that’s not what I call mugging, and a musical digression

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The second time I got mugged was in Clapton, East London, right in front of a church. It was an inept mugging. My cheap bag strap broke and everything fell onto the dog shit strewn lawn of the church. The guys looked at the contents of the stuff on the ground. Lippy, tampons, anti sickness suppositories, Kleenex, pens, a steno pad, a mini London A to Z, maybe two or three quid. A cassette cover of a short lived off shoot of Sonic Youth, called Ciccone Youth, basically Thurston Moore in a record booth singing really badly over Madonna’s Into The Groove. The cassette itself was in my Sony Walkman, and I was listening to it while waiting for the bus and therefore depriving myself of one of one of my anti mugging senses, plus trying to decide if I liked Into The Groovy. See I loved Into The Groove, the real song, it’s an instant feel good swaggering jazzy walk kind of song. I think Madonna as a whole is not a good thing, but I admire her work ethic and dancer’s discipline.

It was at a time in my life when I just didn’t allow myself to like anything that was too popular. It didn’t seem cool. So Into the Groove was my guilty pleasure. And everybody who was cool liked Thurston Moore. There was a joke going round at the time. Why did the Punk rocker cross the road? Cos Thurston told him to. I was set to fly to NY to interview them as Ciccone Youth, we could not talk about Sonic Youth at all, which was fine by me, but by the time I got over they didn’t like Madonna anymore ( perhaps they never did in the first place, some people are just too ironic) and all they wanted to talk about was Janet Jackson. “Janet Rocks,” they said with great authority and what seemed like authenticity. “She kicks ass” But all that was later and not really to do with getting mugged, all though perhaps in the wider sense of let’s fuck with the journo’s head sense of the word.

So I was at this bus stop in front of a church, and even though there were loads of people carrying their Tesco bags, a few carrying those walkie talkie sized mobile phones, lots of people sucking their teeth and bitchin about when the bus was gonna come. Not that I heard it, I as all Thurston-ed out, but I could see it. These two guys walked passed us and seemed to sort of size us up. Who is the dumbest here? Who looks the most lost? Who is not really with it and on guard against us ruffians? In any given situation, apart from say, a facility where people on major tranqs go, I am the stand out lost, druggy out of it lookin one, even though I was not on drugs and I had lived in those parts for a few years. So much so that I could have given directions to a lost tourist, but they didn’t tend to come to Clapton, near Dougies Wine Bar, men five quid, lovely ladies, free. A land of tower blocks, pirate radio stations and drug dealing and murder.Dougies got closed down in some drugs raid and became a Saturday school, which is like Sunday school on Saturday.

I am deprived of most senses outside my own head, so I’m already an easy target. Add a Walkman into the mix and I’m totally fucked in that let’s mug that one sort of way. So the first walk by was to chose which one to mug. The second walk by, one of the guys put his salty smelling hand over my mouth, pointlessly. Where had that hand been? Had he had a crafty wank? A piss? A swim in the sea? Sweatin with nerves? Fish and chips? Extra Saxa salt?

What’s the point in screaming if you are surrounded by people? Apart from say, a teen boy band gig? I have to tell you there is nothing more disgusting than a stranger putting his salty smelling hand over your mouth. It provokes the gag reflex, and I couldn’t go into my bag, which the other guy was trying to grab, to fetch the anti sickness suppositories. Would I have had the nerve to shove something medicinal up my puny arse at a bus stop in front of a church? Well, yeah. So the one guy tugged and tugged. I said through the salty hand “Help, help me!” and no one did. Then the guy took his hand off my mouth and I said, I have nothing of value you fucking fuckers, and this is like in front of a fucking church. Surely that contravenes the laws of mugging?” And he said “What the fuck are you talking about? Crazy fuckin lady”

