Thursday, June 27, 2013

Melbourne and May Week

May Week, wonderful and stressful and strange in that Cambridge way, has just ended. My limbs are exhausted and my friends are dispersing quickly and dramatically, disappearing permanently to jobs or temporarily to travel, trading their English MPhils toward American PhDs. I'm too tired for travelling, but I don't feel like being here, where everything is exhaustingly momentary.

I wish I knew how to explain how good Grill'd is.

In short, I'm somewhat homesick. I'm never sure where I'm actually 'from', and I generally don't mind being geographically untethered, but I miss Melbourne. Cambridge is lovely and I like living here, but the whole town is high strung and too small, a series of whispering galleries and echo chambers, a mess of performance and amplification, everything easily and always distorted. It's beautiful and so much fun, but Baudrillard's essay on Disneyland should be printed on all the walls.

I went to twenty-three parties in a week and had my first year viva, and when you can see the parties out your window it's easy to be dizzied. I miss the intimacy of cities, and of all Melbourne's laneways, the seemingly infinite list of cafes, the tiny bars where you can touch both walls with your arms outstretched, all the milk crates that become seats in laneways and loading docks. I don't know how to articulate Melbourne, and it certainly has a ridiculousness about it (crowds of hipsters dressed in black, newspapers dedicated to food, art galleries and zine shops in the metro tunnels), but it's so different from Cambridge.

It might be also that I'm missing some sense of permanence; I have a lot of friends from undergrad who stayed in Melbourne, but nobody really stays in Cambridge after graduation, so there's this constant underlying awareness that communities assemble and disassemble. It's hard to be sentimental about a world that remakes itself each year. 

Maybe Cambridge is like Burning Man? I guess that's a comparison that probably isn't made often.

I guess this is much more about Cambridge than it is about Melbourne. I wanted to compile some old photographs as a way of assuaging the longing, and these words are an attempt at explanation. It's interesting, though; I've found I don't even have many photographs of Melbourne, perhaps because I didn't know much about photography when I lived there or perhaps because I saw the city primarily as a backdrop for people.


  1. "everything is exhaustingly momentary" - I really like that. I understand the sentiment. For the past eight years I have moved between wanting either total freedom or longing for some permanency (but being unwilling to 'settle').

    I went home to Melbourne for 12 days this month. I danced like a fool at one of the many cheesy 90s nights, I ate delicious hipster brunch every day, I did the obligatory complaining about the public transport (even though it is so much better than Vietnam), and I didn't want to leave again. Even though I didn't grow up there Melbourne is ' home' for me. My parents are nearing retirement age and are considering leaving the city, maybe even returning to NZ. This is scary for me, without the parental base in Melbourne it might seem less like ' home'. Leaving me with no place which is really ' home'.

    Also, Movida- so overpriced...

    1. Interesting. My parents don't actually live in Melbourne, and while I'm currently missing Melbourne I'm also reluctant to leave Cambridge for long periods of time, and sometimes I miss NZ and sometimes I miss Paris. It can mean no place that's really home, but also (when in optimistic moods) it kind of means having many places which are homes?

      I guess that's part of being scattered across the world and having friends and family scattered across the world; there's always things and people to miss, but equally there's always things and people to welcome you. I haven't lived in the US since I was fourteen, for example, but I also kind of miss it and it's nice to know that whenever I do next have a chance to go to NYC I'll find as many of my friends there -given so many people go from Cambridge to America's East Coast- as I will anywhere else.

  2. Anna, you expressed feelings here I didn't even know I was feeling. Awesome piece, excellent writing, may we all feel at home somewhere soon

    1. I'm glad it resonated! I hope you're enjoying summer thus far; the Netherlands look amazing in your photos!