meet me under the clocks

Meet me under the clocks and i’ll tell you about my life in melbourne…

Meet me under the clocks and we’ll walk down Flinders Street to Elizabeth Street and wait for the signal for all pedestrians at once, where you can legally walk diagonally across the street! We’ll go up Flinders Lane, a little one-way, ‘recaptured laneway’ full of micro-businesses, tiny stores and cafe’s. Up past the City Library is Ross House, that’s the building i work in. It’s like the ‘save the world’ or ‘bleeding hearts’ building at 620 View St in Victoria but it’s purposefuly filled with 90% non-profit groups and 10% for profit businesses. Since 1985 the building as been inhabited by mostly self-help and community groups as a result of a partnership with ANZ Bank, The National Trust and what is now the Ross House Association.

From there we’ll go into a smaller ‘recaptured laneway’ Degraves Street to the Organic Deli for some organic coffee. Coffee language is vastly different here. A ‘flat white’ or a ‘long black’ will confuse the hell outta most foreign coffee drinkers. I’ve learned to ask for a long black with hot soy on the side. We’ll sit in the lane in the only non-smoking section, people don’t walk with their coffee here but they sure like to smoke. They smoke in the doorways of buildings and on the street, because they mostly can’t smoke inside but i still have to hold my breath much of the time i’m on the street, especiall in the narrow lane ways.

After our coffee we’ll go across to the other side of Degraves thru an even more crowded cafe strip with tables and chairs in the middle of the tiny pedestrian only street. just before we enter the shopping arcade that leads to Bourke Street i grab your arm and stop you, pointing to the left, it’s where the garbage tips (dumpsters) are kept but it’s covered in bursts of colourful and raw art, graffitti mostly, some stencils, some large sticker figures (bulbous rabbit-esque creatures) and even a few light boxes that usually have a stencil or painting of some kind on them. It changes all the time. When i first saw it the light box on the top had a very common news image, the shape of Lindy England hodling onto a leashed prisoner at Abu Graib, her head was replaced with a large hamburger.

ponder that one!

The shopping arcade has several tiny shops, and a few medium sized businesses. A travel agent, a barber, three shoe stores, two of which are birkenstock and a brikenstock like brand, a few pricey ladies clothing and accessories shops and a barber. In the middle are stairs that go down to the language centre, at the end, the entrance to the one of the main streets in the CBD sits a very boerd looking security guard on a stool.

There are endless arcades and open concept shopping malls, not quite like the ones in taiwan but lots of nooks and crannys and domed lobbies with stained glass, all in a three or four block radius. You can pretty much walk through most of them to get to other streets, and many have overhead walkways on the upper floors of the department stores. Oh yeah, if you think ground level is level one, you’d be wrong, they are two different things. At Ross House there are three levels below the first floor, ground, street level and basement/garage, which is barely underground at all.

Grab your train ticket, we’ll use it to get on a tram, tho most locals don’t validate their ticket on trams, only the super honest people do it. We’ll go up a few blocks to the State Library. It has some lawn on the front that people sit on to have their lunch, and there is a statue of Joan of Arc on the right in front of the building! Across the street we’ll see a decorative bench that’s made of steel or wroght iron i think, it has these great big metal sunflowers towering over it and a beautifully decorated welding art in the middle of the wide double bench that i’ve never seen anyone sit on till i showed it to George and Merrily, she was the first!

From there we go down a less populated laneway, a store on the left has a very cool graffitti style painting advertising the very pink ladies clothing store. Most of the rest of the street is boareded up due to construction, there’s LOTS of construction in Melbourne, cranes are speckled across the skyline along with several half finished buildings. On the left is one of the many entrances to Melbourne Central. A massive shopping centre that you’d hardly know existed unless you are on a certain side of it or are in it. A few levels down you can catch a train under it, on the city loop. It’s the first and only (so far) shopping centre in the southern hemisphere without air conditioning thanks to Gilbert Rochecouste, whom i work for at Village Well. He did the master plan for the place and that was one of the recommendations they actually carried out, it was designed to use passive solar cooling, and it’ve been in there in the heart of the summer before i knew about this, and it was very cool, natrually!

In one of the crannies of Melboune Central is a well loved chocolate bar, THE experience for chocolate lovers, its’ set up like a cafe, you sit down and get a menu after passing by the large vats of swirling chocoalte that’s attached to the taps used to create many of the desserty items. You can have a hot chocolate with orchid oil made of belgian chocolate, waffles with bananas and coconut icecream drizzled with thick melted chocolate with a chocolate dip… Max Brenner was inspired by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and created a legacy. I’ll let your salivation imagination make up the rest…

Now that we are stuffed to the gills with chocolate treats its time to head up toward parliament station. Around here and many places throughout the downtown you can see that this was an extremely wealthy colony city. Lots of ornate buildings, makes me proud and sick at the same time. I’m not even sure why i’m proud, maybe something to do with that Australian spirit of ingenuity and making something from next to nothing. I don’t fully understand what made this country so wealthy, likely massive resource extraction, that’s the part that makes me sick, not to mention the treatment of aboriginal people. For the longest time they really just thought it was ok to simply kill ‘blacks’ (i still shudder when i hear that word used to describe people). At least there is a concerted effort toward reconciliation with an actual National Sorry Day and Reconciliation Week! A group called Reconciliation Victoria is on the same floor of Ross House as Village Well. There are lots of groups working toward recognition of aboriginal title and social issues. There is a yellow metal sign in the lobby of Ross House Acknowledging the land the building is on belongs to the Wungundjeri (sp?).

