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Dr. Razam

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Heads

Stumbling into the Basel Backpackers is much like any hostel in the world, with a subtle difference.

"Ah, you are here for the LSD, nein?" says Christoph, the South Afrikkan Swiss National who manages the place. "That Dr. Hofmann, he is still going at 100, eh? Amazing."

Yes, I am here for the LSD.

And I'm not alone.

A curious thing, this hostel full of "Heads", to use the 60s vernacular. Drug-taking explorers of the innerspaces, well-versed psychonauts who have broken open their heads and had a good look around the infinite spaces found there.

The hostel is literally loaded with Heads at all the tables, lounging on the couches and sitting at the bar. They look pretty much like normal young travellers with a fair measure of middle aged and elder psychedelic statesmen thrown in to the mix. The real distinguishing feature is their frankness: the conversation around the hostel common
room is awash with Head talk, LSD this and DMT that, 2CB, 5-MEO-DMT, DXY, a babble of drug speak stripped back to the essential amino acid chain combinations for those in the know, a glossonalia of alchemical slang.
Word up, true believers.

The grey haired old woman chain-smoking in the corner, I find out much later, was a nurse in the 50s who trained with Dr. Hofmann.
"He was lovely, such a gentleman," she confides in broken English over peppermint tea one morning.

Our motley crew of independent media makers has two Nowegian doco makers - Einar and Raine, Maria, a Portugese photo-journalist, Francis, a Cambridge (Crowley went to Cambridge) educated literary type who would like to do a doco for BB4 - that's the intellectual channel you know, Paul, the owner of Polyster Books in Melbourne, the leading counter-cultural outlet, and ye humble gonzo journalist. A half dozen other crew from Finland and America and South America and god knows where at the other tables, all of us brought together here in Basel by the strange attractor of LSD and the man who discovered it.

It's like all the Heads ever turned on, synapses of the evolving Cosmic Mind, all in one room and connecting up. Sparks fly, ideas transform, deep neo-theologic pathways open to the Word and lock on. Some crazy meme making spreads itself through the night, joints are rolled, beers
are drunk. The group mind comes together.

Maria is a street-wise Portuguese beauty with a Cockney accent, here to write and photograph the LSD conference for an arts magazine in London. After being psychically read by a multi-media Ayahuasca facilitator from Amsterdam she is told her liver is weak and she should stay away from the synthesised drugs.

"Datura is what you need" the man in the know says, dowsing her spiritual needs with a silver heart pendant on a chain.

"Fuck that, lets roll a joint," she suggests, and we all retire to the outside courtyard with its salubrious - five degrees centigrade ambiance. Maria, it turns out, is best friends with one of the two Boom Festival organisers, childhood buddies who have recently had a falling out that could endanger the international Trance festival. She knows crew I know in the Trance scene - it's a small world, and an even smaller community.

I first meet Einar at the bar buying a beer. He and Raine are working on a documentary on LSD and the consciousness movement for Norwegian television, but the real thing. All they want to do is get good information out there and sustain themselves while doing it. Four days later Einar would be high on acid in the belly of a boat, deep in the gonzo reporting space and starting to go all 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas', but without the fear or the loathing. Higher consciousnes and love, man - you had to be there and sometimes words just don't cut it.

Rainer is a beautiful man. He's about six foot three, long dark brown hair fading to grey, a big open face like Gerard Depardieu. He's got a long and colourful history and as we drink beers way into the winter night, he tells his trippers tales mixed with a heartfelt wisdom and sincerity.

"Those that know have a duty to pass on what they know," Raine says, as we all get deep and meaningful heading towards the midnight hour.

"My mother, she was once very against this whole drug culture, but she didn't know what it was really about, she was just repeating what she had heard, what the media told her and the habits they passed on, with their vested interests. She loves me, you know, and she thought she was looking out for me."

