Category Archives: Ascent to Delerium

The First Time I Got High on Marijuana

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Red Eyes 12-2012

Red Eyes 12-2012 (Photo credit: daver6sf@yahoo.com)

By the time I had entered into my 9th grade year, the first year of high school, I was more into music than ever.  This was 1995, and it was officially becoming the “post-grunge” era.  Hootie and the Blowfish were popular, though me and my ever growing band of marauders were anti-pop and therefore anti-Hootie.  Silverchair, Greenday and Alanis Morrisette were big during this time.  And bands like “Bush” were making it truly official that “grunge rock” had met it’s end in commercialism.

At the beginning of the school year a TV series came on that changed the way I would look at music forever.  The 3 remaining Beatles who were alive at the time- Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, came out with a series of shows about their music career called “Anthology”.  My parents and I watched these shows as they came on religiously.  I was drawn in to the story and life of the Beatles, and most of all their later era of music.  It wasn’t long before I snatched up albums like “Rubber Soul”, “Revolver”, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“, and “Abbey Road”.

In the story of the life of the Beatles, one of their most creative periods of songwriting began around 1965 when they released “Rubber Soul”.  There was a move away from the pop sound they had before and into a stranger, more speculative approach to songwriting.  This was the era where they began using marijuana regularly.

I remember the time in the Anthology series where they talked of marijuana as something that seemed to enlighten them spiritually, making them more creative and philosophical.  My Dad at the time seemed to agree with what they were saying, and I didn’t know why.  I didn’t talk to my parents about it either, but a deep curiosity was birthed in me as I learned of the Beatles’ creative crutch.

During this time I was making close friendships with a few friends, one named Mitchell and the other Duane.  Mitchell played guitar often, but was beginning to become a virtuoso on bass- getting into prog rock by Rush and Frank Zappa, and Duane played drums and was heavily into Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix experience and Jimmy Chamberlain from the Smashing Pumpkins.  I played guitar and sang, and we formed a band that we named “Mulberry Tree” to reflect the mixture of classic and grunge rock that made up our sound.

Because we wanted so much to be like the people we looked up to, the next step for us was to smoke marijuana.  Duane was into it before all of us, because he had older friends than we did, and we were ready and willing to join him.

In the Fall of 1995, we had a group of friends over (a band they called “Aftermath”) to play music at my house.  My parents were out of town, and Duane had filled a Black and Mild Cigar with dope.  These guys were not a part of the “popular crowd” by any means, but because of my 8th grade downfall from popularity I was making the effort to befriend people no matter what their social status was.  We set up all of our equipment, including drums, and amps and guitars in my parent’s garage.

Before we could finish setting up or even play one song, Duane pulled out the Black and Mild and convinced us we should light it up.  I was beginning to become less careful and encouraged him to go for it.  This was the 3rd time I had tried pot, and it hadn’t really intoxicated me yet.  Duane encouraged me to inhale it deep and hold it in.  I did just that and coughed and coughed until I felt like my lungs were going to pop out of my mouth.  I tried a few more hits just like that and then quit, letting Duane finish the rest.  I think Mitchell may have tried one hit, but backed off.

So we had finished smoking, and I went back to setting up equipment.  The last thing I remembered was being in my basement grabbing speakers and not being able to lift them.  I began to freak out as numbness filled my body and clouded my mind.

The next thing I remember is laying on the ground, with all the boys from Aftermath laughing at me and mocking me, though one named Antony was actually pretty concerned for me.  I was flipping out at this point, thinking that I was about to die.  I kept repeating that over and over to everyone around me, “I’m gonna die!”  And Duane once hovered over me as he made serpent rhythms with his hands and quoted Jim Morrison, saying “Don’t worry man!  Just ride the snake man, ride the snake!”  Duane was as high as me but had been there before.  At one point he sang the words of “Tomorrow Never Knows” by John Lennon and the Beatles, “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream… it is not dying, it is not dying…”

My next memory was playing music with my boys in Mulberry Tree.  I probably didn’t hit one correctly timed note on the guitar, and I was beside myself laughing and stumbling all about.

Later in the day I entered my first experience of “coming down”.  The high began to wear off and I was grateful to have felt such fear and yet survive it. Something within the experience in my mind became akin to why people ride rollercoasters, or bungee jump, or skydive, or steal something, or lie, or break in to someone’s house, or have sex with someone they’re not committed to.  The thrill of the adrenaline…  Knowing it was wrong but doing it anyways, and being afraid it would kill me, yet making it out on the other end, made me obsessed with the experience.

