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The Other Side of Suburbia
...quiet contentment down under
While I would rather be writing or flouncing around being creative, than commuting to and from a job I feel little passion for, I have learnt to see the world in my own way. A way that makes the mediocre more enchanting. It’s a willingness to see the beauty in things, to alter my pre-conceived ideas.
I love suburbia, I really do. But to me it’s not about the Australian dream, or keeping up with the Jones’. It’s not about owning a huge project home, the nicest car on the street or having a heated in-ground pool with “au naturale” landscaping. It’s none of that. I love the things that you take for granted, the things everyone else has stopped seeing properly. This is my suburbia.
I love the way you can have no one else in sight, but know you are never quite alone, that the buzz of life continues on and beyond your little world, beyond your backyard.
I love the menacing loom of a water tower on a hill in the distance, huge, unnatural in its khaki attempt to blend in with the bush, destroyed and long gone, its sinister air a reminder of humanity’s perpetual need to control its environment.
I love the letterbox on your street, graffitied by its owner’s own hand; ‘No Jump Mail’ in permanent marker, a fury of repetitions, fighting against what they wish would not invade. I love the way it’s been lost in translation and I love the attempt, the sentiment. I can’t help but smile as I imagine the owner, a little old Italian nonna, or a Vietnamese couple perhaps, their frustration as they continue to be hit by a tirade of catalogues and local takeaway menus, advertising things they don’t want. Things they don’t need.
I love the street art that someone else tried in vain to erase.
I love the industry of trains coming and going, an endless cycle, just one street back from my house. Taking people to and from where they’d rather be, a tangle of wires silhouetted in the sky, sending mixed messages of places you’ve been and others where you are going. Ambiguous, letting anywhere mean anything.
I love the glow of TVs spilling out through open windows and squeaky screen doors in the evening, illuminating the street, all other lights extinguished as you try and escape summer’s reach.
I love seeing bored kids walking overjoyed dogs in the afternoon sun, avoiding men in stubbies mowing lawns on a Sunday.
I love watching elderly neighbours defy age, toting their shopping home from the supermarket in string bags, determination and autonomy woven into their very being.
I love walking in the coolness and the anonymity of fading light at dusk, being illuminated only by passing cars’ headlights.
I love the sound of a Mr. Whippy in the distance, making people happy, however briefly, as they sit together in gutters and on front steps, eating melting choctops, just talking.
I love getting home late at night, being greeted by local cats and feeling the stillness of sleep, the stars watching over ambivalently, competing with the orange lights of shops, of streetlights everywhere.
I love the trash and treasure that is council cleanup, the insights into people’s lives. I love the ingenuity of those willing to recycle things into something someone can really love.
I love changing the focus of my eyes to see not the fence I walk past, but the yard, the flowers, the Hill’s Hoist, the bicycles through the gaps. The decorations - the backdrop to peoples lives.
I love the grime, the industrialism, the diversity and the character of the inner city suburb, the overly skinny back alleys and ramshackle terraces.
I love the sound of bats flying overhead, on an evening’s business, their shadows dappling over me as I wander the streets, simply for the sake of it.
I love looking at old houses I pass, wondering who lives there, and guessing what kind of lives they lead.
I love catching a hint of fresh laundry on the breeze, the sweet smell of newly cut lawns contrasting the acrid scent of petrol, the smell of rain as it hits the earth, washes away the dust refreshing suburbia, and knowing that someone, somewhere must have just washed their car.
I love knowing that suburbia is what I make it, what I choose to see and feel. I love the things that are so quintessentially Australian that you have forgotten that they are, and the others that are universal to suburbia everywhere. And I love knowing that somewhere, anywhere, there are other people as in love as I am with the mediocrity of suburbia. You just have to know how to see it.