Forget ‘Extreme Sports’ bullshit — try going down a drain.
Saturday, October 11, 1997
I go out to Clifton Hill station…northeast of the city. I’m about fifteen-twenty minutes late when I get there. Walking under the freeway bridge, I see a small group of young folks hanging out. One of them asks me if I have any cigarettes.
“Cave Clan?” I ask.
We hang for a few minutes. The leader of this “expo”, as they call it, is Ash.
They’re waiting for some people…”Big Ears” and Tim. “Prowler can’t make it”, I’m told. Doug, the leader, is running a “New Explorer Expo” somewhere else. The old-timers think that he’s neglected to invite them ’cause they’ll rag on him now and then.
Big Ears arrives. “Hey, he really does have Big Ears,” someone named Karla notices.
Big Ears is a stocky bloke with a friendly mien. “I was just at the national gallery looking at Andres Serrano‘s exhibition” he tells us. “The weirdest thing happened.”
“You realized you were gay,” Ash ripostes.
Big Ears proceeds to tell us about an attack on “Piss Christ”, Serrano’s famous work, favorite of Jesse Helms.
“I was looking at some of the art nearby when I hear this trememdous crash and there’s this middle aged guy, about fifty, and he’s attacking what looks like a photograph, and I realize it’s “Piss Christ!” He hit some of the people who tried to restrain him, and then ran off. I chased him, and he finally ended up in some sort of restaurant space, and he couldn’t get out. I grabbed a security person and I was like, “He’s the guy!” And they got him.”
More waiting. Ash banters with Karla and Craig from the “Guinea Pigs”, a sort of sub-group of the larger Cave Clan: “Hey, I thought we had a truce”. Karla: “Nup.”
After a while they decide to head down. Ash whips out a mobile phone. -bip- “Tim. We’re goin’ in.”
We go down to the mouth of the tunnel. Big Ears asks me if there are many draining groups in the States. I tell him draining an urban area in the States you’d probably want to carry a gun. “Right,” he says.
There’s about ten of us. They set to work tagging and listing the names of the people on the Expo. I learn the trick to walking in tunnels…straddle the little trail of drain in the center. Or walk three steps on one side, three steps on the other. I realize my dinky little flashlight is pretty lame.
We soon come to a ladder up to the next big section of pipe. Water’s spilling over it, the top is kinda scary – a nasty drop.
Soon after that we come to a bluestone section that’s rather slippery. Not able to stay on the sides of the drain, I end up sloshing through it like most everybody else. It ends after a little bit.
We take a short rest. One dude’s got a cool old-style lantern that’s pretty handy. Big Ears tells me that on an earlier trip they’d lost their light somehow, and had to find their way back down in the dark. The scariest part was the ladder, trying to guess where that big drop was.
There’s a poo smell. I swallowed some of that water?! “Ick,” I think, “Hepatitis.” I’ve been told drains are completely safe, it’s sewers human waste goes through. Can’t but wonder, though.
We see little spots of sunlight coming through grilles. Everybody takes turns crawling through a tiny opening in the concrete to get out. They can’t really be going through that, can they? Yes they can. I scramble through a tiny rectangular space which becomes vertical in a sharp 90 degree turn. Whew, that was a little claustrophobic.
I scramble out onto grass, soaked, stinky, muddy. We’re on a traffic island across from the Royal Derby Hotel on Brunswick Street. Curious people driving by are staring at us.
We hang and talk for a while. Ash, Karla and Craig eventually decide to get a cappucino. I decide to head out too. I walk down Brunswick street feeling like a skunk. Wouldn’t mind getting some food, but I’m not touchin’ anything until I’ve had a shower.
After fumigating Polyester, I wander out with Clint Q-Ray‘s latest issue of Wang. Cool. I bump into Ash and we chat about Clint’s work…he designed the logo for their newsletter, Il Draino. And I bump into Karla and Craig on the tram, on my way back.
Home. I take a shower.
Michael, Greg and I hit St. Kilda to see “Kiss or Kill“ ’cause I have a free ticket.
I’ve done an interview with Doug and Gilligan of aforementioned organization that I’m still trying to shop around to various zines, I’ll put it up on this site eventually. For now check out the refreshing