Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Last Day in Melbourne

As they noisily packed their bags, the girl and boy from the night before shuffled out the door to check out. Still half asleep I heard their parting words, as if part of a dream: “Sorry Hagred.”

Not too long after those terrible moments I sprung from sleep and went out to check on the status of the puke shower. Miracle of miracles, there was a sign on the open doors proclaiming the showers as fixed – as if they were ever broken. Once a week there are cleaning staff here. If the mysterious shampoo stealing stranger had of vomited at the beginning of the cycle, what horrors there could have been.

As it was, I was granted a hot shower, with pressure from the faucet strong enough to fully wash both my hair and beard. Ah yes, I do was the beard. Shampoo and conditioner when supplies allow – these days, conditioner is but a fools fantasy.

Emerging clean and energized, I headed out into the world, jumping on the free tram, I made my way to Swanston street, where I began walking up. One block and I found myself at a McDonald's. Not wanting to eat the food there I headed to the second floor, found a nice little corner, and connected to the free wifi. Ahh free wifi, what a wonderful thing that is. Truly, it is a gift from the clown gods, bowing in thankful welcome, as if they were within the invisible boundaries of Thailand.

I was able to read emails, and reply to them – rather than just copy and pasting pre-written pieces. I was able to look at sites for more than a second or so. Copying and pasting the Wikipedia entry on the Essendon Bombers I will soon be ready to make myself knowledgeable on all twenty three pages of important facts, required to follow them properly.

I also managed to engage in a quick chat with she who made food, “tasty,” back in Tokyo, Japan. Fun fact, when it's Noon here in Melbourne, it's 10pm the previous day in Toronto. I write this more as a reminded to myself that Toronto is, what? Fourteen hours behind? I think that's correct.

This information is important when placing phone calls, and doing things of that nature, you understand. Not that I seem to be able to get my calling card working for said calls.

After I pulled my way from Mackers, I did require some sort of food. I popped into the Hungry Jacks next door. For some time I had been trying to find BK in this town, failing with every attempt. The reason made itself clear. Burger King is known as Hungry Jack in many parts of Australia. Why? I do not know. Nor do I question it. But if you want yourself a Whopper, it's Hungry Jacks you're after.

Fun fact: I saved myself fifty cents by adding a sundae to my Jr. Whopper value meal. I don't understand why this is, or how it works – but if you want a Jr. Whopper meal it's 5.45. If you order a Jr. Whopper meal with a sundae it's 4.95. Just accept it, and move on.

Sitting at the communal stool table I over heard many conversations about the AFL, and found myself being able to talk more about what's been going on in the league lately than one of the chatty businessman's colleagues who claimed to have no time for sports, but still liked to pretend. Having seen the best team in the league, and a number of locals, as well as one from Brisbane (whom he followed) I was all over the conversation.

Now, a week from now I'll be outdated, but never mind that. I can still pretend. And with my Bombers' track jacket, I'm still feeling pretty spectacular about it all.

Leaving the fast food nation behind, I visited used book stores, and other shops providing wondrous textual adventures. But the prices? Just too much. Even used, books cost more than they would new back home. In some cases, anyway.

My final stop? Minotaurs. Lisa told me about it; it is a geek shop of geek shops. It takes Silver Snail in Toronto and stops pretending that it's supposed to be classy, while still remaining clean and unembarrassing (unlike the mystery Anime store I found on the 7th floor of an apartment block just off of Elizabeth street. It, like 3rd Quadrant of olde, smelled of Big Mac sauce. The type from the late eighties. Before it was refined.)

I am glad that this store does not exist in my city, because that would just be the end of me. It did afford me the opportunity to see just how much things have changed in the comic book world over the last year. Apparently Spider-Girl is back from cancellation again. One wonders why they keep canning her book, only to bring it back. Dear Marvel, quit being stupid. Also, please ret-con Spiderman's lost marriage just as you've now fully ret-conned everything dating back to Secret War – and the following House of M, Civil War, and Secret Invasion series.

Action figures, novels (who knew they pushed out so many Dr. Who novels? Almost as many season 5 novels as there are episodes right now), comics, and clothing. Wonderful. And only three times the price things cost back in Tokyo.

Pulling myself from the store, I headed back to the hostel, the charge up my laptop, and kill some time until Four o'clock when I'd head out to visit Photographer Jason a final time, before saying goodbye to this city.

