Nothing much had been planned.
In fact, it was to be a night of a few quiet's. I'd been made redundant earlier in the day and I didn't feel like celebrating.
I stood there listening amongst the September invoices stacked end on end as my soon to be ex boss explained that somebody cheaper was picking up my job in Madrid.
Issuing Citibank chequebooks to the Eastern seaboard of the United States hadn't been my dream job, in fact, as I watched the seconds slide by on the clock above her head, I couldn't help but think what a waste of my life the last three months had been. I wished the cubicle farm all the best, descended the eleven stories by stairs and came out on to a busy Hammersmith street.
He was there to greet me. Marty is one of those guys who one day drops off the railtrack of life, loses his home, wife and dignity and ends up flashing his penis to passers-by. Security usually left him alone as long as he didn't bother the execs too much but the rest of us were fair game. He's dressed as usual in a tatty old trenchcoat with probably fuck-all underneath it.
"Marty's got a plan! Marty's got a fucking brilliant plan!" He yells at me, wide-eyed and maniacal.
An Amsterdam pusher will follow you for almost ten blocks should you catch their eye. Marty is no different and so one day out of every ten I fuck up, look his way and end up in reluctant conversation with him. I politely tell him that I've gotta get going and that I'll stop and listen to it next week. This seems reasonable to him and he stops his pursuit. hahah...sucker. I smile all the way down the street, the unemployed outwitting the homeless.
The amazing thing about London is the women. Having not been everywhere in the world, I can't judge them the finest around, but they must be damn close. They're everywhere and mostly in fine form. Even the larger girls know how to dress and women who know how to dress go a long way in my book. The sales clerk in Bikini Moon is no exception. "Can I help you darlin'?" I love been called darlin' by hot East-End girls. Gives me a prickly feeling all over like when I get my hair cut short.
Clear throat. "Yeah, you have any of those little suede Elvis purses left?"
"I sure do" she beams at me. "usually four-fiftee but for you luv, four"
Exchanges with girls I fancy give me bamboo and this is no different. Big smiles and have a nice weekends are exchanged and I leave with my girl's new snap purse.
Fifteen minutes hot stroll and I'm home. I live on Uxbridge Road across the road from Shepherd's Bush Hammersmith and City Line. It's a shit-hole, but it's central. There's always fresh piss and shit on our back steps and down our alley. One of these jilted hung over early morning runs home from a club, I swear I'm gonna bump into one of Marty's mates and let the cunt have it.
I punch up the steps and turn the key in the door. Our two bed flat has a lot going for it. Mainly it's the people but that most excellent red lounge also has a lot to do with it. Everyone goes on about what a great vibe we have at our place and I can't disagree. Unfortunately it's not a place just to crash out and relax. Something's always happening.
It's a quarter past five but already there are ten people spread over the kitchen and the lounge. My girl walks past, kisses me and continues tying her hair up into a bun as she disappears into the bathroom.
I'm into the lounge and a cheer goes up. I fucking love these guys. Nowhere else in the world do people cheer when I walk into the room. Unfortunately they're all male, topless and playing twister. Oh no, I'm wrong, there's a single girl in the middle down to her bra and cargos who's feigning disgust. Other girls are on the couch laughing, Vodka Mules in hand. "Fuck, did anyone work today?" Kiwis and Aussies tend to be a transient bunch in the British Isles.
"Just you homo", comes the reply.
I'm in our room and on our bed. I awake fifteen minutes later to my girl slipping off my pants. I wouldn't get by without her, not in this town. We come out twenty minutes later to catcalls and cheers. I feel good and a mate pushes gig tickets into my hand with a smile. It's now six, and any chance of this been a quiet one look to be disappearing.
Only problem is we're out. Everyone is having such a great time so I volunteer a source. By doing this of course, I've automatically volunteered the pick-up. Fuck. I've gotta pick up Jake first which is gonna involve some fucking around. He's in West Acton and the drugs are in West Hampstead. They sound close but they're not. I'm kissed before she slumps down between the other girls and then I'm out into a brisk clear London evening. Fucken love this town. It's how I imagine New York would be, always pumping, always something happening.
My tube-pass slips in and I do the same through the turnstile. The westbound is just leaving and I throw myself through just as the doors close. The entrance to a tube carriage is always an interesting affair and I've just done it with some theatre. Everyone looks to see who's just joined the caboose of our train. A pretty girl is across from me and I theatrically wipe my forearm across my forehead with a `phewl' and smile at her. She looks away. One of the benefits of having a beautiful girlfriend is that every time a flirting attempt is rebuffed, you don't feel so bad. You just feel a little bit happier that you're with the right person and that she's not on the tube getting hit on by some idiot.
