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In The Midnight Lands

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One Summer. Four Continents. Seven Legendary Festivals.

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Izzy_Indigo

IN COMFORTABLE silence we sat for the first few puffs before John mused, "Not long to go now."

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"Mmm," I answered, enjoying the hazy blanket descending from the outside in.

A pause. "Are you sure you want to go through with it, Izz?"

"Yeah man. I have too."

"But you know, you are, well, kind of useless, right?"

I wasn't offended. John's words were voiced with affection and a fair amount of prior experience.

"I like to think of myself as endearingly useless bro."

"That's still useless. Do you really think you can pull this off?"

"No, not really.”

The spliff savoured. Passed back.

“But you know, it’s sure going to be a trip finding out."

John leaned back, looked up and laughed. "Well I guess it's good that you've stopped this straight edge bollocks then. You know before it felt as if you hung out with us because you had too. Now it feels like you want too."

John still thought my travels might chemically lobotomise; but at least now I should have some fun along the way.

 

* * * *

 

SO OKAY, I wasn't some electronic prophet destined to lead a straight edge revolution. People of all ages weren't going to flood the dance scene for the good of their health, due to my example.

I was an ageing hedonist heading for one final blowout and all things were back on the table. I had no idea what the next few months held, what they would mean. I hoped meaning would be found. I was searching for secrets and mysteries and magic - for an end worthy of the name. And I was scared shitless. But it was going to be great . . . I hoped.

 

* * * *

This blog is a story. Each post picks up from the last.
 
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Izzy_Indigo

56. It sucked the fat one - hard.

SO MY delerium went, on that black sand beach, for the first week or two.

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Then I grew bored. So very, very BORED. And not long after I did my first festival straight: Splore, an hour outside Auckland. It is not recorded in these pages because, and I have to be honest here, it sucked the fat one - hard.

While all my friends charged around, while John learnt how to dance to Drum and Bass and Sarah got sunburnt and the whole of Splore shaked and shuddered, I was in my tent early, tired. Water, good vibes and the contact high weren't nearly as energising as I'd hoped.

It felt as if I slogged through a damped-down monochrome whilst all my friends soared in glorious HD and after this worked on me. But I was a dog with his favourite chew: I growled and held on. I feared for the meaning of my travels otherwise. For the terminus they harbored. In all I straight edged for fourteen weeks.

Looking back now I see it was inevitable I would crack and just as inevitable it would be at John's house. John was a good friend, a man of moderation I much admired. Wildy successful in business, a salesman extraordinaire and yet electronica enthusiast and rager also, John had seen me go through many life-changing schemes over the years. Let me correct that. He'd seen me start many life-changing schemes over the years.

Because they always ended in a swift crash, the wheels of the wagon broken, the bodies and aspirations flying. More often than not John sabotaged the wagon himself, waiting until my back was turned to snap a few spokes - not out of malice, you understand, but because he knew my heart wasn’t in it.

That night, at his house, two weeks before boarding my first plane, sitting outside, his pack of cigarettes lying provocatively unmentioned between us, John rolling one of his perfect double-skinner spliffs - for me of course, that is, unless you want to partake, Izz? - it all reached a final point of saturation, the desire and the weakness. My constant companions I could no longer dissolve.

They'd been on the swell over the weeks, feeding off every close-fought battle, augmented, like being struck in the same knot of muscle, continually, the ache deeper with every blow. And I felt compressed, ever more oppressed by the pressure, self-applied. It lay across all my vistas like a pyroclastic cloud. And the remembrance of Splore lingered. And it occurred to me I’d become so fixated on the outcome I’d forgotten about the experience.

And I really, really, really wanted a durry.

So.

When the harpies came to tear off the roof: sometimes it was better to open the front door. I crumpled, a paper pillar. I strapped on a gold watch and marched straight edge Izz off into retirement. I had a few beers, had a few cigs, and later we enjoyed the spliff as John had always known we would.

* * * *

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Izzy_Indigo

55. A lifer, forever and ever.

AFTER GINNY'S house sold I rented a batch at Piha beach to prepare.

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I lived there with my German girlfriend, Brigitte, from February to May. There was no TV signal. While Brigitte went to work at a local cafe, I spent my days on a steady diet of self help and meditation. I wrote glowing mission statements and felt extremely pleased with myself.

At sunset I took long walks along the black sand beach, heading for Lion Rock, the damp sand squeezing between my toes and the surf thundering in my ears and the pastel clouds buttering the horizon.

