Part 2: Australia. “Cure for cancer? Sure! It’s Sudoku.”
After a short stay in Ulladulla, it was time to head to Melbourne where I’d sing for my supper. You see, Trevor was hosting a conference and he’d invited me to speak. It was, indeed, the reason for the trip.
From the airport, we headed to the “club” where we’d be staying. Australians often eschew hotels in favor of “clubs.” These membership organizations include rooms for rent, restaurants, casinos, and bars. I guess they’re like country clubs in the states with a little more to them. I was fortunate enough to stay in one in Melbourne. On the way from the airport to our “club,” my mission in Melbourne became clear.
Most anyone who knows me, knows I’m from Greensboro, NC — born and raised. Have I lived there my whole life? No, not yet.
There on the side of the highway, bathed in beautiful glowing light, was a sign for one of Melbourne’s many suburbs: Greensborough. I knew I had to get there. I mean, here I was, a guy from one Greensboro visiting another Greensborough some 10,000 miles away. Visions of being welcomed by the mayor and receiving the key to the city danced through my head. I imagined my role as a local celebrity for a day. Of being lauded with my own parade. These visions were but flashes in my mind. And I wished to make them real.
So, following my presentation, I had a free day. I went to the Flinders Street train station to find my way “home.”
“Excuse me, ma’am. I’m trying to get to Greensborough because I’m from a town called Greensboro in the States!”
“Well, that sounds like a waste of time. Anyway, you know it’s spelt different, right?”
Forty-five minutes later, I hopped off the train and encountered my first fellow Greensboroughnian: A cross dresser who’s shirt read,
“They said I could be anything, so I became awesome!”
Once I got a selfie with a sign that said “Greensborough,” I realized there was nothing for a tourist to do in Greensborough. So, I made the best of a bad situation: I took pictures of every sign that said Greensborough on it. In fact, I’d submit to you that I am now in possession of the world’s largest collection of pictures of signs in Greensborough, Victoria, Australia. I’m in talks with the National Museum of Australia. They don’t seem interested.
Anyway, I finally stumbled across a restaurant that was filled with stay-at-home moms and their children. This is truly a suburban community. I went in, ordered, and asked if there was anywhere in town to get a shirt that said Greensborough. The waitress laughed and walked away. Well that’s not exactly what I expected…
After she’d recovered, she returned, “Why do you ask?”
“Well, you see. I’m [feeling embarrassed, but won’t tell you that] from a city in the States called Greensboro.”
“Really? No way!? Hey, wait!”
I’m not going anywhere. I’m still waiting for my chicken sandwich. The manager came running up to me. He, thankfully, shared my excitement. Maybe I’d get my welcome parade, after all!
“I ain’t got a shirt, but here’s a card! You got one? I’ll hang it up on the wall! I mean, nobody comes to visit Greensborough. Ever.”
Sadly, I’d left my business cards at home. Unfortunately…I missed my chance at becoming minor local celebrity in Greensborough.
Instead, I’ll have to be satisfied with my extensive collection of photographs of signs that say Greensborough on them.
“Cure to cancer? Sure, I’ve got that. It’s Sudoku”
After my admittedly uneventful visit to Greensborough, I hopped the train back to Melbourne.
Late that afternoon, I checked out of my room and headed to the lobby where I thought I’d have some sparkling water (I was feeling very Continental) and read a chapter or two.
Immediately after sitting down, a fifty-something Malaysian man lumbered toward me trying to catch my attention. For a moment, I pretended not to notice. But, then, my empathy got the better of me…
This might seem strange to you. But it’s not that unusual for me, I seem to be a tractor beam for people – some of whom you might label “outside the norm.”
“May I sit down? You look like somebody who’s fairly interesting.”
Looks like I’ve got a lot to live up to here — fairly interesting? “Sure. What brings you to Melbourne?”
“I’m working on my next book,” he said clearly hoping I’d ask more.
I’ll bite. Experience tells me I shouldn’t. Usually conversations that begin like this one last entirely too long with no opportunity for an “out” or even a chance to contribute meaningfully. But, I’m a sucker so I’ll do it anyway. “What’s the book?”
“Well. I’m Dr. Jeff. The famous Sudoku writer.”
“Oh? You’re famous?”
“Yes. You haven’t heard of me? I write books about solving Sudoku puzzles. I’m here to finish my fourth one.”
Deep breath and here goes, “That’s interesting. Tell me more.”
He did just that. He told me a lot more. Relating everything to Sudoku. At one point, I thought the conversation was finally taking a turn when he started talking about diseases. Well, I was wrong. Because Dr. Jeff has the cure to every known disease. It’s Sudoku.
“What do you think of Obama?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question abroad. It’s more than I can count and there’s no good way to answer. The good news about this time? Dr. Jeff just connected the President’s Foreign Policy to Sudoku. Of course.
At about minute 37, there was a lull in the conversation,
“So I have a question. You and the puzzle writers. I mean, are you all like rivals? Do you do battle at conferences or something?”
“Oh! No! We’re very good friends.” He proceeded to whip out a number of Sudoku puzzle books his [alleged] friends had written. Including his personal favorite: An autographed copy of “Sudoku Hell.”
My question served as a reminder to him that I was there and that it would be appropriate to ask me a question or two, in the form of a traditional back-and-forth conversation:
“What do you do?”
“I’m in the training industry, Dr. Jeff.”
“Well, sudoku is wonderful for training…”
Ninety tedious minutes later, Trevor finally came out of the elevator. I jumped up and said I had to go. “Not yet! We need a selfie.” So, here’s the evidence that this actually 100% really did happen…
And it was time to head to Fiji…