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One liner Wednesday: First drafts…

“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the allergies began to take hold.”

Fear and sneezing Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S Thompson,
1971.

#1linerWeds

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Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Flying Visit…

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Once more I’m handing my homework in late for Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday post, so I’m writing this in detention.

This week’s prompt is as follows:
““fly/flies/flew/flu/flue.”  Choose one, use ’em all, it’s up to you.”

Ok then, let’s go…

Flying Visit.

Blake looked blearily at the glowing readout of his clock radio, groaning in displeasure when he eventually deciphered the fuzzy red numerals and “03.14” swam into focus.
The pounding in his head from the second, ill-advised, bedtime brandy (a medicinal dose, to help combat the flu that had kept him in bed, alternately shivering and sweating, for the last two days) hadn’t retreated from its position behind his eyes and it wasn’t helped by the loud, monotonous thud-thud-thud of bass-heavy dance music, coming from the apartment above.

He stared malevolently at the ceiling, hoping the party animals upstairs would call it a night and let him get some sleep, wishing for the fiftieth time that his imbecile of a landlord hadn’t chosen to uncover the one and only “original period feature”, namely the old Victorian fireplace in the corner of his small bedroom.

As far as Blake could see, the pointless little grate, with its surround of ugly ceramic tiles and ridiculously narrow mantlepiece, served only two functions; as a conduit for icy draughts in winter and as a year-round acoustic tube, providing a constant, echoing reproduction of every thudding bassline, every movie soundtrack and every outburst of raucous laughter from the room above.
Which would have been bad enough if he’d been allowed to use it, but it was for “decorative purposes only” apparently and he’d had to smuggle in a portable (and equally prohibited) gas heater, to counter the arctic blasts that issued from the open chimney in windy weather.

It was the second of its key properties that the fireplace was now demonstrating, at – Blake glared again at the clock, as if daring it to give him the wrong answer – 3.37 in the morning, and it occurred to him more than once (much, much later) that this was the time that his life began to change.

Angrily flinging the covers aside, Blake swung his legs off the bed and stood cautiously upright, expecting the shakiness of the last couple of days to return, but discovering to his relief that he was actually starting to feel better.

“Maybe that second brandy did the trick after all,” he said to himself with a grimace, his throbbing head smugly insisting that this wasn’t the case, “kill or cure, it’s the only way.”

He was hauling on a pair of jeans he’d found, after stirring the soup of clothes next to the bed for a while, when he heard the promising noise of an upstairs door opening. He listened, only now realising that the music level had in fact dropped several notches in the last minute or two and was rewarded with the sound of loud footsteps on the creaking stairs, drunken shouting, then the slam of the street door closing.
Blake relaxed.

“Well thank Christ for tha…,” he stopped abruptly as the music upstairs resumed, this time at an even more ear-splitting volume, “oh for fuck’s sake! Right that’s it.”

He grabbed the first top he saw, a faded Rush t-shirt with the Fly By Night owl logo just visible on the front, pulling it over his head as he opened the front door and marched purposefully up the reverberating stairwell, rehearsing what he was going to say to his inconsiderate dickhead of a neighbour under his breath.

He stopped outside the door, the music so loud here that it was hard to discern anything but the sledgehammer bass beat, and was lifting his arm to knock when he realised nobody would hear him if he did.
Hesitating briefly to weigh up the potential risks involved, (after all, he and an ex-girlfriend had once, half-jokingly speculated that the partying neighbour upstairs may in fact be a major drug dealer, hence all the comings and goings from his flat) Blake reached for the handle and to his surprise, the door swung open.

The music hit him like a wall as he stepped into the hallway, making his ribcage vibrate and ratcheting up the pain behind his eyes to an almost unbearable intensity. He clamped his hands over his ears and strode down the hall towards the room at the end, obviously the source of the cacophonous racket, took two steps into the room and stopped dead.

Laying face down on the sofa at the far end of the room was his anti-social neighbour, clearly unconscious. Although this was unsurprising, given that the table was covered in syringes, traces of white powder, rolled up bank notes and a huge pile of cannabis – which also accounted for the pungent fog of smoke in the room – and the fact the floor was littered with beer cans and vodka bottles.

But it was what lay on the floor next to the table that held Blake’s attention.

He didn’t know what made him notice it, it was just a sports bag, some designer emblem on the side, but it was open and he took a step closer, wincing as the music assaulted his eardrums, looking down onto…

“Fuck me!” he exclaimed, loudly and without thinking, slapping one hand over his mouth and whirling to look at the prostrate figure, checking for signs of life, simultaneously cowering under the renewed assault the music made on his unprotected ear and clapping his hand back onto the side of his head.

