in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Over is as over dose (you know what I'm talkin' about)

I overdosed just the other day. I’d administered a big whack not ten minutes before, cooked up in the usual way: filtered, mixed, then ingested through glass. Five minutes later I was out the door, on my bicycle, feeling the surging rush and the way it made the sunshine sharper, made everything click into keen focus. But only five minutes later the dose had started to turn, and by the time I reached my destination – a few minutes after this grim realisation – I was so shaky I could barely pass the u-lock through the spokes of my front wheel. The feeling was a familiar horror: socks soaked with a cold sweat that also covered my brow; jaws clenching repeatedly over the big wad of chewing gum in my mouth; hands and eyelids all a-twitter; a big, balling headache behind the brow; and last of all, a temper at twig-snap tension. Should anyone so much as snicker at me the wrong way, they would know the deep, sudden, scarlet flail of my wrath.

I gave myself five minutes on the lawn to calm down, letting ebbing washes of tense rage run their course, waiting until the uncontrolled urge to stab sockets and bite sinews subsided, to be replaced with a much more controllable queasiness and a dull thumping headache. I sat there, silently bemoaning the clam of my socks, and I thought: gosh, coffee is such a horrible drug sometimes. For a good few minutes there, I was so engorged with shaky anger that I could easily have lost it with anyone who so much as sneezed a marmoset-size sneeze in my direction. I really, really ought to cut down.

Two generations ago, Australians were mostly tea drinkers by day, beer swillers by night. Then, in the 70s, boomers began to swap swill for an AM plunger and some PM vino. Nowadays? Nowadays people are drinking caffeinated drinks day and night: a heart-starting coffee or three for breakfast, another at eleven, a coke with lunch, another coffee at three-thirty… then energy drinks with booze until vomit or complete neural collapse covers your evening in stench and darkness. But maybe not before you’ve punched, glassed, kicked or otherwise pulverised someone around you. Or at the very least raised the ambient aggro levels to just below boiling point.

It’s easy to see why crystal meth and binge drinking get the spotlight – the effects on sufferers are pronounced and profound. But at the same time, with all the talk of epidemics tearing at the social fabric, very little thought is given to the one drug that almost everyone is on, almost all the time. And it’s not only that everyone is on it, it’s also that they’re on it in ever bigger doses, in combination with massive whacks of sugar and alcohol. Hence the aggro. Not out-and-out anger, but just moments and people – on trains, in traffic, at the bar – right on the edge, and a city whose whole demeanour is a big fuzzball of undirected rage. If you can see the china quivering on the mantelpiece, it’s because there’s a very, very nervy elephant in the room. And its name is caffeine.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Click Clique Clan

The usual malarkey: go to a house party with some friends, finish the six packs we’d brought, steal someone else’s beers, get stuck into the host’s whiskey, then (finally, triumphantly) muscle in on the stereo, hip-house brimming iPods in hand. A crushing discovery on this tip: Gen Y appear not to understand the KLF. At all. Parliament, Prince and MJ still in floor-working order though….

A wee boogie, then it's a short stumble to 3am carnage, with nothing for company other than a bathtub full of soggy cardboard and meltwater, huge tables full of half-consumed bevvies and a floor festooned with that sticky black muck that I’ve been told is the residue of an evening’s hopes and dreams.

The normal unfolding of the night, but nonetheless a weird party because of the vibe generated by the gaggles of partygoers, all of whom formed clumps and thieved booze from each other, while not appearing to want to talk to each other, not for much more than a bummed fag. Some mixes just don’t mesh, and this one was a mash.

You think you go to a party to meet people, but who exactly? The very next day, my friend summed it up. ‘Do you remember that girl that X introduced us to? The one with the flesh-toned wedge heels, the jaunty baseball cap and the mouth stuffed full of teeth?’ I said I did – how could I forget? Then he said: ‘She was nice, but… no sooner had she spoken about three sentences, I just knew we could never, ever, ever be friends… and I knew she felt exactly the same way about me.’

Discriminating is inevitable and necessary, even though it is inevitably and necessarily incorrect. Most doctors have your diagnosis sussed to within three possibilities in as many minutes. In a lot of cases, what you actually say about your condition doesn’t matter that much. Sometimes it doesn’t matter at all. Why? The doc’s already got a hunch. After that, she’s just matching and fitting everything about you against it.

The party was not that different – take the hunch off the doctor and stick it on us and our fellow party-goers. Even before actually meeting other people, we’re already sussing the scene: clothes, sure, but also posture, height, complexion, voice – one girl even got ticked right off my friend’s list for nothing more than a piggy guffaw. Okay, so we subsequently found out it was more like a horrendous cackle that ended every upper-inflexed sentence, but hey…

People click, clique, and clump – and this clannishness is fine, provided the feeling is mutual. That’s what love is: stalking in which the feeling is mutual. And it’s nice to find the people you like, the people you’re like, and who (are) like you. But the other side of seeing eye to eye and finding like and love is how wrong we are about our assessments of each other. But this takes time to realise, which is why you mostly only hear people exclaim ‘We were totally wrong for each other’ at the end of a relationship. Could have been that Ms Tooth Mouth (or maybe even Ms Ugly Guffaw) was the right one for you, but you ticked her box off your list, stole her beer, and then totally and finally alienated her by singing along to ‘3 a.m. Eternal’.

The Author

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PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.