Getting High Down Under
by Paul Krassner
In 1988, I was booked to perform stand-up at Lincoln Center, sharing the stage with poet Allen Ginsberg and performance artist Karen Finley, whose infamous reputation for shoving a sweet potato up her ass preceded her appearance. Lenny Bruce had taught me by example about the magic of an opening line that intuitively articulates the consciousness of an audience.
"Well," I began, "Allen Ginsberg is very disappointed. He thought that Karen Finley was gonna shove a sweet potato up HIS ass."
A few weeks ago, 18 years later, I was looking forward to seeing Karen again. She had written a novella, George & Martha, about a one-night stand between George Bush and Martha Stewart, and I was scheduled to be on a panel about satire at the Sydney Writers Festival with her and Andy Borowitz, recipient of "the first-ever National Press Club Award for Humor" (unless, of course, that’s just his idea of a joke).
I flew to Los Angeles, then began a 16-hour flight to Australia, only to make a U-turn two hours into the trip because of a mechanical problem resulting in cabin pressure too low for the plane to fly at the necessary altitude. Customer Relations told me that hotel rooms were unavailable, but I got two meal vouchers which were good at any restaurant in the airport except Wolfgang Puck’s and McDonald’s. I spent 27 hours in the L.A. airport, alternating between attempts to sleep and dragging my luggage around. In the bathroom, it stood in front of the urinal next to the one I was using.
Plus I caught up on my packet of research material. I learned that in some ways, America and Australia are similar--they are the only two countries in the world to reject the Kyoto Accords on Global Warming. And in other ways, they’re different--in America, seven states (including Alabama and Texas) have banned the sale of sex toys, whereas in Australia, prostitutes, strippers and lap dancers can claim tax deductions for sex toys.
The next night, Tuesday, May 23rd, I left again on the same flight, arriving on the morning of Thursday, May 25th, airport-and-jet-lagged. After shaving and showering in my hotel room, it was time to leave for a panel on obscenity and censorship at the Sydney Theater. That afternoon, I performed at a cabaret, and a member of the audience kindly slipped me a generous package of pot. I immediately bought Tally-Ho rolling papers and a lighter with a smiley face, returned to the hotel, got stoned, ate dinner, watched CNN and fell asleep.
When I woke up, Friday’s Sydney Morning Herald was waiting outside my door. In a front-page review, I was described as "the star entertainer on obscenity....He is about to test religious tolerance with a sex scene he is writing between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She screams, ‘Oh, God!’ And He replies, ‘Yes?’" In 1962, Lenny Bruce had been kicked out of Australia for obscenity and blasphemy. Now I felt as if I had avenged him.
This would be my day off, except for a few media appearances. It was always fun to hear a distinguished interviewer carefully enunciate the title of my book, One Hand Jerking. One interviewer would only state the subtitle, Reports From an Investigative Satirist. I had the whole afternoon free to explore the wharf. After a bowl of pumpkin soup, I was drawn toward an area in the park by the sound of a voice on a P.A. system.
May 26th happened to be an annual gathering, a commemoration called Sorry Day. On that date in 1997, Australia was shocked by an official report that detailed anguishing evidence of the removal of--that is, kidnapping from their families and placing them in white homes--some 30,000 Aboriginal children over the years. They are known as The Stolen Generations. There was nothing in the press before or after this poignant event, but that evening I talked about it on a live show.
"Terrorism," I concluded, "begins at home."
I even brought up the subject during the satire panel. I was wearing a Sorry Day T-shirt acknowledging "Australia’s Hidden Agenda: Assimilation, Genocide, What’s Not Talked About." When I bought that T-shirt, I asked what sizes it came in. The answer was, "Large, Extra Large, and Extra Extra Large." I told the audience that "I felt like I was in Starbucks. Talk about assimilation...."
Around 15 years ago, I met an American who owned a ranch in Australia. He told me about an Aboriginal child he knew who slept on a bed made of leaves and twigs, but he went to a school where they had two computers, run by a generator. He had already broken the code at MIT, and his next experiment would be the Pentagon. Now he was a young man and, since I was visiting Australia, I had hoped to track him down and find out what he was up to, but unfortunately it was too late.
I had to return to the United States. I left Sydney on Monday afternoon, May 29th, and arrived in Los Angeles on Monday morning, May 29th. I had given away the remainder of my stash, but I kept the lighter and rolling papers. At the appropriate point in that pack, there was an un-gummed, maroon rolling paper to remind customers, "When you’ve got 10 to go, just say Tally-Ho."
Paul Krassner edited Pot Stories For the Soul and is available through Paul's Home Page: http://www.PaulKrassner.com
A collection of 'LOCAL' Paul Krassner articles is located here: http://www.flyingsnail.com/Scrapbook/Paul_Krassner.html
[Ed. Note, 07 Jul 2006. I would like to thank Paul for reading my pages and sending "Getting High Down Under" to share. 'Very much' appreciated ! ~@~
Remnant of Paradise begins here: http://www.flyingsnail.com/Scrapbook/page001.html ]