And somehow this feeling of “riding the edge”- something that felt like hanging over the edge of a cliff and then being pulled back- became an addiction.  Also, all the anger I felt towards my parents, the terrible grades I was getting in school, and the social pressures just seemed to fade away for 4 hours.  Later that night all those feelings magnified though.  I slipped into a more depressive state, clinging to the sounds of Beatles records, playing the guitar, and writing down poetry to comfort myself.

After that experience, the school week passed by in an anti-climactic fashion.  I talked to friends like Kaden about the experience, and it seemed to scare him.  Other pot-head kids which I had once viewed as crazy with a higher level of juvenile mania.  All of a sudden they became close acquaintances.  I longed to get high again and ride the edge of the cliff once more.

The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. (Prov. 15:14)

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Chasing After the First High

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don't get high on my supply without me.

don’t get high on my supply without me. (Photo credit: Divine Harvester)

There was an entire scene that seemed to surround the new-found drug culture that Duane, Mitchell and I were about to be immersed in.  It centered around a place in the town of Hudson, Ohio called Arabica Coffee.  Coffee was becoming a popular fad and drug of choice amongst especially those in the middle class suburbs and urban centers in the mid-90’s.  Starbucks was starting to bust it’s way out of Seattle and all over the country, and even those of us in high school began to taste of the European twist on this little brown bean.  We drank it in the form of cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and sometimes just straight regular coffee.

In the midst of Duane and I’s descent into the abyss of depression and skepticism that naturally came along with the things we were doing, we began to find solace at Arabica coffee house.  It was a place where we, as 14 year-old kids, could buy a coffee, and sit and smoke cigarettes inside. For some reason no one ever questioned us for doing this.  This was also 1996, long before smoking in indoor establishments was made illegal in Ohio.

When I got high for the second time Duane had filled a cigarette with a little bit of weed, and we only had smoked a bit of it.  For some reason this time was different than before.  We found ourselves later back at Arabica coffee shop, too high to drink coffee or smoke cigarettes, and we kept feeling like jolts of electricity were surging through us, and also the strange feeling of feeling like we were being poked by a hundred needles at once.  We must have looked like total goons sitting there with our heads down on the table, buried in our folded arms.

Duane had taken this same pot we had used, and filled up an entire cigarette with it to smoke it himself the next day in his bathroom at his parents’ house.  He described for us in detail how he was convinced that he would die all night.  He was twiddling a little piece of drumstick wood in his fingers and became persuaded that if he were to drop this piece of wood, his heart would stop.  We found out the next week from Duane’s older friend that we had in fact been smoking ganja laced with PCP.

It was during some of these strange moments of being high and sitting around talking about weird philosophy and sharing poetry and song lyrics that I first met Harmony.  Harmony was a striking sight of beauty to my 9th Grade eyes.  She was a hippie girl who smoked, talked eccentric chatter and had long brown hair.  Something within me was ignited and inspired.  I began to write songs and poems describing the way I felt about her.

It wasn’t long before Harmony and I were “going out”, which was just an official term for considering each other to be boyfriend and girlfriend.  I was such an odd kid, and during our 2 months of dating I couldn’t even work up the nerve to kiss her.  Somehow I had the audacity to put a lot of foreign unknown chemicals in my body, but not the confidence to make the move I so desperately wanted to make.  I was a walking contradiction of sin and naïve conscience.

So Harmony and I broke up, because nothing was happening.  I think I freaked her out because I was writing songs for her and hinting at being in love with her, yet surprised her by being so afraid to kiss her.  But we became the closest of friends.  We began to talk with each other every night on the phone.  Sometimes I would be up until 2am and my parents would bust me on my phone (this was when we still had land lines- not cell phones!)  We continued to be deeply close friends, sharing our love for classic rock like Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, and pouring out our hearts to each other.

It was during this time that we also began to discover Pink Floyd.  Duane, Mitchell and I watched the movie “The Wall”, and began listening to albums like “Dark Side of the Moon”, “Meddle” and “Wish You Were Here”.  Something in the morose, dark psychedelic sounds of the Floyd seemed to provide the soundtrack for our venture into cannabis use.  The lyrics also spoke of a cynical, alienated view of the world.  We identified with them and their songs began to influence our song writing.

My songs took a turn into the world of melancholy.  They had a sombre tone.  I also discovered guitar and vocal effects like flangers, phasers, reverbs and delays that gave my music the simulation of surrealism.  These effects were also used by Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, the later career of the Beatles, and more.  My lyrics became even more philosophical in tone, at times entering into a dream like world apart from reality, and at other times expressing the ongoing isolation I felt within myself when standing in juxtaposition to society.  I became more addicted to pain and sorrow, as I began to felt they were a catalyst for “true art”.