"By this time, of course, I had been in Goa for six months and was heavily into the scene there. I had been experimenting with acid, with ketamine, with the trance dancing and we smoked chillums all the time. After a few months she began getting worried, and one day on the phone she says to me - Raine, I am worried about you. I am coming to see if you are okay. I will be there in two days."

"I hestitate, you know, because I am looking after lots of people at my place, there are DJs everywhere, people having chillums in the kitchen, LSD is flowing like wine, yeah, and the whole place is like a party that has been going on for weeks and it never stops. But I say to her - of course, you come here to Goa, and I show you what it is really like."

"So she comes out and the first thing is she is very very shocked with India, you know, with the poverty and the begging and the death right in your face, the real deal. But I think this is a good thing, because she sees this other culture, and she is a wonderful woman but she was still so naive, she believed the world was what the tv told her."

"So she sees the world a bit differently, and by the time we get to Goa and meet my friends there she is still worried, but she has more perspective to take it all in. And for the first few days all the Heads leave and it is just me and my mother and the native Indians who live and work with us, and she meets the wives and sees me play with the kids and it's good."

"And then a few days in I take her to a trance party on the beach, and like, her jaw drops but she has a little dance on the edge of the dancefloor, and all of these people are coming up trying to give me liquid acid and offering me chillums and she's like, what is going on, Raine? Are those DRUGS? I say "this is a Trance party, mama, this is what we do. And I show her - I smoke a chillum right there in front of her, and I get high."

"And you know, after that, well, she had nowhere else to go but to accept it. And she did. And now, years later, she will just say to me to be careful and have fun, and she knows, you know, she can understand that it is just a different culture, because she has had the connection."

I love the mom stories.

I tell Rainer of how I told my mum I was going to a conciousness Symposium in Switzerland, and when she pressed
further I said it was celebrating LSD and Dr. Hofmann, and how her face had writhed in a mental paroxysm as she processed the words until finally she said, dazed:

"But isn't that... a DRUG?"

We need to tell the mums of the world our stories, to bring them into the fold. And the dads and the kids and our families if there is ever to be a unified tribe again, a psychedelic tribe ready to inhabit the global village.

And as the wisdom of the Tribe fades under the weight of beer and cigarettes, I bid adieu to the Heads from around the world and stumble into my bed. But, like mushrooms after a fresh rain, the Heads continue to sprout, even here in my dorm room.

Two older guys, late 40s or early 50s are in their underwear shooting the breeze about the mysteries of life. Gentle, soft spoken - it's like i've walked into a confessional .

"When you start anew there's a sense of not remembering what came before. When I was 25 I could actively remember past lives. I was in a Buddhist monastery and I saw a thousand things I didn't want to see. You start not wanting to accept this reality, but you have to accept this, it is real."

"Oh, do you think we are more conscious because we remember we have died? Do we... bring something back, some rememberance that changes us here and now?"

"I remember being dead, you know, for me those are clear feelings. I was hit by a bus and the energy was gone, it was like I was invisible, watching my body die. "

"What do you classify as being alive? "

"When you watch a good movie you become the character you watch, that becomes your life, your consciousness. And when the movie ends? You move on, to the next movie." the midnight stoners are saying from the next bunk cluster in the dorm room.

Middle-aged French and English accents expounding on the eternal questions with a grace and intimacy. As gentle as lovers, these two men, chatting by lamplight in the Blue Room dorm, all of us drawn like moths to the flame of the 100 year old man and his chemical key.

LSD - three letters that changed the world the Symposium brochures say. And sitting here in the wee hours in a Basel backpackers, listening to soul talk and meeting the Heads that dream the dream, I totally agree.

We have all of us, been touched by this experience, changed on the inside, and now it guides our external actions and provides a lodestone for our journey between worlds.

But enough of today.

Tomorrow is a new day.

Time for the good Doctor Hofmann.

The Alchemist himself.

