Friday, May 9, 2008

I Gain My Reward

April 18th

I gain my reward.

I awoke in a railroad car. This sounds much worse than it was. The YHA I stayed at was an old railroad depot, and several cars had been turned into eight-person dorms. As usual, I was the one American among a smorgasbord of European and Asian travelers. The night before, I had been treated to three dollar snags (hot dog/ braut) and beer. I had three snags, but gave two beers away, as it was some pretty average Portuguese swill. However, the snags were of higher quality than expected. A German girl was handing out buns and cheese. She was pretty damn cute, but I was too tired to make the effort with anyone. I stank and so did my clothing. Washing both and going to bed was foremost in my mind.

The morning came with hard rain on the corrugated roof. At least it sounded hard; all rain sounds hard on a corrugated roof. I was excited. No, I was bloody ecstatic. Today was the day. Sure, getting to Sydney was great and all, but today was the reward. I had for the past several weeks been in correspondence with Heather of Di Croco. Di Croco is the homegrown couture creator of Saltwater Crocodiles skin products. Since my last trip to Australia, I had wanted, nay - coveted, no…. needed a croc belt to complete myself. Five long years I had waited for this moment. I eagerly got on my bike and wound my way through Sydney to number 7 Double Bay, critically aware of the traffic, as I did not want anything to interfere with my mission. The store opened at nine, and I grabbed a cup off coffee to kill time. I also made sure my credit card was in order, not wanting to suffer the embarrassment of a declined card with a woman I had already exchanged roughly a dozen emails. I also went to the facilities. Nothing was going to interfere with my extravagance that morning.

For those of you who are concerned, salt-water croc is not an endangered species - however, some populations in Asia are certainly at risk. In a sick twist of irony Australian Saltwater Crocs were rescued from extinction by their lovely, lovely skin. They are the top predator in their environment and were nearly hunted to extinction because they were both a pest and in high demand for their skin. Once they became scarce, the local government woke up and realized that they were destroying a lucrative resource with bad management, and they protected the animals. In Australia, they are almost up to pre-colonial levels. Any croc that is used for its skin is bred at a croc farm - one of which I had the pleasure of going to on my last trip to Darwin. In this croc compound, crocs are bred. Problem crocs are found in the wild and taken to the farm as studs. A few of these animals are in solitary confinement, having become far too cantankerous to even breed with the females. Thus, due to the virtue of its skin’s use as a leather, the 'saltie' has saved its collective species' skin. Incidentally, as the planet gets warmer, its possible habitat will increase.

Thus I have no moral dilemma with wearing one of these old dinosaurs. I was the first customer of the day, and Heather addressed me by name as she swiped her security card and let me in. It was a very fine store with several croc products of her design all around it. She only had third and fourth generation leather workers touch her skins. She lay out the belts she had set aside for me. I was enthralled. For a young (and still) lover of everything dinosaur, it was hard not to make the comparison of wearing a bit of Tyrannosaurus Rex. The belt of back-strap was what I wanted most. The dual ridges of the scales were stiff with character. I chose the silver belt buckle. Gold and brass do not suite me as well. Wrapping it around me, I felt absolutely complete - completely at home with my shallow side. My jeans were well worn, and my shirt was old, but at least they were clean. More importantly, with this belt on they were very much improved.
The belt was the whopping sum of 400AUD - double the price it was 5 years ago. I know it's a lot. In fact I would agree with you and state that it was far too much to ever pay for a belt. Yet, I could not let it go this time around. I needed it, and while a huge lump in my throat formed when she gave me the bill, I did not and still do not have a gram of buyer’s regret.

While the credit card ran, a sizable gray-topped gentleman in fine casual clothing walked in with what I first mistook to be his daughter, until I noticed the considerably-sized diamond on her hand, as well as other Cleopatrian style adornments, that led me to believe she must be his wife, and not Daddy's little girl. They were an interesting couple. He assumed the belts on the table had been set out for him. It turns out that this gent is also a fan of the croc belt, and every time he heads to Australia, he buys a belt for one of his friends as a souvenir. I judged from the casual way he picked out the belt that we were most likely not in the same tax bracket. They were quite kind. He told me how much they loved Sydney and how much they wished they had the choice of living here; this was followed by a quick pause and followed with the afterthought: "I suppose we do have the choice, we just love Dallas!"

I was confused. The man had what I believed to have once been a queen’s English accent, but it was very subtle. The revelation of his Texan home cleared this up. He then proceeded to tell me about the racehorse that he bought the last time he was here. Unfortunately, despite the young stallion’s quality bloodlines, he was not performing and was quite rambunctious - going as far as to actually have bitten the hand (well at least that hand that wrote the checks) that fed him. I really did empathize with him best I could. I bid them all adieu with the devil on my shoulder telling me to buy the 650AUD dress belt and the angel telling me to get the hell out of that place before I bought something that might give me buyers remorse.

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