It’s unfortunate, but the tides of information that drift about our fingertips have rendered most of us in a united state of suspended animation. The dream of building a life for oneself has sadly awoken to nothing more than the pain of a limp coccyx; the arthritic sacrum founding a column composed of expensive, termite-infested lumbar nailed to an invisible wall. The promise of a thoracic stretch, reaching high onto a cancerous cervical platform for skulduggery has excited the sheep within us to a state of collective quadriplegia. Humanity bears witness to the inversion of its own evolution, taken-aback into a reverse step. Faith has once again become prolific, with only the individual to blame for promoting such bent, intra-personal religions.
The mark of genocidal lines across the face of one side of the bill begs to be folded into the image of an uninvited colonist penetrating a pearly necklace. The crowd’s stare is destroyed and a majority left confused, in a cesspool of post-orgasmic hope as a national holiday becomes defunct. It seems fitting to mark the occasion with another day of such invasion – yet we know too well that there are no longer any vulnerable civilisations on any physical landmass that could be declared as “terra-nullius”. The only place on which such atrocities can now be performed is the psychical landmass of the mind – or minds – identifying “self” as something sacred. The attempted extermination of the planet’s oldest surviving culture can only be viewed as a shameful, blood-soaked archetype that we have the duty to recreate in a non-violent way. It’s unfortunate to admit, but where the British perverted the truth of Dreamtime soil – today’s would-be “explorers” are faced with nothing but the reality of what could be referred to as tele-nullius. Uninhabited headspace.
Humanity has developed into an embarrassing state of affairs. Those who admit it are often found making beautifully profound efforts to contradict the flock by celebrating ideas of harmony and peace – and we should usually thank them for it. Yet to the contrary it’s no surprise that our disturbing critical mass has bred the disgruntled; people bored; hearing echoed romantic sermons of privileged blindness. Unconsciously lulled into the illusion that milk is supposed to taste this way, a strong sense of revolt may fill the mouth when suckling on the sour udders of the western world. We really shouldn’t be drinking such secretions at all. Modern society is plainly designed as a way to encourage the pulling of one’s own wool over the eyes.
Thoughts like this have permeated my mind for too long. The reality of being stuck; surrounded by people either too happy to chew each other’s fat or too broken-hearted to face reality made me feel ill. Still does. Despite facing the challenge to embrace the pursuit of knowledge, I found myself wallowing in a personally collected barrel of my own and other people’s shit. In small communities, it can be very difficult to remain open-hearted without repressing a loathing of the self. Even though we’re inherently judgemental creatures, many members of our species try amicably to transcend instinct towards a sense of “understanding” and “acceptance”. Passivity if you will. Once initially detected, the underlying smell of manure rich and rare tends to permanently permeate the nostrils. Upon corpse examination in the morgue, its excusable to rub menthol cream under the nose to avoid nausea, but like a rocksteady diener I’ve packed my coffin while leaving the Vicks in the bathroom cabinet: the place celebrated by people when they “still call Australia home”.
Like a coal to the stocking, I made the preliminary exodus across Bass Strait for the turn of 2017. Self-condemned to Van Diemen’s Land for the term of my unsavoury strife, I spent the eve of the new year bewildered on the Spirit of Tasmania. Dancing-around with a bloke wearing some kind of Sikh turban, while the crew of the ship played ridiculous music in ridiculous costumes. Crawling from the boat and around the east coast of the state, I spent January and February confirming suspicions that the Australian Government had truly become insincere; an amalgamation of insolence and intolerance in its consideration of the more marginalised citizens of the country.
As the origin of the global Greens political party, Tasmania is a pretty good place for massaging such suspicions. The population is small, and doesn’t like crapping on each-other’s doorsteps unless there’s a good reason to justify it. As emblemised by Labe’s chance delivery to a former Australian prime minister; Taswegians don’t like it when the government shits on the general populace either. Head-butts aside, the lush allure of the state may also happen to serve as a knee-jerk aversion from social problems that eventually follow the escapee – reminding of their insistence. Whatever the case may be, the island offers a particularly beautiful sunrise from the peak of Mt. Wellington and a general plethora of natural wonders.
