Aug 26, 2005

The Land of Oz 

I shall tell you a story… a story with such power and raw emotion, that it may very well spoil relations between two nations which have been steadfast allies for many years… a story I shall simply call:

The John Howard Story.


Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

We are well into our beers by now. Many Victoria Bitters have been consumed, followed by a good quantity of the local rum (Bundaberg, I believe it is… mmm… Bundy & Coke…)

Me and my friend Kevin are in a small bar at the end of the main drag in town, and trust me there ain’t much to the town. The bar happens to be attached to a small motel, and out the back door is a pool, with the associated pool furniture and tables and such. So we go outside to get away from the annoyingly loud and off key karaoke, enjoy our drinks, the nice weather, and basically shoot the shit by ourselves. No sooner do we sit down at a table out there, than up comes one of the local blokes.

He asks if he can join us, and we say sure. He asks if we’re from the boat in port, and we say yes. He says, “Navy, yeah?”… and we don’t tell him otherwise… hey, if this turns ugly and we gotta split, best he tells the Shore Patrol and the cops it was a couple sailors, right? We may be drunk, but we’re no dummies…

Now let me preface what I’m going to tell you with this: for the most part, the Aussies I met seemed cool. They may not like us as much as they used to (which will pass), but they loooovvve our money. So, for the most part if they have political problems with us, they zip it, and wait to talk smack till after we deposit multiple hundreds of thousands of US dollars into their little port town and then leave.

So, ol’ boy launches right into it after that.

“What do you think of your job?” - We say we like it… I mean what else have we got to do?

“What do you think of this war?” - We saw this one coming and both tried to deftly dodge it, wanting to be the good guests in the guy’s country. “I don’t have an opinion,” only draws “Well you’ve got to have one.” “I don’t get paid to think,“ brings a “Ya can’t be a robot mate!“ And finally Kevin shuts him down with, “I don’t know… they won’t send me…” (Kevin’s been to Iraq before… for 24 hours… I’m not kidding.)

But here comes the main event: “What do you think of George Bush?” - This one actually proves quite easy - “Don’t know… never met him.”

And then… the showstopper…

“What do you think of John Howard?”
“John Howard? What do you think of John Howard?”

And Kevin looks the guy dead in the eye and says, “Who the fuck is John Howard?”

I about lost it.

I look at Kevin and go, “I think he runs the place or somethin’… he’s the president.” (He’s the Prime Minister, but at this point in the evening, heads of state and their titles of office were of little concern to me.)

The bloke took that one in stride… at least fifty percent of these nasty Americans knew who the PM was… that’s a start. So he comes back with this gem: “Yeah, who the fuck is he? He’s just a puppet anyway! They all are… John Howard, Tony Blair, Bush, Rumsfeld…” (Side note: I love how Rumsfeld always gets lumped in with the national boss-types).

“They’re all marionettes, they are. All of ‘em’s strings are being pulled. John Howard doesn’t run this country.”

So now, I gotta know. I know I shouldn’t push it. I know I’ve found the Aussie Howler-Moonbat, and I’m quite literally in his corner of the outback.

But, you CANNOT hang that curveball in front of me and expect me not to swing.

“So… who IS running Australia then?”

“Ever heard of a band called R.E.M.?”

Kevin beats me to the punch by half a second, but we both look at the dude and go, “So R.E.M. is running Australia?”

We start to lose it. I mean, that’s some funny crap, right? Wrong… apparently. Bloke gets all kinds of agitated.

“Don’t be fuckin’ sarcastic.”

Yikes. Kevin and I go into mirth and merriment control mode quickly… like I said, we’re trying to be the good tourists.

“So you’ve heard of R.E.M., yeah?” - Yes, of course.

“Well they have this song that explains it…”

I wish I could tell you the rest of what the guy said, but another Bundy and Coke seemed much more important than listening to some dude try to tell me how world politics can be explained by crappy pop songs. I slammed what was left of my drink (which was considerable, but I had to get away from this clown), said in a loud voice, “Damn, I’m empty. I’ll be at the bar,” and went back inside leaving Kevin to fend for himself… but just for a minute or two before another one of our buddies went out and grabbed him up so we could get on to the next bar.

And as we walked out the door, I said to Kevin, “So does R.E.M. pull the strings on the world?”

“Dude, I don’t know… and who the fuck is John Howard?”

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