Saturday, April 30, 2005

Ninety Years On

Because it was a Monday this year, and I do Mondays, I worked Anzac Day. A big night for cabbies. Cash flying all over the place, sometimes seemingly unconnected to human hands or pockets. Couple of things struck me: the City was full of young guys in suits wearing medals. I picked up several of them. One of them told me he was 34 but didn't say which campaign he served on. If he was born about 1970, what could it have been? The First Gulf War? East Timor? Iraq? Another one said that Anzac Day was the best day of the year, better than Christmas. He and his wife had woken at one am, too excited to go back to sleep. He said last year he was crawling on his hands and knees back to Cronulla by 6 pm but was pacing himself better this year. These young guys - in their twenties or thirties - were extremely polite no matter how drunk they were, they had a strong sense of entitlement, though friendly they all had a remote quality, as if they breathed a different air from the rest of us. They were part of a self conscious elite I guess, a military caste. Later on I took a couple of truckies far out west. They said the same thing: Anzac Day is the best day of the year, better than Christmas. They'd been to the Dawn Service at Brighton le Sands, then played two-up somewhere else, then gone to The Rocks, where I picked them up. It wasn't clear if they'd served or not. But they were part of the emotion of the day, no doubt. At one point in the evening, waiting on a rank mid-town, I watched a young Aboriginal woman in a party dress savagely kicking a full water bottle the length of Park Street. By that time the whole City looked like a vast open-air public bar, drunks everywhere, men and women in uniform clasped together staggering by, old diggers threading their fragile way through the melee to their rides: was the war over or had it not yet begun? Or is it some kind of perpetual state now? I couldn't help thinking of Our Leader, driving in his limo down to Anzac Cove on a road specially constructed for him by the Turkish Government ... over, literally, the bones of the dead.