Category Archives: Ascent to Delerium

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Teenage Sadness

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Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Winter and Spring of 1997 I have hazy memories of the subconscious of which I do not recall, nor understand.  I sit here now in Conway, New Hampshire on my day off, sipping strong coffee and writing of these vague memories.  My wife Sarah just reminded me of how great a memory I have, and how difficult it is for her to remember half the things in her past that I am able to conjure!  However, I’m the type of person that struggles with letting things go and nostalgia, and always have to intentionally seek divine grace in matters of forgiveness.

But the Winter of 1997 is a fog to me.  I’m certain I had gotten to the point during this time where marijuana had entirely engulfed my mind and existence.  I slipped into a deep depression.  I had a longing for the first love I had ever known, my ex-girlfriend and then best friend Harmony.  I dreamed about her in vague daydreams, mystified by scattered thoughts, tears and the abyss of abeyance.  I smoked my mind away and poured my broken heart into songs of longing.  My parents had bought me an Ovation 12-string guitar with an electric pick-up.  This guitar became my vehicle of inner expression.  I would spend nights up until 3am alone…  puffing and inhaling away on pack after pack of Camel Lights, and smoking pot in a pipe of my own that I had gotten through an older teenage dope-head.  You see, dope pipes were sold in regular stores under the veil of being used for tobacco only.  One would even have to sign a waiver stating that this was their intention, though it obviously wasn’t.

This was a great era of music.  The Winter of 1997 brought about a post-grunge era of deep expression fused with electronica.  The popular alternative songs were a soundtrack for my unspoken, lonely misery.  The Smashing Pumpkins had an anthem of woebegone called “Thirty-Three”.  When I listened to it again today through the eyes of my 15-year old self, it actually brought tears to my eyes.  Maybe it lingers as a subconscious memory of the desperate love and despair I felt back then.  The song croons with despondency the words:

“I know I’ll make it, love can last forever,

Graceful swans of never topple to the earth.

And you can make it last, forever you

You can make it last, forever you

And for a moment I lose myself

Wrapped up in the pleasures of the world

I’ve journeyed here and there and back again

But in the same old haunts I still find my friends…”

This song was certainly an anthem that rang in my mind.  Would Harmony and I ever be back together again?  We would talk some nights until the late hours, sharing our heart and soul with each other, but she always seemed to have a love interest in someone else…  I felt that she could truly “make it last forever…”  This love that existed in my heart for her seemed infinite, though looking back I know it was just the piercing strength of my post-adolescent emotion that paralleled the longing within all of us to taste eternal love.  We all try to find this love in every corner of our soul…  For what can be known about God is plain to us, because God has shown it to us, and anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (Rom. 1:19; 1 John 4:8)  I suppose the real question is; “What is real, sacrificial, true love?”  I’m convinced that that question can be fully answered in 1 John 4:7-21, but that is a discussion for another forum.

“In the same old haunts I still found my friends.”  Mitchell played bass and Duane played drums in our band, Mulberry Tree.  Our music seemed to get more and more powerful.  It was as if we were living inside of our songs and performances as we worked harder on our sound.  We were close friends and band-mates.  I often shared my heartbreak and struggles with Duane, because he was an introspective poetry writer and cynic like me.  I shared feelings with Mitchell as well, but tried much harder to appear manly to him, because he was an athlete as well as a rock n’ roller.

Duane was definitely a great poetry writer.  His poems consisted of dark corners in the spiritual realm.  He was raised a Catholic and had become a self-proclaimed atheist.  These shadows of anger came out in his poetry and his abstract drumming.  Him and I would always spend time smoking cigarettes and pouring our thoughts out to each other.  He inspired me to write poetry as well, and it helped me to deal with the emotions I was facing, as well as strengthen my song lyrics.

Mitchell was a great bassist and songwriter to be sure, but he had another aspect of his personality.  He was the type of guy that thrived in the world of sports and athletic vigor.  It was quite amazing, really.  He could spend a weekend with us smoking dope and drinking, and then go right back to lifting weights, eating creatine, and beating the garbage out of other huge dudes his size on the wrestling mat.  As his muscles grew, so did his appeal with the high school ladies.

Harmony began to gain an interest in Mitchell.  I couldn’t have been more devastated at the thought.  But I loved both of my friends so much, and I was put in the middle.  One night Harmony and I were talking and she asked me the fatal question, “So…  Can you ask Mitchell if he likes me or not?  He’s SOOOO hot!!”

I would call Mitchell not long after and ask him.  Of course he liked her back, because she was obviously the most beautiful girl in the world to me.  He made sure to ask me, “Is it ok though Ben?  Is it alright that I ask her out?  I mean, I know you like her and stuff.”  To which I bluffed, “No, no man.  I don’t like her anymore bro.  Go for it buddy!  What more could I ask for than two of my best friends to get together?”  I couldn’t believe the words coming out of my mouth.  Was I insane?  How could I bear this all to happen?

And yet it was inevitable that Harmony and Mitchell would become a thing.  My songs would delve into so deep a sorrow that they became anthems of hard rock anger.  The way I really felt was akin to Gwen Stefani of No Doubt in their #1 hit “Don’t Speak”:

You and me

We used to be together

Everyday together always

I really feel

That I’m losing my best friend

I can’t believe

This could be the end

It looks as though you’re letting go

And if it’s real

Well I don’t want to know

As a way of escape I delved into marijuana use in a whole new way, and pretended that I was happy for my friends getting together.  But there had to be a way for me to get back at Harmony somehow…  She had friends!  That’s right!  She had friends that were good looking.  Maybe if I dated one of them I could make her jealous.  She had a curly haired friend named Laila who I thought was attractive.  I began my ploy to see if we could get together.  And of course I would use Harmony as my “middle-woman” to orchestrate the whole fiasco.

