Sunday, May 29, 2011

What not to wear for a night out in Melbourne

"I would go out tonight, but I haven't got a stitch to wear. This man said, 'It's gruesome that someone so handsome should care.'"
-- The Smiths, "This Charming Man"

I've been called a lot of things in my time, but "under-dressed" is not one of them. If anything, I've tended to err on the side of dressing too formally. "Why are you so dressed up?" If I heard it once, I heard it a trillion times when I was living in New York City.

"Let's go camping next weekend." That one I never heard. It always topped my list of sentences I never wanted to hear, but if I had, and somehow had been coerced into roughing it in the bush for a day or two, I certainly would have packed for the occasion. You never know when someone will be throwing a big dinner party in the middle of nowhere.

It's not like I used to waltz around wearing a three-piece suit and fedora and carrying a cane. Nor have I ever been the clotheshorse type to overpack for short trips. For me, dressing for success or to impress had nothing to do with excess. It generally meant wearing button-down shirts with nice trousers and shoes you didn't clean by tossing them into a washing machine. You'd never have caught me wearing trainers outside of the gym (or dating anyone who did). I don't think I even owned a pair of denim blue jeans until I was in my 30s!

It's not so much that I aspired to be some kind of dandy, and if I were straight, I'm not sure I would be the quintessential metrosexual. After all, I've never been one of those guys who indulged in facials, manicures, pedicures and tons of grooming products. In my NYC era, my tidy appearance was just an extension of my anal-retentive neat-freak streak. Jeans looked so sloppy, and t-shirts didn't belong on expensive hangers. Anyone who saw my apartment immediately understood why my clothes were always wrinkle free.

My best friend Lori used to gasp whenever she came over to my place on the weekend and caught me dressed down in track pants and a t-shirt. "Weekend Jeremy" she'd come to call the look. But by Monday morning, I was always pressed and polished to perfection again. I once dated a guy who dumped me (via email!) because he always felt under-dressed around me. "I want a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy," he wrote. It was a pretty lame excuse, but although I wouldn't admit it at the time, I kind of got it.

If he'd waited a few years, he might have gotten the Jeremy he wanted. When I moved from New York City to Buenos Aires, I threw all of my sartorial eloquence out the window. I traded in a corporate office with a view (of midtown Manhattan) for freelancing on a couch with a different view (BA's Palermo barrio), and suddenly, it was okay to be "Weekend Jeremy" 24/7. In the gym, in Pilates class, running around the lakes and parks of Palermo, in bed at night, even when I ventured out on the town -- though I'd generally swap the track pants for jeans and, of course, no trainers!

It's been more of the same these last three months in Melbourne. Since I've still got no boss to impress, no glamorous events to attend, no motivation for planning tomorrow's outfit the night before, there's no reason to play dress up. Earlier today, I talked with a friend in BA who is holding a small bag of clothes for me in his apartment. He asked if it was okay if he wore a red and white shirt he found in the bag to go out. Of course, I was cool with it, but tellingly, I had no idea what shirt he was talking about! These days, I tend to favor socializing in dive-y places, so I've lost track of most of my dressier clothes. When I venture out at night, the biggest variable is how do I get there, not what am I going to wear.

Last weekend, my friend Nick called and announced that he was taking me out for a belated birthday celebration, so I put on a long-sleeved t-shirt, a pair of hunter-green Diesel jeans, a Paul Smith belt and my favorite $600 John Varvatos boots. It wasn't my best look ever, but it was an expensive one and certainly good enough for a night out in Melbourne.

Or so I thought. The lady at the door of the Carlton Hotel, a hot spot in the CBD, begged to differ. When we showed up, she looked at Nick, looked at me, looked at Nick again, and still looking at him, said to him about me, "I'm sorry, but he's dressed too casually for tonight." It took me awhile to process what was going down because I was too busy shaking my head at all the dirty hoodies, faded jeans and scuffed trainers making their way into the bar. Apparently, my t-shirt was standing between me and the other side of the velvet rope. Or so she said -- though I'm convinced that it was something a bit more personal. Just about everyone else, including the woman denying me entry, was wearing a t-shirt, but because I was braving the slightly chilly autumn night without a jacket, mine wasn't covered up.

