Goofin’ – Pt. 3

In the days before Lanky and Geof got into smack they were quite a laugh. In the fifth year, a year ahead of me, they made quite a splash. There was a zany little group of them who got quite far out. Snitch and Snatch, Stiff, Lanky, Sten, Geof and Malc. They dropped out in a big way despite being among the brightest in the year. Refusal to compete meant sport was out and veggie power meant school meals were out. In fact, it was quite apparent that they had some ideological opposition to most of the school curriculum, dress code, punishment system and ethos. The prefect system suffered the most and the R.E. teacher, a poor innocent rather liberal Christian, suffered a breakdown trying to rationally deal with the logics of Eastern metaphysics. They were out of control and aloof from the whole system and rapidly became a law unto themselves. The school was not equipped to cope with it. Their hair sprouted and set a new standard. Their uniform disintegrated to a travesty and their refusal to accept the discipline system, especially when administered by the prefects, made a mockery. It was no wonder I gravitated towards them rather than the staid conformity of my own year. I don’t think the school was geared up to it. They did not know how to cope with it. These were heady days of revolution, man. There was student power in the air. They probably did not want to precipitate a rebellion. Instead they tried to accommodate them and failed miserably. Soon they came and went as they liked. In 66 it was openly smoking dope on the school field with the teachers and vast majority of the kids being so naive they had no idea what was going on. In those days it was mainly hash and speed apart from Geof’s penchant for Collis Browns cough medicine. In those days you could buy it over the counter in any amount, no prescription necessary, despite the fact that the main ingredients seemed to be morphine and heroin. Trouble was Geof had no sense of moderation. He’d drink three or four bottles and become incoherent and pass out. Nobody thought too much of it at the time. We were all doing it. That and booze. But it was a bit of a chilling start when he came round from a binge to find himself completely blind. That shook us. It lasted for three days but he recovered and got on with things.

            Over the years we had all stayed good friends. Lanky used to have these cosy little get-togethers round his house that usually sort of grew into unusually quiet parties. Maybe that was jut the effect of the dope or the Mayer/Harriet Indo-jazz fusions, Ken Nordine, or Paul Horn albums that he always had on. Either that or the mellow effect of the old farmhouse that he lived in with its rustic ivy and great gnarled old oak beams.

            Next time I saw Jack was at one of these.

            We were sitting around on the floor in the front room in front of a big log fire sharing from a home-made bong. The fire was quite unnecessary as it was a nice warm summer’s night but it seemed right. It added that organic atmosphere. The bong was one of Lanky’s plaster of Paris designs. Lanky had gone into Art College and seemed to spend his time designing psychedelic bongs. This particular one was based around a plaster cast from a rubber glove. He had moulded it so that the thumb was what you drew the smoke through and the first two fingers were sticking up. As you lifted it to take a toke you were symbolically sticking two fingers up at the world. It sat atop a glass jar and was all painted in wavy psychedelic colours like a solidified light show from A Pink Floyd or Jefferson Airplane gig. It was quite satisfying to handle and pass round. It had a nice vibe. Felt good in the hand. Looked good. Seemed to signify the right attitude.

            “Reincarnation is where it’s at,” Snatch was explaining. “I mean, man, I was reading in these Vedic scriptures, man. You come here to learn a lesson, a specific lesson – something you failed to understand in a past life – maybe you did something wrong and have to atone for it – an’ you come back, man, to have the chance to put it right.”

            People nodded. It seemed reasonable.

            “It’s like your Karma, man. You build up bad Karma from the deeds you do an’ you have to come back, man, to work it off. You are on a journey to understand life and there’s all these lessons that you have to go through to gain insight and achieve perfect understanding.”

            “Yeah,” Malc agreed, nodding. “Yeah, I was reading about this Atman and Brahman. The God within and the God without. It’s like you’ve got this God-head inside you leading you on towards the experiences you need. And there’s this God outside that’s perfect understanding, like a white light of knowledge.”

            “That’s what the Incredible String Band are on about!” Lanky added.

            “I thought they were Christians, man? Scientologists?” Snatch asked aloud.

            “I think they’re into it all,” I put my bit in. “I mean it’s all one thing anyway, right? Whatever religion. It’s just trying to describe the same stuff. Trying to work out what it’s all about. That’s what the Incredibles are about. They’re mixing it all up.”


            The bong made another round and Jack came in.

            “Hi Jack,” Lanky said in his laid back manner. “Have a hit on this.” He passed the bong on. “You’re just in time, we’re nearly out.”

            Jack took the bong and pulled on it. He swayed about a lot and had obviously been drinking quite heavily. His eyes didn’t seem to focus too well.

            “Anyone got any pills? Speed?” he asked. “I’m feelin’ down. Need a bit of perkin’ up.” He laughed.

            He didn’t exactly sound too down.

            “No, sorry, man,” Lanky said. “Outa pills, outa dope, outa wine. We’re outa pretty much everything, man.”

            Jack finished the last of the dope and studied the ash in the bowl on the multicoloured middle finger. “Jeez,” he muttered. “I’ll see what I can do.”

            He strolled out and we went back to our stoned conversation on the nature of Karma, reincarnation and purpose of life.