The drugs began to consume my life.  Duane, Mitchell and I were continually searching for a heavier and heavier high on marijuana.  We bought pipes from older kids that could buy them legally at a head shop, and even obtained a plastic, purple bong which we used to fill with grape juice, smoking pot in it constantly.  It just seemed that we couldn’t get back to that first high we had, which felt so surreal, scary and surprising.  We would smoke and smoke until we felt our lungs barely worked, and still the high was never the same.

It was as if a mysterious stranger had fed us a tremendous fabrication.  We had felt as if we could be more like God or feel like gods ourselves, becoming completely entranced and absorbed into our own cerebral worlds.  But the first experience of this “godlike” feeling was more intense and profound than all the others after, and it was seemingly impossible to re-create the original experience.  This was the cycle of addiction that I began to understand was taking hold of me.  I was searching for that first high and I would never get it again, but felt a vacuum within my spirit.  It seemed that the quest would never meet its end, and it seemed to be plunging me into deeper despair and confusion.  My grades at school continued to plummet, and my relationship with my parents became more strained.  All that seemed to matter were drugs, our band, and my feelings for Harmony.

Rockstar Daydreamer

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Rock star baby, Rock star.

Rock star baby, Rock star. (Photo credit: fmgbain)

Someday he’s gonna make it to the top
And be a juke box hero, got stars in his eyes~ Foreigner

I’ll never forget when I played my first gig in a bar.  I was 14 years old and our band Mulberry Tree got a gig at a dive called “Europe Gyro” in Kent, Ohio.  We got there to set up and the stench of alcohol, cigarette smoke and urine had filled the air.  A couple bands were playing with us and treated us like second class citizens, so of course we went on last.  It was a Sunday night before school on Monday.  We went on at 10:30 pm to an audience of one black man, drunk out of his mind and yelling out, “play some Jackson 5 man!”  My Dad had set up the gig for us.  At one point I dropped my pick in the middle of a song and was deeply embarrassed when he picked it up off the ground and handed it to me.  I think the microphone picked up my words, “get away Dad!  Get away!”

Not long before this, we had our first experience in an amateur recording studio.  The man who recorded us was a total throwback to the 70’s and 80’s.  He had a wild long pony-tail down to his butt cheeks.  He played the saxophone.  We recorded all our Mulberry Tree Songs live, and then I did the vocals.  We finished a whole album of 7 songs in 12 hours.  We laughed at Duane, our drummer, because we had to duct tape headphones to his skull, they kept slipping off because he banged his head to the beat while drumming.

All of this led to the pinnacle for us.  We had a chance to play in front of our peers in High School at what Hudson High School in Ohio called “Rock Fest”.  It was 1996.  Hits like “Stupid Girl” by Garbage and “Tonight, Tonight” by the Smashing Pumpkins were on the radio.  Duane, Mitchell and I were nervous before the show.  We snuck into a bathroom upstairs in the High School and turned off the lights.  We lit up a cigarette and shared it.  We hopped up and down pumping ourselves full of adrenaline before the show.  Then the moment came.  We were on.  I stepped up to the mike, plugged in my Cherry Red Sunburst Gibson Les Paul, and wiped away the hair hanging over my eyes.  We played our first song, and through the whole show the crowd stayed into it.  We were deeply hooked on the accolades we got from the masses of peers looking onward.

And afterwards, we were able to sell our album to all of our friends.  It was on cassette tape.  I had to make copies myself on my high-speed audio dub recorder, and we gave some weed to a friend of ours for making our “high-tech” album art on his 95′ PC Computer.

But after the show, Mitchell’s Father cornered me.  He proceeded to tell me that “red flags” were going off in his mind, because in one of our songs I had a lyric that sang “smoke it up, toke it up, drink it up, gulp it on down”.  He was sure that I was singing from personal experience.  I assured him that I was writing fictionally, and felt bad for all of the poor people who were caught up in the mess of addiction.  After a lot of interrogation, Mitchell’s Father backed off.

I came up to Duane and Mitchell and they were asking me; “What did he say? What did he say???”  I told them that he tried to get me to admit I was doing drugs and drinking, and that I was sure I pulled one over on him.

I was becoming a liar.  I certainly struggled with lying to my parents, because we had such an open, transparent relationship.  Nonetheless, somehow, lying became a new weapon that I felt I could use to protect the things I did in darkness…  I began lying to many people, including my parents and some of my close friends.  I began to abandon my conscience and step into a whirlwind of hedonistic freedom of which I had not experienced yet.

