Sunday, August 27, 2006

On the Bridge to the Garden of the Moon.

Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains besides the turquoise Ganges River is a town I call Shangri-la for it has a millenial old tradition of peace, enlightenment and contemplation of the universal "That" which underpins all existence. Evolving beyond the 20th century it has these days grown into a modern metropolis much concerned with commerce, family and marriage, the pagan Hindu religion providing a colourful backdrop and the study of yoga, philosophy and meditation more of a money spinner than a bringer of "Light". Yet hordes of 'seekers' and 'freaks' still wander in every year to try their luck, Nirvana the ultimate prize to be wrested from a mundane and disappointing materialist world.

The town is bordered on two sides by the Ganga and it's tributary and over centuries has deposited on it's fluctuating banks round white spherical rocks, from boulders to pebbles, zillions of them like so many fractal moons. On this moonscape wasteland at the edge of town a village grew up and it became known as the Garden of the Moon. A bridge stretched out from Shangri-la across the dry bed of the Ganges tributary and into the village and on this bridge much of the area's melodrama played out, as cathartic release and entertaining diversion, for they had no discos, sex clubs or library activities in this oriental, medieval come cyber-punk setting. The town's major brass band, The Jhai Bharat, practiced under the bridge and often the bathos and pathos of events on the road above had a soundtrack to accompany it, "Oomph pa pa, oomph pa pa, riiipppp, wah wah, de de de de dahhhhh!" Trumpets, trombone, drums, clarinet, a symphony of caterwauling to counterpoint the screams and curses of the frustrated town's people fighting for their share of the good times.

It was always a jolly sight to see the gangs of boys playing cricket on every street corner, quite a shock to see those same boys turn their cricket implements into weapons, rival gangs from either side of the dry river clashing in the middle of the bridge and going at each other with the bats and stumps, thwacking their enemies hard enough to break bone. In one fight over nothing a high-caste boy stabbed a low-caste youth and threw his body over the bridge to die in the refuse heap below, and by bribing the cops, court officials and politicians, for he had much land to sell, he only did 6 months in gaol and thence roamed that same bridge on his motorbike as a tough Maharaja, an untouchable brigand.

Young lovers surrepticiously met there, in no man's land, to hold hands and whisper endearments, away from the prohibitive eyes of their elders, who guarded their every waking movement. And when discovered in the middle of that darkened bridge, the hair-pulling, face-slapping and shrieked curses of the irate parents drowned out any cacophonous marriage party passing by. Because of it's mystic reputation Shangri-la attracted swarms of firangis, foreigners, many with a screw loose, ready to flip out at the funkiest encouragement, they met crazed sadhu babas in their wattle huts beside the river who slipped them datura in chai and then gang-banged them, or hypnotised them, bashed them over the head and stole the money they were stupid enough to flash around. These lunatic "seekers after the Light" found only darkness, the river claimed them or they got lost in the fastnesses of the high Himalayan mountains or serial killers buried them in shallow graves in the jungle. One of the most noxious tales from the Bridge to the Garden of the Moon I ever heard involved a flipped-out European woman, a German most likely, as they always seem ready to fall for some Aryan bullshit myth of perfection and power.

She wandered the road dressed as a squeaky-clean acolyte, making crazy ritualized salutations to the empty sky and jabbering mumbo-jumbo nonsense at phantom tormentors. As she neared the bridge she took sudden umbrage at one poor Indian child and slapped her across the face. This brought all the villagers out to scorn and giggle at her madness. She threw herself prostrate upon the ground and begged the mercy of some alien god, then staggered down to the garbage heap oozing it's way under the bridge. Indian refuse piles are the scungiest, slimiest, vomitous ponds of black-sludge in existence, a paradise for the ugly gray pigs that snuffled up the filth but no place for a blonde European in light-white dhoti tied around her neck as if she's Ingrid Bergman in a Biblical epic.

She threw herself into the black sludge and slopped it all about her, scooping up handfulls and plopping it into her shoulder bag maybe imagining she was sequestering priceless treasure. The whole village of the Garden of the Moon gathered on the bridge to watch her antics, unbelievable and hilarious that someone of the snooty Ubermaster race was now reduced to apeman barbarism. When a burly, moustachioed cop finally appeared and tried to get her out of the black sludge she fought him like a wildcat, scratching and hissing, beating him off and making it back up to the bridge and, leaving a trail of dripping black slime behind her, she ran wildly along it's length until he tackled her to the ground, restrained her and finally bundled her off to the local grungy hospital in a taxi for a nice big shot of tranquiliser and eventual repatriation back to the capitalist paradise of Europe.

But the sweetest story I ever heard about events on the bridge involved love and compassion towards the other creatures that share the planet with us, for Hindus at their best are non-violent, adoring the entire universe, seeing "That" worthy of love everywhere. And they save a lot of that adoration for their sacred bulls, the "Horned God" who causes the world to be fecund, with the erect phallus, the Lingam, as it's major symbol. These glorious bulls are allowed to roam at will, for after servicing the cows they've no other use, except for their dung as fuel, so the majestic beasts do what they want, except for eating of the vegetable seller's wares, that's his livlihood and animals get beaten off with sticks. The bulls love to plop down in the middle of traffic, particularly on the bridge to the Garden of the Moon, and all trucks, buses, cars, auto-rickshaws and motorbikes have to go slow and weave their way around them, it's a waste of effort and a sacrilege to move them on, even a Ferrari has to move at 5kms an hour, it really is a medieval place.

It had to happen. One magnificent beast, black and proud, serenely chewed it's cud in the middle of the bridge, one foreleg non-chalantly protruding forward for it's majestic comfort and a truck ran over it, breaking it badly, the bull unable to stand or move far. It bellowed in pain for hours, copious tears streaming from it's huge deer-like eyes, dragging it's hefty bulk along the road as the traffic swerved around it. It cried and cried, heaved and dragged, bellowed and roared, and the town's folk kept on about it's business, for there was money to be made and large families to be supported and no one had time for the difficulty of a pain-crazed bull.

A young man named Balu from the village of the Garden of the Moon had passed the bull several times in the afternoon and was distressed at it's sorry predicament as he was a kind and caring lad, always on the lookout for his neighbours, a strict vegetarian who adored the bull as Lord Shiva's vehicle. He was determined to help the creature and with his many connections was able to arrange a tiny three-wheeled truck, an auto-rickshaw with a tray on the back of it, to come to his aid. He also collected a huge gang of local lads who had stopped on their motor-bikes to watch the spectacle of a huge bull being lifted onto the back of the swaying mini-truck. Ropes were tied and slung all about the bull and the crowd of lads heaved and thrust, pulled and shoved the thrashing beast bellowing in dismay, it didn't know what these crazy humans were up to.

The task seemed impossible as the bull was unco-operative, the truck swayed and the mob got hysterical in their frustrated efforts. Two of the town's most notorious drunks came along and joined in the effort, one grabbing the rope around the bull's neck and pulling on it so hard he threatened to strangle the beast, the other drunk tryingto lift it by it's broken leg. Balu yelled at them to desist in their sorry efforts but they were too drunk to comprehend and carried on torturing the bull instead of helping. Balu had to rush over to the one hauling on the rope around the bull's neck and slap him hard across the face at which he stumbled off and left the rescuers to it, his mate following him.