The unconscious dealer hadn’t stirred since Blake had arrived and, after locating the sound system and reducing the volume to a still high, but manageable level, he carefully checked for a pulse, finding a strong, steady beat almost straight away and feeling immediately guilty that he was disappointed.

“I mean,” he thought to himself, “if he was dead then who would be any the wiser?”
But he was still perfectly healthy as far as Blake could tell and he didn’t fancy living downstairs, not knowing if the bloke was going to come knocking on his door, demanding Blake give back the bulging bag of cash he had stolen from him.

Now he did take a closer look, spreading open the zippered top of the bag and emitting a low whistle between his teeth as he did a quick, very rough estimate of how much was in there.
Probably two hundred and fifty thousand, he thought, give or take ten grand.

He stood up, catching his reflection in the mirror above the equally unattractive twin to his fireplace downstairs, looking himself in the eye.

Dare he?
Could he get away with it?
The owl on his t-shirt gazed enigmatically back at him from the mirror, as the words from the song came back to him;

“Fly by night, away from here,
Change my life again.
Fly by night, goodbye my dear,
My ship isn’t coming and I just can’t pretend.”

Which was true wasn’t it?
He had no prospects, living in his crappy apartment, working his crappy job, putting up with his shitty neighbours, there was no point in pretending otherwise.

He looked down at the money.

He looked over at the silent drug dealer.

He looked back at the money and came to a decision.

He gently shook the man by the shoulder, making certain he wasn’t going to suddenly awaken, then, when he was satisfied, he lifted the limp figure carefully off the sofa and half-carried, half-dragged him to the hated fireplace, letting him down none too gently so that his head came to rest with a loud bump, face down, snugly in the small oval hearth, a faint light from Blake’s own room, just visible through the grating, at the bottom of the disused flue, one floor below.

Blake stood back and viewed the staged scene, bending to make minor adjustments to the unresisting arms and legs until he was happy that it looked a natural enough “accidental drunken fall” pose.
Then he took one last look around the apartment, closed the one open window, zipped up the bag and left, closing the door and leaving the thumping bass of the music still playing behind him.

He hurried into his bedroom, opening the small wardrobe and removing the gas cylinder he used to power his heater, then rummaged around in the box of junk under the bed until he found a roll of gaffer tape.
He emptied the plastic laundry sack onto the already cluttered floor and got to work.

The sack was just large enough to cover the opening that housed the fireplace, the gaffer tape making a perfect seal when stuck onto those lovely smooth tiles, meaning that Blake got it sealed up without losing any of the gas, which by that point was hissing out of its pressurised cylinder on the grate and drifting up the flue to the floor above, which was sadly blocked by a snoring drug dealer.

Exhausted, Blake fell into bed twenty minutes later, once he was sure the cylinder was empty, the flue was sufficiently plugged and there was no noise from upstairs, (the music having now mercifully come to an end) setting his alarm for just a few hours later, when he intended to go into the nearest travel agent and buy a ticket on the next plane to somewhere hot.

Two weeks later.

“Mr Peters? Phone call for Mr Peters?”, the waiter looked around the pool area until he saw a cheerful wave from the Englishman at the far end of the bar, “Telephone call for you sir, from England.”

“Thank you Carlos,” said Blake Peters, “I’ll bring it back in when I’m done.”

He handed Carlos a large tip, the waiter grinned, said, “Thank you Mr Peters!” and trotted back to the shaded veranda of the hotel.

“Hello, who is this?”

“Oh it’s nothing to worry about sir, I’m with the property agent with whom you dealt whilst renting the apartment in Madden Street…” When Blake said nothing, he continued, “..as I say, it’s nothing really, we were just wondering, during your tenancy, did you have any problems with…pests, at all…?”

“Pests, what do you mean, pests?” asked Blake, not sure if he liked where this was going.

Were they talking about nuisance neighbours?

Should he say something?

Then the agent solved his predicament for him.

“It’s just that the new tenants say they are getting infested with flies, hundreds of them apparently, they’re coming down the chimney, if you can believe that. Did you ever have any problems like that at all?”

“I’m sure I would have reported something like that.”

“Yes, well, that’s what we thought, sorry to trouble you sir. Don’t hesitate to call us if you ever need assistance in finding accommodation again.”

“Oh, I don’t see myself needing your services anytime soon, but thanks anyway. Good bye.”

Blake finished his drink and strolled over to return the phone, stopping once and shading his eyes as a small plane took off from the island’s only airstrip and banked gently across the azure blue water.

Blake watched it as it flew around the headland and disappeared out of sight, then he turned and headed back to the hotel.

