Sunday, November 27, 2005

too far away

You worry about the walk back to your car because you are a girl and because you are alone.

Each step is a sharp staccato beat echoing through the back streets, rather than the lightfooted dance you usually perform. The short shallow breaths deep inside in your head overpower the sound of your heartbeat. Every few moments an occasional burst of laughter from a nearby establishment - still active at this late hour - interrupt your swirling thoughts, making you start and pick up pace. This cheery neighbourhood turns into a menacing shadow when darkness falls and you are not amused by your own fear.

You jump over the cracks in the sidewalk and you find yourself rushing through the spaces between well lit shop front windows. Expectation and paranoia has meant that you never been more alert and never more vulnerable. Your fear is both warranted and silly and you don't know which way to truly go with this, stupid feeling. Each step is a joke and a method of self-preservation. You don't know when exactly men became just a little frightening to you but it has fed your fear and your erotic fantasies for longer than you care to admit.

Why did you park so far away? This is your one thought as you grip your car keys tightly. That safe, happy feeling that you were talking about before is not applicable when you have parked too far away, it's night time in the urban jungle and you are a girl and you are alone.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


it is the dawn of 2003 and you are sitting in a dingy coffee house in Amsterdam smoking a joint. This is what all the wide eyed tourists do, and since you have already gawked your way across the red light district, staring at half naked women through palm print stained windows (fascinating) and seen the obligatory sex show (boring) you might as well do this too. You breathe it in, only to cough it out again. Everyone laughs at you.

Earlier that morning you braved the dreary Dutch rain to visit the Van Gogh Museum. You trailed your way through the gallery marveling at the expressive brush strokes and imagining yourself deep inside one of these masterpieces. Then you walked the lopsided town, with its offbeat architectural charm. Slightly off-centre housing, tall, skinny buildings frame dirty, narrow canals. You marvel that no cyclists have gone in head first in your time here. You love this town. It reminds you of home in so many ways - and this on your last few days abroad you are looking for reminders of home - a hazy memory on a disappearing horizon. You like the bitter chill in the wind, whipping against your face, and you are enjoying the safe, happy feeling that you feel in Melbourne. Even the canal waters remind you of your beloved Yarra river - though not as wide or imposing.

Lunch is decidedly American. Chips and Hot Dogs, but you eat them with mayonnaise. Two years later, you are still eating your chips with a mixture of sauce and mayo. A reminder of the time you spent wondering exactly what you were going to do next. The world, at your leisure.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


This drive is second nature, you do it everyday.

Avoiding the busy main artery you take a smaller vein, cutting through the green belt of fluttering leaves and white tipped fence posts with golden numbers attached to dainty letter boxes. This is not your neighbourhood, but it might as well be - all of them are the same, familiarities without actually being acquainted. The accustomed turn of the wheel this way and that, brings you again to a busy junction. You accelerate past the dying milk bar, a suburban favourite reduced to deary handwritten cardboard signs and peeling white-come-grey exterior paint. And past the flurrying newsagent, still open. And of course the ever present Fish and Chip shop. This one, you know is good enough not to keep a secret, and so everybody knows about the fried-to-just-the-right-amount-of-crispy-outside-with-maintaining-smushy-inside perfection of the chips. Suburban Melbourne is not boring, exactly, it has just always known what it is.

You take the main artery again, homeward bound. Houses on the main road always seem like the sad, dreary cousins of their society relatives hidden somewhere behind. Cars struggle to find their way out from their crackled concrete driveways and the smog seems to build up on the brick, making colour fade before its time. You've noticed that someone has scribbled on a bus stop sign nearby with permanent marker, an incoherent message. How on earth did they get up there?

The freeway is not your favourite part of the journey, but you welcome the no-brainer anyway. The steady traffic is like a gentle river, rippling from town to town welcoming, every so often, a new stream of cars into the flow from an adjacent arm. We all keep this machine running. You travel this stream until all you can see is the expanse of blue sky above, littered, occasionally on the horizon with the familiar signs olive green leaves and the harsh bushiness of native fauna.

Eventually you slow, taking the outstretched arm offered and find yourself in your part of town. A town so like every other you have visited, and yet so full of its own character - the purple coffee shop, the row of stores that seems to change owners every year, the group over ever-present laughing children playing cricket in the park... This suburban familiarity is like the touch of a old friend and you desperately crave new ones.
But this is nice...
This is nice for now.

A Trip Across the Street: Sth Melbourne

Rather than take the short cut through the back streets, I walk the long way; past the shops where homeless men huddle in the doorways of wealthy establishments that sell nick naks to the bourgeois. I am one too, I suppose. But I don't buy anything. My car insurance, and registration is due and I owe money to people in foreign countries. I don't want nick naks anyway. What's the point?