            After an hour or so with no sign of Jack I was getting a little restless. Everyone had settled into a drowsy trance staring into the flickering flames and glowing embers of the fire. It was kinda hypnotic.

            “Think I’ll split,” I announced. I slipped on my favourite pale green cotton jacket and got to my feet and set off.

            It was the early hours of the morning and the air was warm and clear. Overhead the stars peppered the sky. I strolled through town and it was completely deserted so that your footsteps bounced back at you off the walls like you were walking along with someone who was keeping in perfect step with you. I was still a little stoned and feeling mellow, humming to myself. It was that catchy little number about acid on that new Roy Harper album – Ghenghis Smith – “Gave my love a daisy, a third in my mind. Turned crazy dearest, to see what we could find.” I couldn’t get the tune out of my head. ‘All you need is’. I was humming it and musing over the words trying to wring all the meaning out of it. There was so much in there. It was definitely about an acid trip. But then it was about relationships and life.

            I got level with the chemists and nearly shit a brick when the door suddenly opened and this figure staggers out.

            “Jesus, Jack! – You scared the fuck out of me!”

            He stood there swaying slightly with a trickle of blood running down the side of his face.

            “What have you been doing?” I looked down at his hands to see that he was grasping two great huge jars to his chest. One of them was full to the brim with pennies and the other was full of purple hearts. It was the biggest fucking bottle of pills I had ever seen in my life. There must have been thousands of them in there.

            “Had a bit of an accident, man,” he chuckled. “Thought I’d get us a something to help the night along.”

            He raised up the jar with the coins in to show me a big gash on his hand that was busily dripping blood.

            “Climbed up on the roof to see if I could break in through the skylight into the offy to get a few bottles of wine or maybe something a bit stronger. Couldn’t fuckin’ move it. So I jumped on it!”

            He chuckled again. “Went straight through, man!”

            I was a bit disturbed by the amount of blood that was dripping down his jeans and forming a little pool on the pavement outside.

            “Was pitch black in there, man. Like the black hole of Calcutta. Could’ve hit anything. Fell like a brick. Fortunately I landed right on the counter and rolled off. There was glass everywhere! Went off like a fucking explosion. Straight through. I mean, wow! I was only trying to crack it!”

            I noticed he had packets of condoms stuffed in every pocket. He’d blown some of them up and had them limply dangling.

            “Thing was man, it wasn’t even the fucking offy! It was the chemist.” He roared. “Can you believe that? I jumped straight into a fucking chemist, man. Well I mean, I couldn’t waste that, could I man? I had to check it out. You would not believe it, man. I had to check out the dangerous drugs cupboard. It would’ve been criminal not to!”

            He seemed almost hysterical and still more than a little pissed. I wondered how many of the uppers he’d already consumed.

            “The place was full of stuff. Like an Aladdin’s cave in there. I got my lighter out an’ checked it all out. You would not believe it. I didn’t even have to break into the drugs cabinet. They were all on the shelves, man. Quaaludes, Mandies, Amphetamine, Methedrine, Barbs. You name it, man and it was there. I didn’t need to break in. I’m not into that smack shit. I’ve seen too much of that. Fucks you up real bad. So I picked the biggest jar I could find and had a rummage round the shop. Amazing, man. No alarm. Nothing. I found this jar of pennies.” He lifted up the jar of pennies again. ‘Fucking heavy, man.’

            I was getting a little conscious that we standing having this conversation in the streetlight outside a chemist with a wide open door. Anyone, like a jam-jar of fuzz, cruising by would see a couple of hairy freaks, dripping blood, standing there with two huge jars outside an open chemist’s in the middle of the night. I mean, we were hardly inconspicuous or unsuspicious looking. The plods pulled you in for nowt at the best of times.

            “Come on, man,” I said, coaxing him into motion. I pulled the door shut and set off down the high street.

            “What about the others, man?” He asked. “We’re going in the wrong direction. We could really get the place rockin’ with these!”

            “No, man. I think they’ve crashed. They’re all right. Let’s take a walk down the sea-front.”

            It was a beautiful night. We lay on our backs on the sand looking up at the billions of stars. I bathed the cut on his hand with sea-water and tied it up with a handkerchief. It looked a bit ragged and nasty but at least it didn’t seem to be bleeding too badly any more. Jack threw back a handful of pills and passed me the jar. I was a little more conservative. I could feel them straight away. My mind cleared from the dope and I was wide awake – buzzin’. My mind flitting here and there. The Milky Way was a broad band of smoke. The whole sky was alight. There was no inch of space. It was just different degrees of brightness. We watched for shooting stars.

            “Look at that man. Look at those jewels.”

            “And all those fuckers asleep, man,’ Jack chuckled. ‘Never seeing it. What a waste. What a terrible waste.”

            “Can you imagine ever getting a job and settling down?”

            He chuckled. “No, man. Not me. It’d kill me. It’d eat my soul away. I gotta be free.”

            “Neither me,” I murmured. “Has to be something more to living than that, man. I mean, look at this mystery, man. Just look at that! Infinity, man.”

            “That fucking sky goes on forever,’ Jack agreed, staring up into that fiery dynamo. ‘An’ we’re here with one short life trying to make sense of it. So short a time an’ so much to think an’ do, man. Who the fuck’s got time for work and shit like that. I mean, look at that sky!”

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