Two hand-made cards and nearly a parking ticket

I pulled up on Norton St near the Palace Cinemas on my way home from an early Saturday morning appointment.
Two skim whites from Berkelouw were in my sights and as I took my free half-hour parking ticket and placed it on the dash, I noticed the little, older man who is often seen around Leichhardt selling hand-made cards.

He was wearing an unzipped tracksuit top over a t-shirt and below were a pair of long, shiny soccer shorts that were at least three sizes two big. Some thongs over socks completed his attire along with a bag slung over one shoulder.
It was a cold morning, he was under-dressed and I decided I would buy the inevitably proferred card. As I walked down Norton he noticed me, and began his distinctive card selling routine. He reached deep into his bag and pulled out the small paper card. His arm then snapped out to full length with the card facing him and he stared at it intently. Satisfied with what he saw he then extended his arm in my direction with the face of the card towards me, and waited.

As I drew closer, I stuck my hand in my jean pocket and pulled out a dollar coin, said hello, smiled, exchanged the coin for the card, wished him a good day and headed towards the cafe. He didn’t speak or smile. Everyone else I saw on the street walked past.

In the more comfortable world of the cafe, with the smell of Campos and the buzz of conversation, the chasm between our worlds opened up and I felt guilty for my one dollar.

Walking back, the thought crossed my mind that I could stay on the opposite side of the road and cross closer to the car, avoiding the card man. There was a slight yearning for this within me, I didn’t really want to bother with the card man’s need. Although it was morning at the start of the weekend I was deeply tired.

But I owe too much to Someone else to give in so easily so I headed back towards the man and he went through his card presentation routine.

As I juggled the coffees and pulled out my wallet, I reminded myself I was doing no great thing, that the man had brought his hand-made cards to stand for hours in the cold to be ignored by most people to earn a few coins. This was were the courage and commitment lay.

‘I’ll have one thanks,’ I said. There was no sign of recognition of the previous purchase. 

‘I’m Peter, what’s your name?’ There was a harsh throaty reply but I couldn’t make it out.

‘Sorry?’

The same reply and I was none the wiser. I looked at the card, it had on it just the word ‘love’.

I fiddled in my wallet, saw a ten – still that persistent reluctance – but grabbed the twenty.

As I gave it to the man he looked at me, and then looked at the note for several seconds. He looked at me again as if to confirm I was sure, and then in one motion the note was flicked out of view as he turned and walked quickly down the street, presumably happy now with his morning’s work.

As I walked towards the car I reminded myself that I didn’t pay the money to have the man fawn over me or so I could look good. Any act of kindness or generosity must be enough for its own sake.

Nearing the car, I saw a flouro-vested, female parking inspector standing near the bonnet.

‘Hello, is everything okay?’

She looked at me with an expression of fear and astonishment. I realised she was about to book me, and confused, I opened the car door, still balancing the treasured coffees, to show her the ticket I had placed under the windscreen.

It was then I realised I had placed it upside down, distracted at the time by watching the card man. These could become very expensive cards, I thought.

I held the ticket towards the parking inspector, in a proferring routine reminiscent of the card man’s.

‘Sorry I didn’t realise it was upside down!’

‘Well I can’t read it if I can’t see it can I love,’ she said, finding her voice after realising I wasn’t going to yell at her.

She studied it intently and gave me a small nod and seemed to clear an entry in her little hand-held machine.

‘Thank you’ I said realising how close I’d come to a fine. I wondered how quickly my feelings of mercy and resolve to do good would have evaporated when faced with a parking ticket.

I laughed at myself, sipped my coffee and reflected on who had been kind to who and the apparent randomness of life which is less random than we may think.

Unless a tomato falls into the ground…

Lying forlornly in the dirt, like a yellowing tomb slit open, is the remains of an early season tomato from my garden that didn’t quite make it to the plate.

Sydney’s unseasonally damp summer has meant the vigorous tomato plant this specimen came from is long gone, afflicted by various diseases and my lack of care on occasions when life got too busy.

This shell-of-a-tomato was most likely not picked and taken inside for human consumption because it was marked or damaged or being eaten by a worm… In other words, it was rejected.

I know a Man who takes rejection, accusation and being cast aside and turns them into new life. He did it with his own life, saying, ‘unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone’.

