Pushie Tales of Melbourne Winter


Getting it on with a mini-bike at Everfresh Studio, Melbourne

Mass > Move > Mass >

Friday morning and day went by fast. I spent most of the morning shopping at the Queen Vic Market and doing the web zombie thing. A set of my camera batteries died after my first few photographs so I had to suck up the AUD and buy a charger at the market. I also bought my breakfast of champions: cereal and fresh fruit. Australia has to grow all their produce due to nasty bugs and food import regulations. They even grow their own bananas here. Had my daily latte and bought a curry pie for lunch, then came back to Blender and posted the photos.

Doyle hooked me up with one of his bikes for riding up to Collingwood to drop of Peat’s adapter at Per Square Metre (PSM). He gave me a hard time after I rolled my eyes at the ride: a store-bought copper named Scramjet. With the Scramjet, I got one gear, no standing up to pedal, and a shitty helmet to use (Victoria Police are hardasses on bikers for all the minor things. Seems like the bikers here in Melbourne are a scared lot.). Doyle and Regan laughed at me as I cruised away for the day. “You’re going to have a lot of friends on that bike, punk,” Doyle yelled at me.

I took the long way to PSM, stopping at alleys where I found stencil art on the walls. Damon’s Council department has made an amazing bike/transportation map, which Damon says tourists prefer to use as well. I had my TravelSmart Map to guide me past Carlton Gardens, and lead me to Johnston Street towards the gallery. I found great stencil sites along the way, and even saw tourists shooting the walls. PSM has a great show up at the moment. Works by local legendary writer New2, including historical artifacts of sketches he made back in the 1980s for train pieces.

Peat had wandered out for an errand, so I hung out with the PSM crew while I waited for his return. They’re super nice, all working on projects (two were drafting graff pieces in their black books), and excited about Peat’s Mask exhibit. Some of the Collab artists dropped off their masks, one of which had an amazing painting of a whale biting a squid that was taking a ship down. I mostly chatted with Em, who asked questions about stencils. PSM has no experience working with stencils, but respect and understand their importance.

Peat didn’t come back in time, so I hopped on my Scramjet and rode back to Carlton Gardens for the secret Critical Mass meet up. I mentioned in the last post that the Vic PD were getting nasty on the ride. They made a guy named Nick put his dog Ned in a trailer. They yelled at riders for stupid stuff like lights that only work when the bike moves. So, over dinner Thursday night, Damon and Geoff sketched out a flyer to give out at the official CM start point. “MASS > MOVE > MASS>… Mass has moved to IMAX @ Melbourne Museum for today…. The speed of mass + 15% km/h….. If you’re not corking, please keep moving.”

People were already meeting up at IMAX when I arrived. No rain in sight, and a few PA systems rolled up during the wait. One man gave out lollies (lollypops) and chocolates. I handed out some bike badges (buttons) and stickers, and fell into early talks with a woman from New Zealand and a few other regulars. Damon and Geoff didn’t show up when Nick, whom I met later, spoke to the small crowd about why, what, and where. Maybe 50 people had assembled for the ride, all with helmets, lights, and proper bikes. I assume that the price of welding is dear here, so no outlaw bike culture seemed to exist in Melbourne.

After Nick laid out the fact that we were riding North of the city (downtown) to avoid Vic PD, a few other people stood up on the low wall and had a classic soapbox moment. The first person was upset with the inside job on moving the mass. Several in the crowd yelled “here, here” in agreement. A second person called for a vote to go back to the library to start the Mass at its regular location. A small group of people voted in agreement, and lost, so the Mass left IMAX for distant points north.

Doyle predicted correctly that the Scramjet would break the ice. People loved it, maybe because it was about as outlaw as any bike in the ride. I managed to ride the whole route without much trouble, standing up at red lights to take breaks from the awkward angle of the seat. Oh, red lights: yes, we stopped at most of the lights. We did have corkers for some intersections, but stopped a good bit and took things easy for the most part. The ride meandered through Collingwood up to Fitzroy. We stuck to streets with bike lanes, but did go down some dark smaller lanes. I saw graff and stencils along the ride but didn’t stop to shoot photos.

After an hour of meandering, we stopped at the Mountain Goat Brew Pub for pizza and pots/pints (a pot is a small glass of beer). Aussies like pizza. And beer. Apparently, IPA is all the rage here, so the brew pub had their own IPA. I tried the stout and wheat beer.

