Reality Check

Make it a Double Double

Coffee is the elixir of life. For the coffee drinker, Melbourne is perched atop the list of prime coffee culture cities. On many occasions the city has been listed as one of the world’s top coffee cities [1] [2] [3]. And if you’re one of those who hold in high regard the art that goes into making a skinny mocha flat white soyaccino, then there are few places in the world better suited.

For those like me however, Melbourne is a quite the caffeine dichotomy. I love coffee, I drink two cups a day. But here’s the deal, I couldn’t care less about latte art, the type of milk, organic, free trade or how beardly the barista’s beard is. I only care that it’s coffee and that there’s caffeine in it. Do I care how it tastes? Of course, but in the same way I like my beer: as long as it’s beer.

So how do I survive in the often pretentious coffee culture of Melbourne?

I grew up drinking two types of coffee: black with half n half, and instant. Products of my formative years in Indonesia and North America, both keep the majority of their coffee drinking to what’s important. Outside of home, my favorite coffee establishment is probably Tim Horton’s. Why? Because they keep things simple.

A double double thanks”. Coffee, double cream, double sugar. Do you really need more than that? No, you really don’t.

It’s not quite so easy in Melbourne. There is a clear disdain for chain coffee and finding simple coffee additives like cream/half n’ half is near impossible. So I do the next best thing outside of opening a Tim Horton’s franchise. Buy yourself an affordable drip coffee machine (I got a Breville drip filter machine from The Good Guys for just $45) and substitute the cream with Nescafe’s Coffee-Mate. For beans I use one of two options, the first, the slightly more international, is to import bags of Tim Horton’s medium roast coffee (available either from Oh Canada or from helpful friends and relatives traveling to and from Canada). The second is to find one great local bean producer that keeps things simple and straight forward. For that I found that Padre Coffee from Brunswick suits my tastes- their “Hey Buddy” brew is strong, aromatic, but simple and without adventurous flavours.

In the office, I bring my Coffee-Mate and set the office machine to “long black” to closely recreate that home flavour. It isn’t quite there, but it beats paying close to $10 a day for take away brew, adding up to an expensive weekly habit when you add up the numbers. If you’ve got to get take away in Melbourne’s CBD, two places I do recommend would be Plantation at Melbourne Central (a regular for $4 is pretty good) and Brother Baba Budan. The latter quite possibly ticks every box of the hipster checklist, but if you’ve got to, you might as well get the best.

Savings aside, coffee should be an inexpensive ritual, one that shouldn’t concern itself with being trendy or hip. Melbourne cafes have been known to charge $4.80 for a small coffee because they know we’ll pay for it. But you really don’t have to, which makes the alternative options great ways to indulge in one of life’s great addictions without fueling the culture. Until Tim Horton’s international franchising arm stretches to Australia, I’ll happily take a homemade “double double” over anything else.

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Reality Check

Suburban Stickiness

My friend Louise has a strict “no crossing rule” in which she refuses to cross the imaginary border between South East Melbourne and anywhere past Lonsdale Street.

Getting her to attend functions and events in suburbs like Collingwood or Footscray is an act of mammoth undertaking. She hates the North and would rather believe the West didn’t exit.

She’s not alone either.

Why is that some, once they settle into a particular area, really don’t like to leave it?

Melbourne’s inner suburbs have as much personality as the spectrum of people that inhabit them. Like cultures, they’re stereotype forming, and each locale’s cast of characters tends to act as road markers on your drive between them.

Start seeing an abundance of beard sporting, barista working hipsters? Probably driving through Northcote or Fitzroy.

Girls who go to the gym looking like they’re clubbing? Probably South Yarra.

Getting mugged? Probably out West somewhere.

Yet while we’re all drawn to our own comfort post codes, one discovers that venturing far out of them presents many richly rewarding things you’d never find confined within your own suburb. By venturing out, I don’t mean a Sunday trek to a revoltingly hip Thornbury café from your Hawthorn safety net, but rather picking up and moving from North, to South East, to West, or any combination of the above.

That’s what I’ve done since I moved to Australia. It’s worth it, and you really get to know the city and the weird, wonderful and differentiating qualities of each compass point. You discover hidden treasures that exhibit the quirks you tend to only find in the Northern or Western or South Eastern suburbs.

Sure, it’s easy to stick to what we like and become regulars, to get caught up in suburban stickiness. But from my experience, Melbourne is a much better place to live if you’re willing to transplant yourself every few years.

