I’m back in Perth, the city recently given a raving review by the New York Times.
I thought about writing a direct response to that piece, something about not trusting a writing platform that deals with the trendy expansion of a city without acknowledging the social inequalities that allow it; asylum seekers discouraged from entering the country and getting brutalised in off-shore processing facilities while the government advertises the mining boom to money/adventure seekers in Ireland who reap the benefits and buy sick-cars and houses in rapidly expanding suburbia; the widening gap between the highest earners and the lowest throughout the state; the increasing amount of homeless young people on the streets…
And then I found Jimmy the Exploder’s response, which smacked loudly of “No no no, I know what my home town is like, I have ownership over this experience, I’ma just gonna cash in a bit right now” (though, I did like his well placed “mates”)…
But you know, different strokes from different pens. We can’t all be travel writers paid up to our eyeballs by tourism councils. We can’t all be living in Williamsburg drinkin’ cheap beers and makin’ films. And we can’t all be me.
So, like, I will talk about myself, people I know, and all of us being in this city, because a city is made up of people. Remember that? People. Humans. We’re all in this together.
I choose to start this column now, mate.
‘You do like nut bags, don’t you?’ observed “Terry” the other afternoon.
Damn right I do. I like being challenged. I like being in flux. I like not knowing where I stand. The best part about his observation was the unspoken fact that he was the first nut-bag I fell for, all those years ago in high-school. I prefer nut-bags to vanilla ice-cream, that’s for sure.
A few nights ago, “Jarrod” said to me: ‘People don’t have to be homeless to be worthy of a conversation’, which was in reference to his understanding that I am perceived by many people in our social circles to be aloof. Jesus, if y’all wanna talk to me, come over and say hi. It’s not hard to snap me out of my knotted thoughts when I have a beer in hand.
I met R near the train-tracks in the city, late last week. I was taking photos of the evening light coming through the trees. He was alone, thongs on the grass in front of him, hunched forward a little; despair evident. I walked up to him and asked if he was okay, if he had a place to stay for the night, if he needed some money. He said: yeah I’m alright love/ no, not tonight/ sure, anything helps. I gave him five dollars and asked why he was on the streets. A fair exchange, I thought, if he was willing to chat.
Three days he’d been roughing it, because he’d had a fight with his woman. She was the mother of his grown children; she kicked him out of her house in Como. He wanted to go to Tokyo, a place he’d almost gotten to years ago when he was on a trout fishing boat, selling produce to Korea. That was the only time he’d been out of the country, and his job in Pusang was to keep an eye on the prices they were selling the fish for at market. His Adelaide based company needed to make sure they weren’t being fucked over. He didn’t say if he helped that, and I didn’t ask.
He told me that a pretty young girl like me should be with a man and raising babies. I told him that I would love to have babies, but I hadn’t met the right man. I hadn’t met the right man because most of them haven’t been reliable. Mainly, though, I am also not reliable. I like nut-bags, because I am a nut-bag. Nut-bags shouldn’t have children too young. It probably increases the chance of creating more nut-bags, and worse ones at that.
I didn’t have any solid plans for the evening. I was more than happy to sit down and talk to a stranger who seemed down on his luck, because this last week in Perth has seen a variety of social interactions that lead me to realise I need to change something during my time here. Get in touch with people and stories that don’t relate to cool new bars doing cool new cocktails and galleries having exhibitions and people having music careers… which is all very interesting but it’s blinding to what’s real in broader experience.
Gen-Y, twenty somethings in the city; Hollywood are making cute films about our experiences, businesses are capitalising on our hyperactive fashion tastes, and we’re all trying to figure out how to earn a living in a rapidly changing economy. Perth and I sit in a weird flux. I like it, but I don’t. Nut-bag city, like the nut-bag men I’m in to: culture focussed, stylistically fluid, and messed up by all kinds of childhood traumas.
When I said goodbye to R and stood up to leave, I thanked him for the chat. He thanked me for taking the time to offer it, and it was the realest appreciation I can remember receiving, except for that one time I listened to an old acquaintance talk to me about his slightly-later-than-quarter-life-crisis in a beer garden. R said he was ready to go home to his woman, and try to make it work.
I felt good that I had made R smile, and that was a beautiful feeling, after hurting a young man earlier in the day because I chose to break a blood pact. Is it selfish to make yourself feel good? It is if it’s at the expense of another. But as long as one can even out their experience to a flat-line of comfort, without intentionally causing pain for the sake of it, then I think it’s all kind of okay. Maybe.
Fuck, what am I, Carrie Bradshaw? Hi New York, hi there.
Can a city be held to account in the way that we hold ourselves to account- ethically, morally? It should be. But I don’t think we do it enough. The New York Times writer didn’t. Hell, old mate film-maker didn’t. Does this city even out the selfishness of building apartments that are affordable only to the wealthy- so many of them empty- while our poorest citizens are sleeping in parks each night? What about the people who keep the city so shiny and clean, the street sweepers and the window washers, the council workers… can they afford to live nearby, do they have the right kind of vibe to be granted a lease in Northbridge? Or do they have to travel an hour or more each day to make the city so worthy of praise from an international travel writer? Some of these things just ain’t fair.
There is a lot more to be said about this. Maybe one day I’ll write a book about it or something (book idea #6001).