We pass the very old elaborate buildings and see a massive church spire on the right after parliament house and the boring treasury buildings. There is a park, fairly manicured but refreshingly natrual after all that concrete! The Fitzroy Gardens have these majestic and gigantic morton bay figs, bigger than many of the houses here. And at night possums will come right up to you and smell your feet, if they like the smell, they’ll grab your pant let and snif the air infront of your knees. Of course you want to feed the cute lil thing but you know that human food is not good for possums and there is plenty of food for them in the park, especially with all the figs dropping to the ground!
Walking through the park i choose to walk on the grass instead of the wide (as the lanes) paths, because the human foot is not designed for a flat surface and my arthritis flares up when i walk on concrete for too long. The grass is super thick and spongey. On the other side of the park is the Master Builders Association Building. On the second floor is the Building Display Centre, all sorts of alternative techology and environmental building products etc, nestled in the front side is the SLF offices. It was a hub of activity when i first went, about a month before the festival. It’s a bit quieter now but still plugging away at excellerating the uptake of sustainability. Such a great org! The Environmental Jobs Network is also in there and is back in the other side that SLF occupied pre fest. Gorgeous views of the fig trees in the park from those windows!

Just on the other side of where SLF is we can catch another tram to Smith Street for a bite to eat before we head to the ever funky and vibrant Brunswick Street. If you want to get a perverted book from Polyester or a shredded and sewn back together T-shirt from Dangerfield we’ll have to get ther before 5 when the stores close. I don’t know how anyone has time to go shopping in this town if you work during the week! And many stores are only open limited hours on Saturdays, like closing at 2pm or 4pm. And don’t even think about Sunday, forget it, only restaurants and some cafe’s are open on sundays. This is certainly not North America! And the customer service is often crappy. Not that i really care most of the time but it’s funny the things you notice.

One of the things i notice that’s hard for me to accept is the fashion sense, i find it to be quite chaotic and illogical. At times i’d use the word hideous, but that makes me sound pretty damned pompus! The selections of women’s clothes are excessively girly and i havent’ found anything i really like, tho i was in an op shop (thirft store) today that was, wait for it… open till 7pm! and i found a pair of pants that i sorta liked but they fit wrong, doesn’t help that my ice cream inflated behind makes lots of styles fit poorly on me.

Thankfuly i have a bike now and can get about 80 min of excersize a day from riding to and from work! If the weather holds i’ll be fitting my clothes again in no time! Oh Tangnet ! Where were we, oh yes, showing you Melbourne… we started out under the clocks at the main railway station, we made it about 5kms to the cool part of town, where you can see mullet-mohawk after mullet-mohawk saunter by in acid wash jeans or black on black. Labret peircings are common and you’ll see the odd tattoo except for those who are covered in them, and they usually have a plethora of piercings as well, same as home i guess. I’ve notived lots of vampy goths in Degraves st lately, they seem very out of place next to the regular folx but they clearly don’t give a shit. The diversity in Melbourne makes it pretty difficult for people to stand out. It’s only recently that i’ve started to really realize that there’s no reason for people to stare at me, i was so used to looking different and attracting attention with hair colour or genderfucking or wearing buttons that say things like ‘i love my cunt’ but that’s not me anymore, that’s who i was and i sorta miss that part of me but i’m forging a new self, slowly but surely.

This city is creating me in a new image, shaping the fabric of my being, making me glad i did fauxhawk without a trace of mullet. The new me is less about what i look like and more about who i am and what i do. It’s much harder to make a statement without those tools i once held so dear to my identity but it seems to matter less. The new me, the Tathra of Melbourne is embryonic, barely formed, incubating, observing the world around me and deciding what to take on and into myself and what not to. To be clear, the new Tathra will not be sporting a mullet any time soon!

So now that the stores are starting to shut we can take a bus from Johnson Street to Kew Junction and catch a tram to Cotham and Glenferrie back to Dad’s place in sleepy old Hawthorn. We could get a tram back to Parliament station but it would probably take about the same time i think. This way to get to see Yarra Bend park where the biggest bats you’ve ever seen come out at night.
Another time we’ll explore the night life of Melbourne but only if i can stay awake long enough!