Tuesday, 24 June 1996 2:50am
Gee it felt good not to drink Sis. So righteous, so in control. I liked it so much, that I did it again on Friday night. Actually, everyone took it rather quietly, except Erin’s boyfriend, Billy. He got pissed. I think that getting pissed myself all the time has blinded me to the jibes that people make. Sometimes I wonder if they like me at all. Anyway, we ate at the Italian Waiter’s Club in Meyer’s Place. I offered to pay for Paige’s meal if she’d have the Braised Ox Tail. She agreed, being a penny-pincher. (She’s going to South America in four weeks and needs every cent she can save.) I had visions of this grey ox tail coming out on a great oval plate, its end hanging limply over the edge with a lank bush of coarse black hair gleaming under some sort of glazing, and Paige having to sssssuck the flesh, right off the bone. Unfortunately it was a sort of stew thing, with the tail broken up into individual vertebra, with nary a hint of grey skin or wiry hair. Plenty of gristle though.
It did make me think, where do they get ox tail and tongue from? I mean, it’s not like you see oxen in fields in Australia, is it? Is there this hidden society of tongue-less, tail-less oxen somewhere in Australia, still pulling great loads, with neither a tail to flick away the flies, nor a tongue with which to lick their wounds? Personally my favourite theory is that they (you know them, it’s always ‘them’) have genetically engineered cows to have the ox’s tails and tongues, ‘coz there’s nothing you can do with all the bit of ox in the middle is there?
Saturday night was Sophia’s birthday. I was told that there was a 7 o’clock booking at “The Huong” (pronounced ‘Hong’). So I’m there right on the dot because Leah dropped me off after coming over to my place to buy my cossack hat for her boyfriend In homage to the great Victor Frankenstein I’m going to make me a chocolate woman with Maltesers for eyes.Aidan (it didn’t fit me anyway). I look over the road and see ‘Huong Viet Cafe’ and cross the road. I open the door and cheesy Karaoke streams out at me from a mirror tile and lino interior. I recoil in horror, thinking ‘No, NO! It can’t be true, it can’t!’ and then I see that there’s only four tables. It’s not a restaurant, it can’t be! I look over the road and see ‘The Huong’. Re-crossing the road, I peer through the window at white washed walls and high ceilings, searching for familiar faces. I don’t see one. I look at my watch, 7:05pm. I dimly recall someone at work saying something about daylight savings on Friday. Not having a TV, I realise it’s quite possible that I could have missed the ending of daylight savings and consequently be an hour early. I tramp up and down Victoria Street looking for a public phone. I find one outside the Post Office. Two of them won’t accept coins (damn phone card machines) and I call on the third one. My watch is right.
I trudge back down Victoria Street to ‘The Huong’ and gingerly open the door and ask the guy rubbing his hands together in a white shirt and black waistcoat if there’s a booking for Sophia. I can’t remember her last name, dammit. He says, “Yes, there is, just over here Sir”. I look around the corner, and there’s an empty table with ‘Sophia’ on the reserved sign. I think to myself, What if it’s another Sophia? It’s not impossible. I’m not even 100% sure this is the right restaurant. Where are all the others? “The Baker’s Arms”, the hotel at which the festivities are scheduled to continue after the ‘Huong’ is closed down. I noticed this on my way back to the phone. All in all, the portents are not good.
So I’m standing there with my backpack clinking around with it’s three light beers, and I smile at the little man and thank him. I sit down at the corner of the table, half my arse hanging off the edge of the seat in case some people turn up and say ‘Oh hi. I’m Tony, and this is Nicollette. Who are you?’ and I say ‘Oh, I’m a friend of Sophia’s’. Then another girl arrives and says ‘And you are?’ and I say ‘I’m a friend of Sophia’s’ and she says ‘I’m Sophia, who the hell are you?’ These scenarios torture me as I wait for the first guest to arrive.
Eventually Ava walks through the door. I know her, and I relax a little. The booking was for 7:30. I chat awkwardly to Ava for a while, we don’t really know each other too well. In dribs and drabs the rest of them arrive. Sophia, the birthday girl, almost last to get there. She has a new silver lighter. Looks OK from a distance, but get up close and it’s this daggy hand-shaped thing, I like it.
The service was appalling. We were waiting nearly an hour for them to take our orders. Two meals were delivered an hour after the others and one of them was the wrong meal anyway. We left, no tip.
From ‘The Huong’ we went to the ‘Great Britain Hotel’, the provisional watering hole in light of the ‘Baker’s Arms’ having closed down unexpectedly. It’s abominably crowded with footy types who’ve been dressed in 501’s by their down-trodden girlfriends who meekly sip wines form the tacky couches while the boys stand in small circles and discuss football and how much they hate these poofy clothes but the missus makes me wear ’em.
We left there in a convoy of three or four cars and set off to chart waters unknown. Destination: The Little Red Bar. One guy, Matt, is pretty sure he knows how to get there. I nabbed him and said “You’re comin’ with me boy.’ It was in Little Lonsdale Street, and is actually called “Bebelons”. (Bebe being Spanish for Little, and Lons being short for Lonsdale.) The place itself was, though, both little and red. Two of our co-travellers were already there. The Bebelon gathering was in honour of someone or other’s birthday. I didn’t know them and stuck close to Matt, who did know them. Matt dropped a glass. Darren dropped a glass. Someone else dropped a glass. Little bssshh explosions going off every three or four minutes. People just couldn’t hold their liquor (tee hee).
Another car-load of people turned up and the place was jam-packed. I mean, you just couldn’t turn around. It was beastly. I had to take off my spiffy new brown corduroy coat with the brown fur (fake, of course) lapels. Luckily I also had on my new woollen vest. A tri-colour (brown, red, green) little number that I had bought only that afternoon. I also had on my new blue pants, a white shirt with silver cuff-links and a gangsterish looking onyx ring. I felt rather dapper. I even flirted a little. Actually, the flirting had a double purpose. One of the work herd was paying me more attention than I was comfortable with, and I thought flirting with other girls might put her off. She was linking arms with me, making lewd suggestions, telling me tales of past conquests, one of which I will relate, it has a charmingly rustic flavor.
The scene: The Little Red Bar, aka Bebelons. A small, densely crowded and poorly lit bar/cafe with a bar extending down the right hand side. The low ceiling and walls are painted fire-engine red. the crowd is sophisticated, wealthy, young. Lots of artists, real ones oddly enough. Painters mainly, being wooed by lawyers. All in all, a smoky cliche of a place, only lacking crap music and a few berets to complete the archetypal jazz club image.
J and Flirting Girl are standing in a close circle of four people.
J: So what did you get up to today Sophia?
Flirting Girl: Well, you’d be proud of me J, I cleaned my bedroom.
(J has acquired of late a reputation of fastidiousness that would make you gasp with disbelief.)
Flirting Girl continues…. Hmmm, and you’ll never guess what I found in my bed… a pair of undies!
J: not yours I take it?
Flirting Girl: Nahh.
(J inclines his head back and to one side to convey a paternal wistfulness and, perhaps, condescension.)
J: Ah, the detritus of Love….
(Flirter, slurring and swaying with the effects of a few too many drinks, half lunges forward with the momentum of the sentiment she is about to express…)
Flirting Girl: Love? Luuv? More like a ROOT!
(Flirting Girl guffaws and slugs down the remainder of her gin and lemon, J looks at his shuffling feet.)
Gonna send this one off before it gets any bigger.