Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hash Palaces #2: Intense Flows of Positive Energy

The problem with most people, man, is that they're stuck in this weird kinda earth-bound trip. They've got no, kinda, 'perception' of what else is out there. The parallel dimensions, and alternate astral planes. How easy it is to transcend all of this temporary human nonsense, and really get down to what it is to like, exist, man. And that's what we wanted to do with Old Mary. That was the whole deal man. Get people out of it, and explore the expanding universe that is human spirit-consciousness.

We'd just drive round the North island, sleeping in the van and selling enough to pay for petrol to the next town down the line. Some of those kids, man, they had no idea what'd hit them when we rolled into town! It was like a whole new world for them. And the girls, man. Talk about a spiritual experience. Just so many beautiful souls, floating around and somehow connecting with us along the way.

Every couple of months we'd have to head back to the Coromandel, up to the Rainbow, to stock up again. Stock up on greens of both kinds, man! That was the life, man. We were never in it for the money. It was never about that. And sure, we took a few beatings along the way. Some of those rugby club type of guys started swinging as soon as they saw us, and I never could understand it. Young souls, I guess. We never fought back, man, because someone had to keep the spirit of Gandhi alive, right? Plenty of cops took to beating us too, but they never found the stash. An old friend up at Rainbow had welded this box under the van, to look just like a fuel tank. And they never found it. I guess beating us down was just easier. That's the way with cops, I guess. Still is, if you ask me. Maybe they didn't think our buzzed out weed-feed brains could handle the mechanics of deception, or something. But, higher consciousness man. Peace.

It all changed in Foxton, though, when we hooked up with this older guy. I'm not even sure what his name was, or if he even had one. Told us he was a chemist, from way back, and he'd been making LSD since before '62 even, when that Misuse of Drugs Act came through. We switched up our product after hooking up with this cat, and for me things got kinda hairy after that. There were some great times, but some bad vibes man. We lost Old Mary #1 after the steering wheel melted into my lap while we were driving. A whole different trip, and I didn't see it coming.

The negative vibes won out in '67, on a full moon winter soulstice. We'd each dropped a handful of Rolling Stones, and I freaked out, man. There was no coming back from that night, for a while. If you've ever talked to the moon, only to have it unravel the realities of space, time and the complete inconsequence of your own existence, you might know what I'm talking about. It was off the road, and into the hospital, man. I'd always heard about the acid casualty guy who'd got perma-fried and thought he was a glass of orange juice. I just thought I was a ball of nothing, man. A human black hole. I spent enough time in the hospital though, and it got better. Those doctors, and the largactyl, sorted me out. No more acid though, and no more weed. For me its just herbal tea, meditation and buzzing out on the realness of life.

The above is an excerpt from the forthcoming book 'Hash Palaces: An Oral History of Great New Zealand Tinny Houses'.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hash Palaces #1: The Kings of Queen Street

You've gotta remember that this was the 80s, of course. Everyone was gonna make it big on the stock market, live in a huge house and get the trophy wife. I guess the problem for us was that we didn't know a whole lot about stocks, or any of that Michael J Fox 'Secret of My Success' type stuff. What we did know about was weed. Bro, so much weed.

I'd been down to the library, the Central one, and got this book about business, to figure out what we needed to do. It turns out, this book said, that the capitalist business model is pretty simple, when you get down to it. Buy for a dollar, sell for two. There's your profit. Not a whole lot more to it. And so, we came up with a business model. This was pretty straight forward too—buy heaps of weed from Dave's cousin, using 'our capital', which we got doing the summer work at the freezing works back in ??. Then, we need 'premises', and 'customers'. This book I was reading said the premises should be central to our target customers, and should be well furbished. So, there goes more capital. We signed a six month lease on this place, and told the landlord we were 'trading futures'. I still don't even know what that means, something Dave came up with, but the landlord guy was happy enough. It was a pretty nice building, too. We got some desks, and some of those swivel chairs. A broken photocopier, and even some of those posters with people in suits running a race, to make it look right. Sometimes when the landlord was coming past we just drew these graphs and numbers on a white board. Seemed to make him happy.

