Agora catch-up

Last night a few of us got together – Simon, Michael, Rob, Tony & myself – in the city for a catch-up. I hadn’t seen Tony in over three months – since before he left for Nepal, obviously – and probably at least as long since seeing Michael & Simon.

Before that, in the morning, I went to the U.S. consulate for my visa interview. That went pretty well, I think – no problems at all, as I managed to remember enough from last time to avoid the newbie mistakes (wrong size photographs, not paying the fee, etc). It still took well over two hours, all but four minutes of which were spent sitting in the waiting room staring at the far wall. Incredibly exciting. Still, it was faster than last time by a good hour or more.

It’s not confirmed at this point that I’ll be successful in the application – they send off all the paperwork to Sydney or somesuch for final processing and whatnot – but I don’t foresee any problems, based on the interview. They’ll post my passport back to me on Monday, so – once Australia Post has lost it, found it, buried it in the ground and forgotten about it – I may actually get it back sometime in the next week or so. I’ll know then one way or another.

Anyway… since I was in the city anyway at that point, I had to find something to do for six and a half hours ’till we were all due to meet. I’d brought my camera with me, figuring I’d do a bit of siteseeing. I’ve lived in Melbourne my entire life and yet have on really seen a tiny portion of it. And hardly anything at all in the last few years. Docklands, for example – last time I wandered down that way it was just a big boring empty construction site. Now it’s… well, it’s still a boring construction site for the most part, but there are some restaurants open and whatnot. I must say it was a fair bit underwhelming, given all the hype for it. I mean, sure, it was nice, and the restaurant we had dinner at was nice and all – Victoria Harbour, I seem to recall it being called – but, yeah… it’s just yet another strip of river-side restaurants. That’d be great if the river were anything other than the Yarra… there’s really nothing remotely romantic or magical about water so dark and murky it actually forms a near perfect mirror.

But before we got to that part, I’d messaged Rob & Tony to say I was in the city already, and invite them to join me if they happened to be about. Rob was working as it turns out – I wasn’t sure if he was taking the day off or leaving early or whatever – and so declined, but Tony was available, and came up on the train. While he was doing that I wandered down from the Art Centre (where I parked) more or less all the way to the better side of the Docklands, and then slowly back to meet Tony.

And when Tony arrived we – or at least I – decided to go check out the aquarium. I’ve always been meaning to pay it a visit – having gone past it on the train a hundred times – but never got around to it. So, we did that. It was pretty cool… I haven’t entirely lost that childish wonder for things like that, and given I can’t recall ever being to a real aquarium (i.e. one that’s more than just a bunch of rectangular fish tanks in a room), it was still special. Of course the main attraction, unbeknown to me, was on the basement floor where they have the big tank you can walk under and through. That was pretty cool. Tony & I ended up sitting in the little theatre bit there for quite a while – probably an hour or more – just chillin’ and chatting and whatever. Eventually they started announcing they were booting us out, at about 5:30, so we headed off. We were just in time to catch the last virtual rollercoaster ride thing… I’d entirely forgotten about it, so it was lucky with our timing. I didn’t know what the ride was – I figured it was just some simulated cruise through the ocean, all educational and whatnot. But no, it was a simulated rollercoaster which had, admittedly, water in it, but was otherwise of absolutely no relevance or educational value. Ah well. :) It was surprisingly good, actually – obviously not quite the same as a real rollercoaster, but really the only thing I found missing for the most part was the wind in your hair and the weight-reduced feeling on the big drops.

Anyway, yes, from there we wandered back up to Fed square to met the others, who slowly trickled in over the next half an hour or so. Tony had suggested doing a river dinner cruise – he’s suggested as such several times in past, and obviously has a real thing for it, but I’d never really noticed. :) Alas, the cruise at Fed square leaves at 6:30, and that was our appointed meeting time, so we missed that by a fair bit. The other dinner cruise we noticed left from the other side of the river along Southbank, at about 7 – we were just walking past it, on the other side, when it set off. D’oh.

But anyway, since Tony & I at least – and I suspect the others as well – had never been to Docklands before, we headed down that way.

