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This is Perth by Perrella & Osborn

I meant to post this ages ago, but I kept forgetting.  It’s not new, by any means, but it’s funny as.  (That’s Australian for “very funny”).  Perth isn’t nearly as bad as the video makes it out to be.  If it was, I wouldn’t still be here.  But the train station does still list Clarkson twice on the schedule board.

(Source: perrella-osborn.com)

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One of the strangest things about Western Australia is the sheer variety in landscape.  I’ve spent most of my time on the coast, where any sane person would.  But, aside from breathtaking beach views and totally respectable cityscapes, this state has a whole inland bit that I haven’t spent much time in.

Hyden and the surrounding area is a bit closer to the Australia that lived in my imagination prior to landing here.  The sign said about 400 people live in the township but I didn’t see a single one when we drove through.  It had all the unnerving charm of a ghost town.  It’s not all red dirt and tin roofed station houses, but it’s certainly a great deal wilder than the coastal regions I’ve been haunting.

It was overcast when we visited Wave Rock, which makes the pictures seem a lot more serious than they actually are.  The colours are spot on, though.  Dreary greens and murky browns surround this thoroughly uncanny (and surprisingly large) rock.  The thing itself is old.  Like, unfathomably old.  The postcard I have says that it’s 2,700 million years old, which seems wrong.  Wikipedia says 60 million, which my brain is more comfortable with.  The point is, this thing has been hanging over that scrubby little patch of brush land for way longer than anything I regularly encounter.

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We rented a car and headed down south to visit Jac’s mom for her birthday this weekend.  The winter fog in Balingup is thick like pea soup, as a man older than myself would likely say.

Tasted a bit of wine at the Brookland Valley winery, had lunch at Flute’s restaurant, watched some surfers at Yalingup.

And I finally found out why all the place names here end in “up.”  It apparently means “place of” in the Noongar language.

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An objective account of things that are better (and worse) in Australia.

Well, I’ve been in this country for about 8 months now, and I finally feel as if I have the authority required to write a definitive list of what’s better in Australia.  (And inversely, what’s worse.)

BETTER

Wine
I can buy a palatable bottle of wine for $5.  I can buy a good bottle of wine for $12.  Hell, I can buy an absolutely quaffable bag of the shit for less than $20.  Put this together with BYO restaurants and you have a recipe for success.

Cheese
It’s cheaper than water here.  I once bought a 1kg block of cheese on sale for $5.  My household is in the midst of a veritable Rennaisance du Fromage.  I’m putting cheese in foods that I’ve never put cheese in before.  You don’t even know what can be done with cheese until the oppressive confines of cost have been lifted.  The next (or first?) Shakespeare of Cheese could be living in Canada right now, unable to ply his art for fear of financial ruin.

Jaywalking Laws
Jaywalking is not illegal here, unless you do it at a cross walk.  For real.  You need to be 30m away from a designated cross walk if you want to jaywalk.  Not that I’ve ever been ticketed in Vancouver for this, but I have always lived in fear of it.  With every illegal step I take, my hands grow clammier and my heart beats faster.  This is not so in Perth; I cross roads with fucking aplomb.

Words & Names
Reckon, heaps, singlet, beanie.  Words are more fun in Australia.  And names, too!  Everybody in Australia has agreed upon certain nicknames for pretty much everybody.  Is your name Derek?  People will casually refer to you as “Dezza” all the time.  Are you Sarah?  Well, on occasion you’re Sas.  Maybe your last name is Dobson.  If it is, you’re Dobbo.  I assume there must be a codified list somewhere, because everybody I’ve met seems to know exactly what a person’s nickname should be without ever being told.

Wages
Do you know how much money I make to sit in a comfy chair in a pleasant office and perform incredibly easy tasks?  $25/hr.  This isn’t a particularly good wage here, it’s just normal.  Even if you work at McDonald’s you make something like $18/hr.  This is one of the reasons you’re never expected to tip anyone: because they all get paid a living wage.

WORSE

Every type of booze that isn’t wine
It’s expensive.  Like, prohibitively expensive.  A carton of beer is usually $40.  It can get up to $65 for a craft beer.  A bottle of off-brand gin called “Houndstooth” over $30.  Basically I just drink a lot of wine. 

Men’s clothing
There are two styles of clothes available in most stores: dickhead and surfer.  They might sound like the same thing, but there is a subtle difference.  If you’re a dickhead, you wear regular fit jeans, some horrible shoes and a graphic t-shirt.  If you’re a surfer, you wear flip-flops, board shorts and a graphic t-shirt.  And by graphic t-shirts, I don’t mean like ones from the internet with a funny picture on them, or ones that have a band on them, or ones with an obscure pop culture reference on them… I mean like ones with random photographs and french words emblazoned on them.