Maybe I should have listened to the lyrics in the song “Discotheque” from U2’s “Pop” album to set me straight.  I realize now that they could have spoken truth to me when they claimed a universal reality:

You’re looking for the one

But you know you’re somewhere else instead

You want to be the song

Be the song that you hear in your head

Love…

(You want heaven in your heart)

(Heaven in your heart)

(The sun, the moon, and the stars)

As much as this longing in my heart has been abated upon this earth as I look at my life now, I realize that back then it seemed to be so desperately far from me that I didn’t know what to do with myself.

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Listening to Early Pink Floyd, Smoking Dope and Talking Wild Philosophy

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Cover of "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn&...

Cover of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

 

In the later Spring of 1997 the glow of gritty, punk-infested grunge rock paired with experimental art rock began to fade into a glimmer.  A new type of “pop-alternative” began to invade the charts.  Bands like The Verve Pipe with their hit “The Freshmen” and Third Eye Blind with their hit “Semi-Charmed Life” (a song about snorting meth-amphetamines…  a metaphor veiled by upbeat pop riffs) began to take things over.  Alternative music had reached its pinnacle of commercialism.

Mitchell, Duane and I still called ourselves Mulberry Tree.  We were getting into Pink Floyd’s early records with Syd Barrett, “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (1967) and “Saucerful of Secrets” (1968).  The LSD infused songs would prove to be foreshadowing of things to come…

We were also into Primus and other strange art rock.  Most of the music we did was either highly philosophical or a deep cynical mockery-melody.  I know it’s a lot to say for 15 and 16 year-old sophomores in high school, but we were awfully pretentious for our age.

I decided go after Harmony’s friend Laila, to see if she would go out with me.  “Going out” was a statement we used to say that we were going to feign exclusivity with each other, as if we were pseudo-adults.  Laila reciprocated interest in me and we began to “go out”.  She was certainly cute and I dug her.  I would often go and meet her at her house.  We’d go for long walks and smoke cigarettes.  We’d occasionally stop to make out.  I began to fall for her.

I just wasn’t the kind of kid that would go on with something like this half way.  It was easy for me to substitute my feelings for Harmony with feelings for Laila.  I mean, after all, Harmony was going out with my good friend and bass player Mitchell, and they were hitting it off!  I might as well move on.

Of course I went to extremes.  I wrote poems for Laila.  I even wrote a 10 minute opus called “Stir” for her- a song of my naïve love.  She seemed to dig it and all was well.  Our relationship continued to move forward.  Every chance I got, I would tout that fact in Harmony’s face.  Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy? (Prov. 27:4)

Marijuana was still a normal part of life, as was booze.  They almost seemed to be a peripheral addition to our little soap opera version of Rock n’ Roll High School.  I got high whenever I felt like it.  Mitchell, Duane, Laila, Harmony and I, and others who made up our little group of dissidents would often acquire liquor or beer for the weekends, and mix it with dope, cigarettes and caffeine.  Some of us would end up making out at the end of the night, and then we’d figure out lies to tell our parents about where we were.

In reality we existed in the cornucopian underground of our little microcosm of society.  We partied with Juniors and Seniors in High School.  We were beginning to make acquaintances with people in college.  It seemed as our tolerance for inebriation grew, we began to be accepted into some sort of secret bohemian society.  We would end up in various dark basements, smoking bud and talking wild philosophy.  We’d jam with various musicians.  We’d speculate on whether or not the earth was some sort of vortex into the next dimension, or upper plane of existence beyond us.  Or if we were living in a nihilistic wasteland that had no eternity beyond, trudging around aimlessly like lumps of scientific goo towards no destination.

This all led into the next years’ Rock Fest.  Just like the year before, Rock Fest was a collection of the bands in our High School.  It was a chance for us to express our music live.  In traditional fashion, me and the boys in our band Mulberry Tree went up to the upstairs bathroom and preceded our performance with a shared cigarette in a dark bathroom after school hours.  We had a wild show planned.  It was full of deeply aggressive music.  I was sure to blow my voice out.  It was also filled with sentimental songs.  I hoped that my cigarette and dope blown vocal cords would hold out.

We did the show in aggressive fashion, sweating our brains out, bashing our heads into cymbals, jumping into the air and putting on a spectacle.  As expected, my voice blew out, so I just yelled most of the lyrics for the songs into the microphone, imitating one of my musical hero frontmen- Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins.

We played a number which was co-written by my cool Wiccan hippie girl friend Elysia.  It was one of our personal favorites and the crowd really dug it.  Laila was jealous though.  I assured her that I only had feelings for her but she didn’t believe me.  We got in a fight about it in the parking lot and she was really spooked.  Maybe it was the fact that she was so serious about me and we were so young.  I was serious about her too.  I hoped things would work out.

After us, a band of some friends of ours went on to play who called themselves “Discordant”.  Their name described their communal habit of drinking an excessive amount of beer at a religious rate.  Of course, they played all the latest hits on the radio including “The Freshmen” by the Verve Pipe.  We had only played covers that no one knew, like “Corporal Clegg” by Pink Floyd, which amused us, but not many others.  Discordant was a hit.  They had become a household name at the High School, replacing us in our perceived pop stardom.  Of course in our callow High School minds we despised them thoroughly.  All the more reason to slip deeper into addiction and “stick it to the man”.

Rock Fest had gone well, and the party after is a blur in my memory.

A week later I got the news from Harmony on the phone.  Laila had cheated on me with Jimmy Snarks.  She had done something far heavier than we had ever done physically with him in the woods at Colony Park in Hudson, Ohio.  I was crushed to the core.  I wrote songs about it.  I resolved never to be messed around with again like that.  My ego started to inflate.  It was nearing the summer of 1997, and my G.P.A. cumulative was about a 2.13, a C minus average.  I was on a quest to get over on Laila.  I wanted to shed off the status of virginity, which my classmates saw as a handicap to man-hood.  I was ready to party harder than ever, abandon my scruples more than ever, and slip into a focused destruction more than ever.

Looking back I see the downward spiral so clearly.  If I knew then what I know now I may have caught myself ahead of time.  Yet most nights, I was left to myself.  It was as if alluring eidolons were encircling me, inspiring me to write dismal poetry and spurring me on to the next level of neurosis.  I buried my feelings for Harmony even more deeply inside of me.

Harmony and Mitchell began to tire of each other.  She was a hippie girl and Mitchell was an athlete.  They just didn’t have enough in common.  When they broke up I forced myself to be intentionally disinterested.  I wasn’t going to risk my heart to her.  The lyrics of late Nirvana member Dave Grohl described what I felt toward Harmony, as well as my own wrecking, in his song “Monkey Wrench”:

What have we done with innocence?

It disappeared with time

It never made much sense.

Adolescent resident

Wasting another night on planning my revenge.

Jazz Cigarettes, the Abolishment of Chastity, and Fred the 57-Year-Old Coke Head

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English: Howard McGhee, Brick Fleagle and Mile...

English: Howard McGhee, Brick Fleagle and Miles Davis on piano (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My inhibitions were at an all time low in the summer of 1997.  Nonetheless, my social confidence was higher than before.  The sun and warmth crept into northeastern Ohio and brought with it an optimistic openness to new friends, new experiences, and greater reckless abandonment.

Jazz music became a new passion for me through my friend Leron Clink.  He was an upright and electric bass player.  He loved Thelonius Monk and Miles Davis amongst many others.  We started to jam regularly and create a strange, compelling acid jazz/rock concoction.  Leron was a Junior in High School and more familiar with eccentric characters.  He introduced me to a new potency of marijuana called by the name of “kine bud”.  The urban dictionary defines “kine” as Hawaiian for “excellent” (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=kind%20bud).  This dope usually cost us about $50 for an eighth of an ounce, as compared to $20-$25 for an eighth of an ounce of what was called “shwag”, i.e.- low grade brick weed that was likely illegally shipped from South America.  Sometimes shwag would also be cut with formaldehyde or liquid PCP, making it “wet weed”- a much more toxic yet potent form of it that would leave one feeling like rubber in addition to having a pounding headache.

Leron had a high-end appetite for pot, and always had kine bud.  His weed usually was purple, light green, orange-red and sprinkled with a crystallized white glow.  One or two hits of this stuff would send me babbling in riddles, in a comatose, borderline hallucinatory state.  Not only would I begin to become psychologically addicted to being stoned, but my wallet would be continually more and more empty…  so empty that I would have to sell a little bit of ganja to support my habit.  It may be a downward spiral, but it is true that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:14)

I became an occasional “middle man”.  This meant that I knew a few dealers that would get large quantities of marijuana, and I would supply my friends with it in smaller amounts.  I would hook up any unsuspecting kid with weed, no matter how young or innocent they were.  Because I was a persuasive type of personality I would even convince younger kids to try it.  Any time someone wanted to buy a $20 bag I would get it for them, and then keep a little bit for myself.  Marijuana was in a continual supply for me.  I owned a purple bong and a pipe… people began to call me “Benny”.  I began to wear tie-die t-shirts.  I was establishing myself as a wanna-be hippie of the late 90’s within my little sphere of influence.

The music of the summer of 1997 was anything but hippie music.  Ska music by “The Mighty Mighty Bosstones” was the new thing.  Alternative rockers were pop bands like Matchbox 20 and Tonic.  In my mind, the songs were cheesier than processed Velveeta.  My friends and I were still into classic rock.  We didn’t care what was happening in mainstream culture.  Let me rephrase that…  we thought we were ten times more artsy and cool than the conventional rock of our age.  Wait a minute…  I guess this meant that, by the standards of the 2010’s, we were “hipsters”!  What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.  (Eccl. 1:9)

Our band Mulberry Tree began to fall apart, because we were all going in different directions musically.  We all did our own independent projects.

I attended parties often, whenever I had the chance I would lie to and manipulate my parents to get to them.  I was still 15 and didn’t have a driver’s license, so I would always find ways to get a ride.

Once I was at a party at Caelie Shrugg’s house.  She lived with a single mother who was never home.  I have no idea what combination of substances I was on, but I know that it led me into the presence of Madiera- the girl whom Mitchell and I had been arrested the summer before for being drunk and breaking curfew.  Somehow I ended up at an outdoor fairground with her, and I definitely was burning up in my maleness and youth.  She came on to me heavy…  almost taunting me for not making the first move.  Madiera was a notoriously “bad girl”, and all of us sophomores knew it.  She was a Junior in High School.  She was experienced… a force of virile potency.  She was wild and partied like crazy.  Something in each of us younger boys was attracted to the wildness in her.

And the next thing I knew Madiera and I were together.  In some summer haze of partying and riding the wind I looked…  and there she was at my side.

Madiera and I were high all of the time.  We were drunk for most of the weekend.  The private encounters that would ensue were reckless and discombobulated.  We were caught in a deep infatuation.  I was disillusioned in believing this was a true ascent to masculinity.

Boys at the age of 15 feel this way in every generation.  They become convinced that sex is a rite of passage into manhood.  I can’t even speak long about the pressure my friends and I would place on each other to enter into this mysterious realm of spiritual and physical connection.  Though I now believe that sexual freedom can only prevail guiltlessly within an exclusionary marital union, I didn’t believe this then.  I got caught up in what my friends believed.  Even the pure love that I seemed to feel for my childhood love Harmony began to fade into a deep memory.  I wanted to make the rite of passage.  God gave me up in the lusts of my heart to impurity, to the dishonoring of my body among others. (Rom. 1:24)

Madiera and I did share that intimate moment together, insecure and exposed, confused and unsure.  I didn’t know what to think after it had happened.  Did I even really know her?  Did we understand each other?  Were we really friends, or were we just confused children, bouncing around like pinballs in a teenage wasteland?  I told her that I loved her…  Maybe it would grow with time.  Maybe we would understand each other.