At times like those I dreamed my coming-this-summer bestseller would spark a straight edge dance movement. That from it would evolve a glittering chain of dance health-clubs called Uplift. Configurable, teach week they would be a different lay-out, break-down and move around, and the dance floor level, the bubble balanced, and springy, maybe grass, perfect for knees,

and the clubs wired and world-wide, sister cities, sound, screens, and you could lose your shit next to Uplifters in Rio and Rome, Cape Town, and a DJ could shred across three continents, three time zones, and the clubs would open in the day, have retractable roofs, sunlight pouring in, sometimes rain, just for a change, and people would come and dance like doing a fitness class, no alcohol or drugs, but the system massive, the tunes phat, this was about cardio, heart rate, not about getting high,

and the bouncers - not bouncers . . . enablers, defenders? Champions! Large but friendly, no Homus Erectus, and the dress code relaxed, shoes not a problem, nor the ratio of hot women, nor your age, and you would reserve time, the floor uncrowded, and all the retired clubbers coming out, creeking, because they'd never stopped loving dance, though it had stopped loving them, and the masses coming also, would spy the lighthouse on the point, finally get a clue,

and oh these clubs would be glorious, and there would be Uplift festivals, of course, except more like marathons, each DJ and set, or like those old-time rock-n-roll competitions (sockhops?), crews booking and judges circulating, clipboards in hand, the faltering tapped out, and all of it backed by a maverick billionaire, Branson perhaps, and I would be the progenitor and I would stay in the scene a revered elder and be surrounded by a cortege of sexy and accomplished woman, a lifer, for ever and ever.

* * * *

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Izzy_Indigo

54. Izzy Mark 2.

BUT I was also other things.

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I was the after-image I caught reflected in my friends’ conversation. I was intelligent, articulate, charming, stately, positive, spiritual. A unique and beautiful snowflake. And beneath the seethe these qualities lurked, waiting for me to stop paying attention.

And I was ambitious. And I was amorous. And I knew I was destined for great things. I’d been promised. We all had. And this was my shot. And it was going to define me, you understand?

It was a fucking definition.

And for this reason, these qualities - maybe also to better grip - I began to think grander as the weeks passed. I decided my travels had to be about more than just festivals. I decided they had to be about self renewal as well.

That from them I should emerge repaired, enhanced, a six million dollar man - gentlemen we can rebuild him, we have the technology - faster, stronger, bionic, moving with a satisfying dbo-o-oo-i-i-n-ng sound. An Izzy Mark 2.

I was a phoenix and I would rise.

With an X cut across my heart and my fist raised in solidarity, I would join the straight edge brethren and eschew the evil opiates of the modern world.

Not for me any longer nicotine and caffeine and sugar and pot and TV and recreational drugs - all must go. (But not meat. Meat was tasty. Meat was good.) I had four months to detox before hitting the northern summer and its festivals high on life, able to dance all night on water, good vibes and the contact high.

I would be a shining example to all.

* * * *

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Izzy_Indigo

53. One gigantic, manic episode.

AT THE time of first plan I'd hoped my travels would rally my far-flung friends - 

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if I book the festivals, they will come - that it would be our last charge together. That I could trail along in their wake, as I had done so many times before, and together we'd forge an end worthy of all the dance scene had meant to us.

But they were too far gone. Only three responded, and only two of those were definite, one for the first festival, one for the last. In-between, I was on my own. Now spending a summer travelling the world's largest dance festivals was one thing, but travelling to them on your own when you were as unsocial as I was?

Jeeeez.

Which brought me to my third point. I was not built for travel. I had no sense of direction - in fact, I was directionally damaged. I got lost in car-parks. I got lost going to places I had been to dozens of times before. I did better if I went in the opposite direction to my natural inclination. And, to me, landmarks were mythical things, the whole world a blur of slightly different (but mostly the same) asphalt, buildings and trees.

This fault seemed to reside in the same part of my brain that dealt with languages and facial recognition, for I was also horrible at both. I had terrorised many a stranger with random twitchy-cheeked conversation only to discover they were not who I thought they were. A problem which would be okay overseas, I supposed, given I wouldn't be able to make myself understood in most of the countries anyway.

You see then why I had my doubts.

I would like to say in the face of them my fortitude kept me strong as my planning advanced but that would be a lie. I could cut and run with the best of them. Better than most. However my foresight (oversight?) of chucking my job and booking thousands of dollars of flights before I knew if any of my mates were going motivated far more.

Like it or not, I had locked myself into a summer of travelling the world's largest festivals as a comfort-and-convenience-loving, ambivalently-social, directionally-and-facially-challenged man, who was known as being a bit useless, verged on being too old, was poor at languages, had limited travel experience, and now no mates.

And the only thing I could be sure of was that everyone else I encountered along the way would be there with their crew, because, well, who the hell went to a multi-day, open-air electronica festival on their own?

Hmmm, maybe Mum was right and I was in the middle of one gigantic, manic episode.

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Izzy_Indigo

BUT YET there I was.

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There I was, with no practice, no acclimation, no training at all, about to embark on a journey that was the veritable masters degree in living beyond your comfort zone, and which, at the very least, at the very low-end of self-sufficiency and resourcefulness, might involve opening tinned fruit at some stage for sustenance.

Before I set out I'd only been to festivals in New Zealand, the largest The Gathering with its fourteen thousand people over three days. But now, looming on the horizon, was one that promised a hundred thousand, another forty, a third twenty.

Two of them lasted seven days, one of them involved 'survival camping', and all of them were strung back to back across different countries - most where I didn't speak the language - sometimes different continents, and in wildly varying terrain of deserts, lakes and wilderness rivers, not to mention a fortress and an abandoned russian airfield.

