‘The possibility of physical and mental breakdown is now very real. No sympathy for the devil, keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.’
-Hunter S Thompson
…and it’s not big or clever but it’s usually been funny on those rare occasions when I’ve done it. So I knew I was going to.
Vasquez is apparently ahead of us all, literally and figuratively- a few cars in front, cruising in the inside lane. His silver van is loaded with all of all of our bags, and he himself is loaded with a cocktail of Stella, weed and coke. I am just glad to be in Hicks’ car; neither of us has taken anything.
But the night has not yet begun.
As early Noughties’ garage music blasts out of the stereo, Hicks encroaches on Vasquez’s van. Unassumingly, Vasquez pulls left into the middle lane, allowing Hicks to cruise up the inside next to him. I loosen my seatbelt. This is going to be more idiotic than taking the drugs, and I know that explaining an immense pile-up on the M60 could be required of me if this goes wrong. That’s if I survive.
Hicks asks, ‘Are you ready?’ and he winds down my window electronically.
I slacken the seatbelt as far out as I can. ‘Yep. Let’s do it.’
Hicks, pedal-to-the-metal, cruises past Vasquez’s van as I force my bare arse out of the window frame. I have never felt cold air flow over that particular part of me. Through the available space around my body, I can look back and make out Vasquez’s double take- a facial mixture of surprise, horror and amusement. For a moment I think the air is going to bend my whole body in half and suck me out onto the tarmac, Goldfinger style.
Blackpool: The George’s Hotel is not exactly a hotel at all. It’s a budget B’n’B, but that’s all we want. We are the only group of lads in the hotel- the only other guests are 2 large groups of nubile girls. Oh well, I think. I’ve been in worse situations…
Everyone’s queuing up for the shower only there’s an obstacle of sorts- Apone’s on the toilet in the same room with the door wide open, playing with his disturbingly large cock that disappears deep inside the toilet bowl. In order to get showered you’ve got to get past him, and he’s having one of the foulest shits ever smelled. It is like a man has dipped his hand into raw sewage, and is now using it to karate-chop you in the throat.
Apone runs his tongue over the inside of his lips. He looks almost confused. “My mouth tastes like a badger’s arse,” he says.
“I hate that particular taste,” I randomly retort.
“Hudson,” shouts Apone. “My poo’s not coming out right. It’s all wrong!
Hudson, far from a proctologist, admits he does not know what to do about that situation.
We’d all struggled finding lifeguard outfits. Hudson had actually rang me- coincidentally- at the moment I was at the front of the queue in TK Maxx trying to buy some cheap red shorts, as part of that theme. He’d said we’re scrapping the ‘lifeguards’ idea and going as whatever. I got the green light to use the fireman outfit that a flatmate gave me when I left uni all those years ago. So I’m slamming it on in this hotel room, fully aware of it’s power. Women love it. This afternoon we will be out in force: me as a fireman, Apone a cross-dressing black nun, Hudson a cross dressing white, erm, dude, Drake playing Julius Caesar, Burke as Scooby Doo, Hicks as Scuba Steve, Gorman as a Knight and Vasquez as a Mexican Gringo with a technicolour poncho and hat that pretty much covered his entire body like a disguise.
I emerge into the corridor feeling like an absolute pimp- the steel-toecap boots, the heavy trousers that reflect at the cuffs, the braces holding them up covered by the thick warm jacket emblazoned with the reflective strip right across the chest. I don’t need a yellow helmet to get the message across- it would only get robbed by a pisshead anyway.
We line up outside Hudson’s room. One by one, the Fifty is handed to us and we hoover up a short line of coke each. It is time to take on Blackpool.
Tower bar, located directly underneath the iconic Blackpool Tower, is rammed. The windows are blacked out, making it easy to forget what time of day it is. The booze begins to flow.
Scuba Steve lowers his wetsuit to his waist, oozing sweat. The front of his t-shirt, damp from being pressed against his body, reads ‘Swallow- or it’s going in your eye!’ Whoever notices, Scuba will turn around to show them the back, which is emblazoned with the phrase ‘Big fat tip’. Hudson the cross-dresser, flicking his curly wig-locks aside, holds Scuba Steve still and pours Stella down his snorkel. He chokes, pulling the mask off, laughing. Then Scuba Steve darts over to Julius Caesar, kneeling before him, worshipping. ‘Hail Caesar!’ he shouts. Our group joins in the worship, bowing on our knees as holidaymakers look on, perplexed. Caesar laps up the praise. Apone the nun jumps on stage to commandeer the steel pole. He spins around it, veil flowing from his head. Behind him nine TV screens flash in technicolour like one side of an interchanging Rubix Cube. Scooby Doo pushes two French maids off a podium and shakes his arse at the whole bar. When he jumps into the crowd, chicks gather round to stroke his head. Scuba and the Cross Dresser notice the elasticised braces holding up my fireman trousers. They take one each and yank them out as far as they can. When they let go I’m left with two giant red lines down my chest. Someone follows this up with a giant open-handed slap across the stomach. I take the stings like a man, but the Jack Daniels and two types of coke take the edge off.
