Saturday, May 10, 2014

Nimbin Rocks Eternal.

With civil wars and economic depressions raging across the planet it was a joy to head out of the hustle of Sydney up to the town of Nimbin for their Mardi Grass ganjha protest rally and festival where peace, love and getting high were the ruling ethos. Never mind that, for a city boy like myself, going into the wilds of the Aussie countryside can be like a “Wake In Fright” movie: road kill, drunken buggery, kangaroo-shooting, beer swilling mate-ship will wear you down mighty fast if you’ve not got your wits about you.

I was with the guitarist from my performance act, The Deadbeats. We got off the bus in Lismore after dark, the town had shut down, the streets ghostly silent, empty except for the schizos wandering barefoot, wrapped in ragged blankets, staring like aliens from Mars at me as if I was from Venus; schizo town at night but in the bright day-light full of farmers, shop-keepers, govt. service personnel, hippies, junkies, Kooris, cripples pushed in wheel-chairs and blind people tap tap tapping with their white canes.

We made the mistake of getting a lift with Sylvia the wood nymph’s latest boyfriend, Dan, an ICE addict who’d promised us he’d dried out but who in fact had had a shot that morning and drove like a maniac escaping from a psyche ward so that we feared for our lives. Just as a storm broke over our heads, the cops stopped us at a roadblock halfway to Nimbin and breathalized our driver, his eyes spinning with angst. They were determined to fuck the ganjha festival and bust as many potheads as possible before the fun could even begin, announcing to our shock that Dan had tested for an illegal substance, was under arrest and had to come into the Pig-van for a second test.

The rain pelted down as Paul and I shat our pants, he had pot on him, we were stuck in the middle of nowhere and the cops could strip us naked if they felt mean enough. They took forever to test Dan, us wondering how in Hell we were going to escape from this quandary. A cop suddenly pulled the driver’s door open and jumped into the car, we kept cool, non-committal, no trembling or giving unwanted hysterical information; the cop looked into my eyes and seemed abashed, as if he were thinking, “Oh oohhh, an elder statesman of Freakdom, I better be cool in return.” He quickly drove the car across the road, parked it and jumped out, leaving us smiling vacantly.

Dan eventually rushed into his car and yelled, “The test was inconclusive, but they’ve taken my license and I’ve got to leave the car here. Fuck ‘em, I’m getting out of here!” As the cops looked on, he tried to turn the keys in the ignition and I envisioned a car-chase with us careening around country bends, cops wailing on our ass, crashing through barriers and into hapless local yokels, all very exciting for Bonnie and Clyde types but for cosmic Toby One Kenobi a disastrous smash-em-up derby. Paul and I shrieked our disapproval and leaped from the car, dragging our baggage from the back and encouraging a wild-eyed Dan to “Chill!”

He seemed mollified for a few minutes but when we turned our backs to bitch with another hitch-hiker whose driver had also been busted, Dan had sneaked back to his car and shot off into the wild blue yonder without anyone, us or the cops, noticing. I rang Sylvia and she came out to rescue us; we drove into Nimbin, past the prehistoric five sacred rocks, with sighs of relief, for we’d survived and made it safely to the festival, as if our guardian animals were looking after us, and we blew a joint in celebration, to calm our jangled spirits.

From then on Nimbin rocked, the festival a three day extravaganza of fun, freaks and frolics that made me so happy I’d gone to all the trouble to be there, though the organizers insist it’s actually a protest rally against the unjust, mean, downright stupid laws criminalizing marijuana use. There were many discussions on the politics of the fascistic “war on drugs”, the most infuriating being the strictures against the medical use, for example as a tincture for the cure of diseases such as cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, a local therapist getting arrested and jailed for his efforts in helping sick people; THEY dare to respond with, “Maijuana is dangerous for the terminally ill!”.

We still got plenty of thugs in Auz!
 About 7000 pot-heads marched up and down the main street of Nimbin shouting “Change the Law!” and “Free the Weed!” while a posse of uniformed cops looked on grumpy, with the sweet tang of ganjha drifting like mango lassi up the street and tantalizing the hungry crowd. One of my favorite pastimes, sitting by a camp-fire listening to soft guitar and folk-singing while sharing a joint, would be rudely interrupted when a pig, dressed like a surfer gronk hippie, would materialize from the crowd and grab the poor soul who happened to have the joint in his mouth. (It being such a small amount he would get off with a warning so there was no point in us getting all riled up and rioting.)

