Tag Archives: beer

Middle School Drinking and Its Aftermath

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Dead Drunk

Dead Drunk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My friend Edan and I somehow got caught up in the quest for cool rebellion.  It was an electric summer for the music scene in 1993.  Riding the coattails of gritty, raw bands like The Cult, the Pixies and Guns n’ RosesNirvana‘s Nevermind had already wrecked the glam rock of the late eighties, and other bands were coming out of the wood work that rode Kurt Cobain‘s trail of mayhem, including Pearl JamSoul AsylumAlice in ChainsBlind Melon and Soundgarden.

Edan and I were listening to all of this new music, and coming of age as well.  Puberty was figuratively smacking us in the face.  Girls were becoming more and more of an irresistible enigma, and we were starting to develop heroes apart from our parents and the basketball icon Michael Jordan.

Our heroes were found in the ringing loudness of cassette tapes, and a new invention that was starting become common in home sound systems- Compact Discs.  Kurt Cobain sang of a world we deeply wanted to understand.  We began to be fascinated with the idea of being intoxicated, because we knew all of these guys constantly were.  And since I played music I somehow believed that intoxication would enhance my music, and in many ways that’s what I cared about the most- playing and writing good music.

We started by rolling up green oak leaves and stealing my Dad’s lighter.  We’d go out into in my backyard and sit in an oak tree (where else???) and smoke oak leaves!  We definitely didn’t inhale, but we got the adrenaline rush that came with doing something we knew our parents would think was wrong (or maybe really, just stupid and weird!)

From there it moved on to smoking cinnamon sticks, which weren’t very good at all.  It was amazing how silly we were doing these things.

Then we got the hunger to begin trying something truly illegal, smoking cigarettes while we were still only 12 years old.  We used to wait by the entrance of a grocery store in town.  People would walk in and put their cigarettes in the ash tray outside, some of them still mostly full.  We would take the cigarettes and smoke them!  Man, looking back I’m glad we didn’t get some sort of Hepatitis!

Edan’s 13th birthday was coming up.  It was the end of summer, the beginning of our 7th grade year in school.  Nirvana’s “In Utero” had just hit the CD racks in music stores, and we bought it up immediately.  With this music as our background soundtrack, we decided to steal a bunch of booze from Edan’s Dad.  We stole a couple of beers, we took little plastic bottles and filled them with whiskey, then rum, and then vodka.  I paid a 7th Grader about 3 bucks for a pack of cigarettes that was half empty (that would be a cheap price now, but then it was a rip-off!).  So we had gathered up what we saw as the most trouble we could get ourselves into to prepare for Eric’s 13th birthday bash.

Edan invited a number of his and my friends to the party.  After an evening of walking around on the dirt of an undeveloped area of his neighborhood and smoking cigarettes in the cool Fall evening, we headed back to his house.

When his parents were asleep, we broke out all of the alcohol.  I treaded carefully and drank little sips, pretending to be more and more intoxicated, when I was really faking it.  One of our friends, Nathan, refused to participate in the drinking.  He actually became the prophet of morality for the night.  We made fun of him for standing out.  I look back and realize it took a lot of courage to do.  As a thirty-two-year old man who has been sober for thirteen years, I know that I would be the one to stand out now.  Of course, I’d do it without condemning the people that are partying.  But then, I was much different, and much more easily persuaded to follow my id.

The night went on, and everyone seemed to be faking it like they were drunk.  We all winded down and Edan seemed to get crazier.  I suppose he drank a whole lot more than most of us, because a lot of us were just scared to do it.  Edan started getting violent and cynical.  He came after a few of us physically.  I remembered Nathan wrestling him and throwing him to the ground one time.  I think the alcohol just got a hold of Edan in a way he couldn’t handle (I mean, what 12 year old kid could?).  The night ended with Edan hugging the toilet and vomiting for quite awhile.

We woke up the next morning and I was too naive to understand what had happened.  I was seriously mad at Edan for acting that way and didn’t realize how much the alcohol had taken hold of him.  Regretfully I shunned Edan after that.  It was another step in my quest for popularity, and I was willing to mow anyone down to get there.  I turned other people against him and spread vicious rumors about him.  And it wasn’t until my eleventh grade year of High School that I came to tell him how sorry I was for that.

