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Big Mumma goes America 2015

Preamble

Hi kids,

I know you all read the emails while we were away but I am doing this to serve as some sort of time capsule and taking the opportunity to add some additional background and bits to the story. Maybe even a few spelking and , grammatical error corrections along the way.

2015 was an interesting year for us. We had been trying to sell our house in Kallista for some time. A bit more than an acre on a forty-five degree angle (possibly, slightly exaggerated) was becoming hard to manage - my back wasn't (and still isn't) what it used to be. As beautiful as the land was, walking up and down the block with a brush cutter and a fuel can wasn't as enjoyable as it once was. Yes, I did enjoy it....once!

My role as General Manager of Supply Chain at Daiso Australia was coming to an end. I had enjoyed working there for the last couple of years and, along with the rest of the team, made significant improvements to the business. Big differences of opinion between the parent company and ourselves led to a fairly rapid departure of the management team.

I think that I left Daiso in May and we sold the house in August or September. No job and no house! It sounds worse than it was. I always seamed to be able to find contract work....and I did....for some of the time. We rented a house in Berwick to give us a year, for me to find a new job and for us to buy a new house. I contracted, back in the publishing industry, with Hinkler Books for a few months but nothing after that for a while. Frustrating.

An SAP recruitment agency contacted me in late November with the invitation to apply for a role so I did. The job was Master Data Manager for Australian Pharmaceutical Industries. They own Priceline Pharmacies among others. The first interview went well and I was invited back on December 3rd for a second interview. The second interview went well and an offer of a six month contract arrived on December 10th. I happily accepted.

Now, while all of this was going on, and while I had time on my hands, and being a bit of music nut, I had received an emailed newsletter from one of my favourite bands, Gov't Mule, letting me know the details of their concert on New Years Eve. Legendary!

The conversation went something like this

Me "Hey Big Mumma, you are looking beautiful tonight, would you like to go and see Gov't mule on New Years Eve?"

Big Mumma "That sounds good, where are they playing?"

Me "The Beacon Theatre!"

Big Mumma "OK, where is that?"

Me " New York."

I can't remember how the rest of the conversation went but in the end we decided to go. Amy was amazing, in a few days she had us on a plane heading to Los Angeles to start a journey. My beautiful girl Donna and I on a trip that I will never forget.

At the end of every day of the journey, I wrote an email to keep you updated on our adventures. Most nights I could be seen giggling while tapping an email out on my phone. Everything that you are about to read is the truth and nothing but the truth....I promise.

Big Mumma goes America - Day One

15th December 2015

Hi all,

Even though the flights are quicker these days and we flew direct Melbourne to Los Angeles, 14 hours is a long time to sit next to Big Mumma in confined space. First she watched San Andreas! Headphones on full blast. LA was being destroyed before my eyes and ears and before we had even left Australian air space. She jumped and squeeled and went for long periods of the movie holding a dinner tray over her eyes. Then she watched some fluffy documentary about cute pets. She giggles a lot more and a lot louder when she has headphones on and she wiggles when she giggles. I didn't sleep much!

LA is a big city from the air but not unlike Sydney when you are in amongst it. I was a bit worried about fitting into the Mustang without creating a new sunroof but all ok. It is daunting when you pull out of the car rental yard onto the highway at 8am peak traffic on the right side of the road and the left side of the car but everything seamed to go ok. They all drive about 10 mph over the speed limit and rarely use indicators. We took some wrong turns and ended up driving through the airport a couple of times but evrntually drove out to Santa Monica and on to Malibu and then back to the famous pier at Santa Monica , the ending point of Route 66. It's all very nice. Much the same as Stkilda. We have been cruising down around Hollywood. All the streets that you see in movies and hear in songs - Sunset Strip, Santa Monica Blvd, Rodeo Dve etc. Big Mumma has been road raging some of the drivers- "Move your yank tank over. Don't mess with me, I'm Big Mumma From Australia!" I call her BMCFA now. Lucky we've got a good getaway car. Anyway it's now 1:30pm and we are checking into our hotel in Hollywood overlooking the famous sign in the hills. We saw a guy in a pink rabbit suit and ballet dress, I think it was either John Wayne or Elvis. They're not really dead. Really.

Off to the Grand Canyon tomorrow.

Lots of love to all

BMCFA & the California Kid

Of course we could have just got these photos off the internet and are holed up in a cheap motel in Pakenham. Who really knows?

Santa Monica Pier - This is where Route 66 ends (or starts for us)

Big Mumma goes America - Day Two

16th December 2015

A big day of driving today. About 500 miles mainly on freeway that now makes up most of Route 66 from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon. We started off in the heart of LA in stop start traffic. Their version is 5 lanes going from 10 mph to 90 mph in the blink of an eye, it keeps you busy especially when you are still adjusting to left hand drive. Most of the drive was through the desert of California from West to East and then on through Arizona.

Half way through todays travels, Big Mumma decided that she wants to become a pro-photographer. Enter the town of Barstow in outer eastern California. Imagine if Noble Park was isolated from the rest of the world by 100 miles of desert, add a few bullet holes to the signs and abandon half of the houses. That’s Barstow. We left the safe haven of the freeway and pull up at an outlet shopping centre. No camera stores ( I think this was an outlet for vacant stores mainly). As we were leaving, a rough looking guy with a Ned Kelly beard approached us after help, by way of money, to repair his car which had conveniently lost one wheel. Just as I was having visions of Fargo and the Repo Man, Big Mumma quickly told him that we didn’t have any cash and then went on to tell him the long story of who she was and how I was still adjusting to driving on the wrong side of the road and how she once walked fire on Who Dares Wins with Mike Whitney and here, look at this meme of a little bunny rabbit on my phone….yada, yada, yada… I had to step in and save him. He didn’t know who he was messing with. BMCFA! So on we went through the back streets of Barstow past some burnt out houses and abandoned cars to the Walmart store. You feel conspicuous enough driving a yellow mustang convertible let alone parking amongst the array of pickup trucks at the Walmart. I didn’t think they would but they had a couple of DSLR cameras at good prices and once we asked to look at them, we were instant Walmart royalty. Staff and customers alike gathered around. They hadn’t sold a camera before. This was a momentous occasion and Big Mumma worked the crowd. Photos of family and friends, funny stories and a bit of a sharpie dance lesson and we were on our way with cameras and lenses in tow. We set off the alarms as we left but no one seemed to care. I think they were just happy that we left.

