Rest in peace

Every now and then a memorial for someone who has died appears on the pavement. Usually there is a very good reason why the memorial has been written at that time on that particular spot on the ground.

Teenager Alex Wildman died in July 2008, his suicide and the inquest that followed attracting much media attention because of allegations of bullying at his high school near Lismore in northern NSW. Epitaphs for Alex appeared in ‘unofficial’ media, such as videos on YouTube and graffiti on footpaths. The graffiti was written around the Campbelltown area in south-western Sydney by Alex’s friends at Ingleburn High School, where he had been a pupil until his family moved to Lismore.

The painted RIP in the photograph appeared some months after much smaller messages for Alex were written in black texta along the edges of the same footpath on the western side of Macarthur Railway Station.

I have written about memorialization of the dead on the pavement in City of Epitaphs, an article recently published in the on-line journal Culture Unbound.

Hicks, M. 2009. City of epitaphs. Culture Unbound 1 (Article 26):453-467.

If you are like me, and enjoy discovering obituaries and other unexpected messages on the pavement, then I wish you a pleasurably doleful New Year.

Greetings

09aJAN09-cP1050471 editcrop_edited-1 Happy blog

To my regular readers and to those just passing by – many thanks for your interest, your comments, your emails, your tip-offs and your photos.

Best wishes for the year ahead and may you continue to enjoy finding surprises on the pavement.

To-day’s photograph was taken this time last year in Belmont Road, Mosman, NSW.

Mystery sandstone cobbles (Guest spot)

Today’s guest spotter is Richard Blair, a local history fossicker.

metropolitanrdcobblestones1 RBRecently uncovered by Marrickville Council during street plumbing activity under two Camphor Laurel trees on the eastern side of upper Metropolitan Road, Enmore, Sydney,  are what appear to be sandstone cobblestones.

One expert opinion suggests these stones may have been part of a carriageway as they are in such a deliberate order. That would mean they may be linked with Enmore House which formerly stood on this site until demolition in the 1880s. However, one might expect a cobblestone carriageway to have been made from a stone more durable than sandstone, such as granite or bluestone.

metropolitanrdcobbles1 RBOther views suggest the sandstone course may have been associated either with some early civil works project or may have been laid in conjunction with the arrangement of street tree planting.

These photos were taken in September 2009. The sandstone courses were still uncovered in November, but by December 2009 they had been (presumably) covered over with soil.

Poke

03JAN28-13sc PokeXing_edited-1 blogThe Dictionary of Sydney was launched on 4 November 2009. It’s an on-line encyclopaedia of the history of Sydney with new material being added continually. The range of subjects is broad and sometimes surprising. Along with such conventional topics as, say, Governor Lachlan Macquarie or the Japanese Submarine Attack, there are such entries as Drag and Cross Dressing, and The Royal Commission into Noxious and Offensive Trades, and even (ta-da!) Reading the Roads.

‘Poke’ is one of the illustrations for that article. It’s an example where unofficial graffiti – an advertisement for a dance party – has colonised a piece of official pavement graffiti – a zebra crossing. The photograph was taken in Newtown in 2003.

Tim P

09oNOV29-cP1070447 TimP blogThe label ‘gay’ remains a term of abuse in many situations. This piece of oversize graffiti is on Lakes Way, the road between Bulahdelah and Forster, a seaside holiday area on the central coast of NSW. It raises several questions. Is Tim P actually gay and is he being outed by the graffiti writer? Or is ‘gay’ the worst insult the writer could think of in retaliation for something Tim P has done? Why is it written on a road? Why this road? Why at this spot on the road? And by broadcasting the message to a wider audience and revealing its location, am I complicit in the vilification of Tim P?

Summertime memories

09eMAR28-cP1060047 NambuccaWall blogAt Nambucca Heads, on the NSW mid north coast, one of the cultural attractions is graffiti – of the mum-and-dad-and-the-kids variety – applied in house paint to the twin breakwaters called the ‘Vee-Wall’. It all started in the 1960s and now photographs of the wall are featured on postcards and tourist brochures

Read the messages and you will find stories of people who have enjoyed their holiday at Nambucca and want others to know it. Honeymooners who have returned to find they still love the place (and each other). Families who come back year after year, adding the names of new babies to the family rock. Overseas tourists who want to leave their mark on Australia. Teenagers who reveal their current crushes. Names, dates, tributes to Nambucca and thanks to God are all here, many decorated with pictures of family members or the fish they caught.

The date is set

09nNOV11-cP1070298 VancouverDateFace blogHow do I know when the sidewalks of Vancouver were last paved? Easy. The year is impressed into the concrete. Near one of these imprints I found an impromptu wet cement drawing. This piece of pavement graffiti was the first one I photographed after arriving in Vancouver for a conference. It reflected how I felt after the 14-hour flight from Sydney.

There is much more that can be read into this small example of the official juxtaposed against the unofficial on the corner of Seymour and West Hastings Streets. Vancouver, readying itself for the 2010 Winter Olympics, is a city I would describe as ‘orderly’, and yet you don’t have to spend too much time in the streets to discover that elements of disorderliness are not entirely suppressed. The Vancouver Olympics Protest Flickr group expose what they see as Vancouver’s problems.09nNOV11-cP1070294 VancouverFace blog

Autumn leaves

09nNOV11-cP1070398 VancouverLeafHow quaint, I thought. Someone has etched an autumn leaf in wet cement on the sidewalk. Then I noticed another, and then a whole slew of them under an almost bare street tree.

On many blocks along Seymour Street in Downtown Vancouver it is permanently autumn, thanks to these almost inconspicuous installations that must have been put in place when the sidewalks were paved in the late 1990s.

09nNOV11-cP1070404 VancouverLeaves blogVancouver has many examples of street art, most of it official, some of it unofficial (though, as you would expect, graffiti mostly occurs at the fringes of Downtown, not in the centre).

The cycle of war

05e P1000543 PedOnly blogThere is an ongoing battle between cyclists and just about everyone else – motorists don’t want them on the roads, pedestrians (like me) don’t want them on the footpaths. The issue is a perennial filler for Sydney newspapers and has flared again this week in news stories, opinion pieces and letters to the editor.

In Australia, those who argue on the cyclists’ side point to the way in which cities in other developed countries have embraced the bicycle – but it’s not necessarily all plain cycling overseas. Apparently one of the great battlefields in the war between bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists is the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.  Robert Sullivan, calling for an armistice, writes in the New York Times: “The stripe painted down the center of the elevated Brooklyn Bridge walkway, to separate bicyclists from pedestrians, has become a line in the sand. We need to erase that line once and for all.” Here is an example where the record of a territorial struggle has been written on the pavement itself.

09a P1050485 BikeGive blogAlmost every sign, symbol, graphic and graffiti marked on the roads and sidewalks is a claim for territory. The two examples photographed for today’s blog record instances where pedestrians have had a victory over cyclists, officially at least, and probably only temporarily. The ineptly obliterated bicycle symbol overpainted with a ‘Pedestrian traffic only’ stencil was on the bridge at the corner of St Kilda Road and Flinders Street in Melbourne in 2005. The ‘Give way’ stencils appeared in parks in the City of Sydney towards the end of 2008 after many complaints from pedestrian park-users.