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.