The rule is this and always this: while walking though an airport on my way to boarding a plane, I must listen to the Dandy Warhols. The song doesn’t matter, the album is immaterial, and this isn’t something I do for luck, or to seal a bargain with fate that in return for my remembrance and recognition of this ritual the wings of the plane will stay sealed to the fuselage and not suddenly fall off over the darkness of the Pacific at mid-flight, midnight… it’s just the way it goes.

There’s a certain sound that the Warhols have perfected, a textured richness that rides the line between drone and groove. Played loud, it overrides everything else, washes through the world and puts you in a singular, solo universe – your own personal movie soundtrack. I like this; I like feeling like there’s a greater narrative of motion that is centred around me for an average of three minutes and thirty seconds.

So I listened to the Dandy Warhols while I moved through the crowds of Melbourne Airport at seven in the morning, pushing my trolley in front of me. It was weighed down with the variety of black bags I had with me – the giant black backpack for clothes, with the attached smaller black backpack for TNB-authored books. The regular black backpack full of various Australian chocolates and toiletries. The black bag for my laptop – all with bright red tape around the handles, a traveling trick for easily profiling my bags on luggage carousels.

The upside to running late is that everyone has already checked in. Who knew?

Melbourne had been cold and misty for the last few days, the winter price you pay for living in a Cascadian climate. I sat in the international departures lounge and watched the last vestiges of fog trickle away from the morning sun through eyes that felt rimmed with sandpaper, and wondered again why I had waited until eleven the previous night to start packing for a month-long trip.

Boarding was early, which I’ve decided was an auspicious omen. Less auspicious were the two foreign guys I say next to, who hadn’t showered for a while. Fortunately, the answer to both of my problems was to wrap my jacket around myself and go to sleep.

Heh, I thought as drifted off. Eat it, Europeans. I’m going to sleep, and I can’t smell you there.

Plane sleep is my second-least favourite kind of sleep, beaten only by fever-sleep. It’s fitful and uncomfortable, and you generally get woken only by the long soreness running through the vertebrae in your neck where your head has slumped into your chest, or by your own snoring, which means that, like spending the night at Rosie O’Donnell’s house, you wake up embarrassed.

I woke up to the sound of the captain informing us the descent was beginning. While every take-off is unique, every landing is exactly the same. We touched down with a bump and when the plane came to a complete stop, one of the foreign guys offered the other his hand, and they palm-slid and fist-bumped in a way so smooth and practiced that I figured this was their own tiny ritual, a measure of respect and accomplishment for each landing they made. Seeing this, their smell was forgiven.

And then… Auckland Airport, Zara Potts, and Jordan Ancel – and TPAC’s 2010 journey was underway.

In six hours we board a plane to LA. From there, we go to Vegas. We go to Colorado. We go to Chicago, Cleveland, New York. We go to Nashville, Memphis, Baton Rouge. We go to Dallas, Roswell, Los Angeles again. I go to San Francisco, while Zara terrorises the Angelenos.

Brad Listi, Lenore Zion, Duke Haney. Rich Ferguson, Reno Romero, Lisa Rae Cunningham. Gina Frangello, Matthew Gavin Frank, Greg Boose, Claire Bidwell Smith. Nick Belardes, Oksana Marafioti. Don Mitchell. Greg Olear. Stephanie St. John Olear. Kristen Elde, Will Entrekin, Shya Scanlon. Megan diLullo, Erika Rae, Uche Ogbuji. Andrew Nonadetti, Alison Aucoin, Ronlyn Domngue. Becky Palapala, Slade Ham, Richard Cox – all the writers we have pledged to meet and spend time with, and every other TNB writer we will meet along the way and whose name doesn’t spring immediately to my jetlagged mind, we can promise this.

We will abuse your hospitality beyond all limits of abuse you thought existed. I look forward to personally destroying your faith in the generous and unassuming nature of Australians, and, furthermore, every single resident of Oceania.

TPAC 2010…


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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

54 responses to “TPAC 2010: Day 1: Melbourne Airport, Auckland Airport”

  1. Tom Hansen says:

    Bummer I’m not gonna get to meet you guys this trip. Damn damn damn damn damn damn…..etc

  2. Jordan Ancel says:

    Have a great trip, you two! It’s going to be amazing. If you don’t get deported.

