Tag Archives: Camel

Van Halen Cassette tapes, Kindergarten Underpants, Atari 2600, and the Awesome Hippie Babysitter

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Atari2600wood4

Atari2600wood4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rock and roll was the background music to my life from a very early age.  I initiated this obsessed love with two cassette tapes.

The first was “Purple Rain” by Prince.  I had that when I was about 4 years old.  My Dad bought it because he thought it was a killer album.  My Dad always had an ear out for what the best music on the scene was, a practice that I tried to pick up on.

The second was “1984″ by Van Halen.  I had that when I was about 5 years old.  I loved the song “Jump“, and also loved “Panama”.  I memorized the lyrics to “Jump” and used to sing them to my classmates in Kindergarten.  They looked at me like some sort of space alien.

My Dad was really into music.  When I was in my Mother’s womb my Dad’s drummer, Rodney Psyka nicknamed me “BB” (pronounced “Bee, Bee”), which is why my parents named me “Benjamin Bradford White” a little bit of a reference to BB King, but a never ending reminder that my identity was carved out in the middle of a bar gig.

I had no idea when I was a little man that my Dad had been heavily into the 60′s and 70′s drug scene. Nor did I have any idea that the members of Van Halen had probably indulged in their fair share of booze and drugs (especially old Diamond David Lee Roth!).  I just knew that I loved the sound of music pumping in my ear-drums.  Something about it felt familiar to me.

When I was a kid, my Dad smoked Barclay 100′s cigarettes.  I remember being 4 and 5 years old, and my Dad would be blowing that mellow blue smoke into the air.  I would be wafting it away from my face, trying not to breathe it in.  I always yelled at him saying, “Dad!  Smoking is so gross!  I hate it!” My Dad would just laugh and light up another, at times apologizing for smoking.  My mom would give my Father the dirty look that she often gave him.

I didn’t grow up under any sort of religious instruction.  The basic religion that my parents seemed to feed me was love, tolerance and compassion, coupled with BeatlesJoni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young records.  As a child I looked to musicians as being a certain breed of sage or prophet. I felt that their chords and melodies contained some sort of mystic power.  I was drawn to it.  It was the most spiritual experience that I encountered in my formative years.

When I was a kid in elementary school, I did pretty well.  They had me in a couple of advanced classes and I was basically a geek.  I was a different kind of geek though, because I had a variety of friends.  I was somewhat of a “socially adjusted geek”.

I had an appetite for trouble as well!  Once in Kindergarden I pulled my pants down in front of the class when my teacher had left for a short time, trusting that we the students would behave ourselves. We found after that she had left to join a small group of people that were observing their class behind glass with a one-sided mirror.  It was a behavioral experiment done by the Montessori School we were part of at the time.  They wanted to see if kindergarten kids could behave themselves in a large group without adult supervision.  I led the kids into a mini riot when I dropped my drawers and thwarted their experiment…

My parents later thought it would be a good idea to put me in public school, to give me more structure and rules.  It ended up working well.  I became a good student, and more well behaved.

In the meantime my Dad worked for John Hancock, an insurance company that was doing well in the 80′s.  He was at work often but he was also a good Father.  In many senses he was more of a friend to me than a disciplinary force.  I could always talk him out of punishments.  For example, after the pant-less fiasco my Dad tried to take away my Atari 2600 for a month…  and I talked him down to 2 weeks of Atari-absence.

Then there was the first time I witnessed my Dad get drunk.  He didn’t do it often, especially in front of me, and he definitely wasn’t an angry drunk, more of a slap-happy drunk.  We were at a wedding once when I was 10 years old and he had a little too much whiskey.  He had a lot of wild conversations with random people, basically being the life of the party in an extreme sort of way. While I, on the other hand, didn’t get it.  I cried and cried on the way home telling him how wrong it was.  After all, I was taught in school that these exploits were wrong.  Something in my young conscience felt horrible about it.

My Dad reassured me that he wouldn’t do it again.  He was generally good to his word throughout the rest of my pre-adolescent years.  He wasn’t an alcoholic, just a social partier.  He communicated to me that his position as a Father was more important than his party life.  He did a good job of keeping those two worlds separate before my eyes for quite a time. 

I had a babysitter named Laina who talked often of going outside to “get a fresh of breath air”.  I had found out that she smoked Camel cigarettes, and thought that maybe she was going outside to toke. I thought that was true because she used to come back from the “breath of fresh air” in an erratic mood and feed me some wild snacks, like Tato Skin potato chips, marshmallows and Coca-Cola Classic.  Then I hit the age of 13 and found that all hormones of either gender make one erratic. Nonetheless, it was safe to say I began to get a little chubby and crazy on this munchie food towards the end of my Elementary School days.

During this time I also got a guitar for Christmas.  My Dad had the guitar amp wrapped up and under the tree, and I had opened up all of my presents including the amp, but no guitar was to be found.  Then my Dad pulled a kamikaze move and grabbed the guitar out of his closet.  I was thrilled.  It was a black Fender Squier Stratocaster with white inlays.

Laina, my babysitter, was really proud of me for chasing after rock and roll.  She got me into the DoorsAerosmith and Led Zeppelin.  I listened to Zeppelin II for the first time, and it blew my world apart.  Jimmy Page’s riffs made me want to learn how to tear it up just like him.  Laina even helped me write a song, and we called it “Death Theater”.  She was really bummed when I made the lyrics a naive version of an anti-drug rant.

But Laina and I became pretty good buds.  She took me downtown in Hudson, Ohio during the annual shaving cream fight that all the middle schoolers and high schoolers used to go to.  It made me feel pretty cool to say the least, especially for a 4th grader!  Laina helped me figure out a little bit more of who I thought I was, and turned me on to rock and roll that turned my world upside down.

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Busted With Weed

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Marijuana small

Marijuana small (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

The Guy With the Bong

Standard
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.