Just a month ago, we spent the weekend in Sydney. We'd each lived there before, in other lifetimes, but we found our home together in Brisbane. It's not perfect. Nowhere is.
Our Sydney weekend blurred past: images altered little from my memory, smells as familiar as yesterday. I love the sharp smokey smell of Sydney trains, and the pungent mulchiness in the air up around Epping.
I'm not as enthusiastic about the pigeons in the Mall at Bondi Junction, or the clientele at the Coogee Bay Hotel. I've lived in Coogee - but I've lived in Wenty too. I speak Bogan.
Wynyard still smells like stale piss, but the hooker outside our five-star CBD hotel added a brittle veneer of Pretty Woman-esque class to our 10pm stroll.
And then there's Manly. Some of the best views anywhere in any city's suburbia are right there. I sat for a while. Grandmas and toddlers everywhere that Sunday morning. A little girl, only just walking - why wouldn't she wear her damned shoes? And a boy, four or five, jumping down the stairs. Of course he fell, screamed, cried, settled and jumped again.
An older couple strolled by in their traditional Indian garb. It was one of those hot summer days that Sydney does so well. The Indian matron had chosen a sari in coffee coloured silk with gold and bronze embellishment. The choli was cropped below her breasts. Exposed brown flesh was abundant and wobbly, no more embarrassed than the toddler who hated shoes.
So short was our time in Sydney that we didn't get to see the other Sydney, although we were constantly aware of its nearness. From the airport to George Street to Manly and back, everything we saw shined for us, except the people, although some of them tried.
But we're not that stupid. I lived in Wenty. Rob lived in Hornsby. Show me the difference between Westfield Eastgardens and Westfield Carindale. Once inside those soul-less places, you could be in any city. K-Mart is K-Mart. Frisbees are frisbees and men congregate at the barbecues. We're Australians, not the bridge crew of the Starship Enterprise.
Remember those People's Forums before the 2010 election? Rooty Hill RSL, people. Sydney's unstoppable suburban sprawl. Drive-by shootings, K-Marts with late night trading every night of the week, offerring unwise retail entertainment for the unshiny people to enjoy after their Today Tonight fix and terrorist halal pizza. Let's get some glittery nail polish to match the frock we bought for $19 last night.
There's despair in the housing commission estate just down the hill from McMansion Heights. Down there, the tyres squeal as loudly as the babies do, but you can't hear them. Double glazing and Aussie Crawl's Sirocco on CD make sure of that. No hipster vinyl irony here. Just booze.
In Sydney, as anywhere, your perception of time is governed by you, not by your location.
I love Sydney because of what I know about it. In spite of what i know about it. The sparkle and the turd.
I'm still learning Brisbane. It reminds me of Sydney, particularly out in the burbs.
I've always wondered why so many Queenslanders treat southerners with such suspicion. Contempt. Hatred.
Dan Watson has answered that question.
This is my response to Dan Watson's elegantly offensive op-ed in the Sydney Morning Herald.