Saturday, April 01, 2006

One p.m. or thereabouts, I'm looking askance at the makings of the pastrami sandwich I was going to be making for lunch when the phone rings. It's Miro, she's in Annandale and wondering if I'd like to meet her at that Thai place in Rozelle we've been to before. We indulge in a bit of banter about the name ... Thai-ed Up? Thai-ed Down? Thai-ed in Knots ... before agreeing to meet imminently. When I ask her how long it will take her to get there she says, mysteriously, eight minutes. I jump in the car and drive over, certain I know exactly where to go, mildly excited because the other day I saw a 2nd hand shop in that strip I'd never noticed before and thought I'd check it out soon. Ah, serendipity.

I get there, find a park on the main drag, cross the road towards the Thai place I can see a couple of blocks up, thinking I don't recall any of these shops, have I ever walked along this street before (irrelevantly almost-echoing one of my least favourite songs from My Fair Lady, which I watched most of the other evening)? The Thai place doesn't look right either, it's a fairly tatty takeaway shop with just a few rickety tables, full of Friday lunch-timers cramming - where's the red velvet? The Buddha? The incense? I have to walk up to the next block and then back down the last one before it dawns on me that I'm in completely the wrong place. I remember Miro saying roundabout, saying kebab place on the corner, there's nothing like that here, although that old theatre looks interesting ...

I tear myself away, jump back in the car and drive across Victoria Road to Darling Street where, two or three blocks up, I see the real place ... and catch a glimpse of Miro sitting pensive and elegantly alone against the wall. She doesn't see me driving by but, after I park where we parked last time and am walking up the side street, my mobile rings and I'm able to say I'm just about to walk through the door ... afterwards she says she's going to Gleebooks to buy the new biography of Truman Capote and I say I'm going to the Haberfield Library to pick up an old one of Anna Akhmatova but I don't or not just yet, I go back to check out the 2nd hand shop.

There's a ragged 1994 Melbourne Street Directory in which I look up the name of a street I've been writing about, surprised to find it's not called Emerald Way after all, but Emerald Hill Place. This leads to a quandary I still haven't resolved: do I revise towards fact or do I maintain the inadvertent fiction? How did I make the misattribution to begin with? Fading sight, internet maps? A pristine Everyman of Rimbaud's Poems, with no clue as to who the translator was. Another Everyman, Dylan Thomas's Collected Poems, appropriately battered, and I pick it up with a pang. I've never got over lending my hardback Collected to a film maker who was doing a documentary about photographer Max Dupain, which somehow necessitated her borrowing my Dylan Thomas to lend to him. Max died, the film was never made, the book disappeared and despite many opportunities, like this, to replace it, I never have.

Downstairs is a kind of cellar where I have to bend double to inspect a range of curiously wrought, ugly 1940s furniture, cheap and nasty, and anyway I already know I will leave the shop empty handed. It's about three p.m. now, a sunny/cloudy afternoon, quite warm. The theatre is an old cinema, the interlocking T R (or R T) stands for Theatre Rozelle (or Rozelle Theatre), it's being remodelled as apartments. I realise that what attracts me to this block is its about-to-be-renovated dereliction, plus it's just up the road from the major location for the film I'm meant to be writing but haven't quite got around to yet, through absorption with my book. I can see the grounds of the old psychiatric hospital ahead, where the road bends, I haven't looked at it from this vantage before, it gives me a thrill.

The Catholic primary school next to the Haberfield Library has been having a cake stall, the streets are full of Italian mothers and children with extravagant sweets in their hands or mouths. There are posters on lamp posts for the forthcoming Italian elections (in Italy) because for some reason (some) people in Australia can vote. But the Akhmatova bio looks dull, it's one of those books that uses poems-as-narrative, plus the pages are yellowed and I simply can't bring myself to borrow it. I return to Summer Hill by the same route I used last year when I was a cab-driver, going home at one or two a.m. with my right sock full of 20 and 50 dollar notes and a great longing for a drink and then to sleep.