I took a break from the jumps and jitters of Sydney to go up the north coast and attend the Nimbin Mardi Grass Festival. I've been visiting this town for the last thirty years and am at home in its funky parallel universe, not an alien, not a cop, the local fairies and pixies take one glance at me and relax, another freak in the passing circus-parade. My friend, Channon, trannie extraordinaire and gay pioneer of this frontier wilderness, let me put a tent up in her backyard, close to the centre of town, so I was in the thick of things for the duration. Nimbin's psychedelic painted facade is fading, the back-to-nature trip winding down since the 1973 Aquarious Festival that rejuvenated the cow-cocky town, the alternative paradise of the Green One fading into the mists of time with half the world's the children still chasing after his hypnotic pipe music.
On the first day, Friday May 1st, a laconic old gonzo musician playing in the town's central park commented on the intense police presence and how it was trying to throw a wet blanket over events, but hippie ebullience will get on top and surf it through, high as a kite. He yelled loudly, "Fear and Loathing in Nimbin!" and the tidal wave of cops crashing upon the party sure made for a lot of contempt, yet in spite of it, the crowd had a thumping good time, they just didn't smoke in public, everybody split back to their tents, cars, vans and houses to choof up, get stoned, then venture out to the happenings. And all the body searches garnered the State few fines but cost a fortune in Pigs' overtime, most of the fines were for alcohol, the whole Police effort could've built a med clinic for drunks. The riot of disparate pot rebels remained patient, collectively outlawed we felt solidarity with each other, and universal compassion, for a few moments, the locals still strongly believing that love will conquer all. So I've dubbed the weekend, ""Fear and Loving in Nimbin."
The local Lismore paper, "The Northern Star", trumpeted a headline, "Nimbin: Smoke without Fire" as the Mardi Grass is supposed to be a protest and it somehow all got laid-back under a cloud of smoke, maybe a riot would've emphasised the displeasure of a whole section of the public at the draconian drug laws, but most of the crowd just wanted to get high, have fun, then crash with their lover, if they had one. Riots are the ultimate in group-orgasms and at the peak of excitement there nearly was one that threatened to engulf the whole tiny, tidy town, that doof dance that got too thrashing outside Daisy's Dress Shop. A few days in the local lock-up, what joy! No, we want to avoid that, we're trying to have a relaxed, euphoric break from the hard times in the cities and plains below. So very few pushed their luck.
When the few unwary tourists tried to light up in the middle of town and the ever-present cops would catch them, before a bust could happen a crowd would gather and shake with the tremors, and then some bright spark would throw handfulls of joints into the mob, pot raining down, every ganjha-thirsty punter diving and coming up with some sticks of the sacred herb, too many now carrying, hard to grab a hold of the shifting, disgruntled crowd, the cops would just give a Caution and rush away. The music pounded on, eyes collectively went red and looked into space, people made friends, tribes coalesced, and the Pigs bided their time, hungry for their seven cents worth of power against those infernal freaks.
At the Friday night opening ceremony, after the Koori mother welcomed us to Aboriginal Australian land, a rabble-rouser named Graham Duncan gave an articulate speech about "The Drug Wars", originating in America and forced upon Auz as a client state, THEY seem to find Ganjha particularly revolutionary and waste vast resources in its oppression. All pot tokers should not only protest but "RESIST" in any way possible. "Let's take a minute in silence to remember the casualties of this very real war... This very weekend there are people in gaol for drug busts that they should've been able to buy in the free market or on prescription from a chemist. Young men right now are being fucked up the arse in prison as a way of humiliating them, punishing and putting them in line with the other robotic citizens. This is the kind of System we have!" Very strong language, and the mob cheered and whistled, then smoked some more and blobbed out, that's half its use, to forget, to lay back and chill out.
And dig the music. Every nook and cranny had its resident band plonking away, reggae down in Peace park, Arabian Nights out the back of the Oasis Cafe, jazz out the front, techno/didgeridoo in the park, hard rock in the pub, pagan rock in the town hall, cosmic meditation music in the schoollyard with the dreadlocked hippies doing a slow snake dance to it, and for the climax late Saturday night a psychedelic rock band from Japan named "Tchambo" exploded in Peace Park, blowing the revellors away with their wall of guitar, samplers and drums, like Hendrix on mushroom-laced sushi, even tired, jaded, cranky old me got into some head-banging, the beat was so addictive.
