Roads that take you places

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“Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk”~William Arthur Ward

Last Friday night, at dusk, just as it is dark enough to turn your headlights on, but still light enough that you can see all the landscape in a weird kind of blue light, I was driving Melbourne bound on the Western Highway on my way home from a successful visit to the Head Lice Salon. My little lovelies happily asleep in the back seat.

In the distance, across the many hills and valleys, I could see the city lights sprawling out. From this angle, Melbourne looks positively magical and it gave the queerest feeling of dejavu. A funny kind of nervous excitement.

I don’t often drive on the Western anymore, but thirteen years ago I made that journey weekly as I drove from Daylesford to Melbourne on a Sunday evening.

Growing up in the country means that if you want to attend uni, then you have to move to Melbourne permanently, or like me, live down there during the week and come home on the weekends. Or most weekends, anyway.

That trip down on a Sunday night was always exciting. Sometimes because I was going to see my first ever real boyfriend, or going home to “my” own house, or just because of how different the city was to my childhood home in the country.

Driving down that road last Friday took me back. I was a different person then. It was before marriage and kids, before Japan, back when I was naive country girl in the big city making new friends and having wacky adventures with my new friend Maya (you might remember I met her on my first day of uni).

I used to hang out at this place called Sahara Cafe upstairs on Swanston st. It was a nest of bohemian art students. I’m not sure if it is still there. We would sit and drink tea, Maya would often sketch and we would talk to poets and musicians.

Sometimes, on a Monday night, we would go to the Arthouse on Elizabeth street. They had an open mic night that was for poetry or music. There was an open fire and everyone looked meaningfully at each other and discussed the importance of whatever. I would probably really NOT enjoy that place now. I think it was full of Troy Dyer Ethan Hawke types. We all know that I prefer the Vincent/Jerome Ethan Hawke these days.

In my third year of uni, Maya took a year off, I had split from my boyfriend and was living alone in a lovely little flat out the back of an enormous, crumbling mansion near East Camberwell station. This was the year that I went out and about alone and met even more interesting people.

I visited the Arthouse one Monday night and met a guitarist/singer over from Perth who sang songs that reminded me of Jeff Buckley. We wandered around Melbourne all night, sitting on the roof of the Nunnery backpackers opposite the Exhibition Gardens as the sun rose. Just talking. That’s all. He wrote a beautiful song for me.

I remembered his name the other day and looked him up. Seems like he is back in Perth and a successful musician now. I had this funny feeling when I looked at his picture, that person who sat on the roof with him all those years ago seems like a different person. I can’t relate to that lifestyle anymore.

So that is why, when I drove down the Western Highway last Friday night, I had a wave of nostalgia and a feeling that I had just woken up from a dream and could only kinda remember little bits. It was a nice feeling, but I really prefer my drive to Melbourne down the Calder now.

I more prefer the drive away form Melbourne on the Calder, toward my family and home.

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