I noticed that the books I'd placed on the communal book shelf had been snatched away, rather quickly, and replaced with new ones. The Day After Tomorrow, and Jane Eyre are now in my possession.

The Day After Tomorrow, because it's a long text that might be fun to read – and after China Lover, I will need a fun book. It's not that I don't like this book, quite the opposite, but an exciting fluffy romp, it is not. As for Jane Eyre? Well, this is the second time she has made herself available to my tender caress. The first was back in Peru, but I discarded her without much thought.

I have seen no other book make its way around the world, quite like this. There must be a reason that every hostel has a copy. There must be a reason why travellers are drawn to this story. And I would like to know what that is – there are just so many books I feel I need to read first. But who knows, maybe I'll find a nice spot on a beach in Hawaii to just kick back, and read, and enjoy what's left of my solo-travelling life?

Having taken two new books, I will release Spot of Bother, and the Richard Branson text back out into the wild.

I'll have to check on them tomorrow before I leave to see how quickly they get picked up. If even Branson has made his way to a new home, then that will truly speak to the desire for reading in all travellers. I tell you, if you've always wanted to read a book, then just set yourself out on a trip around the world.

I was chatting today about that – It was mentioned, the jealousy that I was still out travelling while other people were going to sleep to wake up early for work, work, and more work. I tried to explain that it was easy to just quit your job and spend your life savings. Trust me on this, but – no – apparently there are other factors out there too. Now, to be honest, I seem to remember these other factors existing once, too, but really – once you commit to it, it is incredibly easy to just say, work – you and me? We're through. And the whole dropping your bank account to zero? Well what were you doing with it anyway? Watching the number increase over and over, until it hits some magical number (this is exactly what I was doing. I did hit that number, incidentally, before launching into these affairs which will lead to me never seeing that much saved ever again.) Money – it only matters if you do something with it.

Believe me, watching the sun rise over the desert while sitting on a great dune? Making friends with people in yellow fruits basket hats while sailing past towering ice bergs to port and starboard? Hating yourself with every step as you hike through the Andes mountains? These things are far better than the ability to eat a two hundred dollar meal – or job security.

Now, I understand that not everyone sees things the same way, and that's fine. Deity forbid I ever become one of those people who thinks people who don't travel aren't living properly. But – truth be told – I didn't really understand the importance of it, or even like it all that much, until I really got going.

What type of person sets out on a year long trip who doesn't even really want to travel? The person who very strongly wants to be able to say they'd done it. All the good stuff, and reasons behind it – well they just fell in line as I went.

But enough of this, for dinner awaited me. Dinner, and a peak behind the big red door, housing the secret lair of a real life photographer. It pains me to now realize that there is more software I'll have to pick up and get to know. But watching an image change with a few sliders moved, well that is a powerful thing. So – Adobe, your Lightroom program seems to be a real treat. And I might need to start shooting in RAW when this trip comes to an end. We shall see, photography, we shall see.

Dinner itself was a wondrous thing. There was homemade lasagna. This is something I'd had a craving for for some time. I felt like a large orange cartoon cat. But no, there was also a delightful salad which really nailed home how much I adore balsamic vinegar, and tomatoes. And pizza. And pie. And ice cream! It was like five meals in one! I tell you, the non-eating traveller that will soon emerge once more to save money when the people willing to cook for me are no longer around every corner – well how will he deal?

Already I find it harder than it once was to get by on no food. And I've become a fan of sleep. And now that I'm wearing this new jacket, I'm starting to like feeling warm. I'll become soft! I pride myself on my ability to do without food, sleep, and warmth. Who will I become? Terrible terrible things may come from this.

But as my belly is still full from seconds of everything, I'll just think lovingly on the delicious meal provided.

I also met a wee little three year old, who wanted to play Pirate, but mommy and daddy could not play as they were chatting with me. It took everything I had, not to jump to the floor, get down to eye level, and develop a game featuring high sea adventure. You can take me away from summer camps, but the counselor in me is hard to push aside. And playing with children? Well – children are great, when you can rile them up and leave them with their parents to deal with at the end of the nigh.

But that was not to be. I ended up as no pirate, instead I had good adult conversation quelling future fears, and leading me to consider a number of different ideas I'd been playing with recently. And this is all well, and good, and character building. Indeed they even came with a glass of wine, and a cup of tea.

But, at no time was I invited to wear an eye patch.

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