Monday, June 29, 2009

Melbourne Part 1 - Collective Consciousness vs Self Awareness



It's early morning in a Melbourne shopping mall, the bewildered tourist is shuffling through the mall lacking in self confidence and feeling paranoid. It's a natural reaction he has, in the mid morning adjustment to more aggressive crowds of pushy go getters, far from the Tasmanian shopping experience where you only get shoved out of the way by the odd pushy shaggy haired bogan rather than a maelstrom of Japanese tourists barging their way to Krispy Kreme. We don't have Krispy Kreme in Hobart, and given my aversion to franchises that might be a good thing. I'm sitting on a seat with my old man knees creaking horribly as I do so. I can't believe that my knees are so sore, the latest in a long line of horrible signs of old age that are tapping at my head like a cheeky woodpecker. There's some university students filming a piece in the mall, 2wo of them dressed like cavemen. I hate wacky student humour, it's a Scottish thing to oppose it, and I can just see my mother roll her eyes in disgust at the students as they pretend that they don't know what a telephone is for a skit. I'm sitting doing nothing more offensive than listening to my IPOD, but since the students are circling my life long terror of audience participation has me on edge as they get even closer. For just 1ne horrible moment I think I'm going to be dragged into their little world of theatrics and try and look as casual as I can, as a phalanx of Japanese and Korean tourists, enthralled by Australian home grown hilarity that ranks alongside the very best episodes of The Bob Morrison Show. As they all stand there enjoying the hilarity, a bedraggled, down trodden Big Issue seller shoves himself into the centre of the flashing Kodaks, heavy black eyes lit up by the flash of the cameras as he thrusts his magazine into dis-interested faces, and the tourists shift uncomfortably away with their heads down. They came for theatre, not reality. If only the Big Issue seller was dressed as a caveman. He meanders meaninglessly towards the front of Myer having scattered the sightseers. There's a vacancy in his eyes as well, as if he hasn't even noticed anyone was there to begin with. The students meanwhile began by noticing if anyone was there to see them, and when they notice that no-one is they begin talking in disappointed posh clipped tones about how badly everything is going, thus shattering the caveman illusion for anyone who believed in the boarded up theatre of the mind they are producing. I'd give them a cheery thumbs up for encouragement, but it'd be insincere, and I'm told uni students these days appreciate honest feedback, so I take my Evel Knievel book and walk off as slow as my knees will carry me...

I was in some bar with an ornate door with a fancy logo painted on it last night. The bouncers were a lot better than the ones at Irish, they said nothing about my clothes, nor threatened me with physical violence at random intervals, but I was still uncomfortable in the claustrophobic small bar with trendier better dressed young things crowding around the stools on the edge of the bar chanting like a mantra all the positive things about the surroundings. You can buy the bar staff drinks. They'll set fire to pieces of fruit if you ask. At 3hree in the morning a DJ dressed in silver starts a bitching set. These are all allegedly positive things, although I can't see the Tasmanian clientele responding well to queues forming in at the har while a girl who looks like the blonde 1ne from the B52s sets fire to a tangello. I wish I could explain my state of mind to my enthusiastic tour guide who found the oak panelled fruit firing DJ slamming bar for me, but I can't, because he loves it here, I can tell. He's as excited as the giggliest party girl to be here, and I wish I could be enthusiastic as well, but I just feel old, old and worn out. I think for a moment he's taking me to a strip club anyway, given the bar is in a dodgy alley and that door...I'm hard on myself of course, I always feel as though as though my lack of enthusiasm is a problem in my life, and I have too much cynicism to relax and enjoy things...my tour guide is more successful than me, proud of his world, I have no problem with that, but he enjoys his confidence, his own pats on the back. As another poor piece of mandarin suffers in the name of drink creation he's talking softly about someone we know who's always drunk, always flailing around in Saturday night gutters, and how we aren't like that. On cue, a girl in shiny silver hot pants focuses too much on the barman, and topples over like a fallen shimmering oak tree with slender legs and perfect teeth. She stares at the ceiling and laughs at the pretty colours, while her friends rave around her about what a fantastic place we're all in, the PA system once again plays Coldplay, albeit a dance remix of said band...it's too many emotions for me to handle, young vs old, the drunk vs the sober, the sufferance of the poor fruit, the faux Cocktail atmosphere of the bar staff...and yet all I can think of is, while I don't want to get drunk, the girl on the floor looks pretty damn happy...until she nearly vomits of course, but that's when the judgement kicks in...

I can't be too judgemental though, because when I leave the club I nearly break my ankle stumblebumbling over a kerb, my orange shoes failing to grip the kerb. Perhaps there's another blog somewhere where a girl in shiny hotpants is Twittering about some old idiot stumbling around the kerbs of Melbourne. Maybe she ZOMGed in her tweet. Maybe. I wouldn't blame her. It's late, and there's a prostitute in the lobby of my hotel, as I walk past munching a kebab. The kebab was a saga in itself, since I was approached by a Jesus freak trying to dole out sachets of ketchup. He didn't speak, which was almost refreshing given I've heard nothing all day but noise, but he was gruffly trying to shove the little sachets of ketchup into the hands of the queue as a window of opportunity to push his beliefs on starving tipsy drunk girls - I can tell the angle because he's got the cheekiest hint of a bible poking out of his coat, and a Catholic can always tell when a cheeky bible is poking out - and guys who haven't picked up and need a feed to settle the disappointed hormones. And then there's me, with sore knees and a sense of isolation that no windcheater can possibly buttress me against. I'm usually able to dislocated myself from passing pressers, but he's persistent with the queue, and I'm in a race between the gum chewing kebab chef and the ketchup clutching kibitzer that the kebab chef narrowly wins just as it's my turn to be sauced. The prostitute sitting in the lobby of the hotel has her own worries though, no more or less glamorous than those in the car park at Coles from my youth, just slightly less Linda Evans than those ones. She yawns just as I yawn, and under the faux lobby chandelier she looks like the saddest, loneliest woman in the world, exhausted and caked in make up waiting for whoever it is to come down in the lift and if there's a mutual connection that we're both weary, exhausted and in a glamorous setting feeling distinctly seedy and lost, it's only fleeting, because the Jesus Freak appears to have chased me up the street, and I have to head off into the lift, leaving a potential wonderful meeting of minds and ketchup in the hotel lobby in my wake as I fumble for my card and head for the allegedly glamourous spa...

