Last night, M & A rang up, wanting to know if I'd like to come round for a gathering of the clans in the spa and then to go and hear the Ministry of Sound, who were apparently starting their tour of Australia in the red centre. M had been talking about going to see them, and earlier in the week, I'd expressed some enthusiasm about going, not because I'm in any way interested in their music but more out of (a) a Sense of Occasion, and (b) curiosity about what a gig in the Melanka Party Bar would be like.
But I wasn't feeling 100 % enthusiastic about this gig by the time Friday night, as I'd already ensconced myself in computer land, fiddling around with digital photos (something I spend way too much time doing). And what is it about growing old (or is it just the progression to the 8.30am--5 pm working day) that you no longer feel great enthusiasm about attending something that starts at 11 pm and ends at 3 am, even on a Friday night? Now as I think about it, it must be ten years or more since the halcyon days when I waited to get my second wind so I could go out to the Peel or Tasty or some other subterranean Melbourne location with G and his long-suffering boyfriend, T. ('People drop round at El's house after midnight,' my sister told my mother with some bemusement. I don't think she realised that G had totally reversed his body clock so he could work at the Postgraduate Centre at night and sleep there during the day -- sleeping at the Centre was against the rules, but he reasoned that no one would ever think to look for someone sleeping there during day-time.)
So, anyway, I winkled myself out of my house at about 9 pm and rode to M & A's, taking a massive accidental detour through the Golf Course Estate -- have to say that I hate this place, which is rumoured to be full of 'Gappies' (Americans who work at Pine Gap). It's something of a well-healed and rather silent dormitory, poorly lit and poorly signposted (I always get caught out by the fact that the street names are hewn into rocks on the street corners -- that should give some idea of what a wankerville the place is.)
By the time I arrived at M & A's, everyone was quite pissed and somnolent. M was nostalgically playing some Autobahn, to get himself in the mood. 'Did you ever dance to that music?' I asked. M said a sheepish, 'yes', he had. We got on to the subject of German musicians. My idea of contemporary German composers is a bunch of strange, bespectacled, intense computer nerds saying, 'Yah, we will compose the music that captures the sounds of efficient post-capitalist industrialisation.'
A is thinking of having a couple of theme parties -- a 'Melbourne' party and a 'truckies' party. She couldn't have gone for two more opposite ends of the spectrum. A's a thorough-going Sydney-sider and I think she's been a bit overwhelmed by the amount of Melbournian social justice types out here. The idea for the Melbourne party is that everyone will wear black, sit in a darkened room drinking decent coffee and being depressed. I said, 'I could provide some Zizek for everyone as background reading before the party.' A said: 'Hmmm, I thinking more of having a few copies of the New Yorker out.' I can bring that too (I don't think she knows whom Zizek is).
The spa took ages to heat (it's actually been a little cooler at night lately), but M was still determined to have his spa and go to Melanka's. By the time we got into the spa, it was very difficult to get out, especially looking at the stars through the mesh canopy overhead. I kept on thinking I was seeing falling stars shooting upwards, but people said they were probably satellites or light aircraft.
In the end, M was really the only one who wanted to go to Melanka's. I said I would wheel past on my bike on the way home and spend a little while with him there. Melanka's, I should explain, is probably the most high profile backpackers in Alice, on the main street just down from the mall. As in other cities, the locals have very little to do with backpackers, and largely eschew them. So, from my perspective, it was a little excursion to see what might be happening on the 'other side'...
Actually, it was pretty hard to separate locals from backpackers. There was cross-section of town you don't usually see (well, I don't) -- everyone between the ages of about 18 to 35, all in the one place. Sans ankle-biters. And a few greyheads, too. The whole bar area of Melanka's, which I'd never seen before, had been converted into a dance floor, with a couple of girls whom looked like streetwalkers (presumably paid) to writhe and undulate on some raised platforms. Very concretey. We could have been anywhere -- Melbourne, Brisbane, Manchester, anywhere. The band was in one corner, and virtually impossible to see. M & I sort of sidled onto the edge of the dance floor (me with wet swimmers in a shoulder bag -- a great look) then found ourselves pulled into a strange riptide that gradually drew us onto the small dais in front of the band.
I must say, the good thing about 'boogie-ing' with M, as he puts it, is that he's almost as bad a dancer as me. So I don't feel out of my league. We were both a bit iffy about the Ministry of Sound, too. Y'll know by now that I don't follow music in any serious way, but sometimes an outside perspective can be refreshing... 'What is this music?' I said to M, after a while. 'It doesn't sound like techno or trance...or anything.' M was similarly nonplussed. I decided to put it in the category of Boring British Club music. I'd been hoping for something a bit edgy and maybe more off the wall. 'We'll have to organise another doof sometime,' M said. Certainly, dance music I'm not really interested is always leavened by a night of camping under the stars in a river bed.
After an hour or so, I left M to it. A gaggle of girls bailed me up while I was unchaining my bike. I recognised two of them from various workplaces I'd been in. They'd just come over from Bojangles Saloon and were tossing up whether to pay to go into Melanka's or go to the Casino for free -- a girls night out in Alice. They were all pretty pissed.
'This is a lovely lady who's always on her bike everywhere,' N introduced me. 'Why are you on your bike tonight, El?'
(You know you're living in a country town when you here youngish women call each other 'lady'.)
'It's so I can get pissed. You can usually see a booze bus ahead in time and avoid them if you on your bike.'
'Hey, did you see a girl in there with no tits, wearing a black top?' one of them said to me.
'Gosh, that's a bit harsh. There were a lot of black tops in there.'
'Oh, she's my sister. I can say that, I don't have any tits either.'
It's always interesting to hear what sisters feel they can say to each other and about each other.
I got home at about 2 am. When I ventured out of my room this morning, I was greeted by Leonard at the top of the stairwell with a mouse. He may well have been waiting patiently for ages to show me this tiny trophy. The mouse was only a baby. It was in a state of twitching shock and looked like its lower spine had been broken. I was hoping that Leonard would do the honours and finish it off, but after feigning play for me and the camera, he settled back on the couch, leaving the mouse for me to deal with. I put the mouse in a sardine tin and it took a grateful gulp of chilli-flavoured olive oil. I was going to throw it in the sulo bin, but thought a death of smelly heat prostration might be a bit cruel. So I left the mouse in its tin on the garden table in the shade, hoping it might die quietly of shock (mouse palliative care), but it's still going, washing itself and trying to climb over the side of the tin (a bit tricky when you're covered in olive oil and your backlegs are useless). So -- I'm now wondering if I should drown the poor thing. I'm not very good on these life and death issues...perhaps I should consider buddhism...
<Leonard prepares himself for the photo shoot>