I've never liked Wollongong, not from the start.
The first time I drove there, I ended up on some back road surrounded by fields in pitch darkness. The light to signal that I had no petrol was flickering on and off, but there was nothing, and would be nothing, until I hit Sydney. The second time, I got caught in a storm that threw trees across the road. After that, I decided that the 'Gong was not a place I would go, ever again, and I thought this was a fine choice. I burnt my Wollongong t-shirt. I tore the pages out of the street directory... and of course, I didn't once think that Anna Brown would have an art show up there, and that I would have to return to this little shit-hole on the coast, but then I find that sometimes I'm like that, and I never really think of the future. I live in the now, baby, and that was coming to bite me in the ass like no fucking tomorrow.
The problems began the night before. My cousin, S, was leaving Sydney to go deep into the nothing of Australia to work as a wrangler (or jillaroo, depending on which word you like). For eight months she disappears off the technology map, in which phones, email, and even letters are rare moments, and I figured it'd be best if I at least saw her to say goodbye. Which is why I ended up past Richmond, awake until six in the morning, and snagging a few hours sleep on her couch before returning home, getting my shit together, and starting the trip to the Gong. I knew before I left that it was doomed, because C, who was originally going to come along, canceled. Well, whatever I thought at the time (even as I told him he was full of suck), and I got in the car, and headed off.
The thing about my car is that it's just one of those tiny hatchback things, and while it's fine and serviceable, when you're driving at a hundred and ten, it tends to drift a little, and why this isn't usually a problem, I discovered that on three hours sleep that it tends to make me a little jumpy.
Eventually, I arrived in the 'Gong, and it was, as I remembered it: a quiet little shitty hole on the edge of Australia that someone should have been closed down long ago.
The problems did not begin straight away. Armed with some directions, I headed down to where Anna's thing was on, thinking that despite the jumpy drive, it was all cool. Except, of course, that when I found five Crown Lane, it was an apartment block.
"Excuse me," I said, to a couple walking past, "you tell me where I might find five Crown Lane?"
"This is Crown Lane," one said, and kept walking.
I stared at them for a moment: they really did look like siblings. Maybe I should ask them that?
At this stage, however, I was kinda running late, so I crossed the road to the Stadium and found a bar there. I approached one of the bar staff and asked my question.
"Well, this is Crown Lane," she replied, sucking on the bottom of her lip. "Um, just let me ask someone."
She approached Bar Staff Number Two, who frowned, and said, "This is Crown Lane."
Bar Staff Number Three was a man with a motorcycle helmet, just arriving. To the question, he said, "This is Crown Lane," and then added, "I think it's way up the other side, past the mall."
On the corner of the block was a pair of bronze numbers that said 22, which made me doubt this, but I had very little to go on, so I left, and found a motel, and asked the owner in there. He, like all others, said "This is Crown Lane," and then pointed to the apartment blocks I had seen beforehand. With a sigh, I left him, and began walking up the street. Who knows, I thought, maybe it'd work out. Maybe I'd just stumble across it. But no, instead, I saw a midget leaving an adult bookstore and, a little further beyond that, some guy decided he would bark at me. I looked at the barker, he looked at me, and then he barked again, and I thought that it could have been worse. He could have said this was Crown Lane.
At this point, it was quarter to eight, and I had no idea where I was, so I gave in, found my car, and began the drive out of Wollongong, forgetting, as always, that there's a speed trap just right on the freeway which I got caught on years ago, and might very well have gotten caught on again, though only time will tell.
Also, I managed to get lost.
It was dark now, so the road I ended up on, that same road I got lost on years ago, was still a two lane, dark thing running through the middle of nowhere, but this time, the turn off I used to escape it was gone (or maybe I was on a different road that looked similar, who knew). However, with half a tank of fuel and a strong dose of I-Don't-Fucking-Care I decided to follow the road to the end, which promised to dump me somewhere on the edges of Campbelltown. However, if the drive up on three hours sleep was a bit wearing on the nerves, then the hundred and ten through the pitch dark of the night, with only the burning headlights of trucks doing a hundred and fifty coming the opposite direction seemed a little harder on my nerves. Moreso when I hit one of the major highways, and a pair of trucks decided that my tiny car was of no real consequence and why not cut in front of that?
Eventually, however, I got back home. The petrol light on my car was doing its flashing light of emptiness thing.
I had on my phone a couple of pictures, which I used to prove to Anna that I was there, in the 'Gong. I felt pretty bad about being a complete fuck up in that place and not getting to her thing, but by all accounts it went well, and the band and the pictures all went nicely, and I'm sorry I missed it, really. But I sent her some photos, and the last one I took especially for this blog, so I could write, Fuck You Wollongong, and have a visual representation to go with it.