Sunday, December 31, 2006

Al Qaeda (Not) in Goa.

Maybe I'm an obsessive romantic, but I can't help returning to the sites of my youth where I had the most exquisite of transcendental experiences, as if I could recapture the high and the promise. One of those places is Vagatore Beach in Goa where in 1972 I lived in the nude with the international freak-set and took too much LSD, went on cosmic vision quests and gelled into the anarcho-mystic nutcase that I am. 35 years later it's another world, cyberpunk instead of nature-hippie, with ritzy hotels piled up where once we built our elaborate grass-huts, every roof a satellite dish and every Indian in hip-hop gear with mobile and fast motor-bike, techno music and designer drugs ruling the life-style.

We were anti-materialist then, now we're all high-fashion worshippers of money and celebrity. Still, on the dance-floor, nobody gives a shit in the trance, one can be as silly as a loon and get lost in the rush. Every year there's some disaster that halts the flow of tourists, 9/11, the tsunami, the Iraqui War and terrorist threats, the most common lament being too many Israelis crowding everybody else out. This year it's the opposite, no Israelis! There was a threat from Al Qaeda to target the parties so they've mostly fled south trying to secrete themselves by the thousands in the lost city of Hampi, but if the terrorists want them, they'll surely follow their trail. The rest of us dance resolutely on, not even the fear of mass murderers dampening our intrepid spirits, the Goans as strong as ever and all of us spitting in the face of the cowardly jihadi fuckwits who can only sneak up on people, they especially hate parties I bet.

The Christmas party at the Hilltop was laid-back, the music very "trance", hardstyle rarely gets an outing here, mostly Indian DJs who still seem to be copying the neo-hippie soft style of 15 years ago. Only a smattering of Israeli jungle-bunnies showed up, and few other internat freaks, the wild tribe seems to have moved on, I suppose the parties here have become too controlled, costing 1000 rupees to enter and security guards crawling all over the place. You never know if the blob next to you is a plain-clothes cop so the smoking of charas is not such a public ritual anymore, no "Bam Shankar!" screamed to signify one's big babahood to the ravers stomping all about, everything done on the sly, paranoia rules, the hard-arse freaks have probably split to the backwaters, they're notorious cheapskates and Goans need money.

It's kind of a relief to not have the Israelis so in your face, like having a holiday, for all the money lost I suspect even the Goans are enjoying the break, too much haggling over 10 Rupees and fisticuffs over cultural gaps/gaffs, no more motor-bikes going over cliffs and less flipped-out drug O.D.s delivered to the Emergency Wards, (tho I myself quite like their badness, they're so rude, so strong, a tribe unto themselves, it's amusing to observe them, like wild animals set free of constraints, their quirky social codes and methods of sexual display, their tweaky hippie dress sense, the Israeli stomp, they can be a laugh.

The scene has now been over-run by the Indians themselves, from all over, they've caught the party-bug of Goa after 40 years of firangi rule, Goa's their's and they grab it by the hair and drag it about. Alcohol pours down like monsoon rains, by 7 PM the drunks are roaming and the picturesque coconut groves can turn sinister quickly, and while Goa is a very safe tourist haven, the Goans being particularly caring and watchful of abuse, there is an awful lot of monsters at large ready to run amok.

Dancing peacefully at the Christmas Party I got what felt like a glass of beer thrown in my earhole. As I turned in surprise two guys beside me broke into a fight, tumbling to the ground, with the usual coward's gang of thugs putting the boot into one of them. Apparently one idiot had been grabbing a girl on the tits as he danced in front of her and her boyfriend objected and pushed him away.

The fight tumbled across the entire dance floor, more guys joining in like crazed lemmings, a huge section of the crowd moving with it as one guy seemed to be slogging it out with a mob. And the previously ubiquitous security cordon was nowhere to be found, the fight going on and on, and the victim seemingly leading the mob towards the front gate where security guards should be. The muscle-bound bouncers did indeed finally break up the lynch-mob and ascertaining from witnesses who the ring-leaders of the molestation were, they traced them to a nightclub nearby and beat the shit out of them.

It all makes for an exciting holiday, if one can duck the punches and avoid the stalkers. On New Year's eve the usual hordes of party-wannabes buzzed like gnats on their motorbikes around the labyrnth of Goan rice-paddy fields looking for the happening party but there is, and has always been, only one hot venue in Goa that has out-lasted and out-funked all the rest and that's the Hilltop Hotel, surviving even the curse of Toby Zoates to kick on, tho lamely.

It's 2007 party went off smoothly, like the klunky fireworks display on the beach, the techno music was cutting and actually nailed that "elusive funk" at times, like symphonies and choirs and every rock band and washing machine in the world throbbing together, and the huge crowd shimmied and shook and threw up their arms like apes massing mindlessly in awe under a full moon, as if it's hard-wired in humans to congregate, touch and commune in herds. Over the years I've been passed joints by Bollywood stars, top fashion designers and rich brat kids of billionaire industrialists for they know where the nitty-gritty in dance-music is thumping, it's not in the polite lounges of their 5-star hotels. Mostly it's Bombay mid-class hipsters hoping to surf the electro-wave, and a sea of peasants from the hinterland who want to get in on the Bollywood act, many thinking there's "free sex" available from the firangis.

After 30 hours of continuous dancing the churning washing-machine in the music took over and the drunken Indians crashed into me as they stumbled past, quite annoying, every one of the billion citizens wants to grab a handful of the demi-god like foreigners, they continuously knock against one, stroke, touch, rub, caress, even an old gronk like me constantly got his arse felt-up. I actually think many Indians exist in a group mind, like mob-rule, and there are few individuals who think or act on their own initiative. Sometimes I fear underneath all that friendly obsequiousness and heartfelt cordialiy is simmering a resentment at us foreigner's high-faluting ways and an envy of our western achievements.

2007 is the 150th anniversary of the 1857 Mutiny in which the natives rose up and slaughtered a few of their British Raj masters, and today the newspapers reprinted pamphlets wherein Hindu and Moslem priests encouraged their fellow Indians to go out and "murder any Europeans you come across." Can we still be seen as invaders?

Last night I was returning thru the transit town of Mapusa after a trip to the Goan capital of Panjim to see the movie "Babel" at the Inox Cineplex. We were at the petrol staton trying to get fuel for our scooter and I thought I'd take a quick piss. Strolling across the station's tarmac I was nearly run down by a small taxi-van. Forgetting about the 7 PM danger-zone I yelled in outrage and shook my fist, the driver went ballistic and leapt from his slimy carapace, drunk as a punk, face twisted like a demon from hell. I stupidly screamed he had no brains and was ugly as an evil imp to which he foamed at the mouth and threw his fists about. My friend Prakash rushed over and quietened me, pulling me back to the scooter and I thought the whole matter was over.

The queue of petrol-junkies looked at me glumly as I sauntered to the other side of the station and sat on some rocks to wait for the bike to be fed. Unbeknownst to me the monsters in the taxi had quickly parked and came back looking for me, the driver with 6 hairy thugs in tow, real brave guys and as drunk as rogue elephants. They manhandled Prakash and asked him where I'd gone, and him being the smart lad he is, he told them to go on the opposite side of the petrol dump to the bus-stand where I was waiting for him. They stupidy lumbered off, mitts outstretched to tear me to pieces, while I blithely whistled a happy tune a few metres away. Prakash ran to me and dragged me to the bike, the petrol-heads had warned him to flee quickly, forgetting the fuel, he pushed me onto the bike and sped off, shouting into the wind how I'd come very close to being demolished by a mob of murderous drunken ape-men, no longer the servile happy Goans welcoming the beloved white maharajas. Who needs Al Qaeda when there's Al Cohol to wreack havoc upon the innocent?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bombay Wet Dreams.

