Saturday, May 5, 2007
Sydney: The Beginning
It was always going to be Potts Point. I never really pretended to understand why. I still don't. I just knew. Maybe I was Mr Potts in another life? Or Mrs Potts? ... but that's all beside the point. I knew where I wanted to live, and even in spite of a brief and entirely unsatisfying half-hour fling with Waterloo, there was nowhere else in Sydney I was prepared to live.
I remember the moment I made the decision to come and live in Sydney vividly ... as though it were yesterday.
I was happily entrenched in a strangely alluring apartment-share with an ex-Sydney girl - MW* - in St Kilda. She decided to go to Sydney for a couple of weeks to catch up with old friends and re-imagine everything this city had meant to her. She left Melbourne and drove up in her red MX-5. As Sydney Girls do ... or rather, did. (Sydney-dwellers should try it sometime - counting them. I bet you won't see one. It's the Peugot 206CC now, in case you're even remotely interested.) One night, she called me. The collision with her past had been slightly more intense than she had been fully prepared for, and my sensible, sturdy, reliable and trustworthy presence was requested. She would fly me up, and we could drive back to Melbourne together. There were places to stay and people to meet. It was an offer I found impossible to refuse. Such is the continuing lead role of Fate in the drama series of my life.
I, and we, had a fucking ball! M was well-connected in this town. We couldn't walk down Oxford Street without bumping in to primed, buffed and gorgeous porn-star quality fags - to whom M was a long lost girlfriend ... sister. The kinship between certain faggots and certain women is a powerful, undeniable force of (un)nature. I will write about it more one day. M's girlfriends were all classic Sydney Girls: size 8 with a powerful (if not life and sanity threatening) determination to be size 6. They all spoke with record-threatening speed and haunted the domains of Kirribilli, Double Bay, Surry Hills and (by fag-default) Darlinghurst. They all had awesome jobs, fabulous cars, brilliant friends ... and a life-expectancy of 40 years. They loved me because M did. I was a well-connected, professional Melbourne fag. I was educated and sociable. I was also tall, dark and (apparently) handsome. That's the thing about Sydney: as long as you fit the grid and don't threaten the status-quo, you're welcomed with open arms - and occasionally legs. Have a contradictory opinion, a (different) world view, a belief in something other than instant gratification, a distinct lack of selfishness, or be able to differentiate (and dissect) Healthy Ego from Fragile Ego, and your days will be numbered. You'll become an Alexander Downer. People will find it difficult (and ultimately refuse) to acknowledge your existence. It's a situation faithful readers of this blog of mine will know I am intimately familiar with. It's like farting loudly in Church ... or a lift. There's really no point trying to redeem yourself.
In the (mid '90s) days since my heady $500 a week Speed addiction, I'd stacked on the weight. Then there was the horse-riding accident which 'crippled' me for six months (8 weeks in hospital) and finally put an end to my three-times-a-week workout routine. Needless to say, I would rapidly descend down the Sydney Fuck Chain once I was living here ... but for the time being, at least, I was Top of the Pops. I snorted cocaine through each nostril (like a true professional) and I could tell entertaining stories (especially while coked off my fuckin' head! I mean, who can't manage that?). I adored M ... and protected and defended her. I told her friends about our wonderful life together in "Melboring" ... convincing them that the city was, indeed, a consolation prize: where damaged souls who had paid the Sydney price of sacrifice, soul-less-ness, suspicion and loneliness came to heal. Or learn to love again. Or step out of the ring for a moment to consider what it is they were fighting for. Or against. Ultimately, it was ourselves ... but I'm getting ahead of myself a bit. Whack that dinner plate in the microwave and rack up another line guys! After all, we ain't gonna be eating anything off it!
It was a beautiful summer day. I was having some 'time out'. By The Harbour. I adore Sydney's sensational Harbour. It has dominated so many moments in my time here. Entirely. The best fun. The best feeling. Without fail. And one day this week, I will go back to where it all began to say goodbye. For now.
I was sitting on a rock in front of Mrs Macquarie's Chair with my shoes off and my jean-legs rolled up. The water of Sydney's monstrously hypnotic Harbour lapped at my ankles. I looked to my left and glimpsed the sight of the sun setting behind the sails of The Opera House. The Bridge was glittering. A little ferry was departing and the bigger Manly Ferry was streaming seaward. A plane was coming in to land and the entire vista was shimmering and shivering. I decided, at that moment, to come and live in Sydney. I said as much to myself. Aloud. I breathed it all in ... and felt like I had taken the first breath of my new life. I was overcome with optimism and excitement. Potential. A dream. A direction and a focus. A new beginning.
A couple of days later, after having done a quick reconnaissance of rental property availability (and cost) in Potts Point, M and I said farewell to Sydney and I drove her (and me) home to Melbourne. M slept almost the whole way ... waking only when we were about an hour or two out of Melbourne. The MX-5 held the road like the race car it truly is. I was at the wheel. I could return to Melbourne at speed because I knew that I would be packing up and leaving. Not straight away, but soon.
In the meantime, there was work to be done. Money to be made. Boxes to be packed. Truths to be denied. Friends to farewell. It was all so final. It was all so possible.
Fantasy versus reality would, yet again, be my downfall. There would be more than a couple of scrapes on the knee ... and there would be a sudden, frightening and ignominious collision with my sanity. But in the meantime, there was the open road and the MX-5.
And an exit clause.
*Initials have been used to protect the identity of particular individuals ... the details of whose lives, even though they are essential to the telling of my story, do not really belong in the public domain without their consent. I will, of course, feature this respectful consideration at my discretion.