THEY CAME along in unison, building-sized and on their sides, past the cheering crowds. They played military music and fanfare, and because everything was choreographed it reinforced our ideas of uniformity and comradeship that little more. Even those who didn't buy into the Western bullshit and propaganda looked on with fear and concern.

"This is a direct fucking message to us," said Joe, sucking down the smoke from a rock of crack.

"More like a reply," I said. "Why should anyone keep quiet?"

"To not rock the boat? To not risk reducing this world down to fucking rubble."

"That'd take more than one lunatic and there are more than one out there. Don't think that just because someone speaks the same language as you that they're not a fucking psychopath."

"This is pre-war, man... I'm telling ya."

"It's always pre-war. Every moment before the next is PRE war."

"Not like this it's not. This is pre-imminent-war. Damascus up in flames and now North Korea and Russia and China... All the big boys. This is a terrible and macabre dance we're watching."

We watched President Kim Jong Un. He was dressed in a black suit that didn't seem to fit. He had a body shape that was impossible to tailor for. As the troops and missiles passed by he held his right hand angular to his temple in a stationary salute.

"Doesn't look insane to me," I said. "Looks just like any other guy I could pass in the market."

"Another guy in the market??? The guy's stood there with a weird fucking haircut saluting warheads... What fucking market do you go to?"

"Same one as you: rotten fruit, cheap porcelain and leather and stomach churning lingerie. Kim Jong's not a man who wants to die... Look at him. I'd be much more terrified of someone sold to an apocalyptic religion, who believes he can be nuked into paradise. It's them idiots, obsessed with tenor voices singing Revelations from the sky, who are the real crazies. And anyway, why shouldn't North Korea and Mr Jong have nuclear weapons? Who ruled the West to be the voice of all reason? Judge and jury over who is responsible enough to have them and what justifies bringing them into play? It's a fucking craziness that has led to anyone stockpiling such weapons at all. A real fucking insanity."

"Fuck, man, look at that! D'ya see that missile? What the fuck is that?"

"It's sad, that's what it is: sad. Now pass that pipe over. I'm starting to suffer from sobriety and it's all making me quite sad."

I loaded that pipe and fired it up and sucked the contents way, way down. When I was quite done I blew the smoke out towards the sun that shone in from high up through the window. I thought of nothing but saw images of missiles and tanks and red stars on white and cheering crowds beneath a crisp blue sky. And through the smoke and through the crack that late afternoon sun was the colour of champagne.

"Do you think this is the start of a nuclear war? Joe asked, interrupting the thoughts in my mind.

"Nuclear war? No. I'm sure people won't allow America and its whores to bring us to that catastrophe. I think pure public opinion and fear, demonstration and revolt, will oust any president who seriously threatens to bring us to that."

"I think you're wrong, man. I think an awful lot of people are secretly spun out on the idea of all out nuclear war. I'm telling ya, a hell of a lot of people wouldn't mind dying."

I thought about the great power and false promise of capitalism, of how the collecting of material possessions and wealth affect a man... How we've become too comfortable in our own lives, have too much to risk losing to want to go to fucking war. Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and Snapchat, Youtube, iPhones, Chrome Books and cheap foreign travel. It all means too much. It's created a generation which does not feel the need to run out screaming in front of machine gun fire... A generation who source their thrills and gamble with existence in other ways, safer ways. I thought of the crack pipe and scoring heroin outside the 24hr chicken shop, of the rags of men salivating over fortunes in the gambling houses. I thought of alternative and underground political discussion groups and Cute Dead Guys and all those billions of smiling selfies people post while giving their lot back into the system. "I'm not sure I agree with that," I said. "Have rarely ever met anyone who wants to die... Not even when the drugs are gone."

Joe blew out the smoke from his latest pipe. He closed his eyes over as if meditating while the tickling creep of the rock hit him. "Hey, do you think it's possible to score crack in North Korea?" he said, still with his eyes gently shut and holding the pipe out like it were a candle.

"Don't think they need it. I don't think they live based on promises of great success only to sink into despair at 35 from the failure to have realised such impossible dreams."