Jake's waiting outside the West Acton station, finely dressed and ready for the night ahead. He's Australian Maltese and the most straight up guy you'll ever meet. Everyone who meets him takes an instant liking too him.
A "Chief" by yours truly is met by a "G'day mate, I've just gotta get some chuddy."
Why he didn't get chewing gum before I don't ask. I move back on to the far side of the stile, now standing poised to head down the tunnel towards the eastern platform. He's found his pass and we're on our way down, a sixer of wife beater in his hand.
The measure of a true friend in my book is one that you don't need to talk shit to just for the sake of it. And neither of you feel uncomfortable just cos there's silence. Jake's one of those true mates but this evening he's enthusiastically telling me why Man U this year are getting through to the Champions League finals and Arsenal (my team) are not. I don't take football, nor any sport too seriously, but you've gotta have a team here and the Gunners are mine. Nothing beats the atmosphere of big game in a pub, bar bein' at the game itself. I suck back on our beer and we pass through the underground darkness in our amazing little electric powered capsule.
We swap lines, and now care of the Picadilly, we're heading towards West Hampstead. I've already texted Mike and we're to meet him in the Bleeding Horse. We're out, and the remaining beers are stashed by a randomly chosen terraced house's door. In the pub, and by Christ there's a smooth tune a playing - The Mighty Bop's 'Muthafuckin Ghost'. I like this place. Big black blokes play snooker and a girl with a shrill laugh finds something funny off in the distance. Mike's at the bar alone. I walk up to him, hand from hip to 45 degrees and back down into his. I'm into big theatrical handshakes especially in places like this.
"Hello chief" greets his "g'day mate" He's also Australian; 90% of my mates here are. The bugger's crook as a dog so I don't feel so bad about not taking him with us. He doesn't even ask what we're doing and three men disappear off into the toilets together. We wait until the only other occupant has left, a mid forties balding man who smells like he needs a bath.
"How many do you want" We're sweet in here but one shouldn't loiter. "Fuck, I didn't even ask, what sort you got?" "They're Mitsis bro and pretty clean, little bit smacky so don't give too many to Chip." We laugh and I hand over £50. Twenty-five cheekies are counted, the bag is sealed and it's into my jocks, under the safe charge of my sweaty scrote.
We're out into the cool autumn air again and I'm digging amongst the shrubs for our booze. Back on the tube and I realise that's taken us an hour. The guy next me has open back headphones and Limp Bizkit's Eat You Alive blares through the carriage. A lady is staring at my "inconsiderate" neighbour but he's got his eyes closed. I shrug at her and she goes back to her Financial Times. Personally, I'm loving our rush-hour soundtrack.
A further forty minutes and we're back at our flat. 'Not for you', a Pearl Jam classic is blaring from the lounge. My girl is in the kitchen receiving a shoddy from our dodgy next door neighbour who always pries open and enters our bedroom window at the most inopportune of times.
A shoddy dear reader involves the initiator putting a joint backwards into their mouth so that the burning embers make cosy with their tonsils. They then cup their hands to the recipients face and blow into an open mouth and lungs. It is an extremely efficient way for the recipient to get wasted. While I do it all the time to my mates and I trust her as I trust my own right hand, I'm not big on him or his intents. Especially blowing out my girl at 7.30 in the evening. "bobby ya bastard" I say to him "you better not fuck her" I'm referring to him not getting my girl too stoned but there's some not so subtle subtext in there as well. He slinks off back into the lounge and my flattie Guardy laughs at me. She smiles the most beautiful of wasted smiles at me. "look sweetheart, it's raining"
No arguing there doll. There's water pissing in through the roof and she hoists an umbrella and begins dancing with my other passing flatmate, Matty the Whacker.
I disappear upstairs and knock firmly on the door. The Pakistani guys who run the 24 hour mini-mart downstairs live up here. I knock twice, then three times and somebody finally opens the door. Sanjay still has his name-tag on. He is also covered in water and what looks like Mango.
"You got a bath going?"
"Whut" he replies.
"Have you got a bath going?"
A pause. "yes, meybee"
"Well, your water's pissing through our roof, and people are walking around with umbrellas downstairs"
He looks outside. "But eets nut reining"
Christ on a bike. "yes, I know it's not raining, but your bath is most definately reening into our flat"
"aaaah, will let out now"
I walk downstairs.
I walk back into the lounge and my girl sambas toward me and gives me a big kiss. There are now twenty people in our flat, ten of these in the lounge. I disappear into our room and see our mirror that sits at the end of our bed has been laid down. Vanity is not its purpose this evening and two girls who I don't know and my flatmate are huddled over it. We have red chili shaped lights above our bed and a lava lamp that sits on my dresser. When these are the sole forms of illumination on, no good is afoot.
