Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Premature nostalgia

I have only nine weekends left in Melbourne. I’m already beginning to encounter things as if I’m saying goodbye to them, or looking at things in memory.

Not all the time, but enough.

It is forcing me to get out and do things I’ve been putting off, like going to Bennett’s Lane on a Sunday for some pretty nifty jazz. I’m glad to have done some “big” things already, like the camping expedition to Wilson’s Promontory. I also really want to take a road trip out into the spa and wine country before I leave, too. (Suggestions anyone? Too late in the year for penguin watching?)

I am certainly going to miss a city riddled with interesting little bars and eateries. As my first mass e-mail to friends on arrival put it:

“Greeting from Melbourne, where the weather is variable and every vacant shop front has been turned into a cafe/retro-bar! … this town is full of little bars. Funky little bars. It was put to me over a drink the other day that this is the cheapest place in Australia to get a liquor license ... If your band can't get a gig ? you may as well open your own bar. And people do.”

I’m also going to miss trams: their cheerful, patriotic green and gold; the low, warning growl and impatient clack-clack of their impending arrival. All right, they’re slow for the suburban commute, but that’s what the trains are for. They’re a damn nifty way of darting about the inner city, though.

I’m going to miss the big-city but kinda-relaxed pace of life here, the prettiness of the gold-rush era Victorian buildings, the gorgeous night view across the Yarra to the city (preferably with your back to the Casino, but anyway). It’s a town that feels extremely comfortable to me, but one that always remains smart and exciting and full of possibility. Strangely, I’m less concerned about leaving old and new friends. In the age of blogging and e-mail I needn’t really lose contact while I’m away – meeting for a chat, a meal or a movie will just have to wait a while.

It’ll be sad to leave after a little less than a year, but it’s not as though I won’t have the chance to come back. What you miss about a city – like a person, I suppose – is the small things: an intangible sense of place, the mosaic in your head made from little pieces of atmosphere and experience. But that mosaic, perhaps the most valuable part of Melbourne for me, I’m allowed to take with me.

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