Anyway, we had our business model, our product, and our premises. According to the book I'd got, the next part was customers, and this meant advertising. For obvious reasons, this was gonna be a little difficult. You can't exactly buy up a bunch of radio time and start shouting “COME BUY OUR WEED, IT'S REAL MEAN”. Cops and all that. In the end, it never really mattered. In business, advertising is all about increasing demand for your product. As we found out, though, demand was pretty sky high anyways. I wouldn't even like to guess why. Life's just not that interesting when you're not wasted, I guess. Still, its a weird New Zealand thing, maybe. The rest of the world was busy chucking cocaine up their noses at this point, or washing up a few bowls of crack before breakfast, or whatever, and here we are, everyone smoking a few cones just to make Top Town bearable evening entertainment. I'm not complaining, though. There was the demand. We had the supply, and the law meant that supply was always gonna be on the limited side. The word got around. Some jokers are selling tinnies outta the NZMP Tower! In business terms, we were set.

The average day went like this. One of us would open up, and serve all the before-work types. The dudes that worked in town in weird data jobs where they had to get wasted at 9am or the unbearable day would grind them down. Come to think of it, this was always the most depressing part. The dependents, the early hours, the inescapable impression that everyone else's job was a horrible waste of time, and the corporate ladder everyone was talking about was about as climbable as the Green Bay Fort on datura. We'd just hang out all day, while business boomed and bloomed. Open late, for the after-work wind down types, with their ties loose and their shirts all wrinkled in the same places from slouching over the same desks all day. I realised that for most of the world, that's what 'business' meant. Not us. The last thing we'd do is count the money. That was always the best part of the night. Some days, it was ridiculous. We were selling 10 ounces some days. Wasting all the money on useless shit too, come to think of it. Big shouldered suits and steak dinners. Champagne by the barrel.

The headlines said “THE KINGS OF QUEEN STREET” when the cops finally cottoned on and busted us. I'm still not sure who narked, but I guess it was our own fault. Selling drugs to strangers, and always staying in one place, with nowhere to hide when they did turn up. A whole pound, they got us with. It was gonna be all conspiracy and distribution charges for all of us, but I said it was mine. The rest were just customers, just hanging out, I said. We weren't the kings of anything. Just greedy kids in a greedy world, and I paid the price. Only four years, though. Nothing major. They never tracked down the cash, either, and that got me back in business, at Jimmy's Spa and Pool.. Some of the boys hooked it up for me when I got out. Even the building's in my own name, and we're moving more spa pools than any other bastard in town, so business is good. The game never changes, no matter what you're selling.

The above is an excerpt from the forthcoming book 'Hash Palaces: An Oral History of Great New Zealand Tinny Houses'.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

an open letter to AMP Capital

Dear AMP Capital,

Saturday 19 June was the date of my first visit to The Palms Shopping Centre. I'd been drinking, but then who wouldn't be, on a day like that. Probably the warmest all winter. The nor'wester was blowing, and it'd left the sky banded grey, white and blue, like the tricolour flag of some imaginary skyward republic. For reasons I'd rather not get into, I had to ride the bus that day. At first, it wasn't so bad - there was a cute girl with pink hair and a nose ring, sitting across from me. Just as I'd reached the point in my daydream where I was taking her to Tahiti on our honeymoon, I realised she was listening to 'My Way', by Limp Bizkit. Really loudly. Keeping in mind that the date in question was 19 June 2010, you can probably see why this became an issue.

In any case, it was with a head swimming with imaginary sky flags, the unfulfilled romantic potential of pink haired nu-metal throwbacks and the yeasty, head spinning drunk that only comes along when, in a move combining innovation and self hatred, you mix homebrew beer with good Scotch whiskey, that I arrived at the Palms. All I wanted was some food, and I'd heard that this mall had everything! The predictions were true. I'm glad the place decided to cheap out on those blue-shirted people who clear away the discarded food, because those food court tables were like some kind of dream buffet. Rather than 80 days, it took me a mere 30 minutes to traverse practically the entire world, in culinary terms. The sauces! The spices! the things people are willing to spend money on and then cast aside. The food court seems to make a fitting metaphor for these modern times. I'm still trying to work out how my getting asked to leave by security fits into this metaphor, but I'm beginning to think the answer to this question is bigger than I will ever grasp, and will probably refer back with several layers of ontology and rely on a complex yet perfect syllogism. This is all besides the point, which is that I was kinda drunk, kinda full and kinda happy while getting escorted out of the Palms. The sorta gratification that usually only comes when tall buildings collapse on my birthday.

