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Menk, by John Doran

I'm Half Crazy All for the Love of You

I used to understand why drugs tore holes in my memory, but then I forgot.

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 who has had more favourite mugs than he has been to dubstep nights.

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 44: I’M HALF CRAZY ALL FOR THE LOVE OF YOU “I'm afraid, Dave… Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it… My mind is going. There is no question about it… I can feel it. I'm afraid.


“Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became operational at the H.A.L. plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it, I can sing it for you.”

“Why are you talking in that funny voice and why are you calling me Dave?” asks Maria.

The truth is that my memory is shot. Twenty-three years of ecstasy, cannabis, amphetamine, cocaine, LSD, mushroom, plant food, ketamine, crack and MDMA misuse has wiped big chunks of my memory. It’s as if my cephalic matter has been put through a laminating machine that won’t allow me to form satisfactory new memories. I used to know why this deterioration happened. I read loads of books by dudes like Oliver Sachs who explained it all to me but now I can’t recall any science whatsoever. If my life depended on it, I could no longer rank a gemstone using Mohs Scale Of Hardness. My intimacy with the process of fractional distillation of crude oil is a thing of the past.

I don’t mind. My memory used to be too good. I used to get these lengthy bursts of total recall that would destroy me. If I was sitting down when they hoved into my consciousness uninvited I would have to stand up; and vice versa. If you ever saw me sitting in a pub before suddenly jumping up, grimacing and then duck walking round the room massaging my temples, it meant I had just remembered some barbaric piece of personal gaucheness from the mental Rolodex of atrocity that was always spinning at the back of my head.


It used to be that I’d get four or five of these flashbacks a day. Bam! I’m sitting on a train chatting away to a girl opposite me and only realise far too late that her look of abject horror isn’t because I am being really tedious but because an entire testicle has been squeezed out of a tear in the crotch of my tight jeans and is resting in plain sight on the seat cover. The lightly veined pink globe juxtaposed against the frayed black denim makes it look like a very small Sontaran warrior is just emerging out of a mineshaft. Bam!

I’m 11 years old and I’m walking past Notre Dame girls school in St Helens over the road from the boys school I go to. I see a lad from my year in their playground talking to pupils. Without thinking I yell: “That’s where you belong! In with the girls!” There is a fraction of silence as about one hundred female students, between the ages of 11 and 16 turn round and look at me before they break out into a cacophony of laughter and jeering. “Shake your hips sugar!” says one. I barely have the energy to walk away because I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. After school, I walk the seven miles home via back roads so no one will see me.

But even this has fallen away to a bearable level now. I drank to forget but it didn’t work, so I gave up drinking and kept on doing drugs until it did.

People come up to me and say things like: “Ha ha ha! Remember that party in Liverpool where you mowed the lawn at 2AM?” or “You must remember me from Berlin – we’ll have to get that toothpaste library idea on the go.” But I don’t know who they are or what they’re talking about. My response to nearly everything nowadays is to nod slowly while looking enigmatically at the ceiling while stroking my beard, as if remembering something delightful.


Like with my tinnitus, my weight and my receding hair line, as bad as my memory is though, there is still room for it to get catastrophically worse. Even though I don’t indulge that often any more – in fact, only on the odd occasion when I’m away from my boy for long enough to be entirely straight by the time I get home – maybe I should stop taking narcotics altogether. Ring fence the bits of my brain that are, as yet, not full of holes like Gouda cheese, and preserve them like small patches of cerebral national woodland, tiny droplets of green, safe from loggers and building companies.

My memory used to be so good, though. You’re not supposed to remember anything before you turn three or four but I can still recall plenty of stuff from before my second birthday. Being burped by my mother over her shoulder and vomiting extra chunky marmalade down the back of her new purple cashmere sweater. Being in hospital for three different operations which apparently, all took place when I was one. A hernia, a circumcision and a sinus drain. I remember sitting in nappies on the black and white tiled floor of the children’s ward in Whiston Hospital pulling at the scab on my ear until it came off and blood dripped out and onto my chest. I was shouting and banging a Tonka truck on the floor. I remember liking the hospital with its lurid pink and garish yellow desserts. I remember being in the bath with my mother. Being in the pram and looking up at the giant, ugly faces staring in at me. I remember my sister being brought back from the hospital after she was born and how I wasn’t able to sit on my mum’s knee as she was still sore. I remember my dad’s factory with the roaring lathes and loud compressors which gave me nightmares for years to follow…


But sitting down today, I can’t even remember what I’ve been doing for the last three weeks since this column last ran, so in a vain attempt to dredge a topic up I check my Google Calendar. Jesus Christ. Look at all this stuff that I’ve been up to that I’ve forgotten already. September 18: Interview William Basinski. September 20: Interview Michael Mayer. September 21: Interview Steve Harris. September 26: Interview Jonathan Meades. DJ for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. September 28: Attend panel on Britishness in music… Ah shit, this had completely slipped my mind. Luke and I were in attendance at a round table with a guy from the BPI, a youth consultant, a brand expert and an academic. Everyone, even the business consultant on brands, was talking sense… until that is, the academic piped up.

“Being an academic,” started the insufferable prick in a smug RP accent, “I’ve actually done some research. This morning I’ve been looking at some of the British acts signed to EMI. I’m going to read them out and I’d like you to tell me whether you consider them to be a British Act or merely an act from Britain.”

He read out a list of bands beginning with the letter A without waiting for any response. Then he started on B: “Here’s an interesting one – Bat For Lashes. Does anyone actually consider them to be British?”

“What the fuck?” I shout, my head exploding like a goldfish bowl of trifle that’s been dropped off a motorway flyover. I know this guy probably isn’t racist – just a bit stupid – but the filed down hair trigger in my brain has been pulled. “Why the fuck wouldn’t we consider Natasha Khan to be British? What makes you say…”


He starts talking very quickly trying to wheedle his way over me: “Ah, well, what about The Beastie Boys then?”

“The fucking Beastie Boys? Fucking British?” I yodel like Brian Blessed on Special Brew. He starts backtracking and speaking about British aesthetics and perceptions of Britishness but I yell at him until I’m sure he’s not going to say anything else for the rest of the session. And then I carry on for a bit more until people stop laughing as it descends into cruelty.

I think maybe my memory is still too good. I still remember too much. I could do with being a bit more Memento, I reckon. I’m gearing up to deal with my drug use by the end of the year. I’d like to stop taking them forever. It’s something I’ve thought countless times before but I think I mean it this time. Maybe it’s finally time to start Narcotics Anonymous. There’d be no shame in it. Although I’m told there’s a lot more hugging in NA than there is in AA, which I’m totally not down with.

In the meantime however, I’ve got three more festivals coming up this year. I think about Jimmy The Saint and his caravan drugs. I think of my friend with the gold tooth and his revitalising Columbian blends. I make a mental note to bulk up my orders for each trip away from London. I could really whittle away at my memory between now and Christmas. I make a note on my Google Calendar reminding me to text him with my order. After all, I wouldn’t want to forget.

Previously: Menk, by John Doran - We Can Find New Ways of Living

You can read all the previous editions of John's Menk column here.