After “Dharma Bums” I went on to read Kerouac’s “Big Sur”, his follow up novel where he devolves from enlightened Nirvana at one with nature to the alcoholic’s heebie jeebies where all nature’s shadows had a monster lurking within. The aging process can bring with it a scrambling of the brain cells, a slackening of the will, a flaccidity in the guts and fatigue of the heart, and I’m no different, the dissolute pagan, the fallen yogi, the cynical zorro. Still I’m inspired by Jack’s poetic flow, letting it all hang loose, like dirty laundry flapping in the nuclear wind, and I’ll try just letting the shit pour out, describing one mad night in futuristic pirate-port Sydney.
Wally, one of the old-time freaks from the Piccolo Pressure Cooker, was turning sixty and his sister was throwing him a party at the Rosebay Royal Yacht Club and he invited all and sundry to come along, open bar, quality food laid on and a nice band he wanted people to foxtrot to. Foxtrot? His family must be old fogies but as it was a feast for free, it was for me. Wally had been a deadbeat ex-junkie pothead bum who’d hung about the Piccolo for 30 years, sometimes raving mad, who’d finally inherited great wealth, an apartment and a huge weekly allowance, he was so nonplussed he walked about the Cross handing out $10 notes to any junkie or hooker who passed by with a desperate look on their face. He smokes pot like a chimney on a street corner with a gang of hungry hanger-ons, is a kooky dude and I imagined his party might be a squeaky scream.
My niece Nuala was in town fresh from Europe, Rosebay was a sweet place to take her, she saw Sydney from afar, lit up like a jeweled fairy-queen’s crown, and the yachts twinkling and bobbing in the harbor below. Past million-dollar mansions, into the ritzy Royal Yacht Club we go, me defying the shirt and jacket dress code by wearing jeans and t-shirt, but maybe as the notorious artist I’m given some leeway. I didn’t realize Wally was from an upper middle-class Jewish family with an ex-wife and grown kids, he seemed to live on the edge, he’d only just got out of the Acute Psyche Ward at the Prince of Wales Hospital and this other life of his surprised me. The sister and brother-in-law came over to question and peruse me, a look of befuddlement on their polite faces. I bullshitted diplomatically about my “profession” as an artist, the wonders of Wally and our great friendship, they soon got over my “Creature from the Black Lagoon” looks and went back to hugging family members, leaving me to scoff up every yummy treat handed out by the hovering caterers. “I’m starving, I’m going to eat enough for three days sustenance,” I blurted into a crowd of prim smiles, they know we’re Wally’s deadbeat friends from the Piccolo, freakzone central, and they’re ready for the worst of depredations.
My niece was the best looking woman in the room and the best looking guy, a six foot six tall, drop dead gorgeous hunk, who turns out to be Wally’s 22 year old son, standing high above the orderly crowd, zeroes in on Nuala and decides she’s the one he’ll try to crack onto, the tough registered nurse who's just done the East London medical war zone, only he doesn’t know how to talk to girls, especially forward headstrong girls like her, it’s a disaster, he stands in front of her open-mouthed, ummming and aaahing. And he’s got a short side-kick who’s jumping out of his skin when he gets near us, afraid of getting bum-raped, I called the two of them Jack and the Beanstalk, and I wouldn’t mind knocking off Jack myself, he was a lively Mediterranean type, I bet he’d jump like a bean in bed, I could only dream, me the subterranean. We turned our attention to the booze and food, chicken mince, oysters, lamb chops, duck pancakes, skewered prawns, beef rolls, seafood dumplings, tempura zucchini, then deserts, wild berries, chocolate pudding, lemon meringue, butterscotch birthday cake, coffee, chocolates, I ate and ate like an ascetic Hindu sadhu at a festival for Laxmi, the Goddess of wealth, I won’t see the likes of this for another seven years.
Throughout this bacchanalia of food, wine and jolly jabbering over electronic ‘Sixties pop muzak, I got annoying phone calls from my old mate Cody, he named himself after the “On the Road” hard-living wanderer, just back from surfing in Bali he wanted to have a wild night out and I like a dope invited him to the yacht club party. He is also a reformed junkie/alcho, once the baddest drunk, he’d smash up pubs and beat up the door-men, banned from Byron Bay and Nimbin Town for riot and afray, which really takes some villainy, but he’d always behaved himself with me and I thought he’d be a good fit with Wally. I should’ve known something was wrong when he rang me 7 times asking for directions and telling me the cops had got him halfway there. What the fuck was his problem?
