The morning started when I wandered into some heathen drinking ritual in the common room of the hostel. It was early yet for a Sunday morning so while I can’t be completely certain do to the language barrier and their heavily slurred speech, I think that the four young men gathered on the third floor were still on their Saturday night. They hailed from some Pacific Island but the scene spread out before me on the way back from the shower looked like the Nepalese bar where Marion Ravenwood drank the sherpa into unconsciousness in Raiders of the Lost Ark. These guys had an unlabelled bottle of some viscous fluid that looked like the leavings from an overdue oil change. They would pour shots for their opponent who would slam the shot and then get up to perform some manner of outlandish jig before repeating the whole process for the other guy. The point seemed to be to see who could maintain the dance while on the brink of unconsciousness. The rules were arcane but their hospitality was outstanding and they kindly offered me a slot in the game. I had some sightseeing to do, but far be it from me to turn down a potentially lethal shot of an unknown liquor. I even attempted the dance, and if I may say so my awkward flailing wasn’t far off the mark from whatever it was supposed to look like. The liquor was horrible, like a blend of liquorish schnapps, sambucca, and distilled ass-water. I politely declined to continue after one round, partially because of the foulness of the drink and partially because I could see the end of the road they were on and it probably involved a stomach pump.
Once I was done not really learning anything about a culture I could not even identify, I set back out into Melbourne. I ambled about the city center ogling the Parliament House and various chapels.
Then I bought a Sunday Saver all day Metcard and took the Poor Bastard’s Tour, criss-crossing the city on several different routes and vehicles. My trip took me deep into several suburbs.
I took a stroll through Beacon Cove and dodged the numerous piles of dog crap on the sidewalk to enjoy a view of the beach. I required sustenance so I paid far too much money for far too much Fish and far too many Chips. I could have drawn a nice bath from the amount of grease that congealed in the bottom of the box, were I inclined to reheat it. (I was not).
I got back on the tram and went for a ride. One of things I love about cities is the feeling that they are living organisms, and that by riding their transport I am injecting myself into their bloodstream. You also get to see locals in their natural environment. I did some people-watching until I passed by the awesomely-named Batman Park, on Batman Avenue.
Upon visiting, I have to say that the execution is lacking a bit. Batman is just the name of the area and the park is just a regular park with no connection to the comic book character.
When I got over my disappointment I headed back to the city center and hung around Speaker’s Corner in front of the State Library and listened to the different madmen give speeches of varying levels of coherence. Much of the discourse was about religion. Australia seems very Catholic to me, and there frequent exchanges between Catholic speakers and Protestants in the crowd, and vice versa. No one was rioting or marching or anything, but somewhere between calling Kevin Rudd a tool of the apocalypse and Augustine a pervert, I had to wonder if any of these speakers ever expected to convince the crowd of anything or just liked to hear themselves blather. I was content to sip my coffee and enjoy the madness for a bit.
I moved on to Chinatown, which is more of a street than a neighborhood.
There were a bunch of restaurants but it lacked the expanse and grandeur of some of the bigger ones like New York or San Francisco. There were lanterns, though. I like lanterns.
Later that night I had a few schooners at the Imperial before wandering through Southgate on the far side of the Yarra River. There were more eateries crowded together in one place than I have ever seen, but I wasn’t hungry. I walked a meandering path that had me crossing and recrossing the neon-lit pathways that run down the bank and across the several pedestrian bridges. I was slowly hypnotizing myself with the reflection of the city lights on the river water and I started to feel like this was the true face of the city. Every time I start to get tired of city life, I look at the buildings at night and change my mind.
My reverie didn’t last long. I came across a nice, old-fashioned brouhaha. It seems that the Australian inter-collegiate Games were in town. Students in their school colors from across the country were taking to the streets after the opening ceremonies. Several of them showed their school spirit with a vigorous brawl that involved several small-ish looking felllas wailing on a (less) several small(er)-ish looking fellas. My eyes began to well up from the touching display of sportsmanship and camaraderie, so I hopped on a train to the North end of town and walked in circles for a while until I made myself tired enough to go to sleep. If there is a sadder or more perfect metaphor for my life thus far, I am afraid to know what it is.
Next: Mussels, Industry, and the Lord’s Nuggets.