Friday, May 14, 2004

three atheists in church street

Next week when I go to Sydney, I'll drop in on my former neighbours Jo, 70, and Jean, 90, to show them the baby. Our three terraces had adjoining walls, and there was always at least one of us playing the devil's music at any given time. It was a bit of competition for the opera singer over the road, who tried our patience with his scales.
I used to go for a walk with Jo occasionally. We'd walk up to the shops through the park where the Laughter Club meets, and I'd get paranoid sometimes, imagining they laughed a little harder as we walked past. It's the park where I bought one of my cats. I was sitting reading a Sunday paper one day, no kidding, reading the Pet of the Week page and wishing I had a cat, when at that precise moment a fat, old woman dressed in black appeared out of nowhere carrying a cardboard box by a string. "Psst," she said (honestly, she did). "You want a kitten? Ten dollars." I looked into the box to see a petrified small black face and our fate was sealed. But strictly speaking it's a doglover's park.
My old street had a Buddhist centre and welders and panelbeaters at one end, and then up the other end, the church that gives the street its name. The church itself didn't get a lot of business from me, nor from Jo, nor even Jean, who you'd think at ninety might have a bit of an incentive to go.
On the crumbling wall that goes around the church and the park, there was a mass of overlapping graffiti; amongst it someone had painted in huge letters, HERION = EVIL. Further on, someone who could spell better had etched into the concrete footpath the suggestion to EAT MORE PUSSY. Well, it's Newtown, after all.
Newtown is like Chatswood for dykes. But there's character beneath its new upmarket glitziness; it's not like the bland and polished malls of the North Shore. There's cafes with windows that open onto King Street and spill out tanned backpackers fresh from Khao San Road. Nearby you'll see an Aboriginal girl begging, pushing a pram with a baby so curiously pale you think she has borrowed it as a prop. You'll see the alcoholic dancing alone outside a bar, the boy sitting on a milk crate selling short stories outside the 7-11.
Very different from the lakeside streets that I traverse now. But I don't miss the city. Or so I say...