On Labor Day, September 6, 1976,Ron Silliman spent five and a half hours travelling around San Francisco on the Bay Area Rapid Transit train system, the BART. With pen and notepad, he recorded in detail his experience of travelling from one end of the subway system to the other.
On Australia Day, January 26th 2013, I emulated Silliman’s exercise on the Adelaide tram. The tram line is not as extensive as the BART. It took me about two and a quarter hours to do the trip. I took a new notepad and pen, and wrote for the entire trip. Here is the result:
Australia Day Saturday 26th January 2013 10 am
King William Street, Adelaide, near corner of Rundle Mall
A perfect Adelaide summer’s morning, light breeze, mid 20s Celsius, sitting at the tram stop in the middle of King William street, cyclists inspired by the Tour Down Under, overly noisy motor bikes, a bloke collecting ‘return deposit’ cans and bottles from an overflowing rubbish bin, the sun warms my back, opposite: “Opals – Aboriginal Art Gallery”, “Uae Exchange – Service Is Our Currency”, King William Travel, a discarded McDonald’s cup at my feet, a screwed up fast food bag, the tram is coming, headlights on, ahead of it the G10 bus to Blair Athol, beep, beep of traffic lights, people crossing, an elderly man in a cap and dark glasses, and wife, look like tourists, the tram “Entertainment Centre via City”, doors slide open, good, almost empty, “the next stop is Adelaide Railway Station”, out the window, New Parliament House, which looks old, the steps where I have demonstrated against the Iraq war, against the treatment of refugees, against just about anything John Howard did, the tinnitus hum of the air conditioning, the tram turns hard left into North Terrace, past Old Parliament House and the “Live Large” casino, restricted service on Australia day, “the next stop is City West”, The Hyatt, well heeled couple walking down the ramp, Adelaide Convention Centre, hardly anyone on this tram, “Woods Bagot – North Terrace loading dock”, the new Royal Adelaide Hospital site, “Fowler’s “Lion” Factory”, “ale on tap”, a bloke with black refuse bag gets on noisily, bag full of return deposit containers – heading for rich pickings at the Entertainment Centre? “the next stop is West Terrace”, five cranes on the RAH site, politicians love cranes on the skyline, “park and ride just $2”, “to stop at Thebarton, please request now”, into the west parklands, bright green playing fields next to parched yellow, “Adelaide Gaol historic site” – historic if you were ever in there, Road Safety Centre, “Ice Skating, Ice Skating”, “Stepney’s ornamental plaster work”, The Squatters Arms Hotel, woman in a red top by 60 speed limit sign, Clipsal advertisement: “the future starts here”, Bonython Park, the man with the noisy refuse sack, peaked cap, earphones in, shirt hanging out, bag over his shoulder, gets off, “the next stop is the Entertainment Centre”, the tram stops here, “please exit the stop or validate your ticket for the return trip”, “A7 Port road, Port Adelaide, Entertainment Centre”, “coming soon – Downton Abbey”, “my kitchen rules starts Monday”, “who will crash the party?” Enzo’s Ristorante and bar, tickets, ATM, “The Seekers”, I get off and get back on, the driver walks from one end of the tram to the opposite end, radios in his report, an oriental looking couple get on, I sit near the ticket machine and will validate when the tram resumes its trip, the driver gets off, stretches his legs, looks Lebanese, dark glasses, stubble, a woman, two women, young, teenagers, draped in Australian flags, thongs, painted faces, a beach ball emblazoned “Come on Australia”, flags painted on their ankles too, one squirts the other, “Ooh it’s freezing Emma”, one has her hair tied in a top knot, pink “Billabong” back pack, four people wait on the platform, maybe they know better than me when the tram will leave, the flag girls are inflating a beach ball, smell of cheap plastic, one stretches her legs across two seats, a Woolworth’s truck goes past on Port Road, the driver gets back on, Smartphone in hand, tells the people on the platform to board, the larger of the two flag girls is still blowing into the plastic thing, but it’s not a beach ball, it’s full length li-lo, in an Australian flag design, “this is the tram service to Glenelg”, the li-lo is not a li-lo, it’s a giant thong, six feet long, fortunately the tram is not crowded, the tram picks up speed, nobody wants to get off at Bonython Park, along the middle of Port Road, but people want to get on at Bonython Park, elderly couple, nod in approval of the flag girls, 10:33 am, E.S. Wigg & Sons processing plant, the flag girls chatter, Coca-Cola Amatil, Suburban Taxis, Yellow Cabs, Adelaide Independent Taxis, a grey haired man with baggy jeans gets on, looks east European, imagine him younger, in communist East Germany, “the next stop is West Terrace”, Squatters Arms again, “$5 pints of Coopers”, the oriental man taps a white shoed foot, I’m facing the wrong way, I might need to turn around to prevent getting dizzy, maybe I should sit near the flag girls, will that give me more material or drive me nuts with their chatter, so far, not getting dizzy, “Hansen