Thursday, July 16, 2009

Melbourne Forecast: Cool, with a Slight Chance of Melancholy

One thing I regret about the trip is not spending more time in Melbourne, although I don’t know what I would have cut short to make that happen. I just wish somehow I’d had a little more time to get to know this city.

Sydney is the heart of Australia’s movie industry, and many films are set in that city. Melbourne, on the other hand, is the epicenter of antipodean music, and so songs tend to take place there. Because of this, Melbourne was kind of like a pen-pal to me before I arrived. I felt like I knew it, but I wouldn’t have been able to pick it out of a line-up.

One aspect of Melbourne that keeps coming up in song after song is the weather. Crowded House’s Four Seasons in One Day is thought to have been written about Melbourne. In his song Leaps and Bounds, Paul Kelly mentions that it’s eleven degrees in Melbourne that particular May day. He means Celsius, but that’s still not exactly balmy. (51F.) And when the Waifs (in their song Take it All In) sing that, “We step outside, into the Melbourne Weather,” somehow you know they won’t be needing sunscreen.

Fittingly, Melbourne was the one place in Australia where I did get caught in the rain. But I didn’t mind, because that was just Melbourne doing exactly what I expected it to do. (By the time I finished with the music store I was on my way to, the rain had quit.) Mostly the weather was fine, just pleasantly cool and moody.

“Cool and moody,” come to think of it, might be a good description for the city in general. It has an appealing mix of staid European architecture and occasional flights of off-the-wall modern, as in this picture of Federation Square, a popular place for people-watching at the edge of the Central Business District.

I like a little mood in a city. I’ll take atmospheric over sunny and bland any day.

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