I passed a bit of a milestone this week.
It went by without a great deal of thought, but I tend to think about dates a lot. Calendar dates, not person-and-person dates. I mean, I think a lot about those, too, but that’s another story for another day.
It’s been one year since I packed up some of my worldly belongings, stored others with my various family members around Brisbane, filled up a dumpster outside my old apartment with piles of shit I either no longer needed or couldn’t take with me, and set off for the U.S.
I know that technically it’s not that big of a landmark in my life, given I came back a couple of months later to actually formalize my immigration process and secure a green card, but it did represent the first step on probably the ballsiest journey in my life: quitting my job and moving across the world.
Obviously I’ll probably end up writing something a little more nostalgic upon the anniversary of my immigration, but I thought I’d throw together something about the fun things I’ve seen and done in the past year.
It’s hard to narrow it down, but I’ll try…
Let’s go in chronological order, shall we?
- Exploring Colorado
My initial plan was to make a home base in Denver, where I had friends who’d offered me free accommodation until such time as I got a green card and found a job. That absolutely didn’t work out the way it had promised, not even in the slightest, but I’d never been to Colorado and I got to see some incredible stuff.
I worked out at the unbelievably beautiful Red Rocks amphitheater outside of Denver, running the bleachers and struggling to acclimatize to the altitude. I hiked the Boulder Flatirons and Chief Mountain, and on my birthday weekend I took on Maroon Bells and got to check out Aspen, which I’d only ever seen in Dumb and Dumber.
I indulged my sports fan side and toured the Pepsi Center, home of the Denver Nuggets and Avalanche, as well as Sports Authority Field at Mile High, where the Super Bowl runner-up Broncos play. I cheesed it up in the press boxes at both places, in what was probably my only opportunity to be in the media areas.
I got to spend some quality time with my pal Molly, playing laser tag and eating PB&J burgers with fried eggs at the Cherry Cricket, and won my first ever pub trivia contest (solo!) at the Milwaukee Street Tavern.
It’s a real shame I didn’t get to stay in Denver, because it’s a cool city and the state of Colorado is unbelievably picturesque. I can’t wait to go back.
- A quick stopover in New York City
My first visit to New York, back in 2008, was over way too soon and I was overwhelmed and broke. Luckily I’ve had a few opportunities to make up for it.
This summer I only stayed for a couple of nights, in the West Village, and tried to get out and see a couple of things that I hadn’t before (plus visit some old favorites, such as my well-worn tradition of having my first beer in the city at Lansdowne Road in Hell’s Kitchen).
I also walked the High Line, which was a really cool space given its surroundings, and finally got to Rudy’s Bar and Grille in Midtown for the excellent (read: free) hot dogs and cheap beer, but the other firsts included…
- …a night at the U.S. Open
Traditionally I’m not a tennis fan, but I discovered at Flushing Meadows that it’s an enjoyable game to watch live. It was the perfect late-summer night and even though I had nosebleed seats, I got to watch a couple of finals matches in a stunning venue.
I even coughed up $16 for the signature cocktail, a Grey Goose Double Deuce, because I probably won’t ever be able to afford to go to Arthur Ashe Stadium again. The next day I continued my sports fix with
- …my first trip to Yankee Stadium
I’ve seen the Yanks play in Boston and Tampa Bay, but not in New York. I’ve always kicked myself for not taking a tour of the old Yankee Stadium in 2008 when I was in the city, and they tore it down not long after I left town.
This time I was determined to get up to the Bronx though, and so I grabbed a bleacher ticket for the White Sox tilt for the Monday afternoon. I was a little dusty when I woke up, but I headed uptown with about an hour to spare so I didn’t miss anything.
I ended up overpaying for a Bud Light at one of the bars outside the ballpark before finding my way into one that advertised $3 PBR tallboys. SUITS ME. I polished off a few of them, and was just about to head over after watching the opening pitch on TV (oops) when the heavens opened for a two-hour rain delay. It was a sign from the gods.
I eventually made my way into the stadium and the sun came out again in good time. The Bombers beat the hell out of the White Sox 9-1 and I managed to get a beautiful shot of the sun setting behind the stands.