This was so far beyond my comfort zone, it skipped the uncomfortable zone and landed squarely in what-fucking-idiot-left-you-in-charge zone.

Which brought me to my second point. I was not a very social person. That may surprise given the smolderingly-handsome, wind-flick-through-my-(metaphorical)-hair, devil-may-care, light-up-a-room-but-keep-a-sensitive-journal picture my exploits conjure.

But in truth I was an ordinary, introverted, somewhat anxious, kind of aspergery, and horribly self-conscious guy the dance scene just happened to bring the best out of. The type of guy who groaned out loud at the memory of something embarrassing that had happened years before and whose cheeks did this weird twitchy thing whenever he tried to hold a smile for a photo.

Left to my own devices I tended far more towards being a recluse - happy to read, meditate, ruminate, dream - than an extrovert, out in the world making things happen and meeting people.

Frankly, people annoy me.

* * * *

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Izzy_Indigo

CHAPTER 8.

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With myself, it was different again. In many ways I was the most unlikely of souls to undertake such a journey and I was plagued by doubt. They would seep out of the globe at night and surround me, encase me and shake me until I flew about like snow.

What was I doing? I asked myself this more times than I cared to remember. This was crazy. Who took a year off to go on a festival bender? Well, I knew the answer. The type of person who holidayed in remote, sweaty regions with poor toilet facilities; who enjoyed eating mysterious and membraney-type food smacking their lips while they did so; the type of person who liked to poke dangerous animals with short sticks just for the fun of reaction - that's who.

And that wasn’t me.

I didn't like to be titillated.

Sometimes my life felt like a litany of cool and sexy things I'd never tried. Hey Izz, want to go rock climbing? - don't like heights. Hey Izz, what about surfing? - can't tread water. Hey Izz, how about sky diving? - nope. Tandem sky diving? - and get strapped to the front of another dude? Pfffft.

And so it went.

And you know what? I'd made my peace with not being adventurous. I was good with it. You see, I liked my comfort zone. Let me rephrase, I loved my comfort zone. I mean who didn't like to be comfortable, really? Its very definition was physical ease and relaxation.

And let us not forget, also, that I was an apple not far fallen, a trusting and loving consumer of mass-production, of convenience, with no real skills, who'd long since known that when the apocalypse came, when solar flares struck and humanity went tumbling back into the next Dark Ages, I would be among the first to die, from starvation, a dented tin of peaches in one hand, and the rock in which I tried to open it the other.

* * * *

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Izzy_Indigo

WITH MY friends, it was a different conversation:

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ME—I've quit my job.

FRIENDFek, really?

ME—Yeah. I’m taking the year off. Crazy, ay?

FRIEND—Crazy.

FRIEND—So what are you going to do? Travel?

ME—Sort of. I'm going to hit some festivals.

FRIEND—Festivals?

ME—Well, more of a dance festival tour, really.

FRIENDA dance festival tour . . .

ME—I have six planned in six countries, so far.

[Dumbfounded silence]

ME—I'll spend the northern summer doing it.

[Dumbfounded silence]

ME—Maybe write a book about it.

[Dumbfounded silence]

ME—So, want to come? I’ll make you famous.

John, face impassive as he listened to all this, said, "Buddy, if you're going to spend a summer partying your arse off around the world, the only book you're going to write is: See Izzy. See Izzy dance. Dance, Izzy, dance."

* * * *

This blog is a story. Each post picks up from the last.
 
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Izzy_Indigo

49. Extraordinary one final time.

BY JANUARY this thinking had coalesced into resolve, resolve into a plan.

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My mind and heart set. To honour Ginny I would use my share of her inheritance to follow my own dream, while I still could. I would take the rest of the year. I would target three months.

One Summer then, to travel to all those overseas festivals that had long coloured our wistful talk, that like wind-caught pennants had long snapped in our imagination, fierce and proud.

The northern hemisphere's Summer Festivals: the Himalayas of the dance scene world: camped: open-air: multi-day: many staged: thousands thronged: still underground: still free from the taint. I would chase my own dream, write my own ending, close my own chapter. I would be extraordinary one final time.

As the plan became real, I shared it first with my family. I told them I was travelling to festivals to write a book, but I had no idea if I could do such a thing. If such a book would be at best boring, at worst incoherent. I kept these doubts to myself.

I pushed them back and down with all the others and stored them in a little globe. When no-one was around I would bring the globe out and shake it and see them fly about like snow.

What did it matter anyway? Anywhere but here, that was my creed.

With surprising equanimity my family reacted. That is they didn’t react. They believed. They supported. They helped. Perhaps they understood it was a way for me to work through my grief. Perhaps they were numb to my deranged schemes by now—after all, not for nothing did Mum to call me up out of the blue one day to say, “Hi Izzy. You well? You eating your veges? Good. Good. Listen, I think you might be Bipolar.”

(I'm not, by the way, just a dreamer of great dreams . . . with little follow through.)

In any event, they didn’t try and talk me out of it.

* * * *

This blog is a story. Each post picks up from the last.
 