The Mountain Goat uses sustainable practices as much as it can: rain catchment to flush the toilets, organic beer, solar hot water, and bonuses to staff who “push bike” to work. Bikes are pushies here in Melbourne, and I found out later that you can “dink with a pushie” too. Dinking is doubling up on a regular bike.

I continued to have great conversations with all the Massers, and finally saw Damon and Geoff when they arrived. The Massers got restless at the Mountain Goat, so most of us hopped back on our bikes and headed to the Tram Stop pub for food and more beer. On this ride, up to the North Fitzroy ‘hood, I got to see Ned, Nick’s dog, run along with the ride. After getting threatened with the pound last month, Ned has become the Critical Mass mascot. Well, more so than he already is. Several Massers made a Ned spoke card and handed them out at the Mountain Goat. Now, on my low rider, I saw the dog do his thing, flagrantly flaunting the law! Well, no Vic PD ever showed up for this ride, so no worries there.

Along the way to the Tram Stop, a woman in a car got aggressive. She got corked, surrounded, and then taunted when a longshoreman in the ride put his bike in front of her car. She backed up, peeled out, and steamed to where she was headed while we finished up at the next pub. Turns out that the longshoreman grew up at this pub, so we got free rounds. Pots of beer kept showing up in front of me. Free chips (fries) and mayo to add on to the free pizza I ate back at the last pub. Conversation continued. Great connections. Kyle, from Chicago but working here in Melbourne, wanted to take me to the Bike Shed at CERES tomorrow.  As the jet lag, and beer, took its toll on me, I got his info, said bye to one and all, and hopped the chopper to head back to the Blender.

Nowtopia in Melbourne

Saturday morning: cereal time! Good to be back in cereal game. Kiwis, apples, bananas, nuts and gogis from SF. Yum. Online, I find CERES, which is located along the Merri Creek up in the Brunswick ‘hood. Their crafts and produce market went to 2 PM, so I called Kyle and told him to meet me there. Took the 96 tram north, and instantly found stencils on the walk to CERES. Before finding the market, I saw their solar panel array. In the market, they served up coffee while a quartet played folksie music. The crafts and used goods didn’t have much of an impact on my eclectic tastes. I had hoped to find something unique to buy for gifts, but was disappointed once again. Chickens reigned free all around, scratching and pecking under the registers that checked out the super long produce queue. I found Kyle, had a coffee, and bought some pasta-making goods from the store there.
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(click thumbs for bigger pic)

  1. Riding the Scramjet home after Critical Mass, this Clearway bike path (only a bike path for certain hours of the day) perplexed my chopper-riding brain.
  2.  Solar panels power up CERES, off of Merri Creek
  3. The Bicycle Recycle Shed at CERES. People on site help you fix your own bike.
  4. A shot over the compound at CERES. So much going on at this place.
  5. A random water catchment system in the Thornbury hood. Victoria has been in drought for a while so this is a common site here.

We then walked past fields of veggies, herbs, and chickens, over to the Bike Shed. Kyle had to tweak something on his fixie, so I chatted with the workers there. Told them about Nowtopia, and how Bike Sheds are all over the world. While there, a 9 year old boy fixed his bike. A father and his small daughter tried to fix her bike. One Aussie got up on the only tall bike I’ve seen so far, and timidly got off of it for fear of falling. The tall bike was 10 years old and not in the best of shape.

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Rain threatened to fall, so Kyle and I walked over to the Human Powered bike shop, in the Thornbury ‘hood. This was permaculture at it’s finest: Human Powered is basically a bike shop in a back yard shed, in between a chicken coop and four hives of honey bees. Next to this compound stood a brand new Greek Orthodox Church, connected via bike paths along the Merri Creek. Kyle picked up a rim from here, and we moved on through Merri Park towards his house in Thornbury. We found a velodrome in the park, so Kyle took a few laps on his fixie. I didn’t have the Scramjet, nor could I ride Kyles bike. He’s taller than me so his bike is too big.

On the last lap, crossing the checkered finish line at a fairly steep angle, Kyle wiped out and fell head first onto the track. I watched his helmet take a hard, direct hit on the paved surface. CLACK! Kyle thought he’d busted his head open, but I saw no injuries there. Later, after the shock wore off a bit, we saw that Kyle’s helmet was broken in two places. He skinned his hand and knees too, but was OK. He has now become the latest poster boy for wearing a helmet. Pass that along….

