Lismore. Wednesday, 3.00pm
I love Lismore.
I don’t love it like it’s better than everywhere else, because I know it isn’t. It’s better than some places… many places, in fact. But I have seen towns in the world as good as Lismore.
Twenty-four hour coffee and conversation in downtown Ha Noi, for instance. That’s good. You could live there, easily. Sure, the coffee is made with condensed milk, but once you get the taste for it, organic almond just doesn’t do it for you. (Forget tumeric.) And there’s people around. Lots of them, even at night.
Lismore after five is dead. The only life forms are security guards, cops and young people trying to avoid security and cops. (Oh, and there’s that crazy talking guy with the bare feet…)
In a village in southern France you can eat a lunch of aged wine and an even older cheese, both local and bought fresh from the daily market, in the park. Try that in Lismore and a cop will book you for… having lunch in a park.
Nonetheless, I love Lismore.
Lismore is the heart of the North Coast. (Sorry Byronites.)
Half an hour from Lismore (20 minutes by Audi), you’re in Byron Bay, the flashy sister. She attracts people from around the world, exposing her aura and a bit of tattooed leg, inviting them to this funky, sexy, spiritual town, where $100 can buy you anything you want, from ecstasy to colonic irrigation.
Half an hour from Lismore (15 minutes by Holden ute), you’re in Casino, beef capital of… the Casino area, where men are guys and chips are fries, and where a $100 can buy you a rubbish bin of gas shares. Here be found giant men with white Akubras, cream moleskins and blue shirts wanting that job with the Canadian multinational which is going to grow marijuana in Casino in a big way. (Legal, of course.)
Half an hour from Lismore (hour and a half by Kombi), you’re in Nimbin, the hippie orphan, full of weirdos and cops, where non-Canadians already grow pot for health, and where $100 can buy you a deal, a tattoo, a genital piercing or a post-divorce teepee.
Yes, Lismore is the heart of the North Coast, the unpolished gem in the centre of that sparkling crown. And it has ample parking.
I love Lismore, but…
The other day, I wanted to abandon Lismore forever and move to Brisbane, or Phnom Penh, or Kempsey. (Yes, Kempsey.) Why? Bad service.
Small business may a cornerstone of any town, but good service is the cornerstone of any business. I think the floods have leached this understanding from some local businesses. I’ve had phones answered while I’m mid-sentence at the counter. I’ve had to ask if they’d mind actually looking in the storeroom for that part. I’ve had to yell to get attention from staff sharing a joke. (I love jokes. But really, it was a long one.)
You see, the other day I set off to buy a barbecue – in Lismore, of course, to support local business. I went to a barbecue shop, and – I walked away empty-handed, despite having a bloated credit card just aching to dump hundreds of dollars into a willing bank account.
Talk about strange: I felt I should apologise to the boss for disturbing his afternoon. I don’t know what was going on in his office but he sure hated leaving it. Or using full sentences. Or looking at me. Or selling me the barbecue I was pointing to.
Now, I have a barbecue I bought from a friendly helpful bloke in Ballina.
I love Ballina, half an hour from Lismore (two days by mobility scooter), where $100 won’t buy you a barbecue. (But it’s a start.)