Saturday, April 12, 2008

~ my brain on drugs in the year 2045

For those of you with access to the Vivaids magazine ‘Whack’, my article ‘The Mysteries of Opiophobia’ has appeared in the latest edition.

The magazine has announced a cover design competition and the prize is $200. What you see above is my first effort.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

~ awash with meaninglessness

I’m really sorry I haven’t been able to post as often as usual.

Ebay is the culprit. In desperate times, as you may already know, Ebay is where I turn to breathe life back into the cadaver that is our household budget. It’s an activity of last resort, and I don’t know what I’d do if it didn’t exist.

But my god, the drudgery it demands…

At first it’s not so bad. Listing the books can even be fun. I like to provide all the pertinent information a potential buyer may need. I paste reviews from Amazon into my item descriptions. I take care to paint a good verbal picture of the book’s condition …

But then the auctions end. The money starts trickling in. I must keep a log of this money. I must list again. I must check my messages … ‘Just letting you know I’ve transferred the money for Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’…. Cheers. I knew that already. I could have addressed your parcel in the time it took me to read your blasted email….

The addressing … the bubble-wrapping … the weighing … the swabbing … the double-checking … the constant search for non-putrid packing materials in bins and skips … the gluing of fifty cent stamps … all the many and various stages in the process …

By the time I’m fully Ebay-engaged, they pile upon each other inexorably. When I have sick days, which I invariably do, they pile even higher. There is no pity for the faceless seller. And there is always at least one irritable buyer who wants emails replied to within the hour.

And there’s no way to streamline it. I’ve tried. People are just too variable… [Though I admit I’ve successfully integrated Polly into sections of the production line.]

[If you’re wondering about the fifty cent stamps, don’t. I buy them in bulk from my next door neighbour, who is in the local stamp club. I believe they come from ‘stamp collections’. Problem is, when the postage is, say, thirteen dollars, you have to patiently glue twenty-six stamps to the package.]

Is my life reduced to this?

No. I can still write in the mornings and visit the pool and discharge my fatherly responsibilities. But my blogging suffers and I guess this post is by way of an excuse, and an apology.

Otherwise, life lollops on. On Saturday I’m recording a voice track for White Noise Carousel. The piece is named ‘The Organ of Oertel’. It tells the story of a secret society, the members of which were born with an anomalous, whiskered organ resembling a sea cucumber in the region of the lower intestine. This ‘Organ of Oertel’ imparts wild talents - and drives its possessor to madness and excess as if it has a will and a sentience of its own.


Yesterday my wife withdrew all her money from an ATM [$600] then forgot to remove it from the slot. She was around the corner at the supermarket when she realised, freaked out, raced back and found it gone. She landed home in tears, despising herself, deciding she was useless and a fool, a rotten mother and a burden on her family. I tried to convince her otherwise, tried to comfort her, directed her to ring the cops, the bank etc …

And wound up in such a flurry myself that stupidly, while pasting a fifty cent stamp, I bit on the nozzle of the glue bottle and broke a veneer off one of my front teeth.

The next day, praise the heavens, we learnt that the ATM had sucked the money back in before it was pilfered. Meanwhile it cost two hundred and thirty dollars to fix my tooth.

But there is light on the horizon, and soon you will hear a lot more of me, I swear.

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Sunday, April 6, 2008

~ the curing

On Sunday at Camberwell Market, feeling wretched and foolish, I lost a beautiful facsimile edition of Poe’s Tales. Just mislaid it. As I do so often with so many things. Twice I’ve left my phone on the roof of my car. I’ve left my coffee there at least… on a googolplex of occasions. Like my mother – even in her non-declining years – I put inappropriate things in the fridge: TV remotes, laundry powder, money, bills, scissors, face cream, turpentine … I could never remember all the things I forget.

Is it dementia? My mother exhibited signs before she died at the age of seventy-two, but she’d been putting shoe-polish in the Frigidaire even when I was small. I haven’t started doing crosswords yet, trusting that my line of work provides sufficient neural exercise. I just hope that my chronic absent-mindedness is not a symptom of something dreadful on the horizon.

I was at Camberwell Market, wasn’t I? Losing things … Becoming disheartened … After all, I was there to make money, to find books to hawk on ebay, not to leave lying about. Because of the daylight savings shift, I arrived early and didn’t have a good morning. Stall-holders were still hoping for the prices they’d imagined.

For me it’s best to go after I’ve metabolised my Spasmo-Nemigron, after my system has normalised. Then I can enjoy the process.

