it was cold outside but i could not help myself. i had to sit down and take it all in. so i did. baguette in hand i sat down on the curb, my appreciation for what i was observing growing deeper with each bite.
laneway culture. the hidden grit that runs between this city’s concrete walls. cafes, a collage of band posters. the food, tasteful tapas and savoury sweets. the people, a mixed flurry of drones being released.
and so i sit, chewing. taking it all in.
i read the other day that the life of the laneway is at risk. painted murals on heritage bricks, extinct, as they are hunted down by developers’ greed; savage beasts who think that pristine glass walls is the new grunge. more cars, more crowds … more noise. these beat-up footpaths are the soul of city life, which has already been suffocated by bright shiny lights. if they get closed up where is the rat race left to rummage? as we border up the last of the industrial remains there will be no more authentic public space for the vigilante to paint his picture, no more nook for the designer to trade her talent, no more shop for the barista to brew his espresso, and no more rusty curb for me to sit on … and chew.
as rupert mann, head of melbourne heritage action declares, “selling off laneways and approving inappropriate and bland developments is eroding one of this city’s most important economic, heritage, cultural and artistic resources.” but one should not fret, i suppose. bland is the nouveaux, after all.
at the sad resolve that this beloved heritage, which gives melbourne her fine gritty charm, might one day be no more, i stand up, unknown where to wander. too overwhelmed to merge myself back into the main street bustle.
i do not get far because i realise that my mobile has died and i have no money. it is a humble feeling really, empty pockets that it is.
i reconvene my thinking back down on the laneway grime. it is cold, but i am warm. warmed by the fact that at the end of the lane there is light–the greatest public space of them all where all paths to culture lead.
the public library.
i relocate from the curb to a bench in my domain’s welcoming foyer. i am done chewing but not done observing. i have no connectivity just the primitive tools of paper and pen. an old man next to me is struggling to fold the newspaper, another is stocked up on books. a girl fights with a magazine and two lovers play chess in silence. everyone has curious faces–it is beautifully quiet in here. back outside the alley is littered with chatter, the tables rumble with laughter–it is wonderfully happy out there.
laneways curate culture and libraries curate knowledge. clean up the grit and you destroy the curb on which life is perched.
the article that inspired this post appeared in the 17th june edition of the age: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/call-to-protect-laneways-in-the-name-of-a-gritty-city-20120616-20h4c.html