I looked the woman up and down, taking in her Big W ensemble that looked like it had been thrown on before she rolled out of bed en route to her job. I felt like I had fallen through the looking glass into 1965 Mobile, Alabama, and I was face to face with a black person enforcing a whites-only policy. (The racism analogy, by the way, is not incidental.) "And for what exactly are you appropriately dressed? Cleaning toilets?" I sniffed before sashaying away.

Nick was livid, but I was uncharacteristically calm. After seeing the motley crew entering the joint, I hadn't wanted to go in anyway. He promised to talk to his friend who's a DJ there (and who, inconveniently, hadn't been there that night to intervene on our behalf) and make sure that girl loses her job. Why bother, I wondered. She has to wake up every day and look at herself in the mirror. Hasn't the poor, pathetic thing suffered enough?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Great Barrier Reef Adventure: Tale from the Deep

Today I did something that I never in 42 years dreamed I would do: I got wet. Soaking drenched. Not in the shower. In the middle of the ocean.

I had no intention of doing anything of the sort when I set out this morning from Cairns into the Pacific on the AU$180 Marine World Outer Reef Cruise. I can't swim, so I wasn't exactly looking for adventure under the sea. I'd already spent quality time with crocodiles, kangaroos and koalas yesterday in the wetlands, so my expectations were somewhere around medium. I figured I'd hop on the glass-bottom boat once the catamaran reached its outer-reef destination, check out what I'd been hearing is the largest living organism on the planet from the safety of above sea level, come home and tell everyone it was everything I'd hoped it would be.

But there's nothing like being stuck on a boat and adjoining platform for five and a half hours in the middle of the ocean to change your plans. What harm would there be in taking a guided snorkeling tour? What's the worst that could happen? Well, I knew the answer to that question, but I dived in anyway.

I bought my tour ticket (AU$35), suited up in my rented wet suit (AU$6), and hung on to the orange ring-shaped flotation device for dear life (and hoped that neither the pretty Asian girl nor the other pretty woman with an Eastern European accent who were accompanying me on the guided tour would pull me under.)

I couldn't really tell you much about the specifics of what I saw, though I know I saw a lot. I was too busy soaking up the atmosphere (literally) to freeze frame any particular scenes or catch more than a sentence here and there from the guide.

It was so peaceful down below. I wondered what had taken me so long to go under. I fell into a deep reverie, imagining what it must be like for the schools of fish, the sea turtles, the starfish, the coral (boulder-shaped, spaghetti-shaped, broccoli-shaped, cauliflower-shaped) and all those other water creatures to spend eternity there. What was I doing in Melbourne? This is a much nicer neighbourhood than South Yarra, or St. Kilda. I started to calculate in my head what the rental rates must be 60 metres below. Who'd I invite to my first deep-sea diving party? What would I wear? Do wet suits come in sky blue? Was that The Little Mermaid? Where's Nemo?

Then I woke up. Game -- and tour -- over.

I always say I'll do anything twice (once for the experience, rinse, and repeat to be sure you love or hate it), so I'm sure I'll be back. Someday soonish. In the meantime, maybe I'll start planning that first camping trip I've been putting off for 42 years.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rated XXX! Australian boys gone wild! (Part 2)

Though I hope I have only just begun to scratch the surface of things I'll see and do in this lifetime, one day into Part 3 of my Project Manhunt Australia -- The Cairns Experiment -- I'm convinced that hysterical online messages can't possibly get any better than this.

Someone pointed out to me the other day that people tend to write things from the anonymous safety of behind their computers that they'd never dare utter in real life. I'd certainly concur, but I'd take it one step further by saying that this might very well be when they show their true colors.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole online dating thing, but at least I now know for sure that you encounter the same people there that you encounter in everyday life -- you just don't have to get dressed or leave the comfort of your home to do so. I just received a message from a guy who said he spotted me walking down the aisles at the Woolworths supermarket near my hotel. It's not the first time this has happened, but it didn't creep me out any less than it did the first time. As for his offer to join him for some fun, well, I don't think so.

In Sydney, with a few exceptions, I found the guys to be as polite online as I'd expect them to be were they seeing me for the first time in person. They're a persistent bunch -- I suppose in the Aussie version of the big city, it pays to be aggressive -- but their sane and sound commentary doesn't necessarily make for great blog material.

