Phantom Blog

Phantom Blog

Flora for the concrete jungle

A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 20/11/15

Jim Wilson’s Blog, 20 November 2015


It could be I’m just peeved from restless dreams last night. I was dreaming about Levon Helm again. Levon was a truth teller and we all know that. You get them every so often in the music industry and then everyone grows a beard, gets glasses and boots like they were a graphic designer and follows in behind. The ones who follow make all the cash. The guy in the front gets cancer and a weight on his shoulders. Still, who’d want to be Phil Collins?

Yesterday afternoon a young couple checked into this old Victorian-style boarding house where I am staying in New Jersey. I have the very top garret on the third floor and there is a shoebox room next to me and the young couple got it.

The guy bore a close resemblance to Steve McQueen and he looked like he’d fight anything going and lots of things that weren’t going as well. He must have been 28 and he drove a ’78 Corvette Stingray with plenty of rust and deeply sensuous headlights. This young man had dirty blond hair and wore Peter Fonda sunglasses. His co-offender was a Guatemalan woman, about 19, and she was sultry, beautiful and obviously difficult to please. Like all of them she wore red, which is the colour of her temperament. Jet-black hair tumbled across her face and down her back. She also had black eyes. They all do. I’ve met a few.

The man was a New Jersey hillbilly and she was a free spirit. I’ve seen it before. In the end, no one is happy.

In the middle of the night, I was woken by sounds that were like a Panzer division moving into the forests around Stalingrad in 1942. I could hear the tanks screeching and thrusting and then reversing back for cover as the Red Army retaliated in the snow. Or seemingly so. There was a rhythm, a climb and a crescendo to all of this and it went up and down and it was demonic. I began to hear Shostakovich’s “The Leningrad Symphony”, but I also recognised that Levon Helm was driving one of them tanks. He wanted the ultimate fruition and victory as well. It’s not very often you get that in this make-believe and pretend world. The tank commanders were screaming over their radios to each other and laughing deliriously. Leningrad or Petersburg what does it matter, it’s always the same old story. It’s a wolf pack out there and it’s coming to get you if you stand still.

With all these noises coming from the shoebox, I slowly came to realise that there was also a film crew in the hallway. I had a spiritual awakening when I grasped that all this was all about a remaking of “Debbie Does Dallas”. Yes, all of this was synthetic and none of it was real at all. It seems everyone has a role to play and they more comfortable doing that.

But, I felt very disappointed.

Like everyone, when I am pushed too far I can retaliate and I have certain principles which I will fight for. I have a decent sort of fury, but I have learnt the hard way that it is pointless to fight with the ‘eggs’ of this life. My grandmother had red hair, my mother had flecks of it and I have the temperament as well.

Here are some of the things that slut me to the very bottom of my ball bag and some that I love as well:


  1. Critics who are merely wrecking balls. I despise them. There’s a lot of beauty in this life. These ‘critics’ often have a stab at people who have talent and have worked hard to get where they are. We should respect them for that. These free roaming critics are not Lester Bangs and they ain’t Kenneth Tynan. Mind you, the public does like to see people thrown to the lions. Some people just wake up in the morning looking for something to hate.”A neurosis is a secret that you don’t know you are keeping.” – K. Tynan.Still, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to Phil Collins and there are some New Zealand bands that deserve to be on a fishing boat off the Chatham Islands.


  1. Political Correctness. This is just one more way of stopping people from expressing themselves. Then the people who can’t have their say vote the way the noisy people don’t like. This silent majority don’t like being screamed at by Internet bullies and so they just make sure they vote. I have some good friends who work in a gas station here in New Jersey and they just say what they think. None of them are on Facebook and I’m sure they carry Glocks. To each man his own.


  1. I don’t like a lot about ‘social welfare’ because I believe it creates dependency and encourages the idea that someone else should pay for your pity party. Further to this I might add that I Love social welfare where it is truly needed. My mum and dad died in Dunedin, New Zealand with mere pennies to their name. If they lived in this day and age they could not afford ‘commercialised rest home care’ as we now have in New Zealand.


  1. I detest the fact that many of our elderly go without because some bike gang is selling amphetamine and is on the dole at the same time.


