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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

For the Love of Fitzroy

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

For the Love of Fitzroy

Andrew Ryan

For most of this year I was living in leafy suburbia at the base of the Dandenong Ranges, isolated and calm, learning how to be productive and enjoy time on my own, getting away from the lure of constant late night drinking sessions and spur of the moment tattoo and life decisions. I kept up to date with current events, I had time and space to let myself ponder the world and the meaning of life, and I barely spoke to anyone except my boyfriend and the people who worked at the local grocery store. But after 8 months in isolation I started to lose my mind, so the decision was made to move back to the city and take our evolved ideas and skills and attitudes into a thriving cultural environment and see what we could make happen.

The apartment is rad. The suburb is rad. I’m taking photos of bands every few days and that is also rad. I am waiting to hear if my interview for art school was successful, and if that happens, that will be rad. But until I’m enrolled and everything, I need to pay rent somehow, so after a few weeks of avoiding it, I accepted weekend shifts at my old workplace, the ridiculous late night bar on Brunswick Street that first lead me on my journey into night-owldom and booze tinted glasses.

At first I resisted the call of Bar Open. I tried to get a “real” job- I applied for a thousand retail and hospitality positions all over this rainy city, and only got two bites. The gift store didn’t want me (too chilled with sales maybe? “no no lady, the customers will come to ME”), and the restaurant/cocktail bar in the CBD I did two shifts at really shook me up. Although I had been warned by many that once I got used to Bar Open I would never be able to work at another bar ever again, I wasn’t quite ready for how hard coming to that conclusion on my own would be. I was used to an amazing standard of workplace respect, understanding and compromise that I’ve never experienced anywhere else, and dipping my toes in these new waters absolutely jolted me. I was nothing but a piece of meat, another young person in a team of 30 who the managers could direct around like chess pieces, not a single fuck given about personality or experience. I felt like I was on another planet, instead of merely a suburb away from the attitude with which I was familiar. “FUCK THAT,” I said to myself. “NO ONE NEEDS THIS”, and texted my old boss the next day begging for full time shifts.

I couldn’t get those of course. The self-importance I had to remind myself of in order to justify quitting that degrading (yet well paid) position in the city (‘’I HAVE REGULARS AT BAR OPEN WHO SPEND MONEY JUST TO TALK TO ME YOU FUCKING CBD WANKERS ”) disappeared as soon as I realized I had to start again from scratch, doing the weekend slog to build up to day shifts during the week, waiting quietly for someone to drop a regular shift so I can snap it up like a skinny blonde crocodile. I wasn’t sure if I could handle it (4am finish, lots of weirdos, intense situations, punch-ups and ugly people having sex on couches), but I didn’t have any other choice than do it, otherwise I starve on centrelink while I try to find a normal person job, where I will either have to sell my soul and use my earnings to pay for medical and psychiatric treatments that will help me deal with the bad things that come directly from that job (I’m an not kidding), or get fired for being too flippant about the position. I’d rather have the understanding of an excellent boss and fellow employees who are also my friends (and would be if we had met in any other circumstance too), be able to sit around and play cards when the bar is quiet, be rude or lovely to customers as I see fit, tell assholes to fuck off even if they claim to be friends with the owners and be applauded for my gumption.

8 months of isolation in a suburban area, living right next door to a mental health care facility, made me think about a lot of things. One of the main things is the question of why I even came to Melbourne to start with. I remember always wanting to, but I don’t remember the point when I actually decided it would happen. I remember that when I told my boyfriend at the time, he decided he wanted to come, and he would bring his band too… and then in a few months we’d driven across the Nullarbor and set up camp in someone’s loungeroom.

But thinking it about properly, I moved to this city because I simply wanted to experience more. It’s a different culture, a different lifestyle, an alternative set of values based on something more real than wealth or religion or breeding. Why not live in the only place in Australia that would elect a Greens member to represent them? Some people get weird about the whole Perth to Melbourne move thing, but why the fuck not? Why spend your life in one place just because you were born there? Coming from Perth and never having lived (and barely even visted) anywhere else, Melbourne is probably the best first step to exploring the rest of the world, I think.

And to me, Fitzroy (and Collingwood) best represent the aspect of Melbourne culture that I am interested in. The music, the art, the sense of community, a different attitude towards life and people that is so strong that once you’re familiar with it, you’re able to sense whether or not a person lives in this area just by looking at them as they walk down the street. It’s fascinating, inspiring, and amusing.

Now that I’m more health conscious and have my positive outlook back (see: not drinking so much), I am able to see through all the bad boozing that can come from working in a loose bar like Bar Open, and see that community thing that I appreciate so much is well entrenched within it’s walls. I get treated well, am appreciated and supported, and as a result I totally give a shit about the bar, its’ owners, the other venues they own, and the role they all have in the area, as well as the city as a whole.

So I’m having a great time feeling excited by life again, which is awesome. And I hope you’re pleased. That being said, I’ve lost touch with current events now… but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. At least I’m not pissing you guys off with my half informed opinions on world politics etc. I have a feeling that if I don’t get into school, I may well start getting politically involved again, so keep your fingers crossed I get in…