The train arrived a little over half an hour late and I made my way out of Southern Cross Station. Across the street I joined a fast-moving queue of people next to a sign that said: ‘$2 Coffee’. With coffee and a croissant I sat outside the station and watched the people crossing the junction at each change of the lights.
When you come from a place like Canberra the diversity of people in a place like Melbourne is wonderful to behold. The sheer number of people alone is exciting, all of them harbouring some private direction that takes them up one street or down another.
The number of beautiful women is overwhelming. Professional women with straight, clean hair. Pressed fitted blouses tucked into high-waisted skirts that hug their hips. Fit, shapely hipster girls, big-eyed and short-haired, torn-away denim shorts gently hugging arses, black bras showing beneath ragged white shirts cut away at the midriff above flat stomachs.
The men too are a sight—every one a fashion statement. Collared shirts everywhere, a mark of professionalism, fashion consciousness or both. I wondered if that’s what it takes to attract the women I saw standing next to these men.
I finished my breakfast and made for the metro.
Within an hour of arriving—it couldn’t have been past 10am—Jackson had rolled a joint. We splayed out on the grass in his uncle’s backyard and puffed clouds of smoke into the blue sky.
The gnawing lack of sleep vanished. I closed my eyes and listened to the birds in the trees. The weed was good. Every time I opened my eyes something wonderful seemed to happen. An enormous butterfly would swoop and dip above my head or the flight path to the airport would send a massive airbus low over the house. At some point a case of beer appeared and we lazed away three or four hours out the back of the house smoking joints as the peaks of the highs receded, sipping beer when the sun needed evening out.
We left the house in the middle of the afternoon. It was thirty degrees by then and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The walk to the metro station was fierce, made more so by the residual high. We were on our way to the Melbourne Museum.
When we boarded the train the four of us lapsed into silence and soaked in the air conditioning. It was about half way through the ride that a passenger down the far end broke the silence.
‘Awwww fuckin’ just do it, Kylie! You fuckin’ MUTT.’
He was in his mid-thirties, scrawny with lank brown hair down to his shoulders.
‘I don’t have fuckin’ time for your SHIIIIT!’ he was saying into a mobile phone. The conversation was poetically consistent. It reached a crescendo when the man stood up and made to get off the train.
‘AWWWW SHUT UUUUUP, KYLIEEE!!’
He paused a moment to listen and then said quite relaxed, ‘Yeah I’ll seeya tomorrow.’
The Melbourne Museum is a disturbing place. There’s an indoor forest—a wonderful place for a stoned stroll on a hot day. There is also a natural history section consisting of the largest collection of animal taxidermies I’ve ever beheld. One room contains a genuine amphitheatre full of these macabre statues like the gardens of the White Witch’s palace.
There are at least six separate cabinets full of insects collected from all over the world, every one of them pinned lifeless to red velvet behind a sheet of glass. Butterflies, bees, wasps, beetles, millipedes, spiders—amazing insects I never knew existed skewered for learning. I thought how short-lived a franchise the Night at the Museum films would have been if these cabinets had come alive.
Of course there were less bizarre exhibits. Phar Lap was there. He didn’t look that big — though they’d put him on a one-foot dais. And there were an interesting array of ‘Try Me’ exhibits, the best of which involved lying on a couch for three minutes and watching a man freefall off a cliff.
When we left the museum we made for Brunswick. We had pizzas and beer at a table on Brunswick St when we reached it.
About five minutes after we sat down a lady was arrested metres from our table.
She was a large woman, sweaty and pasty. She made a short, heaving escape attempt around the corner. It led to little.
The police officer sat her down on the curb and began emptying out her bags, the largest of which was one of those wheeled carryalls used by the elderly. Within minutes the cop had amassed a pile of Extra chewing gum over a foot high on the curb. The woman’s bags were full of it, box after box, each containing some eighty or a hundred individual packs. She must have had thousands of packs, maybe hundreds of thousands of individual sticks of gum.
They took her away in a paddy wagon as we finished our beers and aimed back towards the CBD.