FREMANTLE, Australia — I am very far away. I am as far away as you can get. I am so far away, if I went any farther I would get closer.
I am Down Under.
“Why are you standing on your head?” says a voice. “Are you all right?”
“Just getting my bearings,” I say.
How far away am I right now? This is how far. Remember when you were a kid and you said, “If I dig a hole right beneath my feet and I keep digging and digging I will end up in China” ? Wrong. You will end up here, next to me, standing on your head in an Australian hotel room, which I hope will stop spinning soon.
I am Down Under.
I would like to tell you how I got here. It was a great trip. Ha! I lied. You want to know the truth? It would have been easier to dig a hole beneath my feet and keep digging and digging.
I am here for the America’s Cup finals. A boat race. That is a good reason to come across the world, don’t you think? A boat race? I thought about that all the way down, starting with the very pleasant first leg of the flight, which lasted only 16 hours.
Let me say this. I have never seen two movies, one TV show and a short subject in a single day before. Not even on a rainy vacation day. I saw all that on the first leg of the plane trip. Two movies, a TV show and a short. And dinner, and breakfast, and a snack, and peanuts. The beverage cart? Forty- seven times. I saw it 47 times. That has to be some kind of record.
Then we ran out of fuel.
Headwinds. The pilot said the headwinds had sapped the fuel. We would not make Sydney. “Brisbane,” the pilot said.
And we landed in Brisbane, which was not where we were supposed to land, but which is better than landing on one of those little islands where they eat you. I guess. Death to the date line
“Sure you’re all right?” asks the voice.
“No problem,” I say. “Why are you on the ceiling like that? You’ll get dizzy.”
I would like to say that landing in Sydney was the end to a long but exhilarating trip. I cannot say it. I can say this. What time is it?
Here is the problem. Somewhere on the way to this America’s Cup competition, we cross a cute little imaginary line whose single purpose is to drive the traveler completely insane; our friend, the international date line. I do not know who thought this thing up. I would like to strangle him, and stomp on his wristwatch.
Once you cross the international date line, today is yesterday, or yesterday is today. Tomorrow is another day. Which I have always said, but never meant, until now.
So as we landed in Sydney, the pilot told us that it was “11:40 in the morning, Wednesday,” except that we had left on Monday, and no one could account for Tuesday, and besides, Sydney was on different time than Brisbane, and the rest of Australia was only 13 hours different from America.
And here came the beverage cart.
Did I tell you it was summer here? It is summer here. And they drive on the left. I hit the turn signal in my car, the windshield wipers come on.
But wait. Let’s finish with the plane. Sixteen hours was not enough. Nor was the one-hour jump to Sydney, or the two hours in the transfer lounge. Next we would fly five hours to Perth.
“Will there be another movie?” I asked.
“No,” the stewardess said. “It is too short a flight for a movie.”
Five hours. Too short for a movie.
And here came the beverage cart. All for a boat race
“Maybe you should eat something,” the voice says.
“Yes,” I say, “I could go for dinner.”
“But it is 6 a.m.,” comes the voice.
“Oh, yeah,” I say.
This is a slight problem. I will admit it. I wake up, it is the middle of the night. I go to sleep, everyone goes for lunch.
I cannot help it. My body is Down Under, my brain is up over. People here go north to get warm. I have always gone south. They have bigger money than us. It is worth less. They drive on the left. Today is tomorrow. Catch a wave and they’re sitting on the bottom of the world.
A boat race. I am here for a boat race. The America’s Cup. The finals will begin Saturday, which for us is today or last Monday, I’m not sure.
I must find out. I must be ready for that race. I must know a Kookaburra from a kola nut. I must know the Stars from the Stripes.
“First you must come down from your head,” the voice says.
“I know,” I say. “I am getting the hang of it. I am starting to adjust. Look. Over there. What a beautiful sunset.”
“That’s the moon,” the voice says.