You’re never aware of the moment when fall asleep. You just let your mind wander until it doesn’t come back. Then you enter an alien world of rules, never guessing for a moment that there was a dramatic change in the way you approach the universe that congeals just behind your senses. We run around all the time looking for evidence to support or disprove the things we think, but what most people don’t realize is that all of us, in order to continue thinking in a the accepted human way, must assume that the way in which we interpret the world is correct. Otherwise, we can make no judgements, no decisions, and have nothing on which to base an action. Even if you think you are constantly wrong about everything and know it, you have to make the judgement that you are wrong with that tiny lump of noggin flesh. We are all permanently locked in our private set of mechanisms for seeing the world, and it’s a prison with no doors. If those mechanisms change, there’s no way to know, because the way in which you know things has changed, and there’s no way to double check, nothing else to which you can compare your one, single, unique continuum of thought.
I know, in retrospect, I was crazy, and now I’m not, in exactly the same way that I know the upsetting dream I had last night was a dream, even though I didn’t know it at the time.
One of the things I hate most these days is when people say, “oh everybody’s a little crazy.” This is not true. There is crazy, and there’s not crazy, and regardless of how you feel about someone, they’re either operating on generally the same assumptions you are (sane), or they’re operating on a vastly different set of rules that they may or may not have managed to plug into the social milieu like the rest of us (crazy). People think everybody’s a little crazy because they confuse eccentricity and various defense mechanisms or alternate viewpoints with true madness, and lump it all together on a sliding scale. This is wrong. There is an entire range of states of mind, but there is a hazy line, past which you are insane, and prior to it, there’s some hope. Having been there, I can spot a crazy in about two minutes of conversation. There are a lot more of them among us than most people think. I’m not trying to make you paranoid, they’re not dangerous if they’ve integrated their madness into everyday life, but you have friends that you put up with who are absolutely nuts, and you think they’re just shy or weird, and you probably know someone who you think is nuts who is just shy or weird. Maybe you can tell. Most people can’t. Nor can they see crazy coming when it’s creeping up.
I never noticed the moment I crossed into sleep and switched to dreamland. I don’t think it’s a fine enough distinction to pinpoint a moment between what we call “awake” and “asleep” even though we know the difference of those iconic states of consciousness. In our own lives, we remember a few cues to tell us when we probably fell asleep, just before we stopped bothering to put the world together in our heads.
I’m not sure exactly where it all fell apart on my trip to crazyland, but I think I remember the last time I checked the clock.
Part 5, or “Through the Looking Coke Mirror”
Once I started to accept that I was totally fucked and only a miracle or a truly epic1 act of will, I just got on with it. I was, stupidly, banking on the act of will, because I didn’t believe in miracles.2 What I should have considered was getting to a hospital, but I was on the enlightenment kick and really thought I could bring it home, not realizing I was rapidly losing my purchase on reality. When everything is revelations, nothing is genesis.
I decided to maximize the profit of my acid purchase by buying a bunch of sugar cubes and making sugar cube hits. If you are a drug dealer3 dealing in acid,4 the absolute worst thing you can do to your dreams of unbarred, unguarded living quarters is drop a bunch of acid on sugar cubes, since when you’re caught with acid, the amount you have is calculated by weight. Federally—and it would have been a federal offense, because I immediately crossed state lines—trafficking 1-9 grams of acid is punishable but not less than five years in jail. Above that, not less than ten years, but it’s okay, because it’s not more than life in prison. I took two or three grams and turned them into maybe a pound.
Those of you who have done or do acid and grew up or are growing up in some remote, relatively copless, low-crime area, or a cop-ridden, extremely high crime area, probably understand why I would make this decision, even if you’re laughing about it. For those of you who have never been in circumstances like this, just consider that when you’re young and invincible, and not really dealing as a lifestyle, and have never paid any notable legal price for your actions, moving what is to you a paltry amount of drugs just doesn’t seem like that big a deal. Consider, I was with a bevy of fellow part-time drugs users, most of whom were going to Simon’s Rock, supposedly the goto hotspot for the creme de la creme of today’s youth. Nobody stopped me. Nobody even said it was a bad idea. There was some discussion over profit possibilities, and whether this was the best way to go about it. The point is, no one present was qualified to take care of me.
