Saturday, August 7, 2010

Downtown Perth, The Horrors of Northbridge, King's Park (Again) and Some Bizarre Art

Decided to spend the day in the city of Perth proper, maybe have a look at the Art Museum. Perth, like most non-American cities, has an efficient, clean, and speedy train system that the locals bitch endlessly about. Perthians, for God's sake, can it. Try living in New Orleans, okay? We have a bus system that takes you nowhere you need to go and is populated primarily by people who reek of SoCo and emotional despair. The street-car is even worse. (I myself have been One of Those People nodding off and drooling on the shoulder of innocent bystanders I don't even know. Not to claim that I am morally superior. I miss you so, New Orleans). The point is, Perth's public transportation is superb and they should really appreciate it and be grateful that their odds of getting shanked or barfed on when using it are slim to none.

So we took it into town and headed to the Art Museum, which is both extensive, attractive, and free. Well, you're supposed to make a donation. If you feel like it. Such optimism.

The special display featured Australian artist Patricia Piccinni, who has made the internet rounds quite extensively with her profoundly disturbing human-like animal works in just about every possible media. Her resin based figures are incredibly realistic and seem plausible enough in reality: sort of the thing one very well might imagine in a fever dream on the New Orleans RTA system. Yeeps. She's fascinated by the relationship between human and animal and mother and child, and takes great delight in conflating the two: think lots of fleshy things with meticulously attached fur, a curious attraction to the marsupial and the milk-scented and sort of icky. But sweet, in a horror-show kind of way. It's fascinating stuff. I wouldn't want it in my home.

Well, except for The Stags. This is fantastic. She made these out of resin then painted them. I believe she somehow convinced an Italian car-leather company to specially produce stuff for her art.

Piccini has an affinity for savage and plausible creatures that would dearly love to devour your face. Exhibit One.

Exhibit two. This statue is life-size and is placed in the middle of the room, so you have the experience of walking into a room full of 1800's vases and pretty landscape paintings of rocks and find this thing right up in there. The sign indicated that the creature has decided to latch onto its caretakers face in an expression of misguided and desperate - indeed, uh, suffocating - affection. Me? Nightmare. I hate baby things - human, animal, whatever - and they unnerve me to no end, especially when they leap and hug your face so you can't breathe.Piccinni has an amazing ability to completely and utterly squick me out. She needs to make horror movies.


OH GOD DON'T LOOK INTO ITS....eyes...eye? Dendrites? Gums? oh my god it's going to latch onto my toes that dangle over the edge of the bed unsocked and it is going to hang there all night long and i am going to awaken and know exactly what it is that is hanging onto my toes and then i will evaporate into pure fear

I have no idea what to make of this at all. Ask me later.

After that, I needed restorative calories. I always need restorative calories. As my aunt observed, "We are all held hostage to your stomach." I have no witty retort. If it is any consolation no one is held more hostage to my stomach then myself.

For lunch, we "toddled over" (christ I can't get used to that I just can't) to Tasik Indonesian in Northbridge. My aunt used to work over in this section of town, and had eyed this place with some curiosity for a while. However, she couldn't cajole her Australian coworkers into eating there (for shame!) and enlisted me. The restaurant is set in a converted and colorfully painted house, and is very pleasant place to eat.

My aunt had the rendang daging lunch special. Rendang is a fantastic braised beef curry with coconut and plenty of chili, and this was a good one - good smoky chili flavor, fall apart meat and plenty of it. For Perth, Land of Crazy Expensive Food, the special was a good deal. Something around 10 AUD.

I had the chicken Soto Ayam and the Capcay Goreng, Indonesian style sauteed vegetables. Soto Ayam is traditional Indonesian chicken soup and is delicious stuff. Sort of like traditional American chicken noodle soup but with actual flavor. I've made it before - you boil a chicken then pick off the meat and use the stock for a broth, along with other spices. Then you toss in some noodles and some veg and some chili and devour. Totally delicious stuff.

Capcay Goreng - sauteed vegetables with ginger and garlic. Not a culinary revelation by any means but awfully pleasing when you just want some damned greenery.

Speaking of Northbridge. Northbridge is reputed to be the sin and horror capital of Perth. There are bikie (bicycle/motorcycle) gangs, prostitutes and topless dancers, random errant kidlings and worst of all backpackers wandering around, just waiting for an innocent suburban soul to glass. Glassing, in case you were not familar, is the Australian battle tactic of whacking someone about the face with a broken bottle until they shut up, go away, or (occasionally) die of blood loss. Not superlatively pleasant, but also not particularly likely to happen to you unless you're in the habit of insulting the virile manhood of big ugly guys named Brucie at 3:00 in the morning. The Northbridge I saw was no more seedy then the rest of clean and pleasant Perth, other then a noticeable increase in the number of signs with foreign languages on them. There were also people with tattoos and piercings hanging outside backpackers hostels (the kind of people I will be associating with, rightly or wrongly, for the next god-knows-how-long.) Basically, I failed to be shocked and reviled by the urban grit. I imagine Perth does have its "feral" (as a Aussie friend put it) areas but I do not think that Northbridge is likely to be the site of your violent and unprovoked murder.

The Perth newspaper had a shock tactics type column on WEAPONS SEIZED BY THE LOCAL POLICE. These included such nightmarish horrors as: brass knuckles, smallish cooking knives, and a big stick with some nails stuck in it. OH GOD HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN AN ORGY OF VIOLENCE AND HORROR AWAITS US. I remember playing with all these things on a fairly regular basis as a ten year old in the woods. I am not, insofar as I am aware, a violent felon.


Lyn decided to head home, so I went back to King's Park. This involved a fairly plesant jaunt up Hay Street, until I reached the entrance. I headed up Fraser Avenue, which is planted with lemon-scented gums. The trees were "officially" planted in 1929 as evidenced by the plaques set up by local stand-outs in front of each, but turns out the original trees were red-flowering gums. These trees promptly up and died, and were replaced in 1938 by lemon-scented gums, which have grown large and majestic in the ensuing years.

A banyan tree of considerable size. I like banyan trees. Nothing else to say at this time. Check back soon.

More paper daisies. Look, they're pretty. And papery. Quite strikingly so.

I walked past the bridge, which I seem chronically unable to tire of, then headed down the path into the extensive preserved bush area. There was no one around and I had it to myself: it was nice to look at the native plants. Plenty of evidence of the fire that raged through here a couple years ago. Australia, like California, is subject to an inordinate number of bush fires.

Some lovely hanging purple flowers on the trail.

The view of downtown Perth from the park is not unlovely.

Aaaannndddd pan right.

My aunt lives in this blue tower, near the Canning bridge. That's the Swan River out front. As you can guess, it is not an unappealing place in which to reside.

I took a nap in the park and headed back via the still-pleasant train. Everyone in downtown Perth wears black. My blue coat drew stares (and compliments). Do not know why this is. Sociological experts? Anyone?

For dinner, I made gingersnap porkchops with beet greens and sauteed sauerkraut. This was an attempt to make maximum use of our new found and delicious bacon, and was not unsuccessful. Everyone done loves a porkchop.

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