J: Diary of a physicist


I didn’t forget my umbrella. I just didn’t bring it. However, it was pissing with rain in Sydney, so I felt like I had been a fool not to. The taxi driver took me to the University the long way. I know it was the long way, because I was sitting next to him looking at his refidex, and casting him puzzled glances which he was immune to. Well, what do I care. M was paying.

The University of Sydney seemed to hunch over me in the grey rainy sky, but retained its colours of green grass and yellow stone even in the dim morning light. The physics department was a nest of reclusive theorists who seemed largely unable to make small talk. M and I led the party to lunch, and in conversation, and finally left them behind. Nobody else cared about the statistical interpretation of quantum mechanics, or how M recently got dumped, or how I thought it would be cool to play quantum tic-tac-toe.

I stayed later than M at the Uni, then had to find my own way to my hotel. It was raining still, so I played a fun game of trying to find the most sheltered route out of the Uni. Along the way I discovered USyd’s “graffiti tunnel”, a hidden space devoted entirely to graffiti, by anybody. The walls, floor and ceiling were covered in layers on layers of paint so thick you could feel its bumps under your shoes walking over it.

After checking in at The Haven Inn, I grabbed some risotto balls and a glass of wine at the Different Drummer, an indie bar that S and I had tried to get into when we last visited Glebe, but it was too full to sit down. It was quiet tonight however, and I sat with my borrowed copy of Dostoyevsky in my pocket (too dark in there to read) and watched the people come and go. It was good, but on the way back to my hotel I was still hungry so I ate a free-range chicken Kebab in a dumpy mom-and-dad place across the road.

While I ate, dripping grease all over my napkin, I read the local papers that were spread around. A young, twentyish brunette in a blue dress (according to the papers) asked man for a cigarette, then mugged him. Police were still searching. A man was caught at a train station with a pipe-bomb in his jacket, that he later confessed he intended to set off in the city. Across the road from me, a man with a blue plastic bag full of stuff and an orange umbrella marched through the rain, yelling out incoherences at everybody. I wondered where crazy people came from. They were everywhere. I remembered seeing a bum with mad eyes from my taxi window, clasping the air upwards with his broad hands, eyeballing people, waiting from the money to tinkle from the sky. We are all mad, but some more mad than others.

My hotel was a drab place. The carpets in the corridor were stained and torn. The view out my window was of old, dilapidated houses. The floorboards were peeling up. The toilet had two holders for toilet paper, side by side; both were full. I’ve no idea why.

In my room, there was the obligatory giant TV and DVD player, ugly air conditioner gaudy bed-covers and faux-modern lamps on each side. By contrast to all of this, the art on the walls was surprisingly good – stark, surreal photography of ruined-looking places in remote areas of Australia. I made a mental note to look up the artist later. I also wondered if maybe I had bad taste after all.


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