This one time I did this festival in some English small town called Oxfordinglyhamburybridgeshire or some shit.
Everyone there was like either 47 years old or 1-13 years old.
And then there were my four friends and I aged 29-31.
I went in there expecting some kind of drugged out hippy festival and had packed accordingly.
Nothing in my backpack was functional.
All my clothes were stupid costumes.
And I had this tail. It was all misshapen and lumpy and sticky from being dragged in various puddles of stuff.
I didn’t wear it this festival.
In the end I threw it on the fire.
Watched it burn.
It was on the grounds of a Sannyassins owned commune/retreat.
You know the Orange people?
They were big in the 60’s.
I’d never met any before but I was a fan of their enlightened master Osho.
He had these clear dreamy eyes and a wicked sense of humour.
Then the cult tried to poison the oregon water supply back in the 1980’s and everything went to shit.
We camped next to this sheep paddock and at the break of dawn the next morning we were woken up by the sheep.
They would go. For hours on end. One after the other like some demented roll call.
Each had their own distinct ‘Baaa’. No two were alike. And judging by the way some of them sounded, I think there were more than a few retards in the flock.
I couldn’t get back to sleep so I got up and spent the next few hours staring at the sheep, half-asleep, wondering what it would feel like to exist without a sense of history dragging you down but then I would counter-think ‘who am I to say what sheep think?’.
Who is anyone to think what others think?
By the second day they were driving us all crazy because we’d inevitably fall asleep in our tents at about 4am in a booze and pot haze only to be woken up by the sheep roll call just as our brains clicked into REM.
Finally I snapped.
‘SHUT THE FUCK UP!’ I shouted in my tent.
‘BAA-AA…’ They continued.
‘WHAT ARE YOU SAYING ANYWAY??’
They continued to baa and I continued to repeat the phrase,
‘WHAT ARE YOU SAYING ANYWAY?’
Although a few times I alternated it with,
‘WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY ANYWAY?’
It was a weird vibe.
I was one of the only three non-white people there.
I don’t trust English country people.
I’ve seen the movies.
You know the ones where they stick the outsider in some kind of burning wicker contraption full of pitchfork-weilding birds that relentlessly peck him to death?
I am a six foot 3 inch asian male who at the time had a wispy beard down to my chest and hair that went all the way down my back.
I was prime candidate for the role of that outsider.
I was a shoe-in.
I may as well of had the word ‘SCAPEGOAT’ slathered across my face in black tar paint.
(OH MY GOD JUST THEN WHILE I WAS WRITING THIS, SOME GUY HAD A FIT OUTSIDE MY WINDOW AND BASHED HIS FACE AGAINST THE FENCE AND HIS LIPS WENT BLUE AND HE WAS VOMITING AND WE HAD TO CALL AN AMBULANCE IT WAS INTENSE LIFE IS FRAGILE CALL YOUR PARENTS.)
I felt self-conscious walking around.
English country people have these beady eyes that just stare at you like opaque buttons and when you stare into them, you can’t tell whether they are thinking of baking scones or how and when they plan to kill you.
All you see is your own fears reflected back in them.
All you see is a stalemate of your xenophobia of them being xenophobic.
The English country side is really beautiful though.
Later, I was lying on my back smoking a joint and staring at the sky. Life was great.
I heard some noises nearby and I looked over to see two small boys about 8 yrs old approaching my vague area.
They looked at me with their opaque beady eyes.
I looked at their opaque beady eyes look at me.
I saw nothing.
‘See that man?’ said the first boy.
‘Yeah?’ said the second boy.
‘You hate that man.’
‘Yes, but why?’
‘Because he looks different from us.’
Kids say the darnedest things.
‘Hey I’m right here!’ I said.
‘What?’ They said.
‘I’m right here! I can hear you!’
Two pairs of beady eyes full of nothing staring back at me.
‘Are you having a nice day?’ I continued.
