Thursday, July 11, 2013

38) Squatting Down on Pyrmont Point.

Arthur was desperate for a new home as Darlinghurst squats were descending into a wasteland of crumbling walls, barricaded yards, rotting furniture and belligerent, outcast humans. The economics, the crime, the history of the area tore the place asunder; unable to withstand the horde of low-lifes and druggies drifting down from Kings Cross, the squats resembled a battlefield of sniping, medieval fiefdoms. 

For awhile he hung around a huge squatted terrace-house  on Victoria Street, Kings Cross, which a group of Greenies were trying to save. With sewerage running down the staircase the dump was imploding into a black hole that could’ve been called Trash-central due to the depredations of hordes of down and out, alcoholic nihilists that shat in every corner. Arthur couldn’t live there, it was too tumble-down ratbag collective for his taste, he at least needed a functioning toilet.

A friend told him of a new block of squats opening up down on Pyrmont Point, right under the city’s futuristic glass towers, beyond Darling Harbour, long before it became the tourist mecca of today with its nightclubs and restaurants, Conference Center, Aquarium, Maritime Museum, and Star Casino. To get there he had to cross the Pyrmont Bridge and tramp across disused docks and rail-yards, wary of getting his feet stuck in the rusty rails. He took for himself the last house that was up for grabs; nobody could live there, the roof was unrepairable, the windows broken, walls cracked, and premises haunted. It fronted the block of squats on Scott Street like the gatehouse of a fortress under siege, these squats a true war-zone, his battles in Darlinghurst just minor skirmishes in comparison.

His new abode was a quaint cottage with ten small houses squeezed in around it, with a separate line of terraces standing on top of a cliff across the road. A rag-tag crew of anarchists, artists and misfits had taken over the buildings and were living their merry outlaw lives in squalid splendor, having repaired most of the faults and made it pioneer-comfortable. The peculiar cottages had housed generations of port-workers for a hundred years till modern times hit, the docks became mechanized and the retrenched workers given Council jobs, mowing lawns and picking up rubbish. They were moved from the cottages to social-realist heaven up on the hill, a block of dreary flats called Wayside Terrace. The City Council owned all the structures, squats included and, being a dithering bunch of flaky bureaucrats, for years were in a quandary over what to do about the accursed squatters.

The old-world workers’ cottages had been left to rot for twenty years though they had great heritage value, being the last of their kind in the city. Arthur’s cottage was particularly picturesque, to the point of being immortalized by a famous Australian artist, Sali Herman, in a painting from 1949, (the year of Arthur's birth), one of his classic street-scapes with Arthur’s cute house as centerpiece, ghost standing nearby and all. Another famous painter, John Santry, also spent much of his childhood in Scott Street, and a contemporary, Jane Bennet paints the suburb relentlessly, brilliantly, it's as if the area was made for artists.

By John Santry.
Arthur took over the lease as the ghost of Scott Street and he teamed up with a fearless gang of scandal-mongers who were determined to improve the lot of their dispossessed state plus save the houses by living in them. Arthur loved architecture, design and habitat, wove it into his schemata for a dreamed-up benign world, pleased by the aesthetics of wrought-iron terraces and tin-roofed brick shacks, chimney and pot jutting up phallic-like on the roof. He was willing to undergo a long struggle to preserve this, the last remnant of Australian colonial housing in the area, and he stuck to his cottage for the next twelve hard years like a hermit-crab to its shell.

No matter how many times Arthur patched his roof with tar and tin, the rain always poured in; on stormy nights the wall in his kitchen became a waterfall, like the fa├žade of the Victorian State Art Gallery, and everything got damp and moldy. Still, the tiny living room had an open fireplace which he slept next to, and a spare room which he turned into a studio, where he produced a tidal wave of drawings. He made of it a cozy Bohemian bachelor’s pad even though the ceiling was caving in and all the windows had to be boarded up against an angry world.

What abetted his tenaciousness at clinging to this fairytale abode was the community of ratbag pranksters and party animals he found himself living with. They were a supportive, fun bunch of try-hards living in the squats as a collective community of individuals with no rules, only tolerance and cooperation. They managed to fix the plumbing, connect wires to the electricity grid, patch the walls and roofs, glass the windows and grow vegetables in the collective garden. Most of the time they co-operated willingly to enjoy a functioning communal kitchen, laundry, shower-house and lounge-room; they threw the wildest parties with rock bands in the common rooms and barbeques in the joint backyard, and were always up for some outrageous stunt to be perpetrated upon an unwitting city.

Whilst Arthur was the only gay in the entire area, his abilities as a bent artist and rambunctious activist got him accepted and encouraged and he was able to come and go with his outlaw lovers without any restrictions, half the reason he thrived in such a ‘no-go zone’. The core libertarians that hung in there at Pyrmont for the full duration inspired and amused a world weary Arthur and he was happy to settle down somewhere, no matter how decrepit, with a gang that appreciated him, like the Wild Bunch in their “Hole-in-the-wall” hideaway.