The relationship continued into the late summer, where we eventually embarked on a camping trip and had an encounter with Fred the Coke Head.

We were on a campsite with a group of our friends.  One of our friends, Meghan, had a Dad who was a throw-back hippie.  He loved to drink beer and smoke pot.  He didn’t seem to have a problem drinking beer and smoking pot with us- a bunch of minors.  We set up camp and sat around the campfire all night, toking and drinking, telling wild stories.

Meghan’s Dad had a friend that apparently lived in an RV.  This guy seemed higher than all of us, even at the height of our wildness.  This was Fred the Coke Head.  He was a 57 year old man who consumed drugs like he was a 21 year-old hippie from 1969.  This caricature described his inner-child rather well.

We stayed up all night partying, and at the cracking of twilight Fred broke out some weed, which he said was “special”.  He only invited Madeira and I to partake of it, because he said that we were probably the only ones who could handle it.

He lit up a joint, and we passed it around.  Every hit made me cough like Dr. Dre in 1992.  What ensued was a tingling euphoria that I had never felt before.  It was as if I had taken a bite of Eve’s apple and soared into a realm where I thought I could be a god.

It’s important to say that I’m leaving many details out because I don’t remember them!  That’s how constantly intoxicated I was in these days.

As the sun arose Madiera and I had another encounter in her tent.  We were crazed by the combination of THC and cocaine which we had just inhaled in smoke form…  the first time I had smoked “Chronic”.  I had never felt so torn before.  My emotions were with Harmony, but somehow I found my young, drastically un-sober body with Madiera.  Our encounter ended, and we got no sleep after.  We got in some strange, sleep deprived, strung-out argument shortly afterwards.

On the way home from camping I felt sick within myself.  No amount of marijuana or alcohol or whatever else could mask this feeling.  What was I doing?  I was having a heavy physical relationship with this girl and I wasn’t even sure if I loved her or even really knew her!  All we did was get high and fool around!  Did we even know who the other really was?

I would have to break it off with her.  I was afraid to do it, because I so thoroughly felt physically connected to her because of all we had done…

Shattered, Broken, Beer-Bottle Hearts

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DSCF1857 (Photo credit: Kdt.)

 

Please fellow readers, don’t be offended, for this is only my opinion, but a lot of the popular music of August 1997 was a disgrace to rock n’ roll.  Again, this is only my opinion!  Sugar Ray’s “Fly” was #1 on the charts in these days.  We heard this song so much on the radio that I thought my head was going to implode.  I would have gladly heard Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat” ringing beneath my eardrums for seven days straight than have one hour of “Fly” by Sugar Ray.  But those suckers in that band knew how to write a catchy, irritating tune!

But I couldn’t hide any longer, and like the irritating melody that it was, the lyrics of “Fly” rang in my mind, providing yet another soundtrack for my love-confused, teenage nicotine heart.

All around the world statues crumble for me

Who knows how long I’ve loved you

I just wanna fly

Put your arms around me baby

I just wanted to fly.  All of the time.  I was stoned practically every waking hour of the day.  Everything in my mental framework was seen through dope vision 3-D glasses.  Who knows how long I had loved my ex-girlfriend and then best friend Harmony.  It seemed like a lifetime to my hormonal self… really it was two years.  Yet here I was, living out a full-on sexual and emotional relationship with my current girlfriend, Madiera.

Madiera and I weren’t only a serious item.  We were pot buddies.  We both loved to get high…  all the time.  Yet I knew that I had to break it off with her…  I knew that my feelings for her were clouded by my desire to be with Harmony.

Harmony and I definitely didn’t talk like we once had throughout most of the summer of 1997.  But when August rolled around she began to appear in my life again.  She was on the verge of her sophomore year, and me my junior year.  She was more beautiful than ever to me.  A young hippie chick with long brown hair who loved Led Zeppelin and smoked weed.  She was my close friend, and the truest love my naïve mind and soul had ever known.

Madiera left for a weekend to go and visit her friend, Andrea, at Bowling Green University in Ohio.  It was my chance to re-connect with Harmony.  I set up a time with her to hang out.  I called her on the phone on a cool summer evening…

“Hey, how’s it going?”  I said,

“Good!  How’s it going Ben!”  She replied in all her perceived luminescent perfection.

After some small talk, I went for it;  “So do you want to go and hang out at the park tomorrow?  The weather’s supposed to be good.  We could have a few beers or something.”

“Uhhhh…  yeah Ben, that’d be alright.  But are you sure you want to drink in the park!  That’s like totally illegal!  You’ve gotten really crazy in these past few months, what happened to you.  And would it be ok with Madiera?  Aren’t you guys still going out?”  She replied.

“Oh no worries.  Madiera knows that me and you are just friends Harmony!  C’mon, it’d be good to hang out!  It’s been too long!  And it’s cool- we’ll find a spot to drink in the park where we won’t get busted.”

“Ok Ben…  then do you want to go to…  Hudson Springs Park?”

I couldn’t believe it.  Was she really into me like I was into her?  She was going to come and hang out with me…  alone, in the park!  And she was going to drink with me…  alone!  In the park!

“Sounds cool to me- wanna meet at like 12 noon?”

“See you then!”

“Ok, bye!”

Adrenaline was surging in my veins as I lit up a cigarette that night after getting off of the phone with Harmony.  I couldn’t wait to see her.  Would I be able to contain myself?  Harmony and I had been friends for two years.  We had dated once for a couple of months.  We had never kissed because I was so nervous around her!  Now here I was, no longer a virgin, and she still was.