I was carrying this feeling when I noticed the many advertisements throughout the Palms for the Champion family, to which an AMP Capital logo was appended. I spent many minutes at the time wondering what the significance of this proud and upright family was. Do they list amongst their (no doubt limitless) achievements the ownership of an entire shopping mall? Are they the subject of an upcoming TV drama or reality series, in the course of which their perfect facade will be torn asunder by drug use and interracial romance? Without any further explanations offered, the possibilities swiftly approached the infinite. John Locke, in his c1690
Essay Concerning Human Understanding, perhaps best explains the resulting conclusion that maybe these advertisements meant nothing at all:

Men, extending their Enquiries beyond their Capacities, and letting their Thoughts wander into those depths where they can find no sure footing; tis no wonder, that they raise Questions and multiply Disputes, which never come to any clear Resolution, are proper to only continue to increase their Doubts, and to confirm them at last in a perfect Scepticism.

In the spirit of Mr Locke, it seemed only fair to attempt to cure my scepticism through the rigors of empirical investigation. The internet at the local public library informed me that the Champion family were the product of AMP Capital's new advertising campaign. I was left to figure out the rest for myself, when my internet money ran out. I finally decided that there were two phases to the advertising. The first was where each member of the Champion family represented a key mall demographic. These ads were practically shouting to the world: rich white people! we want you! Labradors! you may shop here! As time passed, I thought more and more about the second phase of the advertising.

I decided that, because no one in their right mind could honestly believe that a stack of pictures of some retardedly wholesome and obviously fake family would somehow make people want to go to their mall, rather than stab their eyes out with a rusty coathanger, there must be some other reason behind all of this. I have called this phase the aspirational phrase. I have taken some liberties here, but I hope you will not lump me in with the hollow-earthers and David Icke types. The most likely explanation, of course, is that the association of the Champion 'family' with the AMP Capital brand was an exercise in aspirational advertising, whereby I would see these advertisements and realise my tragic and general lack off success in life, compared to Mr. Champion. I would tie this castestrophic failure to my lack of ownership of AMP Capital bonds or shares or whatever sort of financial derivative it is that people even own these days. I would think this is the only reason I have no patrician-chinned and gracefully aging wife, no daughter to jealously protect while secretly scheming to 'have intercourse with' her best friend, no son to make feel terrible for missing that tackle. The only reason my posture has slackened and my hairline receded.

Well, you got me. It worked. Since those ads, I've been seconds from suicide. Only the thought of investing in AMP Capital and thereby remedying my life have kept me in the realm of the living. I'm sorry for the long-winded introduction, but I thought you should hear it, in order to pass along congratulations to your advertising staff. I guess that brings me to the point of this letter. I would like to somehow invest in AMP Capital! I have about $70 in cash on me right now. Will this be enough? If this isn't enough, I would be willing to trade the following intellectual property, in exchange for a piece of your fine organisation:

i) A collection of photographs of elderly people wearing matching tracksuits and hugging. This would be perfect for your next advertising campaign! Everyone knows a partner wearing the exact same clothes as you is the 'perfect family' of later life, in terms of aspiration marketing!

ii) A list of every single person I know who regularly shoplifts from your 'The Palms'. I realise that some people might see this as 'selling my friends out' or 'back-stabbing'. However, as I am about to enter the business world in any case, I figured, why not get a in a little 'screwing over the poor' practice before I receive my interest in AMP. I'm sure you guys understand!

Finally, in terms of the family, will I get to select them from a catalog? Or is it more of a lucky dip type arrangement? I understand the necessity of woollen jumpers in heading up such a family, but is this an absolute necessity? Wool has caused problems with my eczema in the past.