Embracing some initial feelings of displacement accumulated over a few years, the island served as a germination period for some bigger planter pots, or frying pans. Trump was sworn-in – the world cried tears of horror and amusement as they realised his fringe complimented the natural course of the Fibonacci spiral. When asked “why on earth” I wanted to go to the U.S.A., I remembered that some people are just as unaware of their racist gravities as they are of the fascinating geometrics of our solar system. In November 2012, a few thousand Australians virginally witnessed acute affect in the path of totality during a full solar eclipse, birthing a new generation of “chasers” into the travel industry maternity ward. Thus, a synchronised movement of would be rainbow lorikeet serpents flocked en masse to Trumpland.
Escaping the Tasmanian “penal colonies” and arriving in California at the start of June – exactly eleven weeks before the eclipse – I found myself promptly flung over the bonnet [hood] of an LAPD car for rolling some bloke a cigarette. La la land – what a bloody shithole. Travels to San Franpsycho, Vegas and Colorado aside, the end of July bought solid joy in a massive tin of Milo and jar of Vegemite – just in time for an adventure through the epic wilderness of Yosemite National Park and the eastern Sierras. The taste of West-Coast roads was sweet – a little salty at times – and perfectly nourishing. Stories within stories within stories. Fortunately there isn’t time for that. Smokey the bear extinguishes [some] fires.
These rambling adventures all foreshadowed the eclipse, which was the first to hit the contiguous States since February 1979. A few moments speculation on generation gaps shows that not many people realised the opportunity they were missing when they put their glasses-on in the likes of Sydney , or Sacramento  to witness a polarised anti-climax. I suppose not everyone can see it, right? Moving-on, it’s worth mentioning that not all full solar eclipses seem to have the same affect, or effects. The geometry of the phenomena is diversely acute. My first eclipse experience brought quite mundane personal significance. Tingling of the face; uncontrollable sobbing; the sight of white blue tentacular coronal streamers, slowly waving to-and-fro on the hypnotic frequency of solar wind – covering distances that drastically multiply the size of Earth. Many others experienced similar reactions, witnessing something that science still has distinct limitations in explaining.
Feeling as much sceptical as I do mystic, the eclipse experience in Oregon was a relief. My loop of passion and cosmic expectation became fathomable; the sense of magic less acute. Like an addict, my calloused universal scarring was getting stronger. The Oregon Eclipse Festival itself was unfortunately a fair shitstorm of an event. The organisation seemed more tailored to lining the pockets of the promoters than looking-after their patrons [who’d bought 100% of the tickets]. It was no surprise to witness an embedded celebration of monopoly at the event – having heard stories of disregarded dignity through a reputation generated by the previous Symbiosis Gathering. The memorable blueprint of the 2012 Eclipse Festival served as nothing more than the foundation on which to cash-in on the Yanks. Shameless capitalists: smoking DMT to access the “next dimension” of their bank balances… oh sorry… wrong forum. It’s not a music industry – it’s a music community, right. Hierarchy and stratification doesn’t apply to hoop twirlers and psychedelic enthusiasts… does it? Fucken hippies.
Anyway, enough of that slander. It was what it is.
Following the festival. Nabbed big discounts on overpriced tickets from a bold, town-crying scalper to see the punks of hip hop go back-to-back with an old skool critter of lore. Die Antwoord and Iggy Pop killed-it. Real wild cherry-popping, rich bitch-slapped goodness. A road trip through Washington state; volcanic scars and grunge rock history; Mt. Hood – the Timberline Lodge [Kubrick’s Overlook Hotel] and celebrating the 25th anniversary of Twin Peaks in Snoqualmie alongside the unexpected release of season #3 The Return. David Lynch needs to be lynched for that black sheep ending – what a prick. Thankfully Mark Frost’s accompanying literature quelled enough frustrations in the offer of satisfying answers to questions such as “How’s Annie”. But that’s another story altogether.
A reminder: don’t travel the north-west coast of the United States on Labor Day long weekend. Every would-be American Netflix pirate prepares for the event watching The Goonies – with their kids gagged, tied to chairs; in hope of reliving youths on a holiday to Cannon Beach, Oregon. There was no worthwhile chance in making it to the water – such hordes of tourists are too unsettling. Instead, opting for a slingshot south – catching the return of Pennywise the clown and perfecting the art of free camping – the long and winding road eventually led to the hugging off ancient trees in a daze of majestic Sequoias. A truly humbling experience that stands tall alongside the beauty of Australia’s Swamp Gum/Mountain Ash giants. A few clicks down the timespan ended in the near self-amputation of two toes [120ah AGM batteries are quite heavy]. Disinfecting blown-out digits with Bombay Gin at the Yuba River. Prepatellar bursitis. Dominoes of health [atop the usual arthritic symptoms] and a general feeling of uselessness undermined by a local rural remembrance of nature’s terror, no less on the 11th of September.
