Brian Doyle January 18, 2011
Went to visit a classroom of nine-year-olds the other day, the topic being Our Friend Australia, and I was invited because I have been in Australia for nearly 30 days in my life, all told, and so obviously I know the country like a twin brother, and things got so hilariously out of hand in class that I wrote down as much as I could remember right away, and here are the highlights.
Do Australians hate us?
No, because we invented basketball.
Who does Australia hate, then?
The Collingwood Magpies.
Who is the president of Australia?
Gary Ablett Junior.
What does the country look like?
Like Utah married New Jersey, but with crocodiles.
What do Australians eat?
Yeast paste. You wouldn't believe how foul and horrifying this food is. It tastes like someone ground up a penguin and then left it in the rain for a month before adding rubber and dirt to it. It is incomprehensible to me how anyone could ever in this lifetime eat such a terrifying food. It's not even the color of any food known to man. It was invented by evil trolls who pretended to be a man named Cyril. No one else knows this story. Don't tell anyone. Forget we had this conversation.
Are Australians better at sports than us?
Yes, except for basketball. Although they have Lauren Jackson, the best female player in the world. But she'll get old and then we will be the best again. No worries.
What color are Australians?
They range from light tan to dark tan, except for Rod Laver, who is red.
Who is the most famous Australian ever?
Cathy Freeman, the only woman who ever carried two countries on her shoulders in an Olympic race. Also the greatest cricket player ever was Australian.
What is cricket?
Something to do while eating yeast paste.
Who is their best writer?
Why did you get so upset about the yeast paste?
It's a criminal conspiracy. The first time it touches your tongue you want to die, or move to Canada. It's like the revenge of all the foods that are not delicious. It's the sort of food they find traces of in the tombs of pharaohs, and you wonder after a while why all the dead kings have traces of Vegemite in their crypts, why is that? It makes you wonder.
What is Australian Rules football?
Like soccer married basketball and then took steroids.
What was your favourite thing about Australians?
Their brave grace and the ceaseless river of their dry humour.
And your least favorite thing?
I don't want to talk about Vegemite anymore. It's dangerous to even think about it. Your head starts to swell and you become a Collingwood fan. That's the dark side. Let's not go there.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices.