Monday, June 14, 2010

Surf Melbourne

The ocean calls to me, and I run to answer. But before I can get five steps from the four wheel drive, two man to wave friction reducing devices, strapped to the roof, I'm called back. I can't possibly simply jump into the ocean – it's winter! The water is only thirteen degrees. Only thirteen!

It's cute, Australia. Never mind that I've swan in the waters off the souther most continent, or that I've jumped into rivers before the ice has fully thawed. Those probably weren't good decisions, mind, which is why I repeat – never mind them. No, to stay in the ocean, I would be required to squirm my way into a suit comprised entirely of neoprene. Just as managed to force my legs through the ever tightening enclosures, midsection yanked up, I was told – nay, the zipper does not belong on the front! On the back. That's where zippers are best. Removing my oversized self from its less than stretching confines was not nearly the easy task I had hoped, foolishly – of course – it would be.

Ten minutes later, complete with some some awkward shuffling, and a couple of quick hops, like a woman determined to fit into her size four, despite the fact that she's looking to be a wee bit more like ten these days, and I was in. Then came the tiny booties which velcroed up. They led the way for the final piece. The gloves. With that, I was prepared to jump into the water and stay relatively dry. If only I had a neoprene balaclava, I could have been fully covered, prepared to start a a themed gang. I could give something of a costumed appeal to the notorious Wet Bandits.

My partner in crime? Antarctic photographer Jason. Together we made our way to the beach dressed in fashion that I could not quite accept as anything other than ridiculous. A quick stop was made to ask a Japanese couple to take our picture for me. Lets be honest, I'll probably never be dressed this way again – nor should anyone ever dress like this outside a fetish ball.

Cresting the slight hill to the high tide's edge, I noticed – huh – perhaps we weren't dressed all that strange. Apparently this is the uniform of surfers everywhere when not diving into the summer's waters. Very well. Clearly I could now move about with pride, except for the fact that I carried a bright yellow board that screamed out to everyone around, “rental!”

This wasn't all that worrying, however, as it made lying on the board and standing up again and again seem less foolish. In the way that you don't quite make fun of a small child for not knowing how to tie his laces, those on rental boards can hardly be expected to know just what it is that they're doing. And, on the water, it also identified me as someone who probably was not going to get up to anything all that much. It pegged me as one that should be steered around, as my ability to move out of the way was limited. Bright yellow. All of a sudden, not quite the foolish colour choice I'd thought it to be. Perhaps a neon orange or pink could be even more useful in accident prevention.

On second thought, scratch that. That might make me look more like a tasty treat for the bitey fish that I was graciously reminded inhabit these waters. Looking around, I noticed all the people who knew what they were up to had white boards. White boards – penguins have white bellies so that when a predator looks up at them from below, they become camouflaged in the light cutting through the water from above. Yellow would only stand out. Where's my white, shark proof board!? I was going to get eaten, and I was going to die! One should never go swimming in Australia! They have all number of fish that want to eat you, and jellies that want to hurt you with great efficiency. Even the rips are strong enough to make former prime ministers disappear into nothingness. What was I thinking?!

“Rule one, don't worry about the bitey fish. It won't do you any good.”

Ohh – don't worry. Very well. Strangely those words managed to put me at rest. After all, there were people far further out, they'd surely be the first meal, rather than I who was staying in the shallows.

As the waves came in, I pulled myself onto the board, and attempted time and time to stand. A foolish quest, and I'm sure I looked quite the fool constantly attempting, and constantly failing. But I did not give up. For two and a half hours, I attempted to get to my feet, diving under the waves as I tried to get back out to sea after each and every failed attempt. Now it may be true that I never got more than up on my knees, but the experience of spending hours paddling through the water, bobbing up and down on the waters surface, and going through repetitive motions trying to get something right was an engaging, and entertaining experience.

One that I was glad to have experienced. It was like playing Mega Man 2, or learning the guitar. Again, and again, constant repetition and set up. Each attempt brought me that little bit closer to figuring out what I was doing. Two and a half hours, and I'm sure all number of people would be riding their way back to the beach, but not me. Still – I was never once frustrated; only once slightly terrified. The terror came from finding myself moving backwards despite the fact that I was paddling forward. I did not want to become one of those who had to be rescued from far out. The backwards motion only lasted ten to twenty seconds, and hardly moved me out at all. Still – those moments unable to advance... How was I to know they'd pass quickly?

Jason rode the surf to the beach like one who'd been playing the game for over two decades – which of course he had been. Every week he brings himself down to the water to paddle out. And I find myself jealous of his ability to do just that. As much as I love Toronto, a surfers paradise it is not. And never will it be one. If I hope to progress, my next best opportunity will be in the waters just of Waikiki beach. For one who doesn't like sitting around on the sand all day, it might give me that goal, and mission, for my Hawaiian vacation.

Back in the parking lot, post-ocean pictures were taken. And then I had to remove this second skin. This terribly terribly constricting second skin. Well – to be honest, it fit quite well, and it did keep my toasty warm, but removing it... All the benefits in the world wouldn't help that. With immense suction and great pulls it was removed from my flesh, leaving me clad in blue and black board shorts, quickly replaced with grown up clothes. Well, the closest thing I had that passed for grownup clothes.

In lieu of a freshwater shower, I did as best I could with the contents of a plastic water bottle, and then we were ready to head back into the city.

Talking about the birds flying overhead, I learned more of what this country is about. I also saw wallabies and Australian red foxes – unfortunately I viewed them in ghastly roadkill form, rather than idyllic running, hopping, and scampering form. Still – a wallaby is a wallaby.