Meanwhile the other guy was tugging and tugging, Thurston kept droning into my ears, I was like take my Walkman, and he was like nah they’re shit. Finally just about when my arm was about to be dislodged from its socket, the strap on my Ridley Road cheap shit bag broke ( thank you God) and as the zip hadn’t worked from the second day after purchase, all my stuff fell onto the grass of the church, which was sort of a God like extension of the bus stop. The guys looked at all my pathetic girl stuff on the grass and just sauntered off.
Still, no one at the bus stop did anything. Except for this one woman who had just arrived at the bus stop. She said Oh, wow, I saw what happened, are you OK” I said, “I guess, I’m pissed off at them, and the other people at the bus stop, and they didn’t get anything anyway, not even my Walkman.” She said, “Here let me help,” and got down on her hands and knees and scooped all my stuff and other stuff ( tell you about in a sec) into my bag. And she looked all pretty and young and earnest and like she’d just been to the hairdressers. And she said, “I work as a volunteer for victim concern, would you like to give us a call to discuss your ordeal” And I said yeah OK but it wasn’t an ordeal as such, they didn’t get stuff, the bag was a bit shit anyway, I’m just mad that God and the people at the bus stop didn’t step in.
So somehow I managed to get home. I cried, I am pretty sure I cried, my arm really hurt, I felt like , wow, this woulda never happened had I not listened to Thurston Moore in a sensory deprivation sort of way. I was living in a flat with my first husband who was still at work or at a gig or something. The flat was below a very grand house on Lordship Park, a very posh road in Stoke Newington. The posh owners saw me crying and invited me in. I told them the story. They gave me whiskey and tea. I think the whiskey was in the tea. I didn’t like it but drank it to be polite. I went downstairs to our flat and emptied all my stuff on our floor. It was all there, plus, accidentally, I hope accidentally, the victim support lady had scooped what looked like a white, fossilised dog poo into my bag. I have since learned that some dogs on bad food poo white, it’s not a fossil. Well that totally put me off victim support, I was not a victim, I was a recipient of dog poo by a do gooder. If people trying to be helpful put shit in your bag, don’t trust em. TBC

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Gettin mugged. the worst bit is when they put their hand over your mouth to muffle the scream. I mean, where the fuck has that hand been?

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I guess I have been mugged three times. Two times they got nothing cos there was nothing to get. Once in NYC they got about twenty bucks and bunch of valium. That’s the one that really pissed me off. I’ll tell you that one first cos that’s the first one, the NY one.
It was Veteran’s Day Late 70s or early 80s. Lots of Vietnam vets getting good and drunk cos everyone got them drinks for free. Some didn’t have legs and stuff. Propelled themselves on skateboards with paper hanging out of their mouths that said “I was in Nam. Please give.” One guy I always gave to cos he was a really bad hand skateboard mover. He fell off a lot. I usually gave him a buck or so. The others could have been fake or real but the point is, I was on a shitty wage and could only afford to give money, and only a little, to one homeless guy a day.
So I’d given money to the less adept hand skateboarder, and was walking around the West Village with Carrie. I saw this guy, on the sidewalk, bleeding from the head, and he was goin help, help, and everyone was walking by cos they just thought oh he’s a VA drunk. And what was Vietnam about anyway? Why did you go?
These were young idiots who didn’t know young men at the time really didn’t have a choice if your number came up and you didn’t have a rich relation in the medical profession to declare you nuts or gay, or both. Or you didn’t hottail it to Canada. Hey Mister Draftboard, I don’t wanna go,” sang David Peel, who was probably not the
right age at the right time anyway.
So I could not pass the bleeding guy, no matter what I thought of the war. Carrie I think had to go, I can’t remember where she was the rest of the story. I threw my bag on the pavement and said, “Bleeding guy, how can I help you” and he goes “I have no insurance” and I go I don’t mean that, I mean, do you want water, tissues, a drink, a valium, what?” And he didn’t answer, the blood was really kinda gushing at this point. So I got out my Kleenex and put it to the bit of the head that was bleeding the most.
“Oh for fucks sake,” he says, “Not Kleenex, they stick and shit. Then they gotta cut em out with all your hair and stuff”
“Oh , wow, sorry, I don’t know first aid or anything.”
“But I will have a valium,” he said. So I went to look at my bag that I’d thrown on the pavement and saw it was no longer there. During the administration of the Kleenex to the bleeding head,some scumbag had taken my bag. Neither of us had noticed. I said “Fuck fuck fuck I’ve been mugged” and bleeding guy said “technically that was not mugging. He or she didn’t use a weapon or threaten you or hurt you, they just took your bag.”
The fact that he was so articulate struck me that perhaps he was not bleeding to death. That perhaps it was a flesh wound and I had over reacted. We both said nothing but sighed heavily.
“So , was like, the valium in your bag?”
“Yeah.”
“So you can’t help me?”
“No, not anymore, I’ve been liked mugged, or robbed or something. Bleeding guy, sorry bout the Kleenex and insurance and stuff, but this is like a new crisis, I have to get home and I have no keys or money or valium or ID”
“Yeah, well, at least you weren’t in the fuckin Nam,” he said.
I had to agree, on the wider scale, he deserved more pity than I. TBC