On we went, as darkness fell, Big Mumma snapped a couple of nice sunset shots. She wanted to pull the roof back as we were driving so that she could kneel on her seat and photograph the sun setting behind us but I convinced her of the artistic merits of side mirror photography. I think she did well. The temperature plummeted to -17C by the time we got to the hotel at the Grand Canyon. Snow everywhere so it is going to be fun tomorrow.

Lots of love to all

BMCFAP (P is for photographer) and the Arizona Armadillo

On the road to the Grand Canyon (Route 66)

Big Mumma goes America - Day Three

17th December 2015

As I write, we are sitting at the bar in the Grand Hotel saloon after a great day out in the Grand Canyon. I am having a Black Butte and Big Mumma is on her second sprite already! We are being serenaded by a banjo playing country singer. He looks old and wise and possibly drunk. He just played a long medley including popular songs such as White Christmas, Ring of Fire, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Sold My Sole to the Company Store and other great hits. A lot of yodeling, some yehars and a few poorly disguised burps. There was a long pause between a couple of Twinkles, he may have nodded off. Big Mumma was itching to take over from him. You know what she gets like when she hits the lemonade!

Last night was very cold here. We are staying in a town called Tusayan about 7000 feet above sea level and 4 miles from the south rim at the Eastern end of the Grand Canyon. Last night Tusayan recorded the lowest temperature of the 48 mainland states at -14F which is -25C and we reached a top of 4F during the day. We haven’t had any wind (well I haven’t) and the sky is clear so at least we get the warmth of the sun during the day.

This morning, Big Mumma was full of beans. All through breakfast she carried on about Evil Knievel never actually jumping over the Grand Canyon and some other guy tight rope walking over another canyon and claiming it was the Grand Canyon. On and on. I knew that we were in for a big day, she’s got plans! We started the day with some shopping. Fun! Big Mumma dragged me through all of the tourist gift stores buying t-shirts that all looked the same. Old fashioned looking Route 66 and Grand Canyon emblems a plenty.

Three things that I have noticed bout America

1. Everything is big – the landscape, the mountains, the clothes, food, cars

2. There are much fewer stars in the northern hemisphere sky

3. The customer service is so much better than Australia. I think the tipping mentality is partly responsible.

Speaking of tips, I think Big Mumma has tip fever. She is a bit confused by the system and started tipping everyone. Just random passers-by. “Hey, I like the look of your sneakers, here’s $5”. I have confiscated her purse but I think she has stashed some cash.

After shopping we went for a leisurely topless drive….the car…it’s a convertible. We took the top down and went for a drive in the snow. Who needs a 4wd when you’ve got a rental car. Not for long. I had to put the roof back on because Big Mumma kept standing up and waving to everyone like the Queen.

At last it was time for the Grand Canyon helicopter trip. In to the helicopter we get, buckle up the harnesses and don the headsets. The pilot gave us a bit of an introduction, checked that we could hear him and told us that if we wanted to talk we should put the microphone very close to our mouths and talk loudly at which point Big Mumma inhaled her microphone and screamed “How far can you fly this thing upside down?”. The pilot looked a bit perplexed and was about to say something when “Come on, chop, chop, we haven’t got all day, let’s get this crate in the air!” roared through the headsets. The pilot cut her audio as the roar of the rotors drowned out Big Mumma. I think she swallowed the foam cover of the microphone. She kept on yelling until I put her camera in her hands. Just like giving a baby a dummy.

The Grand Canyon is amazing. The pilot took us along the Colorado River, up and down the canyon for nearly an hour. Most of the west facing walls are coated with snow which looks amazing against the desert red and yellow rock of the canyon walls. No photos or films do justice to this. It is the most incredible thing I have ever seen…maybe except that time that Gaz cut down Bevan’s tree. That was pretty incredible but that’s another story.

At the end of the helicopter trip, Big Mumma pulled out some cash and tipped the pilot $5 for good piloting and another passenger $2 for having nice white teeth??? I knew she had some stashed.

Off we went to Hopi Point to photograph the changing colours of the canyon walls as the sun set and the temperature quickly dropped below zero……and here we are in the saloon with our banjo man, a Black Butte and a Sprite just reflecting on the days adventures. There she goes again, Big Mumma just tipped the banjo man.