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Sorted for pig wormer and plant food…

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Rave Dale. Original cartoon by Ho.

Back in the “Second Summer of Love” of 1988, a hypnotic, trancelike new sound, inspired by the motorik rhythms of ‘ 70s Krautrock pioneers like Kraftwerk, had begun to take hold of youth culture in the UK.
DJs had started playing records coming out of both the Detroit Techno and Chicago Acid House clubs in America and it wasn’t long before British clubs were holding House Music nights, combining the old school heavy pounding beats of the original acid and techno tracks with the smoother, more melodic dance music that was becoming popular in Europe.
Add to that the resurgence of interest in “new age” psychedelia and recreational drugs at the trippier end of the spectrum and the Rave Revolution had arrived.

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Some of these people may be “chemically assisted”

By the time the initial “scene” reached it’s sell-by date in the mid-nineties, even indie geek stalwarts Pulp were casting a laconic eye over proceedings, with this spot-on analysis of the stagnating subculture.

But just as the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act didn’t eradicate the House Music movement by banning privately organised outdoor raves, the rise in use of newly popular drugs such as ecstasy, and old favourites like speed and acid, wouldn’t be stopped by the introduction of draconian new anti-drug laws.

Twenty years ago you could be reasonably sure that if you bought an ecstasy pill at a rave, then it probably had a substantial percentage of E and less in the way of X, Y and Z.
That is to say, the majority of the active ingredient was likely to be (deep breath) 3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine or, mercifully, MDMA for short, and if you were unlucky you might get a side order of baby laxative or baking powder.

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But nowadays, due partly to the demonisation of all drugs by some elements in government and the police, partly to lack of education and partly to the greed of  unscrupulous criminal gangs, the purity and safety of many recreational drugs is being compromised.

So much so that in Vienna, Austria, the Trans European Drug Information Project has set up CheckIt, a free drug analysis service for drug users who want to be sure they’re taking what they think they bought, so to speak.

Update – It seems I made a slight error with these details. Please see the comments section of this post for corrections. (Thanks to CheckIt for picking up the incorrect information)

Indeed, their findings have been somewhat startling.
From over 700 samples of cocaine tested, nearly 85% was shown to have been adulterated by up to half.
Ecstacy tablets frequently show high levels of Levamisole, a farm animal worming agent, which has also been found in cocaine in the US, causing some users’ flesh to rot.

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Other adulterants include Phenacetin, an analgesic with dangerous side-effects and PMA or “pink ecstasy” which has been linked to at least 20 deaths in the UK alone.

Such is the concern for the welfare of unsuspecting clubbers, that the UK now has Dancesafe, a similar organisation to CheckIt who, along with sites like ecstasydata and pillreports, (none of whom seem to have any truck with the space bar) provide user-friendly reviews, analysis and “consumer feedback” on the various street drugs available in the area.

And while programmes like needle exchanges have been around for some years, it has only been recently that the existence of DIY drug testing kits has become necessary.

Even so called “legal highs”, which were once confined to relatively harmless herbal recreational trips like Space Cadets (which I readily admit to having taken many years ago, and very nice they were too) have been replaced by the frankly terrifying Meow Meow (Mephedrone), the fiercely addictive African Khat and things that are so dodgy they have to be sold as “Plant fertilizer. Not fit for human consumption”

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This has once again led to calls for stricter laws to to ban all legal highs, to prevent manufacturers making minute alterations to recipes in order to circumvent the more vague current legislation.

At the same time, a prominent senior police chief has called for “an end to the war on drugs”, citing the rise of criminal gangs and proven effectiveness of addiction rehabilitation clinics to treat drug users.

Unfortunately, well meaning as this may be, it doesn’t deal with the issue of criminalising large numbers of perfectly normal young people who want to go out and have a good time with the intoxicant of their choice, without risking getting poisoned for their trouble.

I don’t think there’s any doubt that people will always take mind-altering substances, irrespective of laws prohibiting them from doing so.
The question is, will we ever come up with a way for society to accept that fact and deal with it accordingly, instead of forcing the issue back underground where the only people who benefit are those who have the least interest in the culture that spawned them?

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Blogging, Music, Personal anecdote

 

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Feed your head…

Aren’t back-handed compliments wonderful?
The other day Elaine said to me, “You haven’t got any middle age spread at all, you should be ashamed of yourself”

Well, having established that by “middle age spread” she didn’t mean fish paste or something, I decided to consider it complimentary none the less, until my brain caught up with the middle age part of the sentence and started banging on the wall to complain about the offensive language.

