We wake up each day around noon with rakja, the strong local liquor that comes in a variety of flavors. That’s just to try to get the shakes under control, but doesn’t quite do the trick, and usually has to be followed by a few Lav beers. Some of us are still coming off X, or speed from the night before, quaffing entire liters of water. We’ll then decamp to a cafe, where we drink cappucino and more rakja, or vodka. Then we’ll grab some foo from a street vendor, on the way to finding a place for breakfast, which usually consists of lamb, pork or beef stew. We shower around 8pm, to get ready to go to the festival, which finally winds down around six or seven, then we sleep for a few hours, then start again. After four days of hard living, two observations:
My name is Vagabond, and I am an addict.
I’m addicted to nicotine. I’ve smoked and I’ve quit, but tobacco has a chemical hold on me that defies my attempts to rationaly abstain. It releases large quantities of dopamine directly into my cerebral cortex and I’m helpless to say no. My lungs are dying. My tissues are soaked with tar, formaldahyde, rat poison, and fiberglass.
I’m addicted to alcohol. Here there is no end to the drinking. There is no starting and stopping. We drink, and when we wake up hung over we address the issue by drinking more alcohol. I like the way it tastes. I like talking about it with my friends. I like being a snob about which scotch is best. I like drinking while I smoke. I like to smoke while I drink. I like the person I become when I drink. I like his swagger, I like his confidence, I like how assertive his voice gets. I don’t mind the headaches he brings.
I’m addicted to caffeine. I have it as soon as possible every morning, which in Serbia means espresso. I drink gallons of the stuff, partially to help kill the hangover, partly to help bring my edge back, partly because it reminds me of home. I drink five in one sitting, to the amazement of the waitresses in the cafe. Sometimes, I drink it before going to bed to help me relax.
I’m addicted to sugar. I put it in everything. I feel my teeth decay as I suck on extra sugar packets and feel the crystals disolve sweetly in my mouth. I pour sugar in my coffee, my beer, my rakja, my bacon, my eggs, my chicken sandwich, and slowly I feel the gradual onset of adult diabetes coming.
I’m addicted to the sun. I’ve lain naked on boulders by the side of the street in Istanbul on the banks of the Bosphorous, among shards of beer bottle glass, empty water bottles, dog shit and popcorn, lying on my shirt for hours to soak the solar radiation into my skin. My entire body is tanned with melanomas and the accumulation of a month of cellular damage and DNA transcription errors. I no longer use sunscreen. I no longer burn.
I’m addicted to carbohydrates. They go well with beer.
I’m addicted to sex, though fortunately I can’t find a dealer.
I’m addicted to street cafes, with their ashtrays on the tables and napkins strewn about the floor by the wind.
I’m addicted to Novi Sad, a city with a university, gorgeous fortress, pedestrian boulevard, park, beach, shopping mall, decommissioned army barracks, insane summer music festival, fruit market, and psychotically hospitable people.
I’m addicted not knowing where I’m going to sleep tonight.
I’m addicted to my own body.
I’m addicted to yours, too, my dear.
I’m addicted to waking up after noon, to going to bed after the sun rises.
I’m addicted to watching Moby perform on the banks of the Danube.
I’m addicted to leering at beautiful women,which in Serbia rapidly becomes a full-time job.
I’m addicted to love, to hate, to misery, joy, pain, pleasure, everything, EVERYTHING there is I want, all of it, the good and the bad, I want it by the bucketful, by the heaps.
I am addicted, finally, to life, though I’m discovering this somewhat late., I’ve awoken to life, and awoken to it, now cannot stop. Life is the worst drug of all. The most desperate, the most addictive, the most lethal. Any other addiction is only potentially lethal. You may overdose. You may crash your car while you’re drunk. You may give yourself lung cancer. Or you may not. But life, life is always lethal, if you live it long enough. To live as an addict of life is to know this, and live with your addiction anyway. To love the very lethality of life.
I am an addict. I have no intention of living any other way..
“I love you guys!” I scream. “Some of you I just met tonight, but I love you guys!”