I politely introduce myself "Hi I'm AJ" to the two girls. Stacey and Megan are kiwi girls from Auckland back home. They seem nice enough but it's way to early for people to be doing shit on my mirror and I politely usher them out. He smiles at me while pumping his index finger in an out of his fist. I laugh and push him out into the lounge.
I'm the most sober by a country mile, and that could work in my favour later. At the moment however, I'm feeling a little left out.
The evening progresses and things gradually get messier. I seemed to have inadvertently turned into the custodian of the flat this evening. By twenty past nine, I push everyone out the door, lock up and we're off down to the Central Line, the first step on our way to our ultimate destination, Brixton Academy.
Brixton is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous parts of London, but it strangely enough has one of the best concert venues in the land. I'm always on guard when I'm down there, and it pays to be at all times. As nanny this evening, it's even worse. Baz, a South African or Yarpie as we call them, has almost got into a fight, and his obnoxious girlfriend who I can never seem to remember the name of, is only adding fuel to his fire. I've apologised so many times to people on the tube and this trip is in danger of ruining mine.
We disembark and stumble out on to the street. I buy a Fanta, dig both Mitsis from my sock and hand one to Johnny. I knock it back; he smiles and does the same.
The line is lengthy - roughly 500 people long and provides some theatre of its own. It's my experience and I'm sure its others as well, that weed and ecstasy provide no trouble, or should I say, the user of these substances provides no trouble to others. Speed and Coke make you a big man but usually you're all talk. I have no problem there either. It's the guys on Meth that I don't look directly in the eye. They're the ones that'll fuck your evening up. Whether the guy's 15 people up were on this or not, they were looking for trouble; you could just tell. I went straight to Baz and told him under no circumstances was he to say anything or talk loudly in general.
It didn't take long. Another Baz got into a diagreement with our meth-taking posse in front and it was all on. The bouncers intervened, and it was all over before it started.
Line rides are never much fun, but pretty soon, I'm at the door. On the down-side, I'm carrying enough drugs to send me to Wormwood Scrubs for the next ten to twenty. I've never carried 23 pills into a club before, and I'm a little freaked.
South London bouncers are generally big, well muscled and black. In fact, they are known to take their liberties with your person and particularly drug stash should they find it. It's early in the evening and he's doing a thorough job, patting me down. He reaches my crutch and with a quick grab proclaims, "You got no balls boy."
I wish I could put a question mark on the end of that sentence however he's making more of a statement. Stupidly, I retort. "Oh there there alright, they just like to stay away from big black men's hands." Pre-bought ticket or not, I now have only a 60% chance of getting into the club and the chances of getting my face rearranged are not far behind. Worse still, he could quite easily rip off my jeans and call the cops. Then I could be really fucked.
Thankfully, he smiles at my insolence and I'm in. Brixton Academy is quite the large facility. Built in 1929 at a then cost of £250,000, the Academy is one of the most iconic live venues in the London, if not the world. 550,000 punters pass through it's doors per year, and some of the best house music in the world screams from it's stages.
Hard-house is a favourite of mine but it's not everyone's cup of tea. However you're hardly gonna expect less from the music when the evening's coined 'Frantic' and the room is already crackling to thick pumping beats. I'm at home here as the the music flows out from two storey speaker sets, cresting over and through me, pulsing and manipulating my spine like some sort of remote osteopath.
We were in that line 40 minutes and my Mitsi is now kicking in. A wild cold flow starts at the top of my head and flushes down through me. I turn to see Jake smiling at me. I'm known as a bit of lightweight - that is to say, I don't take any more than a couple an evening lest I turn into a liability to my friends I'm with. I'm all about everyone having a good time and so are my friends. Water is ordered and we wait by the stairs, our usual meet-up spot for the rest of the group.
They turn up and begin wondering who has the snacks. I take my queue and disappear off to the bathroom and find a stall. It's busy as hell in here and the division of sexes has already broken down in the male toilet. I sidestep a couple of girls who have unravelled a whole roll of paper on to the ground and are now sitting on their poopaper nest. Plenty of dealing is going on but I'm a cautious type, waiting patiently for a stall. Retrieval takes no time and I am back out with my freinds within five minutes. Each one of them receives a single speckled pill with the Mitsubishi emblem on it. Chip cranks his and asks for another. I'm always weary of those who double drop, but I irresponsibly cough up another for him.
It's packed tonight; at least 4,000 people are already in here by my guess, and it's only a quarter to eleven. We head to the bar and grab the mandatory Vodka Redbulls in their delicate little plastic cups.
There's always the calm before the storm at house events and we've just entered into the eye. Nobody's drugs have really kicked in yet and there's that uncomfortable "everybody's scoping each other out" vibe going on.
