Ah the Gold Coast. Southport, to be specific. Home to the lumbering elderly, the down and out, the fucked up druggies, people decamping from other countries, and a few who have built humpies on rafts, whacked on an outboard motor and floated them out into Bum’s Bay, where they’re photographed from the air every seven days and told to move along. Beautiful one day, perfect the next. I’ve said it all before…
Along the esplanade, or what I think is called the Broadwater Parklands, are playgrounds, a jumping pillow, a water park, a volleyball net on the sand – in other words, it’s been well thought out. The Smalls love it and it seems well used by many people – a shared bicycle/walkway runs along through it and there are good public toilets and spots to have a drink of water.
However. Cross the main road (presumably the Pacific Highway) at the back of the parklands and start walking inland. It’s immediately obvious that the area along the beach is the shiny veneer icing over something weird and rotten. I am not dismissing the entire area as a total disaster – there are a few good bits. The bulk food shop, the op-shops, the library is excellent. But gaaaaaaah…
Walking around it and I could be back on the streets of St Kilda circa 1991. So much slouching, polyester, cheap tatts, bad skin and dead eyes. Then there are the elderly who look as if they’re barely holding it together, except for the burnished oldies who get in the water every morning regardless of the zombies that surround them. So many shops full of SO MUCH SHIT – a sea of landfill.
When I went out and rowed the dinghy ashore this morning, I could understand why people used to love this place. Middle of winter and the temperature is perfection. Sun out, blue skies; the water clear and the sea bed sandy. It’s quite glorious, until you raise your head and cop an eyeful of the high-rises. There are people in Australia Fair shopping centre that have perfect days passing them by, stuck inside under fluorescent lights breathing recycled air – it might be snowing, you’d never know.
The unfailingly cheerful guy in the bulk food shop tells me that there was ice on the roof of his car this morning, “…and I live in Burleigh Heads!!” First time, he reckoned.
Small Z and I go into the op-shop and see a dude come in and go straight into the change room she just vacated. An elderly op-shop lady clocks him immediately and stands outside the curtain tapping her foot. “Hurry up in there, we’ve got people waiting.”
Eventually he comes out and his heading back out of the shop, extra clothes in his arms. “No,” she says, “You’ll need to pay for those, you haven’t paid.”
By this time he’s standing right near us. The right side of his face is jumping independently of the rest of it. “Nah,” he says, eyes all over the place. “Nah, these are mine mate. Had ‘em with me when I came in.”
I look at him. “You seriously carry around extra clothes at all times?”
The other elderly woman behind the counter chimes in, “Yes. Actually he did have them with him when he came in.”
“Yeah. Yeah,” he agrees. “Jeeeez. I’d pay if I needed t’pay. Can pay fr-anythin…”
As he walks out toward his friend outside in that curious soft lope of the ratarsed I can see one side of the inner thigh of his grey shorts appears to be soaked with urine. The woman who’d told him to get out of the change room shakes her head.
“I saw him in there,” she says, “Changing clothes, jumping around like a monkey taking pictures of himself in the mirror with his phone. God knows what he trying to do.”
I couldn’t help it, and started laughing.
“Oh yes,” said the other woman, “We get all sorts in here.”
I put a straw hat, t-shirt and pair of men’s trousers on the counter.
“That’ll be six dollars love. Would have been three for five if it was all clothes – but the hat…”
“No worries.” I hand over five dollars and spend two minutes fishing in my purse for change. They wait patiently, and one of them compliments Small Z.
“Isn’t she the cutest little thing in that hat!? She should be a model.”
Small Z says nothing, but I can feel the rage emanating from her.
“Are there some special shoes I can get so I don’t look like a LITTLE THING?” she seethes, as we leave.
We’re out of here.