Monday, November 21, 2011

I Am the Rainbow Leopard..

Today was glorious, my spirit s lifted and I flew like an eagle up the river in the morning sun, it was great to be alive and I was so happy I’d come to India again. My friend of 12 years, Balu the bear, he who’d brought me down so badly last year, picked my spirit up again, apologizing for his bad behaviour and promising to make amends. He took me in his car 30 kms up the Ganges River, the Himalayan foothills like primeval pyramids hanging over us, Hindi pop music pulsating from his sound system. He danced ecstatically as he drove like a madman around the precipitous curves, and I remembered why people forgave him his atrocious drunken brawling, he was so much fun to be with when he was straight.

After a whole lifetime spent in India I’m still learning the Indian way of things, as a people they have endless patience and are incredibly forbearing, putting up with a lot of shit, as life is too short and hard to bear grudges for too long. Of course, murder, robbery, rape, harming children and blasphemy are not forgiven, but gaffes, punch-ups, idiotic clowning, outrageous fuck-ups, extraordinary hitches are dealt with by a shrug of the shoulders and a quiet hunkering down till the brouhaha is over, no matter how long it takes. A simple example is a guy on a horse riding against the streaming traffic in the middle of the city, nobody batting an eyelid. Thus I forgive Balu his egregious insults against my character, I’ll just try not to be around him when he gets drunk.

He took me to a river rafting camp where he had clients waiting to go white-water rafting down the Ganges. We had to row across a swollen river in a rubber dinghy to get to the camp, I thought we were just going for breakfast in some roadside village: such surprises are what I love about being on the road in India. With jungle and mountains as backdrop I was served coffee and eggs, the honoured foreign guest. On the drive back, again with our bodies jumping to the Hindi pop music, I reconnected with that incredible joie de vivre that many Indians possess, no matter their lowly station or poverty, they throb to the beat of some universal heart, a huge smile lighting up their faces. They, with their stupendous natural environment and colourful culture, refresh my wilting, thirsty soul.

And on this journey Balu told me a tale, of the Rainbow Gathering that he’d discovered camping on an isolated beach way up-river. Up to forty foreigners, mostly young, a few oldies, many with dreadlocks and wearing faded Indian hippie gear, carrying only a sleeping bag, cooking pot, a shoulder bag with a few items, they seemed to eschew the consumerist life-style, had little money, ate communally and shared the tasks. At the end of each meal they passed a hat around and those who had money put in some cash, those who couldn’t kissed the hat and passed it on. They had a charismatic German leader named Gabriel, who with strength of character enforced the few rules, like no alcohol.

They reminded me very much of how we freaks lived in India 40 years ago, and this crew were not only trying to relive the hippie lifestyle of old, in this go-get 21st century they were succeeding. Not as easily as we did, in my day things were a lot freer and looser, no cops moved us on as they do nowadays, this Rainbow crew were made to shift further up the river, on and on, always finding a new hidden halcyon jungle beach to camp upon. We also smoked hash without the proscriptions that harass the young today, we took acid, we fucked with abandon, we lived naked, now it’s all somewhat more constrained for the tribals by a new-age turned conservative.

I’ve seen these tribes of Rainbow people wandering the wilds of India and Australia but have no urge to join them in my old age. I’ve already been there and did it with the best of them, real big sadhu babas; now I prefer more solitary treks, with one or two friends at most. I also no longer fancy sitting around a campfire for weeks on end strumming guitars and singing bhajans, maybe for a few nights, but I love pop and techno music from machines too much to sing “Kumbayah”, and I'm too much of an atheist to sing the praises of God(s). My mind is ever inquiring, I need to read books, a wide range of them, I want to know everything there is to know, and then squeeze it all down into that most elegant of equations, AUM, the music of the quantum flux, a more minimalist E=MC2. And I love to be intrigued by the great art of novel writing, like the book I’m reading now in the quiet of my room, “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell, mind-blowing, a symphony of ideas that has my spirit soaring high and far in the Universal Mind.

