Author: Al Lovejoy
Publisher: Zebra Press
Cape town, 2005
Soft cover, 13x21 cm, 368 pages
Al Lovejoy was an international drug smuggler. His story is a roller-coaster journey from orphanage to reformatory, from Pretoria Central Prison when Vyfster was being filmed, to Angola at war, to Stellenbosch at the beginning of the Voëlvry movement. Moving deeper into the world of drug dealing, we follow Al as he smuggles cannabis into Europe and Ecstasy back to Africa, until his arrest in Belgium, where he faced life imprisonment.
It is a story of child abuse, brutal institutions and wild rebellion, veering between religious hysteria and narcotic intoxication, taking us deep into the violent underworld of Cape Town gangs and international organised crime, behind the cold bars of prison – and out the other side. Acid Alex will shock you, assault, educate and entertain you, and take you on a trip beyond your wildest imagining.
Al Lovejoy is a self-confessed former organised crime boss. He and the members of his syndicate were extensively involved in smuggling operations spanning up to five countries in Africa and Europe until his arrest in Belgium. He eventually had to face very, very hard realities and managed to break free and leave it all behind.
Business in Africa:
"It's a trip beyond your wildest imagination - but not for the faint of heart."
Koos Kombuis, from the foreword:
A book which is about to turn South African literature on its head … It will do for South African culture what Trainspotting did for modern Scottish consciousness … Boy, what a literary turn-on. God, what a trip.
Sunday Times (Caspar Greeff):
"There are elements of Hunter S Thompson, Herman Charles Bosman, William Burroughs and William Wharton. But in the end it is an amazing story told in a unique voice. A voice moulded by pain, a voice honed by a government reformatory..., whetted by the SADF, and sharpened by Pretoria Central. It is the story of a man who went to hell and came back, a morality tale, a Bildungsroman, the narrative of a fuckup who found redemption, and the anthem of a lost generation."
Mail & Guardian (Chris Roper):
"Truly, as Koos Kombuis says, this is ‘an astonishingly breathless story’ … Besides being a great read, Acid Alex is an invaluable record of a type of mania that gripped a certain type of South African in the last quarter of the 20th century."
Marie Claire (Charles Thesen):
"Nothing I have read has sketched the scorched social landscape of South Africa's last half-century with such intensity and honesty. Read it."
Business Day (Sue Blaine):
"Acid Alex is quite simply one of the most shocking autobiographies I have ever read. It is also well-written, addictive, excellent."
Mercury (Garth Johnstone):
"This at times disturbing book is always readable and will not fail to move you."
Die Burger (Sophia van Taak):
"Dié boek is moontlik die aangrypendste wat ek nog gelees het."
Cape Times (Luke Stubbs):
"Lovejoy is a good storyteller and a gifted writer with a keen insight into what makes people tick."
In your hands, you are holding a book, which is about to turn South African literature on its head. Congratulations on buying it or shoplifting it or getting a signed copy from the Author's website - Whatever. By owning it, you have just become a reader on the very sharpest cutting edge. I guarantee that after you have started on the first paragraph, you will find it impossible to put down.
The reason being simple I knew Al. I knew the drug scenes he is writing about. And he writes about those scenes so vividly, so compellingly. After reading a page - any page - of "Acid Alex", my eyes fill with tears.
Yes, I am the "mal ou" who lived in Alex's kitchen while I planned my cultural revolution. I pulled it off later but that is another story. Al's story in, many ways it is even more surprising, more shocking, more far out than my own. Compared to Al's story, my own life seems rather tame.
In Al, I have one person whom I can point to and proclaim: "Look, this guy was more wasted than I was." Or: "Look, this man went further than I ever did, challenged more conventions than I did, dared to defy more than I did and actually survived.
Al Lovejoy - as a writer, is very difficult to define. I would guess he is a kind of mixture between Herman Charles Bosman and William Burroughs, but that doesn't quite say it all. There are bits of Walt Whitman, here, and bits of Haruki Murakami, and bits of Kafka, and Kerouac, and Zappa, and even Courtenay. But, most of all, Lovejoy the author - is his own person.
He bounces from page to page like a fireball, he wraps sentences and images and events together like sosaties and then braais them. He undermines, he jokes, he preaches, and most of all he tells his story, his astonishingly breathless story. One of the strangest stories ever to come out of Africa. Boy, what a literary turn-on. God, what a trip.
This book is more than just an innovative literary experiment. Together with its subject matter, it will do for South African culture what "Trainspotting" did for modern Scottish consciousness. The social implications are staggering. There were and currently are - more people than ever, exactly like Al throughout our society. Al was very much a part of the so-called "lost generation" of South Africa.
Kids who grew up unwittingly under a destructive regime and also suffered under Apartheid. Al's essential problem - and this was my essential problem - was finding legitimacy in a seemingly hostile adult environment. Since birth - idiots surrounded him. He was an overly intelligent child caught in a hopelessly dysfunctional world.