  1. Now jail and imprisonment: There are some Morts in this life who need to be locked up forever. Then there are some people who feel sorry for these people. They stir up others in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘mercy’. Norman Mailer campaigned to get Jack Henry Abbot out of jail in the 1970s (1980s?) and then he (Jack Henry Abbot) stabbed a waiter a month later. Criminals usually want to wreck everything in their lives because they are afraid of the sunlight. They are there to take and not to give. I’ve been to jail; I know what it’s like. I enjoyed it. We all laughed a lot. We were the kind of people who would take advantage of anything.


  1. If you are going to be a doctor, you should do it for Love and not a Maserati in the driveway. You don’t need the silk shirts and ties, you need to wear a sack and give your expertise away.


  1. If you are in a band or in the Arts, then appreciate that good management will get you to where you want to go whilst you are laying in your bed at 2pm having your toenails painted, taking drugs, and screwing the bass player’s girlfriend. Give thanks and appreciation because you most probably are not the centre of the universe. Your manager might have more talent than you. The guy who owns the venue deserves some respect as well.


  1. I abhor ‘commercial radio’ and commercial media because I believe it is helping to create an ever more unreal environment. I believe a country (and radio and media) that is run by businessmen will have a hefty price to pay in health care because people need a real and genuine culture to dress themselves in. In New Zealand, we have mostly dreadful radio, television and newspapers. New Zealand is just too small to have schlock.


  1. ‘News Shows’ – don’t get me started. And this goes double for Internet ‘posts’. I am sure that someone will tell us all soon that water is bad for us and that we should drink more orange juice.


  1. The business of taking sides is irksome but if I had to take a guess I would say that Russia is a criminal enterprise and that Israel might act the way it does because of the holocaust. I’d say that Isis needs a damn good killing.


  1. Paradoxically, I don’t much like people who stand on the sidelines either, but me? I prefer to build for Beauty.


  1. Methadone Clinics? I don’t like them (though I have met some very good souls within them) because it’s so easy to be having a bad day and to go in and complain and come out dependent on a brand new drug that will do more harm than good.


  1. I can’t say I like people who take three or four pieces of hand luggage on commercial airlines flights. By and large it is not the Americans who do this anymore, it is people from those countries that are going through explosive capitalist growth. These people are also becoming very loud. Rampant capitalism encourages people to not think about how others may feel.


  1. It annoys me that one has to pay to visit Karl Marx’s grave in London. But I’ve also read he was a spendthrift who put his missus through hell. It obviously ain’t what you dance, it’s the way you dance it. People will say what they want to believe.


  1. I despise ‘liberals’ who promise to help and then just never return your telephone calls. The best lessons I have heard in this life are from people who told me to go away and do it myself. I have always found liberals to promise all these things to everyone without any effort required because they like looking gushingly in the mirror at themselves. There is not enough money nor expertise in this world to meet everyone’s desires, wants and ‘needs’.


  1. I can’t say I like the idea of government funds being allocated to people who work off a system and then pay off their mates. That ain’t rock and roll, that’s genocide. It’s just not cool.


  1. I spell and punctuate as I see fit. On my arm is tattooed ” ‘Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry. – Jack Kerouac’ “. Jack was a rolling and tumbling kind of writer and I like that.


  1. I saw a politician complaining about car park charges in Christchurch recently. Is this a job? Liberate the people and give them free car parks? That don’t sound right to me.


  1. Punk Rock Music changed my life. The night I saw The Vauxhalls in the Mt Pleasant Community Centre Hall in Christchurch I was uplifted. That gig gave me strength and impetus.


  1. I don’t see how anyone could write a book after Don Quixote but I’m glad a few people did: Thomas Pynchon, Barry Hannah, Larry Brown, W. Faulkner, F. Dostoevsky, L. Tolstoy, Michel Houellebecq and Janet Frame. I can’t say I like any Irish guff, but then, in our consciousness we are all drunken Irish men and women. It’s worms in there baby. Keep coming back, we love you!


  1. However, I like a good Irish beef stew. Don’t tell me about tofu; use your time in a more valuable way.


  1. I wish my dad had stood up. He’s been dead for 35 years or more and I’m still waiting. I use his voice in the meantime.


  1. I admire people who have had to fight for everything they have got. Inherited wealth ruins people and whole countries.


  1. It’s hard to write from the heart. They kill people like that.


  1. I love poets. In New Zealand I can immediately think of four or five who deserve statues in the park. These people are the true heroes. It’s hard to write from the soul, but I’ve already said that. It’s much easier to just give the people what they want and then to climb the pop charts and to pretend it’s art at the same time. They’ll buy you champagne for that.