Much of the rope had been slung about the bull's middle and with huge effort that took hours the crowd heaved it up and plopped it on the back-tray, the truck swaying as the creature continued to thrash about furiously. Tho the mini-truck leaned heavily to one side and swayed precariously about as it trundled along, somehow the bull clung on and the flotilla moved off, a swarm of motorbikes in a phalanx ahead and behind as escort to Lord Shiva's noble animal. Like a victory parade they wobbled with glee thru the entire town and way out to the far-side where there was an animal shelter, a hospital that especially catered to injured cows. There the majestic black beast was unloaded with less difficulty and it's broken leg was set in plaster and restrained. Balu didn't get home to his wife and kids till 1.30 in the morning, that's how many hours it took to load the hapless creature on the inadequate truck and ship it to the shelter.

The happy ending to this tale is that the bull sat around the shelter for many months, spoiled and delighted to service the recuperating cows, not too keen to try again the dangers of the open road and it's awful techno traffic. And there the black bull stayed, in a back paddock, as lord of his domain. It's a pity Indians don't treat each other as well as they do the animals of their world, in bad times they riot and tear each other to pieces because of supposed differences, religion, caste, wealth, brutish selfish behavior, most humans are the "other" to be coerced and exploited. Most of the time Indians are sweet and compassionate but often one has to run in fear of harassment, unlike the cows who walk about placidly and allow you to caress them, for they've never known violence for their flesh, so different from the cows of Auz that run at the slightest whiff of homo sap sapiens, knowing they're up for butchery on the dinner table. Oh to be a bull in India, maybe it beats the existential anguish of our cogitating, feverish brains, trying to be "somebody", trying to stay alive.

I often sat at a chai shop at one end of the bridge and stared up at the sickle of a Shiva moon shining like the curved horns of a bull, happy to be lost in the wilds of this pagan, medieval land, and I would watch the entire town flood past me on their way home from work or shopping, sometimes experiencing a little of the Nirvana the town used to be famous for. In these modern times the yogis, seers, adepts and masters have fled deep into the jungles and hidden mountain fastnesses to escape the voracious desires of the multitudes, there's only the lingering scent of their enlightenment left floating in the air to entice and delight one, and with it some peace to soothe a wounded heart, light ecstacy on the bridge to the Garden of the Moon.

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.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Thinking About Staying Alive.

There's a new Auzzie movie out called "2: 37" about teenage depression and suicide, making the issue hot and everybody boohooing about it for 15 nano-seconds, and yeah, real sad, kids who didn't even get a life. Then there's that other high suicide age-group, the mid-life crisis flip-outs, men between 40 and 60 who feel life is over for them, the travails, hurts and grudges piled up to smother their hopeful souls. Who wants to drift into decrepitude, fall apart painfully with no one to care or be interested in who you are and what you've done? One has to find a variation on Nirvana to keep going amidst the angst and ennui, a creative being to fill the void of irrational consciousness that's ever aware of the pointlessness if there really were no higher purpose to life.

Of course most folks have kids and grandkids to keep them occupied, some of the time, but you can't count on them, and I certainly didn't go down that path. I'm the eternal loner, wanderer, artist, freak and I daily have to dredge up the courage to keep going, sun shining or not. And thus I paint, draw and write, to keep the horror contained, and travel, read great text and watch hot movies, and swoon to exquisite music, to keep myself entranced. All of it time-pass, no dreams of future glory, too street-smart to be suckered into "I'll be famous when I'm dead", ha ha ha, an infinite Universe with 100 billion galaxies and evolution a revolving theatre-stage, and us with nuclear bombs, bio-weapons and tribal hatreds, fuck! It all freaks me out and I don't think there will be a posterity. So I went to the movies last night and got wildly inspired by a French animated Sci-fi flick called "Renaissance", it gets the rare 8 "Dings" on my schlockometer, superb style to portray futuristic comic book text. I've been a black and white artist thru-out my non-career, there's so many textures and shadows to contrast and provide a surreal look at imaginary city-scapes, I'm so inspired I'm jumping straight back into the painting I've been stalled at lately, exploding with psychedelic colours and energised by what I see others doing around the world.

I've also read some great books recently, the last was "Serphent Girl" by Mathew Carnahan, a small-time crook decides to rob the freaks at a big-top circus, so wickedly entertaining, right on the money with his use of freaks to turn the rock on society. Freaks are a common motif these days, and I use the concept often, considering myself to be an elder statesman of Freakdom. The "Furry Freak Brothers" urged us on in the '60s; in the '70s when I traveled the wilds of India, alone or with bands of fellow-travelors, we transmogrified from 'hippies' to 'freaks', for we no longer believed the "Age of Acquarius" was upon us, we knew we didn't really belong anywhere in this bad-arsed world and we just had to keep moving or hiding out. I am a freak of nature, life for me has been one long freak accident, my good heterosexual parents gave birth to a freak child that they and society proceeded to freak-out to the max. And I ran away to join the traveling freak-show and find a few moments of respite in freak sanctuaries, like the Piccolo Cafe on Damnation Alley, where Vitto cracks the whip and we human wildcats roar and jump thru flames.

Not all the Cafe's patrons are twisted freaks, many a normal, good soul comes to talk and share their humanity, but rarely do they have an interesting story to tell, it's mostly the freaks who wail at their fate and recount their misadventures, and thus I notice them more. I was sitting with Vitto's old sister, Maria, a grumpy businesswoman who rides shotgun on the Cafe's accounts, she's got lots of wimps quaking in their fairy-slippers, but I'm afraid of no-one and take her as a cartoon caricature of Ma Barker to tease and mollify in turn. A young addled junkie boy squatted on his haunches next to us and asked us if we'd seen Malcolm, his dear boyfriend. Malcolm is a local nutter who I've tagged the hunchback of Roslyn Street, every now and then he goes off the rails and calls the cops on the Cafe or rings Sophia and abuses her as a rotten old cunt. He's always getting inheritances from rich relatives and blowing 100,000s of dollars on rent boys, hotels and cars he then crashes and leaves abandoned. He'd been committed to Caritas Psycho Clinic on Taylors Square yet again and this itchy, scratchy junkie street boy was at a loss. He said he just got out of Bathurst Gaol and was counting on Malcolm to help him; white trash with a small tear tattooed on his cheek, his eyes were pinned, his speech slurred, very young and already fucked over, but not my problem. I couldn't resist asking, "What were you in Bathurst Gaol for?"

"I was working up at "The Wall" as a rentboy and I got picked up by this fag who got me to suck his cock in his car for $80. He blew his load and everything, then refused to pay me, saying I was no good. I bashed the shit out of him and he reported me to the pigs so I got sent to gaol. I then...." "Hmmmm, I got the gist, I don't want to hear anymore, it's too horrible and besides, there's old Maria here who doesn't want to hear this shit!" She grimaced her Gorgon smile and rolled her eyes, the poor boy who nobody wanted excused himself and tripped away into the intestellar dust, and I felt sad, he was me only I was smarter, and stronger, and gave myself better odds to find old age in peace and blissful resignation. I basked in the early spring sunshine at the Cafe at the Gates of Hell and counted my blessings.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Life's a Parade (of Freaks.)

