Notes from a long day

Grace Coddington & Steven Meisel for Vogue US, The September Issue

Chris used to refer to a certain, well, accomplishment as “a good woman’s arse”, and I always liked the imprint that left on my mind. I think of my mum’s arse as a good woman’s, and there is something deeply, pleasantly true about the way the concept brings together the realms of aesthetic and moral, the pleasant and the right.

There are days worth referring to as good Melbourne days. To the extent that urbanism is not just a design activity, but a program of creating a good city, which again brings together the pleasant and the right, the whole purpose of the discipline would be to provide for such good days, wouldn’t it? So, when one returns home at 10pm beaming because the day shone at its absolute best, certainly it points to the possibility of goodness, of some moral sort, in the world.

A good city, in other words, like a good man, is worth holding onto.

A day that starts with one of those simple, cheap, yet wonderful meals the city is awash in (coconut yoghurt with black rice and mango, in my case), continues with a day of girly talk (along the lines of Sex and the City, and so terribly missed for so long), and then rolls over into trying clothes up and down Smith St, is one such good day. Caballero, which struggled emptish the last time I was there, in 2007, is still the most beautiful bar in Melbourne, but has now found its customers (or perhaps Collingwood has just hit the gentrisaturation point). Caballero was the first establishment in the suburbs of the Collingwood kind to attempt a cafe/bar solution, looking both breezy enough for the day and slick enough for the night, and I do hope that area gets more of them, in the name of livability.

We had prosecco, of all things cliche, and bread and olive oil and tiny tiny warm olives, and talked about women and loyalty, perfectionism and attention to detail, the virtues of volunteering for tasks and the virtues of saying no, and the moment it suddenly hits you that your relationship is over. It was a bla bla bla day, for sure; that particularly pleasant type of conversation that sounds dangerously like clucking from the outside, but is the sound of a whole lot of information being transmitted in multiple directions at once. The thrill and the high of multitasking (there was a point today, again, with Daisy and Anna trying clothes on at the same time, coming out in intervals just long enough not to bump into each other, everyone chatting with everyone plus the shop assistant – lovely woman; and me both monitoring and fetching other sizes). If the thrill of men is in the teasing and the lateral competition and the bursts of humour, and is always sharp and always somewhat dry, the thrill of women is in the layering and the manifoldness of what happens, a day like a bouquet of flowers. Boys must find it intimidating, see nothing but chaos, and there’s a thrill there that genuinely grows as one gets older, lets the friendship grow wider and deeper, and can interact in both breadth and detail. The deep joy of putting into practice a mastered skill.

Steven Meisel for Vogue Italia.

Closing with the ultimate fashion movie, The September Issue, interesting much less for the escapism of the frocks – if there ever was any in the film – and much more for the workplace dynamics. Final coffee of the night at DOC, another one of those places too pleasant to be anywhere else in the country, and a huge discussion over a dog-eared copy of Vogue Italia: the friction between Grace Coddington (the creative) and Anna Wintour (the editor), and how running things requires merciless cutting. Wintour’s flaw, round-the-table consensus, is not un-niceness (the mark of every good decision-maker), but a certain failure of taste. Vogue Italia lay open on the table on a barbiturate-chic photo story, all physical violence and 8mm smut, bodily imperfections of both him and her clarified with make-up and lighting. Vogue US is just very, very safe in comparison: colour, glamour, fairy tales, Wintour in the film checking that Mario Testino meant Italian cinema as in fun and chic and playful, not Italian cinema as neorealist poverty. Just compare the images.

Nine months into the year, many things are making more sense. I may be becoming that hateful thing, a fast, impatient workaholic, an Americanised (or anglicized), well-adapted immigrant (sell-out, as they would say at home); the other day I caught myself with a takeaway coffee, and felt a little stupid for a second. The alternative, though, appears to be unemployment, and unemployment, as far as I can tell, is just a horrible waste of potential, a frittering away of elan.

Spring is coming to Melbourne, between tentative plans for fashion photography, web-design escapades and many whizzing deadlines. Patches of sun are getting warmer, and patches of rain thinner. Many cities do waking up well, but those that can do such a deeply good day are few and precious.

“What does this mean? Can you translate?” said Daisy, pointing at the photo collage in Vogue Italia of medieval painting, scribblings on paper and photos of Rennaissance statues’ behinds.

“This is the visual art special. And that, as my friend Chris would say, is a good woman’s arse.” I explained, and the day could end.