It’s difficult to explain the twisted mind that was within my cranium.  I felt that now I was more experienced, I could approach Harmony with more confidence.  I knew she was jealous about Madiera.  I had told her everything…  what Madiera and I had done.  After all, Harmony and I were friends, right?  Yeah right.  I was using the experience to make her jealous.  I thought it would make her want me more.  I was narcissistic, like Pete Townshend wrote and Roger Daltrey sang in The Who‘s “Behind Blue Eyes”;

But my dreams they aren’t as empty

As my conscience seems to be

I have hours, only lonely

My love is vengeance

That’s never free

But in all of my vainglory I had a whisper of love.  The Greeks would have called it Eros and Phileos… a combination of romantic and friendship love.  This was a love that I felt heavily for Harmony.  I wasn’t capable of unconditional love…  I had no way to tap into that extreme power…  at least not yet.  My conscience was empty, and the way I expressed my love was all too selfish.  I suppose if I would have actually put Harmony before myself all along she wouldn’t have ever questioned or denied my sincerity or character.  Nonetheless, my chance with her had arrived.

We met at Hudson Springs Park at noon.  It was a cooler summer day in the upper seventies.  I had acquired a six-pack of Molson Golden beer, and had a full pack of fresh Camel Light cigarettes and a blue lighter in my pockets.  I put it in a backpack to remain inconspicuous to any legal bullies roaming about.  Hudson Springs was about a half hour walk from my house, so I went on foot to meet her.  Even though I was sixteen I was literally too lazy and stoned all of the time to try and get my driver’s license.  Plus, I had so many older friends that carted me around it didn’t seem to matter to me.  One caught up in a life of hedonistic addiction doesn’t care about personal progress, as much as they care about the next kick.

And there she was standing in the gleaming daylight, a phosphorescent seraph.  Harmony was beautiful to me.  I was a young kid in a puppy love daze.  I still remember the fuzzy light blue short-sleeve sweater shirt and bell-bottom-like jeans she was wearing, with her long brunette hair parted down the middle.

I had a continual agenda of intoxication.  We quickly walked out into an open field where I knew we were alone.  We broke out the beers and drank them, smoking cigarettes, laughing awkwardly and potentially falling in love all over again, or maybe for the first time mutually.  We each drank three beers.  Harmony and I had a strange, paradoxical innocence in much of what we did, even though much of what we did was not innocent.  We were friends, and we were beginning to become truly more than that.  At one point I just put my arm behind her shoulder and we laid there… looking at the clouds in the sunlit sky and basking in the afterglow of alcohol, hops, and sentiment.

We woke up an hour later.  We had fallen asleep amidst the infatuation and beer buzz.  We laughed about it.  “Whoa, I guess we passed out!”  I said.  “Yeah, that’s totally crazy!”  She replied.

“But I don’t want to be anywhere else”  I said back, with a boldness I had never had before with her.

“I don’t either”  She replied, as my heart pounded with life and vigor.

I remember rolling over and looking into her eyes.  I brushed her hair away from them and almost leaned in to kiss her.

“Wait a minute!”  Harmony said.  “You’re still going out with Madiera…  We can’t do this.”

I sheepishly and unwillingly agreed, so as to appear somewhat honorable.  “Yeah, you’re right.  I need to break up with her.”

Harmony and I walked away from that scene.  It had been a whole two years that I had known her and been completely crazy about her.  We had never kissed before.  We came close to having our first kiss ever but it didn’t happen.  I needed to break the news to Madiera when she came back from Bowling Green.

A Stoner’s Break-Up Story

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Malmo Heartbreak

Malmo Heartbreak (Photo credit: Paul Stuart Iddon)

It was the first week of my Junior Year at Hudson High School.  I knew it had come time to break the news to my then girlfriend Madiera that I was going to break up with her, because I was digging on my ex-girlfriend and best friend Harmony all over again.

Madiera gave me a lift home from school on the day I knew I had to do it.  In usual fashion we packed a glass pipe full of bright green herb and smoked it in her grey Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme as soon as we pulled out of the school.  Ironically, she asked if we could go to Hudson Springs Park to hang out, which was the place I had spent time with Harmony a couple days before.  It was the place where I had realized I wanted to break up with Madiera.  Madiera and I would usually go to the park to fool around and party.  I knew this time was different.  We parked in the parking lot of the park and finished the bowl of weed.  Then we went for a walk down the trail around the bend of Hudson Springs Lake.

I’m doing my best to remember here, because I was stoned constantly in these days, and particularly in this moment..  Madiera and I came to a clearing off of the beaten path of the trail where no one would likely venture.  A lot of the talk was plastered babble of which I don’t remember.  I know she had a look in her eyes like she wanted to kiss me and maybe get something happening.  At some point I said, “We need to talk about something Madiera.”

A dark silver cloud seemed to be cast over us as her demeanor shifted.  “What, Ben?”

I went on to tell her that I wanted to break up with her.  She protested at times in desperation, and in all my shallow manipulation I couldn’t bring myself to hurt her.  I still claimed that I loved her, because somehow I thought it was the right thing to say.  We babbled on in circular stoner language, and she was saturated with shock and anger.  I felt like a toothless weasel.  I’d reach in at times to hug her, not knowing what to do.  She was in anguish.  At some point amidst our mind-baked cackling and rambling she did ask me about Harmony.  I told her we had hung out and I did have feelings for her again.  This enraged Madiera even more.  She wouldn’t believe me that nothing had happened between Harmony and I.  I knew it almost had but luckily we hadn’t completely crossed the line.  Madeira drove me home and we shared deeply awkward goodbyes.

I did find out later that Madiera had hooked up with a guy on the same weekend I had almost kissed Harmony.  She had been at a Frat Party and gotten drunk… ending up osculating (which only means kissing) with some unknown kat with a flat-top hairdo and the 1997 equivalent of Axe ‘Kilo’ body deodorant emanating from his pores.  It made me not feel as bad about what I had done.

