Getting Into Melbourne

Friday, April 27, 2007

My first day in Melbourne had mostly been spent walking around upper downtown (i.e. Chinatown and what remains of Greektown) and Chapel St. looking at high fashion. You know, plus the hen’s night. My first week in Melbourne was likewise packed with getting-to-know-you type activities. After a recuperation day on Saturday, from which we ventured out only to get groceries and dinner from St. Kilda (not to mention the examining the many cakes), I went out on Sunday and walked some more along Chapel St. I definitely am going to be picking up some clothes at this CM Store and there were plenty of other cool stores and boutiques to be seen. I also got some internet stuff done, discovering that my bank was near zero and so it was finally time to sell my Apple stock. Which, I want to add, was done with the utmost reluctancy as I feel it is sure to be up in the $100 range very soon (as I write this it’s up from the $92 I sold it at to $99), but hey, Visa wants to get paid, who am I to say no? This was a reminder that I definitely had to get the job hunt going.

I met up with Marietta later that day, and she mentioned that she had taken a bit of part-time work with a catering company as their secretary, just to help out a bit. She also mentioned they were looking for people and so I’ll probably stop in there and have a chat – my feeling on finding a job right now is to cast a wide net and then see what comes in, so whether it’s really a job I think I want or not is irrelevant. Money’s money, besides which, and if nothing else, I kind of see how things work around here and get my feet wet. On that note, she and I took a drive around St. Kilda, the Docklands, Bay St., and all the way up to Lygon (which is basically Little Italy) where we walked around some more. We wound up chatting with an Italian restaurant owner who asked me to come by on Tuesday if I wanted to and try out his job. I’m not too keen on it, either, as he essentially tries to get people who are looking for somewhere to eat to eat at his place, but I think it would be an interesting experience for a day or two here and there, so I may do it just to see what it’s like and what I can take from it. You know, besides money.

The next day, Monday, I met up with Norm down in Hampton, which was good fun. Incidentally, he drives a black Land Rover which I felt would’ve been a bit better than Great White, but I digress. He took me on a 30km cycle ride around the city, and we saw quite a bit in that 30k. We started off with a bit of tea and meeting up with one of his friends along Beach Rd somewhere, and then set off on the bike trail following the ocean. The metropolis as he likes to call it, or downtown, or the CBD, or whatever you will, was on the horizon and of course ocean surf and palm trees along the way made it a nice trek. I actually wanted to go into the city itself to one of the Greek music stores, as Marietta and I had discovered just the night prior that Thanos Petrelis was in town and playing a show on Tuesday night, and I definitely wanted tickets.

So we biked along the Yarra, crossed up into downtown and towards Lonsdale St, and I managed to pick up my tickets. I also discovered that Stalactites, a cavern-style Greek restaurant downtown, was hiring, so I’ll be swinging by there in the next few days, too. Everytime I’ve walked by it is at slowest steady. I’m not sure what the deal is with Greeks and cave-themed restaurants, but again, off topic. And while I’m off topic, I want to reiterate that, yes, I have tickets to see Thanos Petrelis. Tomorrow. I wanted to see him while I was in Greece but he wasn’t playing, and now he happens to be here. Lots of Greek musicians are coming through, as it turns out. Ploutarhos is here in June, Sarbel in early July, etc. And it sounds like I really missed out not being here for Greek Easter, but I suppose you can’t win them all. Wilco was also here recently, not to mention the Pixies. And there’s an International Comedy Festival going on for a few more days that I definitely want to check out a bit of. So I think I’m going to love this place.

Continuing on with the bike ride, after downtown and all the delights along the Yarra River (including Fed. Square, Flinders St. station, one of the many ferris wheels, plus the views of downtown), we started making our way back. Norm brought me through Kings Domain park, where we saw, besides the parkland, a music bowl in the style of the Hollywood Bowl, the Victoria government house, the Anzac Memorial where the dawn service will be on Wednesday (and I may attend since I have to walk home from Petrelis and the concert ends around 3 AM), and back into St. Kilda. St. Kilda has a lot of cake shops, in fact it’s somewhat renowned for them, so we stopped and had a vanilla slice that was, to quote Norm, delectable, and also stopped at the gates of Melbourne’s Luna Park for a photo. I think I may actually have to try a ride in this one, as they have a wooden rollercoaster. And you know how I feel about wooden rollercoasters.

Norm dropped me off at the train station and I ran but just missed the train. And then the next train was cancelled, which meant I was waiting to catch a train back for almost half an hour. Luckily I brought my iPod. By the time I got back into the city, it was dark and cool, and everyone was walking around in winter jackets while I strolled around in gym shorts and a t-shirt getting funny looks. I wish I had a camera on my back so I could see how people reacted when they saw the maple leaf on my backpack. “Ah! That explains it.” It was chilly though, and I was happy to get home. I did some work on my resume, which I had to start again from scratch since I didn’t put it on my Mac before leaving, and that ended Monday.

Tuesday I went into the city a bit earlier than usual and, while on the internet, looked up the phone number of the stalactite restaurant that had caught my eye. Always busy, lots of Greeks, in what’s left of Greektown here. I called and chatted with the manager and said I’d be in before she left, then did some other internety stuff when I got to chat with most of my family back home. The bandwidth was barely up to the task of IMing, much less video conference, but it was still nice. I resolved to find a good place with decent speed to do subsequent surfing and found one not much after. I went home to print my resume and headed up to Stalactites, and chatted a bit with the manager there. She told me to come in Thursday. Well, I wasn’t thinking, because I had no white shirts and Wednesday is a holiday, namely Anzac Day, so I had to run all over trying to find cheap white shirts for work before all the stores closed. I found a nice Cypriot on Lygon St that had a dress-clothing store and he gave me directions to a place I could get cheaper ones than his ($95 plus) and his cell/mobile number in case I had any questions or couldn’t find the place. Say what you want about their cricket skills, this is really a country of nice people.

