My name is John Doran and I write about music. The young bucks who run VICE’s website thought it would be amusing to employ a 40-year-old man who doesn’t know what SMH means.
In case you were wondering or simply too lazy to use urban dictionary, ‘menk’ is Scouse/ Woollyback slang for a mentally ill or educationally subnormal person, and is a shortened version of mental. As in, “Your Sergio Tacchini trackie is sick la, look at that menk Doran, he can’t even afford a Walker trackie. Let’s hit him with a brick and push him in the canal."
MENK 26: HANDS UP WHO WANTS TO DIE?
It’s 2001. I'm standing at the bus stop opposite the Northcote Arms on Grove Green Road in Leytonstone. It’s 9.14AM on a Tuesday. I felt a lot better leaving the pub over the road at 5AM than I do now that I’ve had three hours sleep. I can't breathe through my nose, someone’s used an air compressor to fire asbestos fibres and wire wool through my ear into my skull and I feel like an X-ray of a photocopy of a Polaroid of a ghost. The fact that I'm going to make it into work is something. The fact I'm going to be on time is something else again. That said, I'm only 20 minutes out of the bath but already I can feel a poisonous sweat prickling beneath my skin. In each pore is a chitinous arachnid sac containing flat, body-temperature Stella Artois and spider-hair thin splinters of glass dipped in syphilis and tequila sourced from a bottle with a plastic red sombrero for a cap.
There are very deep wells of this noxious, reverse-unguent within me. It pools in my kidneys. It pools in my liver. My lungs are sodden with it. My brain is a sponge dripping with it. It used to pool in my pancreas as well, until, that is, my poor, overworked endocrinal gland burst after a regrettable night out in Welwyn Garden City. It left in its place a raging thirst and a tube of bright, burning pain the size of a packet of Polo Mints deep in my innards, like someone had impaled me with a soldering iron.
Liquid is spotting on the back of my shirt. I can only wear black or white shirts to work due to the mugs of liquid that pour out of my back on a daily basis. My kidneys aren't really working at optimum power at the moment, so the shirt will soon be soaking in what is essentially a mixture of urine, alcohol, acetaldehyde and sweat. This will rapidly cool to a temperature which feels like the coldest thing that man can experience, zero degrees kelvin or possibly lower. And eventually, with some assistance from the hot air blower in the toilets at work, my top will become dry once again but will now have strange contour lines weaving across the back of it, sketched out in thick ridges of salty mineral deposit. I could scrape this stuff off, jar it and sell it. These crystals of despair would make a bitter condiment for sado-masochists down on their luck or those who like to get a mildly distressing psychedelic buzz when eating chips.
I might as well get the first cigarette of the day out of the way now. It becomes near impossible if I leave it until tea time. With the first drag my head becomes a concentration camp, an inverse wunderkammer, a writhing well of debasement and wrong-think. I can imagine my hands doing appalling things so – mentally – I slide them into an industrial press, crippling my digits good. Then I feed them into a mechanical mangle. It drags me in arms first. I must be cleansed. My head goes through, coming out as flat as a pancake, with my brain squeezed out of my nose like jets of cephalic toothpaste. Then my body follows. My feet start to balloon into giant skin sacs of blood and awfulness. They burst showering the operatives. This is why the operatives always wear PVC aprons, gloves and gas masks.
I take a second drag with shaking hands. A deformed dwarf is at the bus stop pointing at me with its mouth open like Donald Sutherland at the end of the 1978 version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Its face is a contorted mask of orange, black and yellow scar tissue.
"Is it time? Have you come to take me?" I try to say but it comes out as a strangulated cry, which develops into a terrified scream.
I only realise it is a child wearing face paint to make her look like a tiger when her angry looking dad comes and scoops her up and walks off with her, crying, under one arm.
Dear God. If you could just make this stop, I would do anything. Anything...
Later that evening, after a few pints in the very same pub, I angrily demand to know of no one in particular: “Who paints their child’s face like a tiger at 9AM on a Tuesday morning?”
It’s the 2006/2007 New Year’s Eve celebrations and it’s about 5AM. I’m DJing for Angus at the Mucky Pup in Islington. I’ve had three large wraps of MDMA and my second lot of mushrooms are just warming up nicely. I play "Master Of Alchemy: House Of Whipchord/The Black Drug" by Electric Wizard. It feels like when they recorded this album they found a new and very terrible set of notes, hidden in between all the old normal ones and this caused some kind rip in the fabric of space-time. I look up and a rather jocular Satan is stood behind the bar. He is bright red with jaunty horns and has smoke coming out of his nostrils. “What can I get you sir?” he asks. He is so real looking!
