Friday, November 11, 2005

no thanks, i don't do the horse

As my friend Justin has pointed out, 'due to the alarming rise in humans partaking of ketamine, the black metal-enhancing drug which rightfully belongs to horses, the equine kingdom has decided to wreak its boozy revenge':






Ketamine is a weird one.

It's commonly used as an anaesthetic for horses (not merely a tranquiliser as is commonly said). This is stuff that makes animals the size of horses so out of it that you can cut them up with knives and saw into their heads or delve around inside their guts without them noticing. The slightest misjusgement in your dose and you are rendered immobile.

There are facets that hold great value for the intrepid mongonaut. It's dissociative, so it pushes boundaries of space and self and can give mad visions. Unfortunately, this can objectively manifest as spending hours drooling whilst sat in a curdling pool of someone else's sick.

The other day, in the first piece of overheard conversation I felt compelled to rush-transcribe since that day in St Helens, a friend was on the phone saying, 'K hits me really hard, I was a bit of a puddle, I did that line without thinking and next thing I knew it had all gone... I was in queer 1930s Berlin in a writhing mass of people of indeterminate gender... It was great, actually'.

Doing it without thinking was how I last did K. I was DJing at a festival last summer and did a nice set of soul, disco and pop for munters at sunrise. The people on after me asked me to show them how the decks and mixer worked, so I ran them through it. They then dug a key into a small paper packet and pulled it out with a little cone of white powder on. Placing it less than three inches from my nose, I was asked the one-letter question, 'K?'.

Caught by surprise, like a fool I did the obvious. Two minutes later I was useless. The rig I'd just been using for two hours was a minefield of buttons and faders. And that was on one little toot. My colleagues, who'd been hoofing great snorts, were having trouble getting a CD out of its box. And there were two of them trying.

Their set opened with them randomly flicking a fader between a 7inch single of Brown Girl In The Ring and a CD of industrial noise. I don't mean industrial noise as a musical genre. I mean really industrial noise, like wearing a fleet of hoovers gaffa taped round your head while clinging on to the underside of a speeding train.

Why did I take that toot? It's one of those things like poppers. Amyl is never, never, never a good idea, and if someone suggested buying some you'd mock them into the floor for their buffoonery. But if that same person already has the poppers and gets it out, approaches you with their thumb covering the open top, well, it takes a peculiarly self-disciplined and puritanical presence of mind to decline.

But what the fuck is the point? You feel like someone's pulling a balloon over you scalp for ten seconds, then have a sharp headache for half an hour. At no point is it fun or anything else that could remotely approach qualifying for the label 'worth it'.

Ditto K at parties. As a psychedelic voyage, or as a way of being cosy on a comedown fair enough, but really, at something where it's all about interaction and energy, taking something that dissociates isn't going to fit with the vibe.

Indeed, so well does it break a sense of bouncy unity that it could almost be designed as such.

The CIA put crack into American black ghettoes in the 1980s.

At the same time in the UK, just as the tories turned on travellers as their enemy a cheap and plentiful supply of heroin found its way on to travellers sites across the country.

By the same token, I do wonder about the appearance of ketamine in dance culture. The establishemnt was terrified of dance culture when it began. A generation were growing up not drinking alcohol, not going to profitable mainstream drinking clubs, but were instead doing free warehouse parties and festivals and taking ecstasy.

The response took many forms. Despite the tosh in tabloids, alcopops were never aimed at schookids. Schoolkids don't have a lot of spending power. Like street drinkers, their primary and probably only concern is maximising the cost:alcohol ratio. At £1.20 a bottle, why get an alcopop when you can get white cider in double the quantity and strength for the same cost?

Alcopops were a way to sell alcohol to a market that had never forced themselves on to drinnking at 16 years old and thereby acquired the taste. They were aimed at the E generation.

Simultaneously, they massively increased the penalties for holding illegal rave parties, jumping at a stroke from £2,000 to £20,000 and six months in jail (an Act introduced by Tory MP Graham Bright; the head of his local Conservative Association was - what a coincidence - a director of Whitbread).

