2023 in threes

End of year reflections, for the 10th time.

Three moments of 2023

Not getting Taylor Swift tickets. There was an entire shared national experience of staring at a lightweight HTML page on the Ticketek website that reloaded every few minutes; not counting the folks who did get tickets who you therefore could argue aren’t really Australian anymore. I didn’t even see the screen of anyone who did get tickets, but I do know a few people who got the VIP tickets in earlier and pricier sales. Those are committed people; one also flew to LA to see a concert there, and another bought VIP tickets to every Australian show. National loyalty isn’t their key loyalty.

About an hour after the main sale wrapped up, I got a phone call to say a family member was in hospital and I seriously wondered if somehow Taylor Swift had done it. (For the record: no, and also the family member is better.)

Sitting in a friend’s bathtub at a party. My family went to a friend’s birthday straight from the beach and she offered us a shower. I fell very hard and very suddenly, landing hard but neatly into a bathing position, and spent a few horrible minutes contemplating my mortality. My daughter and I shouted for help but weren’t heard or understood, so we collected ourselves slowly, dressed, and went back to the party.

Keeping my job. My son’s birthday, which every four years falls across the US presidential inauguration — on his seventh birthday we marked his progress in reading by his asking why someone had written “Trump” in the sky — was instead ushered in this year by my employer laying off 6000 US employees abruptly at about 9pm the night before in local time (early in the morning, US time). We talked about it into the midnight of his birthday, “we’ll just have to see, we’ll just have to see.”

I found out about the Australian layoffs some weeks later, on a bus, via a message from a very senior manager trying to confirm the warnings had gone out. You tell me!

I was not laid off, one of my former bosses, and at least one of my former employees, were.

Three meals of 2023

New Year’s at Infinity. Every third or fourth New Years we decide to join some kind of Sydney festivity for it. So a year ago Andrew and I went to Infinity, the rotating restaurant in Sydney Tower. I don’t, at this point, remember anything about the food, although it was fine. I remember that the table next to us was a Canadian couple; the man determined to have a terrible time come what may. They pause the rotation of the floor for the fireworks displays, so unless you are lucky you have to walk around the restaurant to see them. Our neighbour was specifically convinced that his table had been punitively chosen to have no view of the fireworks, and further believed that Chinese patrons had bribed the staff to get the view. And explained this all at length to both his wife and to whichever senior member of the staff drew the short straw that night.

The service was kind of slow and two courses were served this year, after midnight. They kept trying to comp us New Year’s wine, we weren’t sure whether it was for the slow service, the terrible table nearby, or just that they had a lot of leftover wine.

Watermelon and goat’s cheese salad. My mother and her cousins had a family reunion at the Marsden Brewhouse and I ordered this thinking it sounded like a light lunch of, say, cubes of watermelon tossed with crumbled goat’s cheese.

It was actually a rectangular slab of watermelon, like a piece of toast if it came from the world’s largest loaf and was cut three times as thick as toast, with an entire layer of goat’s cheese slathered over the top like peanut butter. No expenses spared level of goat’s cheese.

Quite good honestly, but unexpected.

Management dinner at Kid Kyoto. A few representatives of my management chain were in Sydney in early December and we had dinner at Kid Kyoto. Someone took a bet on ordering a large bottle of sake despite the denials of the table that we would drink that much sake. Again with the watermelon; this time watermelon sashimi. More thinly sliced than at the Marsden Brewhouse.

Three photos of 2023

Dawn over Sydney, from the Iron Cove bridge Autumn leaves As Gideon Nav

Three pleasures of 2023

Watching sunset reflect off Crown Towers. On the one hand, Crown Towers is evil; it took several years for it to be clean enough to begin to operate as a casino. And I don’t love the shape of it either (it’s known as Packer‘s Pecker for a reason).

But it’s all glass, and at sunset it begins by catching fire from top to bottom, and ends all black except for bright orange flame at the top. Someone paid enough money to bottle Sydney Harbour in that building, and Andrew and I paid enough money to watch it burn from the lower floors of the Sofitel mid-year.