"Bullshit! Everyone needs crack. The whole fucking world would benefit from a decent fucking pipe. Hey, imagine Kim Jong sucking on a Martell bottle!"

"Kim Jong on the fucking pipe? Cut the crap will ya. "

"I bet he is! I bet he's a right fucking crack fiend, piping away from sun-up to sunset, those sexy fucking Korean babes sucking him off between toots. Bet he's into diaper play! Dressing up as a fucking baby, being put in a cot and left to cry and crap himself! He looks the type alright, what with those short fucking arms and dimpled fists."

"You do know what that is, don't you?"

"Huh? What what is?

"You, putting Kim Jong Un on the pipe and in a diaper? Having the poor guy crap himself?"

"Yeah, I know what... Er, No, what is it?"

"It's the propaganda maggot having burrowed right down deep into your skull. You may not think they've got to you but they have. They get to all of us."

"They ain't fucking got to me, mate. Was just fucking with ya. I couldn't give a shit about Kim Kong or whatever it is they call him. Was just pondering shit is all."

"Well pass that fucking pipe while you're pondering... My lungs are getting wet."

Joe made to hand the pipe over. As I reached to take it he pulled it back. "Oi, I know that face," he said.

"What face?"

"Your thieving writer's face... That one! I fucking bet all this about Kim Jong crops up in one of your texts. I fucking bet it does!"

"Kim Jong in a nappy and smoking crack? Shit like that will never make it into my writing."

"And what about me? Will I?"


"How are you so sure?"

"Because I never write about people who want to be written about, or worse, people who try to get written about. They're never genuine."

"Who the fuck would purposely go out their way to be written about?"

"You'd be surprised, Joe... You'd be very fucking surprised."

- - -

The girl who was commentating on the military parade sounded like she was hosting some weird Asian game show. God knows what she was saying but she was saying an awful lot of it. Every now and again the program would cut to Kim Jong Un. He stood there, just as he had from the start, admiring his nation's weapons and personnel.

"What do you imagine she's saying?" Joe asked, referring to the excited commentator.

"I think she's saying ugly words. Ugly words of how great Kim Jong is and what unique weapons he has commissioned and what brilliant science was involved in the making of them. Yeah, ugly stuff of fact and horror, not an ounce of poetry anywhere."

"You're probably right. Though, I'm thinking maybe she's just speaking random words, like a nonsense commentary to work everyone up into a kind of wild hysteria."

I watched Joe curiously. He always said stuff like that, like his mind was slowed down somewhere between insanity and stupidity. He knew I was watching him but made out like he was unaware. Instead, he grinced his teeth down on the small knot of a fresh bag of crack, twisted it with his thumb and forefinger as his incisor put on the pressure. In that light, with the crack smoke heavy in the room and the afternoon's dust glinting in the sun, it felt like I was watching an old movie. Joe looked beautiful and well and full of life, even if he was almost rotted right through to the end of his film.

“Why do you do that?” I asked

“Do what?” said Joe, before spitting out a small fleck of cellophane he had finally gnawed off the bag.

“Bite your bags open like that and pull that face when the crack gets in your mouth.”

"They're my fucking bags. I'll open them how I like. What's it to you?”

“Just a waste is all. You won't put 47p toothpaste on them teeth of yours and yet here you are coating them with crack.”

“Shit! You saying that reminds me of Micky Mouth. He used to eat his crack. No joke. He'd chew it up into a foul paste and swallow it down. Then he'd act all nuts. Start screaming on about his football team, pulling his pants down and flashing his arse and slapping himself in the face. Was fucking mental he was.”

“Did anyone tell him you can't get high eating crack?”

“Seemed to work for him. Poor fella fell out the back of a moving taxi one night and rolled head-first into a lamp-post. Ended up in a coma for weeks and was never quite the same after. Retarded. Even stopped using, I think. Last time I saw him he was parked up outside the post-office with bright pink lipstick smeared all over his lips. Some cunt had thought it funny to doll him up and leave him sat out there like that.”

