Tag Archives: Led Zeppelin

God, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

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Abstract Art, Dubai

Abstract Art, Dubai (Photo credit: Virtual BCM-Bobb & Company Marketing)

I had taken a dose of LSD that he couldn’t handle in the Summer of 1998.  The effects of the LSD went completely haywire.  I was in a dark fantasy world of which  had no control, nor escape. The people I saw contorted into minions…  the very air I breathed seemed to be filled with acidic poison.  The back of my brain felt like it was melting off of my head.  I didn’t know then that LSD physically made my brain hemorrhage.  I only felt completely out of control.  I remembered reading of Mephistopheles in the legend of Faust.  Had I been overcome by some dark angel like him?  Would I ever make it out of this state of mind, or was I doomed to wear a straightjacket in a little white room for the rest of my life?

The profound, dark thoughts seemed to overcome my mind like a swarm of wasps…  

A year before, I was smoking weed every day and getting drunk on weekends.  Two years before I was dabbling with pot and alcohol.  Three years before it was just cigarettes and an occasional shot of alcohol.  All that to say, what started as a mildly mischievous juvenile pursuit, had turned into an obvious problem.

There were reasons why I did the things I did, and reasons why I shouldn’t have done them.

Analogously, there are reasons why we all do the things we do.  Some of them are justified, and some are selfish.  We’re all products of the nature and nurture that we’ve been handed.  In one sense we’re all victims, and yet in another sense we’re all completely responsible for our actions.  Jerry Cantrell wrote words in song to his bandmate, Layne Staley in the song “No Excuses” in 1994;

Everyday
Something hits me all so cold
Find me sitting by myself
No excuses that I know

Every addict finds themselves sitting alone with no excuses left at some point in their addiction… usually numerous times. Layne Staley died from a mixture of heroin and cocaine…  Laboratory results determined the singer died April 5, 2002, according to a spokesperson for the King County medical examiner’s office, the same day fellow grunge pioneer Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994. Staley was found dead two weeks later, surrounded by intravenous drug paraphernalia in his Seattle apartment.  The death certificate reads Staley’s death resulted from “an acute intoxication due to the combined effects of opiate (heroin) and cocaine.” The death was classified as “accidental.” (http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1453818/staley-died-from-mix-heroin-cocaine.jhtml)

I was and am not a famous musician like Staley, though I’ve had delusions of grandeur wishing I would be, and my story did not end like Staley’s, or so many other forgotten phantoms who never got national publicity for their overdose.  (In 2010, there were 25 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in the U.S. (www.popsci.com))  My story of addiction ended with redemption.  My story ended with a life completely enraptured with the presence, sacrifice, and teachings of Jesus Christ.  It hasn’t made life easier, or like some Ned Flanders, cornucopian, utopian day-dream.  But it has made it clearer and more beautiful.

I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. (Eccl.  1:14)

But we must ask the question…  are drugs a channel for spirituality?  A lot of people would hear this question and easily dismiss it- of course drugs aren’t “spiritual”!  Other people would go to the other extreme and say “they are the only channel into the spiritual!”  The fact is, drugs are spiritual.  The real quandary is whether or not the spirituality they induce has a positive or negative effect.  Do they uncover an insidious darkness or a utopian dream-world?  Are they gateways into true consciousness and the other unused ninety-percent of our brains, or are they toxic poisons that cause irreparable damage to our sanity and physical health?

I was raised by parents who were basically agnostic, and they encouraged me all of my life to expand my horizons and search for enlightened creativity, individual expression, and freedom.

Much like my Father, whose spiritual search led him down a road of using drugs and playing in the Cleveland rock and roll scene of the 1970’s.  I spent a lot of my youth listening to the BeatlesPink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, and played music.  I began to believe that experimenting with drugs would lead me to a higher plane of enlightenment, and give me greater creativity.  I was writing songs at the age of 12, and began using drugs at the age of 14.  I really did approach using them on a spiritual level, and felt that somehow they would give me a greater connection to the mystical.

But in the story that will follow, we will see how that journey ended up hitting some very serious dead-ends, and eventually I was at the end of my rope, and miraculously stumbled into a real, vibrant relationship with God that changed my life completely.

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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.

Riding the Tailwind of Kurt Cobain’s Suicide

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kurt cobain and frances bean

kurt cobain and frances bean (Photo credit: seattlewhat)

Electric “Grunge” Rock filled the soundwaves of 1993 and 1994.  We could talk about the hits by Mariah Carey, Ace of Base and Boyz II Men that filled the radio stations those years, but my friends and I were fueled by the gritty sounds of Nirvana, as well as the Doors, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin.  Seventh grade became a year of great defiance and anger for me, and my new clan of friends.  They were years of rollerblading around Hudson Ohio and stealing “chromies” off of cars.  Chromies were the term we used for really shiny or novelty tire air cap covers.  We used to fly around on our blades, unscrewing them off of cars, and at times getting caught by the car owners and flying off on a cement getaway.

