Sunday, February 26, 2006

This site is allegedly a year old today tho', not really, because the first few posts appeared on the sister site & were moved over here later ... b-but it is a year since I got my taxi licence (for the third time!) & thus time to renew it again. Because I'm not driving at the moment that can be done in a fairly leisurely manner, still costs about 500 bucks however, which I don't like paying, specially because I don't really ever want to drive a cab again ... on the other hand, common sense tells me that, things being as they are, precarious, I can't really afford not to (renew my licence I mean). Will probably run out of money not long after this financial year ends (June 30) &, unless something else comes along, how else am I going to make the rent? pay for the kids? feed my habit(s)? ... ah, yes, sometimes I really do wonder how much of this money anxiety I feel is constitutional, how much circumstantial? Would I still feel insecure on 500 grand a year? Some of my happiest times have been when I've had nothing blah blah blah ...

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Last week two nights in a row, at the same hour, I went to the Dendy Cinema at Circular Quay to see a film. The first, the premier of a short I'd been invited to because I'd been speaking with the producer about another matter; the second, the opening of the IndiVision Screenings for this year - I was a participant in the IndiVision Lab last year. Neither film was quite satisfactory but that's not what I'm here to say.

I always prefer being early to the movies so I caught the train about 5.15 and was at the Quay by 5.45 for a 6.15 screening. There I was, ambling along, in no hurry, intending to stop in at an art shop where you can reliably see lithos by the likes of Chagall and Miro and Dali and Bonnard, when I look up and see this:

She was moored in West Circular Quay and took up the whole length of harbour on that side, seeming as long if not longer than the bridge, which kind of grew out of her bow. A few lights on, a few idle figures lounging on her decks taking the evening air - they were all David Niven types in white cravats to me, smoking Sobranes - while hanging below her funnel, bizarrely, was a hand written banner saying DO NOT APPROACH CLOSER THAN FIFTY METRES. For terrorists, I guess.

Big old ocean liners always make me think of Fellini's Amarcord, the night scene where the characters row or wade out into the water to see one passing by, like a space ship from some wonderful, perhaps alien civilization whose planet you might one day be lucky enough to visit.

Thursday was hot and then about four the thunderheads rolled in, with a spattering of big fat drops which, by the time I went to catch the train, had turned to steady though not hard rain. The train must have travelled with the cloud because it was raining as well in the City, which had been clear when I left - I can see it from my balcony. I don't mind getting a bit wet, I was enjoying it and anyway, there's a covered walkway from the Quay to the Toaster and the Opera House and the QE2 was still there, looking more like this:

though rather more beautiful in the after storm light. I knew by now that she was departing for Melbourne that night and could already see a thin thread of diesel smoke drifting from her funnel. I was hoping that after the movie was over we might be lucky enough to see her steam out - that would have been something. The film, from Israel, was an inconsequential tale about a unit of girl soldiers patrolling Jerusalem which somehow managed to be trivial and claustrophobic at the same time and, instead of ending, just stopped. The last shot was interminable, two girls on one motorcycle riding through the city with, for some reason I will never know, the word KIWI written on each of their helmets.

It was dark by now, we stood around in a roped off enclosure in a bar area under the Opera House as canapes and wine waiters circled and networks got worked. I was with a director friend and she was with an actor friend and none of us could raise much enthusiasm for working the nets so, just as they served trays of boxed stir-fried beef noodles, we left and ate leaning over the rails looking at that fabulous apparition which, while it was smoking more than it had been, did not look like leaving before we ourselves wandered off into the night.

So she's gone now but, if I'd got around to the other side of the Quay in daylight, I might have seen something like this:

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Rowe Street

For a big city, a world city as it likes to think itself, Sydney does not have a very good Public Library. This probably reflects the way the municipality is divided up, the Sydney City Council has jurisdiction only over the CBD proper, the adjoining inner city suburbs are administered by other councils; most of the suburban libraries are rather better, if not bigger, than the Central one. I haven't bothered rejoining since I came back here to live a year ago and in fact didn't even know where it was any more, until yesterday.

I was going to see an exhibition called Memory Lane : Recollecting Rowe Street. Rowe Street was a short narrow street running between Castlereagh and Pitt Streets, just south of Martin Place in the City. It was like an Arcade without a roof and featured shops you didn't find in other parts of town. At one end was the grand Australia Hotel, at the other, the Millions Club (dedicated to population growth); in between you could (in the 1950s and 60s) buy chic hats and dresses, espresso, avant-garde pictures, banned books and modern furnishings. It had been that way, a little piece of Bohemia, at least since the start of the 20th century, when the former literary editor of the Bulletin, A. G. Stephens, and artists Lionel Lindsay and Antonio Datillo-Rubbo rented garret studios on the street.

The exhibition, on the first floor at the recently restored Customs House at Circular Quay, didn't amount to much : three glass cases of displays of wares from those chic and arty shops plus a dozen or so photographs made over into large wall panels. Interesting enough but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. The New Customs House is open plan and there was a lot of conspicuously leisurely lounging around going on, which I found distracting I guess. Never mind.

It was as I was leaving that wing where the exhibition was that I saw a high tech, bright red counter at one end of the floor and realised it was a library I was in ... the Sydney Public Library, made over to look as much as possible like a bookshop - one with hardly any books it it. Fiction A - L seemed all that there was; and the copy of The Situationist City lying casually on a table nearby was asking to be - not stolen, picked up and taken away. I resisted that particular temptation and went up to the next floor to explore, looking for the rest of the books.

They were there, on Floor Two, and seemed somewhat rehabilitated from the sad and tatty collection that used to be housed in an office building behind the Town Hall, and before that in a room in the otherwise derelict Queen Victoria Building. I inquired about re-joining and was relieved to learn my name was no longer on the database - there had been some anomalies in my borrowing behaviour in earlier years - but startled to learn that there is now a joining fee of $11.50. The help was either ignorant or terminally rude, I couldn't decide which. Well, I will join, I guess, sometime ...

Getting back to Rowe Street, most of it was demolished in the early 1970s to make way for the MLC Centre, about which the less said, probably the better. The bit they didn't destroy still exists, a numb and bland service lane running behind the Commonwealth Bank Building to the back of the MLC and the Theatre Royal. I did like the epigraph for the show, from Baudelaire : The form of a city changes more quickly, alas, than the heart of a mortal.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Two 14 year old girls have been arrested for this murder. Cousins. They were detained by Transit Police for fare evasion at Strathfield Station. They apparently had done another robbery (with a knife?) and attempted several more between the murder of the cabbie and the incident at Strath. A witness to the pre or post of the murder said one of them was of Polynesian appearance. That is congruent with the TV images, although everyone (= family) had their heads covered, getting in and out of cars. Can see I'm going to have to stick with this story.
Elias Kopti, a general manager at South Western Cabs where Mr Hormozi worked, said Mr Hormozi was a "risk taker" who would take on passengers other drivers avoided. He said Mr Hormozi preferred to work the night shift and was well known for accepting any available passenger. "He never chooses his fare - he'll pick anyone up," Mr Kopti said. "He was a risk taker. He will pick up all the junkies." Mr Kopti said this was despite Mr Hormozi being robbed at least 10 times, three at gunpoint, during about 20 years of taxi driving.

Sydney Morning Herald, 2.2.06