Day 8: Melbourne
We’re each wearing the last of our clean clothing, so there’s no avoiding it now: we gotta do laundry. Unfortunately, this particular Airbnb doesn’t have any laundry facilities. So we look up he closest launderette, which is a place a 10-minute walk away called “The Soapranos.” (Yes, the Aussies sure do love their puns!)
But, priorities, man! Breakfast first. I lobby hard for heading back to Breakfast Thieves, as I was intrigued by a smoked fish dish that was on their weekend-only menu. And what I’d had there on Friday was just too damn delicious.
So back to Breakfast Thieves we go and this time is is PACKED. Oh yeah, brunchtime. It’s easy to forget the normal flow of things when on vacation. Good thing there’s only a 10-minute wait for an outdoor table, which gives me time to look at the menu and decide… to get the same damn thing I did the last time I was here. But it’s only partly because Mike is getting the smoked fish and eggs special, so I can sample his.
I again make a mess of things trying to eat my poached eggs, chiseling the whites out of the shells to which they are stuck, sending bits of eggshell everywhere. Worth it!
Now for a walk back to the flat for our laundry bag and a good deal of down time. On the walk to the launderette, we make our way through a quieter, more residential part of the neighborhood we hadn’t yet explored.
First, we meet this little charmer:
According to the heart-shaped tag on his collar, his name is “Lazer the Amazer” and he’s a super-sweetheart, running right up when we crouch down and make “c’mere kitty” noises. This is the first cat we’ve yet encountered in our travels, and I’m missing my own cats quite a bit, and Mike is just as much in need of a kitty fix. So the friendly Mr. Amazer gets an epic amount of head-scratching and petting from the both of us.
Kitty eventually gets a bit restless and we have (ugh) laundry to do anyway, so we continue down the street. There is some pretty cool street art:
As well as the, ahem, evidence of some of its creation:
And posters for a show we’d totally check out were we still in town on that date:
Arriving at The Soapranos, we find the interior decor to very much match the theme. There is a large TV mounted above the machines on which — you guessed it — episodes of The Sopranos are playing. And the logo on the sign swaps the gun for a spray bottle.
We’re the only people in there, so we get about our business then mess around on the Internet (Mike) and do some writing (me) while waiting for our clothes to be done. We also note some verrrry sketchy flyers posted on the wall calling for female nude models, plus another for an “art project” of, uh, questionable taste. Stay classy, Melbourne.
By the time we’re done, we determine we really only have time to pick one neighborhood in which to shop, even though the Digging Melbourne map has many more pockets of record stores in different parts of the city. The Brunswick neighborhood had two of the better ones (based on their descriptions), so we head off to the first one, at 15 Union Street.
Hopping on a tram, we make our way downtown, then back north on a different line. Tracking our position in Google Maps this whole time, we hop off at our appointed stop, walk over to 15 Union and… see that it’s an empty alley? We walk down the alley. Yeah, it’s empty. WTF???
I check the record store map in the Digging Melbourne guide. Oh no. Shit. We were at the wrong Union Street! And the other one is… not nearby. Though at least we ended up heading in kind of the right direction. But now Google is telling us to hightail it over to a train station a 15-minute walk away to hop a train to our actual destination. Okay!
We get a move on, even though we’re both kind of tired from the heat and the sun and having to schlep even further than planned. But, with some concerted speed-walking (and not a little anxiety), we make it to our platform with 2 minutes to spare. Woo!
On the train, we have our Myki travel cards checked to ensure we paid the fare (yes, obv), then we witness another dude go through the same check, except he didn’t pay. After a long but polite back and forth with the fare-checker, he gets whisked away.
Off the train, it’s another 15-minute or so walk to the first record store, and by this point we’re reconsidering our decision to forgo sunscreen and searching for a convenience store to buy some water.
But we make it to Round & Round Records before we can hydrate. And damn, do they have good records. Good enough so that we endure the air condition-less interior and try not to sweat on the records as we pull them out. There is a ton of local stuff, which is just what we are most in search of.
My top find, though at top price, is a rare Twerps mini-LP (edition of 350). I also dig out an early Chapter Music label 7″ that I am unfamiliar with, but which sounds good when I sample it on the in-store turntable. To those, add a couple of other Aussie 7″es and the best-priced copy I’d found yet of the Beaches LP I’d been eyeing.
Again, we have a really nice conversation with the friendly clerk. He even gives us free, store-branded carrier bags with our purchases. Good on ya, mate!
The next store is another 15-minute walk and boy, are we getting our workout today, now with vinyl in tow. I still can’t find any damn water, but the records, they are calling!
Record Paradise Garage is a huge space that yeah, was probably an auto garage before it became a store. There is a big seating area where bands probably do in-stores, and the first really big selection of cassettes we’ve yet seen. I know it’s easy to rag on tapes for their crappy sound quality (among other sins), but the fact is that a lot of small bands and labels, including a lot in Australia, are releasing music in that format.
And we do each find cassettes to buy: a Cinnamon Records comp for me, and another small local label comp for Mike. This is also the first store where I see a copy of Melbourne band Ciggie Witch’s latest (and excellent) LP, so I grab that. As with the Beaches LP, I find a right-priced copy of a record I’d seen in multiple stores: the new Newsletters 7″. Here it’s AUS$10 instead of up to $16 elsewhere.
Mike also claims a Hideous Towns 7″ before I realize what it is as we flip through the singles bin (noooo… I like them too!). But then I spy another copy up on the display wall — yes!
You may have noticed some of the prices I’ve mentioned, or that you’ve spied on the price stickers in photos, are high by U.S. standards. Yup. Kit had mentioned that there is only one vinyl pressing plant left in all of Australia. And of course prices seem a bit higher due to the lower value of the Australian dollar relative to the U.S. one. Telling yourself you’re getting a 25% discount every time you make a purchase does help. Anyway, this is another reason why we’re mostly avoiding non-local purchases, as the extra markup (new or used) for something we can generally get for cheaper at some doesn’t make any sense for us.
Now it is most definitely hydration time, and we manage to find a bottle shop (liquor store) with a selection of non-alcoholic beverages. I have a local Bundaberg ginger beer, which, despite my thirst, I can appreciate as a quality beverage and not just an H2O-delivery mechanism. Mike has a Lemmy lemonade, which had nothing to to with Motörhead but does have a cute cartoon lemon on the front.
There is one more stop we need to make before calling it a shopping day: the huge Savers (Australian Value Village) thrift store we passed earlier. It is weird how much it resembles Value Village in the U.S., down to the plastic-bagged collections of miscellaneous crap for sale hung on the walls.
Records first. There is a tiny vinyl selection, but I nab another Moog music LP of 60s instrumentals. Then CDs (nothing). Then the search for cool/weird/local-reference-laden t-shirts. I get a shirt with abstract elephants on it, plus a tri-color skirt. There’s actually a really good selection of relatively hip clothing here, but the store is about to close so we need to head out. At the register, the clerk, noticing my American credit card, mentions that he is American too — originally from Hawaii. Random.
Since the store closed shockingly late for Australia (7pm!), we are now starving. I vote for takeout food and crashing back at the flat with our Australian beer and complimentary bottle of wine we still have yet to drink. The motion is approved.
On the tram ride back to Collingwood, we scope out a mutually-agreeable food option: Thai. Placing the order on my phone, it’s ready for pickup when we hop off the tram.
Pad see yew and an Australian beer in the air-conditioned splendor of our flat, aw yeah. Then we drink red wine and watch cartoons on my iPad until we realize we need to get up early the next morning for our flight and call it a (slightly tipsy) night.
Tomorrow: Sydney (again)!