Carlton’s infamous median strip trio
With an IPA in one hand and a pack of cards in the other, it’s easy to see why the Carlton median strip is Besha and Ryan’s “favourite bar in Melbourne”.
Originally from the city, Besha lived in the States for more than 26 years where she met her North Carolina husband, Ryan, and had their son, Felix.
Having lived in Carlton ever since moving back to Melbourne six years ago, Besha now works as a restaurant critic for The Age, while Ryan runs the kitchen at St Mary’s House of Welcome, a homeless charity in Fitzroy.
On any given day, the iconic median strip is sprawling with families, picnic-goers, and anyone wanting to soak up the sunshine, but it’s Besha and Ryan’s smaller, colourful companion that has caught the attention of locals.
“Felix turned 14 the week that we got here, and it was a really hard transition for him, so he decided that he needed a bird and that would help him to not feel so lonely,” Besha said.
The family’s beloved Chobi is a green-cheeked conure parrot with a hilariously infectious personality, often spotted taking in the Carlton surrounds from his cage out on the strip.
“He [Felix] put together a PowerPoint presentation on types of birds we should have, and pictures of our cats playing with the bird – I think we both really felt for him at that point in time and wanted to do something that would cheer him up.”
While best friends for many years, Felix and Chobi unfortunately had a “falling out” over Felix getting into relationship, as parrots tend to get “very jealous and attached their owners”.
Although Felix has since moved out of home, Chobi is happily living with Besha and Ryan where he is able to fly freely around the house, often choosing to perch on their shoulders for a “snuggle”.
When they aren’t at home or work, you’ll likely find the husband-and-wife-duo in their camping chairs under the trees, with Chobi by their side.
“We come out a few days a week and we play cards out here, Chobi likes to come with us and eat cloves of flowers and talk to the dogs that pass by,” Besha said.
I’m very attached to the median strip, I love it so much.
Ryan describes living with Chobi as similar to “having a toddler”, often throwing tantrums and mumbling “bad words” under his breath – despite the couple insisting that they only ever use “nice words” around the house.
“It’s odd to have a pet you can actually talk to, he’s very smart – he can roll over and play dead, and really do anything you ask as long as he gets a sunflower seed,” Ryan said.
Even at the mention of his name, Chobi radiates confidence with a reassuring, “yeah”.
“The little girls who live across the street love feeding him flowers and coming to talk to him, there’s even a woman who bikes past that also has a green-cheeked conure and likes to come and tell us stories of what he’s doing,” Besha said.
With no plans to move from Carlton anytime in the near future, the trio is sure to be enjoying the strip for many years to come. •