The Palace Hotel is on the wrong side of George Street to be considered truly Chinatown. Even though it totally is, and I refuse to debate this fact. The difference of a few metres means it can get away with not being even remotely Chinatown in décor or vibe, and that sucks, but I guess every sunbeam has its border.
Nonetheless, it’s open after midnight on a Tuesday, which tonight the Covent Garden is not. I love the Covent. At the Covent they do public karaoke and have a selection of cheap signature cocktails. Most of them taste close to good, but not quite, but you can’t stop ordering them anyway. The Covent is opposite the famous hole-in-the-wall cream puffs place, and although you can’t smoke at the outside tables, you can at least leave your drink on one and keep an eye on it from a metre away. It’s pretty much perfect.
For what it’s worth, I’m dying to quit, but the timing hasn’t been right.
Just like my timing tonight. With The Covent closed and nowhere else open, I drag my body towards The Palace with a sigh.
Walking into The Palace, let me say: I love Rod Stewart, but ‘Maggie May’ just isn’t what I want to hear as I step into a Chinatown pub. I want to hear the next room’s pokies and something on the muzak spectrum. This is yet more evidence that I’m everything I hated the thought of becoming as a teenager, but aren’t we all? It’s a sign of growth. Only the jocks and the other beige people stay the same. They go on Contiki tours and become real estate agents.
The TV screens show American football as if to drive home the point. Another shows fake fireplace flames, because sometimes the appearance of comfort is comfort enough.
But everywhere has its charm. I’m grateful for anywhere that’s open after the others, and being self-aware is to recognise when somewhere or something wasn’t designed with you in mind. Find its merits anyway. It’s nearly 1am and pretty much everyone else here seems happy, which is nice. The hours pass comfortably, and I really can’t complain.
A drunkguy leans in on a table newly taken by a woman on her own, and stands completely still while attempting to glare, without pause, right into her soul. I wonder if he knows how intimidating that bullsh-t is, but he probably just thinks he’s a nice guy who isn’t doing anything wrong. The table legs are slightly uneven, so he keeps spilling her full schooner a little more with every wobble. She doesn’t make a sound, just keeps her head down and types something on her phone – maybe nothing, maybe a text about where she is in case she’s never seen again. It’s hard to tell.
The security guard notices pretty quickly, and calmly and tactfully gets the guy away from her and out of the building, which is great. She quietly rolls the guy a cigarette to take with him, because women have to politely acquiesce to those kinds of requests if they don’t want to risk tonight being the one where they get murdered for the dumbest reason.
The bar’s full of Irish backpackers, who in my opinion always get unfairly maligned, especially after having outlasted 800 years of bullsh-t from the same guys who invaded this land as well. I mean, even after all that, they’re still the friendliest drinkers in the world, and the jokes are solid. Chuck an “up the Ra” or two their way and you’re one of them for the night, provided a Belfast accent doesn’t belie allegiance to the other side of the conflict. Then you’re stuffed.
There’s an advertisement still on the wall for the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight. I had hoped McGregor would win, if only for the Irish.
When I leave I come across the kicked-out guy a few blocks away, then try to get him off my back for three more. I tell him I don’t know her, which is true.
I would have liked to, but I didn’t want her to feel stressed into rolling two placatory cigarettes in one night.
And in any case, I’m dying to quit.
The Palace Hotel, 730-742 George St, Haymarket. Phone (02) 9212 2111