“Jesus. It's incredible, isn't it? This miracle of existence... Us humans, supposedly the most highly evolved animals on the planet... a bio-illogical marvel, and yet there we are running around daubing lipstick on invalid folk. Really... it's fucking astonishing. Weren't you was it, Joe?”

Joe went to laugh but instead controlled himself until he had finished sucking down the fresh hit that he was in the middle of piping. As he blew the smoke out he said, “No it weren't fucking me, you Cunt... It was my mate."

= = =

Back in Kim Il-Sung Square military battalions now marched by. As they passed their leader, they would turn their heads in order to keep their eyes on the great Kim Jong Un. It made me think of the Imperial Russian Guard, chins raised and ever so slowly turning their heads to follow the passing President. It's the mechanics of such behavior which is so terrifying, like the human is no longer in the soldier.

“Hey, would you ever fight for your country?” asked Joe.

“Doubt they'd let me. They certainly wouldn't give me a gun and directions! But yes, I would... Though it'd have to be for a very special cause and under the right leadership. Any war you could think of right now, no, I wouldn't. Why d'you ask?”

“Just curious. Sometimes you seem like you'd die for this land.”

“I have died for this land. But I don't love the nation... I don't care for that kind of stuff. I'm in love with the physical terrain... The bricks and concrete and shop shutters. All the things we know so integrally and yet have absolutely no appreciation of. The people too, I guess. Though they're mostly assholes. O, I don't know. There's just something isn't there... Something here that gets to the heart of everything. I learnt that this place is me... that my existence is intertwined with this city. Though of course, it can go the other way. Some people learn to despise their homeland and miss nothing of it. I should despise London and yet, by some freak twist of whatever, I don't.”

“You see, I don't get that. I hate this place. I hate the country, the traditions, the history. And I especially hate the people. Only bad things happen in this place. I don't feel any romance at all. Roads of endless tragedy... x2.”

"That's because you've never been away. We all despise things when it's all we have. You SHOULD hate it because it's led to nothing... Led just to this dying day and these last crumbs of crack."

Joe stared forlornly at the TV screen. Brass bands passed and played but for the moment Joe was somewhere else.

"Hey, what you saying over there?” I said after a while. “What you got left?"
"This pipe and another rock," said Joe. "And you?"
"A rock less. Though I've a decent last pipe to save my soul with."
"So what, d'you think we should call your man then?"
"Wouldn't be a bad move. Though work your fucking order out first this time."
"Hang on... Let me see."

Joe shuffled up in the red armchair he was perched on. When he was sitting erect he kinda keeled over on his left buttock, raising the right, and began furrowing down and around in his back pocket. He pulled a scorched face like his arms weren't quite long enough. Finally he withdrew a handful of screwed and scrunched up bank notes and began straightening them out and laying them down on the table like he were playing solitaire. "Gotta keep 40 squid back, mate. So yeah, order like, er... 12 white and 6 brown."
"If I were you I'd order a few less white and a few more brown."
"Nah, I'll be OK."
"You sure?"
"Yeah, fuck it, 12 and 6."

I made the call and on receiving  no answer I made the call and then again.

"No answer?" asked Joe.
"Nah. Not a good sign, mate."
"So what, are we fucked?"
"As good as... We've gotta do some cardio! Get yourself ready we'll have to go for a trot."
"A walk? How far, man? I really don't feel like walking."
"That's because you've got a rock left! Stick it in your pocket and grab the pipe and let's go. Any later and we really will be screwed."
"Can't we just wait a little for the Somalians? See if they turn back on?”
“They'll be off all evening, I know them too well. If they were even as much as two hours away they'd answer."

Joe quit protesting. He rose and visibly tried to compose his mind. He was a mess of a thousand different frequencies. His jittery forgetful fingers collected up a few things he needed and forgot a couple more.
“Fuck, where's my lighter... Cigarettes? Ah, I got em. Keys... Need my keys. Shit, you seen my keys?”
“Leave your keys. We're coming back here anyhow. Just get the pipe, that's all. You got the pipe?”
“Yeah, yeah I got the pipe.”
“Well, give us it here.... We need a little blast to get us on our way.”

