Before he went back to Auz to get the usual “Cone of Silence Treatment” that freaks get in that cringe-worthy, class-bound society, Arthur was determined to get the life of adventure he’d worked so hard to fulfill. He’d won 10,000 Francs at the Freakzone Trash Film competition and, being parsimonious from a life-time of poverty, knew it was enough to send him across Europe on his long-dreamed of “Pagan Vision Quest.”
Everyday he hung about the coffee houses, absolutely chuffed he could smoke, eat or drink a thousand and one varieties of marijuana and hashish, a version of a paradise for the Aussie herb-head. In one shop he heard a British tattoo artist brag about his talents and, thinking Amsterdam a world-famous hotspot for tatts, Artie proposed that the guy decorate his chest with a tiger. At first the braggart refused, suggesting Arthur was too much of a wimp, Artie having to beg then throw a temper tantrum, telling the Pom he should be proud to draw on his flesh as he was an award-winning artist himself. It had all been a con act, the Brit desperately needed a job and had suckered Arthur in completely. He set to with a vengeance, with no template of a tiger to go by but merely sketching in black, across Artie's right tit, the café’s cat that yawned upon a table-top.
|Fifi and Rudolph.|
On the train into Lille two French cops got on at the Belgian border and demanded to search him. As they frisked him he told them of his win in Lille and, on perusing his Australian passport, they became very friendly. On running his hands slowly up and down Artie’s legs, one of the cops felt the small packet of marijuana buds he had in his sock, not mentioning it. All the while they joked and commended him on his nation’s help in the 2nd World War and with a cryptic smile, wished him well and let him go on his way. Phew! He thanked all his guardian angels, his felled countrymen, indeed his own family, for blessing him and freeing up the road that lay ahead of him.
The last hallowed site on his Parisian pilgrimage list was the Cathedral of Notre Dame, site of his most favorite novel, Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback”, the alienated, freakish outsider whom Arthur soulfully identified with.
This edifice was built upon a central numinous site for the adoration of the Mother Goddess in Europe, going back into the mists of time. And deep under the main altar, in an archeological dig, they discovered a prehistoric stone tablet inscribed with the name “Cernunnos”, proving the place was sacred to the fertility cult of the Mother and her horned lover. He thus knelt at the statue to Mary, knowing the uptight Christians had replaced the cult with their own, that of the anti-sex virgin. He asked to have the lucid white light of creativity bestowed upon him, not procreative fecundity, for there were already too many people on the planet and he was, after all, Nature's answer to Earth's overcrowding, Homosexuals giving the species art instead.
He also said a prayer to the Goddess under the statue of St. Joan of Arc, asking for her strength and forthrightness and, while sitting on a wooden pew, soon fell into a meditative trance. After a timeless, tranquil eternity suddenly a bright white light exploded in his third eye, he melted into the light, was blissed out, it was actually happening, there in magical Notre Dame, the Nirvana of enlightenment, sweeping him away, light flash after light flash flooding through his entire being.
He opened his eyes only to find a crowd of Japanese tourists, cameras in hand, exploding multiple flash-bulbs in his face, totally irreverent, ignorant of the sacredness of the site, they just wanted their pics exposing the Cathedral’s innards to show to the folks back home. Arthur jumped up and hurried away, pissed off with the banality of his great mystic experience, such were the trammels of the pilgrim’s progress in the late twentieth century.
To save money he stretched out on the concrete dock to spend the night, ships hovering over him, adventures beyond the horizon promising, he could hardly sleep from the excitement. In the morning he rushed onto that ferry as if it were Sinbad the sailor’s vehicle to paradise and, as they cruised around the Island of Gibraltar, he did a merry jig upon the open deck for he was heading towards a childhood fantasy-land, he had to pinch himself, one more of his fondest dreams coming true. Passing the great Rock he thought of the last of the Neanderthals, chased there to make a last stand against an onslaught of intolerant, murderous Cromagnon humanity and there dying out, their lament of regret still lingering on the sea breeze.
When reading William Burroughs’ tales of Morocco he’d noticed mention of a hash candy called Majoun and he pleaded with Ali to find some for him. Ali searched the city high and low and eventually found an old widow who specialized in making the fabulous substance, the art of which had almost vanished. He delivered a small saucer of it to Artie who devoured a piece of it every night before sleep, tripping out into the cosmos, riding a flying horse, following laughing djiin, chasing mythic creatures from the 1001 Arabian Nights. In the daytime he visited ancient forts and smoked joints in dungeons where there were slave-chains still attached to the walls. He envisioned the sorrow of the slaves, black and white, sitting where they’d been imprisoned, him a blessed visitor from the future, a prince from a western democracy, rich for all his poverty, free, educated and smart.
With a sense of deliverance, he hurriedly put his clothes back on, praying the balls of hash would not fall out of his undies as he scrambled about. He was taken back to the chief of police who still seemed to be considering if he should send the stupid Aussie off to jail, even a few joints could cause the fool a lot of trouble and money. For some strange reason the Moroccan hottie took mercy on the dope, perhaps recognizing him as a pauper, with a wry smile telling him to hurry, grab his bags, the ferry was about to move off. Arthur thanked him for his consideration and ran for it, up the gang-plank, falling to his knees and kissing the deck, he was still free.
And he still had a small amount of the golden panacea to smoke on his journey all the way back to France, to quell his hunger, warm his flesh, soothe his aches. Jean-Jacques had promised to put him up for his last few days in Paris but on arriving at his front door discovered the Frenchman had gone away for the night, leaving Arthur at a loss for an easy, friendly bed. There was a small park nearby and he sat there into the night, finally lying down with his coat over him for a blanket. Street toughs milled about, French, Arab, Gyspy, they each came over and had a good look at him, appraising him for a possible soft-touch. Somehow they knew he was as poor and forlorn as they could ever be and they left him in peace, to sleep the cold away. He realized he probably would survive the streets of Europe with some panache, for he was a die-hard child of the Australian gutters, in his element no matter what slum he got washed up in.
He had arrived in time for the May Day festivities, which in Paris included a Gay Liberation Parade that was seven times more grand and ebullient than the one held in Sydney, winding its way through the entire labyrinth of that ancient pagan city. As he danced euphorically up the medieval streets, upon sites where Celtic Druids had worshiped the Goddess and her consort for thousands of years, not only universal fecundity ruled, the sheer exhilaration of sexual pleasure was celebrated, sex between homo sapiens that dissolved the boundaries between souls, hang-ups and worries forgotten, differences and misunderstandings resolved, the participants and the world united as one in a melting pot of orgasmic delirium. Or that’s how he wished it could be, what a pity he was ever the bumbling fool from the antipodes and not able to achieve a satisfactory liaison.