Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Melbourne Part 2wo - Modern Interactions with Strangers



It happened in a laneway - don't worry, this isn't going anywhere Rugby League - in Melbourne. I can't remember the time, but it was cold. I had my hood up, because I thought if I did the Italian spruikers would leave me alone and not thrust special boards in my face. My aversion to sales pressure is now officially a medical condition because the nearest hint of a uniformed staff member is enough to send me fleeing in the direction of the nearest 7/11ven for some old fashioned rudeness and disinterest. I'm eating a slice of pizza, I know that much. Bit spicy, but at least it has character. No McDonalds, no bewilderness, no homeless guys selling ketchup, something actually cooked. As I bite hard into this particular slice of bready goodness, I realise that while nominally talking, on a vacation no less, to a friend of mine, I'm actually completely out of not only interest, but words. I have nothing I can possibly say of any interest, nor do I especially want to listen. It's a strange sensation, maybe partially inspired by my hangover, maybe by the hood blocking my ears, but after all these years, I'm weary, uninspired, I can't fix bad boyfriend troubles anymore than I can make the last slice of salami stay on the end of the pizza, and I can't listen anymore. The conversation is so predictable and boring, so self pitying, I'm not sure what the point is, so I focus my attention on a downtrodden but cute busker with 80tys hair who is struggling to pick up whatever instrument it is while balancing change in her hand. I'd be able to tell if I had my glasses on. I know I'm nodding - I mean I can feel my neck muscles moving, if such a thing is possible, but my brain isn't engaged. The busker girl eventually gallops off in the direction of a waiting tram, losing a heel like Paula Wilcox in the opening credits of Man About The House. And when I mentally rejoin the conversation as the busker girl fades into the distance, my friend is nodding back at me and saying what I've just said is really helpful and deep even though I have no idea what I've just said. My profoundity is surprising to me, because I had been thinking entirely thoughts of 1ne syllable or less, but I can't let things like truth and honesty impose on a friendship, so I just shrug, chalk whatever I said up to good food and the reliable predictabilty you can only find after being friends with someone for so long, stock phrases and general indifference are fine, and all the effort was made long ago over weak coffee anyway...

It happened in a pool hall. I had far too much to drink, and had set about dismantling class barriers and preconcieved notions of appearance simply by walking up to everyone and saying hello, regardless of blondeness, hair gel or sharp suit. This wasn't like me, I'm normally far more shy these days. I wish I wasn't, but I am. There's a flight leaving with my name on the guest list in the morning but I don't care much - I'm happy, I think I can dance, my impressions are in my own mind utterly spot on and hilarious. My satirical wit is almost at the sharpest before the dawn I find. My pool skills are obviously inverse to the quality of my satirical wit, my failure to come up with a coherent reason why the Chaser has gone downhill usually a clear sign I'll be potting reds like there's no tomorrow. Her name was Sarah and she had a leopard skin bra on - my friend was leading the course of vulgarity towards her, which is to be expected of course, late night pool halls are notorious for their attitude towards to women with blonde hair and large breasts next to alleged leopard patterning. She was uneasy with 1ne of the phrases in particular, a lewd suggestion too far, and for some reason I stepped in, maybe I did an impression or something. Man, my Snagglepuss...I know I showed some form of gallantry because she wrote me a note on a table napkin with her facebook page on it. I can't see knights of yore that showed gallantry towards damsels getting a facebook link in return, but the thing that struck me was this was a very detailed note with lots of long words and even a picture, and her Facebook page was anything but verbose, a txt spk nightmare of shorthand and photos of her drinking. The note, incidentally, is still next to my laptop - I'd like it if we met up again, just for the raw disappointment that is modern life. She'd expect a gallant self confident conversationalist with endless ability to amuse and I'd expect some kind of female poetress with dexterity and charm. Then I'd tell a boring story and she'd talk about cars and the whole scene would unfold with a tedious sense of inevitability. I added her of course, pending deletion the first time she mentions hubcaps or manifolds...

It happened at the zoo. I'm wandering around on my own, taking in some me time, clutching a tacky novelty souvenir, sold to me by some girl who took the time and care to interrupt a story just to sell me the said tacky novelty item. Her story was about university and a long lost library book and picking up at a nightclub, with vigorous details that belied her studious appearance and her posh manner in selling the novelty item. Her hair is so neat and her hair so shiny, her shoes so buffed and polished and her tone so clipped and precise it's entirely at odds in every possible way with the actions she's describing without a care in the world to the general zoo going public. She tells it with a smile on her lips that in my direction seems flirtacious, but it might just be to enhance the outrageousness - the position suggested sounds like it would throw your back out. It's even stranger than the slumping sleeping kangaroos who don't seem to respond to any kind of call - if any of them were in charge of Skippy duties for the day they'd fail miserably and poor Timmy would never make it out of the well. There's a large weekend Dad with a Zapata moustache on the fringes of 1ne of the cages, slumped against it with elbows in classic sulky teenager position, watching his kid feed a giraffe some kind of grass and straw based concoction. When the kid turns around to make sure Daddy is watching, Daddy is grumpily waving a flannel shirted arm brusquely in the kids direction to indicate that time is up with the long necked creature and time with the long faced father must resume apace. Caught in the maelstrom that is modern seperated weekend parentdom, I involuntarily shrug the universal non verbal communication for kids today huh, but he glares at me and grabs his kid by the arm and disappears in the direction of the exits. The kid is unbroken and when he smiles at me, I give him a cheery thumbs up, and he points to his weekend Dad and gives him a subtle middle finger, and we both laugh as we part, the kid by now not even being subtle about his tribute to parental skills, and me so unsubtle in laughing at it I wake up a snow leopard and probably disrupt at least 3hree other stories of vigorous sexual activity on a budget coming from the genteel surrounds of the novelty store...those little purple hippos must have ears that burn by now...