I spent a couple of days in Bombay as it's one of my favorite world-cities, I've even slept on the streets there in my youth and only the shoe-shine boys and cripples looked after me. I returned to my most patronized Indian cinema, The Regal in Colaba, an art deco landmark from the roaring twenties, and there I saw a Hindi film, "Kabul Express", a laid-back understated look at Afghanistan, more photo-journalist than narrative, a picturesque ride with the Number One hunk of Bollywood, John Abraham, and it was cool, preferable to the tidal wave of 'blood and guts' images the "war on terror" has unleashed upon us.

I was stood up by a friend and was standing in front of the cinema somewhat at a loss when I bumped into a vague acquaintance, a jolly villain by the name of Micky, half-Goan, half Maharashtran, he looked like a giant hairy coconut dressed in neon hippie hip-hop gear with an avalanche of dreadlocks pouring out of his head and an aura that glowed "nasty boy" from a mile off. I knew him as a sleazy hustler who chased foreign girls about and bludged a good time out of them, and I'd always kept my distance. Now suddenly he's my best friend, latching onto me like a drowning mollusc, drooling with compliments and hearty hail-fellow-well-met bullshit. His delinquency intrigued and amused me, I'd been stood-up and needed company, Mumbai is best with a chaperone to run interference, so I decided to get a closer look at him, letting myself be shanghaied into a night of Bombay revelry a la Micky the Moose.

I've been to many nightspots in this 7-island city, techno-parties in 5-star hotels and members-only discos where one can stay till 3 AM, but they were all full of boring, moneyed people dancing politely and checking out each others designer clothes, much like in Sydney but without the hip music, inevitably Hindi pop slops. I was looking for something different, wilder, sexier, where the celebrants really got down dirty to boogie. Such as the nightclub scenes in Bollywood movies where the whole crew explode into heart-stopping dance maneuvers and have orgasms writhing to the beat. Dance is my number one sport and joy, I've studied and performed pop dancing in many hot clubs from a young age and if I'm gonna find wild and dirty dance anywhere, surely it's Mumbai.

But it didn't look like it was going to happen in real life, the few clubs we visited the couples danced desultorily. The wildest it got was walking the mean streets late at night and checking out the trannies, prostitutes and junkies around Jahengir Art Gallery and Churchgate Station, it's so dangerous only last night a guy was stabbed there 7 times. A bad-arse movie yeah but I also needed something a bit more secure.

As we wandered a back alley we heard live music wafting from a gaudy door into a dingy basement. We went in to get an earful and a beer, it was an airless concrete box with concrete tree-roots snaking along the ceiling, and were sat down with much ceremony by a platoon of waiters done up like militaristic Maharajas. The motley crew of musicians wailed on and on, strangling a Hindi pop tune via a sputtering microphone as I ordered drinks and gazed patronizingly upon them. We were the first customers of the night and much was expected of us.

Then the mob of waiters parted to reveal a line-up of girls, mostly in western fashions and with too much make-up, all gazing hopefully at me. I realized what we had stumbled into, one of those infamous Bombay bars where "bar-girls" are available for company if one spends unstintingly. A burly madame flounced out and sat next to the band, glaring at me as if challenging my manhood, a real man must spend up big, Mister White Sahib!

I stared at my beer while Micky appraised the trade and, as all Indian men do, decided the lone girl in the sari was the only talent there. I quickly paid for the over-priced drinks and escaped before we were further fleeced. I don't know what the story is, I imagine the door at the back led to private rooms somewhere, the club being nothing more than the foyer of a brothel, or maybe the girls just danced more lasciviously the more money you threw at them. In a city where prostitution is illegal, I've never seen so many working girls, there's one area, B.T. Road, where they seem to flock in their thousands.

Micky announced he was hungry and so we called in at an eatery where he proceeded to eat like a hippopotamus, they brought the stuff to him in buckets, he reminded me of King Kong tearing into a dinosaur the way he chomped on and on, and later on he drank like a fish, pouring down booze as if into a black-hole and I got jumpy over the bill, how did those dumb blond girls he roped in put up with this? He sold me a sob story that he had changed his ways, no more smoking hashish, no more hunting firanghi girls, only a small drink now and then, he was a new man. All because his last tourist lover had gotten pregnant to him and then pissed off, refusing to take him on as the father and this had broken his heart. Hmmmmmm, so sad... I was really impressed.

Next up was the Voodoo Club in Colaba, India's one and only gay (sometimes) club, but only on Saturday night, then it's a poof's free-for-all that out-does Sydney's Oxford street in swishing and squealing, but Friday night, the night I'm out and about, is pussy-punters night, resident hookers prowled by desperately hungry men. Yet I thought it would be perversely interesting to watch Indian men in a taboo milieu, cute boys in sports-gear hopping into break-dance, dumpy businessmen in safari-suits trying to do the Watusi, dowdy shop-wallahs stepping on hot-coals in their attempt to be hipsters, all trying to impress the girls with their jerky moves. Luckily the DJ played cool hip-hop music and I was kept happy for a few hours while I watched the mugs crack onto the whores. The best looking girl in the joint, an Indian Anita Ekberg, blond hair and all, was swept out the door by what looked like a British bloke who threw me a furtive look as if he were on some dangerous mission, he was so closely chaperoned by a grim-looking goonda Indian pimp I suppose it was indeed a risky venture.

Another gorgeous girl flounced thru, this one like Hedy Lamarr in a black strapless evening gown, she stood under a spot-light to show off her assets, flinging her lustrous hair about provocatively. Micky was glad-handling everybody including the DJ, telling him what discs to spin, then calling for more drinks while he danced wildly with everybody in the room. As he got drunker and drunker he got more manic, demonic even, and couldn't resist asking Hedy Lamarr what her price was. She blithely told him it was 3000 rupees to which he rudely laughed in her face. For the rest of the night he danced in her vicinity with a 50 rupee note held up and flicked gleefully, as if to tell her that's all she was worth.

She flung her long hair about in a fury and stormed across the dance-floor like a martinet at war, Micky's demonic smile chasing her, his possessed eyes sharp and bright as black obsidian. This was what Micky the Goan party-boy was like up close, a monster of rapacious appetites and cruel masculinity. In all the afray, I managed to get in some abandoned dancing, a few of the whores and hip hop boys joining in, there's nothing in this world like a group free for all in dancing, letting go but hanging right with the beat in the swaying of the hips, the tapping of the feet, the rotation of the head, till the brain swims. Indians are crazy to dance and I'm mad for dancing with them. We all swung about, some fast, some slow, undulating, throwing our arms about in erotic gestures, and our legs stepping to a Bollywood routine. Suddenly the music stopped and closing time was announced. Bummer! Just when we were getting going.

Clubs have to close in Mumbai by 1 a.m. and by this time most of the punters had fled, only a few geriatrics left hanging in there, and the girls, realizing the young guys had no money, zeroed in on the oldies, for "old is gold" in urban folklore. An ancient Sikh in a turban was whisked about for one last-gasp rap dance, and another old fellow who looked like he needed a walking stick clung to a young girl as if she were a life-raft, bear-hugging the breath out of her, but what the heck, money was money and even the gerries still need to get some human touch-up relief.

Micky bellowed for more drinks and danced with the whores, their pimps, their mugs, the hip-hop boys, everybody, stomping on the floor as if to turn the cold concrete into warm wine, and when the club closed he had to be dragged out screaming for more drinks. I was fed-up but he insisted we go to a late-night dive in Colaba, "The Hawaiin Shack" and I thought I'd see the bumpy ride out till the end. In the cab he grabbed my hand and put it on his crotch. I pulled it back quickly. Though curious to discover what it was that draws in all those foreign girls who never seem to get enough of the goon, I wasn't interested, he'd done me in.

