Wednesday, June 04, 2014

57) The Pagan's European Vision Quest.

Before he went back to Auz to get the usual “Cone of Silence Treatment” that freaks get in that cringe-worthy, class-bound society, Arthur was determined to get the life of adventure he’d worked so hard to fulfill. He’d won 10,000 Francs at the Freakzone Trash Film competition and, being parsimonious from a life-time of poverty, knew it was enough to send him across Europe on his long-dreamed of “Pagan Vision Quest.”

He’d already had a fire inside his head ignited at the incandescent ‘doof’ gig in Lille’s Aeroneuf entertainment hangar and that launched him on his way across the continent, like a Guy Fawkes rocket. First stop was the fabled city of Amsterdam, mecca for incorrigible potheads. Freakzone said they’d put the prize money in his bank account and he thought he had enough cash in his pocket to last until it cleared. He didn’t count on the scumbaggery of Australia’s Commonwealth Bank.

He jumped on the fast train and arrived late at night, still fatigued from the excitement of the Freakzone Festival. This didn’t stop him from heading straight to the nearest ganjha café and smacking his lips at the varied menu of THC available. He chose the new hybrid “White Widow” to shake his tension loose, only it was too heady for him and he passed out at the table, just another dumb tourist for the waiters to move on out when they shut up shop. For the next few days he visited all the grand sites, the canals, prostitutes sitting in their windows, Van Gogh museum, gay pubs and pot café after pot cafe, getting so stoned his brain went into meltdown and he didn’t know if he was in Heaven or Hell. All the time his money was dwindling, his hotel alone taking huge hunks of it; he went twenty-one times a day to the ATM: nothing, nothing, nothing, the Commonwealth was hanging onto it.

He found what he hoped was a refuge, it had a huge sign over the door, “Gay Club”, maybe there would be succor for him inside. He sat at the bar and ordered an expensive drink and within three minutes a very handsome rough-trade Moroccan guy sat next to him, flirting and asking him about his life. Arthur told him about winning Freakzone and confessed his Aussie naivite at being first time in big bad Europe. The Moroccan told Arthur he was available for a price, a very high price, which struck Arthur dumb with confusion, “What the fuck is going on?” The guy then went behind a swinging door and as the door swung back and forth, Arthur saw him talking to another young man, this one dressed in military fatigues, hoping to look tough but not succeeding, swishing his wrists about, he gave himself away, Arthur labeling him “Tinkerbell” in his mind. The Moroccan came back and whispered earnestly in Arthur’s ear.

“I just realized I have another engagement but I have a friend who is willing to accompany you for a good price.”
Arthur smiled his apology, “What on earth are you on about? That guy doesn’t interest me at all. You’re more my type but not only am I too tired for such hi-jinx, I don’t have enough cash to pay for it.”
The guy smiled back, “Then what are you doing here? An ugly guy like you could sit here all night and nobody’s going to offer it to you for free!” He was so hot Arthur felt aggrieved he would never have this hunk as a mate.
Arthur’s smile tightened. “Thanks for the compliment but I just came in for a drink, to relax, maybe get lucky and find a friend. After all, it is a gay bar.”
“I don’t know where you think you are but this is no gay bar, it’s a male brothel and it costs a packet just to sit here and look!”
“Oh oh, nogod fuck me! Ok, sorry, forgive my stupidity, can you show me the way out of here?”

Arthur looked about him at the black-vinyl walls and chrome-edged furnishings, and then he appealed to the waiters, whose faces had hardened into grimacing ogres. Lucky for Arthur they got the joke and took pity on the poor waif from Auz, a bouncer was called and he escorted Arthur through hidden exits, down shadowed corridors, past dingy fuck rooms, everything stark as a torture dungeon, and finally ejected him from a back-door that could have stood in for the building’s butthole.

Then his money ran out and he was turfed from his hotel. The damned ATM still wouldn’t cough up any cash and he wondered if he couldn’t wait it out on the streets, maybe sleep in the Central Railway Station, surely the money would be there in the morning?  A black night set in, icy sleet fell and he squatted on the cold concrete floor in a corner of the railway station’s front concourse, his rucksack between his legs, his coat-collar turned up against the cold. An army of deviant types swirled around him like restless sharks, hookers, hustlers, pimps, junkies, thieves, lunatics, eyeballing him with a desperate hunger gleaming from their lost souls.