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Photo by: Mat Connolley

Preston, or Depreston, was the first place I lived in Australia and won’t ever land itself on the list of upcoming suburbs of Melbourne, but it’s not without its charms (no matter how far and few they may be). The suburb was ranked pretty low (all the way down at #145) in a 2011 survey of Melbourne’s suburb liveability, and I don’t think there has been much development since.

Median house prices are still decent for Australia but you can’t escape the dilapidated air of oldness that permeates through the area. I suppose the most endearing part of it was seeing the very worst before working my way up.

However, the one good thing about Preston is its proximity to some of Melbourne’s most hip-to-be postcodes- most notably Northcote and Thornbury.

Some of Melbourne’s coolest and most talked about venues are scattered through the North. Music, food, drinks; you really can’t go wrong with what you can find on Smith and High Street following its resurgence in 2005.

My two personal favorites continue to be the Northcote Social Club, where I saw a host of incredible bands come through and play and the Wesley Anne. The latter, a converted old church turned into a bar/restaurant, boasts a great outdoor area and terrific food. Both are great places to hang out, drink and if you’re so inclined, see live music.

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Moving to South Yarra from Preston is the difference between New York and New Jersey, night and day. The architecture is much nicer, the people are better looking, and you get the sense that you’re actually living someplace instead of being part of the background montage of the “Streets of Philadelphia” video.

You really don’t understand how convenient South Yarra is until you someday leave again, with the wealth of everything literally at your doorstep. Trains at an abundance and trams criss-crossing in every which way, the suburbs locality is its biggest asset. Sure, things are a little dearer on the wallet, but the advantages of convenience often outweigh monetary concerns (otherwise, how would 7-Elevens stay in business?).

South Yarra station is great because it is just a few stops away from Southern Cross station, meaning people too cheap to pay for a cab to the airport are within reach of the much more affordable SkyBus option.

Food was always great living in South Yarra. No matter your tastes, there’s something in the area to fill your stomach. My favourite was Pacific Seafood BBQ House, a Chinese joint that boasted cheap $10 meals and the pricier gourmet banquet style dishes. The hostess was the grouchiest, unhappiest person in the world (in 3+ years, I didn’t see her smile once) but getting your fill for a single bill in the area was always worth it.

South Yarra continues to rank high in its liveability but unless your bank account is constantly in the 7-8 digits, you can probably forget about owning property around here.

However, unlike Toorak’s glamorous living, South Yarra still has its character. Whether its cool bars like Maya Bar or affordable restaurants, they are hidden in plain view alongside the glitzier facades that line Chapel Street (avoid).

You can walk to just about everything in South Yarra, something you can’t say about a great majority of locales around Melbourne outside of the CBD.

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The trembling the West can cause to some…

I heard it all when I first arrived in Melbourne; don’t go out West. Terrible place everyone said; “unsafe!”

Truth is, anywhere in Melbourne can be unsafe if you’re not smart about it. And the kaleidoscope of culture you can indulge in over the West Gate Bridge is something well and truly worth your time.

I moved out to the postcode which this site is named after with Ms.3013 and while there are still severe rough patches that plague the West, there are so many great gems that one would be amiss not to discover them.

Sure, you could be happy living in the confines of the Yarra (South), but then you wouldn’t be just a walk away from places like the Cornershop (best scrambled eggs with parmesan, cavlo nero & soft herbs in the business) or the majestic old Sun Theatre. Lately, Yarraville Park has become home to a host of food trucks that make any weekend night a perfect outside spot for food ranging from American BBQ to Vietnamese street food. And who doesn’t like indulging in freshly torched crème brule from a tiny truck with the entire neighbourhood?

We’ve found a little space and a little quiet this side of town and while there’s a lot of work to be done Westside, there is an air of ascendance in its optimism- that these suburbs really are up and coming.

No matter which part of Melbourne you currently call home, there should be no reason to confine yourself to any boundaries.The best parts of the city are scattered all across its landscape.

Why would you limit yourself?


 

Photos credits:
St Kilda: Donaldytong
Smith St: Mat Connolley
Chapel St: Stonnington Council
Sun Theatre: Grayline

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Reality Check

Living, Mostly

It’s hard to believe that it’s been close to 15 years since I first started an online publication. It was a steep but incredibly rewarding learning curve- talking music, film and culture from the perspective of a third-culture kid who had just returned from a lengthy stay in the US.

I loved punk rock, I loved Hollywood and I had a lot of stories about growing up in Indonesia to tell. The outlet, Sound the Sirens Magazine (born from a Kid Dynamite song), was my way of reconnecting with some of the bands, friends and life I had left behind in Philadelphia and Stockton upon my return to Jakarta.