At one point we jumped on the free tourist tram that runs down that way. It was painted up in a Pakistani style on the inside and outside, and had odd things in it like boxes of tissues stuck on the walls. Trippy, but possibly convenient. There was a couple (presumably) on there, who were Asian but not Indian – I couldn’t quite place their appearance; maybe Thai. Anyway, they were dancing about to the Pakistani music being played. At first we thought they were there officially – the woman in particular was quite weird and interacting with a lot of the passengers in that invasive but presumably okay way because “it’s all official”. However, the conductor stopped at one point to tell the woman off and threatened to boot her off, so I guess they weren’t official… just a suspect couple dancing about. It was amusing, if a little nerving. :)

So yeah, Docklands… as I’ve said, they’re fine, but way overhyped. Tony was quite well dressed in pants and a nice shirt, all colour-matched and everything… the rest of us were in varying degrees of high casual… I’d worn pants at least, albeit tracksuit ones. :D I think Simon and perhaps some of the others were a bit worried about being underdressed, but I had to laugh when we finally actually all agreed on a restaurant and our waitress was wearing jeans. :)

There were a lot of people dressed pretty smartly – particularly women, all dressed up with nowhere evident to go – but there were equally many just casual. No one seemed to care, anyway, which was good.

I was surprised, actually, when we were walking past and out of Fed square just how many people were there. I mean, it was Friday so sure it’s going to busy, but it was just stupid – every place there had queues out the front, some really long. So far as picturesque spots go it’s really nothing great, compared to anywhere else along the river, and while the food itself was pretty reasonable when I ate there at Roxanne’s thing last year, it wasn’t that good.

And with all this there’s people complaining, I’m told, about how much Fed square sucks and it’s all disused and whatnot. Umm… what? I think in particular the complaints are against the ‘wasted space’ in the open areas. Huh. It was probably the most distinct thing I noticed the whole day, walking around the city there – that Melbourne has a lot of open areas, little parks and whatnot, but in general just open space. I’ve never been to any other city like it. I mean, San Francisco has a similar vibe and is certainly a really beautiful city, but it’s still a city – really cramped, for the most part, and dense urbania as far as the eye can see.

So I hope Melbourne doesn’t develop any denser… it’s really great as it is. The architecture is also pretty good, surprisingly – I’m not really a fan of more skyscrapers and yet more half-empty apartment buildings, but those that have been built along the river are at least distinctive and modern.

After dinner we wandered rather aimlessly in the vague direction of the casino. We paid a visit to ‘Galactic Circus’, their little arcade that they advertise so heavily. It was really crap. The games were really old, in really poor condition – many of then weren’t working; one in particular reset if you pressed any of the control buttons – and quite expensive. Rob & I were somewhat interested in their Darkzone equivalent, but at $10 a game it comes in three times more expensive than Laserforce, and if the quality of the arcade itself was any indication, would just be crap. So we gave that a miss.

It was surprising to see the kind of people coming in there – lots of guys & girls, many my age or older, dressed up for a night on the town. I didn’t expect they’d be interested in that sort of thing, given what else is around in Crown and the city in general, but, well, apparently they are.

Having said that, I saw a lot of people meandering about and relatively few playing – I think many, like us, came to the conclusion that it wasn’t worth their time and money to hang about there.

And you put that in contrast to the rest of Crown, which is all clean and new and shiny and whatnot… I don’t understand it. It’s like the little basement that they forgot about.

So the plan then was along the lines of going into the casino proper and watching Michael lose his money on Roulette or blackjack or somesuch, but then that fell on it’s faces and we all ended up heading off.

I’d driven, and Tony’s staying in Frankston at the moment, so I at least had company on the way home. Plus I managed to convince him to join us at paintball… I’m not certain if he’s going to play – he hurt his hand in Nepal (playing volleyball, not actually doing work :P ) and so I could understand him not wanting to stress that injury – but at least he’ll be there and we can have dinner and everything together afterwards. I think he’s bringing his camera as well, in which case maybe I’ll throw in my video camera, so we might have something entertaining to show for it by Monday. :)

Well, that about covers it for the past week and a half or so. Yep, I suck, I know… boring. Rob gave Laserforce this week a miss – I guess on account of paintball on Sunday and the shindig last night – which was a bit disappointing actually; I was looking forward to it particular this week, given the success last week. But, such is. Next week, hopefully.

And hopefully we’ll all be able to get together again soon, before I head off, for another night on the town or whatever. While Tony & I were talking about it we ended up on the idea of going clubbing, which Tony was surprisingly enthusiastic about, and I’d go for as well, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be on Rob’s top, say, one bazillion list of things to do. :) But it’d suit Jess, which was what were pondering. The other idea thus far is horse riding, but I can’t think of too many good spots for that up towards Rob’s direction. We’ll see what comes of the idea, anyway.

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