His blood froze as midnight tolled; suddenly cops marched in and ordered the motley crew to vacate the station’s refuge, clanging an iron grille shut across the entrance as Arthur was flung out into the frigid maelstrom, the mob of outcasts trailing behind and edging closer. For all his show-biz chutzpa he was actually a shy guy, loathe to be dependent upon anybody’s hospitality or generosity, but desperate times called for desperate measures, he had one phone number of an acquaintance who lived in Amsterdam and who might give him shelter. He ran to a phone booth, the wolves hot on his heels, and with his last coin rang Fifi Lamour, cabaret artist extraordinaire, hopefully still a friend from her days treading the boards in Sydney town.

Being a truly beautiful soul she told him to come to her apartment immediately and there, in a squatted derelict school, she put a mattress on the kitchen floor for him and assured him he’d made it safely home. For the next few weeks she showed him her Amsterdam, from the communes to the art galleries, the uni-sex saunas to the night-clubs. His favorite outing was to a famous old theater, The Paradiso, where they heard a real live gypsy band from Romania, music to make life worth living. One night he went alone to a techno party at a squatted factory down in the docklands, as always getting there too early, in time to watch the crew set up all the gear and, from the moment they switched on the music, he danced across the ceiling and on everybody’s stunned heads, dance for Arthur his madness, his addiction, his breath.

Exhausted, he left as dawn broke upon the dykes that held back the sea and, lost amidst the piers and warehouses, he wondered why he was fated to always be alone; here he was in horny Europe, Neanderthal man central, and he couldn’t get any satisfaction lust-wise, forget about love, everybody treated him with stranger danger. Then along came a beautiful blond Dutchman on a push-bike who sweetly asked him if he was lost. “At last!” he thought. “My prayers have been answered, an angel is holding out his hand to me.” He explained he was an Aussie trying to find his way in a cold, indifferent Europe, the Dutchman seemed intrigued and offered him a lift out of the dockyard’s maze to which he jumped with alacrity onto the back of the bicycle. 

The guy’s luscious round arse was right in his face, like a peach, he wanted so badly to take a bite but he was too shy, though perhaps that’s why the boy picked him up in the first place. They trundled up hill and down alleys, that blond’s round butt swinging left and right with the cycling effort, Artie just didn’t have the nerve to grab a handful of the flesh that might have been forbidden. To his dying day he would think of that delight he possibly missed out on; all life-long he discovered he couldn’t have everything and was tired of reaching out only to discover thin air. When he hopped off and said an appreciative goodbye the fresh-faced lad looked quite disappointed.

Everyday he hung about the coffee houses, absolutely chuffed he could smoke, eat or drink a thousand and one varieties of marijuana and hashish, a version of a paradise for the Aussie herb-head. In one shop he heard a British tattoo artist brag about his talents and, thinking Amsterdam a world-famous hotspot for tatts, Artie proposed that the guy decorate his chest with a tiger. At first the braggart refused, suggesting Arthur was too much of a wimp, Artie having to beg then throw a temper tantrum, telling the Pom he should be proud to draw on his flesh as he was an award-winning artist himself. It had all been a con act, the Brit desperately needed a job and had suckered Arthur in completely. He set to with a vengeance, with no template of a tiger to go by but merely sketching in black, across Artie's right tit, the café’s cat that yawned upon a table-top.

All the while a Dutch hooker sat close by, licking her green-lipsticked lips and flashing her green-painted finger nails. She seemed to get off on the vision of pain, edging closer and closer till she was right in Arthur’s face, drooling. Though the job was massive it had to be done in one go, taking several hours, the Brit gradually applying the colors, red, yellow and green, and with each minute the pain intensified. For each color the artist dug the needle in deeper, twirled it around, wrenched it back and forth, needle mark on top of needle mark, as if he was trying to tear Arthur’s heart out.