Busted With Weed

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Marijuana small

Marijuana small (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s something that happens in the heart and soul of a young man when he begins to taste of criminal adrenaline.  I learned to lie more effectively, and my drug habits increased.  This made me hungry to delve into madness more deeply.

Every chance I got, I was smoking dope, or “bud” as we called it back then.  I began to understand that there were different levels of marijuana quality, and the higher the quality, the more expensive it was.  I sampled stronger weed.  I smoked by dumpsters during rock concerts with people I didn’t know.  I jammed with older high schoolers that smoked in their parents’ basements.

One time I was smoking a pipe with Maxwell Clancy, a well respected doper in the 12th grade who always had high quality stuff, in the school bathroom during lunch.  The hall monitor of the school who we had named “Hall Hitler” walked in.  I was deeply freaked out and sure I was busted.  I put the pipe in my pocket, spurred on by Maxwell to hold onto it, and not realizing that I could potentially take the heat for him.  Hall Hitler came in, declaring loudly, “Alright everybody!  Get outta here!  Stop smoking and doin’ whatcher doin’!”  As we walked out of the bathroom, with our high coming on, Maxwell walked up to me, likely afraid that I’d steal his pipe.  He asked me to hand it over to him.  I cupped it in my hand and handed it over.  Hall Hitler came up to us and barked, “Hey!  What was that you handed over!”  Maxwell babbled something in court jester fashion, running off like a carnie circus man.  Hall Hitler confronted me, and I told him all I had was a lighter.  I pulled it out of my pocket.  He let me slide with a warning and an after-school detention.

Somehow, experiences like this just furthered the hunger for mayhem within me.  Duane and I had heard of some older friends who planned on going to a “Rave”- an all night illegal party in the city of Cleveland, Ohio that would surely have lots of drugs, girls, pumping techno music and colored lights.  The thing was, I’d have to sneak out of my house in the middle of the night on a Friday night, and they’d come and pick me up.  Everything was set for me.  I had an eighth of an ounce of greens in my pocket, and they were heading over to get me about a block away from my house to avoid suspicion.  They were coming to get me at 1:30am, and would get me back by 6am, just in time to sneak into bed before my parents woke up.

I snuck out of the house carefully and slowly, making sure that our English Springer Spaniel “Nick” wouldn’t wake up.  I crept out of the back porch door of our little ranch house.  I walked through our backyard into a neighbors back yard, and before long was out on the street in the middle of the cool March evening.  The stars were out, and it was a little bit chilly.  I lit up a Camel Light cigarette and waited.  Looking at my watch I realized it was 1:32am.  No sign of them yet.  I waited some more and finished the cigarette.  My watch said 1:41am.  Where were they?  I decided that it was all a bad idea.  What if I got caught?  What if they never came and I got caught for nothing?  I began to head back to my house.  I felt the horror run through my veins as I saw the dining room light on from a distance.

Panic ensued.  Should I ditch my large bag of weed in a tree?  Should I throw out my cigarettes and lighter?  I was freaking out.  I just decided to admit that I was outside smoking a cigarette, and left the dope in my pocket.  My parents would be mad, but at least it would explain the smell, and I would maybe get grounded for a weekend.  No big deal, no big deal at all…

I creaked open the door and came inside.  My parents gazed at me in horror.  “What are you doing, Ben?  It’s almost 2am!”  My Mom vehemently asked me.  “Ummm…  nothin’ Mom, I was out smoking a cigarette.  I’m really sorry.  I only had one of them, I won’t do it again.”  I replied squeamishly.  Then the axe came down.  Just like in 7th Grade once before my Mom asked me, “Empty your pockets, and let’s get rid of these cigarettes.”  I fumbled for a lie.  “I don’t have em’ Mom!  I only had one that I got from a friend!”  Really, I had a pack of Camel Lights that was almost full.  “GIVE THEM TO ME!”  My Mom barked back.  I carefully pulled the pack out of my pocket, trying desperately not to pull the bag of green buds out with it.  Then she yelled the words I didn’t want to hear.  “PULL OUT EVERYTHING, BENJAMIN!  I WANT TO SEE THE BOTTOM OF THOSE POCKETS!”  I pulled out the weed.

Jesus was talking about religious, charlatan fakers when He said; “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” (Luke 12:2)  He was addressing living a duplicitous religious life.  But the phrase applies to every scenario.  People eventually get caught…  no matter how well they think they can hide it…  Even those that try to hide their misgivings their whole life will be found out after their death.