Then I wandered up into the town to see what was happening, if the doof had reached some peak of jumping jungle-bunny exuberance and brought down the house. I arrived in the mainstreet just as the Police did their big raid, their classic flying wedge executed to crush all opposition, pig-cars, wagons and mounted police rampaging, dragging the wine-flasks, booze-bottles and spliffs out of the staggering crowd's avid embrace, punters and pigs were riled up, somehow the inebriation made protest hopeless, the mobs dispersed quickly, the town had only ghosts drifting through it when it should've been a throbbing dance-floor.
I tried to make my escape, I had a joint on me I was saving for bedtime and panicked when a squad of cops circled me. The were about to pounce and I shat my pants, I threw myself onto some bushes, dropping the spliff, and flailed about, the cops asking me what I was doing.
"Mate, I've had too much to drink, I can hardly stand up." "Oh, booze we undestand. You better go home to bed, mate." And off they scurried, to supress every music venue where the cognoscenti had gathered to enjoy, we don't call the Pigs the "Anti-fun Brigade" for nothing. I searched for an hour in the wet grass for my sequestered joint, an Aboriginal woman saw me and commented, "Lost your yaandi, mate?" like she had mental telepathy. "No, I'm having fun getting wet!" With great relief I finally found it and crept back to my tent, avoiding the cops on their horses clip-clopping back and forth like out of some old-time western frontier-town.
On Sunday the vast throng of alternatives, hippies, punks, surfers, skaters, suburban smokers all marched in protest and pot appreciation down to Peace Park where we got more rabble-rousing diatribes to "Resist". Madame Slash came past waving and blowing kisses on the roof of a limousine, grabbing some spotlight as ever, maybe with Chong inside behind the smoked glass, he was supposed to be guest of honour only he didn't show his face. At one point I was standing in a daze and felt something wet nibbling my neck. I looked behind and found a police horse standing over me, the female cop smiling, the horse trying to give me another kiss.
Gangs of Frenchies, Israelis, Germans, Japanese, Yankees, South Americans, Africans, Indians, Asians, Polynesians and Aboriginals tripped by, each in their national funk costume, all eager and ecstatic, Auz living up to its utopianist promise, in spite of the cops, they were used to such spoilsports back home. There were talks and demonstrations on everything to do with marihuana, medicinal, industrial, farming, fashion, too much information for this info junkie. And there were the usual competitons for best joint rolling, growing, dealing, bhong throwing, the winners with code names so the cops couldn't latch on. The Nimbin Museum amused me, hippie gothic, looked like Ed Gein's bedroom but with every grungy, feral tableau having a video installation on the minutiae of Pot, including footage of the day the Museum got busted.
But I couldn't take any more in, I was exhausted, the party was over, as Sunday night descended the town emptied out, only the dregs and droogs remained, determined to squeeze the last gram of joy from the freak-show. A siren went off at 10pm warning the trolls that the Festival's street permit had ended and they better scurry back to their caves.
My old girlfriend of thirty-years, Sylvia Nudey, had recently picked herself up a new boytoy after 21 months of sexual abstinence and when we marched down the street we looked like the Three Freakin' Mouseketeers. She fears she's a sex junky, which leads her into pot-bingeing and much dopiness, daftly straring at Fashion TV for hours on end.
Now her discipline has collapsed yet again, after 7 thousand therapies and councelling sessions, her new lover is profoundly deaf and dumb, with facial tattoos and a mohawk haircut, he'd put a band of purple make-up across his eyes then wear purple mirror glasses on top of it, he looked WILD. We spent the whole weekend making crazy sign-language that none of us understood, I think his disability has driven him mad, every now and then he would punch the wall or burst into weeping, yet he's very smart, reading every sign about him to figure out what's going on. After much waving of hands and fingers which we misinterpreted he wrote furiously on bits of paper what seemed to be garbled nonsense but often contained figures added up with dollar signs next to them and we realised he'd been asking us for money most of the time.
We got an emergency call that required out attention in Lismore so we drove quickly down the magic highway, under the Nimbin Rocks, only to be pulled over, as every car was, by the police to breath test the driver for "alcohol". "No, plonk is not a problem with us. We don't drink. No, we've taken no illicit drugs over the weekend." "Thankyou and drive safely." We rush back to the countryside city of Lismore, its square grid lay-out had me walking in circles, nothing to see. I'm flat and happy, soon to go back to Sydney for a rest from the fear and loving of numb-bum Nimbin.