The sun was setting beyond the window and its rays shone through directly into Arthur’s eyes and, as the pain exploded in searing torment, the light intensified, grew brighter and brighter, overwhelming him till he drowned in a sea of pain and white light, the sky-line of Amsterdam lit up like a nuclear holocaust. The artist grinned sadistically, the hooker slavered in orgasm, and Artie passed into a divine ecstasy beyond pleasure and pain. When he awoke he had an angry tiger leaping across his chest towards his heart, to remind him forever after of Amsterdam’s love.
Fifi and Rudolph.
His prize money never did get released by his bastard bank and on ringing Jean-Jacques back in Lille to tell him of his predicament, was asked to return and get his prize in cash, the money order to the bank getting cancelled. Fifi had introduced Arthur to her pianist, a lovely chap by the name of David de Moste, who in 1996 was dying from AIDs, AZT not released to the general public as yet. He kindly lent Artie some Francs for the train-fare and, bidding them both a fond farewell and, giving wondrous Amsterdam one last look over his shoulder, he continued on his quest. Out there, somewhere, in old Europe, his pagan ancestry was awaiting him, the Madonna of Willendorf and her consort, Cernunnos, the Horned One, would dance around him in a magic circle and lead him towards the fire of enlightenment.


On the train into Lille two French cops got on at the Belgian border and demanded to search him. As they frisked him he told them of his win in Lille and, on perusing his Australian passport, they became very friendly. On running his hands slowly up and down Artie’s legs, one of the cops felt the small packet of marijuana buds he had in his sock, not mentioning it. All the while they joked and commended him on his nation’s help in the 2nd World War and with a cryptic smile, wished him well and let him go on his way. Phew! He thanked all his guardian angels, his felled countrymen, indeed his own family, for blessing him and freeing up the road that lay ahead of him.

He picked up his prize money, sent a money order to Fifi to repay her and David for the loan, then got the bullet train back into Paris where he stayed at a seedy hotel in Les Halles, the infamous red-light district making him feel right at home. He couldn’t resist visiting the gay bars and porn theaters but nobody looked twice at him, at 46 he was over the hill, though he sure did enjoy being the voyeur-tourist and witnessing France’s underbelly. One dark hairy macho man pushed him against a sex-shop wall and kissed him over-passionately, Artie imagining his grand European prize had arrived in full. All the while the rough-trade reached behind him and took the wallet from his pocket, emptying it of its cash, then replacing it without Arthur realizing a thing, the kiss so hot it was almost worth being robbed. It was the closest he ever got to a true French kiss.

He visited the cemetery of Pere Lachaise and laid flowers on the graves of many of his pop culture heroes, Simone Signoret and Yves Montand buried together, Jim Morrison’s smashed up hole in the ground and, most special to his gay soul, the tombstone of Oscar Wilde. Sitting by the gay martyr’s pink art deco sculpture, rolling a joint, he met a handsome young Englishman who confessed he knew little of the poet’s sad story and Arthur filled him in on much of it. Ruminating upon Wilde’s salacious history he got excited and was tempted to put the hard word on the earnest young man, maybe blow him behind the towering tombstone in honor of the capricious libertine, but he didn’t feel to sully the pure delight of the day, the sunshine, the sweet transient friendship, the innocent chat. Fucking hell, why does everything have to involve sex? Every time he clapped eyes on a handsome man his dick rose up into his brain, a personality disorder he was dying to break free of yet lured towards at the bat of every eye-lash.

He did all the usual tourist things, wandering under the Eiffel Tower but not able to go up due to a strike by the maintenance workers; the Arc de Triumph and Napoleon’s Tomb but not going inside as he wanted to save his money and he didn’t feel like paying homage to that murderous military maniac; the Place de la Concorde where he was creeped out, dwelling upon the multitude of ghosts swirling around the Revolution’s guillotine; and he hovered outside the glass pyramid of the Louvre, overwhelmed by the prospect of all that wondrous art down below, too scared to go in, best just to imagine it.

The last hallowed site on his Parisian pilgrimage list was the Cathedral of Notre Dame, site of his most favorite novel, Victor Hugo’s “Hunchback”, the alienated, freakish outsider whom Arthur soulfully identified with.

This edifice was built upon a central numinous site for the adoration of the Mother Goddess in Europe, going back into the mists of time. And deep under the main altar, in an archeological dig, they discovered a prehistoric stone tablet inscribed with the name “Cernunnos”, proving the place was sacred to the fertility cult of the Mother and her horned lover. He thus knelt at the statue to Mary, knowing the uptight Christians had replaced the cult with their own, that of the anti-sex virgin. He asked to have the lucid white light of creativity bestowed upon him, not procreative fecundity,  for there were already too many people on the planet and he was, after all, Nature's answer to Earth's overcrowding, Homosexuals giving the species art instead.