storage space, cocaine and sardines

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I have written a version of this story before, involving storage spaces.But I joined up with the Andy Warhol story to keep to a storage theme, having been stuck in a room full of Interview magazines for several days.By accident. It’s somewhere on this blog.

I live very close by to some storage containers, which look like colourful box cars, in East London. I wonder how or if the people with stuff in the upper containers visit their stuff. I wonder if it’s mainly junk their spouses say “I just don’t wanna see that shit anymore” and she or he may be talking about all his National Geographics or punk fanzines that were in the garage before they got a big freezer to store stuff in case there is some kind of nuclear war or natural disaster whereby storage freezers still work and stock all the cheap but filling shit from Iceland ( shop not country) Greggs puff pastry meat pie and so on. Can you imagine, a nuclear war, your country is trashed, your best friends are dead, your house is ash, you are vomiting and bald from radiation, and first thing you think is, ooh, I could murder a Greggs’ mince pasty. Maybe, and this is my guess, they are filled with all the missing sculpture arms, legs, sometimes heads you see on fractured but ancient sculptures in the British Museum. They’ve gotta be somewhere. Or maybe, but not likely, they are stocked with tins of sardines with cocaine in them.
This was really the case for a good pal of mine in NY, she had to leave a guy ( we all do, eventually) ,and move in with , actually it was my mother, ( not the pal, the person she moved in with) and she had a lot of stuff, what we would call nick nacks, stuff you may see in car boot sales as the sunburnt outsize lady in vintage dress and mirror shades tells you that is really from the 50s, you won’t find another one, and you pick it up,say oh how cute,she tells you the price, you put it down she says more desperately you really won’t find another full set of gollywog jam jar labels made into a collage, and before you get into the whole gollywogs were racist thing, you put it down and go to the next stall where they are selling Brazil football t shirts for 50 p. But my pals nick nacks were cute. Wind up toys and the like.
No, I dunno where this storage space was, but it was a container or small room of a sort. One night she was watching the local news and it said that some foodstuffs ( sardines) had been illegally stored in a storage unit which did not allow foodstuffs, but that wasn’t even the really illegal bit. The really illegal bit was that inside the sardine tins, which still had sardines in them to put the sniffer dogs off the scent, were small packets of cocaine, pure, very high street value. She said ohmygodthat’s my storage space, not the sardines and cocaine container but the same general building or stack or whatever. What had happened was that there was some chemical reaction between the sardine oils ( meant to be high in Omega oils, good for you) and the cocaine,(not so good for you) and this reaction had rotted the tins and the stuff started leaking cocaine infused sardine oil all over the shop, right over and into my friend’s storage space. On to her nick nacks. Like exactly over it and through the ceiling and on to her stuff.
We were young back then, I think I was on the road with the folk singer and had dropped by New York when I had been fired for the hundredth time before she rehired me two hours before a really important gig. Anyways it was around Halloween time. She was a calm sort of girl, half thinking oh shit all my stuff is stinking of sardines, but also practically thinking if there were any chemical way we could somehow ( maybe this was my thinking, I don’t recall her flagging up this idea) we could chemically extract the coke from the sardines and become drug warlords in Queens, and I could leave the psycho folk singer and we could rebrand the coke like, it’s bad for you, but it’s full of Omega oils and calcium, which will rebuild the hole in the bridge of your nose without resorting to expensive surgery.
But it never happened. I don’t even know if she managed to salvage her stuff, what I do remember it was the Halloween parade. I was staying in a hotel for people who had no money. Pimps and drug dealers offered me all sorts of shit in the lift, jobs, drugs, as various people dressed as like, characters from Scooby Doo or ( my favourite) six guys standing really close with tin can outfits and Bud written on them, they were a human beer six pack, went up and down the lift to head to the parade. This was just around the time the parade was thinning out by the original gay guys who orchestrated it cos they were all dying or dead of AIDS, and becoming more mainstream. Lots of kids from Long Island to look at the freaks. It was becoming a bit soulless, but I wasn’t going to the parade, I was going to meet my friend to , in theory, discuss the sardine situation, but in actual fact, she was in her office, very high on something ( Wow, did you manage to extract the coke from the sardines? Nah, I just have it) and she was there to chew me out, to tell me I was a bad daughter (I guess I was, having moved to England and not going back every year to NY , my mum was sick , which was most years) and when I did come back, being a slob, leaving my tour shit everywhere, snotty tissues which had missed the wastepaper basket, I treated my mother like shit and she just wasn’t gonna stand for it. It was kind of fair, just strange context, repetitive ( on account of whatever she was high on) and I got bored and kept looking for bad Judy Garlands out the barred windows.

