The intercom by the door marked “Addaction” buzzed out a challenge. I identified myself as a new prospective customer and was let, through a double-door airlock security system, into the dark cool interior of the building. The staff of the centre were lounging around on sofas and smiled at me as I entered – there were no other clients present.
A ginger-haired social worker type put me through a brief interview, started a file on me, and we discussed what they could do for me. What I am really hoping is that they will help me obtain proper legal accomodation. I am depressed, you see - I have mental health problems, I am severely addicted to heroin, and it’s all because I need a place of my own. This is what I explained to them.
Paying market rents is still out of the question. If I stopped burning all my money on drugs I could afford it, yes, but I resent paying such ridiculous amounts of money to a greedy landlord. A great many people in London spend – what? Easily three-quarters? – of their income on a place to live, and this makes them, immediately, a slave to their employer and a slave to their landlord, unable to afford to fuck either of them off. I need to arrange myself something better. A council place or a housing association place, which I could eventually sub-let when I go traveling. As a single young male, this is practically impossible. Oh, but I’m still married, and hopefully I can plead mental health problems and hepatitis and thereby jump the queue.
Why has this never occurred to me before? The welfare state throws money at us scum. At the feeble and fucked up and unfit. The social Darwinist and cryptofascist in me screams. I know a girl who gets thousands of pounds, computer equipment, free furniture – a reward for being dyslexic. Call me insensitive or ignorant, but what’s that all about? Basically, a reward for being dumb. Aren’t they really fucking with the brutal process of natural selection, here? What sort of a nation are they breeding, this society that rewards and nurtures stupidity and weakness? Well, let’s see if I can play this game.
When I was a young and zealous anarchist I used to rinse the social system for all I was worth. I saw benefit fraud as a valid act of resistance to an irredeemably fucked up system. Then I went conservative for a while – proud to be self-sufficient, refusing to touch their welfare money and refusing to give them mine in taxes. But now it looks like I’m leaning back the opposite way again, due in no small part to a futile and impotent hatred for English culture and the society it has spawned.
The ginger-haired type set up an appointment with a doctor for me, who will be able to prescribe me methadone and sedatives. He outlined how the drug-care establishment here works. He promised to get me information about social housing. Then I spoke to a nurse, promised to come back for blood tests. Drank a plastic cup of instant coffee, ate some digestives and got up to leave.
On my way out, ginger-haired social worker loaded me up with drug paraphernalia. A choice of syringes and colour-coded needles of different sizes. Little satchets of citric acid, because brown heroin won’t dissolve in plain water. Pretty little clear ampoules of clean water. Antiseptic swabs, which I tear open and pull half out of their packets and light – the alcohol-saturated swab burns brightly to cook up the heroin solution, instead of a lighter which will burn your fingers before the solution boils. Makes shooting drugs such a convenient pleasure. Like a child impatient to play with a new toy I hurried home with my trove of goodies.
Paranoia is your laboratory for concocting strange beings. The "magically controlled paranoia" is a matrix for programming information structures that take on a life of their own.
Damn this central heating. It won’t stop rattling. I drum out a few patterns on the radiator to see if some intelligent entity wishing to establish communication is behind the noise. I can’t tell if we get some sort of an interaction going. Probably just the pipes.
Tucked in with all the ghosts and spirits. Sleep tight, my son, and don’t open your eyes until the sun is up again. I’m trying to find a place to live with like-minded people, who aren’t afraid of ghosts, or of breaking rules made by ghosts.
I’m scared of ghosts. I’m fucking terrified of them. I’ve spent a lifetime running away from them. I don’t fucking like ghosts.
"Call a priest, then."
So then we’d have a Christian ghost... and then what?
I pore over the endless pages of text I've produced and feel dirty... there's something spine-shiveringly squalid about it all... And I cringe painfully at the thought of teeth biting down on rough paper, sandals scraping paving-stones, washed hands rubbing on cardboard (for me, could as well be fingernails on blackboard; sliding down a banister which turns into a straight-razor).
