Saturday, 16 July 2011

The line of coke as big as the Ritz

In Hong Kong before the 1997 handover, a kind of fin de siecle madness prevailed. Hair was being let down like there was no tomorrow (and here's to you, Kim Robinson). Every weekend saw another big name DJ roll into town, leaving in their wake madness, mayhem and very blue Mondays. Everyone was partying like it was 1999. But most of all, everyone was doing exceptional amounts of cocaine.

It was like there was no avoiding the stuff. Everywhere you turned, someone was stumbling from a bathroom stall, nose rimed with crystalline powder, babbling nonsense about their fascinating personal histories and bandying about plastic baggies before uttering those oft-heard words: 'Fancy a line, mate?'

Well, as a matter of fact, I did, to my eventual detriment and personal disintegration. But that's another story for another time. Coke, blow, nose-up, nose candy, Bolivian marching powder, Peruvian flake, the devil's dandruff, go-fast, Charlie, Chuck, gak, gear, California cornflakes, yeyo. Call it what you want, it's exceptionally more-ish, ubiquitously abundant, and stupendously expensive, at least for those on a hack's salary.

So a kind of unwritten etiquette held sway; what went around, came around. If a mate sorted you out, you'd return the favour. Scores were definitely kept. People took notice. Call it cocaine karma. And one particular acquaintance of a certain circle of friends was deep in karmic debt. I mean, this bloke never bought his own gear, or if he did, he didn't share nicely. So a lesson was in order.

Now the popular image of coke use revolves around besuited stockbrokers piled three at a time into fancy toilet cubicles, hoovering up great rails of the stuff with thousand dollar notes, or of hairy chested disco rats daintily dipping silver spoons into ornate blow receptacles in dark corners of the dance floor. But the truth is, it's a drug best consumed in the comfort of someone's home. It was a Friday or Saturday night, and a dozen or so friends had gathered at my Bridges Street gaff to gird their loins for the festivities to come. And Mr Won't Share was on his way. I was suddenly seized by a fiendish plan.

Running to the kitchen, I grabbed the salt shaker, laid a full length mirror flat on the floor, and proceeded to rack out the biggest line you ever saw. I'm talking over two metres long, at least. All of salt, I hasten to add. The door buzzer sounded and we assumed our positions ... at least five of us, bums in the air and snouts in the trough, making the noisiest snorting sounds we could conjure through stifled giggles. Well, Mr Won't Share walked in and his eyes went wide as saucers. He was like a kid in a nose candy store. Someone handed him a rolled up note and with quaking excitement he dropped to his knees and bent down towards the mirror, where the thick white line of crystals was now broken and smudged at strategic locations along its unfeasible length.

But, dear reader, I was gripped by a last minute crisis of conscience, and as Mr Won't Share prepared to fill his hooter not with powdered good times but with stinging streams of salt I gently reached over and restrained him. Much mirth followed, and to his credit, he took the prank in good humour and laughed at his own expense.

I do believe he also discovered a more generous, giving spirit from that day hence.

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