So thank God for Cairns (where guys are more likely to hand over their phone numbers to a complete stranger online)! A few hours in, and already the guys had me ROTFLOL, then I took a snack break, returned and LMAO. Here's why.
"Hey mate, please take this as a compliment, 'you look lik the fuck of a century'
Correct me if im wrong but i reckon you would know how to do a tight ass like it should be done"
hows your night going, what you upto??
Mate you have got such a cute smile and your very good looking, your body is amazing and so horny, I bet you have a big cock, Ive never seen a guy like you naked before what a dream."
"hey sexc man, il be in cairns wed nite. U wana play n hav a good session, i crumble 4 dark guys so u cn make me ur slave 2 do wot eva u wish. Send me a text."
The last guy ended with his mobile number (and first name!), but I thought it better not to reprint either here. We wouldn't want his voice mail to be inundated with messages from people who read this post and just can't help themselves. And though I'm always in the market for a slave who does bathrooms, I've been around enough to know that you get what you don't pay for, too.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Melbourne does its best Hollywood imitation with the 2011 TV WEEK Logie Awards

Prince William and Kate Middleton are so last Friday -- and for me, not even.

Though I'm usually not one to resist indulging in televised pomp and circumstance, one royal wedding in a lifetime (Charles and Diana's in 1981) is enough for me, thank you. Not only did I sit out the nuptials on April 29, I've yet to see a photo of Kate's dress or any other wedding pics. That means I still can't weigh in on whether she's too skinny or if this veil I keep hearing about did the ensemble any justice or if the bridesmaids were actually better dressed than the bride.

I did get my fix of white this weekend (it's the new black, you know), courtesy of all the white frocks crowding the red carpet at the 2011 TV WEEK Logie Awards on May 1 at the Crown complex in Melbourne. I may have skipped William and Kate's big day, but no way was I going to miss this. And since I was supposed to meet up with TV WEEK's editor-in-chief while she was in Melbourne for the event, I figured it was my duty as an entertainment journalist and pop culturist to tune in.

My friend Jayden said that the Logies are to Australia what the Emmys are to the U.S., but after watching them, I beg to differ slightly. The Daytime Emmys are more like it. There were only a few people there who actually act sprinkled among the stars of talk shows, cooking shows, lifestyle shows and reality shows. (No wonder Aussie thespians are invading Hollywood -- apparently, there's little work for them back home!) "There are more chefs in the audience than there are in the kitchen," the host joked at the beginning, and he may have been right. There were probably fewer actors, too!

That's probably why they pitted three TV presenters/hosts against three actresses for the Gold Logie, the biggest prize of the night. And that Logie went to... Today co-host Karl Stefanovic, who, for some mysterious-to-me reason was like the most popular kid in school, the Jack Nicholson of the Logies. More category confusion: Considering the small scale of scripted programming, why is there a need for Most Popular Actor/Actress and Most Outstanding Actor/Actress? Perhaps it's like the difference between the People's Choice Awards and the Golden Globes, whose table-seating and free-flowing booze set-up the Logies resembled. Movie, miniseries and series stars competed against each other, and with no supporting categories, all stars, apparently, are created equal Down Under.

But minor gripes aside, I'm glad I watched. The musical entertainment -- Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and Jessie J -- was pretty A-list, and I feel like I now have a tighter grasp on Australian pop culture. Though the home-grown dramatic pickings are relatively slim, there's more to Aussie TV than retro U.S. programs, Neighbours and Home and Away. Underbelly and Sisters of War, in particular, appear to be as good as any recently acclaimed HBO and Showtime offerings, and I'm sure it's only a matter of weeks before Underbelly and Offspring join recent U.S. arrivals Family Guy and The Big Bang Theory on my ever-growing list of must-see TV series.

I'll also be tuning in to Offspring just to admire the beauty and talent of Most Popular Actress winner Asher Keddie (above, left). The triple nominee lost Most Outstanding Actress to Sisters of War's Claire van der Boom, for whom costar Sarah Snook, who looks sort of like a young Tilda Swinton, accepted. Never heard of any of them? No worries. It's probably just a matter of time before Hollywood offers start flooding their inboxes. They'll be coming soon to the Globes, the Emmys, maybe even the Oscars. And when they do, don't forget, you read it here first.