I'm reading And the Ass Saw the Angel, by Nick Cave... Language of breath-taking beauty, describing a world of utter squalor... Oh, look! Here's a part of something I wrote and actually completed...
The Dice Man
Several inexplicable months after reading The Dice Man, I found myself living in Kathmandu, Nepal. By day I wore a suit and tie to work, teaching English at a prestigious private language institute. By night, I lived the life of a hustling street junkie with the gutter scum of an ancient, gloomy and crumbling city.
I realise that this may do little to advertise the life-changing potential of this novel. This sort of a Jekyll-and-Hyde game is, however, entirely in the spirit of Dr Luke Rhinehart’s programme of deliberate destruction of the ego.
With his every act determined by a throw of the dice, he sets out to overthrow the tyranny of his own personality. He has a vision of a new man – a random man, unfettered by the normal human limitations of habit, routine and predictability. In this lunatic quest, he lurches from one outrage to the next. From respectable beginnings as a successful psychiatrist and happily married father, through uninhibited sexual experimentation and flirtations with madness and murder, he ends up a fugitive, a hunted enemy of the state.
A strange sort of a self-improvement manual, it may seem. 10 Habits of Highly Successful People it’s not. The Dice Man is a frightening, mocking book about destroying yourself to save yourself.
Right about now, if you are at all sensible, you will be wondering if perhaps I took it all just a little too seriously. It may be a very funny, extremely intelligent, sexy and subversive novel, but isn’t that all it is – a novel?
This is undoubtedly the sane approach. But as I read, a revolutionary thought wormed its way into my mind. You don’t have to be who they told you that you are: the teachers, the parents, the educators, the friends, the colleagues and associates whose expectations of you tie you down to your present self as surely as steel cables. Dare to believe that anybody can be anybody.
And so I embarked on my own deranged quest in the spirit of the dice. The book was not solely responsible, but it provided the rationale and the philosophy. My pilgrimage lasted three years. It transversed Europe and Asia, it encompassed drug addiction, smuggling, homelessness, hunger and possibly psychosis. Now sane, I look back with a feeling of unreality and slight disbelief.
It is thus that I arrived, ultimately, in London. I arrived in an unknown city with a shoulderbag and not a penny to my name and started a new life from scratch. Never before had felt the fierce joy of total freedom. And, paradoxically, never before had felt total responsibility for all I did and was.
Previous to the voyeurist revolution this sort of activity was highly frowned upon, but has become increasingly accepted in recent years.
Spying and counter-spying electronic equipment proliferate. Most people recognise some sort of limits, though…
The end times are coming, despite New Labour’s assurances to the contrary. Banks and credit systems will fail. Don’t be a fool! Rely on governments no longer! Your funds are safe with us.
A New Labour market researcher without numbers to call is like a camp guard without corpses to check for gold teeth… They got my number from somewhere and phoned me up for some opinions…
"Opinions? What sort of opinions?"
"Oh I don’t mind, any opinions."
Surreal as everything is getting, I look and I see that it is good. I’m God. I created it thus, and so it must be good. By very definition. I don’t know why, I don’t remember right now, but I must have had a good reason. I made it easier for my ex-girlfriend to get laid than me - I don’t know why - I created it thus and it must be good.
How do I know I’m God? When I take drugs, other people stop working.
I am God, smiling benignly on my creation as I walk down Mare Street, especially on the Turkish girl in the black dress.
What steps can be taken to increase mental alertness and decrease the amount of stupidity?
(Pranayama: good for all things! Acne, addiction to internet porn, homelessness, unemployment, self-loathing, puritanism, shyness, earwax, bad breath, genocidal rage and airplane hijackings! The warm endorphin glow after sex (also yoga or exercise) is conducive to intelligence. Eating well is absolutely necessary to intelligence.)
