Day 04 and 05: Melbourne Café and Book Culture
So yesterday before my presentation, I had the opportunity to explore.
Walking the streets of Melbourne is not too different from walking the neighborhood streets of Chicago. You find mostly 1, 2, to 4-flats of eclectic architectural styles. One block may consist of rows of one-story brick houses with ornate Indian-style porticos, shutters, and gates. The next block may have a row of stucco-like, modern apartments that remind me of the suburbs of Silicon Valley in California. Around the corner, you may pass the pharmacy, boutique clothing stores, bakeries, take-out Asian food shops, record stores, cafes, book stores, vintage stores, and bead shops.
In the morning, you cross paths with young white and Asian students dressed in purple or blue blazers with tartan skirts and knee socks if females or solid slacks if male; white-haired pensioners waiting for the tram or shuffling to the supermarket; pin-striped suited business men holding meetings through their Bluetooth ear pieces; fashionable business women in high leather boots; working class blokes in jeans and pull over sweaters; young Indian women with bindis and leather jackets walking with their mothers in shalwar kameezes; and Asian shop-keepers sweeping in front of their sushi and fish and chips shops. You might encounter one or more people of African-descent, who pass by without directly acknowledging your common complexion.
Day 04 Wanderings
Yesterday, I had breakfast at a café of Chapel street (the main hipster drag) called Amici. It has a mixture of sophisticated youngish to middle-aged people either chatting in groups or solitarily drinking coffee and reading the newspaper or working on Mac laptops. I felt comfortable like I do at Meli’s in Chicago or the City Bakery in NYC. I mostly ate, prepped for my presentation, and did people watching. The guy sitting next to me was a very lonely guy working on his Mac laptop. He kept oversharing with the waitress as she brought him more latte. He kept offering up more details about his life as she tried to politely extricate herself from the conversation.
After breakfast, I went to the Grenville Bookstore, which was said to have a good collection of design books in the area. It was very cozy. The shop woman pointed out some good Australian female authors although she was originally flustered by my request. She said, “I should probably know who these women are, but I don’t read authors by nationality.” It’s probably an anthropologist thing, but I do read authors by nationality.
I took some photos of the streets and the park nearby. I was fascinated by the pedestrian crosswalk sign of a pair of black feet and legs on a yellow background. I passed by a bikeshop that had my red bike that I covet with the bell and basket on the front. Surprisingly enough, there must not be a lot of bike theft in this area of Melbourn because people use on flimsy locks or in some cases no locks at all on their bikes. There are a good number of bike riders on the streets, although I imagine it being kinda scary for me with the trams and cars.
After my fabulous talk, I waited around until being able to have dinner with Ken and Daved Barry (a speaker who is visiting Swinburne) and later joined by their families. Ken, Daved, and I had a wonderful intellectual discussion about a variety of topics as well as sharing life histories. It was so much fun.
Day 05 More Wanderings
This morning I was struck by the number and diversity of cafes in the Prahram area of town that I’m in. In such of a breakfast/writing café, I passed by tiny wood-paneled places full of university students gossiping, more bar-like bistros full of middle aged men drinking espressos and reading the paper; large chrome, mirror, and fern plates cafes with groups of women and their baby strollers chatting, and quick breakfast joints where you grab a donut and coffee for 5 AUD. The music wafting out of the cafes range from classical, ambient beats, top 40, until the place I stopped at the Yellow Bird.
The Yellow Bird is best described as punk-ish. The walls are covered with posters for independent bands. I ended up selecting it because it was the place where I saw people working with Mac computers and a plug in. There was a sign for free wifi, but the wifi was broken. The music was different from what I imagined from the posters; Stevie Nicks and The English Beat. I was seeking pancakes, but they only had strawberry crepes. One great thing about Melbourne is that you can get excellent tea. They had three varieties of loose leaf green tea.
I plugged in and worked on my still overdue essay comparing ethnography’s use in anthropology, marketing, design, and policy. I felt like I did writing at the little café/restaurant that I used to write at when I lived in the Southport area of Chicago. I wrote for a while, listening to the music, watching the people in tattoos, pink-red hair, all dressed in distressed black, come in and out, sit a read the paper, talk on the mobile, or chat in groups.
I did not want to eat both breakfast and lunch there, so I walked further down the block and had lunch at this Pan-Asian restaurant. It was more sparsely populated being a very large space. The other customers were a white middle-aged business-like couple, who were deeply engaged in some business deal; a middle-aged Asian man having Udon soup alone in the back, a 20ish young white couple newly in love by the way the held hands and stared at each other across the table; a middle aged white male reading a novel, and myself. It’s funny that I keep saying middle-aged as if I’m not, but when I say middle-aged I mean people at least 10-20 years older than I am am.
After lunch, I walked towards the flat, but stopped at the grocery store on the way back. I am amazed by the rows of Asian brand foods available everywhere, not in just the Asian section of the store. I imagine that it is like shopping in China town in NYC, except that its just the normal store. This is a kinda cool difference.
I ended by wanderings back at the flat where I am waiting to attend the Australia rules rugby game tonight. This is sort of the the Chicago equivalent of getting the Cubs experience. I am not a big sports person, but it would introduce me to an important segment of the Melbourne population, although with my tea with Caroline Barnes, she said that most Melbourne people are more into culture and the arts, than sports like Sydney. I’ll find out in a few hours.