  1. Graham Brazier was a True Legend as was Daniel Keighley. Both men had huge hearts. They died for it.


  1. Some people make better music drunk than when they are sober. Just being ‘sober’ is not an excuse for having no life. In my books, you can be 35 years sober and in a worse state than a drunk down the street.


  1. If you work for someone else, try and bypass how difficult you find them to be and strive to be patient and grateful. There are times when this is just impossible because psychopaths and sociopaths sometimes rise to the top. But, I often find that people and employees would rather complain about the boss than go and do something for themselves.


Lastly, I saw someone using a squeegee on car windows in the mist here in New Jersey the other morning. This guy was cleaning other peoples’ windscreens up and down the street and no one else would have known. I saw this as an act of Love & Faith. Try it, it works.


And, as John Adams said: “The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he is born.”


That’s wisdom whereas I am just a fool.



A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 22/10/15

Jim Wilson’s Blog, 22 October 2015


I am living in New Jersey and it is a very pleasant time of year with the leaves changing colours and everything. Shortly it will begin to get cold but as for now the air is merely fresh. The autumn colours of New Jersey are every bit as delightful as those in Central Otago. I love waking up to the sounds of V8 engines outside the window. I love it that it will snow in a month or so.

I’ve just spent five weeks travelling through Europe putting up poetry posters and mine is a privileged position for which I have a lot of gratitude. My life has never been easy but sometimes it has been very sweet.

I began putting up poetry posters wherever I could about six or seven years ago. The act of merely doing this expresses most everything that I believe about this life. When life has handed me a lemon (and it has done this many times) I have always steered towards that which is beautiful.

Some people, places and things exist only to drag other people down. A man does his best in difficult circumstances. There is so much bitterness, violence, sarcasm and irony floating around the world these days that you may have thought we would have changed as a species. And yet, I actually think we’ve all gotten worse. New accusations are leveled every day and seemingly everyone knows how to do things better. A bloke who has never worked in a manager’s position knows how to manage everything better and so on and so forth. A guy screws a chicken, ends up in jail, and is never forgiven. People like to hold on to things like an old-timer at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting who is still talking about that slice of toast and butter he had on that bad night 35 years ago.

I believe people can change.

But, it is a long way easier to carry a burden than it is to let it go and hatred and distemper are major burdens for people everywhere. In New Zealand, we have paradise on earth and yet I see so many unhappy citizens. A lot of them have everything they could possibly need and more.

I’ve had some very touching things happen to me lately.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Paris and then I flew into the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. It is always stressful for me to face Customs and Immigration in any country, but particularly in the USA.

I have to have a ‘waiver of ineligibility’ to enter here. I tried for more than twenty years (making some bad mistakes along the way) before I was granted one. I am not eligible to live in the USA because of a Heroin conviction dating from 1974 and I have convictions dating up to 1992 that make even coming here for a short period something that can be disputed and it has been.

But there is genuine human kindness at every turn and I just believe that people have a deep fear of being ‘touched’ emotionally. A lot of people would rather go in the direction of the anger.  I’ve been there and it was a bad trip. That place is where you lose all your faith.

At Customs and Immigration in Philly the first officer at the desk, looking at my computer profile, asked me what the hell I had done, had I smoked something weird back in the 1970 and listened to some Grateful Dead maybe? Well, that’s weird enough, but I said, “No, worse than that. It was Heroin and Cocaine and I took it the man’s way and I was a chemist burglar.”

He loosened up given my honesty and became a human soul and a kind and caring one at that. It’s remarkable where you can meet these people. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t being either defensive or angry, I was just being me. I am prepared to be vulnerable because I consider that I have nothing to lose. I’ve been kicked by the best in the trade.

On the walk out the back to my ‘second interview’, the officer walked like John Wayne and he was quite a cowboy. He must have been six foot three and he had quite a big mop of tousled, black, Italian hair. He told me that he’d just worked in downtown Philadelphia on security during the Pope’s visit. A good Catholic I would have thought. The new Pope seems like a very kind man and yet you see some people railing against him and suggesting there is some kind of conspiracy afoot.

At “Secondary” there were three officers sitting at an elevated bench slightly above me. They asked why I couldn’t get a Green Card and I said that having a Heroin conviction, even if it is from 1974, makes me completely ineligible. I said, “Not even an 85-year-old big time Jewish lawyer with nose hairs from downtown Philadelphia could fix that” and they howled with laughter and they hooted and gesticulated. That’s a damn good dose of humanity to be carrying on with. Laughter breaks ice.