As Jason headed on home, he dropped me at Ethiad Stadium, where I watched the bombers get destroyed last night. Tonight I had the opportunity of viewing the home town Bulldogs face off against the Brisbane Lions. Running into the stadium near the end of the first quarter, I made my way to section seventeen where Kim, in theory, would be waiting and saving a seat for me. I told her to save it until 2:20, and while it was now 2:40, I could hope.

Reaching 17 (the number of Kim's favourite player) I walked down the aisle. In front of me was a girl decked out as a true fanatic. She was dressed in the red, blue, and white of the Doggies, with the same coloured ribbons in her hair. As I looked again I noticed, it was Kim, returning to her seat after the quarter break. I called her name, once, twice, three times. Maybe it wasn't her. After I'd stopped calling for her she turned around, shocked to see me there. I was right. And while she had heard her name called, she simply ignored it. Who'd know her here? I can't hold that against her – when I hear my name called out, I very rarely respond. Far too many Michaels in this world.

A seat was saved, and down I descended towards it. The Bulldogs started to spectacularly blow their commanding lead from the first quarter, but after half time they were back in the game. They played the game as it was meant to be played, and as much as Essendon was destroyed last night, they put the Dogs put the same nails into Brisbane's coffin this day.

A win could be celebrated, and that? That's always a good thing.

I headed back to my hostel, and noticed that two of the guys from the days before had moved out. I quickly swapped sheets and appropriated one of their beds. There are only two power outlets in this room, and they are both by these beds. I had blogs to write, music to listen to, and batteries to charge. These things? Only accomplishment through the wonders of wall socketed electricity.

Beds stolen, I headed out into the city. This was not a small town like many of the others I'd been to recently. No twenty minutes would see me from one side to the other. Now, sure, this is one of Australia's biggest cities, and soon to out-populate Sydney, but for some reason I thought it would be quaint. It was the grid based CBD layout that did it to me. Wandering from Spencer to Elizabeth I found where the all the food lived and grabbed some. Then, I made my way back stopping for a moment to grab 4L of Coke from 7/11. It's not that I want four liters of Coke, but at 6.50, it was half the price an equal amount of water would be – and as for juice? More than three times cheaper.

Ohh Australia. One of the most expensive places I've been to; you're looking at Europe prices here. It wouldn't have been so bad if their economy was still crashed and crushed, but these days they're really starting to make a name for themselves in that regard. And while I'm glad for the people – where's my cheap food? There is none. There is always cheap food – I know this to be true. Clearly I've just not found it yet. And Mackers? That is not the answer. Not here. Four liters of soda. My poor poor teeth.

Ahh, there's something I should note. At the Footy game, when they talk about Adidas clothing they don't pronounce it was RUN DMC do: ah-dee-das, they pronounce it awe-da-dos. And I found it very confusing. Even the commercials pronounce it as such. Now as RUN DMC single handedly saved the company from bankruptcy, they (we, North Americans) say it properly, yes? But even if that is so, why do the commercials here say it so differently? It's wacky ah-lu-min-um vs. al-U-min-E-um, but on a corporate scale.

Before bed, I headed off to shower, to get the ocean off of me. It was then that I noticed something terrible. I didn't have my shampoo. Where could it... right. It must have been left in the shower. This was a terrible place to leave shampoo, as there was no way it wouldn't go unused, not in a party hostel such as this, with many many drunken youths claiming whatever they could get their hands on. Sure things will last for weeks when forgotten in Bangkok, but here? No.

As I went to prove this point I was distressed to discover that the washroom I had used was locked. Why was it locked? Did they discover good showers were there? Did they not want us bathing without rage? Hard to say. When I went down to ask about having the lock popped so I could peek inside, I discovered the reason. Puke. Puke all over the shower. Now who can blame someone for loving a good shower puke? For my money, it's the best place to puke. But not like this, not everywhere, and so close to sinks and toilets. It was vial. But there – there was my 95% empty shampoo. Just enough left inside to wash the ocean out of my hair on this day, but sadly not to cleanse my mind of the horror that was within the stall.

The only question I am left with is who used the full bottle? Was it many people, or just that one character vomiting and hoping to get somewhat clean? Another question comes to light – who thought a good idea for dealing with a puddle of puke was just to lock the door?

This is Nomad's, at the corner of Spencer and Flinter street in Melbourne we're talking about here people. The showers are crap, they don't clean terrible things, and from time to time they blare loud dance music throughout the hostel. Very rarely. Ohh and the internet is terribly overpriced. Yes. That too. Strangely, despite all these terrible things, I kinda sorta would still recommend it. The rooms are clean, and it's safe, great location, and only eighteen dollars a night.

Still, the now empty shampoo that will have to be replaced at terrible Ozzie prices (set when their dollar was 65 cents, not on par) has me somewhat upset. My fault, I know. But annoyance with oneself can often be the worst, yeah? The charming, Coheed and Cambria-esque singing of the Silversun Pickups will help me to enhance my calm. And, as I said, there was enough left for one final shower.

Awkwardly, I noticed that the water bottle I was using at the ocean? More effective than the trickle that comes out of these faucets. One more of the showers is now out of commission. Someone stole the hot water tap. Sure you can do it all cold – but this is not acceptable.

To the boy or girl who puked in the shower. I'm not mad, so much, that you used my shampoo. I may do the same were situations reversed. BUT you led to the closure of the only working showers, and for that? There can be no excuse!
This entry brought to you by:
the kooks – sea side

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