Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Great Southern Land

I once had a discussion with a friend about having a "spiritual home"-- it's not necessarily the place where you were born or raised, nor is it necessarily anywhere that you've passed through on your life's journey. Personally, I'm not sure where my "spiritual home" is. For much of my life I thought it was Chicago-- but here I am living in the Chicago 'burbs and the sense of "home" I once felt for this area I find fading as time passes. The lustre has faded and I'm starting to feel a draw elsewhere...

Those who know me well know of my fascination with Australia-- their culture, their history, their music, their literature.

I'm not entirely sure where this fascination comes from, but I'd venture a guess that it's somehow tied to spending my most formative years in the eighties-- a time when there was a general interest and fascination in Australian culture and music. It was an era when Aussie bands like AC/DC, Little River Band, the Bee Gees, Men at Work, Crowded House, and INXS were starting to get airplay. Former Australian rules footballer, Mark "Jacko" Jackson, became a spokesman for Energizer batteries, the Crocodile Dundee films were big hits and even US sitcoms like The Facts of Life did a run of episodes about taking a trip to Australia.

I was still in diapers when Little River Band and the Bee Gees were starting to make a splash in the US. I was in kindergarten when Men at Work became popular. I remember the youngest of my older brothers-- the only of my siblings still living at home in the early eighties owned both Men at Work albums on cassette and I recall they were played frequently. My parents subscribed to the Disney Channel around 1984. One of my favorite shows was Five Mile Creek about an American woman who followed her husband to Australia in the 19th century and moves in with an Aussie woman running a small stagecoach stop in the Australian bush. I remember Michael Caton as Paddy Malone wearing his trademark derby. There was something about that show that spoke to me even at a young age. Incidentally the show also introduced a young Nicole Kidman to the world.

I believe I was in third or fourth grade when Crocodile Dundee came out and I was in fifth or sixth grade when Crocodile Dundee II was released. I was likely in the minority as, of the two of those films, I preferred the second over the first. Much more of it was set and filmed in Australia than the first. I preferred seeing people out of their element in Australia over seeing an Australian out of his element in Manhattan. When I was about 11 or 12 years old, INXS was starting to make a huge splash with their Kick album featuring their hits Need You Tonight and Never Tear Us Apart. My first celebrity crush was Aussie singer, Kylie Minogue with her hit cover of the classic The Locomotion.

My interest in Australia has carried over into adulthood. I've gone out of my way to get to know other Australian music-- stuff like The Cruel Sea, Dragon, Hunters & Collectors, Australian Crawl, James Reyne, Jimmy Barnes, Cold Chisel, Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons, Icehouse, Sherbet, Skyhooks, Redgum, Paul Kelly, Mondo Rock, and Goanna (to name but a small handful). I've sought out Australian films like Two Hands, He Died With a Felafel In His Hand (mediocre movie based on an excellent book of the same name by John Birmingham), Walkabout, Chopper, Strictly Ballroom, The Castle, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Ned Kelly (the most recent version with Heath Ledger) and Romulus My Father to name but a handful. And heck I've even watched every single episode of Kath & Kim (we Americans attempted to remake that one, it was an unmitigated disaster without the comic sensibilities and timing of Gina Riley & Jane Turner).

I've even read a decent chunk of Robert Hughes The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding, all of John Birmingham's He Died With a Felafel In His Hand, and the late A.B. Facey's A Fortunate Life.

But I don't think this fascination with Australia can solely be attributed to a period of my life when there was a swell in Australiana here in the United States. There's something in me that tells me this runs much deeper--an unseen but rather consuming force drawing me to the Great Southern Land. And at the same time there's something telling me that once I go there, I won't want to return.


drewzepmeister said...

This talk about spiritual home has got me thinking. I had visited Southern California last summer and was fascinated by the climate, scenery, and the culture. But I could done without the hordes of people.

Another place where a part of my heart is at is Northern Wisconsin. I love the peace and quiet up there. It's desolate and beautiful.

Maybe there's something out there that's the best of both worlds...

The Phoenix said...

I'm a wreck after two weeks of staying up until 3 AM watching the Australian Open. Ugh. But it was some awesome tennis 'down under.'

Iris Flavia said...

Well, if you have fond memories with Australia, you should really go and see it!
I´ve been there over a year in all, travelling - it sure is worth it - land and people. Good thing is, it´s a safe place, you can sleep in the car (or, with family a campervan) nearly everywhere (as long as you stick away from Tourist-Areas).

Often you find free Rest-Areas, some with showers and all (well, last time was '99, so reseach would be a good thing)...

Aww. Now I´d really like to pack up and go again!!

Barbara aka Layla said...

I haven't found my spiritual home yet, but I know where its not.