I had not long been to California and picked up an all purpose but meaningless expression. “I hear what you are saying” and I said this every time she launched another attack. I thought, I do hear what she is saying, I just don’t want to listen to it, I wanna find that human six pack before the parade ends.
I never made it to the parade. We went back to Queens together and sniffed coke right off the dryers in the buildings communal laundry room, not far from the old fall out shelter sign and broken milk machine ( old prices, 25 cents for a quart) We went back into the city to some all night party on the Lower East Side and danced with cute Puerto Rican guys all night.
We’re still friends. We don’t take drugs anymore. She still collects nick nacks. I got rehired on the tour, left the cheap hotel and went to stay in a much nicer one with the folk singer. It was, I recall, a good gig.
Isn’t funny how a yard full of colorful storage containers right round the corner of my East London flat brings back all these memories. I’m not sorry for it. ENDS

bedbugs and continental breakfasts- rehab part 8

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“We’re sorry, but your room smells like bad feet,” said one of my rehab flatmates. Which made me wonder what good feet smell like. I’ve always had problems with my feet, except they don’t smell. I had to have a bit of one sawn off. Of coarse the best part of the operation was the drugs. The operation itself sucked. My foot blew up to the size of a football. I just lay there, waiting for the next four hours to pass so I could take more drugs. Paul and H came to visit me, sitting on the bed, drinking cocktails. I wanted one too, but even then I was sensible , just enough, not to do a Judy Garland.

When I was a kid I had fallen arches and had to wear steel plates in my shoes, which my mother’s then best friend said hurt like hell when I kicked her. Later on I had to have orthotic devices, and later, an operation, and after that, a procedure , which is like an operation without the drugs or sympathy. I hate my feet, and am not too keen on the particular fumes of the feet of an ex junkie resident.

They sell this shit, these little plasters you out on your feet to “draw out toxins” and you can tell they work cos they turn the colour of shit. But it’s all bollocks. Some people have smelly feet, others have to put up with them.
Not only did the room smell, but after a few sleeps in the monk like single bed ( and I do love a single bed, it makes me feel young and safe and virginal ) with a wash basin in the corner to throw up in, if needs be, I noticed familiar welts in patterns of three all over my body. Bedbugs. They bite in threes cos they are quite civilised and like a three course meal. Starters, mains, and pud. Bedbugs. I had them in the marital home, after, I suspect, we unwisely let a world travelling friend store some of his shit in our attic. I remember when the bedbug guy came, costumed up like a ghostbuster. Me and my husband sat in the front room, all our belongings in bin bags, as the bedbug guy set off a small nuclear device in our bedroom and threw all the bedding out the window. “Look at that gigantic bird, ” I said.”It’s like paleolithic. It’s from another geological period all together, get the camera.”
“It’s not a bird, it’s our duvet.”
“Ah, bedbug guy chucking our bedclothes out the window. The neighbours will think we had a terrible marital spat, or maybe just a really crap sex life.”
The husband watched in his detached way, pillows, pillow cases, duvet covers, the stupid drape like thing you drape over the end of the bed cos that’s what they do in the adverts for classy bedding, even though ours was probably from Argos, IKEA if we were feeling flash. All floating or flying down past the window.
“It’s a metaphor, it means something more than it is,” I opined.
He may have told me to shut the fuck up, but probably didn’t, though I wouldn’t have blamed him if he did.