Like a cross between Bukowski and Edgar Allen Poe, my stories smack of anguish and horror, maybe they're relentlessly tiresome so I will relate a tale that's full of exhilaration and compassion. I have had at least 77 trully great experiences in my life, exquisite, ecstatic, extraordinary, my soul swept up to meld with the Universe and my existential ennui forgotten for a few infinite moments. One of these events occurred 2 years ago at the Sydney Gay Mardis Parade, a night I didn't even know was going to happen for me, I just went along encouraged by one of my gorgeous girlfriends.

I've participated in this festival right from it's inception, being one of the original 300 protesters in '78 who got the shit kicked out of them by the cops when we reached Taylor Square. Every year since then the march got bigger till it became an overwhelming parade of celebration and pride with floats, dykes on bikes and thematic marching squads and a crowd of half a million cheering tourists to egg it on.

I've been on other people's floats, I've designed and ridden my own float, I've marched/danced/weaved in and out of the entire 'golden mile' as a lonesome fag and I've sat virtually in the middle of the road and let the whole parade sweep over me, ignoring the commands to move by the 'gay marshals' with their red-arm bands, so I thought I'd really run the gamut and there was no further new experience to be had, but life has a way of surprising one.

I'd just gotten back from trekking the wilds of India and was somewhat at a loss in our post-techno western civilisation, and my beloved Nicolette insisted I accompany her to the parade for she wanted to march with the SWOP contingent, the "SexWorker's Outreach Program" and I figured it would be a laugh, not quite sussing what SWOP was, thinking maybe: whores who gave away free sex to the dispossessed and homeless?

On our way up to Oxford Street she said she wanted to call in on a friend and maybe I should wait outside as I wouldn't like it up there. I wondered what on earth the problem could be, having seen everything weird life could throw at me, and insisted on coming up, only to be confronted by a befuddled junkie I'll call 'Scratchy', nemesis of 'Itchy', who proceeded to have "a shot" before the grand parade started. While he was a poly-drug abuser, heroin being his main downfall, (he'd done much crime, spent years in gaol and frayed the edges of a lot of lives in the process), in this instance it was 'speed' he and Nic wanted to imbibe, to get them all worked up for a tumultuous parade.

 For the next half-hour he dug furiously into the veins of his arms and legs looking for an opening, all having been collapsed and twisted from a lifetime of rigorous addiction. As he poked, ripped, scratched and tore himself apart with the needle, he raved nonsensically, "The only veins left are those in my dick but I'm too scared to use them as I might never get it up again."

I looked away at the silent flickering TV screen in the room, trying not to gag. "Yesterday I scored the ultimate job, teaching Heath Ledger and co how to use needles on the movie set of 'Candy', it's so cool!" I seethed with angst, a deadbeat junkie like this gets to meet the gorgeous Heath and I'll never even get to sniff a movie star's undies. He offered me a hit and I replied, "I've never done it in my life." "There's always a first time", he sleazed. "No thanks!" I glared at Nicolette to get moving for it had worn me out and we hadn't even marched a hundred yards. She gave herself a shot in the wrist in one practiced, swift flourish and we left Scratchy still digging away at his flesh, moaning and cursing.

We got to the parade lining up in various formations behind barricades and met the usual "gay marshals", pompous poofs with squeaky voices and two-ton dykes with mustaches and deep baritones, who sternly refused us entry without the precious passes. "Fuck this!" Ignoring the shouts of dismay I jumped the barricade with Nic following close behind and we ran to the SWOP contingent getting ready for their glorious march-by salute.
I don't know what I expected SWOP to be but what I found totally dumbfounded me. Around an open-top Cadillac were about 13 gorgeous hookers, in tight corsets, crotchless panties and torn fishnet stockings, tits and fannys hanging out for all the world to relish. One blousie whore lounged in the Cadillac with huge, voluminous breasts like Mae West floaters slung over the side and engulfing anyone who got too close. A few Poofter fans stood in their midst so I didn't feel too out of place but most surprising for me were the 7 spastics in their motorized wheelchairs, each with an attendant hooker by their side to make sure things didn't crash out of control.

It dawned on me that "Sexworkers Outreach" meant a govt. funded group that contacted prostitutes to encourage them into practicing safe-sex, safe drug-injection methods and healthy lifestyles. Some of the hookers revealed themselves to be very special people who rallied round the disabled to give them good sex for their money, as for years previously the poor things had been ripped by most prostitutes they'd hired, taking the money but still adverse to the sex as these wheelchair-bound humans were grotesque in appearance and behaviour, twisted like pretzels by Multiple Slerosis, cerebral palsy etc, drooling and gargling, they directed their wheelchairs with devices that protruded into their mouths. Yet they had robust sex-drives and needed such human comfort, much to the shock/horror of many a conservative gronk, and it was pathetic that they were eternally ripped-off of their tiny pensions.

A wildly cool soul named Saul had set up a group called "Touching Base" to help out all the disabled and ugly who couldn't get sex so easily, and he connected this gang with SWOP, hookers who might kindly participate. Some of the spastics were 'gay', and here was the entire gang, hookers, hustlers and cripples come together to show the world sex belonged to all comers, no matter their shape, color or wholesomeness, they had pride, joy and no shame, like the rest of us. Here at the parade I was introduced to Saul, a crazy looking guy in his fifties with sweeping eyebrows that would put little Johnny Howard to shame, he advertises for Tantric sex weekly in the gay press with a photo of himself licking someone's foot, hilariously bad yet I hear he does good business for their must be an army of ugly human detritus out there needing to be touched and comforted. (On the occassion of the 9/11 horror he advertised to all "Moslems, Christians, Buddhists, pagans, no matter what the faith, to come to him for sexual healing.")

I was flabbergasted at the concept and felt very proud that I had inadvertently stumbled upon such a phenomena, it would be a blast to march with them. Nic got a phone-call from Scratchy who announced he'd finally found a vein, had his shot and was now about to join us. Wonderful news! The thousands of queens, queers, poofs and lezzos formed up with restless abandon, bared flesh was eye-balled, costumes were preened and sound-systems were wound up with techno-gusto. The float before SWOP was "Geriatric Gays Proud to be Decrepit", a gaggle of toothless senior citizens propped up on a truck clutching at walking sticks and tweaking their hearing aids. The float behind us was the "Sado-masochists Society", a mock dungeon with racks, slings and dangling chains, and various torture devices wielded by fat faries in bumless leather armor. T
Thanks to nogod, the organizers must have thought they'd put all the freaks on the tail-end of the parade and maybe no one would notice us. And then the march set off, the 'marshals' barking directions thru megaphones, the innumerable sound-systems trying to out thump-thump each other and the crowds lining the footpaths working themselves up into a hysteria of screaming. I watched the "Police" float set off, thug cops with their chests out smiling paternalistic, proud to be supporters of the 'gay community', what a change from all those years ago when they tried to kill us at any opportunity.