This was the reason why I squatted in his house back then, this was the reason we became friends, this was the reason why we landed up in street fights together, why we did drugs. I have always known about Al's potential writing talent. I knew, even back then, that if he wrote it - he'd have a bestseller on his hands. The problem was: how the hell do you write a full-length novel AND hold down a steady job at the same time?
Luckily, a few things counted in Al's favour: his astonishing expertise in the IT industry, his basic willingness to do the right thing should the right thing prove profitable enough - and his brutal honesty as an author.
Of course I cannot vouch for the absolute truth of every incident in this book - to do that, I would have had to be with Al right from the start of his life - but I can vouch for his sincerity as a person, his odd firm insistence on street ethics, and his real sense of fairness which, as he explained to me during countless late-night conversations, came from looking after himself and his bras during bad times.
Thank you, Al, for completing this novel, and thank you for letting me stay in your kitchen all those years ago. Oh, and I'm sorry I never cleaned up that shattered Tequila bottle I flung against the wall in a fit of rage. Or was it you? Never mind. What's done is done. I wish you the best my bra, now, henceforth and evermore...
The seatbelt light above my head goes off.
I snap open my belt, take a deep breath and stand up.
Jesus, I need a drink.
From this point onwards I will have to remain perfectly in character. Breathe slow, breathe slow – relax. Remember it is all about body language. I glance over at Brother E.
He tosses back his beautiful rock star hair, using that weirdly feminine gesture of his, the ‘hey girls look at me’ move, then flashes lots of teeth and slips me a surreptitious wink.
Ugly bastard. I hope nobody saw the wink. That’s one of the things They look for. Suspicious conspiratorial acts. Breathe slow, breathe slow: no tension, no drugs.
There isn’t much tension in me anyway. I’ve been busy doing my slow breathing exercises since the cabin movie screen showed us to be 500 kilometres from Paris. I was deep in my safe meditation place even before the pilot announced our descent towards Charles de Gaulle.
And I’ve been consistently working on my airport persona for days now. Body language. The breathing helps relax my muscles. My muscles construct my body language, and that tells Them what They want to know about me. If I can make my muscles lie credibly, all will be well.
Ready or not – I cannot back out now. Oh sweet fuck, I need a drink sooo bad.
Breathe slow, breathe slow: relax your shoulders and neck, Al. Hey, this is the first time you’re doing it into France! That’s it! Happy and excited! Positive. On holiday!
I had better act better than Bobby de Niro. And remember, folks, it won’t be a golden statue I lose out on if I fuck up. I will be staring at the business end of the bars in a French jail. But that’s ridiculous. I can’t end up in a French mang because I have – breathe slow, breathe slow, tummy light – no drugs in my possession.
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
But still, it isn’t the zol we are both carrying that troubles me. It is the fucking computers. I am re-entering the European Union – illegally. I have to pray They don’t know that the Belgians expelled me from re-entering the EU when they released me from Leeuwen three months ago. I had better pray to all the gods They don’t know. The problem is, I know. Fuck, I saw Inspector van den Linden of the Belgian Airport BOB enter me into their intelligence database when they arrested me and Fuckhead at Zaventem in Brussels back in ’97. I wasn’t nervous then, but I am now …
My cover is well and truly blown. Interpol, the DEA, De Belgiese Rijkswacht and our own local SANAB – all know about me now. I just have to hope that I haven’t been red-flagged and that the EU Point of Entry computers are not linked between participating countries. They can’t be. I mean, I am travelling on a Benelux visa – in your own name, you prick – happily issued by The Netherlands five days ago, dammit. Benelux is tog Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg – and if the Dutch don’t know that the Belgians are on my arse, then the Frogs sure as hell can’t.
Surely not? Fucking Frogs. What was it that the Flemish okes in jail called them? Oh ja – verdomde kikkervreters. Fucking frog munchers.
Oh shit I’m panicking. Breathe, breathe – shake hands with the kikkervreter koffiemoffie. He’s attended to you the whole flight. He is your friend – Very nice flight m’sieu. Merci beaucoup! Keep breathing. Don’t sweat. Whatever you do, don’t sweat.
Get objective, Al. Now!
Okay let’s see. Their first line of defence will be at the aircraft door itself. Probably about three of them. Somebody tall, ugly and serious in police uniform. Some bland, middle-aged nobody in civvies, and somebody else wearing a bright orange vest with neon reflective writing all over it and carrying a rasping radio handset. Being Europe, neon vest will probably be a woman. The uniform and the vest will be there to draw the attention of each passenger disembarking – the civilian nobody will be the seriously dangerous one. It is his job to watch each person coming out the gate and gauge his or her reactions carefully. Remember, it works on very simple psychology.
Systems check, Al – teach yourself.
Case study: You are [NOT!] carrying anything – diamonds, industrial espionage, stolen art, money, High Grade Marijuana, whatever. You are [NOT!] guilty and You know it. They obviously don’t know anything but you think they do. You think They can see it written all over you. Well, you know something – you’re right. They can.