Having to overcome umpteen traumas, eventually Arthur forgot many of the personalities who passed through Pyrmont Squats but certain characters imprinted firmly upon his delirious mind. There was Graham, an intelligent, free thinking printer by trade who delighted in running his own press called “Panic Merchants”. Assisted by his good mate Steve Tanner, he printed pamphlets, posters, diaries, manifestos and calendars, often encouraging Arthur to contribute the cover illustration or a page of cartoon diatribes. Their most favorite stunt was printing-up exact replicas of concert tickets for the big acts that hit town, like David Blowie, and handing them out at all the pubs to confound the money-hungry promoters, with mobs of fans squawking in the aisles of the arenas because their seats had been taken by loud-mouthed scumbags waving counterfeit tickets.

Another situationist stunt they pulled off that had Arthur giggling in demonic glee was in support of squatting unused buildings for public housing. They draped one of their bombed out cars with sloganeering banners, drove it onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge, parked it across two lanes, then abandoned it, escaping in an accompanying car, all much to the ire of the city fathers as traffic was held up for hours, with crowds squawking in near riot. Such events became highlights of Arthur’s non-career as an artist, he’d like to call them “performance art installations” but the wankers who run the art world would only shit in their pants in response.

Then there was a character the opposite of those creative situationists, Dingaling Ching, who got himself a bad heroin habit and robbed every bank in town, closing down half the CBD in the chase for him. Only when he robbed the local Pyrmont Post Office did he rile up one of the squatters enough to evict him. Big, lumbering Kerry, with hole-in-the-heart inadequacy, took it upon himself to play executioner and crack poor little Ching over the head several times with the blunt end of a billiard cue to get him to piss off. Ching was so drug-fucked he just kept taking the whacks on the head, going “Whaaaaa… what hit me?” Crack, crack, crack went the cue stick over the little runt’s noggin, Kerry’s attempt at being a rough and tumble guy was silly considering he really did have a hole in his heart. Eventually Arthur had to go over and put a stop to it, the gushing blood over Ching’s uncomprehending, mouse-like face too painful to behold.

Constable Kerry was too tough for his own ugg-boots as he then picked on an epileptic teenage punk, throttling him for his unruly behavior and putting a knife to his throat. The boy went and got his much bigger skinhead mate, Paul, to even the score; like a tall ugly Lurch in bother-boots he grabbed a hold of cumbersome Kerry outside Arthur’s squat and knocked his teeth out for his trouble. Arthur listened to the bloody come-uppance while he sat on the toilet, he figured Kerry was learning the hard way not to throw his weight around and act the tough guy which he wasn’t. Kerry was a much more mellow person from then on, curbing his bossiness, only trying to help others.

Next door to Arthur lived Floral, who seriously believed her house was also haunted and performed pagan rituals to exorcise the ghosts, dancing around in the backyard wearing an outlandish mask and chanting mumbo-jumbo. She had been celibate for years, declaring all men impossible to deal with, and eventually she went on to become a lesbian, as the women she met just weren’t as mean as most blokes who crossed her path. On the other side of Arthur, barricaded in his lair, was Dunkan, a scungy, crackpot recluse who filled his squat with broken machines of all descriptions which he was eternally laboring to piece together into a funky “time-travel” device, with cables snaking up to the ceiling and wires hanging from a metal cap on his head. He buried himself under all the junk and was a lousy neighbor, never socializing, rarely seen, terribly unco-operative. Arthur’s electricity cable had to be run from Dunkan’s board and the mad scientist often cut off the supply in a fit of paranoid pique and Arthur would have to rattle the nutter’s doors and threaten murder till he turned the lights back on.

In its hey day, seriously soul-damaged pariahs found a sanctuary in the tumbledown backrooms of the squats, like the punked-out dyke couple, Fanny the fat old junkie frump who worked as a hooker on the Cross to support her pretty, young teenage girlfriend Sally, who lay about her seedy squat room drinking seven flagons of cheap wine a day and eventually dying young from a combination of alcohol and drugs.

And he could never forget the nasty Sylvia Saliva, bane of her East European parents who ran a cafe in the city and made her slave as a waitress throughout her childhood, turning her into a vicious, anti-social, nymphomaniac Punkette who had it in for everyone in the restaurant trade, being embarrassingly rude to the waiters every time they went out for dinner. A permanent cast member of Arthur’s lifelong dirt-opera, she had followed him from the Grand Hotel near Central railway station, punk-band mecca, to the squats and chose to live in the one house the Council had tried to make uninhabitable by tearing the corrugated-tin roof off. She simply got up there, in the nude, and hammered the roof back on again, luscious mango breasts swinging freely, and no official dared come near to stop her.

