Tag Archives: pot

The First Time I Got High on Marijuana

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Red Eyes 12-2012

Red Eyes 12-2012 (Photo credit: daver6sf@yahoo.com)

By the time I had entered into my 9th grade year, the first year of high school, I was more into music than ever.  This was 1995, and it was officially becoming the “post-grunge” era.  Hootie and the Blowfish were popular, though me and my ever growing band of marauders were anti-pop and therefore anti-Hootie.  Silverchair, Greenday and Alanis Morrisette were big during this time.  And bands like “Bush” were making it truly official that “grunge rock” had met it’s end in commercialism.

At the beginning of the school year a TV series came on that changed the way I would look at music forever.  The 3 remaining Beatles who were alive at the time- Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison, came out with a series of shows about their music career called “Anthology”.  My parents and I watched these shows as they came on religiously.  I was drawn in to the story and life of the Beatles, and most of all their later era of music.  It wasn’t long before I snatched up albums like “Rubber Soul”, “Revolver”, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“, and “Abbey Road”.

In the story of the life of the Beatles, one of their most creative periods of songwriting began around 1965 when they released “Rubber Soul”.  There was a move away from the pop sound they had before and into a stranger, more speculative approach to songwriting.  This was the era where they began using marijuana regularly.

I remember the time in the Anthology series where they talked of marijuana as something that seemed to enlighten them spiritually, making them more creative and philosophical.  My Dad at the time seemed to agree with what they were saying, and I didn’t know why.  I didn’t talk to my parents about it either, but a deep curiosity was birthed in me as I learned of the Beatles’ creative crutch.

During this time I was making close friendships with a few friends, one named Mitchell and the other Duane.  Mitchell played guitar often, but was beginning to become a virtuoso on bass- getting into prog rock by Rush and Frank Zappa, and Duane played drums and was heavily into Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix experience and Jimmy Chamberlain from the Smashing Pumpkins.  I played guitar and sang, and we formed a band that we named “Mulberry Tree” to reflect the mixture of classic and grunge rock that made up our sound.

Because we wanted so much to be like the people we looked up to, the next step for us was to smoke marijuana.  Duane was into it before all of us, because he had older friends than we did, and we were ready and willing to join him.

In the Fall of 1995, we had a group of friends over (a band they called “Aftermath”) to play music at my house.  My parents were out of town, and Duane had filled a Black and Mild Cigar with dope.  These guys were not a part of the “popular crowd” by any means, but because of my 8th grade downfall from popularity I was making the effort to befriend people no matter what their social status was.  We set up all of our equipment, including drums, and amps and guitars in my parent’s garage.

Before we could finish setting up or even play one song, Duane pulled out the Black and Mild and convinced us we should light it up.  I was beginning to become less careful and encouraged him to go for it.  This was the 3rd time I had tried pot, and it hadn’t really intoxicated me yet.  Duane encouraged me to inhale it deep and hold it in.  I did just that and coughed and coughed until I felt like my lungs were going to pop out of my mouth.  I tried a few more hits just like that and then quit, letting Duane finish the rest.  I think Mitchell may have tried one hit, but backed off.

So we had finished smoking, and I went back to setting up equipment.  The last thing I remembered was being in my basement grabbing speakers and not being able to lift them.  I began to freak out as numbness filled my body and clouded my mind.

The next thing I remember is laying on the ground, with all the boys from Aftermath laughing at me and mocking me, though one named Antony was actually pretty concerned for me.  I was flipping out at this point, thinking that I was about to die.  I kept repeating that over and over to everyone around me, “I’m gonna die!”  And Duane once hovered over me as he made serpent rhythms with his hands and quoted Jim Morrison, saying “Don’t worry man!  Just ride the snake man, ride the snake!”  Duane was as high as me but had been there before.  At one point he sang the words of “Tomorrow Never Knows” by John Lennon and the Beatles, “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream… it is not dying, it is not dying…”

My next memory was playing music with my boys in Mulberry Tree.  I probably didn’t hit one correctly timed note on the guitar, and I was beside myself laughing and stumbling all about.

Later in the day I entered my first experience of “coming down”.  The high began to wear off and I was grateful to have felt such fear and yet survive it. Something within the experience in my mind became akin to why people ride rollercoasters, or bungee jump, or skydive, or steal something, or lie, or break in to someone’s house, or have sex with someone they’re not committed to.  The thrill of the adrenaline…  Knowing it was wrong but doing it anyways, and being afraid it would kill me, yet making it out on the other end, made me obsessed with the experience.

And somehow this feeling of “riding the edge”- something that felt like hanging over the edge of a cliff and then being pulled back- became an addiction.  Also, all the anger I felt towards my parents, the terrible grades I was getting in school, and the social pressures just seemed to fade away for 4 hours.  Later that night all those feelings magnified though.  I slipped into a more depressive state, clinging to the sounds of Beatles records, playing the guitar, and writing down poetry to comfort myself.

After that experience, the school week passed by in an anti-climactic fashion.  I talked to friends like Kaden about the experience, and it seemed to scare him.  Other pot-head kids which I had once viewed as crazy with a higher level of juvenile mania.  All of a sudden they became close acquaintances.  I longed to get high again and ride the edge of the cliff once more.

The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly. (Prov. 15:14)

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.

Busted With Weed

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Marijuana small

Marijuana small (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prescribed Darvocet for a Broken Wrist

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death by darvocet

death by darvocet (Photo credit: chotda)

To be sure, being grounded for a month after being busted with weed was a drag.  But the hair that my parents cut off began to grow back, as did my hunger for the adrenal reality of post-adolescent mischief.