Lots of love to you all

BMCFAP and the Canyon Grand Poobah

In the helicopter, above the forest rim of the Grand Canyon

Big Mumma goes America - Day Four

18th December 2015

Big Mumma is in bed already, snoring away to her hearts content. We had a big day on the road today so she is a bit tired. At 9:00AM and -12C we started off with a 3 hour guided Jeep tour along the south eastern rim of the Grand Canyon. The guide was great and new every plant and animal and threw in some good jokes along the way. Did you know that the word “Mistletoe” literally means “poop on a stick”. The important things you learn on safari. We stopped at a few great places that you could easily miss on your own. It doesn’t matter how many times you look at the canyon, as the sun moves the colours change and you find different details. I could never tire of this. We would like to come back and raft some of the Colorado River and do some fishing in the upper reaches. One day maybe. On the way back the guide asked if anyone knew what the other six of the seven natural wonders of the world are. The Great Barrier Reef was an easy one. I could tell by the confused look on Big Mumma’s face, she was thinking really hard, “How about the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour?” she asked. The guide obviously didn’t know the Big Banana and asked if they were edible. I quickly chimed in with Victoria Falls to get us back on track “How about the Big Prawn in Ballina?” The guide didn’t answer and just kept driving as we rattled off the rest. “Are you sure that the Big Banana isn’t on the list? It’s pretty big you know.” Luckily she spotted a grey squirrel and was distracted enough for us to change the subject. When we arrived back at the tour office, I went to tip the guide when Big Mumma grabbed the money out of my hand, turned to the driver and while waving a twenty dollar bill in front of him, said “If you agree that the Big Banana is one of the Seven Natural Wonders, you can have your tip.”……Oh Big Mumma……it was time to depart and head to Monument Valley.

We drove about 200 miles out East along the Grand Canyon then north along the Little Colorado River Gorge and then East out of Arizona and into Utah arriving at Monument Valley just before sunset. Driving through a pass between giant rocks, the monuments just appear in front of you like a scene from a movie. This is bigger and better than you see in any of the movies. We are staying in the Goulding Lodge and they have a replica of John Wayne’s cabin from the movie “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon” which was filmed here.

Tomorrow we are taking an eight hour 4wd tour of the area. I hope the guide doesn’t mention any Natural Wonders!

Lots of love to you all

Big Mumma & the Monument Man

Falling off the edge of the Grand Canyon....Big Mumma is still giggling!

Big Mumma goes America - Day Five

19th December 2015

Hi everyone,

We had a great day out around Monument Valley. We took an all day, 4wd tour that took us through Mystery Valley and Monument Valley on roads only accessible to the tour guides. Monument Valley sits on the border of Arizona and Utah and the national park is all Navajo land. Our Navajo guide introduced herself as Pat but I think Big Mumma misunderstood and called her Pocahontas all day long. We started at Mystery valley which contains the ruins of the cave buildings that the Anasazi built up to 3000 years ago and deserted about 800 years ago. It is called Mystery Valley because nobody really knows what happened to the Anasazi. They had disappeared before the Navajo arrived here in the 15th century. This place is a lot like parts of the Northern Territory. Big Mumma and I were the only ones on the tour which meant that it was quite often quiet, occasionally broken by sounds like “Hey Pocahontas, have you ever met Hiawatha?” from the other side of a canyon, “Is this where they filmed Little House On The Prairie?”, “Oy Pocahontas, do you live in a wigwam or a teepee?”, “Have you ever met Lorne Green?”. OK, you got me, actually there was constant noise broken by occasional silence!

Our guide cooked us a traditional Navajo lunch, hamburgers and Coke, and then we went to visit the famous spot built right where John Wayne stayed while filming on location in Monument Valley. The monuments are spectacular. We went on a twenty Mile trip around them. They are enormous and constantly changing as you move around them and as the angle of the sun changes. The tallest is over two thousand feet high! We went to the pillar where “The Eiger Sanction” was filmed, John Ford point where you can see where lots of the John Wayne westerns were made.

“Giddy up” I hear from beneath the rock shelf I am standing on. “Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, get them doggies rollin’” as some cows and an old mule run out of a ravine beneath me. “Move ‘em on, head ‘em up, Rawhide!” echoes through the canyons as Big Mumma chases the cows, and the mule along a dry creek bed…. I wish I had a lasso.

We walked in to quite a few natural arches in the rock and ended up back near John Ford point to watch the sun set on the monuments.

We are back at the hotel now getting ready for a big drive tomorrow. About Four hundred miles along the Northern edge of the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas.

Lots of love to all

Big Mumma and Navajo Jo

Big Mumma goes America - Day Six

20th December 2015

Viva Las Vegas!

We left Monument Valley this morning just before sunrise. The sky was cloudy and provided an atmospheric backdrop to the monuments and mesas as we departed. The roads were icy and snow covered in parts so the going was a bit more careful than usual. We made our way around and along the Grand Canyon heading west to Las Vegas. Mountains, monuments and mesas everywhere. Lots of great looking rivers that I would love to fish. I just need something to help cut through the ice! There are so many things to see that we haven’t had time for on this trip, but I am sure that we will be back in a couple of years. We stopped briefly at a lookout above Lake Powell, the famous location used to film parts of the original Planet of the Apes movie in 1967. “Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape” I hear from Big Mumma in her best, gritted teeth, Charlton Heston impersonation. We all know how good she is mimicking personalities and putting on accents. This wasn’t to be her last impersonation of the day.

Once we “Escaped from the Planet of the Apes”, we wound our way down through the mountains dropping 4000 feet over only a few miles arriving on the desert floor leading into Las Vegas. The freeway gradually spreads from two lanes to six lanes with mazes of off ramps, on ramps and turnpikes going everywhere. I took a wrong turn and we ended up slowly cruising the entire length of “The Strip” before arriving at our hotel. I shed a couple of tears as I handed the Mustang keys back to the rental company. We have been upgraded in the hotel and now have a room that has a TV built into the bathroom mirror, a bidet and remote control curtains. Big Mumma has been practicing Morse code with the curtains….. for the last hour and I think she washed her feet in the bidet. Earlier, Big Mumma disappeared for a while, I walked into the bathroom and she was sitting in the bath, her hair slicked back, dark sunglasses on, and is wearing seriously flared, white sequined, jump suit & blue suede shoes. “Well since my baby left me, well, I found a new place to dwell…..” she sang into a shampoo bottle pretend microphone. “Hey baby, order me up a few burgers and a new TV to shoot……. and a gun to shoot it with” she said in her best Elvis impersonation as I closed the door.