We were into vandalism also.  Kalen and I used to smash windows, and use BB guns to blow out gas meters.  We would fill balloons with maple or chocolate syrup and throw them at parked cars.  We would walk the train tracks to golf courses and shoot geese with our BB guns, as well as tearing up the greens with our shoes.  Once, Percy and I raided a vacant high-school prep dorm room and coated the walls and carpet with fire extinguisher foam, escaping after out of where else?  The fire escape!

We spent plenty of afternoons after school walking downtown to Hudson and finding underground spots to hide our misdemeanor crimes.  We would go to a spot called “the ribs”, which was hidden in the forest underneath a little bridge by a creek.  It was a hot spot for kids to go who drank and smoked.  There would even be times when groups of seventh graders would just be walking openly on the sidewalks smoking cigarettes.  We employed a method of hiding them called “cupping” where we’d keep the cigarettes cupped in our hands as if nobody would notice the trail of smoke we had in our wake.

Amidst all this pursuit of a bad boy image my friends and I grew in popularity and infamy amongst our peers at school.  Younger or less arrogant kids would duck away from us, because they knew they’d be thrown against a locker if they looked at us the wrong way.  Somehow our ability to be mean gained us a certain measure of respect.  Something in me knew how awful it was, but I enjoyed the power trip and respect that bullying brought me.  But it is undeniable that the violence of the wicked will sweep them away, because they refuse to do what is just. (Prov. 21:7)  I had no idea of the size of the garbage pile that I was accumulating- a garbage pile filled with consequence and regret.

This popularity even got the attention of a few girls for me, which was new.  Maybe the rollerblading had burned off some of the baby fat, and the everlasting scowl that I wore on my face warranted me some attention as a “bad boy”.  Nevertheless, I was looked at in a different light than the days of chubby nerdy-ness.  Popular girls started to notice me.  This fed my hunger for notoriety even more.

It all came to a climax at the seventh grade talent show.  We had by no means practiced to the point of being professional, but our band “Joker’s Wild” had become somewhat of an in-house enigma to fellow schoolmates.

Kurt Cobain had committed suicide by blowing his head off with a shotgun on April 5th in the Spring of 1994.  In his suicide note he even wrote about his wife, Courtney Love of the band “Hole”, and their daughter, Frances Bean.  He wrote;

I have a goddess of a wife who sweats ambition and empathy and a daughter who reminds me too much of what i used to be, full of love and joy, kissing every person she meets because everyone is good and will do her no harm. And that terrifies me to the point to where I can barely function. I can’t stand the thought of Frances becoming the miserable, self-destructive, death rocker that I’ve become. (http://kurtcobainssuicidenote.com/kurt_cobains_suicide_note.html)

So Kurt Cobain had become a rock n’ roll casualty.  He had chased after the life we so desperately aimed for and it ended in terrible misery, even reflecting on the innocence of his little child and being overcome with his own self-destruction.

We paid homage to Kurt in our seventh grade talent show performance, doing a naïve but nonetheless distorted and angst-ridden version of “All Apologies”.  Percy sang out the melodies as if they cut through to his very own heart, and I picked out the dirty guitar riff on my cherry red Gibson Les Paul as if it was the song of my life.  We had about 5 people in our band at that point, including our good friend Jaden who had picked up the bass guitar a couple months earlier and worked his butt off to learn the parts.

Our version of All Apologies lit the young crowd of our peers up, and they cheered for an encore, which we had pre-meditated (we had put a bunch of our friends up to yelling “ENCORE, ENCORE”!).  Our song of acclamation was a grunge rock version of “Day Tripper” by the Beatles, which lit the crowd up even more because of it’s upbeat vibe.  The crowd cheered and we felt as if we were now legends.  If girls liked us a little bit before, they liked us even more then.  In so many ways, no matter how many people we had mowed down to get there, we felt as if we were at the top of the world.  Percy and I were the creative force behind what we believed would be a lifetime career- to be the next huge band to change the world with music.  We had no idea how naive we really were, but who does in the utopia of seventh grade?

Chasing After the First High

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don't get high on my supply without me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Taking Mescaline and MDMA and Playing Bad Live Music

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English: Mescaline extracted from cactus, 100%...

English: Mescaline extracted from cactus, 100% all natural. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The spring of 1999 couldn’t have had a weirder mix of popular music.  Songs like “Praise You” by Raver-style DJ “Fatboy Slim” shared billboard spots next to songs like “One” by Creed and “What it’s Like” by Everlast.  This was an era when many styles of music were converging and combining.  It was a melting pot of hip-hop, rock, hard-core, trance, dance music, jungle, heavy metal.  We were a generation on the verge of the millennium, the internet was just beginning to bring the world into one vast social network.  The globalization of culture was at hand.

In the midst of all the popular music of this era, I was a retro-rocker to the core.  If an album hadn’t endured for at least five years in the consciousness of artistic rock n’ roll culture, I probably wouldn’t get into it.  In 1999, I was listening to Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes, Rush, early Genesis, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins, The Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills and Nash, U2, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Lenny Kravitz, Blind Melon, and more.  I had a blue case full of used cassette tapes that I was constantly popping into the tape player of my blue Oldsmobile Eighty-Eight.  Their was a consistent soundtrack in the background during all of the out of control chaos of my party lifestyle.