Droger/ Einar Storesund_bigbay69@yahoo.no

Father & Son LSD heads/ Einar Storesund_bigbay69@yahoo.no

Heads: Space Frog Mistress/ Einar Storesund_bigbay69@yahoo.no

Heads: Psychedelic Media Cowboy - Einar / by Maria mialouro@gmail.com

Heads: Psychedelic Media Cowboy - Nils/ by Maria mialouro@gmail.com

Heads: Psychedelic Media Cowboy - Raine / by Maria mialouro@gmail.com

 
He Has Ridden
I've come to Switzerland to meet a 100 year old man. That might be cause enough in some circles, but this is no ordinary centenarian. Dr. Albert Hofmann is the Swiss chemist, ex-Nobel Prize committee member who discovered the unique properties of d-lysergic acid diethylamide, known as LSD (or ‘acid’ on the street) in his lab at Sandoz pharmaceuticals in April, 1943.

Basel, the city where all this occurred, is proud of it's prize chemist and is hosting an international Symposium on “LSD - Problem Child and Wonder Drug". On Wednesday 11th Jan the local paper is awash with respect for Dr. Hofmann and his discovery in a way that no other Western newspaper would. An eight page spread documents his discovery, quotes excerpts from his book, "My Problem Child" and charts the take-up of LSD by the Hippies in the 60s and it's effect on music, culture and consciousness. Bloody great.

Later I'm talking about the cultural conceits with a group of 'Heads', to use the 60s term - switched on crew that are all here for the LSD conference, too. The classic media formula when talking about 'drug' issues is rise and fall. Apart from a select few archetypes - like Kate Moss or Robbie Williams, for instance, who are allowed to get away with their indulgences, the usual route for people who indulge in drugs is that they must always come to a bad end.

Basel, however, will have none of this manichean dualism. The city has hundreds of years of balanced thought and philosophy hanging in their culture milieu. Posters for psychoanalysis sessions adorn the local bus stops. Picasso, Freud and Mozart exhibitions are on permanent display. The European mind has a long history examining itself, and the use of a chemical like LSD to navigate the labyrinth of the unconscious seems de rigeur in this place. Not that it's legal - but for medical and psychotherapy uses the culture seems totally comfortable with it's potential and proud of its native discoverer.

To celebrate Dr. Hofmann's 100th birthday today I decide to put myself in his shoes and recreate the famous bike ride he took that fateful day, April 19, 1943 - sans the acid.

I hire a bike and ride to Basel St Johann, on the edge of the Rhine, where Sandoz labs used to be. Sandoz merged with Ciba-Novartis in the 1990s, and is now one of the largest pharmaceutical giants in the world. The old labs where LSD was synthesised are gone and a giant, thirty story tower stands over the river, dominating the Basel cityscape. This is the heavy industrial side of town and the docks area where ships unload their goods for all the factories spotted along the river.

As I walk along in the late afternoon a light mist takes hold, catching the rays of sun and the pollution let off by the two giant industrial chimneys in
the distance. They look like colossal salt and pepper shakers spewing out clouds of gas day and night into the Basel sky. Curious and curiouser this town and the price it pays for it’s libertarian consciousness.

I walk past a huge block of commission flats about a hundred metres long and eight stories high, home to the immigrants Basel has accepted in the last few decades. Kids play football in a nearby park, laughing happily and rugged up against the cold.

Passing under the bridge I notice a plush black armchair, empty water bottles and litter, syringe caps. Drugs have come to Basel, too - just like everywhere else in the world. The ironic thing is that this is also the pharmaceutical capital of the country, where legal drugs are manufactured and shipped out to the waiting world.

Ironic, then, that LSD is still banned, grouped with all the other street drugs when it originally came from the research labs and doctors offices. In its heyday it was used to treat personality disorders, alcoholism and a raft of mental issues for the elites.

Writers like Aldous Huxley, Professors like Timothy Leary, then a respected Harvard professor, scientists like Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, actors like Carey Grant - the rumour mill even extended it's use to Marilyn Munroe and JFK. If one understands the set and setting of those times, the late 50s and early 60s, before all the drug hysteria, one could quite reasonably believe everyone was doing it. The intelligentsia of the world was being switched on and dosing one another in a chemical network from Europe to America.