Junior High School is a cold, Darwinian arena where “survival of the fittest”, or maybe “coolest” or “meanest” can be the only rule.  Those who create the rumor mill and oppress the honest and vulnerable come to prominence.  Those who forthrightly navigate their way through the wilderness of confusion get left behind in a trail of smoke.  Some of these realities come alive in adulthood, where consumers subversively gnaw and tear at each other’s souls, and bosses subversively undercut and demoralize their employees.  Hopefully, we learn from these errors and seek to love our friends, neighbors and enemies, fueled by unconditional love from above.  Yet it is the lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools. (Prov. 15:7)  Our very nature is to spread calamity, but rising above it is possible through surrender.

I didn’t realize these things at the naive age of twelve.  I would have many years of infamy before being driven towards true assertion.

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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

Vomit and Tears

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Puking and Driving

Puking and Driving (Photo credit: Mike “Dakinewavamon” Kline)

Fall was always my favorite time of year.  The Fall of 1996 in northern Ohio was complete with sun-kissed luminescent leaves on trees like every color of a neon, ultra-violet rainbow.  The chill in the air lent itself to thick button-up shirts and sporting my blue and black winter hat with flaps on the ears.

Sublime’s “What I Got” and The Wallflowers “6th Avenue Heartache” were filling the ears of listeners during the autumn of ’96.  But I was still a classic rocker to the core.  I carried around a big yellow Sony Walkman with Korg studio-headphones that looked like ear-muffs.  I wore it in the hallways of school and filled my brain with Led Zeppelin 3 and The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’, as well as Lenny Kravitz and Jimi Hendrix originals.  By this time I had so many recordings I had made on my own that they became a regular part of my listening too.

I smoked pot weekly.  It had become normal for me.  In the midst of my creative pursuits I had a disdained disinterest in school, sports and the functional, healthy ways of life that I saw my peers embarking upon.  I smoked Camel Lights, about 5-10 a day.  I lit up in the bathroom sometimes, but mostly before and after school.  The nicotine rages would kick in at the end of the school day if I hadn’t had a cigarette, which is why I would sometimes sneak one in the lavatory.  Lots of others in the school did this.  The boys bathroom wasn’t even allowed to have doors on the stalls because the teachers and hall monitors wanted to police the students constantly for puffing on cigarettes.

I also acquired a fascination for drinking hard liquor.  I learned the wild ride of pumping a bunch of it into my system at once.  I would mix it all of the time.  I would drink Whiskey, Cognac, Rum, Gin, and Vodka in any order at any time.  Straight shots, Screwdrivers, Rum and Cokes, you name it.  My parents had a liquor cabinet, and I learned that they’d less likely catch me drinking if I combined a bunch of different liquors.

By this time I had been convinced to “go out” with Jaen, who was Duane’s ‘blind date’ at the homecoming dance.  It was odd, because Jaen was 17 years old, and I was only 15.  I could tell she had never kissed anyone, because at one point we kissed and it was about as awkward as seeing a clown at a bus stop.  I hung out often with Jaen and her group of friends, which included my blind date, the cool hippie-girl, now turned friend and party buddy Elysia.  We would have parties, and find parties to go to.  There would always be beer, liquor or dope.  We began to learn the madness of mixing the three as well.

I was still in love with my ex-girlfriend and now best friend Harmony also.  We talked all the time on school nights and weekends.  We shared all that we went through with our relationships.  Something inside of me always felt that I was dating people just to see if she would become jealous.  She would definitely ask me questions about girls I was with, including Jaen.  I would act like I really dug them, but I was just hoping that Harmony would admit her feelings for me.  She began to give me little notes at school.  I kept them all in a shoebox.

I loved to raid my parents’ liquor cabinet before going out on social functions.  By this time, Duane, our drummer from Mulberry Tree, could drive.  He would drive me all over the place.  If my parents happened to be at work at the time I would raid the liquor cabinet and fill myself with alcohol, then call Duane and have him come and pick me up.  Sometimes we’d have plans, so I’d take some shots before and find myself falling all over the place, making a total fool of myself in front of our friends.  It became a kind of image.  People would say, “awww…  Benny’s at it again!”  I became that guy.  I was the intoxicated guy, the one that was drunk at 3pm, the one that was stoned at 8am in the morning at school.  I lost weight rapidly.  I eat Vivarin caffeine pills all the time to try to keep myself alert when I wasn’t wasted.  I dropped to 135 pounds, and earned the name “Skeletor” amongst my friends, because I always had dark circles under my eyes and was bone-thin skinny.  I also had a huge puff of hair on top of my head, making me look like an oblong q-tip.