  3. Jude says:

    Happy travels…will be looking forward to reading your travel blogs. Kisses and hugs xxxx

  4. Judy Prince says:

    ” . . . like spending the night at Rosie O’Donnell’s house, you wake up embarrassed.”

    Glad you got some fine spine-bending sleep, then, Simon. 😉

    Beyond exciting, your and Zara’s trip to meet the gliterati of TNB!!

  5. Sarah says:

    You’re going to ride their hospitality hard and put it away wet.

    Very nice.

    Have a wonderful trip and take the rest of us poor schlubs along with you via pictures and posts.

  6. Uche Ogbuji says:

    That…picture…is…precious. It needs a caption contest.

    Zara: “How much farther, brew?”
    Simon: “Oh, right around the corner. 13 thousand kilometers.”


    Zara: “I knew I shouldn’t have bet you couldn’t belch the Australian national anthem”

    or I’m sure the TNB crew can better my paltry efforts in a nonce.

    • Judy Prince says:

      Nope, Uche, we TNBers can’t top this: “Zara: “I knew I shouldn’t have bet you couldn’t belch the Australian national anthem.”

  7. Becky says:

    …like spending the night at Rosie O’Donnell’s house, you wake up embarrassed.

    “Meep!” That’s the sound I made when I read that. Weirdest laugh-sound I ever made.

    You guys…I could just eat you up. That picture is priceless beyond words.

  8. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    simon, you won’t get deported. you can borrow my son’s passport. tone down the vocab and you can pass for 8ish. btw: i have mexican sunburn. so try not to look at my face over dinner, it’s peeling, it might make you puke. oh, and welcome!

  9. angela says:

    great picture.

    whenever i fly, i have to have tomato juice. i don’t know why. just seems right.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Hah! I had a Bloody Mary. and I NEVER drink those while flying. I must have been channelling you…

  10. Richard Cox says:

    Can’t wait to see you guys! So how long is the flight to L.A.? Are you still up there?

    Poor, poor ZaraPotts. Chivalry is truly dead.

  11. Don Mitchell says:

    Zara’s doing that because Simon is paying for everything, right?

    Richard — you’re wondering if they’re still up there.

    Flightaware shows

    ANZ2 has arrived from Auckland (2:22 PM PDT)
    QFA25 has arrived from Auckland (6:37 AM PDT)

    My bet’s on ANZ2

    and a cargo flight is scheduled to arrive tomorrow night. Hmmm. Maybe that’s the one Zara’s on?

    Come on, you guys. Get online so we’ll know.

  12. Jude says:

    They’ve arrived Don. Just got a call from Zara…happily ensconced in Lenore’s car…happy to be in LA. Great flight apparently – 8 hours sleep. So no doubt in fine rip-roaring spirits. (Watch out USA – Simon is there with bells on!)

  13. Jude says:

    Oh and Don.. you were right – AirNZ – best airline in the world!

  14. There’s simply no way that you could ever abuse your hospitality here, because
    you will be paying us back with free babysitting as Greg and I bolt out the door – SUCKAS!

    just kidding……we would never do thaaaaat.

    But seriously, the kids will make you work for your mojito.
    (made with fresh mint from my garden – I might add).

    See you on the porch, babies!

  15. Uche Ogbuji says:


  16. Joe Daly says:

    I was going to wait until I met you both to tell you about your presents, but I just can’t keep it to myself anymore.

    As part of my super chill, down home hospitality groove, for your “Welcome Back to the US!” presents, I am giving each of you your own individual opportunity to give me a sensual massage. I’m clearing out my calendar, so you can enjoy yourselves as long as you need!

    Oh, and in answer to that question on your minds right now- yes, you get to ride ALL the rides in Joe World!

  17. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Yeah. Threaten obnoxious rudeness to the quasi-anonymous guy who’ll be taking you into the middle of nowhere to shoot live iron. Good plan. Bring it, Princess. You too, Zara. 😉

    Can’t wait to see you guys on Thursday – welcome back.

  18. kristen says:

    GREAT picture of you two. So much expression therein. 🙂

    Also, love the song “Mohammed.” Ya know?

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