My parents were shocked.  Somehow my Dad just could’t believe that I would ever do any of this stuff.  My Mom had been suspicious all along, because she was a little less idealistic than my Father.  I was to be grounded for one full month.  No sneaking out, no hanging out with friends.  I was only allowed to play music with my friends under supervision.  Also, they made me cut my hair short.  My curly-haired girlfriend at the time, “Adah”, broke up with me shortly after, since I couldn’t ever come out to hang out with her, and I think she really dug my hair.

Prescribed Darvocet for a Broken Wrist

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death by darvocet

death by darvocet (Photo credit: chotda)

To be sure, being grounded for a month after being busted with weed was a drag.  But the hair that my parents cut off began to grow back, as did my hunger for the adrenal reality of post-adolescent mischief.

The song, “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis was high on the charts throughout April of 1996.  Oasis was a band that rode on the back of what could have been the twentieth consecutive wave of Beatlemania that happened after the Fab Four hit the charts.  I liked what they were doing, but then heard that lead man Noel Gallagher thought that “his band’s first album was better than the first put out by music legends THE BEATLES, THE WHO and THE ROLLING STONES.” (http://www.contactmusic.com/news/gallagher-my-debut-was-better-than-the-beatles_1013583)  I felt this statement to be so deeply offensive, that I decided to boycott Oasis.  I wrote their name on a piece of paper and taped it to my bedroom wall with a circle around it and a line through it.

My room was becoming quite the rock n’ roll shrine.  It contained pictures of Jimi Hendrix playing at Woodstock, it had myriad photographs of John Lennon and the Beatles, it had a poster of the Who from the 1980’s that contained an ad for “Schlitz Beer”.  These posters replaced all my half naked photographs of women.  Looking back I still can’t believe some of the things my parents let me get away with.  But making moral, ethical decisions wasn’t something on my radar until years later.  And it’s still not natural for me to make those decisions, but rather the Spirit of God that compels me towards them.

I may not have been able to leave my house regularly since being grounded for a month when caught with dope, but I did find creative ways to keep my marijuana habits regular.  I had kept acquaintances with one of Percy’s good friends, Damien.  He was regularly into the use of dope and was starting to dip into the world of psychadelics.  My parents thought they were monitoring me well, and I convinced them to drop me off early for school so I could get caught up on homework.  Really, I was meeting with Damien and smoking pot behind a set of canoes that were not far away from Hudson High School in Ohio.  We would meet on these cool spring mornings, with a layer of dew kissing the blades of grass on the ground.  We’d smoke pot through a pop can, poking holes in the center and crushing the middle of it, and sucking the smoke through the open drinking hole.  He would bring cigarettes filled with marijuana also.  He managed to get me high before school on a good number of days.

I would buy marijuana in small amounts from Damien, and take it home.  My parents didn’t get home from work until 5pm and I’d be home off of the bus by 3:30pm.  I’d always have an hour or so to smoke weed on my own, through pop cans or whatever I could find.  Sometimes drug buddies would come home with me for an hour and leave before my “rents” got back.

I learned the trick of using eye drops as well.  I would put them into my beet-red eyes, which would always be the side effect of smoking pot, and they would turn my eyes white.  I would spray cologne on before my parents’ got home.  As far as they knew, I was making quite the turn-around.  But I was pretty sure I had them fooled.

One day I was stoned at school, and it was gym class time.  At this point I still had shaggy, long hair and was becoming as skinny as a rail from continued use of cigarettes, dope and a steady diet of strong black coffee.  I would normally skip lunch and use substances to stave off my hunger.  The gym teacher “Mr. Norman” used to call Duane, Mitchell and I “Rock n’ Rollies”.  Especially me, because the only sport I was engaging in at the time was running sprints from school authorities and testing my lung capacity with various types of toxic smoke.  Mr. Norman always made fun of me for my inability to run more than one lap around a track without getting winded, and my knack for only performing 3 push-ups before collapsing to the ground.

We were playing “Broomball” a fun gym class game this day, and I was high enough to be making quite a spectacle of myself.  I began running backwards and cracking jokes, mocking the foolishness of the game.  Kurt Bartmann was a short kid who happened to be tying his shoes on his knees behind me as I was running backwards.  I ran backwards right into him and tripped over him like modern version of Donald Duck in the old Disney cartoons.  But this was no cartoon- I landed straight on my wrist and heard a loud “SNAP”!!

