I HAVE BEEN TOLD I DESERVE
“A FULL LIFE THAT ISN’T JUST ABOUT FIGHTING FOR THINGS”

I warned friends for weeks that I would finish the Web Essentials ’04 conference (about which further reportage is in preparation) and then spend every other night DOING EVERY BAR ON OXFORD ST. I have a lot to make up for: When I got here in 1995, the bus dropped me off in front of the Rough Guide–“recommended” hotel at 6:00 A.M. Sunday in the cold rain, and all I wanted to do was run back home. (The place was an unheated dump with unheated communal showers and a manager who waited up for me in the mistaken belief I hadn’t paid.) I remember walking along Oxford St. and being pretty much ignored by the locals. Perhaps it was because I was the only one wearing shorts in mid-winter (at a temperature of +11°).

Friday night I had bailed from, since my esteemed colleague Lachlan could only scare up some kind of giddy lesbian duo as party hosts. Saturday, after reading that the night was the occasion of the Sleaze ball (a circuit party with $130 tickets), I got up from one of my endless naps at my host’s Modernist studio and promptly dolled myself up in my genuine British military sweater, which, as with Liz Taylor’s diamond earrings, has always brought me luck. And that is all I brought with me, apart from my CaptionMax cap, surely the only one in Australia.

Here is what I have to show for my Saturday night in the biggest city in a country whose gay Mardi Gras is globally notorious:

Red utility door with silver letters ‘EA’

Yipper. A Type I Saw Today photo. And that is it.

So what happened?

  • Affectles Algerian taxi driver recounts visit to Montreal and quizzes me on immigration for his brother    
  • Dropped off at Taylor Square on the wrong side of the road directly against a barricade    
  • Bookstores surprisingly open    
  • Espy obvious inverts behind me; take a walk in the other direction    
  • Church at corner ominously underilluminated    
  • FCUK (everywhere you go is FCUK, even my closet) features election-related vitrine with Aussie flag as cups of bikini (somebody’s fantasy, shurely?!)    
  • Each bar has bouncers. Decide to chat them up later    
  • First of a dozen or more ramshackle Holdens rattle by packed to the gunwales with Roosters or Bulldogs supporters for Sunday’s NRL final. Each car flies one or more flags with the surface area of a good-sized bathroom and each car has a full-on drunken yobbo hollering out the window    
  • Road takes a turn. Head back and (quintessentially) skip the first bouncer and talk to the second set    
  • “G’day. I’m in from Canada. Where’s interesting to go? Less dancey.” I’m sent down to George St. They’ve never heard of the Manacle. Why wasn’t that a tipoff?    
  • My, what an alarming distance to trod, and what complicated crosswalks (I witness even the Aussies repeatedly giving up trying to jaywalk)    
  • Pass a few places with 60-person queues at 11:30 at night, and noticeable wide-open space inside. Artificial scarcity?    
  • Shark City has a similar queue and way too many bouncers. And why are there so many girls? I begin to have doubts    
  • Keep wondering if it was really all that wise to wing it and not bring addresses of, say, the Manacle and the FBE. Have I scuppered my own mission because I didn’t jot a few details down?    
  • Note the monorail only a few feet overhead – surely a Shelbyville kind of idea – and flash back to walking this same hood nine years previous    
  • Trudge laboriously uphill. Only attractive bouncer (an Ultimate Fighting Championship–style baldy) guards a ground-floor boîte with an all-Chinese clientele    
  • Stop back at Taylor Square. Somebody snaps a photo of three short guys and two tall transvestites, prompting them to smile not with “Cheese!” but with “Sleaze!”    
  • Ignore the Woman’s Intuition to ask the bouncer at the Taylor Square Hotel if he knows where the Manacle is    
  • Rest for a moment on the granite ledge. Yobbos stopped at light make tsk-tsk chickiemama clicks at two obvious inverts, but ignore me, and I’m actually closer    
  • Pass the Midnight Shift and note that its logo is that of the CBC a few design iterations ago    
  • Note a barful of girls and their would-be boyfriends going apeshit with joy singing and dancing along to Men at Work’s “Down Under,” a song older than they are. Also spilling out from bars: “Se a vida é” and a mega-remix of “Kiss”    
  • This is my rowdiest crowd ever. I kept thinking of a place like Rio. However could I handle that?    
  • Decide things are seriously wrong when I have to walk by a punter passed out on a recycling bin, with his mate lying knackered in the vestibule of a shop. Those aren’t the problems. The problem is the punter’s full square metre of puke on the sidewalk    
  • Reëngage my Sydney pattern of waiting on the side of the road that’s in the direction I’m going rather than the side that has actual cabs driving by    
  • Contend with chatty-Cathy Strine-speaking driver who foul-mouthedly recounts road-rage drivers, runners, and a male passenger who had him pick up two girls to later pick up. (The only phone number the girls left with was the cabbie’s.) “A lot of single men on the street tonight. Makes you wonder”    
  • Arrive back at my host’s kicking myself. Two minutes’ Web consultation shows that I had been, at different times, 40 feet from the Manacle and 300 feet from the FBE    
  • And all the places the bouncers had sent me to were, in fact, meant for the other species

I don’t know if this really constitutes snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, since I’m gonna do it all over again, properly, tonight. And tomorrow’s a public holiday, so here’s hoping the crowd decimated by Sleaze decides to head out to its usual haunts.

I used to answer the immortal question “You don’t drink, don’t smoke – what do you do?” with “I go to leather bars.” Lemme give that another go here, all right?

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2004.10.02 23:44. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2004/10/02/saturday/

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