Monday, April 6, 2009

Tribal

Since the bride and Ampersand Duck between them have already provided lovely accounts, in one case lavishly illustrated, of Laura and Dorian's wedding on Saturday, I don't have much to add except to agree about the total gorgeousness of the entire affair. Highlights included a ceremony that combined a substantial amount of traditional wedding text with some carefully-chosen and beautifully-read Australian love poems by, if I remember rightly, Kevin Hart, Bruce Dawe and Lesbia Harford, plus C.P. Cavafy's classic 'Ithaka', in which a finely judged mixture of feeling, philosophy and Homer goes into the proposition that what matters most is not the arrival but the journey.

Poems were read and vows were taken to the accompaniment of a faint but symphonic soundtrack: the gentle crooning of the chooks, the distant popping of the pre-toast corks, and the occasional sniffling noises of the various female guests. The bride was radiant, the ceremony was a wonderful family affair, the garden looked gorgeous, the weather obliged, and the only real disappointment was the bridesmaids, who apparently spent most of the day underneath the house next door getting their collars, bows and faces covered in cobwebs and dust.

Once I'd decided to go to the wedding and had sent Laura my RSVP, I began to make arrangements to catch up with the various Melbourne friends I've stayed in regular touch with since I moved to Adelaide eleven years ago, and by the time I finally arrived at my Lygon Street hotel, I'd lined up three reunions around the wedding.

After a blindingly stressful day of cat-wrangling and ominous airport delays and announcements and closures and rumours of lightning-struck planes, Friday night once I'd finally arrived was homemade gourmet pizza with P and S and the kids, two of whom are now at high school and none of whom was born yet when, already old friends, their parents and I and two other friends spent a week in a villa in Tuscany in 1993. Now we sat round talking, eating and drinking in much the same spirit, except with P and S now happily surrounded by kids, cats and dogs. (Only one dog, actually, but he is so big he could make eight or nine Maltese terriers.)

Saturday night was dinner out with L, who heroically came to fetch me and then took me out for seriously good Italian food and some in-depth catching-up in matters of love and work. Sunday was lunch with J in an old Carlton haunt, after which we strolled up to Melbourne University's Ian Potter Gallery to see a wonderful exhibition of Louis Kahan's portraits of Australian, and particularly Melbourne, literati ('Let's go and look at the intelligentsia,' said J).

Many of these portraits were drawn to illustrate particular articles, poems and stories in Meanjin over several decades; both of us knew (or had known) a number of the people in the portraits and had read the work of most of the others, and I was reminded again that galleries and museums are a lot like computers in that what you get out of them depends heavily on what you put in; both of us had brought a lot of history with us to the gallery, possibly too much. (What with J a former editor, the exhibition's portraits of the two editors before her, the presence of the current editor at the wedding and a screening at the exhibition of a 1961 episode of Panorama exclusively dedicated to the magazine, it was a fairly Meanjin-themed visit altogether.)

We know ourselves by the tribes to which we belong, and I hadn't properly thought through the fact that on this weekend I would be rejoining several of mine. Still, I knew that the wedding would be a monster blogmeet and that I would catch up with bloggers of all kinds: some I'd known for years pre-blogging but mainly in professional capacities (Elsewhere, Sophie); others I'd met recently as a direct or indirect result of blogging (the Baron, and of course the bride herself); and yet others whom I'd never met at all, including two in particular whom I felt I knew very well but had never actually laid eyes on, namely the lovely Zoe and the equally lovely Ampersand Duck. If I'd been able to summon just a little more energy or will, I would have kicked on to the Standard Hotel after dinner on Friday night in order to experience the blogtribe even more extensively, and with hindsight I wish I had, but alas one is not as young as one was.

Stephanie of Humanities Researcher is the only person who is a member of all my non-Adelaide tribes (blogging, Aust lit, old-friends network), and Stephanie has thoughtlessly naffed off to Philadelphia. But there was still one point of overlap: the other S is one of the still-in-touch old Melbourne mates and, though not a blogger, is now a work colleague of Laura's and was at the wedding with her husband and their kids. They have had an extremely hairy time of it lately and the prospect of seeing them all safe and well was one of the factors that tipped the scales when I was thinking about making the trip. And for this weekend they were the hinge, for me, between one reality and another.

Mooching down Lygon Street late the next morning took me even further back, back to the first time I'd ever been on it, one day in the winter of 1980 -- my first year of living away from Adelaide, and Melbourne still a total mystery to me; Sydney was my 'other city' in early life -- when I'd travelled up from Geelong with a man to whom I was in thrall in every possible way, something that had never happened before and has never, I'm glad to say, happened since. So Melbourne-centric was he, so tightly wound and swaddled in the cocoon of his own reality at the expense of anyone else's, that he'd said to me 'I'll meet you in Tamani's' and I had desperately wandered up and down Lygon Street at least a dozen times before I thought to ask someone, and discovered that Tamani's had changed its name to Ti Amo (!) some time beforehand and he just assumed I'd know. (Nor was he apologetic afterwards. Yes yes, I know.)

And over that, layers and layers of other memories, all variously plotted along that spectrum whose bad end is the one where you want to curl up into a foetal ball in the gutter and die of shame. Ah dear me, almost thirty years of Lygon Street, as bittersweet to me as the best of its own imported gourmet wares, and a great deal older than most of them. It was a relief to spot J's familiar back in Readings, and to wander off with her to find some lunch and get each other back up to date on life's important developments since last we met. Why it should be a surprise to us here in our fifties that fate keeps on happening, and not just to us but to such of our parents as still survive, I really have no idea.

5 comments:

Ampersand Duck said...

Marvellous recounting, and I feel exhausted thinking about how much you packed into your weekend whilst I was mercilessly slaughtering and then trying to revive braincells.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Heh -- I'm really sorry I missed that gathering!

Stephanie Trigg said...

Envy! Chagrin! Nostalgia! Missing you badly from far away. And I know you're aware of my own particular time-bomb, buried in that post. It's ok, now, though.

You know, I saw that exhibition before I left. You don't find those drawings a bit ... busy?

Bwca Brownie said...

Marrickvillia has posted also on the wedding.

TAMANIs was a big socio-cultural deal in 1965 when I was taken there by a hip-er person.
The TiAmo guys (about 1982) needed to close for some reason (the doors had never been locked that anyone knew of) and they found (or did not find) that there were no keys.

You are so right about tribal ritual bringing people together.

A wake will sometimes segue into a party for this reason.

Those bridesmaids!

Meredith Jones said...

"...in-depth catching-up in matters of love and work..." is one of my most favourite pastimes. Thanks for sharing.