The north-west American continent burns. It burns hard. There simply isn’t enough time to warn such a sparsely dense scattering of communities in hope of evacuation. Scarring of the land and people is something I thought familiar from growing-up with Australian bushfires, yet tales of Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday simply cannot paint the global picture at hand. Cocaine-fuelled property defence. Looting arsonist-cunts. Driving through the charred remains of Santa Rosa to see a mate’s grandparents returning from a respite shelter to a fucken close-call. Instant rental spikes. Insurance nightmares. Conspiracy theory sensationalists trying to blame the government. Looking woefully down a dark tunnel – the only light at the end of which promises more wildfire. Smouldering piles of ashen mess. It’s an A-grade conundrum.
Somewhere amidst this chaos, a hectic trip through Death Valley and Nevada led to a pretty epic view of the Grand Canyon and more “damn fine coffees” as the end of a 6-month Visa term approached with haste. The last month staying in the U.S. became a bit of a drag as my local friends buckled into work-mode; preparing for winter. Making a choice between Canadian frostbitten nipples and first-time tacos in México was not difficult to make. Booking tickets and organising to store most of my luggage with a friend turned into the Thanksgiving invitation after which I’d been secretly salivating for quite some time. The [convoluted] celebration was abundant, delicious and educational – setting a new familial friendship in stone. It’s hard not to love a big feast, so biggups to the Owens, who embraced my dear Auntie’s recipe for ANZAC bickies – almost instantly transforming them into ice-cream sandwiches. Blissfully unhealthy cultural marriage!
Reflecting on nearly six months in the States, it was time to formulate some postal goodies for scattered family and friends around the globe. Mind awash with experiences of love, support, bastardised electoral practice and political disharmony; the thoughts on my fingers were brimming ecstatic with newfound delights. Generally speaking, north-west Americans are very enthusiastic and accommodating people who celebrate a rich sense of humour and a love for the natural world. This is of course until you find them behind the wheel of a medium to large automobile, at which point they become some of the most dangerously vile and aggressive creatures on the planet. Raised with a 5-mile [8-kilometer] per-hour leeway on speed limits; it is the practice of millions to barrel-down highways and freeways with white knuckles on Tom Cruise-control; snake-weaving through traffic like maniacs… …only to join crowds of idling engines in the only carpark that allows a slow inch-towards the “double-double” sized drive-thru of California’s favourite fast food. The name “In-n-out” suggests a distinct culture of reverse psychology in the States, as people are never going to be in and out of the place. Instead, one experiences heightened states of meditative awareness throughout the 30-40 minutes it takes for the chance to place an order and eventually arrive at the serving window. The menu displays a total of five items, yet orders can be made for a myriad of other options that have to be learned via word-of-appetite.
In similar fashion, a Republican anti-LGBT congressman from Columbus, Ohio had just resigned his [assumed] position after being found having sexual relations with another man in his parliamentary orifice. Wesley Goodman – in the true spirit of Thanksgiving – reminded us that a turkey is not a turkey. A national holiday obviously marking/masking the disintegration of relations between indigenous and colonial peoples is something quite familiar to my own sense of nationalism. Nonetheless, a loose consensus on this favoured American tradition is to focus on sharing both a harvest and the “idea” of a positive future. Perhaps in the case of Republicans, like Goodman it would be a shared loathing of the self… Yet in the spirit of the pilgrim’s first feast, it’s customary to hold onto your carved pumpkins loooong after their mouths go mouldy and the lights are out.
Regardless, there are still shadowed avenues of optimism in the U.S.A. Legalisation of cannabis – medicinally and recreationally – sheds light on the totalitarian approach led by the Australian government, whose policy is about as worth celebrating as so-called “Australia Day”. Simply ridiculous. While – in some circles – Thanksgiving clings to a brief moment of unified history, there’s not much honoured in Australia on the 26th of January other than lies, ignorance and binge-drinking. The colonial successors of James Cook had no feast, no thanks and no respect. No cigar, mate – change the fucken date.