Scratchy showed up dressed in a cape and girly make-up as if he were super-fag, really he was a Het in disguise hoping to get his tracked-up hands onto the big tits of the luscious Nicolette. We had to wait for the entire serphent's length of a parade to unwind before we got our chance to stomp about; cowgirl squads twirling batons moved off in syncopation, Las Vegas showgirls shimmied their towering feather head-dresses, Indian hijras in saris and nose-rings danced, gay air-stewards and gay fire-men walked arm in arm, gay priests hugged gay dwarves, proud parents and proud politicians waved from trucks, the wait was endless but finally a diesel-dyke squawked orders in our direction and we moved off.
For a 55 year old guy I looked hot in black cut off jeans and black reflector t-shirt, red mirror sunglasses and red bandana, and lots of queens scrutinized me with laser eyes as if to say, "Who does that old fag think she is?" I could hear the roar of the crowd approaching in the near distance but was not prepared for the actual 3 D, in your face explosion of a million gaping mouths and popping eyeballs that engulfed us as we got onto the 'golden mile'.

Somehow the 'gerri' float got way ahead of us and the sado-masochists fell way behind, suddenly we found ourselves all alone, every step of the way, for the entire horde of shrieking tourists to devour with amazed delectation. The stunning prostitutes smiled and waved as if welcoming future customers, the fag hustlers saluted as if they were the honor guard for the Pope, the spastics went ballistic, racing their wheelchairs up and down, rearing up on their back-wheels and spinning, rushing to and fro like mechanized dervishes on acid, laughing, drooling, I swear one even shat his pants in all the excitement, their exhilaration was contagious, the crowd absolutely went nuts to see such a display of humanism, prostitutes who fuck spastics with honor, the roar was deafening and I reached nirvana, a fountain of bliss erupting from my pituitary gland and into the neon heavens.
But talking about me, I also felt severely embarrassed, the vast mob checked me out wondering who or what the fuck I could be. A poofter hustling the cripples? The pimp for all the hookers? A punk-freak out on a lark and big-noting himself? I virtually stared at the ground for the entire 'golden mile' of the march, I felt so ridiculous and yet also madly blown away by the surreal joy evinced by everyone, as if our one collective soul was lifted up to outshine the stars.

Search-lights flicked about, confetti rained down, streamers piled up, the spastics spun about in a delirium, the hookers laughed deep-throatedly and the crowd squealed till I thought they'd burst into a flood of cum and blood that would drown us all. And me and Scratchy fought over Nicolette, which one of us would get to hold her close, we pulled on her arms as if we hoped to split her in two, Scratchy won as he was indeed the fox in the chicken coop, I was merely the old feather duster. Before we knew it we'd strode the entire length of Oxford Street and stumbled into the dark forest of Moore Park, the march and our 15 nano-seconds of notoriety was over, suddenly there was no more crowd screaming, the silent shadows felt weird, our exhilaration was still fountaining from the crowns of our heads with no one to cheer us on, I wanted to turn back and do it all again, but it was over, a great experience I could never repeat, for before the event I was an innocent and now I'd lost my cherry.
I helped the hookers pile the spastics into vans to get them back to their hostel on the North Shore, Scratchy went off to score drugs, and Nicolette and me wandered up to Kings Cross to come down in a gronk's nightclub called "Candy's Apartment", a meat-market for lonely Hets, the very crowd who'd gotten aroused and horny by the 'gay parade'.

While dancing listlessly to bad disco Nicolette got a call from Scratchy, much earnest whispering ensued, then she led me outside and broke the news. Scratchy had deviously robbed some big-time drug-dealer of $100,000 and 10,000 ecstasy pills and wanted us to join him in a 5 star hotel to party down hard. Nic said it would be a gas only there was a risk that in the middle of the debauch gangsters might break in and shoot us all. "Great, sounds like fun, not! No thanks, I'd rather be straight, poor and alive. I'm going home to safety."
She went off and I didn't see her for some weeks, till they'd run thru the heisted treasure and Scratchy turned nasty and possessive, collapsed veins atrophying his brain, he wasn't the enlightened soul he made himself out to be. And Nic came back to me, just as a best friend of course, I'm a homo to my bones, but I love her regardless, and she loves me, there's a lot to say for honesty, intelligence and open-mindedness that beats junkie moronification any day. And that was my last Gay Mardis Gras event, I didn't go this year, I needed a rest, I really have run the gamut.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

2001st Nervous Breakdown.

Today I'm all subdued and worn out, like I blew a major fuse and nothing is working at full power, for I had my 2001st nervous breakdown last night. Northcott Housing Ghetto, and city living in general, is so nerve-wracking that I have to run away for weeks and months just to get a rest. The retards next door refuse to stay in their cage, they park their butts at my front door to smoke and socialise because Cursula doesn't want cigarette smoke mixing with all the filth she's heaped up in her flat, tho I think it would fumigate all the cockroaches and rats out of the dump. Her and her moronic boyfriend are like 2 oruangatangs jabbering over 1 banana, on and on dribbling inanities thru a megaphone, not once a week, it's 24/7, it never lets up, and just when I'm stressed, ill and need rest I have to hear the bullshit coming thru my door, they're tireless for they have no other life, never had a job, no viable friends, just the cretin social club they run out front of my place.

I was trying to sleep and out spewed the jabber-jabber, "Oh Mick, do you want peanut butter on your balls like they do on TV's Neighbours?" " Nah, you stupid cow! Follow the recipe from that 'No Idea' magazine you spent our last 5 bucks on!" On and on till I rushed naked to the door and screamed and screamed, that I would come out there with a baseball bat if they didn't shut up and fuck off back to their foul enclosure.

Of course I got told to "fuck off!" which riled me more, scream,scream, curse,curse, "You need help" was their brainy response. "Yes, I need help, to get rid of you 2 arseholes from my doorstep, something like a giant can of cockroach repellent or maybe some of my thug mates to bash the shit out of you!" Doors were slammed and the whole of the Ghetto went quiet again and, given the place is full of dysfunctional types, my neighbours amazingly are the only ones making a cacophony into the night, day after day, for all the outbursts of rioting in the complex, they're the worst. And they once were friends of mine, now we hate each other. Why do we humans fight so religiously? If there were no antagonisms we would invent some. I think each of us don't care about the other, obviously, we just want what suits us and dam the rest.

The neighbour from Hell on the other side of me, Eric the Beserker, regresses to his apeman antecedents more and more. He eats out of the garbage, ripping apart the plastic bags and leaving a trail of trash to his door that blows all over. These days he shits in his pants and, when it gets too cumbersome, scoops it out and stuffs it in the garbage shute for the rest of us to discover. Again the Housing Dept bureaucrats have been brought down to see the crap oozing from the cracks between our apartments, and maybe, just maybe, they will ship him off to a nursing home after 16 years of terrorising the rest of us. I won't count on it.

But Eric's lightweight compared to Cursula, and I'm afraid one night I will totally lose it and knock her and her monkey-mate's teeth out, cops and courts regardless, just to have the pleasure of shutting their gobs for a few precious days. (I'm just hyperventillating, I wouldn't get violent, I prefer to just split the vicinity, there's enough war and horror on the planet these days, in fact I think all the destruction on TV is what's got us all extra stressed with no means of amelioration except screaming in anguish.) I need a straight-jacket to contain my wrath for my poor neighbours lead such limited lives they don't need my breakdowns to provide the excitement. Probably I will simply run away for a few weeks, down to Melbourne, fuck Sydney.

