Docklands: A case of unfulfilled potential, much like the author

Channeling Kevin Costner's famous vision in Field of Dreams, the urban planners and mildly intoxicated politicians of Victoria adopted the "if you build it, they will come" approach to the development of Melbourne's Docklands.

It is in this bizarre precinct that I find myself with the excitable, rather manic, Sea Bass as his older brother T-Bone attends his pre-prep program for autistic kids.



We are drawn to the area by promises of a toddler story time at the newly opened Library at the Dock. These sessions are ostensibly good for brain development – to help kids reach their potential.

Potential, I guess, like I had in abundance half a life time ago as a year 12 student in 1998.

Voted by my peers as their SRC President, of reasonable intelligence, and boasting a reputation as the King of the Parties (imagine Naughty Corey, but more charming and less sunglassy), the world was quite literally my bivalved mollusc. So much potential, I could have been anything, but instead, turned into this.

For much of my adult life I have felt, sans wealth, similar to Tom Buchanan, Daisy's ill-fated husband in The Great Gatsby; that is to say, like "one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence" at an early age, "that everything afterward savours of anti-climax."

Docklands has plenty of potential too. There is a great big giant people carrying star that has the potential to become the most popular tourist attraction in the entire Southern end of Docklands, but is currently being eclipsed by Costco. Hordes flock there because nowhere else can you witness humanity at its worst and all that is wrong with the world than at this monolithic market. You can even buy a 25 kilogram bag of potato chips there. And for the record, yes, I am a proud card carrying member.

There is also the Icehouse which services Melbourne's burgeoning ice skating and ice hockey community.

"Ice sports are the fastest growing sports on the planet," some department of infrastructure wonk proclaimed, "if we build it, they will come."

They did, but they didn't.

I'm pretty sure that dude lost his job, and if he didn't he's surely skating on thin ice. 

Possibly the first and only boy to have ever used this play equipment.

Possibly the first and only boy to have ever used this play equipment.

At least the water play area in the playground next to the library is top notch - Sea Bass has a great time pressing buttons and projecting water every which way. Heck, even I have a great time doing this.

The playground, which abuts a road, is not fenced, mind you, but it doesn't really matter as there's not a lot of traffic in this veritable ghost town (although ghosts might take offence to that). 

Of the hundreds and quite likely, thousands, of apartments here, the odd one does show signs of habitation, but overwhelmingly none of them show any sign of life.

Fitting then, that some nine years previous, an army of cadavers in various poses rolled into town and camped out on the esplanade as part of the Amazing Human Body Exhibition. For anyone who knows not about Gunther von Hagens's ghoulish work, just Google him and be prepared to be completely freaked out.

I'd only been going out with (my now wife) Lavender a few months when I bought her surprise tickets for the exhibition of creepy dead bodies. I'm nothing if not a romantic. I should point out that at the time she was a med student so the idea wasn't really as odd as it may sound. There was some shock value in the deadies, to be sure, but once you've seen one plastinated Chinese peasant, you've seen them all, or so the saying goes.

The highlight of the outing was not necessarily observing the bodies themselves, but overhearing the unfiltered remarks of one teenage boy attending with his older brother and mother:


While his mother was mortified, Lavender and I almost died of laughter, regaining our composure upon realising von Hagens might be lurking and get some kinky ideas if we were to suddenly keel over.

The powers that be have not only resorted to bringing in dead bodies to breathe life into the area, but have also extended the "city circle" tram to the Docklands, so now it is not circular at all (nor was it ever really), but rather more sperm shaped.  

New "City Spermatozoa Tram" line

New "City Spermatozoa Tram" line

In a bid to attract more bodies (of the alive variety) to the area, Mayor Robert Doyle has also instituted a rather novel approach to parking restrictions and metering in the area: instead of inspectors issuing fines, they actually go around putting $50 notes under the wipers of anyone willing to park south of Spencer Street.

And still no one comes. Except of course for the people who dock their yachts at Victoria Harbour. Who the hell owns a yacht anyway? Does owning a yacht mean you've reached your potential?

Overlooking the dull harbour and watching Sea Bass stick his hand down the back of his bogged up nappy, index finger emerging capped in a matte brown sludge, I wonder whether this little fella will one day own a yacht, or reach his potential, whatever that may be. 

My wife and I had children because we wanted little people to shape in our image, with our values and our beliefs: malleable foot soldiers to right our wrongs and do our bidding in the world. But of course, as any parent will know, it is ultimately they who shape us, not the other way around. 

At the end of the day, who really cares what they become, or even if they reach their "potential"? When I think about it, all I really want are kids, who upon seeing the mummified pubic hair of a dead person, will realise that that's truly something to behold.