Over 40,000 people were treated successfully worldwide with LSD as a psychotherapy and consciousness raising tool by the time it was finally banned in 1966 amongst threats of cultural revolution.

I wonder what Basel would have looked like over sixty years ago, back in the middle of the Second World War when Dr. Hofmann made his momentous discovery. There are enough grand old buildings still around with their gothic architecture to carry the European charm into the 21st century, but they are surrounded by skyscrapers and traffic intersections hosting trams, buses and cars. And of course, bicycles everywhere.

The Swiss love their bikes, it seems. The Novartis tower has a giant bike shed opposite the Rhine for its employees, with at least a hundred bikes all secured under cover.Which seems appropriate, as in 1943 the good Doctor was forced to travel home by bicycle (cars being limited due to war-time shortages) after his first deliberate dosing with LSD.

At about twenty minutes past four in the afternoon, Dr. Hofmann dissolved 250 mg of LSD-25 in water, what he thought would be a small dose, and drank it.
By 4:50 pm he had noticed no effects. By 5:00 pm, he noted the following symptoms in his journal: "beginning dizziness, feeling of anxiety, unrest, difficulty in concentration, visual disturbances, desire to laugh." His last written words
were barely legible.

"I requested my laboratory technician to accompany me home; we went by
bicycle. My field of vision swayed before me, and objects appeared distorted like images in curved mirrors. I had the impression of being unable to move from the spot, although my assistant told me afterwards that we had cycled at a good pace.

I noticed with dismay that my environment was undergoing progressive changes. Space and time became more and more disorganized and I was overcome by a fear that I was going out of my mind. The worst part of it being that I was clearly aware of my condition. I was not, however, capable by any act of will, of preventing the breakdown of the world around me."

I'm standing on the Drelrosenbrucke bridge, the same one Dr. Hofmann rode over all those years ago, when a nearby clock strikes 5:00 pm. The sun is setting in streaks of pink and grey as dozens of cyclists cross the bridge in front of Sandoz -Novartis in both directions.

I picture Albert, stoned out of his gourd on LSD, pedaling away into hyperspace and the history books. Oh, those days of chemical innocence, before the war on drugs, before we knew as a culture what these things do, the places they take us to and the deep connection they can make to ourselves and the higher planes.

And as the psychedelic bicyclist in my mind's eye crests the bridge and rides off towards his home in Bottmingen, down near the zoo, a strange presentiment comes over me, a connection with the good Doctor and his legion of tripper children and grand-children down through the ages.

The trip began in earnest that Monday afternoon in 1943, right here in Basel. But if truth be told, it never ended. For once the door of perception is open, it's mighty hard to close.

Novartis Tower

He Has Ridden

Basel Bike Tripper

Drelrosenbrucke bridge

Alchemist @ 100

Long Strange Trip/ by David Normal/ davidnormal@gmail.com/ for full animation visit < http://www.normal-design.com/bicycle-ride.html >

 
Winterland
Landing

Things move pretty fast when you're travelling.

One moment I'm on the plane, through customs, on the train from Zurich airport into the heart of the city and out again into the countryside bound for Engleberg, deep in a Hans Christian Andersen snow-capped wonderland.

A fine coat of white powder hugs the ground, the train tracks, the quaint little cottages and modern high rises that dot the landscapes with their funny ginerbread house architecture, fat rooves over-extending to provide shelter beneath from the snow.

I haven't slept properly in over 36 hours thanks to the the battery hen environment of the plane. But all that's behind me now - I've arrived.

First impressions of Zurich from the HB main station: early morning light casts a nostalgic air over a European vista, tightly packed buildings and the open square packed with early morning workers bustling to
and fro in their winter coats. Elongated green trams with multiple carriages connect like centipedes as they turn corners in the dawn light, cable cars really. The city has a 1930s feel to it, overhanging latticework of tram lines and billboards like some postcard of Manhattan before WWII. Quaint, bustling, alive.

