Monday, July 08, 2013

A Diary in Purgatory.

I was in my bathroom when I heard the most awful crunching noise crash-bang outside my window, as if someone had thrown a television-set from the roof. I went out my door to find a man lying skewed upon the concrete, blood pouring from his mouth, rasping breath as of one who is dying. People leaned from the balconies above yelling, “Call an ambulance, call an ambulance!” There was nothing I could do for the poor fellow, paramedics the experts in such cases.

My neighbors used the euphemism, “He fell, he fell.”  But I’d say he jumped. For this guy, Auz was not the wonderland of opportunity and a “fair-go”. Politicians might slap each other on the back, with cheesy smiles for the cameras, they’ve managed it all very nicely for themselves, big pensions and perks, while pretending they’re doing it all for our benefit. But there’s nothing to be done for this guy.

He appeared to be in his forties, in tramp’s clothing with a close-cropped hair-cut: the institutional look. His suffering so great, he couldn’t take it anymore, I suppose. It’s not the design of this monolithic building, Northcott, that’s the problem, it’s that the mentally ill and socially deprived have been dumped here without adequate support. In our world of class and celebrity there has to be (few) winners and (many) losers: winners are grinners, doesn’t matter the injustices they perpetrated to get them there. I went into shock, sat in the sunshine, listened to techno through my MP3, said a prayer for the outcast and felt my turmoil shrink in comparison.

The last few nights animals have come to me in my dreams, to comfort, inspire and guide me through this mysterious world called LIFE: furry mammals, a dog and a couple of cats, creatures that have been with us since the dawn of history, evolved with our consciousness, good company in the dark night of the soul. I’ve been extremely blue of late, existential entropy eating away at my edges and I needed their soft cuddles and gentle nuzzling to assure me I am not alone.

I know I’m not the only one who’s depressed, it’s a worldwide debilitation for modern humanity: wars, natural disasters, disease, atrocities, economic meltdowns, accidents, thefts and injustices, the list is endless; then there’s ones own personal failings to get one down, all of it too much. Lucky for me I’ve practiced meditation since my youth, I switch into it by default, relaxing my muscles, easing my breath, dissolving in the inner light, letting go of my tensions.

Still, when I snap out of it, I’ve got to admit it’s super fucked-up here in Australia, with so many being thrown on the dole queue. With much manufacturing closing down and sent offshore along with IT and financial services, and cheap labour brought in from overseas under 457 visas to replace Aussies here, there’s hardly any viable employment for anyone, except government bureaucrats. Oh yeah, the health industry is the only one with growth forecasts, to nurse the rest of us on our existential deathbeds. If you don’t have a lot of shares in the rip-off industries you won’t have a future, only one of extreme poverty, all because captains of finance and industry want profit above people: greed rules and is the only true religion.

One of the few careers with some promise, the arts, has an army of artists on the march, millions of them, every one of the serious young insects possibly famous for fifteen nano-seconds. (In twenty years 99.9% of them will be forgotten.) And the ruling fashion in the arts they’re all brandishing is blandness, say nothing about the world, for political reality will only scare the masses, the artist must lull the viewer with prettiness, minimalism, abstract meaninglessness, wallpaper, matching furniture, bullshit conceptualism; the arts in the main act as apologists, smoke-screens and distractions for the big fuck-over of the worker, the unemployed, the under-privileged, the planet. Everyone is desperate to take the money and run, “I’m alright Jack, screw everybody else,” hiding hard truths like environmental destruction and profit above all else.

I got extra depressed on reading how the new director of the Art Gallery of NSW paid millions for a piece of art that is so dreary as to defy all taste and rationale, a bad example of the famous and vacuous Pop artist of the ‘70s, Edward Ruscha, who in the main painted 'words'. And what was the word he’d painted at such great cost? “Gospel”!!! Satan is laughing his guts out. (Ruscha said it's one of his favorites but it looked like a left-over found at the back of his garage to me, maybe he's a world-class con-artist who's desperate for a lot of money in an expensive world, like all of us.) Not just boring art but religious drivel as well, the one word might as well have been “CRAP” or “Armageddon”!!! He's got a "NAME" and can do no wrong, even his arse-wipes will be worth millions, a case for saying the contemporary world is MAD, it's all about "bullion art", a place for the wealthy to stash their ill-gotten gains.

There was no going to tender or auction to find a true price, a secret deal was made, the artist even sharing the pain, lowering his price, what nonsense! Who’s to say the artist and curator didn’t come to some secret deal and split the money between them? These are desperate times, the ship of Auz is leaking, it could be sinking and it’s everyone to the lifeboats, fend for yourself, stash the millions any way you can so you and yours will survive. Since the deadheads' brouhaha over Jackson Pollock's “Blue Poles” nobody is allowed to question the art experts’ decisions, THEY know best. It’s “gospel” proof modern society and culture is bankrupt, high capitalism has fucked the whole planet over, the APOCALYPSE is nigh! Art is dead and I give up.

