52

Coogee

C_Intro

 

What’s slower than a snail? Whatever it is, I’ve moved slower than it the last couple of weeks. Not only am I hopeless in Sydney’s steamy summer heat – my body must have also got wind of the fact it was home; after a year of pounding pavements and putting up with late nights, jet lag and whatever, it decided to slow to a crawl.

But I suspect I’ve also been dragging No 52 out – it’s the last one! Wah!

Added to all that is the fact that life finally intervened – bits of work, kid stuff, etc – and I’ve let it. After so many months of feeling a constant pressure to post every week, I decided to take my sweet time. Why rush the last? Who’s counting?

Anyway, they’re all the excuses I can think of right now. I could probably rustle up a few more but do we care? Shouldn’t we just press on – to the very last suburb on 52 Suburbs Around the World?

Ladies and gents, teens and tweens, may I present suburb No 52… Coogee.

To be honest, I’ve never really known what to make of the place despite the fact we live in the suburb next door. While I loved one small corner of it – Wylies Baths – the rest never enticed. Too crowded with people and buses maybe? Impossible to park? For whatever reason, Coogee has always been just somewhere to drive through on my way to visit friends in Maroubra.

So why did I choose it to finish the project with? I was curious, would my impression of it change once I’d actually had a closer look? But mainly it was the fact it had a pool. A body of water I could submerge my tired, hot body in – with a camera! Shooting underwater is something I’ve always wanted to try – when Uge from the blog Aquabumps offered his underwater housing for me to play with, I jumped at the chance (thanks Uge!).

A little background to Coogee… Eight km SE of the city, Coogee is part of the ‘Eastern suburbs’ of Sydney. Name comes from the Aboriginal ‘koojah’, meaning smelly place, which may or may not refer to the copious amounts of seaweed that wash up on the beach. Anyone wanting a dip here is spoilt for choice, from Gordons Bay to the beach itself or one of the four ocean pools around the place. One of the more sporty suburbs – aside from swimming there’s surf lifesaving, beach volleyball and rugby.

Grab your swimmers, slap on some goo and let’s get beachside.

 

Part 1: First impressions

As I said, I haven’t necessarily been a fan to date. But when I actually took the time to really look around, I was delighted by the old word charm of Coogee; okay, the way they’ve landscaped the beach isn’t to my liking (is it the tiles? the awning?) but I loved the few remaining examples of kitschy signage and original flats around the place, and the incredible charm of Wylie’s Baths.

 

 

blue world :: 1

blue world :: 1

 

 

 

 

blue world :: 2

blue world :: 2

 

 

 

 

colours of the ocean

colours of the ocean

 

 

 

 

vivid - Jemma and Jade

vivid – Jemma and Jade

 

 

 

 

two, one, pull!

two, one, pull!

 

 

 

 

Wylie's and Boo

Wylie’s and Boo

 

 

 

 

of the sea :: 1

of the sea :: 1

 

 

 

 

written on his body

written on his body

 

 

 

 

circles

circles

 

 

 

 

seascapes

seascapes

 

 

 

 

we're all boat people

we’re all boat people

 

 

 

The one advantage of taking so long with this final post is I’ve seen Coogee in hugely different weather. While the last few days have been sublime, I loved the drama of the stormy big seas and wild winds we had a few weeks back.

 

 

"It's too windy to do my fire tricks" - Melba from Chilee

“It’s too windy to do my fire tricks” – Melba from Chilee

 

 

 

 

tangled

tangled

 

 

 

Stormy Sunday

Stormy Sunday

 

 

 

 

I think the image below is my favourite. It was so windy, I’m not sure I caught the words – but I think Venus said they were from Parramatta. You can’t tell from the picture but all the kids had gone in the water fully dressed – and why not? Too much fun not to.

 

 

visiting from the suburbs - Venus and her family

visiting from the suburbs – Venus and her family

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Heidi

Coco and I were hanging around the pool at the southern end of Coogee Beach on a stormy afternoon when I noticed an older woman emerging from the pool. I probably wouldn’t have looked twice had it not been for the snorkel and the bronzed skin – or the bikini.