Since I had some time to kill in town before heading to see Thanos Petrelis in concert, I went to see Shooter, which was actually a pretty decent movie first, and then called up Dimitri, who was DJing the pre-show. We met up and he introduced me to his brother, Stelios, who hung around with me most of the night and introduced me to some of his friends. Then some guy came on, sang, then some girl, sang, and they were both decent but I an the other three were wondering who they were aloud when Petrelis walked on stage. He gave us a good show, playing all the songs I wanted to hear including H Oraia, Kernao, Thymesies Kati Apo Ellada, and others. Some of which six times. Kernao, in fact. By the way, this photo on the right is my 6000th photo with this camera. Wow.

I didn’t like that he always held up the mic for the audience to sing lots. Who comes to this to hear themselves sing. If I wanted to do that, I’d hop in the shower. And, love Kernao though I do, it kind of seems cheesy to do it again. Especially saying things like “solo” every time. Especially when the solo is the same every time. In spite of those things, though he did it and managed to avoid international scandal. Whew.

I walked home, which was quite a bit farther than I expected. I intentionally strolled by the ANZAC shrine hoping they would be starting the dawn service soon, but it was still an hour away and the night was chilly. Still, there were many huddled around a fire and getting ready for the big holiday, and I strolled around a bit before continuing my walk. Well, I walked and I walked and hit, I think, Toorak road and walked some more, until finally I decided I wasn’t going to get home until 6AM at that rate, and hailed a cab. It turned out I’d made it pretty close, but it was still a $10 cab ride. Marietta had been out and arrived home shortly before me, so she was still up and we talked about the concert and how her night out was for a bit and went to sleep. Then, Wednesday, we walked all over trying to find cheap but decent white shirts before the stores closed at 5:00, and I finally found a few that were more decent than cheap but still only about $70 for the two of them, and got some cologne samples to try since I’ve run out. I think RSVP is my choice but I have a few to try out first. There’s an international comedy festival going on in Melbourne, and I wanted to see an act, so I took Marietta out to see a comedian and have dinner as thanks before heading home as it had been an exhausting day and I had an early morning to come.

8 AM to be exact, as I had to be at work by 10. One hour to get ready, 30 minutes to get downtown on the tram, and that gave me 30 mins early. There was nobody there in spite of it being a 24/7 restaurant aside from the cooks, the grandfather, and a few assorted people. So I studied the table numbers and reviewed the menu again and then one of the cooks gave me the prep list. So I cleaned and set up for lunch, alone, until almost 11:00 when finally others started to come in and I got a little assistance. I worked until 7PM instead of 4PM because it was busy, and it was a piece of cake. Yeah, I’ll have to get used to their system, table numbers, and so on, but it’s pretty straightforward. No soup/salad first, it’s just a question of whether or not they get bread and side plates with cutlery, which they do for everything except gyros (which they call souvlaki here).

My biggest complaint about the place is that the focus is more on getting food out than customer interaction, which means that everyone does everything for every table, but it seems to get the job done. We also split tips which, on the first day, I think I did pretty well with considering Aussies don’t tip. One guy tipped $11 on a $50 meal, telling me to buy a Mythos with it since I couldn’t drink with him and his wife during work. As it was coming up on 7:00, one of the waitresses, Marjolla, came back and told me to come next door with her to the bakery, so when my shift was done and we hung out with ?? and Stelios there with a Kok and some good hot chocolate and getting to know more people. Then she and I went for a beer, which I’d been craving once in a while since PC2, and I caught the 11:20 tram home. I was due back to work tomorrow, this time noon to midnight. That should be a long day indeed and I’ll be ready to celebrate my first week in Melbourne long before midnight, I’m sure.

And so, my final day in week one, or maybe my first day in week two, but Friday came and I was back at work. The shift went well mostly, except for me giving a table the wrong bill because I hit the wrong button and didn’t double-check, but I’m definitely starting to get comfortable. I met the owner (the manager’s father) today and he seems a really nice guy, too, as do most of the staff here. Plus, because so many of them are Greek, I’m getting a little practice too. This place is definitely busy. It slows down between about 3:00 and 5:00, by which I mean that we only have three or four tables, but from 5:30 on to when I left at 1 AM, it is lined up. Sometimes only a couple tables, sometimes out the door. I worked with Paris, a Greek guy that seems pretty nice if a little stress-prone, Marjolla again for the afternoon (she made me a little coffee-making booklet since flat white or skinny long bla mean nothing to me), the French couple, and Kirsti, who is an absolutely excellent waitress (really, she’s on top of EVERYthing) and very nice as well.

We were busy enough that we didn’t get the waitress station restocked by midnight and she told me to go and she’d do it, but obviously if it was supposed to be done by us, I was going to do it. So we restocked everything, plates, glasses, water bottles, pop, etc, and as we were in the middle of loading the fridges, a fight broke out between two tables. Nice. Who needs bar work? I ran over and a table was flipped and I went and broke them up and helped the owner send the one table packing. I guess this is what happens at a 24 restaurant. I should ask Touly about that. It was getting late to catch a tram and Kirsti gave me a drive back, which again, was very nice, and I walked upstairs to find Mariella in pyjamas. I’d been sure she’d be out, but on account of the fatigue gripping her, no. And so, with a few night-out options for tomorrow (Greek dancing competition, Greek night, live Serbian music, etc) and an AFL game in Geelong (jah-long) on Sunday, I concluded my first week in Melbourne. Not a bad week, though.

Melbourne Photos

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