Woven into the fabric of the years 1998 and 1999, was participation in a retro-rock cover band called “Kaleidoscope”.  I played bass and sang both lead and background vocals in the group.  Garrett Nevin sang and played guitar, and my good buddy James played drums.  We did a great variety of old-school rock songs like “Time” by Pink Floyd, and “Yellow Ledbetter” by Pearl Jam to name a few.  There was just one problem, neither Garrett nor I could hold a tune vocally!  At this point, my vocal chords were wrecked with smoke and hard living, though I had never really had a strong voice.  Garrett didn’t have a very good voice either.  We could jam instrumentally with the best of them, but couldn’t sing.

We played a variety of safe gigs in Kaleidoscope.  Most of them were for friends that would have supported us if we had tied cats to microphones and pulled their tails.  Eventually, we landed a gig among strangers.

Garrett came to us one day, telling us some news.  “Hey guys, I got us a gig at a huge frat party at Nelson’s Ledges!”  He told us.

Nelson’s Ledges was a huge hippie hideout.  And apparently, a large group of collegiate jocks and beer drinkers had rented the place out to throw a big concert.  I don’t think I was fully aware that I was about to play the most humiliating gig of my life.

When we arrived at Nelson’s, I was with my girlfriend, Jaime.  It was very early in the summer of 1999.  I was done with high school and withdrawing from a large amount of speed that I had done all throughout the winter and spring.  Of course, because I had no intellectual or ethical grounds for abstaining, we wanted to find some sort of hard drug to take.  It was the summer after my senior year, and I still had no desire to abstain from the hard partying scene.  It’s a simple fact of God’s wisdom that “the backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.” (Proverbs 14:14)  One who wants to stray from what is right will receive a just consequence- simply that they will be handed over to the natural end of their pursuits.  God has created the world where no one can float along in an illusion of epicurean selfishness for too long.  There are consequences to all of our actions.

But Jamie and I were ignoring the consequences.  We scoped the scene at Nelson’s Ledges and effortlessly found an older hippie lady that sold us two pills of ecstasy.  She warned us; “These have a little bit of mescaline in them, so they’re going to make you trip as well as roll.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mescaline)  I only knew that mescaline was found in the peyote cactus and used by Native American tribes to foster “vision quests”.  I had never knowingly ingested it.  Our band was about to go on in 45 minutes.  We took the pills and chased them down with swigs of water.

The next thing I knew, Kaleidoscope was playing live.  The ecstasy and mescaline started to invade my mind like a fire eating up dry brush.  I thought we were playing the best music in the entire world, as the drugs were reaching their peak.  I was tossing myself around the stage like a crazed circus clown, every wave of sound seeming to caress my ears and soul like lavender lotion.  I looked out in the crowd and they all appeared to be just like me, smiling and caught up in euphoria.  I looked over at James and Garrett, who were completely obliterated on hashish.  They seemed to be frowning and barely making it through.  I thought to myself, “man, if only they were on the wavelength I was on, they’d get it!”.

We had a set of 2 hours.  Somewhere about an hour and a half into the set, I came out of the extreme euphoria I was experiencing…

I awoke, though I had been conscious the entire time.  I looked out at the crowd and the noises from the people that once sounded like cheers and shouts of adoration, turned into booing and cussing.  This group of frat-boys were standing with their friends, in a group of about 500 people.  They were drinking ungodly amounts of beer and literally trying to jeer us off of the stage.  We finished the last thirty minutes of the set, and though I was still high out of my mind, I was in reality enough to realize the horror I was in the midst of.

Many people philosophize about the power of drugs and creativity.  It may be true that drugs open one up to the power of the weird and mysterious, and make one desire to go outside of the box in their quest for art.  But this can be done all the same if one desires to tap into the source of creativity- God Himself.  In the end, drugs destroy people’s abilities to perform at anything.  This performance was proof of that.  I was so high that I thought the entire crowd loved our band.  When I came to, they were literally trying to force us off of the stage.  Once, even Noel Redding, Jimi Hendrix’s bass player, said that Jimi was so high while on stage once, that they played through 2 songs and had to cancel the gig, because Jimi couldn’t even make it through the chords of the song.  Though the mystique of creativity and freedom has been thoroughly associated with drug culture, when it comes down to it, drugs destroy a person’s ability to create.  I can’t imagine the kind of music Jimi Hendrix would have made if he would have gotten sober, instead of choking on a pill, drug and booze filled vomit on September 18th, 1970.  This was a man that carried his guitar with him almost 8 hours a day and practiced constantly.  If he would have been off of drugs, he would have truly been an unbelievable virtuoso.  People who associate drugs with great creativity are fooling themselves.

And if I would have known then what I know now, that all the music I created after quitting drugs was ten times better than before, I may have been led to quit drugs altogether much earlier.  But I chose to buy into the lies.  I was an addict in search of the next out of control experience.  I didn’t care if I lived, died, or went to prison.  I didn’t want to stop, and I was headed for more trouble.