THE FIRST TIME

Created: Sunday, 31 July 2005 Written by YUGO

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I caught a bus in to town so I could check my Post Office box for any new mail. It was late afternoon, sometime between lunchtime and going home time. Damn thing was empty so I ducked into a coffee shop to give the journey some meaning. Found an empty stool at the counter. I ordered coffee. It was good and black and strong, like it always was here. No surprise there. What was surprising were the occupants of the table behind me. Blue collar blokes sitting in a coffee shop in a district of book shops? Must be working nearby on some job. A couple of faces look familiar. They’re squirming around a bit as I examine them. Eyes everywhere but me. They recognize me too. “Dunmore”, I say a bit too loud. I went to high school with this guy for awhile. And I remember my first drunken party in his bungalow. Bunch of kids drinking beer in a circle watching a young couple screw underneath a blanket in the middle of the room.

His eyes locked on mine as I got up and sat at their table. “Hey how are ya?”

“Great! How have you been? Whatcha been up to? God it’s been ages. You look well. Is this your brother?” It was.

He mumbled something in reply but I can’t remember now. He wasn’t sure he should even talk to me.

“What did you get up to after you left school?” I asked. “Did you ever hitch around Australia or anything like that?”

“Nah”.

“I hitched to Queensland once.” I said. This surprised him as I was something of a geek at school and this sounded to cool for a tool.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. It was fuckin’ amazing. It was great! Every time you get picked up you never know what you’re going to get. Every car is a new dimension, a new experience. The first car that picked me up was some car from the fifties…. it’s entire interior was painted with black….. hang on…. that was the second car. … and that was the first time I hitched… from Lakes Entrance to Melbourne not the Queensland trip.”

Well they were interested. All of them were looking at me now as a good audience should so I introduced myself to the other two, “G’day. Name’s Yugo. I went to school with this bloke. He was a terror he was.” The consensus is that he still was.

I continued, wrapped in my memories. “That first time was incredible. I was with my Mum and Dad and their car had broken down. I had to get back to Melbourne as I had a weekly band rehearsal to get to. So I pulled my bag out of the car and said 'I’m going on'. They were going to stay the night while the car got fixed.”

“I start walking out of town and before I even hit the first bend. Before I even stick out my thumb, a car pulls up. Fucked up red HR or a HK or something. White roof with rust pockets all over it. I walk over to the front passenger window and bend down and look across the passenger, some kid younger than me, at the driver who’s asking me if I want a lift. I said ‘sure’ at the same time as I was checking him out. Long, crazy, Charlie Manson hair, big gold ear ring, chequered shirt, bugged out eyes and I was wondering if my agreement was premature and whether walking through the gateways of serendipity would lead me to death. All gateways lead to death, serendipitous or otherwise, so I opened the back door and got in.”

Half or all the people in the café were listening. Even the waiter: a big black African bloke. Well of African descent for sure.

“Mind you, being an aspiring musician in the eighties meant that I looked somewhat non-standard myself and that was probably why he stopped.” Realizing that now as I was telling the story. Freaks of a feather flock together. At the time though I thought the driver was freakiest thing I’d seen.

“I had some hash and I immediately offered to share my stash with them. I think wanted to tranquilize them so that they wouldn’t take me somewhere and hack me to pieces or whatever the Manson family did to people. The driver, shit I don’t even remember his name so I’ll call him Charlie, told me that he had some heads back at his place and we could make a mix. ‘Great’, I quivered, wondering whether I would wind up buried in his backyard.”

“His place was a short drive out of town. A beaten up weatherboard. An interesting feature of the house was that there was no floor. Well there was a floor but it was the bare earth. Well it wasn’t bare it had pieces of carpet thrown on it. You get the picture though. The other interesting feature was in the middle of the lounge room, sitting on the floor. It was a brand, spanking new stereo system. It was huge. Charlie puts on David Bowie’s latest: Serious Moonlight on vinyl. It sounds beautiful. No neighbors for miles but they could probably still hear it. I like Iggy's China girl better though.”

“There was a couch in front of it and a coffee table. The mull bowl and heads were whipped out, (glad it wasn’t an axe) and I offered my block of hash wrapped in silver foil as an offering on the alter of safe journeys. No doubt this man was a connoisseur of weed and appreciated variety. Hash was rare at the time and sure to be relished. The whole block went into the mix along with a smidge of tobacco. All nicely ground together in a coffee grinder. Out came the bong, a big black thing with a crystal strapped to it. He left the room and changed the water. A sign of an experienced pot head. Always change the water regularly.”

“Feeling relaxed we take turns packing the bong and bombarding our lungs with smoke until the mull bowl was empty. ‘This should last me all the way to Melbourne….’ I mumbled but I didn’t need to speak as they could both read my mind now. Or it seemed that way…. “

Some people in the café were still interested and listening while they sipped and chewed. My former school mate looked a bit gob smacked. The waiter comes over and clears our table but he leaves a glass and half empty bottle of wine and whispers in my ear, “this was in the fridge you can have it my friend.” I smile at him and pour myself a glass. “Be careful, it’s strong”. A timely reminder as I had to get back to the car at some point and drive home probably through peak hour traffic.