Over the holidays, my girlfriend gave me a book that she told me would discuss third world countries through psychedelic bursts of prose. A ‘road movie of the mind,” the cover promised me. I finished Dastgah: Diary of a Head Trip today and my eyes are still in lunar mode.
Mark Mordue is an Australian journalist who most often focused on music back in Sydney. This makes sense while reading his travel diary, a lyrical masterpiece about a man and a woman twirling around the world for a year. Mordue and his lady don’t visit Rome and Hollywood. They say farewell to the “beaten path” and find themselves in new worlds, places like Turkey, Iran, Scotland, India, Nepal. Rough areas full of cross dressers and junkies and burning bodies. Wild adventures involving traffic jams en route to the Himalayas, thieves in Paris, and sensual Michael Jackson addicts in Iran. Good tea, cheap drugs, French graveyards, and lightning storms, this book is a beautiful mess of a journey through the eyes of a saddened poet, upset and intrigued at the same time by the world around him. One of my favorite parts is when Mordue visits Edinburgh for a music festival, heartbroken and unsure where his relationship might go. All alone, he writes, “We had skated through the city after that fatal conversation like low clouds, fading into ourselves over the next few days. At the Café Graffiti we’d watched a young group called the De K-Band do something jazzy and sweet, flower-power rock ‘n’ roll that didn’t dominate you at all – just drew you in.”
A trip around the world, but at a cost. Throughout the book, our narrator is incredibly vulnerable, scatterbrained; troubles with his wife, airport tears, his age, LSD in his pocket, it all spirals into a roller coaster of words, a spiral staircase of emotions in under 300 pages. This is great for ambitious travelers and backpackers and lonely knowledge seekers. Published in 2004 and written in the late 90′s, explore the world before 9/11 changed the game, with unrest still very much alive.
Take Dastgah for a ride. Throw it in your backpack. Squeeze it in your corduroy pockets to read in between weed deliveries on your vintage bike. Try opium in a land you know nothing about. Dive headfirst- neonpajamas