Friday, August 29, 2008

The Central (or why Lolo Jones is hotter than Sally McLellan)

I haven't really got the kind of friend that I'd really like anymore - I'd really like a friend that I could sit down with and say "Do you remember the Best Of Hey Dad CD?" and get the reply "Of course! Who could forget the mix ups!" - I can only go so far with this kind of interesting Australian cultural whatever happened to the Blue Heaven Big M conversation (that's why I'm blogging, a last ditch attempt to force my enthusiasms on the world - did you know you can get Blue Heaven flavouring now? Seriously - how awful does that sound?) before the topic turns back to football, sport (we're amazingly varied) or work. I'm one of those people who isn't a very good conversationalist about work, well, I can talk about work but I just don't much care. One day I'll wake up and realise my priorities were all wrong, but for right now, I'm happy to talk Homer Simpson style about how I always know what football coaches should do. It's interesting though when you do meet someone who genuinely knows about football how you freeze up at the lack of actual positional knowledge you do have, but hey, I know Collingwood should never have traded Heath Scotland and that's good enough for me. At lot of my finer conversational moments take place, of course, in pubs. These aren't the drunken conversations at night were people tell you what the really think of you, but rather the innocent, individual little chats around a big table while you wait for people to get off work before the lightweights go home and before you move onto another pub and call them lightweights before realising at about 1am how much you wish you were a lightweight. I must admit, I have a massive aversion to sitting alone at pubs, and would rather walk around the block than sit on my own reading the Herald Sun and looking a bit tragic. And for many years, there's only been one Hobart pub that satisfies the need as an easily reachable meeting place, has affordable beer, a clientele that isn't snobbish or discerning, tasty delicious snacks brought to you free on a tray, live sport on television, and poker machines out the back...and then completely ruins it with one fatal error. That place - The Central...

Now, I don't think I'm being flippant to say without The Central, I wouldn't have very many friends. When I first started drinking in Hobart (as opposed to just going to that really weird underground place where you felt about 200 years old if you were 14, the one with the giant screens and the Disney Channel music, the hell was that place?) it was a Friday night ritual to meet up at Central. Luckily, Central is in the centre of Hobart, which is handy, since no one can ever do them for false advertising. Unlike, oh I don't know, Syrup, where I got punched in the head, there are no physical problems with the Central - the only problem I've ever had with the place was a bloke who pretended to be taking a cover charge to let people in, and who burst out laughing at me when I reached for my wallet. I'd love to say I had a great comeback but it was something like "grow a brain!" (I might as well thrown in a "duh-brain" or a "so funny I forgot to laugh!" for all the Sleepover Club level of comeback ability I showed). Other than that, nothing really happens there - it's a nice, pleasant place to sit down, have a beer and a nice chat. I don't remember a single ostentatious Victoria Tavern style gimmicked promotion involving Coyote Ugly, not a single celebrity appearance, not a guest appearance by a band, not a troubled brawl outside the taxi rank between slappers and himbos and no incident in which I've clashed with a bouncer (which for me is pretty good). If the Central was your friend, it'd be the one who loaned you five dollars when you needed it, the one who scooped you off the lawn at 3am and tucked you in...if it was a drink it'd be milk and if it was a Collingwood player it'd be Scott Burns. There's no fuss, there's no frills, there's a bottle shop next to it and a taxi rank outside just to help you on your journey onward...there's just...good solid conversation before it's time to move on...unlike the horrible Irish Murphys and it's ban on people being sick, the Central wouldn't throw you out, in fact, it's probably got a sick bay to make sure you are OK...

Now, this is all well and good, but there is a massive problem with the Central. Just like that solid reliable friend who would lend you five dollars, there's much sexier, flasher alternatives. Just as you can't expect Sally McLellan to be Lolo Jones, Kristine Radford to be Amanda Coetzer, or Scott Burns to be Dale Thomas, so the Central can only ever be a place to meet up before you move on. Some people may dispute this, but it's true. The only people I've ever seen there at 9pm are poker machine addicts and people in there perving on Hobarts hottest barmaid (she's way out of your league man who drinks Midori to try and look like he has a feminine side...we know who you are and we know what you are up to). This one time we went to see Ross Noble (chimps on bikes style comedian fact fans) at the Theatre Royal and we had a drink at Central at, oh, 7pm? It was completely empty apart from me, my friend, and a cleaner lady who looked like the blacksmith from the Great Expectations episode of South Park ("Oh don't mind me, I just stick to me blacksmiffing" - that guy). Not even Midori man was there. The snacks were though, they are kind enough to provide snacks, on a little dainty tray, but still everyone had already moved on, and gone to Syrup, which seems insane when you think about it - why would anyone want to go to a nightclub where they play Dave Dobbyn, the bouncers punch you in the head, girls don't want to talk to you, and the girl who stamps your hand sometimes will finish off what the bouncers start? And that's when I realised the major problem with the Central wasn't that everyone wanted thrills and spills, or to run anyway from Midori Man, or run a gauntlet to try and pick up a clearly bored uni student at Syrup or queue for 12 hours at Isobar just to end up talking to a girl who's sick in a potplant...

It hit me then that the main problem with the Central is that it's central (that's good writing!) function is a conversational pit (like the Beatles had in Help!) - so why do they then ruin it with...the singer. Every single time I ever went into the Central, we were having a lovely pleasant chat about Melbourne Victory or something and then...the tuning up feedback. On comes the artist in residence with his guitar, and it's time for some good old fashioned pub cover version rock. Now, there's nothing fundamentally wrong with pub singers - at Customs, they spend so long setting up the band area and knocking you out of the way to put up a speaker, you know that the band is coming on so you can deal with it - but this guy, he can certainly play the guitar, but he's a little bit like a drop of lime flavouring in a bottle of banana milk. And you know, you just know, he's going to do Wonderwall (or the new one - you know he's going to do Wish You Well by Bernard Hitman Fanning). I hate Wonderwall - it reminds me of a time I really didn't have any musical discernings and just loved Oasis because they were popular and everyone said I had to. I even went to see them at Almondvale stadium in Livingston and...let's move on. And he's really loud in a small space, so what can you do? So the conversation is essentially immediately halted by Summer of 69 and Alive, and that's when everyone has to go. A girl on a blog I read once wrote that when she used to go to Maccas, when the clown came out at a kids party, that was the Maccas way of moving the parents on because the clown took the kids outside, the adults would get bored, and restless, and thus leave. Maybe this is part of the Central marketing plan, before everyone gets onto spirits and cracks onto the barmaid, get the singer out and make everyone go to Curleys. Brilliantly, one night this girl singer was on, clearly a channeller of Connie from Sneaky Sound System (the sneakiest of all the sound systems). She was giving it a bit of rock and roll star banter with a lot of "WOO!" and "WASSUPHOBART!" ("My arse from the seat cos I'm getting out of here" is always my response to that). Her response to the parade to bodies going past her was to try and engage the passers by in a bit of banter, and ask for requests. This old bloke, clearly just having a retirement drink and a good solid glass of Boags, has responded to the request for requests with the old classic "I request you shut the fuck up" - but of course, he said it way too loud, copped a massive glare from Connie, some good old belly laughs...and then without any further conversation, she proceeded to do Wonderwall.

At least it wasn't a reference to her first real six string I suppose...

2 comments:

Mrs Slocombe said...

That last bit is more priceless than anything on Father Ted. What would you say to a nice cup of tea? Do you have a day job at all?

Miles McClagan said...

I'm a massive rap for a nice cup of tea and some good solid chat, I really am. My day job is rapidly being replaced by this thing...or to quote Homer Simpson "I think it's pretty obvious that I don't!"