Down and Out in Paradise

Down and Out in Paradise

Luke Williams

Echo Publishing 2019

ISBN:978-1-76068-584-3


Luke Williams’ Down and Out in Paradise is an intriguing memoir exploring the years he spent in Southeast Asia as a recovering and relapsing drug addict and an alternately employed and unemployed journalist. Living cheap, and sometimes even on nothing, Luke explores some of the debatably unsavoury hang-outs in Southeast Asia.

The idea of dropping everything and getting on a flight somewhere else is something that many people find incredibly attractive, more so when life isn’t quite going your way. When Luke Williams hopped on the plane to Kuala Lumpur, he was coming down off crystal meth. It was the cheapest flight he could book. He made his way to Thailand, the land of the free, where he chased drugs, stories, and sex. In Bangkok he became a thief, in Pattaya he became a prostitute, and somewhere along the way he discovered Buddhism. The memoir covers Williams’s travels throughout Southeast Asia and his penchant for fully embracing his journey.

Williams is very open about his sexuality and his time in Pattaya spent frequenting Boyztown and its bars and clubs. He met a number of Westerners there and for a short time, William’s worked as a prostitute himself. Much of the book fluctuates between him being broke in Southeast Asia and the occasional splendour of an expensive hotel and a bender.

During his time in Indonesia, Williams develops a fascination with his grandfather’s suicide.  Williams spent a lot of time considering the prevalence of mental illness in his family. His father’s late onset schizophrenia, his uncle’s comatose state, and his cousin’s suicide. Concerned that this could be the reason for his various issues, Williams is determined to use his skills as a journalist to uncover the truth.

At times within the memoir, Williams is critical of the influence of Westerner tourism throughout Southeast Asia, even as he contemplates that many the local people rely on tourism just to get by. Williams writes about the variety of people on his travels who coloured his world-view; reaffirming his privilege as a white Australian male and putting his problems in perspective compared to people working on the street for twelve or more hours a day just to afford food for their families. Together with perspective, Williams found spirituality as he explored various religions by trying them on for size.

There are sections of the memoir where it is clear that Williams was relieved to be clean and other sections where he embraced the highs of his addiction. Having struggled with addiction his whole life, Williams knew he needed help but had issues admitting it.  While Williams had a number of boyfriends and sexual partners throughout his travels, few of them appeared to help Luke with his recovery from addiction or his trouble with jealousy. However, there is one man who inspired Luke to do better, to keep living, and to eventually return to Australia to get help.

There is so much to unpack in this book and Luke Williams, as the author, presents himself as a highly complex character who might not be mistaken for a good person but also shouldn’t be dismissed for a bad one. He is complicated and real, struggling and adapting to his situation as he goes; sometimes driven by his addiction, his mental health, or by altruistic desire. I would highly recommend this book as it is downright fascinating to read as Williams details the highs and lows of his time in Southeast Asia as a journalist, an addict, and a human being.

4/5 stars


Words and photography by Kayla Gaskell

 

New Wave Audio Theatre Season Two

New Wave Audio Theatre is a fairly new podcast developed by Connor Reidy (Director), Anita Sanders (Project Manager), Leah McKeown (Sound Engineer), and Aden Beaver (Graphic Designer). Having just concluded its second season, New Wave has three half hour sessions each made up of three separate audio-theatre pieces written by local authors.

Season Two: Episode One, Places, consistes of three short audio-theatre pieces by Jamie Hornsby, Simon-Peter Telford, and Taeghan Buggy. Each deal with the anxieties of three very different situations as well as addressing important issues such as murder, suicide, and drug use.

It is important to note that the issues that these pieces deal with can be hard hitting with the team providing contact details for support services such as Beyond Blue: 1300 22 46 36 and Lifeline: 13 11 14.

 
Marree

Written by Jamie Hornsby

Performed by Hannah Helbig

Marree is a deceptive story about a young woman looking for a lift to Adelaide. Hitch-hiking, she is hesitant to get in with a strange man, but with seemingly no choice she acquiesces. Hornsby’s writing paired with Helbig’s acting perfectly captures the anxiety of being in cars with strange men—particularly when you know about Wolf Creek. Too busy sympathising with the main character, the beautiful twist caught me by surprise.

Extremely intelligent and motivated, Hornbury’s character is the kind of resourceful person we all aspire to be.

 

Hush

Written by Simon-Peter Telford

Performed by John Khammash

A man is driving down the highway with his baby on the way to a fresh start. He blames himself for his wife’s death and worries that his words and actions will harm their child as he grows up. They stop in at a pub for a meal and the man considers his options. How can he ensure that he will do what’s right for the baby? What is right for the baby? The man knows that the boy deserves to have a whole, loving family. But what can he do now that the mother is dead?

This is a very full-on story to listen to as the man ruminates on his decisions, allowing his anxiety to take over.

 

Last Ride

Written by Taeghan Buggy

Performed by Max Kowalick

Last Ride follows a man seeking revenge on the man who got him into drugs when he was fifteen years old. He has a devastating plan because while “[he] is an idiot, [he] is not dumb”. As the piece goes on you learn the lengths he has gone to not just to entrap his boss but ensure that whether the boss dies or not, he is caught by the authorities. The narrator feels as if he is trapped and as if his involvement with the drug dealer has ruined his life to the point where at the age of twenty he has no other option but to seek revenge.

 

 

You can listen to New Wave Audio Theatre Season One and Two on their website: https://newwaveaudiotheatre.com/.

 

Alternately both seasons are available for download from iTunes, Soundcloud, or Whoshkaa.

 


Words by Kayla Gaskell.

Feature image from https://newwaveaudiotheatre.com/.