Well, I'm back.
Just in case you didn't notice I was gone in the first place, I was in Melbourne, Australia, for the Melbourne Writers Festival.
It takes a long time to get to Melbourne from New York. On the various flights, I read two books and watched about ten movies, not including a shitload of TV shows. I also lied on my Australian customs entry form when I said I hadn't been on a farm recently. In fact, I totally visited the shit out of a farm like two days before I left, and here's the proof:
So when that gigantic testicle epidemic starts sweeping Australia you know exactly who to blame:
So, Melbourne. Melbourne, Melbourne, Melbourne. Let's see: well, I arrived in the morning, which meant I had to somehow stay awake the entire day if I was going to have any hope of approximating a normal sleep schedule. My approach in these situations is to simply wander in concentric circles in a zombie-like state doing errands and getting a feel for the place. Here's what it looked like in the general vicinity of my hotel:
And here's one of the first things I learned:
Yes, if you lock yourself to a pole in Melbourne, don't just chain your helment. Instead, be sure to pass the lock through at least one (1) of your body piercings. Otherwise, they'll just remove your helment and steal you.
I also learned they have fairly well-equipped bike cops:
Not only that, but they were polite. First of all, they were waiting at a red light, which was crazy enough by itself. Then, when the light turned green, they actually smiled at me and let me go first (I was on foot) before making their left turn. This is very different from a typical New York City bike cop, who you will generally find riding on the sidewalk with his helment hanging off the end of his handlebars and telling you to get out of the way.
Oh, also, Melbourne has a bike share system:
But nobody uses it because there are like six stations, they're about 400 miles (or 93,986 kilometers) apart from one another, and you can't just grab a bike whenever you feel like it anyway because of the mandatory helment law.
Well done there.
Another distinguishing characteristic of the Melbourne Central Business District (or "CBD") is the narrow-ass bike lanes, which I guess you can get away with in a place where it doesn't snow:
(Yes, that green thing is a bike lane, or as we call it in America, "the gutter.")
Though they do have an avenue called "Batman:"
Sadly, it's a toll road, because they have to pay a royalty to DC Comics for using the name.
Anywhat, the first errand I had invented for myself was the obtaining and drinking of coffee, and so I wandered into the first coffee place I found:
One side effect of the "wander around in concentric circles doing errands anti-jetlag technique" is that it's expensive. See, I was way too tired to figure out the money, and as an AMERICAN (the "ERI" is white, not missing) I'm unused to handling coins worth more than 25 cents, and so I ended up putting something like $36 in the tip cup.
Stupid tiny $2 coins.
Next, I needed to get some breakfast, so when I saw these words you can bet I walked right in:
"Gimme the Big Breakfast, goddamn it," I said in English because THANK JESUS CHRIST these people speak English, and goddamn it if they didn't indeed give me a Big Fucking Breakfast:
I ate every bit of the Big Breakfast, then I ate the plate, and then I accidentally left a $68 tip.
After that it was onto the next errand, which was the obtaining of a bicycle cycling helment in order to be in compliance of Australia's draconian bicycle helment laws. See, I didn't take my own helment because helments are bulky and take up too much room in your luggage. Also, I didn't want my fancy foam racing helment to get all dinged and damaged in transit. At first, I thought I could just save money by fashioning a helment from one of the meat components of my Big Breakfast, but after eating the whole thing I realized I'd have to suck it up and go to a bike shop. So I resumed my concentric circle wanderings until I fell over this sign:
I'm sure someone with a beard will say, "Why did you go to that corporate Fredhole when you could have gone to Cool People Artisanal Cycles in the Fitzhume District" or wherever you're supposed to go if you're part of the Melbourne "bike culture," but that's not how the concentric circles technique works. Anyway, they were very nice and I bought the cheapest non-"urban cycling" helment they had (by which I mean a helment with actual vents):
You know it's high end when it's "uni-fit" and it has a sticker that says "rear" on it.
So with a belly full of coffee and meat and a headful of uni-fit foam I headed back to the hotel to assemble my travel bike, which I'm pleased to report had survived yet another journey:
Although I don't know if it survived the journey back to New York, since I haven't unpacked it yet.
Here's hoping it has.
And in this fashion I (mostly) stayed awake until evening, at which point I headed to Fitzroy for dinner with my publishers:
Fitzroy (which is techically a "suburb" of Melbourne, though it's obviously not a suburb in the American sense) is like totally the "cool" part of town, and if you've been to the cool part of any major city it looks pretty much like that, but with an above-average amount of Victorian trappings. In fact, I'd maybe go so far as to call Fitzroy "Little Portland," except that Melbourne's a much more important city than Portland in almost every way so it's probably more accurate to call Portland "Little Fitzroy."
The point is, if you like knuckle tattoos and brunch you'll feel right at home.
By the way, you always know you're in the cool part of town when you encounter "boutique meta-photography:"
(Typical boutique meta-photograph.)
See, in a regular part of town people just take photos of landmarks or whatever, but in the cool part of town people take pictures of people taking pictures of boutiques.
It's also possible that someone took a picture of me taking a picture of her taking a picture of the boutique, in which case it's meta-meta-photography, which would put Fitzroy off the scale in terms of sheer gentrifidouchery.
