What to do in Melbourne town.

21 09 2011

For anyone headed to Melbourne, here’s a selection of things super-cool-shit that kept me occupied around the city.

Accommodation. I stayed at littlegeorgestreet, in Fitzroy; kind of a post-modern B&B that I organised through AirBnB.

The lovely host, Ramona, worked at an organic bakery around the corner so breakfast was a treat. As was her amazing home with its collection of vintage sports equipment. Such a top find and only $60/night.

Ramona's groovy pad

Galleries and stores. So many to choose from, especially ’round Fitzroy. A few standouts were Lamington Drive in Collingwood with its awesome and awesomely cheap prints. Made me long for a house to hang them in.

panelpop goodness

Also Third Drawer Down for quirky gifts, and PanelPop, which prints photos or art onto recycled stone, framed with recycled timber. Freakin’ rad. We also went and checked out Space Invaders – street art at RMIT until Nov.

Bars n t’ings. First morning in Melbourne I focussed on getting lost among its multitude alleys until I stumbled upon Bar Americano, a tiny cafe serving the finest coffee I’ve  had since Italy.

Later that day we hit The Hardware Societe for lunch and then Thousand Pound Bend for a bunch of Doss Blockos beers. Originally, these beers were brewed at a squat in NY, and they come in a paper bag. Ghetto chic, huh? They also taste superb.

Finally to wind up our bar crawl, Anj took us to New Gold Mountain, an unassuming door in Chinatown requiring a phone call to enter and home to gold-standard cocktails.

Other junk. While visiting with my pal KJ, she decided she needed a vintage bicycle. Luckily, just around the corner in Fitzroy, we found Cameron Threthowan, a man dedicated to matching Melburnians with bikes. And boy, does he love his bikes. After enquiring about one stately cycle and pointing out in no uncertain terms I was not a customer, Cam insisted I take a spin, because “…they’re like dogs – they need a good run now and again.”  What a champ.

Also of note was the launch last week of Characters by Stephen Banham; a typographic journey through Melbourne, blending signwriting and storytelling. And regular readers of this column will know just how I feel about typography. I’m buying a copy.

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the gospel according to frey

23 08 2011

James Frey:  Reformed addict, fraudster, or just a damned good writer?

I’m going with the latter. Ever since his startling debut novel  A Million Little Pieces  was ‘exposed’ as a work of fiction rather than the memoir of a recovering crack addict, the American writer has been lumped with the label of con-man.

Except that, for my money, it simply makes AMLP all the stronger. What sort of wonderfully twisted and creative mind could come up with such a story?

The guy is one helluva fiction writer, even if his ‘memoir’ falls short. Plus, the fact that Oprah and her minions were among those pointing the finger made me feel the deception was just a whole lot of hot air [and ratings??].

Since then, Frey has gone onto pen My Friend Leonard, plus Bright Shiny Morning .

The first, a sequel to AMLP, deals with life after rehab and the protagonist’s relationship with his gangster buddy.

Bright Shiny Morning however, brings us a slice of LA life, a set of unrelated, ordinary lives unfolding as people go about their business of surviving. Except that it is completely engrossing.

Even on a second viewing, I put aside everything else to burn through it, captivated by tales of the Mexican maid with big thighs for example, or the bum who refuses to drink anything except Chablis.

And now he’s done it again.

The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is his latest. He certainly knows how to stir trouble. It’s a pretty amazing read.

The novel deals with the appearance of a man many believe to be Jesus. Certainly, this bloke claims to speak to (some) god and has a message to deliver, but it’s not necessarily what the people want to hear.

Frey raises one of my favourite religious themes here, one that has cropped up previously in the film Stigmata and even The Da Vinci Code, namely that you don’t need organized religion to be a decent person —  ‘God’ or whomever is up there, just wants you to be a good person. Be nice. Love each other.  Have fun.

This new messiah, named Ben in the book (!!), has a fine time taking religious leaders to task over their ridiculous notion of living by the Word of God.

The world is a different place now…What’s crazy is living your life according to some book written by someone who couldn’t imagine what your life would be like.”

Priest: “Worship makes one’s life better.

Ben: “Love and laughter and fucking make one’s life better. Worship is just the passing of time.”

 

Go get yourself a copy.