Pyrmont squats became a globally notorious, happening no-place for devious dereliction, word had spread and deadbeat drifters from around the world passed through and stayed awhile. A gang of Hungarian refugees took over the two-storied house on the corner of Harris and Scott Streets, imbibing every drug available in the free-world but particularly enamored of glue-sniffing, parking a huge jar of the noxious poison in the middle of their decrepit living room and over the months sucking up gallons of the shit till their brains got stuck together and no clear thought could make it through.

An army of Kiwis marched through the squats, all looking for the big money to be made on the Aussie mainland but many getting waylaid by drug-habits. Then there were the scam-artist British wastrels looking for any quick buck, like Joey, one of those guys who stand shouting enticements through an amplifier outside two-dollar stores, harassing the passing crowd with a stream of “buy buy buy” invective, he was also known to be punch-drunk and picked on the bouncers at nightclubs and then get pulverized. He’d run drugs over borders, sell fools' gold chains and live off his women, whatever it took to get on top of the heap. A few times he picked on Arthur in a drunken furor, giving sick Cockney lip till Artie would lose his cool and easily beat the drunk up, like punching a rag doll; in their last fight Arthur used his old trick and threw Joey on the sharp stakes that held up plants in the garden, he got pierced by barbs like St.Anthony and was very wary of bothering Arthur again.

A gorgeous girl Arthur long remembered fondly was Barbie, the German backpacker punk, a lot of fun to be with, bright and vivacious, another who worked as a prostitute on Kings Cross; she had to pay for her Australian sojourn somehow as she couldn’t get the dole. He found her one night shivering under a cold shower, her black-lace top and leather pants sodden wet, her eye-liner running in black streams down her face and mingling with her tears as she wailed miserably about the horrors of fucking whole football teams of redneck Aussies, a part of Australian culture she didn’t bargain for on her fabulous tour down under; she couldn’t wait to earn her escape back to Europe.

And there was one dapper character dubbed British Charles who passed through, impeccably dressed, even walked with a cane, engaging raconteur and intellectual highbrow, he had a mysterious power over women, they flocked to his mesmerizing presence, as if he were a renowned tantric sex master and could do magic things with the female libido. He lived at the squats with two beautiful women who adored him, competing for his affections. He retreated to London with one of them, Lisa, who got to nurse him, still a young man, as he slowly died from Hodgkinson’s Disease and barely left a ripple upon the planet.

When Artie mentions any of these souls, it’s in hope that their memory will live on. Drugs shortened many lives, bringing on cancers early so that they didn’t reach fifty, such as Tim Elliot who died young in a nursing home and Mickey who died of bowel cancer. Then there were the smart ones who are still thriving like kind-hearted Johnny Muller, a friend forever; Karrie Lanstrom, cool artist; Rosy and Mathew Elliot; Chris Florian; Merren and her son; Esther and her son; Debbie and her kids. And he felt compassion for those who struggled, red-haired Janet who gave birth to a 'smack' baby, its thin, pathetic wails heard all over the squats; Davood the collage artist, slowly dying, last seen hobbling through Kings Cross with a walker, very jaundiced: so many to ponder fondly, the Eighties gone, with all its rock’n’roll.

Arthur could feel uptight with some of them, like Jasmin Pring, a slant-eyed, dough-faced redhead, a dissolute heroin addict with a yearning for artistic greatness. She was certainly talented, her drawings quite decorative, still she blew it all away by getting stoned out of her mind and melting into a puddle in her squat up on the hill. She often teamed up with Arthur in his art projects, she was an amusing gossip-monger and he enjoyed her company, overlooking her slacker's befuddlement, arguing with his fellow squatters who disliked her as she was a dealer as well as drug-addled. 

She went on to open up a shop in Newtown where she sold second-hand goods, taking much of Arthur’s precious memorabilia and flogging it but not paying Arthur anything, even when he wrote to her from overseas telling her he was starving and needed recompense badly. Because of this he never spoke to her again and she died at the age of fifty-five of an overdose of heroin, found dead in her bed atop a pile of used needles, hundreds of them, her last years totally spent in soul-obliteration. It was a ghastly end, she had a sweet soul in there somewhere; competitive contemporary life defeated Jasmin like many another fragile mind who got washed up at the squats; smack was the anesthetic, it fucked her and Arthur wasn’t going to act the moral judge, as a sexual outlaw he didn’t want to be judged himself and he mostly felt sorry for her. He considered her story a morality tale to warn off other wannabe “William Burroughs” acolytes, for junkies broke his heart many times.

The subject of “junk” really made Arthur wince, it was one of his biggest bugbears. While there was a steady crew of hardy geniuses thriving for years amid the wreckage, the Pyrmont squats, like many another hotbed of free-living anarchists, were a no-man’s land of lawless self-gratification with a continuous stream of drifters, wastrels, dilettantes and tourists passing through. Most of the squatters were poly-drug users, any kind of pill left lying about would soon get gobbled up, booze was also drunk by the barrel, and marijuana smoked like the Pyrmont Power Station chimneys. Pot was Arthur’s particular joy, the pauper’s herbal panacea, very popular as it could be grown in the backyard or bought at only thirty dollars an ounce. On most nights there was a ribald piss-up unraveling in the common rooms, home-brewing one of the fine arts perfected in the squats, and a cloud of pot-smoke added to the general derangement.