I found one particularly interesting thing: an old paperback in good condition called ‘Protest: the Beat generation & The Angry Young Men”. These were ‘rebels without a cause, they are shocked by nothing – defying society, conventions, the world, the ‘beatniks’ and the ‘Angries’ speak their minds’.

A bit iffy, comparing these two movements. The Beats were something wild and new, the Angry Young Men were comparatively polite and, well, British. Colin Wilson was the only truly interesting one, and mainly because of his marvellous erudition and his ability to present his subversive ideas in a manner that didn’t too badly offend public decorum. He was not tearing at the very fabric of society as the Beats most assuredly were. The other ‘Angries’ – John Braine, John Osborne, Kingsley Amis, J P Donleavy – were distinguished writers, but we certainly don’t associate them with literary revolution. Indeed they appear starchy and wan compared to Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac, who were the principal Beat contributors.

The book was published in 1960, early enough for William S Burrough’s contribution to still fall under his original nom de plume ‘William Lee’:

A scion of one of America’s most illustrious families, he has not transgressed against established law because of poverty or lack of personal opportunity … Yet ‘by his own description, the author is a drug addict, thief, pusher and pimp.

What follows is an except from his first novel ‘Junkie’, [later to be retitled ‘Junky’]. It’s been ages since I last read it and I encountered a short passage that piqued my curiosity …

“To me, teaheads are unfathomable.

“There are a lot of trade secrets in the tea business, and teaheads guard these trade secrets with imbecilic slyness. For example, tea must be cured, or it is green and rasps the throat. But ask a teahead how to cure weed and he will give you a sly, stupid look and come-on with some doubletalk. Perhaps weed does affect the brain with constant use, or maybe teaheads are naturally silly.

“The tea I had was green, so I put it in a double boiler and set the boiler in the oven until the tea got the greenish-brown look it should have. This is the secret of curing tea, or at least one way to do it.”

I’ve also noticed a certain mythology associated with the curing of pot. It is always spoken of vaguely; one can never get clear answers, yet some will claim it is of critical importance - but as far as I have been able to judge all that is necessary is to let the vegetable matter dry slowly and naturally in a well ventilated room. Upside-down is good, as the leaves dry to form a natural protective sheath for the delicate heads. Various subtle techniques can be employed during the drying, but in the end they make little or no difference, [although practices like ‘sweat-curing’ can help speed things up].

So That’s all there is to it. No great secret. Curing is more or less a synonym for drying. People also speak of immersing the root ball in a sugar solution, but that’s just piffle on a level with the very tempting myth that hops, a near relative of cannabis, can be grafted onto cannabis rootstock and made to produce THC – so creating the appearance of a perfectly innocent, legal crop.

During WW2 the US Government attempted to create a ‘cannabis strain that would yield a superior quality fibre … that would tie up ships without turning on the troops’*. A man named H E Warmke was front-man for the project, which also unearthed a useful means of producing polyploid plants by soaking seeds in colchicine [the toxic derivative of a beautiful flower bulb]. It was Warmke who claimed that hop flowers grown from cannabis roots contained equal levels of THC to standard weed.

A pipe dream, if ever I heard one

* From The Connoisseur’s Handbook of Marijuana

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

~ the toxic shrub

[… continued from earlier post]

Returning to those improvised demi-drugs which a certain character-type may consume before he or she can access or afford grown-up drugs…

- Bulbs, for instance, [which I never tried].

- Pure & Simple, [which I'm ashamed to say I did].

- Nutmeg, said to be used by ‘drug-starved prisoners’ and sailors at sea in the absence of alcohol, [I never tried it, not seriously].

- And poppy seed tea, [which I did not try because, thankfully, I had not heard of it
at the time].

My HSC literature teacher, Brother McCarthy, a furious, opinionated Christian Brother, [who was certain an unattributed painting in the school lobby was a Tintoretto,] was speaking in class one day on the subject of intoxicants. I can’t recall the context, though certainly he would have been forbidding their use.

He made mention of the shrub ‘oleander’. He told us it was used in classical times to induce hallucinations and my ears pricked up. I knew the location of an oleander bush. It was right outside my parents window.

That night, predictably, I plucked some of its deep-green, leathery leaves. How many to consume? Circumspectly, I decided on just two – at least for starters - which I minced up and cooked with rice and vegetables.

