Published on September 3rd, 2013 | by J.D.
MANDRAX, ARMY BOOTS & A Z900
My motorcycle of choice from the mid-1970s up until the late 1980s was any bike from Kawasaki’s iconic Z900 series. The Z1000 just didn’t have the same level of cool and no other bike, with the exception of the Laverda Jota did much to excite me. I’d owned four 900s in that period but by far my favourite was a Jaffa paint-jobbed Z1-A with Siamese headers and twin Kerker cans.
Those pipes were a work of art I admired every time I saw the bike. I remember reclining on the grass in my backyard early one gorgeous summer morning, bug-eyed on Clearlight acid, mesmerized by the sparkles being thrown off by the rising sun glinting off the bottomless pit of chrome enshrouding those pipes, and thinking that even God himself would surely struggle to recreate anything as beautiful as those lustrous, crossed-over extractors.
My drug of choice for that time was any type of barbiturate. Marijuana was a constant companion, of course, but I didn’t consider smoking dope as “drug taking,” in much the same way that I don’t consider breathing as inhaling a gas. It was just… well, normal, I suppose. But my favourite barb was a particularly powerful sleeping pill older readers would’ve enjoyed called Mandrax, or mandies in the vernacular.
Now, taken as prescribed, one of these tablets could make an insomniac meth-head sleep like a baby for a solid eight hours. But neck three or four of them with a few beers and the result could be calamitous. Strong men would soon become stumbling, dribbling embarrassments and as were women, but with the added bonus of suffering a complete moral breakdown as well.
This was, as you can imagine, exceptionally fortunate for young men of the era. Countless girls awoke after a night on the mandies wondering where the hell they were and where in Christ’s name they had lost their knickers. Clearly, heading out for a night on the tiles on a motorcycle, with a small bottle full of Mandrax and a wallet crammed with drinking money was probably what the sainted Steve Earle described as “Having everything I needed to get me killed”. That never quite happened to me, but at the very least it was an undertaking sure to provide plenty of surprises. And in those days, I was addicted to surprises.
Motorcycling apparel of the time left much to be desired. There was specialist kit available, but it was all starchy stiff leather in vivid white or red with garish stripes and was obviously the choice of pretentious wankers. My gear consisted of a weather-beaten, hand-me-down leather jacket, Levi jeans, a home-painted, matte black open-face helmet with most of the foam lining scraped out (nothing’s changed there) and a pair of lace-up boots purchased from the Army surplus store located across the road from Adelaide’s biggest Honda dealership.
I loved those boots because the outside edge of the heel was reinforced by a thick steel band, which looked a bit like a backwards horseshoe. This was a boon when I strode down the street because they made an impressively loud clacking sound which I imagined was intimidating, as well as being the very last word in cool. But this unusual feature made them absolutely shitful as a motorcycle boot as they had a tendency to slide with alarming ease against the hard surface of the road if I was careless with my footing.
Many times I pulled up at a set of lights, and nonchalantly put my foot down only to feel my sphincter involuntarily clench as my boot skated suddenly away, just as I started to rest the weight of me and my bike on it. Usually I caught the impending disaster before it became disastrous, but very occasionally, when I was less than alert, I would react too slowly and my poor old 900 would have an embarrassing and unexpected lie down. It is patently clear that these boots and my favourite drug were not ideal riding partners.
Most of that time is a blur, but certain events of one alcohol-and-barb-fueled night are shamefully seared into my memory. Me and six of my mates had chosen to grace a popular hotel by the name of The Akaba with our presence and rode there in a noisy mob early one evening to party. And party I certainly did. By the time we were asked to leave I was outrageously shit-faced; so much so that my closest friend pulled me aside and strongly urged me to leave my bike where it was and get pillioned home by him. With wisdom only the drink-addled can aspire too, I told him to get fucked. I rode my bike there, I told him, and I was bloody well going to ride it home.
I felt our crowd watching me with concerned interest as I tried to get my leg over the bike without stumbling backward or falling over. It took me three or four tries to finally mount the bike and with each failed attempt I was getting progressively angrier as a result of my growing dishonour. When I finally had managed to get on the big Kawasaki and start it up, I revved the tits off of it to demonstrate to it and the worried gaggle of motley onlookers a bout who was in charge of things, then roared out of the car-park at the head of our pack.
Pride comes before a fall, I understand, and never before was that truism as apt as it was that drug fucked night. Because I encountered utter shame not two kilometres down the road, when I stopped for a red light. As I came to a halt and placed my foot on the bitumen, I felt that familiar, hated slide of heel steel against blacktop and quicker than you could say “This’ll be humiliating!” my bike was on its left side and I had been dumped on my arse. I got up as quickly as my unsteady legs would permit, all the while feeling the disapproving glares of my mates. I grabbed my bike with a strength made mighty by anger and shame, gave one bastard heave and lifted it upright…briefly.