But Madiera was heading into her senior year, and we had truly been close friends, though maybe not eternal romantic lovers.  She was heart-broken.  She did slip into heavier drugs shortly after that.  Her anger for me magnified for a time.  I deserved it for what I had done to her heart.  She dated guys sporadically and opened herself to total relational freedom.  Yet I lived my life much like a confused squirrel beside the street pavement of existence- running around aimlessly with only a prayer at not getting smashed by the reality car of absolute authenticity.

Harmony and I were together again.  I felt as if I should update her on the magnitude of drug intake that I was used to.  Harmony liked to smoke a little ganja here and there, but mostly filled her habitual nature with cigarettes… She smoked Marlboro Mediums, and she occasionally dug into mixed cranberry juice and vodka to fill and inebriate her Friday nights.  She was nothing near the caliber of crazy I was.

I was smoking at least $150 worth of high grade pot a month by this time, and usually more.  I was inhaling 15 cigarettes a day, almost a pack.  I was able to consume 9 beers in a couple of hours and mix them with a high amount of dope smoke in and out of my lungs without vomiting for the next hour afterwards, and usually got drunk at least one or two nights a week.  Harmony had to catch up to me.  Now that I had been all the way around the proverbial sexual “bases” in the hanky-panky baseball diamond more than a few times, I would have to convince her to join me in that area too.  I was foolishly excited to get her up to date in my new-found world of vice!

Harmony was not so quick to join me.  She was cautious, and hadn’t violated her own continence like I had.  She was also alarmed by the amount of marijuana that I consumed.  I lied and told her I would cut down a bit.  This just meant that I would smoke more of it by myself than in public.  Thus my habits deepened in the caves of secrecy.

But Harmony was good for me in so many ways compared to where I really was within myself.  She rekindled an inspiration and love in me I felt had been veiled behind a fog for some time.  We would certainly have weekends where we drank a significant amount of vodka and cranberry juice, and sit on her friend Dana’s roof smoking cigarettes.  One night, Harmony got drunk enough to vomit on the roof.  I took care of her to help her feel better.  Secretly I was always more wasted than everyone else around, because I would enter into the party after smoking grass on my own.  My higher tolerance for poison also gave me an ability to look after Harmony and her friends.  They didn’t have the annihilated guts to consume venom like me.  I partied like an insane 22 year old living in Miami, Florida.  I was only 16, and living in the suburbs of Hudson, Ohio.

About every song on the top of the radio in September of 1997 was not to my personal taste, except maybe Fiona Apple’s “Criminal”.  These were days where the thundering guitar and explosive drums of Jimmy Page rang in my ears constantly.  I wanted to live in the world that Robert Plant sang about in “Misty Mountain Hop”;

Walkin’ in the park just the other day, Baby,

What do you, what do you think I saw?

Crowds of people sittin’ on the grass with flowers in their hair said,

“Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?”

And you know how it is;

I really don’t know what time it was,

So I asked them if I could stay awhile.

I was a 16-year old kid and it was 1997.  Something in me longed to meet with these gypsies of the 1960’s and 1970’s, of which Robert Plant seemed to speak about…  these songs spoke to me of a concocted utopia where people constantly took drugs, rapped about wild philosophy and listened to music.  I wanted to recreate that world in my little sphere.  My hair was longer…  almost to the point of pulling it behind my ears.  I bought more tie-dyed shirts.  I longed for the world of Woodstock and the hippies to come alive in my existence.

I didn’t know the darkness that lurked, unveiled behind this façade of beauty and hedonistic freedom.  I was attracted by the outer skin of it, and not the inner soul of the beast that hid himself behind.

Let’s Hotbox and Talk of Parallel Universes

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its too late

its too late (Photo credit: smokershighlife)

Clam-Baking, or what is now called “Hotboxing”, was a way to get higher on dope by shutting the Air Conditioning and rolling up all the windows in a car, then smoking as much ganja as possible, letting the car cloud up so that one would be breathing in THC infested soot with every breath.

My friend and former drummer, Duane and I would get together often at 10:30pm on weekends to devour hot fudge sundaes after a clam-baked car ride.  We’d cloud up the car and inevitably stumble out like a couple of circus clowns stumbling out of a Volkswagon Bug, a thick fog of vaporous, toxic smoke traveling out of the car doors behind us.

We’d come up to get a table…  Duane would murmur, “Uhhh…  two…”  to the hostess.  To which she’d reply, “Smoking or Non-Smoking?”  We’d both grumble, “Uhh… smoking… yeah thanks man…”  (a true wanna-be hippie kid uses the word “man” as a noun, adjective, exclamation and verb… the same goes for modern hipsters or whatever you want to call us)  We’d then sit down to an endless cup of cheap, burnt, caffeinated brown water and begin to chain smoke, spouting out one wild psychadelic idea after another, and sooner or later, we’d eat a hot fudge sundae or something else that calmed the craving that pot often produced (which is aptly called “the munchies”).

Duane and I were always interested in the spiritual side of things.  Marijuana certainly fueled our out of the box ethereal pursuits.  Once Duane and I were talking over a hot fudge sundae, stoned out of our minds on dank weed.  I had what I thought was a profound revelation…

“So check this out Duane…  seriously man!  Listen to me dude!  I’ve figured out the answer man.”  I exclaimed.

“Yeah…  what?”  Duane replied somewhat apathetically, yet with a gleam in his eye.  He knew I loved to think and say totally insane things, and this was definitely going to be another one.

“Like did you ever think we were totally on an atom man?”

“What?”

“An atom bro, like an explosive little sphere…  a MOLECULE!”  It must have looked wild to have my eyes open up so wide when they were so beet red.

“Uhh…  ok.”  Duane muttered.

“Yeah, like we’re on the earth…  right?”