Thank You Very Much!

Big Mumma and the Lost Vegas

Big Mumma goes America - Day Seven

21st December 2015

Housten, we have lift off.

Today has been a taxi and two planes, well we are sitting on the tarmac on the second one so thought I would put pen to paper (finger to phone).

Last night we decided to stay in our hotel, The Bellagio, and I am glad we did. A woman purposely ran down over thirty people outside our hotel, killing one, critically injuring seven and badly injuring the rest and then tried to flee the scene. She had a three year old in the car with her. I am sure Las Vegas has lots of things to do and see but the bright lights and hustle and bustle in this town of exess are difficult to appreciate after the beauty of the last few days. The hotel room was beautiful but this place is not for me.

This morning we left Las Vegas to Houston, Texas and now we are departing Houston on a small plane to Lafayette in Louisiana. I hope Big Mumma behaves herself on this flight. As we boarded the first flight, they had United Airlines lapel pins that they give to kids. They are plastic copies of the crew pins. Once we had taken off and were at a cruising altitude, Big Mumma pinned her UA crew badge on, undid her seat belt, and moved down to business class where she started taking refreshment orders. Oh Big Mumma! The crew ended up corraling her between food trolleys and got her back to her seat.

I am hoping that tomorrow, I can drive to Jackson and have a look around and see if there are any references to Johnny Cash and June Carter.

Lots of love to all

Big Mumma and the Texas Twister

A separate email to Mike - Gee these Stetsons are good especially when they have been stomped on Route 66, dropped in the Gramd Canyon and dusted up in Monument Valley. Tomorrow it may see battles with Louisiana Crocodiles and Crawfish or maybe even boiled up in some Gumbo.

Big Mumma goes America - Day Eight

22nd December 2015

Big LeMumma gets Cajun and downs da Gumbo and hoes inta dem Crawfish y'all.

It turns out that Johnny Cash wasn't singing about Jackson, Louisiana or Jackson, Mississippi, he was singing about Jackson, Tennessee so I didn't bother going.

We arrived in Jennings, Louisiana yesterday afternoon to surprise Big Mummas old school friend, Lisa. Big Mumma and Lisa sat for hours retelling the history of the world in words and phone photos while Lisa's husband, Carl and I talked about pickup trucks, coon skin hats, catfish and coyotes while we drank beer. There was a big cultural exchange going on. Carl talked about the history of Cajun and Big Mumma showed them the sharpie dance. Lisa talked about the local delicacies and Big Mumma invited them to join her in a burping competition. These nice people are very tolerant.

We spent all day with them today. Big Mumma and Lisa continued the cultural exchange, while Carl and I went out to a deer blind in a swamp on an ATV with an armed doomsday prepper. We sat in the deer blind for a while and didn't see any deer so we checked his deer feeders and infrared cameras and returned to drink beer and eat boudan, pork crackling, gumbo and crawfish. Lisa and Carl have three children, all with partners and four grand children and all came around this afternoon to witness the Aussies. It was a full house with a lot of noise and fun just like our family gatherings. We had a great time tonight. They think that I fit right in and have named me an honorary "Coon Ass" which is somewhere between Cajun and Redneck. I guess it could be worse. Big Mumma has been singing her best selection of Australian folk songs. She is currently putting on her Kylie Minogue voice singing "I Should Be So Lucky...."

Lots of love to all

Big Mumma and the Red Neck Rebel

Big Mumma goes America - Day Nine

23rd December 2015

We spent this morning with Lisa & Carl in Jennings, Louisiana and had a tasty lunch of spicy, slow cooked pork, rice, beans and corn. It was hotter and more humid than the last few days, about 78F, and Carl had caught a live crawfish walking around the front porch while a red squirrel sat in the Oak tree in their front yard. We haven’t seen much wildlife on the trip so far because it is winter hibernation time plus I have Big Mumma a whoopin’ and a hollerin’ all the time. There hasn’t even been much road kill. We have seen some deer, a red squirrel, a grey squirrel, a chipmunk, a crawfish, a coyote, lots of huge ravens, a couple of eagles, a woodpecker, some blue jays, a chicken hawk and a dead armadillo. We found roadrunner and raccoon tracks in the desert sand in Monument Valley. I haven’t been able to cross rattle snakes, grizzly bears, black bears, cougars, bob cats or bald eagles off the bucket list yet and I doubt that we will find any of these in New York.

I really liked Louisiana and feel like we could easily fit in. You can still buy acreage with an old house for less than $100,000USD in the small towns and you can catch crawfish in the rice fields and swamps, catfish, bass & perch in all of the rivers nearby, redfish in the Gulf of Mexico only twenty miles away, deer and hogs everywhere if you have a gun. Everyone seems to have a gun in Louisiana and they will shoot just about anything that moves on their property that shouldn’t be there. The climate is great for most vegetables and fruit. Add in some Cajun spices and cooking methods and you can feed yourselves year round. They grow Muscat grapes and blackberries and some of the locals make their own wine from both. They have lots of blues, jazz and Cajun festivals and hopefully, next time, we can get to the New Orleans Jazz Festival. I like this place, I’m thinkin’ we should get us our very own bit of swamp one of these days.