The next thing I knew I was in Mr. Norman’s office.  “Hey Joe, you see this Rock n’ Rollie’s wrist?  Twisted up like a pretzel eh?  You ever seen an injury like that Joe, huh?”  Mr. Norman was commenting, making a spectacle of my severe injury to his jockey, meat-lovers pizza eating friends. Mr. Norman had a killer tanning bed tan.  He ran 5 miles every morning at 4:30 am.  He was 53 years old and could beat up most 20 year olds.  All I knew is I was in severe pain.

I was taken to the emergency room by my Mom.  After 2 hours of waiting in the emergency room for the deeply competent hospital to see to my wrist- which looked as if it was slanted in an unnatural 45 degree angle, they treated my ailment.  They put an x-ray on my wrist and put my fingers into 5 metal Chinese-fingertraps that made up an iron claw.  They pricked my wrist with a shot, numbing it with some sort of anesthesia.  They then strapped my upper arm down and cranked the iron claw up, blasting my bones back into place.  I was still coming off of the high, and was numb from that as well, so my Mom was surprised that I reacted so calmly to the seriously painful situation (though I did let out a little yell when they snapped my wrist).

They then sent me home with another big mistake for a kid of my addictive nature.  They gave me a big bottle of pink pills labeled “Darvocet”, and told me to take them for my pain.

The next week I was off school, with a glow in the dark cast on, recovering from my pain.  My parents were lenient with my grounding and allowed friends over to see me as I was laying around.  I entered into the haze of these little pink Darvocet pills.  They were tremendously strong and gave me a doped up feeling that I looked forward to.  I learned from someone that crushing them up and snorting them would have a more impactful effect, so I did that a few times.  Occasionally I would get a bit of weed from a friend and combine it with the Darvocet, putting me into a whole new high I hadn’t experienced before.

As I recovered from my broken wrist and floated on in a haze of Dextropropoxyphene (the active ingredient in Darvocet), nicotine and THC (the active ingredient in marijuana), I was being set up for release from school.  It would be the summer of my 9th Grade year.

As “Pretty Noose” by Soundgarden, and “Counting Blue Cars” by Dishwalla blasted on the radio waves and audio tracks behind vivid images on MTV, I was heading into my first 3 months of total wreckless abandonment as a young party-hungry miscreant.  I didn’t even catch the lyrical message of the Cranberries anthem “Salvation”, which foreshadowed brighter days to come.

To all those people doin’ lines,
Don’t do it, don’t do it.
Inject your soul with liberty,
It’s free, it’s free.

To all the kids with heroin eyes,
Don’t do it, don’t do it.
Because it’s not not what it seems,
No no it’s not not what it seems.

Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.
Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.

Drunk and Arrested at Age 15

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Hiatt type 2010 handcuffs. Circa 1990s

Hiatt type 2010 handcuffs. Circa 1990s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was late July of 1996, and “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hand” was #1 on the alternative rock charts.  Not far behind was Stone Temple Pilots’ “Tripping on a Hole in a Paper Heart”, a modern psychedelic rocker, and Beck’s “Where it’s At”- an genius hybrid of minimalistic alt-rock and hip-hop done by the white grandson of a Vaudeville performer.

This had been an interesting summer.  My parents, in the midst of their continual fighting about money, had certainly moved ahead financially.  We bought a nicer house closer to the High School in Hudson, Ohio.  It was actually within walking distance.  One positive result of this was my removal from old surroundings.  Some of the neighbors around me who perpetuated my drug habits were now absent from my every day life.

On top of this, our high school band, “Mulberry Tree”, was facing some strain.  Our drummer, Duane, had disappeared from our existence for the summer.  We found later that he was hanging out with his older friends, and had really gotten the love bug for an older girl.  I suppose I would have done the same thing were I in his shoes.

But in our youth, me and the bass player of Mulberry Tree, Mitchell, took it personally.  We started writing our own music, which had more of a progressive-rock edge to it.  We wrote 6 to 9 minute long opuses, which were deeply influenced by prog bands like Yes, Rush, early Genesis (with Peter Gabriel), Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and King Crimson.  We were also certainly influenced by Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne.

Yet the removal of Duane and his older friends from our little rock star utopian dream world severed us from the ability to acquire marijuana.  We began to experiment more often in the cedar lined shelves of our parents’ liquor cabinets.