The woman who interviewed me said that her brother was currently going through a Heroin relapse and this touched me to the very bottom of my soul. That’s what I live for. Poetry, music and writing quite often reach me in this way too and so I really am grateful. But I’m just like anyone else, I have a synthetic layer to be carrying on with and yet underneath am a frightened kid who likes to come out and play when it’s safe.

The second touching episode happened when I was having a burger down at Five Guys in Wayne, Pennsylvania. An old guy pulled into the parking lot in a Volvo Station Wagon. He had to be about 95 years of age and he was accompanied by a fine doggie that must have been heading for 37. I love people who love animals and my doggies have gotten me over some tough hills.

The old man was wearing a sweatshirt from a local high school and Mister Magoo type eyeglasses. The glasses had so much magnification that I am sure they would have highlighted Mars if a person with ordinary sight looked through them. This gentle looking man wasn’t an inch over five feet tall and he was almost completely doubled over.

At this age he was kind, of course he was. Anger cannot usually get people through a long life because it tends to chew up the body. Anger and fear often have people hiding in the corner of damp apartments and all by themselves. I’ve been there in my life and I didn’t like that very much. I put needles into my arms in those apartments and with water running down the wallpaper as well. At the time I thought I was shooting up love but I was really just loathing the world and myself.

At Five Guys, they have sacks of peanuts in their shells that you can eat whilst you wait on your order. I saw the old man hunch all the way out the door in small, kindly and unsure steps and then he slowly fed his dog peanuts. This made me feel really good and I need to see kindness to survive. I need kindness to get myself out of the building and to live my day.  I’m sure we all do and I think the best thing to do is to give kindness away wherever you can.

The third touching episode was at a shoe store. I had put the toe out of my sneakers on the European leg of the trip. I went to a shoe store owned by two Italian brothers. The brothers were both in their 60s. I believe the store is called “D’Amicantonio & Sons” and it is also in Wayne, Pa. The two brothers had me try on dozens of pairs of shoes over the course of two hours before I spent less than $85. Their grandfather, an immigrant from Italy, started the store in 1932 and it has existed since then. It is no fad or flight of the imagination, it is real.

Their father was in the USA Army at Anzio beach in 1944, which wasn’t a particularly nice place to be. The brothers (Lou and Bob) showed me two pairs of shoes that their grandfather had made in the 1930s for a woman who died before she got to wear them. Good manners and good service is one thing, but an authentic approach to life is something else again.

The brothers were dismayed that the internet had taken a lot of business, but they weren’t shrill and opinionated and they were philosophical. Sometimes in this life the best things don’t work and you have to let them go. The brothers felt to me to be sad yet true.

The new album by Keith Richards (‘Crosseyed Heart’ is superb and he has become easily the bluesman that his heroes (Robert Johnson and the like) were in their day. It is a tender, warm, sincere, and joyful album and is the best thing I have heard for probably a decade. Every so often one comes down the pike, a person unafraid to express himself in a good way.

In America, I’ve learned that there is a new trend in psychiatry back to ‘talk therapy’ (genuine human contact). In a major study conducted by the government, it has been found that many schizophrenics do better with talk and ‘understanding’ and a reduction in pharmaceutical intervention. Many schizophrenics have fewer hallucinations and are able to work better and have healthier lives by talking out their souls. I have thought this may have been the case all the way through these last two or three Prozac Decades (my term). I think it’s a crazy, crazy thing for any government to deprive a person of that which is real and that which touches us to our souls and that which so obviously sustains us. The tests results are not saying to jump off medication, they are merely saying that people like warmth and understanding as well and that this can improve people.

Anyway, that’s my five cents worth. I’m off to walk a hill by myself.


I hope love and peace live within you,



Jim Wilson


A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 14/09/15

Jim Wilson’s Blog, 14 September 2015


I think a true thing about life is to find something you love and then to stick to it like glue. Love, after all, is more like oxygen than oxygen itself. And we do need lots of oxygen in this life.

It has been a week since Graham Brazier left us and I have been thinking about what to write since then. The day after he died my back gave out and I was in quite a bit of pain. Then I felt the huge, black scraping arm of death above me as well and I got just a little bit morbid there for a bit. Graham meant a lot to many of us here in the Shaky Isles. The very idea of Graham was huge in local music.