 I noticed Seal, Ricky Martin and Joel Madden, for all their jumping about and squealing of “lifetime mentorship", once their TV talent freak show, “The Voice”, had folded, couldn’t get on the plane quick enough and get off this prison island. They’d discovered Auz is not the paradise of surf, sun and sand but more like a police state where every move is under surveillance and dictatorship yells orders through public-address systems: no privacy, no medicinal pot smoking, no gay marriage, no funk at all, just being herded about like sheep. “Then why don’t you fuck off?” I hear you say. Sadly, I’m one of those Aussies who was born here, so were my parents, grandparents and great grandparents, and I don’t have two passports, only one, Australian, and I’m stuck here! Oh dear! Boo hoo hoo. (The boat people see Auz differently, the dole is preferable to starving amidst the destruction of war, and good luck to them.)

I’m especially sad as I just heard that Wendy Saddington has died; she was my age, a hero of my teenage years, a fabulous songstress who was so hip I quaked in nervous inferiority when I stood in her shadow. I met her in her old age at the Piccolo Café, she was a friend of Vitto’s; she never did get the artistic career she deserved, a heroin habit derailing her youthful promise, then a dedication to the Hare Krishnas for much of her life to get over it. Now it’s over for her, and I carry on, what a mystery life is, some die early, some live forever. I have no worries in comparison, fit, sharp, curious, gutsy, resigned. All I need is love, wisdom and compassion, and maybe there are still a few years left to me to search for and find such mythical wonders.

Wailing from my monk’s cell at Northcott Ghetto, I write my diary in purgatory. It has been gloriously quiet for a few months as my next door neighbor, Cursula, had fled to the bush to be with her mother and son, stick with her methadone regime and avoid the zombie boyfriend in Sydney, who encourages her egregious drug addiction and then beats her for her troubles. Now she’s back and on the drug (not so) merry-go-round again, in and out of her door at all hours of the night like a yo-yo, but I feel some consolation to have her near, she lends me a weird kind of companionship, somebody to yell at and get my blood pumping.

Northcott Ghetto

The unhappy gay couple who live down the other end of the verandah have been quiet ever since the cops told them they’d be in serious shit if they had one more of their vicious fights. And in the flat between us, a Russian has moved into Dolly’s and he’s rarely sighted. My dear old Dolly, the neighbor from heaven, is in a nursing home, slowly dying, no quick overnight demise for her, she’s so strong, after ninety-three years of struggle, bringing up her kids and grand-kids in that tiny apartment. I visited her last week, perched upon her institutional bed, lost amidst the horde of oldies biding their time in nogod’s waiting room, and though visibly shrinking, not sure where she was, I was pleased she recognized me, her eyes lit up, she was so happy I’d come to see her.

I’ll have to go see Vitto at the Pick-your-low Café to commiserate with him on Wendy Saddington’s death. She was a particular favorite of his and he’ll be moaning about his fate of outliving all his beloved spiritual daughters. The Café had opened again after being closed for a year, the family somehow paying off their debts but they’ve renovated the Hole in the Wall till there’s hardly any room to sit comfortably, one has to squeeze onto tiny boxes out the front, all of it to encourage us deadbeats not to hang around for too long I guess. I don’t patronize the place anymore. It’s not like the old days where we could hang all day, discussing politics, philosophy, art and pop culture while we smoked copious amounts of pot with the juke box blaring.

All gone, gone, gone, Kings Cross also changed, into a bullshitter’s “naughty but nice” zone, I rarely visit, nothing ever stands still, and not me either. I took my chance to escape from the Café on Desolation Row, for thirty-five years I’d gotten stuck there, basking in Vitto’s attention, but too many gronks knew my every move, like Big Brother watching, familiarity bred contempt. The door to the gilded cage was opened when the Café shut and like a songbird I flew away and, while I miss that Mecca for Misfits, that Curmudgeons’ Club, I’m satisfied soaring into the open sky, where new horizons beckon.

And after all my travels, physical and astral, I always land back in my nest, my bunker at Northcott Ghetto from which I watch the end of the world and write my History, my endless suicide note, twenty-one thousand pages long, if I ever get to the end of it, then IT WILL BE OVER.

 (Over in particular for Australia, I’ll leave my motherland to its own devices, the squalling and squabbling, the inequality and ignorance, the vacuous celebrity worship and kow-towing to authority, it will all blessedly fade-away and I will truly be free of this purgatory.)

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.