One day Duane had planned to come and pick me up, just to hang out at Arabica, our favorite coffee house, to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee.  I decided to hit my parent’s liquor cabinet, since they weren’t home.  I drank an insane amount of liquor.  I drank it all straight, mixing Gin with Rum and aged Cognac.  I took a huge swig of pretty much whatever they had in the cabinet.  I felt a twinge each time in my throat as it burned down my esophagus and into my guts.  I certainly hadn’t had much to eat.  I probably drank the equivalent of 15 shots.  Duane showed up in the driveway and I got in his car.

The alcohol quickly began to kick in as I lit a cigarette and smoked it out of Duane’s window.  I don’t remember much of what happened, just that Duane was amused with how tanked I was.  What transpired after wasn’t amusing at all really…

The next thing I knew we were at the coffee shop.  I tried to sit down but I kept having to put my head in my arms on the table.  Everything was spinning out of control.  I had been drunk plenty before, but this was another level.  I got up and stumbled to the bathroom, running into every table and chair on the way, falling over on the ground, running into people.  I got into the restroom and grabbed one of the 5 blurry toilets I saw spinning around in a kaleidoscopic whirlwind.  I aimed my mouth into it and spewed out what seemed to be an endless flow of poisonous vomit.  I don’t remember much of what happened after that for a period of time…

The next thing I knew Duane and I were sitting on the pavement in some obscure area behind the Acme Plaza in the town of Hudson, Ohio.  There was puke all around me.  Duane had bought me a loaf of bread to eat, and some water.  I was trying to eat and drink…  everything went blank after that…

The next thing I remember, Duane and I were in my room.  He had really gone out of his way to look out for me.  I had gotten myself into a shower and changed my clothes on my own somehow,.  The problem was, my old clothes stank like grandma’s cough medicine and barf.  I was laying in my bed and Duane was telling me he had to go.  He had to take off before my parents’ got home, in case I would get busted.  Since I was obviously drunk, like an insane vagrant stumbling in the streets, it was apparent that I would be found out.  I was as obviously impaired in my judgement as the princes of Zoan in Egypt were in the time of Isaiah the prophet in the five-hundreds, B.C.  The Lord had mingled within her a spirit of confusion, and they would make Egypt stagger in all its deeds, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit. (Isa. 19:14)  Like an ancient analogy coming to life, I was a drunken man staggering in his vomit to be sure.

My parents got home.  I don’t remember much of our conversation.  But I do remember being at the dinner table.  They told me if I did this again, they’d take away all my instruments and not let me play music.  I started weeping and crying like an alcoholic.  “Don’ take away my moooosic man…”,  I whimpered.  I was to be grounded yet again.  Though they threatened to take away my music, they didn’t, just friend privileges and freedom to go out on weeknights and weekends.

Many original songs would flow out of these struggles.  I was earning the reputation as a seriously troubled kid.  I certainly wouldn’t cease smoking marijuana, drinking, and smoking.  Though I learned to hide it better.  For some reason I couldn’t get enough.  The life around me continued to shatter and crumble.  All I cared about was the next buzz and the next song.  The lyrics and melody of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Muzzle” rang in my head like a soundtrack and anthem…

I fear that I’m ordinary, just like everyone

To lie here and die among the sorrows

Adrift among the days

For everything I ever said

And everything I’ve ever done is gone and dead

As all things must surely have to end

And great loves will one day have to part

I know that I am meant for this world

My life has been extraordinary

Blessed and cursed and won

Time heals but I’m forever broken

By and by the way…

Have you ever heard the words

I’m singing in these songs?

It’s for the girl I’ve loved all along

Can a taste of love be so wrong

As all things must surely have to end

And great loves will one day have to part

I know that I am meant for this world

And in my mind as I was floating

Far above the clouds

Some children laughed I’d fall for certain

For thinking that I’d last forever

But I knew exactly where I was

And I knew the meaning of it all

And I knew the distance to the sun

And I knew the echo that is love

And I knew the secrets in your spires

And I knew the emptiness of youth

And I knew the solitude of heart

And I knew the murmurs of the soul

And the world is drawn into your hands

And the world is etched upon your heart

And the world so hard to understand

Is the world you can’t live without

And I knew the silence of the world

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8bfBKVVv0Q

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.

Shattered, Broken, Beer-Bottle Hearts

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DSCF1857

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.

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…