The alternative history of writers: 2

August 18, 2008

There are Hemingways everywhere.

Every city I’ve ever lived in I’ve seen at least one. Wide men with wide beards over wide-toothed smiles, and all of them doing something that’s sedentary and active at once: moving, travelling, always mobile, but always the same routes to the same places, and always taking their own familiar versions of their immediate world with and around them. And always service jobs: bus drivers in London, cabbies in Brighton, a tram driver in Adelaide, a train conductor in France – even a sleigh driver in the Tyrol and a passenger-tricycle pedallist in Hiroshima.

Here in Brisbane, the Hemingways ply the great brown river. The jocular wide-witted ones pilot the exciting and adventuresome CityCats along the languid serpentine loops through the shining city. The more morose versions, the ones who have nightly nagging intimations that they missed a step, that they’re wrong in the world, that they were supposed to be doing something else – they run the cross-river ferries, the older, grungier, chugging workhorses of the spiky and unglamorous world.

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