Magic Mushrooms – A book written in the colourful cafes of St Kilda

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The year is 1988. Maree Cowan, a young, naive girl, has taken magic mushrooms in Thailand and has been flown home to a high security mental hospital and given the life sentence of bipolar. She has served her time as a mental patient and against doctor’s orders has come off all her medication. She is manic with thoughts entering a million at a time and her emotions are switching and changing rapidly.MAGIC MUSHROOMS

She’s in the back streets of St Kilda seeking out excitement and fun with the criminals and drug addicts, dealers and prostitutes.  Fringe dwellers gather from all over the world to create this unusual scene where Maree feels she belongs, as her mind has gone haywire, and that’s enough for them to accept her.

She is unaware that trickery is at play and mania is luring her into great danger.

It’s an astonishing journey for a girl from middle class suburbia and she in awe of St Kilda, the playground she has found herself in, where she and mania roam recklessly.

Maree has a charm that leads her wherever it pleases and when night falls it pleases to lead her to Monroe’s and the dimly lit bar. “Scotch. No Ice. Thanks. The smooth slightly rough liquid floods my mouth with a warm glow. I swallow and smack it hits the back of my throat. It leaves the after taste that blended with mania and makes me feel completely exotic and totally alive. It’s going to be a night of cat and mouse, me being the cat. It’s not a typical scene.

“All the men that sit around this dimly lit bar are Europeans they dress suave and talk with accents that have a hint of mystery. They drink spirits from short heavy glasses and smoke designer cigarettes. These men smell of money, not a clean smell, no, the kind that comes in a roll of notes. Each note could tell a story of where it has been but no one is going to ask.

“These men are free from the conventional attachments of marriage and mortgage but they are honorable and I take assurance in that.  I know whose eyes are on me and that’s nearly everyone, when I feel this desirable the hunger of lust reaches out and drowns me. I swallow my last drop of scotch.  I have no more money but with my charisma and my black dress it’s not a problem. I don’t need any.  I’m manic and reckless and ready for a lot of fun. They can’t figure me out except that they desire me and that’s why I belong in this dangerously exciting bar.”

Maree roams St Kilda in her manic state believing that she is the perfect creation of intelligence, charm and wit. She is on an ego trip, in love with herself, beyond the scale of normal human emotion. She has the perfect amount of mania to do all number of wonderful things. Dancing on café tables at Leos, sitting with strangers for a power chat at Toppolinos and dancing to a crowd at The Carmen Bar. The Esplanade and The Dickwittington are places where she plays pool with locals and characters from all parts of Europe.

When the excitement becomes too overwhelming Maree retreats to any one of the cafes in Carlisle Street and writes her thoughts down. In St Kilda Maree was known at “the writer.” “Come; my pen and paper. Come be my friend! In a dark uncrowded café at a table by the corner, I sit with my pen and bury head in paper. Together we write good warm positive words, as the lines fill the pages my pen begins to rescue me; I am no longer alone. When my mind can’t be found my pen and paper are always there ready to comfort me.” When she feels replenished she hits the streets again.

When the police finally track Maree down, having far more fun than anyone purely on what she generates from inside, they tell her it’s a crime. “The law is enforced for society must be kept calm, its members conforming at all times.” They read her crime “you have become a danger to yourself, a danger to others.”  She is sentenced by a jury that always says guilty, to spend time indefinitely in a mental hospital where bars are human arms and medication and injections keep everyone calm.

Maree’s sweet revenge to all the institutions that imprisoned her is the writing of her book ‘Magic Mushrooms’. A memoir, with extracts from her diaries written in the cafes of St Kilda and spanning her life from 1988 to 2014.  Her conclusion is “peace within even during the most turbulent times.”


You can purchase the book ‘Magic Mushrooms’ at

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