Anyway, he had nothing that was so special down there, and I pondered the cosmic question, what was the big attraction? His dreadlocks were filthy and he stank of B.O., he was high maintenance, in money and patience, so what the fuck was drawing girls to him like bees to honey? An oily tongue? (gives good head/had gift of the gab), an affability that never takes "No!" for an answer? A party-boy who really kicks off and is kind of fun? I suppose that gets them in, tho I imagine he simply scores with the stupid ones.

We got into the Hawaiin Shack where the drinks cost a bomb and the music was 'Fifties rock'n'roll, another concrete box that used to be for "bar-girls" now turned legit, it contained a scattering of nice, middle-class couples who looked silly as they attempted to jitter-bug. I myself was jitter-bugged by my Micky experience and was looking for an escape-route. He drunkenly professed love to me and promised we'd be an item in Goa, I smiled grimly and politely murmured, "I don't think so...", then split quietly into the night, alone, to get myself back safely to my hotel in a taxi.

I did meet him in Goa at the Christmas party in the Hilltop Hotel but he had cracked onto yet another blond, dread-locked neo-hippy girl and he looked through me like I was the glass door into Hell. I was so relieved. I'd had my night out in Bombay and it was a bombastic laugh, not to be repeated. I did get a fantastic dance experience in Goa to the hard-style techno they're the Masters of, possibly with real Bollywood stars dancing around me, and it was the greatest dance high it has ever been my nirvana to participate in.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Deadbeat Wanderings.

I'm quite settled into the Indian way of things these days, only the rare flip-out when I can't bare to be stared at for one more second or there's a crowd of pushy men at a ticket window or some fuckwit parks his truck in the middle of the road and nearly kills us as we drive up its arse. The second leg of my tour of the high Himalayas again took days to get going, every day a new drama, the car got crashed when parking, every acquaintance in town got driven around on their own emergency errands, my driver's father was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties, on and on for a week. I wanted to call the whole thing off but Balu was determined to go for his joy-ride, his father could wait till he came back to die, and so I gave into his headstrong nature and we sped off at midday, after one last visit to the hospital.

It was a glorious spin into the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, a whole other world with it's own architecture, dress style and favorite deity. We drove thru the old British Raj hill-station, Simla, without stopping, for it seemed an endless warren of concrete cubes piled up the sides of various mountains with little to entrance the world-weary traveler. Instead we rushed another 50 kms thru the dark to reach a hotsprings called Tatapani where we were welcomed into a quaint, grungy hotel, The Springview. It was a sweetly pastoral place, peaceful, hospitable, the mineral waters very soothing for the ailments that beset humanity, and I soaked my injured leg for a few days, for a while I felt strong again and the pain in the knee quietened.

It's a pity that in a year "They" will build a dam upon the Sutlej River and the Tatapani Hotsprings experience will be drowned, as will many villages and a cave dedicated to Shiva not far from the hotel. It is often my fate to frequent a place that is about to disappear, the old days of "hippie India", the salaciousness of Kings Cross, the penultimate freak-trance of Goa, Connaught Park in New Delhi before the Metro, and many off-the-road idyllic spots that get swept away by "progress". For all the trouble and expense of my Maharaja's car-trip, seeing the last of Tatapani was worth it. Balu met a fellow rafting-guide and he took us to his farmhouse way up the valley, above the waterline of the future dam. We met his old father and mother, and we all drank chai while we sat upon his veranda and viewed the sun setting over the village's fields. Gazing upon the misty landscape, it felt like paradise, for those born into it, it's inheritors, the bountiful garden, the peace of raising a family and following old traditions, the love of belonging to the soil, growing with it. Nice for me, a tourist, to get a glimpse of it, I couldn't live here of course, I'd go nuts, an iconoclastic freak in a cage, squawking for sophisticated entertainment and world-information 24/7, and eventually getting up to mischief.

Zooming around winding mountain roads with a golden sun melting away my worries, manifold hills and distant snowcaps gleaming with hazy mystique, I sure felt free and relaxed. We got back to Shangri-la at midnight to land in the usual drama that familiarity breeds. The pretty Japanese girl at the Lodge had thrown a party and invited every Jap hippie in the area, plus a few Indian ring-ins, to plink plink on guitars and bang bang on bongos. Then she proceeded to hang out in another room, leaving the door to her room open. Someone snuck in and stole $2000 in traveler's cheques. It's a big drag for my landlord who has to make a report to the Police and they only add extra arse-ache to any dilemma. The cosmic types like hippies, spiritualists, yogis and desperate oldies who rush to Shangri-la hoping for enlightenment in 7 easy lessons can easily get ripped due to their naivite and mindlessness. It's not unknown for "bad babas" to lure into the jungle silly women who fantasize about their perfect guru, following the bastards tho they glow with sleaze.

The women are then taken deep into the mountains and held captive in a cave for many months where they are sexual slaves and drudges for the wicked goblins posing as holy-men. They are fed Datura and hashish and kept in an hallucinatory daze until they escape or are turned loose, or horribly murdered, the babas having tired of abusing them mercilessly. I've seen a few crazy foreign women wandering the marketplace, out of their skulls jibber-jabbering, and when I ask my friends, "what happened to her?" they have replied nonchalantly, "oh, she got gang-raped by a mob of drunken sadhus." (Not that all "babas" are villains, most are just semi-crazed drop-outs, the few enlightened ones are probably hiding out deep in the jungles or mountain fastnesses, avoiding the bawling masses and accesible only to the near-enlightened.)

(And not all victims are women, guys too can fall for the bullshit allure of the false baba, every year a European male goes missing in Shangri-la or the mountains thereabouts and folklore has it that the "bad babas" got them. Only last year a 19year old Australian boy went missing, he was last seen wandering towards the river at 6 am in the morning, wearing only a pair of shorts and seeming to be in a daze. The river could easily have claimed him, the undercurrent is treacherous, but his body was never dredged up or found at the barrage 2 kms downstream.

He'd probably come on his youth's idealist quest of finding peace and self-knowledge, maybe got sucked in by some unctuous holy-rolling demon in dreadlocks, fed datura and hashish and had his mind-blown so far out he couldn't get back. He wouldn't be the first firangi to get bumped off for his possessions. His father came with a TV crew to search, investigate, expose, find closure, interviewing all and sundry, papering the town with posters of the poor goofy-looking lad but nothing was known of him, dead or alive.)

It's a wild premise for a bad-arse movie and I pray no sweet, cosmic Japanese girl has to go thru it ever again. The cops have chased out of town most of the "bad babas", too many robberies, rapes and murders in paradise, the tourists must be protected at all costs. I myself walk about with my eyes staring at the ground straight ahead, too paranoid and chilled to meet the eyes of the locals and maybe attract trouble. Just sitting by the bridge having chai can get me killed as the mad, uncertain atomic-particle rush of traffic causes constant collisions: two motorbikes smashed off each other right in front of me, one hurtling towards me out of control. I jumped out of the way and the bike hit a parked scooter, the riders all tumbling to the ground. Luckily no one was hurt, but I shudder to think of the vast injuries sustained all over India. I myself am a living testament to the terror of the traffic here, with my leg crippled horribly by an idiot driving on the wrong side of the road three years ago, but that's another story.

Wandering along the banks of the Ganges River I was waved to by a boy playing in the silver sand. As I got closer to him I saw that he had virtually no legs, just twisted sticks of spaghetti he'd buried in the sand beneath him. He had the most beatific, light-filled face and I couldn't resist sitting with him and inquiring about his life. He was now 17 and he'd had polio since two years old, he lived alone here in Shangri-la as his mother was far away in Uttar Pradesh and he was dependent on the kindness of strangers to stay alive.