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Izzy_Indigo

48. The real story of electronica.

AND I dreamed.

Oh, I dreamed of the ephemeral magic of dance festivals gone by, radiant like hearth fire in my memory. How I’d always been fascinated, ever since my earliest days when on film I tried to capture—I don’t know, something—in the rain and the mud of The Gathering.

How I'd never been able to get to their essence when evangelising to the trapped and the prearranged, but knowing there was more, always more. A goodness in festivals, redemption and transformation; secrets and mysteries and magic that brought out the very best in human kindness, kinship and beauty.

How there was culture, community, a whole conversation going on. A movement on the march, had been since the eighties, multigenerational, thriving, and was more, always more than the mainstream caricatures: the overdoses, the drug-ee jokes, the scenesters, the posers, the superstar DJs, the dimly beautiful, the snatched footage of spangled kids, neon-lit with combusting eyes, the hippies cavorting as hippies do.

And how this diminution and condescension from a plastic world had always rankled, a world where you could now rise and rise based on the rise itself, and discourse had crushed to five second sound bites with 140 characters coming that year.

A world gripped by a nameless dread, in need of new models of community. And how I'd always understood it, also. Understood that the secrets and magic and mysteries defied comprehension unless immersed, perhaps would defy documentation, too, but which still I yearned to live, capture and record.

I felt, as I had always felt, the story, the real story of electronica, of its festivals and of those who go, was out there, waiting to be told.

* * * *

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Izzy_Indigo

47. Some sort of brute then,

LONG WEEKS passed as we put Ginny's affairs in order.

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Her house went on the market and I moved in to mourn on my own. I was angry and bitter, full of sadness and hurt. Or maybe none of those things. Maybe, a holed, flawed instrument, I felt nothing at all. I didn’t know. It was both, and it was neither. However a great rending had occurred. I knew that. Felt that.

The seams of The Contract had ripped and the insides had been exposed, the groaning innards, and revealed was not meaning, not promise, not hope, but insipidity. It spilt through my fingers. A sickening stench.

Christmas came. I moved through it an amputee. But there was smiling and laughter, also, all slick on the surface. I smiled, laughed, I’m sure. Some sort of brute then, I was callous, cruel. And life was laid flayed bare and meaningless, and I began to sift.

My last conversation with Ginny haunted. It was never far from my mind. Her unfinished design. The close of one chapter in her life, the beginning of the next. Both unwritten now. I thought about the passage of time and of loved things lost, and if, as Dylan Thomas once wrote, I would go gentle into that good night, or rage against the dying of the light.

I thought about not getting to say goodbye, and of when I had been happiest, most passionate, about how I could live—truly live—before it was too late to do so. For mine was an epic saga, I’d known since I was young.

I thought about running away.

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Izzy_Indigo

46. Down in the river to pray.

GINNY’S LEGACY was more than just her insurance policy and her love for her family.

For her colleagues and friends it was memories of her wit and giving nature, her pursuit of perfection and her skill at organising fabulous office parties, and as I stood by her coffin and not the pulpit on a sour spring day because somehow it felt better,

as first I looked down to my hands and knew I wouldn't be able to control them, their tremors, no matter how hard I crumpled the paper, and the wood cool against my leg, and my hired suit pants coarse, as I breathed once and looked up and saw my three sisters - no longer four but three - crying, and my mother, and my father, beyond was light, all light, and a church crowded with people. And then it happened. And I began to speak.

 

AFTER I helped bear her outside to the strains of an old slave song:

 

As I went down in the river to pray,

Studying about that good old way,

And who shall wear the starry crown,

Good Lord, show me the way.

 

O sisters, let's go down,

Let's go down, come on down,

O sisters, let's go down,

Down in the river to pray.

 

As I went down in the river to pray,

Studying about that good old way . . .

Good Lord, show me the way.

 

O brothers, let's go down,

Let's go down, come on down,

Come on, brothers, let's go down,

Down in the river to pray.

 

As the hearse drove away strangers came to shake my hand.

Ginny was gone, and strangers were shaking my hand.

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Izzy_Indigo

HE LOOKED like a man who'd just lost his daughter,

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and now didn't know how the world stitched together. Nevertheless she moved swiftly. Now at the side of his single-seat sofa chair, now perched on his armrest, now clasping Dad's head to her ample bosom.

"There, there," she cooed, "It will be alright."

No, it wouldn’t.

Embarrassment scarred Dad's cheeks, offset by the wan light slanting in from the window of Ginny's lounge behind. We children looked on aghast. This was my father, a man I'd grown up loving and fearing in equal measure. A man who'd hunted for the government, crusading into the wilds of New Zealand for weeks at a time with only his dogs for company to shoot feral pig and deer.

Sometimes even going mano a pigo with the boars, creeping up on them - I always imagined with his hunting knife clenched between his teeth - to stick them and skin them, and carry the carcass out on his back.

A man who graduated forestry school, was a logger who felled giant pinus radiata and douglas fir and always brought home the best Christmas trees, and who one day was carried out of the bush on the blades of a skidder after chainsawing his thigh open to the bone. I always imagined that only happened after he finished felling the tree, one-legged.