                                                    After one of Cursula's parties!

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, August 12, 2006

Spectres in the Picoloo Window.

Doing my rounds of 'strange attractors' in the city I stopped off at my favourite hotspot, the Picoloo Cafe, to wind Vitto up and watch him jump, to chat with the 'usual suspects' of freaks, rogues and cranks, and to eyeball the passing crowd thru the windows as if they were exotic fish in an acquarium, swimming around and around. In the window boxseat I saw a gaggle of women all dressed up like the 'Madwoman of Chaillot", flouncy hats and layered lace skirts and I got deja vu, and sure enough they turn out to be the sisters of an old regular from here, Liz Trully, who hasn't come for years, abashed at her old memories and reclusive because of a mastectomy, no longer the outgoing pot-party fiend. She never got over her cancer and died a few days ago, and this was the day of her cremation, her sisters had dressed up in her old clothes and come back to her favourite haunt to celebrate the wake.

Liza had looked like an extravagant bag-lady freshly flung from the Moulin Rouge, she was a cheery soul, affable, agreeable with everyone and anyone if she could get on the end of a riff, she made it as one of the classic Picoloo characters in my 1st drawing of the place. So it was somewhat surreal to see 4 more versions of her laughing and swishing about as they toasted Liza with glasses of cafe latte. She could now be one more soul added to the cafe's roster of spectres doing the whirling dervish at the heart of the shoe-box theatre-like premises. The dead and the disappeared, like Liza's old boyfriend of many years, Allen Spender, who left her with a mountain of debts as a parting gift, he'd always chased the young girls and caused her misery, maybe she was well rid of him but it was the beginning of the end for her, her broken heart broke her body.

Alan had long ago won $150,000 and blew it in a year, then was sent to gaol for 7 years for conspiracy to import 'acid trips'. He defended himself and pleaded 'counter-culture revolution' and thus got the heavy sentence. He was a quirky, fun old hippy type with pony-tail and head bandana, he had a repertoir of hairy stories to tell about the Cross, but he doesn't come here anymore, he travels the country in a combie-van with a sweet soul called Spring-blossum, so he might as well be a vague apparition reflected in the Piccolo's windows with all the others.

Reading many famous Auzzie biographies I'm surprised to learn how many of them say they hung out at the Piccolo Bar on Roslyn Street. Chrissie Amphlet of Divynals fame says she hit the joint in the small hours of the morning, and the lead guitarist from Cold Chisel, Don Walker, says he was a regular, it seems there are crowds of famous artists queueing for blocks to get in, but when you get there all you find is deadbeats and lunatics. Bands have their photo taken and their video clips shot there, artists pose in front, writers look seriously thru the windows whilst glowering from the literary columns of the Establishment press, most only come once, like tourists, to say they've been part of the action, true Bohemians. I've virtually lived at the cafe 24/7 for 35 years and most of them I never saw. I missed the night Nick Cave had his 15 minutes worth of coffee, and when Mary-Anne Faithful tried to come in but was swamped by the gronky crowd clamouring about their fandom, causing her to flee in horror.

Since it's establishment in 1950, artists, musicians, actors, writers, makers and breakers, chose it as a hide-away to sit intimate and hassle-free after their late-night gigs, often smoking maijhuana so that the tiny cafe was filled with blinding acrid pot-smoke. The place was a maelstrom of polemical politics, cultural deconstruction, fleshpot pick-ups and nonsensical gossip, guitars twanged, bongos thumped, the juke box wailed, the dump jumped till dawn when Vitto handed over to the day shift. Then the Queen Mother got bashed in her bedroom and her savings robbed from under the mattress and he wouldn't come in to work the coffee machine for months, finally agreeing only to the day shift where he felt safer with the sun shining and revealing all. And so the saturnalias of the nights shut down, regular rousters drifted off to other deviant clubs or they dropped dead, wasted away, their time in the moonlight over, they'd been burning the candles for 50 years, withered relics from bygone swinging eras they were fatigued by the dance and like a rare breed they died out. Some of their photos hung from the Picoloo's walls, nameless wannabes and hasbeens and desperate young hopefulls, groping towards their 15 nano-seconds of fame, pictures of ghosts that shimmer in the light-beams.

Within an hour the parade of freaks belonging to the Side-show Alley Cafe marched in and out. Old Auntie Crack sat in a corner all alone, nobody speaking to him as he'd fought with everyone over paltry crap, he gnashed his teeth trying not to tune into my latest adventure which I told with much laughter and glee to fellow wags nearby. Hammid the African poof sat down, black as satan and peeved at his difference, a jolly fairy when you broke thru his defences, and we bitched about the staff in nursing homes where he works as an assistant, and laughed at the antics of our fellow silly poofs. He went to the toilet and I found $20 blowing in the wind where he was sitting so when he returned I asked him if he'd lost any money. He admitted to losing $5 and I kept on, "no other money?" "I lost $5." I told him I'd found $20 and he jumped on it, "It's mine!" "I hope so." "Oh thanks Toby, I was so broke!" What was the guy telling me? Fuck it, I didn't need the $20, but it always amazes me how people jump when there's money floating down the street.

Then Greg and his side-kick Barry lumbered in, Greg being the gi-normous "Fat Lady" and Barry the "Geek" in our local freakshow. Florid faced, candidate for his 1000th heart attack, he once joked that he was so fat he couldn't reach around to wipe his own arse. When I asked him, "Then what do you do?" he replied, "I don't bother." That could sum up their domestic milieu, the facts are too nauseating to delineate. He's an ex-Vietnam War vet, closeted for most of his life, swears Barry is merely his adopted son but everyone knows they've been lovers for most of their association, and good luck to them, Barry is mentally challenged and no one else would look after him so assiduously. Greg runs a business sucking grease out of chip-shop vats, often has a desperate junkie-type trailing in his vast wake hoping to pick up any crumbs dropped, he's tight as a crocodile's arsehole and just as goodlooking, and only lately has he admitted to being 'gay', a refreshing breakthru as it was most tedious skirting around the issue so as not to rile him.

Acquaintances who have cleaned house for him have told horror stories Edgar Allen Poe couldn't have dreamed up in his fecund nightmares, one friend even being made to put the guy's dirty socks on his gnarled feet, and then chasing the $45 fee for months while Greg throws hundreds at pokie machines daily. Live and let die, yeah, as long as he doesn't let go of the load next to me when he carks it I couldn't give a shit, for every freak show has to have it's fat lady and pinhead geek.

Then a bunch of revellors showed up to celebrate a birthday, Judy had survived to 30, a hard slog for her as she was a Thalidomide baby, born without arms or a leg, she lit cigarettes using the toes on her one foot, a trully sweet soul who got a bum deal but makes the most of the life given her, despite the gruesome disabilities. Sometimes, late at night, I see her sitting alone at the outside tables, ciggie between her toes, looking out of the swim, and when I asked how she was handling things she admitted life was lonely for her, and I imagined that probably no guy gave her a second look, so it was endearing to see a crowd of people come to wish her love and joy on her birthday. (I'm told she trawls the WEB and gets many a kinky guy over to her flat!)

