The Lease Is Up

I note that there are a number of premises for lease in…

Everywhere.

Just back from a trip to Melbourne and Sydney and the number of ” for lease ” signs that line the streets are staggering. Not so much on the main city streets – though there are plenty of empty premises in the arcades and back ways. It’s the secondary suburbs that are really quite surprising…even Brunswick Street in Fitzroy – my favourite crap shop and dodgy restaurant district – is thinning out and looking for tenants.

Our own city suburbs have long stretches of highway that are all going begging. But the interesting thing is I bet they are not willing to beg. I suspect the landlords are still trying for every price increase and every winning extra charge that they can get. The fact that they cannot get them hasn’t quite registered.

I even see the foolishness of our local large shopping centre -a place that has a lack of parking space most of the time – ripping up the carpark for more stand-alone businesses at a time when other shops and spaces in their main building are hoarded over.

I am not sure whether it is the lease or the jig that is up…

Marcel Was ‘Ere

In a previous post I declared that I was a friend of Art. And that I was a kindly and  nonjudgemental soul. That I would celebrate all I saw.

I lied.

You have only to place before me some of the most celebrated works of European artists to call forth from me the Canadian version of the Bronx cheer. It has bellowed forth through the art gallery of New South Wales and the NGV many times. This year Marcel Duchamp’s works evoked it. And it was not even because it was a paid exhibition – I’d have laughed it to scorn for free.

There’s Marcel’s pisser, of course…

And the edifying sight of a bus-load of earnest French  high school students worshipping it.

I was taken with the red wooden box in which Marcel established a portable gallery of his works, and with the revolving discs that made optical illusions when placed on a gramophone…and by the portable chess set he carried.

But I cannot bring the same sense of admiration – other than the sort of regard in which I hold P.T. Barnum – for the bicycle wheel, the ball of twine, or the urinal. He said that they were art and got people to agree with him – but people can agree on folly as readily as they can on wisdom.

Skulking Through the Gallery

As I shiftily made my way through the Art Gallery of New South Wales, disguised as a mild-mannered reporter from a great daily weblog column, I employed the arts of deception to steal valuable paintings.

Well, not steal, as such, but appropriate their essence. In other words, I took pictures with my digital camera of the stuff on the walls.

I like to think of it as an innocent act, but there are those who would accuse me of theft – of images, of intellectual copyright, of visual blood, sweat, and tears. Or turpentine, as the case might have been. Both views of the thing are correct in some sense. I am left ot defend myself as best I might.

Firstly, I don’t seek any recompense for taking the pictures, writing about them, or showing them to you. If you wish to slip money or pizza under my door that is another thing, but it doesn’t depend on my art gallery images. Indeed, whatever money was to be made or traded has already happened between the AGNSW and whoever supplied the canvases. Sometimes I suspect that there is swizzling going on but then I am suspicious about a tram ticket…

Secondly, I don’t treat the artworks with disrespect. I don’t touch, interfere, or deface them in the gallery. I don’t decry them here in the column – save when they are patent rubbish that anyone might see. For the most part I take pictures of things I admire, not hate. Here’s a picture that looks well, of a person who looks wonderful.

I’m not above sentiment. Here’s another delightful and peaceful image. Those who would decry the status of the woman and children pictured may do so – they are long gone and cannot be injured by current bad manners.

And I don’t even sniff with disdain at what seem to be flights of fantasy or self-indulgence – as long as there is a particle of entertainment or beauty in the image.

So don’t condemn me too harshly, nor be too protective of what you consider someone’s intellectual right to some arrangement of shapes and colours. If you wish to keep your artwork as a safe as dragon keeps its’ gold hoard, do not sell it to a public gallery and do not let me in the door.

 

About This Time Of Year…

I get antsy.

It’s not the calendar and it’s not the temperature. It’s the approach of an interstate holiday trip. I’m going to Melbourne and Sydney in a few weeks. And the mental engine is starting to rev up.

It is not like a trip to either of those cities is great wampum amongst other people – there are no end of Facebook posts from my 223 contacts that list trips to Europe, North America, or Asia and glory in the tourist sights that will be seen. Melb. and Syd. do not have that bragging pressure.

Yet…they have a real place in my psyche. I am comfortable in each city, having visited them annually for years. I know the shops, galleries, and restaurants. I know the transport system. And yet…I do not know them…there is still adventure enow.

There are always shops that wink out of existence – sadly. And others that appear. I adopt the wise Western Australian practice of never assuming anything I desire in shops will ever be there again – and I make sure that I have enough money saved to swoop while the swooping is good. Oh sure, I make some duff choices, but I also make some brilliant ones.

The same goes for the amusements and the nourishments of the towns. Not every plate is a winner, but there is a memorable event and taste somewhere each day. All you can ask is one per day – and in Syd. and Melb. you can find them.

Parochial? Dull? Staid? Why thank, you, don’t mind if I do. Please let me have a glass of water that is not a swimming pool for guardia and a sandwich that does not wriggle. I have the money to pay for it. And the hotel room? The one with the clean bed and bathroom…? Fine, and I shall be down at the bar in an hour.

Yaller Cat

Forget about the racial overtones of that Yaller Cat title – this is about the hot rod show, yaller cats attract the eye and stand out even in the dodgiest hall lighting.