Online publishing was a different beast then, pre-out-of the-box content management systems meant the landscape for web publishing was relatively sparse, but ripe for those looking to find an outlet for their stories.

I connected, I wrote, and I communicated with old friends, new ones, bands, labels and writers who shared the same focus.

At its apex, Sound the Sirens Magazine received some 3000 unique visitors a day and interviewed artists and bands biting at their chance to find an audience. Some of the bands today are some of the biggest in the world, and looking back, it was a privilege to have connected with them during their ascendancy.

Travel and time changes a lot, and as the magazine shifted countries again to Australia, it had to evolve and change as the life around me did. It changed its name, to The Marshalltown, it spent a lot less time being updated, and somewhat found itself like many of its contemporaries- uneasy with transitioning from content and substance to journalistic instant gratification.

I tried it, and I hated it, and I still do.

So for the past few months I’ve been working hard to find a new spot on the already packed vista of online publishing; one free of click-baitism and marketing schemes.

Thus the launch of Three Zero One Three; a new publication about living mostly.

Every idea here, every story, every piece of writing is about a connection through shared, interesting, and sometimes towards-the-fringe ideas.

Ideas about travel, reality, at-home and life living the things we feel are worth it.

Some of the writing here will go against the grain because that’s who I am, and some of it, through age and grace, will be seeing familiar ideas with fresh perspectives. Along the way, there will be plenty of different voices who will share their own views and opinions; writers and individuals from all corners of the globe.

It’s called Three Zero One Three because it’s the postcode in Australia where I currently call home but there are no borders and boundaries here.

Welcome. Let’s make the act of reading and writing on the internet enjoyable and personal again, all of it.

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Reality Check

Growing up without sports

I remember standing out in left field in Williamsport and thinking just how beautiful the ballpark was. The clean cut grass blanketed by the cool blue sky while the wind blew just enough to lift the breeze. And then I thought just how amazing and lucky the kids were when they took the field at such a place.

Each year thousands of people, mostly kids descend to Williamsport for the Little League World Series. It’s hard to imagine that such a grand place was reserved for 12 year olds – something that a lot of kids around the world aren’t blessed with.

There is no better place in the world than America to grow up in if you love sports. From the very first hoop your Dad installs in the driveway to the very first baseball glove you get for your birthday, kids across the country couldn’t be in a better place for it. The country is just perfect for it; from the wide open spaces, the ballparks and driveways to the acres of green that you can spend your days kicking, throwing and catching. Perhaps it’s the way sports is emphasized – the joys of triumph, the heartbreak of defeat and the lessons and memories that forever capture the hearts of both young and old. For whatever reason, it’s there – from the moment one can walk, throughout middle school and high school and all the way to college and the pros – sports is accessible, available and held in high regard.

Unfortunately, some kids, with that same glare in their eyes, the same passion and drive, just aren’t as lucky. While they dream of someday taking on the best, they can’t spend their days kicking, throwing and catching on clean cut grass, in nice driveways or parks. Outside the United States and the rest of the developed world – kids often are left growing up without sports.

Having spent most of my earlier days in Indonesia, I’ve come to see how important sports can be to growing up. Luckily for me, the school I went to emphasized sports greatly and while my genes (thanks Dad, thanks Mom) were never of the sports kind, with enough practice and hard work, sports became a big part of my life. It gave me something to be excited about, something to be passionate about and something to work hard for. A big part of that was how my parents were very supportive of that, unlike a lot of local parents who make their kids do only two things growing up – study and more studying. While there is no substitute for education, sports in my opinion is just as important when it comes to shaping who we are.

Another deterrent for sports being a viable option in such developing countries could be the lack of facilities and motivated participants. While such problems have been greatly improved upon over the years, it is still far from becoming an important part of the social lifestyle. Maybe younger kids see how difficult it is to make a living being a professional athlete in such countries and are put off by it. Maybe they are just more excited about playing the latest video games rather than making that last second buzzer beater. Perhaps, it is a cultural thing; most evident in how Asian people tend to be of smaller stature when compared to their North American counterparts. It’s just not emphasized a lot during a youth’s tenure at school and the facilities that are given tend to be poor.

There are promising signs; more and more kids in Indonesia are becoming active in sports. The influx of American and European culture means that local kids are becoming more aware of different possibilities and options. They see just how incredible those sporting moments can feel like and they know that they too, can be part of the glory, sadness and memories.

While countries like Japan and more recently Korea are far ahead of places like Indonesia, time will only tell if sports will become such a huge part of the culture. Who knows, maybe someday some of the kids in Indonesia can share and experience just how amazing places like Williamsport can be. Hopefully, these kids will be last to have grown up without sports.

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