Yuncken building value”, “emergency only pull handle down to release door penalty for misuse”, a middle aged lady in floral top gets up early to get off, too early for North Terrace, her husband tells her it is too soon, “what are you doing?” “getting off”, “it’s just a straight line”, they get off, they get back on again, they sit behind me, I hear them say they want to go to the chocolate factory, “Haigh’s?” I ask, “yes”, I give them directions, “get off at Greenhill Road”, they’re very grateful, a flag girl gets up, looks like she might get off, face is bright blue – a different blue to the flag, I move up the tram and sit facing the way the tram is going, not the best seat, the flag girls have friends, the giant thong is propped against the window, 10:45 am, I’m back where I got on, dark clouds hover over Adelaide, the flag girls are arguing over somebody’s phone number, “oh my God”, tram turns into King William street, on the phone flag girl: “where are you?”, a mob of young men in Australian flags get on at Rundle Mall, a girl with an Australian flag umbrella hat, a man on a scooter – the driver drops the ramp for him, a Down syndrome Asian girl with her mother, the girl sits next to me, looks at what I’m writing, the mother stands but keeps an arm around the girl, the girl is dressed in pink, “The Impossible – a film by J.A. Bayona” on the side of a bus, Yorke Peninsula coaches, the tram is packed now and I haven’t yet validated my ticket, I think it’s free between the Entertainment Centre and Victoria Square, “the next stop is Victoria Square”, two more flag girls, one standing, Smartphone in hand, Victoria Square, Aboriginal flag next to “Santos Tour Down Under” flag, then dozens of flags, lots more people, get up to validate my ticket, bumping into a German (?) man as I do so, he gives me a dirty look, I’ve left my stuff on the seat, he and his wife look at it in puzzlement – should they take the seat? I hurriedly sit back down, “Dispute Resolution Centre S.A.” chatter from both sets of flag girls, the German woman has sat next to me – she turns round to talk to her husband, she has a huge gold wedding ring and silver bracelet watch, on the way back I should make sure I get a better seat, an Aboriginal man in a black beanie, grey curly hair bursting out from under it, blue, white and black check shirt, earphone in one ear connected to his phone, green Woolworths carrier bag, 10:57 Sealink Travel Group, South Terrace, parklands, taxi heading north, Australian flag flying, the Aboriginal man gets off, I catch myself guiltily thinking about stereotypes, the stereotype would be that the Woolworth’s bag contains a cask of cheap wine, another stereotype – blondish 30s man, red t-shirt, sunglasses on his head not over his eyes, a man, elderly, walking stick, driver: “can you please move away from the doors”, the German woman again talks to her husband, maybe they too are going to Haigh’s, “advance warning temporary road closure”, Greenhill road, the German woman has an Australian Seniors’ card, an elderly couple, he has a floppy hat and wheeled shopping trolley, she is well dressed, smart white trousers, the Haigh’s tourists get off, “to stop at Wayville stop 2 please request now”, tram picks up speed making it harder to write, Wayville, two couples get on, it’s a couples tram, late middle aged, the flag girls all have their smart phones out but this doesn’t stop them chattering, Goodwood Road, the area in front of me is all wheels, a new lady with a shopping trolley, the scooter man, the man with the floppy hat and shopping trolley, up over the ramp, speed picks up, mother with two teenage sons, discussing the shoes of one son, Forestville, “it’s so annoying” – one flag girl, black forest, “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi,oi,oi”, in a sort of derisory way, more crowded, middle aged woman with patterned dress, anklets, smart sandals, nice earrings, stop, looking down on South Road, cars flying under, graffiti: “Roger Vegan”, suburban houses, tin corrugated roofs, some in poor condition, Glandore, greenery and bushes behind the platform, cream brick houses, freestone villas, two storey townhouses, Pleasant Avenue, stop 8, Beckman Street, an inspector is helping the scooter man off at Beckman Street, inspector man is not apparently inspecting tickets, but basically walking around being helpful, giving advice, but the friend of the well dressed woman has to buy a ticket from him, why? hasn’t asked me for my ticket, Marion Road, 11:15 am, the flag people are all obviously heading for the beach, laughter from the flag girl crowd, they have a young Sudanese male friend, they’re painting his face blue, he looks like a Masai warrior, Wattle Terrace, the bike lane runs beside the tram track, Morphettville Race Course, the quieter of the flag girls compare Smartphone images, flag girl’s friend: “what did I do?” a lot of elderly people get off at the race course, Morphett Road, Trams Division, “it’s a girl”, “you know my wish”, “he used to always support Glenelg”, “you hanging out with Daniel Moran?” over culvert with just a few puddles, “to stop at Glengowrie please request now”, new units, solar panels, old freestone, transit