I considered giving this one a more subtle title but the world is probably going to end soon anyway because Donald Trump is king of the realm and Brexit is happening and everyone is racist again so fuck it, I’m done with subtlety. If you’re reading Mum, you now know that I went to Poland and got shroomy. I am sorry. Well not ‘sorry’, exactly. I mean, I understand that I did something that was perhaps not great as far as being an upstanding citizen is concerned, but it was rather a lot of fun, and so despite your probable grievances you are bound by the laws of motherdom to be happy for me. Them’s the rules. Excellent.
Alright let’s get on with it.
On Friday afternoon my colleague (secret name change alert!) Bernie, an Irish dude with a moustache who I don’t know so well but inevitably end up drunk with every Friday evening after work, invited me to festival in Poland. The festival is called Woodstock (because we in 2017 are post everything and originality is DEAD, DEAD I TELL YOU, it’s all a con and we are all DEAD INSIDE, AAAAAAHH) and had a line-up that I didn’t know too well, but did include Slaves, a favourite punk band of mine, and on top of that it was totally free, so why the bloody hell not, yes?
It turns out you can get the train to P-land from B-town for very little money if you go with some mates and purchase this weird ticket called a ‘schöne wochenende’ or ‘beautiful weekend’. Bernie and I met up with two of his friends, and our quartet hopped on the little train out of Lichtenberg armed with pissloads of booze. Bernie told me that Polish girls are amazing, and as our train rolled across the border, we were pensive and quiet, each of us picturing sweeping fields full of smiling blonde girls with brilliant cheekbones.
Remind me to never again believe anyone that summarises an entire nation as ‘gorgeous’, because this has always been and will always be giddy hyperbole that young men and women tell themselves when jetting off abroad. There are some attractive people in Poland, yes. There are also some unattractive people. There are also plenty of people who are in the middle of those two bookends, who could only be labelled as ‘fine’. The same is true of literally everywhere else on earth. Apart from maybe Denmark and Sweden. Everyone there is hot as fuck.
We got off the train in Kostrzyn, bought some beers at a nearby off license, and piled into a currency conversion bureau. I was about to hand over a 50 for the day, an amount that seemed reasonable for a festival, but Bernie told me this was way too much, and we each pooled 15 euros. It turns out this amount bought us some 40 beers over the course of the day, a baggy of some nefarious substance that in all likelihood was crumbs of cement, as well as two bus rides with change leftover. Poland is cheap.
We bought some mushroom chocolate from a secret place in Berlin en route. I have never tried shrooms before but I’ve done 2CB a few times, which is (according to people who do way more drugs than I) a middle strength psychedelic, so I didn’t feel particularly apprehensive about shrooming. We took a square each and wandered into the festival. There were no gates anywhere, no bag-check or ticket booths; it was literally a case of strolling from the bus to the front of the main stage, which seemed oddly halcyon considering how mad-for-terrorism everyone is these days.
The four of us spent a while drifting to and fro among the topless Poles. The festival had been going for days already and the site was a wreck, muddy, partially nude bodies everywhere, mountains of empty beer cans and lakes of what may have been rainwater but in all likelihood was piss. Thick, dark forest skirted the whole event, with acres upon acres of tall pines stretching away to the horizon. We bought 12 cans of beer and made our way to the campsite to chill out and wait for the shrooms to kick in.
I had no idea what to expect, but Bernie told me that there would be no visuals from the mushrooms at such a mild dose. However, for anyone reading this who is not a drug person, the fact that there are no hallucinations involved does not mean things don’t get odd. Regardless of whether or not an object looks exactly as it always did, your perception of it and how you respond to it can change remarkably. Case in point: I realised that the mushrooms were beginning to kick in when, on our to check out some nearby woods, we had to pass a long line of portaloos. The sight of 50 plastic toilets all lined up made me strangely uncomfortable, and I found myself not wanting to look in the direction of the, as I dubbed it, “land of never ending toilets”.
We made our way to a hilltop in the campsite which was mercifully free of muddy people, and sat while our minds slowly climbed higher. People always tell you to do psychedelics in nature, and it wasn’t hard to see why – while the people and their general muckiness looked increasingly unpleasant, the distant treetops of the forest took on a beautiful, high definition texture, and I had an urge to go and run around in them. I also had a nagging desire to be naked, because the idea of clothing suddenly seemed incredibly oppressive and cruel. I now fully get why hippies are always nude.
We lay on our backs and watched the clouds. Bernie said he preferred the Polish clouds, and that they were less melancholic and arrogant than the Berlin ones. I gazed up and found myself agreeing. The Polish clouds were merely drifting above, offering no threat, just passing idly by. I approved of them.
