Friday, March 6, 2009

Reservation Chic

You know who I hate? Teenagers. And while I should say "Australian teenagers" to stay in keeping with the theme of this blog, my dislike of them probably has no geographic boundaries. And to be fair, I didn't like myself as a teenager either, so it's not like I'm just being Old. You just don't see that many kids in New York. It's not a kids' place. In Melbourne, they're everywhere. And for some reason they never have parents.

The main thing I don't like about teenagers is how they look, since I rarely engage with them otherwise — I cross their path while they're loitering in front of Flinders Street Station, or chewing with their mouths open in the Bourke Street Mall. I don't mind the nerdy ones, or even the ones that think they're Goth, because they're probably having a shit time just living if they're wearing a Bullet for My Valentine tee-shirt.

It's the Myer Basement audience; the loud, screechy ones that shop at Supré whom I find the worst. They're the over-confident, pancake makeup-wearing girls and their scaled-up jock-type boy counterparts that cause my ovaries to shrivel. It's not that I think my kid would be like this; it's that I wouldn't want to subject her to this.

I've written about Myer windows before. So this caught my attention the other day. It's a crap picture, but in case you're squinting ... trying to see if ... is that a... Yes. It's a teepee in the display window. With black mannequins wearing tee-shirts with horses and leather tassels and some other 'Native American-inspired' bullshit. Oh, and stereo speakers. And a picnic hamper. And stumps of wood for kneeling. And a tartan blanket. It's so historically adept it blows my mind. And right next door at Supré?


We couldn't be caught being original, could we?

For those of you who think I might be exaggerating or overreacting to how ridiculous this new trend — which will invariably attract the most vapid of the teenaged sect — imagine the following scenario:

Say you're Australian and you've gone to the States on holiday. Say you're in Chicago. (It's roughly the same size as Melbourne.) You're walking down Michigan Avenue, which is the main shopping strip in the city, and in the window of Macy's you see this:

Yes. It's the same thing.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kites in the Reservoir: My Day in Darebin

If the Melbourne CBD is 'like New York' and St Kilda is 'like L.A.', then the City of Darebin is totally like Southeast Detroit. After an epic Sunday trip along the 112 tram line, I arrived at the Darebin Kite Festival, excited at the fact that I actually left the inner suburbs. It's a rare occasion.

Strolling across the grass with my travelling companions, Megan and Marcus, I found myself bemused at the scene.

"So here's where all the brown people are!" my inner monologue exclaimed. Scores of children of all colors ran around, with younger ones wandering glassy-eyed and overwhelmed at the excitement, while older kids' gazes were fixed at the kites in the sky. Weirdos on stilts got out a giant jump rope while 7 year-olds scrambled to queue. It was like a Benetton ad, without the clothes marketed to white people, and if you threw in women flying kites in burkhas.

We'd come all this way for a friend's birthday picnic, and it was well worth it. I do love a good community festival. We parked ourselves off to the side of the fray so as not to get garotted, and sneakily popped the champers, adding some orange juice for justification.

There was some un-authentic sounding gypsy music on stage, followed by African dancing. I zoned out for awhile and we went to go examine the wares for sale. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of politically incorrect kites for sale, such as the "Midget" kite:

As well as what was obviously the "Gay Shark" kite:

Still, all was going well until it became suddenly clear that one of the guys on stilts was on a dangerous course of his mushroom trip. By this time several kites had gotten stuck in trees, so the Ren Fest reject decided to climb a tree on stilts. You know bad shit's going down when you hear moms going, "really, it's okay! Just leave the kite up there."

Naturally, I wasn't going to let this go undocumented.

Sadly, he didn't die. Or maybe I got bored and left before the end, I don't remember. Anyway, everything was wrapping up and the cable-access trained Emcee for the day was blathering on and on into his microphone. A little girl of about 9 climbed up on stage, which prompted the Emcee to lean over and condescendingly ask her, "would you like to say anything about the fun you've had here today?"

"Bite me," she replied.

My day was complete.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Choice eh brew!

I've often said that New Zealand is the Canada of Australia. Let's look at the following parallels:

• New Zealanders hate when they're overseas and people ask them if they're Australian.
• Canadians hate when they're overseas and people ask them if they're American.

• New Zealanders have an amazingly beautiful country with 4 people in it.
• Canadians have an amazingly beautiful country with 8 people in it.

• New Zealanders end lots of sentences with 'eh!'
• Canadians end lots of sentences with 'eh?'

• New Zealanders spend lots of time criticizing Australia and touting their own country, yet 20% of their population lives overseas.
• Canadians spend all their time criticizing America and touting their own country, yet 90% live along the American border.

Lots of Kiwis and Canucks are actually super funny people, but they don't seem to have much of a sense of humor when it comes to Americans or Australians making fun of them. But sometimes they just make it so easy.

I picked this up in a hotel lobby in Queenstown, NZ last month. In their defense, the country's tourism went through the roof after the Lord of the Rings trilogy; how were they to know they inadvertently opened their doors to nerds the world over?

This 'official' Lord of the Rings Tour offers the following adventures:
1. Walking around on grass
2. Eating lunch in a restaurant
3. Hearing lots of information about the Lord of the Rings movies
4. Dressing up like an elf and/or wizard
...all for the low, low price of $170 per person.