My brain is jarred by the inconsistencies of architecture: gothic churches, quaint quality meats, neon supermarket, 70s bank. Every year the new people move in and make improvements true to their era. This place is constantly evolving. Breathing. Alive. But it's still too much information. I avoid it all and instead look down at my feet, hammering into the path as I make my way. I need new shoes, I think absentmindedly as I approach the curb. I contemplate the shoe shop. No. Not today.

I am momentarily blinded by the barrage of cars at the intersection. There is no pedestrian crossing here. I carefully manoeuvre my way alongside the traffic, weaving through the parked cars, and speeding vehicles. I step back to avoid the woman talking on her mobile and am almost collected by a commodore backing into a parking space near me. "Oi" he yells, as he bangs down on his horn. I give him a look that is more of a warning. He presses down on his horn and gives me a look that tells me I'm a lamb.

A few moments later and I am now stuck in the middle of the busy road. I look right and left; the shops crowd the road on either side, busy to the brim with flurrying customers and fresh flowers; a rainbow almost threatening to topple over onto the tram tacks. This is Clarendon St. South Melbourne, and I am about to get run over. But I don't, of course. There are many more like me, who brave this wave of traffic, but they are more couragous than me - stopping the cars with hands on bonnets and quick winks through seasoned eyes. But this is their jungle of course, not mine. I wait for one of them, to make my path an easier one too. I cross the road with fingers crossed, as I do with everything, I suppose.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The word on the street is this

God is a Dum Cunt.

I saw it graffitied in a laneway off Drummond street this afternoon. It was stencilled actually, very neatly. The word God was in grey - the rest was in bold black paint - no smudging, no peeling.

I wonder what would cause someone to labour over such a message in such a deliberate way. "God is a Dum Cunt" is an angry message. It's the kind you etch into school desks with the point of your compass during religious education class and then spend the rest of your (catholic) life in confessional about. It's the message you scribble after you've found your boyfriend screwing your best friend in your bed. It's Lucifer's last jab after being sent packing. It's a piece of passionate conviction. It's a promise, a warning, a jibe, a belief.

Passionate messages are not for stencilling neatly in upper middle class suburbs. And so I wonder what it was exactly that brought this rogue artist to choose this method of expression. Wrapped neatly in smooth paper, bows knotted and tied..

God is a Dum Cunt.

What power. What finality. And what would God write back? Benevolent message from the top, sent though a lackey: "I know I am, so what are you?" ...or He might perhaps start the apocalypse early. Whatever.

How lucky I was to spy it as I walked from car to cinema.

I love Melbourne.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Brunswick Street

the street is a buzz of activity. You liken it to an outdoor market, though there are few stalls and her set up is linear. It has the feel of a market, though it is not. She is Brunswick Street and she is glorious on a Sunday spring afternoon. The past few times you have traversed her narrow pathway it has been accompanied by a slick soft rain. The kind that makes everything slightly blurry, a shinny road the greys in the buildings highlighted by the clouds but that is not so today. Today the colours in the signs and on the walls shine beneath the golden rays of sunlight. You take off your denim jacket and eat your ice-cream standing near the wall of a Greens store and watching the girls walk by in their couture kitten heels. You like this juxtoposition of trash and high class. Life is not homogenous and neither is this bustling walkway. You notice it all; The old homeless lady, the dog feeder, the boho wench, the glasses wearing walking white man afro and the sloppy thongs on surfie types. You feel comfortable in fitting in. How could you not? It's too eclectic to be considered a certain style and too eccentric to care.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

four seasons in one day

What you like about Melbourne is the constant renewal. Stifling hot days where the heat takes the breath from your chest, followed by a clap of thunder and a downpour that washes every last bead of sweat down into the storm water drains. Melbourne is good at smoothing the rumpled sheets over until all is new again. As a child you pressed your forehead against the kitchen window, breathing fog onto the glass and drawing for hours with your finger as you watched one storm or another ravish the vegetable patch in the back yard. This was enough to get you into major trouble, but you did it anyway. The working class are not amused by fanciful art on squeaky, clean windows. Drawing on the plaster-board with sharp implements so that the art made an indent into the wall was also frowned upon for some reason.

You like these storms. You enjoy the sound of heavy rain, blocking all other sounds out. You'd like to lie in bed all morning, if possible, listening to the varied staccato on the roof - but it's Thursday morning and other responsibilities await. Melbourne is like you are in so many ways. She never can decide what she is and somehow, though you are seasoned to her ways, the change in mood always take you by surprise. Fill in the gaps with playful breezes and gentle sun showers followed by intense sunlight and angry thunder-claps. You know that while the morning has brought with it a storm that has awoken you from slumber, earlier than you care to get up normally - she will shift and change and by midday the sun will be strong again...you can already feel the muggy heat rising from her depths.