He also said a prayer to the Goddess under the statue of St. Joan of Arc, asking for her strength and forthrightness and, while sitting on a wooden pew, soon fell into a meditative trance. After a timeless, tranquil eternity suddenly a bright white light exploded in his third eye, he melted into the light, was blissed out, it was actually happening, there in magical Notre Dame, the Nirvana of enlightenment, sweeping him away, light flash after light flash flooding through his entire being. 

He opened his eyes only to find a crowd of Japanese tourists, cameras in hand, exploding multiple flash-bulbs in his face, totally irreverent, ignorant of the sacredness of the site, they just wanted their pics exposing the Cathedral’s innards to show to the folks back home. Arthur jumped up and hurried away, pissed off with the banality of his great mystic experience, such were the trammels of the pilgrim’s progress in the late twentieth century.

The next day he got on a bus that drove through the south of France, over the Pyrenees where the heretical Albighensians once roamed with their Perfecti seers living the pure life of true Christian poverty before the uptight, materialist Catholics slaughtered them; then down into Spain, eventually to reach the seven hills of Lisbon, capital of Portugal. What a gloriously sunny place, with high-spirited and good-looking people crowding the festive streets. Arthur was in love with Portugal, a pity most of it had been knocked down in an earthquake a couple of hundred years previously, the buildings only as old as anything in Sydney. He wished he could live there but nary a soul spoke English and no one seemed interested in him. Jerzy Grabowski had given him a film-maker’s address where he might get a connection into the local film industry but on presenting himself at their office they didn’t know what to make of him and politely showed him the door.

He wandered the streets wearing a T-shirt with a Brazilian Indian’s feathered head printed upon it causing everybody’s eyes to pop. When he tried to find the gay quarter for some company there didn’t seem to be one, gays alien to this macho city, every square foot had a heterosexual couple on it kissing lasciviously, as if the race was threatened with extinction if they didn’t breed fast and furious. Lolling about a public square he got hustled by a handsome Romanian gypsy, as one social outcast to another they got on famously, chatting for an hour in broken English of their lives, joys and difficulties, ever circling around the exciting subject of illicit sex. 

Taking the plunge, they decided to get together and he was led to a room in a back alley where he delighted in a few minutes of homosexual fondling, finally getting his European orgasm where light and relief washed over him. As always it was frustratingly transitory, this time because the landlady came banging at the door demanding to know what was going on, scaring the wits out of him. Artie hurried back up the alleyway doing up his trousers, imagining he’d get his throat slit for such transgressive hi-jinx, the gypsy trailing after trying to assure him there wasn’t a problem, Artie sure the glorious lustful moment was over and done.

His hotel manager told him the north coast had good surf beaches which enticed him to catch a bus to a famous beach-town called Nazare. He fulfilled a Hemingway-type dream and went to a bullfight, thankful that in Portugal they didn’t kill the bulls, just artfully prance about them, with a brass band blaring from the grandstand, and him lusting after the Tyrone Power dark-haired matadors. The heat of the day made him faint-headed, he staggered out into the white-hot streets and in a fever got lost. He found his way to a small quaint church on the cliff-top above the roaring Atlantic Ocean and thankfully took refuge in the cool shadows of its interior. After some time the solemn silence of the church lulled him into a meditation and this time he truly did find an inner peace, a wave of boundless love swept over him and diamond-light shone from his mind’s eye. He was adamantly not a Christian, indeed a ribald pagan, and yet he felt an incredible numinous mystique in the depths of that church.

It was only later that he learned it was the site of a famous miracle, some centuries ago a knight had been hunting on horseback and, chasing a stag through the forest, was pulled up short by a vision of the Madonna hovering in the air, beaming love down upon him, warning him to go no further. For just beyond the foliage was the cliff’s edge which he would’ve tumbled over if he had have kept up the chase. And on this spot the church was built, a sacred site to the Mother Goddess, the ruling godhead of Europe as far as Arthur was concerned. And he felt blessed for he would swear he’d also felt Her import, symbolic of the wonder of being conscious in a fabulous Universe. He would always insist he was a rationalist, a scientist but the incredible beauty of life and physics had an edge of the magical about it that he couldn’t overlook.

