Date: 29 June.
Location: South Of Johnson, a truly Melbourne favourite breakfast haunt, Collingwood, Melbourne.
Notable sightings: home, winter skies, cold rain and my cat.
As I unpacked, discovered weird new ‘treasures’ in the innermost recesses of my bacpack (a pink Nepali quartz crystal for opening chakras, a postcard proclaiming ‘I Honkytonk on Broadway, Nashville’, a mint cloth toy elephant dubbed ‘Modi’ after the new president of his homeland, a Disneyland Hotel room key, a buttery-soft hard-won cashmere scarf), put familiar items in familiar places and found new nooks for new things, it occurred to me what a giant mess I’d left behind here. Thankfully, I had one last bout of indulgent escapism to look forward to before doing any metaphorical housekeeping.
Months ago, whilst perusing Facebook at work in order to avoid putting through the markups to yet another 170-page Sale Of Shares contract, I’d absent-mindedly entered a competition run by Broadsheet competitor, The UrbanList, to win ‘The Ultimate Night Out In Melbourne’, a $4,000 night out for you and three friends.
Obviously I wouldn’t be wasting your time with this anecdote if I hadn’t won. Selecting three friends would ordinarily have been a political wasps’ nest but, thanks to a whole fleet of friends journeying overseas for holidays and work, it was the work of a moment. I didn’t even get to hold auditions. I invited Bunky (with whom you should now be familiar). I invited a friend from law school who is just like me and just unlike me in exactly the right proportions for us to get on famously (The Twin). And I invited one of my favourite people in the world, a pal from primary school, my netball days, high school and uni who grew into a statuesque blonde with the goddam best hair I’ve ever seen that was not attached to Blake Lively’s head (Lady Lovely Locks).
The four of us were scheduled to be picked up for this marvellous prize at 4pm on the Saturday right after returning from my adventures.
That day, my dad called around 2pm wanting to come by for a chat. When I explained that I was going out ‘at four,’ he seemed to think I was indicating that I had time for aforemention chat, tea, maybe some biscuits. I think I demonstrated great patience as I explained slowly that it was two and I was leaving at four. Apparently I needed to elaborate: it was two and the grooming circus was due to begin any minute.
And, after I’d stood naked in front of the steaming shower for several minutes, debating whether freshly washed hair or day old hair would be best for curling — hitting the big issues here — begin it did. Bathe, shampoo, rinse, condition, rinse, dry, moisturise, blow dry, prime, apply foundation, mascara, liner, blush, bronze, curl hair, sort out appropriate undergarments, dress, try earrings (repeat x 4), try necklace (repeat x 2), spritz perfume, inspect, selfie, inspect selfie. Pour the champagne.
Now, let me describe to you what blowing $4,000 on one single night looks like:
- Get picked up in a sleek black BMW, driven by a fairly clichéd driver: a suited and hatted burly Italian named Stalliano. We immediately and inappropriately nickname him our Italian Stallion. Car is stocked with sparkling water, trendy magazines a mountains of pink Mentos.
- Roll smoothly to that eminent Melbourne icon, the Langham. Primly make conversation in the car, acutely aware that we have a driver listening. Check into our pristine connected River View rooms. Check out the promised view, coo in delight, direct the bellboy where to throw our bags and dash back to the car. (As you can imagine, I’m really good at hotel stays now. If you have a hotel room that needs to be checked into, fresh high-threadcount sheets to be mussed, fluffed towels to use once and discarded on the floor then I am your girl. I felt right at home.)
- Roll smoothly to Nieuw Amsterdam where, in true Melbourne style, it’s impossible to book. Despite this, we are allocated the prestigious window table and served platter upon platter of contemporary American food with cheeky Australian quirk. Having just returned from the USA, can say with confidence that the USA wishes its food was this good. The highlight was the deconstructed lemon tart: a duvet of creamy lemon topped with ginger crumble, topped with lemonade granita with pop rocks, topped with creamcheese sorbet.
- Roll smoothly to Eau De Vie, arguing spiritedly about something vaguely sexual and trying to involve our driver in the debate. Eau De Vie, another Melbourne icon, ranks high in the list of the world’s best cocktail bars. It is also close to impossible to find if you haven’t been there before: trip down (the promisingly named) Malthouse Lane to the big blank windowless door. Open that, and hope you haven’t found yourself through the back door of a kitchen or someone’s laundry. The cocktails here are obscenely good. We begun by ordering from the menu. (Which could have gone better: Bunky tried to order the “ed-ve martini”. It was the EDV martini. As in Eau De Vie. Our attentive waiter, Jackson, was much bemused.) Then by describing our preferences to Jackson and allowing him to make suggestions. Then by decree. At one point I said only, “Bring me fire!” Jackson did not disappoint.
- Roll smoothly to Du Nord. Loudly and obnoxiously discuss inappropriate aspects of feminine hygiene in the car, giggle uncontrollably. Dismiss our driver with no small amount of regret – and not before making him pose with us for a photo.
- Stumble back to the Langham, somehow locate our rooms, cram into bed together for bedtime gossip stories, locate own beds, fall into deep slumber.
I find that, on the morning of a hangover, my body wakes well before my mind. So it was that I next found myself in my giant kingly bed with Twin on my left, Bunky to my right, a cup of English Breakfast in my trembly paw and Will & Grace on screen.
I’m not sure of my mind is even up yet.