It was a chilly day back in my home town of Melbourne. A fresh wind blew and sun filtered down from a cloudy sky. A storm had passed earlier bringing with it the scent of fresh rain and green grass. It’s been over a dozen years since I lived in this wonderful city. Every time I return I feel it tugging a little stronger at my soul. I am a rambling man, but will always call Melbourne my home.
Returning home always amazes me how much this cosmopolitan city has changed. I wander through alleyways crammed with hip cafes and eateries. The scents of Italian, Greek, and Asian foods permeate the air. Business men and women bustle by, eating their food on the go, unable to savor the taste or the atmosphere. When I was young, these same alleyways were empty, the home of drunks and those down on their luck. My friends and I would frequently use them to pee after a long night at the pub. Oh how some things have changed.
I select a cafe at random and order a latte. The latte arrives served the way it should be, in a small glass with just the right amount of foam, is delicious. Its smooth beans roasted to perfection and not burned with the hot water. I sip slowly, cares washing away. The coffee is so good the taste lingers after I swallow and I notice my posture relaxes in the black wicker chair. Im exactly where I should be. I’m at peace, at least until I finish my drink.
I wonder, would I ever truly return to live in Melbourne? It’s a fascinating city with a strong European feel. This lane way could easily be in the middle of London, Barcelona, Paris, or Rome. Yet, somehow, just like the beans that added such a beautiful body to my coffee, Melbourne is unique. It’s all in the blend. I loose myself in thought, drifting, swirling my coffee. In contrast to those other cities, Melbourne is so young, barely an adolescent. As such it is still figuring out who it is. Perhaps that’s what makes this city so vibrant.
I watch patrons come and go. Eventually I do too. I walk up Flinders Lane, following the flow of traffic. The air is warmed from its chilly beginnings. The sun is still hidden behind the clouds. The air is fresh with a hint of the sea from the Bay at my back. Perhaps the locals don’t recognize it, but I do. Even back in San Francisco I can smell the scent of salt water in the fog. It makes me reminisce of growing up just a few miles from here. No matter how far I roam I am still an Australian kid brought up by the sea, spending my summers on the beach.
I turn down Hossier Lane, a small alley famous for its colorful graffiti and edgy vibe. It’s small than I remember. Most things are when I return to Australia. The only thing that remains vast is the outback. That is as timeless as this land is old. I watch tourists snap photos as shady people hang in the corners waiting to reclaim the lane for their own. It’s funny how things change. When I grew up here, this lane was dark, dangerous, and smelled of urine. Now it is another tourist trap, but one that fascinates me.
As a teenager my life revolved around the graffiti subculture. I guess I never truly belonged in mainstream culture. Then it was graffiti, and now as a wanderer. I’ve always set my own path, my own journey. It’s been many years since that journey took me back to where I grew up. I’m glad I returned now. Melbourne is stunningly beautiful and will always be a special place for me. Perhaps I would move back here? I consider it as deeply as I savored the latte. Could I? Would I?As if on cue, my backpack strap digs into my shoulder reminding me where I truly feel at home --- on the road.