Friday, 24 February 2006

A Night in the Life

On Wednesday night we went to a Mexican [restaurant] on Chapel Street to celebrate my new job. We actually wanted to go there for quite a long while, having not been to this favourite restaurant of ours for like a year, and just used the job thing as an excuse.

The weather was on the perfect side of things and the restaurant had its front opened to the street, so we were sitting inside but outside too, giving me the pleasure of watching Chapel Streets many passer-bys as well as our fellow diners.

Chapel is one of Melbourne's core institutions. It's considered the top shopping strip street with lots of supposedly cool and trendy shit on offer, and as a result there is quite a variety of interesting people walking about or dining. You get couples of all ages, Range Rovers as well as shitty old Ford-ers, friends spending some time together, and tourists like that group of Americans that sat next to us.

As someone who obviously still has a tourist's view of things despite living here for almost four years now – and, mind you, I would very much like to retain this eye on things because it makes everything appear like a unique experience – I can just sit and do this people watching for hours and hours. Just watch and learn. I can spice it up at will by trying to figure out who is the mafia hit man in the crowd, but most of the time I don't need to go that far because, despite what those evil marketing people try to sell us all the time, reality usually exceeds the imagination.

We actually lived right off Chapel Street for exactly a year prior to buying our current mortgage two years ago. It was fun being in the center of town where everybody is here again, but there are definite disadvantages, too; overall, I can't really decide which of the two is the better location, but I do know that I like both and as the record shows I enjoy both. So it doesn't really matter and I can say that I've had the privilege of enjoying both.

We just love the food in that Mexican restaurant. They use fresh ingredients, the price is perfectly acceptable in my book (note this is not a high society place – it's somewhere between a diner and a sophisticated, trendy, place), and most importantly – and in total contradiction to English food – it scored high on the taste department (sorry, but I just had to have another poke at English food after the phone call we've received in the middle of the night after someone seemed to have been offended by my yesterday's opinion on English food). And in another contradiction to English food, Mexican doesn't score too bad in the health department (and if you object to my honest opinion, then by all means, write your own blog – I promise to add a link; or just add your comments; but do bear in mind that this blog is not for the feint hearted or the easily offended, and that it offends much bigger things than English food (I refer thee to my continuing series of entries relating to religion, in which I pretty much say that I think this thing called religion that the vast majority of the world's population believes in is, pretty much, just a piece of shit)).

We ordered a big Nacho de Chicken plate (the name was a bit different and featured Spanish acronymia, but I chose to refer to it as "de chicken") and a Beef Combination (a taco, a tortilla, and some other stuff, all heavy on the beef and accompanied with rice and beans stuff that they also have Spanish names for) to share between us. We've been to that place many a time by now after we originally discovered it while on a stroll because that was where we used to live, and so far we were never disappointed with the food. Yet again we were not disappointed with the food!

The only downside was the quantity. Jo eats like a bird (a very small bird at that), and I just had to finish it all because it was sooooo tasty, so by the time the plates were semi clear I was very much full to a self combustion point.

Then we ordered desert, just because Jo said we needed to finish off on a sweet note, and then I remembered Mexican food's biggest drawback – it tends to sort of expand in your stomach. I was a balloon.

Still, a man has to do what a man has to do, and I just had to drag Jo with me to the Jam Factory's Borders book store. We used to spend hours in there shopping for books and just browsing through books when we lived there (thus establishing the phrase Jo often uses to mock my "going out" preferences, "let's go to Borders!"). I miss it.

This time around we bought just two books.

The first was a Larry Niven / Gerry Pournell collaboration, the Mote in God's Eye. Their first ever collaboration, Lucifer's Hammer (about the earth being hit by a comet, long before Hollywood used and abused the idea) was one of the very first science fiction books I ever got to read at around the age of 10-11. As most other books I got at the time, my uncle bought it for me, and I still have the it and my uncle's dedication with me. But the most revolutionary aspect of the book was that it featured many a sex scene, and for a 10 year old that was a major novelty; yet I was so young that I didn't even realize the novelty at the time.

Anyway, Niven and Pournell went through a bit of a revival when we were in Israel and I got to browse through the books I left at my parents' place. Amongst them were Legacy of Harot and Footfall, two books I read during high school, which – given Jo's affection to science fiction – we took back home with us. And to no great surprise, Jo read them and liked them (I intend to do so again, eventually).

And so we just had to buy Mote, widely considered (by Uri) as one of the couple's better efforts (I read it, too, but I don't remember a thing; between the two of us, Uri is the walking breathing computer, while I just tend to read a book or watch a film and forget it quickly soon after; which is not that bad when you end up enjoying it quite a lot the second time you get to read/watch it. Of course, with 20 years plus since I first read the book, there's also the aspect of maturity and me viewing things differently to what I used to before that really makes a difference and makes reading the same book again quite the must have experience).

The second book was our first expedition into the realm of Ben Elton's literature. A couple of months ago I borrowed a live stand-up comedy show's CD of his from the library, and Jo and I listened to it on the way to the Australian Wedding (please refer to this former blog entry for further details). I will tell you this: It's a good thing the Canyonero sports cruise control, because I laughed my guts out so hard the car just had to drive itself.

Of notable exception amongst his jokes were the ones that I can relate to. He talked about people selling you shit and just focusing their attention on the "garnishing", to pretend that they're giving you the good stuff while they give you the shits. And he talked about the English Ministry of Crappy Design, which obviously seems to be the most prolific ministry in England given how crappy everything seems to be. And as some of you may remember, I certainly agree with that, too (And before I'm bashed for bashing the English again, may I remind you that Ben Elton is English? And that we just bought a book of his, which means that there are at least two good thing coming out of England? And that books count a lot, much more than sports and the queen or whatever other things England has to offer, because they actually have intellectual value? As some English men said, always look on the bright side of life).

Following that stand-up experience we got to watch Black Adder's fourth series, the one about World War I, and Jo has put into my attention that Mr Elton was the writer of this brilliant series.

So one thing led to another and we just had to get a book of his; Borders had three shelves of material to choose from, and I picked "Popcorn" because its back cover seemed convincing enough.

I don't know why I bother with buying books in the first place. We have piles of books I would very much like to read but never get to read at home, which makes buying more an affair of wasted resources.

I do have a good excuse: Jo does read them, and unlike me she is close to exhausting our inventory. But I will not delude myself by agreeing that we bought the books for Jo; the main reason for me buying the books, other than the hope of eventually reading them, is the tap they give to my ego: "I'm so wise, I read books, I must be ever so brilliant". Pretty much the same kick people get out of buying sports cars, only that I get off for much less and at least I have the potential bonus in the form of a chance to expand my horizons.


By the time we got home I couldn't really move. I was more like rolling along.

I love Mexican.


To conclude, here's an author's footnote:

This blog entry was my attempt to prove to myself that I can write something out of pretty much nothing.

I don't think I did that badly.

It goes to show that every day is a good story, no matter how benign it seems at first.

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