Many years ago, being a New Zealand rock ‘n’ roll promoter and needing a break from the sadness of it all and from just being me, I would travel to Penang for ‘Heroin Holidays’. I would stay at the glorious, old and decadent New China Hotel. This destination was on what you might call the ‘Beat Route’ and my mates and I would go there and read Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. We’d recite poetry and sing songs to each other. Then, spent, we’d fall asleep in each other’s arms like men can do if they try. The seemingly natural aggression of men would be gone for a while and we liked it leaving us. Sometimes we’d play cricket out the front of the hotel and we’d laugh a lot.

In the foyer of the hotel, there would be ten heavy-duty Chinese guys with sunglasses and wearing hats (it sometimes seemed like they were actually wearing tea cosies on their heads). They’d be playing poker and grimacing at each other. In the rooms, there were no carpeting or blankets, but there was a giant old ceiling fan that one could study for hours a day. This, to us, was a very worthwhile existence. We didn’t watch television or read the newspapers. The internet wasn’t around and so life was a lot more peaceful on that account as well. We didn’t hear every five minutes that a cop had been shot ten thousand miles away. We weren’t endlessly gazing at people who were obviously doing better than us.

But you had to be careful in Penang because nearby was the Australian Air Force base at Butterworth. You’d get drunken and violent Australians pumped up and walking the streets with prostitutes. In every stomp, they’d be defending their manhood and I’m sure alcohol does shrink the dicks of many men and often makes them belligerent as a compensation. They steal their love like thieves in the night.

At one stage at the New China, I shared a large room with some of these prostitutes and they’d tell me about the Australians. I always found it interesting what respectable men will do when they can and what lies beneath the ‘thin veneer of civilisation’.

Anyway, when you walked the streets of Penang dozens of people came up wanting to sell you the local delicacy, ‘Pink Rocks’ (Pink Rock Heroin). At that stage, it was what was keeping the economy afloat and now of course it’s shoes all around the world that keeps the money flowing in and out of the banks. We are all trading shoes with each other, man!

If a Heroin dealer really wanted to attract your attention he’d say: “I know the Chinaman.” What he was telling you was that he was extraordinarily well connected. My man was called Alphonse and I’m here to tell you he really did know the Chinaman.

If I remember correctly, the first time Hello Sailor came to my attention was when they played the Gladstone Hotel in Christchurch around about 1976 or 1977. The pub at that time was owned by local legend John McCarthy.  The gig room was booked by Robin ‘Oz’ Armstrong. These guys are two of the unsung heroes of New Zealand music. Oz told me a few years later that he’d be racing around town on the Sunday morning trying to sell 1000 Buddha Sticks in order to pay the band. That makes it a genuine gig and that’s what music used to be like. It probably still is this way but only if it’s real. It’s all a big gambling game.

Anyway, I can’t say that I knew Graham Brazier that particularly well and so I never really knew the Chinaman.  Hello Sailor played for me a lot over the years and Graham and Dave particularly seemed to always have a smile for everyone. The band came back to New Zealand from Los Angeles sometime in the late 1970s after exhausting themselves trying to go to ‘another level’ in the world. They didn’t crack America and yet they were truly of top shelf quality. Someone got a bad hand because this was one of the very best bands I have ever seen.

In music, it’s as much about ‘the breaks’ as much as anything. If you can play the kind of music that is getting very popular on radio, during your rise and yet make it seem like it’s all your own and that you created it, then you will probably do well. If you can look the part then this helps a lot as well. It’s also best to have sex with music journalists and it pays to wear skinny jeans and to have a beard and to sound wistful keeping in mind that everyone is lonely. If you have a lot of money behind you and a good marketing machine then you should break through. Rumours and photographs of your bad behaviour will help. Join in the popular political movements of the day and play the benefit gigs. There will be curry in your pot if you can do these things.

I saw Graham a lot over the years and at one stage I had quite a correspondence with Dave McArtney. In these last four years since I have been back in New Zealand, I’d call into Graham’s shop a bit. He did some writing and sketching for me and also sang me a song from time to time. Mostly, people surrounded him and he had 20,000 mates as everyone knows. This made it difficult for me to truly connect with him. He was hung like the Statue of Liberty and I’ve seen it.

