We reunite at arrivals with our long lost colleague, Skip and are quickly at the hotel. It’s balmy out, with a gusty wind that carries rumours of the tropics. I march abroad in search of a bank, which I find and which miraculously regurgitates Australian dollars into my grasping hand. I’m flush so go looking for food. Downtown Perth is much like many US cities at night — built on a wide grid whose streets are lined with corporate towers in the modern style. The eucalyptuses lend it an exotic vibe and in between the glass and concrete red brick relics of the last century remind you where you are. I walk in to four or five restaurants all of which are full of customers but closed nonetheless. A humiliating little ritual. Nine o’clock is the witching hour round here. I opt for a 7/11, picking up a moth eaten chicken sandwich and some seedy snack matter. On the way back I drop into a bar and sit on the terrace with a zero beer. I pretend to enjoy it but beer without alcohol is like life without love. You’re alive, but what’s the point? Six dollars for frothy water is a bad deal. The other customers are in their twenties so I’m pleasantly invisible. I’m even slightly translucent to the staff who seem quite baffled I exist.
Home, to the black sleep of the lag.
I wake at half five and listen to the local news. Various weather disasters, a childhood cancer breakthrough and a doping scandal. There’s a big debate going on about a referendum to decide constitutional changes regarding indigenous rights. A lot about logging in Papua New Guinea. After breakfast I wander downhill to the Swan, wide and still as a lake. A speedboat hums along as joggers and scooter-people sweep by. It’s all very clean, very calm. I gaze at a pair of parrots in a tree. They eye me derisively and fly off. Gulls caw, the traffic builds, Perth is waking up. On the opposite bank construction cranes peck at new blocks shining in the morning light. I decide to go back to bed to see what occurs.
The last time we were here we were taken out on a boat with some reprobate and his weird wife and fed lines of speed. I didn’t indulge but I enjoyed the river views. Local millionaires’ homes were pointed out. We wondered what they were doing that day. Were they snorting crank on a cruiser with their own Captain Corrupt? It all seemed very likely.
The venue is a delightful art deco cinema built in 1939. My mother was three and living in Hong Kong, soon to be evacuated to these shores. I take post-soundcheck food in a Thai place that was recommended. I sit outside in the perfect temperature and think of home, our dross-filled collapsing city crouching in the rain. I stroll down the main drag, reminiscent of Atlanta’s Little Five Points but not as uber-cool. The middle of the road is planted with pretty trees with cream-white bark. I see those typically Australian two storey brick buildings, topped with Victorian stucco, their verandas edged with cast-iron balustrades. The far away colony still echoes of the old country. I sit on a bench outside a florist and watch families drift by in the gloaming. A frog chirrups from a bush behind me. I start to steel myself for the show.
We ply our trade to an audience who seem relaxed and happy to be so entertained. Afterwards the night is beautifully cool. We pose for photos with three cheery women outside the van. Big grins in the night filed in phones. It’s nice to be liked.