The walk to his place was long, but entertaining. I continued to find stencils, and really began to admire the Edwardian and Victorian single home architecture. I saw one house that had a huge rain catchment tank in its front yard, with four orange trees growing beside it. Many houses seemed to mix Italian villa styles with the Edwardian style, and many houses had the gingerbread stylings with many-colored paint jobs. Back at Kyle’s house, we had a quick snack and then biked (I borrowed his roomie’s 10-speed) further north to the Preston ‘hood for a proper meal.

Though the TravelSmart map has a huge chunk of Melbourne included, it doesn’t have Thronbury or Preston. Preston felt like the Mission District used to feel when the condos weren’t overrunning everything. Many ethnicities mixed on the retail street where we ate. One block had Lebanese, Greek, and Balkan food while the next block had Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese food. All races mixed on the streets and so I found myself at home in this distant part of Melbourne. We had great Vietnamese soup and then, after buying some super cheap tacky souvenirs, ate dessert in a Greek bakery. We were the only non-Greeks in there.

We biked back to his house and hung with all his roomies for a while. One roomie was heading to a pub in Collingwood for a night of live music. I wanted to go to that ‘hood to meet up with Peat, who I couldn’t find at the moment via other people’s mobiles, so hopped a tram with her to get to the right direction. I had lost my TravelSmart map so, she pointed me to Easy St., where the Everfresh studios are located. The last e-mail he sent said that he was there working on the Collab-o-Masks, so I headed there to try to finally hook up. After a bit of sleuthing, I rang the bell at Everfresh and was let in by Meggs, one of the crew members there.

Peat was out having dinner with the Per Square Metre crew, and all of Everfresh was in Perth for a big show there. So Meggs and I hung out, ate cold pizza, and ended up having great conversations about everything from zoo bombing to Banksy. The EF studio was large and full of bikes, stencils, and other types of street art. Went to a bottle shop drive-through to buy beer with Meggs and the rain really started to pour then. Peat finally showed up, so we drank beer, talked, and then hung out over the masks and dug them.


After the beer ran out, we went to the Tote of all places, checking out a faded Keith Haring mural on a wall outside the pub. We all bought a round of pots each, and Peat really started getting drunk and funny. He’s such a character! He was pretending to be a total USA dick, which was good for a laugh. At one point, a punk woman pushed me out of my stool. I gave her mean looks, but just waited until she got up and took it back. Finally, around 2 am, I left the pair and walked home in the pouring rain without my umbrella. Found stencils along the way so had a good time getting soaked for the cause.

Pizza Again, with Stencils and Pushies of course

Wow, I’m falling into a routine. Got up way late today, around noon. Things are still cold and wet in Melbourne. I headed up to the Market for my coffee, and bought some final goods for the trip to Grampians National Park tomorrow. Regan then took me on a walk and showed me some other lanes that are covered in stencil art. Canada Lane is world famous, often in print, and has now been painted over three times. He was going to show me a Banksy piece, but it had recently been buffed. My wet walk home last night took me through some of the places he wanted to show me.

I left Regan at the IMAX parking lot and hooked up once again with Damon. Though wet and cold, the Melbourne Bike Polo Club had about 10 players in attendance, whacking an orange ball with pvc pipe-tipped ski poles. I watched for about five matches and then jumped in a game to try things out. I didn’t know the rules or how to play really, but a rookie was on the other team as well. So we balanced our inexperience with enthusiasm, and had a good time. I had one shot at a goal and one steal, all on someone else’s bike, so am happy with my performance.

The rain started up at dusk, so bike polo ended. Damon handed over his nice hybrid bike for me to use the rest of my trip. So much better than the Scramjet! Disk breaks, light as a feather, lock included: I am sooo grateful to Damon for his hospitality. Four of us biked over to one of the player’s loft to have tea. They geeked on road bikes and polo mallet conversions while we were there. Damon had a movie date (the Melbourne International Film Festival is on at the moment) so I biked to Hosier Lane with two of the bikers to Nick’s flat for a pizza party. Pizza in Melbourne, three out of four days!

Was great to meet up with many people over good food. Most were Massers, Ned the dog included, so I had already met them on Friday. I tried a pizza with banana, artichoke, and olives. Not too bad actually. Had great conversations with folks about things from hip hop nation to forest fire management. Was hoping that Amac from City Lights would attend (called him earlier to invite him) but he didn’t make it. Hope to meet him Wednesday, which will be gallery and book store day for me.

So I left there a short while ago and biked through the city to the Blender. Now it’s time to post this, with photos, and also keep up with all the stencil photos on Stencil Archive. Next stop, Grampians NP……