The Pint on Punt
Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
124Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
-- Resident Evil
"We have GOT to get out"
The Pint on Punt, or The House of the Rising Sun as I affectionately refer to it, is a pub and backpackers hostel in Melbourne. It is so called as it serves pints of beer and sits at the start of Punt Road, which in turn is so called as it is a long road that leads all the way to the Melbourne Cricket Ground... And a Punt is the kick they do in that stupid game they like playing here.
As I have lived and/or worked there on and off for a year I thought I'd say something about it here, and then NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN.
Your first impression when arriving is that the location is rubbish. Then you work out where you are and realise it's actually very good - twenty minutes from the shit beach, ten from Chapel Street, five from Fitzroy St, MCG down the road and, if you happen to be there in March, a Grand Prix track across the street.
Your second impression would be of a basic, clean, simple hostel with a bed in a room and not much else. As it's pretty cheap you would shrug your shoulders and leave it at that. Unless you are unfortunate enough to arrive on a hot day, when you would find that the smallish rooms and flat roof have conspired with the sun to raise your body temperature by 2,000 degrees. At this point unconsciousness and death should follow.
Then of course there's the pub downstairs - and this is where everything changes.
The pub part of the Pint on Punt is, I can say without fear of contradiction, the finest drinking hole in Australia. This is primarily to do with the fact that it is a pub - not some arse of a wine bar, bistro, gastropub, standing room only shit tip or parody of a parody of a dump. It's dark, dingy, has barrel tables and crap all over the walls, and it's great.
It also, rather inexplicably for it's size, serves sixteen different beers on tap and fifteen more in bottles. This is a breath of fresh air for anyone bored of going into a pub in Victoria and being given the choice of Carlton Draught or fucking off.
There are two types of backpacker that come to the Pint on Punt. Those that don't bother with the pub, and who may stay for a few days or a week or so, and those that get it, use it, become part of the family and can be found six months later wondering what it was they were supposed to have been doing instead.
The pub itself isn't a backpacker pub, or a locals pub, or a food pub or an office worker pub - it's all those things and more. It's a massive melting pot of international backpackers, pissed up bogans, shirt and tie types, students and crazy old boys who sometimes smell of piss.
The staff make a big difference. No other pub I've frequented has such an odd mixture of people who can only really be described as 'unique'. It almost seems to be a prerequisite. People change, come and go, but the core seems to always stay the same.
You've got Corey the Head Chef/Night Manager/Problem Solver, who is at the same time one of the most dangerously violent people in history and also the nicest. He would literally do anything for you.
Then there's Fred Negro - bar tender, musician, performance artist, professional cartoonist and Victorian legend. The man who, when doing a cartoon featuring the (then) prime minister John Howard for a national advertising campaign for the largest telecommunications company in the country, subtly hid three rather accurate drawings of vaginas on the country's leader. And then told everyone about it in his strip. Good times.
Then there's Kiwi Tim, the resident handyman and 'fruit fixer'. You need a mango at seven in the morning? No problem, no questions asked. Ten at night and have a sudden need for a bag of mushrooms and an orange? Kiwi Tim's your man - just have a beer waiting for him afterwards.
Ruth is the English girl that works part time in reception and fixes everyone else's mistakes. One of the best people I know - just don't piss her off, because even the boss is scared of her. She's also my confidant, the only living person that knows all my secrets, so I have to be nice to her. Plus, you know, she's hot. Oh, and if you can, get he to introduce you to her flatmate. Say I said hello.
Johnny B is the Bar Manager and Jackie is his Scouse girlfriend. They rock, and as they work together their relationship unfolds for the rest of us like some kind of episode of Brookside with added soft core pornography.
If you stay a while at the Pint on Punt you may also get the opportunity to obtain 'Wingman Status'. This is something John and I invented last year as we were 'mixing things up' behind the bar. You know how it is - two male single bartenders, drunk women, good times. Anyway, one day I performed a wing man service of such magnitude that it invited the line "You can be my wingman anytime", to which the response, of course, is "Bullshit - you can be mine". We don't talk about what it was I did, but it was significant - lifechanging, you might say. Anyway, from then on in I was Maverick (unfortunately I had to be the short arsed scientologist) and he was Iceman.
Next to join the fraternity was Jackie as Goose for doing a favour for me (which we don't talk about). From then the rules were set. To become a wingman, and obtain a callsign that was a throwback to an 80s classic movie that really seems a little homo-erotic on second viewing, you had to perform a wingman service for a preexisting wingman. This usually involved deception, subterfuge and the occasional broken heart - but in a good way. Paul the German was up next for doing me a rather large service (which we don't talk about) and found himself as Merlin.
Next came Louie, and this is good because it's the only one I can talk about. Paul the German's insane Czech non-girlfriend set a random 'tough' on Paul outside the Casino. She had told this random guy that her 'boyfriend' was ignoring her and treating her badly. Paul wasn't her boyfriend, had never insinuated that he may like to be, but like I say, she was crazy. So this 'tough' came at Paul outside the Casino (under the impression that if he beat up Paul he could sleep with his non-girlfriend. Understandable, because as well as being as mad as a bag of spanners she was also hot), and by this point we had all gone home - or so our hero thought... Louie steps up out of nowhere, says "I'll field this one Paul", and sparks the guy out flat. He immediately became Viper, the big daddy that looks after the rest of them.
Then Irish Jon earned Jester for doing Louie a favour and Corey became Stinger for doing all of us favours all the time.
The shirts were Louie's idea, and were fashioned just in time for his leaving do.
Anyway, back to the Pint....
The only problem with the Pint on Punt doesn't come from the place itself, but rather the effect it has on it's long term guests. The trick is the line from the song - "It's been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know, I'm one".
You know that bit in Fight Club where he says "Someone's first night at Fight Club they were a wad of cookie dough - a few weeks later they were carved out of wood"? Well, this is kind of like that, but in reverse and in a bad way.
When I first met Louie, for example, he was anybody's after two drinks. When he left, he could drink his weight in Jack Daniels and still have room for a drinking contest.
After a while, too many nights blur into one, and too many blur into nothing. You know you had a good time because you wake up somewhere funny, or with someone funny, or in Canberra - but the details are lost to the mists of time. This is fine once a week, but once a day it can start to have a rather adverse effect on your health.
The thing is, the Pint on Punt becomes home, and the people you meet become family.... Just the kind of family that drink too much, swear a lot and inbreed like incestuous rabbits.
It is one of the best places I've ever stayed, certainly one of the best I've ever worked in, and people who leave and say they're going to come back someday actually come back someday. At least twenty people I knew came back at least once over the months I was there. It's like the Cheers bar - in all the best ways.
Just remember to leave someday, or it'll ruin you.
Five Must-Do Things At The Pint On Punt
1 Order an Iraqi Occupation.
2 Ask Fred Negro about the second time his band got kicked off the Virgin Record Label.
3 Tell 'Mad' Mary on Wednesday nights that the best way to improve her singing voice is to read aloud from 'Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban' whilst in the shower. It has to be that book and it has to be in the shower. Chamber of secrets will just not do.
4 Challenge Corey to a drinking competition.
5 Invent a drink.
All the photos featuring 'Wingmen' were taken at Louie's leaving do by Timmy Chuma and reproduced here, as ever, with permission. His website can be found at http://photos.timchuma.com and features many, many snaps of the Pint on Punt, local Melbourne bands and events and lots more....