E40. That was the seat number. The Holy Grail. By now I am so baked I don’t know what is up. I’m in the mezzanine level of the State. The movie starts in five minutes. Please take your seats. I feel safe that this will be a gentle film. I am in disguise – beanie and spectacles. I am bent.
I thought it would be a good idea to see Marley stoned. This had always been the tentative plan. I was fortunate enough to procure a bit of weed and rolled myself a nice little spliff for the occasion. I decided not to take the train in. I didn’t think I could face Town Hall platform late at night. It was bad enough in my vulnerable state after my near meltdown during Rampart two nights earlier. So I drove in.
It was a Monday night, the public holiday. I figured parking would be easy in the CBD. Sure enough, I found a spot on Pitt Street, up from Market, a one-minute walk from the theatre. My plan was to arrive early, blaze up in the car so to minimise my public stonedness, walk straight through the foyer and take my seat and wait for the lights to dim. Quite aware of how painfully shy I get in the realm of the ganja, I wore a disguise. I donned a massive beanie, the closest thing I had in tribute to Rastafari headware, and some highly reflective non-prescriptive spectacles. If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.
The zone was still metred. Aware that marijuana wreaks havoc on my gross motor skills, I didn’t want to be reading street signs and negotiating coins and parking metres. OK, I’ll get out, pay the metre first, come back to my car, wind all windows up, and toke some reefer. A good plan. I reclined my seat a little, waited for an old couple to walk past, and surreptitiously lit my spliff. Within a few minutes I had myself a serious Dutch oven. Could people tell? Were the police gonna tap on my window? It was rather quiet that night on Pitt Street. I’d be alright.
I waited till about 9:20 and made a beeline to the State. The foyer was packed. Sheesh. I avoided eye contact. But I needed a beer. Yes, a beer. I joined the queue and breathed. Nobody see me. I’m here for Bob, that’s all. Sir, if you want to take your drink in, you’ll need a plastic cup. Hmm. I imagined my clumsy attempts to pour my Peroni into a plastic cup in that crowded cinema, dousing the lady beside me. Getting thrown out of the State. Nah, I’ll scull it in the foyer. It’s alright.
The theatre doors were yet to open. I stood in the middle of that foyer, people swarming around me. I reminded myself of that Dave Graney song Rock and Roll is Where I Hide. As I staved off an impending psychotic episode, the doors finally opened. I nodded to the usher as I flashed my iPhone ticket and with great determination found E40. I removed my coat and placed it in my lap, leant forward and waited. At last I was safe.
Marley was phenomenal. I had no idea what a warrior he was, that following an assassination attempt, he literally sang for his life. I had re-watched No Direction Home, Scorsese’s great film on Dylan, a week earlier. But this was something else. For Dylan, it really had been just about the music, the poetry. His mission was an exploration of creativity. He’d always denied his political agenda. “I’m just a song and dance man.” But Marley was almost the opposite, fighting for change, using song as a conscious means for peace. Both were outsiders, struggling with identity. But I had not realised the extent of this for Marley, that he was the child of a black mother and white father. I knew little of the Rastafari movement, and how integral it was to the use of cannabis and to the emergence of Reggae. There was no separating Bob Marley from the music, from the ganja, from the religion. He was all and more.
And I also got Reggae. It’s fucking sexy.
I had caught the Woody Allen doco that morning. I adore Woody Allen as a filmmaker, and it was a sheer pleasure to be immersed in the footage and excerpts of his films and interviews with his collaborators. It was a standard chronology of his life and career. But Marley was an enlightening and profound experience. I’ll attribute that to Kevin Macdonald. He’s assembled a fascinating story – faithful to its subject – the time, the man and the music – beautifully paced and filmed. And, yes, I can also attribute some of that to the ganja. The Rastas say it is a spiritual act, a sacrament that cleans the body and mind, heals the soul, exalts the consciousness and facilitates peacefulness. But most of all, and like the potential of cinema, it opens people’s minds to the truth.