Tag Archives: Pink Floyd

God, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll

Standard
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.

Advertisements

Pre-Pubescent Rock n’ Roll

Standard
Play

Play (Photo credit: Homini:))

In the midst of a 5th Grade Birthday party where the whole point was to play in basketball tournaments and win basketball cards, I encountered my first collaborative musical friend.  After a day of shooting hoops in the hot sun and having a great time, we congregated down in the basement of the old ranch house where I spent my pre-adolescence.  My Dad broke out a guitar and started playing tunes.  He invited any or all of my friends to step in and jam too.  I picked up a guitar and started strumming along as best I could.  A lot of my friends tried to sing, but only one could really pull it off. This is when I found out that my friend, an acquaintance at the time, Percy, could seriously lay down the mouth harp.

After that, my friends and I went on to consume serious amounts of Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper, have intense pillow fights in a tent, and play Sega Genesis all night.  But amidst all the juvenile version of revelry something in both Percy and I’s life had significantly changed.  Our love for music had gone to a new level.

Shortly after that Percy and I got together from time to time to see if we could figure out songs or jam.  The first song we wrote was based on what we wanted our band name to be “The Babies”.  I don’t remember much of the song, but I do remember the chorus, which rang out in great lyrical poetry; “We are the babies, we’re here to rattle rattle rattle rattle rock you!”  We quickly canned the name when we found out that a cheesy late 70′s band had the same name.  You can check them out here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjU50ow95aM

So amidst sports and the pressures of 6th grade social advancement we didn’t really do much after our little stint as “the Babies”.  Percy and I did have one thing in common though, a hunger for trouble and aversion to good grades and behavior.  After a 6th Grade year where I scored about a 1.9 cumulative GPA, they announced that they would have their annual talent show at the end of the year.  Percy and I got amped about the idea of playing our music in front of the 6th, 7th and 8th Grade, some of whom were peers, some heroes and some enemies.  We definitely thought it would make girls dig us, and Percy had a better chance than me because the aftermath of marshmallows and RC Cola hadn’t worn off of my obliques yet.

So we found a drummer named Dan.  Before long we had figured out a song to play called “The Joker” by Steve Miller Band.  I vividly remember playing the song in Dan’s basement as he smashed on the drums and I twanged my dinky Fender Squier.  Percy sang the lyrics really well and decided to throw in Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk as a special move- a real show stopper!  In the middle of all this noise Dan’s Mom stormed down to the basement and gave us the death glare, calling us upstairs in what seemed to be a fit of anger.

Dan’s Mom went on to say that she wouldn’t allow us to sing “The Joker” by Steve Miller, especially because of the lyrics about being a smoker and a toker, and the line about “really love your peaches want to shake your tree.”  Percy and I glanced at each other in laughter as she repeated this line over and over to us in anger.  At some point she told us that we were part of the anti-Christ for putting on this display of apparently Beelzebubian evil.

Percy and I laughed about this for a long time after.  Percy had grown up Catholic and I had no religious background.  This was really one of my first exposures to Christians, and it certainly confounded me.  Obviously Dan’s Mom had never heard Maurice Irvin’s quote; Syracuse Senior Pastor, once said, “People come to God through Christ.  But they come to Christ through us.  We must be careful not to erect any barriers they must climb over to get to Jesus.”  Maybe she even felt that she was truly leading us to know this angry Jesus that she believed in.  We felt like Dan’s mom was a little extreme. Maybe now she would even say that she was at the time.  We convinced Dan to play the song anyways and somehow he pulled it off despite her protests.

The talent show went great.  I paraded around like a clown in my Umbro nylon shorts, t-shirt and black and neon yellow Reebok pumps with my guitar, and Percy dressed up in a Roger Daltrey fringed sleeveless leather cloak, and did the moonwalk, driving the 7th and 8th grade girls wild.  Dan would pull out random drum solos in the middle of the song, and then we’d pick it back up.  I think Dan got a kiss from who we thought was one of the hottest girls in the 7th grade.  From then on, we became “Joker’s Wild” (I really had no idea until recently that David Gilmour of Pink Floyd was once in a band called Joker’s Wild- you can check them out here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbBjhW-OFcc&feature=related).

