That was the 70s. Like they say, that was then and this is now. I was living in Rathmines, a Dublin flatland suburb right alongside the city centre. Sleazy then. Students and petty criminals and guys in bands. The only all-night shop was dark and treacherous, owned by this wild Provo guy who looked like one of the Moors Murderers. The shop was called The Honey Pot. One night I saw a fellow pissing onto the sliced pans. But you could get tomorrow's papers there, and tea and milk and wine. I'd meet guys from bands there, and the actor Gabriel Byrne would go there a lot to buy papers and cigarettes. He's a big star now, but then he was just a guy. Big tall chap with a taller blonde girlfriend, She was an intelligent television presenter. I was just a guy then too, and Dublin was just an insignificant, backwater, interesting city.
I spent the night in the flat of my comrade, Jamie the snakeboy. He made his money from miscellaneous criminal activities. A criminal indeed but no thug. Jamie came from upmarket South Dublin seed mixed with respectable country people. His family home bordered onto the home of one of Ireland's Presidents, a senior Government Minister when he lived next door. Jamie said he was a regular asshole and his mother confirmed this, mentioning the fact that she had voted twice for him when he ran for the Presidency, knowing that he would have to vacate his home. She bought it when it went up for auction so there'd be no more neighbour problems. Jamie and me used to kind of squat there sometimes.
Jamie was a criminal by choice, not from necessity - the best kind of criminal. The cool intelligent type and he lived like a vagabond young king. King in exile. King of the wild frontier. Guerrilla leader in the war against the bourgeoisie. Maintained a three-roomed flat with hookahs and machetes and guns and snakes and lizards. He was fascinated by explosives and by snakes. He had a lethal small black swamp snake, and a couple of congenial pythons.
There was a very rare, sad, lizard. He was 16 then and I was 23. On the night in question we'd spent several hours discussing queer bashing. He'd been in a queer bashing gang when he was younger.
Jamie was 14 at that time. He'd go with his dudes to Palmerston Park, where all the Dublin rent boys worked. Jamie would lean against a well lit tree; the rest of them would hide in the bushes. Jamie would wait for the queer and the queer never took long because Jamie always looked pretty good. He'd walk hand in hand with the queer to some nearby dark and obscure spot. There the jackals would emerge from the shadows (like jackals and wolverines will) to kick the shit out of their victim and rob him. Jamie was disengaging from that kind of life when I met him. He was wrestling with the more adult aspects of entertainment.
All that night, a Saturday night, we listened to reggae music and snorted Cocaine and looked at books and comics and magazines. And it was kind of Beckett-like too, like it often is with cocaine. By 9am he was wiped out and it was time to go. As I got up to leave he gave me a present of a book, The Amphetamine Manifesto, a look at the drug scene from the inside.
Outside in the real world it was a bright sunny Sunday morning. I ambled down Leinster Road with a view to walking through Rathmines to my own place for sleep. I lived about half a mile from Jamie, made lots of money too. I was prosperous in the time. Had all the hip records. . I was born a Catholic and like roost people, it was - then at least - a Once A Catholic Always A Catholic thing. So when I found myself in front of the big grim Rathmines Catholic Church, I couldn't pass without having a look inside. There was a Pop Mass or Folk Mass or whatever the fuck they used to call them taking place.
The priest was doing his sermon. It was a "Youth Mass" so most of those present were young Catholics. Mainly it was fat boys and skinny girls. Lots of acne problems in evidence. Dykey females and faggy males. The priest lead them in singing Michael Rowed the Boat Ashore.
Drugs and sex is a known combination, but sex and religion is an equally interesting blend.
I walked up the main street towards my own flat. Old newspapers and cigarette boxes and used condoms and beer cans littered the pavement. I stopped off at the corner shop to buy Sunday papers and some milk. Walked up to my house, a tall impressive redbrick. A flat a floor. I had the second floor. Underneath me lived this guy in his late thirties. He had his window open and I could see him talking to somebody inside. He was playing a Perry Como record.
I looked up at my own place. "That's my place," I said to myself. "I live there. I got all my clothes and my address book and my stuff there. It's the place for my stuff. What the fuck will I do with all this shit?"
Soon it would be my birthday. I took the keys out of my pocket and opened the front door. In the hall there was a note from a girl who'd come around. It went, "Hi. I brought around some Pot Noodles and some beers. Call me if you get in later." I threw the note in a rubbish bin and I went upstairs.
Inside my own flat it was cool and peaceful. I put on a New York Dolls album, walked into the bedroom, slumped onto the bed and fell asleep.
I'm glad I told this story. I'm glad I wrote it down. I remember that night and that morning perfectly.