And if there was any doubt, they also have pennyfarthing bike racks bedazzled with yarn:
And safe alleyways with art in them:
And taco joints:
With alliterative bathrooms:
But I didn't come to Melbourne for the tacos. I came there for the Melbourne Writers Festival. Sadly, as a person with little in the way of hardiness or fortitude the long journey had turned me inside out, so if you want to get a sense of my general level of incoherence just watch this interview.
And across the street from the pub in which we conducted the interview there was a bike shop:
Where you can "custom your fixie TODAY:"
So how do you "custom your fixie?" Well, with "fixie tyers," of course!
If you're Australian or British it's just misspelled, but if you're American it's meta-misspelled.
And no, I didn't "enquie" about the bike maintenance class.
Okay, so at this point I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "I want to see a picture of that pig with the giant nuts again!" Fine. Here you go:
What you're not thinking is, "How did the Festival events go?" Well, they went great, apart from the parts where I talked. Here's the first one, where I was blinded and disoriented by jetlag and stage lights:
Though dazzled by the rest of the panel:
That's host Andy White of Fyxomatosis in the pointy shoes, Bridie O'Donnell, and Tom Doig.
There was also this "Friday Night Live" thing, hosted by Wendy Harmer:
It was supposed to be like a talk show, complete with band, and I was one of the guests. Here she is talking to the author of a book called "Sex And The Citadel:"
And here are the sorts of people who come to a writers festival on a Friday night to watch a fake talk show:
Note the deeply-involved mobile phone use in the lower right-hand corner.
Still, I had fun, even though Wendy Harmer spent half the interview rubbing my leg.
Then there was the ride:
I'm sure everyone felt shafted for having to pay to ride with me, though I was grateful for the company and the tour around town. And yes, everyone really does wear helments down there:
While I'm certainly not crazy about helment laws, I will say that Melbourne is probably the most orderly and considerate major city in which I've ridden a bike to date. Riders even obey these little stop signs for the tram passengers--or at least we did while out on the ride:
In fact, the most egregious behavior I observed during my (admittedly short) visit was this scooter doofus who totally "shoaled" me in the bike box:
But really, what do you expect from scooter trash?
As for recreational bicycle cycling in stretchy clothes, I only managed that once, and when my prospective riding partner fell ill the night before our ride I found myself alone in an unfamiliar city. I figured it was foolish to be ambitious, so instead I chose the most idiot-proof route possible. This seemed to be Beach Road, which easily rivals our Route 9W in terms of sheer Fredliness.
Now, I should confess that while I'm highly critical of Strava, I do recognize its utility in terms of providing you with maps of cycling routes. However, I absolutely refuse to open an account under any circumstances. Also, while abroad, I did not want to use costly data roaming on my phone. So instead, what I did in Melbourne was plug "Strava" and "Beach Road Melbourne" into a popular search engine. This pulled up someone's Strava "bike ride profile," and then I took pictures of the actual computer screen with my phone so I'd have a map for the ride:
I don't know if this is brilliant or pathetic, but I'm pretty sure it's pathetic.
Anyway, Beach Road may not have been the most exciting stretchy clothes ride I've ever done, but it was nearly impossible to get lost and I enjoyed the opportunity to stretch the old gams. There was the beach (obviously):
And of course wherever there's beach there's houses that look like porn movie sets:
I also got a flat, which I fixed under the watchful eye of Andrew Robb:
And I went as far as the surfboards before turning around and heading back:
But not before taking a short walk of a long pier:
As I surveyed the sea I thought about the fact that the blog I started as a way to fuck off at work had brought me all the way to the other side of the world, where I was still fucking off by twiddling around in Lycra and staring slack-jawed at the sea:
Then I fell in, only to be rescued by a hot mermaid:
Yes, I'm totally earning that "World Traveler" saddle by flying all over the globe and doing "woosie" rides wherever I go:
Speaking of stretchy clothes, it wasn't until almost my last day in the hotel that I noticed it contained all sorts of Tour de France memorabilia:
Including this photo of David Moncoutier eating shit in spectacular fashion:
And then, all too soon, my last day in Melbourne was upon me, and I used it to do laundry--though I didn't wash the clothes I was currently wearing, unlike this guy:
What's that? You want a more artsy shot of shirtless laundromat guy? No problem, here you go:
Then I headed out into the Fitzroy environs to pick up gifts for the family:
It was a beautiful day, though I was kicking myself for missing the Cyndi Lauper show:
It was Sunday, and it was (Australian) Fathers Day. The brunchers were just emerging:
The Freds were returning:
And the hot rods sparkled in the early spring sun:
If you're wondering what gifts I picked up, I got "fixie tyers" for everyone.
Finally, it was time to pack up the car and head to the airport:
Where they actually had my book for sale:
It's ideal placement, because your eyes go right there when you look away in disgust from Russell Brand.
In all, it was a wonderful trip and a singular opportunity, and I'm extremely grateful to all involved.
Wildcat Rock Machine
PS: No, the toilets don't flush backwards down there. That's an urban myth. What actually happens is the water shoots straight up in the air and then back into the toilet again. It's pretty incredible.
Though it's possible I might have been using the bidet by accident.