watch S.A. 11:20 am, Glengowrie, floppy hat trolley man and wife get off, he leads the way, two story large white house, twenties villas, more freestone, Brighton Road, Sudanese boy now has a completely blue face, blue face flag girl is staring out of the window, looks pissed off, “glenelg bbq inn”, “Cheap As Chips”, “SA Camping World”, “OPSM Optometrist”, elderly lady in yellow trousers, walking, overtakes the tram, “Ian’s Shoes”, “Judells”, “Sportspower”, “Bay Newsagency and Card Centre”, “Happy Herbs”, the mob of flag boys get off along Jetty Road, “Indochine”, Moseley Square, “this trip terminates here”, “Wokinabox”, “Fish and Chips”, “Jetty Bar and Tab”, “Tosca Viva”, I get off, fresh sea breeze, I get back on, 11:30 am, return trip, leaving Glenelg, elderly lady, floppy hat emblazoned “Australia Down Under”, cool dude, t-shirt: “Issued by Diesel”, noisy woman on her phone: “they had a good day yesterday, $45, mmm, yeah, alright, walking around, yeah I know, can’t be bothered, the parking, eh? yeah, alright, yeah”, Grundy’s Shoes: “half price sale”, tough looking bloke: white shirt, open to his chest, gold chain, earphones, two elderly women, shopping bags, “all covered public transport waiting areas are smoke free”, stop 15 Brighton Road, tram a lot quieter, nobody gets on, cool dude has Converse black and white trainers – laces them more tightly, man looks over his spear topped gate at the tram, a cream, rusty VW beetle, a man in a battered cricket hat blows his nose into a grubby hankie, gets his Smartphone out, puts his hand to his mouth, two people get on, a woman has trouble with the ticket machine, comes and sits next to me, black handbag and sunglasses, red shopping bag, fiddles with her handbag, several zips, three young guys, headbands, all dressed in white, wearing big wigs, woman next to me checking her Smartphone, Wilson Security man watches the wig boys, looks like he’d like to do something, another Wilson Security bloke struts the platform, the blonde wigged bloke has tatts all up his arm, a ute in the car part at the racetrack, the wigged guys get off at the race track, Australia Down Under lady gets up, has a chat with another elderly lady, has a shopping trolley, bashes the door opening button, it’s not working, “ooh I won’t get out!” eventually it opens, the friendly ticket inspector seems mainly to be friendly to women, he’s small, the type some women might call “cute”, stop 10 Marion Road, two obese people get on, mother and son? he has a voluminous blue t-shirt, blonde hair (bleached?), beard, dark glasses, “California” on the t-shirt, he’s so wide he only just squeezes between the seats, cricket hat man get up, bottle of water in his hand, Beckman Street, 11:47 am, a young Asian guy, big head phones, gets on, board shorts, iphone or large Smartphone, homes with two cars in the driveway, girl with red hair, dressed in black, dark glasses, sits opposite the cool dude, large black onyx type ring on second finger of left hand, buckled shoes, beige, Roberts Close, a unit for sale – big orange flag, red hair girl gets Smartphone out, elderly couple behind having conversation about shopping bags, wife: “what are you talking about?” level crossing bells sound, skate park, three or four young blokes sit in the shelter, woman next to me has a picture of a white rabbit on her Smartphone, Goodwood Road, couple behind: “it’s quite empty”, “yes”, “it’s Australia day”, “what, today?” “yes”, young couple with matching sunglasses, both with short hair, man has Australian flag on his neck – temporary tattoo? transfer? Greenhill Road 11:55 am, elderly lady, well dressed, red top, well cut hair, sits next to Asian big headphone guy, she has blue, red and green strapped sandals on, a supermarket shopping trolley on the median strip of Greenhill Road, obese guy is standing – cruelly I suspect he might not fit on one seat, the pavilion on the park, surrounded by lush green grass, friendly ticket inspector man gets off, tough looking guy, black top – “Devil’s Raceway Indianapolis”, elderly couple: “nobody forced it down your throat”, “no, it was just that it was a big meal”, the woman is bullying him, “you didn’t think I was going to sit next to __ for something like that did you?” King William road, “Massage and Acupuncture”, elderly couple: “it takes two days for an injection”, “what, they don’t have them themselves”, 333, “Assist Finance”, Victoria Square, 12:01, Supreme Court Courtroom II, people coming from the Central Market, young couple get up to get off at Victoria Square, cool dude gets off, another cool dude gets on, sits opposite me, if I was him I’d sit opposite red haired girl, an elderly couple site opposite red haired girl, new cool dude looks tired and / or depressed or hungover, obese man moves towards the door, a man on a tagalong bike with his young daughter on the back, red haired girl gets ready to get off, “Office To Rent”, “We Love To Party”, “Function Room Free Hire”, “$6 Pints All Day”, “Dumpling King”,”Gaming Room”, “Goodlife Health Clubs”, “Welcome Lucky 7”, Sudanese girls sit behind me, the tallest Sudanese woman I’ve ever seen walks along King William street, tram halts at Rundle Mall, I get off.