It turned out that 63 year old Heidi owns a handful of bikinis. Because every day she swims. Not just once but up to seven times a day. And each time, she likes to change into a dry bikini. So she can do what she does in between swimming – paint.

Heidi was born in Germany, coming out to Australia at the age of seven. For 40 years she’s been swimming every day at Coogee, no matter what the weather. Usually across the beach, retreating to the pool only when it’s just too rough.

When she was working as a graphic designer and art teacher, she would always find time to throw herself in the salty stuff at least once a day. Now she’s retired, she fills her days doing what she loves – swimming and painting.

Hooray! I want to be like Heidi when I grow up.

 

 

first she paints :: 1

Heidi’s studio :: 1

 

 

 

 

first she paints :: 2

Heidi’s studio :: 2

 

 

 

 

then she swims :: 1

water colours :: 1

 

 

 

 

then she swims :: 2

water colours :: 2

 

 

 

 

water colours

water colours :: 3

 

 

 

 

of the sea :: 2

of the sea :: 2

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Beneath

Swimming, love it. Photography, love it. Combine the two and I’m in heaven. Which in this case ain’t skyward – it’s beneath…

 

 

last day of summer

last day of summer

 

 

 

 

above - Mali

above – Mali

 

 

 

 

between

between

 

 

 

 

beneath :: 1 - Adam and Jess

beneath :: 1 – Adam and Jess

 

 

 

 

beneath :: 2 - Briar

beneath :: 2 – Briar

 

 

 

 

beneath :: 3 -Tia

beneath :: 3 -Tia

 

 

 

 

beneath :: 4 - Coco

beneath :: 4 – Coco :: 1

 

 

 

 

beneath :: 5 - Coco :: 2

beneath :: 5 – Coco :: 2

 

 

 

 

beneath :: 6

beneath :: 6

 

 

 

 

beneath :: 7

beneath :: 7

 

 

 

 

As much as I loved the experience of shooting underwater, I left feeling like I barely touched the surface, so to speak. I could do a year long project just on that alone – 52 Suburbs Underwater?!

 

 

The Wrap

What I loved about Coogee is its faded seaside-ness and its lack of pretension or feeling of exclusivity. An Eastern Suburb it might be but everyone is welcome here.

And I have changed my tune about the place. It’s gone from just a place to drive through to somewhere I’d actually like to go. For one, I rediscovered the joy of Wiley’s Baths – amazingly no one has buggered it up and it looks pretty much exactly the same as it did 20 years ago when I used to drive all the way across town just to enjoy it.

Shocking I know, but in all that time I never once hopped over to Coogee Beach itself. This time I actually got sand between my toes and had a look. I loved the northern headland that catches the last light, and the way the beach is bookended with ocean pools, one hemmed in by walls, the other a more natural affair. And I particularly enjoyed it when the wind was so strong you had to walk sideways, much like a crab.

 

 

Oh no, really? Is it that time already?

I’ve been so looking forward to and so dreading this moment – talk about mixed emotions.

Coogee Beach was a lovely place to express my thoughts…

 

 

this has been 52 Suburbs Around the World

this has been 52 Suburbs Around the World!

 

 

 

 

a tale of two chicks circumnavigating the globe

a tale of two chicks circumnavigating the globe

 

 

 

 

we've walked and photographed our butts off

we’ve walked and photographed our butts off

 

 

 

 

thank you everyone, wherever you live

thank you everyone, wherever you live

 

 

 

 

gratitude

gratitude

 

 

There are so many people I want to thank.

To everyone who joined us on the journey, thank you! Not only were you the best virtual travel companions ever. You also played a critical role in keeping me going. It was hugely motivating to know you would be checking in each week – it made me push myself that little bit harder, to make the experience the best it could be for you. And every comment anyone left would give me a thrill – every single one.

Thank you in particular to those blog followers from other cities who sent suburb suggestions or invited us to meet up with them – while we met countless wonderful people on the streets every day, to actually have a local we could call on who would happily share their knowledge of their city as well as their support for the project was very special.

So thank you, thank you!