Mitchell would come over on Summer Evenings, after playing baseball all day, and we’d conjure up some form of liquor or beer.  We’d fill ourselves with it to the point of buzzing or being intoxicated, and then we’d congregate in my basement, which now had a full drum set, guitars, a bass, amplifiers, a keyboard, PA speakers, and a little recording studio with equalizers and mini-speakers.  It was every thing a young rocker would dream of.  We’d record our original music, with me on drums, and rhythm guitars, and Mitchell would play bass and lead guitars.  We’d mess around with over dubs and share doing the vocal tracks.  We created some great material when the alcohol wasn’t disabling us too much.

We ended up connecting with an older girl named Madeira in our circle of friends.  Mitchell had a love interest in her, and I had a bit of one, but knew that it was only right to allow my friend to pursue his interest before mine.  Our first connection with Madeira was at one of her parties.  Her parents would leave town and her 21 year-old sister would buy enough beer to kill an army of kittens.  She’d invite her sphere of influence into her den of high school freedom, and we’d partake of the spirits.

Now, I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol for two years, and have never been legally drunk, because the only drinking I did past the age of twenty-one was a beer or glass of wine here or there.  I was floored by Ephesians 5:18 that says; “do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”  I want that fulfillment and joy that can come from sobriety and being filled with God’s presence.  But at the age of fourteen going on fifteen, I dug debauchery.  The dictionary defines debauchery as “excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures”.  This was my M.O.

The first party we attended at Madeira’s house began with Mitchell and I sharing a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and ended with both of us laying like fools on a bathroom floor, vomiting what seemed to be an endless ocean out of our insides, and professing of our bro-mance friendship love for one another.  People say and do completely silly and regretful things under the influence of alcohol to be sure.

Later, Madeira had invited us to hang out with her and go bowling.  She obtained a bottle of 40 proof (1/2 strength) whiskey and 2 bottles of Boone’s sparkling wine for our voyage.  We made it to the parking lot of Stonehedge Bowling Alley in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Madeira was 16 and drove us there.  Mitchell had a learner’s permit because he was 15, and I had no sort of driver’s license because I had just turned 15.   We certainly had no plans for a designated driver.

We decided to drink the alcohol before going in to bowl.  Mitchell and I drank the whiskey, and Madeira drank the Boone’s.  Mitchell and I managed to finish the entire bottle, which was ½ strength but a large quanitity, especially for 15 year-olds!  Madeira finished both of the bottles of Boone’s.  We stood outside and smoked cigarettes as the deeply inebriating effects began to destroy and flood our minds.  Mitchell and Madeira ended up further away and I was on my own smoking.  I saw them kiss.  Madeira later got so sick that she started throwing up.  We never made it into the bowling alley to bowl…

So we had a serious dilemma.  Madeira was in no state of mind to drive.  Mitchell had a learner’s permit and half a bottle of rot-gut whiskey in him.  I had the same amount as Mitchell and no license.  We collaborated with great wisdom and intelligence to have Mitchell drive us home.  “We’d take a back-road highway- Route 91, and avoid the Route 8 freeway.  That way we’d stay away from potentially getting pulled over.”  So we thought…

Mitchell drove us home as Madeira laid down in the back on my lap.  She was feeling terrible and not in the best place, but still my feelings for her were there…  hidden underneath the surface.  I looked out the window into the beautiful summer night sky.  It was July 29th, 1996.  The stars were out.  What were we doing?  Were we crazy?  I held back my feelings for Madeira.  I hoped that we wouldn’t get in deep trouble.  Things weren’t looking good.

Mitchell drove through Cuyahoga Falls, then Stow, and then we were close to the border of Hudson, Ohio.  All the way he kept turning around to us in a fit of adrenaline.  He spoke loudly with a slur, “I think we’re going to make it!  Everything is gonna be ok!”

When we crossed the border into Hudson, a cop car pulled out of the darkness.  Flashing lights beamed in behind us.  Mitchell began to freak out.  “Oh no! Oh no oh no!!!  What are we gonna do?  What are we gonna do?”  He yelled.  I responded, in my inebriated tone, “It’s all good man, just tell him you’re taking us home and Madeira has the flu man!”

Mitchell pulled over.  The cop shone a flashlight in from behind us, making our adrenaline spike up.  Mixed with the alcohol, the feeling was numbing and terrifying.  The cop came up and addressed Mitchell, “Son, do you realize you were driving without your headlights on?”  Mitchell flipped and started apologizing.  He got out of the car and admitted he didn’t have a real license.

Everything else seemed to flash before our eyes like a nightmare.  Mitchell getting a sobriety test, then getting cuffed and put in the cop car.  The cop pulling me and Madeira out of the car and cuffing both of us.  Two back-up cops showing up and taking all of us separately…  isolated from one another…  They put me in the back of a cop car alone.  I was drunk, only 15 years old for 9 days, and breaking curfew.  An accomplice to under-age drunk driving.  I don’t remember all the details in the haze, but I was definitely weeping like a little child in the back of that cop car.

