Saturday, 30 July 2011

Gridiron in the suburbs

If you're in Melbourne's eastern suburbs and looking for a new outing for the weekend, maybe consider going to an American football match.  It's exactly what Mrs T, the two little Ts and I did today.  Specifically, we went out to Ranger Field (as one of the teams styles it) in Croydon to watch the Croydon Rangers take on the Berwick Miners

I won't try to explain American football.  For one thing, there are too many people who know far more about it than I do.  For another, half the fun of going to a game is in being there.  As for a report on today's game: We had to leave early in the fourth quarter because it was getting too cold for the munchkins; when we left the Rangers were up 18-0 and maintaining a good offense.  The Miner's offense was competent but somehow unable to cut through.

This morning we got to the ground about 11:30, by which time the game was into the second quarter.  The first few minutes brought back an odd memory: the smell of a muddy sporting ground - that very special smell of sandy loam which has been soaked in rain and churned up by 20+ pairs of boots.  I can't actually recall where I remember that smell from.  The paddocks at home didn't smell like that, even in winter, and I played hockey in school which was chiefly on astroturf.  Anyway, I remember it from somewhere and it was kind of nice to get even a blurry memory back.  The teams had been putting some effort in to churning up the field: The blue and orange of the Miners and the green and white of the Rangers were thoroughly mud-stained by the time we arrived.

The game had a real family feel about it.  There were a number of what were clearly wives and girlfriends in attendance, as were a couple of children, most of them in team colours.  Some of the attendees had even invested in "letter jackets" in the colours of their team.  And there were genuine gridiron fans there: I counted sweaters and shirts for the New York Giants, the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots. 

The venue itself is well set up.  Most of the viewing area around the Rangers' club rooms is concreted.  Concrete bleachers have been installed on the roof of one of the buildings, which makes a great viewing platform for the whole field.  The only drawback is that they are open sided and unroofed and (on a day like today) bloody cold.  If you're going to use it for an entire game, invest in a snuggy and a thermos (that said, you'll have a great view of the game, so it will be money well spent).

The Rangers operate a small canteen selling the usual run of snacks and canned drinks.  Try the Ranger Burger ($4.50).  I'm not certain if it's home made, but it tastes like it could easily be.  On a cold, windswept day watching families cheering on weekend warriors who are playing for nothing more than a love for the game, it's the rightest-feeling piece of food-from-the-heart you'll have in a long time.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Southland Shopping Centre

I went to Southland Shopping Centre today for a few things (a haircut, chiefly).  A couple of observations stuck with me.

Firstly, I didn't enjoying being there as much as I used to.  In the past I've loved going to shopping malls.  I've been energised by the air-conditioned, coffee-scented, cinnamon-tinctured feel of it all.  Today didn't seem the same.  The place was full of life, but (stealing a line from Terry Pratchett) only in the same way a dead dog on an anthill is full of life.  Everything seemed tired and worn out and second best.  The lights were on, but that was the only resemblance to a scene of restless energy.  If you can imagine Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie done in sepia, you'll get the idea.

Secondly, the people there seemed tired.  More tired than one would expect for a Saturday morning.  At the risk of being truly catty, it felt a little like being in a life size version of Dead Rising (a video game that involves slaughtering zombies in a Colorado shopping mall).  The most obvious difference was that the zombies in the game are better dressed than most of my fellow shoppers were today.  The undead also seem to have a stronger sense of purpose. Perhaps for my sins, I contributed to the general "living dead" feel of the place by capitalizing on the liquidation of Angus & Robertson.  Stopping in on their closing down sale netted me about $180.00 woth of books for $30.00. 

Thirdly, the music seemed washed out, as if one were hearing James Blunt sing "Delilah" on an endless ear-anaesthetising loop.  Before my haircut was done I was longing to hear something rough edged (Wallflowers "Sixth Avenue Heartache", for example).  Or at least something with some energy.  I don't particularly care for Ke$ha's music, for example, but "Blow" would have been a welcome change.

I hope this sense of gloom was just the cold weather.  Either that, or I'm becoming a terrible snob.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

By way of short update: I'm working on a short story in my (limited) spare time.  If all goes well I'll post it in four parts once it's done.  I'll keep writing smaller items as I go and also post them here in between times.  Watch this space!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Evening in Whyalla, South Australia

I wrote this in Whyalla a few months ago on a flying visit there.  Nothing special - you can tell I just sloughed it off after a plate of fish and chips and a few beers.  You can probably also tell I'd recently been re-reading Brewster Ghiselin's poem about Laguna Beach.  Anyway, here it is -

A ship sits, laden in cargo
Seemingly too heavy for the water
A breeze from the west pads in
Smelling of old lemons
Seeking a path to the east.

The sun, a ball of molten metal
Pastes shadows long across the street
Drawing indoors youth's energy
No longer sporting on the foreshore
Giving the lie to the steelworks strength

People settle down under electric lights
The fish and ship shop moves its sign to "closed"
No menace shows itself on either horizon
The waves continue to wash the sand
The city rests uneasily.