This freewheeling milieu also dabbled in recreational heroin-tasting, anathema to Arthur as he knew it was the seed for ongoing calamities, always. Junkies flocked to squats; no rent allowed them to have more money to spend on drugs, and then live in filth and degradation with the excuse, “Oh, it’s just a squat, I can shit on the floor, there’s no landlord to hassle me.” That was his sour opinion of junkies, he reviled them.

Dopesters will fight tooth and nail for a free berth, never contributing, just taking and plundering at will. Of all the manifold forces that attacked, undermined and battered the Pyrmont Squats in the fourteen years of its existence, the junkies were the worst, the most devious and cretinous, evincing the slimiest of sycophancy to worm their way into the Utopianists’ good graces. Failing vampiric niceness, they would quickly turn to backstabbing trickery and violence, anything to get the free accommodation that would allow them to afford that extra hit of 'horse' to top the dead of night off with. Within months they’d sink the squats into a black, scummy hole of fear, misery, hatred and emptiness, beyond the nihilist’s void, death peaceful in comparison.

By Sali Herman.
Variations on the drug-crazed ‘family take-over’ occurred several times over the years and the halcyon cruise of the contributing libertarians nearly dashed upon the rocks if it weren’t for their constant endeavor at weeding out the nastiest malefactors and banishing them to the suburbs. They tried not to play at policeman but there were times when the rape, pillage and degradation got out of control and the few fuckwits had to be jettisoned for the health of the whole community. It would all start by a friend of a friend insinuating their way into some naive oaf’s living room for a few days respite. They would shoot up on the sly and their overnight stay would turn into months of settled spread, “After all, it’s a squat,” they mumbled, “and we’re squatting it.” It wouldn’t be long before they would bring their good friend, another junkie, to move in, then another friend and another friend and soon the house was their’s, with seven dead-eyed Omega People spread helter-skelter across two rooms.

After awhile they’d eye the house next door, get bullshit friendly with the inhabitants and slowly creep, like mould, into any niche they found vacant. If no one stood up to them, they quickly took half the squats and nothing was safe from their acquisitive mitts. Arthur lost everything he owned seven times over, his speed-bikes, cameras, movie projector, type-writer, sound-systems, clothes; paying rent would’ve been cheaper and calmer. But then he wouldn’t have had the crazy community to contend with, each day bringing a new thrill. Sometimes it came to threats traded between gangs, like who had more muscle and the will to spill blood. Junkies, being infamous weaklings, no matter what Goliath they conned into spearheading their attack, they would cave in like paper-tigers if shown any tough resistance, skulking away to their fungoid beds to back-stab another day. They were pathetically easy to beat up, not so easy to brush off.

Arthur always made it obvious with these sentiments that he had a virtual pathological antipathy to hard drug abuse, it was a knee-jerk reaction, he couldn’t help himself, a kind of defense mechanism. He’d been surrounded by the lure of junk since his teens and had to radiate a hot white light around him to ward off the menace, and no force or justification could break through it. He never took heroin, sold it, shared it, or encouraged it, in fact he nagged, lectured, inveigled and proselytized against it, much to the annoyance of some of his fellow squatters, who thought he was a wowser, up himself. Some of his wayward lovers became junkies and when he found out he would attempt to talk them out of it and if they persisted he would drop them, he was prejudiced, he had no patience for anyone "on the nod".

But for all this, he knew the desperate acts, the degradation of their humanity, the squalor, disease and early deaths, all the terrors brought down on the heads of the squatters by smack hysteria, were in the main the result of the fascistic “War On Drugs” promoted by the authorities: police, politicians, priests, prosecutors, pub lobbyists, all of whose drug of choice, alcohol, ruled and did far greater damage to society. Arthur believed and fought for the right of the individual to choose his/her own means of inebriation, safe, cheap and free. If people wanted smack, give it to them, let them get it from a chemist or dope shop and take it safely in a shooting gallery.

Many years later, when he’d left the squats far behind, he met one of the Pyrmont junkie women on the street and out of politenes tried to say, “Hello” , but she screwed her haggard face up at him and hissed in revulsion, as if he were the devil, "Fuck off!" He’d never done anything to her, never given or taken the drug with her that had ruined her life, never done anything to her but help provide the free housing she took advantage of for years. He definitely thanked nogod he hadn’t blown his life out his arse like she’d done.

