Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Offensive

For my last breakfast in Melbourne, I walked once again down Sydney Road to another one of the functionally infinite number of hipster cafes in Brunswick. It was an exceptionally good breakfast: rye crumpet with slow cooked pork neck, fried egg, caponata and little chunks of fried black pudding.


As I sat outside eating it, an elderly dog, grey around the muzzle, came up to me and gave me magnificently textbook Puppy Dog Eyes, pouring every gram of her being into willing the pork neck off my plate and into her mouth.


“I’m sorry,” her owner said.


“No worries,” I said, since I like dogs and she wasn’t being aggressive.


“She’s just drawn by the smell, since she lives in a no-meat household.”


“Aw, you poor old thing,” I told the dog, meaning “You are an unfortunate animal because you cannot have what you desperately want,”… but of course it came across as, “You are an unfortunate animal because you are living with some sort of insane vegan.”


Oddly enough the owner abruptly stopped speaking to me after that, although the dog came scampering over every time the owner’s back was turned to give me those big liquid brown eyes filled with desperate longing.

 

Monday, April 25, 2022

Moments (Part 2)


A cafe with the ultimate Melbourne door handles. 

 


A picture of Elvis actually made better by being tossed out. But then he is good at leaving buildings.

 


I’m thankful that I am not a lesbin who will incur the wrath of Jessus.

 


It's not all awesome old records and vintage clothing in Melbourne's op shops. There's always at least one piece of cursed kitsch trying to devour your soul. It's so tiresome.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Beechworth

Today I drove up to Beechworth, about 50km south of Victoria’s border with New South Wales, to visit the parents of a good friend and enjoy an environment in which there were trees, birds, rolling hills, copious amounts of shiraz, and a horrifying number of dead wombats – I counted five lying bloated with their stumpy little legs in the air on the side of the Hume Highway. Apparently hitting one is like driving your car into a suitcase-sized boulder at 110kph, and so is recommended by neither motorists nor wombats.

Tony and Tonya joined me in going mushroom picking, with a local who knew the difference between the tasty treat mushrooms and the slow lingering death mushrooms. The ice skaters weren’t much use in the actual harvesting of mushrooms, but they enjoyed having their own little performance stages.

 


The countryside of Beechworth actually has quite a bit of free food, with the mushrooms, wild infestations of blackberries, apples and chestnuts that have escaped captivity, and of course as much wombat as you want to risk eating.

 

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Greenies

Melbourne has an intrinsic, almost subliminal gardening culture. It’s rare to see a house with a front garden that isn’t well-maintained and thought-out. Even in those cases where the owners clearly don’t care, the resulting jungle of overgrown plants gives an impression of romantic neglect. 

In Perth, of course, neglecting your garden for more than a day results in a sun-scorched expanse of dead weeds and sand, which helps explain why so many people just give up and pave the entire area. If a hardy succulent or a straggly, faded geranium manages to cling to life despite the lack of water or shade, it simply underlines the devastation around it. And hey, it’s extra space to park your cars, which you need, because the public transport is just awful.

But back to Melbourne, where plants are everywhere, even in the inner urban spaces, filling street planters and the windows of almost every business, whether they be dive bars, barbers or tax accountants.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Simplicity

I had to go into the city centre relatively early to catch up with a friend over breakfast, which then gave me plenty of time to just wander about the city doing a mixture of window shopping and actual shopping. I tried to buy a new pair of sunglasses, but Melburnians are not traditionally sunglass wearers, so there was little variety in the stores and I couldn’t find any pair I liked. I also looked in some clothing stores for a new suit, but ten days of cafe breakfasts and gelato have made the idea of buying a sleek and slim-cut modern suit a little… optimistic.

