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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Stoner’s Break-Up Story

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Malmo Heartbreak

Malmo Heartbreak (Photo credit: Paul Stuart Iddon)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you, what do you think I saw?

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

“Hey, Boy, do you wanna score?”

And you know how it is;

I really don’t know what time it was,

So I asked them if I could stay awhile.

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

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

Eating Ecstasy and Falling Falsely in Love With the World

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Assortment of Ecstasy pills.

Assortment of Ecstasy pills. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t piece together any of the events in October, November and December of 1998 in chronological order.  My intake of mind-altering substances was at an all time peak.  I was smoking pot all day, tripping two or three times a week, snorting speed pills, drinking booze, skipping school, failing every class in my senior year of high school, and bouncing around like a lost pinball in Pete Townshend’s Tommy Rock Opera Sub-Conscious Machine. The ways of right-living people were aglow with light; But the road of wrongdoing became darker and darker, where travelers couldn’t see a thing; and fell flat on their faces.  (Prov. 4:18-19 The MSG)  No matter how many times I would fall flat on my face, there was always someone else to blame other than me.  I would reason that it was my parents’ fault, or society’s fault, or my teachers at school.  They were the instigators of my ruin, not me.  I was living in a delusion.

I remember the people that I despised the most and were “aglow with light”.  It wasn’t those who tolerated me or scolded me.  It was those who loved me.  I remember the nicest guy in my grade, Elias Wayans.  Every time that I encountered Elias, he would smile and seem to look deep down into my soul.  He would say things like; “Hey Ben…  How are you doing buddy?”  He was well liked by everyone in our grade.  Amongst many religious people who were hypocritical, and would join me in partying.  Or those who were holy rollers that would judge and marginalize me, he was a rare bird, someone who seemed to be a real follower of Jesus.  He lived a clean and respectable life, but he also exuded an unconditional love toward everyone that I couldn’t grasp.  All my speculation about the Woodstock Generation and Bohemians of the past couldn’t match up to the life of Elias Wayans.

One day, somewhere amidst the blur of the end of 1998, I was sitting alone in Arabica Coffee shop in Hudson, Ohio, coming off of one of my many acid trips.  I had a wool cap on, and my Green Grateful Dead Terrapin Station t-shirt on over a long underwear full-sleeved shirt.  I was smoking a cigarette and watching the smoke trail off into little phantoms in the air- where molecules would splice themselves into life patterns that developed into fiery crows, circus clowns and werewolves.  I looked up and saw a girl arise from the elusive mist and sit down across from me.  Her name was Jaime Wyatt.  There was definitely an immediate attraction that happened between us.

Not only was there an attraction to her, Jaime seemed to understand me.  She was heavy into the drug scene herself; addicted to prescription speed (Adderall), and smoking dope.  She had also done her fair share of LSD.  She talked me down off of my trip, and made me feel better.  I was still depressed about my ex-girlfriend Harmony and I breaking up, and getting so much focused attention from a girl definitely gave me greater confidence.

In some sort of whirlwind, Jaime and I began hanging out all of the time.  This was in late November, leading into December and the Christmas Season.  Santa Claus was an old burned out psychedelic hippie to me as the winter of 1998-1999 crept in.  Jaime and I became good friends.  We were so much alike in so many ways.  We were idealists, we were outgoing types, and we observed a certain poetry in life and loved to discuss deep things.  Jaime and I had a taste for wild, spontaneous adventure at the time.  We were both hedonists to the core.  We didn’t care about responsibility or respect to any authority.  We roamed free like two wild flower children in 1969.

I don’t remember when or how we first kissed or began dating, though I know these things came to be.  We were high all of the time.  The drugs were flowing around us like oxygen.  I got in with her circle of friends, some whom were drug dealers of a higher caliber than I had known before.  All of a sudden, I was getting supplied with almost any substance I wanted.

Something unexpected happened as well.  As my confidence grew, and my crazy habits multiplied, two of my ex-girlfriends came back into my life.  It’s true what they say about some women becoming attracted to notorious characters.  It’s as if my criminal ways actually made me more appealing to them.  I don’t know why living life on the edge is attractive to some people.  Maybe it’s because life in the middle is so mundane.  I know now that one can live a righteous life on the edge, living radically in pursuit of Jesus, but back then I only knew the terror and risk involved in infamy and self-destruction.

Madiera, my ex-girlfriend from two summers before, was in the same wild party scene that I was in, and we began fooling around again and partying together.  Because I was so inebriated all of the time, I didn’t take it seriously.  But Madiera began to speak again of being in a relationship with me.  I led her on to believe that I was romantically interested, and we continued fooling around and partying.  Madiera had continued to be a close friend to me, and because she appeared in a moment of ethical weakness and personal despair, I gave in to my own manipulative intentions.

