Melbourne Turns 180 This Weekend, So We Wrote It A Bday Love Letter

This Sunday, Melbourne turns 180 years old. Remarkable, right? The old girl doesn’t look a day over 174. The Melbourne Day festivities will be celebrated by a whole mess of free events down at Docklands and Victoria Harbour, with stalls, performances, and the famous Melbourne Regatta.

Cam Tyeson, our Melbourne-based writer, has gone ahead and penned one of his own.

Hi Melbourne. We need to talk.

About four and a half years ago now I jammed as much stuff as I could into a suitcase and stepped on a one-way flight from my hometown of Launceston, Tasmania. Tassie was where I was born, and where I grew up. I lived there for 25 years. All my family is there. As are all my oldest friends, most of whom I’d grown up with, gone through school with, attended 18th birthdays, 21st birthdays, and was – at that point – starting to attend weddings and baby showers for.
I’d been to Melbourne a handful of times in my few “adult” years at that point. If you wanted to see a big international band play live, you’d have to fly to Melbourne. If you wanted to see a football side play that wasn’t Hawthorn, you’d have to fly to Melbourne. If you wanted to peruse an actual record store, or go shopping in a huge centre, or see a zoo, or a play, or a comedy festival, you’d have to fly to Melbourne. To young people growing up in Tassie, Melbourne exists as this kind of mythical Pleasure Island-like weekend destination. Except, y’know, instead of turning into donkeys, you just limp home on the plane with a raging hangover after one too many drinks at Blue Tile Lounge.
I still love Tasmania. I still love Launceston. It’s a wonderful little town that cops a bad rap, unfairly so. Moving away was terrifying. I only had a handful of friends in Melbourne – some ex-pat Tasmanians, some I’d met at gigs, some I’d even met via online forums for punk and hardcore music. I’ve seen countless Tasmanian born-and-bred mates try to make the leap across the pond and, for one reason or another, kind of get swallowed up by the city; returning to the smaller town of their origin not long after.
February 6th, 2011 – two days before my 24th birthday – I stepped on board a Virgin Blue plane. I hadn’t planned on moving until later in the month, but my dates were all screwed up (I wasn’t great at organising back then, and I’m still not crash hot at it today). So my Grandparents had to drop me off at the airport while my Mum & Dad were holidaying in Queensland. I think my Mum is still smarting a bit about this.
But as soon as I landed, things kind of wonderfully fell into place. I stayed at my (at the time) best friend’s house for the first couple of days, before moving into a mould-infested, drafty, glorious hovel of a house that was cheap as shit and in an odd pocket of Thornbury that didn’t care if we threw raucous, amplified house parties.
On my first night there, my new housemates took me to Trippy Taco, and I discovered Melbourne’s rampant obsession with Mexican food that is yet to subside.
Over those first few months I learned things about the city. I started going to RMIT – which has the best damned screenwriting course in the country, just FYI. I learned the city’s public transport system. I was informed that, by and large, nobody really gives a shit if you’re drinking a beer whilst walking or sitting in a park so long as you’re not a dick about it. I went to small shows at the Arthouse, the Gasometer, the Bendigo, and the Tote, and to slightly bigger ones at the East Brunswick Club and the Corner. I did my first stand up comedy gig at Monastery, and followed that up with ones at Pugg Mahones in the city, the Penny Black, and a RAW Comedy heat that I won in a drunken haze at the Northcote Social Club.
And through all of this, I started making friends.
Friends who were working hard playing music, starting their own small businesses, studying post-graduate degrees, or simply just working jobs to get by so they could lead happy, reasonably free lives.
I also started falling in love with the city itself. And for dumb little reasons, too. Like the way it never drains properly when it rains. Or the way it takes on a greyish hue in winter to match everyone’s grumpiness. Or the way the CBD looks at a certain time of sunset from the High Street overpass near the Westgarth strip.
Then things I love about the city starting intersecting with friends, and began creating specific moments and memories. My pal who’s terrified of heights who has to sit down on the escalators at Parliament Station. The time another pal thought the foam-covered fountain at the Botanical Gardens was full of sand, leading to her stepping straight into it. The Sunday that started with a big group of people walking through Fitzroy Gardens to the MCG to see Essendon take on Collingwood, and ended with a conga line at Charleton’s with a group of Asian exchange students as my best mate belted out a version of Lionel Richie‘s “Dancing on the Ceiling.”
But it goes both ways. I love that I can walk 20 minutes from my house and be in the city, but I hate when I have to walk because the trams have gone bung. I love how stupidly sport-obsessed this place is, but I hate when the lead news story for three whole years is about my beloved Bombers. I love the food and drink culture, but I hate having to make a point of explaining why I don’t drink coffee (it’s poo water filtered through a sock full of Colombian slave nightmares).
But all that? That’s character. That’s the good stuff. That’s what gives a city life; real, breathing, pulsating life.
Melbourne is a magnificent city that annoys the shit out of me more than I ever thought any geographical location ever could. And I wouldn’t change a goddamned thing about it.
Hey Melbourne. I love you. I’ve only been here four and a half years, but I can tell you that much.

Yelp has announced that they’ll be hosting a booth at the event where people can write their own love letters to the City of Melbourne to let her know how they truly feel. If you feel like writing Melbourne your own love letter, you can drop them a line on the City of Melbourne Yelp page.
Photos: Darrian Traynor, Ullstein Bild, Michael Dodge via Getty Images.