If those highlights didn't grab you, read the testimonials:

"4 words: Lord of the Tours." --H.K, United Kingdom
This guy thought that zinger up before he even got off the plane.

"ORCsome scenery, ORCstanding information." --Barb.
Is it bad that I assume Barb is obese?

"We are huge fans of LOTR and your enthusiasm and deep knowledge of the LOTR trilogy made the day so fantastic." -- Jing Man and James Kho


And most disturbingly,
"Thank you for the most incredible day of my life." --D.R.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention their 'weapons trail' which allows you to see their very rare collection of LOTR weapons. Uh. IT'S NOT REAL. The movies were made like 5 years ago--how are the weapons rare? Aren't they just props?

* * *

I've been slack in posting about my trip to New Zealand (unlike Mr Goody Two-Shoes Nick, who seems to blog his life in real time.) We were there for 2 weeks for my sister-in-law's wedding to a very large Kiwi named Anton, who is fantastic, but as I said, huge, and I don't want to make fun of his country because he might hurt me.

New Zealand is absolutely gorgeous. There's no disputing this fact. As one Kiwi declared to me, "Any Christian would agree it's the most beautiful place on Earth." I wasn't sure how to respond to this so I just smiled. Something tells me they don't have many non-Christians there, so I wasn't going to mention my slight case of Atheism, which occasionally tends toward Judaism.

We took a bunch of little day trips all over the South Island. On about Day 3 I declared to husband that I wanted to go on a hike.
"But you've only brought 3 pairs of high heels," he pointed out cautiously.
So I went hiking in my lowest pair of heels.

I tried not to bring up any place outside of New Zealand for fear of the Kiwis getting defensive; I understood the propensity toward it, but sometimes I wanted to point out that I wasn't comparing New Zealand with New York or Melbourne. That would be a pointless endeavor. Instead I learned all I could about the newest country in the world, drank Raro, ate Perky Nanas, and had about 5 cones of Hokey Pokey ice cream. I chased a sheep into a field, struggled to pronounce Maori words, and tried my damndest not to imitate their accents. It's harder than you'd think.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Let me tell you somethin' about Californians.

So on Friday I finally met Nick, against whom I am competing for the next five days in our nerdily-named Blog Off.

I was meeting up at my old studio beforehand, but because all trams to Collingwood suck, I ended up walking most of the way there and back, busting the caps off my heels and feeling the Crisco-like coating of summer evening sun slowly sink into my pores. By the time I got back to the city, I had to dash home and get some new pub crawl heels.

We met up at Hells, but not before I frightened him by texting "are you black?" whilst trying to figure out where he was sitting. As he'd already had a gander at Husband's tattooed-and-baldness, naturally he started wondering whether he'd just asked to have a pub crawl with Heath and Deborah Campbell. Not so, my friends. Awhile back (I may have been stoned) I was reading a post on Nick's blog and thought it would be awesome to be able to have an African-American friend from the States here in Melbourne. Somehow that led me to decide he was, in fact, black. Alas, he is white. But that's okay too.

Here are some things I've learned about Nick:

1. He neither sleeps nor eats very much, so I therefore ate 2 kilos of fries and calamari by myself, and started vaguely worrying whether he was going to faint, and what I would do in such a situation.

2. Bogans scare the shit out of him. I think, however, this may extend to blokey bloke drunk Aussies in general. I was stunned to find out that he thought Fitzroy was dodgy, and I set out to prove him wrong. I spend so much time with Australian men that I really don't notice that their abrupt manners and growly voices and convict heritages are a bit Rottweiler-esque, and it wasn't until we sat down in the beer garden of the Napier that I really thought about this.

3. He is modest and considerate; it was good of him to present himself on my home turf and open himself up to being scrutinized by the above Aussie men. I'm a bit of a Rottweiler myself at times, with a liquid courage attitude that says, "I may not be invincable, but I'll make you wish you were dead if you try messing with me."

4. He's not very good at talking shit. I think the closest he got to baiting was calling me a sissy.

5. Nick travels here and I don't.


I think this is where we established the divergence of our respective experiences. Because while I have been thrust into Australian life like Mowgli in the jungle, Nick has had to find his own way. And maybe this is why he doesn't feel so compelled to rant about these new situations he finds himself in. He embraces it, travels, makes Excel spreadsheets about his experiences. I whine about stupid shit like cop uniforms because I didn't come here to be in Australia.

But I know Melbourne. I haven't really left it in two-and-a-half years. I can drag an American from Centre Place to Gertrude Street; I can show him the original Niagara behind the bar of the Napier Hotel and lead him back to the city after 64 vodka-sodas. I could have shown him Smith Street — my first glimpse of Australia — and told him how the first time I heard AC/DC here was because I was living across the street from The Tote. I could have shown him the timeless Pellegrini's on Bourke Street, introduced him to Australia's top baristas, or shown him how to break into the North Melbourne pool.

I don't like to admit that I've learned much living here. It feels too much like a betrayal to the home I miss every day. But the truth is, this is my home too now. I'm emotionally invested and will be sad to leave even though I know I'll be back again before long. Nick and I talked about how once you're gone from the States long enough, you start feeling displaced, because you don't really belong anywhere anymore. And that was how I felt for a long time. It is only now, that I am leaving, that I can say otherwise.