For all the infamy of the Cafe and it's disparate, disreputable patrons, it's the only Cafe I've ever found that welcomes all, encourages strangers to interact and lends a community vibe to the cold, alienating winds of Roslyn Street, all under the auspices of the Circus Ringmaster, Vitto. Would I want to be a member of a club that would have a fuckwit like me? You bet, it beats being lost and alone in the dehumanising expanse of a superficial, exploitative city like Sydney.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Lull is Over at Lullaby House.

I looked for the right job for so long, but now that I've completed my contracted stint, I'm so relieved the slog is over for awhile as strain and stress has set in, I spat the dummy the other night and trampled about the wards like a mad ox, a clear indication I need a break. Every workplace has it's dysfunctional edge, usually to do with the people involved, nursing homes more so, an army of temperamental workers marching in and out between the prostrate bodies of the dying in their beds, all creating a seething hotbed of bitching and maneuvering. I waited thru the endless nights to discover the dysfunction of 'Lullaby House', wondering where I could fit in without adding to the turbulence. With my eyes and ears open I deduced the story of "the War of the Roses", the bitch-fight between the 2 RNs I'd replaced for 3 months while they were on holidays, everything peaceful and quiet under my watch. But the bitches were back and the cauldron was heated up again, to simmer, boil over and scold on certain hysterical nights under a full moon.

I met the younger "Rose" last week on her first weekend back on the job, Maryjane, hitting 40 and hoping to still be attractive, a perky pillbox hat on her head, (she was once an air-hostess but hasn't realised the plane has crashed.) I imagine she hopes she's a hot hip chick, in reality she's a plain-jane dag, all smiles and pieces of cake for the staff as a means of manipulation, yet I pray she's approachable. Her opposite number, Megan, due back next week, is in her mid-fifties, short, burly and gruff of manner, but with a sweet centre, she marches about like a seargent-major at war with germs, dirt and lazy nurses, everything's got to be by the book, entailing extra effort in a place that is ennervating in the extreme already, and so she is somewhat of a chore to deal with, especially for months on end.

These 2 "Roses" are the opposite ends of the same shitty stick, Maryjane too slack, bossing the assistants into doing all the running about while she tucks herself up in a bed thru the night with pillows and blankets, and Megan, who pulls on the reigns too tightly, also having the assistants on the march but wanting as well her fellow RN to march up and down the whole building all night in step with her, and watching the clock for a minute's dereliction of duty. Each had aligned the army of assistants into their 2 camps, if you were friendly to one, you were against the other, and the squabbling over power, duties, regulations, procedures went on night and day ad nauseum. And if I hung around I would be the shit in the sandwich, on top of battling the shit leaking from every crack and orifice, an overly daunting prospect for this sensitive, deadbeat soul. Maryjane's first weekend back and already the sucking up of alliances was on the make, with jolly gossip parties held at the "Nurse in Charge's" desk, but then in the middle of the night I got crossed and I grew horns in response, Mr. Diplomacy revealing he was not the doormat he seemed.

When I'd first come on duty I found sprawled across the nurse's station an assistant nurse, Pete, from an Agency, newspapers and cold cups of coffee all over, he was quite at home and I could not even squeeze past him to go about my routine. He told me he'd been coming there for 5 years and knew everything thus I wouldn't have to spend extra effort showing him about. "We can chill", he jives me and I think, "yeah chill, maybe." Pete was tall, pale, pudgy, dumpy bum, bald patch at back of head that made him look like Friar Shmuck, with an innocuous presence that caused me to chitchat for 3 minutes politely then conveniently go quiescent for some beloved peace, and so I ignored his taking over the space, even when others came past and deferred to him and ignored me. A muscle-bound Security Guard showed up and they waffled on about skiing in Canada for 1/2 an hour, to me it sounded like Gronk-talk and I was glad they left me out of it.

By 0130 things had slowed down so that I went into meditation to jump the time warp and Pale Pete thought I'd fallen asleep and so took his chance to leave the ward but I was fully aware of every noise and movement in the joint and looked up at the clock as he disappeared down the elevator-shaft. Then the 0200 wake-up blues erupted and I rushed about answering all the call-bells, putting pans under wrinkled butts, helping old ladies to toddle to the toilet, getting a glass of water for one and reassuring the anxieties of another, on and on, an hour dragged by and no Pale Pete in evidence. I was fuming as it was his job to do the toileting, mine was to deal with fears, discomforts and pain, and I knew if I didn't ring around and find him he'd be gone another hour. I intuitively knew Maryjane had him gossiping down below and I rang and demanded he come back up to work. When he arrived I angrily asked him where he'd been and why he thought I should do his job as well as mine. All he could reply with was a squealed shriek of, "How dare you! How dare you speak to me like that!" Over and over, he must've said it 21 times till I flipped and shrieked back in the same hysterical tones, "how dare you, how dare you, how dare you!!! That's not the reply I was looking for! You abandoned the floor, you obviously dont give a shit about the residents, as an agency you've got no committment and think this place is a bludge!" "You don't know me, you don't know me!" (This was yelled another 21 times till I screamed "I dont want to know you!") "Everybody likes me here, they even request me, if you've got a complaint, tell Maryjane, she's in charge." 'Oh yeah, the one who's bum you've gotten up. No, I'll report it to the Deputy DON, the high rates you get paid and the effort you put in, I'm sure she'll be impressed."

I could tell by the squeal in his voice he's a fellow poof, only there's no sympatico, he rushed off with, "I'm not putting up with this, I'll get her to send someone else up here!" Down down down the lift trundled, machinery clunk-clunking, then 5 minutes later he's back, now efficiently going about his nursing routines, and I cursed his company, telling him it was better without him. Horns protruding from my forehead I went down to the ground floor and cornered Maryjane in her luxurious armchair, "What's with keeping that assistant down here so long, don't you care about us up there?" She had a face like an alarmed possum, snout sniffing out trouble, and instead of placating and apologising for her crappy tea-party, she got defensive and bullshitted me that assistants were allowed 2 half-hour breaks and he's a real nice guy. "Yeah, he's lovely. Nice for you, not so nice for me! I don't even get one half-hour break. If that's the way it is, I'm out of here!" "What?" Her snout bristles, eyes blink, the possum's cozy possie under threat, I gave her the punk sneer and went back upstairs.

Me and Friar Shmuck kept a stony silence for the rest of the shift, he tried sucking up to me but I replied in grunts, he went about his work loudly making sure I heard he'd now become super nurse, so caring, so sweet, yuk! They'd all sucked up to each other over the years, I was an interloper, the new boy on the block, to be the patsy when required, only I'm too tempermental at the best of times to put up with any namby pamby. I figured if I was betrayed over a small thing, what would happen if something serious happened like a death or bad injury that no one took responsibility for? They'd throw me to the wolves without blinking. Good old Megan was back in a few days and I realised the ongoing tussle she must have with laid-back Maryjane, for all Megan's grouchy style, she took her responsibilities seriously and actually cared if the residents were safe and comfy.

