To get to LabX, I need to catch the Number 3 tram (the "fun tram"). It takes about 30 minutes from the Melbourne CBD, down St Kilda Road to Pakington Road where LabX is located. From Pakington Road, it's only about a 15 minute walk to Greasy Joe's, the burger joint where my brother, Wayne, works.
I walked into Greasy Joes, it was quiet with most of the patrons outside in the late Friday afternoon sunshine. Not recognising the bar staff, I asked if my brother still worked there. The barman said he didn't know and deferred the question to a colleague. She said that he didn't work there anymore, but wasn't sure where he worked now. She said "I see him around all the time, though." which, while reassuring me that he was, in fact, still alive, didn't help my immediate situation. I prompted her for any more detail about where he might be. She said she was very unsure, but she thought maybe he worked on Fitzroy Street, St Kilda; opposite the bowling green, but that was all she knew. I thanked her for the clue and decided to follow her lead.
Crossing the road, it didn't take long for the Number 16 that runs back into the CBD via Fitzroy Steet. I kept an eye out for where I ought to get off, and decided to get off at the next stop when the tram started ringing it's warning bell. Ding, ding, dingdingding something was on the tracks and as the ringing got more frantic, the tram driver slammed on the brakes and we all braced and held onto anything to stop from falling.
I looked out the side window to see a very large, very expensive looking motorbike on it's side and people coming from different directions to help. I don't think our tram hit the bike, but the rider had come a-cropper and the tram had, at least, nudged it - scraping it across the roadway. A guy picked up the rider's helmet, and another few used all their strength to right the bike. After a little while, our tram driver - who had left the tram to sort things out - came back to say the tram wouldn't be traveling any further, and could we all please disembark.
Taking to my feet earlier than I had planned, I walked up Fitzroy Street keeping my eye out for the bowling green. It ended up being near the St Kilda Road end, and when I got there, I turned my gaze across the other side of the wide street to see the cafes and restaurants there.
I figured my best bet was to start at the left and go to each one until I found Wayne. For a moment I wondered why I was bothering - Wayne has proved over and over he doesn't rate keeping in contact with his family a very high priority, and by that action, sends a very clear message wants very little to do with any of us. But in saying that, the few times I have spent time with him here in Melbourne, he seemed genuinely pleased to see me. I put my thoughts into neutral and just went about executing my plan to find my brother.
My first stop was Banff. As I entered the homey cafe I thought how great it would be if Wayne did work there. It's a great little cafe Fox, Willo, Kyle, Rocket and I had visited July of last year. Two women behind the counter, one serving a customer by the til and one stacking shelves with clean drinking glasses. The Stacker greeted me and asked how she could help.
"Hi" I started, thinking maybe I could've sorted out what I was going to say before I started saying it, "I'm looking for someone." she listened, I explained. "My brother Wayne is a cook. I've been told that he works at one of the cafes or restaurants opposite the bowling green here on Fitzroy Street, and I wondered if he worked here, in your kitchen." She said she was new, said it was her first day so she didn't know all the staff yet, and I would have more success if I spoke with the other woman, the manager, behind the counter. She was still taking care of the other customer and I waited a few moments before she turned her attention to me.
"Hi," I said, "I'm looking for my brother.. " that sounded dodgy, I said to myself, like I was looking after him and he's run away or something.. "he's a cook, and I've been told he may work in one of the cafes or restaurants opposite the bowling green here on Fitzroy Street. His name is Wayne Park - does he work here?" she thought for a moment; thought really hard actually. She furrowed her brow and gazed thoughtful at the ceiling, before saying she'd not heard of him, and no, he didn't work there. She suggested a few names of eateries along from her, and suggested I try them. I thanked her, and made my way up the street to the next establishment.
The next place was another cafe. It was closing up, with all it's tables pulled indoors, and chairs stacked in the corner. I walked in and was greated half way towards the counter by a staff member who looked like she was about to tell me they were closed.
