Saturday, September 08, 2007

A slice of APEC - Bush departs a deserted city

I didn't actually make it to the protest rally today. I thought I was going to be able to because my only available climbing partner had pulled out with a virus. Unfortunately, when I woke up on Saturday morning. I had a nasty headache and was feeling generally unwell myself, so I tried to get to some more sleep. I didn't rise until later in the afternoon. I was pleased to read the protest went off without any substantial incident.

Later in the day I grabbed my copy of Joe Simpson's book "The Beckoning Silence" and headed down to Stanley St for my usual coffee, mineral water and focaccia, thinking that I'd catch "The Simpsons" movie (no relation!) at 20:50. I was amused by Simpson's rating system for ice climbs, based on the emotional state of the climber attempting it. The 7 grades labelled this way are: bored, intrigued, absorbed, alarmed, horrified, mentally certified, dead.

It turns out I had misread the movie guide and "The Simpsons" wasn't actually on at that time in the city. With nothing better to do I decided to catch the Presidential motorcade as it left town. Not that I am fan of the President, mind you, but Presidential motorcades are pretty impressive projections of power whatever you think about the monkey in the back seat.

I ended up at the corner of Macquarie and Bent Streets. There were perhaps 20 police in small groups and perhaps 6 or 7 spectators including myself. The police weren't particularly interested in me or any of the others. One guy seemed to be a chef from a nearby restaurant, the other 5 were well-to-do types who presumably were there to wave goodbye to their hero and then there was me, a Bush loather, in their midst.

There was a little bit of excitement as the water cannon and some other police vehicles drove down Macquarie Street. About 15 minutes later the team of 4 leap-frogging police motorcyclists announced the arrival of the President and his convoy of vehicles. I did want to take a video of it, but my phone's batteries were low, so I had to ditch that plan.

The group of 5 waved and cheered as the two Presidential limousines turned onto the freeway. With my phone camera useless, I just stood there with my arms folded hoping that idle Presidential eyes would read the contempt of my gesture, but realising that there is no possible way the contempt of a lone individual could pierce the psyche of a man who has done such damage to the reputation of his country and the lives of millions of Iraqis.

As I wandered back home through the near-deserted streets of the city, I thought that the Australian Tourism Commission should film another ad. Picture an overseas tourist, standing alone in the empty streets of Australia's largest city, screaming out at the top of her lungs: "Where the bloody hell are you?"