But an affable man, also. A social man. The type of man who would suffer in silence the indignity of a hug from a heaving stranger - an old 'moo' for moo-cow he would have called her - because she’d come bearing good news, and because it was the right and polite thing to do.

So: one half of my father’s face pressed into folds of jiggly flesh, and pink, and we children aghast - and strange as it may sound it was at this moment, this surreal, tragically misread moment, that the scheme first began to shape in my mind.

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Izzy_Indigo

44. Unexpected visitors.

CHAPTER 7.

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After Ginny died we had unexpected visitors.

It was a day, maybe two. The funeral loomed. A call from her work, the bank. They were very sorry, they didn’t want to intrude, but they had news, would like to send people, would it be okay?

Yes, it would be okay.

They arrived. He, a typical middle manager, middle-aged in a middle-grey suit, and with the decency to look ill at ease amongst our tragedy’s detritus, the embryonic clean up. She, a spherical woman in florals, with hot-pink-framed glasses worn halfway down her nose. The bank’s councillor. She wept sympathy.

They came in, sat down, took coffee, offered their condolences. They told us how well liked Ginny was at the bank, how hard it was for everybody there. Should we console? Apologise? Awkward, stilted conversation.

One final matter. Ginny’s life insurance. Had we known? No we had not known. Well all bank employees had them, the policies. They handled situations like this; indeed were designed for situations like this. There would be a payout. It would be substantial. Ginny, still looking out for us.

They got up to go. But not before, flushed with her very raison d'être, this saccharine madam did the unthinkable. After all, how many deaths could she expect to attend in her career? Three, four? Unless there were external factors, her midnight imaginings, the companies dragon boat sinking, drownings, now that would be something . . .

Body fair quivering with her compassion, fair feeding off our hurt, she spied my father sitting in the corner and said, "I’m sorry, but I just have to say: you look like you could do with a cuddle."

No, he didn't.

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Izzy_Indigo

43. The alchemy of cream.

CASSY AND I rambled.

Two cats who’d discovered the alchemy of cream, we walked hand in hand, not staying anywhere for long or talking much. Other than for her to explain how she wasn't going to sleep with me, which, given my current state, was a rather endearing but woefully misplaced vote of confidence.

Close to dawn we worked our way back home, wintry and plunging now and very twisted, when we spied the flicker of a campfire in the distance. The camp of the house-bus-owning hippies.

We stopped and asked if we could get warm, and they welcomed us in, and they made a place for us close to the flames, and they didn’t ask us to talk - and it was a beacon, that fire, that final morning, of hospitality, community, and radiantly it shone, and in it attracted other wet and weary wayfarers, each arrival welcomed by a soft tattoo of drums that came from the darkened buses.

There was brotherhood here, Cassy and I sitting and cuddling, were silent and lost and nobody seeming to mind; the warmth of her body and the shape of her neck, the smell of her hair, all that existed for me then in that private pocket of predawn, windtorn space and time.

The end of The Gathering.

The beginning of everything else.

All brimming and bright, stretching long before us.

 

 

THE CREW were up and packing when we got back and I was crashing. A zombie, I shambled around and made myself not very useful, my greatest contribution a fit of pique where I attempted to discard all of my wet clothes. I would buy all new ones, I announced. I was persuaded this really was a terrible idea.

With the camp broken down, those of us who’d come in the taxi-van were distributed to other vehicles, and then, more in a sigh than an exclamation, The Gathering ended. I had a snug spot in Andy's van, warm and dry among the backpacks, and soon drifted to blissful sleep. It lasted all the hours it took to queue and exit and drive back to Nelson.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to The Gathering, to the Canaan Downs or the Takaka Hill. I never saw Cassy again. But into the darkness that morning I did carry Darius’s final words, "Izzy, bro, we walked past the Trance Zone this morning. You know your couch is still there with people sitting on it?”

For some reason this made me hugely,

inexplicably,

unaccountably,

happy.

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Izzy_Indigo

42. It was too large.

LATE IN the last hour of the final day, a flurry of panic and movement and broken voices.

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She’s getting agitated!

Should we administer the drugs?

NO-O! Don’t do it! CALL the Hospice!

We love you Ginny.

GIVE HER the drugs!

We love you - 

(no)

We love you - 

She’s calming down -

We love you. We love you.

We love you . . .

We crowded around her. Other than Dad who was in the corner of the room looking as if some deep foundation within was breaking. I grabbed the footstool and sat in front, I was overcome, undone. For the first time in a day Ginny’s eyes were open.

One shuddering, ending breath.

I was staring into her eyes, letting her see me as she faced the edge of all things. Long pause, no breath. Still the words - we love you - flowing - we love you - surrounding - we love you - loving her.

Another.

Gasping.

Final.

Her eyes on me, and I felt anesthetised, like I had awoken on an operating table eviscerated and unable to feel it. There was a flare in Ginny's pupils, a flow, and she was looking through me, beyond me, now.

Eyes fading.

Dying.

Dull.

