Poagao's Journal

Absolutely Not Your Monkey

Nov 09 2001

Wow, now I’m Number 9 on the World’s Best 100 Real…

Wow, now I’m Number 9 on the World’s Best 100 Real People Websites. The poison must be working. The only reason I can’t continue to advance in such a fashion is that Number 7 and Number 3 are actual friends of mine who could potentially pick me out of a lineup as they’ve both met me in person. I suppose I could settle for Number 3 if I absolutely had to.

After a day of walking around Melbourne, this city has won me over, despite my original pissy mood. It’s a laid-back place that doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as Sydney does. Less of a reputation to prove, perhaps. There are lots of motorcycles here as well, for Australia, that is. The street I’m living on, Elizabeth Street, has tons of shops selling new and used bikes. Even the 150cc NSR, which is available in Taiwan, is for sale here. Not sure who would want one, except maybe a small beginner. It’s a two-stroke, however, like mine, and is roughly as powerful as a 300cc 4-stroke bike. I was surprised Australian emissions standards allow 2-stroke bikes.

Today I walked over to Chinatown, which suffered from an apparent power outage as I was eating lunch. All of the sudden the music stopped and the lights went out, and a small sparrow jumped up on my table, looking like an escapee from a Disney animated feature. I went outside to find everyone milling around, wondering what was going on. Even the traffic lights were out, and crossing roads immediately became much more similar to the situation in Taiwan, where people just sort of take their chances no matter the color of the light. A table full of people sat inside a Teppanyaki place staring at the powerless table/grill while the cook, burn scars covering his arms, smoked a cigarette outside. A blind woman was asking what was going on, why there were so many people suddenly out on the street, and someone immediately went over to her to explain. I doubt that would happen in Taipei. A couple of firetrucks screamed by, dodging the trams. I had seen signs calling for a school walkout at 1:30 this afternoon to protest “the racist war” scrawled on some walls. Perhaps that had something to do with it.

The Fitzroy Gardens, my next destination, are beautiful and very well-kempt. Immaculate green lawns, fresh air full of birdsong and little lakes and streams…people here really know how to make a park. I walked around the well-to-do neighborhoods to the east of the gardens and admired the Victorian architecture. I really like Victorian style, mostly because it’s so unnecessary. It’s almost pure excess. It’s great.

Then I walked over to Federation Square, which is listed as “Under Construction” in my 2000-edition Lonely Planet guide. It was supposed to be finished quite some time ago, but it’s far from complete. Doesn’t look as if anyone’s doing much to it either. I dodged traffic on Flinders Street due to the lack of a sidewalk on the south side and crossed the Yarra River to King’s Domain. The Yarra doesn’t look clean, but it apparently is, as there was no odor and people were learning how to row boats up and down it, spurred on by coaches on bicycles riding along the banks and shouting through megaphones. The water itself is a muddy brown, though.

King’s Domain park was another exquisite park, huge and empty, with more clipped, green lawns. A guy carrying a leaf blower wandered around with nothing to do. Some wildlife photographers foraged in the bushes for pictures of some bird. Unfortunately, this kind of beauty is hard to photograph. It’s more of an atmosphere thing, and the beauty is just being there. I could have taken a lot of pictures, some of which perhaps worthy of a calendar or something, but not the kind of stuff I’m really interested in, so I decided to save my memory for more appropriate subject matter.

It got quite cold as the sun approached the horizon, and I went back to the riverbank running along the south part of the city. High-end restaurants line the riverbank, as well as an interesting ‘jumping water’ fountain and large black obelisks with water running down them, from which huge balls of fire periodically explode. I welcomed the blast of heat from the fireballs, even though it didn’t last. I walked over to where there was an old ship in drydock and took pictures of the masts and the river at sunset. As I walked along the wooden docks, a couple dressed for some elegant occasion strode past me. Then another, and another. I looked ahead to where someone was holding a party of their houseboat, and decided to head back towards the city.

I was surprised that things were still open and people were still on the street as late as 9 or 10 at night. This seems like a much more comfortable arrangement than I’ve found in other cities in Australia. This phenomenon, as well as the general cheerfulness, could be attributable to the festive Melbource Cup holiday, but somehow I don’t think so. I think this city must be like this most of the time. It seems to be fairly open and friendly for its size, almost like a small town, which to be honest most Australian cities remind me of. Granted, this one has more silly hats, but that is just one more point in its favour.

Tomorrow I plan to cover the northern part of the city and more of downtown before I get on the bus at 8pm. I’m thinking that a true motorcycle tour of Australia will have to wait until my next trip, and will no doubt require a great deal of planning. I still want to do it, though. I can’t imagine a better country for that sort of thing.

Ed mentioned some very valid points in his criticism of this site. The reason everything is so large is that I designed for a higher resolution that 800×600, and I also work on a 19″ monitor. I know not everyone has a monitor that large, but it just didn’t occur to me when I was designing this thing. The large icons are part of that, of course, but the reason I used “mystery meat” icons was that a good portion of my readers don’t speak English and just want to look for photos, so I thought I would go for an icon-based menu rather than a text-based one.

Also, I kind of like my crazy, jumbled up design. It’s not unlike my life, in that it’s a work in progress.

posted by Poagao at 11:37 am  

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