A short… very short snippet of my home town.
I walk back home from the Champagne Lounge, slightly underdressed for the occasion, that is none in particular. I live too close by (a 25-minute walk), to justify the effort. On the way I pass Parliament Station. Ahead of me I see a hoard of rowdy teenagers, mostly boys, and undeniably drunk. Someone’s picked a fight with a rake-thin Vietnamese man sitting on his own. “Go ahead! Hit me!” I hear him challenge them. One of the boys, a hefty sort of character, raises his beer bottle and smashes it over the man’s head. The remaining beer explodes from the bottle and fountains off all over the place. Passersby, aspiring good Samaritans, whip out their mobile phones at lightning speed. By the time the final, third digit is dialed the teens have left the premises. The do-gooders run up to the man to ask if he’s all right. He tries to assure them they need not call the police. But it’s too late. Before too long the police arrive at what the reluctant victim claims is nothing.
I contemplated helping, but he asked for it. He quite literally asked for it. How do you help people like that? I headed down McArthur Street, walking to the clap of my own echo, the voice of both inner solidarity and solitude. Besides the awful company at the cocktail party and the Asian man getting attacked, it was a perfect Melbourne evening: cool, crisp and criminal. I thought back to the evening wasted at the Champagne Lounge.
“So where do you live?”
Oh that’s so lucky! Do you live in a house or a flat?
“Ooh a house in Fitzroy! How trendy!” she says to the other one of them.
God, I hate cocktail parties.
“Oh have you ever been to that cute little Italian place?”
“Yes, yes that’s the one!”
“What? You haven’t been! Everybody goes there!”
“So I’m told.”
This woman failed to take notice that I had no interest in her incessant prattle.
“Oh me and the girls go there every Thursday. It’s our thing!”
“I can’t believe you haven’t been there!”
As she began to name more and more restaurants and bars I don’t patron I began tuning out and let my head movements talk for me. I didn’t even have to think to hold a discussion with this woman whose name I’ve neglected to remember, much to my good fortune.
“So where, oh where do you eat then when you’re in the area?”
There are many perks to living in Fitzroy however one of the things I detest is having to deal with people who unnecessarily glamorise it. It hasn’t always been hip, cool and trendy. I’ve lived here all my life. I grew up with syringes in my playground and vomit and used condoms in the streets. For me, that is the picture of Fitzroy. Not some trendy vintage clothes store or ritzy bar and anything niche in between. It’s strange when you stay the same, in your own little nest, but the greater world around you has repositioned where you live. You no longer live in a scummy part of town. It’s now a highly desirable renovator’s wet dream.
That’s not the Fitzroy I know.
Some people fear large crowds of drunken louts, but sometimes I feel there is nothing more dangerous than silence. There are some streets in Fitzroy which are wonderfully lit at night. There, punters feel safe at night. They can see the Town Hall, from the Napier, like a beacon of well-being. The Napier’s my local pub, but living in this area, there are about 10 others that could claim that title, and some days, when I’m in the mood for something especially different, they do. But none are as welcoming as the Napier Hotel. Then there is Gore Street. In the day time it’s like a delightful Victorian residential area. But at night it’s as stark as its name. You can’t see your way down, you have to feel it.
That’s what it means to be at home.
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