When he told me he had to crawl on hands and knees to get back to his wheel chair, I said I was very sorry, "I wish I could give you legs." And he replied, "it doesn't matter, I'm used to it. My life is good, I love to play by the river and at 4pm I go to Pujah in the temple, this keeps me happy." His smile was so bright, his nature oozed such sweetness, I've never seen such a radiant face, he was so endearing I wanted to adopt him, or follow him as my guru. I gave him enough cash for a few days food and swore I'd meet him and help him in the future. To myself I swore that I'd never feel sorry for my lot again, attitude is everything!

The cliche of India being a "functioning anarchy" should be changed to a "dysfunctional trial" as the flood of moronic drivers crowding into every junction like cockroaches to a sticky motel has me hanging from my vehicle screaming, "you fuckwits!" But that's just the spoiled white Maharaja in me not getting his easy ride, fuck him! I'm actually deeply contented with my latest fabulous flight among the mystic Himalayan snowcaps, yet my gypsy nature is still restless and I now long for a few weeks adventure by the Arabian Sea, trancing out in Bombay and Goa. So I'm "Gone Gone Gone to Goa."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Of Bad Babas and Sweet Devas.

Money makes for the magic carpet ride, it can take you anywhere, comfortably. I got talked into hiring a car, at "mate's rates", which in India means extra expenses for the mate and an interminable wait for the car to be ready, a week of spinning about the back-alleys looking for a digital car-stereo system in an analog backwater, at least I got to prowl the jungle's edges at midnight and see some wild elephants crashing thru the brush and streaking across the highway to beat the traffic. Most of the hanging around was for paperwork that never eventuated, we drove off with no insurane and then the car broke down at the first town.

Stuck in Chamba, a medieval dump perched on top of a mountain, where Tolkien meets William Gibson as in cyberpunk goblin-grunge. Mercifully, with India's huge workforce, there is a mechanic every 700 yards, the broken fan was fixed and we were off on my much anticipated cruise thru the glorious Garwhal Himalayas. Car-driving up on the ever-disintegrating, narrow roads is a extreme-sport here for tumbling rocks and landslides can sweep us over the edge at any moment, trucks rush at us from nowhere, our nearest accident was when a horse came racing down a precipitous slope to skid under our wheels, us braking hard just in time. I used to do this trip on a motorbike, really out in the elements, the car is a cripple's dream, so cozily contained. Where once was the low-road that past thru old Tehri and deserted villages, now we go the high road for the Tehri Dam has engulfed the Gangetic valleys and drowned all, sunk under a vast man-made lake, never to be seen again, but I'd seen it before the mountains were moved, the ecology changed, now it's cyberpunk, hydro-electricity and water skiing instead of Shiva's shakti and temple trekking.

Tearing around the hair-pin bends, infinite vistas of mountains and valleys spread before us, snow-caps above and the Ganges river a 1000 ft drop below, hardstyle techno music thumping, I had an epiphany as the sun broke out and beamed hot white light into my brain. Yes! This is what I've gone to all the trouble to get here for! A day of high-altitude speeding got us to a hot spring, Gangonani, dedicated to Shiva, He once supposedly meditated there, and many Rishis have lived there over the centuries, beaming the place ecstatic, for the gorgeous warmth of hot water above the snow-line. By the side of the huge steaming tank I was met by a sadhu-baba with evil eyes and saccharine exhortations to join him at his dhooni, (campfire), to smoke and be regaled by his many wondrous tales. He was dressed in faded saffron rags, a pseudo-swami with a rat's face peeping from under an orange turban wound around his dreadlocks. I've met many sleazy babas in my life and saw this one coming a mile off and told him I wasn't interested. My driver informed me the sly fellow was infamous in Shangri-la as a "smack baba", he hung out by a grotesque statue of Kali outside town, it looked fit for human sacrifice, and he imbibed and pushed brown sugar in the village till he was told to fuck-off, and had now fled to the upper regions to hustle the unwary as a pretenscious holy-man.

We stayed at the hotsprings for 3 days, going on drives high above the snow-line towards the source of the Ganges till the snow banks allowed us no further. And everywhere we went we heard the soundtrack from that latest of Bollywood shlockbusters, "Dhoom 2", the signature song being "Dhoom achale!" ("Let's Go Party!"), the Indians love to party, alongside many international freaks like me, life as one long party with tedious work-spells to pay for it all. Back at the hotsprings the "bad baba" continued to importune me, whenever I looked up from my swimming in the hot-tank, I found his hungry, sly eyes upon me. In the bath I was surrounded by the locals, like sweet, innocent angels who have flown down from some celestial region, when I sang my song of joy they leaned in close to catch my every breath. Soaking alongside me were hardworking, honest, hospitable Garwhali farmers, their cherubic children and the immigrant workers from all over India who drill the rocks to make new roads or toil relentlessly to clear those roads of the interminable landslides for us maharajas to pass by without a care. I love sitting with them in the chai-shops and listening to their tales of danger and death, they work for a private company with no security and low wages, yet were ebullient about the wonder of being alive.

One of the facets of the Indian psyche that fasinates me is their sacralising of the entire universe, every spring, tree, turn in the road has it's resident spirit or godhead, sacred music always lilts in the air, and every 7 yards some aspect of the divine needs to be propitiated. I also see the entire universe as sacred but I don't need any god or spiritual symbolism to bolster my awe. Yet I like to recieve the blessing from their sacred hotspots, trying to weave myself into their fabulous fabric, to kind of make my passage easier. So I went up to the Shiva temple to get my blessing for my Indian sojourn, I tip-toed the perambulation around the central icon fearing I would run into the "bad baba" and, just when I thought I had escaped, I tripped over him laying flat out upon the warm granite behind the altar like a Gollem waiting to be resuscitated.

He sprang to life with alacrity, at last the firangi, (foreigner), was ripe for the picking. He insisted on doing the blessing ritual, mumbling mumbo-jumbo while he put tilak on my third-eye. When I informed him I wanted the red string bracelet that signifies I'd completed a pilgrimage he searched wildly amidst the altar bric-a-brac, tossing icons and sacred paraphenalia willy-nilly, tearing the place up in his avidity to please the rich white maharaja, finally amidst his tornado-like efforts some red-string was found and I was twice-blessed with it twirled about my wrist and he with 51 rupees. I wandered off befuddled that I had now been sacralised by a notorious "smack-baba", but I reasoned that it's the place that counts, not so much the fallible human who lurks there.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

No Rest for the Wild.

I was awakened this morning by much screaming, it reminded me of Northcott only I'm now in India, the kerfluffle was shouted in Japanese, absurd, like beserker Samurai warriors going at each other with incomprehensible curses, 2 Jap hippies were fighting over a pretty Jap girl in front of my door and my landlord rushed about screeching, "get out, get out!" while the girl smiled demurely, enjoying the ruckus. I just got a text telling me Northcott Housing Estate has been given an award by the World Health Org as a "safe community", I'm relieved but stunned it had to happen while I'm away, maybe I bring the maelstrom with me?

I was taken way into the Himalayas to visit a Baba in his cave by the Ganges River, he turned out to be a Swiss guy, Peter Baba, who firmly believes he's a sadhu, lives naked with ashes streaked across his forehead and arms tho still insists on having his Nescafe and Bournvita daily. In the midst of an idyllic paradise, for the 2 hours we spent with him, he moaned on and on about his need for a visa and 50 rupees a day living expenses. He has gone to the Consulates in Delhi with only a sheer cheese-cloth wrapped about his skinny, naked frame, ashes and dreadlocks flying, and of course they give him short shrift. He now swears he'll attack any cop with his trishul, (trident), if they come to drag him out of his cave. He bemoans the rule of high capitalism, apparently throws temper tantums whenever in the marketplace over the ubiquitous use of plastic etc, the old times of hippies wandering penniless are over but he clings to his dreams, divinely mad, one of the zillion crazy characters that litter this wondrous land.

