October 15, 2002 (place)
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I did something quite out of character tonight.
And no, you wag, it's not just the daylog.
I peeked over the fence.
Now I don't know what you guys are doing at 2:32AM on a Wednesday morning, but I was just doing my regular thing - pottering around E2.
The corner of Sydney I live in may well be polite and pleasant around lunchtime, but it certainly isn't once the sun has gone down. It can get hellishly unpleasant at times. A pal of mine had his Audi A6 firebombed a few blocks away last Monday night. (It was a long weekend). And last month a guy was shot at for practicing golf in the park that adjoins my building. Trips out at night are quick and to the point - get out - get what you need - and get back. Well, here I am - getting out - at two-thirty in the morning, but I didn't need anything at all.
You got pretty much 3 directional choices for a midnight stroll around here. One is towards the city, but I head there each day so the allure of that path was thin. Another is south - towards Redfern - but hell - the street company is even worse there. East - towards Moore Park was about my only choice. Unfortunately, to reach Moore Park from Surry Hills, you need to transverse some pretty heavy-duty arterial roadway. Legging it east, on the normally car and semi-trailer clogged Cleveland Street, I got my first glimpse into why this wasn't going to be an ordinary stroll. The traffic eerily ceased - almost unheard of, except for this late time of night. Most crazed teens will already know this, but there is something amazingly uplifting and liberating about standing still in the middle of a road that in a few hours will turn you into paillard.
A few blocks along Cleveland and I was getting into somewhat nicer territory, but I was by no means out of the woods. Each stranger I passed had that same "...What the fuck are you doin at this time of night..." look on their face. Finally - after what seemed an edgy eternity - I reached South Dowling Street, the edge of Moore Park. For those of you that don't know Sydney, the transition from urban grime to immediate parkland that Moore and Centennial parks provide can be a tad alarming.
One second I am looking down dark and uninviting alleys, but cross that road and I am in a darkened expanse of parkland. The lingering street sounds start to fade into the background as I ease further and further into a very unlit, and potentially very dangerous park. I vividly recall this park from my childhood. It had steeply rising hills that fed grass skier's afternoons. It was always somewhere you drove past, but never explored on foot. Like all slopes appraised from a distance, the walk to the top took a surprisingly long time - It always seemed so much shorter a distance when I had been driven past as a child, but the view was amazing. Why had I not been here before? It dawned on me that I was in one of the most isolated parts of Sydney, yet I was a scant 2km from the centre. You see, roads and public planning has conspired to make this place a no-mans-land. Surrounded by major roads and traffic-distributing tunnels, it had become a difficult to get to oasis.
I sat at the top of the hill in Moore Park for a while, stared at the lights of the city, and rolled a cigarette. The thought that I was a good 10 minutes sprint from safety was dispersing, yet still at the back of my mind. I began to relax and take it all in.
then of course…
The straight route downhill was now blocked by cascades of water that showered seemingly from nowhere. I had to go further east, through a grove of Moreton Bay Fig trees, and its attendance of flying foxes. The new path did not look inviting. It was even less illuminated than the dark one I had taken to get there. On top of this, I realized that this may be good people's bedtime - but it's happy hour for flying foxes. They were everywhere - oppressively so. Flying overhead, squawking, screeching - darkness - bats.
You know what I did? I lay down - on the grass, stared, up through the wings of the flying mammals at the gray and ochre sky that industry had left me. I felt safe - I closed my eyes. Only metres away, countless muggings, robberies, murders, rapes and assaults had taken place - yet I felt safe. Oppressively, liberatingly so.
As I wandered home an hour or so later, to more "..who da fuck are you.." stares, the risks I had taken all became so clear. Crystal.