Next December, Covid-19 permitting, you can spend Xmas eve in downtown Bethlehem. I usually stay at Room in the Inn, a short walk from Manger Square, the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Nativity, which not surprisingly hosts the Grotto of Nativity where the miracle man was said to be born. There are two negatives you might want to consider before hopping online to book your room to be there for the 2021 carols and midnight ceremonies.
Bethlehem is in Palestine. This means that, while you can rent a very fine Ssangyong Rodius (Rodius aptly means Lord of the Road) for about $150 a day from the Upper Nazareth branch of Hertz Car Rental, you can’t drive to Bethlehem, so save it for cruising the 175km Trans Israel highway where the speed limit is meant to be 130km/h. Just be aware Israeli drivers figure every minute on the road is a race but their race cars have the world’s most used horns and no indicators. Given all this race experience it’s no wonder, last year, local lad Roy Nissany, became Israel’s first F1 driver. He’s at Williams and very quick. You can drive around the West Bank by renting from one of the local companies in East Jerusalem for about $50 a day.
Even if you are in the Christian tradition, things are difficult. Catholics celebrate the birth on December 25, while the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem and the Armenian Apostolic Church break out the illuminated boats, Christopsomo, pork, melomakarona and kourabiedes two weeks later. If you are of another tradition, then things are probably even more difficult. Last time I was there the Wi-Fi wasn’t working so the three wise persons, Michael McMichael, Tom Connolly and I, found no Zoom at The Inn.
But this year we’ve already found miracles in the weirdest places. Like Adelaide.
South Australia and Tasmania vie for this country’s most important title: Australia’s most fanatical petrol, diesel and alternative fuels (except electric) heads. Most politicians who understand economics and like creating jobs encourage all forms of auto investment, from parts manufacturing to motorsport. Ironically then, the current South Australian government, hard on the heels of losing car manufacturing, has turned its back on motorsport. No need to write in. The facts are simple. There were very few countries that could make a car from scratch. Australia was one. Every country that makes cars gives automakers some form of direct assistance and/or indirect assistance through complex regulation of imports. Australia decided not to be one. So, the basic question is: if you have a car industry that creates a long line of jobs, many of which are in 21st Century industries, would you keep it or shut it down?
Remember, a University of Adelaide report estimated about one-third of sacked blue-collar auto workers were likely to become long-term unemployed.
As Victoria realised when it stole the F1 from its neighbouring state, motorsport creates jobs, attracts tourists and gives the place lots of publicity. But Premier Steve Marshall shut down the Adelaide 500 (a nationally and internationally televised event featuring Supercars) and the Adelaide Motorsport Festival. In a festive season miracle, opposition leader Pete Malinauskas has promised to bring back both events if enough people vote for him next year.
Despite the name, Pete is not from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem or Armenian Apostolic Church faiths. No, grandmother Eta went through the second big one in Hungary and escaped to Bathurst because she was a fan of Brocky. She married Pete Sr, a Lithuanian refugee, and they moved to Adelaide for the Australian Grand Prix and Classic Adelaide Rally. Being a metal-loving family, Pete’s parents sent him to Mercedes College.
OK. Belt up and hold on because the miracles keep coming in what used to be the Festival State. The long-term effects of Covid were demonstrated at the Bethlehem of this fair country on Xmas eve. Cue Mariah Carey singing All I Want for Xmas is You and the most bizarre musical event in the past 50 years, David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth.
To set the scene for this next extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause because it does not follow the usual laws of nature, you need to know that the Kensi Hotel in Adelaide has been the subject of constant promotion in this column for over 15 years. Equally, the Sultan of Stepney and BMW repairer to the royal family (not the Downers, the Windsors), Michael McMichael, would have spent at least $3m in the corner bar over that time. But not once has he seen the benefit of our public relations and investment efforts. So, imagine when, dressed in his best Santa outfit, he steps inside this Xmas eve, orders a Coopers and bar person Glenys says “this one is on us!”
Not to be outdone in the bringing the tourists back to Adelaide department, the Kensi’s owners, former chalkie Peter and former medical person Jenny, have officially announced they are investigating bringing octopus wrestling to the Kings Room. As you know from last week, octopus wrestling was bigger than motor racing and underwater dominoes during the 1950s and 1960s, on the west coast of the US and Canada. Let’s see what Steve Marshall can do to match this.
And our final miracle is the blue 1993 Cizeta V16T that RM Sothebys will be running over the block in Arizona this month. Designed by Marcelo Gandini for investors, former Lamborghini test driver and development engineer Claudio Zampolli and the father of disco, Giorgio Moroder, it’s one of nine, three of which (including this one) were bought by the Sultan of Brunei. It comes with a transverse-mounted 402kw, V-16, with 64 valves, eight camshafts, two fuel-injection systems, four-cylinder heads, four pop-up headlights and 983km on the clock. I think Miami supercar dealer Curated had this up for under a million, but have put it up for auction.
Have a miraculous New Year.