Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Place in the Rain.

Back to the future in 2011, it's raining and I'm hiding out in my apartment, snug and safe, surfing the WWW, watching hot docos, reading mind-blowing books, listening to techno and the music of the rain. When I was young and a Dharma Bum sleeping by the side of the road I dreamed of a restful haven somewhere in the future, no disturbance, all mod cons taken care of, the space to study, cogitate, contemplate. And here I am in Northcott Housing Ghetto, most nights it's silent like a tomb, the drone of traffic blocked by the surrounding buildings. But as Chaos would have it, occasional bursts of violence erupt, screaming, smashing, burning, as if it's the end of the world.

At 2am, my neighbor Cursula has left her front door open, I hear a kind of explosion from her kitchen, a huge thump, a scream, moaning, groaning, objects clattering about, then what sounds like lots of logs carried in and out her door, much nasal bitching as accompaniment. Scraping, banging, whining, thumping, on and on for about an hour, then as answer to my prayers she closed her door and the noise abated. The next day I asked, "What the fuck happened last night?" "Oh, Rick, you know, my other good-looking boyfriend, was stoned to the gills and he nodded off while he was mixing a huge pot of creamed rice on the stove. He almost fell into it, and upended the fucking thing all over himself and all my junk in the kitchen... and I had to carry it all out and clean it!" "Great! Nodding off into cream-rice... I dread to think what next!"

After all the fighting between their triumvirate, Cursula calling the cops on both boyfriends, Bawl and Rick, all of them in court for affray, thousands of dollars spent on lawyers and Bawl getting himself a criminal record and finding it hard to get a job, tells me when I meet him, "I hate her guts, she has ruined my life!" Next I see him and her on the street, they're arm in arm smiling, she's sneaking him into her flat for a good fuck while the third member Rick lurked by the windows hoping to catch them at it and I quaked all night waiting for the schizo storm to break. But Rick's learned his lesson, one more complaint and he's off to jail.

Old Dolly brought me a bowl of hot pea-soup and toast, it's cold out there and I'm alone. She told me Dravid, the gay under-taker down the other end of the block, has drunkenly abused her again: because his husband is Dolly's carer, he swears she's coming between the two of them. She wouldn't bother to distract the silly poofs, she's got her loving family, good friends and fond memories to fill her days. He planted a tree by her window and when she stated that it would block her sunshine of a morning and she wanted it pulled up and planted elsewhere, he told her he'd throw it thru her window if she tried it; Dolly being a ninety year old grandmother... my blood boiled, if I did anything to him he'd take it out on her later, he's a real dick, so I just have to observe and make sure he doesn't go too far in the harassment. My aberrant heart skipped a beat, I longed for a break from Northcott and Sydney, and hit the road, to wander the north coast of N.S.W. for awhile.

I arrived off the bus to Lismore in the rain and walked to Sylvia’s house a couple of blocks away. She’s got cable and I got a quick education from her addiction to reality TV, “Salon Do Over”, “America’s Next Top Model”, “Designer Catwalk” (sic) and “Hoarders”, all of which she wet-dreams about being the star of. She’d definitely crack it in “Hoarders”, her spooky house is full of boxes of second hand clothes, they also hang from the walls in heaps, piled in the doorways, thousands on racks under the house, you trip on clothes in the alley way and the last of the ragged detritus clings to bushes in her front and back garden as if a tsunami has swept thru.

Mold has blossomed somewhere and spores drifted through the air while she nattered on and on about organic health foods, filtered water and 1001 psycho-spiritual therapies. I felt like I was turning into garden mulch, I couldn’t move amidst the rags, I slept with the window open so I could breathe while a cold rain battered the house. She’d kicked her ganjha habit again and was much more amenable, no hysterics; anyway she'd just cried her guts out at a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA - read 'sluts') group and had gotten her endless grief off her chest for awhile. She was hospitable and level-headed, we got on good, no cat-fights, we’ve been friends too long and hopefully over the nasty hassling.

She introduced me to her latest boyfriend, a 40 year old local father of two who she’d met at a N.A. group, he’s trying to recover from an ICE addiction, just got out of rehab, had robbed her once of $900 which she’d squawked about furiously for the next 7 months till he finally bit the bullet and paid her back, such is his lust for her. She described him to me as ugly beautiful who dressed in style, I met an ugly ugly guy with beady eyes behind coke-bottle glasses who dressed in stubby shorts and thongs and who pulled his T-shirt up and exposed his pot belly when he sat down. But he had a quirky character and made me laugh a lot with his gallows humor. They called each other “Mummy” and fondled a lot, her in one of her 7000 harem jump-suits with her tits hanging out.