One other famous enchantment Portugal offered was genuine Absinthe, that elixir of inspired artistic genius such as Van Gogh and Verlaine imbibed. He drank a full glass of the green liqueur and tripped out of his skull, the stars rained down, psychedelia whirl-pooled, super-nova imploded, he fell down the hotel stairs and passed out. He was awakened by the bawling of drunken British tourists who’d gargled twenty times the amount of the green goo than he had, they tore the night’s quiet to shreds, wrecked the hotel, then collapsed in a heap on the road. “Nogod!” he exclaimed in a delirium, “how on earth do the Portugese people put up with this, year in, year out.” He crawled to his room and slept it off in safety, planning a hasty escape for the next day.

 He was running out of money and had to be on his way as there was one more land of fabled delight that he must visit, Morocco, where hookahs, djiin and flying carpets were to cap off his vision quest. He caught a bus out of Lisbon, down into Spain, through the sunshine-bright city of Cadiz, along the Costa del Sol, amazed to see upon many a hilltop the giant black silhouette of a bull, the Horned One being of great significance in this land. He ended up at the port of Algecieras where he hoped to catch the ferry to Morocco

To save money he stretched out on the concrete dock to spend the night, ships hovering over him, adventures beyond the horizon promising, he could hardly sleep from the excitement. In the morning he rushed onto that ferry as if it were Sinbad the sailor’s vehicle to paradise and, as they cruised around the Island of Gibraltar, he did a merry jig upon the open deck for he was heading towards a childhood fantasy-land, he had to pinch himself, one more of his fondest dreams coming true. Passing the great Rock he thought of the last of the Neanderthals, chased there to make a last stand against an onslaught of intolerant, murderous Cromagnon humanity and there dying out, their lament of regret still lingering on the sea breeze.

Instead of nasty Tangiers, he had been advised to go to south Morocco, to Spanish Ceuta first, as there he wouldn’t get hustled as much. The problem was that the weekend he arrived was a Holy festival dedicated to the Virgin Mary and not a single room was to be had anywhere in the town, every hotel filled to overflowing with pious Catholics. Garlands hung across the streets and candles burned in every window, prayers reverberated from the churches and houses, it was all so medieval and alien he felt like he’d just got off a time machine from the future. He wandered deep into the night but no shelter from the cold was to be had, nobody was interested in the lone, ragged Aussie tourist.

A Bedouin guide suddenly appeared by his side and tried to plead for him at hotel after hotel but dour-faced men tossed their raven, unkempt heads and grimaced, “No! Not here, not here.” Arthur was fatigued with all the clamoring and took the Bedouin to a restaurant for a late meal and, sharing everything equally with much satisfaction, looked him in the eye and asked, “Where are you sleeping tonight?” “In an empty lot behind some bushes. I don’t live in Ceuta, I live with my family over the border in Moroccan Tetouan.” Arthur took a gamble, “Can I sleep with you and come to Morocco with you tomorrow? I’ll pay you to be my guide if you’re honest and reasonable.” “OK, let’s go.”

His new friend Ali led the way for a few blocks through a sea of religious fervor that swamped the city, moaning, chanting and singing prayers to the Mother of God from every nook and cranny of the ghost-like Spanish edifices. They came to the empty lot, littered with garbage and brambles which they pushed their way through until they came to a small clearing hidden within the overgrown weeds. In the middle of the brush a bright street-light shone down upon them from an electricity pole giving Artie some relief as it wasn’t pitch-black and scary. Ali collected a stack of flattened cardboard boxes and laid them upon the rough ground for them to lie upon and there they lay together with Arthur’s thin blanket covering them both for warmth. Ali soon fell asleep but Artie stayed wide awake, terrified of the environment and paranoid Ali would try to rob him in the night. But the dear lad just snuggled up close and breathed softly, leaving Arthur to contemplate the night sky and the eerie sound of Ceuta’s prayers rising in a chorus around him.

As the night wore on the collective prayer grew in intensity till it reached such a hysterical hubbub he felt his hair stand on end and his soul seemed to levitate a few feet above his body. “Mary, Mary Mother of God, intercede for me!” The chant moaned like the wind in the trees, howled like all the city’s dogs at the star-strewn sky and crashed like waves upon the shore of his being. He looked up into the white light that poured down upon him from the street-lamp and he hallucinated the stereotypical figure of the Virgin dressed in blue hovering in the air, the white light seemingly radiating from Her, arms outstretched as if to embrace him. Beams of golden love flowed down upon him, Her white-light effulgence overwhelming and, with the prayers of the city ululating in a choral of adoration, he lay stunned, intensely aware of Her presence above him, and he stayed awake till dawn, only to finally fall into an exhausted sleep with everybody else in the city.

