Quandary of Curiosity
Flemington is a funny little suburb full of clear contrasts. Overlooking all of the cutely renovated 1890s cottages, weatherboard Edwardians and townhouses are the Housing Commission Flats; sombre, imposing and a daily reminder of the struggles still being fought.
Way back in 1994 when Love Chunks and I were renting in Farnham Street, driving the 1971 Sucked Crunchie, gas-converted Volvo and listening to domestic arguments in the flat below, we witnessed a very lengthy construction being built on top of one of the commission towers. For the best part of the year, something shaped like a McDonalds-sponsored Detox funhouse was appearing. Painting it bright yellow only enhanced that idea, because no-one I asked had any idea what the actual construction was supposed to be.
Fifteen years later finds it painted a greyish blue but still no answers given. Why is it just on the one building and not the others?
I asked my hairdresser that very question last week, as we chatted amiably in her sleek salon and watched four drunk blokes sucking down scotch from paper bags outside in the street.
"I have no idea," she trilled cheerfully. "I've lived here for four years but couldn't tell you - what I will tell you though, is DON'T GO THERE. It's very dangerous."
What was more dangerous was the price she charged me for a hair cut - seventy five dollars! Considering that it didn't need washing or blow-drying and is about two-and-a-half inches long all over, I felt well and truly ripped off. On the inside, anyway. On the outside I meekly handed over my credit card, said "G'day" to the drinkers outside ("An' Hello to you too, Darlin") and walked home, past the shadow of the Mysterious Monolith.
A parent of one of Sapphire's new school buddies is an ex-Victorian police detective who had visited the commission flats more than once in his career. Did he know what the Mysterious Monolith was? "Nah, haven't the foggiest. What I do remember was the smell. Cramming so many people together without decent facilities or ventilation meant that all I wanted to do was get out of there as fast as I could."
Oh, I bet you have some stories to tell about the folk living there. "Yes, there are some real shockers in there, but there's also a lot more nice people who just need some help to get back on their feet or are starting out their new lives with plans to move out as soon as they're able to."
So, should I enter the building? "Look, go to the building, hang around the foyer and ask what it is by all means, but dress down, don't take your wallet and take someone with you."
Seeing as my entire wardrobe could only charitably be described as 'dressed down' and my wallet has never troubled me for size or weight my curiosity about the Mysterious Monolith remains. But here's the hypocritical quandary: I'm too frightened to go down there. The local papers are full of the story of some poor sod getting his teeth and nose bashed by some 'nearby residents' when leaving the KFC outlet at 9pm and there's just a bit too much "Thug Life" graffiti and litter around as menacingly visual 'We Own This Place' calling cards to make me doubt the wisdom of a walk there.
And yet, as this piece below shows, the Flem. Boys are pretty hot with spelling and grammar, adding a dot at the end of their 'Flem' abbreviation. Unless they were just trying to ensure that we could tell the difference between their beloved suburb and the stuff that dribbles out of nostrils when a cold hits?