So long Sanga, howzit South Africa

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TELFORD VICE, Auckland

A cursory google does not reveal whether William S. Burroughs spent significant time in Australia, but how the hell “Naked Lunch” was inspired by heroin and morphine and anarchy and not the streets of downtown Sydney is a wonder easily up there with Table Mountain and Riaan Cruywagen’s hair.

Which is not to say Sydney isn’t a beautiful city filled with beautiful people doing beautiful things. It is all of those things, and more. But it is also a maniacal mess of humanity and other creatures that should be shipped off to the asylum forthwith, never to darken the doorway of civilisation again.

The corner of George and Campbell streets, for instance, teems with the fetid stink of life lived cheap and nasty. Here, you can find strange men with chameleon eyes jabberwocking to themselves as they veer uncertainly from one side of sticky pavements to the other, and women whose stoney faces speak silently of unknowable hardship.

Coursing all around and between them like fresh blood around and between diseased organs are the young and shiny professionals, expensively heeled, ears plugged into secret worlds, caffeine in cardboard in hand, on their way at a briskly hateful pace to their glittering future. The poor? Who are they – a band or a brand or both?

And then there are the slimy quarter-lives we call backpackers, all of them greedy for their next beer or their next burger or buggerall, as long as its as close to free as possible.

“You were not there for the beginning,” you want to scream at all of these sad excuses for heartbeats. “You will not be there for the end. Your knowledge of what is going on can only be superficial and relative.”

Yes, that is the augustly addled Mr Burroughs. So’s this:

“The junk merchant doesn’t sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.”

Damn straight, you old junky. So, did you get to Sydney before you died?

“I was standing outside myself trying to stop those hangings with ghost fingers … I am a ghost wanting what every ghost wants – a body after the Long Time moving through odorless alleys of space where no life is, only the colorless no smell of death … Nobody can breathe and smell it through pink convolutions of gristle laced with crystal snot, time shit and black blood filters of flesh.”

Sounds like you did. Hang on. Let’s get some reality back into this conversation.

“There is only one thing a writer can write about: what is in front of his senses at the moment of writing … I am a recording instrument … I do not presume to impose ‘story’ ‘plot’ ‘continuity’ … Insofar as I succeed in Direct recording of certain areas of psychic process I may have limited function … I am not an entertainer …”

Damn straight, Bill. Neither are many of the players in the World Cup. Instead, they are walking, talking billboards for cricket and the companies that pay piles of money to the game to keep it unholy ever after, amen.

But there are exceptions. Like Kumar Sangakkara, who hung up his one-day pads after Sri Lanka snivelled to defeat against South Africa in the quarter-finals at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

“Well, that’s the way it goes – someone has got to lose in a quarter-final; It’s a do-or-die situation.”

That’s not William S. Burroughs. Instead, it is Kumar Chokshanada Sangakkara.

“It could have been my last game, it could have been just one of the games that I’ve played. I don’t think that makes a huge difference or adds to the disappointment.”

“I think it’s just a case of taking stock of what we did and how we did it. You know, there’s another four-year wait for the next World Cup, and we have a lot of people in the dressingroom who would have learned a lot from this World Cup, and that’ll stand them in good stead going forward.

“I’ve had a great time playing with these boys. Disappointments are a part of our career, and you just take it on the chin and move on.”

Easy for him to say having had so much success in the 590 matches he has played for Sri Lanka across all three formats. And he might well have been one of South Africa’s players explaining away another choke.

In fact, the difference between Sangakkara and South Africa’s players is not unlike the differences between the people on Sydney’s streets.

Some of them are rich. Some of them are poor. Some of the time it’s difficult to tell them apart. But not all of them are still shooting for the moon that is the World Cup trophy. South Africa are. So long, Sanga.

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