I wanted to go to the Tibetan market in Dehradune, capitol city of the state of Uttaranchal, a madhouse of whirling traffic, and I took my life in my hand to do so, zooming in headlong rush on a motor-bike amidst unbelievable chaos, nearly killed twice, first when my driver stopped suddenly to chat to a fat gronk on another motorbike causing a car behind us to brake hard or ram us flat, the second time when a cow ran across the highway tethered to a rope tied to a sleeping drunk (!), the rope like a taut barrier which was snapped by a truck just before we hit it! As we sped along we passed a biker-baba, a sadhu in full regalia, red turban entwined with a pile of dreadlocks, face painted, ropes of beads around wrist and neck, very laid-back on his Enfield, cruising slowly as if thru honey, while everyone else rush-rush-rushed, I pointed him out as a role-model for my driver, that sadhu had IT. I got to the market a whiter shade of pale, bought some lovely clothes and ate genuine moo-moos from a Tibetan kitchen, and wonderd if it was worth the terror.

Next up was a night at a regional cinema, the usual vast concrete barn with an audience whose restlessness made the city-dwellers seem sedate. I was surrounded by drunks who yahooed, jeered and jumped about, forvever knocking my sore knee when they continuously rushed to and fro, we all played musical chairs thuout the movie, changing seats constantly, no matter where I sat I got some screaming yobbo on top of me or a fat Sikh in front whose turban blocked my view. The movie was the latest Bollywood shlockbuster, "Dhoom 2", James Bond meets Ocean's 11 meets Batman if you can believe it, very entertaining, especially the song and dance sequences, an absolute knock-out, Hrithik Roshan and Ashwarya Rai sure can dance, imagine if Arnie Shwartznegger or Bruce Willis did an ecstatic, wild hip-hop routine in the midst of an action stunt, I dont think so, only in India, as Arian quoted Alexander the Great on the Indians, "they're inordinately fond of singing and dancing.". I was much bemused when all my friends lit up joints, the smoke swirling up into the projection light, making the colourful event even more hypnogogic.

The best things seem to happen when I least expect it, we went for a ride to a village called Chilla next to a national park and out of curiosity we enquired about the jungle safaris. What do you know but an elephant was ready for the rare tourist that might stray by, something I'd been chasing for years but nobody could ever get it together. My mate and I got up on Rajah, a 16 year old male who had been rescued some years before when his mother had attacked a train that chuffs through the park and been killed. I remembered the newspaper story, the elephant herd had stayed on the spot for weeks attacking any further trains in furious revenge, and here I was riding on the back of one of them. We went into deep jungle, a guy by our side with a huge shotgun, chasing the wildlife about, there was no impenetrable bush where they could hide as Rajah just crashed through it, and I saw all kinds of deer and stags, hyenas, wild-pigs and birds, no big cats which I'm glad of as humans disturb them enough.

Rajah had a will of his own and went to all the spots where his favourite food was, like bamboo shoots and exotic grasses, and I got the most pleasure just being with him and watching him have his way. At one point he got stroppy and I thought he was going to run amok with us clinging to his back willy-nilly, but after he ate his fill of bamboo shoots he then calmed down and plodded on. As a boy I was obsessed with "Jungle Jim" movies, swearing I too would follow in his footsteps, and I must say, much of my life I have indeed done just that, and Rajah made another of my dreams come true, like for a few moments I was Kipling's "Elephant Boy" = WOW!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Another Kind of "Jungle Book".

I spent 7 days in the 7 cities of Delhi, spinning around in auto-rickshaws showing my best friend such superb monuments as Quatar Minar, India Gate, Jama Majhid and Jantar Mantar where I started a new series of paintings to do with India. I would've made it to Humayan's Tomb only the Chinese Premier, another kind of Hu, was in town and all traffic in the city got jammed for his VIP cavalcade, 20 million citizens and umpteen tourists put out for one bigwig, they could've flown him in in a helicopter but I guess such power-brokers enjoy holding up an entire city. I got a seven day fever from the intense pollution blanketing the air, impossible to live in, it obviously shortens the local's life-spans.

I went to Delhi Zoo to say hello to the animals but I chose the wrong day, Monday is school-outing day and I was trampled by hordes of kids who terrorized the poor animals, and me as well. They found me more fascinating than any exotic creature, a crowd gathering around me to stare at the Aussie freak, no matter where I tried to take a rest. I was lucky to see the 1 1/2 year old white tiger cub licking the honey from a tree in his compound, then spraying the tree with huge squirts of his territorial juices, one of the most magnificent creature on the planet, I got high watching him for a half an hour and hopefully my entrance fee will go towards looking after him. Finally I found the strength to drag my bags to the Interstate Bus Terminal only to find the usual Indian chaos, a bus strike and I must go on the special Deluxe Bus, this being an old con, one can wait vainly 7 hours in the dust for such a mirage to appear, so I ignored the many exhortations and sure enough the local bus turned up and I was off to the Himalayas.

I cant help but return to that Shangri-la in the foothills of the Himalayas where my old mentor Compassion, (an Aussie yogi who worked under the artist's name of "Latimer" for most of his life), died so many years ago, to sit near the place in the Ganges River where we threw his body for the sacred fish to eat, this being the hallowed body-disposal method for yogis who die in Samadhi, which I believe he hopefully achieved after many years of yogic practice. It was incredibly sweet to be welcomed home by good friends of ten years, to be brought gooey, mock-cream cake as a Maharaja's treat and be told all the tales and gossip of the last year's unbelievable happenings, who got married, who had a car-crash, who suicided, who has become a junkie or a drunk, who got a fuck. Saddest of all was to be told a good friend of mine died from hepatitis and there was not even enough money to buy the wood for his funereal pyre so a collection had to be taken up around the village. Life here is transitory, no wonder they hope for reincarnation.

I laughed when my Sikh friend told me of a trekking tour he went on high in the mountains. He was left behind in the camp as the cook and while he was bending over collecting wood an old man showed up and grabbed him on the arse to his great shock. The ancient lived alone with his animals in a hut and had no teeth, with skin like wrinkled leather from many decades of hard work. The wizened fellow invited Sonnu to his hut to smoke a chillum but whilst in the hut refused to give the promised smoke unless Sonnu showed him his dick. This was refused and the old boy worked himself into a tizzy, begging for cock-therapy, proffering then refusing the chillum, whining on and on till my friend had to beat a hasty retreat. This story highly amused me as it proved even in the high Himalayas basic human nature will out.

The jungle virtually comes into the town of Shangri-la, wild elephants maraud at night, killing villagers in their huts to drink their fermented alcohol, breaking into warehouses to scoff up the food supplies, or ripping into old Babaji's garden and tearing up his banana trees; he is an an old man I love to visit and only last night the elephants came. I've been told by a mate not to roam about at night as the elephants may come and squash me, all of which I find terribly exciting and tempts me to indeed wander about the jungle's edges. A few weeks ago a woman was cutting grass up near Neel Kanth, a temple to Shiva in the mountains 21 kms away, and a huge black Himalayan bear attacked her, biting her on the leg, her hitting it on the head twice with her sickle-knife to make it run off. Once when I went trekking in the mountain jungles leapords prowled around my camp-site at night, my guide was shaking in fear, me by the fire with a burning stick to beat it off if it came too close, false-heroics but it's the adventure I live for, like "Jungle Jim".