After lunch, we drove back to Lafayette and dropped off the Hyundai, I wasn’t sad to see this one go. Next time we’ll git us a pickup truck. Lisa also came out to the airport to see us off. After a long goodbye we went through the security. Security is quite a bit heavier here. You must empty all pockets, remove shoes, belt and jewelry so it takes a bit of time. I put my bags on the conveyor and then removed my belt, boots and some coins into a tray and then went through the X-ray machine. As I did, I heard some commotion behind me. Once I was given the all clear, I looked back to see that Big Mumma had jumped up and laid down on the conveyor, her head was stuck inside the X-ray box and she was wiggling and kicking, trying to get through. Apparently she couldn’t be bothered taking her backpack, shoes, belt and jewelry off! I think she’s probably got “conveyor burn”, but I suggested that she get a copy of her new head X-ray.

We flew on a small plane from Lafayette to Dallas. A monorail around Dallas airport to catch our New York flight. We are about halfway to New York now. The flight has been rough and will get rougher. There is a tornado or hurricane or something heading up through Mississippi and we have flown way out East and now North to avoid the worst weather. Big Mumma has assumed the crash position…..on the floor!

Happy nineteenth Birthday again Emily XXX (we are a day behind)

Lots of Lurve to all

Big Mumma and the Dallas Cowboy

Big Mumma goes America - Day Ten

24th December 2015

Corner 10th ave and 51st street Laundromat stand off.

Well, we landed ok last night with a thud. We are staying in the Hells Kitchen part of New York just south of Central Park on 7th and 55th. The view on our room last night was a brick wall so Big Mumma has organised us a new room. I didn't go with her to the concierge but when we stepped out of the lift this morning, the hotel staff all looked a bit scared and nervous. I don't want to know what sort of carnage she created.

They wanted to charge us four dollars to wash per sock in the hotel. Big Mumma took one of my socks and one of her socks down to the concierge to argue that their pricing structure was flawed. How could it possibly cost the same for a size twelve mens as it does for a size seven womens!

Needless to say, we have found a coin laundry on 10th & 51st. We walked in at the same time as this little old withered chinese woman with an eye patch and a ricketty walking cane and an old three legged bulldog with an eye patch on a leash towing a four wheel washing basket behind. There are two aisles of washing machines. Big Mumma moved straight to the left aisle. You could see the old woman was annoyed but she took to the right aisle with an increased pace in her shuffle. I could see only one vacant machine, on the back wall inbetween the ends of the two aisles. Oh no.......they reach the ends of their respective aisles at about the same time. Big Mumma has already drawn her bottle of fabric softner, cap already cocked and she is ready to squeeze out a shot. The old lady is wise and crafty. She has an old detergent bottle, containing her own secret concoction already aimed at Big Mumma. They squint and carefully watch each others eyes waiting for the slightest blink or quiver.......they step towards each other slowly........I didn't see it coming, neither did Big Mumma, the old bull dog had snuck between them and got under Big Mummas feet. She stumbled and staggered and as she did, the old lady raised her cane and in a fluid movement, released a secret compartment in her cane and squirted Big Mumma in the face.

The old detergent squirter in the walking cane trick!

I've washed her down now and we are just waiting patiently for the old lady to finish her laundry and we can do ours.

Merry Christmas to you all

Big Mumma and the New York Yankee

Big Mumma goes America - Day Eleven

25th December 2015

Big Mumma rescues Santa Clause from the politiclly correct police

We are staying in the Westhouse Hotel on West 55th and 7th. We wandered down to Times Square yesterday afternoon to see why it is one of the most visited destinations in the world. Big Mumma was "Up and about". She was ready for anything but nothing and nobody was ready for Big Mumma.

As we leisurely walked down 7th Ave to Times Square, every man and his dog wants to sell you something. "Happy Holidays" they say with their fake smiling faces. By about the tenth one, Big Mumma was starting to get agitated and I could tell the next one was endangering themselves. Everything went into slow motion. Oh oh, here it comes...."Happy Hol......uggggh" as he hit the ground face down with Big Mumma on his back holding his arm twisted behind him. "I've got Vegemite and I'm not afraid to use it." She said in her best Angie Dickinson impersonation. "This is a citizens arrest for not saying Merry Christmas." A couple of NYPD officers walked towards us. I shrank back into the crowd as I hear Big Mumma saying "It's alright boys, I've got this one under control".

I went for a nice walk and picked Big Mumma up from the police station on the way back to the hotel.

We got back to our room and Big Mumma ran to the window yelling "It's snowing, it's snowing" with excitement in her voice. I walked to the window and looked up to see a flock of pigeons purched on a railing above. "It sure is snowing" I said and ".......sort of" under my breath. Never let the truth get in the way of a happy Big Mumma!

It's Christmas Day here today so Happy Hol.....oops.....I mean Merry Christmas again.

Big Mumma and the Broadway Bandit

Big Mumma goes America - Day Twelve

26th December 2015

Big Mumma is snoring away beside me on a couch in the bar of the hotel that we are staying in. We have had a big day out today and we are both tired.

Times Square is not my favourite place. Thousands of people are pushing in to see what thousands of other people are looking at and by the time they get there they realise that there is nothing to look at except illuminated advertising. Street hawkers are trying to get their commisions on selling bus tour tickets and Broadway show tickets. The shop staff in the area are agressively friendly until you decide not to buy anything and then they are abrupt and rude. That's enough Times Square for me.