Hanging out with my kids in bed. They’ve very large now, and they like to show up in our bed a few times a week to cuddle me, tease each other, and really disturb the peace.

Snorkeling Byron Bay. We dived Julian Rocks in the morning, which was less fun because I hate diving shallower than 5 metres since buoyancy is a pain. We then went back out to snorkel it with the kids in the afternoon, having perhaps optimistically represented the younger one’s swimming ability to the dive shop. But the snorkelling was in the lee of the rocks, and led by a freediver who made it her business to go down and point out the turtles. My younger child refused to be towed and we all swam out over the sharks together.

Three news stories from 2023

The death toll in Gaza will pass 10,000 children alone, early in 2024.

The Indigenous Voice referendum failed. Since this was thought to be doomed weeks and months in advance — referenda rarely pass in Australia without the support of the Opposition, and it was polling poorly — I think there was considerable government appetite to quietly move on, and so it did, right into the NZYQ v Minister for Immigration pit. A thoroughly ignoble and unoptimistic year in Australian race politics. What now?

The trial of Sam Bankman-Fried served as a rare moment when the villain was pretty obvious and the system recognised such.

Three sensations from 2023

Wind from the south. 2022 was a year without Sydney’s southerly busters but with the return of more normal summer weather, so too the southerly returned in 2023 and with it the 5 seconds of relief between opening the humid still house to the cool wind and closing it up again because the wind is now a gale.

Bruises on my wrists from dumbbells. I’ve been taking weights classes for about a year and a half, which normally use dumbells because it’s quicker to set them up than it is to set up a bar. But I now deadlift into a weight range where if I don’t balance the dumbbells exactly right in my hands, they lean onto my wrists and leave bruises.

Pain in my right heel. I’m more than 12 months into a bout of plantar fasciitis, which largely killed my long walks, one of my best stress relief activities. It ranges from “have to steel myself to get out of bed” through to “niggles after walking several kilometres”, largely depending on how recently I have embraced my fated destiny to spend the rest of my life in shoes mostly made out of foam.

Three sadnesses of 2023

Family funerals in my family tend to fall on the bluest and clearest of days, and my mother’s uncle’s was no different. His widow, my grandmother’s last living sister, sat crying in the front row, when she had enough energy to be awake at all.

Almost everyone I know has left the California Bay Area. It’s still my main business travel destination, but no more Muir Wood magic or rainy weekends in Sonoma. I went to the Bay Area only briefly this year, and it’s the first time I’ve ever been to California but not San Francisco.

My son can’t catch a break. First year in three without a major ear surgery (“I was right up near his brain!” in the post surgical briefing) involved a bad bout of influenza, another bad bout of some other respiratory thing that a RAT couldn’t help us with, a concussion from a schoolmate, and a knee dislocation, all up not far off an entire missed school term.

Three plans for 2024

Eclipse. We’ll see the eclipse of April 8 from Ontario and then do an as yet poorly planned roadtrip to New York City over the course of 3 weeks. The flights are booked, at least.

One million cheer meets and cricket games. Much like in 2023. And 2022. And so it is to be in 2024. It emerges, much to everyone’s surprise, that we are not the same people as our children, and they are going to spend their childhood perfecting back handsprings and cut shots, and probably not any dialect of the BASIC programming language.

Stand-up paddleboarding. Not as a regular thing, it’s just that my children enjoy it enough that we occasionally plan an outing around it. Again with the schism between generations; I am more of a kayak person.

Three hopes for 2024

Changing house. Either moving or beginning some renovations. How very Sydney.

Photo backlog. I’d really like to do this. Just like I would have liked to do it this past year. But I’d still really like to do it.

Some form of music. This is even worse than the photo backlog, I’ve been claiming to want to do some form of music or dance lessons for 10 years now. But if my daughter can do two dance troupes and two cheer teams, surely I can do one choir or something. That’s the dream.

I’ll add one bonus. I’m just going to say it, from my lips to the universe’s ears: I want a supernova visible to the naked eye in 2024.