Off we went, packing Me, Jun, Duke, EuroTrash,5 and HippyMainer into a four person car along with my multiple life sentences and a variety of other drugs and drug paraphernalia. I’d just met HippyMainer and she owned the camp we would be staying at once we arrived. I think Jun was dating her, or did later, or something like that; I lost track of a lot of storylines over the next couple of months. HippyMainer, Jun, and I packed into the backseat. It was an exercise in yoga and lack of homophobia, which isn’t that hard when you’re all around twenty years-old and have gone to the same bleeding liberal arts school and you’re all stoned or tripping.
I don’t remember the details of the conversations, except that the music was good, the vibe was chill, and the night air felt nice. The press of limbs in the back was a strange, non-sexual thrill as we all remained comfortable and un-awkward, even while marveling at our ability to not be awkward.
Then the cops pulled us over.
I’ve called everyone I could get in touch with on short notice,6 and nobody remembers exactly why. If Duke was driving, that’s why, since Duke liked to drive 90 miles per hour on twisting backroads with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other while adjusting his CD player and making small talk about Jazz theory, but I expect EuroTrash was driving, because we all wanted to live.
Everyone was nervous except me. Why wasn’t I nervous? First, because I was stupid, and didn’t understand the gravity emitting from the bag of now crushed sugar cubes I’d shoved under the passenger seat when the lights came up behind us. Second, because I was still Remaining Calm. It was pretty much all I had left. Third, because I was starting to lose my grip. To compare it to drifting off to sleep, this is the point where I’m on the couch, catching scenes in the movie here and there, but not really following the plot anymore.
All of us have faced the cops in some inebriated state before, so everybody knows what to do, which is nothing. Do everything the cops say, show complete respect for their authority, and give them every impression that you are proud of them for protecting your loved ones and you understand you’ve just fucked up and are willing, nay, eager, to take one for America as long as our boys in blue keep doing their job. It was clearly going to be a while, so we all hopped out of the car, with the permission of our nice, law-enforcing, gentle, my-aren’t-you-handsome-and-so-dignified cops. Since I was somewhere between the real world and the Great Beyond, I was the most relaxed, since I knew everything would be fine. I stretched, did a little yoga,7 some contact juggling, and even convinced Jun to do some martial arts practice with me.
I remember this practice vividly. It was called push hands: you and your opponent find your footing, place your forward feet against each other, then try to make the other person move either of their feet, and you have to do everything slowly. It takes a lot to be in a position where you’re about to face-plant the ground and you still have to move slowly, but it’s an excellent practice for understanding center of gravity, how your limbs bend, and how much a slow moving elbow can hurt. Jun and I had been doing a fair amount of this, and he was excellent, I was okay, probably best at it against him because he was my sole opponent most of the time.
Even taking into account trip time, this practice was slow. We barely moved, each minor muscle twitch sensed and countered by the opponent, before the arm had moved an inch. We measured our tactical advantage by each other’s breathing. I did this because of my preternatural acid awareness, he did it because he was just really good at stuff like that. I think we were there for five, ten minutes, though it was probably less. Eventually I saw an opening and dove for it, way to fast, triggering Jun’s kung-fu reflexes, and he hurled me to the ground. I stood, out of breath, at once chastised and honored.
I like to imagine the cops’ conversation.
“Yup. Probably from that hippy thing.”
“Probably on drugs.”
“That ain’t so bad.”
“Think they’re carrying?”
“Dunno. Think they’d be more wigged out if they were.”
“Lotta other kids on stuff tonight. These… wait a minute…”
“Yeah, I see it too.”
“That big asian fella fighting’ that scrawny white kid?”
“They’re doin’ it awful slow.”
“Doesn’t look like yoga. My wife started doin’ yoga, and it doesn’t look nothin’ like that.”
“They’re really not moving much.”
“Maybe one of em’s got a knife?”
“Nope, no knife.”
“Their friends seem okay with it.”
“Oh, there goes the little white kid.”