As you step off the aircraft you will react to the three people standing there whether you want to or not. Your reaction is triggered at a subconscious level and you will show that reaction in your body language.
The people who are standing there are simply trained to recognise it and pick it up. They are also chosen for certain skills in this regard. C’mon Al – you know this because you studied it on the Internet. If you are [NOT!] carrying a burden of guilt you will definitely react to the police uniform first and to the orange vest second.
That is what gives you away. The tiniest of flinches, the path that your eyes – especially your eyes – take, and the position of your body and head. These will tell the civilian that there is something wrong. You should have noticed the neon colours first. That would be normal animal psychology. Stare at the cop six tenths of a second, stare at the vest three tenths of a second, stare at the cop six tenths of a second and you are busted. The key here is the civilian. He will have been recruited because he – it’s almost always a he – is naturally curious.
He will also be deeply empathic, which gives him the ability to project, to feel, the emotional mindset of his marks from their facial micro-expressions. He will also have been trained in grooming habits, gestures and clothing displays. He will especially look for passengers who avoid eye contact, surreptitiously stare at the cop and sweat. He looks for sweat in the cool static air-conditioned environment like gold. That is his bread and butter. Sweat.
But, of course, I know this stuff. I’m Airport Alex, the ou formerly known as Acid Alex, also alternatively known as Skollie Papillion or secretly known as Alexander-Bitch-Born-Bastard-Blikkieskos-PuddlePirate-Asterix-Yster-Lix-Douglas-Goulding.
I am a professional international drug smuggler and wholesale distributor, or so I am telling myself. I’m a Das. I’m not carrying anything.
And here we go … Just like I thought. Be (Look) relaxed. Give the orange vest eye contact. Actually there are two of them. Nod at the civilian staring at you. Ça va, Frog. Look forward with cool determination. Do not look again. Don’t even fucking peek. Okay, so far so good.
Now Big Brother is watching you. Forget the visible cameras. They are all dummies. You cannot see the real ones. Walk next to Brother E. Do not follow each other; they will know you are planning something. Take it easy, relax. Remember the pen is in your shirt pocket. Breathe, breathe, relax. Everything is going as planned.
Okay here we go. Luggage. Relax, bra. Anti-terrorism is watching. Cool. Be bored. You’ve done this before. You have already beaten the dogs, X-rays and spectrographic scanners.
Okay here comes the luggage. Right, let’s go. Next to Brother E. Okay, here it is. Match Point. Time for Brother E to pick a fight. Christ I hope this good-cop bad-cop thing works out for us …
[!!!] … Jesus these padda mapuzas are aggro. The one Brother E swore at looks like he’s going to shoot him.
Right, whip out the pen.
M’sieu, I’m sorry, here is a pen for my friend. I’m sorry, we are tired; it was a very long flight. My friend did not mean what he said.
Brother E, Shut Up!
And fill in the form …
These people are just doing their job.
I’m very, very sorry officer, we had some problems travelling – our luggage got lost by Customs at Johannesburg and we almost missed our flight. Thank you, my friend did not mean what he said.
APOLOGISE BROTHER E!
Yes, we will be careful.
And we are through!
Stupid fucks got so uptight about Brother E they didn’t search us. One more to chalk up to the books. Stupid macho freaks. Won the pissing contest and lost the pak. Yeeehah!
Oh God, now I need to drink. Brother E is going to get mad at me but I can’t help it.
I Have To Have Alcohol.
Any fucking alcohol. And spliff too. But that will have to wait till Amsterdam.
No shit, I have to have it. Now. Brother E had better never find out how bad it is; I barely want to think about it myself, so he will fucking freak. I am in shit. Fuck it is so bad that I almost hoped we got caught back there so I could dry out again inside. How’s that for fucked up, dude? Even more fucked up is me being an ex-missionary and theology student … and I can’t talk about it. I probably won’t ever be able to talk about it. Not after Christine.
What the fuck am I gonna do?
I can’t go to rehab. Jesus, I’m a fucking drug makwera. We run the whole eastern seaboard between Cape Town and PE. PAGAD is hunting us. They already shot Chad and that other ou on our payroll. The various flavours of the so-called Cape Town mafia want to know who the fuck we are and when they can break our legs.
Michel reckons the Amsterdam Big Boys want a sit-down with us when we get there – and that has to be a deadly serious business proposition in the making. And, Oh Yes, Boys and Girls, just for shits and giggles, the happy little pitbulls from SANAB visited us for a chat the other morning. They came all the way from fucking Wynberg for breakfast. I can’t go to rehab. It will be a hilarious fucking joke that would make all the Wrong People horribly nervous.
Oh, God, what am I gonna do? I’m buggered. Well, actually Not Quite Enough is kind of the point at hand, Al.
Fuckit, let’s go get a dop …