I feel like I'm in a movie, like Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life, all white christmas and brotherly love. Must be the jetlag kicking in.

We pass through stations - Zug, Cham, fairy tale houses and fairy tale flats blur by. The train speeds on it's way like a cannonball through this winter wonderland. White, white snow everywhere, so white it overwhelms me in its purity, teases me to come play with it. Bier signs, graffiti, the odd patch of green land flash by.

Snow capped fantasyland, misty morning. Everything looks fresh and beautiful, pristine in it's white covering.

I feel fresh, new. My soul is alive,

Winterland.


HIGH NOON IN PENSIONER VILLAGE

I'm not sure if I'm on top of the world but it sure feels like it.

Outside the window the quiet little hamlet of Engleberg is surrounded on all sides by majestic mountains wrapped in white, the dawn's early light creeping over them as the day begins. The early morning fog lifts to reveal blue skies and breathtaking vistas. Mt Titlis, Angel Mountain, names that barely do them justice.

Ski lifts in the distance carry their precious cargos up the side of nature's face. Five story picture book chalets dot the mountainsides, their chimneys puffing away with signs of life. It's exhilarating - and I haven't even hit the slopes yet.

Truth be told, I'm surrounded by pensioners as I write. Dozens and dozens of elderly Swiss sit with me in the Co-op restaurant - sort of like a miniature version of the Coles cafeteria with a self-serve buffet with food at the cheapest prices I could find in town. The vistas might take your breath away but so do the prices.

It's perfect.

A sea of elderly pensioners all conversing in Deutsche and looking at me wondering what this able-bodied young person is doing with them when there are mountains to conquer. If they only knew.

'Gutten morgen,' I manage to squeak to a grandfather who offers me a place at his table near the window. It's a curious feeling not speaking the language - you go through the cultural motions, interacting with people, shopping, catching public transport, feeling like an idiot 'cause you can't connect. You know what to do but not how to express it. Strange feeling of cultural dislocation, like a babe in the woods.

Fritz, the friendly information kiosk man I spoke to earlier (in English) laughed when I told him I was going to conquer the mountain today - and I had never skiied before in my life.

Like, ever.

"Best to do the Clostematte, behind the monastry," he said. "It's you know, for kids and beginners."

I count 12 blackbirds on the tiled roof of Backerel Konditorel Jacob, the hotel opposite the panoramic views of the Co-op restaurant. As I watch they all swoop off the roof in a perfect arc, taking to the blue sky.

So do I. It's 12.00 pm. High Noon in Pensioner Village. I take a last gulp of Carlsberg. Time to conquer the slopes - or die trying.

HOLY MOLEY MOUNTAIN

Snow is a lot like cocaine.

A fine white powder that brings pleasure and eventually pain, and in some instances - death.

Important rule no 1:

"For your own safety DO NOT rock the gondola."

Fuck.

I'm halfway up the highest peak in Switzerland, Mt Titlis, sub station Trubsee, 5906 feet up in the clouds in a tin chair lift carriage suspended above the mountain and a sea of white snow. The sun crests a mountain and blinds me, causing me to move suddenly and the gondola rocks perilously above certain doom.

Down below I spot a tiny dog house covered in snow, the legendary home of the St Bernards that rescue foolhardy skiers. An omen?

But there's no time to stop, to write what's happening as the cable car reaches a plateau transfer station and I'm off, transiting to another group gondola to continue my relentless climb higher and higher up the mountain. This gondola happens to be the world's first and probably only revolving cable car, just like those tacky revolving restaurants that litter the world's tourist hotspots. It makes me feel slightly sick as it spins slowly round the top of the world, like the glass elevator in Willy Wonka.