I also want to thank everyone who helped to make the project fly, literally – from my wonderful Kickstarter supporters to my fabulous sponsors. The project has ended up costing me personally more than I’d expected but if I hadn’t gotten that initial support from you in the beginning, I would never have embarked on the journey. 

Thanks to those amazingly clever people who were on the tools behind the scenes. Stephen Lead for dutifully updating the map every week, thank you! And Kate Johnstone and Kat Clark for designing and revising the blog whenever required.

Many thanks to our friends and family for your constant love and support. And to the wonderful friends who housed us in NY, LA, Auckland and Melbourne, and put up with us either never there or me huddled over the computer all day and night.

I am of course eternally grateful to everyone who appeared on the blog – in many cases you let me take your photograph even though we could barely communicate. I’d stumble over my written script in Japanese or Italian or whatever and you’d kindly nod and smile. You’re all legends in my eyes.

And finally I have to thank a kid called Coco. It’s too early in the morning to spout tears so I’ll be quick. Given what a marathon this project was, given all the hours spent wandering aimlessly, given the fact there were no friends around for a year – given all this, I’m not sure I could have done this project with another child. Coco, thank you, for being an absolute bloody trooper and the most delightful person to spend a year with, 24/7.

Remember Coco at the beginning of the project? Eight years old and seemingly half the body size she is now.

 

 

only a year ago - Coco in Hong Kong

only a year ago – Coco in Hong Kong

 

 

 

You’ve watched her grow over the year – and in more ways than one. Always caring and kind, her experience of seeing the world and of meeting people often much less fortunate than herself has made her an even more compassionate human being.

And you know what was an unexpected delight? The way many of you became defacto aunties and uncles to Coco. Given it was just she and I for most of the time we were away, it was incredibly comforting to know you were there, like an extended virtual family. It warmed my heart many times.

Ultimately I feel extremely lucky. I’ve been able to do what I love for an entire year – exploring, photographing and sharing. Looking back, I can’t believe how little else I did, aside from keep Coco fed and watered. It’s been an obsession alright but a most wonderful obsession.

And to share it with my daughter as well as you all has been absolutely incredible.

So dear virtual travel companions, this is where the journey ends. Not entirely – I intend to keep the blog going until at least July when the images you’ve been looking at on your computer screen will take on another life at the Museum of Sydney for a four month long exhibition. I’ll be blogging about things various, details TBD.

But as far as our traipsing around the world for a year, well yes, that part is over. But whatever happens, we’ll always have Paris – and Hong Kong, New Delhi, Istanbul, Rome, Berlin, New York, LA, Tokyo, Kyoto, Auckland, Wellington, Melbourne and Sydney.

Much much love from Coco and I.

 

 

bye

bye

 

 

 

 

the end

the end

 

 

 

This suburb has been brought to you by Chris Korczowski • Ben Ho • Jennifer Parker

See you soon.

 

35

Red Hook

RH intro

 

Late, late, late.

But I have good reason. Namely, trying to map out the next four months of travel – lots of ‘what, five hours of daylight only, no way, can’t go there’ or ‘it’s too hot/cold/expensive’ – then booking flights, accommodation, blah blah blah – while simultaneously trying to explore and photograph ‘Suburb’ No 35.

Hence why the latter is a little thin on the ground for my liking. But the good news is, I finally settled on where we’re all headed next.

Before we get to that, let’s take a wander through our last NY neighbourhood, Red Hook. A fascinating little pocket of NY that feels remote, like a fishing village kind of, but a fishing village that has a huge IKEA and a water taxi that’ll get you to Manhattan in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Some facts and history… Settled in 1636 and named by the Dutch for the red clay soil and the fact it’s a point (in Dutch, ‘Hoek’) of land jutting out into the sea. A thriving maritime hub until the 1950s when its waterfront industry went into decline – as did the neighbourhood. The low point was in the 70s and 80s – crack and crime, centered around the projects (public housing estate) in the south-east of the neighbourhood. Mid-1990s, artists started to move in, attracted by the industrial spaces, followed by IKEA and supermarket, Fairway. One part of Red Hook is gradually gentrifying – near the water, down the main street – but there’s still plenty of lonely, vacant lots and the majority of Red Hook residents still live in the very un-gentrified projects, the second largest in NY.

