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The Hash Diaries

by Francis Blake / 10.12.2010

20th February 2007

The Fiend crushes out the blackened cigarette onto a piece of paper and proceeds to roast the hash. We are about two minutes from total blast off and he knows it, grinning like a feral beast.

Smoking hash bongs in the beginning is a bit like sucking off a shotgun – your lungs explode and your brain melts out over the lights of the city. Price Drive, in Constantia, is arguably the best place for this kind of soiree. Cape Town lies spread open below you, framed by the ocean, ready for the taking. With the doors of perception opened slightly by this wondrous drug (quite different to the total knock-the-door-down effect of LSD), there is no limit to the possibilities that the night offers. We prepare to pillage the town, having decided to make this a tribute to the good Doctor Thompson, who blew his brains out two years ago exactly, and let ourselves get lost in the drug frenzy. The Fiend is Dr. Gonzo to my Raoul Duke, or maybe it’s the other way around.

From Constantia to Sea Point, to Signal Hill and back, we cruise around, windows rolled down, blaring bastardly heavy noise – Circle Takes The Square screaming ‘I know it’s all been done before, I wanna do it again!’ – that sends the skinny-jeaned and crocodile-shoed inhabitants of Long Street cringing. It’s a sort of a downer/upper kind of night as we chase the heavy blows of the hash with chronic joints, locked somewhere between periods of silent contemplation of the world and fits of manic laughter. There is no real point to this experience, but that is the beauty of hashish – you don’t really need one. Tonight, it’s just us, the drugs and the city and it suits us fine.

Around midnight we assault the Ladies Mile Engine garage, going in like shock troops – grenades first, in and out before they knew what hit them. At least that’s the plan. It all goes wrong somewhere – the cashiers cannot grasp, with their monochrome brains, our dire NEED of chocolate Sterie Stumpies (“You don’t seem to UNDERSTAND – we are on a mission to pay respect to a great man! How do you expect we do this without the STERIE!?”). After what seems like an hour of brutal negotiations, we leave, loaded with poor replacements – Super Ms. Suddenly, a bout of paranoia hits us – we definitely were not behaving like human beings in there. In fear of pigs or rent-a-cops, we speed off cackling into the night…

Somewhere in December 2006

Drunk, on a couch, somewhere in Kenilworth after a heavy night out in Observatory, I sit, about to take my first taste of hashish ever. We pulled in here looking for a way to top ourselves off, to put a finishing polish on what already has been a crazy evening. Little do I know of what kind of roads this night will send me on over the next six or seven months.

Straight away they tell me to watch and learn the preparation process. I dismiss the “you’ll need to know” comments at the time, but never the less try to remember how to make a session. The Master, who by day performs plumbing miracles and has had more acid than you have breakfast, takes his time, not rushing, treating the drug with a delicacy normally reserved for beautiful women. I don’t understand this bond yet, I just want to smoke the goddamn stuff.

He uses a Clipper lighter, for no other kind will be able to sustain the steady heat required (inferior lighters will pop on you faster than a pack of Pringles in a crowd of munchies-starved pot-heads), to evenly roast a Stuyvesant Red cigarette, also a professional’s choice. When the tobacco attaints a satisfying crunch, the Master empties it out onto a prepared mal-blat, crushes it up and cleans out all the big bits until we are left with nothing more than tobacco dust. He sticks the round, brown ball of hashish onto a knife, turns to me and says, “This is where it gets tricky.”

Holding the hash about a centimeter away from the flame, he turns the knife, letting the drug roast thoroughly through. “If it catches alight”, he almost whispers, “You aren’t doing it properly.” When it is fuming, bathing the air around us in a musky sweet smell, he drops the ball into the tobacco and quickly mixes it in with his fingers. The surest way to spot a hash-head is by his fingers, which will be hard from the blisters and burns. The perfect session is fluffy and sticky, they tell me, it means you got the consistency of tobacco, hash and heat right and are in for a hell of a time.

The real interesting part of all this is that I don’t even remember smoking my first bong. I wake up on the same couch, quite alone, face, knuckles and torso caringly covered with permanent marker tattoos. I wash off as best as I can and begin the hour long walk home. And just like that, I am a convert.

Somewhere in April 2007

“That girl’s dress is on fire!” somebody shouts. The room is full of twisted faces, the girl in question is nowhere to be seen, but her dress is most definitely alight. We throw it over the balcony and cheer its fiery descent. There is nothing quite as demented as a gang of drunk hash fiends.

I’m not quite sure what night this is, or what week, for that matter. When you smoke hash all day, every day, things tend to lose their usual shape, morphing into one continuous euphoric high that you ride like a wave, never pausing. Life outside of the high becomes dull and callous, full of petty humanism and struggles against forces that cannot be overcome no matter how hard one tries. You sublime into a sage-like state, past mortal worries, and begin to see the bigger picture (whatever it might present itself as). Once you reach that point, all there is to do is indulge in basic pleasures, one after another after another.