The quote is exactly accurate, and completely true. There are five of us, or six, depending on who I mean by ‘us’, and we’re dancing badly to the Arctic Monkeys on the mainstage at the Exit Festival. I’d come to Serbia alone on a train from Istanbul. Now a bald guy named Yanni (or something) was rubbing my bald head for luck and calling me his bald brother. It’s early, both relative to the festival itself and in absolute terms, only about 1am. The Monkeys took the stage around midnight. The last band will go on around 5:30am, at which point I will be hanging out with a different group, a bunch of Brits that want to meet for “Breckie” tomorrow afternoon. I assume “Breckie” to be some type of lawn game played with a sort of small bowling ball, and am quite confused when they say something about food. Mike, the one person I’d known before tonight, is pawing at one of the Brits. Good on ye, mate.
I’ve completely lost Yanni, our new Serbian friend, which is too bad, since Yanni is twice my size and looks like a good man to have at your side in a festival, particularly when tempers start to flare. I’ve also lost Peter, a Serbo-French Brit who works in London and is the only one of us to speak any Serbian. I’d been set up with him by my matchmaker hostel-hosts, two lovely girls named Jellica and Bljena (I think). They are VERY eager to set me up with people.
“You travel alone?” They ask when I checked in on Wednesday.
“Da,” I reply.
“Would you like to sleep with a Greek girl or a British girl?”
“Uh…do I have choose between them?”
They explain that they have two girls who are also rooming alone, which they do not consider to be a good thing. It is not good to be alone, you see. I suddenly agree with them wholeheartedly.
“Which one do you want?”
“Maybe if I could see their passport photos first?”
I sweart to god, I’m not making this up.
“Neh, we don’t have that technology. I think British girl is prettier, but Greek girl is nicer.”
“You’re quite eager to set me up with someone, aren’t you?”
“Neh, but is good to have company, yes?”
“Why don’t YOU keep me company,” I think but don’t say of the lovely Bljena (or something).
They end up giving me (ahem) the Greek girl. Who is very nice indeed, but travelling with about six other Greeks, who take me out for lunch the next day, and allow me to practice my shitty Greek with them. Despite their graciousness, they’re English isn’t the best, and they keep lapsing into Greek for long stretches, leaving me with no beter conversational gambit after awhile then “So…’portokali’ is the Greek word for ‘orange juice’, right?” I make my excuses and head back to the city center.
“You’re a fun guy,” Peter tells me as we look for the main stage that night.. “Now that you’ve got a few beers in you.”
“I had two in me already when we met.”
Note to self: start drinking earlier.
Note to self the following morning: never drink again.
I run into a trio of blond Serbian women. “Hello, where are you going?”
“We’re going to see the Arctic Monkeys.”
“Me too, which way to the main stage?”
“This way, you will come with us.”
Yes, I will. “Stay right there, let me grab my friends.”
Note to self: NO!
I run back twenty meters. No more than twenty meters. “Guys the main stage is this way, just follow me and-” I turn around. I run back. They have disappeared completely, if they ever truly existed in the first place. Like Eurydice, they’ve faded back into the underworld because I turned back. I am literally hopping mad, screaming for my hot Serbian women, to no avail, and to the amusement of the other festival-goers.
“You asshole,” Mike laughs. “You chose US over three blond girls? You don’t deserve to get laid again.”
Ray, if somebody asks you if you’re a god, you say YES!
If hot Serbian women want to take you someplace, you GO!
Mike pulls quite well for himself, and we’re still dancing with the Brits at 3:30 when I finally punk out. We’ve lost most of our original crew, and I am embarrasingly tired and somewhat disheartened from my Eurydice experience. I bug out, exchange numbers wit the brits, and stumble out of the medieval fortress that holds the festival. It is of course at this point, when I’ve written the evening off, that a drunk girl named Yohanna (or something) stumbles into me on the way out and introduces herself to me. And my mood improves.
Hey guys, I’m here at ExitFest in Novi Sad, Serbia. Sorry for the brevity of this post, and the general lack of posts lately, but I’m doing this from an impromptu internet cafe in the tent city they’ve set up for the Exit campers. The place looks like Woodstock (Ed note: how would YOU know?) (Auth note: Fine, it looks like the album cover to my parent’s Woodstock album, happy asshole?) with muddy British undergraduates everywhere. For some reason, travel laptop refuses to connect to any of the wireless hotspots in the city, including my hostel, so I’m going to be somewhat off the grid for the next few days. I’ll post more updates and photos as time and laptop permit.