Wednesday, July 26, 2006

memory city

Whizzing round town at night as I do, I'm always passing by sites that hold memory traces: houses or flats I've rented, rooms where I've made or unmade love, places that held parties I was at, places where friends, now dead or departed, lived and laughed or suffered. The other night I drove past a house in Bondi Junction where, in 1981 or 2, having being hailed by a bloke up on the main drag, I picked up a woman who was in the the throes of a severe asthma attack. They were Greek, and he did not come to the hospital with me, I don't know why. I drove her hectically up to the POW in Randwick as she curled forward in a ball of breathlessness on the front seat beside me. Convinced she was dying, I ran shouting into Emergency, where they gently took me aside as they lifted her into a wheel chair and carried her away. I never found out what happened to her, thin and grey and alone as she was; but when I returned to the cab, there was an enormous plastic bag sitting on the floor and in it, a purse containing a single five dollar note: the fare. There are dozens of places like this for me in Sydney, some intimately connected, others, like this one, only randomly significant. Sometimes I feel as if I am abroad in a vast memory city, half fantastical, half real: those places that have changed irrevocably, as so many of them have, are no less strange than those that appear, like this house does, exactly as they were a quarter of a century or however long ago it was.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Blue Monday

Going back to work hurt so bad. The first night, the radio network refused to sign me on. I was, they said, suspended and had 9999 hours to serve before I could be unsuspended, or perhaps cut down. Radio work is, or can be, the icing on the cake, and it's also your connection into the larger cab driving world, you get messages, you can call the network base if you have a problem, you exist. It only took a phone call to fix it, and I made that Tuesday morning.

Tuesday night my cab broke down. I'd taken a fare out to Newington, which is what they call the village from the 2000 Olympics, now transformed into a kind of Stepford Wives type suburb. I got a radio job from Telstra Dome in nearby Olympic Park, a fare to the City, a prize. But the car would only change gear with the greatest reluctance, you could hear the belts in the transmission stretching and lurched before they engaged.

I parked outside Gate L and, in amongst the interplanetary grandeur and vast folly of the deserted stadia and environs, under brilliant white arc lights, made a series of all but futile calls to my boss - a dead spot in the mobile phone network I guess. The fare never showed, some other cabbie had somehow snaffled it, I had to limp back to base and pick up another car, which took an hour out of my night, or about fifty bucks, not counting the lost fare to the City.

Wednesday ... was Wednesday. It was as if I'd never been away. Running on cigarettes and pain killers, coffee and adrenaline, chewing gum and kebabs. As if, somewhere in me there is a cab driver who can be conjured up with a few well worn moves, or routines, some doppelganger, some other or familiar. He took over, and I sat back, spending most of the evening re-writing an old film treatment in my head.