Sunday, October 17, 2010

The end of the affair?

I'm back in Buenos Aires after six weeks in Australia, and once again, I'm doing that thing I do where I idealize a vacation way too hard immediately after the fact. It's exactly what happens when a beautiful romance ends too soon. Never mind that your now-perfect ex snored, dropped crumbs all over the apartment and pissed on the toilet seat every single time. Suddenly, he's the best man in the world.

This time, though, I think that my idealized recollections are pretty dead accurate. Yes, a few nutcases entered my orbit while I was in Melbourne, and Sydney was no better the second time around, but my love of Melbourne is strong and undying. It's Saturday night in Buenos Aires, and I have no great urge to go out, unless it's to the Peel (which is in Melbourne). Sunday is supposed to be one of the most beautiful days in the history of weather, and all I can think about is Windsor Castle (natch, in Melbourne!).

Yeah, I've got it bad.

As usual, the best, most memorable parts of my time in Melbourne were the beginning and the end. The first cut is the deepest, and who could forget their first brush with any great city, or love, when everything is new, and it's all there for you to explore and conquer? Melbourne was one of the few times in my life when I plopped myself from the future and allowed myself to be in the moment, if not fully so, almost. I realized that I was having an important experience as I was having it. Normally, that realization kicks in hot on the heels of hindsight.

The middle part of the trip was real life. Once I got those pesky must-see sights out of the way (and as in BA, there aren't too many in Melbourne, thank God), I lived the way I live in Buenos Aires. I slept, I wrote, I ran, I watched TV, I drank, I ate, and, well, you know what else. The "what else" aside, this doesn't necessarily make for non-stop compelling stories, but in some ways, it was the most satisfying part of my time in Melbourne. There was still a lot to discover, but as I finally more or less had my bearings (I'd be discovering shortcuts from point A to point B until my moment of departure), everything wasn't a total confounding mystery.

Then there was the end. I hate this part. But I love it, too. I hate it because I know the fantastic voyage will soon be over (unless the voyage is not so fantastic, which does happen from time to time). I love it because once you no longer walk and talk like a tourist, the crazy experiences and wild characters that make any vacation truly memorable come pouring in. This was my final week and a half in Melbourne. Most of it is not fit to detail on a family blog (though Tyler, who provided what were perhaps my most X-rated few hours in Melbourne, ironically lived in a house that looked like it was plucked off of Sesame Street), but let's just say that the people who made the biggest impression on me in Melbourne, the ones with whom I expect to keep in touch and whom I would like to see again someday, sooner rather than later, are the ones I met in my first and final weeks.

Though I know better than to fall too hard for anyone I meet when I'm thousands of miles away from home, I'm a hopeless romantic who can't resist a foreign affair worth writing about. I spent four of my final five nights in Melbourne with someone I met six days before I left. I was already in love with Melbourne before he and I met, but I wonder how my final impression of the city would have differed if he'd never crossed my path on that Thursday night. Or if he'd never sent me that titillating must-reply-to-this-immediately text message at 8.30 the following morning.

I've travelled extensively on my own, as there are few people who share my vacation ethic (activities and sightseeing are okay, if you're into that sort of thing, which I'm sort of not, but it's the people you encounter who make a city), so I'm good without a wingman. Apparently, I'm in the minority here. When I told people that I was travelling alone, some reacted with surprise, some with horror, some with pity. Maybe he doesn't have any friends, they seemed to be thinking. Only a few seemed to be truly impressed. I'm single and independent (some would say too much so -- single and independent), and I live most of my everyday life alone (by my own design), so it's not so much of a stretch for me to travel alone (by my own design), too.

Spending four out of five nights with someone is, however, a huge stretch. It was particularly challenging because it's been years -- a decade, to be exact -- since I've been in a relationship that was serious enough to warrant my spending two consecutive nights with someone. Sleeping single in a double bed is a way of life, my life. I'm already a hopeless, frequently sleepless insomniac who talks, vibrates and sniffles while falling in and out of slumber. Who needs someone around to witness all of those digusting noises?

I'm always a little relieved when a one-nighter hits the road before dawn, and when he doesn't, I normally wouldn't even entertain the notion of entertaining him for a second consecutive night. But when you meet a local whom you deeply dig, why not go back for seconds -- and thirds and fourths? It's fun, you know there's an expiration date, it makes you feel even more connected to the place, and, well, it's fun?

Plus, I'll always remember exactly what I did my last few nights in Melbourne. I'll never know what my final opinion of the city would have been if I'd spent those nights differently. As previously documented right here on this blog, my opinion of Melbourne was already right up there. Maybe it would have climbed even higher had I gone out and lived it up, added a few more outrageous tales to the ones I'd already collected. A part of me regrets not squeezing in that final Monday night at the Prince of Wales, but maybe by quitting while I was way ahead, I spared myself the possible misfortune of having some hideous encounter that forever would have marred my impression of Melbourne. And I never might have discovered that the guy who dared to send me that crazy text was so f***ing cool. He introduced me to Family Guy, too. Cool show.

I'm happy with the way things turned out. I know this overly romanticized memory of my vacation won't last, and that's okay. For now, I'll just enjoy the afterglow of a holiday home run and hope for another chance at bat in the near future. Not that those football- and horseracing-obsessed Aussies would really get that baseball reference, but I love them anyway.

Next time I'm down under, schooners of Pure Blonde are on me.


UnCheyned said...

After reading all your wonderful tales of Melbourne, I couldn't help but wonder what's stopping you from picking up and moving out there? Your tales of B.A. haven't really been that flattering lately anyway! Something to think about?

Jeremy Helligar said...

Thank you for reading what I have to say about both Melbourne and BA. Hopefully, I don't come across as being too over BA because I still love it here in so many ways. You couldn't be more right, though. It might be time for a big move, and I'm thinking long and hard about it.