It's midday, and I'm eating well, eggs served with self reflection. To be honest, if this blog has achieved anything, it's steered me away from fast food outlets. Like a pash in a nightclub, a burger at Hungry Jacks is probably not the best thing for me anymore, and I walk past awkwardly with youthful regret at all the time I've spent engaged with Indian employees in Melbourne in the early hours of the morning trying to explain that I don't want egg on my muffin. Such a complicated order, and who am I to deprive someone of the sheer joy of putting an egg on something? Selfish, that's what. So I'm eating a proper lunch, and I'm patiently waiting for it, hoping the upper class name they've given the lunch on the menu isn't just code for slop + GST. There's a girl at the table across from me with alarmingly painted toenails. They are a hypnotically ugly shade of pinky purple, like the third day of a bruise, and while I can't stare for too long as the margin for error in the stare too long you pervert stakes just gets shorter and shorter in this age of political correctness. There's a couple next to me who are thoroughly enjoying their expensively ground mince meat, and are in the first throes of love, giggling in that way only people having sneaky affairs or on their early first dates do, which is annoying when you have a headache. Oh yes, I'm just a pile of medical ailments on this particular moments, which would probably make me too normal for someone with bizarre nail polish. At a critical juncture in the heady mid morning mix of hangovers, horrible hues and honeybun laced hot air, the male in the conversation spills something on his lap - he was too busy I think trying to think of variants on the word snookums - a special sauce that's special because of the artistic way it's spread itself on his trousers I suppose. I might be wrong, but his paramour, drunk a few seconds before on Strepsils and sweet talk, visibly winces. I suspect it's the first flaw in the relationship, the first imperfection, the first moment in the relationship when you wonder if you are dating someone who isn't the 1ne but instead a slightly unco-ordinated loser...either that or she just bought the pants from a nice store and now can't get a refund. Either way, there's nothing for me to stare at that's remotely acceptable, since my choices are swingingly strange feet, a crotch with sauce to go and a slightly distressed and upset new girlfriend taking deep breaths and trying not to look too upset. And to top it all off, Coldplay are chiming in from the PA system...next time, I think I'll just go to Burger King...

And that was before I had a panic attack about my writing and my queues, but that's another story...

9 comments:

Doc said...

It seems you and I must be about the same age as my ailments and irks are the same as yours.

Take it easy on those knees and have a cold beer to ease the hangover. It might help to sit somewhere outside and watch the passers-by while the sunshine soaks in. It's not a cure, but it is good for post-drunken reflection.

I've been suffering panic attacks about my writing too. Maybe that's why I haven't been by much. I'll try to remedy that.

Doc

Samantha said...

well ... i feel strangely more cheerful now :)

Miles McClagan said...

I can't explain it without sounding like a tosser, but I worry about what I write, I really do, and I worry I'm writing what I should write rather than what I want to write...oh tortured poet! Told you I sound like a tosser...it's my aching knees really, they aren't great...

I aim to cheer!

Samantha said...

what do you want to write?

Is it tortured?
Is it 1000 love letters to the blue eye shadowed girl that you will never post?
Is it about collecting bus schedules?

I don't know if I could stick with you if it were bus schedules.

I'd try though.

sparsely kate said...

You are such an affable fellow Miles, in your writings, even though I know you think you are sometimes a bit too wry and sarcastic.

I love that you wear orange shoes.

Miles McClagan said...

I don't know, I'm being difficult and annoying, but I'm just not that happy with my writing at the moment. It's Twitters fault. Or something. My love letters are excellent though - bus schedules? Do people collect them? Bet their blogs hum along!

I used to have a sensational pair of big orange thumper FILA boots, they were great. Apart from a mid 90tys flirtation with blue toekickers, orange is the only colour!

Baino said...

Surely you go to these places 'with' someone. I have this image of you trundling out of place all by yourself in your fluro shoes (my son just bought bright green jobs) and feeling misplaced and in need of solid company.

I love Melbourne. Especially if you're with a Melbournian to show you around although they have some weird bars. Boys dressed in tennis gear at Madame Brussels and others where your drinks are mixed in florence flasks. All the bars seem to be in dodgy alleys or on the third floor.

Yeh and a kebab in Melbourne is like eating a three-in-one in Ireland. A travesty dear boy. Next time you go, feel young and meet up with some really old people. I'll come up avec creaky knees from Sydney and Kath's watching her cholesterol in Fitzroy. We're good value!

Write what you want to write.

Baino said...

Jesus just saw the time you posted this 3:37am!

Miles McClagan said...

I go myself sometimes, it depends on my headspace. Sometimes I just like to crash at a hotel and wander around, sometimes I meet the 2wo people I know...with bars, kebabs, and bad knees, it's an absolute treat! I need to investigate more though, the last trip felt like I knew where everything was too much....

And yeah, 3:37am, lucky I'm not on stupid Twitter, or else I'd never get some sleep...