Bedbugs are something I really know lots about. I became obsessed and stalked the bedbug man, who also killed mice and rats and roaches and ants. I followed him around, watching him kill stuff. Not just in our flat, in other peoples’ houses. I went round with him in his white van. I asked him what he used, like was it Agent Orange and would I die cos he was suited up and I wasn’t? Nah, it was prolonged daily exposure that created health and safety issues, I would be OK. I wrote an article about it and made some good money. But that was a lifetime ago.

Years later, not that many, I was plagued again. I wrote a ten page letter to the director of the rehab. I couldn’t come off all high horsey and say I’m paying three grand a week to be bitten by, like, poverty bugs, cos I wasn’t paying, the council was. In some respect I thought it was karma, Job and his sufferings, bring it on, every affliction and plague, withdrawal, broken ribs, bad feet smells, some other junkie’s feet, not even my own, and bedbugs. A decision was made. We would have to temporarily vacate the flat, move to a B and B and we’d be given a fiver a day for food. F threw a wobbly cos we had to hottest wash all our clothes and all his flash sportsgear shrunk to the size of a six year old child’s. As I was about the size of a six year old child I didn’t give a shit. I just wanted to stop itching, and hurting, and withdrawing. Valium withdrawal is in class of its own. Even the heroin guys shudder about Valium withdrawal. “It’s longer and it’s worse,” they said.
T, my appointed buddy or minder and a vision of raven haired, long legged beauty and zen, she was to be my room mate in our bed bug free B and B. I was having panic attacks about every ten minutes, so she shared some of her sleepers with me. This is not the done thing, but it got me through the relocation crisis.
It was an Indian Summer, in the high 80s in old temperature money, fuck knows in centigrade, but it was summer in October and our B and B was a five minute walk , 15 minute stagger to the beach so we checked in , and went to the beach. L, the girl whose dad made her stuff drugs up her bits, F, well into his gangsta rap and sports wear, the girl from Oxford whose name I can’t remember but she was a smackhead, the nicest one I’ve ever met, with three kids in care, T, the zenned out cool girl about to “graduate” from rehab, and me. We went down to the beach, I staggered behind, and one of our lot, not in our flat but from our rehab, went into the water, dressed head to toe in black clothing. Well why the fuck not? At one point I remember having to use the toilets, and some baldy guy came up to me and said, “Do you even know who you are with?”
And I was like, politically, spiritually?”
And he was like, “No, right now, do you know if you are gonna take a piss you have to do it with two other people from rehab?”
“Yeah, but they don’t have to take a piss. This is a long walk from the Tracy Beaker theme towel I got at a second hand shop. I know I am in rehab, on a beach, and I have to wee. I will not use drugs in the beach toilets, that would be insane. I will wee, probably find the loo roll dispenser empty and not wipe and get a UTI, to add to my various Biblical plagues. So it goes”
“That’s Vonnegut,” I added.
“I have no fucking idea what you are talking about.”
“That makes two of us. If you don’t trust me, wait outside the bog and you can piss trial me, except you can’t cos I would have already taken a piss”
I don’t remember lots else about that day, except thinking I would move here, and live by the sea. In the evening we went to an all you can eat for a fiver Indian buffet. I hate Indian food, and my stomach was in full rebellion. But I got a plate and filled it up and the others, further on in recovery, appetites restored, helped themselves. At night, bed bug bitten and sunburned, I fretted. T gave me a sleeper, but it wasn’t strong enough so she zoned out while I watched a b and B free film, The Lovely Bones. In it, a seventies girl like me, skinny, into David Cassidy and bell bottoms and English boys, gets murdered. Her mother goes insane with grief, as I did, and runs off to some immigrant lettuce picking place. I watched this movie intensely, cried my eyes out, tried to wake T up, to say man, this is really truly what grief is like, this is why I did drugs, this is why I am here. But sun kissed and Indian buffet bloated, she slept like the dead. I tried to focus on the bit of the film I liked best, where Heaven is a place full of PJ parties and David Cassidy posters from the magazine Tiger Beat.
“T, wake the fuck up, this is like my life story, without getting killed”
But she slept like the dead.
TBC