We had a chilly breakfast on the 23rd floor balcony of the hotel this moning and then went down to Times Square where we purchased tickets for a an open top, double decker tour bus that we can get on and off at any time over the next three days. We took the first bus available from Times Square. We went past all sorts of landmarks, the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, Woolworths Building, the tour guide announced everything along the way, Madison Square Gardens, Wall Street, pointing out the apartments of the rich and famous, Leonardo Dicaprio, Rupert Murdoch, Deborah Harry, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Radcliff. At one stage in the ride, the guide went downstairs in the bus leaving the microphone behind. Big Mumma's eyes lit up as she moved down the centre aisle and picked up the microphone. "On our left is an old man on a bike" she said, pointing vigorously, "On our right is a big, big building", "Coming up is a set of traffic lights.", "Oh look, there's a sale on in Macy's.". I thought she was doing pretty well. The official tour guide came back up the narrow stairs looking for his microphone. "If you look behind us you will see yellow taxis following us" she said as the tour guide moved toward her reaching for the microphone. Big Mumma was fast. Ducking and weaving and a bit of bus top crowd surfing.......the microphone siege ended peacefully enough with Big Mumma tipping the tour guide and a few of the passengers. Just the ones that had held her down while the tour guide retrieved the microphone and continued his job.

Our tickets also include a boat trip out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We had planned on taking the boat out today but when we got down to the Battery Park docks, The boat queues were so long, we decided to stay on the bus. We will try again tomorrow.

After the bus ride we returned to a great little pub in Hells Kitchen that we like, called The Brickyard, for a beer and a burger. They make great Buffalo burgers! Thankfully, most of New York is nothing like Times Square!

New York has been unseasonably warm, 21C, 19C and 12C today but things are cooling down. 7C and rain tomorrow which is more normal for this time of year.

Lots of love to all

Big Mumma and the Hells Kitchen Hand

Big Mumma goes America - Day Thirteen

27th December 2015

Escape from Macy's

I am sitting in the hotel bar after a long walk. Big Mumma is up in our room, she has been unofficially banned from the bar after her sleeping, snoring and sleep talking effort yesterday. Apparently she scared a few of the hotel guests. She does tend to "windmill" when she roles over in her sleep and she snorts quite loudly inbetween snores sometimes. She did roll off the couch a couple of times. And then accused people of tilting the couch. To many lemonades I think.

We got up earlyish this morning. Big Mumma had a bit of a snuffle this morning and we didn't have any tissues in the hotel room so I suggested she take a spare roll of toilet paper with her in her bag. We wanted to get on the same downtown bus that we took yesterday and then catch the boat out to Liberty Island and Ellis Island. We got an early bus which meant the queues for the boats wouldn't be long....except we got on the wrong bus. We were on an uptown bus which took us north around Central Park. We realised early that we were on the wrong bus but decided just to go with the flow. Central Park is 843 acres so it is a bit bigger than most parks in the middle of cities. We stopped at one of the many impressive cathedrals for some photography. New York has some impressive examples of nineteenth century architecture. The stonemasonary and impressed metal mouldings, tarnished copper roofs are really striking. Big Mumma sniffled and snuffled and seamed to have a tail of toilet roll hanging out of her bag most of the way.

We jumped on the next bus, they go through the same circuit twenty minutes apart, and got off again at the mausoleum of General / President Ulysses S. Grant. I have a big interest in the year 1861 and he played a big role in that year in the American Civil War. Outside the mausoleum, there were sqirrels everywhere. Big Mumma was more interested in the squirrels than the mausoleum.

On to the next bus and on we went through Harlem. Big Mumma was on the lookout for Globe Trotters but didn't spot any. We went past the New York Natural History Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Gugenheim and the spot that the boat race in Stuart Little was held. We got off the bus outside the Central Park Zoo.

Maddi told me that the US food was supersized, I haven't really seen it yet. There isn't much more American than a hot dog. The hot dogs that we had in Central Park were a bit smaller than a Bunnings sausage in bread but with a lot less flavour. Very disappointing.

5th Avenue is some of the most expensive realestate in the world. Cartier, Prada, Gucci, DeBeers and on the list went. We were on a mission......A mission to Macy's. Big Mumma set off in front, very determined. She was power walking! Those little legs were pumping. I just strolled along behind. Big crowds surround us. New York City has a population over eight million and that is just the city. One million come here for New Years Eve celebrations, as we have, and most of them are currently shopping on 5th Avenue.

We dropped in at the Orvis store. At last, a fishing tackle store that has licenses and live bait available.

We walked from 57th Street down to 34th on 5th Avenue and then across to Macy's which takes up the whole block between 6th, 7th and 34th, 33rd. Outside, thousands of people are hanging around the Christmas windows blocking the doorways. Big Mumma raises and extends her elbows and drives through the crowd like a hole cutting saw. I just follow behind. Once inside, Macy's is revealed as a very big Myer store with more levels but less range. We followed the signs to find different things but typically American slap dash, not much was where it was meant to be. Big Mumma bought some clothes that she didn't need as Big Mumma does. As we reached the top floor, the eigth, a security guard randomly asked to check Big Mumma's bag. Oh no..........my throat went dry.........Big Mumma calmy opened her bag and out jumped a big grey squirrel. I knew it.....I thought Big Mumma's bag was looking bigger than normal. I hate to think what the squirrel has left behind in Big Mumma's bag. The squirrel took off down the moving arm of the escalator with toilet paper tangled around it's tail, unrolling from Big Mumma's bag. The security guard dived onto the escalator in a commando roll with Big Mumma following after. At first, I turned to go in the opposite direction but being faced with a choice between the Womens Underwear department armed with blue rinse bra fitters and the great department store escalator squirrel chase, I dived onto the escalator. By the time I landed on the 7th floor, two security guards lay starfished on the landing wrapped in toilet paper. I continued down through a trail of destruction, keeping back far enough so as to disassociate myself. At the bottom of the escalators a few of the cosmetics ladys and effeminate cosmetics men looked randomly ruffled and bedraggled on the ground floor. A trail of toilet paper runs around some of them, along the main aisle and flashing around the revolving entrance / exit door......Big Mumma was outside anonymously looking at the, now defunct, Christmas windows. A trail of toilet paper ran to her hand bag. A squirrel jumped along a narrow branch above her......apparently Big Mumma tipped the security guard enough to abandon the chase. I quickly moved Big Mumma off to Broadway. "On Broadway" is a theatre of over five hundred seats. Off Broadway is a theatre of less than five hundred seats. Off Off Broadway is a theatre of less than one hundred seats. I don't know if they have a name for a mobile, action theatre with over one million viewers but that is what I am in every day with Big Mumma in New York.