I'm surrounded by two dozen or so of the world's finest skiers - those brave or foolish enough to tackle Mt Titlis and it's slippery slopes. The brochures all claim this mountain is Rotteggstand - the Black Slope. An extremely steep gradient with twists and turns that is intended for only the most expert skiers. You ride it at your peril.

Which might be a good time to mention that I have never, ever, EVER skied before. The guys at the hire shop had to help me put my boots on. All the info attendants laughed and recommended the baby slopes, which I was fully intending to do - if I hadn't of run out of time. I have three hours in total to get to the top of the mountain, get down again and get my only pair of shoes back from the hire shop before it closes at 500pm.

And I still haven't slept yet.

It's 3:00pm here on top of the world as the glass elevator deposits us at the top of Mt Titlis, where it's -5 degrees C and 10,000 feet up and everything's fine. I can see the moon to the left of the Telecom tower surrounded in this sea of white white powder, so close I reach out to touch it.

The tourist placard by the railing has a curious anecdote about a skier who discovered a finely carved ice statue of the Buddha somewhere here amongst this winter wonderland, high on the black slope. Apparently at the right time of day the light hits the ice Buddha and illuminates the
area with rays of winter light. It's a comforting thought, and I may just need those rays of illumination if I am to survive this mountain.

Looking over the railing, it's thousands of feet down. On the ramps to the left, the world's best skiers are taking off, speeding effortlessly down the steep gradients and floating through this winter wonderland.

Now it's my turn. I must survive the black slope. Holy Moley.

Captain Marvel, don't fail me now.

I strap my boots into the skis awkwardly, like a first time lover with a lot of fumbling round. I manage to stand up - barely, and then when I do I start sliding forward with no effort at all.

And then I'm doing it, over the lip of the slope and skiing across the frozen ground, 10,000 feet in the air on the mountain of doom. How hard can this be?

Which is when I realize it's not the skiing part that's so hard - it's the stopping. I'm speeding along uncontrollably as I remember you're meant to lean backwards for balance, and as I do so I fall into a type of squat, my bum just above the snow line, digging my gloves into the white powder.

I'm hurtling down the slope in this vainglorious position as I slow to a halt at a plateau, just before the edge of the track and a thousand foot drop to oblivion, nicely cordoned off by a single thread of rope. The expert skiers trail is ahead, with a good 40 degree gradient straight down the side of the mountain.

On my current level of experience, I do not have a snowball's chance in hell of surviving this next slope. I know when I've met my match.

It takes me a good 15 minutes of full endurance to navigate my ski-ladden legs back up the slippery slope I've come, my feet attached to these preposterous long sticks, and even then I fall over to get the leverage to extricate the boots from their snap harness.

It takes every erg of energy I've got to make it back up, and at the top a Japanese couple ask me to take their photo. Utterly exhausted, burning up from the heat retention with my thermals and layers of clothes and the exertion of the climb, not to mention the last 36 hours
of international travel and lack of sleep all weighing me down at this single moment in time, I comply.

"Holy Moley Mountain," I say, and they smile as their photo is taken. The jetlag has fully kicked in, I feel weak and disorientated. I stop at the beer hall and order an absinthe and red bull - the real stuff, legal in Switzerland. I'm totally fucked.

Feeling like a ton of bricks, I make my way back to the Wonka-like revolving cable car.

I have met the mountain, and the mountain has met me.

Respect.

Angel Mountain

Fairy Tale houses

Old Skool Public Transport

Ski Lift to Heaven

Buddha on Top of the World

 
Liftoff

Honey Chia the air hostess moves down the aisle with a cultured grace, her ankle length flowered dress slowing her movement and creating an Oriental mystique. Incongrously, she signals two thumbs up to another steward down the aisle and the in-flight safety video begins.

Apparently all Air Singapore hostesses are young and beautiful because Singapore has no pesky industrial relations laws holding them back and they fire everyone over 25.

Or so the urban myth goes.

"In case of depressurization, oxygen masks will be released from the compartments above," dulcet telephony tones say, outlining a spiel we've all heard before. The inside of the plane is intimately familiar; part of my brain switches off and filters out the safety video and the mass of chattering passengers around me.

