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Crocodile Dun-Dee

How I never thought of the post title before, I'll never know!!

Dee has returned to the great down under, swapping two months of Midwestern winter for two months of Melbourne summer. Understand that in the five weeks or so I’ve been here the daily high temperatures have ranged from a couple of days with highs in the 60’s to one day over 100. The weather here is extremely changeable.

One question I often get is how did I–a Midwestern guy (most of the time)–end up with an Australian wife? I’ll try to explain below.

But before I do, a sidebar about the title. A GG friend constantly amuses me with play-on-words incorporating Dee, like she is “Dee-lighted” to read my blog posts (I blame Kandi; she started it all by calling me “Sun-Dee”). This friend recently referred to me as “Crocodile Dun-Dee”, so this week’s title is in her honor.

How I met my wife? Like quite a few things in my life, a happy accident–and Crocodile Dundee, at least indirectly, played a role.

Those of a certain age probably remember a 1986 movie called “Crocodile Dundee”, about a larrikin Aussie from the Australian Outback. He hosts a New York City reporter in the Outback, then travels to New York, boy gets girl (in real life, the actors Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski fell in love and married). 

In 1984, before the movie came out, Paul Hogan was doing TV ads for Australia, in which he famously said “come and say G’Day” and “put a shrimp on the barbie.”  I saw those ads–and replays of this strange game called Australian Rules Football on the early days of ESPN–and the idea of visiting Australia was born.

Also in 1984, while working for an accounting firm, I decided it was time for a change. Among co-workers, the term we used was “up or out”–I chose “out”. My “out” was more drastic than my colleagues; while they left to find other jobs, I bought a Volkswagen camper van. 

My plan? Travel throughout the United States and Canada, visiting friends, sightseeing, and exploring, like in National Parks like Yellowstone (my absolute favorite place to visit). I went south, I went west, I went north. I even spent a week on a sailboat in the Virgin Islands . 

About halfway through what my mom called “my sabbatical”, I saw a travel article in the local paper about New Zealand, calling it the most beautiful country in the world. I had a new destination. I could drive to San Francisco–the long way, taking about three months–and leave my van with relatives. I found a fare on Qantas, the Australian airline, that allowed four stops in Australia and New Zealand, and planned on six weeks in New Zealand and three weeks in Australia. 

In April 1985, I hopped on a plane in San Francisco, and roughly eighteen hours (and two flights) later landed in Auckland, New Zealand, with a large hiking backpack for luggage and a youth hostel membership card for lodging.

Ten days after arriving in New Zealand, on April 15, 1985, at around 10 PM, I met the person who changed my life. Sitting alone in the kitchen of the Rotorua youth hostel, writing letters, my (now) wife needed someone to talk to–and I was the only person available. She had been out for a walk, had a fright, and needed to talk.

We talked that night for about an hour, and made plans to do some local sightseeing the next day. One day became another–and then another–as we traveled about ten days together in the North and South Islands of New Zealand. We split directions then, but we agreed once I was in Australia following my time in New Zealand, I would come visit her at where she was staying in a Melbourne suburb.

Once I arrived in Australia, I spent a couple of days in Sydney and then skedaddled to Melbourne. I took a sixteen hour overnight bus ride, then found the right train and showed up at her doorstep (she was living with her sister at the time) at seven in the morning, and she was happy to see me.

Long distance relationships aren’t easy. We spent two weeks together that first trip. She came to America in 1986, 1989, and 1991. I returned to Australia in 1987. We didn’t see each other in 1988 or 1990. Each time we departed we decided we were done.

But obviously we weren’t. 

In September 1991, out of the blue, she called me. She kept talking about a letter, and I wasn’t following. Finally, after hemming and hawing she said the words that did change my life, “I want you to marry me.”

After about 15 seconds of being in shock, I said yes. Seven months later I arrived in Melbourne. Two days later we wed in her sister’s back yard (her sister still lives there). Come April we will be married 31 years, known each other for 38. 

The distance issue still causes stress in our marriage. She has friends and family here and the pull of Australia is strong. I have friends, family, and commitments in America. The travel between places is long and expensive. We compromise. I stay two months or so, she stays five. To stay together we choose to be apart.

(Of course, another stressor in our marriage is this side of me. She would be happy with me dressing if I only did it at home, and I would be unhappy if I only did it at home. The time apart does give me more freedom to get my Dee on, but that also means my wife feels extra risks; I will be outed, and people will feel sorry for her that she’s the wife of a crossdresser.)