In the twelve years he spent at the squats, Arthur never moved house once, no matter how ruinous his abode became or how gloriously comfortable the house on offer was. He mostly minded his own business and all Hell would break loose from next door before he would move his arse to bother interfering. He loved his own little ‘Grimm's fairy-tale’ cottage dearly, it became part of him, like a shell with him poking his head out the door, looking more and more like a snapping turtle. He was chuffed at being an artist thriving inside a brilliant artist’s painting, that of Sully Herman, it fit into his mystic’s jigsaw puzzle, fantasizing to himself that all art history was connected and interwoven, with himself in the middle. He couldn’t be bothered playing at squatter’s Monopoly, shifting people about as if he were a slum landlord, parceling out the choicest lands for the nearest and dearest like colonial squatters of yore.

Junkie clans were prone to playing at Squatter Monopoly, as also were the middle-class interlopers trying to save money to put down a deposit on a house in the suburbs by working and squatting free in the city. These cheapskate entrepreneurs and upwardly mobile careerists would come in when all was functioning smoothly, peacefully, creatively, and try to take-over and push their agendas. They would set up house like lords reclaiming the manor and soon everything had to be so-so and nicey-nicey and operate the way they were comfortable with. They would attempt to iron the funk out of the place, like it was a condo estate for the noveau rich in Kirribilli and everything was theirs by right. A few actually dared to rent out the houses or sell the squatting rights when they moved on, regardless of the ten years of hard slog the core anarchists had put in to keep the joint in existence and functioning freely.

Take for example the battle of Rosie, Tim and Mathew versus Sandy, Quentin and Paul. When Sandy, refugee from New Zealand, moved into the house behind Arthur with her son and boyfriend she was at first sycophantic, blank-eyed nice and they all got on swimmingly. After some months it became obvious sweet Sandy was the wickedest of heroin addicts who also sold the crap and encouraged anyone who came her way to get into it. More of her friends arrived and soon they had taken two houses with smacked out zombies stumbling about the communal backyard. She then decided she wanted the comfort of the next house along, which was half of a small block, the other half occupied by lovely Rosie and her ineffectual boyfriends, Tim and Mathew.

Rosie was a good middle-class girl from Melbourne studying science at Sydney University, Tim was her old-time boyfriend, wanabe movie-script writer, half-dead from gluten-allergies, who now looked on helplessly while she had a torrid affair with a young student she’d brought back from the Uni, Mathew. They knew if Sandy and the junkies got in next door they’d be robbed of everything they owned and their house would fall soon after. Arthur felt he was good friends with Rosy and her science students, they had much in common with wonderful deep arguments on the philosophy and practice of science. They were the ones to put Arthur onto William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” in 1985, only two years after he first got published, which was very smart of them and a mind-blower for sci-fi mad Arthur.

When visiting her in her kitchen, Rosie pleaded to Arthur, “You’ve got to help us, Sandy’s sent her drug-fucked thug Paul over, he’s hanging around outside with his mates and they’re looking very threatening. We can’t let them take the house! Oh what are we to do?”
“I’ll go get my friends and we’ll stop them, they’re not brave enough to take on guys as tough them, they can only stand over wimps like your boyfriends.”
Arthur went and got a mob of his mates from the rest of the squats, mostly the nutty brothers from the Crabtree family. They confronted the junkie brigade out the front of Rosie’s house,
“You can’t move in here. Rosie and Tim get to say who they’re gonna share the premises with and they don’t approve of you. You’ve already got two houses, be satisfied, stay there!”
Arthur was scared of these junkie thugs, he’d seen the damage Paul could do the night he knocked Kerry’s teeth out. But he liked Rosie and her mates very much, he was willing to risk life and limb for her, even to spill his precious brains. He always was a well-meaning fool.


Sandy’s posse of thugs glowered and made fists, Arthur and co picked up weapons, iron bars, and made ready for the challenge, it was going to be a nasty brawl. The brutes saw that Arthur and gang were serious, willing to draw blood, get down dirty, they’d heard of previous brawls the brothers had gotten involved in, they didn’t like Sandy that much, fuck it, they were out of there. Sandy and her zombies pulled their heads in and kept to her old rotten shack and life at Rosie’s returned to a placid suburban normalcy.

The science nuts partied on, the discussions lively and passionate, Arthur carping, “Curse cars, they’ve ruined the world, designed the cities, ruled the economics, caused the oil wars and global warming. I hate ‘em. I kick every car that tries to run me down!”
“But Arthur, that’s stupid. Cars ARE. They exist, you can’t change history, the world is run for cars. Kicking cars is a waste of time. What we need are electric cars, they could plug into the household system.”
Arthur kept bitching, “And the fucking uranium industry sucks. There’s no way that Aussie yellow-cake won’t eventually find its way into nuclear weapons.”
“There are international safe-guards to cover every ounce of uranium sold. The nuclear industry could be part of the solution to global warming. Coal-fired plants are terribly polluting and nuclear reactors don’t give off much heat or pollution,” opined a didactic Rosie.
“Yes, but what about the wastes, where do we store them? And the risk of accidents and the police-state needed to protect the whole shebang? Big Brother will have to take over, Orwell’s dystopia come true in all its ugliness.”
“Talking about science-fiction, have you read “The Serphant’s Egg”? It’s a knock-out story about life on a neutron star, you’ll love it Arthur.”

