A week in Hobart with Tasmanian devils and angels
Hobart, Tasmania, is halfway around the world from where we live. But one afternoon at the Jam Jar Lounge in historic Battery Point, we found our heavenly home.
We were spending a week in Tassie, staying just outside Hobart on Seven Mile Beach in a cottage with a fully equipped kitchen. So we stocked up on fresh produce, bread, wine and cheese at the Salamanca Market on Saturday, our first full day in Hobart.
We had arrived late on a Friday night, flying in from Coolangatta. Everyone but me wanted to go into town. And despite my mild protests, we hopped in the car trying to find our way through the blackness to Hobart. The only lights on the road were reflections from our headlamps in the eyes of wallabies and other small critters lining the road. Maybe it was a Tassie ritual— local wildlife welcoming lost visitors on lonely roads.
After a few roundabouts, we hopped on the Tasman Highway and headed in the right direction. Hobart is spread over seven hills between the banks of the Derwent River and the summit of Mount Wellington. So as we approached the Tasman Bridge, the hills as well as the bridge were scintillating, the lights reflecting off the water. What a sight. I was glad I relented about coming to town.
In an instant we were in Australia’s second-oldest city and even faster than that, we were lost. I saw a sign for Historic Battery Point. Let’s stop here and walk, I said. Everyone agreed.
There was a sign with an arrow for Salamanca Place so we strolled down a narrow lane, Kelly Street, and headed to the waterfront.
Sometimes getting lost is the best way to find a good time.
As we approached a steep stairway, “Kelly’s steps”, there was one helluva party going on. A band was perched on a outcropping next to the stairs, and the steps were packed with people. Shoulder-to-shoulder and cheek-to-cheek. Hundreds of them. Singing, drinking, and dancing.
We wound our way through these Tassie party devils and found our ourselves at Salamanca Place. More partying there— along the Georgian style warehouses restored as restaurants, pubs, and art galleries. Eventually, we walked back to Battery Point vowing to return.
And we did, several times. Battery Point sits high on a hill with a view of the Derwent River and was originally home to a gun battery. Today its gas-lit
lanes are lined with fishermen’s cottages, colonial mansions, pubs, and restaurants. Saul instinctively found the best neighborhood bakery-café: Jackman & McRoss. We ate there three times during the week. It never disappointed.
On another afternoon in Battery Point, our wives, Sheri and Valerie, decided to shop . . . and they preferred that we did not. Ahhh, serendipity. I hate shopping. Saul and I were headed for a zip-a-dee-doo-dah day.
We kissed our wives goodbye and headed for the Jam Jar Lounge. The Jam Jar has a beautiful, old upright piano. And Saul is a bodacious, upright piano player.
Saul is my Buddha of the offbeat. He plays his music, the tunes he’s written. He’s recorded several CD’s with his band, New Soul Authority. He also plays solo. Saul was influenced by many styles of music, including old school jazz, 70-80′s funk/soul, and R&B, but he’s carved out his own sound.
Now, if I had Saul’s talent I would not be shy about broadcasting it to the world. But Saul is a solitary man despite usually being surrounded by people. Quiet and unassuming, he can easily disappear in a crowded room.
So there seemed to be something special about the angelic barista Sophie who listened carefully when Saul played his songs for the first time at the Jam Jar on a quiet afternoon. “Magical,” she told him. “Please come back and play. Anytime.”
When Saul and I walked into the Jam Jar for the second time, Sophie greeted us. “Would you like to play the piano?” she asked Saul.
Saul smiled and nodded, then headed for the old upright. I took a comfortable seat, laid back and ordered a long black.
With books on the shelves and photos on the wall of all my favorite jazz artists, this place felt like home. It has a “dog friendly” courtyard. (I should have brought my ol’ mutt Blaze.) It has a library with a wood fire, and on a wall on the way to WC, I discovered a mural of Al Capone and the Chicago skyline. It seemed strangely coincidental. My grandfather, Aura Clark, had been a county sheriff in rural Indiana during Prohibition. So growing up, I heard stories about Aura battling Capone’s bootleggers who ventured into Fulton County, Indiana. I never expected a Tassie connection.
Saul began to play, and the music sounded . . . well, as Sophie said, magical.
There’s something lyrical about a personal truth. A free-flowing melody. Light and airy, it floats all around you. And when it lands on your ears, even hearing it for the first time, you instantly recognize it― because it’s like bumping into an ageless, best friend.
I don’t remember how long Saul played. The time seemed fleeting and a bit bittersweet as if saying that this will end just as it begins. And I felt an ache because at this moment everything seemed to be at home in its right place.
The music was magical. And that afternoon at the Jam Jar was a taste of heaven.