She was receding, leaving, and I wanted to scream. I got up and took my father's hand, led him to where I’d sat. She needs to see you before she goes. But it was too late. There was no more breath. Only a keening wail that begins, as my sisters, my mother, who'd been so brave, so strong, finally let go. It filled the room like water. Water. Water. We were all under water.

Is she gone?

Amber checked the pulse and nodded; tears streamed down her face. The keening grew loud, large, too large for the room. The emotion was too large for the room, too large for me and I had to leave, to leave, to rush outside and collapse on the deck. It was too large.

Great wracking sobs welled from somewhere deep inside. Deep, deep inside. They rattled me as they rose. They threatened to shake me apart. I could not keep them in - it was too large - I sobbed into the night. I had not cried for years, but something was broken.

I was broken.

I sobbed into the night.

Hannah came. I didn't hear her footsteps, but her arms were around me. She who was mostly reserved but was bawling now and telling me we had to do better, be kinder, keep the family traditions. And her arms were strange. And I knew but could not tell her. The traditions were gone.

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Izzy_Indigo

41. Five days.

CLOSE TO midnight, Friday, October 1. Five days.

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Ginny was adrift now, her eyes closed, breathing faint and irregular.

Earlier in the afternoon the nurse had given us drugs, told us that in the final moments patients could become agitated, try to remove their oxygen tube or rip out their IV. If that happened, the drugs would help to keep her calm. We didn't ask what they were. We hoped we wouldn't need them.

We alternated sitting beside Ginny, holding her hand, voicing whatever came to mind. Trying to penetrate the mists she was absent in, letting her know we were there, and we loved her.

When it was my turn I couldn't help but think on all she had not seen and all I had not said. I tried to communicate my sorrow and my regret. I tried to communicate my love. I felt the faint twitch of her hand in mine.

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Izzy_Indigo

I HADN'T seen her since midday,

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but we took up where we‘d left off - except we were both on-wing now, so when she sat, the warmth of her wet skin like fever, and she turned, illumined and effervescing, and our eyes in sempiternity met, the space, the time between us collapsed, we collapsed, to collide.

It was the highest high note of The Gathering for me. True and triumphant. I’d never been happier or more alive, while a megalomaniacal voice in the back of my mind proclaimed: now you're the king of the party!

Later - days? weeks? - when we broke and she suggested we go for a walk, I was loath to leave the couch but more loath to leave her. She’d disconnected all my breakers, had set me to surge. While the couch, in that incandescent dark, was now where it belonged, I was sure. I was sure.

So to the bog, to the open-air and the soundscapes and mostly the Gatherers of great cheer, I left it; left it in the knowledge that I - they were part of something, something tremendous, and that I - they were seizing our measure of shining stories to carry forward, forward and forever, and that for some - now, those stories might include the wonder of a bright blue inflatable couch stumbled upon in the mud and the glory of the Trance Zone in those final scattered hours of that last climatic day.

Good.

I felt good about that.

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Izzy_Indigo

39. A positive stroke of genius.

(MISSION: MISH-UH-N. Noun.

Couch_Dancing 3 resize

An assigned or self-imposed task when chopped that you are convinced is the one right, true thing for you to be doing due to special reasons of joy, peer recognition or humankind beneficence. The task, usually simple, will involve large amounts of time, high degrees of frustration, and may or may not ever be completed.)

So a mission then, me carrying my couch crucifix-like through a dark you forget exists in the perpetual bright of cities, through a rain that was now a hop-scotch spray born on a freshening wind; carried with both arms locked under the arm rests, the mother of all face-plants risked with every slip and shift of my feet.

An odyssey witnessed with great interest by passing Gatherers, perhaps because of the face-plant in the offing, perhaps because of the wondrous sight presented: me bent beneath my blue burden, jesters hat a-jingle, clothing and face covered in glitter spray. (Yes, Dad, glitter spray, because, well, God Made Me Phunky.)

Still, I knew it was worth it - more - that it was a positive stroke of genius on my part the first time I sat down lengthwise in the middle of the Trance Zone with my legs up and out of the mud. The couch settled a little lower and then cruised the quagmire as if made for conditions exactly like these.

As the trance deluged and the lasers railed, I floated there and looked to the sky and through brief windows of racing clouds caught glimpses of the stars, the weather breaking now, some six hours from the end.

And for the rest of the night my couch was a sanctuary, an island of comfort in the storm of festivals close, in the wet and the cold, the comedowns and the exhaustion, and it attracted in all manner of other voyagers.

Weary of being calf deep in mud they would come up and ask if they could sit - of course you can - and so they would, and they would rest, and we would share, and we would connect, and I would offer a smoke, and I would offer my heart, and then off on their way they would go. I even managed some serious couch dancing to the really thumping tracks.

Then, Cassy found me.

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Izzy_Indigo

CHAPTER 6.

2Aresize

"COUCH DANCING," I mumbled happily, slinging my inflatable couch off my back where it landed with a plop in the mud. I grinned at my fellow trancers who all grinned back at me, evidently appreciating the sheer brilliance of my idea.

