Day 127 - Melbourne's First Day

Melbourne from the Bridge next to Flinders St Station
Aug 12th, 2015

1am local time, we wake up tired. I'm awake enough that I don't want to go back to sleep. Shimou keeps sleeping until I force her to get up at 2. The shower is.. interesting. I has 2 sliding doors, one of which is not very firmly set in its track.

Since being sick, my digestive tract is a mess. Gas in excess. Probably TMI, but follow me here. Due to this excess gas, Shimou has dubbed me pì wáng [pee wong], which translates to “fart king.” I've since accepted it and use it against her. Whenever I feel one coming, I chant “wáng, wáng, wáng,” to assert my kinghood. “Wǒ shì nǐ de wáng. Wǒ shì pì wáng!” which means “I am your king! I am The Fart King!” After some time of whispering “wáng,” I say it the wrong way, which is wàng (downward intonation instead of upward). This is, apparently, the sound that dogs make in Chinese - instead of “bark” or “woof” they say “wàng” (again, it’s pronounced “wong”). She also calls me a dog in chinese, which I'm willing to equally run with. I will be the Dog Fart King! Cháng shòu Gǒu Pì Wáng! Long live The Dog Fart King! To complicate this title further, “Dog Fart” is the Chinese equivalent of the English phrase “Bullshit.” Dog Fart King = Bullshit King. I'll take them both.
I snack on sunflower seeds I had brought from Perth for breakfast, and we head into town. Luke provided us with the card passes, Myki, which are the Melbourne equivalent of Perth’s SmartRider®. You put money on, you swipe it to get on and off, and it gives a discount (at least it did in Perth). Convenience!

Broken Window Theory

On the train, I notice a lot of graffiti, both painted on the walls and scratched into the windows. Immediately this makes me think of Broken Window Theory. Broken window is a sociological concept that goes like this: if a  house has a broken window that isn't repaired in a reasonable time, the rest of the building will decay at a much more rapid rate. The more there is wrong with it, the faster it will decay. Why? because the unfixed window shows people that no one actually cares, and that it’s acceptable to the powers-that-be that this building is left in disrepair. In other words: no one is watching. No one cares. 
From Flinders St Station of some Doofus

This leads to others messing the place up, or squatting there. Maybe like that building in It’s a Wonderful Life that they throw rocks at for luck. In New York City, a natural experiment occurred with their subway system. A new guy in charge decreed that all graffiti will be removed every night. There would be no markings anywhere, which discouraged would-be taggers from doing so. Don't quote me on this part, but I recall that it was so successful that even the rate of jumping the turnstiles went down, and tagging went down in general. Then again, I might be mixing that up with when they collected turnstile jumpers and had them all stand in a cuffed group as a public demonstration.

Back to what’s happening: I'm such a tourist. Taking so many pictures of this and that. I never was much of a photographer, and usually didn't to take any pictures of cool things I saw. I’m mainly just doing it for the blog, really. I haven't looked much into photography theory. Maybe I should. If you're going to do something, you might as well improve while you do. All I know right now is the Rule of Thirds, which has served me well.

Luke showed us some iconic sights of Melbourne, taking us to nice vantage points. I’ve never had hot pot before, which my Chinese friends have really talked up over the years. Today is the day! Hotpot is both spicy and hot. It’s like an Asian fondue. They bring a big dish/pot full of broth and place it on a burner in the centre of the table. It’s all you can eat, and the price reflects that. They bring you uncooked meat and vegetables, you toss it all in, and cook ‘er up yourself. Quite the enjoyable experience, though I'd suggest doing what we did: a small section of spicy in the middle, and a larger ring of non-spicy broth.

Shimou sees that I'm eating as much as possible, thinking I’m doing it because of the price. She’s afraid I'll get sick from eating food that’s too hot, or by eating too much. I don’t understand the things that Chinese people seem think will make you sick.. it often seems to do with the temperature of what you ingest.
Dat Hot Pot
(Normal soup outside; sear-your-mouth-shut center)

“Don't think about the money*,” she tells me; “Don’t think about a purple elephant,” I retort. The mind is terrible at processing negative commands - tell it not to do something and it will. In fact, simply to process what is being commanded, you have to think about what is being said. Don’t think about what? Oh, right, that thing I'm not supposed to think about.

I occasionally throw in some mandarin when I can think of a related sentence. I'm not sure, but Luke doesn't seem to like it. I'm guessing is due to my terrible accent grating on his ears. What other options do I have? Time is bearing down on me. Shimou asks if I feel weird being the only white person in the entire restaurant, which I hadn't really noticed until she brought it to my attention. Doesn't bother me.

After dinner, we walk to a small open-air cafe. I need coffee as I’m both addicted, and have felt sleep deprived since this morning/afternoon. The overhead heaters do their best to keep us warm while gusts of wind occasionally blows it away before reaching us. We picked the perfect time to take shelter, lightly showering while we drink our after-dinner refreshment. Coffee after dinner is one of my favourite conventions.

After the rain and coffee disappear, Luke leads us on the streetcars to the Victoria State Library. It’s a much more impressive library than the Western Australian State Library. Massive, domed study areas, art along the walls. Rooms that make me think of what I imagine Harvard to be like. Broken Window Theory comes to mind when I go to the washroom on the way out: tagging and graffiti everywhere in the bathroom. Also, there’s only one soap dispenser and like, 8 sinks. Why? Washroom aside, the library felt regal and moneyed. If you're in the area, I'd highly recommend checking it out. This is one of my dream work locations.

"Damn, this is good coffee"
We stopped at the grocery store. The prices are slightly less than Perth, but similar. One thing I noticed was that there were many different milk brands. I also finally stopped to ask how/why they can keep “long life” milk on dry, unrefrigerated shelves. The answer is, as I found out, that long-life milk is heated to 280F for 2 seconds, while normal milk is heated to 165F for 15s. Some arguments are that the long-life milk has less health benefits because it kills the beneficial, along with the harmful, bacteria - some researchers dub it dead milk.

We caught the train and walked the 10 minutes back to Luke’s, groceries in hand. The cold isn’t as bad as people had kept saying it would be. 10C with a light wind. Luke put away the groceries while I took them out of the plastic bags, made a coffee, and sat down to catch up on writing. I've said it before and I'll say it again: doing stuff worth writing about gives me less time for writing and more of it, while living a mundane life gives me more time to write and less of it. If you have to ask, the first is much more worth it.

*Of course, for $30 a head, I was thinking about the money a little bit. I didn't want to be hungry again later that night, so I ate as much as possible to last me until tomorrow.

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