Melbourne story-telling

My name is Mandy Kennedy – you need to know that for this story.

We met online which clearly is the way these things happen nowadays.
He was living in Perth but about to move to Melbourne for work.
His company had let go 25% of its workforce several weeks prior and they’d all gone out drinking for the evening.
He’d drunk applied for half a dozen jobs later that night and, fortuitously, was successful regarding the one in Melbourne.
He’d never been to my city before. He’d spent the last dozen years between Kalgoorlie and Perth, being from England originally.
He flew over (remember those days) and spent several days looking at apartments until he found one he liked.
2 bedrooms 11th floor apartment in St Kilda with views out to the Dandenongs. Nice!

Online, he kept looking at my profile, so one night and half a bottle of sav blanc later, I threw him a bone and sent him a message.
‘So Mr Kennedy71, I guess I should introduce myself; I’m Ms Kennedy 72.’
Now I can see this message with a more objective eye.
My profile name was Klimt – as in Gustav Klimt – the Austrian symbolist painter, one of the most prominent members of the Vienna Secession movement, noted for his frank eroticism of the female body. You know his work even if his name doesn’t ring a bell.

Dating profiles are like the blurb on the back of a book, they should pique your interest and hint at what is to come.
I’ll never use lovestolaugh73 (too cliched) yrdestiny (seriously?) and never anything featuring my name or location. I don’t need any more stalkers.

I figured he was using his name and year of birth cause he was fresh meat – I mean, new to online dating.
Anyway we connected and messaged briefly before taking it IRL – well, talking on the phone.
A week later he’d moved to Melbourne and that following weekend we met up. I volunteered to taking him on a walking tour of my city; my Melbourne, if you will. ‘Wear your good walking shoes,’ I said.

So there we are, at Queen Vic market munching on a bratwurst with sauerkraut in a crusty roll.
It’s one of those typical busy Sunday mornings and the market is pumping with shoppers and tourists alike. He buys the sausages while I find us a perch by the wall to eat them.
We’re chatting easily, both dropping crumbs down our front, when I think how easy it is talking to him.

He then gets a bit more serious – ‘I need to tell you something. I’m not Mr Kennedy 71.’
‘What?’ I say, genuinely not understanding.
‘I mean, my surname is not Kennedy.’ He goes on. ‘My name is Steve Druce not Steve Kennedy.’
‘Why would you use Kennedy in your profile name then?’ I ask.
‘Well, Mr Kennedy is a WWF wrestler and he’s the complete antithesis of me so it’s funny, see?’
‘How would I know Mr Kennedy is the name of a wrestler?’
‘But it’s funny, cause well,’ he shrugs, ‘I’m clearly no wrestler.’ At that he pops the last of the spicy bratwurst in his mouth and smiles.
‘Well, you’re in my phone as Steve Kennedy,’ I say.

After wandering around the market, we walk down Lonsdale Street and I point out the Hellenic ornamental border on the footpath, we walk through China town, up to the Parliament building and stop for a coffee at the European. Conversation is easy between us. We discuss books and art but mostly food and travel.
We walk down towards the river and around Fed Sq. I explain its controversial redevelopment and how no one calls it Federation Square but always Fed Square.
We watch buskers entertain the crowd and try to figure out how much money they make in a day.
We wander down to the river’s edge and I point out the prime real estate occupied by the private boat clubs on the south bank.
Further along we cross the pedestrian bridge and divert down to Ponyfish Island for a unique perspective of the Yarra River and the city. For true Melbourne initiation, we share a long neck of Melbourne Bitter.
We cross back into the city and duck into Young and Jacksons and I show him Chloe – the nude portrait which caused such a stir in the days before you access nudes almost instantaneously on your phone.
I explain how the public transport system works and that it’s pronounced Myki not mickey. I think I allay his fears about hit by a tram.
I’m enjoying our afternoon so much I try to delay its conclusion by taking a succession of laneways and arcades to weave our way though the CBD.
(As an aside – a few years later, I end up employed as a tour guide taking visitors on walking tours of our city.)

We’re almost back to where we started so I offer to give him a lift home. He agrees, confessing to being tired from all our walking. Too quickly, we’re in St Kilda and the car is idling while we continue to chat. We sit this way for another half hour.
Finally we say goodbye and he suggests that he call me that evening to arrange a second date later in the week.

‘That’d be great Mr Kennedy,’ I say.
‘It’s Mr Druce, remember?’ He says.
‘No, I think it’s easier if you stay Mr Kennedy, that way you don’t have to change it when we get married.’

I drive away.

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