February is late for growing tomatoes but no one mentioned this to my cast-aside tomato and without any assistance from myself, a veritable forest of tomato seedlings have emerged from their yellowing tomb.

With Sydney’s weather finally providing some sunshine and still plenty of rain, the young seedlings are thriving.

It’s not easy growing vegetables in an inner city town house. Pots are used, mainly, and these have to be carefully positioned to find sun and escape birds and the occasional visiting rat. (And Leroy our dog is known to occasionally pluck a tomato or strawberry for his own illegal consumption…)

It also means carrying pots and soil and shovels through the house to get to one courtyard or another, making an exercise such as repotting tomatoes a logistical challenge.

During the process I carried one of my new self-sown seedlings to another courtyard and realised I was carrying life in the palm of my hand. I also realised it was one of those ‘stock-photo-moments-of-hand-with-seedling-depicting-new-life’.

There is something about gardening that is renewing. Or perhaps the renewing comes first and then the energy to garden emerges. A bit of both I think.

As the cricket starts, and the sun bites, I’ve finished my little project and that pale shell of a tomato womb has birthed an array of seedlings, some already flowering, ready to greet the final month or so of summer warmth in Sydney.

There is not a soul among us who has not had at least a moment of being cast aside, left for dead, and lying in the dirt alone.

There is a God who showed himself as one of us, who placed  pictures of death and resurrection among us as reminders and who died an earthly death so he could share a heavenly life with many, many sons and daughters.

No doubt he is enjoying my tomatoey resurgence and if even one of these offspring is as productive as the original (bought from a stall at Leichhardt Public School fete), then we will enjoy a feast of home-grown tomatoes as the seasons approach change.

John 12:24

 

Leichhardt goes 24/7 for World Cup

A boring looking letter arrived from Leichhardt Council yesterday, slightly damp from the persistent rain over Sydney.

Addressed to the householder, I was tempted to toss it (read recycle…) but decided to have a glance.

Turns out it was a development application covering virtually every cafe, hotel and restaurant on Norton St asking for permission to stay open 24/7 during the World Cup between June 11 and July 11! Talk about add some fire to winter!

The Forum, Norton Plaza and Palace Cinema are all included in the application – along with all the most authentic of Italian cafes.

Forget the soccer, I can’t wait to head down the street at 3am for gelato, cappuccino, amatriciana and some good old-fashioned Italian revelry!

Stay tuned for a blogestrated, middle-of-the-night, Italian food rendezvous (whoops, French origin word slipped in….) PH

Life is like a short film

Scene 1: Filmic moment for Jo

We pulled into Civic video and Jo scurried out, barefoot, to deposit the slightly late return. Hopping back in the car, we headed up Norton St, past Bar Italia on one side and Mezzapica further up on the other.

We hit a red light next to the illuminated Leichhardt Town Hall, and the three of us (Rebekah in the back), sat there in the quiet evening, no traffic around, waiting for the lights to change.

“I feel like I’m in a short film,” said Josiah. “Whenever we just randomly pull up at a red light and there’s nothing around, it feels like a scene from a short film,” he elaborates.

We look at Jo. He turns his head and looks at me. The universe blinks. Our light turns green and we continue our journey home.

Scene 2: Sydney is the short film capital of the world

It’s no wonder people are having random short film epiphanies, after all Sydney is the home of Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival.

Thanks to Josiah for providing a spontaneous and authentic introduction to a quick review of the 16 finalists from Tropest 2010.Read More »

Rage, blood and death on the street

Awake 6.30, cool of the morning
Maragogype coffee beans lure me downstairs
Before returning, cup in hand for my wife
And the first strains of ABC news

Man stabbed and dying in Marion St
Like Heart? Leichhardt? Where I live?!
And the story unfolds as the day does too
Of a man hammered, and chased, and killed 

Between hospital visits
Which is a whole other story
I walk in the bright sun to the spot
Where another human bled and died.

Parents with prams amble by
As do children from school
While two old men in nursing home trance
Stare at the Channel 7 car, satellite dish raised

Can I comprehend that before the heat
There was night, and men angry, raging
In their cars and on their feet
Rushed to steal another man’s life

And the sky is so blue.