It happened in a posh hotel. It's 3hree AM, it's Melbourne, there's calm in the hotel, flickering images on the Television, some cricketers so rich you can't relate to them meandering around greener pastures, and there's an incessant thump from the room next to me, you know the kind, although not accompanied by any particular noises of joy, just incessant thumping. Alesha Dixon can't drown it out, so I have to get up and get out, walk through the laneways and alleyways of Melbourne, through the haunts and dives and parties of bewildered revellers looking for somewhere to go to fill in the last moments before sunrise. There's a drunken footballer stumbling around the pavement showing dis-interest in his teams defeat that night, and I feel the need to at least tut a tabloid commenters tut of disapproval in his direction, not least of all because I hoped as a supporter of that team he cared about winning and losing. I take a photo of him on my mobile phone for home based reference, and maybe for some free tickets at a later date. I head back to the hotel bored, because I don't know any1ne in the city, it's cold, hopefully the thumping has stopped, and the girl in the lobby is pretty and helpful. There's a party at the traffic lights, girls and boys and sparkles mixing in the night, the usual teens in the usual social configuration of beautiful people and less beautiful hangers on radiating in the glow of beauty and sparkles. Hell, if you have attractive friends, it gets you into nightclubs I guess. I was eating a KitKat so god knows where I'd get into - the alpha male had a lopsided eye, but enough hair gel to compensate, and they radiated with such youth and vitality, I envied them because their hangovers would be light and breezy and the clubs they attended would still seem magical and exciting even if they just played the Black Eyed Peas 50ty times a night. It was then the Alpha Male said that everyone was going back to his place to look at his Twitter photos, and they disappeared into a cab, and I was left wondering what happened to the world I grew up in, and sadly the girl behind the counter at the Hyatte is more interested sucking a Wendys milkshake and talking to someone on the phone. She smiles at me, but I see it's insincere, and I wander to the lift with my head down, tired of strangers, and in need of sleep...

Luckily, the thumping subsides, and a new day breaks without any further trouble...

9 comments:

Samantha said...

I've never been next to a hotel room that has had loud sex going on inside it. I feel like I am missing out.

I liked this :) It reminded me of A Night on Earth.

Baino said...

Your friend probably didn't really want you to say anything profound anyway but may have had a SLIGHT expectation that you were listening! And you should meet! Think of it as an adventure. And you should contact the leopard bra girl, you never know your luck. Your wordiness, her txtspk, could be a match made in heaven or at least Bra's n Things. I know what you mean about sparkles though. It's a very Melbourne thing. Here early in the morning it's inebriaed slag bags in bare feet screaming at the top of their lungs in car parks.

Kath Lockett said...

Facebook pages, Twitter? Makes the humble SMS seem soooo last century, let alone the actual landline phone number...?

Miles McClagan said...

It sounded quite joyless and thumpy...it was good for research if nothing else...

I can't help it. I'm too research orientated, too much watching other people. I'd love to be a better listener...I'm just too fidgety. I've added a Facebook friend, it's been an interesting conversation so far. And Melbourne is all sparkles. Too many for breakfast glinting in the sun, girls were bringing up hangovers...

I know - but I miss the BBC Micro...bring that back...

Ann oDyne said...

Dear Mr Jung
If your programme 'notes' are 2000 words, I don't want to be wading through the actual programme without a packed lunch.

It was all very wonderful I'm sure, and I do wish I did not have a canary brain, or
that you would double-space, or at least make paragraphs to aid my attention-span'

peace and love

Mad Cat Lady said...

miss you

squib said...

This is the best sentence I've read in a long long long time

It's a strange sensation, maybe partially inspired by my hangover, maybe by the hood blocking my ears, but after all these years, I'm weary, uninspired, I can't fix bad boyfriend troubles anymore than I can make the last slice of salami stay on the end of the pizza, and I can't listen anymore.

Miles, Miles, Miles, have you been getting anything published?

Miles McClagan said...

Sorry you hate it mate. I can only write one way...I don't have any talent!

I'm back now! I was just sick...

No, I've been unwell...I've not written anything for ages! It's just not good enough is it...

Mrs Slocombe said...

Miles: next time you come to Melbourne, don't just mooch about in alleys gathering material: come for a beer.