- The third annual Rhode Island Seafood Festival
Of course this is going to get into my highlights reel. I wrote 2,000 words about it less than a month ago, and I’m about to embark on a five-day weekend to help run the fourth edition.
What can I say about it? I worked my ass off, I drank my ass off, I ate excellent seafood and I made bullshit cash money in tips. Go read about it.
- A week in San Francisco with Nate and Johal
After all the drama that went down in Denver with my former roomies, I definitely needed a break and to get around some real friends.
So when I started discussing the possibility of visiting my pal Nate in San Francisco, Johal got his trip-planning shoes on too and we decided to make a week out of it.
Nate had to work during the day, of course, but Johal and I explored the city we’d both been to before. We checked out Alcatraz, which was just as awesome as it was in 2008, and took some of Nate’s recommendations for places to do some day-drinking while he worked.
When night fell, Nate showed us around some of his favorite spots in the city, and one night we took Johal to see his first NBA game – preseason, but hey. We had club seats for the Warriors game at Oracle Arena, after which we retired to a bar called Smuggler’s Cove with the most potent pirate-themed cocktails I’ve ever had.
God bless you, San Francisco.
- A weekend in Austin, TX, with the aforementioned clowns
We’d tossed up between doing Austin and New Orleans for a weekend, and my reluctance to go back to the Big Easy after an extraordinarily boozy weekend in 2008 pushed us towards the ATX.
And holy hell, was it a blast. We found a one-bedroom apartment a two-block walk from Sixth Street, the real center of nightlife, and got to drinkin’. We met my friend Meagan – who was studying for a semester at the University of Texas – on the Friday and Sunday nights, to add a little feminine touch to our sausagefest.
We didn’t do a great deal of sightseeing, truth be told, but we managed a good barbecue meal, a good Tex-Mex meal, a buffet brunch with bottomless mimosas and a ludicrous number of shots at 3 p.m. on the Lord’s Day.
My two compatriots had to fly back to San Francisco at some awful hour of Monday morning, but thankfully I had time up my sleeve before my afternoon flight to Los Angeles to take me back home for a few weeks.
While I was waiting in the airport, I rubbed shoulders (physically, not figuratively) with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, and Lance Armstrong was also in first class on my (hour-delayed) flight. Nice way to cap off what was essentially my last weekend as a plain ol’ tourist in the U.S.
- Being a tourist in my own country for three weeks
This was a bit of a strange experience. I had no car, no place of my own, no job to go to (so, no income) and about 10 flights crammed into three short weeks. I also knew that I wasn’t going to be home again anytime soon, so I wanted to see as many of my friends and family as I could.
Thankfully, for my brief stays in Brisbane, my dad and cousin loaned me their cars at various points so I could get around. I managed to score a couple of weeks of free membership at my old gym and tried in vain to work off all the beers I was drinking – Brisbane was stinking hot, after all.
I also spent a long weekend in Tasmania with my mum, who’d just moved down there, and in hindsight I realized that the southernmost state in Australia is a lot like Maine in a lot of ways.
After my Apple Isle visit, it was on to D-Day in Sydney for my green card interview. In case you didn’t realize, I did get approved, so then I had to sit tight and hope like hell that they’d send my passport back to me before my departure date…12 days away.
While I waited, I spent a fun week in Townsville with my then-girlfriend, capped off with a black-tie ball a couple of nights before I headed back to Brisbane.
My final few days and nights in Brisbane were equally social and I busted a ton of my dwindling savings hanging out with a cast of characters from work, school and everywhere else.
After a final dinner with my dad and now-stepmother, I had my sister drive me to the airport on November 24 for my “immigration flight.” That was a tough ol’ moment for a lot of reasons, and the immensity of the situation really started to hit home, but it was too late to turn back even if I wanted to.
After a 13-hour flight in which I didn’t sleep thanks to the hilarity provided by my excellent seatmate Abbey, I got to LAX, got through the immigration queue, and that was that – I was a permanent resident. Holy shit.
Obviously there have been more highlights than I can count, such as my first ever Thanksgiving, getting my first U.S. job, apartment, car, newspaper column and more. But I’ve written at length about those right here on the blog, which you can go back and read from the start if your heart so desires.
And here’s a photo gallery of some of the fun, just for shits and giggles.