Ganjha freaks from around the world gather at this May Day Rally, camping in the show-grounds, munching up the delicious international cuisine on offer, attending the lectures and protests, and rocking to the musicians that grooved from seven separate venues, rock, pop, folk, reggae, rap and trance, it was a blast, I sure got off, music to soothe the dispossessed, disgruntled soul. The wildest were the drummers, led by a Japanese contingent, who had the whole town jumping at night on the main street like jungle bunnies boogying with egoless abandon.

Nimbin is a successful attempt at counter-culture, half the buildings in the town are owned by the hippie communes so that transient freaks have finally had a place to call their own and put down roots to establish long-term their philosophies and lifestyles. It’s not just a junkie lay-about town, many of the communard hippies work very hard for drug reform, environmental protection, alternative practices in education, health and communal sharing. At the time of the Ganjha protest there was also a protest camp at Bentley 20 kms away, supported by the Nimbin community, to stop a big power corporation, Metgasco, from fracking, pouring chemical poisons into the land to release gas, thus threatening the water-table and surrounding environment.

Of course, down on the communal farm, there’s many a bitch-fight over space, ideology, sex, drugs and loud rock’n’roll, not everyone can be pleased, I myself couldn’t handle the endless committees and regulation manuals, those who don’t fit simply move on or live by themselves. I think Nimbinites try hard to be true communards, peaceniks and “Mother Earthers” and it beats the war mongers and money grubbers tearing the planet to bits and stripping the skin from one’s own back. Over the three day festival with 7000 pot-heads there was not one incident of violence whereas with far fewer gronks on alcohol over the previous weeks there had been much bloodletting in the town. (The Hotels Association are one of the major lobbyists against marijuana legalization, for if you’re stoned you don’t feel like getting drunk.)

Again, repeat, I had a great time, especially at events like the skate-board comp and the Hemp Olympics, bhong throwing, growers iron-person race and joint rolling. One girl in the creative joint-rolling comp, Zebberdi, was told she was breaking the rules by bringing to the stage a previously prepared artwork to which she was going to attach her joint. She flipped out and refused to acknowledge the rules, abusing the judges, screaming “Fuck you!” at the booing crowd, I felt sorry for her as I know what it’s like to have a lynch-mob howling for one’s  eviction, (as happened to me at that horrid Melbourne Comedy Festival a few years ago.)

On the last night we sat around a camp-fire listening to guitar music, an old koori man sang Aboriginal folk-songs that brought tears to me eyes, it was real Aussie music and made me euphoric that I had been born in this ancient land. One of the coolest things about Nimbin is that it’s one of the few places I’ve found where the Aboriginals are respected and live hand in hand with the white community, Hippies over the moon for Dreamtime culture.

When things grew silent at the camp-fire I attempted to talk philosophy to my fellow freaks but they stared vacuously into the flames, stoned and uninterested, maybe just plain pooped from all the fun. I felt stranger-danger still ruled the milieu, same as the big city, each cut off from the other and alone, simply hoping to survive the modern turmoil, somehow, and stay high doing it. If one lived on the communes or out at the fracking protest camp things would be different but I was just an old itinerant wandering through and couldn’t expect too much warmth.

Too soon the weekend was over and it was back to the frontier town of Lismore where the wars raged on, right in front of me a brawl broke out between two mobs of Koori women, they punched and rolled on the ground screaming, “Cock-suckers, go back to Grafton!” The white-man keeps the land and the Aboriginals down with alcohol, poverty and apartheid, reducing the blacks to fighting amongst themselves instead of the System. I could handle the hill-billy streets no longer and decided the cruel anonymous city of Sydney was a jungle I knew how to swing through with greater aptitude, like Tarzan in board shorts, and so I got back on the 6.30 train to Nowhere.

I’d have to wait another year till I could come back and enjoy the madness, frivolity and political astuteness of Nimbin; as an old man I’d simply have to stay alive. The Nimbin rocks would always be there for me I prayed, for they were eternal, and I prayed the freak community was also.

 P.S. I just read in the Yellow Press that a young man, dying with bowel cancer in the country town of Tamworth is being given marijuana therapy by his very straight parents as it relieves his pain, nausea and lack of appetite, giving him a new lease on life. This action is supported by the town's sympathetic top cop and a petition has 26000 signatures to legalize pot for medicinal use, so maybe there's hope on the horizon that such rational and humane legislation may come about here in the penal land of Auz.

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.