“Yup.”  Duane inhaled a huge hit of his Winston cigarette and blew it out.

“And like, when we die…  if we’re like filled with good karma maybe we go to this next race man…  This race of giant DEMIGODS man.  And THOSE KATS are the ones that LOOK DOWN on OUR UNIVERSE as like a LITTLE ATOM!!!”

“Wow man, that would be crazy man!”  Duane’s interest perked up.

“And guess what too bro, guess what???  Like there could be MILLIONS OF ATOMS in that dimension…  earths just like ours man!  PARALLEL UNIVERSES!  In fact man, in fact bro- think about this…  THINK ABOUT THIS!  What if in ALL THOSE UNIVERSES- two dudes like me and you are having this EXACT SAME CONVERSATION RIGHT NOW!  Isn’t that frickin’ crazy man?”

“Yeah man, and like there’s another dimension beyond that and another beyond that!”

“Yeah, and another below us and another below us!  The atoms we’re looking at in a microscope are like LITTLE UNIVERSES with little beings like people that we CAN’T SEE!!!”

This is the kind of stoned chatter that would fill up a Friday or Saturday night from time to time.  Of course, I’m leaving out all the colorful expletives that we used.  It was thoughts like this that began to birth a spirituality of my own invention.  It was not a spirituality that brought me peace, assurance, clarity, focus, graciousness, love, or purpose.  It was a spirituality that furthered my confusion and existential despair, and yet philosophically justified my personal vices and desires.

I began to write concept albums, searching for the real meaning of life on earth, and reaching out for answers in the universe.  One album actually concluded with the words of the final song “Spiral Dimensia”,

“Don’t stop exploration, the answer will be found.

The mysteries of life will be set free.

Searching for the final answer, all intentions so profound

Feeling insignificant, a speck of dust

On a plane of dimensions

That stretch out longer than in infinity

A never ending spectrum

And we move on with no consequence?

Is there a God who looks upon us?

Are we all alone?

Is there someone out there?”

And they were sung with a raspy, off-key, haunting tone.  My spiritual search had truly begun, right in the middle of drugs pounding my brain.  Who was I?  Where was I going?  Would I even make it past age 20?  Age 18?  Was there some vague power out there?  A demigod?  A Cartoonist who wrote the story of our lives, and was ready at any time to crumple up the pages of the story and throw them into the trash?  Was there any real meaning at all to anything I was doing?  My parents’ had once said in the middle of a fight with each other and me, that if it weren’t for me being around, they’d be divorced.  Did I have a purpose?

Chinese Food Slingin’ Stoner

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English: Chinese food at a restaurant in Barri...

English: Chinese food at a restaurant in Barrio Chino in Mexico City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s safe to say that in the Fall of 1997, I definitely had an expensive and ever continuing drug, cigarette and alcohol habit!  My parents’ abundant allowance that they generously bestowed upon me wasn’t enough to keep up with my high-caliber lifestyle.  I had to get a job.

This inevitably led to a conversation with my parents.  “Uh Mom…  I think I want to get a job.”  I said one day, with long hair pulled behind the ears and a stony grin.  “Wow, you do?”  My Mom replied with an astonishment that offended me.  “Well, yeah Ma!”  I replied.

My friend Mitchell worked a Chinese restaurant called “Tai-Wah”, at a plaza in Hudson, Ohio.  He answered phones and took carry-out orders.  He got fed free Chinese food constantly.  They were hiring people to take carry out orders.  It seemed like a good gig to me.

I came in to interview with Linda Leung, who likely had a long Chinese name that started with “L”, but went by an American name to make things easier for her customers and friends.  Linda had a unique personality.  She was animated during the entire interview, saying in a thick Chinese accent, “If you Mitchell’s friend, you must be good boy!”  Linda defended the High Schoolers that worked for as if they were her kids.  She hired me.  She had no idea what I was up to behind closed doors.

On went my job at Tai-Wah.  I would answer phones and take carry out orders, making sure to bag them and scoop little white containers full of rice for each order.  I would often grab large nuggets of General Tso’s Chicken out of the carry out boxes when Linda’s husband, the head cook, Bill Leung, wasn’t looking.  Bill also had a long chinese name that started with “B”, but used an american version for convenience.

And I was often high at work.  Sometimes just a little, sometimes too much.

One day I was really stoned at work and kept telling Linda I had to use the restroom every 20 minutes or so.  I would go into the restroom and goof off, or chew on marijuana stems.  Linda began to get suspicious and angry.  “Ben, you are a bad boy!”  She yelled.  “You do the drug!  I can see it in your eye!”

“Ummmm… No Linda I don’t do drugs.” I replied deliriously.

“You have to get back to work!  I can’t run front register and take carry-out order on phone!”  Linda yelled, and then the phone rang and she picked it up.  “Hello, Tai-Wah!  How are you?”

I worked with a dishwasher named JinJing, who was a pure original from China.  Linda told me about her once, that she was one of the red children under Mao Zedonghttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Guards_(China)  Linda seemed to speak of her as if she was a criminal maniac.  She had a rough edged personality and silver teeth.  She only knew one phrase in English, “You go home!”  JinJing would get annoyed with me in all my doped up antics, and often yell this phrase at me.  Later on, we became pretty good friends.

One night, Linda and Bill made a special beef dinner.  They would always cook for the employees at the end of the night.  They asked me to be the first to try it.  I ate some of the beef with broccoli and Szechuan sauce, paired with steamed rice.  “How do you like it?”  Tim asked me, with a snicker and gleam in his eye.  “Uhhh… it’s alright man.  Pretty good I guess.”  I replied with all my cotton-mouthed marijuana teenage hunger.

“Do you know what it is?”

“Ummm…  It’s beef man.  Right?”

“No, it is tripe.  It is cow stomach!”

“Oh man!”

Linda and Tim laughed furiously.  I think they knew I was high all of the time.