"Mmm," I said, "it smells delicious in here!" the cafe smelt of warm chai spices. Good start Michelle, now she thinks you're selling something. "Hi," I said "My name is Michelle and I have a question." She looked at me as if I were a Jehovah's Witness, so I barreled on before she could say anything. "I'm looking for my brother, he's a cook and I've been told he works at one of the cafes or restaurants along Fitzroy Street, and I wondered if he worked here. His name is Wayne Park." Her relief I wasn't a sales person pushing eternal salvation appeared on her face half way through my question, softening her body language as she was very sorry she couldn't help me, as she didn't know him, nor did he work there. I thanked her and continued to the next door.
It was up a flight of marble stairs and looked like it used to be a theatre. At the top of the stars, there were three doors. A door to my left, one in front of me, and a pair to the right. The large ones in front of me were the entrance to the yerster-theatre, and looked dark and not resturant'y at all. The door to the right I opened to a wall of bar noise. People talking, drinking, noise reverberating off every surface and suit jackets everywhere. I pushed my way in and tried to find my way to the bar, but gave up after a few minutes thinking, this wasn't the sort of place Wayne would work (as much to convince myself I could leave as anything - I really don't know my brother well enough to make such a call) and turned to leave as quickly as I could.
Back on the street, I walked with an eye to the next eatery, when I passed a doorway with stairs leading down, underneath the bar I had just been in. I looked inside, and down below was a long bar/cafe, with a moderate number of customers and two bar staff. The swing doors suggested a kitchen, so I decided to ask my question here.
I was beginning to feel like a twat. I was rapidly running out of street "opposite the bowling green" and wondered if I was really going to have to enter every bar, cafe and restaurant - of which there were very many along Fitzroy Street, looking for a brother who quite patently didn't want to be found (drama queen alert). Feeling a bit insecure, I targeted the barman down the far end of the bar who was adjusting the television channel, away from the clutch customers who were being served or sitting along the counter.
He looked at me, and raised his eyebrows in the universal barman's language which means "What would you like to drink?"
"Hi," I said, "I am hoping you could help me." He rested his hands against the counter, listening to me "My name is Michelle. I am looking for my brother. He's a cook and I've been told he might be working somewhere along Fitzroy Street." the barman looked away from me, discovering some far off ceiling spot that he knew, "His name is Wayne Park."
The left side of the barman's mouth twiched a very quick smile. "You know him?" I asked at the same time he said "I know Wayne." He smiled at me, "He used to work at Greasy Joe's." I explained how I had been there, and they had directed me to Fitzroy Street. "Does he work here?" I asked. The barman said he didn't but that he had a phone number he could get me. I said "That would be awesome!" and the barman walked down to the other end of the counter and talked to the other barman, who looked at me and half laughed at the information he was being told.
The first barman then gestured to me to follow him, and we walked up the stairs and back onto the street. He said "I know you, we met once." I said I couldn't remember him but he recalled meeting me at Greasy Joe's, of Wayne introducing me to him. I apologised for not remembering him and we re-introduced ourselves. His name is Morgan, and he took be back up the old theatre's marble steps.
The door to my left, the one of the three I hadn't investigated, was opened by the maitre'd as Morgan said "This place is a lot nicer than Greasy Joe's." The maitre'd took Morgan's hand in a firm handshake, greating him heartily. Morgan explained who I was and that I was looking for Wayne. The maitre'd said Wayne hadn't worked there in some time, but had moved on to a restaurant on Greville, off Chapel Street. I didn't catch the name of the restaurant although I asked several times - he said it so quickly and his accent confused my ears; I gave up on that tact when he said he had Wayne's mobile phone number.
He went inside the restaurant to get the number, and I thanked Morgan for his help. He returned to his life and I took the mobile phone number with me to find a tram back into the CBD.
I phoned the number while I was on the tram. I knew Wayne's voice on his answerfone and I left a message, suggesting he call me and wishing him a Merry Christmas.
Of course, he hasn't returned my call - and a little voice inside my head last night said "Leave him alone, just let him be." but you know what? that's not what family does. The next part of this story will be in the New Year, when I look for Wayne on Greville Street, door to door if necessary. I hope he doesn't change his mobile number in the meantime.