Most of all what impresses me is that Graham was a good bloke and that is the highest realm in New Zealand. He was a man who had a great deal of feeling for the music he played so well. I mean he ‘felt it’, he wasn’t faking it for radio play and that would be beneath contempt for him. Graham also felt for the man or woman on the street who is just trying to cobble together a living. He was in the very same position. Times are hard as everyone knows and Graham never put himself above anyone. He said to a mate of mine one day that there were now more musicians than plumbers and he meant it in the way you might think he did. He stayed true until the day he died.


Keep the Faith,


Jim Wilson




A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 06/05/15

Jim Wilson’s Blog, 6 March 2015


The bloke in the photograph with me is Terry, an old style hillbilly from Tennessee. Me and Terry shared a single-wide in a trailer park off the Calfkiller Road in Cookeville, Tennessee during the winter and spring of 1991.

I was struggling to get ‘clean’ from narcotics at the time and going to lots of 12 Step meetings and the like. Terry had supposedly been free of drugs for about three years, but shortly after I moved in I found that he had burgled some kind of motorcycle shop and was selling the leather jackets and doing a roaring trade. He was also selling Dilaudid (like a kiss from an angel Dilaudid is) and handguns. These days I think junkies sell rocket-propelled grenades.

Sleeping on the lounge floor in the trailer was a 17 year old Indian ‘squaw’ called Rachel and Terry would say: “Get you some of that.” Rachel’s boyfriend, Billy, was in a juvenile jail at the time. Billy was a real good bloke and a quintessential and qualitative hillbilly type, but Rachel and Billy just couldn’t hold it together and it was like a mule talking to a fish.

When the drugs and alcohol step into a person’s life in the way they did for Rachel and Billy, then being just one day clean is a mind altering and genuine miracle.

There is much less of a social welfare system in the USA than in New Zealand and so when an addict hits ‘rock bottom’ it tends to go deeper and deeper. It is hard to know what to do, but I think drug addiction is strangling much of society and we need to find out why these people are unhappy. Because I’m ‘old school’, I think they actually are unhappy and that there is no glamour in drug addiction. Keith Richards or no Keith Richards.

You want to smoke a joint? Fine. That’s not drug addiction as I know it.

While I was living with Terry I met another hillbilly at an AA meeting and he saved my life. I worked on his lifestyle farm for about a year. He was a tough gentleman who had been of quite a substantial rank in the US Army. I built up my ‘clean time’ and became fit and healthy again. I received constant care and love from a staunch group of people for the longest time and I became less afraid. I was then more capable of making new friends and they sustained me and still do. These people are on a different pathway in life to the black suited demons that I used to hang around with. Evil is as evil does. No question about that. Watch what they do because they are still doing it.

I met my good mate Russell Pirie in about 1973 in Christchurch. We shot a lot of speed together and my overwhelming memory of him is that soon after we met we were in Cashel Street on his Suzuki 500. It was a bright and sunny Christchurch day and the Garden City is world class on days like this and y’all know that.

On this day, the speed that we had been shooting had made us paranoid and Russell thought he saw a cop (Jim Marshall, head of the drug squad at the time) and so he gunned the bike through town. He didn’t stop until we were crouched behind a rock somewhere out in Ferrymead and shooting speed again. I have no idea how we explained that to ourselves. I also think Jim Marshall was in Queenstown at the time.

Russell was an adopted kid of part Maori descent (but raised by white people) and I have noticed over time that adopted kids sometimes have a harder time of it and quite a few become addicts. They often have no sense of attachment and have shaky lives because of that fact.

Russell did a detention centre leg and he may have done two or three borstals in Invercargill. Then he might have done a small one in Paparua. I honestly can’t remember, but I do know that he did at least one borstal and something in Pap. He was dead proud of all of this. He was a real good looking bloke and with a heart of gold, but I think he was looking desperately for something his whole life through. We shared girlfriends, we shared needles, we did all that good stuff and we were ‘attached’ as much as we could be. When you’re racing down Ferry Road on a Suzuki 500 at 75mph, or more, then you are definitely attached.

At one point in Christchurch we were all having a hard time getting a decent supply of opiates and speed and so Russell became hooked on barbiturates (Tuinal, Seconal, Nembutal). Doctors used to throw these in the streets for all comers like it was all a lollie scramble. They (the doctors and drugs companies) also kept inventing these drugs that supposedly cured drug addiction and each one was worse than the last. I got out alive (today) how about you?

Here are a couple of Russell Pirie stories from this period of time:

Russell ‘stepped out’ the whole public bar in Warners Hotel in Christchurch one day. This was where the Polynesians drank at the time and Russell woke up on the South Brighton bus stop several hours later.

