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.