Heaven knows where Brother McCarthy got his information, but he should have been more mindful before broadcasting it. Or perhaps it was a subtle policy conceived in the deep and ancient vaults of the Order, designed to rid the Earth of people like me before they reach maturity.

I was lucky I didn’t die. No, really. Down the track, I learned that oleander was a deadly poison. Consider these snippets from Wikipedia:

Oleander is one of the most poisonous plants … contains numerous extremely toxic compounds, many of which can be deadly to people … especially young children … The entire plant including the milky white sap is toxic … in some cases only a small amount can have lethal or near lethal effects … Oleander bark contains rosagenin which is known for its strychnine-like effects … There are innumerable reported suicidal cases of consuming mashed oleander seeds …

What I experienced was wracking nausea. Throughout the night, I vomited green bile out my bedroom window as my digestive tract roiled and spasmed. I told my parents that I’d eaten something that disagreed with me – and that was nothing less than the truth.

So, as you can see, from an early age I sought out any and all forms of altered consciousness with determination and ingenuity. As my body matured, I sought oblivion as avidly as I sought out sex.

My parents weren’t big drinkers, but they had a humble bar, consisting of various spirits and liqueurs. Of late, through lack of use, this had been removed to the shed.

On a few occasions, I had purloined bottles of my father’s beer, but had never really succeeded in getting a decent buzz on. What I wanted was to get solidly, thoroughly spiflicated - so one night, after my parents retired, I procured an empty milk bottle, crept out to the shed and filled it with just a little vodka, just a little Drambuie, a little vermouth, a little Benedictine and so on – so that the theft would go unnoticed

I left the house and made my way down to the region my friends and I had named The Quagmire. This was a zone of clay pits, degenerate plant life, rampant blackberries and mounds of dirt and building materials. Through it meandered the Grey Creek, which at that time was stodgy with effluent, sudsy with detergents, and which infused everything in its vicinity with a sweet faecal aroma.

I chose a dreadful mound of earth and perched myself upon it.

As I forced myself to drink the monster cocktail, I gazed out on the wasteland which was to become the Monash freeway, my mind constructing romance out of the reeking desolation. At that time in my life, I did everything with a sense of drama. As I drank I envisioned myself as a lonely, alienated teenager, stark under the nearby streetlamps of Foster’s road, betrayed by the dull monotony of the city, an unknown hero wrestling with conformity, deranged by his own genius …

Of course, this time I succeeded in rendering myself legless. I staggered home, crawled in my bedroom window and vomited my guts back out the way I came. Never again would I be able to bear the odour of Benedictine …

But once more this subject has proven itself too meaty for a single post. I’ll be back with more on gutter-drugs before you can say Jack Robinson.

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

* 23 May 1981 Saturday 7.00pm

These are troublesome times. My group has very little hope of surviving them. I may leave and go with Franka to Northern NSW, where I will again pursue my writing

I’ve been to Macedon twice and taken mushrooms in this last week. The second time we had a serious car accident. I would imagine this is why I am so utterly confused as to my wants and needs.

Storm paid for a night at the Hilton, where we became hopelessly drunk. I boffed Franka in the heated swimming pool sometime that morning. It was good.

Terry has been busted for drugs. Carl is being too stupid for me to bear. People like Mark Gason are depressing me more with their criticism. Mick has no conception of the correct course to take and his assured but reckless statements muddle things further. Cathy, I think, will be chucked out. Gus is becoming my good friend,

Our single came into the RRR charts at 28, Canberra at 19. we’ve had bad reviews for our live performances. Good for the single.

In the next three weeks we are making a last ditch effort to improve. If we don’t make it, we bust.

I am reassessing my life. Should I continue with the group? If I don’t, I shall lose a lot, the easy lubrication of my social life for instance… Has the time come to retire into writing? Something inside me is telling me it has…

There’s no reason why I should make anything of my life, but I may as well try, at least for interest’s sake. In this respect, pride is my greatest asset and my greatest enemy.


Sound like this band’s tearing itself apart, doesn’t it? I think I was in love with the romance of self-destruction … I wonder how much Christine’s death, coming when it did, played a part?

The mushroom trips to Macedon are very tasty tales which I will save for another occasion. Some very wild stuff was involved

I remember consciously always using the word ‘group’ instead of ‘band’. ‘Group’ was groovier. Later, ‘band’ became groovier. ‘Boffed’ was a good word. I’m pretty sure it’s fallen out of usage now. The verb ‘to pork’ was just coming into fashion.

Diary of 1981 - index

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