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 41-year-old whose midlife crisis is in the post.
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 49: TO THE ONE TRUE GOD ABOVE, HERE IS MY PRAYER I’m floating on my back in the sea, looking up at a blue sky. The surface tension must be incredible as barely any of me is below the surface. To my right, the viscous sea water merges into a gloopy, ski-slope-like meniscus which arcs vertiginously up into the base of a towering cliff. The structure is formed from opaque [pelagic plastics](http://Pelagic Plastics: http://www.algalita.org/research/pelagic_plastic.html) which are sludgily fused together by partially bio-degraded Evian and Volvic bottles. I must be near the North Pacific Gyre, tens of thousands of years in the future. I am floating by the new continent of discarded plastic. My head is heavy and starts sinking below the surface. As my eyes go under I realise that my head is in Hell. “Ah! I see! In the future, everything under sea level is in Hell.” I peer down into the crimson depths. There is a sprawling factory complex for the mass production of spiders down there. Looking at the clientele milling about I’d say it was an unfashionable backwater of perdition, mainly populated by folk who can count themselves very unlucky to have ended up there instead of in Purgatory: no win, no fee lawyers, low ranking pirates, alcoholic priests, celebrity chefs, old school park flashers… “What are you crying about? This place isn’t so bad, apart from the spiders,” I shout down to someone weeping under a tree. He looks up, all pissy eyed and says: “It’s true, it’s not so bad. They started subcontracting a lot of essential maintenance work to the lowest out-of-house bidders. It soon became financially unviable to have a Hell that was terrible for everyone. This is late-capitalist Hell. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty grim but most of the time it’s just annoying, none of the really terrifying stuff works properly any more… and if your tastes run to the bleak, misanthropic or masochistic, well, you’ll do OK here. Imagine being in one of those HR Giger theme bars with a pretty full-on hangover listening to early 90s hardcore. If you don’t think too much about the ‘eternity’ aspect of it, it’s not so bad.” “Hardcore punk or hardcore rave?” I ask. “Whichever one you dislike, that’s what you hear,” he replies. “Sure, but what’s the real problem here?” “I really hate spiders.” There are fucking spiders everywhere, it has to be said. They must be quite cost effective to produce and they do horrify a lot of people. There’s a roll of thunder and I yank my head up above the surface. Larry Grayson is walking towards me across a beach of nurdles. He is weeping mermaid’s tears, which roll down his cheeks, and cascade down his messianic robes and scatter by his feet. “Larry, I’m cold,” I tell him. He looks up and solemnly addresses someone out of sight: “Shut that door. It’s freezing down here.”
We have a long conversation. Grayson was the only one I trusted as a child. A truly beautiful man of sensitivity and charm, surrounded by ignorant brutes. Even as a child I could tell that the rest of them were rancid. Bernard Manning. Steve Wright. Jimmy Savile. Doc Cox. Simon Bates. Mike Reid. Keith Chegwin. Jim Davidson. Chris Tarrant. Sid James. Michael Barrymore. Esther Rantzen. Jonathan King. Benny Hill. Spike Milligan. Jack Smethurst. Noel Edmonds. Stan Boardman. Dave Lee Travis. The Krankies. Robin Asquith. Those cunts off 'Allo ‘Allo! I’m not saying all of them were paedophiles or misogynists or racists, but they were all fucking horrible to a T; none who you’d shed a tear over. “They’re all down there, aren’t they?” I ask Grayson, who simply nods, eyes brimming with plastic tears. “Is he down there as well? The teacher with the carnation, the powder blue crushed velveteen suit and the stupid fucking haircut?” I ask him. He had an odd way of punishing boys, that one. “Take a look for yourself,” says Grayson and my head starts sinking under the surface again. Back in Hell, I drift high above the plains, looking down on the lost but something’s wrong with my balance, I’m pitching and yawing. Tipping forwards. Threatening to come tumbling to the floor of this horrible, blood-red world. I don’t want to go down to Hell… I’m not ready… I wake up, just as I come rolling forward out of my Mum’s electric riser/recliner chair. I’m on my hands and knees with my chin on the carpet and my son is stood next to me, hitting me delightedly with a toy train. Mum is leaning against a wall laughing in hysterics. I’m at an absolute loss as to what is going on. “Larry?” I ask weakly. After a few moments I realise that it’s the 29th of December and I’m round at my parents’ house in Merseyside. We drove up from London yesterday for the annual Christmas visit. She tells me that she was watching me for some time before I fell out of the chair. I would nod off, my head would loll slowly backwards until a combination snore/shout – caused by a blocked nose and sleep apnoea – would make me jolt upright awake before I would start slowly lolling backwards asleep again. But then Little John joined in the torment. Growing bored and wanting someone to play with, he used the electronic controller on the side of the chair to tip it forward sending me crashing on to the floor. This function of the chair would normally be used by a pensioner to help them get up into standing position. “So I’m not in Hell?” I ask gingerly and my Mum shakes her head. “He’s worked out how to tip me out of a chair on to the floor?” I ask incredulously. “Yes. He’s very clever, isn’t he?” says Mum, laughing. “Very,” I say. “Choo! Choo!” says Little John and hits me on the nose with a train again. He’s managed to tip me out of the chair so I’ve landed well within reach of his Thomas The Tank Engine Blue