Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Queen's Birthday

Back in the phantasmagoria ... some Irish chippie who's lost, or left, his tools in the Blue Mountains wants to find a hardware store before tomorrow. A pregnant woman in a hurry to catch her ferry at Circular Quay pours all her change into my hands, including some francs. Three French people at the Avis depot in William Street harrass me all the way into town about the fare on the meter. I pick up a chatty, somewhat troubled guy in Rose Bay and take him into the Star City casino. Turns out he's a cop taking three month's stand down. He says he once had to arrest a guy for a murder way out west somewhere. It was a mafia crime. The guy was packing the .38 he used for the killing, with three shots still in it, and had a loaded .22 automatic in the back seat of his car. Since then, this cop always goes to work with a bullet proof vest on. He says he couldn't do my job without his 9 shot Glock pistol. I say I couldn't do it with one. As I drop him off (he's meeting his 'business partner') he says he won't gamble tonight. Later, much later, on my way back to the depot, I see a Silver Service cab refuse a fare and take it instead. A wild looking Indian guy and a lumpy young woman. They want to go to the McDonalds in Stanmore, the same one where there was a shooting in the carpark not so long ago. I wait among the usual suspects while they pick up their order then take them back to Leichhardt. In Norton Street the guy wants me to stop again. He comes back from the Medical Centre with a packet of condoms. I already know it's a seduction, from the conversation. At the block of flats he wants me to drive into the narrow alley running down the side of the building. He doesn't have the money for the fare. He'll get it. I stare into the bare, blank, fluorescent stairwell while strange electronic music plays on the radio. What'll I do if he doesn't come back? The timer light in the stairwell clicks off then immediately on again. That means he's on his way. With elaborate courtesy, he counts out the fare ... I drive away with the image of his girlfriend's face in my mind: pulpy, bruised looking, as if she was taking psychiatric drugs, her look mingles apology and resignation. A bouncer outside a pub up the road hails me, a little guy in his sixties, maybe, wearing a checked jacket comes puffing down the street. I take him to Rockdale. On the way back up the Princes Highway, at a red light, two homeboys come over to the passenger side window. They're Indian too. Can I take them to Kogarah Station? I can't, it's late, I'm too tired, I'm nearly out of gas ... I abandon them to their fate, whatever it may be. At the late opener in Ashfield I allow myself an after work beer. A very drunk guy playing pool asks for a Gadang Garam then insists on paying 50c for it. He goes on and on about how sweet it tastes. The Greek bouncer and the Chinese bar girl are playing some complex game of flirtation and threat with each other while young hoods confer in the booths. When I finally get home it's after 2 am and the late night movie on ABC is Emir Kusturica's Underground. It's a wedding sequence. Everyone is drunk and abusive. The band revolves on a stand, blowing mad brass riffs. There's a military tank in the cellar. A monkey climbs into the hatch. The monkey's climbed into the tank! someone yells ... I can't handle this. Is it life or art? Or some third thing, made of both? Or of neither ... ?