‘You mean what’s left of the day.’ Said the first boy.
‘It’s the afternoon, so have a nice what’s left of the day.’ The first boy said.
‘Right…’ I said confused.
They walked away, leaving me to think about what had just happened for the next three hours.
It had started off xenophobic and ended like a zen koan.
But their xenophobic statements were so disarmingly innocent and naïve I found it charming. It was the most adorable form of racism I had ever encountered.
One day they would grow up to be fantastic neo-nazis.
It made me want to molest them now while I still had strength and size on my side.
I was down for hosting the open mic gig later that night.
I was Mcing the second half and I didn’t know what to expect so I thought I should go check it out.
I went into the main tent and the crowd was pretty much half middle aged parents and half children aged between 5-12.
It was an open invitation to anyone who wanted to perform.
Quite a few kids got up and did their thing.
It was a joy to watch them because they were joyful.
They were all amazing in their lack of self-concioussness and purity.
It was the same purity that I had seen in the two racist boys I had encountered earlier in the day.
Perhaps the paedophiliac urge is really just a frustrated yearning for that lost innocence, I thought.
Oh god I’m poeticising paedophilia, I thought.
Breathing heavily in darkness, I went back to watching the kids.
Then one by one, the adults came on with their musical instruments and their mid-life crises.
They each played for like half an hour. Soaking up the stage time and the life force and the oppurtunity of a captive audience that were finally unable to escape them, chained to their chairs by politeness.
They bludgeoned us into submission with desperately impassioned renditions of songs that were popular when they were young.
Odes to the rockstar dreams they had sacraficed on the altar of something.
I looked at the kids and then at the adults.
What happens to us?
Why do we fall so far?
I looked at the kids and then at the adults.
Inevitably one would to turn into the other and get ruined in the process.
But not me man. No way. I’m staying in Never-never land forever. I am Rufio. Before he gets stabbed. Then I’m tinkerbell sitting on a dew drop and feeling my fairy tits.
I looked at my setlist of jokes I was planning to do.
This is what it looked like:
- England sucks
- English people are dicks
- Dogs are better than babies
- Voice in my head telling me to push a lady down the stairs
- Eating a meatball marinara subway made me look like I’d gone down on a homeless lady
- Mock executions are the best worst/ worst best practical jokes
- English country people and their opaque beady eyes
- English children are racist
- Rape rapists
- Time travelling paedophile going back in time to fuck hitler when he was a baby would be okay
- My career isn’t going well
- Why do you hate me?
- What do you mean why do I hate me?
- Wouldn’t it be cool if you could shoot blood out of your eyes onto annoying people’s faces?
- They lied to me
I looked out at all the children’s faces, glowing brightly like candles in the darkness being illuminated by the actual candles that were on the tables in front of them.
I looked once more at my setlist.
This would not do.
I would not be that man in their lives…
At least not by choice, this time.
I needed a backup plan.
I didn’t have one, so instead I just went back to my tent and took an E.
I was coming up pretty hard by the time I got onstage but because I had been in my tent taking E, no one had told me that the fat neurotic midlife crisis failed folk singer turned frustrated mother of three singing joni mitchell had decided to do three extra swansongs, so I bounded onstage at the wrong time with my eyes bouncing around in my skull like pinballs shooting out lightning bolts and grabbed the mic off her thinking she was leaving but instead she just stayed and said with the kind of offended tone of someone who’d just had their limelight turned into a blackhole,
‘What are you doing?’
‘Oh sorry aren’t you done?’ I said.
‘No!’ she replied annoyed.
There was an uneasy moment where I was just standing there in the hot lights, unsure what to do.
I thought she was just refusing to get offstage and it was my task to physically remove her.
This had not been in the contract.
‘Nick she’s doing some extra songs!’ My friend hissed at me from the side of stage.
‘Oh… My bad.’ I said, dismounting.
