The day I graduated bartender school in South Australia I walked into the Botanic Bar in Adelaide in the middle of the afternoon and asked for the manager, the burly dude behind the bar said, you’re talking to him, to which I responded; “I now have my State license and mixology degree to tend Bar, when do I start?” (….he started laughing) and said “you just did”.
The Botanic Hotel was built when the most amazing Botanic Garden on earth was created in the 1880’s. The hotel is across the road from the main entrance to the Garden and home to the famous Botanic Bar, where I had my first bartender job. The Adelaide Botanic Garden was amazing to me, I went every day to discover everything about the place.
Previous to Adelaide I had been living in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia working for a company from Adelaide, and living on the edge of a botanical garden. From the second floor I could look across the tree tops and down to the Timor Sea, on the seashore is a massive white pyramid of the Diamond Beach Casino, Resort Hotel.
Walking across the gardens of Darwin, then Adelaide I was in awe of the collections and how well marked and organized everything is, there were rarely anyone in these magnificent places, that’s what started my lifelong passion for botanical gardens. At any rate, when the Darwin job was done, I was invited to work in Adelaide.
The Ghan was another great adventures of my life, it’s an Australian passenger train service between Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin on the Adelaide–Darwin railway. Operated by Great Southern Rail, it takes 54 hours to travel the 2,979 kilometres (1,851 mi) with a four-hour stopover in Alice Springs. There are no words (now) to describe the experience.
Youth Hostels in Adelaide were excellent and full of young travellers from all over the world, the tip for the best rock bars could be found in the hostels, and so could willing party-goers, life was grand. Then a great opportunity arose to work part-time, on the restoration of an old house that belonged to the brother of a friend I met in Darwin. My work was paying my rent, I really enjoyed the project because it was like my own house.
The owner, was a middle aged bachelor of Italian descent, said his family were mob from Calabria and he introduced me to his Mom, whom he lived with, she couldn’t speak English but made perfect tomato sauce and the best Italian food around. Lou drove an Alfa Romeo convertible, bet on the horses compulsively and liked to smoke heroin off of tin-foil, sucking the smoke through a BIC pen. I tried it a couple of times and both couldn’t afford it, and also got turned-off by how fiendish my friend became.
That grand house in Adelaide was over 100 years old, still had the same tiles most everywhere and really good bones as they say in the house restoration business, with high ceilings, big heavy old windows and like many Ozzy homes had great wide covered veranda all the way around the house. I really learned from working with the Italian, he dropped by almost every day and gradually we brought that house back to it’s original grandeur.
Speaking of Grandeur, in the Adelaide Botanic Garden is the Palm House it’s an exquisite, painstakingly restored Victorian glasshouse imported from Bremen, Germany in 1875. It is thought to be the only one of its kind still in existence and also there’s a huge conservatory and fabulous grounds and perhaps one of the best plant collections anywhere, due to climate.
From my 100 year old house in Adelaide, I could walk to the Botanic Bar in about 20 minutes, across the gardens and my house became a wonderful haven, especially from the heat, as there was something about those old masonry houses that were built to deal with the almost insane temperatures. Did I say that South Australia is hot?
Beaches in South Australia may be some of the best in the world, a little ways to go in order to reach the better ones but it’s a slice of nature and raw beauty that I wasn’t prepared for back then. As I met some homesteaders who lived in hills above the city on cottages farms, and many musicians started to enter my life, also a few great girls, one of whom stole my heart.
The girl from Broken Hill worked in a bank in the day time and worked with me at the Botanic Bar in the night time. That Bar was busy every night of the week and it was hard to find waitresses that could handle the job, it was among the more intense places I ever worked. We really had to use teamwork and keep good math, remember drink orders and move fast, avoid spilling and deal with inebriated revellers. The after-parties for staff were legendary, like a victorious band that could party like rock stars.
One night there was a knock at my window, early in the morning, on a night I wasn’t working. It was my girlfriend with another cocktail waitress from the bar, they were drunk, so I let them climb through the window and into my bed. The reason I remember was because this was at a time when I was sober and intimidated by these two bad girls, so instead of doing what would have been obvious, I got us all into the kitchen and made more drinks and totally destroyed the vibe and the fun we were having.
That night never left my mind, as I think the girls were curious about each other and wanted to make-out but back in the 80’s it was so unheard-of, or much more rare, and I was prudish and lacked knowledge. The other thing is, we have a tendency to remember only the ones that got away, and like a good classic movie, those imaginary love scenes never left my mind.
Something else happened to me in that house but I’ll never know if it was the bourbon or delusion. Only all this time later do I think that I had a higher consciousness experience, after being alone so much in that old house and after a long extremely hot evening, burning candles and playing soft trance music, pacing around the huge empty house and coming back to stare at my face in an ancient mirror, I saw myself. I knew something unusual had happened, it’s etched in my mind to this day. In an instant I became without time, completely separate from my body, while in it.
What I saw was myself, looking back at myself down the ages. I knew that I would remember that moment for the rest of my life, as I recall it to you now. I saw that I had no age and there was no concept of time, in a place where infinity exists and everything and everyone is known.
Now I’m almost 60 years old and on at least 3 different occasions I’ve experienced the same profound sensation, where all of a sudden I was aware of the universe, inside my own mind. In that place of ultimate peace there’s a deep sense of relief and an understanding that I knew all along but had neglected to remember. I seek that place daily, the task gives me purpose and every now and then, I find this inner place of comfort that I discovered when I was 22.
A Course in Miracles, of which I am at Lesson #296, teaches not to think about the past, let it go and not to worry about the future. For the most part I remain in the Power of Now but occasionally I smile to reflect on how naive I was as a young man, stupid almost but with great curiosity for the world and always on a quest for adventure.