For the last time in NYC…

 

Part 1: First visit

I suspect we had the same first reaction to Red Hook as most day trippers – nice old working waterfront but is that it? And where is everyone?

Because unlike everywhere else we’ve been in NY, Red Hook is super quiet, with few people wandering around and lots of empty spaces. Wild west meets isolated fishing village. Tumbleweed territory.

It all made sense when I later learned that Red Hook’s population withered after the 1950s and is now half what it was then, at just 11,000. And most of those 11,000 live in the projects, away from the waterfront.

Which means that the population density of the gentrified bits – the nice old rowhouses and the industrial spaces – must be incredibly low. Why? For a start, Red Hook is hard to get to – there’s a water taxi from Manhattan but no subway and just one bus. It also ain’t cheap – humble looking homes sell for a million plus – yet aside from IKEA and Fairway, there’s hardly any local services.

As a result, it felt like Coco and I had the place to ourselves for most of the time. Especially on our first visit, when the skies turned black and there were even fewer people on the streets than usual…

 

 

you take the water taxi not the subway

mind the gap – you take the water taxi not the subway

 

 

 

 

arriving under a leaden sky

arriving under a leaden sky

 

 

 

 

Coco mid-drenching

Coco mid-drench

 

 

 

 

and then the sun shone again

and then the sun shone again

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Filled with textures not people

Without many people around to distract one’s eye, it was easy to appreciate Red Hook’s many textures and layers.

 

 

surrounded by water

surrounded by water

 

 

 

 

Belgian Block paving stones struggle against asphalt

Belgian Block paving stones struggle against asphalt

 

 

 

 

old-timers - the Wagoneer on the Belgian Blocks

old-timers – the Wagoneer on the Belgian Blocks

 

 

 

 

wild west of the east :: 1

wild west of the east :: 1

 

 

 

 

wild west of the east :: 2

wild west of the east :: 2

 

 

 

 

weathered

weathered

 

 

 

 

industrial chic :: 1- W.Beard, former storage warehouses

industrial chic :: 1- W.Beard, former storage warehouses

 

 

 

 

industrial chic :: 2

industrial chic :: 2

 

 

 

 

Red Hook wasn't always so hard to get to - old trams

Red Hook wasn’t always so hard to get to – old trams

 

 

 

 

in Red Hook there's room to spread your wings

in Red Hook there’s room to spread your wings

 

 

 

 

trucks allowed

thirsty?

 

 

 

 

Part 3: People!

Not that we met many of them but from what I could gather the community in Red Hook – at least in the gentrifying area – is tight-knit; as someone said, “we all know each other, which is good – and bad”.

Although the area is known for its artist community, there are people here from all walks of life – we met a real estate agent, someone who worked in the cafe and an architect. But as different as they may seem, they’re all “independent” and not your norm. As one article about the neighbourhood said, “Red Hook isn’t for everyone”.

 

 

baked at Baked - Joanna

baked at Baked – Joanna

 

 

 

 

the wild women of Red Hook - Liz

the wild women of Red Hook – Liz

 

 

 

We met German architect Thomas, below, picking up his bike from the local bike shop – and then proceeded to run into him twice again over the next few days. On one of our encounters he showed us around his most recent job, a refashioned three level building, with a retail shop on the bottom, two floors of living and a rooftop terrace. Just sold for close to two million.

 

 

architect Thomas, standing atop his creation

architect Thomas, standing atop his creation

 

 

 

 

side-view - love those stars

side-view – love those stars

 

 

 

 

The next time we ran into Thomas he was walking his dog down by the waterfront, surrounded by wonderful old warehouses, re-purposed but mercifully intact. He reminded me that a former police detective, Greg O’Connell, owned four of these waterfront buildings, including an old coffee warehouse that houses Fairway (and Michelle Williams who lives in the chic apartments above Fairway), and that he’d bought them from the city of NY for just half a million dollars way back when. That’s good detective work I reckon.