I'm in economy class - again. It's either social subliminals or clever marketing making us all pile in to the junk dna section of the plane, past the spacious and totally empty first class near the cockpit. This is my first flight as Dr Razam, a little title - Dr of Divinity - I bought off the internet for Christmas that bestows upon me the rights and privileges of a Universal Life Church ordained Minister. Having booked the flight on my Dr Razam credit card, I am just waiting to be mistaken as a medical doctor and perform the Heinrich manoeuvre on someone choking to death and be upgraded to first class.

Part of me knows this is the last generation of international air travel - at least for us masses. It can't survive the oil peak and the consumer travel culture we've created is just going to have to face it.

The copy of the Age I requested from the male flight attendant (who was definitely over 30 and balding) has an article on carbon credit trading and geo-sequestration. The in-flight magazine has an article on celebrities doing their bit to fight global warming - apparently Metallica have sponsored a tree to offset their global tour and subsequent air pollution. Now you can burn fossil fuels and still feel good.

Me? My dole case manager rang while I was in the airport check-out lounge having a last beer or two with my ex-partner and three year old daughter, Foxy. Will she see the world? I suspect so. But it won't be by burning oil at 42,000 feet for commercial hedonism.

Fellow travellers flick through insipid in-flight magazines and await their pampering in this gilded cage. Later, travelling in the upper atmosphere with other true blue Aussies, we are served by our Asian waiters who roll out the spread.

It begins with drinks: beer, wine, cocktails, soft drinks, even water. Then come the nuts. Then the appetizers, small rolls with butter, gormless salads with ham, a slice of specially wrapped and branded cheese.

The spoons and forks are solid metal, the knife, I notice, is now plastic. Nice to see we're not changing our way of life to kow-tow to terrorists. Still, even Amanda Vanstone knows you can gouge an eye out with a plastic knife if you need to.

The service doesn't stop.

The main meal - beef or chicken with rice (vegetarians are served first, then must sit, surrounded by meat eaters and the smell of dead flesh for the next half hour) is complimented by more drinks, tea, coffee, wine.

The Germans sitting next to me accept a refreshment every time they are offered, really getting their money's worth. When the Peters chocolate ice-creams are rolled out before the main is even cold, I start to feel like we're on a consumption treadmill, being force-fed as much as we can eat like battery hens to keep us placid and happy and from thinking too much about the fact we're all locked up here together in this metal room high above the earth.

The late meal is chicken pie, which is suprisingly good.

Honey Chia comes swaying down the aisle with her billboard smile, handing out hot towels for our faces. I take it graciously and press it against my skin, letting it absorb the sweat. Another stewardess takes back our used towels with metal tongs.

But now, as we wait on the tarmac for our flight to take off, an ocker Aussie woman behind me starts loudly rattling off the movies she's going to watch to fill in her seven hour journey from Melbourne to Singapore. Every minute must be packed with Hollywood media and distraction; small screens in the back of our seats will take our attention, drawing us away from our fellow passengers and the predicament we are in, embedded in the Simulacrum.

I'm right over the wing, aisle seat, 45K. The plane is taxi-ing on the runway, preparing for lift-off. The familiar sensation of pressurization, movement, trepidation - and release is repeating itself.

It's raining lightly in Melbourne. The room turns, moves, accelerates. Everyone says a silent prayer and pictures their loved ones. The overhead items and seatbelts are fastened. The cabin crew have returned to their seats.

A burst of grinding speed.

My ears pop.

The ocker woman behind me laughs.

Liftoff.

Battery farm in the sky

Economy Class Living/ Einar Storesund_bigbay69@yahoo.no

Transit/ Einar Storesund_bigbay69@yahoo.no

Liftoff/ Einar Storesund_bigbay69@yahoo.no

Goodbye, Cruel World/ Einar Storesund_bigbay69@yahoo.no

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