In the morning he was rudely awakened by a lot of rustling noise from the undergrowth. He sat up in alarm and just as he was lighting a cigarette to calm his nerves the bushes parted and a giant mastiff dog leaped through and growled ferociously in his face. He nearly dropped dead with fright, the cigarette fell from his mouth, the dog barked and slavered, drool dripping from wicked fangs as it got ready to tear his throat open. Then the bushes parted again and a rough-looking fellow stepped through with another vicious hound on a leash by his side. He looked like the leader of a cut-throat gang of smugglers. On first spying Arthur he got a nasty, predatory grin upon his face, then he glanced to the figure lying under the blanket next to the Aussie and saw that he was not alone. His mouth turned down, somebody else had already claimed the naïve tourist, he gave a shrill whistle and the mastiff turned back. The horrid man and beasts plunged back into the jungle and Arthur let go his held breath, saved yet again, Ali worth his weight in shared meals.

He recalled his vision of the Virgin Goddess in the night, he could hardly credit it, perhaps it was a dream, or a drug hallucination, but he was straight and he hadn’t really slept until all the praying had finally let up. Life itself was a miracle, he wasn’t going to question his good luck, or grace, he’d been saved and his vision quest had been fulfilled, the Universal Mother figure was protecting him, even if it was only projected from his Unconscious, it was still fucking wonderful. Now he was ready for Morocco and he had the good nature of Alladin as his guide.

He was taken to Tetuoan where Ali’s family welcomed him into their house, sleeping on the roof and fussed over by everyone who loved the tale of him sharing everything with their son. He was shown all around the Mediterranean city, to restaurants for the delicious food, and back-alley dives where Ali scored him balls of golden hashish that gave him such a clear, lucid high it made his tour even more delicious.

When reading William Burroughs’ tales of Morocco he’d noticed mention of a hash candy called Majoun and he pleaded with Ali to find some for him. Ali searched the city high and low and eventually found an old widow who specialized in making the fabulous substance, the art of which had almost vanished. He delivered a small saucer of it to Artie who devoured a piece of it every night before sleep, tripping out into the cosmos, riding a flying horse, following laughing djiin, chasing mythic creatures from the 1001 Arabian Nights. In the daytime he visited ancient forts and smoked joints in dungeons where there were slave-chains still attached to the walls. He envisioned the sorrow of the slaves, black and white, sitting where they’d been imprisoned, him a blessed visitor from the future, a prince from a western democracy, rich for all his poverty, free, educated and smart.

His head out the open window of a fast taxi, relishing the freedom of flying through the beauty of the countryside, he was driven up into the mountains to the blue-washed town of Chefchaouen and, stoned, sat upon the battlements of another medieval fortress and listened to the wind singing a siren’s song as it blew up from Africa, “Come to me, come to me.” All that hard, wondrous, painful history, of tribal wars, ecstatic dance, exploration, discovery and conquest, wealth and murder, mystical art and overwhelming monuments, splendor and slavery, wild-life and ancient civilization: he longed to fly down there but it made him shudder, he’d never get to know Africa as it was too dangerous for him, the 21st Century was arriving and fairies like him needed to hide and work in places of progress and humanism.

In spite of his sad, violent childhood and personality dysfunction, again he was reminded of his great fortune at being free, healthy and independent. He was determined to overcome his frailties and failures, neither saint nor sinner, straight or bent, right or left, he wanted to walk the middle path, not belong to anything or anyone, a true freak. He looked into the blue mists emanating from Africa, contemplated the antecedents of his species, then gazed into the future, the road back to Australia and what he had to do, write his story; disturbing though it may be, it was one more cutting text of the human condition that he felt needed to be told.