Sylvia’s an enraptured wood nymph, another who can’t be loved enough, she goes to every counseling, therapy, spirit quest, life-improvement meeting she can, driving to Byron Bay if she has to, she’s like the girl in “Fight Club”, attending testicular-cancer counseling because she's got balls, not suicidal, more histrionic klepto-sexual. She believes in every spiritual gimmick and buys it, the latest being a small plastic disc that stops micro-waves from a cell-phone interfering with the body’s aura; she’s a sucker for conspiracy theories, stocked up on food for the “2KY” crisis; the world’s economic system is about to collapse so she withdrew all her money from the bank and has it hidden under a pile of clothes somewhere in her house; and she adamantly believes the world will end in 2012 according to the Mayan calendar, no matter how much I tried to tell her IT was irrational paranoia.) Everything I do or say is not only because I’m a Libra, I’m also an Ox in the Chinese calendar and on top of that I’m a monkey in the Mayan world-view. I couldn’t help but take the piss every time she wheeled them out, “What am I under the Aussie white-trash tribe, a cat?”

Sylvia's an heiress and spends a fortune on dresses and therapies but otherwise is as tight as Methuselah, every drop of water is counted: I wasn’t allowed to use the toilet’s flush, I had to use a bucket of old dirty water from the bath-tub and throw it down the bog, and only allowed a shower every second day. All of this was wearing me down, I knew my days there were limited. One day I will devote a whole story to her, one of the 7 women who have been there in my life, half the time as torturers; I first met her in 1978 when she was eighteen in a Punk Pub at Central Railway Station, I was showing Super 8 films and she told me she was a groupie for filmmakers. 

When we went to a party after the pub, an old lady answered the door and timidly told us gang of nasty punks there was no party in her house. In reply Sylvia threw a beer bottle through her front window. She is the tightest bitch I've ever met, for all her inherited money, always sneaking into every gig, through the back door or side-window. And forever bargaining with St.Vincents and the Salvation Army for their second-hand clothes, nogod help any old granny getting between her and 7dollars worth of rags. She didn't  mind throwing thousands at her fucked up boyfriends though. She lived at Pyrmont Squats with me in the 'Eighties, putting the roof back on a house after the council tore it off, and always up for a good grapple at a Punk rock gig. We have had many adventures from Sydney to Nimbin, chasing rock’n’roll and dance, she’s quite a rogue, a pain in the ass and an hilariously good time.

After downpours washed the weekend celebrations away the sun broke out on Sunday and we went off to Nimbin Village for the XIX Mardi Grass festival, the boyfriend driving; we got stopped at a road block and he got breathalized and mouth swabbed but like a good N.A. guy he wasn’t drinking, smoking or drugging though I was afraid he’d have warrants as a long-time ICE crim and there would be a scene.

Sylvia shot her mouth off in ditzy hippie good-vibes how he’d recently given up his drug addiction to which the cop got grim and scrambled for his equipment. After stalling us for 10 minutes Mummy got his license returned and we were on our way, telling Sylvia to keep her mouth shut in front of cops. We shot up into the hills and round the bends to Nimbin town, where a crowd lined the main street in eagerness for the big parade that was about to happen. Mummy stopped the car in the middle of town as if we were a major float, ready to go, at the head of the parade. A long line of traffic banked up behind us, like sheep, not daring to swerve around us; hippie marshals begged us to move on but Mummy ignored them saying, “King Toby is here to see the Mardi Grass, all must make way for him!” The traffic grew more raucous, a hippie girl mouthed the word, “Fuckwits!” at us, a marshal waved a baton so we zoomed off.

I jumped out the car and told them I’d meet them later, I needed to search for my lost bag. We’d gone to Nimbin on the previous Friday night, but it had rained such a deluge my dreams of camping went soggy, and after crouching on a verandah out of the rain I’d forgotten my bag when I’d gone off for organic do-nuts and lost the dam thing. A jolly fat guy had been sitting nearby and I hoped he’d found the bag and if I searched the town I’d meet him again on this sunny Sunday afternoon during the big parade. The ensuing procession of hippies in costumes was uplifting fun, beating drums, covered in mock marihuana leaves, dancing like pagans, they looked like tribes of circus freaks from Freakzone Central, trying at a brave new world, perhaps pissing in the wind. There seemed to be genuine joy and protest in the air, like it was a renaissance of alternative lifestyles and non-conformism and I longed to join in.

Great music wafted from every shop, garden, hall and tent, and good international food was to be feasted upon in the market, I had a cool time and so did the crowd, more people came this year and really got into the protest march; the cops came in hundreds but didn't get ugly for once, told to lay off the heavy-handedness, too much money flooded into the town for them to fuck it. But they took photos and videos of the crowd none-the-less, and singled out who they thought might be the ringleaders, The State is a jealous god and does not like even the tiniest of protest or critique and bides Its time to crush dissent bit by bit in daily living under Their thugs’ eyes. (My future harrowing story, "The Big Fuckover", is a good example of the State waiting like a hungry crocodile for its victim.)

