Showing off Tasmania’s wine route is dangerous.
Not because of the roads but because by the time you and your mates have bought a few bottles from the cellar door to taste at home over dinner the temptation to try them all is hard to resist.
Thus it was that the new year period saw 5am roll onto the clock and the starry sky contemplating another sunny day.
It was not an hour I had seen outside of an overly eager four-year-old dragging his dad out of bed.
Good friends and good wine will get you every time and I had two with me so my risk was doubled.
Despite living in three different states and despite my terrible ability to keep in touch (I hate small talk and telephone conversations), we remain close friends.
There is something about bonds formed in adolescence – they are stronger. Like gold, they are malleable; stretching into sometimes thin cords but never breaking connection.
On the outside, the friendship with one would seem a little peculiar. We lived in the same town for a matter of years. It has been more than 20 years since he left Tasmania. He works in construction and I couldn’t build a house of cards.
But he is smart, funny, generous, loyal and, having worked in some top kitchens, prepares a sensational platter to complement the flowing wine.
As teenagers, we bonded over soccer, which he played with skill and Central American flair, never missing the opportunity to try a rainbow flick despite being the last defender or worse, the goalkeeper.
He was different and he was interesting. I had no idea where El Salvador even was but soon learned some interesting things including that the soccer-mad country went to war with neighbouring Honduras in some parts over the outcome of a World Cup qualifier. The Football War as it became known lasted 100 hours.
Because he spoke only Spanish when he arrived he pronounced y has j so the word yellow became “jellow”.
Phonetics meant every syllable in Wednesday was carefully pronounced “Wed-Nes-Day”.
He still gets some sayings back to front in English because that is how Spanish reads.
I love it and still do. Not because it is funny or demeans him, but because it shows where he came from as an eight-year-old boy and what he’s overcome.
Could you be dumped in another country at that age, not knowing anyone, not speaking the language?
I doubt I could.
It is a similar I admire the Scottish burr another friend’s mum has despite being in Australia for several decades.
Or when my toddler picks up his mum’s South African accent and calls me “Mork”.
There are miles of heritage that stretches back through generations that makes us who we are.
For my friend, it goes back to when the Spanish conquistadors clashed with the Inca civilisation.
That night/morning we listened to music that defined our friendship. You Am I’s Hourly Daily, both the album and titular track got a run. Tim Rogers sings: “There's fourteen year olds/Screaming get out of my country.”
He reckons he never met with much racism then and doesn’t get much now except when people think he is Mexican, Maori or Aboriginal.
Whether he is immune on unaware, it is something I’ve noticed in the stares or unfriendly customer service when were together.
Is Australia racist? Is there more racism? The answers are not absolute.
What is clear is whether through more media coverage, social media connections, and planned organisation, we will see more nationalist fervour such as the right wing rally at St Kilda last week.
This type of behaviour and language will ramp up towards Australia Day and a federal election.
For these groups it is their opportunity to grab a national platform and, sadly, for politicians it is a chance to dog whistle on safety fears.
The Liberal Opposition in Victoria ran almost exclusively on a public order and safety campaign at the November election.
It is why you have MPs like Fraser Anning, elected to the Senate on 19 votes, spending thousands of taxpayers’ dollars jetting across the country to attend far-right rallies.
This is the person who claimed not to know the origin of the term “final solution” when calling for a plebiscite on immigration.
This is the person who claims there were no racists among the rally members who had swastikas and performed Nazi salutes.
Former senator Sam Dastyari wrote a great piece about his encounter with these same “nationalists” who confronted him at a pub.
They called him a monkey, ridiculed his Islamic heritage and castigated him for drinking wine not beer. (“The fact that neither of those were “halal” was completely lost on them,” he joked.)
The former Labor Senator always came across as a Machiavellian power broker, obsessed with furthering his own career and taking some pretty questionable paths to do so.
But his writing was spot on here. He described how he laughed off the abuse from “a bunch of ignorant racists”, noting he was an outspoken public figure embroiled in controversy at the time.
“I didn’t really need the sympathy. Feel sorry for the funny looking kid in the schoolyard getting picked on because they are a refugee, not the career hack,” he wrote.
“The fact that a bunch of reactionary, ill-informed idiots have the right to march through the streets of Melbourne fills me with hope. I despise them and love our country more. Their freedom to be fools is my freedom to embrace the causes I believe in.”
Dastyari is from Iran where “you don’t march in the streets unless you are prepared to risk your life”.
“You don’t have the occasional idiot “nationalist” sloganeering. But you also don’t have women’s rights. Gays are still persecuted and religious minorities are not tolerated.”
It is why you have a Saudi teenager trying to get into Australia to live, work and study as she chooses not as her family decrees.
It is why my friend’s dad left war-torn El Salvador as a political refugee because his views were not the government’s views.
It is what makes this country great.
That is the story we need to show off.
- Mark Baker is Australian Community Media Tasmania managing editor