He showed up dead drunk, swaying in the middle of the room, then rushed the open bar and guzzled down as much booze as he could lay his hands on. He then tried to drunkenly chat up any and every Jewish matron in sight, he was hoping to crack a sugar-momma, all the staid mothers star-struck at his drooled blandishments, bemusedly wondering if he was for real. All thru this a frumpy young fashion-violator stuck her camera in everybody’s face as if she were Fran Liebowitz immortalising the jetset and when we told her to fuck off she got aggressive and went out of her way to annoy us, sneaking photos from any angle, frying our eyeballs with her flash, my niece Nuala wanted to kick her arse.
Wally’s family then interrupted the fun with grandiloquent speeches about Wally’s amazing achievements, on and on, the most amazing of which was the fact that he’d reached sixty. All the Piccolo freaks sat up the back and giggled, Charles Haughtry turning to me and whispering, “What in Hell are Wally’s great achievements?” “Well, he was once a successful drug runner, he escaped from a gaol in Penang and he hasn’t been in gaol for a few years, he recently got out of the psyche-bin and hopefully won’t be going back there for a few months….” We broke up the celebratory atmosphere with our laughing and Cody shouting at the top of his voice, “Yeah, right on! Go for it! Get down! No shit! You said it baby!” He was getting himself worked up for a tear-the-roof-down brawl, I grew nervous, flipped and dragged him out front of the Royal yacht Club and told him if he didn’t shut up I’d dump him at the Rosebay Cop-shop a few doors up the road.
When we went back in they were applauding a slide-show of Wally’s fabulous life, infancy, childhood, teens, hippie youth, and one horror shot when he was about 35 with mutton-chop side-burns and big moustache. I shat myself as the photo called up a long forgotten memory, back in about 1985 when I was living in Pyrmont Squats. Wally had showed up with a girlfriend of mine, Sylvia of Wood Nympho fame, bullshitting us that he was one of the last of the royal Romanov family, aristocrats chased out of Russia, and he still had the crown jewels stashed in banks all over Europe and all he needed was a girl to fly overseas and claim them back for him and she’d get a good share of the riches. Avaricious, dumb Sylvia believed him and was all worked up about getting her hands on the diamonds and rubies. He wanted to take her to dinner at the Ritz Hotel to go over the details and she got dolled up like Cinderella for the grand event only to come home late at night furious because he’d tried to lure her to a room and then made her pay for the meal, it all having been a con job, him a dirty old man just trying to get into her pants. For a few weeks we were shitting ourselves that he’d come back to the squats to harass us, he seemed so deviant and sleazy, he could’ve been a serial killer. But no, it was just Wally scamming the world, part of his great achievements.
Cody continued hassling all the well-coiffed matriarchs, falling drunk on everyone till Wally’s son took him by the scruff of his neck and marched him to the front door. The crowd bayed, “Whose friend is this?” “He’s Toby’s friend! Toby is responsible for him!” Fuck! I had to refuse a free lift back to the city and chase non-existent cabs thru the back-streets of Rosebay, Cody staggering like a zombie behind Nuala and I. We got fed up coaxing him along, when we came to a cul-de-sac and he walked straight into the wall, we figured we’d done enough, we picked up our pace and ran over the hill, leaving him to eat our dust. He must’ve collapsed on some millionaire’s lawn and slept there till dawn. I got a phone-call two days later asking me if I knew where he’d parked his car. Nogod, he’d been driving blind-drunk, no wonder the cops had got him. Anyway, the great Kerouacian Cody is off my social list for awhile.
We made it to a rock’n’roll pub down on Broadway called the Agincourt to see a mate’s crashing band, Redbee, and got sent to electric heaven for a few hours so the night ended well, hot white static fuzzing our brains, bringing on ecstasy, leaving polite middle-class society and Royal Yacht Clubs far, far behind.