About the only place I was able to find something to buy was at Muji, a store selling the concept of Japanese minimalism. Also the products of Japanese minimalism, but primarily the concept. Your life may be messy and chaotic, but you can buy a simple bamboo tray, plain linen sheets, or a wooden propelling pencil and momentarily grasp the beautiful feeling of having all of that dross in your life gone. Marie Kondo is probably behind it, philosophically if not actually. She’d probably be very disappointed that I bought some pens and a notebook that I don’t actually need and thus added to my dross. Oh well.

In the evening, with nothing better to do, I decided to make use of the fact that I’m living a 20 minute walk from one of the best jazz bars in the country. It’s kind of a waste that I haven’t been there every night, but then again one can only be so hep before one morphs into Johnny Depp or something. So off I trotted to the Jazz Lab to see The Pearly Shells, who provide further evidence of a certain Melburnian paradigm I’ve noticed: older musicians here just keep on playing. The members were aged between 40 and 80, as far as I could see, and clearly still had the talent, and inclination, to keep getting out there and performing. Although every second song or so they’d invite up a guest drummer, or pianist, or rhythm guitarist young enough to be their grandchild to sit in for a song or two. Whether they were proteges or actual grandchildren was hard to tell, but either way, it was wonderful to see this music as an intergenerational affair spreading from Boomers to Zers.

There was also a burlesque hoop twirler, because hey, why not? And she added a vaudevillian flair that suited the music and the atmosphere.

They played a mixture of the own compositions and standards, including a remarkable rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ as a swing dance number. If I hadn’t heard it with my own ears, I wouldn’t have thought it was possible. But it certainly got the crowd up and dancing. Given the average age of the performers, it’s perhaps not surprising that many of the audience were in a similar demographic. We got to witness the majesty of elderly white people cutting loose and jitterbugging around the dance floor... at least until their hips gave out.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Moments (Part 1)

You know you’re in Melbourne when the bogans in hi-viz at the next table in a dive bar are talking knowledgeably about emotional intelligence. In Perth, that’s just a sign of being a paedophile or something.

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Of all of the Arabic fashion shops along Sydney Road, none are called Gaudy Fatima’s House of Glitter and Sequins. This must be an oversight. The only reasonable conclusion to draw is that there is a surprising number of very conflicted Muslim drag queens in Brunswick who need local couture.

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Several Brunswick buildings have self-congratulatory signs stating that the building is situated on Wurundjeri land and expressing gratitude for it. Not to the extent of giving the land back, or even cutting the few remaining Wurundjeri people a good deal on the rent, but… you know. It’s virtue signaling at its most literal.

 


Interestingly in more than one place I noticed that these signs are barely a foot off the ground. Presumably so that Alastair and Charlotte’s $7000 basenji puppy can read it and feel good about himself. Or herself. Or xerself; the puppy hasn’t yet communicated a gender identity to them via their companion animal therapist.

 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Artistry

Still not satiated in my hunger for fine art, today I went into the city centre to sample the Ian Potter Centre, Melbourne’s second state art gallery, with a slight orientation further towards modern art than the NGV.

Overall, I liked it. Some of the curatorial decisions were a bit basic - a photo of Queen Elizabeth II placed next to a photo of an irritated aboriginal woman (ARE YOU COMPARING AND CONTRASTING!? ARE YOU!? OBSERVE THE JUXTAPOSITION, RACISTS!) - but there were some sweet and/or powerful works.

 




Tony did not appreciate being posed with the Angel of Death. But then neither did the gallery guard, who tersely chastised me for touching the art. I could have pointed out that Tony touched the art, not me, but that’s just another step down the road to being an irksome old man who is followed by eyerolls wherever he goes, so I resisted.

Following our arduous journey through the intricacies of modern art, it was time to sink comfortably into the simplicity of booze. We settled in a bistro on the banks of the Yarra, surrounded by greenery (and the thunder of diesel freight locomotives at the train yard next door) and I ordered a Pavlova Sour (pavlova-flavoured vodka with passionfruit liqueur and strawberry dust). Tonya approved.

 


After all that Melbourne’s been through with the pandemic, the name of the glassware seemed appropriate.