A cold night set in, I thought Sylvia had abandoned me in that stranger-danger town, I walked the circuit three times and got desperate, stoned hippies lurked in the shadows, their joyous faces turned grim, vampirish, the party was over, I dreaded sleeping on the streets with no one to care about an old gronk like me. I met some old friends from 20 years ago, a guy I’d resuscitated from a drug overdose, I shared my one joint with him to celebrate Mayday and the Mardi Grass protest; the other a woman I met I’d had a fight with a few years previously when she'd drunkenly abused me, Kate Pidgeon, she'd tried to punch me out but I kept out of her reach. She thankfully had forgotten the stoush, a thousand harder times had intervened since. We talked hesitant and shy for15 minutes, she’d been sleeping in a tent for 3 months, as long as I’ve known her she’s couch-surfed and never had a home of her own, and she tells me life is miserable, but that’s what comes of being a terrible alcoholic I suppose. I couldn't help her, I felt even more fucked up, she looked sad when I split.

I ran off suddenly for I saw the fat guy and indeed he had my bag but it was in his van 3kms out of town. We walked into the shadows and I saw every serial killer movie flash through my mind, the lonely traveler in his van on all the back-roads of Australia, picking up hitchhikers and murdering them, his van full of body-parts. He went into his truck and I envisaged him returning with a shot-gun: way out of town no hippie would hear the shot or give a shit.

But he returned with my bag, he’d gone to a lot of trouble for me, he was a real sweet guy and I felt a fool. When I discovered my sandwich and apple-turnover missing from the bag I realized fatty had got his reward anyway. I got back to Sylvia’s car and found her in a hysterical melt-down, she’d got a $200 parking fine and was spewing, blaming the boyfriend for parking stupidly and snarling how he’d have to pay for it. Stony silence ruled on the long drive back to Lismore, we rushed to see a hot Russian movie, “How I Ended This Summer.” And I promised to split the fine with her which mollified her greatly.

Next day I escaped to Byron Bay and sat on it's glorious beach dreaming upon Mount Warning in the distance, smiling at the surfers, basking in the funky atmosphere as I sipped my coffee, Byron sure is pleasant on a sunny day. As it’s my hobby to explore the cinemas of every town I go to, I went to their funky light-show, zebra-skinned deck-chair flicks at the Pig-house to see a shocker called “The Mechanic”, non-stop violence that shot my brains out, afterwards I had to again walk in the rain, half-lost, not sure of my room for that night, the town deserted, another version of Hell if I got stuck there. The Pigs followed me for awhile in their white Maria van and I stumbled through the strange cold streets, thankfully finding my guest-house and refuge for the night.

My mate Peter had been asking me to stay with him down the coast at North Haven so l jumped on a train and the guy sitting next to me got all friendly, telling me I shouldn't be sucked into the myth that Nimbin was some alternative lifestyle paradise, the communes were bogged down with litigation over the ownership of land and trees, the town was littered with brain-dead drug addicts and there was a cluster of birth defects in the area from the farms' fertilizer run-offs. He also convinced me there had been studies done on the long-term abuse of Marihuana, it caused brain damage, mental illness and emotional infantilism. I agreed that it could fuck you if you were predisposed to mental problems and was thankful I'd given it up for the most part. He then went on to argue that the 2001 Twin Tower attack was a conspiracy, America had done it to herself so as to be able to go to war in the middle-east. This he couldn't convince me of, especially his assertion that Satan was alive and running the world, actually behind globalism and The New World Order. He turned out to be a rabid Catholic which really wiped out any consideration of his theories for me, he was a conspiracy nutter.

Somewhat befuddled I left the train at Kendal to stay at Peter's 5 Star cottage on the beach and had a swell time for a few days, fishing in the day, cable TV at night, and the local cinema on Friday night: it looked one hundred years old, real old-fashioned with red velvet curtains, gilt edges and marble Greek statuary, I was in heaven, dam good movie too, “In a Better World”. Again it rained down here in this hidden harbor with its "Big Brother" magical Mountain hovering over us, and I was deliciously comfy and spoiled, for a few ephemeral days.

Then Sydney called me back and on the drive I thought of the New World Order, the vast prisons erected to quash dissent and civil disobedience, where there's no place a citizen is safe from the Elite's greed to devour the whole planet for their egregious privileges, it gets me stressed thinking about the world deluged with injustices. Eventually I crashed back at my pad under Northcott, the next night walking thru the rain to Paddington Town Hall to have dinner with Charles and see the Jim Carey movie, “I Love You Phillip Morris”. Late in the night, the rain making the pavements mirror-slick , as we were leaving I espied a group of people sleeping on the verandah of the Town hall, many of them, huddled under blankets, filling the entire space, their meager belongings in bags around them.

I shuddered, in my old age I dread being thrown on the streets, for all that I’ve lived and survived in the gutter I’m not too keen to go back there. Yeah, I’m tired of the horror and tedium of Northcott where I’m kind of trapped in a gilded cage, but I can sleep dry there, compute, delve into my science-fiction world, quiet and informed, it’s a place in the rain, when it comes pouring down.

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.