Posts Tagged ‘identity’
When I told several Sydney-based friends I would be living in Newtown when I arrived in the New South Wales capital, they gave verbatim responses about how I would find it.
“Newtown’s pretty out there,” one told me as I packed up my life in south-west Queensland.
“It’s different but I think you’re gonna fit right in.”
I wasn’t sure how to take the comment at the time, but ever since my maiden stroll down King Street almost three weeks ago, it now makes sense: Newtown is a place you really can come as you are.
In 1992, I was an angst-ridden, overachieving 11-year-old. Like thousands of others, I honestly believed a subdued Kurt Cobain was singing about my life when he slurred the lyrics of “Come as You Are”. At the time, I thought it was my personalised theme song. I was wrong. The song is a musical tribute to the inner-west suburb in which I currently reside.
At a cursory glance, Newtown strikes you as a place where downtrodden creative types come to escape the judging stare of the real world. In the past week alone, I’ve spoken to two unemployed journalists, a musician preparing to busk her way to dinner and a dishevelled, 50-something writer who has been working on a manuscript since 2002. Everyone here has a story, from the well-dressed corporate type frantically hailing a bus, to the barefoot bohemian couple who seem to be celebrating a 46-year Summer of Love as they walk their Labrador.
It doesn’t matter what you look like, how you dress or how oddly you behave here – the grand Lady Newtown has seen it all before on her bustling main thoroughfares and narrow, terrace-lined backstreets. She won’t judge you and, because of her unique allure, neither will the people who call her ample, culture-filled bosom home. If you don’t believe me, just ask the bearded, tutu-wearing guy who was sobbing hysterically on King Street last Saturday.
Even the non-human aspect of Newtown is a multifarious mix of calm and chaos. As I write this from the relative silence of my courtyard, it’s hard to believe the lights, sounds and manic pace of Enmore Road are only 200 metres from here. Only the constant, near-deafening whine of descending planes overhead reminds me I’m sharing a city with almost five million people.
To me, it’s Newtown’s ability to offer both solitude and a strange sense of community and belonging that makes it so appealing. You can walk along the street wearing flippers and a tin-foil hat if you want to, safe in the knowledge you’ll retain relative anonymity.
Despite offering an eclectic range of cafes, restaurants and stores, as well as a vibrant lifestyle that is probably unmatched anywhere else in Sydney, the real lure of this historic suburb is that it provides a venue for people from every corner of the globe to listen to Cobain sing their personal theme song.
Within the invisible, council-determined boundaries of Newtown, you can be anyone you want to be, even if you aren’t sure who that is.
Just don’t try to be anyone you know you aren’t. If you do, the eccentric, welcoming old dame will eat you alive.