Irreal estate

August 25, 2008

Cycling to work this morning: a hot air balloon drifting over Albion*, three-coloured** against the cloud-powdered morning sky. I love hot air balloons – free and irreal and gloriously above the gritty world. Resolutely lo-tech, inherently nostalgic, and shot through with a faint trace of the impossible.

What else ? The clacker-clacker of the bike’s wheels on the boardwalk planks, a deeper-toned repeat over the loose bricks in front of the swish apartments. The river hard with light, a constant shattering of bright surface. An old couple in matching sweats, joggers of every shape, children on leads and dogs in prams, wall-eyed City-rats lurching to the bus, a glimmering ziggurat of blue-green glass glimpsed beyond the far end of a dull-striped suburban street, and then the other way the stuccoed and gabled spire of Our Lady of Victories up on Bowen Hill lending the impression of a Spanish mission and a Saturday morning movie when I was a kid and another world entirely…

 

*A Brisbane suburb. There are some fantastic suburb names here.

**Yes, those three colours. Vive la revolution. Except in this case they are also the colours of a prominent local real estate agent. Why do real estate agents advertise themsleves on hot air balloons ? I mean, yes, obviously, I know why. But at the same time it seems deeply, sort of, I don’t know… mistaken.

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.

Grinderwoman

August 15, 2008

I passed by that way again and she was still there, or there again. And I realised that she also wasn’t: it was the sound that was inhabiting the space; thus perhaps the joylessness. She had become furniture for the grinding, a surface planed blank in the storm of noise.

And the noise itself was unhallowed, pitted, dinning: an internal manifold creasing of vital organs manifested as a constant grinding chord. Her fingers barely moved on the fretboard, and a manitou howled around her.

Fender bender

August 14, 2008

In the two-step doorway of a brownstone on George Street: an old woman, tall, thin, stooped; hair and glasses of Mrs American Gothic but ginger and gold instead of grey and steel; arms pale and spotted, a long sleeveless orange-khaki dress; and she’s standing there fingering a shiny black Fender 62 Jaguar, a small speaker at her feet by the open instrument case, a handful of coins scattered on the faded velvet. The noise she was making was quasi-structured feedback, no tune, just a continuous waaaaah with extreme-minimum range of movement and tone (though not none, not absolutely none). Hendrix in the retirement home after the L-dopa’s worn off (An alternative history of musicians: 1). She had her eyes closed, no expression on her face, head tilted down slightly – no demonstrable ecstasy or epiphany or straightforward joy in the sound or the making of the sound. I walked past again a quarter hour later and nothing had changed. She may have been catatonic and everybody just walking past, dropping the occasional coin to reward her original display of vintage Woodstockian narcolepsy.

Nature boy

August 14, 2008

Mother nature in the City, on the pavement, in the gutter: a crushed Powerade bottle coated in fractal-frost, miniscule growths of coral-ice. Ghastly-gorgeous up close, but in rapid passing giving it only the appearance of an old brown furred sock. Further along, pigeons at the road edge pecking at crusted vomit.