Later that night at the police station, our parents would come and pick us up.  I was too drunk to remember any of the conversations.  But I do remember when my Dad brought me home, and my Mom was waiting at the door.  It was about 3 am.  She didn’t say a word to me, she just wound up and slapped me hard in the face.  The numbness of the alcohol combated the physical pain.  But the emotional pain and shame were magnified.

I went up and slipped into a drunken slumber.  I would be grounded again for another month.  I would be enrolled into Oriena House for substance abuse counseling.  I would have to serve community service.

“Burden in My Hand” by Soundgarden would enter the soundwaves of the summer of August, 1996.  I would write songs in my month of grounding that were reflecting on my own addiction and desperation.  What would my Sophomore year of High School hold for me?  Would it be a year of reformed salvation?  Would it be a spiral into degradation?  Time would tell, but the words of Soundgarden certainly reflected my current state.

Follow me into the desert
As thirsty as you are
Crack a smile and cut your mouth
And drown in alcohol
Cause down below the truth is lying
Beneath the riverbed
So quench yourself and drink the water
That flows below her head

Close your eyes and bow your head
I need a little sympathy
Cause fear is strong and love’s for everyone
Who isn’t me
So kill your health and kill yourself
And kill everything you love
And if you live you can fall to pieces
And suffer with my ghost

Don’t Wave a Pipe in Front of a Frizzle-Fried Pot-Head!

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Cover of "Frizzle Fry"

Cover of Frizzle Fry

Despite the many antics of the summer of 1996, I could honestly say that I hadn’t smoked pot at all the whole summer.  Sure, there had been a fairly excessive amount of drinking, and an arrest, and my cigarette smoking habit had certainly not been abated.  But it’s almost as if I’d forgotten about the ol’ Mary Jane.

We entered into 10th Grade.  It was September of 1996.  “Down” by 311 had just hit the charts, and the hard rock reggae sound they blasted into the airwaves was rivaled only by bands like Sublime.

I was still listening heavily to the Beatles.  I got a hunger for 70’s rock like never before as well.  I was feeding myself on the sounds of early Deep Purple and Alice Cooper.  The album “Frizzle Fry” by Primus also became a personal favorite.

Mitchell, Duane and I were reunited as our band Mulberry Tree took off again.  Duane had profusely apologized for the previous summer, where he had disappeared into a haze of partying and chasing after an older girl.  We began to write music and play as a band religiously as we once had before.

September once again introduced the annual nerve-wracking homecoming dance.  Me and the boys of Mulberry Tree had hidden in a cave of rock n’ roll throughout that entire month, and we had no female companionship to claim.  Around this time we were beginning to be dragged into a strange party scene, led by the likes of one Kacey Jordan.  Kacey loved to drink, she loved to smoke marijuana, and she loved to try and interlink people into a vast chain of social chaos.  Her parents were constantly on business travel, so she had weekend parties more than anyone we had ever known.  Again, I hadn’t smoked pot for months, but began to get to know Kacey and her band of wily vagabonds.  Kacey really dug Mitchell, and asked him to homecoming.  He said yes, and she swore she would hook Duane and I up with blind dates for the dance.  We agreed in our typical passive-aggressive fashion.

We were paired with two girls from the neighboring rival town of Stow, Ohio.  Elysia was my date- a deeply sweet, intelligent hippie girl who had a strange mysticism about her of which I didn’t understand.  Duane was paired with a girl named Jaen, who was a senior in high school, and yet appeared to have more of a Middle-School-esque disposition.  Jaen had a knack for mocking people in a chiding sort of fashion.  I at times felt that she was going to punch me in the shoulder and yell “charlie horse!!”  Or pull my hanes his way up high and yell “wedgie”!

We had a fun night at homecoming.  Afterwards we ended up at an outdoor party with a bonfire.  Elysia asked me the magic words, “Do you like to smoke the good green?”  I had a moment where I thought, “no, no…  I shouldn’t do this…”  But it was as if an unquenchable love for this little green female plant that produced psychotropic effects had taken hold of me.  I couldn’t resist.  Elysia pulled out her rather large black and silver metal pipe.  She packed it full of dope and we smoked it together.

The high that took hold of me after not smoking for months was intense.  It was intense enough to flip me out a little bit.  But from that moment it seemed there was no turning back.