Yeah, yeah, I could get cool stories told to me beside the campfire, and I do, every peasant in a chai-shop has an interesting story, I just don’t feel to do the hippie thing anymore, but all power to those who seek it, they are rebels against the body-corporate and I love them for it. My most tribal activity is dancing to trance in Goa with all the jungle bunnies, the body moving to the compound rhythms, giving me Nirvana.

While spinning fast through the foot-hills Balu told me another cool story that had my hair prickling. He'd gone camping with the Rainbow tribe way up into the mountains and one dark night, when trekking with just two others, a big leopard approached them and was likely to pounce upon them, only Balu led his freaked companions away, walking backwards and shaking a sharp stick in the predator's face. He was considered a hero for this, hugged by all the hippies in thanks and cheered as a new member of the Rainbow Gathering. Their leader, Gabriel, must've been fooled as he made special dispensation for Balu, he was the only one allowed to drink alcohol in the camp. Maybe he recognised how nasty Balu could get if he was crossed and simply mollified him, hoping to guard his flock from the vengeful powers of a local.

(I was kidding myself, trying to be a nice guy, when I raved about how patient Indians could be; overcrowding and the pressures to get on top can cause Indians to finally snap, the outrageous murders and massive riots here proving the point. I still think many of the townspeople are very weary and wary of Balu's drunken antics. I made the mistake, after going to a wedding ceremony high in the mountains, of offering to buy Balu and gang a beer, like us Aussies are want to do. At the last minute they chose whiskey instead and proceeded to get filthy drunk, at my expense. Then Dr. Jeckyll turned into Mr. Hyde, I and my hotel manager were insulted till our ears burned, over nothing, an imaginary bug in our fruit salad. Balu barked at me like a dog and I roared back like a leopard. How oh how can a personality change so monstrously with just a few glasses of alcohol?)

Back to more utopian imagery, I think fondly of the young freaks at “childhood’s end” wandering the jungles of India, while world apocalypse threatens, oh that’s a life more interesting than getting drunk or carrying a briefcase around a dehumanising city! It so thrillingly takes me back to my youth when I wandered India in the Seventies, and that’s the breathtaking story I have to tell around the campfire.

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, November 20, 2011

In the Mad Square.

In the deep of the night a hideous, nerve-wracking siren wailed on and on as if warning of an immanent nuclear attack, it was just some arsehole’s car alarm, waking me to the ongoing existential horror of living at Northcott Housing Complex. As always I fear an apocalyptic ending of civilization and my flat is a bunker wherein I hide and await the downfall. As I write my version of “Remembrance of Things Past and Future” I hear brain-damaged lumpen proles stumble thru the grounds shouting incoherently about their quashed hopes, frustrated desires and lost loves, they may crash thru my door or clamber over my balcony at any moment and I stay awake past dawn in trepidation.

In the early morning Department of Human Services’ bureaucrats have gathered outside my door haranguing Cursula, my neighbor, about her fire-trap apartment, overloaded with her retarded trashy treasures, they tell her for the last time if she doesn’t clean out the dump she’ll be dumped herself, onto the street. She mumbled excuses then fled to her boyfriend’s flat to continue her hoarding there, and hasn’t been back to clean out a single garbage bag. She doesn’t seem to give a dam, her trash collection more precious than cheap rent, she ignores all entreaties even after they send Security guards to rip the lock from her door and threaten forcefully to empty her flat of the hoardings piled up to the ceiling. She rushed back in the nick of time, pleaded, cajoled and somehow bamboozled them and they marched off flummoxed, so much drama over a load of crap.

She left delicious silence in her wake, one small blessing as too much shrieking comes from the other end of the verandah, like it really is the end of the world, the gay couple fighting viciously like zombies over the carcass of a dead dog, and I pray fervently one will murder the other and then be sent off to gaol; the whole building would be thankful as everybody hates them, even fears them as they’re truly beastly.