Northbridge
Northbridge is to Perth as the Granville Strip is to Vancouver.  Except it’s like 7 billion times worse.  On a Friday or Saturday night, it’s like walking through a war zone.  You will probably see blood on the pavement at least once.  You will probably be accosted by gentlemen interested in melee combat.  You will probably see bouncers detaining a dude that knocked out another dude with one punch because he gave the first dude’s missus a suggestive glance.  I’ve read there’s a pretty big problem with speed in Perth, which would explain a lot of what’s going on there.  But still, what the fuck?

Availability of Canadian delicacies.
This isn’t really fair, because Vancouver is obviously going to have a better selection of Canadian delicacies than Perth.  But still… Here is a short list of things that Canadians should never take for granted: Hawkins Cheesies, Old Style Pilsner, Clamato Juice and Root Beer.

Sunday, Monday & Tuesday
There’s not a lot to do here.  Stuff closes early.  I think it’s just a Perth thing though, so I won’t ding all of Australia for it.

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I’m petting a kangaroo!  He didn’t even care.  I think there was food in that unattended stroller.

I’m petting a kangaroo!  He didn’t even care.  I think there was food in that unattended stroller.

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GUYS!  GUYS!  THIS SPACESHIP LANDED IN PERTH AND IT’S WEIRDING ME OUT!

GUYS!  GUYS!  THIS SPACESHIP LANDED IN PERTH AND IT’S WEIRDING ME OUT!

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They have tinned macaroni and cheese here.

I know what you’re thinking: AWESOME.  Because that’s what I was thinking too when I found it for a buck in Crazy Clark’s Discount Variety Store.

Seeing the tin made me aware of a problem I previously wasn’t even aware I had: sometimes I want a bit of mac n’ cheese, but the Herculean task of making it is just too tall an order.  At last!  An solution!  No longer will tens of minutes be wasted in the kitchen just for a pot of gold!  The tin proudly proclaimed that all I needed to do was “Heat it, and Eat it!”

As it turns out, Heinz “Macaroni and Cheese Sauce” in a tin is not awesome.  Heed my warning… Like many things that appear too good to be true, it is.

I guess something was lost in the tinning process.  Or maybe something was added (I’m looking at you, Maize Thickening Agent 1422).  In any case, the resulting slop was totally unpalatable.  Sure, I saved about 11 minutes of prep time, but it tasted like foul milk from a demon teat.  

I probably shouldn’t have eaten all of it.

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In the Pines is a really cool festival put on by RTRFM that showcases local bands.  The music ran the gamut from sludgy metal to pleasant pop.  There was even an eight-piece ska/hip-hop/afro-funk act (The Brow Horn Orchestra) that despite sounding like a terrifying Lovecraftian nightmare on paper, actually put on my favourite show of the day.

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Derek vs. The Perth Nightlife

I’m perpetually confused by the night life in Perth.  On the one hand, there are plenty of cool, small bars on offer.  It’s no great chore to find a hip drinkery for a fancy cocktail and some carefully designed ambience.  But where are the indie-pop dance clubs of my homeland?  Where are the Biltmores, the Waldorfs, the Honeys?  

Going out to dance in Perth seems to mean that you’re going out for dance music.  For house, breakbeats, DnB, dubstep.  So much dubstep.  Perth’s cup runneth over with serious DJ culture…   

But noticeably absent from the city’s soundscape is the middle-class hipster DJ with two turntables and a Macbook Pro.  The aloof music nerd that spins whatever he can pull down off Hype Machine and Pitchfork.  The guy that holds weeklies at whatever bar will offer the cheapest drink specials.  He might miss all his transitions and furrow his brow at acronyms like “BPM,” but he’s the guy playing what I want to hear.

And he’s not in Perth.

Briefly, I thought I had discovered one of his ilk.  The poster was a Warhol rip off.  The DJ write-up promised “the best indie tunes to get you moving on the dancefloor.”  

But when we arrived, the bar was full of Bros in indie-rock disguises.  Muscleheads wearing an inexact pastiche of the hipster uniform: their jeans were tight, but not too tight.  Their flannels were ironed and tasteful.  Their haircuts were unironically conservative.

My party and I watched, agog, as a gay dude danced a little too sexy in the direction of someone else and was met with an aggressive and violent affirmation of heterosexuality.  And then the bouncers arrived and asked the gay guy to leave.  For being gay.  Understand that this is not an exaggeration or a presumption.  I spoke to this man later and he confirmed that the problem was, in fact, that he was hitting on men.

We waded through the dancing throngs and I remarked that there weren’t any “indie tunes.”  It was all generic house and top 40. And then I started to notice men slamming jaeger bombs.  High fives and chest bumps.  Girls tottering around the dancefloor in wedge heels.  A terrible realization: I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.  This must not be the bar that I read about.

But of course, it was.  We left, still hopeful that next weekend we might stumble upon something a little more worthwhile.