Exactly one week following the giving of thanks, I found myself in the middle of México City staring through the ruins of Templo Mayor; in disgusted reverence at the monstrously beautiful octophallus known as Catedral Metropolitana. The largest cathedral in the Americas instilled the most acute sense of pure evil my heart has known thus far in life. Almost managing to walk through the entire complex wearing a fake Akubra, only the final stroll around the altar attracted security’s orders to pay my respects and remove it from the head. Following that [attempting to scale an obviously off-limits spiral staircase into one of the towers] I was ejected from the venue as a foolish grinning tourist. I learned that the conquistadors ruined what used to be an architectural wonder akin to the cities and temples of Angkor in Cambodia. Like the Khmer, the Aztecs built Tenochtitlan on a mastered understanding of the water table. While Angkor still floats proudly on its soggy slab, the “rebuilding” of Tenochtitlan into México City was from a style that – obvious to the eye – is now sinking slowly into foundational chaos. Not to mention the effects of the recent earthquake of September 19th, 2017.
Whereas spending time in the western United States was a fantastic journey, the creative juice was running low in my veins amidst so many diverting roads and impulses. Upon arrival in México, I accepted that changing some patterns were paramount if I was to successfully formulate a thesis while travelling abroad. Immediately the chronology became clear, and I decided to wait until arriving in Mérida, capital of Yucatán before diving back into the books. In consideration of earthly guidance, I hoped the peninsular would provide unconscious influence, being some of the most prolific home soil of the ancient Maya. Intentions to visit the ruins of Chichen Itza and Uxmal were hastily diverted into lock-down at Mérida’s Hostal Catedral, a fantastic, central, affordable hostel with a massive inclusive breakfast, comprehensive kitchen and professional staff. Upon introducing myself to other guests, I was fast-accosted by a strange little 67-year-old Alaskan-born man who’d spent his first odd decade growing-up in the town of my birth before moving back to the U.S.A. Our rooftop conversations were starkly founding to the truest of friendships one could ever hope for in life, yet I quickly developed the sense that in return for his sharing advice and wisdom, I had little more to offer than booze, food and stories.
I got pretty comfortable in Mérida. Self-sacrificial back-flipping led to the rush of Christmas, and I complimented reading sessions with adventures into the moreish chaos of the central market. Sourcing the tastes of Italy – one can eat only so many tacos – I discovered the highest quality pasta sheets and freshest ingredients I’ve ever come across in my cooking experience. Lasagne isn’t very common in México until you pay through the teeth at restaurants… even then, you might be vastly disappointed. The two I produced [to briefly pat my own back] were fucking ridiculous. It was difficult not to drink the béchamel sauce before finalising the layers of various goodies. My strange, older friend was sitting on the roof smoking a joint when I served him a slice of the second batch, and eventually he wobbled into the kitchen to tell me it was the greatest thing he’d ever eaten in his life [self-confessing to the occasional use of the remark when cooks surpass general expectations].
By this point our brains had been smashed into submission by weeks of repeated Christmas carols in the city centre [Zocalo], with a looming new year bringing hope of some respite.
I feel it’s necessary to mention that after hitherto refusing all the locals who saw my hair as a beacon for selling drugs, I happened to procure a freebie just before the eve of 2018 in return for sharing my cooking with local guests. I then met a lovely girl travelling on her “trimmers break” and we quickly agreed to split a rental car and chase parties for the new year. After dinner, we went for drinks with a few others, necking tequilas in a kind of white fever. By the early hours of the next morning [feeling unusually confident] I became engrossed in self-righteous ranting of epic arsehole proportions. I knew I was in the wrong but wanted to draw blood anyway. Absolutely vile stuff. Needless to say, the car rental was called-off and I was once again left to my own devices regarding prospects for celebrating the occasion.
Without scalding myself too heavily, I put tail between legs and had another good chat with my funny new amigo, deciding to count-in 2018 together on a taste of Hoffman’s fruit. We shared drinks and celebrated the amazing mandala of existence as stars fell-down around us like rain. It was his first trip in about thirty years. Everything happens for a reason, right? Anyway, considering the gift of nasty powder was yet to be finished, I again stepped into some bad boots and started verbally abusing cute European girls for their insistence on wearing hotpants in what was obvious to the eye as a relatively conservative community. Mi amigo – unblemished by techno snuff – gave me the faux pas, but I disregarded his opinion until my poisonous spitting developed into revelations that it was time to leave the party before someone called the cops.
