As I am writing this, it is 2:43 AM and I am sitting in the downstairs bar of Tony Starr’s Kitten Club. The upstairs band are murdering a Stevie Wonder song, the crowd is starting to leave and I’m starting to think about doing the same. Although getting out of the city of Melbourne at 2:43 on a Saturday night can be as dangerous as Alcatraz in the 30s, Iran in the 70s or Ikea around Christmas time. Melbourne in the heart of a Saturday night is one filled with danger and darkness, fear and ugliness; women with too much make-up and men with too much to testosterone.
Getting home anytime after midnight is always a gamble.
I sit at the bar, order another drink and weigh up my options. I could catch a taxi, and in theory, that sounds like a plan but I know from experience the trials and tribulations of implementing this logical train of thought. Empty cabs are scarce and if I were lucky enough to stumble across one, the bastard wouldn’t let me in until he knew my destination, and upon hearing my address, they speed off in search of a bigger fare. Nope, cabs are out.
Melbourne does not have a 24 hour public transport system. To supplement this embarrassment, they run the ‘Night Rider’ service, which is nowhere near as cool as it sounds. The ‘Night Rider’ is a series of busses that specializes in ferrying drunks out of the city and back to the suburbs. They’re flooded with blue light to stop poor junkies from finding a vein and shooting up, but as a result they make the drunks nauseous so there’s a faint air of vomit in the air. These booze busses may get you out of the city but any chance of them getting me anywhere near where I live is slim, so as tempting as that mode of transport sounds, I am still in for a walk.
And speaking of a walk, that seems to be the only option I have left. I generally have a violent reaction to anything even remotely exercise-esk but hell, when all other options are exhausted I may just have to endure. Like many Melbournians before me, I have made that drunken trek home in the middle of the night. It is a journey fraught with Hobbit like perils of in the middle of the night. It is a journey fraught with Hobbit like perils of danger and mayhem. Violent packs of drunken men prowl the concrete streets, many of whom have been kicked out of a club and continue their frustrated search for a good time on the streets but in the meantime will settle with starting a fight with anyone who they think has looked at them wrong.
Now, it’s almost 3 AM and these are my options. I ask the bartender what time the bar is licensed to and he tells me it’s 7 AM. I order another drink, peel open the pages of the book in my pocket and am happy to wait out the night until the sun is in the sky and the streets are laid bare from the night before. For no matter how dangerous the streets of Melbourne are on a Saturday night, there is always a warm bar to seek refuge in and with a book in one hand and a drink in the other, what more could you want?
First published in Murder is Everywhere