I first wrote this story a little while ago after consuming rather too much coffee one evening when I was on a quest to become the ultimate hipster for a book. The book is now out and about, so if you’re keen to take a dip in to the world of HipsterMattic, here’s a little glimpse. Oh, and if you live in Queensland and can pick up a copy of the Courier Mail, Q Weekend are publishing another exclusive extract today. Yay!
Most people go through life not knowing the precise number of louvres on every venetian blind in their entire house. Fewer still decide to solve the puzzle at 2am. Thanks to my new friend caffeine, a whole world of opportunities had arisen. Some people clean things when they’re having a bit of a coffee buzz. Others exercise. I had decided to count. It started with sheep.
My brother had dropped me home from his café at about 10pm and I’d showered, cleaned my teeth three times, re-laced every pair of shoes I owned and had a private skipping contest with the cat before turning in. I say ‘turning in’ because I went to bed and then turned and tossed for three hours before realising I would not be sleeping for a long time. Possibly Christmas time.
My Dad always used to tell me as a kid that the best way to fall asleep was to try and think nothing. If your brain is so retarded that you can think nothing after 12 cups of coffee you are either dead or a Justin Bieber fan. So I counted sheep instead. All of them. There are 12 million sheep in New Zealand and 20 million sheep in Australia and I tallied every single one. When I ran out of sheep, I started counting pigs, but I could only remember four – the three little ones and Babe – so I moved on to venetian blind louvres.
The problem with counting louvres is that you can’t blink or you lose track of where you’re at. Ordinarily this would be something of an issue, but after 12 cups of coffee, I was only blinking once every hour. This made it exceptionally easy to count louvres, but it also gave me a blinding headache.
Hipsters don’t have a whole lot of vices. Alcohol and coffee are the obvious ones. They’ll throw down a bunch of pills at a music festival too if there’s something dancey on, and they’re certainly not worried about inhaling if someone passes around a joint at a party, but of all the drugs in the world hipsters are known for taking, it’s the legal ones which are the most notorious. The cool kids are all on something . The Queens of the Stone Age indie anthem (and festival pharmaceutical field guide) Feelgood Hit of the Summer sums it up perfectly in one chorus: “nicotine, Valium, Vicodin marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol”. Two of those are illegal, four are not. I rest my case.
I’d never been a user or abuser of prescription drugs, but after 12 coffees, 392 louvres and no sleep I had a headache which required serious amateur medical attention.
Luckily I had been was quite sick a few months ago. Not man-cold sick; proper sick. I was in a lot of pain and after three days of not being able to eat or sleep because of the hand grenade gently exploding in my stomach I had decided to go to the doctor. She told me I should have gone to the emergency ward three days earlier but that if I’d come this far I probably wasn’t going to get any worse. In case the grenade turned into an atom bomb and my pancreas literally exploded, she gave me a note saying that if I turned up at an emergency ward they had to let me in and give me head pats and sympathetic looks and their very best stethoscope.
As far as important pieces of paper go, a note from a doctor is out-ranked only by a diplomatic passport. You can get out of a parking ticket with a note from your doctor. You can get out of wearing a helmet on a motorbike. You can get out of the Commonwealth Games. You can use one to get a disabled parking permit. Should you and 32 colleagues ever happen to find yourself stuck down a South American mine, a note from your doctor will even get you cigarettes.
I didn’t end up needing the note from my doctor to get me into hospital (luckily) but I did have one of those other fabulous doctor notes up my sleeve. One of the ones that gets you pain medication. The prescription said I could have pretty much whatever drugs I wanted from a chemist of my choosing. I have drawn a table to illustrate where, in the scheme of pharmaceuticals, the ones I ended up with slotted in, in terms of potency:
- The vial of morphine they give the dashing young private when he’s been shot up real bad in every war film ever made. Not the first vial to ease the pain, the one after he keeps sobbing for ma and the medic knows he’s going to die because his insides are outside and they have to put him out of his misery and the medic looks at the sarge and the sarge nods and the medic nods back and then rips a package open with his teeth and sticks a vial in his leg; those drugs.
- The drugs that killed River Phoenix
- My drugs
- Whatever Joaquin Phoenix has been on
- Crack cocaine
- Crystal Meth
- Whatever you can scrape up off the steps of the Opera House after the ARIAs
- Magic mushrooms
- Medicinal marijuana
My drugs, I swear, contained 60% medicinal LSD and 60% hydroponic heroin. You could have performed tusk canal surgery on an elephant after one of them. My doctor had prescribed me two every four hours and said not to be shy with them. I took four in the first two hours and waited for Alice to throw the grenade down a rabbit hole and take me along for the ride. Sadly, she didn’t turn up, but at 2am, someone, or something else did. In my delirium (I couldn’t call it sleep because medicated dreaming after three days of being awake isn’t so much rest as it is a severe neuropsychiatric syndrome) I began hearing a god-awful, gutteral, groaning noise in my backyard. It sounded to me like someone had been stabbed repeatedly and left for dead under my bedroom window.