- - -

The fading evening was warm and quiet. The sky stretched on way out, mysterious and haunted by the coming darkness of night. The very last of the sun cast tragic shadows deep into Joe's face. We walked in silence until our leaving pipe wore off. I listened to the chaffing of Joe's jeans and his occasional coughing that had birds scatter and take off for places new.

“It's a lonely old world this evening,” I said to Joe. “Can you feel it?”
“When it comes, it comes a-creeping,” said Joe. There was all the beauty in the world right there in that moment. Everything any man has ever wondered over was in the air as Joe spoke those words in that gone and going evening.
“Surely we wouldn't destroy all this,” I said, looking out.
"All this??? What the fuck are you talking about? If any-where could do with being destroyed it'd be this place. It's one big fucking shithole!”

Joe's words made me laugh. Sometimes poetry is something else. It wasn't the place I was speaking of, but it didn't matter.

“Right, you gonna phone this guy?” asked Joe.
“No. You can't phone this guy... He ain't got a phone. He's one of us. He serves up out the Bookies on Oakley Road.”
“Oakley Road?! That's a good way away.”
“I know, that's why I told you to bring the pipe and that last rock of yours. Now keep an eye out for a quiet place or a bench... Even an old telephone box. We'll get there just fine.”
"Nah, fuck that shit. I'm good. On the way back, maybe. Lets just get there first and hope he is too."

It wasn't a night for scoring disasters. Before even turning onto the Oakley Road I spotted Caleb serving up some long-haired rock-looking guy. I whistled and Caleb saw me and hung on where he was as the rocker shuffled off with his goods.
"What ya saying, Bruv?" he asked as I approached.
"You holding both, mate?"
"Course, Bro... Course."
“Then sort us out 12 light and 6 night."
"6 night! I like that! No-one ever called this shit Night before."
I took the bags and quickly counted them up as Joe handed over the readies. As Caleb verified the notes his next customer pulled in, a short man with a large rounded torso and a plump face that looked like it had been pinned on by mistake. Topping off that head was a sculptured thatch of thick satin black hair, swept back and fanned out like he'd been hit by a supersonic blast wave. Joe shot me a look of astonishment, like he could hardly believe what he had just seen.

“Did you just see that?” Joe said, once we were away.
“I did see it, Joe. I did.”
“And you noticed the fucking shape of him, right?”
“I noticed Joe... Was impossible not to.”
“And the haircut? You saw that too?”
“I saw it, Joe...Didn't miss a thing.”
“So tell me: when have you ever seen an Oriental scoring crack?”
“I never have, Joe... It's a first for me too.”
“And it did remind you of someone, yeah?”
“It did Joe... It seriously fucking did.”
“Ha! I told you so! Didn't I tell you?”
“You did tell me Joe, but I just wouldn't listen.”
“That's right: you just wouldn't listen! Now, as sweet as any music to my ears, tell me: who have we just seen scoring?”
“Looked like Kim Jong Un, Joe... Looked insanely like Kim Jong Un.”
“Like Kim-Jong-fucking-un! Scoring crack from the last fucking stop in town! Awwww!!!!”

Things had turned good; sometimes they do. Light from laughter and carrying an evening's worth of escape, we turned off the Oakley Road. With the sun behind us, drowning beneath the horizon, shadows stretched on so far we were walking in them. The echoes of the day were now just a faint memory in the declining evening. We walked in silence, out of step and at good pace. When the sun was finally done, gone down behind the Western edge of the world, Joe took out his shades and placed them on his face. He looked at me and I looked at him and he smiled. And then his lips went, ruffled out and vibrating, as he mimicked the sound of a trombone. And then his right hand found the beat and he began swinging and waving an invisible conductor's stick through the night. It was fanfare, Pomp and Circumstance of a Crackhead in Bmajor. And as we marched on home I kept a look out for a hole, a little doorway or recess, some place we could slip into unnoticed and ignite our world once more.

Thanks as ever for reading... Shane. X

Lines for Joe M to follow...


Anonymous said...

Shane. I'm a long time reader, first time commenter.