To be honest, I don’t know which of the two causes her more concern. I just try to have enough other positive qualities to make her feel I’m worth keeping around. Another compromise was buying an apartment here (which she loves), which is both expensive and sits vacant for at least half the year. But one rule I follow is, “Happy wife, happy life.”

Circling back to Crocodile Dun-Dee, here’s the most surprising thing for me from first coming to Australia in 1985. I expected a nation full of Paul Hogan’s–the Aussie accent with the larger than life character. I found a nation of immigrants, much like the United States, like my mother-in-law and father-in-law, who emigrated to Australia from Italy after World War II. Like many her age, my wife is a first generation Australian. Lots of Italians and Greeks originally, now Vietnamese and Chinese–and another 140 countries to boot.

Since arriving in early January, I’ve been able to get out three times. Once was a short outing to a nearby beach, and two trips into the city, one including a tram ride to another beach. It’s been a mild summer; more 60’s and 70’s than 80’s and 90’s for temperatures. Not exactly beach weather, but then again, Dee doesn’t do that well in the heat, even though she loves summer clothes.

I hope to get out a few times more before I leave in early March. I perk my ears up when my wife mentions going out with friends, and I start planning my own day out. I have the outfits, and definitely the Dee-sire to do it (sorry; my friend has been a bad influence 😀).


16 Responses

  1. A lovely story Dee but you forgot to mention they named a  Melbourne football team called the Dee’s after you..!
    You are right NZ would have to be the most beautiful unspoiled country on this planet closely followed by that little island south of Melbourne
    If you want to see the real Australia though Dee you need to do the drive across the Nullarbor plain to Perth.

    1. I think technically they are named the Demons, so not quite exactly the same. I should add back in 1985 I did see an AFL game in person, a finals game (the Aussie term for playoffs) at Waverly Park, which is no longer there. I remember the crowd yelling things and having no idea what they were yelling about.

      I have been to Tasmania once, almost 30 years ago. With our first (then infant) son, we drove around for a week.

      As to Perth, been there once also, but we flew (by then we had both boys) in 2003. Spent about a week in a camping equipped van south of Perth sightseeing (more wilderness than wineries). I’m not much of a desert person so crossing the Nullarbor Plain on a train or car doesn’t appeal (for those who don’t know, Nullarbor means no trees, and the road runs straight for about 300 kilometers).

      These days, if we go somewhere by plane, it’s been Bryon Bay, and spend the time there playing in the water, boogie boarding.

      Right now, we’re at Wilson’s Prom, which we have been visiting since the 1980’s, and the weather here may be the best it’s ever been. More play time in the water.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. I knew about your caravan. I had no idea about the walk/drive about.

    You are an adventurer. Commendable.
    Keep it up.

    Great post!!!!

    1. Thanks, as always, Renee.

      New Zealand IS beautiful. Would love to go back (these days, we usually stick to Australia when here). But by far my favorite place to go is Yellowstone Park; stay in an RV and enjoy the whole park.

      It was a fun part of my life, traveling around.

  3. Well Dee, now that you count as an Australian that just means the banter starts doesn’t it! What goes on between Americans and Canadians is NOTHING compared to the NZ v Aus stuff! Which of course you will know by now.
    I LOVE Melbourne, but it’s a bit of yeah nah to that AFL game. Do I need to teach you the rules of real sport like cricket and rugby (and yes rugby is like American football but faster and without helmets …)
    Sorry Pamela, did Perth once and that was enough (of course it is full of Kiwis and South African’s, a bit like home really …). The interesting part was driving along the coast watching swimmers and surfers happily in the water just after the second fatal great white attack in a couple of weeks (from memory). And now there are the possibly even more dangerous bull sharks killing people in the Swan River. Yeah might give Perth a miss … I like Melbourne.
    That said we have had a couple of fatal great white attacks in recent years, numbers are increasing, but we still don’t have snakes or crocodiles …
    However the country is a little less pristine at the moment, after a cyclone smashed us up last week. It was the worst ever weather event in our history. Currently 11 dead and 3215 unaccounted for, although the vast majority of those are just unable to make contact at the moment, but the toll will climb further. Thousands are still without power and several thousand displaced. It’s the 3rd major weather event in a month. We’ve seen nothing like it since a cyclone called Bola landed here in the 1980s. Ironically I was in Aussie when it formed (diving in the Coral Sea, it didn’t help the visibility or sea conditions) then I got home just in time to get a beating from it again.
    I too did Tasmania, about 20 years ago, and it is awesome. Especially in Autumn with the amazing colours.
    I think Melbourne (or Wilson’s) might have been the place to be last week though. Definitely not Auckland, Northland or the Hawkes Bay …

