“It’s my role in life to be an observer. I was not the perfect journalist – quite aside from whether anything or anyone can be perfect – but my observational skill was valuable to my craft. The most notable characteristic of women’s rise in the workplace is that aggressive, insensitive men should professionally fear them; and sometimes meek, sensitive men such as me must be wary of the positive or negative effects their ambitions could have. I like the fact that I’m able to think and act instinctively whether over the short or long term. And I don’t believe in love at first sight, though anyone with a heart and brain can, I think, see and speak to someone and be immediately at least on their way to love.” This was how I felt when I met Emma, in New York, only a few days before but several thousand kilometres away from where I presently am: Brighton, England. At a guesstimate I’d say it was Thursday December 6, 2012. That might be without taking into account the time difference between the US east coast and the UK, but if it helps I would spend Christmas Day in Scotland and had about two weeks to go before that. This day, whenever it was, Christ was not with me, as evidenced by the fact that since I’d woken up at 3am after only getting to sleep at about 1 or 2am, I went back to sleep after breakfast at about 10am. Then woke up at “4pm!!!” Emma, in one of her Facebook message replies that were increasingly gathering exclamation points of their own (not a good sign), said it best when she called my unholy sleeping pattern “a waste”. A very intelligent woman. More’s the pity. There was nothing for it: while I was supposed to be enjoying Brighton and possibly still salvaging some romance with one of its female natives, I also had to pull myself out of a sleeping cycle of engines blown mayday mayday tailspin into flaming wreckage proportions. Good times. With literally the whole night ahead of me, I found the most authentic British pub so far: The Market Inn. I stayed there for an Angus burger and chips, Guinness, cigarette, then returned to the hostel. I met a bloke named Bob, from Tamworth – country New South Wales – in my room so downstairs we chatted over a couple of mulled wines and rums, before both remaining in the lounge area so I could catch up on this journal and he could download music onto his laptop. At roughly this point Bob interrupted his data hoarding and came conspiratorially over to where I was sitting and scribbling; a little blue plastic wrapper in his fingers and a strange redness to his eyes I’d only just noticed.
This plastic wrapper had two small sections, and one of them was torn and empty. The other section contained an apparently legal cannabis substitute called Blue Cheese. I had no idea what it really was, but Bob said he’d bought it at a Happy High Herbs-like shop in Brighton. So based almost solely on his eyes – though bloodshot – not appearing full of pure bullshit, to me, I decided to trust him. Newly recruited as partner in probably not literally crime, he stipulated to me that what we would smoke delivered a very intense high of about a 30 minute duration. My God! He was right. While keeping in mind that I’d previously sent myself into catatonic states by smoking stuff I didn’t ask enough questions about, I was resolved. So we prepared for the munchies by visiting a local convenience store for some chips and chocolate. Then beside a building near the hostel and overlooking the Atlantic, we toked that spliff away. I felt it in the plastic before Bob rolled it into a joint. It was hard; certainly didn’t feel anything like a herb, weed or plant. Instantly after inhaling, it was great.
“Wow,” I expressed to Bob. “I feel all warm even though I know it’s colder than Satan’s arse crack.”
He closed his eyes and nodded. Then shit got weird. First my skin started tingling. This lasted a minute or two. Then time began to distort. Tom was talking to me, but I had to sort of lean in because he sounded really far away, and underwater. Plus his muffled voice was going a million miles an hour while me, my movements and my own speech, seemed lazy and hampered by delayed reactions. It was like I was in a time vacuum. I was looking at a rapidly changing world from another, smaller, much different and slower world all of my own. Then I got the fear, and went to bed for, yep, you guessed it: 30 minutes. A half an hour spent lying rigidly on the top bunk rock hard mattress conceiving infinitely dark and numerous ways the world and everyone in it was out to get me. Bob was unfazed. He calmly lay on his bottom bunk next to mine, watching a movie on his computer. These actions might have calmed me if I hadn’t woven him into my paranoid delusions of persecution. Eventually, it passed like these things do and I tentatively crept down from my bunk, and said to Bob: “Well I guess I can go back downstairs now.” Grabbed my notepad and headed for the door: “Because I no longer feel like everyone down there could be the architect of my destruction.”
“Uh huh,” he simply said.
I warned him about how I was liable to react. Never saw him again. He’d taken off the next morning for London, where he was planning on spending the week partying like there was only seven days’ supply of every type of psychedelic drug left in the world. “Feigning ignorance is a useful survival skill. At the very least for exposing peoples’ ignorance or malicious natures. Or in the case of a deliberately lost taxi driver, a still proffered tip can actually inspire instant guilt in him. Well bought. After seeing only a small part of the outside world, I would define Australia as confused – culturally, sexually, geo-politically, and etcetera. So we take in people from all corners of the planet, profess to seek to learn about their cultures and laws so we might refine our own, but in reality many of us simply ignore or even ostracise our immigrants which leads to a country with many cultures. Instead of a national culture with many sub-cultures.”