Lots of love to all

Big Mumma and the Macy's Man

RIP Stevie Wright

Big Mumma goes America - Day Fourteen

28th December 2015

The aim today, and the last couple of days, was to go to Liberty Island and Ellis Island but we were thwarted again today. One million visitors come to New York to stand in Times Square for New Years Eve but today, they are in a queue to get on the boat that we want to get on. The queue is at least a mile long and, according to one of the security guards, at least four hours wait. Big Mumma used all of her powers in an attempt to distract and divert the queue. She started a bit of a circular Hip Hop Skip. Threw in a hand stand here and a back flip there A lot of sharpie dancing and the occasional forward diving manouver to do her new house move, she calls "The Inch Worm"! I don't think it needs explanaition. She even started a bit of a statue rap "Yiberty, Liberty, diberty boat people crowd, if I don't get on I yell real loud"........."Downtown, Uptown, all 'round da town, get down on da town like a circus clown"...... She sure ain't no Sick Chick Em but at least she had a go......the queue didn't move but a few nickles and dimes were thrown at and to her.

We went over to the free Staton Island ferry, it goes past the Statue of Liberty, but so did thousands of other people. Oh well, maybe tomorrow?!

We were a bit dissappointed but went for a walk up through Wall Street past the statue of George Washington and the New York Stock Exchange and then we walked the Brooklyn Bridge over the Hudson River. It is more of a shuffle on a narrow wooden pathway that is split equally between cyclists and pedestrians. The bridge is about one mile long and is shoulder to shoulder, push and shove shuffle all of the way. It was pretty cold today especislly walking over the bridge. We warmed up with some lunch in Brooklyn Heights and then took our first venture on the New York Subway.

It's pretty much the same as Melbourne's rail system except there is no grafitti or tagging. In fact there is no evidence of graffiti or tagging in New York at all that we have seen. Even Harlem. People are very proud of their city, they fly the "Stars and Stripes" wherever possible and really look after their monuments, gardens and buildings. We haven't ventured to the Bronx though so maybe we are looking through rose coloured glasses. We took the subway back to Times Square and walked back to the hotel.

We have just been to the Applejack Diner on Broadway for dinner. I found out the hard way that an American Ribeye is an Australian Scotch Fillet. Nice enough, in an American Diner atmosphere, washed down with a Budweiser, but not what I expected.

Big Mumma is asleep across the bed in star formation. Snoring with occasional sleep rap murmurings. Probably exhausted from all the dancing. I love you Big Mumma.

Lots of Love to all

Big Mumma "In da 'hood" and the Brooklyn Bridge Shuffler

Big Mumma goes America - Day Fifteen

29th December 2015

A few New York fun facts (there will be a test after)

  • Madison Square Park, Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, and Bryant Park used to be cemeteries. There are 20,000 bodies buried in Washington Square Park alone.
  • It can cost over $289,000 for a one-year hot dog stand permit in Central Park.
  • The city of New York will pay for a one-way plane ticket for any homeless person if they have a guaranteed place to stay. (Remember that fact)
  • On Nov. 28, 2012, not a single murder, shooting, stabbing, or other incident of violent crime in NYC was reported for an entire day. The only time ever.
  • In New York City there are more than 26,000 people living in each square mile.
  • It takes 75,000 trees to print a Sunday edition of the New York Times.
  • New York City has more people than 39 of the 50 states in the U.S.
  • There is a birth in New York City every 4.4 minutes and a death every 9.1 minutes.
  • The Federal Reserve Bank on New York’s Wall Street contains vaults that are located 80 feet beneath the bank and hold about 25 percent of the world’s gold bullion.
  • There’s a man who mines sidewalk cracks for gold. He can make over $600 a week.
  • About 1 in every 38 people living in the United States resides in New York City.
  • The borough of Brooklyn on its own would be the fourth largest city in the United States. Queens would also rank fourth nationally.
  • New York City has the largest Chinese population of any city outside of Asia.
  • New York has the largest Puerto Rican population of any city in the world.
  • More than 47 percent of New York City’s residents over the age of 5 speak another language other than English at home.
  • New York’s Central Park is larger than the principality of Monaco.
  • Women may go topless in public, providing it is not being used as a business.
  • Manhattan’s daytime population swells to 3.94 million, with commuters adding a net 1.34 million people.
  • New York City served as the capital of the United States in the 1780s before it was moved to Philadelphia and then Washington D.C.
  • There was one homicide on 9/11, and it remains unsolved.
  • Albert Einstein’s eyeballs are stored in a safe deposit box in the city.
  • New York City’s Chinatown is the largest Chinese enclave in the Western Hemisphere.
  • Phantom of the Opera is currently the longest running show in Broadway history, with over 9100 performances.
  • New York City subway musicians actually go through a rigorous selection process. Many of the musicians have even performed at famous venues such as Carnegie Hall before moving to the subways.
  • The Jewish population in NYC is the largest in the world outside of Israel.
  • New York City’s 520-mile coastline is longer than those of Miami, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco combined.
  • Cleopatra’s Needle, a 3,000-year-old Egyptian ruin, can actually be found in New York’s Central Park. In 1879 it was given to the city as a gift by the Khedive of Egypt. The 220-ton, 66-foot-high monument took a decade to be fully transported.
  • There are tiny shrimp called copepods in NYC’s drinking water.
  • 100 million Chinese food cartons are used annually in New York City.
  • There is a secret train platform in the Waldorf Astoria hotel.
  • Annual location shoots on the streets of New York number 40,000 — including commercials, feature films, television shows and series, music videos and documentaries.
  • The Big Apple is a term coined by musicians meaning to play the big time.
  • New York City taxi cabs are yellow because according to car salesman John Hertz (1907), yellow is the easiest color to spot at a distance.
  • On a clear day, the Empire State Building offers 80 miles of visibility.
  • The Manhattan grid pattern produces an effect known as “Manhattanhenge” as, on two days sunset is directly aligned with the street grid pattern.