The addiction to that feeling of being on stage began, and we were noticed for it.  Throughout the 6th grade summer and into 7th grade we became very popular.  We tasted the recognition that someone gets from playing music.  We also began to taste the ego trip that comes with wielding this power over people.  The people I once considered my friends began to be labeled in my clouded mind as “nerdy”, and I was willing to do whatever it took to maintain my image.

Chasing After the First High

Standard
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.

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

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

Cover of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What have we done with innocence?

It disappeared with time

It never made much sense.

Adolescent resident

Wasting another night on planning my revenge.

My Bad Trip on LSD

Standard
LSD

LSD (Photo credit: Max Sparber)

Acid is a mysterious, strange, and unpredictable drug.  I know a varied audience of mixed background and belief will read what I write, so it’s so important not to lie.  There are times when one takes acid, or any other drug for that matter, and it feels in that moment as if it’s the greatest, most euphoric, meaningful experience of your life.  However, there is no guarantee of this happening consistently.

Drugs are the ultimate Russian roulette of the mind.  For the extreme magnification of ecstasy, meaning and inner revelation that can come from drug experiences, there is also the extreme opposite.  When one has a bad drug experience it is REALLY terrible.  There have been many people who have never returned home to the cocoon of sanity after having a bad trip or a number of bad trips on LSD.  This is the great deception.  For further thoughts on why I believe a great force of evil is behind the lure of drugs, read this post:http://benjaminbradfordwhite.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/satan-is-a-drug-dealer…-reflections-on-genesis-225-37/

Syd Barrett, who was the original singer in the band, Pink Floyd, was an example of a man who completely lost his mind on LSD and psychedelics.  Many have said that he was also schizophrenic.  I’m not sure whether that is true or not, but I do know that the guy did an ungodly amount of acid in a very short period of time.  He became like a walking vegetable by the time that the end of 1967 rolled around.

Just as the Pink Floyd were becoming an international hit on the music scene, Syd Barrett tripped himself into oblivion.  Here we can see him on “American Bandstand” being interviewed by the late, great Dick Clark:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MMMN0VZmYw

You can see from this old piece of film that there was a “look in his eye, like black holes in the sky” as the lyric about him from “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” stated in 1975.

It’s strange to say it now, but around the time of the summer of 1998, I became enthralled with the story of Syd Barrett and his brain’s demise in the midst of psychedelic pop stardom.  I found books and archives about him.  I listened to his solo music after he had gone off his rocker.  I mostly listened to “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, Pink Floyd’s seminal first album, where Syd was at his creative height.

I suppose it was a combination of anger, marginalization by friends, estrangement from my parents, and bewilderment towards the existence of God that led me towards wanting to “ride the edge” of sanity.  As the summer of 1998 kicked in… my summer before senior year of high school, I delved into the most extreme use of psychedelics ever.  I quit my job at Tai-Wah restaurant, and pledged to “trip” my way through the summer.  I hadn’t viewed yet into the wisdom of Solomon, when he said, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.”  (Ecclesiastes 1:14)

Quite the contrary, I believed that my pursuit was full of meaning at the time.  Somehow I believed I would come out on the other end a changed person… for the better.  The words of the ancient prophet Isaiah didn’t ring in my ears; “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)  I suppose, in ignorance, I believed that everything I was about to encounter was good, full of radiant light and sweet to the taste.  All of my experiences on psychedelics had been good thus far, and I didn’t think I would go too far like Syd Barrett did.  I would just skim the crest of the cliff of craziness.

At this point, I was playing drum set in a steel drum band with a group of my friends.  The band was loosely affiliated with our High School, but we played almost all of our events outside of the school.