It was two in the morning and I hadn’t slept for forty hours, the afternoon a disconnected set of joyous fragments I can’t put to any chronology. Flashes of Kathy with laughter in her eyes telling me Darius had gone la-la-land: being mandated to grab him, ground him: riding out with a posse in response;

of sympathising with Joseph, who’d twisted his ankle and couldn't dance and didn't seem too upset, blazing spliff after spliff with Cam; and of conspiring in the Food Tent with Gary: we would storm Ibiza in July, and he would make the track: I see you baby shaking that ass, shaking that ass, his own.

And flashes of coming around a curl in the trees to see Jackie in the distance in the Trance Zone - she who we knew as dirty old Jack because she kept up with the lads - but stunning at this moment, an outline on an elevation, with wide beatific smile, dreamy closed eyes, rapturous upraised hands, clouds and crowd and DJ behind. Jackie, who later would lose a pill in a haystack and utter the immortal words, “That's going to be one fucking happy cow.”

It was two in the morning and I was on my way up for the third time and I’d just humped my inflatable couch halfway across the Downs - one mention by Darius of our long-running joke to couch dance in the Trance Zone enough to set me off on a spangled mission . . .

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Izzy_Indigo

NEAR MIDDAY Darius and Kathy found us.

Then Joseph. Then Sam, rested and unrepentant. We caught up, and I heard they had found Tim, Darius telling the story.

"You know how he's been trying to get with Sandra? Well he finally sold her the idea they could create this big "Millennium memory” and that's where they went, the nuttas. They didn’t even wait for the countdown to finish."

“I guess your first time rolling . . .”

“Maybe, but I’m glad it wasn’t my tent, the dirty olds. They're back there now probably still at it. And Tim reckoned on their way they got interviewed by the news!”

“The news?”

“Yeah. He said they were out doing a piece on the celebrations.”

We pictured this: pictured all that could go wrong with giving your views to the country whilst E'ed up for the first time . . . and horny. We laughed loud and long. But Tim came across like a boss, like an electronic warrior of the Shaky Isles, and his and Sandra's was the longest clip they played on the news that night.

Darius also brought word that Dan and Jacob had left - I guessed from sore jaws, not enough gum - as had hundreds of others. Unbeknownst to us, The Gathering was now a major news story in the real world, which, having survived the Y2K bug, had turned its attention to the two dozen hypothermia cases shipped from the festival to an emergency centre in Motueka.

Evacuation of the entire site had even been considered, but civil defence didn't have the protocols for moving thousands of spangled and coming down ravers off the top of a remote, waterlogged hill.

So, blissfully ignorant of how close it all came to ending, the hard core were allowed to stay on.

We got our second night on the Downs.

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Izzy_Indigo

36. Be c-o-o-l.

BLONDE, SLIM and with bambi blue eyes,

Gathering Food Tent 2

frail shoulders covered by a white cardigan, with a sweet little mouth, now formed in a perfect O, as part of a lost look to match my own, we rushed together, embracing.

We'd only met a day before but were overjoyed to find each other, as only two trancers on the other side of an elevated evening with no prospect of sleep anytime soon could be.

Now we were a duet.

"Ha-hah!" I cried with new found (make that cute girl found) enthusiasm. "Cassy! Wicked. Where have you been?"

"Ah - I'm not . . . The tran-trance zone."

She was all exquisite crystal as she met my gaze, her irises consumed by black holes. I felt the X stop, seize. It wanted to don shining armour and mount a white charger, to assail into the very heart of them. To backstroke through them. I felt a surge of energy, a bushfire bright running before the wind, a deep-seated swell that -

No. No swelling.

(At least not yet.)

Be cool.

Be c-o-o-l.

"You look cold,” I offered. “Were you at the Trance Zone?"

“Uh-huh. I was dancing and I lost everyone. I turned and nobody was there."

Her pupils widened further, if that was possible. She looked spooked and I longed to hug her - maybe I should confess my love? - but restrained myself.

Be cool.

"Well you've got me now. Want to head to the Food Tent and warm up?"

(Warm . . . in the Indigo glow.)

She nodded and we set out, slogging our way through a haze more and more evident as the light came: a steamy whiteness that clung to the Downs and made it otherworldly, made it the type of place in which you might see Visigoths or Elves or Druids - which, given our current trajectory, we might have seen anyway.

We found the Food Tent and a spot at the back beside the barista, and there we sat and stayed. We sipped multiple coffees; we babbled and murmured; we were tender; we were entangled; and we enjoyed the old school set of rap being spun.

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Izzy_Indigo

35. Start wearing a cape.

THEN I was still all bounce and bliss about drugs -

Gathering daytime resize 2

this back in the golden days when drugs were recreational and only ever fun, when synthetics didn’t exist and meth hadn’t made New Zealand and the line was drawn at X and trips and the quality was good and the price was high and we sermonized the five R's:

the right type in the right amount at the right time in the right place with the right people (nothing other than weed smoked, nothing EVER injected) - back when you planned their use out weeks in advance to take a good party and make it great,

when you knew your dealer, they did you a favour, and morality and legality were answered, simply, by comparing a club full of drunks to a club full of ravers; drugs were never an addiction for us.

