At airport, about to board for Hong Kong, long chat with Onyx as they drive south from Sydney with Kiesia. Thinking of my previous four weeks here, first time in a decade. Deep emotion and attachment to the land, honoured to work with Onyx on and for their art, many conversations I am thinking over. Reconnecting with Emile, Paea, Jo, Melanie, Shian, meeting new people and seeing how much the city has changed, Carly, Mykaela, Kai, Faith. I’m going to have to come back. Thank you all.
Who put this there, Emile? It’s all new.
On my way to meet Emile for Pacific BBQ Café Cantonese roast duck and our usual madness (which happens all too infrequently). Sci-fi replacement skyline and Sydney / London memories.
In all seriousness, we go to 11.
“It doesn’t go to eleven, Frances.”
“Ok, we go to 10.”
Those two railway bridges: Grosvenor St and Nightingale St. I would start on the south bluestone wall of Grosvenor, do six laps, right-to-left and left-to-right, then move onto the north side, slightly harder in the last half. Then if my fingers had any skin left, I’d go up to Nightingale St and work on the north side from the left — the south side had all this hardware clogging it, street signs and other rubbish. That north side was always the hardest thing I’d climbed, not sure if even out on real rock, in the Grampians or Guangdong, I climbed anything harder. The repetition appealed to me, same thing over and over, having a relationship with the rock. I’d tape my fingertips to get through the last laps, but in the end it was attrition, my skin would give out first. In winter, the first lap or two would be agony as the cold rock cut in, harder to climb but something proper in enduring it. There’s more graffiti now, about the same amount of dirt and clag, a few marks of chalk, unlikely to be my leftovers, even though they mark my route. Emile walked with me as I traced my moves, memory in physicality, movement, emotion.
April 12, 2004. I took a photo of my fingers crimping a small, diagonal edge in the sunlight. I blogged it as Edge of Doom. It was the start of the last tough string of moves before finishing the right-to-left traverse, a deeply satisfying hold and one reliably likely to spit me off the wall. March 27, 2018, I’m standing there with Emile, walking alongside the wall remembering all the holds and moves. I haven’t seen or touched these trio of walls in more than ten years, but the memory — physical, mental, emotional — feels like those ten years were snipped out and time on either side stitched together. With a pair of climbing shoes it would have been an immediate return to that familiar rock. It’s also easier than the Scienceworks wall. The hardest parts of Nightingale St, the horrible slopers and awkward combination of edges, gastons, and that very weird thumb-push from underneath keeping me attached just long enough to slap through — a wall I never completed even though I strung together individual sections — are around the average of Scienceworks wall. I’d love to come back and spend some weeks just doing laps on all these.
Finishing the loop of Carlisle St, Emile telling me of Sinch, the graffiti artist who died riding outside a train, Balaclava his local area, old tags and pieces by his brother still covering the suburb. Pause Bar, where I got drunk on red wine with Bonnie more than once, when both of us were in town. The art on the railway bridge, there since the ’80s. Less change here than other parts of town, still open-mouthed in shock at what’s happened to South Yarra, which I saw passing through on the train. A crane low on the skyline building where the service station used to be, next to the fruit and vegetable shop with the deli out the back, my regular, now a 24-hour gym (the old hardmen place across the road still there though), a crane propping up another of those shit apartment blocks that looks like it would fold under the slightest tremor. Ten years — more than ten years since the last time I was in Balaclava, my home in Melbourne if I ever had one.
Walking back along Carlisle St, Emile telling me about which shops have changed, which remain. This one has remained since the beginning, original copper window frames, Cerulean Blue tiles, only the stained-glass windows above missing. The owner was coming out as we stood there, and told us its history. Old Balaclava still here.
Emile said the Greyhound had been razed a while back, quick and dirty. Shit new pour-and-tilt apartments about to go up on the empty mouth of land it occupied, the kind that look old and shabby within a year. We stood on the corner opposite. Close enough for me. I crawled out the doors of that sublime, 163-year-old Art Deco pub more than once. The best dukebox in Melbourne. Everyone from bikers to drag queens went there to drink and everyone didn’t get up in anyone else’s business. Proper rough East St. Kilda, scary to walk through the door of the first time, and like home every time after. Fuck capitalism and fuck the bottom feeders who suck up the rot flaking off the 1%, shitting out on the rest of us.
Emile took me on a walk along Carlisle St, to see the changes. After seeing what happened in South Yarra (entire city of skyscrapers built in the last 10 years), I was having much culture shock. Glick’s. The best bagels anywhere. I used to buy the carroway seed ones, fill with cheese, and other delicacies, and eat when I got home after climbing, coffee, and shopping. Old Glick died recently, he used to serve me occasionally. On a Friday he’d be talking with everyone coming in for Shabbat. The place expanded next door, twice as big now, but still white tiles and utilitarian. Still the best bagels.