Posts Tagged ‘Nevermind’
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.
5:37am on a Saturday isn’t a good time to be asking questions that you want lucid answers to. I couldn’t come up with a plausible defence for my pre-dawn awakening, nor could I explain why one of my shoes had taken up residence on the top of my sofa. My biggest blank (no, not that sort of blank) of the morning came while trying to determine where the last twenty years had gone.
Next Saturday marks two decades since the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind, and the realisation that well over seven thousand days have passed me by since I first heard the riff in the intro to Smells Like Teen Spirit raised a pertinent question: what the hell have I been doing since 1991?
While I’d love to account for the apparent gaps in time with some sort of Rip Van Winkle-like slumber or magical wardrobe, I can’t: I don’t have a mysterious, unkempt beard, and to the best of my recollection, I’ve never seen faun carrying an umbrella. In keeping with Occam’s razor, the best explanation that I can come up with is that life continues to go on around us, whether you want it to or not, and irrespective of any attention you pay to it.
Kurt Cobain had his faults, just like any of us, but he never tried to argue that he didn’t, nor did he pretend to be something that he wasn’t. He didn’t give a fuck what other people thought about him, and made music because he was passionate about it, not because of its potential commercial benefit. I think he understood that life is, in its purest form, a game against the hands of time, and needs to be experienced, rather than watched from the grandstand. The epilogue to his story was tragic, but while he was with us, he lived and observed life, and drew on its influences – both good and bad – to create art that has lived on, while so much of the world has changed around it.