September 20, 2004

How Ben and David Met

Everybody writes...

We know you really don’t care, but this story is going to be foisted upon you nonetheless. Fortunately the tale involves book burning, rampant drunkenness and threats of lawsuits.

David starts the ball rolling, because he’s marginally less lazy:

It was 2000, the year that the world was supposed to end. I was in Hamilton (where anybody would want to be when Armageddon comes, because each day feels like an eternity).

I had just completed a Bachelor of Mediarts™ at Waikato Polytechnic. I’d had a taste of journalism as a student reporter at the Waikato Times. (Highlights: I broke a nice story about the city dumping the “Where it’s happening” slogan, plus the lovely editor held my hand when I somehow ended up on the phone for half an hour with an absolute nutter “covered in blood and shit” threatening to top himself).

I entertained thoughts of becoming a real journalist. Like Eugene Bingham. There were three problems: I couldn’t drive; I didn’t like writing about things that bored me; I had a distracting and persistent habit of drinking myself to black-out.

I settled for the only job that would have me: being editor of the atrocious Waikato University student magazine, Nexus. Yes, it was actually a full-time, paying job.

David spent most of this period in black-out, so the slightly more reliable one (Ben) takes over:

What David hasn’t mentioned is that the “atrocious Waikato University student magazine, Nexus” was as red as the blood of the workers – and so was Mister David W Young. He occupied university registries, sang socialist drinking songs, and possibly even paid real money for Spark newspaper.

On the other hand, Nexus’ big brother – Auckland University’s Craccum – was the voice of the mob. The elected editors: James Cardno (the nice one) and me (the law student). While David’s Nexus prepared for the revolution, our Craccum studiously cultivated an air of cool.

The air turned noticeably fecund one day when David and his merry band arrived in Auckland in a clapped-out car daubed with socialist graffiti. David imperiously swept through the Craccum offices without revealing the point of his trip: to distribute 1,000 copies of Nexus’ “Free Education For All” issue at Auckland University (having taken over Hamilton, the socialists wanted Auckland next). His team dumped their magazines in Craccum’s sales boxes and then David demanded they drink.

After several hours in Shadows bar, the revolutionaries emerged to discover many of their magazines had been ripped up. Their response? They gathered a huge pile of Craccums in the quad. They lined up facing the Craccum offices, and then then broke into (ahem) "song".

Build a Bonfire…
Build a Bonfire…
Put James Cardno on the top,
Put Ben Thomas in the middle, and
BURN THE FUCKING LOT.

As socialists, they all had lighters. The ensuing blaze of Craccum magazines was really quite beautiful. Being a media outlet, we had many cameras. I took a dozen photos, documenting the charming incident from the moment they piled up the Craccums until realisation dawned that the police and fire departments were probably on their way.

At that point, they ran.

David sobers up enough to take over the account.

I was still drunk the next morning. I remember discovering I’d slept with an anarchist punk. Also, I remember a radio journalist calling. She told me the Auckland University student union had issued a release “condemning” me for setting fire to Craccum magazines. I assume I slurred denial at her. My boss, the president of the Waikato Student Union, phoned.

It slowly dawned on me that I could be in deep shit.

I have no idea how I got from the anarcho-punk’s decrepit house to the University. I do remember storming into the student union. I was on the attack and full of bullshit. I self-righteously told some union guy that my uncle was a QC, that I had spoken to him about suing for defamation and that Uncle told me I had a watertight case. I think I used a real QC’s name. By the time I finished my rant I had convinced myself it was all true. (This quite often happened when I was drinking and makes remembering reality quite difficult).

My uncle, I said, had advised me to try to settle the matter without court action. I have absolutely no idea why the union guy took me seriously. I was a raving loon stinking like a brewery. Yet he allowed me to sit at his computer and draft a “retraction”, which was then issued. It said that although I witnessed the disgraceful burning of Craccum magazines, at no stage did I take part in the burning. The AUSA unreservedly apologised to me and to Nexus magazine.

I later saw photographs from that night, taken during the middle of the “Build a Bonfire” chant. I’m yelling so loudly there is spittle coming out of my mouth. In my right hand there is clearly a lighter.

Now Mr Neil Falloon brings the story home.

Puffed up with arrogance, David knocked on the door of Craccum and broke the news to Ben that his union had agreed to retract their press statement.

Ben thought David an utter arse, but he was grown-up enough to move on. As they were both students and it was after 9am, he suggested they have a beer. David could feel sobriety beginning to pound at his skull and had no money. He would drink with anybody, even a rightwing fascist whose mother had paid for his membership to the ACT Party – especially if the other person was paying for the beer.

So they went together to Shadows where Ben bought enough beer to keep sobriety at bay.

And that’s how Ben and David became lifelong friends.

All together now: Awwwwww.




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