On any normal Wednesday evening I would have put on some pants and lights and gone to investigate, but I hadn’t eaten since Sunday night and I was too weak to piss standing up, let alone fend off marauding murderers. I live across the road from a mental hospital which mostly treats people with eating disorders, but I’d checked their website the other day and noticed they also cared for ‘psycho-geriatrics’. I also live a brisk 10-15 minute stumble from 90% of Brisbane’s homeless drug addicts. They never tended to wander as far as my place, but for all I knew some crazed old Vietnam vet had broken out of his straight jacket, gotten on the bourbon and lured a few stragglers down our way for some casual smiting.
After a couple of minutes the groaning began to get louder and, fearing seriously for my life, I dialled ‘000’ and asked for the Police. I wish I had recorded the conversation, but it went pretty much like this…
Policeman: Yes, hello, what assistance do you need?
Me: Well, I think, there’s like a groaning sound. In the backyard. Sort of a moaning and groaning.
Policeman: What’s your address there.
Me: Unit 3, 248 Oxlade Drive
Policeman: *taking notes* Unit 3, 248 Oxlade Drive
Me: No, wait. 284. I only just moved in a bit over a year ago and I forget sometimes
Policeman: You only ‘just’ moved in a bit over a year ago?
Me: Yeah, I forget sometimes
Policeman: OK. And what’s your phone number there?
Me: Oh, I thought you would have had it because of caller ID
Policeman: Can you just confirm it for me please
Me: Umm, yep. It’s 04…
Policeman: OK, and what’s the problem?
Me: Well *whispering* I’m whispering so they can’t hear. There’s like, hang on, I’ll move away from the window. There’s like a moaning. Sort of a moaning. Groaning. It sounds like someone is dying. Umm. It’s a really weird sound. Sort of like ‘aargh, eeergh, aargh’.
Me: Kind of an ‘eergh, eerga argh’
Policeman: And how long have you been hearing the noise?
Me: It’s been going for about five minutes now. It’s really in-human.
Policeman: Sorry, did you say it was human or in-human?
Me: No. Well, yeah. Sort of non-human. But I’m sure it’s human. It’s like the weirdest human sound ever. It kind of sounds like an animal, but coming from a human. I studied music technology at uni so I know about frequencies and things and it’s definitely a person. Definitely. Almost certainly. I think someone has been stabbed or something.
Policeman: So, where is the person. In relation to you?
Me: It’s out the back. Near my bedroom window.
Policeman: Can you see the person?
Me: No. It’s really dark. I think they’re near the tree.
Policeman: Near the tree?
Me: I think so. Kind of, I think they’re in the tree now.
Policeman: In the tree.
Me: Yep. They were on the ground before, but I think it’s in the tree now.
Policeman: Did you hear an altercation?
Me: No, I was asleep and then I woke up and heard this ‘eerk argh’. It was really loud … There it goes again. Can you hear it? It’s really loud. I’ll hold the phone up.
Me: Did you hear it?
Policeman: I don’t think so
Me: Really? It’s really loud. It’s like an ‘ach, argh argh’.
Me: Hang on, I think it’s wandering off.
Policeman: Has it stopped?
Me: No, it’s just wandering off. It’s kind of chanting now.
Me: Chanting. Kind of ‘acheyah, ooyah, acheyah’
Me: It’s just that I live near a mental hospital and there’s lots of drug addicts in the Valley and I thought maybe one of them had been, *whispering* killed.
Police: And so you can just hear the one, ah, person at present?
Me: Oh, it’s kind of getting higher. Near the tree out the back. It’s kind of shrieking now.
Policeman: Is it in the tree?
Me: I can’t see it. I’m too scared to turn the light on. I’ve been a bit sick and I haven’t eaten and I had to sit down to pee before because I thought I was going to faint so I’m a bit weak and I’m on some really heavy dru… Nothing. I’m fine.
Policeman: Sorry, what did you say you were on? Are you sure you’re OK?
Me: No, I’m a bit sick, but I think it’s moving away.
Policeman: In the tree?
Me: Yes. Maybe. No. Maybe. Yes. In the tree. I’m not sure.
Policeman: It’s not a possum is it?
Me: Yeah. Could be.