Then low and behold, the answer to what my dreams were at the time came true.  Harmony came back into my life.  She had begun to party more heavily as well.  However, as in the past, she had high standards for getting back together.  She wanted to know that she could trust me, so she didn’t get in too deep with me right away.  But we did party together and kiss and talk about how we were going to get back together…

I had never been the type before this to date a variety of girls simultaneously.  It could have been because my parents were always faithful to each other.  I never wanted to be in anything but a serious relationship.  I had personal lust problems with myself, but always remained devoted to one girl at a time.  Drugs do deteriorate the pure intentions of the heart. Everything is pure to those whose hearts are pure. But nothing is pure to those who are corrupt and unbelieving, because their minds and consciences are corrupted. (Titus 1:15)  When a person fills their mind and life with venom, the vision and judgment within the conscience become blurred.  I just wanted to be high and have fun.  I was so high all of the time, I didn’t care that I was about to deeply wound the hearts of two of these girls, or maybe all three.

It was also quite a juggling act.  I would try and fill my week with plans, seeing all three girls at different times, making sure they didn’t overlap, and making sure to be secretly romantic with each of them so that no one would let the word out and get me caught.

The decision didn’t enter my mind on who to choose until I had delved in deeply.  I was a hopeless romantic.  I didn’t treat relationships casually.  I made all three of these girls think that I loved them and they were the only ones for me.  This was the most I had mastered the art of lying, though nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:17)  All liars, even the most effective ones, get caught.

One night, by some wild stream of events, I partied my mind out.  It was Christmas break of 1998.  Jamie and I decided that we should try a newer drug called Ecstasy, which was the street name for a drug derived from components of mescaline and methamphetamine called MDMAhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDMA  I had been told by some of my new Raver friends that Ecstasy would turn my mind on to new waves of compassion and understanding.

People in the late 90’s called being high on X “rolling”, because it would release so much serotonin in your brain at once that your eyes would constantly roll up into your head from the overload of dopamine.  It’s amazing how the enemy of our souls and the nature of humanity encouraged the search for chemical compounds that create an artificial experience of elation and higher consciousness.  It’s straight out of a science fiction novel, because in the wrong hands, manipulation of this level could be used for serious mind control.

I took two little blue pills with butterfly designs on them.  Jaime also took “two blue butterflies”.  I can’t describe the events that followed, because so many other drugs were being consumed with these… speed, marijuana, and the old standards, caffeine and nicotine.  Our minds were blurred and floating.  I only remember being in Jaime’s room at her parents’ large, brick house on a man-made lake in the nicest neighborhood in Hudson, Ohio called “Canterbury Place”.  It was 3 am, and we were listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.  With the effects of the butterfly ecstasy pills pounding our brains, the music was emotionally moving to us.  We were babbling in poetic riddles about it.  The ecstasy also persuaded us that we were truly in love, and had finally found our destiny in each other.  I wrote a poetic song right in the middle of our intense experience called “Two Blue Butterflies” that deified Jamie and I as little demigods of our own Kingdom of escapism.  The words still ring in my mind and memory, as I revisit that night of incense and candlelight, which is a pale illusion and lucid dream to me now.  Ecstasy, Jamie, Dark Side of the Moon, and my non-ethical, elated ego created a moment of false salvation in this experience.  I still remember the song I wrote and it’s lyrics, they rang out;

Floating by a candle

In the pale shade of moonlight

Waiting for my love’s destiny

To rise towards me

In the middle of the sunrise

Kiss the sun, and I find myself as one

Rising like a luminescent cloud in the star filled sky

I’ve been waiting so long

To be taken up above where I belong

Think it’s you that I’ve been dreaming of

My beam of light, will shine bright

Like everlasting time

Like withstanding the endless glow that shines in your mind

And in your heart

In your eyes…

I always knew before that writing a song for a girl would capture their heart.  But something about this wild, drug-induced moment was deeply intense.  To this day, I don’t know if Jaime and I had really fallen in love in that moment.  We were definitely great friends and attracted to each other, no doubt.  But the effects of Ecstasy on the mind are described as:

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDMA#Subjective_effects)

This completely describes the situation that Jaime and I were in.  I was convinced that these were true emotions I was feeling, and I wanted to give up everything to chase after this idealistic, utopian dream-world we had created.

I soon told Madiera that I was in love with Jamie, and we had to break it off.  By this time it was almost Christmas.  What a wonderful Christmas present!  She cussed me out and told me I was an insensitive jerk (though she used another descriptive noun).  She was crying and angry with me.  In my drug haze I didn’t even care or feel the least bit of remorse at the time.  Drugs make an altered reality outside of the ethical realm of true existence more appealing than actuality.  I probably smiled at Madiera as she broke down, and told her things like; “It’s ok, it’s ok!  Everything is beautiful…”  I thought that I was on a higher plane than everyone, and it made her hate me more.

I also broke it off with Harmony, who had once been my first love, though something deep inside me felt it was wrong.  I was riding a high, and didn’t want it to end.  I knew Harmony wouldn’t approve of my use of harder drugs, and Jaime would.  I broke the news to her, and was so high when I did it that I came off completely calloused and detached.  She cried and cried, angry and hurt that I would betray her like I did.  I didn’t know how to care about her anymore.

I didn’t have chagrin for God, or myself, my parents, or anyone who really knew me.  I wanted to chase the Elysian fields of Ecstasy, and it wouldn’t be long before I would make popping disco biscuits and hanging with Ravers a regular weekend habit.