“Ayuh. Got twitchy.”
“College kids. Screw it, send em home.”
Or at least, that’s the best explanation I have for why they let us go. I think someone else, possibly even a sober someone, was talking to the cops, and we had HippyMainer, who obviously wouldn’t harm a hair on an endangered species’ head, even if she was happy to drive a bunch of drugs through three states.
Jun called me after reading the first draft of this and mentioned something I’d forgotten, and it’s so ridiculous I wouldn’t have believed it if I’d remembered it myself. Apparently, the cops did shine a light around our car, and asked me what my leather pouch full of acid laced sugar cubes was. At this point, the cubes had been ground into a pile of their component sugar grains, so I opened it up, looked the cop in the eye, and said, “Sugar.”
The cop looked at the bag of white powder, looked at me like I was an idiot for trying to pull something like that, dipped his finger in the pouch, sniffed at it, then tasted it.
“It is sugar. Why do you have a bag of sugar?”
“I like sugar.”
We packed it in and made it to the camp.
The camp was amazing. Gaslight and unfinished wood floors, and a trail down to the beach in Lamoine, Maine. Beaches in the summer in Maine are some of the best places to be in any state of mind. Sitting on the beach under the stars melting beer bottles into lamps over a campfire? You can guess.
I wonder why I haven’t done this since, as it’s pretty fun to melt glass over a campfire. It’s never hot enough to burst or liquify, but you can, over the course of an hour, gently nudge a Corona bottle into the background of a Dali painting. We did this for three or four hours.
I remember the fire licking over the edges of the glass as the glass bent and flowed over itself. I remember the sparks jumping up in the middle of our circle of unlimited patience and quiet. The sparks flew into the stars, and when the shooting stars came down, sometimes you couldn’t tell the difference. Fire, water, earth and sky bled together, and I could see the humming shroud of god between all things.
This was my seventh day without sleep.
The next morning I sat on the porch, lotus style, at dawn. No thunderstorm this time. This is the beginning of the part I’m not supposed to remember, according to the psychiatric profession, but I remember more of it than I care to. This part was okay.
I remember the color of every leaf on the trees around me. I remember the sky, the feel of the wood and the breeze. I was crossing the desert between sanity and madness, and the last few days had been so pleasant a journey, I simply walked on, seeking it, trying to find out what was on the other side, untying myself from the dock of reality. Reality was floating by in frames and staccato impressions, and I felt like I could navigate the splitting quantum universes bursting into existence a trillion times a second. I felt like I was a bodhisattva. From a skeptical standpoint, I may as well have been.
The night before, I had slept with HippyMainer. Sadly for me and for you, this was neither true in the literal sense nor the euphemistic sense. I didn’t get any sleep, and there was no sex. The fact that I ended up in bed with a girl I hardly knew is a little mysterious even now. We drew straws. I don’t think this is as deplorable as it sounds, though it may have been. At the time, I thought it was a complex illusion designed to give me a spiritual experience.9 In retrospect, I believe drawing straws was about who would get to sleep in the queen size bed—and incidentally share it with the person who owned the camp—versus the twin bunk beds.10 At the time, I snuggled up to her and there seemed to be no complaint, though I can’t imagine my chaste but extra-friendly physicality was welcome. We had just spent a car ride entangled in a manner I rarely achieve with the people I sleep with, so it wasn’t overtly sexual, but I was assuming an intimacy she couldn’t possibly have felt.
I remember describing it the next day:
“It was like I could feel every part of her body.”
This statement probably had something to do with why my crushed, possibly acid-laced sugar cubes vanished. But it didn’t even start to describe how I felt over the course of another sleepless night cuddling with this girl.11 I felt her heartbeat, and the changes in her skin temperature. I listened to every single breath, and felt every muscle twitch, and I loved each tiny variation in the experience, not in the sense that I was in love with this girl, but in the sense that I loved everything all the time by this point. I hadn’t yet attached symbols and plots to my new waterfall of consciousness, so everything was moments and slow, timeless beauty.