One time Russell, high on barbiturates, dove into a swimming pool. Unfortunately, the pool was empty and Russell suffered quite severe injuries. He climbed out and dived in again. Broken collarbones were his forte. He had a passion for self-degradation. Junkies often do. Hard to arrest that.

At one stage in 1975 I burgled a chemist shop and there was pure Heroin in it. My co-offender and I were hot (I was on bail for other chemist shop burglaries at the time) and so we ended up dividing the dope in Russell’s flat down England Street. This was as far away from the cops as we could get and it wasn’t very far.

Whilst we were dividing the jar of Heroin over a Formica counter, some was spilling. We were in a hurry of course and Russell was scratching up what we were spilling. He shot it and overdosed and turned blue on the floor he did.

At the time Russell was going out with ‘Bill’ Rowling’s daughter and Wallace was Prime Minister of New Zealand. Russell had been to government house and had fallen asleep in the spaghetti bolognese at dinner which he, of course, found to be hilarious. I still laugh about it myself.

In England Street, down by the famous England Street hall, Bill’s daughter (Janey?) was on the floor trying to force a fish tank hose down Russell’s throat to help him breathe. My co-offender and I beat the feet as junkies worldwide like to do. My co-offender died of a Heroin overdose in Warner’s Hotel the next night. The cops came and got me to identify the body, wouldn’t you?

But, Russell lived and went on to shoot some guy dead with a gun in Christchurch some years later as part of a drug deal. That’s closing the deal for sure. He ended up doing ‘life’ in Paremoremo and a lot of it in ‘D Block’. I visited him from time to time and he never stopped laughing. Good Christ we laughed.

He got out (a life sentence at the time was anywhere between 10-15 years) and received some sort of payment through ACC as we all have done in our time. It’s a bad move for an addict to use such funds to get a Harley Davidson and Russell came off that bike in South Brighton and il est mort. I miss him, of course I do, I still laugh sometimes when I think of what we did.

“Addiction” is a savage ‘disease’ and there are many strands to it. People often hurt themselves and many times they laugh. They have strange and unusual accidents and even years after they have been ‘clean and sober’. The devil follows them closely and makes smash and grab attempts at taking them back to what they managed to leave and with a great deal of grief and sorrow to boot.

There are various branches and subsets of the disease of addiction and I must say I have often found some clean and sober people to be more difficult than ‘using’ junkies who tend to get to the truth and quickly. But, you know, the quality of mercy is never strained…

I am glad I have moved forward. I do (as they say) get by with a little help from my friends. Here’s to you, Russell Pirie…





A Tinker’s Cuss – Jim Wilson’s Blog, 19/03/15

Jim Wilson’s Blog, 19 March 2015


I wanted to say a little bit about the French person here on Koh Samui in Thailand.

The French person gets about the place with an innate sense of superiority and casts around sneering at the whole human race and exfoliating socialist fumes on everyone. They believe that everyone would be fine if they only did as they (the French person) wished.

The French person always has two selfie sticks in both back pockets. Now, it’s difficult to sit down with four selfie sticks aboard and it’s just lucky that the French person likes to stand as they deliver you a lecture stemming from their deep and inner intellectualism and academic egalitarian working-class background.

I remember having two French teachers in high school. The first one’s name was Evans and his Christian name was so strange I can’t for the life of me recall it. He taught us in one of those big towers at Otago Boys’ High School in Dunedin. What I most remember about him was that he thought France was infinitely superior to Great Britain and then by association New Zealand. He flung his long, gangly arms wide open and around as he spoke like he was getting ready to sign a peace treaty with the rebels in Algeria and yet at the same time wanted to tell them just how morally in the wrong they were. He had enormous hairy nostrils that flared cavernously as he paced up and down the room with his cane ready to deliver a decent Froggie Thwack as he went. He owed it to us and that was the egalitarian part of the equation.

Monsieur Evans tried to teach us how to speak French by starting with the nasal passages and arms first and by then working backwards. If he weren’t so damn interesting he would have been a completely repulsive human being. I believe the whole Flying Nun music explosion started as anguish in one of those classrooms and most probably in those nostrils right there. I bet Monsieur Evans drove a Ford out of a feeling of doing something generous for the Americans too.

