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From the Where2sing.com stories:
The Great Karaoke Escape 2004/05

Day 21

I'm staying in Brisbane, just south of the Story Bridge - that's the one that looks like someone had a giant Meccano set for Christmas - in one of those highly budget places. I've stayed there before, and the Chinese family remembers me (for all the best reasons, I assure you). It's an easy run into town from there, and it's also easy to get to many of the southside suburbs.

I've been living in Sydney for a couple of years, and it's great to be back in sunny Queensland. I should sit at my notebook and catch up on emails for a couple of hours, but instead I take a towel and wander down the the river, walking along the top of Kangaroo Point cliffs then down the steps carved in the side of the cliff until I reach the water. Sailing boats are moored along the other side, and the city buildings tower beyond them.

Ahead of me is the freeway as it crosses the river at an angle, a real eye-sore, and noisy, but something which we have got used to and now consider to be a familiar landmark. And beyond that, at a completely different angle, is the new wide pedestrian bridge, the near end of which is still some way away from me, but which has its other end tucked under the differently angled freeway bridge and both looking as though they're trying to hang onto the same piece of land on the opposite bank. The pedestrian bridge is a weird monstrosity that appears to have been designed by duelling architects, meeting in the middle of the river on a sort of platform that manages to attach both sections of bridge. I was delighted to read, during its construction, that when they tried to drop one half of the bridge into place from a crane mountged on a barge, that the piece was a little too short - try and explain that! I am certain that this structure will endure as the ugliest piece of early second millenium architecture, and as such is an outstanding success. It's wide enough to be a vehicular bridge, but instead serves as an extended suicide area for pedestrians who relish being run down by cyclists and skateboarders. I pass by.

I used to live around here, renting a 3-room flatette at number 19 Dock Street in a weatherboard building that threatened at any moment to fall into the river but in the meantime provided me with adequate accommodation and a million-dollar view (at a time when no one consider the river to be a view) at just $17 a week - back in the mid eighties. I used to walk along the empty streets of Southbank on my way to the city, past the derelict factories and the still functioning oldest printing works in Brisbane complete with its antique but still working letterpress presses and hot metal typesetting machines, always keeping a wary eye on whether I was about to be accosted by some unsavoury character. But those times have long gone, the river is a trendy (even sought after) view, my landlord sold up and invested his resulting millions in America, and against all odds I achieved middle age.

If you have not enjoyed the area on one side of Brisbane's river called 'Southbank', then you should. Rarely would you find one complete side of the river of a major city devoted to parklands, but here it is as the sort of stroke of genius with which no self-respecting local government would normally be associated. This is a wonderful place with winding pathways, secluded and small grassy lawns, babbling boulder-strewn streams, interesting and shady trees, and a walkway alongside the river. And it all happened as some kind of happy consequence of the greed of a former government - plans for Expo 1988 gave the incumbent (Joh) Queensland government members the opportunity to buy the land cheaply in the name of needing it for Expo 88, hopefully to see the world exhibition come and go, and their investment make them all multi-millionaires. Unfortunateley for them, they forgot to factor in the need to stay in power, and after Expo 88 the site stayed empty for some years under the control of a new governemnt that simply didn't have the guts to flog the lot to a developer and pocket personal fortunes (but surely would have loved to) - and eventually the whole site became this huge and wonderful parkland called Southbank.

It also has a swimming area - not a pool, but two large and clean pools bordered by sandy beaches and rocks, and complete with lifeguards. It's a sort of little paradise in the centre of the city, and you can see the city across the river whilst you're swimming. And so I spent a happy few hours lounging around in the sun and the water, no thought of karaoke.

But there's a limit to how long you can safely be cooked, and I was back at the motel well before the end of the afternoon. A couple of hours spent on emails, dinner with friends (who own the House of MG at Buranda, and thus drive a highly unusual modern MG sedan), then I was dropped into Fortitude Valley for karaoke.

Fortitude Valley was the original commercial heart of Brisbane, but was pretty down and dirty when I first came to Brisbane. In fact, as the years went by it got more down and even dirtier, and then the Chinese moved in. Now there's a thriving Chinatown, and the original main street has been turned into a mall. You'll still find a fair bit of crime and squallor, but at least now the Police can watch it through strategically placed cameras from the comfort of their shop right next to the public toilets. At the other end of the mall is one of the original hotels, the Royal George.

I've stayed there, at a time when I was in Brisbane during the weeks, and I sincerely hope that the renovations that have taken place downstairs have been continued upstairs (perhaps even reliable hot water now?).

For a short while, the corner bar went Irish, and certainly would have needed very little extra 'tatt' to carry off this authentic receation, but it didn't work and has now been modelled into a really nice and trendy bar. And this is where Rovics Karaoke is running a new Wednesday night gig - and is my destination for the evening. As I walk up the mall, I can hear the karaoke, and it sounds good. As I swing through the front door I see that I will be one of only half a dozen patrons, and I hope it will soon get busier. (The review is already on the website).

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