Does quantum physics recognise such a thing as the "speed of time"? The speed of time is by no means constant. Time runs at different speeds in different places. Runs differently in different places. Rushes or meanders, rolls inexorably or starts and stops fitfully. In most of London (epicentre of measured time, straddling the GMT zero-meridian; historical home of time-is-money capitalism and rationalist mechanical materialism) time flows fast, at a high but constant velocity. But there seem to be regions of turbulence, places where eddies and whirlpools result in unpredictable time effects, extreme subjective time-distortions. Possibly related to drugs, it occurs to me ("I'm waitin' for my man... He's never early, he's always late..."). Some sort of quantum time effect which ensures that dealers are always wherever they are a good quarter-hour after they actually were. Reading, too, seems to slow down the frightening rush of the clock, and so I lounge in a comfortable stasis while the city hurries and scurries all around.
I have emerged in the twilight netherworld of primitive squat-dwelling lifeforms in East London and I am not sure this is my place any more...
Is realgem dying? I think of the newsagent next door from the last time I lived in the East End...
Somehow, every time over the course of two years when we spoke, the conversation died a confusing and grisly death. Every single time either of us opened our mouths, a misheard phrase or an interruption from a bystander lead to a bizarre non-sequitur lead to both of us gaping at each other in embarassed astonishment, neither of us prepared to risk enmiring ourselves further in the situation by attempting to clarify what he just said and the reason for saying it.
This, come to think of it, must have been one of the most extra-ordinary relationships I have ever had with another human. How can it be that on more than 700 consecutive days, my "How are you?" was met with "No, we don't stock that" or his "That's £1.98, thanks" earned the response "Yeah much better, quite good actually" or when we bumped heads bending over to pick up a dropped 50p: "Oops sorry about that" - "That's okay" - "No, I said sorry about that, I was just apologising" - "Yeah, that's okay, don't worry about it" - "I wasn't going on about it, I was just being polite". Until eventually, we conducted all our transactions in an awkward and strained silence.
Roger of the fearsomely rolling eyeballs accosted me on the top deck of the N253 late last night, demanding: "WHAT DO YOU WANT?"
I badly needed someone to do this. Often it is difficult to know what you think about any given subject unless you have tried to articulate it to someone. I made a fair attempt to answer honestly. I summarise:
No, I don't. I will. Or I won't. Come back and read later. I am knocked out of stride by the blinking of the cursor on the computer screen; it is not regular. Like the Chinese water torture, the chaotic period of the cursor flashing is driving spikes into my head. I want the cursor to blink with some sort of a regular rhythm.
What do I want?
Knowing what you want is 99 per cent of the race run. Once you know, no matter how impossible or implausible it is, you can throw yourself into getting it. Happy is he who knows what he wants. Or then again, perhaps not.
From: xxxThe big old house at C___ Rd (ref to this) was previously still registered as the property of the non-existent Greater London Council, dissolved in the 80s by Margaret Thatcher. But it seems there is a light at the end of every legal limbo, and the light at the end of the tunnel, famously, is always the head-lamp of an oncoming train.
To: Mike H
Subject: bad news..
Sorry to trash your holiday vibe but...
Eviction papers arrived for 11th May. Council has registered themselves.
Looks like the end of the road. Any ideas?
Any ideas? No. Back to London. Jump the Stanstead Express, jump out at Tottenham Hale, take the train to Finsbury Park, emerge into a warm night and the grime of Seven Sisters Road. Coming back to London feels like returning home, a warm breeze caresses, but I am soon enveloped by loathing and depression again. I let myself into the house surreptitiously and creep up the stairs. I cannot put words to it, the contempt and ill-will I bear towards my squatting friends, these people who have been my family for five years. (Are you reading this? Don’t sneer yet: you might be one of the exceptions.)