Really, none of us want to see ourselves as old, getting old, or even halfway-to-being-dead, which is essentially what “middle age” means after all.
But I don’t think this is necessarily a vanity issue, I think it’s more likely to be due to our constant internal monologue with ourselves.
And the reason for this is because the vast majority of these silent, trans-synaptic conversations we have in the privacy of our own heads aren’t held with the (in my case) 47 year old version of ourselves, but with version 1.0, that 15-20 year old who we were when our hopes and fears, our obsessions and prejudices moulded our personality into who we are today.

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Just think about it, every time you have a rant to yourself about the idiotic behaviour of other drivers, every tantrum that fumes inside your cranium, every ridiculous little story you make up to amuse yourself when you’re bored at work, all these exchanges take place in the unmistakable tones of righteous teenage rage, or the sort of childish terms you wouldn’t dream of using in the company of your mates.

I reckon the most likely explanation for this is that our brains are coming to the end of the sequence of developmental changes that are usually complete by the time we reach our early twenties, (until recently it was thought that this process had finished by our mid-teens) and that period of personality development is like the default setting for our inner selves.
That’s my theory anyway.

This leads me to wonder if this is also the reason that most people who indulge in the recreational use of certain naturally occurring (yet largely illegal) substances, generally tend to do so earlier in life rather than later.
After all, the more progressive scientific thinking is that psychoactive experiences can give access to hitherto unexplored areas of conciseness, and at what better time to plumb those depths of the psyche than when we are still developing that inner voice, and when we still listen to what it tells us.
Because, cliché or not, you dorealise some truly amazing things whilst under the influence of certain hallucinogens, and although they may seem trivial in the cold, squinty light of morning, they stay with you in one form or another, stored away in the apocalyptically untidy teenage bedroom of your subconscious.

It has been long accepted that we have areas of our grey matter that remain a mystery to us, (although the much-quoted statistic about only using a third of our brain is nonsense) but it will be abundantly clear to anyone who has ever partaken of “Magic” mushrooms that there is certainly a portion of it reserved for doing things that it just can’t do the rest of the time.

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And now there is plenty of evidence to suggest that these mystical fungi (or rather their psychoactive ingredient, psilocybin) may also hold the key to treating many medical and psychological conditions.

There have of course been studies carried out before on the use of hallucinogenic drugs to treat mental disorders, most notably the infamous Oakridge psychiatric facility’s program of “experimental” treatments on drug addicts, in which men were given huge doses of LSD and then stripped naked and locked up together for prolonged periods. (Oakridge is currently being sued for inhuman treatment of patients under their care)

Things have moved on somewhat however, and a recent series of tests at Johns Hopkins University involved 18 healthy volunteers with an average age of 46 being given varying doses of psilocybin whilst in comfortable, controlled surroundings.
They were accompanied by trained staff who acted as “monitors” and were asked to lie in a comfy position, listen to classical music on headphones, and let their minds drift naturally.

In the study (published in Journal of psychopharmacology) they found that, over a year after the tests, 94% of participants still considered it to be in their top five “meaningful experiences”, while 39% claimed it was still their all time number one.
What’s more, families and friends reported a marked increase in empathy, cheerfulness, and ability to relax in daily life, amongst all the volunteers.
Doctors are hoping to utilize these properties of the drug to help alleviate anxiety in patients suffering from terminal illnesses, and to treat conditions ranging from depression and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to drug addiction and psychosis.

Not the first time a dying patient has had the benefit of “going out on a high” so to speak, Aldous Huxley famously penned a last request, (he was unable to speak in his final days) that his wife administer a gigantic shot of LSD on his deathbed.
She wrote about it in her book This Timeless Moment and you can download a free pdf copy of it here.

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Huxley – “Oh great, another article on me getting wasted”

Unfortunately, hopes for the introduction of such therapies in the UK have taken a turn for the worse recently as a court ruling has declared that the use of banned (natural, freely available) recreational drugs are not permitted in clinical trials or the resulting medication that may be developed from them.

A campaign to have this decision re-evaluated is being lead by perennial thorn in the sides of successive government anti-drug lobbies, Professor David Nutt.

Meanwhile, should you still hunger for more knowledge (or can you only thirst for knowledge?) here’s another view on the medical properties of shrooms, from someone who’s obviously a a Fun Guy to be with!

Oh come on, you didn’t think I’d be able to resist that one do you?

Happy hunting…

***BLAH BLAH BLAH…. NOT BIG, NOT CLEVER… BLAH BLAH BLAH….. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME….. BLAH BLAH…. JUST SAY NO… BLAH BLAH***

[There, that should cover it]

 

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