Living in a squat in Dunedin in the 1980’s meant there was a continuous stream of overnight guests and visitors. It seemed a constant of the time; a never-ending interchange of people drifting through various keynote places, around the country.
The building was an old hotel which had been converted into flats. My room had been an office and overhung the stairs; the two outward facing walls were wood on the lower half and above that stained glass. Inside the room was a waist high ledge which ran around its circumference.
Inside, there was just enough space for a double mattress on the floor, but I still needed to lift the bedding to open and close the door. Due to the stained glass, any natural light, of which there wasn’t much as the room was surrounded by other rooms and had no daylight introducing windows, was filtered.
At that time I was living with my midget white mutant Siamese cat, Simone; a hippy friend Chris, and his dog; and a skin head friend Weanel, and his mastiff.
An interesting, and not necessarily balanced mix.
Two men used to visit regularly, coming from further up north, around the Nelson region.
Almost a caricature couple, one, John Smith (I jest you not) was a huge Maori man, and his friend was a compact Pakeha, Paul Jones.
They used drugs, expensive synthetic opiates if I remember rightly, but somehow balanced a lifestyle of quite high earning crime, with layover periods of getting extremely wasted (this was the time when I would see them).
New Zealand at that time seemed to have plentiful jobs available as ‘debt collectors’. I had friends who would occasionally contemplate doing a stint of this unsavoury, sometimes violent work, but this duo were hired heavies and debt collectors on a permanent basis.
John and Paul were both well and conservatively dressed. Paul, the smaller of the two came across as more talkative and proactive, whilst his friend was very quiet; not stupid, just withdrawn.
Post drug taking I used to sit on the sofa and talk to John, whilst his friend would buzz around talking, moving back and forth to the kitchen to see what was going on and being generally hyper active.
The talking was intermittent as John would always play classical guitar when he was stoned. I could seriously say he was one of the most incredible guitarists I have ever heard, and that includes on recordings and in concerts.
They were an odd couple and when I first knew them, I suspect that they were only occasional drug users, which eventually escalated into full on addiction, an addiction which would explain their later life choices.
At one point I was chatting to John and I found out he and his companion were doing finger/ leg breaking and similar violent work for a racist, far right organisation, which aside from being horrific I thought extremely odd, in view of John’s race.
I didn’t see them both for a while, and I heard that they had spent a period of time in prison.
The last time we did meet, it was in the same flat. John was now missing two fingers on his right hand (and yes, he was right handed). He told me that he had deliberately had ‘an accident’ with a chain saw, so that he could get a large payment from the New Zealand Accident Compensation board.
He seemed calm enough about relearning the guitar, but then, he seemed calm about everything.