My contract was now up, I couldn't face more months of this, locked up in a plush prison of entropic breakdown, I took my chance and resigned, tho the boss had asked me to stay on for the rare nights when a nurse was sick. I hated to disappoint her as she was very pleasant aand encouraging, and I didn't bother dobbing in Pale Pete or sweet Maryjane, they were all welcome to each other and the building too, I was out of there. Oh how delicious liberty is! For awhile I will paint and write and dream and fly, and go back to nursing when I'm ready. I'm reminded of that sci-fi movie, "Soilent Green", not just the hungry populace eating wafers of recycled human corpses, but the Euthenasia Centre to which Edward G. Robinson retired when he was fed up, old and useless. He checked in and while his favourite classical music swelled around his cushioned bed he was given an injection that killed him quickly, all done comfortably, pleasantly, clinically; nursing homes are just like this, particularly Lullaby House, only it takes months and years to die, not minutes, in these amazing post-modern, post techno times.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


The crustiest nursing home I ever worked in was actually called Crust, possibly because that's all they got for dinner, and it was run by the Moron Healthcare Group, (as urban folklore would dub it), a private business that has made millions running aged care facilities state-wide, because they're good at it, giving the best service for the money available and making a profit by sheer tightwad efficiency. And whoever takes on the toughest nursing cases gets more of the govt subsidies, so with the nurses slogging harder, the profits are increased, and this makes Moron very keen for the most derelict of cases. Like a three-tiered class-system the rich had plush private rooms, the middle-classes got suitably pleasant shared bedrooms and the government-subsidised poor got sufficient to their daily needs, clean and safe. It all depended on the particular manager of the actual nursing home, usually the DON, Director of Nursing, whether she/he could run the joint so marvelously all the residents and staff are healthy and happy, or so shoddily the residents suffer bedsores, urinary tract infections, scabies invasions, are malnourished and scrounging thru the bins with boredom, despair and lack of medications, and the staff are daily at each others' throats.

To a great degree a nursing home can become a cash cow for whoever gets in control of it, as long as they make a healthy profit for their Ubermasters, such as the Moron Healthcare Group, the rest is open slather for them to manipulate and siphon off, if they dare. (Every three years govt. inspectors do a look-thru for "Accreditation" but for that week everything gets spruced up and window-dressed to look like Club Med in Gronksville). Cutting costs of materials, services, furnishings, handing out extra shifts, over-time, weekend penalties, extra sick-leave, positions of power, there was lots up for grabs. Groups of similar backgrounds can end up taking-over a facility because nobody wants to see bias, Christians, Jews, Indians, Polynesians, Auzzie housewives, Russian refugees, there are lots of tight tribes in this world and, unbeknownst to me, Crust was now known in the trade as a Phillipino home for three quarters of the staff were from the Phillipines, RNs, nurse assistants, cleaners, kitchen slavs, which is OK as long as all was fair and square.

I had often walked past Crust in inner-city Sydney, and shuddered, as it looked like a haunted old witch's house straight out of the Brother's Grimm; scungy, dark, with creepy attics and creaky doors, and after working there a few weeks I did indeed realise it was haunted by distressed spectres who'd died alone, unloved and unrecorded, for deep in the night the floorboards squeaked under phantom footsteps, the doors opened and shut of their own accord and a whispered lament howled up the staircase and along the corridors to make me hurry on my way, back to the familiar light of the frigid nurse's station. It was a depressing place to be in, shit-coloured khaki walls, no doubt to hide the shit flung at them, grey linoleum floors, klunky furniture that looked like it had been there 49 years, Crusty's was totally government subsidised for poor pensioners, life-long schitzos and many a bum that had been found dying on the street, and it's a good thing someone ran such facilities, otherwise the desperately dispossessed would've died in the gutter. But still the place had to make a profit so not only was the food the cheapest plastic crap possible to buy in bulk, but there was never enough of it nor enough dressings for the decrepits' wounds or medications to ameliorate their ills, and the equipment was medievil, broken down. I got the willies after only a week in the dump.

When I went for the job interview I found the DON hidden away in the back of the basement as if in a war-zone bunker and out of harm's reach. She was a very pleasant woman who fed me lots of platitudes, the foremost of which was that I should come to her if I was in any difficulties for she "stood by her staff." I should've remembered the old adage, "the lady doth protest too much" but she had such an affable "bedside manner" that I was sucked in and so I commenced work with great hopes I'd at last found a functioning home that badly needed my services. Crust had 65 residents, half of which permanently rotted in their beds, the other half perpetually wandered the corridors, crawling up the walls. Cigarettes were the main focus of their cravings and a few of the old codgers would set the door alarms off throughout the night by rushing out in an addict's furor to snatch up a butt they'd seen tossed from a window, which would have me jumping as it was my responsibility to make sure they didn't "escape", either to the Pub to destroy their last braincells on booze or the middle of the busy road to be run down by trucks.

The worst of the cigarette chasers was a schitzo who dressed like "Spy vs. Spy" from the old Mad magazines, and who would virtually dive from the first floor balcony if he spied a butte on the ground. There was one hugely obese woman who kept to her closet-room and croaked filthy abuse at any nurse who tried to help her. An ancient Yugoslav guy who daily tried to hit staff with his walking stick. A bedridden grouch who had a bed-sore the hole of which you could fit a baseball into. A pathetic dementia sufferer who absolutely couldn't hold onto a second's memory and didn't know where she was, wandering the corridors 24/7 weeping pitifully and pleading for help. One night when she went missing I rushed about in a panic, imagining her squashed on Parramatta Road, finding her eventually in a single bed with another decrepit, an old male acquaintance of hers from the streets, the only blessed thing she could remember, and here they were curled up like 2 spoons together, hopefully sharing some comfort, I was happy to leave them thus.

One week an old Abboriginal man was brought in, he'd been found near death in some back alley, wandered down from the Northern Territory, he couldn't remember where or what tribe he came from, what his name was, what family he had. He only lasted a week, his breathing slowed down to the rhythm of his singing, he chanted himself to oblivion with a death song that went on and on 24/7 till the end, I witnessed it, I stood by his side as he died, he'd willed himself to die quickly, not take years as many did, and I was relieved to watch him drift off to his Dreamtime. Then they brought in a hugely obese Downs Syndrome woman, she'd been looked after by her aging parents all her life, even slept in the same room as them, but with the father dead the mother in her late seventies could no longer take proper care of the poor girl. She'd never known any other environment and so wailed and wailed in loss all night long, and as she couldn't speak except for a vague yes or no, she was difficult to console or placate. She weighed 2 tons and needed much machinery to move her, was incontinent of urine and faeces and so had to be heaved about constantly to change and clean her, she was a nursing trial and played a small part in my tossing in the towel, but there were other nightmares lurking that really did me in at Crusty's.