Sam knew I’d only have one answer.

Back into the brightening day I went and back to sleep my tent-mate slipped, safe in the knowledge I wouldn’t be returning anytime soon. Where to - what to - a period of goofed vacillation. The House Tent. Of course.

And I set out, fizzing again now and gambolling along. It being such a fine morning, all the Gatherers I passed such fine people. I was D-Man and I was striding down from on high, from on the mountain and these were my people, and ours was a powerful connection, the same shared divinity, unique expressions, but we were the same,

and maybe I would grow into a crusader, a soul saver, start wearing a cape, under bridges nurse the homeless, tenderly, coach an impoverished team, win the big game, come from behind, adopt stray kittens, penguins, do physical therapy with sufferers of Diphtheria - 

Piercing eyes, molten smile. Curves. Future wife, wifey! And we would come together, drawn, magnetic, maybe at the zone, in the mud, the secret dawn, link hands because our genomes knew, and she would travel to Australia and I would travel to New Zealand and our children would be magazine quality and they would serve in the soup kitchen and they would help feed the penguins, and, and - 

The House Tent.

Shut down.

Such a forlorn scene given the hundreds of happy people it’d succoured only an hour before. I swayed in the rasp of the early morning air and looked to the Trance Zone where a scattered core of hardened, mired ravers cheered in the day. 

I pursed my lips and weighed my options. And this swaying and weighing might have gone on for a while had I not at that moment spotted Cassy picking her way across the olive liquefaction . . .

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Izzy_Indigo

34. Ambush.

WHEN I got back to camp from the House Tent, nobody was around.

Muddy Sneakers Resize

I made a coffee, wrapped myself in a blanket and plonked myself down under the tarpaulin to fire a phatty: cold, encrusted, fried - thoroughly content with the world.

As the weed scattered me further I stared blankly out at the other half-hidden campsites, damply drooping and drooping damply, and in the furtive grey punched through with ghost-eyes blankly staring back my way.

My mind turned inwards. A cannibal, it cracked the bones of favourite moments blowing up like supernovas and sucked them dry; an internal baseline kicked it all along. Soon the yawns.

My thoughts now on sleep though it would mean disturbing Sam, climbing in over him with my wet and muddy clothes, and my dirty shoes poking out through the flaps as I pulled them off, and my sodden rags being peeled, dripping, and my elbows akimbo, digging,

and the need for dry attire, searched for and horizontally pulled on, and the unzipping of my sleeping bag, and the crawling in, and it all taking far longer than was acceptable, but inevitable, given my current head case.

A thought that had occurred to Sam also for he’d prepared accordingly - lying in the long grass, his clothes the colour of trees.

Ambush.

“You just get back?” he greeted as I unzipped the tent, his face poking toasty-warm from his sleeping bag. Just a warm Sam chrysalis in his sleeping bag. He made no attempt to hatch. Now I was thinking about freckly butterflies. I focused on his question.

"Yeah, man, been at the House Tent for hours. Fucking epic. How was your night?"
 
"Wet. Spent most of the night out in the rain with Darius and Kathy."

“You're keen.”        

“Not me, Dar, you know what he’s like. I finally got him in under cover at the DnB zone around 3. Oh, and we were at the House Tent there for a while as well.”

"Ah, wished I'd seen you guys . . .

“Could have hung out . . .

“Yup . . .

“Would have been good . . . ”

Small talk exhausted, I squatted in front of the tent waiting to see if Sam could take a hint. He couldn’t. So I pantomimed a yawn and stretch and said, “Well bro, I’m knackered. I'm afraid I’m going to have to - "

Sam sprang his trap.

“Want another pill, Izz? I’ve got one spare.”

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Izzy_Indigo

33. On an outbound tide.

AFTER THAT conversation, it felt like something had been decided, ended,

Ginny 17

for with every passing hour Ginny slipped further away from us, ebbed away from us on an outbound tide, despite our best and desperate attempts to stop her.

We saw it in her loss of mobility, how she needed to be aided everywhere with the help of a walker. Soon she barely moved at all. We saw it in the eyes of the Hospice nurse, who on Wednesday put a morphine drip in her arm. We saw it in each other. Death was with us. He had not visited before.

As her morphine increased, we lost Ginny to the nether world of the opiate, to whatever place of waiting she went to in her mind. There were moments of lucidity, but these became fewer and fewer. It robbed us of the chance to get close to her one last time, to come to some sort of acceptance and peace. It robbed Ginny of the chance to say goodbye, to write each of us those letters as she wanted to do.

But it was most cruel for Claire and Amber.

They arrived on Thursday, jet lagged from a twenty-four hour flight from London to the window of Ginny’s lucidity having passed. I picked them up from the airport and tried to prepare them for what they would first see: Ginny with the ever-present oxygen cord taped under her nose, drip in her arm, sallow, eyes half closed and lolling.

They understood. But understanding and seeing are two very different things. When they stepped into the lounge that night I watched their worlds fail. We could offer only small, cold comfort. At least you made it home in time.

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