Shangri-la is deceptively paradisical, the River Ganges a wild torrent, not the placid swimming pool one hopes, only last week an Indian girl drowned when her tourist-raft flipped in the rapids, though she wore a life-jacket and was quite safe, in panic she kept her mouth open and swallowed enough water to kill her. Many, many drown here each summer, one time I watched a body drift slowly by, he'd only drowned minutes before and it was so spooky to see him gliding off to the nether-world for all the world looking like he might lift his head and call for help. Now my mate has told me a crocodile was seen up the river near Jim Corbett Park, which certainly adds frisson to the rafting expedition we plan in the next few days. And I myself am another wild animal, loose in the jungle, somewhat mad, certainly ecstatic, for now.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

On the Magic Carpet.

So, just like in my most favourite movie, "The Thief of Baghdad", I got on a magic carpet and was flown to the land of wonders, perhaps to appropriate the omniscient eye of an arcane godhead atop the Himalayas, and recharge my pineal gland with white light. I landed in K.L. for a stop-over at 4 am and got lost in their labyrnthine shopping complex, sent willy-nilly in all directions looking for the smoking lounge till finally I shrieked under a huge banner that proclaimed "K.L. Best Airport in the World." "That banner is wrong, this is the worst airport in the world." I finally found a dark corner upstairs to sleep a few hours and then I was on my way again.

Disaster struck soon on landing, I waited by the luggage carousel for hours and no bag appeared, what frustration! It was misplaced in lovely K.L. airport! Off I went to my hotel in Pahagrunge and lived in my dirty clothes till the case arrived 2 days later. I was lucky to see three elephants on my arrival, it seems Hatthi is to be my guardian spirit on this journey, in Main Bazar I got to pat the third elephant and he wrapped his trunk around my arm, the boy mahout on top indicating with huge round eyes that I should climb up but I didn't want to make a spectacle of myself so refused. Later I saw the elephant easting plastic bags, my Indian mate told me the poor creature seemed weak but still I didnt get the meaning of the mahout's large desperate eyes. His elephant was starving and all the stupid tourists taking photos took no notice of his wide-eyed pleas for help, including me, and I lay awake all night thinking of the animal. Now I search the alleyways looking for him but tonight he is not to be found and I must learn from this lesson to take more care.

I'm very lucky as on my first day, in a city of 20 million, I ran into my best friend who came to Delhi looking for me. He will now acoompany me and keep me safe, I will no longer be a victim for handsome, smiling men who only want to bleed me of my money. My mate is Moslem, weird as I have the usual western predjudices against that religion and he is teaching me that the essence of the faith is kindness and love, he is a very sweet soul, like the majority of his faith, only wanting to live in peace, so he's very good for my education. He's never seen Delhi and I have been showing him the marvellous Mughal monuments that litter this fabled city. Today we went to the Lodhi Gardens, tranquil heart of Delhi to get rest in nature and ogle the 500 year old mosques, palaces and mausaleums.

Last night we went to the movies, across the city to the Chanakya Cinema, a vast, klunky Bau-haus concrete barn with a giant 70 mm screen that "they" want to pull down and erect a post-modern shopping complex but the leasee is resisting, it's one of the oldest cinemas here and I have long loved it. We saw "Casino Royale", really good, the new Bond, Craig whatshis name, an athletic, grim, armoured warrior and I think he fits way cool. I'm a guy who at 12 years old saw "Doctor No" on first release and was blown away as a fan, in fact masturbating over Sean Connery all thru my teens, and it's so cool to see the Bond franchise as cutting and wow-factored as ever, especially that beginning chase scene, on foot instead of the usual cars and aeroplanes, the movie gets 8 "Dings" on my schlockometre. Indian audiences are very restless, getting up continuously to roam about, talking on their mobiles thu.out, splitting the movie in two for an interval so we can all rush out for a smoke, it's wild. I was totally stunned at the short doco that screened before the feature, an exposition on the need to keep the waterways clean so diseases like hepatitus dont spread. Suddenly we were shown the bare butts of 3 Indian men taking a dump by a river, the whole audience cracked up in hilarity, only in India would they be so blase, and that's why I love the place.

Tonight we went to Jama Majhid in Old Delhi to eyeball the crowds and eat yummy food in the bazar and here I had a great tourist experience. I've lived in India much of my life and always there is something new to experience and today was another first. I noticed mobs of paupers squatting outside each restaurant near the Majhid and asked my mate what they were doing. He said they were waiting to be fed by rich people, so I handed the restauranter a 100 Rupees, the equivalent of $3, and then he made me personally hand out the food, I fed 10 desperate men and it made me very high. Of course I could've fed more but the whole market-place would have rioted yet it is definately something I will do again. (I'm not pretending to be a saint, when I lived in India as a boy in the '70s I was left destitute several times with only a rag wrapped around my waist and the Indian people always fed me, so now it is payback time.)

For all those kind souls out there in the world who want to help the starving masses my suggestion would be to come to India and not only spend money touring as that employs lots of people but to go personally to places like Jama Majhid and hand the food out directly, and of course, hand out 10 rupe notes to the aged and crippled that wander the streets, in a month's sojourn it would all only amount to $100 and that's so little to see so many smiling faces. Soon I will be off to the high Himalayas, flying on a genie's back, and I will return with treasures for life on the move is awesome and my heart will be turned to gold.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Clover Moore is a Boor...

"Clover Moore is a boor, stays at home and scrubs the floor..." Kings Cross Children's Nursery Rhyme.

This essay is a response to the bullshit article in the "Daily Terror" about our Lord Mayor trying to clean up the sleaze of Kings Cross by getting rid of the strip joints and limiting the number of night clubs. The area has been an entertainment district for aeons, a big city like Sydney needs such a place, we all work hard and want somewhere to let our hair down, and the Cross is IT! Just cause Clover's got a punk razor-cut and no hair to let down, and is so tired from 2 jobs, M.P. and Mayor, she doesn't go out for any fun, doesn't mean the rest of us have to be sticks in the mud. All the area needs is better management, more security and street cleaning, but she's too busy to think of that, easier to pick on bullshit like "sleaze". She's got her priorities wrong, she should be much more concerned with limiting the apartment-towers mushrooming up everywhere and over-congesting the small area with too many residents. This influx of new middle-class denizens now want to change the "bohemia" atmosphere, that attracted them here in the first place, to a nice, quiet retirement village and Clover's only thinking of their votes, and possible bribes.

There's a proposal to knock down the quaint Baron's Pub building in Roslyn Street and put up yet another overwhelming apartment tower block, a move that would destroy the atmosphere and style of the street and the Cross as a whole, one of the last vestiges of it's old glory wiped off the map, turning the place into a boring airport waiting lounge with shopping as the main form of entertainment, like Singapore. Clover should remember her street-fighting antecedents and work to retain the Cross's funky, historic flavour, that's what tourists want, not more glass towers. In the old days the Cross used to jump on the weekends, it was exciting and fun, regardless of all the sleaze, and everybody made money and was happy. With the so-called clean-up many businesses went bust and the only money made was in the pathetic pokie palaces. We want the Cross to jump again, crowds of fun-lovers throwing their money about, but that's not in Clover's ken, she's got a huge pay packet and perks, business can go jump in the harbour.

I was highly bemused at her equation of "sex, crime, art and money"!!! Where does ART come into it? Her council knocked back the funding for the Kings Cross Arts Guild Annual Arts Festival, all us struggling artists were left with no support, no venues, no audience, we had to fuck-off, starve or die in ignominy and maybe in fifty years a few of us might get a little brass plaque set into the footpath announcing that "once so and so had taken a dump right on this spot." Us living artists get it in the neck, but oh, yeah, millions was handed to the corporate arts bodies to hang those bland, safe banners from every lamp-post in the city, like so many arse-wipes, (tho I do like the 'Buddha with the lotus' banners down near China Town.) I have a dream of running an "arts market" for visual artists in the small park opposite the Piccolo Cafe in Roslyn street but I bet I have an uphill battle to get council permission. Repeat, it's the apartment towers that have reached saturation point, dear Clover, not the night clubs, we want the Cross to keep it's Montmartre milieu, we artists want to continue to live, work and play here, and we need your love, not your antipathy!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Home Horror Movies.