Mountain Play Set. I start pushing tiny engines round its maze of plastic tracks from where I’m lying. “How are you feeling?” says my Mum. “Horrible. I think I’ve got what Dad’s got,” I say. My old man is laid up in bed with some virus. When I was a kid he sometimes used to spend all Christmas in bed, lying there motionless with the curtains shut, staring balefully at the blank wall in front of him with his mouth hanging open, not speaking for days on end but that was with depression. We didn’t know it was an illness then. There were lots of things that we didn’t know were illnesses then. I do feel terrible but if I’m truthful with myself, I’m pretty sure I’m not suffering with what he’s got. I realised recently that I’d started lying to myself about my use of narcotics and there was a period of several weeks last year where things slipped slightly. There was some discombobulation. I crossed several Rubicons that I said I’d never even approach. I’ve stopped everything now. No damage done. Well, none that I know about yet. My trouble is I can no longer just do a little bit of drugs once or twice a year, like some trendy dad with a Primal Scream T-shirt and some Basement Jaxx CDs who likes going to Fabric on his birthday. It’s not in my nature. As a result I reached a point where I had to choose between getting high and being a dad – as the two things are, for me, incompatible. And this was no choice at all when it came down to it. It’s only been a few days but I feel like I’m dying. I feel like Satan has kicked me in the fucking heart with an iron shod, cloven hooved roundhouse – straight to the motherfucking sternum. I feel like he’s taken a three-day postponed rave shit in my liver and pissed all over my over-heated pancreas with a sizzling micturition that sounds like a hot dog vendor’s frying onions. My heart is bruised and is radiating a painful network of burst veins and arteries, like a roadmap of poor life choices. And the depression? Jesus Christ, I’m lugubrious. I feel like a Tindersticks B-side played at 33rpm. I feel like the typeface on the lyric sheet of an unloved, late 90s Morrissey album. I’m so depressed it’s almost quite funny. Almost, but not quite. I feel like wearing an armband even though I’m not a footballer or a Victorian undertaker. Or maybe I have just got the flu… who knows? After all, flu is pretty hanging. I think something’s afoot, though. Spiders and Satanic matters are two things that plague my dreams when I’m trying to kick a habit and I do understand why that is. Satan is a powerful metaphor for the exertion of self-will. He symbolises the rejection of society’s norms and the bold statement of belief in man as a self-sufficient entity in charge of his own destiny. Someone who identifies with Satan probably believes in free will and opposes governance by the church, the state, the judiciary, teachers, police, social workers, librarians, bus drivers, park wardens, people in call centres… He helps man oppose The Man! The trouble is, I don’t really believe in free will any more. I’ve spent my entire life banging my head against a brick wall and all I’ve got to show for it is a totally fucked face and a cracked skull. And I’m still sat next to a completely unchanged brick wall. About 95 percent of my life was already mapped out for me by genetics and environment and the only choice I was making was between white and brown bread. I don’t really believe I’m in charge of my own destiny to any remarkable degree and there isn’t any striking evidence to suggest that I should do.
And as for the other 5 percent of my life that actually does present me with genuine chances to completely change my fortunes? Well, I’ll probably be in a better position to recognise these all too rare opportunities when they happen and maybe even make the right decisions they present if I haven’t just boshed three grams of MDMA, a fat line of ketamine, a nose-up of crystal meth and am not whooping blind with poppers. Drugs may be a symbol of free will but in concrete terms, for me, they represent yet another form of control. Especially if you’re a 41-year-old wondering where he can get speed from on a Wednesday lunch time. This isn’t the first time I’ve been knocked on my arse, drug sick at my mum and dad’s house, but I’m going to make sure it’s the last time. I’m going to start at NA as soon as I get back to London. There’s a verse that you usually end up saying when you go to AA called the Serenity Prayer. They probably say it at NA as well. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” They figure that even though the 12-step programme is really just church, a lot of the people who end up in the rooms are probably atheist or agnostic so they ask you to picture god in any way that you’re comfortable with. So as I lie on the floor being hit with a train, I think to myself: “Dear plastic Larry Grayson future Christ. Please help me fight Satan. I am utterly powerless against this big, shiny red prick, with his cunning ways and his stupid fucking Noel Edmonds beard. Fuck him and fuck his stupid red horns and fuck his stupid fucking trident. Please help us Larry Grayson, you’re our only hope. Amen.” But it doesn’t make me feel any better. It doesn’t even put a dent in it. I really feel fucking ill and upset. It’s ludicrous. You want to get up and walk away from it but you can’t. You just have to sit and wait for it to pass. It squats on your shoulders like a great brass badger while your sanity comes apart like a daddy long legs in a fucking car wash. “Do you want a cup of tea?” says my mum. “Yes please. And a slice of Dundee cake, an Eccles cake and a mince pie,” I reply. “It’s only half eight in the morning,” she says. “Yeah, don’t worry about that,” I say. “It’s Christmas and a little bit of what you like never hurt anyone.”
Photo by Mike Sansbury.
Previously: Menk, by John Doran - Going Underground