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In 2010 my 3 year old son jumped onto me while I was sitting on the couch. His knee hit me in the chest, right over my heart.
The wind was knocked out of me, I couldn’t breathe for a minute or so; it was a good thump. A couple of days later the chest pain kicked in.
Being the tough guy that I am (although big and ugly is probably a better description), I wanted to ignore it.
It would go away; there was no problem I told myself.
After an hour of clutching my chest, my 16 year old suggested maybe I should go into hospital and get it checked out. “Yeah ok, might be wise” I conceded; so of course I drove myself to the emergency department and wandered in.
I have pain in my chest” I said, expecting to be bored silly for the next however many hours, waiting to see a doctor.
I was wrong, they looked worried and within a few minutes I was on a gurney being wheeled into theatre.
Ok, this is an interesting turn of events” I thought. “Maybe I’m going to die today” passed slowly and clearly through my mind. As the nurse was preparing me for surgery, the cardiac surgeon called my mother.
Matthew is having a heart attack” he said. Hmm, interesting… I didn’t feel like I was having a heart attack but then again, what does a heart attack feel like? I didn’t know; I’d never had one before.
As it turns out, I wasn’t having a heart attack. It was pericarditis, inflammation of the sac around the heart as a result of the knee to the chest.
All I needed was some antibiotics but that wasn’t immediately obvious, so a stent was inserted to overcome a slightly blocked artery. The recovery was slow and painful.
While I was in hospital my mother used the opportunity to go through my house and find my hydro set up.
Of course she shared the information with anyone who would agree with her prejudiced views.
On the day I came out of hospital I was screamed at by my son’s mother.
The day I came out of hospital after heart surgery, I couldn’t believe it; it was so out of whack with reality.
What was going on? Why were people so angry at me? Although I had experienced all sorts of judgment over many years, I had never really stopped to understand why.
This experience was what prompted me to begin my activism. I wanted to understand why society’s perception was so at odds with my experiences.
What I have learned since that week in 2010 has taken me through a journey of mind bending revelation. Everything is backwards; nobody seems to have any clarity.
I started the Melbourne 420 movement on the eve of the Victorian state election, not really knowing what I was doing but knowing I had to do something.
On the train going into the city, I was so nervous. I felt like any of the people in suits or sunglasses might have been undercover cops, waiting to arrest me.
The paranoia was intense. I was lucky. Fiona Patten and the Australian Sex Party were standing for drug law reform and joined my protest.
This resulted in news cameras coming along so we got attention right from the start. I was way too nervous to speak in public, let alone in front of a tv news crew, so I stayed in the background trying not to be noticed.
At 4:19 and 50 seconds, Eamon, the fella who was speaking began the countdown to 4:20.
The butterflies were swarming in my stomach but what could I do? I had organized the event; I had to come through with something… So I pulled out my pre-rolled joint and held it to my lips.
I had to bow my head so I could light it in the wind. When I raised my head there were 4 news cameras in my face. “Holy shit, here goes nothing” I thought. But I did it. I inhaled deeply and blew the smoke at the cameras.
I had my first victory, even if it was only over my own fear. Of course the only person in the whole world who noticed was my son’s mother. Sometimes you have to laugh... And Melbourne 420 was born.