 

 

down by the waterfront - we meet again

down by the waterfront – we meet again

 

 

 

 

 Part 4: Art

While Thomas and Greg O’Connell might not mind Red Hook’s rising real estate star, there are plenty of artists in the neighbourhood who do. I met one who told me to buzz off – he didn’t want me contributing to the hype around Red Hook, liked the place as it was. Fair enough.

Another much friendlier one explained that he actually liked where Red Hook was at, a little gentrified but not too much; he’d arrived a decade ago when there was “nothing” but now the place was in a “sweet spot”.

We were having this chat at an art exhibition Thomas had told me about, inside a massive Civil War-era warehouse owned by artist Dustin Yellin. Yellin bought the 24,000-square-foot space this year for $3.7 million to create an “utopian art center”.

Whether or not that happens the warehouse is an amazing space for his unusual artworks. From a distance they look like objects held in suspension but they’re not. He applies paint and printed material to layers of resin or glass which, when stuck together, create three-dimensional forms.

 

 

layer upon layer - Dustin Yellin's work :: 1

layer upon layer – Dustin Yellin’s work :: 1

 

 

 

 

layer upon layer - Dustin Yellin's work :: 2

layer upon layer – Dustin Yellin’s work :: 2

 

 

 

 

front and side view

front and side view

 

 

 

 

I didn’t stumble on any other artist’s studios but I did find some art on the streets…

 

 

lampost love :: 1

lamp post love :: 1

 

 

 

 

lamp post love :: 2

lamp post love :: 2

 

 

 

 

Part 5: The projects

I would liked to have explored the other side of Red Hook – the public housing or projects as they call them here. But alas, all my travel planning sucked up so much time in the past 10 days it left little to do anything more.

Still, a few shots of the un-gentrified side of Red Hook…

 

 

showing no signs of gentrification - the projects and No 121

showing no signs of gentrification – the projects and No 121

 

 

 

 

love in the projects :: 1

love in the projects :: 1

 

 

 

 

love in the projects :: 2

love in the projects :: 2

 

 

 

 

sure?

sure?

 

 

 

 

The image below is taken outside a public school that was renamed after its principal, Patrick Daly, who was killed in 1992 in the crossfire of a drug-related shooting while trying to find a student. It was around that time Time Magazine named Red Hook as one of the “worst” neighborhoods in the United States and as “the crack capital of America.” While things have obviously improved, I imagine life in the projects is a far cry from that of their neighbours.

 

 

'love one another' - mural outside the Patrick Daly school

‘love one another’ – mural outside the Patrick Daly school

 

 

 

 

Part 6: The shoot

You know how we always take a few pics of Coco in ‘traditional dress’ in each city we visit? Well, not sure if NY has a traditional costume so we went retro, appropriate given Red Hook’s old-worldly feel.

 

 

red in Red Hook :: 1

red in Red Hook :: 1

 

 

 

 

red in Red Hook :: 2

red in Red Hook :: 2

 

 

 

 

hope and anchor

hope and anchor

 

 

 

 

The Wrap

Loved Red Hook, despite the fact I’m sure I missed a whole lot (apologies to any Red Hook residents). The feeling of space and freedom is pretty wonderful, and yet Brooklyn and Manhattan are just there on your doorstep should the need for, well, anything, arise. And three cheers for those who’ve fought to keep the waterfront out of the hands of developers – may it continue thus.

 

 

 

we're heading off!

we’re heading off!

 

 

 

 

On the ‘home front’

Okay, so first to say, many thanks for the city suggestions last week. I want you to know I considered each and every one of them, carefully, taking into consideration the city, weather, cost etc.

So what should you pack for the last four months of your virtual journey? Well, you’re going to need something glam for… Los Angeles, something quirky for… Tokyo, and something colourful with an inbuilt bullet-proof vest for… Mexico City (just joking Joyce).

LA because it’s much maligned, Tokyo because I got a great deal on two return tickets from LA (and yeah, yeah it’s meant to be AMAZING) and Mexico City because I realised it’s a culture this project hasn’t touched on. (There will be another city too, at the very end, but that’s still TBD.)

I really hope you like the sound of all that. Do you?

This suburb has been brought to you by Scott Falvey

 —

We leave for LA on Sunday or Monday so the first post will be a week later. See you then.

 

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