Big Mumma is currently trying to get a free flight home by walking around with a sign on back and front saying "G'day. I'm Big Mumma and I am homeless but I have a guaranteed place to live in Australia". And she is handing out flyers. Nice idea but I think people think that she is promoting a bad comedy on Broadway.

We slept in today so caught the subway to Grand Central Station. These guys know how to build big, impressive buildings. And keep them looking good and operating well.

From Grand Central, we caught the subway uptown to the Beacon Theatre on Broadway just to double check that we know where we are going on New Years Eve when we go to see Gov't Mule. Luckily, The Beacon Theatre was right where it was meant to be.

From The Beacon, we walked East to Central Park and walked around the lakes past the spot where they hold the really big concerts and back to the hotel.

I know what y'all are thinking.......what about the Statue of Liberty? Well we finally made it this evening. Check out the video attached.

Lots of Love to all

Big Mumma and the Central Park Squirrel Chaser

Big Mumma goes America - the Final Days

1st January 2016

Sitting in the departure lounge at Newark Airport waiting for our first flight of the long journey home. Big Mumma has gone to look at the shops. She’s still got some US cash so there should be a bit of a tipping frenzy as departure time gets closer.

Big Mumma actually did the sharpie dance in the airport.

It was New Year’s Eve here last night and we had an amazing night together to finish off our holiday……but first, I’ll back track a couple of days.

29th December 2015

We had had no luck in our attempts to get to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island so, inspired by an email from her good friend Mikey B, Big Mumma……..a white and grey speckled pigeon just walked past me inside the airport…………anyway…….Big Mumma, put together her “Queue Diversion” kit. She dyed a hotel sheet and made up a cardboard crown. She had a rolled up newspaper and matches for her flaming torch. She has been practicing her sharpie dancing and has added some really good robot dance moves. She was practicing “The Escalator” move in our room and nearly escalated herself out of the Hotel Window. She sure works hard……she had been talking all day about juggling. I haven’t seen any jugglers in New York. She was talking about squirrel juggling being the extra special diversion that she needed. On a full dress rehearsal in Statue of Liberty costume doing the escalator, she caused an evacuation of the hotel when the drapes caught on fire! Oh Big Mumma!

30th December 2015

We were up early and on the subway by 8:00 AM and at the ferry terminal at Battery Park by 8:30 and there was no queue. Thank goodness, no need for diversionary tactics. In the ferry terminal, there is security checking the same as airport security. In we go, shoes off, belt off, jacket off, bags on the conveyor. As Big Mumma’s bag goes through I see a bit of movement. Security pick out Big Mumma’s bag and as they unzip for closer inspection. three bedraggled looking squirrels jump out, each leaping in a different direction, security and squirrel mayhem everywhere. Big Mumma claims that she was just looking after the squirrels and that she meant no harm plus she tipped a few people……we made it to the ferry.

Liberty Island is only a couple of miles off shore and Ellis Island is only a mile from Liberty Island. It is a very impressive statue. It must have been impressive 150 years ago when all immigrants came in by boat, past The Statue of Liberty, to be processed on Ellis Island for entrance to the United States. The statue is bronze and was originally brown. Within forty years, it had oxidized to the green that it now is. Big Mumma just wanted to get up there with a can of Brasso.

31st December 2015

Early in the morning people have started gathering in Times Square. As the day and night progress about one million people gather in Times Square and down 7th Avenue and Broadway where there is a view of the famous New Years ball. The city has organized a whole lot of artists to perform for the crowd and security of 6000 police is higher than normal. Big Mumma and I had a lazy day. We went for a burger at 3:00 PM and the crowd was already huge. At 7:30 PM we made our way along the edge of the crowd and then uptown, away from the crowd. It was Mule time. This was the original driver for being here.

We were at the Beacon Theatre at 8:00PM and bought a couple of new psychedelic t-shirts. This theatre is an Art Deco design that was built in the 1920’s and is truly beautiful. We had great seats at the back of the first balcony which meant that Big Mumma could stand on her seat and dance the night away.

Gov’t Mule came on at 9:00 PM as a seven piece band and performed ninety minutes of Grateful Dead covers. A short break and they were back as a five piece band and did about sixty minutes of The Band covers another short break and they returned as an eleven piece band including three drummers to bring in the new year for two and a half hours of Allman Brothers Band covers. Big Mumma danced a lot but I don’t think she was ready for a five and a half hour show. She slept through the encore. A fantastic night with a great band, three thousand drunk and or stoned Americans and Big Mumma. It doesn’t get better than that.

As Forest Gump said “I’m pretty tired….I think I’ll go home now.”

Lots of Love and see y’all soon

Big Mumma and the Mule

The End

Created By
David Bolitho
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All Photographs and videos by David & Donna Bolitho

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