They arrested ravers again and again. A single party in Yorkshire in 1990 had 836 arrests, one of the largest mass arrests in British history. And just for the criminal activity of dancing in a field.

Then they brought out the Criminal Justice Act 1994, which actually defined the music it opposed, 'sounds wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats'. It was outlawing the predominant youth culture. It's as if the UK was run by that 1950s Alabama White Citzens Council who published the 'Rock 'n' roll will pull the white man down to the level of the negro' posters.

By contrast, in Berlin in the early 90s they began the Love Parade, 300,000 people in one big dance music party. The authorites not only allowed it, they had it technically defined as a demonstration in favour of world peace; a party would saddle the organisers with the large clean-up bill, whereas a demonstration made it a government responsibility.

If the British government - the same one's who'd used MI5 to break the miners, the same ones who'd got smack to travellers - were so ardently opposed to rave culture, there's no reason they wouldn't also do the CIA/crack, travellers/smack thing. Ketamine would be ideal.

In many ways, ketamine is the opposiite of ecstasy. People on pills hug and dance and talk to each other, enthusing and listening. People on K, if they can move at all, stumble oblivious and bewildered, like an arthritic pensioner on acid.

Where E encourages euphoria, enthusiasm, communication, a sense of unity, love and empathy, K subdues, dissociates, dislocates and makes then user effectively absent from where they are.

If you wanted to break that strong bond of people at ecstasy-fuelled parties, if you want to make all-nighters look really ugly, stick a load of K up the punters noses. That'd send anyone with the urge for a sociable good time back into the pickpocketing hands of the mainstream drinking culture.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's always struck me as a drug totally unsuited to social situations; maybe that's why I've never had it. But it's misleading to call it horse tranquilizer. They used to use it on humans, because it's a very very safe anaesthetic, but it has the unfortunate (depending on your point of view) side effect of being a hallucinogen. You can tell it's safe because so few people die of it compared to, for example, GHB.

Jim Bliss said...

Ketamine is the bastard child of smack and PCP. Which isn't as much fun as it sounds... kind of like a bunch of angry babboons beating you continuously with soft foam clubs... painless but a bit too hectic to be entirely comfortable.

Curious Nick said...

Ketamine is physically safe since whilst it will put you on your back, it doesn't suppress the cough or gag reflexes, making you highly unlikely to choke on your own (or anyone else's) vomit. There is also a nice big gap between a dose whcih will render you unconscious and a fatal dose, making it the anaesthetic of choice with field medics in Vietnam.

However, consider the life of ketamine researcher Dr John Lilly. Initially a brilliant and promising scientist, he spent months at a time constantly off his cake on ketamine, spending many of these marathon binges alone with his thoughts inside one of his sensory deprivation flotation tanks. He became so convinced that he was in contact with extraterrestrial beings (from the Earth Coincidence Control Office - love to go to their Christmas do) that he made urgent attempts to contact the president about some of the things they were telling him.
His autobiography The Scientist is an interesting read, and is perhaps the only autobiography to be written in the third person from the perspective of discarnate entities observing the author.

So indeed a physically benign drug, but perhaps to be viewed with a little caution on the old mental health front...

astvinr said...

It's as if the UK was run by that 1950s Alabama White Citzens Council who published the 'Rock 'n' roll will pull the white man down to the level of the negro' posters
But that's exactly who the tories are. Don't forget that in the 1963 general election one of the tories' posters actually did read "If you want a nigger neighbour, vote Labour
Iain Sinclair is very good on deescribing the K imbibing "Davy Hummp" as a man who had a "wet fingers in light sockets curiosity". I have actually met the real Davy Hummp, a man who carries a bandolero of K syringes wherever he goes to spread the word, and he told me that another 'buzz' he goes in for is standing right by the edge of the platform when a high speed express is going through and closing his eyes as it passes by within an inch and a half of his face.

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