Many years ago, when the Cultural Affairs Section and the Thomas Jefferson Information Center were still located at 395 Buendia Avenue, Makati, the Australian Embassy endowed me with a grant to represent the Philippines at the Melbourne International Writers Festival. The trip was the equivalent of the U.S. Embassy's International Visitor Grant and entailed attending writers' events in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, and Brisbane.
All of my Australian relatives were--and still are--in Sydney, yet, one of the most memorable states, for me, is Adelaide. At the time I visited, the place reminded me so much of the 1950s. There were neighborhood billiard parlors and shops with huge, glass panes on the sidewalks. Most of the houses had gardens. I especially remember the fragrant, orange trees. During one of the official functions there I was approached by a middle-aged woman who very kindly invited me to an annual dinner party/celebration at her house. As soon as I got there I quickly learned that the event had nothing to do with writers or writing. The dinner, though, was superb; it was the first time I ever tasted dwarf pumpkins. For dessert the guests--there must have been only seven of us--were given marijuana brownies wrapped in cellophane.
Every guest, in accordance with this yearly ritual, brought something for our hostess and her female partner. Most of the guests brought food, but, since I had nothing of the sort to bring, single-rooming in a hotel and all, I gave the hostess a big, fluorite crystal terminator, which delighted everyone so much that one of the guests even attempted to pocket it during the course of the party.
After dinner the hostess and her partner brought me to their bedroom. The hostess then opened her armoire and proceeded to take out her set of SM paraphernalia: a whip, chains, ball gags, nylon rope, a mask, you name it, she had it. She attempted to tease me by hitting me softly with a small, leather pouch that looked like a miniature punch bag. As it turned out, she was a madame who made money on the side performing specialized sex for tourists. I quickly explained that I was not into that kind of thing, and she also quickly apologized, saying over and over again, "I didn't mean to distress you!" Apparently, when she saw me at the writers' event earlier that day, she zoomed in on me because I was wearing my silver gauntlet shaped like hand bones studded with spikes and thought that I was a likely customer.
The hostess had two teenage children, a boy and a girl, who were not only very friendly but very beautiful and seemed to have no qualms about anything. It was my impression that the boy had an older, male lover, whom everyone constantly referred to in several conversations. That boy and that girl must be in their mid-30s now.
I was not shocked, and certainly not distressed, by this episode. As a matter of fact I still think that the hostess and her guests were some of the most interesting Australians I'd ever met. A week after I returned to the Philippines, the hostess wrote me a letter, wishing me well and informing me of things that transpired in her neighborhood after I left. I reciprocated with an equally friendly letter, but that was the last we ever heard from each other.