Someone breaks another house in the night when I am in a deep narcotic slumber. Thank goodness I don’t have to look after myself; disaster might result. I am told to choose a room. The squatters thereby display a degree of loyalty I suppose that I admire. This is no small thing in London, free real-estate, but I am surprised these people still want to live with me. Dr Otter tells me (approximately): “They want you, Mike, they need you. Having someone like you around, someone of your level of umm… someone of your level, it validates their whole thing, their whole way of living. It makes them feel like real people.” Whatever that means.
Why am I so contemptuous towards so many of the people I see daily? No one radiates energy… No one is beautiful… Empty, ugly, greedy faces… They sit there, looking, waiting for someone to feed them something… Black holes in the astronomy of inter-personal energy dynamics… But maybe all just a reflection of my own depressed state…
Dried blossoms from the pink trees blow down the street in desultory rustling little whirl-winds… seems like autumn already… the wind blows dry little blossoms (pink when they’re on the trees, the first colour of spring) through the open window to carpet my floor which I don’t bother to sweep any more… maybe I should be packing and arranging some transport…
Juggling with samurai swords… my waking life is a chemical balancing act, the goal a psychopharmacological equilibrium between narcosis and withdrawal which would empower me to maintain normal functioning… my heroin consumption has reached ridiculous proportions, my poverty will soon be dire and absolute, my situation no longer viable. Wednesday ten am the bailiffs attend this big old house, probably to brick it up and leave it empty for the crack-whores and junkies. By then I need to be moved, and then I cure myself of this addiction…
Meanwhile, Mike H continues to meet deadlines on time and maintains, yet, the appearance of professionalism. No one who didn’t know would look at him and think this was his story…
Memo to self (2003, recovered)
1. Maintain the appearance of professionalism at all times.
2. Be generous with the truth on your invoices.
What’s next for realgem? Who knows… Stay tuned…
You read the poetry of Tim Boucher, occult investigator and smile contentedly. All is well in the world.
This is part 2 in the series of things Mike Camel can't find anywhere on the internet.
This version, by an unknown translator, was published in the Peshawar-based English-language daily newspaper Frontier Post in 1999.
The Frontier Post is running again, after being burned down by a mob of extremists in 2001, after inadvertently publishing a letter to the editor which was seen as insulting the Prophet (SAW) and therefore blasphemous. (BBC story)
The Post maintain it was part of a conspiracy against the independent newspaper and the Pakistani people. The former editor of the paper, Rehmat Shah Afridi, remains in prison after being framed by police for the possession of large quantities of drugs in 1999. This relates to his investigations into cooperation between Pakistani anti-narcotics forces and drug barons.
Some Frontier Post staff were arrested on charges of blasphemy (a capital offence) over the letter. Mohsin, the sub-editor on the letters to the editor pages that day, explained the fatal slip as being due to the fact he was recovering from heroin addiction at the time. From the pages of Jang (Urdu daily with English pages), blackly comical:
After hearing 24 witnesses and examining the record the inquiry judge observed, "There was mismanagement in the newspaper and a single individual has to perform the duties of five to six persons." In addition, he noted, the staff of the daily was not paid "for the last four to five months". The judge's statement further said: "Mehmud Shah Afridi, who was not a professional (journalist), took charge (as) the Editor and thus the state of affairs (went) from bad to worse."
The tribunal was able to establish that Munawar Mohsin was "a drug addict for the last ten years" who escaped from the heroin ward of the Government Mental Hospital Peshawar a couple of days before he was assigned the op-ed pages of the Frontier Post. This naturally had to "result in blunders".
The report concludes that the publication of the letter was a result of personal negligence on Mohsin's part and the general negligence of Aftab Ahmad and Mehmud Afridi.The Peshawar court awarded a life sentence and ordered Rs50,000 in fine to Munawar Mohsin in a blasphemy case over the printing of the blasphemous letter in the daily Frontier Post. The additional district and session's judge, however, acquitted other co-accused, Aftab Ahmad and Wajihul Hassan.