Arthur was furious at their scientific positivism, they were part of some other “Brave New World” that had no room for outsiders like him, they argued a lot on these issues, yet mostly they all got on joyously, drinking, smoking, yak-yakking. Then one sorry night a young man died of a pathedeine drug overdose in the squats on the ridge above Scott Street.           
“It’s just so terrible. He had his whole life ahead of him. What a waste! It makes me sad,” lamented Arthur while having a glass of wine at Rosie’s house. Rosie’s looked up and like a flat-affect lab-coated technician intoned,
“He was asking for it, just a brain-dead weakling. It was not in that guy’s DNA to survive. Pass the pickles.”

Arthur was mighty pissed off with this cold social-Darwinism, he resented her middle-class upbringing that had her surviving the squatted wilderness in comfort, above it all, to flee back to mum and dad’s mansion when needed, without really having to fight for a leg up in life. Months drifted by and Steve and his Skinhead gang intruded, and after many depredations Arthur wanted them gone and begged Rosie and her boyfriends to join up with him and his friends to help evict them.
“Oh no, they’re none of our business. Steve’s always been nice to me, they’ve never done anything to us. We’re fine at the back here, no problems,” apologised Rosy.
“Wow! No problems for you and your harem, you selfish bitch. We risked blood and guts for your house but you’re not interested in us proles when we’re being murdered! Fuck you, ya upwardly-mobile slut with your two male whores!” He then threw a flagon of wine upon the wall to smash into glass smithereens just above Tim’s wimpy head, the poor guy shat his pants and Arthur was not welcome at Rosie’s house from then on.

Not long after he was given sheets of tin by Kerry to fix his leaking roof but they were stored in Rosie’s backyard and she refused to give it to him, being uptight and resentful. He rushed to her shed and whipped the tin off the roof into her face, she came at him with her wimpy boyfriends to try to stop him; one sheet of tin was about two metres long and he waved it about like a sword, keeping them at arms length, threatening to slice their heads off if they came too close, all the while vomiting upon the crestfallen woman sexist, pornographic insults, knowing how it would fray her genteel sensibilities. He had a terrible temper, possibly being undiagnosed bi-polar, certainly sleep deprived and squat stressed; middle-class robopaths don’t want to understand such excuses, it’s unforgivable that their comfortable boats got rocked, they hated him forever.

She and Mathew went on to become scientists and the last Arthur heard of them they were working in the Australian desert doing a study on frogs, hoping to save them from extinction, all very worthy. He would liked to have apologized to Rosie for his flip-outs, maybe explain his dysfunctional upbringing, but she was gone, gone, gone, onto her grand career, university degree achieved, never to be heard from again. And he had the phantoms of Pyrmont to contend with, to exorcise, almost on his lonesome.

The Pyrmont Squats went up against all manner of marauding, self-interest groups, next to the junkies the most noxious being the owners of the property, the Sydney City Council. They were prepared to see the cottages disintegrate while they waited for Pyrmont land values to skyrocket, turning the area into an upper-class enclave. But the squatters’ raucous defense put their collective nose out of joint and stirred them to attempts at eviction, all in the name of progress. Every few months, eviction notices were attached to doors with much officialese and then duly ignored by the transgressing tenants. Then the police were sent in to intimidate by gruffly stomping about and make threatening noises, these also weathered and ignored as if they were just more angry wraiths swirling about and passing on. Twice yearly the Bigwigs announced grand schemes for the redevelopment of Pyrmont Point, showing up outside the squats in stretched limousines and setting up a press conference with rent-a-crowd Wayside Terrace inmates as gawking hangers-on. 

Up on the hill they hastily constructed an elaborate balsa-wood model upon a trestle table depicting townhouses arranged like Babylonian ziggurats that sloped down to a garden-edged harbor. Fat-cats in suits made grandiloquent speeches about the wonders of private enterprise in the housing sector and the futuristic wonderland for living that Sydney was to become in the new millenium. In front of the TV cameras, one squatter, Jane Birdy, had the temerity to march up to their precious model and put her fist right through it, causing it to cave in on itself while the bureaucrats squalled like cats on heat as they looked on helplessly.

That same TV crew then trooped down to Arthur’s squat, pulled the boarding from the front window and stuck their camera into the living room while Arthur and a mate were trying to peacefully blow a joint by the fireplace. He screamed abuse and threw trash at them before quickly covering up his window again, quite ruffled that his domicile had been exposed before the public’s glare, grumbling, “Is nothing sacred to you, you Media whores?”

