I returned to Brisbane on a long, sleepless flight from London. A few friends picked me up at the airport. On the drive back into the the city, all of us crammed into a rusting, old Japanese sub-compact, we sucked on plastic bongs and made calls to sleepy connections to hook up with harder drugs. Someone had a Regurgitator tape and it played it very loud on the car’s rattley sound system. Suddenly, intensely, I remembered why I'd made such an effort to leave the place.
The Valley was Brisbane's grimy, sub-cultural refuge then. Its main street was packed with every kind of night-crawling distraction a small Australian city had to offer. Gurning ravers danced at The Beat, where they could lose themselves in drug-induced, pseudo-spiritual oneness with the smoke and green laser beams. Everyone in the room faced the DJ – or the front door, so they could check out the incoming drug dealers and each other. The acrid, chemical stench of drugs and sweat hung out above the dance floor. Drag queens performed at midnight: later, they’d wander down the street, bickering regally with each other, and offer unsolicited fashion tips to passers-by.The Zoo was an old warehouse at the end of the block. I don’t remember much about it except that when I was there, I was always stoned, tripping on acid; it made me distracted and forgetful. There were always queues of people waiting to get in. Every hip, tattooed, pierced, natty dreadlocked or shaven-headed, ambisexual feral, punk or rock and roller went there to see a hot new band before it 'blew up'. I was no different. Outside the strip clubs, bouncers ushered in the working girls ahead of the drunks, who would arrive soon after the surrounding pubs had closed. Hookers, pimps, and dime-bag dealers plied their trade, heroin addicts shot up and alcoholics loitered, impotently, in the dark lanes. The hookers straddled cocks in their johns' parked cars or ducked into doorways to blow wary, awkward-looking pedestrians.