The greatest gig we ever did was playing at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s annual summer art parade.  It was a sunny, hot and humid Ohio day~ ninety degrees and clear skies.  David Wilt was in the band.  At this time he was my regular supplier of psychedelic drugs.  He had hits of blotter acid with him, and I bought a few from him.  We egged each other on that we ought to take it before we played in the parade.  Of course it didn’t take much to convince each other, David took a hit, and I took 2, about an hour before we were going to play.  At this point, even David was more sensible than me.  He didn’t want to be too out of it while we played in the parade.  I wanted to be completely delirious.

We had all our instruments on a long, rectangular float.  As we set everything up I began to feel my body going numb.  Our band’s director, Mark Bush, asked me if I wanted to play the drum set or push the float in the parade.  I mumbled in spaced-out confusion, “Uhhhh…  yeah man I think I’ll push the float man.”

This parade was the craziest parade I’ve ever seen, especially because of my state of mind.  There were people walking around on stilts with wild, colorful masks and streamers flowing behind them in the wind.  The masks were representative of many different cultures of the world:  Chinese dragons, Indian elephants, African tribal witch doctors, and native American eagles.  The colors were of starburst yellow, purple indigo, crimson red, electric orange, and many more.

We made our way into the parade.  I was pushing one end of the float and a girl, Darby Plum was on the other end of this rectangular apparatus.  As we moved on in the parade and played our Caribbean style, Jamaican, reggae-funk, the acid started to beat down in my brain.  Right in the middle of the parade, I was experiencing what is called the “peak” of my trip, where the effects of the drug were the strongest.

I literally felt like I was in Candy Land, all of these freaky people on stilts with masks on making a child-like visual landscape before my wild eyes, I was enthralled beyond description.  There were moments where I literally stopped in the middle of the parade, just to stare at all that was happening around me.  Yet I also had a duty, to push this float.  A simple duty it would seem, but there were times when the float would reach a 45 degree angle, with Darby Plum doing her job pushing on the other side, and me standing there, a long haired hipped-out kid with his tie-dye shirt on, staring at these gallivanting masked minions which practically seemed to be staring into my soul.  I barely was able to do my job of pushing this float through the parade, because I kept stopping to stare at all that was going on.  I had the whole band on my case too, saying, “C’mon Benny!  What are you doing?  Push the float!!!”

So we made it to the end of the parade, and I don’t really remember much of what happened after.  This was one of the best LSD experiences I ever had, because the visual display and happy feeling at the parade was so positive.  Granted, I did an embarrassing job of pushing the float along, but I wasn’t in any way traumatized by the experience.  This is the great trickery that lurks within the pursuit of drug “enlightenment”.  One has experiences that lead them into perpetual beguilement.  I was thinking to myself, “Man, LSD is the greatest thing that exists!  I can’t wait to have another trip!”  But one can never predict the situation they will find themselves in.

But much like a mountain climber who wants to defy the odds and reach a higher peak of danger, I wanted to go deeper into the rabbit hole…  I was about to have my first bad trip…

It was a dark and dreary July evening.  My friend Mitchell had come over to my house to help me record guitar tracks on a song that I had been working on for 3 months… the only song I had recorded in the past 3 months…  an 8 minute opus called “Trilogy”.  Again, I was the kind of guy that wrote 4 or 5 songs a month at least back then, and psychedelic drugs had put me on a weird tailspin, giving me a deep, confusing case of writers’ block.

I had scored 2 hits of acid the week before at an infamous hole full of hardcore hippies and drug dealers called “Nelson’s Ledges”.  These were where the hard-core druggies spent a lot of time.  I went there to jump off of a 15-foot cliff into the deep water below, and had run into some space pirate hippies that sold me two hits of what they called “Wizard of Oz” blotter acid.  They told me it was really strong, and recommended taking only one hit.

While Mitchell and I were recording, I popped both hits on my tongue.  Within 30 minutes, I began to feel the numbing effects and body buzz taking over my entire anatomy, and it was peculiar, because it normally had taken an hour before.  Mitchell was finishing up his guitar tracks.  At one point, he looked at me and said, “Are you alright man?  You look kind of freaked out!”  I tried to ignore the fear that this statement had instilled in me, but I was alarmed that this LSD was stronger than I was ready for.

