The walk started at home and we took the Pyrmont Bridge across to Market Street where as usual there were beggars on the corners. The beggars must do a good trade because they are always there, even though I never see anyone giving them any money. Some bend at the waist with their elbows on the pavement in a real "begging" pose asking for donations. Others simply sit on bended knees on a rug on the pavement with a sign in front of them explaining their situation. There are also street sellers for the publication The Big Issue. The guy selling the magazine on the corner of Market and George today was twirling his display copy of the magazine on one finger and catching it in the same hand. This guy often gives people warning about when the traffic lights are about to change.
We had lunch in a Japanese restaurant on Pitt Street where I ate udon and had some plates of sushi, as well as a packet of seaweed salad and some mame. Then we went to Muji to have a nose around. The Japanese consumer goods store sells a thousand different storage solutions from the drawing boards of Japanese designers long used to catering to a population with very little spare room in their houses. We admired their creations.
My friend struck up a conversation with a coffee stall owner while I used the amenities, and when I came down the escalator to the ground floor she was paying for two small coffees. We chatted with the storeholder and her staffer and they added another shot to my friend's coffee, because she had said it wasn't strong enough. As we walked down the street afterward she complained it was too strong and asked me if I would change, even though I had been drinking my coffee for some minutes. Eventually I threw away the rest of my coffee and finished off hers. We headed toward William Street.
Outside the cathedral people were walking along the reflecting pool inside huge, blue plastic balls. The balls were tethered and attendants held the ends of the tethers as the balls progressed in imperceptible degrees down the pool full of water. The sun was shining and as we passed the Ducati dealership I stopped to look in through the window lovingly.
There was a young man shouting loudly and irrationally from his perch on a public seat that had discarded food and some liquid scattered around its base. He was rearranging his shoe laces. As we reached the next kerb he came up next to us and then started shouting at a motorcycle that had zoomed loudly up the street on the main road. The young man had two small backpacks but otherwise looked neat enough. He was clearly disturbed or else not in complete control of his emotions because he kept gesticulating oddly and shouting things at indeterminate objects. Halfway to the next kerb he stopped by the way and attended to nature in broad daylight. Luckily, he veered off left down toward Wooloomooloo before we reached the next kerb.
I left my friend outside a cafe in Kings Cross - still a place for crazies and outcasts, for the different and displaced, despite decades of slow gentrification - and headed up Darlinghurst Road until I got to Liverpool Street, where I turned right up the hill, wanting to return home because I was tired. I passed the house that was once the first place where I ever tried marijuana, and remembered the people I knew who lived there and who had introduced me to the drug. They were also outcasts. The Frenchman had lost three fingers from his hand, in an industrial accident he told me. I always wondered. He left one day without telling me and I was desolate for a little while.
The house is well presented now. There are still trees growing in its walled garden.
I crossed College Street and headed into Hyde Park, walking toward the war memorial with its cream-coloured sides. The reflecting pool is bordered by evergreens and the afternoon light shone lovingly through the leaves onto the water. A few people sat alongside the pool. I headed down toward the obelisk on Elizabeth Street, to where Bathurst Street abuts the park, and crossed into the CBD again. There are some large construction sites there where companies are building residential towers. There was broken glass on the pedestrian bridge set up to accommodate construction utilities placed on the pavement for the builders to use.
The corner of Bathurst Street and George Street was very busy as usual, with hundreds of people wanting to cross at the traffic lights. I headed down Bathurst Street in search of the central stairs that give access to Darling Harbour and like magic at the bottom near a heavy metal music store I found the stairs, which proved that my hunch as to its location had been exactly correct. I crossed the pedestrian bridge and descended the stairs into the throng of people with children out to enjoy the winter sun. I was almost home.