The crowd laughed but then she restarted the song that I had interrupted and we all realised we were once more hostages to her funeral dirge of youth murdered by time.
Just don’t swear, just don’t swear, just don’t swear etc…
I thought, waiting for her life force to decline to the point where it could no longer sustain the crisis that was propelling her through time and space.
I got onstage.
I can’t remember exactly what I said or did and even if I did, I don’t really want to talk about how great a gig went and how great I was in graphic detail because I don’t want to sound like a fucking tosser, but yeah the gig went amazing.
I only swore once. I was trying to get the kids to fight each other for the parent’s money and when I realised it probably wasn’t going to happen casue they thought I was joking, I said, ‘Shit’.
There is something to be said for performing on ecstasy. It is truly one of the most awesome performance enhancing drugs known to mankind if mankind was comprised solely of me. The trick is to get the balance right. Too much and you’re just some convulsing zombie with your eyes rolling back in your head as your jaw tries to chew itself off in a bid for freedom from the rest of your body as the audience loses faith in you and shake their heads and look at you like you got some kind of problem.
But a mild dose taken at the right time and you and the crowd become one big contact high, riding wave after rolling wave of blissful communion.
Or maybe I was just high.
But it wasn’t just that, because at one point, one of the kids- who later developed an intense attachment to me(I can’t remember his name)- stood up and pointed his finger at me and yelled,
That tag kind of stuck and for the rest of the festival I was known as Cool Man, by both children and adults alike.
But as I was to learn the next day, fame is a double-edged sword and with power comes great responsibility or some shit. Especially amongst children, where you are automatically thrust into the position role model whether you like it or not.
I don’t know if you can fully grasp the horror of being swarmed by a group of 15 children between the ages of 6-13 while being stoned out of your paradigm.
Kids, kids, kids everywhere.
‘Cool Man! Cool Man!’ They chirped at me.
‘Cool Man isn’t feeling very cool right now man…’ I mumbled, bits of food falling out of my ripped face.
‘Cool Man! Cool Man! Come play with us!’ They demanded.
Well shit at least they weren’t throwing xenophobic zen koans at me anymore I thought.
Still in some ways perhaps I preferred that kind of treatment.
It was a lot less invasive.
I reminisced about those two boys who had victimised me earlier, thinking back to the good old days when I was just a representative of the hostile unknown.
On the last night there was some kind of disco in the main house. The kids swarmed around me and demanded that I play with them.
I spent the next two hours having a pillowfight with children on e.
Every time they hit me hard in the face I was in heaven.
I was headbutting clouds.
I became convinced that I had stumbled upon some kind of new new-age therapy that would make me jongazillions.
Frustrated business men and bored housewives would pay big bucks to regress into a chemical paradise and have children whack them hard in the face with soft pillows.
And then at irregular intervals a piercing siren would blare and we’d hit them with tasers just to remind them of all the pain in the world.
The effects of 3 days of sheep interrupted sleep hit me and I suddenly got tired. I decided to go back to my tent and smoke myself into an antisocial stupor in the night fields.
I tried to work out an exit strategy.
‘Cool man needs to go to the bathroom kids.’ I said, planning to give them the old slipperooni.
‘We’ll come too Cool Man!!’ Said the boy who really loved me who’s name I cant remember I think it was like Billy or Sammy or Jimmy or Jammy or some shit.
‘Yeah we’ll all go to the bathroom with Cool Man, Cool man!’ Said the another.
‘Yeah let’s all go to the toilet with Cool Man, Cool Man!’ said the others.
‘Uhhh… I don’t think Cool Man would be down with that.’ Cool Man said.
‘Cool Man needs some alone time.’ Cool man said.
They protested loudly. They had called my bluff. There was no way out. Now I had to go to the toilet even though I didn’t need or want to. I headed towards the toilet with about six children between the ages of 5-10 following behind me.
This looks bad, I thought.
I must look like the pied paedo piper or some shit, I thought.
