Australia, 2009-12-02

Today was a mellow day.  Mostly wandering Gertude and Smith streets in Fitzroy and Collingwood, drinking flat whites and window shopping.  I was a bit surprised when we stopped in a store named “Release the Hounds” and thought I heard Mu-ziq playing on the radio.  Turns out it was a folktronica band named “Múm”.  Since there were at least two words in that previous sentence that were new to me, I chatted with the salesman for a while, trading music recs.  (For those of you who are curious, his Múm recommendations were for “Yesterday was Dramatic — Today is OK” and “Finally we are No One”.)  The hipness of Melbourne definitely scored some points with me on that one.

Through the wanderings of the day, we did notice that there appears to be a bit of “white guilt” regarding the indigenous peoples.  Locals would completely ignore the the white panhandlers, refusing to even to make eye contact, but when an indigenous panhandler would come along, the very same people would stand, shake his hand heartily, say a blessing or two, and hand over fivers.  This wasn’t an isolated instance, either, we saw it multiple times between multiple individuals.  No judgements here, just an observation.  I know the historical treatment of indigenous Australians is as touchy as the United States’ treatment of African and Native Americans (and just about any other group depending on the point in history you wish to analyze), but these interactions we saw I’ve never even come close to witnessing the the states.  I found it quite fascinating on sociological and interpersonal levels.

After another lunch of cheese, crackers, and hummus, we set out with a goal to find Lanaea and affordable opal.  We hit just about every place that sold opals in the Melbourne CBD, most at least twice, and finally ended up back at the first one we’d walked into the day before.  And found the perfect one there.  Of course, if we’d gotten it straight off, we might always wonder if there was a better one a block away, but since we’d been everywhere, it ended up being molded by experience into “perfect.”  Funny how that works out.

Melbourne itself is kind of a funny place, come to think about it.  There’s major development all over; the CBD is a panorama of cranes.  But it’s classy, urban, and hipster counter-culture all the same, with pan-European cuisine and architecture and a deference to the local history and culture.  It’s in a country with a reputation for beer and meat in quantity, yet the prices for such things are high, the portions are small, and it’s not the best thing by far that you can eat in Melbourne.  Which is, in a way, why I fell in love with Melbourne.


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