There are good and bad people existent, the Deputy DON was a Phillipino and she was a good soul, efficient, hard-working, out front, pleasant to deal with and, while she loaded my night-shifts with the extra work of writing out nursing care plans, I was happy to take some of the load off her back. But one malignant force can ruin the best of intentions and I soon met Crusty's nemesis, a Phillipino RN named Mallinda, short, fat, with beady eyes behind thick glasses and a smarmy smile and psuedo-American accent that dripped saccharine pleasantries while she lazered one's presence with malevolent inspection. Every morning when she came on duty, she never once asked after the welfare of the residents: who was sick or who had trouble in the night? Instead she obsessively clutched a huge can of the cheapest generic instant coffee from which she took her time measuring out that day's quota, that was her big morning job and nothing was to come between her and the fucking coffee, except for shit-stirring.

I learnt Crusty's hadn't had a regular night nurse for 6 months, that they'd churned thru RN's like meat at a burger joint, and I wondered what the problem was. Not long into the job I'd noticed that after the morning-staff had signed on there would suddenly erupt in the corridor a huge hullaballooo of shrieking, squabbling, Phillipino jabbering, so that I'd eventually leave my desk and rush out to ask, "What on earth is all this caterwauling about?" They would all look at me with huge eyes full of guilt, then abashedly look at the floor and say nothing but I found out that dear Mallinda had sweetly twanged into one AIN's ears that there had been complaints made about his/her standard of work, or something snide about their character, and then the assistants would accuse each other of being disloyal and nasty, and squabble all day, and the place was mighty unsettled and unhappy, everything left with a dirty rough edge. There were a thousand and one rules, regulations, protocols and ordinances to follow yet for all the strict disciplines I'd never found a place with more bedsores, UTIs, pneumonias, scabies invasions and absconding unhappy campers. I wondered why she did this, was it simply her horrible nature or was she angling for something, the Deputy DON's job maybe, for if Crusty's was made to seem a mess it was the Deputy's fault?

I began to hear terrible gossip about Mallinda, she'd gotten her broken-down sister a job as an assistant there, a decrepit fattie who limped badly and never said "boo!" Somehow this sister had managed to carry one of the old geezers off home to her place and marry him just before he dropped dead, all highly illegal in the nursing home trade. Of course, they then tried to get the old boy's money, only the Trustee of his Estate had 'power of attorney' and refused to let them have a cent of it so the creature was back on the job, limping about with her sister's eye on who next to finagle, possibly.

I wasn't sucked into Mallinda's false smiles for a moment and she in turn knew a smart cookie when she saw one and so my days were numbered. After a tedious night of reassuring the lost and calming the psychos, Mallinda would waddle in with the can of coffee under her arm and her beady eyes would flick about while she mouthed bullshit in that American accent that made my teeth grate, all the time needling me over some procedure that had or had not been done. The next day I would get phone calls from the DON saying it had been reported I'd left a cup of coffee on my desk or the S8 keys unattended or a lump of faeces intact upon a window-sill, and finally I flipped and yelled that I had enough to do without worrying about inconsequential badgering and carping. When I next met Mallinda I thanked her for her constant betrayals, shrieked loudly for all the nursing home to hear that I'd been an Auzzie nurse for 30 years and didn't need her nitpicking to show me the way, and she could fuck off back to the Phillipines and work for 50 cents a day if she didn't like it. I saw her beady eyes shrink to malignant daggers and waited for the stab in the back, but took my eye off the ball for she got me in the easiest place to fuck me and it was a great lesson in survival as a nurse for me, for this bitch was the Queen of all father-fucking zombies.

Every morning I had to count the S8 drugs from the locked cupboard with my relieving RN, and if one tiny pill goes missing, no god could help us. There came the morning when I was in such a burn to get home to bed I rushed thru the drug count, accepting an unopened packet as reliable, it had the pharmacist's seal intact and I trusted my fellow nurses, tho it's so easy to open seals and steal drugs if that was one's bent, thus one should never take an unopened packet at face-value. These were Kapanols, a particularly strong morphine-based pain killer and much beloved of the dying and the addicted. I got home and was in bed nodding off into welcome sleep when suddenly the phone rang, it was Mallinda's phony American accent, twanging with ominous portent. "Mr.Toby, there's been a terrible mistake in the S8 drug count. 8 Kapanol capsules are missing, it's very serious, the DON has been called in to go over the books, and you were the last nurse at the drug cupboard." My guts dropped, I broke out into a cold sweat, I remembered the unopened packet of Kapanols and I spluttered in dismay, "But we counted them properly, I swear, how could any go missing, no one can get to that cupboard?"

"Oh, Mr. Toby, it's a very serious business, if we can't find them the police will have to be called in, and somebody could lose their registration over this, S8s are terribly important and all must be accounted for!" "Get the DON to count them again, they can't be missing!" "We'll be in contact, maybe a further search will find them", she smarmily hissed and hung up, leaving me reeling, I wanted to vomit, the stress was spinning me into a faint. I sweated on it for another few hours, thinking "the fucking bitch! She could've snuck into the drug cabinet and stollen them herself, no one would notice, she's got the keys, it's the last nurse who signed for them who would get the blame. So that was how she was going to fuck me!" Finally the phone rang again, "Oh Mr. Toby, we discovered the mistake, we rang the Pharmacist and he'd labeled the packet wrong, it was supposed to only have 12 capsules but he'd put 20 on the label, so all is solved", she smacked her lips and I put the phone down, reprieved but thinking, "That cunt! She's warning me, anytime I want to fuck with her shady practices she can get me where it hurts, there are many ways, a dead resident, bungled reports, missing narcotics, I'd better walk a tight-rope around her!"

I stayed on at Crust a few more days, till I could stand her presence no longer and under her Gorgon gaze wrote out my resignation letter, thanking the DON for her support and loyalty but the stress had been too great and one nurse in particular turned me off her crusty "home". I found a job the next day in another place and there I met a nurse who had also worked at Crust and we laughed over the horror of Mallinda, "What a cow!" was both our judgement. Then I was shocked to hear further horror stories that this nurse swore were probable for other nurses had been to her home and seen strange things. Real people are weirder than fiction: it seems dear caring Mallinda was into some kind of Phillipino voodoo involving pseudo-Catholicism, native mumbo jumbo and sacrificial rituals, all to machinate her way up the shitheap of the nursing home industry, to bring power her way, to cause the stupid to fall under her sway. I could picture the bitch placing chicken feathers and bones under old men's pillows, burning placentas in front of pictures of J.C. in the DON's office when no one was around, and going into fits of mesmerised hysteria, writhing on her laundry floor at home while her retard sister dripped hot wax on her flabby tits.

I heard years later that she did indeed make it to the deputy DON's job, but only lasted a few months, was quickly demoted back to slavvy RN, perhaps she couldn't resist keeping the dump in an uproar, it was her nature, or maybe the Moron Healthcare Ubermasters had got wind of her machiavellian machinations and put her in her place. Poor old Crust staggered on in its grungy decrepitude, chewing up successive DONs till maybe they found a smart, tough, caring leader-type who could reign in all the perverse hanky-panky, as all things do move on and change for the better, and I hope for the derelict residents that's the case for Crust. Crusty's was simply a bad experience, seen thru my own perverse eyes, now seeming surreal, like a bad dream of long ago, and any curse that might have been thrown my way, I shine a light around me and it bounces off and returns to the monster who sent it, so have fun with it, dear Mallinda.