It didn’t help that I was aware of how bad this looked because it just made me act and look suspicious.
I looked furtively around as I entered the bathroom with six children in tow.
All I could hear in my head on a loop was:
Paedo piper, Paedo piper, Paedo piper…
I walked into the toilet stall.
Billy or Jimmy or Sammy or Silly and his sister tried to come into the stall with me.
Please believe me your honour.
‘Oh no, you can’t come in here.’ I said. I was drawing the line. As much as it was against the Cool Man ethos to draw boundaries, sometimes the law can make authority figures out of all us.
I shut the door and hid.
I could hear the kids playing in the sink.
Maybe I should try and pee I thought.
But I didn’t want to pee. So I just stood there with my dick out trying to pee while six children between the ages of 6-10 played with the water in the sink on the other side of my weak, rusty hinged door.
I didn’t want to be a celebrity anymore.
I stood there trying to work out how this had happened and all I could see in my head in huge bold letters was the newspaper headline:
‘COOL MAN = PAEDO PIPER’
Be cool, Cool Man. Keep it together.
I heard the bathroom door open.
It was one of the parents.
‘Uhhh… Is… I-Is ev-everything uhh… O-Ok???’ I heard her voice quaver.
Look, I can understand parental worry and that it’s always better to be safe then sorry but still, it was insulting.
I mean come on…
Cool Man does not touch kids.
I guess you could say that was Cool Man’s one and only motto,
‘Cool Man says, Don’t touch kids.’
I mean you know unless it’s a kid who is touching themselves but that was their choice and out of Cool Man’s jurisdiction.
‘Yeah everything is fine!’ I shouted back.
‘Everything is fine!’ chirped the children.
‘Oh… Ummm Okay… uhhh… Just checking that’s all… hahaha’ The mother said nervously.
‘Yep.’ I reply.
Again, I can understand where she was coming from but come on…
Cool man says, Don’t not touch kids
That’s something Uncool Man would do.
(Uncool Man is Cool Man’s arch-nemesis.)
(Later on in the saga, ‘The Ballad of Cool Man’, it turns out that Cool Man and Uncool Man are siamese twin brothers who live inside the same body, sharing it in 12 hr shift- Cool Man gets the night time, Uncool man gets the day time- and have to come to accept each other and live the rest of their lives in an aged care home on a desert island where there are no children around.)
And also, hypothetically, if I was a paedophile, you’d think that I wouldn’t try to do it in such an obvious setting, where the likelihood of being caught was very high, right?
I mean unless hypothetically, if I was a paedophile, the thrill of perhaps being caught and burned in a wickerman turned me on or something.
I mean hypothetically.
I flush the toilet to make the children and the mother think that I went to toilet and am therefore innocent just like the way I used to be and I leave the stall.
‘What are we going to do next Cool Man?’ Says Billy or Jilly or Gammy.
‘Listen Sammy or Simmy or Jemmy or Bemmy… Cool Man has to go to bed now. Cool man needs to replenish his coolness.’
‘Aaaaaaaawwww!!!’ Protested Cool Man’s young followers/future martyrs.
‘Why can’t we just keep on playing forever Cool Man?’ Bemmy or Hammy or Lammy said, looking at me with eyes so sincere it made my heart have gaysex with a rainbow on a dolphin right then and there.
Cool Man knelt down and put his kind paws warmly on the boy’s shoulders and spoke thus:
You are Cool Man.
Cool Man is inside all of us.
Everyone is Cool Man.
We are all Cool Man.
You are Cool Man.
He looked at me like I was full of shit and I knew it.
I looked at him and saw a little boy who had been let down by his reluctant hero.
I had become that man that I had tried to avoid being, at least by choice, this time.
He threw his arms around my neck and gave me a big hug and then turned to walk away without looking back.
I felt something move inside of me that I thought I had lost.
I was touched.
By a kid.
Don’t touch kids.