High-tailing it back to a hotel I’d booked with a beautiful, troubled, somewhat impressionable Latina I’d kissed after the countdown, I fell into a messy slumber as the world began to fall under the spell of a dangerously super full moon. This culminated late on the 1st with the spewing of more intricately distasteful implications at this woman; an attempt at producing goodwill in embarrassingly spiteful fashion that once again embodied the guilty smell of my own coca-colon. By the morning of January 2nd, I was once again reduced to the form of embarrassed fool. She wouldn’t have a bar, and basically told me to fuck-off without allowing my contribution for the hotel or room service… free accommodation and breakfast, right? Not exactly.
Rinsed and wretched, I checked-into a cheap hostel and crumbled into post-dramatic stress – totally spent – sleeping about fifteen hours. The new day convinced sentiments that [while my behaviour was again out of line], spending too much time with a woman who’d admittedly dived a little too far into local magic was probably a bad idea for my future. Her little bag of black Voodoo granules contained human bones. Nonetheless, I felt surprisingly chipper upon waking; my heart set on leaving Mérida for the chill town of Bacalar, Quintana Roo. Yet, upon dropping the kids at the pool, I noticed some grim graffiti on the toilet door and before I could book the essentials, a message from my new best mate appeared, requesting assistance in the emergency ward. I got the address and sent him a picture of Putin stroking the chin of a miniature Trump before jumping in the taxi to Clinica de Mérida.
Upon arrival, I was immediately reduced to tears. My friend was on a respirator with tubes sticking-out his arms, a bowl of vomit in his lap and an almost empty urine bag dangling at the end of his catheter. The previous day – the “super” moon of the 2nd – he’d suffered his first minor heart attack at the hostel where we’d met. The hospital needed a friend present for 24 hours to fulfil their system of protocol, and I agreed [with a conflicted sense of honour] to fill these shoes. My friend’s admission to emergency cost him $200,000 Mexican Peso [about $10,000 USD] and the doctors said he needed transfer to intensive care. It was pretty fucken hectic. After a few hours, his lungs became stressed as his ribcage began filling with fluid and he started going into toxic shock. The situation was critical. I then made contact with his next of kin and easily convinced him to book the next flight to Mérida. The wheels of hope were in motion, with the hospital securing another $72,000 Peso for intensive-care admission, maxing out his credit card.
To cut a long story short, I went to the limits of capability to get him into ICU, after which my presence was forbidden outside visiting hours. Ejected from the ward, I couldn’t find a decent corner of the hospital to sleep and retreated to the hostel knowing I wasn’t allowed to visit until 11am the next day. A few beers later, I was asleep – completely exhausted. When I got to the hospital the next morning I was promptly told he’d passed-away within the hour.
I really can’t be bothered going into the finer details here, much less expect others to be bothered reading them. It seems fitting to save it for a letter of clinical disgust regarding the attitudes and financial motivations I encountered while talking to doctors during my first stages of grief. Bloody sharks, feeding from the malleability of human emotion. I will never know what truly happened in that intensive “care” ward, let’s just say there’s obvious suspicion – no attempted kidney dialysis – but I suppose I’m not a doctor. Once collected, I dragged myself to the U.S. Consulate’s imposing security checks and spoke with a lovely representative who assured me I was doing the right thing. Continuing to the airport to meet the next of kin, we introduced ourselves and fought tears in each other’s arms. That night – once my assistance was no longer required – I returned to the hostel and added to the graffiti on the back of the toilet door. The verse on the left was written in disgust a few years ago when I was overwhelmed by the bullshit spewing from my [then] housemate’s mouth. The verse on the right is the flipped coin – re-written through the experience of briefly meeting one of the best friends I’ve ever had – and losing him just as quickly.
The rest is history that needs no discussion here. All that’s left to say is I’m truly grateful to have met such a funny and insightful man in unexpected circumstances. For all the good-will he provided over 67 years, I was fortunate enough to bathe in it during the final days of his humane life. Two good spirits, in good company, sharing questionable manners and tact. When he told me, ‘a writer should be read and not heard’ – I decided to listen to him. Thank you, David Edmund Reavis.