 More shrieking, more laments, more woe, raining down at Northcott Housing Ghetto. Clover Moore, the punked-out Lord Mayor of Sydney, came to our Community Centre to gladhandle the demi-monde in an attempt to mollify a moaning crowd of fearful residents. Most of us here are at the bottom of the heap, society dumps on us, we murder each other in angst, and she's trying to plaster it over with a mouthful of platitudes. In response, the very next day, some poor soul could take it no more and leapt from his 24th floor balcony, another faceless squish upon the cold concrete. If the statistics on suicide were publicised, our conservative P.M. John Cowherd's economic miracle would be exposed for the cruel, Dickensian system it is. And he wants to introduce Christian Chaplains into the schools to soothe any psychic wounds, more brain-wash band-aids, if his world-view really operated he would burn in Hell for eternity for his cynical money-grubbing idolatry.

As a metaphor for our times, I suppose the torture-porn movie "Saw 3" is apt, our TV news tells us nightly of bodies found all over that have been tortured to death, a medieavil gore-fest that has us cold and numb, like the woman frozen in the film, vicarious relief at somebody else's bad luck. The teenage audience I saw the movie with went deadly silent thru.out the screening, no moans, yelps, laughs, or yuks like there usually is, just total absorbed fascination with torture after torture, to a headbanging rock soundtrack. The story was irrational, repetitive and non-scary, I was most dissatisfied, giving it only 4 "Dings" on my schlockometer for the mis en scene of the torture machinery, but the teens all clapped at the flat denouement, like they thought it was clever, really a stop-gap ending with the aim of milking more money from a rotten piece of fruit that had been squeezed dry. The only scene I really liked was the judge being drowned in the vat of minced pig-guts, as if there is some justice in the world after all.

But around every grungy corner can be a de-light-ful event, I was invited to "Cross Projections", involving 14 photographers who flash their work up onto an auditorium wall with a sweet sountrack as accompaniment, many of the photos extremely luminous, like the miracle and wonder of life shines thru the gloom, the weirdest of humanity made to look like angels, I got very high and wept in ecstacy. Aboriginals in the bush, a gang of strippers in the outer-suburbs, Goth/punk teenagers who hang around Hyde Park, there was even a set of images on the deviants of Kings Cross, all the monsters we see daily, the druggies, drunks, hookers and perverts, who in glorious black and white look interesting, iconic, human even, tho I noticed it was the one series that Vitto didnt clap uproariously for, he's been on the Cross too long and sees these villains as the pain in the arse they collectively are, no gorgeous framing will lighten his view of them, they're always rudely clammering at his cafe door for some handout. But I loved the show, in this medieavil labyrnth of Sydney, it was a light on the hill.

P.S. I just got a phone call from the wife of the 1st guy who suicided  here at Northcott last week, she's been put onto me by a mutual girlfriend. She says the police are bullshitting her about his supposed suicide, she saw his body in the morgue and it was covered in bruises and scratches as if he'd been fighting with someone. I told her I'd just met someone who saw his body, it was naked except for a pair of shoes and socks, which seems to be the costume of a suicide. She had the paranoid fear the cops were covering up the death because they were dealing the drugs in the building and were killing off people who got in their way. I assured her that was a bit far-fetched, the more obvious truth was they can't be bothered investigating the death of a drug addict and the powers that be don't want Northcott to gain any more notoriety as "Murder Central", (suicide does not get publicised in the press), so she can blame negligence, laziness and fear of notoriety on the cops, nothing more sinister, tho in this ugly world the most terrible facts do come to light to one's shocked surprise. She needed closure, and counselling, and I talked to her for an hour trying to soothe her shattered soul. I hope her and her husband find some eternal rest, here at Northcott it's a long time coming.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chaos Dreary.

I'm all mollified and quiescent these days after throwing temper tantrums across the city because of my supposed fuck-over at the art competition. I've got the local community in a tizz trying to placate me, people who know me gird their loins at my approach, trying to figure out how they will manage me and my "children of the dammed" glowing eyes. With much ringing around it has been arranged that my fabulous painting will hang in the red-light district library for a few months and so I'm happy again, a stunted Talouse Lautrec who finally discovers he's trully loved, by someone.

Here at Northcott Housing Ghetto chaos rules as ever, there's been another murder, 2 nutters had a fight on their 20th floor balcony, one tried to slash the throat of the other with a saw-toothed blade and got himself pushed over the edge in the struggle, to splatter onto the copncrete far below. The housing officers here must be mighty sick of scraping up the human detritus, they sure make a mess of the place when they come crashing down. It reminds me of the time 2 ugly cops knocked on my door and questioned me about a corpse found squashed on the pavement a few doors up from me, did I hear anything in the night, did I know the fellow, did I know anything? "Mate, bodies rain down around here like frogs!" I replied, much to their displeasure, a grimace on their mugs as they marched off to question other hapless denizens. I stay inside when I hear the squishy splatts, I dont need any extra aggravation.

Cursula and Bawl next door have gone sweetly quiet since my mental furor of a month ago, they don't dare rouse the sleeping dragon of T.Z., in all the years I think it's been my insomnia that has me raging so maniacally at the drop of a pin. On the other side of me Eric the Grey has lost his keys again and every 5 minutes climbs thru his window making a nerve-shattering racket, scrape, scrape, bang, bang, my teeth are on edge when I hear him limp by,why cant someone kill him? I'm often awoken by lots of shrieking, old Dolly and the gay guys freaking out cause the schitzo has left his taps running and flooded his flat again, this happens every weekend, no kidding, and we just cant get rid of him, like the omnipresent cockroaches.

Dolly and I had meeting number 1001, this time with the head of the whole housing complex, an avuncular bureaucrat who pretended concern and arranged a time when he would inspect the damage all the flooding has caused but then stood us up, we're just gutter waifs and have zero importance, and I've simply given up trying to improve our situation, I'll just run away to India instead. Apparently there are lots of empty apartments in the complex as most good citizens dont want to live here, at least for me it's good grist for my writing mill, chaos rules, making life interesting at times, dreary when it's inexorable.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

All Cranked Up on Crank.

Being a movie hound, for what it's worth, here's my 7 favorite movies of 2006, tho the year's not over, maybe nothing could beat these. Near top of the heap is "8 Below", the huskies in Antarctica, which got my heart strings in a zing, but I give my highest accolades to the Aussie movie "10 Canoes" by Rolf De Heer and the Northern Territory Tribes, absolute consummate film-making, when the Aboriginal protagonist danced himself into his death at the end, my soul flew away with him.

Then there was "The Libertine" with Johnny Depp, an incisive treatise on sex and mores, and "The Departed" by Scorsese, (I've become a fan of Leonard Dicaprio all over again as he's truly intense, maybe the best actor on the planet at the moment), and "Children of Men" with Clive Owen, grungy futurism that had me on the edge of my seat. But yesterday I saw something that knocked me off my seat, "Crank", rock'n'roll, drug-fucked, the next new-wave splatter-fest, it leaves Tarantino way behind like a coked out geriatric, what a slammer of a movie, it rocked and gets 9 "Dings" on my schlockometer, funny, cool, exciting, gory, a ride to tighten your seat belt for, it has it all to satiate a jaded old punk like me. The last place is now given over to "Color Me Kubrick", so witty and entertaining, a nasty old poof passing himself off as a celebrity so he can bludge a living and get a root with all the stupid fame whores.

