Cactus Soup


underneath the stairwell cactus heist

Stanley Knife with proceeds of cactus heist(unrelated to this story)

All I need to be happy is four walls, a desk to write on and a thick door with a good lock. Then it is lights out, blinds drawn, laptop on and with a bit of good luck, the words flow – a party of one.

The room however, must be small and in the shitty part of town. There is absolutely no point in having a large room in the nice part of town, what the fuck are you going to write about there? Just more of the same tired shit that dribbles out of academic bungholes the world over.

But it isn’t like I search out this type of criteria – its more that I wind up in the shitty part of town with no money and have to take what I can get. So over the years I have lived on top of pubs and clubs; in rooming houses and boarding houses; in attics and basements and everything in between.

The kind of place where when you bring a woman home, she pauses at the door and with disappointment in her voice says, ‘you live in there?’ When I moved to Melbourne in ’07 I ended up in a small room on top of the seediest pub on the seediest street in Collingwood. A handprint of shit greeted me the first time I used the dunny.

The Punter’s Palace was the last gritty holdout on a street that was quickly being gentrified into a hipster shit hole. It was the last place on Smith Street that aborigines and the houso’s from down the road could drink. Naturally, there were some funny occurrences when the old Collingwood mixed with the new.

Like the time I was having my morning coffee one Sunday morning. From outside I heard a bloodcurdling shriek. Looking out my window I saw a woman sprawled on her back in the middle of the street. An enraged bloke stood over her and bellowed, “ya fucked me brother on me fuckin’ birthday, slut!” In response, the woman reached around to her ass area and moaned, “aaah! I’ve fuckin’ shit meself!”

I briefly considered doing the white knight routine but she had shit herself and she did fuck his brother on his birthday. The trendy lefties from Friends of the Earth café didn’t have such a simple decision making process and stood around in shock and phoned police on their mobile phones.

The other residents were fine once you got to know them – with the exception of the old Vietnam veteran (who was responsible for the shit hand print). We all had one thing in common though – serious drug and alcohol problems.

One day, a middle-aged Japanese woman appeared in the place. The guy across the hall from me had met her online and they were married in Japan. This surprised all of us as her groom had missing teeth and after work each day drank himself into a dribbling mess.

underneath the stairwell punters palace

My room was fourth on the right from the balcony.

Regardless, the new bride moved to Australia and into a room on top of the Punter’s Palace. Naturally, she was horrified. The first time I met her, I was boiling up a pot full of San Pedro cactus for a mescaline high. She popped her frightened head into the kitchen and asked timidly, “you use stove?”

I assumed she wanted to cook after me so I answered, “yeah, I will be finished in a minute.”
She looked around in bewilderment, “How you use stove with so many cocka-roach?”
I didn’t know what to say so I shrugged. She motioned at the boiling pot, “you cook soup for girlfriend?”
“Yeah… cactus soup.”
She leant over and had a smell.
“Smell very good – you girlfriend very lucky. In Japan, man never cooking for woman.”

underneath the stairwell dogs assholeThere are few things less disgusting than the stench from boiling San Pedro and it looks like radioactive green diarrhoea. And don’t even get me started on the taste; few things are fouler-it is like sucking the shit from a dogs arsehole. Later on when I had finished reducing the cactus, I blended it then and carried it into my room. The Japanese woman saw me walk into the room with a blender filled to the rim with green sludge it and her mind must have been reeling at these strange Australian dishes and customs.

A week or so later, I decided to eat six foot of cactus, chopped it up and stuck it on the stove. It took ages to reduce to a consumable size and I forgot all about it for over 24 hrs. In this time, one of the other residents turned off the heat. I figured that this wouldn’t make any difference and sculled the lot anyways.
At around the hour mark I ran to the toilet to spew. This was the norm with cactus. Except this time I didn’t stop and before long was puking bile. By this time, I was smashed on mescaline and the trip started to turn savagely against me.

I knew something was drastically wrong and guessed that I had food poisoning from leaving the cactus to ferment and rot for 24 hours. It felt like I had been stabbed in the guts. Due to the agony in my guts the trip took on a nightmarish quality. I lay on my bed and tried to maintain my sanity, fully realising that if I let go of my tenuous hold on reality I would be plunged into psychedelic hell.

I am proud to say that my psyche lasted two excruciating hours before being shattered into a maddening, frightening, totally nonsensical electrical storm. Demons blackened my room from any light and I felt utterly desolated as the demons gloated, “god has turned his back on you!”. Intense physical pain on hallucinogens is the most exquisite form of torture in existence.

I was smeared over the edge of my bed and made primal animal noises like a disembowelled cow bleating in agony as I burped up bile froth onto the floor. Then the frightened face of the Japanese woman peered around my door.
“You OK?” She asked timidly.
When I looked up at her the room distorted as if in a nightmarish Escher drawing and her face was nothing more than a psychedelic smear.
“I need marijuana…I am sick…you have to phone your husband.”
“Is it the soup?”
I went to answer her but let out a demented moan instead as my intestines twisted. The message must have gotten through however as before long her husband was in my room with a quarter. He rolled a number and I sucked at it with gusto.

The medicinal qualities of marijuana are truly amazing; by the third toke the pain in my guts just evaporated. I lay back on my bed as the demons faded away and the sun rose in my room and sat in the top corner filling me with warmth and good feelings. I was kissed by mescaline and became a golden god.

The next day when I thanked my neighbour for bringing me weed, he told me his wife had been very freaked out and thought that I was dying. He told her that I was a marijuana addict and that I was going through withdrawals. She must have thought weed was a very sinister drug after that.