The moment on the porch was probably the first moment I started looking for meaning and purpose, after the lengthy lack of both. Buddha nature, if such a beast there be, is not achieved overnight, or even over seven nights. The quantum flux of the universe… what the hell. Maybe I did pick a universe and find a way to it. My life’s great now. All I know is that I was trying to build a system of meaning back up based on what I’d experienced, and I got it horribly wrong. Maybe if I’d headed for the woods, like Gollum boy, I would have started a cult, slept with a bunch of underage girls, and been shot by the FBI like a good shaman.
Instead I stayed with my friends. Or my friends stayed with me, thank something. I heard my friends talking quietly behind me, and my analysis of that situation drifted among thinking they were government agents keeping an eye on me, disciples following their savior (me), and thinking they weren’t talking about me at all because I was distracted by something else. Whatever I thought, they were looking out for me. The day of my morning meditation, they even accompanied me on the journey to visit my parents.
My parents hadn’t seen me since the day with Jake. As related by my mom:
I got a call from Jake’s mother telling me that you had dropped some acid with Jake, he was in the hospital and maybe I should see what was going on with you. I took this as a sincere desire to warn me that you were in trouble. In retrospect, I’m guessing she also wanted to make sure I knew what a bad parent I was to have raised the person who led her sweet baby down the road to perdition. Fair enough. At any rate, you had disappeared by then and weren’t answering your phone. We had no idea where you were during that week in Massachusetts. So we worried but couldn’t do much.
So I hoped in a car with Jun and Duke to visit my parents and attempt to explain myself.
They greeted me laughing. I explained myself a bit, with Jun’s help, and managed to get the conversation around to lighter things. How, I don’t know. I ended up trying to play my dad’s violin, caught up in general, and everything was fine, and then we all packed up and went back to camp.
During this conversation, I had one of my first well-rounded delusions. I realized that age was simply the mind expanding into more and more adjacent realities, where all things are possible, and the reason people tend to get more distractible as they age is simply because they’re spending more time in alternate realities, so they sometimes forget which one they’re in.
Of course this is crazy. But think of this as a metaphor for aging giving you a greater backlog of information and a wider set of mental skills with which to hypothesize and imagine and remember. Then it makes perfect sense, right? Now forget that it’s a metaphor. Now you’re crazy. Or better, don’t take away the metaphor yet, just build a whole knew metaphor on top of the old one, then another one on top of that, then do it really, really fast, and you have no idea where you started. Now try to work you way back, and find the fundamental root of meaning of all the words you used and where they came from and where the real meaning started.
Oh, whoops. It never did, and now you’re a neurotic black hole of contradictions. The level at which we nominally communicate was just social agreement. But you’ve been so obsessed with your meanings and symbols and metaphors you’ve forgotten what the agreement was, and you’re so looped out of your gourde you can’t remember who you are or what it was like to consistently believe the same thing for more than an hour. You’ve lost all the rational cut off points that used to make you stop and actually focus on what’s going on outside of you, instead of the model of the world in your head.
Some hours latter, Duke dropped me off at my place back in Bar Harbor. As far as the world was concerned, once Jake and I were accounted for and seemingly alright, everything was back to normal.
Me? Well, nobody was looking after me anymore. And I could do whatever I wanted. I had half a pack a cigarettes, a pair of shades, and I was on a mission from god.
I was insane.
I lose all my jobs and friends. Hitchhiking through the galaxy. Roses. Shooting stars.
1 Not the interjection “epic” that gets tossed around as easily as “fuck” these days, real deal epic…
2 Still don’t.
3 Bad idea.
4 Bad idea.
5 Sorry man. Too good to pass up.
6 Everyone being Jun.
7 I give yoga people a lot of grief these days. Look where it got me. Seriously though, it’s one of the best things you can do for your body if you’re a flaming hippy.
8 And you owe me five bucks.
9 Madness is extremely solipsistic.
10 I didn’t have a good sense of complicated relationships when sober at this juncture in my life. I have no idea what was going on.
11 I would really have to ask her about this, but I have no idea how to find her. The facts are less memorable than the delusions, but I think we were mutually cuddling the way stoned hippies do, so it wasn’t necessarily creepy and one-sided, just heavily tilted to one side.