While peers of mine in High School began to look at colleges in their Junior Year, save money, and plan what they would be in their future careers, I began to get paychecks from my $8 an hour doing carry out.  They would be immediately spent on large bags of dope, cartons of cigarettes and cases of beer.  I had no plan for the future, just a plan to fry my brain and live in the spirit of carpe diem.  If I had only known then what it would lead to…

The Guy With the Bong

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A bong with a circular carburation port in the...

A bong with a circular carburation port in the front of the bowl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep, back in my Junior Year of High School, I was “the guy with the bong”.

My girlfriend Harmony and I were seemingly doing getting along as winter crept into the year of 1997.  She had a greater moral conscience than I, and refused to give in to sex and rampant drug abuse.  We fooled around on the edge of these things, but she always kept her standards higher than mine.  At the time, I was somewhat frustrated, but held her in such high esteem that I chose to respect her wishes.  Looking back now, I realize that she was doing the honorable thing.  Yet in a culture that appeared then as it is now; driven by sexual tension and immediate gratification, it was more than difficult to maintain such a level of perspective without some sacrosanct sentient being empowering us.  I was driven by mere carnal knowledge and the hunger of now…  the present need…  genitive satisfaction.  Therefore, God gave me up in the lust of my heart to impurity, to the dishonoring of my body among anyone who would join with me. (Rom. 1:24)

After all, my views about God were varied.  In my mind, “He” could have been an “It” or “She” or even an alien or unseen cosmic force.  I wasn’t sure that God existed.  In some of my more paranoid moments I may have questioned whether God was there or not.  Mostly, I felt that God was some impersonal type of force that got kicks out of watching people on the earth make a mess of themselves.  I may have pulled this idea from Greek myth, because the Greeks believed that their gods were truly making a mockery of them and out to play tricks on and destroy the people they had authority of.  Mostly God to me at this time was a figment of my imagination.

I could have written the lyrics myself to “Sex and Candy” by Marcy Playground.  (Go ahead and play the video, you know you’ve got to hear it again fellow 90’s junkies!)  www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KT-r2vHeMM

I smell sex and candy here

Who’s that lounging in my chair

Who’s that casting devious stares

In my direction

Mama this surely is a dream

I was living in a pseudo-dream world.  THC from constant marijuana smoke was consistently floating around in my brain, causing wild philosophical madness, strange dark creativity and depression, as well as apathy, sloth, lapsed superego reactionary prowess, and a deep narcissism and hedonism that stole my entire being and spread around my soul like red food dye in a glass of ice water.

Along came New Year’s Eve, 1997 to 1998.  I worked carry-out with all my friends who were employed at Tai-Wah Chinese Restaurant.  It was the busiest night of Chinese carry-out all year.  We were slinging Sweet & Sour Chicken, Beef & Broccoli, Egg Foo Young, and Fried Rice like wild ping-pong players on speed.  We knew the reward would come, a New Year’s Eve Party at Cynthia Plum’s house complete with endless alcohol and reckless abandonment.

We got out of work after a busy night.  I was such a bum in these days that I didn’t bother to change out of my work clothes.  After all, I was the guy with the bong.  Mitchell, Harmony, Doug Rankin, Chris Plummer, Dinah Sortec, and others all piled into cars and we headed over to Cynthia Plum’s house, ready for wildness.

I was the guy with the purple bong.  I had a quarter ounce of strong weed all saved up and ready to diminish throughout the evening and share with whoever was ready and willing.  I packed up a bong and filled it with cran-grape juice on the car ride over.  A couple of friends took a hit or two, and then began to quit on me.  “C’mon man!”  I yelled in my stoner accent, “It’s New Year’s guys, don’t quit on me!”

Misery loves company folks.  I was so constantly high, that I couldn’t take it when people didn’t want to party themselves sick and crazy just like me.  I finished the bong by myself nonetheless, and the party had begun.

The night was filled with a haze of nicotine and THC smoke, beers being “bonged” down my throat, or in other words swallowed in one gulp, with the help of poking a hole in the bottom, and cracking open the can at the top, while sucking down the cheap barley and hops through the hole.  We only drank Natural Ice or Milwaukee’s Best beer, the cheapest and most similar to urine-flavored beer on the market.  We just wanted to get a buzz and lose our inhibitions.

At one point in the during the night I went out in the snow covered Northeast Ohio night to take a leak in the woods.  I don’t know why I didn’t choose Cynthia Plum’s restroom to do so.  I think I just wanted to go outside and look at the stars.  I did gaze at the stars when I had found a pine tree to take a whiz on.  I gazed up, thinking, “man I am SOOOO wasted!”  I was lost in the universe and eternal supernova sky above.

I walked in and exclaimed, “Hey guys!  Ready for some more weed?  Hahahahahaha!>(**#&$”

I had my bong raised in the air.

Everyone pointed down toward my pelvic area and began to laugh hysterically.  I looked down and realized that I had tinkled all over my pants.  I suppose I hadn’t aimed very well and hit a pine branch that had sent it down my pant-leg.  “Oh man guys, I didn’t pee myself man!  I totally just missed when I wizzed outside!”  There were no explanations that could save me at this point.  My friends just continued to point and laugh.  Luckily Harmony had gone home by this point so she wouldn’t have to witness my humiliation.

I begged Cynthia Plum for a pair of her father’s pants.  She only said, “Sorry Ben, you’re on your own! …”  She looked down at my pants again and exclaimed,   “So gross!”  I spent the rest of the night in a basement room, by myself, smoking Camel cigarettes…  the lyrics of “Sex and Candy” ringing in my head.

Mama this surely is a dream, yeah

Mama this surely is a dream, dig it

Midnight came and went without me.  Eventually I got a ride home.  I don’t really remember.  I only know that the pee had dried and I passed out in someone’s backseat like a crazy vagrant.