A new apartment is like a new chapter in a diary, a fresh start if you will. What I’m wondering right now though is if the first night in a new apartment is comparable to the first night in prison: so many foreign sounds for the senses to process, so many strangers for social skills to wrap themselves around. What was that sound exactly? Who in here is on my side, or will be on my side in the future, especially if a ‘side’ is required? Will it look and feel so blindingly dark even after my immediate surroundings are painted over with familiarity? I’ve done a lot of moving in my life; every time and everywhere, the first night was a sleepless one.
But it isn’t just inside factors that have me awake this time in spite of a physically gruelling day. I’m living in Sydney now. Not the Sydney with the fancy opera house though. This is Sydney, Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia, Canada. About the only thing it has in common with its bigger, more iconic sister-in-namesake is a coast with a harbor. They have an opera house, we have coal mines. Or should I say, we had them. That however is another story for another restless night.
Surely this new hub of mine is a strong contender for the accidental-tourist capital of the planet. Every new year never seems to fail in bringing at least a few wayward folks expecting to walk off their planes onto Australian soil. I laugh internally at the multitude of possible emotions that would manifest themselves under such a circumstance. I also laugh internally at the certainty of amusement not being one of my first reactions were I to be in their shoes. Then again, a lot of these aforementioned semi-visitors admit to not doing adequate research in advance of their travels, so if anyone is mad in this scenario, it’s usually at one’s self. And I’ve never been a thorough researcher either.
Whatever the context, this entire arrangement has sure paved the way for some great concerts over the years.
The most recent example of a major musical act coming this way and performing (at least in their commercial prime) is Snoop Dogg, who found himself onstage at Open Hearth Park a few years ago. Open Hearth is basically our equivalent of Central Park, but shaved down to about a toenail in geographic scope and indelibility as status symbol. Let’s be honest here, it’s on the site of what used to be a toxic waste site, known locally as the Tar Ponds, for many years the one ironic reminder of when industry was real here, and this Sydney’s nickname - The Steel City - made perfect sense.
Aside from Snoop, Rod Stewart stopped in during the late-80s. A young but upstart Metallica played Centre 200 (maximum 6,500 capacity for concerts) not long before that. Bryan Adams has been a regular visitor, with his most recent show coming up this July. But with the exception of the latter, I can’t help but wonder how many of them actually made Snoop’s mistake, as history and habit suggest he surely couldn’t have been the only one. There is one common denominator, again with the exception of Adams: all said they loved it here and hoped to come back when they could. I don’t believe any of them ever have.
I picked up on something today, however, after only a few minutes during a break in moving. My new place is in the downtown area, between two of the main streets. Lying down on my bed for the first time I realized I would be taking in a lot of sounds…a lot of loud sounds. That’s not a problem; I lived in a male dorm for the better part of five years, I’ll get used to any and all manner of sounds. The little epiphany that made the moment significant was that, upon closing one’s eyes in the eye of a so-called city, they all sound the same regardless of size. I say ‘so-called’ not in a negative way but in the sense that Sydney, Australia has a population of around five million; Sydney, Nova Scotia has a population of around 30,000. Yet under the armored umbrella of a definition, both are cities. It reminds me of the scene from Easy Rider where the guy says he’s from the city but it doesn’t matter which one “’cause they’re all the same.” I like that, even though the message in the movie was an ominous one. For whatever reason, when you’re living in The City, you feel a part of something bigger, for better or worse. But the mere possibility of the former is the fuel for The City’s lure; if you want to move on up, you’ll likely have to (at the very least) spend some time in The City to do it.
So for me personally, well, things are looking up for the first time in recent memory. It may be one of the least conspicuous cities in the grand scheme of the country - and one of the least significant in the grand scheme of the world – but I am comfortable with that. I’m not sure that grand-scheme significance is something we covet in this part of the world anyway. In Cape Breton - the island on which our Sydney exists - we tend to let the scenery speak for us. Two words: Cabot Trail.
In the after-hours haze of this writing, it had not occurred to me to mention earlier that our Sydney also happens to be home of what’s officially the world’s largest fiddle. A fiddle, a smaller violin…I knew there was an opera connection in there somewhere! Now to try that sleep thing again.