Sydney First Impressions.
Our digs are dusty, not good, an issue to resolve. That aside, there is a very friendly vibe here in Sydney. There are banners all over that read this is our city in/ summer. The weather simply cannot be better. I expect this to be my best January on record.
Over the course of 4 hours we walked a good portion of the city from China town to Darling Harbor to the Rocks and Opera House area. During our trek we happened upon the first day of a music festival. Its festival season here! The weather, this gorgeous harbor city, friendly people, the music fest…I think I have found Nirvana.
Despite our ill preparation we immediately started festivizing. It wasn't long before I was so entranced by the band that I turned my attention away from the stage for a little video to accompany the music. I want my MTV. Fixed to the sea of people spread out along the vast lawn they call the Domain I was struck how many colorful picnic blankets there were spread exactly 12.5" apart. They formed a communal patchwork quilt across the entire massive space. This sort of order out of chaos is remarkable. No, I did not take any psychedelic drugs- I am a parent now. All the women were in their urban hippie sundresses; men in basic chill pedal pushers. A few random guys in long fabric Fiji skirts- they were up dancing. Amazing compliance to the what-to-wear to the party memo that obviously accompanied the insert on how to spread the blanket. This is a free concert in an urban environment…such homogenous approach to dress and roost. I feel the cohesiveness of the group and get the notion- when the band breaks I stand up and sing a stanza to see if I can reignite a movement from kinder, simpler times. Conditions feel right.
In a sheepish voice I sing out an invitation to the crowd
I'd like to buy the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtledoves.
The crowd begins to stand one by one and walk across the patchworks to join me in song
I'd like to teach the world to sing
Some of the males in a distinct Aussie fun-loving accent insert something slightly dirty in place of the word sing and make gestures with their pelvis while doing such but most of the crowd remains true to the lyrics.
In perfect harmony
Go ahead, you know you want to: http://youtu.be/ib-Qiyklq-Q.
Turns out, my I'd-like-to-buy-the-world-a-home daydream was filled with irony. Sydney reveals much of its magnificence in 24 hours when you are focused on the amazing structures, friendly people and easy layout. It is a great city. However, at around the 48 hour mark there is enough of an observable pattern on the streets that you have to acknowledge a significant social problem- homelessness. In my mind only Berlin can compete with the level of homelessness here. Berlin seems to come by it honestly given its history and time in recovery from atrocity and confinement. The adult populations there are still the age of direct impact from this once walled, severed city. Sydney, however, remains a puzzle. At present I can't fathom why it has this level of social problem given my observations of the patchwork. It felt like a group hug at the music fest, people outgoing and chatty, seemingly community minded. Is there so much individualism here that social problems are left unfunded?
I would not have been surprised if the homeless were largely Aboriginal. Many nations, including Australia, have applied the indigenous-people-treatment plan to their purveyors of the longest surviving artistic, musical and spiritual traditions known on earth. Opposing this logic, the rough sleepers (what they call it here) we walked around were not Aboriginal. A quick accounting: 100% white, non-Asian, 20-50 years of age, 35% women. I just don't get what is going on here.
To aid understanding I researched a bit online and found a lot of conflicting information on statistics and even a rough sleeper resolution plan the city started in 2007 aimed at ending homelessness by 2017. Methinks they are off target. One filmmaker apparently struck the same as I blogged about his filming of a documentary on the subject. He concluded there is not a homelessness problem in Sydney rather a mental illness problem that manifests itself in homelessness. Attitude on mental illness, that's another research project. There are plenty of opposing points of view positioning drugs and mental illness as convenient excuses held onto mostly by people with homes. Reasons why their efforts would be insignificant. What is the truth? My efforts quickly turned towards uncovering what can be done by us that is productive to help the problem so the kids have a compassionate action in response to their observations. I came away with some ideas, but not as many as I hoped. We will do something, no matter how small, it begs for such a response.
Just as I was exhausted and depressed about this (on top of dealing with asthmatic kids spewing from their sinuses from superdust- we are moving apartments it's that bad) I got a gift. Delivered in the wee hours of web surfing- just the right time for maximum appreciation- I came across an intriguing and slightly disturbing Sydney phenomenon of another vein. Right up my alley. I was glad for the diversion. There is a subversive underground group here in Sydney called the Cave Clan. They describe themselves as a group dedicated to...um.. urban exploration. Here is an outline of their well-written manifesto.
Why are there drains
Find your drain
Manholes, grills and gutter boxes: The way down, and back to the surface
Manhole covers, Grills, Gutter Boxes, Manhole poppers
Daytime vs. Night draining
Torches/Batteries (warning: contains boring consumer information)
s***ty product alert
Air quality determination
Hydrogen Sulphide, Carbon Monoxide, Methane, Oxygen, Self-Rescue Gear, Cockroaches
Drain features and their negotiation
Stepirons, Silides, Waterfalls, Stairs, Ladders, Balconies, Pits / G.P.T's, Grills
A warning about CDS Units
Gauging shaft depth
Drain lifeforms: Visible, Invisible
Catchment, tides, rain and what to do in a flood
Rain and the legendary flash flood
The basic rules of drain exploring
Packing list for expeditions
Why go in drains
That's right. Subversive sewer exploration is alive and well in Sydney. Please, don't let me be the only one to enjoy this eccentricity. Go ahead and read the document in its entirety at http://www.urbex.org/misc/approach/approach.html. My personal favorite are the prose about possible repercussions from lifting manhole covers in unknown locations.
I don't know what to make of this town. The plot thickens.
Amidst the puzzle pieces of Sydney, at 151° Longitude East