Beloved Justin
Years spun by and the Council got several court orders served, in the face of which the squatters had themselves legally certified as a ‘self-help’ housing co-operative. They had to fight a long bitchy battle in the courts and on the streets to maintain the cottages and run the squats as a try-hard artists’ commune. Everyone who lived there was an artist at something, a genius of a chef, a mechanic, a builder, a printer, a home-brewer, a gizmo-inventor, a mad cartoonist. Arthur used the dole and free rent to pay for his deluded artistic efforts and took great pleasure in pasting his scurrilous posters all over the place, side-stepping the art gallery snobs and using the walls of the entire city as his exhibition space, hoping to be noticed and remembered. He posted the town with a scathing, “I accuse…” cartoon of the Lord Mayor stuffing his piggy face, huge buttocks enveloping the MLC building while eating an expensive breakfast from off the Center-point Tower. Arthur got an especial thrill sticking it to the front doors of Sydney Town Hall, like the mythical Luther gone cyberpunk.

The next Lord Mayor came on strong, Dug Botherland, a Labour Party stalwart who held raucous meetings in community halls to see if he couldn’t rouse up the Pyrmont locals into moving the squatters on legitimately. Arthur heckled him with accusations of being caught with his hand in the till, which had actually happened, the fatty finally losing his seat of power. Arthur did a scathing poster on him too, calling him Captain Insatiable, stuffing his fat face with houses, and he posted it around the city. Fatso and the Labourites never forgave him, getting their revenge a few years later.

In the meantime assaults from sub-cult factions carried on as the disorder of the day, like when a biker gang of two-tonne Polynesians got rotten drunk and crashed in the Hungarians’ loft and then couldn’t be dislodged, every attempt at rousing their comatose bulks met with gnashing teeth and ham-fisted swipes. After much fearful consultation Arthur was delegated to be the brave fool to approach them, he snuck up the stairs and threw a bucket of cold water over the biggest of the lugs snoring in the midst of the sleeping hulks, then he ran for it and stood back on the stairs to watch the action. The giant Samoan bounced up roaring and sputtering, trampling upon his fellows, stirring them all to a dither so that they stumbled about knocking into each other and careering off the walls, bashing at their fellows in blame, finally to tear off on their motor-bikes to search out other holes to occupy and more nefarious enemies to fight, leaving the squatters to sigh in relief. For all their two-tonne Tessy terror, they had been easier than the weedy junkies to drive out.

The Pyrmont Squats carried on, year after year, facing wave after wave of assaults from various zombie armies marching out of the city with a weird glint in their eyes. An annoying plague that got up Arthur’s nose were the filmmakers who all wanted the colorful squats as sets for their great masterpieces. Real-life sleazy squats for movies about junkies and crims like “Monkey Grope” and “Dead Sleazey”; quaint squats for period pieces like “The Wild Dick” and “Up the Waterfront”; apocalyptic squats for futurist schlock like “Pink Desire” and Japanese pop-star video clips. The trains of movie trucks shunting into the street never ended as famous directors lined up, their smiling production designers at their elbow, hoping to get a foot in the door.

Arthur came home one night to find the celebrated film director, Roy Lovewrench, standing in his living room eyeballing the dilapidation as a possible set for his much heralded new movie, “Piss”. Arthur couldn’t resist going against the grain and he abused the great man with rancorous cursing for trespassing upon the hallowed ground of his squat. The stunned chap popped his eyes and blubbered on about how it was all for the good of “the Movie”, like he was talking about God, his production assistant nodding and smiling robot-like in confirmation. Arthur, all hoity-toity, replied that his squat had already been used in umpteen bad films and thus was old hat, of no use to such a grand director and he could “fuck off!” The poor fellow’s jaw dropped as probably everybody else was trying to crawl up his bum to get a shot at celluloid immortality.

Lovewrench ran over to Darlinghurst and used the squat of a friend of Arthur’s for his dumb, award-winning film, the scene where the junkie heroine hits rock bottom and is found languishing in a manky squat. Again the cosmic jokester teased Arthur’s artistic delusions with magical connections, reinforcing his hopes of becoming a “recognized artist”. For the punk wall mural proclaiming “Darling It Hurtz!” that the movie panned across as entrance to the turgid squat-scene was dreamed up and painted by the horrid Arthur himself. He’d slaved over it some years before, risking his life atop a ladder to paint a giant cartoon of a prostitute lying in the middle of traffic with a needle in her arm and a green alien monster called ‘Godzdollar’ leaping upon her back. It was his dedication to the rigors of surviving Darlinghurst and much of Sydney’s traffic had to drive past it and spot the shocking image, and it looked good in the movie too.

The film crews always left a trashy mess in their wake and sometimes had the nerve to tap into the squats electricity then avoid paying for it. It came to pass that the squatters got savvy and demanded location fees or they would disrupt the precious shooting schedule. On yet another disturbing morning, Arthur awoke to the “clatter, clatter, munch, munch” of someone having lunch under his bedroom window. He rushed out in sleep-deprived wrath, his hair on end and mouthing foul expletives at the intruders, only to find perched at a picnic table Australia’s Academy Award winning cinematographer, Bean Assembler, and television mini-series Maestro, Kon Camera, slurping over their caviar and baked beans, mouths dripping in bemusement that a nobody fringe-dweller should dare to intrude upon them so rudely. They were shooting “The Whores of Christ” and, long having fantasized about being in big-budget movies, this was as close as Arthur was going to get, so he might as well have a star part. He cursed them like a temperamental primadonna and hoped they would never forget him.