The vigour of my heave and the drug-induced failure of my inner gyro-scope teamed up to ensure the motorcycle went slowly past the vertical and relentlessly continued on its way, before crashing noisily on it’s right side. I stared in fury and disbelief, first at my twice-dropped bike and then at my riding partners who had graciously ignored the now green traffic lights so as not to abandon me. But they were wisely refusing to make eye contact. In a voice which may well have qualified as “raised” I pointed out the traffic signals were inviting them to proceed and that I very much hoped they would do just that. Or I may have told them to fuck the fuck off. I can’t quite recall which. But they did ride on, and when the last of them had turned right and was out of my field of view, I again picked up my bike, only this time with the utmost care. I managed to get it to the side of the road where I rested it on its stand and sat down next to it in the gutter. I stayed there with my head resting against my friend, the twice-dropped bike for some time, waiting for my rage and concordant inability to scratch myself subside enough for me to teeter off home with my off-its-face tail between my jelly-like legs.
You would have thought I would have learned something. You’d be wrong. A few weeks later, I went to the Richmond Hotel in the heart of the Adelaide with the boys. Toward the end of the night I had somehow managed to sweet-talk a girl into coming back to my place with me. This was despite the fact that my speech, like my ability to stand like a human being was severely compromised, once more courtesy of dear old Mandrax and cheap Scotch.
Maybe it was the fact that the bitch only had one leg that made her desperate enough to go home with me whilst I was in such a state. Or it could possible been because she was a raging junkie who was secretly hoping to get her scaly hands on some of my stash. But whatever her reason, she foolishly took me at my word when I told her that I was capable of safely riding my Kawasaki, and we made preparations to leave.
I estimate that we were both about as fucked up as each other and can only imagine what a comical sight we made as we stumbled around next to the 900. I dropped the key to the bike several times and misplaced one of my gloves in the dark, which then took me ages to find. And when I did, I saw that my new peg-legged girlfriend had fallen asleep in the dirt leaning against a brick wall.
I yelled and swore her awake and after struggling to her feet, she clumsied her arse onto the seat and put her prosthetic leg on the pillion peg. Then we wobbled off into the night. We nearly made it all the way, too. But good old slippery heel went skating out at the very last set of lights before home and a heartbeat later we were a tangle of arms, legs (all three of them) and a walking stick. We somehow clambered back onto the bike and got to my place, where to celebrate our safe arrival, we took more drugs and drank more booze, until I got so celebrated that the rest of the evening remains a complete mystery to me.
When one awakens from a night on the mandies, memories from the previous evening are non-existent. Snippets of information return in a random and erratic fashion over the next few hours and experience had taught me to expect the unexpected when I stirred from the deep sleep of the barb-fucked. Many times I had found myself in places as diverse as the dirt next to my bike, a totally unfamiliar, perfume-reeking bedroom, or even a cold, grim jail cell.
So it was with a good deal of trepidation that I slowly opened my eyes in order to see where my latest shenanigans had deposited me. I was grateful to discover that I was in my own bedroom. So far, so good. But why was I on the floor? And what the fuck was this cold, hard plastic thing that was pressing uncomfortably into my face? I rose up on an elbow, which judging by the mild pain I felt had been somehow damaged recently, only to exclaim, “What the fuck? A false leg!”
Where the hell had that come from? I thought. I sat up further, keen to see if the unknown owner of the limb could be in my bed and sure enough, there I saw an abysmal, one-legged train wreck of a woman sound asleep, mouth agape as she dribbled fluids onto my pillow. I wracked my brain for the memory of how she could have possibly gotten there and came up with nothing.
The mystery of who she was was as large as my desire that she not be there anymore and my revulsion at the thought of what I may have done with her. As quietly as I could, I got to my feet and snuck out of the room rubbing my cock as I went so I could sniff my fingers. To my great relief only my own smell was there. “Thank Christ!” I muttered. “At least I wasn’t that out of it.”
I grabbed a coffee and the bong and headed out to the back porch, where after inhaling deeply of the calming herb, I slowly began to recall who gimpy was and how I’d managed to dump her lop-sided arse onto the road. And I smiled at the mental picture.
I sat there for the longest time, sipping caffeine and smoking weed, once again watching the morning sun bounce brilliant diamonds off the chrome of my 900’s Siamese headers. And as I did, I reflected on how urgently I needed to rid myself of the drooling amputee, the little white pills which constantly seemed to be in my pocket and those mother fucking army boots.