Somebody's nudging me and I turn to see Guardy's smile on high-beam. He's caught a beauty already the bastard. Cath is 24 years old and about the hottest thing I've ever seen. Well since leaving my girl at the bar anyway. She's brunette, 5' 8", has a great smile and a pair of breasts that Carmen Electra would be envious of. I'm actually thinking he's hired her for the night until she clarifies that she's also from hometown Auckland, working in accounts receivable at Barclays here in Londontown.
We're only a country of 4 million people but it feels like 40 sometimes. I know her second cousin it is established, and cell numbers are swapped for a later pint and a catch-up. Cath then whips Guardy off to meet her friends.
The eye has passed and we are all of a sudden mid storm so to speak. You can feel the whole mood change and everyone has relaxed into everyone else's presense. I'm aware I'm beginning to overheat, my shirt is drenched and I'm grinding my chewing gum to flour. I can tell I'm been watched for signs of trouble and I raise my head and smile at my four friends in our little dance circle. They relax and three water bottles are pushed my way in unison.
I haven't tried a lot of narcotics but pure MDMA gets my vote as the most fantastic of buzzes. It allows you to do something rare in this world, love thy neighbour. Not in a biblical sense, (anyone who's tried e will know the phenomenon known as 'pill-dick') but more just about leaning 15 degrees up against a complete stranger and them happily supporting you. Of course, there are also the impromptu hugs, the back rubs, and the in-depth loved up conversation that you barely hear as a tribal rhythm is pumped out by your aural god, the current DJ on set. In fact, when on that shit, it's difficult trying to comprehend why everyone isn't prescribed a daily dose of it let alone why it's illegal in the first place.
This of course, is the place to introduce a Caveat Emptor. Not everyone feels the same as I do on it. Some people become quite lethargic, even aggressive on it which is why I would never personally suggest anyone tries ecstasy.
Chip's one of those which is why my decision 70 minutes ago to supply him another pill was a stupid one. He's aggy and complaining that everyone is ignoring him. He's also drinking way to much water and I have to keep pulling his bottle from his mouth every ten seconds.
Drinking too much water is almost as bigger killer on ecstasy as not having any at all. Too little and your brain literally fries, too much and you saturate your cells. Both can rapidly lead to death so there's a certain sweat to water ratio that you must observe. Mine's usually 200mls every half hour but it varies drastically by body mass and physical exertion. It's common for unattended first timers to land themselves in hospital and possibly later, court.
The night is progressing damn well, but it is punctuated by some drama.
"She just kicked me in the back! That fucking, fucking bitch has just kicked me in the back AJ!" His chewed bottom lip is the size of Nebraska and growing by the second. I hear his voice but Andy Farley's set is mid-rhythm and I'm distracted at the moment. "Who did mate, who kicked you in the back?" "That bitch did man, that fucking bitch did".
Chip's done too much and his earlier evening's exuberance has long since eroded. He's pretty indignant and doesn't tend to make shit up though so I turn to where he's pointing.
The strobe helps me make her out split second at a time and I see she's already in worse shape that my young cohort here.
I turn and approach her...I never think to wait on this stuff. I mouth "hi" and raise my hand palm up, much as one may greet an alien should they come face to face for the first time.
She's got a fucken wild look in her eye and her friends are trying to restrain her. She breaks loose and rushes at Chip looking to claw his eyeballs out. A friend of hers rugby tackles her and she goes down. Chip's almost crying wondering what on earth he's done. So are the bouncers. She's hauled off to god knows where and I hastily explain to the other bouncer that we have no idea what's going on. We're pushed back in toward the masses.
The only thing that can salvage Chip's night now is total immersion. We slowly pick out way through heaving bodies to the front of the stage. We're there and Carl Cox is coming on. The floodlights go a vibrant orange and the room is flooded in the colour of early morning sun. I turn around to view the sunrise and I see 5,000 pairs of arms raised straight up in the air. It really is indescribably beautiful. Chip's hugging me and telling me he loves me. Mission accomplished, and Cox properly begins his set.
For the next four and a half hours we dance like men and women possessed before we finally stumble out with hundreds of others on to a chilly London street. An infamous mini-cab is sought and we ride the 20 minutes through iconic London streets back to our West London flat.
I pick my way through the mass of sleeping bodies that seem to have made it home before us and move towards our room. Guardy's spread out across a ratty old mattress. I hear him whisper, "hey age, check this out" so I turn, take a moment to focus and look down. Cath's bedspread is whipped back and I stare straight into her finely trimmed groin. "Have a good sleep bro" he chuckles.
I smile, log that little memory away and stumble into our room, glad that it's only still Saturday and I have 36 hours before I have to worry about employment again.