Their alcohol-soaked arguments echo up and down the stairwell and all are made privy to their nasty secrets, one blaming the other of stealing from 90 year old Dolly who lives in the flat between us. They have harassed her for years in the guise of concerned and caring friends, elder-abuse as the raison d’etre to their meaningless lives. “Oh that old whore should be put in a nursing home, she’s nothing but a useless old cunt!” snarled Dravid, the walking-dead "gay undertaker." In reply, his thieving wife, with a brain the size of a walnut due to a life-long barbiturate-addiction, accused his dead-drunk husband of burning the cars of neighbours that he felt had crossed him, their mutual antipathy then turned up a notch, the caterwauling unbearable. Oh what terrible species Human Services saddles us with, all for low-rent, and where oh where is the escape hatch?

Nogod, the dreaded local pyromaniac was living in our midst, all my fears compounded. I now suspect the gay zombie was the  very source of Cursula’s blaze that engulfed her bedroom thru her open window and very nearly torched our whole apartment block. And there’s no one to go to for help, no one to demand justice of, for the gay pill-head goes often to the Front Office to befriend the gay manager, to gossip, machinate and bitch about us who do nothing but mind our own business quietly in our flats. But that’s the way of these neo-fascist times, the villains make a life of informing to the authorities, another sign of the end of days, bad people succeeding and watching with cruel smiles the meek getting dispossessed.

Still, 2011 wasn’t too bad a year for me. After a traumatic start, what with the alcoholic violence of New Years Eve and the sudden death of a friend, some wonderful experiences were yet to be had, within the fleeting but awesome moment, for all the horror of a corrupt world trying to break in. I guess another word for entropy would be corruption, and as entropy is built into the fabric of nature one just has to accept that all things will corrupt with time, but Life, with its creativity, has a way of countering it, lifting one up, for brief nirvhana moments.

And music and art explode with life and give it meaning and joy. I went to awesome concerts, Mahler’s 7th Symphony, Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp and most stunning of all, Gustav Holst’s “Planets” played by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with a movie screen above it depicting digital video from the Hubble telescope and fly-bys of the planets of our solar system with their astounding moons and rings, all really mind-blowing. And the exhibition of German expressionist painters from between the wars at the New South Wales Art Gallery, called “The Mad Square”, with works from my favourite artist, Otto Dix included, it all quite inspired me, to carry on with my own mad brushwork and scribbling, degenerate, hopeless and ignominious as I may be.

It’s hard to be an artist in these conservative state-sanctioned, fame-whore, media-witch hunt times. Satire, subversion and political critique are banished in favour of art that is more like wall-paper, matching the furniture of the middle-class living room or enhancing the emptiness of a corporate foyer without offending anybody, tracing photographs or copying and retouching other artists’ works all the fashion. My art, though censored and eventually destroyed, reflects the mad square I’m relegated to, yet holds off world entropy for me, gives me life, for a few brief infinite moments.

Yet, entropy wears me down, I think I’m getting madder and madder and constantly rail like a demented curmudgeon at the world. Old age seems an insult to the young, you’re looked through like a pane of glass, pushed out of the way, you’re ugly and taking up space, that old adage applies, “nobody wants you when you’re down and out”, it’s sung from every doorway. But I’m a warrior, I don’t take it meekly and thus, even in poverty and ignominy, I’ve had a great life, the swashbuckling life I dreamed of as a boy.

The best concert I attended this year was also at the Sydney Opera House, Nigel Westlake’s “Requiem for Eli”, where he shared his great loss at the death of his young son, with full orchestra, choir and harps and rock’n’roll bass drums and boy sopranos singing like angels, that took us down into the darkness and hopelessness of death and sorrow and then back up into the light of the sun, to life and optimism and love and courage. My depression lifted and I lost my fears, I can and will take on the world: being alive, still with brains, heart and guts, is everything. And so I run away again, to the wild, wild east, to tiger-jungles, mystic high mountains and the Arabian Sea where I will once more rub the magic lamp and set free the light of my very own genii.

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.