Sunday, April 22, 2007

In Serendip

Sometimes driving a cab can feel like living as a tick on the body corporate, the way some journalists live on the body politic ... when you've engorged enough cash / blood / venom you drop off and go home until next time. But, not always. The other night I was driving up towards the Coca Cola sign at Kings Cross with a taciturn Englishman in the cab when the radio offered me a job: Darlinghurst to Milsons Point. It was between six and seven in the evening and the bridge, I knew, was jammed because of an accident or a breakdown in the tunnel earlier. I'd spent the last hour and a half trying to get away from the gridlock at the north end of town so it was clearly counter-productive to accept a job like this. Except: the job was in Womerah Lane and I used to live in Womerah Lane. I hit the #2 button, accepting, and was then astonished and delighted to see that the street number was 71 ... my old house! She was a very nice young woman - if being in your thirties is still young, which I think it is - and we chatted happily for the duration of what turned out to be a far longer ride than it would usually be, going over the bridge to Luna Park. Where she was attending a work function. I won't go into the detail of the conversation, beyond saying how fascinated I was to learn what has happened to that house and the neighbourhood since I left it (in 1995) and how intrigued she seemed to be to learn something of the back story of where she and her husband and daughter now live. It reminded me of what I love about this city, and even, sometimes, about this job: the tangled, genial, half buried but always excavatable sense of community that exists here. And the way that community is both intensely contemporary and resonantly historic.