Part 2: Australia. “Cure for cancer? Sure! It’s Sudoku.”

[This is the second in a three-part series of posts about my most recent trip to Australia and Fiji. If you missed the first post, check here. And here’s a link to the third one.]

Melbourne is covered in graffiti, some of which is otherworldly and off-putting.

Melbourne is covered in graffiti, some of which is otherworldly and off-putting.

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.

Graffiti artists are constantly changing the fabric of the city's alleyways and blank walls.

Graffiti artists are constantly changing the fabric of the city’s alleyways and blank walls.

In Sydney, many of the old buildings have been ripped down in favor of new construction. In Mlebourne, on the other hand, the old-world architecture remains. Victorian buildings like this are everywhere, giving the city a very different feel from Sydney.

In Sydney, many of the old buildings have been ripped down in favor of new construction. In Melbourne, on the other hand, the old-world architecture remains. Victorian buildings like this are everywhere, giving the city a very different feel from its larger neighbor.

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.

Flinders Street Station is an example of the stunning old-world architecture for which Melbourne is known.

Flinders Street Station is an example of the stunning old-world architecture for which Melbourne is known.

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!”

I couldn't NOT do this...

I couldn’t NOT do this…

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.

I got a bus that said "Greensborough."

I got a bus that said “Greensborough.”

I got a hotel (which is really a pub) that said "Greensborough."

I got a hotel (which is really a pub) that said “Greensborough.” Oh! And a “pokie” isn’t what you think, it’s a poker machine (a/k/a a slot machine).

I got the now-defunct Tattoo parlor that said "Greensborough."

I got the now-defunct Tattoo parlor that said “Greensborough.”

I got the restaurant that said "Greensborough."

I got the restaurant that said “Greensborough.”

I got the plaza that said "Greensborough." As an aside, the plaza plays prominently on the wikipedia page for the town, which speaks to just how (un)exciting the place is...

I got the plaza that said “Greensborough.” As an aside, the plaza plays prominently on the wikipedia page for the town. In fact, it even has its own wikipedia page

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…

Yup. That happened.

Yup. That happened. If I look tired, it’s because the man beat me down.

And it was time to head to Fiji…

[This is the second in a three-part series of posts about my most recent trip to Australia and Fiji. If you missed the first post, check here. And here’s a link to the third one.]

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6 Responses

  1. Christie Silbajoris says:

    Hilarious, as always! Loving this blog. Even teeny, tiny creatures there are merciless. Uluru Rock near Alice Springs almost did us in. It was unworldly hot and the multitudes of midges sucked off every ounce perspiration before it could cool us. Save yourself. Never go there. Reading about it from the safety of your air conditioned living room is more than sufficient.

  2. Enjoying your blog. Thanks fellow North Carolinian!!

  1. April 24, 2015

    […] is the first in a three-part series of posts about my most recent trip to Australia and Fiji. Here’s a link to the second one. I’ll post the final one in the coming […]

  2. April 25, 2015

    […] [This is the third in a three-part series of posts about my most recent trip to Australia and Fiji. I’ll post the rest in the coming days. If you missed the first post, check here. For the second one, click here.] […]

  3. October 8, 2015

    […] my way out of town, I was reminded of my awkward encounter with Dr. Jeff the Malaysian Sudoku writer in Melbourne, Australia. On the train to London, still on a high from being named a Lord, a man approached me and struck […]

  4. February 13, 2017

    […] guess I should confess this was really the impetus for the trip. During my last trip down, Trevor introduced me to Sullivan’s Cove whisky. After a long day of work, he and I each had a […]

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