The next memory I had was being at a party, about an hour later.  This party was full of drunken people that had once been friends of mine.  Because of my heavier drug use, they had distanced themselves from me.  I remember a moment when Braden Sipes came up to talk to me.  He was drunk and mocking me, saying, “So Benny, how you been buddy?  You been “TOKING IT UP” lately huh?  Hahaha…”  The words seemed to echo and his face distorted as he said it.  All around him, shadow mites of darkness swirled around in a tornado of madness.  I barked back at him;  ”DON’T MOCK ME OR I’LL STRANGLE YOU RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW!!!”

It was as if a phantom had entered into me in that moment.  Some kind of demon of a dark force of which I knew nothing of.  I only know that this moment of anger seemed to overtake my entire brain and body at that moment, and I had no awareness of who I was.  Braden stared back at me in fear for a moment, and then walked away…

The trip continued, and is a blur in my memory.  I know that the effects of the LSD went completely haywire.  I was in a dark fantasy world of which I 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 your 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…

The next memory I had was 3 hours later, being in my parents’ living room.  It was midnight, and somehow, my friend, Duane, had come to keep me company.  We were watching a re-run of the show, “The Wonder Years” on TV.  Whatever I thought in my mind, the main character of the show, Kevin Arnold, would become before my very eyes.  I thought of the Ku Klux Klan for some weird reason, and he grew a hood on the TV.  I thought of a werewolf, and he turned into one before my very eyes.  I told Duane, “I’m freaking out man!  I can’t control my mind…  I hate this man!”

Duane looked at me in bewilderment.  He was tired from smoking pot earlier, and told me he had to go home.  After all, it was midnight and he had a curfew to keep.  I begged him to stay with me and not leave me alone.  ”Duane, please man.  You can’t go.  I will die man, I WILL DIE!”

Nonetheless, Duane had to obey his parents’ rules.  He went home.  I was left to myself and the effects of this evil drug.

I looked on the ground in my parents living room as I sat there alone, and afraid out of my mind…  What appeared to be glowing ravens engulfed in fire began to appear in a pattern all over the floor and the walls.  They were intertwined in a pattern of hieroglyphics.  I looked on my hand and they were imprinted all over me as well.  I felt for certain that I was about to die and these patterns I was seeing represented all the horrible things I had done.  I sensed that a swift judgment was about to come upon me.  I was doomed… cursed.  There was no way out and I would leave this life condemned forever.

I tried to make my way through the night.  I had no one I could reach out to…  at least not that I was aware of…  I so desperately wanted to call my girlfriend Harmony, but it was 2 a.m.  I was sitting there in my bed freaking out, seeing the scroll of my life laid out before me in an interconnected life pattern that engulfed all of reality and nature.

The Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris” was high on the charts in those days, and it’s chorus accurately described this profound alienation:

And I don’t want the world to see me

Cause I don’t think that they’d understand

When everything’s made to be broken

I just want you to know who I am

I just wanted someone, anyone to be there for me.  I was too afraid to reach out to a higher power of any sort.  I felt too condemned, too dirty, too crazy and broken.  I wrote Harmony a long letter, describing my fear.  That carried me until 3 a.m.  Then I pulled out a VHS tape that contained the movie, “Forrest Gump”.  I began watching the 3 hour long feature to try and calm my fretful heart and mind.  From the moment where the feather began to lilt in the wind in the opening credits I was pulled into this movie like never before.  I cried practically the entire time it was on.  I was afraid for my soul…

As the sun arose at around 5:57 a.m. and the feather lilted in the air during the closing credits of “Forrest Gump”, I realized that the acid was finally beginning to wear down, and my wearied body would finally be able to sleep.  I cried as I watched the sunrise, and had a moment where I was simply thankful to be alive, and sane.

I had no understanding or knowledge of any religion or spirituality at this time.  But this profound feeling was very real.  I learned only years later that I was experiencing something on earth that Jesus talked often about…  This video is a very grim, but accurate picture of the way hell is truly described in the ancient scriptures:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxCKxxRU_s8

Taking Mescaline and MDMA and Playing Bad Live Music

Standard
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.