Arthur had painted a giant wall mural upon the extensive front-wall of Pyrmont Squats depicting dolphins morphing into humans and influencing human evolution and history. This imagery particularly excited rock video makers and fashion advertisers to pose their products in front of and Arthur regularly had to run about screaming instant death, dragging sheets of corrugated-iron out to cover up his precious painting and scare off his would be plagiarists. Eventually the mural got painted over and destroyed so as to stop the teams of video dickheads from showing up and creating a disturbance outside the squats night and day. The only benefit he got out of the ongoing media melee was the perverse thrill from making his own garage movies about the pompous idiots fabricating film masterpieces in this Z-list wasteland. He caught Luv Olman outside his squat on his Super Eight camera, international movie-icon from all those Bergman films, pacing about in a temper in her Victorian costume. She was on location shooting “The Wild Dick”, the squats standing in for old-style European cottages and when she noticed Artie filming her she demanded that he be cleared off her set. He was pissed off at her nerve and from then on claimed proudly that she was the lead star in his Super 8 extravaganzas when he showed his punk films in the grunge-music clubs of the inner city.

The Pigs, in general, were another ongoing pestilential force to be reckoned with, turning up in the middle of the night or early morning on any pretext, sniffing for darstardly drugs or simply on public nuisance patrol. Arthur had once woken up to a gruff, fat old Sergeant of Police standing upon his mattress where he was sleeping on the floor, demanding he get up and get in line. Right under Sergeant Porky’s nose Arthur was able to nudge his pot stash lying beside his bed with his foot until it was under a dirty pair of undies, an object the old pig wouldn’t deign to touch. 

When scouring around with his beady eyes Porky spotted a plastic doll’s head Arthur kept amongst his movie props and, being a perfect replica of a baby’s head, the stupid cop took it for the real thing and rushed over screaming in horror to check it out. Realizing on closer inspection that it was only a plastic doll’s head, he roared with frustration and in a temper-tantrum kicked it hard as if it were a soccer ball, making it bounce about the room forlornly, finally coming to rest with the wide blue plastic eyes staring at the cop accusingly. On another police raid, as Arthur watched with intense gratification, the squat’s main dog, a big German Shepherd which hated anything in uniform, rushed up and viciously bit the same mean-faced Police Sergeant on the arse. The fat gronk howled with grievous pain and rushed in ignominy to the safety of his Pig-van, shaking his fist from the window and vowing revenge. The dog had to be hidden in a distant suburb for a few weeks until the Pigs got sick of combing no-man’s land looking for it.

On another occasion, late at night, with only Arthur’s light shining in the gloom and him sitting peacefully by the fire drawing his cartoons, a female Pig banged on the front door repeatedly until he was forced to answer it. She growled, “Do you know anything about the dead girl on the nature strip outside your door?”
Arthur gasped, “I wouldn’t have a clue, lots of strangers come and go around here. Most of the houses in the area are full of deviants. Why don’t you go ask them?”
“The girl only looks about eighteen, razor-cut hennaed hair, short red-tartan minnie skirt, torn leather jacket. She looks like she’s had an overdose of drugs. You must know something?”

To Arthur it sounded like the victim was a punked out, gullible teenage groupie, given drugs by the skinheads who had sprung up in the squats recently like poisonous toadstools, then abandoned by the charming bastards like a sack of trash in the gutter. Arthur again declared, “I don’t know any redhead girl in ripped-up punk gear. I’m really sorry about it but I don’t mix with such riff-raff. I lead a sober, respectable life, I keep to myself, I’m a serious artist, believe me.”
The blonde, pony-tailed cop could only reply with a prim smirk and a glum shrug, her eyes glazed over and she retreated back into the night. Nothing more was heard of the matter, junkie teenage suicides being run of the mill and common in the inner city, especially squats.

Arthur would himself admit on telling these tales that it would seem as if he was bragging about being a street-fighting hooligan hero going from one bash-up to another, winning wars and medals, but for most of his twelve years residence it was peaceful enough for him to create many artworks, like posters, films, even a large mural on the wall of the squats that faced the world, and he had enormous fun at the parties and situationist public performances put on by the “Panic Merchants.” Yet he would also agree that squats were a lawless no-man’s land, chaos ruled, turbulence occasionally erupted, the waves of probability had to be surfed so as to stay alive, with full faculties, to achieve great things, which all takes guts, and by getting on top of Pyrmont squats Arthur got himself a doctorate in gutsy survival.

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.