12 May 2009
I’m sitting on the first floor balcony of the Bourbon (Hotel: this word appears no where on their livery) in Kings Cross, sipping a glass of red wine. It is Happy Hour in more than one sense. Yes, the drinks are half price, but it is also that time when the worries of the day are drifting off and the evening’s promises are to come.
It’s 6.00pm on an autumn evening and down Macleay St the plane trees are dropping their leaves and the ambient street lighting is strangely seductive. It’s very easy just to gaze at the scene and watch the traffic pass by. Occasionally a 311 bus goes by, but only very occasionally.
I’m a local. I live in the building next door. My northerly aspect takes in Fitzroy Gardens and the El Alamein Fountain – my favourite Sydney fountain. I’ve been here for eighteen years. I have no desire to live anywhere else.
When I finish my drink I’ll go home to the ABC News, maybe grill a chop or whip up some pasta, settle in to some TV or reading (and another red wine) and it will be lights-out around 10.30pm. Tomorrow morning I’ll wake about 7.00am, collect my morning paper, make a coffee and take both back to bed.
During my sleeping hours, the night creatures will descend on the scene. Bods in their twenties and thirties – IT experts, bankers, football players – in their post-office Calvins and Hilfigers and long-legged stilettoed girls in black dresses that look like underwear will brave the bouncers at the Sugar Mill, the Elk, Madame De Biers, the aforementioned Bourbon, or any one of a dozen nightspots in the area. Having already popped some pills, they’ll sink a few drinks, bop to the head-banging noise they call music and maybe get lucky with the opposite sex.
All this while I sleep soundly – their world is not mine, though we share the same physical space.
When I moved here in 1991, Fitzroy Gardens at night was populated by rent boys. The nearby Rex Hotel had a gay bar (the Bottoms Up Bar, would you believe), hence the late-night presence of the hopeful lads. I studiously avoided them.
After the euphoria of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, virtually all of the area’s tourist hotels – the Landmark, the Hyatt Kingsgate, the Rex, even the singular Sebel Town House – were converted to trendy apartment blocks and gentrification began.
Around this time, a group, indeed, tribe, of aborigines moved into the Gardens and set up camp under the Moreton Bay fig trees. The occasional noise of smashing bottles in the middle of the night was a nuisance. A local police officer told me that several of them had Housing Commission flats in Waterloo, but they preferred to live under the stars. Eventually, I don’t know how, they were moved on.
Nowadays the gardens are populated by locals walking their dogs (pooper scooper is de rigueur) and new mums with strollers and toddlers romping in the local playground. What a different world it is.
Well really, there are two different worlds. In the world of the night creatures, an eccy is dropped, drink is taken, birds and lads are chatted up, a night is raged away.
In my world, cappuccinos are taken in the morning sunshine, the boutiques and bookshops are visited, shopping is done at Woolies or Fratelli Fresh, lunch with friends is at Café Sopra or Zinc. If it’s a sunny day, I might take my book down to Beare Park on the shores of Elizabeth Bay in the afternoon. And this rolls into Happy Hour at the Bourbon, where this story began.