The second French teacher was at Linwood High School in Christchurch. His name was Peter Sharp and he was a very good-looking, blonde haired athletic type. From memory, he played cricket for the Canterbury cricket team and he was very good at it. He commanded everyone’s attention in the classroom and then he demanded utmost concentration. If he thought you weren’t concentrating, then he’d fast bowl a piece of chalk at you. I believe he did this merely so that he could get some bowling practice in. I don’t know how well he aged. I can merely tell you that he was a prick when he was young. But I think we learned a lot from him too and there’s the rub.

My parents and I moved to Christchurch from Dunedin when I was 13 or 14. My brother died in a tractor accident on a road gang in Dunedin shortly after that.

When we moved to Christchurch, I met one of my very best mates and a joker who was a brother to me his whole life through. His name was Mike Jones and his mum owned a dairy down by the railway tracks on Wilson’s Road. Our family lived just across the street. My mum worked in Melhuish’s pickle factory that was almost next door to our house and my dad worked at Stainless Castings in Woolston. This was good work for both of them and they enjoyed it. It took me a while to get used to a Christchurch summer after a Dunedin one, but I enjoyed the change. Christchurch just seemed to have more fresh air.

A notion of what being a brother means is that he has been with me my whole life through and I have always cherished having good mates. There is nothing better for me than the feeling of being part of a team.

Mike Jones played bass in various Christchurch bands and when we were sixteen we hired the Mount Pleasant Community Centre hall to run dances. This would have been in 1968. We did a lot of these gigs and it was wildly good fun. We did gigs in the halls all around Christchurch in fact and this was well before bands really played the pubs as all hotels closed at 6pm.

The Mount Pleasant Community Centre Hall was mostly where I ‘cut my teeth’ in Kiwi music. I saw what could happen and not much new came after this. Oh, they keep on calling it different names, but it’s basically the same. We would get 600 or 800 people in that hall on a Saturday night and there would be ten bouncers working for us. You needed ten bouncers because half the hall might have had 570 people and the other half had 30 ‘Epitaph Riders’. The Epitaph Riders were the local bike gang well before everyone was either in a bike gang or selling coffee or amphetamines.

I remember that after these dances, Mike and I and a half a dozen others drove our Bradfords, Bedfords, Austins and Vauxhalls down to the Silver Grille on Manchester Street for a late night steak. I always drove a Volkswagen but mostly because I can’t stand the French. I guess you know.

One of our bouncers at these hall gigs (known in wrestling circles as ‘Dr Death’) ended up being a screw in Paparua Prison when I was incarcerated there on drugs offences a few years later. Then some of those Epitaph Riders became my best mates in jail. Dougal Johnson was one of them and but for him (and a few others) I would have been a real broken arse. As it was, I enjoyed it.

Loss, what do I know about loss? What could I possibly know…

Mike Jones became a junkie for a while and ended up in jail for manufacturing Heroin in the 1980s. I have many proud memories of him and here is one: at one time in Christchurch one of the ‘heaviest’ guys around was known as Griff and he terrorised many in the ‘home-bake community’ by taking their dope off them and other ‘rorts that a junkie will pull in order to survive.

‘Griff’ went around to Mike’s place one day in South Brighton and demanded Mike’s Morphine. Mike refused and so Griff got out a pair of scissors to cut a finger off. Mike was highly intoxicated and not making any sense at all, but he bellowed: “Go ahead” and this was when Griff had the scissors open across Mike’s fingers and he was screaming and ready to go as well. “Go ahead!”

You can’t and don’t call a policeman in a situation like this. Not before or after. You know it, the other guy knows it. Mike kept his fingers and the Morphine.

Funny the things you can feel proud of.

The stuff I know about Kiwi music doesn’t seem to fit into any particular format. I see others write about Kiwi music and I mostly don’t enjoy reading it (or worse I get angry). It seems that they always miss what are, for me, essential points. But I think we’re probably all like this (we have unique experiences) and meanwhile Facebook is driving us all mad and wanting our fingers to boot. They already have our minds it would seem.

I am committed to not looking at Facebook after 4pm. I’d rather get some fresh air.

Mike died about six years ago after he had interferon treatment for Hepatitis C which is not a very popular thing to get and yet a virus that almost all junkies attract. The treatment is worse than the virus. He developed liver cancer and he went to the wall very quickly. His voice is with me every day and mostly the way he played bass. I feel it rather than hear it and the man went to his grave still capable of raising a snarl.


Who could wish for more?