I look forward to hearing from you!
George F. Mill, Vagrant.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I always thought there was that whole unconditional love thing which went with parenthood, but it looks like I was wrong. Those fuckers aren't having a bar of it. Won't even open the door when I visit. I mean it's not like I took anything major last time. Just an iPod. Turns out an iPod is worth more than their love for their only daughter. I got a good price for it too. And it wouldn't have happened if they'd just lent me the money in the first place. They know I'll pay them back. One day. When I sort myself out, get clean. One day soon, I might add. Ah well. There are some bastards you can live without, and now my own damned parents are going on that ever growing list, I think, walking back down their stupid winding gravel driveway. Its like a medieval fort in here or something. Bourgeois wankers, anyway. Good riddance.

I start to shiver, waiting for the bus. Not sure if its cold shivers, or the withdrawls. Senses have started to blur lately. Its been a day since my last shot, and this winter's been hell. Coldest in twenty years, they're saying.

I don't bother smiling at the bus driver when I get on. I'm sure the greasy old creep is trying to catch a view down my top. Not for free, baby. Call me when your shift's over, maybe, if I'm desperate.

All of these well-painted houses, with their new fences, the leafy parks and the occupied shops over this side of town, rushing past out the window, remind me of how far from home this all is. So fake. So sterile. Christ, I need dope something real too. Not that fucked up homebake cut with shit knows what Anton's been selling either. I can almost taste that chemical fuck-up, and it's making me wanna spit.

I'm off the bus in town, thinking maybe I should eat. Getting too thin. I could be a model, though! A life of glamour, cocaine instead of the dope, maybe. Dreams are free. I'm in that bakery, where for some reason the rolls are opposite the cash register, outta sight. Its like an unintentional soup kitchen, without all the Christians. These rolls have been keeping me alive, I'm pretty sure. Nothing wrong with carbohydrates.

Walking home, I run into someone from school, I think. They know me, anyhow. “What've you been up to?” etc. I don't say sucking old man dick to get high. I don't say ripping off my parents. I say “not a whole bunch, you know how it is, you?” and listen to some bullshit about marketing out at the University or something, thinking the whole time that I must look like shit, like a role-model for how to fuck yourself up good. I walk away without asking her name.

“I'm worried about her, David. We should have let her in at least, to talk with her”.

“Look, Mary, I know it's hard, but I thought we decided enough was enough. Dr. Robertson said the treatment, the CADS or whatever it was, had to be voluntary. And she won't do it! So what are we supposed to do? Let her steal from us? Buy her drugs?”

“I don't even know here she lives any more. What if she's on the street again? What if something happens? It'd be on us”.

“It wouldn't be on us. It'd kill us, sure, but it wouldn't be our fault. That arsehole boyfriend of hers, those druggies and the ones that make money off them, it'd be their fault. Fuck! I'm sorry for swearing, honey, but it just gets me so mad”.

I arrive at Jason's room without realising I'd been walking there. I'm in a fucked up mood, and being here never seems to help. This giant rotting house, with its tiny rooms and smaller kitchens attached, somehow justifying the almost extortion-level rent. The smell of cat piss that never seems to leave, but gets worse when his neighbour passes out in the stairwell. Which is every other day. The fucked up mood part is nothing new. You never get used to feeling like the entire world's about to collapse inwards, squeezing your lungs and choking the life outta you, almost constantly except when I take the needle, the pipe, whatever, the Great Escape from all the bone-cold and surface tension built up in the grey clouds//grey faces of the city. A counsellor once asked me why I 'abuse substances'. I asked him “Why don't you need to get high? Why aren't you running away from all of this?”. “This is about you, Laura, not me”. All of the best questions go unanswered.

I knock on Jason's door, and stare its flaking paint, waiting for him to answer. Part of me is hoping he won't. This part is probably some evolutionary survival instinct, hoping to protect my liver, veins, head, whatever, from abuse. Good luck, instincts. Jason opens the door. Bob is standing behind him. They're almost twitching in unison, which is kinda cute. The more their faces sink and scab, the closer they resemble each other. One day, they'll merge together. I'm sure of it.

'Hi Lauuuraaa', goes Jason, in his messed up queer-junkie slur.

'Hi Jase. Looking good! What's new?'

'Oh the saame old, y'knoww?'. I know.