Tonight I'm off to see the latest Aussie offering, "Suburban Mayhem", which hopefully will join my list of 7 runner-ups, the first of which is a piece of real schlock, "The Hills Have Eyes", a Wes Craven remake but I liked the atomic mutants raping and murdering the happy campers, it confirmed my pessimism about our nuclear future. Other runner-ups would have to include "Good Night and Good Luck", "The Man Inside" and "Final Destination 3", I just cant fit them all in my obsessive top 7. Movies shmoovies, who gives a shit, but it's the art form I love and I make no apologies, I rush with the lemmings over the cliff for every schlockbuster, for me it's like an engrossing book, painting and music C.D. all wrapped in one, it's my drug and "Crank" particularly got me very, very high. Now I'll blow it out my arse, signing off, good night and good fuck.

P.S. ""Surburban Mayhem" was way cool, it gets 8 "Dings", Auz gets nasty and dangerous at last, what an evil little bitch "Katrina" was, the movie would have to have the best line of dialogue for the year, "you're the kind of girl a guy has to kill a dog just to get her to suck his cock!" When said dog got killed I was mighty pissed off, it fucked the movie for me, bad voodoo, but that's PUNK, there are no sacred cows, or dogs!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Nastiest Cut.

I forgot the coin has two sides, if you have friends you're sure to have enemies. A friend said to me after my win of the People's Choice Award, "now for the cut-down" and I was waiting for it. I was told the show could only hang for 3 days and to come and fetch my work quickly, and as I was taking it down a fellow painter and friend sitting next to me was told to leave his work as the Taxi Club wanted to hang it. I felt the mental-telepathic message to "fuck off" but I stayed cool, wondering why they didn't look me in the eyes as we politely talked, while most of the other artist's work remained up on the walls.

The next day I got an e-mail inviting me to the "Flow On" of the Images of the Cross at the Taxi Club, which goes for 6 weeks and has much greater promise of sales and from which I've been excluded. My guts dropped, tears came to my eyes, I realised all the handshaking and congratulations of the crew from the TAP were totally insincere, fork-tongued, they were jealous and peeved at the clamouring of the crowd and thruout the proceedings were planning to "fuck me off" , they knew of the ongoing exibition from the beginning and kept it quiet from me. A no-talent poet, Robert Nobody, who had insinuated himself into the organization and helped hang the comp, got to choose who lived and who died, he seems to have held a grudge for 2 years from when I refused to submit a drawing to his book of poetry after he'd requested me to pay $150 for the privilege.

The dice are always loaded, there is no such thing as a level playing field, especially in master/slave Sydney. Red Robert had already told me the judge's panel for the comp was predjudiced against me. While one of the judges, an art lecturer from the local art college, was all for my entry, the other judge is another bastard who's held a grudge for the last 7 years, a grossly fat pig we call Jabbba the HUB after the arse-wipe street paper he prints, the HUB, a waste of trees. Once upon a time he'd begged me to do a cover for his paper, promising me $15o if I did it in the 2 day deadline and he pretended satisfaction when I achieved the goal, only he then refused to pay me and I had to chase him for 6 months to get the money, and the last thing he told me was, "you'll never get work with me again." And now he was my judge, I could paint the Sistine Chapel and he'd say something was missing. He's known to consume 7 water buffaloes per day and could feed half of Africa if he went on a diet, how infuriating to be judged by such a bag of shit who wouldn't know art if he sat on it.

My non-career in particular has been a long travaille of such predjudice, grudges and jealousy, at every level of the pyramid of shit there is a wicked bitchfight of manouevring, cudos pumping and money grabbing, it's enough to stop an artist in their tracks, it's just too painful to participate. I now realise the TAP crew were infuriated I'd won the Judge's Prize 2 years ago and had rigged the panel last year for a bastard named Toady Joe who won with a self-portrait, like Dorian Grey, and not an "Image of the Cross", but he's a personal friend of the organiser and she's the ultimate wicked Queen, me being Snow White and the 7 Dwarves. I let it go and participated naively this year without relising they had it in for me, I could've walked in with a Van Gogh, it would do me no good, they'd already decided to fuck me off, they should've been honest as I carried the painting in and saved me the $25 entry fee, but cunts like these are never honest.

My old guru had told me many years ago before he died in my arms that people will only like your work if they like you. This infuriated me as I hoped good work would stand by itself, but he was right, he'd had a long experience of the ARTS and humanity, you have to suck up to all and any, try never to stand on toes or say a controversial word, and maybe, just maybe, you will get hung on a wall. The sad thing for me is to have created so many enemies, yes, from an abrasive, cheeky personality but often from nothing at all, just for being talented, for jealousy is a mighty powerful force. I should be pleased I did such a great painting it's caused a kerfluffle and the no-talents have tried to abolish it, it really must have power. But after only 3 days in the gallery it now sits on my living room wall with no one to appreciate it, a winner that doesn't get an audience, like what was the competition all about if not to show the winner, why would anybody bother to achieve if this is their reward? Every dog has it's day, mine is still to come, something to look forward to I guess.

Robert the Red, a demon with an alcho's flushed face, is sending me urgent e-mails bullshitting me as to why I was excluded from the ongoing show: it's all for the other artist's good, there's not enough room on the wall for me, splutter splutter, crap, crap = they fuck you, they lie to you, then they pretend shock at your upset response and assure each other they were right to do the fucking as the fucked deserved it for not going quietly. Thank nogod I've got 7 true friends, all the fork-tongued back-stabbers can go fuck each other.

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Quirk of Fate.

 Oh yes, I'm happy this morning as I won a prize at an art comp last night, the Images of the Cross Award, I won the People's Choice, $500 worth of Matisse paints. From a lifetime of hard knocks I wondered if I'd won only because a lot of my friends came to support me. I didn't lobby them to vote for me, I was in too much of a tizz to even focus on what was happening, but my friends kept yelling my name thruout the announcements, it was so embarrassing, I think they swamped the voting box, but they wouldn't have done it if they didn't truly think I'd done good work. (I discovered later that 2 of my best friends didn't even vote so it must've been members of the crowd that put me over the line.)

I cringed out the front of the gallery as soon as I realised one of the judges was a a fat bag of shit who hated my guts, I should've heckled him as he gave his welcoming speech, he manages a free street paper and lives off the advertising and knows nothing of art, just his prejudices. But I figured that was the way of all things, judges are always prejudiced in one way or another. As I sat disconsolate, a booming voice resounded upon me, "Toby, get your arse up here, you've won!" I knew this was impossible but duty called and back into the gallery I went only to be met with the glum stares of the crowd, a friend sidled up to me and said, "You didn't win, you got highly commended." I went back outside, my surmise of the scene confirmed, dear Leslie the organiser had loaded the judges once again to make sure I'd get fucked off.

The judges gave the cash prize to a technically perfect photo-realist piece, exquisite, but it looked like it had been traced from a photo it was so perfect, it had a bit of soul but not all those layers of meaning a painter can throw in via his/her mindset/philosohy, not many have a story to tell or an attitude to explode upon the world it seems. The crowd got riled up and kept shouting my name, it really freaked me out, and I knew such avid support would get me in the neck from those jealous types who'll never win anything. And so the crowd voted me The People's Choice, and the organisers gnashed their teeth, they hadn't planned for this.

There's nothing like a crowd of well-wishers cheering one on, and strangers complimenting my talent, shaking my hand and taking photos of me in front of my painting, it'll take me a few days to come down from the high. My bestest friends are running around telling everybody on the Cross I got robbed of the judge's award, I think it's great to get the People's Choice, it's so sweet to be popular and appreciated, I feel like a 7 year old kid again, who after a tragic infancy is suddenly given a birthday party and told he is indeed loved. With enemies, life is hell. Without friends, life is dead.