A man walked past some distance away with no top on. He was very skinny and for some reason the sight of his bony frame caused me offence. I found myself wishing he would go away and get his rib cage out of my face. I thought this was a funny notion and attempted to write it down in my phone to remember for later, but I kept accidentally writing ‘heart cage’ instead of ‘rib cage’, and after the fifth time of deleting it, starting over, then forgetting what the hell I was trying to convey and typing ‘heart cage’ yet again, I gave up.
Then Jesus showed up, as he always does. A man wandered past with long hair and a well groomed beard wearing a beige robe and red sash with bare feet. His friends were surrounding him. Jesus had a can of lager which he was sipping poignantly as he moved through the festival. Jesus had several brown stains on the back of his robe which he must have acquired over the festival, which lead me to dub him Skidmark Jesus. My own joke tickled me to no end of course, and soon had me rolling around on the grass cackling.
From on our hill we could make out the main stage, where a Polish band was playing. They opened their set with frightful heavy metal, but by their last number were pumping out some oompahpah-oompahpah beer-hall weirdness, and the entire crowd was apparently completely fine with this transition. Bernie described it as ‘a bit Boris Yeltsin’.
It started to rain, so we sought shelter in a nearby cluster of trees. We ducked under the canopy and found ourselves nose to nose with a mirror image group of four Polish men, who were also sheltering. The eight of us nodded to each other and stood huddled in deafening silence around a ditch full of empty beer cans. Nobody looked anybody else in the eye. In my addled mind I decided it fell to me to break the silence.
“So this is pretty groovy.”
We tried to get a conversation going but their English was very limited, and beyond saying cheers or swearing, my Polish is gówno. Then a drug dealer bustled into the circle and called us all ‘kurwa’ a lot, then sold us the previously mentioned nefarious substance. We asked him what it was, and all he said was “Kurwa, look in my eyes, you can trust me” then stared hard at us with wild pin prick pupils. Retrospectively, this man was probably the worst man in the world to buy absolutely anything from. But we were on mushrooms and common sense takes a backseat. We then evacuated the strange little woodland grotto to find a nicer tree to shelter under.
We found a new tree near a family who were sitting around eating potato soup. This sounds fine, but on shrooms you can’t see help but see through the veneer of normality. You are acutely aware of how fucking strange it is that four hours ago you were brushing your teeth in the bathroom mirror, and now you are tripping balls in a rainy field in rural Poland giggling helplessly as you watch young children daintily spoon potatoes into their mouths.
Slaves were starting their set, so we bounced away down the hill just in time to see them take the stage. As always, they absolutely killed it. Isaac, the topless stand up drummer, is vicious. He’s in far better shape than when I saw them in Berlin, and girls were shrieking at him every time he walked out from behind his drum kit. I have to admit, he’s a sexy man. I pondered the fact that I might be a bit gay. Maybe we’re all a bit gay just under the surface. Hey ho.
As I stood watching the show, the mushrooms continued their gradual unspooling of my mind. I remembered something I’d read in a magazine interview with the band: the 26 year old drummer Isaac has a shoulder injury, one that will eventually stop him from playing drums and will likely impede his movement in later life.
As I stood watching Isaac battering the drums with such ferocity, I suddenly saw everything around me with great shroomy clarity. I realised that I was part of an enormous crowd gathered to watch a man in the prime of his life deal irreparable damage to his body for our entertainment. I saw a man dressed as Jesus earlier in the day, and I suppose that image stuck in my ball trippin’ head, because now I was convinced I was watching a man act like Jesus.
I was filled with a sudden religious vehemence, staring wide-eyed around me at the dancing, filthy crowd, all mud spattered and leather clad, neon mohawks drooping in the rain, mosh pits and piss pools everywhere as though I’d been airdropped into Sodom-
And then from nowhere a rain-soaked, ruddy cheeked Bernie clattered into me, shoved by a brawny Polak.
“Oh hey man! Why are you stood still?”
It seems I’d been stood for 10 minutes with my mouth agape. In an instant my senses snapped back to attention and my dawning religious vision ebbed away. Then with a giddy cackle I skipped away into the mosh pit to get hurled around some more.
We partied straight through the night, dancing to trashy europop nonsense. I made friends with a girl dressed as a cow and a man who insisted he was a warlock. Late morning on Sunday we arrived back in Berlin, some 17 hours after we began. I crashed into my bed with a grateful sigh and didn’t leave it until the sun was down.
I later learned that Bernie lost his keys at the festival and was locked out of his flat so had no choice but to spend the next day lying face down in the local park.
All’s well that ends well.