In fact I have always been a little surprised that our local taxi industry did not settle upon the colour for the fleets of cars here in Perth – oh, there are yellow taxis in Melbourne , but the bulk of them out here are silvertops, black, or the ubiquitous white. I suspect that a lot of times the colour was chosen with an eye to resale of the vehicle…but by the time a taxi is ready to move on, the buyers need to beware of a lot more than the colour of the body. Note that the Japanese use the dear old Toyota Crown to this day.

The entry car for the WAHRS was, of course, a depiction of the yellow ’32 Ford coupe from ” American Graffiti “. Further in was our heading car with a yellow that came closer to Trainer Yellow than to Lemon Yellow. The ’39 Chev was probably somewhere in between, though the Royal Agricultural Society lighting is always a factor in any judgement you make. You’re best to view a colour out in the sunlight before deciding what shade you’re actually seeing – it would be disastrous to pick paint under the artificial light.

The original Mooneyes rail dragster is also probably as pure a yellow as you could get and certainly seems to match the memories I have of the model kits of the time.

And finally, note that yellow may feature a lot in our state’s team colours but it is also popular in Victoria and New South Wales.

 

The Local Traveller

World travelling, we read, is a marvellous thing. It is said to broaden our minds and make us one with humanity.

I expect everyone who has ever stood in line to get their baggage checked onto an international flight…and then stood in line to board, use the toilets, get off again, pass the immigration and customs desk, and then collect the remains of their luggage has an appreciation of the delights of the experience. Then as they are attended by taxi drivers, desk clerks, tour guides, cafe owners, street beggars, local militiamen, and all the varied members of the aforementioned humanity, they get a warm, fuzzy feeling.

In most cases it is a yeast infection.

I have done my share of it, but as I’ve not re-enlisted in the Traveller’s Regiment and I’ve kept my discharge papers, I feel I’m safe for the foreseeable future. The world may turn, but I’m required neither to push it around nor grease the pintles.

But I do like the occasional drive in the country or air hop to another city in Australia. And, contrary to the overseas experience, I find the actual travel quite relaxing.

In the air, whether you are in the Business seat or Cattle Class, you are provided with a number of entertainments and stimuli – videos, music, frequent meals, etc – that you are allowed to ignore. You can sit there with a book, or a notepad and a pencil, and think. No-one that you are with ever interrupts you to stick another household chore or family revelation onto you. Your phone and tablet are in Aeroplane mode which means you are officially ordered to ignore them. ( Yay! ) and even Mark Zuckerberg cannot pester you.

Likewise on the road. As a driver you need your wits about you and cannot be talking on a telephone or reading a Mills and Boon while at the wheel. You need to obey increasingly complex speed and passing laws, and to avoid those who don’t. So you are in a cocoon of concentration. Break it every hour or so for a coffee or a wee and the experience becomes all the sweeter – you might step out of your Suzuki a little more fatigued than fresh from a Boeing but then you’ve seen more interesting things on the side of the road. And if they are recently flattened, you might have been able to scoop them up for dinner.

The trick is to pick a place to go that is worthwhile going to for your own reasons – not just the fulfilment of some travel agent’s urging – and to go there at your own pace. I pick country towns that might have a friend or an event nearby or a city that has stores I’ve not visited for a while. These will cheer the heart both in prospect and retrospect, and as long as you don’t overstay your welcome, every journey will be a gain.

Overstay? An Australian capital city is worth about 1 week, a regional city three days, and a country town 2 days. If you think the time too short to justify the return journey, then combine several destinations in a round trip. In all cases, leave ’em wanting more of you rather than less…

Booze At Bar Prices

When I am out of town – interstate or just in another part of Western Australia – I enjoy a drink in a pub or a tavern. Generally just the one and usually in defiance of the elements; a cold beer in summer and a whiskey or glass of port in winter. Part of the pleasure is the drink and part the experience of the place.

I accept that the price I will pay for the drink is more than I would pay if I had the same glass in my lounge room at home. This is sound business there in the hotel and sound management in front of my own fire. In neither case is there too much money spent – my tastes do not run to champagne or exotic vintages.

But I also do not wish to find that I have paid over the knocker for something that is under the measure – I suspect that this occurs in more places than you’d think. In some cases it is economics and in others ignorance.

The watering of a bottle of anything at a pub apart from a water bottle is supposed to be illegal. It is also impossible to police – at least from the drinking side of the bar. If you order a cocktail or other mixed drink you may very well see something poured from a bottle with a complex measuring spout, but you have no idea what went into the bottle before it was attached to the apparatus. If you order at a table, you get what comes back on a tray. And you are expected to drink it and approve by leaving a tip…in some cases the only authentic part of the transaction is the government banknote you hand over – not even the change is full-strength.

Has it happened to me? Only in three cities – Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney. And only in certain establishments – If you want to be properly served in Melbourne I should recommend that you frequent The Gin Palace or Young and Jackson’s – no half measures there. Here in Perth The Mechanic’s Institute is reliable, and I am still exploring Sydney. Country pubs generally manage beer well, though their kitchens can be problematical.

In all of these occasions you can depend upon your on-board sensors to tell you whether you are getting the real deal, the deal, or the reel. If it tastes fine, it is fine and if it tastes watered-down….well, it is watered down. The saving grace about an establishment that serves a cheatin’ drink is the threshold of the doorway. You can step over it on the way out and never re-cross it.