    1. The Yanks and the Canadians don’t bicker that much because the two don’t intermix as much as the Aussies and Kiwis.

      I have been here enough to know the difference between rugby and rugby league, and watched a fair bit of both when we lived in Sydney for four years (1999 to 2003). Watched cricket too, but I can say the only fielding position I can name is Silly Point.

      The six weeks I traveled in NZ were fabulous and the Abel Tasman walk was wonderful. My older son wanted to do a semester abroad and he chose Cambridge College in Christchurch, and enjoyed his time. The Kiwis I met were always friendly and kind. I have nothing to speak ill about NZ at all, other than to regret I’ve never been back.

      Good luck to the Kiwis as they rebuild and move on.

      1. During my 20s my group of friends included a number of Canadian nurses. They were awesome girls and 2/3 never went back. But, if ever any of them were asked which part of the US they came from it would really get them going! Asking a Kiwi what part of Aus they are from was nothing by comparison!
        Of course the ribbing is always done in good spirit and as history shows we have each others backs for the important stuff.
        Apart from the rugby when all bets are off …

        1. Nearly forgot; add in slip, fine leg, long leg and extra cover (for skin blemishes or for cold winter nights).

          I’ll never watch cricket the same way again …

  4. Maddie,
    NZ is a great and beautiful country. I was there in November 2016. I was on the 10 floor of a Wellington hotel when the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake hit. Very scary.

    1. Wow Jocelyn, I can think of few places I would less want to be than right there during that quake! They are funny things here where you can be a few hundred metres from someone else who doesn’t feel it. We get relatively few in Auckland, only one in my time here so far, (although there was one right during the cyclone last week, centred further south that was felt here by some) but I was working at home when it hit and the sound and feel was such that I was convinced a truck had crashed through the garage door. Yet family just 500m away didn’t feel a thing.
      Since Christchurch the really scary part of one felt in Auckland is whether it is a small local quake or rather the big one happening at the other end of the country.

      1. Maddie,
        It is amazing that we never know when, where or how big an earthquake will be.
        The Kaikoura one was rare because it last 2 minutes. The ferry dock was damaged so we couldn’t go to the South Island the next day. I had to book a NZ Air flight for the day after. And of course I never did make it to Kaikoura.

        I did dive at the Poor Knights when I was on the North Island though. You have a fantastic country. But then so is Canada.


  5. I have many family members throughout Aussie land…Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, places between Sydney and Brisbane and in the mining area. Last time I was in Melbourne was in 1971, drove (parents) there from Sydney then onto Brisbane. Never forget spagetti and toast for breakfast
    Visited Sydney and Brisbane back in 2017 for almost 3 weeks. Hit one of the biggest rain storm is centuries, but had a good time at VIVID. Need to visit my brother next year or sooner.
    Dee, you are completely correct, driving through the outback is a waste of time. But why didn’t you go diamond hunting while in Perth?

    1. Cali… there are diamonds in Perth?
      Must be a well kept secret. Tell me where and I’ll send you some.
      You know what they say about diamonds, I think they even wrote a song about them.

  6. Hi Dee,
    Well to say I’m jealous is an understatement. I have always wanted to visit those beautiful beaches and the Great Barrier Reef. I would spend a whole day snorkelling there. The wife of neighbours of ours was born and raised in New Zealand and in talking to her and seeing her pics I’d love to visit her country as well. The only issue we have is the huge amount of time you have to spend in a plane. Our limit is like 6 hours and being so far away you’d need at least a month there to get the feel of everything. Never mind having to drive on the wrong side of the road 😳.
    I must say though your pics are beautiful.


  7. Thanks all. Didn’t think this post would initiate all the comments.

    Lots of people I meet in the US are fascinated by Australia. They enjoy reading my Facebook posts (boy me, of course). I try to explain things for them–like how long it takes to get here (why we only come once a year, and why my wife stays for five months).

    It’s a big place and a fun visit and I will have at least a couple more stories of my times out in the ensuing weeks.

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