My Word

Beam me up to Planet Zorg

Quite a sight: Welsford St was the corridor to another dimension.

Did White Night really happen?

Or was it an opium-induced hallucination, which bloomed and disappeared like a caravan of ghosts driven by Coleridge and his Xanadu horses with Olivia Newton John riding side-saddle?

The last thing I remember was turning into Welsford St from Fryers St and then everything went bonkers.

It was night then it was day with a blue sky and scudding Simpsons clouds above us.

The Chief Gardener and I joined thousands walking in a stupor towards the flickering tractor beam of a spaceship somewhere in the distance that promised escape, transformation and a new beginning for all things, including planet Earth.

I had a niggling feeling I’d seen this scene before.

Of course, it was Close Encounters from the 21st century and it was happening right now on Welsford St not in a cinema. Or perhaps it was the drugs.

When we passed the brick water tower on Welsford St the answer was clear.

GV Water had infused the town’s supply with enough magic mushroom psilocybin to put 32,000 people into a trance making them rug up their kids and walk to Victoria Park Lake at night as if something big was going to happen that would transport them to the planet Zorg.

I bet those water people are still sniggering at their office desks on Fryers St right now.

We drifted on past Alph the sacred river, past a sunless sea and weird blobby things and a tired bear, all the time keeping our eyes on the beacons of floating flowers and a dancing pleasure dome on the other side of the water.

Finally, there were more blobby things and five people who spoke gibberish, rang bells and climbed up ropes to the delight of children and old hippies like me.

Then the drugs wore off; the dream was over and we walked down Wyndham St to head home under the dulled yellow streetlights feeling the weight of our bodies again.

Our sleep was fitful with weird dreams and Sunday arrived like a hangover with troubling thoughts we might have embarrassed ourselves but we couldn’t remember the details.

Light and dark: SAM became a dancing wall of light.

For one night, Shepparton had become a medieval French village that had eaten infected fungus, but instead of being poisoned, we had gone delightfully mad.

By Monday it was as if nothing had happened.

The lake was a choppy winter mirror and the joggers and dog-walkers were back.

The only things that remained to remind us of our night of wonders were the conversations on social media.

These were mostly positive but sprinkled with the usual miserable utilitarianism questioning the cost and the dangers of walking in the dark.

Somebody told me the cost of White Night was about $2 million so if you apply the bean-counter tactic of justification, that works out at $62.50 for each attendee – about the same as a family night at the cinema to watch the Disney-Pixar sound and light show Lightyear.

That seems fair enough to me.

If we take the same bang for beans approach to SAM it comes to $230 for each City of Greater Shepparton citizen.

But SAM is not a one-night event – it’s here for the rest of our lives, it’s free and available to everyone from Shepparton to China and beyond.

Our stately pleasure dome on our lake’s southern shore has the potential to deliver a lifetime of White Night experiences and lift us out of our daily lives to delight, challenge and question for a few moments.

There will always be those can’t see beyond the grey cube, just as there are those who can’t see colour.

Thankfully, we don’t all have to live in their dulled yellow streetlight world.

John Lewis a former journalist at The News