I rub my eyes. Angus is behind the bar smoking a cigarette.
“Angus! Have you seen Lucifer?! He is among us!”
“John,” says Angus sternly. “What do you want to drink?”
“Can I have a pint of Stella, a Jägerbomb, and a treble Jack and coke. Easy on the coke. And a large red wine. And a Jägerbomb. I was just talking to Satan, and...”
“John... Shut up,” says Angus. Then he revises his statement: “John... Shut up and play some Kyuss.”
It’s 2008. We bought 20g of plant food and made a pyramid of it on the work experience person’s desk. It doesn't matter how much we take – and we've been taking a lot of it since lunch time – we don't seem to be able to make a dent in it. Eight hours later, there's viscous electrified tar in my veins and I'm juddering at a bus stop, wondering how I’ll get through the evening’s DJ assignment without incident. As soon as I get on the number 38 the savage hoof of fear kicks me square in the clavicle.
The bus is full of vampires.
Pallid skin, sharp incisors, bloody puncture holes on necks, cloaks – the full works.
I can feel the panic rising like the space shuttle. "It's ok! It's ok! It's Halloween!" I think and it calms me for a second.
But then the fear starts rising again: "But it's July! How can it be Halloween in July?"
After several minutes of talking to myself and sweating, I convince myself that I'm on a bus full of students dressed as vampires going to one of those fancy dress parties. I spy a couple of girls I know sitting at the back. "Ha ha ha!" I say by way of greeting. "You look like vampire prostitutes!"
There is a short exchange of words in which they inform me that they are not dressed as vampires or prostitutes or any combination thereof. They get off the bus soon afterwards.
I turn to an old woman who definitely looks like a vampire, and ask: "Did those two women look like undead sex workers to you?" But she gets off as well.
Slowly I start to realise that the only vampire on the bus is the fat, drug-addled one with rubber fangs currently sat behind the wheel in my head, steering me into parked cars and lamp posts.
It’s 2012. The weekend just gone in fact. Maria is driving us through the New Forest as I navigate and Little John dozes in the back. As we tootle along I’m ruminating on the idea that the GPS and internet-enhanced mobile phone has driven the last nail into the coffin of the British horror movie. Most script scenarios you can devise that are set upon these small isles can usually be compromised by one of the characters making a judicious phone call, sending an email or checking their location on G Maps.
Just outside of Boldre, on Hatchet Lane, I say boldly, “Let’s drive off the map!”
“Hooray!” says Maria and we start driving off down little country lanes too small to be included in our trucker road atlas.
“Remember when we first went on holiday together and we drove off the map on Bodmin Moor and got lost? We found a funeral director’s in the middle of nowhere with your name, do you remember? And the car didn’t make it up that hill on the first go and started rolling backwards? That was exciting wasn’t it?” she says.
“Kind of exciting, kind of troubling,” I say.
After driving for some time I suddenly notice the battery on my iPhone is down to 7 percent and there’s no signal anyway. I feel really exposed. I get a lysergic rush of fear and start shaking my iPhone up and down but all I can see is grey hatching lines on the screen. I look at the trucker’s road atlas. We’re in a small white bit that has no markings on it.
We have driven into the maw of the unknown!
We round the corner on a lane in a copse. The speed limit is five miles an hour. Driving this slowly is making my head feel chopped and screwed.
And then, in front of us there are about 14 teenage zombies all across the road and three normally dressed adults with handheld cameras. The adults usher all the teenagers to the side of the road and wave at us as we roll past them at walking speed.
“Look! They’re making a zombie film!” says Maria.
“Excellent,” I say rolling up my window.
“They don’t let you drive very fast in this wood do they?” I say drumming my fingers on the dash and looking at the zombies growing smaller and smaller, very slowly, in the wing mirror. I notice that some of them are texting. They’ve probably got the iPhone 4S, the little shits.
A few minutes later Maria suggests finding somewhere to stop for lunch, but I say let’s head back on to the B road and back to our self-catering, cow shed conversion in Lymington.
“After all, it’s nearly 4PM and you never know,” I say pointing at the clear, blue sky. “They’ve got a Prezzo’s Pizza back in town and we know that’s a safe bet.”
I look out of the window as we drive away from The New Forest. Three tiny young donkeys are sunning themselves next to a village pond where a duck is quacking contentedly. It never hurts to be on the safe side after all.