Moving to the City
My loft, Newtown
It feels self-indulgent to update my blog in the midst of sequential global crises. It’s been over a year since I’ve written anything on here, yet I’ve kept the monthly website payments rolling in the hope that I might find it in me to humour myself and update it.
I live in Sydney now. Not on the outskirts; not on the thin hemline of the eastern beaches and the Pacific Ocean. Like, in Sydney. I moved into a loft with no door in a flat in Newtown and where I used to run six kilometres along open beach I now dodge people, dogs and Uber Eats riders like I used to dodge blue bottles and clumps of seaweed as I run through the city at night.
I’ve always moved in the rhythm of nature. I’ve always, and when I say always, I mean since my parents moved us to the West Oz south coast when I was a tiny tot, been acutely aware of nature. How the trees look at different periods of the day, that fucking noisy bird with its tuneless song outside my window at five in the morning, the way the sky shifts as the wind changes direction. I used to always say that I hated the city and lived for the fresh air and the collective sensitivity to the natural environment that comes with living in coastal communities. I’ve always kinda felt like my identity is tied up in the landscape.
The clear West Oz water
But then cities started to grow on me. Gradually, I’ve started to foster a fascination for the webbing of a city, the way humans create this layering of life, generations building on top of each other, eating into the landscape as people trudge about their lives. Each of our little bubbles interlace in a brief encounter at the traffic lights, a knowing look across the train, a quick “excuse me” as you pass in the doorway of a café. Getting to know a city is like getting to know an infinitely complex person. The demography of a city is like the emotional and intellectual terrain of a person’s inner landscape. With a city at least, most of us have google maps as a guide.
I remember being in Maputo a while ago now that I started to think about life in the thick of it. Staying in an apartment where the lights of the cars blurred in the street far below and the ant sized dots of human bodies shuffled along the side walk, transactions taking place as the formal economy bled into the informal – kids begging, peddlers selling rip off Prada sunnies, phone chargers and cocaine as expats and the Mozambican bourgeoise moved in and out of pricy restaurants of imported foods and dwindling seafood supplies. It’s impossible to understand humans from outside the city.
My friend April in Maputo
So, I moved to Sydney. It’s no damp African metropolis but it’s still interesting. Newtown feels like a kind of prism in which the boundaries of class and gender have been smudged out and each bleed into the other in a hot mess of bad haircuts and Doc Martins. It’s taken some getting used to. Especially during COVID19 when both the city and life in general is in a constant state of flux.
It’s taken getting used to crossing the city to the beach and sometimes the dry winter air burns in my lungs as my surroundings close in on me. Sometimes Sydney feels tight on my throat and my name on a gas bill tries to erase the show reel of memories I have in my head of moving without ties across continents over the last few years. But I guess sometimes wrangling ambition takes these kinds of choices. A warm bookstore at night, negronis at 4pm, bad dates that feel like time you can’t get back but best of all real, deep reflective conversations that come from a collective sensitivity of a different kind. As the last of my tan fades out under the winter sky and COVID19 threatens a second lockdown, I’m reconceptualising myself in a new context and it’s actually pretty exciting.