Melbourne, again.

Melbourne, again.

Melbourne, again. We’ve driven down from Batemans Bay, and somewhere outside Traralgon we were caught up in an apocalyptic storm that swept the postcard day away in clouds and hail. We’re a little rattled by the time we make it to Melbourne, a feeling that is made worse by the gathering dark and sudden drop in temperature. Where does the wind come from in Melbourne? It gets even worse because we go to the wrong hotel – we’re staying at one of the Crown hotels and I didn’t realise how they have spread out across Southbank like a plague. Suffice to say, everything is a bit frazzled by the time we get to our room. But my heart buoys as I look out of the floor length windows and I can see the lights of Melbourne illuminating the river. Whatever else it is, Melbourne is still a pretty city. Not the knockout of Sydney, but an older, more fashionable – and fashion-conscious – big brother or sister.

Melbourne, again. I’m haunted by billboards of dead-eyed fashion models as I walk to the convention centre, stalked by wheezing joggers along the waterfront, almost run down by kamikaze bike riders. The sun is back out, and if you can dodge between the shadows, you might almost describe it as warm. Melbourne is alive and well, but it’s hard to tell because everywhere I look there are the lurid symbols of Crown casino. It’s like something from Bladerunner – the whole waterfront is now the property of Crown and its cronies. You want coffee? Buy it at the Crown coffeeshop. A meal? Choose from one of a dozen restaurants. Anything you desire is there for the taking – as long as it comes from a Crown vendor. It’s not so much choice, but the illusion of choice, and looking at the Melburnians around me, I wonder if they know the difference – or care about it.
Melbourne again. Thursday morning rush hour. Dog shit and diesel fumes. Crown casino and cab drivers. Everyone seems like they’re in a rush – as if the fate of the western world hangs on their getting to work on time. Even the school children seem to be fixated on dreams of a future in which they are the centre of everything. Everyone except me, conscious as I am that I have nowhere to be. That’s not exactly true: I’ve places to be, but no one will care or even know if I don’t go. It’s depressing, liberating and the miserable grey Melbourne weather suits my needs perfectly.