For the first time in my life I emerge from a busy club, blurry, into blinding afternoon daylight. The night is young.
The next bar looks and feels like the last and the two have started to blend together in my conscience. In this one- or the same one- two policewomen dance together. When I pull out my camera one policewoman pulls the other’s top down and kisses her cleavage, then kisses her on the mouth…
Back at the B’n’B we change back into clubbing wear, slightly to my dismay. I feel stripped of a superpower, human again. Then, as the sun goes down behind Blackpool pier, we head back out to Sanuk, one of the biggest clubs in Blackpool with a capacity of 2300. I will remember little of the club- every stranger I speak to is from some random part of Britain, as is pretty much everyone I have spoken to all day. Other than business employees- shop, bar, club and hotel workers- there doesn’t seem to be a single native of the town, in the town.
The club is rammed. Hicks approaches a random girl, holding out the fabric of his t-shirt between his fingertips. Bemused, she feels the texture between a forefinger and thumb. He leans into her and I can lip-read him saying, ‘that’s boyfriend material.’ Burke, formerly Scooby Doo, has pulled. Hudson, the former cross-dresser, is fuming.
‘Fuck it,’ says Hudson. ‘You know what? I didn’t even like her that much. I’m not bothered about her. He can have her. But if he thinks I’m not texting his missus and dropping him in the shit, he’s unbelievably naive.’
I ask a girl for her number just before we leave. She’s been staring at me all night. She asks me where I’m from then tells me she’s from Derby so she didn’t see that working.
‘Fine,’ I say. ‘Can I just put my hands on your arse?’
She lets me, and it quells the slight sting of missed potential, but then I remember that I acquired some numbers in the afternoon so I tell her she’s fit and Hudson and I walk out of the club, starving. Fast food is fast needed…
Worn out, blurry eyed but full of cheeseburgers and fries from a kebab shop next to the branch of Walkabout that my former manager now runs, we find a taxi. I give the driver the street name. He knows it and agrees to take us there. I am amazed by my own organisation- that I would know to scribble the address of the hotel, even in the state I was when we first set out in the afternoon.
As we wonder into the George, Burke marches out, rucksack on his shoulder. ‘See you later, guys,’ is all he says. Hudson wonders out after him, fuming. I cannot be arsed intervening.
I find our room. Hicks is steaming, lying on a bed banging on about a Youtube video he saw a few days ago.
‘Voldemort. Voldemort. Voldemort,’ he says. ‘Harry Potter. Harry Potter. Harry Potter.’ Then he shrieks, ‘RON WEASLEY????’ He laughs to himself, slurring.
Hudson barges back in the room, running his hands over his newly-grazed face. ‘Oh, mate,’ he says. ‘Oh…’
Hudson explains that he had gone to find Burke to straighten things out and bring him back. Only an argument had broken out, Hudson had swung at him, not even reached him, pirouetted on the spot and fallen face-first on the road. He tells us this as he picks at a scab on his arm.
Hicks, his face pressed into the pillow away from the increasing daylight, has gone quiet. Hudson quietly taunts him over his ex-girlfriend.
‘Ron Weasley’s got Michelle… He’s kidnapped her… He’s gonna bum her, Hicks!’
‘Right then, so shut the fuck up,’ snaps Hicks. Then, mumbling, ‘Fuck Ron Weasley. Fuck him.’
The sun is streaming through the window now and I am desperate for sleep but my eyelids aren’t opaque enough to block out the light and seagulls are shrieking all around the hotel and I’m drifting off.
Hudson doesn’t know what to do. He mentions the array of weed plants he’d shown me when I’d stopped by at his house. He says they aren’t there any more.
Hicks snores loudly. We are the only two awake in the room now.
Hudson had moved the plants to a different house. He’d given one to Burke to help set him up, along with growing equipment, as Burke had been struggling for work. Any money made from that, Hudson had told him, would be split between them down the middle. Later, Hudson had found out that Burke had stolen a shitload of money from his parents. They disowned him when they found out, and haven’t spoken to him since. The chance of Burke robbing Hudson was high.
‘I am a drug dealer, mate. That’s what I am. I know it. And I know it’s wrong.’ Even though he knew of his own ills there were certain crimes he didn’t want to be a part of, people he wanted nothing to do with. Thieves. ‘Do I go round and threaten to cut up his parents until I get everything back?’
I advise him against this. As if I know anything.
‘Or,’ he says, mind ticking, ‘do I use the spare key, go in while he’s at work, take everything, lock the door behind me then boot it in and move the plants to another house? Ring him and say, “mate, you won’t believe what’s happened. We’ve been robbed.”’
‘That sounds much safer to me,’ I say, drifting.
‘I’m gonna have to do it, aren’t I?’
‘You’re gonna have to step forward and do something.’
Outside the sun has risen and seagulls screech and swoop around the hotel and a street-cleaning vehicle hums as it crawls past, sucking up copious amounts of takeaway wrappers, used condoms, lost shoes and probably the skin off Hudson’s arm that was left on the tarmac. I pull the covers over my head to shut it all out but I’m thinking about