Your stories are beautiful, no doubt. They are also a valuable tool for creating empathetic responses across cultures especially the micro cultures that exist across the world today. Your linguistically aesthetic portrayal of life on the 'other' side allows those over fences and oceans to view the 'other' as human. You describe the human experience with conviction, reflective insight and humour allowing your audience to immerse themselves into your world.

Diving into the inner workings of your mind requires no effort, it is the swim back to the top for air that I abhor and reject, preferring to wade through the murky reeds of your memoires, hoping to find and catch some of your inescapable truths to take back with me. This glunky world feels like a home I never knew, and leaving feels like committing treason upon a kingdom that will carry on without me. So I surface, I take air, I walk from the silt and slime back to grass and tar, but my mind is still drifting, floating on the current of your mind, lost in the magical horror of your words - not knowing if it is my existence or yours that is more depraved. And not really caring.

Thank you for the escape, thank you for breaking stereotypes, thank you for your brutally honest betrayals of the human existence.

Clare x

Shane Levene said...

Hey Ya Clare... Thank You for your time and beautiful words... they mean a lot. Oh, my existence isn't too depraved. Most of the time you'll find me doing nothing more depraved than buying milk and bread from the local supermarket (and I don't use them for anything weird either!)But I guess I have my moments. Horror is always balanced by beauty and wonder... In my world at least. But I think it is anyhow. We experience these great tragedies in life and then you turn around and the most terrible beauty is spread out on the horizon and for a moment nothing makes too much sense and then everything does. The victory is never losing sight of such beauty... of never going blind to the natural wonder in the universe and the miracle that we are even here... are able to suffer and enjoy and have our hearts crushed. Who wouldn't want that? Who would choose an eternity of nothing over looking up at the sky and wondering what it's all about? I wouldn't. I would take 75 years of hell and suffering for just a glimpse of love and life... That's what I would do. X

Anonymous said...

That's what I love about you and your work; relentless optimism in the face of adversity. I agree, it is the moments of clarity, and an awareness of life's impossible beauty that defines our spirit. I mentor youth and that is my recurring message- yes, life is hard, unfair and painful, but it is also beautiful, wonderous and magical. But we must look for it. Live for it. Even create it when the world is lacking. Which you do.

Hugs x

JoeM said...

This is more 'political' than you usually are. But of course in your own inimitable style.

I don't think Kim Jong-Un is suicidal either. It's mostly the God Squad (of East AND West) who are that. Not ALL of them of course...

I think he's more a food addict than anything else but who knows?

That woman who reads out all his propaganda on TV with a joyous mania is definitely on something though.

You've got to wonder about the definitions of Dictator when Trump just let someone off who was legally convicted of racism. I mean who came up with that idea that The President can pardon anybody he wants? And why?

No wonder he gets on so well with Putin.


It's always pre-war. Every moment before the next is PRE war.

It's created a generation which does not feel the need to run out screaming in front of machine gun fire...

He rose and visibly tried to compose his mind. He was a mess of a thousand different frequencies.

Mieze said...

It hurts to read this... the humor is there, and that insight of yours is there. And just like always, there's that sense of life and redemption hovering in every corner and line of it. And I've thought long and hard about leaving it any kind of comment. And having said that much, I'll just leave it there. Keep going. This isn't the half.

Anonymous said...

Im a long time reader, today a commenter. This time miss what i call "the soul", your unique skill to read the human nature.Just my personal feedback that can be wrong, so take it as incentive to write more.

My best wishes waiting your next creation. Be well. Simo.

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The working class hero said...

Yes, 'The Shakespeare of addicts' is still with us!, Your words allow me the pleasure of dipping my big toe in the complex, unforgiving and often perilous waters of euphoric recall without fear of drowning in addiction!.
Thank you for making me feel a little less alone in the world...

