(parts of this were used in my MRR column for issue 292)
No clothing shops, drugstores, furniture warehouses. How do people get their allergy medication... or replace their worn-out socks? How do they do anything except eat or drink? It's a mystery I never solve during my time in Australia.
Melbourne is the most relaxed, laid-back place I've ever been. Mexico city seems FRANTIC by comparison. For some reason it doesn't phase me to see a window sign advertising a special local holiday.
I did my first show in Melbourne last night. The second one on this trip with readers only. No bands. Two or three people walked out during the girl hanging from the ceiling part. You can see the crowd reaction below.
Each reader introduced him/herself “Hello, my name is Luke and I publish YOU.” Each piece then starts: Dear YOU. Most were funny. Some were touching. What I didn't know was that the readers were not reading their own pieces. Most were pretty convincing. No one left for their readings.
Melbourne is a great city for bars live music, etc. Rents are affordable, a cabaret license costs only $2000 (in Sydney it's $20,000), and most people don't bother with them.
Every bar has a band. That means a lot of opportunity, and a lot of competition. It's a nice atmosphere though.
Oh yeah, I seem to be following Limp Wrist on this tour. Everywhere I show up, they've just been. For those who don't know, Limp Wrist is a gay Latino hardcore band. A tough act to follow.
Tonight I perform at Exile on Smith Street. The bar managed by my host, Rich. I'm a flop.
I read after a PUNKROCK TRIVIA contest hosted by a light-skinned, but Negroid Egyptian punkrocker. A funny guy, with a mile a minute patter. He claims The Bangles were racist. After a “touch your head/touch your ass” contest... one that included Betty (read more about her below), the guy launches into one liners.
“If they wrote a song, Walk Like A Negro or Walk Like A Jew, they wouldn't last a minute. But Egyptians are okay targets. Egyptians walk funny, huh?” Funny.
He hands out sheets of GUESS THE BAND paper with funny pictures on them. One of them is a nailed-up Christ with an iguana head instead of the usual bearded/crown of thorns image.
“JESUS LIZARD!” I shout.
“Shhh,” he says. “This is a contest.”
I go for a drink.
At the bar, Rich introduces me to a sexy young woman who dresses pure 1950s. I'd just seen her on the stage at in the touch your ass contest. I forget her name, but since she reminds me of Betty Paige, I'll call her Betty.
“Mykel,” says Rich, “this is Betty. You met her on Couch Surfing. Remember?”
I don't, but hoping for a little crotch surfing, I lie.
“Sure. How's it going?” I say, grabbing her hand, shaking what feels like a dead iguana.
She pulls her lips back in a smile-by-the-numbers smile, more forced than Chinese labor.
Later, I look for her when I read the dirty parts of my books, but I can't see her. After the reading, a couple people applaud politely. Then the Egyptian returns with more trivia.
I keep drinking. I don't make any money that night, but the beer's free.
Later, back in Rich's apartment: We do what drunk guys do the world over. Discuss the meaning of life.
Rich's apartment is a bit away from the city center, but it's easy to get to-- a 10 minute walk from the subway.
I stay with him for the next couple of days. During that time, I do a reading at Polyesther Books, a local zine/bookshop that reminds me of Quimby's in Chicago. There's a picture of the inside of the store on the left.
A Canadian girl working in a local (what else?) cafe comes down the street to watch me. She walks out halfway through my “loving animals” reading.
“As a vegetarian,” she says, “I won't tell you what I think.”
Later that day, there's another reading at Missing Link Records, a great local records shop.
I'm setting up, checking the microphone, displaying my product, the usual. This guy in his late 20s bursts into the store. His shirt is soaked with sweat as if he's been running. He's a few inches taller than me, and much beefier. In his hand is something yellow.
“Are you Mykel Board?” he asks.
I check to make sure he's not packing heat, then nod.
“Look at this!” He shows me what's in his hand. A 7-inch record, released more than 25 years ago in a limited edition of 1000. The Only Record in The World, my first project for public consumption. Out of print. Unavailable. And here it is in Melbourne fuckin' Australia.
“Where'd you get that?” I say.
He just smiles.
“Could you sign this?” he says. “Autograph it to the only fan in the world.”
Yowsah! That makes my day!
“Did you get that when it came out?” I ask. “You must've been 5 years old.”
“I cannot tell a lie,” he says. “I bought it on eBay.”
Though the crowd is small, it's feisty-- and they buy stuff. So, I sell a bunch of stuff at (and to) Missing Link. Then I go back to Rich's place.
It's fixed up. Boxes of dialysis equipment out of the living room. Underwear off the floor. Dishes washed and put away.
That can mean only one thing: NOOKIE ON THE WAY.
“Look Mykel,” says Rich. “There's this girl that's gonna be in town tonight. I don't know if I'll be lucky or not. You know what I mean? If her life is going well, she stays in town. But if she's having trouble with her boyfriend, she stays with me. Ya know what I mean?”
“Sure,” I tell him, wondering if he cleans his blood with the kidney machine plugged into his belly while this naked girl lies on the bed next to him, giving him a blowjob. Yowsah! I wanna see that movie.
“Anyway,” he continues, “that girl Betty will let you stay with her for a night. I hope you don't mind. You understand.”
“Of course,” I tell him. “Respect the nook. I always do.”
“Thanks,” he says.
Rich tells me a taxi will arrive in ten minutes. The taxi will take me to Betty's place. She'll be waiting. She'll jump in the cab, go off to Rich's bar and pay for the cab ride.
“Should I just go to sleep on the couch?” I ask.
“Make yourself at home,” he says. “Who knows where you'll end up.”
“Okay,” I say.
“Yowsah!” I think.
I check the condoms in my wallet, take a copy of my CD and each of my books and head downstairs. Sure enough, a cab comes in half an hour. That's 10 minutes Australia time.
I arrive at Betty's address. No Betty. She's supposed to grab the cab and head off to the bar. She's supposed to pay the driver. No she.
“Honk the horn,” I ask him.
He does. Nothing.
So I pay the $15, get out and ring the doorbell.
I pay the driver and ring the doorbell. Then again.
In awhile I hear footsteps. Here's Betty. Looking hotter than I remember. I smile at her and shake my shoulders in the most masculinely sensual way I know how.
She shows me upstairs. I follow her, admiring the view from behind.
“Thanks for letting me stay here tonight,” I tell her.
“Umph,” she says.
She has walked into a room and is now dragging a heavy mattress out of that room, across the livingroom floor and into a room on the other side of the house.
“This is where you'll sleep,” she says, handing me a key. “I'll be back late. I wish I could be chattier, but I've got to run and it'll take awhile to get a taxi.”
I'm asleep before she returns. I don't see her again. And then it's off to the airport to catch a plane back to Cairns, and from there to Narita in Japan.