This is where we are now, sunk deep into a hedonistic glut. From the Maynardville carnival and getting into joyful fights with soccer-playing gangsters, to running amok in Mercury Live, showering the crowds with beer and generally being outrights assholes. My friends throw up on walls, university textbooks and each other. It’s all about having as much FUN as possible. Because if the fun stops, life stops.

South Africa is a hash-head paradise, the stuff is cheaper than beer or chronic. In the United States, a gram of hash will set you back as much as a quarter-ounce of heavenly, indoor marijuana. Here it’s 30 Rand a pop, and, if you buy bulk, can cost less than a tenner. It’s a small wonder the whole country hasn’t dissolved into madness. Perhaps it has. On the hash roads, you meet the strangest travelers – not just crazed students like us, but lawyers, doctors, film company executives, mechanics, copy-writers, professionals all somehow capable of living in the ‘real’ world while lighting up in the safety of their homes after work. The world might be addicted to fossil fuels like oil and gas, but the ones that burn the brightest are green and brown.

Somewhere in June 2007

I sit in the company of Norse gods, Hindu deities and Satan himself, all my friends changing faces, changing identities with every word said, each one of us operating in his own hash-bent world. Deep down everyone wants to live in an alternate universe where they can do whatever they want, but here, in the grime of reality, all you can really do is smoke to make it better, drink a little and just fucking survive. By now the fun has receded, the wave begins to crumble and we eat through hash at a 5-7 gram-a-day pace while staying safely glued to the couch. That’s not to say that we don’t conduct crazed outings – but more and more they are just wild expeditions into our own heads, deep into the psyche and far over the subconscious.

Psychiatrists have a saying – ‘if the gun is loaded, hash pulls the trigger’ and, by the mask of Loki, are they right. Hash, like nothing else, triggers deep-seated psychosis and flips out schitzophrenics. Its danger lies not so much in its potency, because, lets admit it, bad acid trips get the job done a lot faster, but in the smooth way in which everything comes on. Once the lines between reality and imagination blur, the decision-making processes of a hash-head become severely impeded – you are still governed by the forces of rationality and logic, yet your frame of reference and pillars of cognition are completely fucked, turned inside out. The brain begins to interpret outside stimuli differently, latching on to random occurrences and assigning them fake importance, your neurons scream at you that that knee spasm at that particular point of a sentence means something, that song lyric you snatch out of the airwaves is about you.

Hash fiends with experience use this effect to a creative advantage, balancing on the edge between sanity and madness. They bounce off each other’s psyches, playing with brain patters as children do with Lego, constructing whole worlds out of nothing or casting existing things in new light. This is what we are doing right now – getting high and writing in a William Burroughs-inspired collage style, cutting up words and meanings and stitching them together into something new, something ours. Outside the light is creeping up; inside we burn brighter than a thousand suns.

Somewhere in early September 2007

I’m climbing Table Mountain on a public holiday, either Jesus Day or Freedom Day or Heritage Day. It doesn’t really matter, but all I’m seeing today is couples and tourists, couples and tourists. Normally I’d be throwing up, but somehow this crowd spurs on my manic festive mood. Today is definitely a good day, though how I ended up here is a mystery – went to get a box of smokes in Rondebosch and ended up climbing from the Cable Car. All I know is that it is the most important thing right now, to climb this mountain, because when I get to the top something great is going to happen. I’m living out a metaphor, going straight for the summit with nothing more than a lighter, a pack of Rothmans and a bottle of water. One man against rock, nature and heat.

After hours, I’m there – tripping so hard that even Japanese tourists give my grinning face quizzical stares. I stand and wait for a miracle, chain-smoke my box in half-an-hour yet nothing happens. Slowly the realization dawns on me, the insanity of my situation becomes clear and the world crystallizes into normality. It’s not the climb to the top of the tower that matters – everyone is scampering up like rabid animals, snapping jaws at each other’s necks – it’s the way you fall down and the way you begin your ascent anew – with the knowledge of where the footholds are, where rocks and people will crumble under your grasp. Thompson saw the wave break near the hills of Las Vegas; I see it fade at the foot of Table Mountain. I see all of it and I throw myself down from the top of the world, all the way down to the Cape Town Station. There I sell my phone for fifty bucks to get a train home, meet a homeless woman who somehow knows everything about me and watch a couple of policemen buy drugs from a shoe repairman. On that train I decide that my hash road has finally led me to the Emerald City and, just like in Dorothy’s case, it was right where I started. Enough.

It takes weeks, if not months, for my brain to return to its normal functions, for my body to get over the hash cravings (always worstin the middle of lectures) and for me to deconstruct and analyze the events of the past months. Like a cliché junkie phoenix I rise – same same but different, focused and maybe a little ruthless. How different, I’m still finding out.

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