Melbourne is now an old friend to me. We first met while I was in highschool. I’d taken a bus there with my group of screaming, flatulent Year 10s on a field trip that was designed to highlight the cultural side of Australia.
Ever since then, Melbourne has been my New York, a city of artists and things happening. It’s been a city that has attracted me, like a giant bug zapper, since my teenage years but has seemed at times to be on the other side of the Earth.
This year, I’ve been lucky enough to find the time and money to meet up with my aloof friend twice, and now she doesn’t seem that aloof. In fact, Melbourne seems as if she’s right around the corner now; a busy next-door neighbour to my home town of Adelaide.
I’ve written about my feelings towards Melbourne before, so I won’t go into that again. Right now, we need to focus on the thing that really set this last visit apart: the company.
In the last thrilling episode, we followed Bonica and James as they sped across the beautiful right butt cheek of Australia. This week, we return to their rip-roaring adventures. Where are our heroes now, though?
They’re in a cute, little Fitzroy AirBnB.
Only once in my life before have I experienced the “sharing economy”. It was a strangely awkward car ride from Amsterdam to Rotterdam via BlaBla Car. We were picked up, in the pouring rain and sulphurous light, by a fast talking, no-nonsense ex-cabbie and deposited, reeking of Amsterdam’s special perfume, in the bright neon streets of Rotterdam.
That absurd experience was stuck firm in my mind as we arrived at our hastily-booked Fitzroy accommodation. I was pacing up and down the street, hesitant to press that call-button just in case it was the gruff, Dutch ex-cabbie. Bonica had to be the brave one.
“Oh, yes, hello. It’s James and Bonica?”
“Of course! Come on in!”
And like that, we were through. None of the dreaded awkwardness. We met our host and filled the room with our junk. We’d found our home for the next three nights and we were pleasantly surprised.
“I WANNA DIE!”
I was awake at 3am, listening to the chaos outside. We’d arrived on Saturday night, apparently the neighbourhood’s busiest night for a bit of drink, dance and in-and-out. I sank into black bed sheets, enveloped by dark waves as Bonica slept quietly beside me.
How could she sleep? I wondered? It sounds like someone’s being butchered out there.
“I WANNA DIE! I HATE MY LIFE,” screamed a woman just down the road. I could hear her pain and drunken confusion. I could hear her equally drunk friends trying to calm her down. I could hear the party fade away into the early morning around her, apathetically. The city didn’t care about her plight. I didn’t. I just wanted her to shut up. Didn’t she care I’d just driven for thirteen hours? Couldn’t she stop being suicidal until she got a few blocks away?
I returned to my world of black bed sheets and lightly snoring love wondering what the hell I had done to get so lucky, and what the hell was unfolding on the street…
Fitzroy in daylight is a beautiful place. It channels Camden Town in its op-shops and elaborately decorated, second story walls. It’s perfect position above the CBD made it the place to base ourselves while we took it easy and mindfully.
Each morning, we stopped for coffee at some new, hip coffee joint, slowly realising that each different venue could easily have sprouted from a singular hip coffee joint bulb.
To the North, we walked to op-shops and art object collections. We became lost in a spinning world of retro-bourgeois chic and restaurants that seemed cheaper than they actually were. All in all, we felt like we lived a pretty local life, for a day or two at least.
Of Melbourne itself, there’s not a whole lot to say. Bonica and I had both visited before, and so we were taking it as easy as possibly possible.
“We’re not going to be tourists, no way.”
Here’s the thing: Melbourne is exhausting as a tourist, just as any big city is. There’s more art to see and culture to dive into than you could comfortably ingest in a week. Bonica and I were there for two days. We had to be surgical.
There was a Degas exhibition on at the NGV… which we skipped. We were going live in the now, explore the contemporary, not delve back into the past. Where we did dip our fingers into the classics, we dipped them into the classics on display in the “gratis” section of the museum. Works like “Anguish” and “The Triumph of Faith” will remain with me until the day I die. They’re just so beautiful.
We haunted book shops, cafes and skipped on the expensive restaurants. We wandered the green hills at the banks of the Yarra and lay there until the sun went down and the lights of the city came on. We roamed, aimlessly, along the streets, hoping not to find anything, just to live in another city for a while. We were anonymous people with blank, impossible lives ready to be filled in the eyes of others. We wouldn’t give anything away, or take it.
And that’s how I want to live these sort of adventures. My inspiration comes from someone who does it so well. Bonica taught me how to travel and how to live with peace of mind and a closed wallet. Melbourne would tempt us, but we wouldn’t give in.
Well, we did give into the tourist thing once… Hosier Lane is just too pretty to not take selfies in, no matter how lame that is.
Melbourne inspires me, but so does the person at my side. The incredible experiences in art and cultural spaces (like Del Kathryn Barton’s “The Nightingale and the Rose” exhibtion) would not be filled with as much reciprocal meaning without them.
But having fun means time flies, have ya’ heard, and so our visit to my old, aloof friend wrapped up really quickly. We were heading back on the road, leaving the bright lights behind.