After a week of gratifying tours the day came when he had to say a sad goodbye to Ali who put him on the road to Tangiers, infamous Interzone for the likes of Joe Orton, William Burroughs, Paul Bowles and Allen Ginzberg. Within hours of hitting the streets he was followed by an importunate fellow who wouldn’t take “No!” for an answer, he constantly harangued the Aussie with offers of tour guides, drugs, souvenirs, sex, and erotic bath-houses. This went on for hours, no matter where he fled, even after he complained to a police officer, the guy was attached like a leech until Arthur had to give him cash to make him go away. If this was normal Tangiers-life the stars of Beat literature could stuff it up their illustrious posteriors! He bought a ticket for the ferry back to Spain and rolled some joints to smoke on the open deck, putting them in a packet of cigarettes he kept in his shirt pocket.

As he waited in line to board the ship he nonchalantly sat on the floor to read a book and this seemed to single him out as a weirdo who needed closer inspection. He was asked to step over to a counter where a good-looking chief of police questioned him and got some guards to search him. They found the joints in the cigarette pack and asked him what he thought they were. He spun a bullshit tale of not realizing they were illicit contraband, a street-pedlar had convinced him they were merely special cigarettes, all the time quaking in his boots as he had three balls of golden hashish in his undies, under his own shrunken nuts.

The border guards led him to a small room and told him to strip. Keeping his cool, he slowly took off his shoes, shirt and pants. As he got down to his jockettes, five balls bulging precariously in his crotch, sweat dripping from his armpits, he wondered if he’d have to reveal his shriveled cock to these handsome, sniggering men. They gave him a curious, interested look but before he could whip down the last of his chaste reserve they maintained their Islamic modesty and told him to desist, that was enough, they didn’t wish to view his genitalia. 

With a sense of deliverance, he hurriedly put his clothes back on, praying the balls of hash would not fall out of his undies as he scrambled about. He was taken back to the chief of police who still seemed to be considering if he should send the stupid Aussie off to jail, even a few joints could cause the fool a lot of trouble and money. For some strange reason the Moroccan hottie took mercy on the dope, perhaps recognizing him as a pauper, with a wry smile telling him to hurry, grab his bags, the ferry was about to move off. Arthur thanked him for his consideration and ran for it, up the gang-plank, falling to his knees and kissing the deck, he was still free.

And he still had a small amount of the golden panacea to smoke on his journey all the way back to France, to quell his hunger, warm his flesh, soothe his aches. Jean-Jacques had promised to put him up for his last few days in Paris but on arriving at his front door discovered the Frenchman had gone away for the night, leaving Arthur at a loss for an easy, friendly bed. There was a small park nearby and he sat there into the night, finally lying down with his coat over him for a blanket. Street toughs milled about, French, Arab, Gyspy, they each came over and had a good look at him, appraising him for a possible soft-touch. Somehow they knew he was as poor and forlorn as they could ever be and they left him in peace, to sleep the cold away. He realized he probably would survive the streets of Europe with some panache, for he was a die-hard child of the Australian gutters, in his element no matter what slum he got washed up in.

He had arrived in time for the May Day festivities, which in Paris included a Gay Liberation Parade that was seven times more grand and ebullient than the one held in Sydney,  winding its way through the entire labyrinth of that ancient pagan city. As he danced euphorically up the medieval streets, upon sites where Celtic Druids had worshiped the Goddess and her consort for thousands of years, not only universal fecundity ruled, the sheer exhilaration of sexual pleasure was celebrated, sex between homo sapiens that dissolved the boundaries between souls, hang-ups and worries forgotten, differences and misunderstandings resolved, the participants and the world united as one in a melting pot of orgasmic delirium. Or that’s how he wished it could be, what a pity he was ever the bumbling fool from the antipodes and not able to achieve a satisfactory liaison.

At a dinner with the irrepressible Jean-Jacques and his friends, somebody had replaced his glass of grape-juice with red wine and, just as the group was commending the savor of the wine, he took a mouthful and then spat it out across the dining table, spluttering and coughing, cursing the bastard who’d put vinegar in his glass. The French sophisticates froze, their jolly repast had been desecrated, their love of good wine questioned.

Arthur hated wine, he didn’t seem to have the genetic mutation that would allow him to enjoy it, he preferred milk or natural fruit juice, he just didn’t understand why they wanted to ruin it by fermentation. Their humoring of this boorish bumpkin was quickly wearing thin; J.J. remained the endearing diplomat but the rest of them didn’t want to know him. So much for hanging around Paris and living the life of the feted Bohemian artist: it was time to go back to Auz.

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