Anonymous said...

hey shaney
how about a post i don't have the energy to write, about all the rip offs you get from dealers, and before you have a go at me how great regular dealers are you must have had even those reg's dumbing down and clouding those packets when they're a bit short and you're ordering a bit too much and they etc. its good to know youre still out there and writing these words for whats its worth, im hamster wheeling half on half off m ostly on, cant find the balance, the moon must be too blame. and what about the fucking cold skin, i totally forgot about that until the last couple of days trying suboxone again, not waiting long enough for it to kick in, shooting up the smallest amount and then dealing with body temperature control for the rest of the day until i could score and make it all just go away. warmest thoughts as always from the darkest continent, and maybe not that you care and maybe nor do i but still yr with me somehow.... me ca

Shane Levene said...

Hey Everyone... Please excuse me for no replies to comments under this post. I will reply... Maube even this evening.

Anon (Shaney)... I've actually got a couple of old drafts which address that. One is about the dealer/ user relationship and all the tricks and games played by both sides. On another level it dissects the psychology of the power relationship between buyerband seller and how even thatcrumb of power corrupts. The second text is multiple small vignettes, character studies of all the dealers eho have passed through my using life. I'll hsve to dig them out and see if there's anything i can do with them. X

Anonymous said...

shure you will, i understand the value of why and what youré doing in relation to my own expectations, i just like to think though we don't recognise each other there is something that intrinsically binds us all, our upside downn community on this forum whether we post or just read and breathe out peacefully for a second, funny, yeah its fucking hilarious, is how i just thesaurusised 'binds' hoping to come up with a better word and what stuck out was the antonyms, where bind, in my brain means locked or understanding of a few people or ideas, the general overview of bind is of a problem. it is therefore i guess a really truly great word, a small gift in an otherwise grey afternoon on south africa's east coast, we are bind in a bind and i am thhankful you are out there, i would bind you a jumper or cardigan made of the most softest cotton, so night sweats disappeared and all day comfort kept you fresh, cosy annd clean of this horribly dirty scratchy ugly world, me ca

Unknown said...

Hey, you’re still blogging! We emailed each other along time ago now, well via this blog. You got a little annoyed with me when I suggested perhaps getting clean and publishing because you’re such a good writer. Well I’ve now had two failed detoxes and one failed rehab.

I haven’t read your blog for awhile but I’ll definitely catch up.

I’ve actually started blocking to bed no way is popular is your blog.

Much love , The famous junkie, aka Jay x

Unknown said...

Ha ha my phone is fucked I should have said I’ve actually started blogging but it’s no way as good as yours

Anonymous said...

As a recovering addict I decided to share my story with the world in hopes of helping someone, somewhere, someday.
Check out my blog and follow or share with your family and friends.
Thank You

Shane Levene said...

Hey Anon (menachem)... Thanks for your comment and the link. I did visit and will subscribe. Though a little advice: when you leave comments advertising your own work always make syre that you leave a few words on the person's site you are visiting about their work. I don't care for such things but many do, and many will take insult (think you've not even read tbeir words) that you left a link to yoyr own sute but never had a moment to even comment on theirs. If you leave a little comment (to show you've read their words) they'll be much more likely to look at yours.All my very best anyway, Shane. X

Unknown said...


Just to add, Shane is an idol.
I’m not just adding my blog details onto a popular blog to get Readers

Shane writes so beautifully and eloquently

I aspire to be like him

Thanks Shane for encouraging me to give it a go

I have ADHD so
Don’t think about things like this.

If t wasn’t for This blog mine wouldn’t exist


Shane Levene said...

Hey Gem-sta S... I really don't mind if people advertise here, I was honestly just giving a little advice as I did the same thing when I started and learnt people really dislike it and rarely ever even reply let alone visit the link. But anyone can come here and put their link... I'm not interested in bri g so petty or grouchy. Thanks for your words My Dear. Where abouts are you? The US? X

Unknown said...

Advice greatly appreciated.

Nah London, UK.. Partly why I fell in love with your blog and the posts from when you lived in... Fulham.. have I remembered correctly? (ADHD = really rubbish memory!)

Haven’t read your blog for ages, so really looking forward to a binge reading all the new posts!!

Bless, Jay x

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Dr.Panda said...

Hi, I really enjoy your blog, I read everything plus other blog about your Mother's boyfriends - is there anything else online? I tried to find,just want to make sure I'm not missing anything

Thank you