview with him, and I quote, “to see what life in the USA as a Green Card holder has been like after the honeymoon period.”

I thought that was a pretty cool idea, and something I’ve toyed with over the last few months (and now I can’t do because it’d just be blatant plagiarism), so I agreed.

And while many of these responses will be familiar, or even repetitive, to you regular readers, some of the answers (after the jump) came as a little bit of a surprise, even to me.


Finding inspiration under the Friday night lights

Kinda familiar, but not quite.

Kinda familiar, but not quite.

You guys probably aren’t going to believe this, but it’s snowing again. The reprieve is over, and winter is back in central Maine. Hooray.

Anyway, it’s Sunday, and around these parts that means one thing: football. Since I don’t have a real NFL allegiance (or cable TV to watch games), I’ve taken on a little side gig bartending on Sunday afternoons to get myself out of the house in the colder months,

So while I’m standing on the other side of the bar (for once), here’s the results of my other job – my latest column.

It’s about high school football, and rivalries, and school spirit, and comparisons to home (duh). Enjoy!


Out and About: Goods From The Woods


Goddamnit Maine, you've done it again.

Goddamnit Maine, you’ve done it again.

I’ve definitely said it multiple times on this here blog, but there was a small part of me that was hanging for the end of the summer and the arrival of the cooler months.

Not because I enjoy shorter days, ice on the ground and seasonal affective disorder, but because I couldn’t afford to keep going to fantastic beer events every weekend and draining my bank account (not to mention all those extra calories/chins).

The aforementioned cooler months are most certainly here, as evidenced by how deep in my drawers my shorts are buried, and the amount of fall foliage around the place.

But that doesn’t mean the fun has stopped; oh no. And I have Oxbow Beer’s Goods From The Woods festival to thank for that.


Got questions? Send ‘em my way

Pictured: A guy whose advice you should definitely take with a grain of salt.

Pictured: A guy whose advice you should definitely take with a grain of salt.

It’s Monday October 27, which means there’s one more week for you hopeful folks to get your entries in before the DV2016 green card lottery closes for applications.

If – somehow – you’re reading this blog yet aren’t sure what the lottery process entails, or are thinking of applying but don’t know how, fear not! I’ve got you covered with a comprehensive rundown right here.

I’ve been documenting the process, and my life as a new immigrant to the U.S., since I got to Maine last December. I’ve now been here 10 and a half months, and I feel like I’ve jumped more than a few hurdles and navigated my fair share of interesting situations in getting acclimatized to life here.

I’ve done this a couple of times since December (here and here), and the results were pretty good, so I’m going to throw open the floor to all of you, my readers, to once again ask: What in particular would you like to know?

There have been questions about the lottery process itself, questions about different elements of relocating and getting set up here, questions about lifestyle and other differences between here and Australia, and plenty more.

So I’d love to hear from you all – leave me a comment and I’ll try to answer them all!

Loved by thy neighbor


The Liberal Cup: Come for the beer, stay for...Vegemite?

The Liberal Cup: Come for the beer, stay for…Vegemite?

On Saturday afternoon, I went to the Liberal Cup for a beer and returned home two hours later with an enormous jar of Vegemite.

Now in case you were wondering, this isn’t a regular occurrence, even though the Cup brews its own beers in the back room and the old joke goes that Australia’s famous sandwich spread is made of the leftover yeast from the brewing process.

This one was a (mostly) unexpected happening, because it was a gift from a column reader who knew I’d appreciate it.

It’s just another twist in the surreal tale of my time here in central Maine, adjusting to a community that’s smaller than I’m used to.


A feather in the cap

IMG_8952I got to announce some pretty cool news on the weekend; Saturday night, to be precise.

The Maine Press Association awards were held in Portland, and my barely-10-month-old column was awarded second place in the Local Columnist – Daily/Weekend category. I’d known for a few weeks but it was embargoed until the awards ceremony.

I’m not sure who won first place, but needless to say I’m pretty elated and extremely humbled by the recognition, especially seeing as how it was judged on work produced before March 31, 2014. That means it was my earliest work for the KJ that was on show, and it was good enough for second place.

I feel like I owe some thanks to my readership here too, for encouraging me along the way as I’ve fine-tuned my “voice” since moving to Maine. Thanks, y’all!

Anyway, here’s this weekend’s column. It’s about my trip to Canada two weekends ago, but it’s not based on the blog post so it’s pretty original. Enjoy!