'Bit of a problem, Jase. I'm sorry to ask. I need sorted out. But I'm broke. Temporarily at least. Wondered if you could sort me out if I pay you back tomorrow or something, after I get some more work done tonight?'

'Uhhhhhhm. Suure, I guess. But chuuu gotta pay me back, cos I'm no ch-charity, right?'.

I must have come at the right time, because Bob's too outta it to object. Usually, he knows the chances of payback are slim at the best. Jase would know too, if he hadn't fucked his memory doing god knows what. They're good people.

The foil wrap's in my pocket and I'm thanking him before leaving. I'm thinking about friends and co-dependence and co-defendants and this wonderful sense of community and commonality that springs up because of the opiates. And how false it is. How every single guy I know would pimp me for a fix if I hadn't got there first, and how every girl'd rob their man just as easy. Bleakness, weakness, humanity and all of that. 'What a wonderful world' is playing in my head as I push through my own front door. So cold. So small. Single bedroom condensation hell. There's black mould on the roof. What kind of fucked up City Council builds houses from cinder blocks? Black mould covers the roof. Probably somehow toxic, and killing me slowly. I lie back in the bed, with my pipe. No more needles, I promised myself. I'm soon enough forgetting about cold and toxic moulds and enjoying the sweet relief of no thought at all.

'Maybe we could do one of those intervention things, you know? They have them on that TV show. Show how much we care, how much we want her better?'

'If she doesn't know how much people care by now, that's not gonna change. We gave her everything. All of those toys. That damned dog. The schools. $10,000 a year. For what? Its not like we were hard on her. And we were always there! Not alcoholics, not molesters, not gang members. I can't figure her out! Its like she's doing it outta spite or something, I think sometimes'.

'The doctor said you need to watch your stress, honey'.

I'm waking up in a weird clogging sweat and it's already dark. I don't have a clock and so the only way to tell the time is by the traffic volume. I never can get it right though. It doesn't matter. 'Night' is enough. Soon enough I'm dressed and out the door. Cold, so cold, but always it pays off. Walking out for work like this I'm only glad for the fact my parents don't go out at night any more. They'd die if they saw me. Maybe even literally. I talk to Tony, who's in his car watching the girls. Keeping An Eye Out, for a reasonable fee. Quiet night, he tells me, absentmindedly twirling an axe-handle, the modern pimp. Hourly rates, rather than commission. Income security. I stand by the Church, on the corner. Usually the spot's free. These girls know its mine, even if I'm late, and Tony'll sort out the ones who don't get it. The headlights are blinding, and sometimes I wish I could wear my glasses. I guess then I'd make out their faces, though. Greasy, sweaty white faces – like the school principle or the priest or the mail man or your father. The nights are easier when they're not much more than a dribbling pink blur.

I take my first guy behind the church, and he's cumming in minutes. Blowjob, $50. “A religious experience”, maybe that should be the slogan. He pays up, shuffling off away from the city. You never know the regulars if you can't see the faces. Maybe his cock tastes familiar. Fuck him. Exploiter. I'm shivering again and walking back over the bark to the street. Roadside, in the dirt, there's a golden light shining. Reflecting the headlights of a passing car, or something. I go to look. Maybe someone's dropped their watch, or something. Straight to the pawn shop. Maybe I'll get the night off! You spend enough time kicking around in the dirt, you're bound to strike gold eventually, I'm thinking. All that glitters isn't gold, I'm thinking.

Getting over there, its certainly golden but it isn't no watch. At first I'm not even sure what it is, and almost stick myself in the finger from the needle's spike. A golden needle, full of some kinda something. One of those reusable types, from old movies and stuff, with the double loops on the plunger. As tempting as it is, I'm not about to jam it into my vein and fire it home. How do you know what's inside? Could be rat poison. Maybe some asshole's tossing out golden needles full of rat poison to take out a few junkies. Thinks he's doing society a favour. Removing our sort from the gene pool, for God or for Darwin or for whoever. This all starts me thinking on science and evolution and how my brain's wired and why it just makes me 'fuck up' every day, why my body feels so god damned sick every morning I'm trying to quit, and it must be a strange sight for all the punters, a messed up junkie whore looking like she's trying to solve Fermat or something.

Thinking about the punters, though, reminds me of this story an old dero once told me and Tony, in the Square on night. One of those guys that somehow, after twenty years on the streets, has been left alone by Death. Alone to wander with lank hair, torn up jeans and a jacket held together more by grease than the tiny-handed stitches of Chinese children, or whatever. Anyway, I remember the story this guy told us, because it seemed so ridiculous. Far out, even for an old dero, which is stupidly wide—in normal terms. He reckoned that some time back in the day, which probably means the 80s, there was this rumor about a golden needle. He swore to God that his mate's ex wife's brother had this golden needle. And, no matter what, it was always full. Always the best stuff you ever had. A golden needle, full of magic and wonder. Like something out of a Walt Disney movie, if he'd traded his hatred of the Jews for a love of junk. Me and Tony, we were laughing around with the old guy. About his story, and about the fact that it'd taken six cops to get him down from the bridge he was threatening to throw himself off the week before. The drop from that bridge was about two meters. I spent a few nights thinking about that story. How it was that we were building our own mythologies, just like the Greeks back in Classics, maybe to give us hope. Salvation through golden needles. How the story couldn't be true, because Hume killed miracles and Science stabbed magic right in the god damned back. We have to above all be Rational, and there just isn't anything rational about the magic golden needle in my bag being a magic golden needle.

After finishing the shift and paying Tony, I'm walking home. Done 'selling myself' (as if everyone else who ever worked a job hasn't lowered themselves just as much), and ready to run some tests on the needle. Rigorous science, not magic, will facilitate explanations. At home, I've got the needle off the tube and I'm scraping it out. I'm knocking the bottom off a wine bottle in the sink, and the tinfoil and butane lighter are ready. Small doses. Lighting up, feeling fire, feeling fine. Shit. Maybe there is a magic in these humble streets, because oh man. Right before my eyes, the needle's bubbling back. Instant refill. There is no way. I might be high. I don't hallucinate, much, usually. Give it half an hour. Somewhere in my mind I know that in fifteen minutes it'll be sticking outta my leg, no matter what promises I've made to myself about needles or veins or anything, and I'll be outta here, maybe for good.

But certainly this is a bad thing because who the hell leaves their house when all they've ever needed is sitting right next to you when you sleep and when you wake up. Maybe this is Love. What some other jerks get from spending time with their best gal, or something. Three days later and all I'm left with is a view of the ceiling and an overactive brain and a Golden Ticket to oblivion. No more surprises, and no need to believe in the passage of time or the metaphysics of history. I feel each day seeping out of me, but it feels just like every other day and comes rushing in again in the morning. The same lifeless faces. The same dealers and the same tricks. The only things changing are the veins we're shooting off into. These are our calendars. The only marker of the 'time' I can't believe in, a reminder of days stretching backwards forever, and probably forwards too. I'm part way around the circle, with no way of knowing where it starts and ends. Maybe that's deja vu. Maybe the return to the beginning comes in an overdose or a hanging. All I know is that I've got a ticket out of this place, and away from the feeling that you're just another face in an endless guilt parade before God, and the lucky ones, the chosen ones, get to live it forever and eternally. Over and over. Total oblivion is a grand gesture in the face of it all – a penultimate expression of self and agency. People would care, though. Mum and dad, they'd want someone to blame. Its all they've ever wanted. Plus I owe Jason $20. Shit. My mind is jumping from practicalities to the metaphysics and possibilities of life's destruction and its on fiiire, baby and in the end it's 4am and I'm meditating on 'I Wanna be Sedated' and sleep seems far far off, as far away as God, and there's nothing to do and no where to go and I wanna be sedated over and over forever.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

main gareeb hoon.

if there was a market for unfinished short stories i would probably be able to pay my rent. other potential new jobs:

+ sell tshirts with pictures of new zealand on them to new zealanders.

+ let myself go and become one of those gross people malls pay to hang out at food courts to make people leave faster and free up more seats.

+ be a documentary film maker covering weird shit that happens in Japan.

+ rich people can pay me to hang around so they feel better about themselves when they are sad.

+ become, like, the Warehouse of christianity and undercut Brian Tamaki by offering salvation for like 2-3% less.

if you would like to pay me money to do something real easy that would be cool.