The song, “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis was high on the charts throughout April of 1996.  Oasis was a band that rode on the back of what could have been the twentieth consecutive wave of Beatlemania that happened after the Fab Four hit the charts.  I liked what they were doing, but then heard that lead man Noel Gallagher thought that “his band’s first album was better than the first put out by music legends THE BEATLES, THE WHO and THE ROLLING STONES.” (http://www.contactmusic.com/news/gallagher-my-debut-was-better-than-the-beatles_1013583)  I felt this statement to be so deeply offensive, that I decided to boycott Oasis.  I wrote their name on a piece of paper and taped it to my bedroom wall with a circle around it and a line through it.

My room was becoming quite the rock n’ roll shrine.  It contained pictures of Jimi Hendrix playing at Woodstock, it had myriad photographs of John Lennon and the Beatles, it had a poster of the Who from the 1980’s that contained an ad for “Schlitz Beer”.  These posters replaced all my half naked photographs of women.  Looking back I still can’t believe some of the things my parents let me get away with.  But making moral, ethical decisions wasn’t something on my radar until years later.  And it’s still not natural for me to make those decisions, but rather the Spirit of God that compels me towards them.

I may not have been able to leave my house regularly since being grounded for a month when caught with dope, but I did find creative ways to keep my marijuana habits regular.  I had kept acquaintances with one of Percy’s good friends, Damien.  He was regularly into the use of dope and was starting to dip into the world of psychadelics.  My parents thought they were monitoring me well, and I convinced them to drop me off early for school so I could get caught up on homework.  Really, I was meeting with Damien and smoking pot behind a set of canoes that were not far away from Hudson High School in Ohio.  We would meet on these cool spring mornings, with a layer of dew kissing the blades of grass on the ground.  We’d smoke pot through a pop can, poking holes in the center and crushing the middle of it, and sucking the smoke through the open drinking hole.  He would bring cigarettes filled with marijuana also.  He managed to get me high before school on a good number of days.

I would buy marijuana in small amounts from Damien, and take it home.  My parents didn’t get home from work until 5pm and I’d be home off of the bus by 3:30pm.  I’d always have an hour or so to smoke weed on my own, through pop cans or whatever I could find.  Sometimes drug buddies would come home with me for an hour and leave before my “rents” got back.

I learned the trick of using eye drops as well.  I would put them into my beet-red eyes, which would always be the side effect of smoking pot, and they would turn my eyes white.  I would spray cologne on before my parents’ got home.  As far as they knew, I was making quite the turn-around.  But I was pretty sure I had them fooled.

One day I was stoned at school, and it was gym class time.  At this point I still had shaggy, long hair and was becoming as skinny as a rail from continued use of cigarettes, dope and a steady diet of strong black coffee.  I would normally skip lunch and use substances to stave off my hunger.  The gym teacher “Mr. Norman” used to call Duane, Mitchell and I “Rock n’ Rollies”.  Especially me, because the only sport I was engaging in at the time was running sprints from school authorities and testing my lung capacity with various types of toxic smoke.  Mr. Norman always made fun of me for my inability to run more than one lap around a track without getting winded, and my knack for only performing 3 push-ups before collapsing to the ground.

We were playing “Broomball” a fun gym class game this day, and I was high enough to be making quite a spectacle of myself.  I began running backwards and cracking jokes, mocking the foolishness of the game.  Kurt Bartmann was a short kid who happened to be tying his shoes on his knees behind me as I was running backwards.  I ran backwards right into him and tripped over him like modern version of Donald Duck in the old Disney cartoons.  But this was no cartoon- I landed straight on my wrist and heard a loud “SNAP”!!

The next thing I knew I was in Mr. Norman’s office.  “Hey Joe, you see this Rock n’ Rollie’s wrist?  Twisted up like a pretzel eh?  You ever seen an injury like that Joe, huh?”  Mr. Norman was commenting, making a spectacle of my severe injury to his jockey, meat-lovers pizza eating friends. Mr. Norman had a killer tanning bed tan.  He ran 5 miles every morning at 4:30 am.  He was 53 years old and could beat up most 20 year olds.  All I knew is I was in severe pain.

I was taken to the emergency room by my Mom.  After 2 hours of waiting in the emergency room for the deeply competent hospital to see to my wrist- which looked as if it was slanted in an unnatural 45 degree angle, they treated my ailment.  They put an x-ray on my wrist and put my fingers into 5 metal Chinese-fingertraps that made up an iron claw.  They pricked my wrist with a shot, numbing it with some sort of anesthesia.  They then strapped my upper arm down and cranked the iron claw up, blasting my bones back into place.  I was still coming off of the high, and was numb from that as well, so my Mom was surprised that I reacted so calmly to the seriously painful situation (though I did let out a little yell when they snapped my wrist).

They then sent me home with another big mistake for a kid of my addictive nature.  They gave me a big bottle of pink pills labeled “Darvocet”, and told me to take them for my pain.

The next week I was off school, with a glow in the dark cast on, recovering from my pain.  My parents were lenient with my grounding and allowed friends over to see me as I was laying around.  I entered into the haze of these little pink Darvocet pills.  They were tremendously strong and gave me a doped up feeling that I looked forward to.  I learned from someone that crushing them up and snorting them would have a more impactful effect, so I did that a few times.  Occasionally I would get a bit of weed from a friend and combine it with the Darvocet, putting me into a whole new high I hadn’t experienced before.

As I recovered from my broken wrist and floated on in a haze of Dextropropoxyphene (the active ingredient in Darvocet), nicotine and THC (the active ingredient in marijuana), I was being set up for release from school.  It would be the summer of my 9th Grade year.

As “Pretty Noose” by Soundgarden, and “Counting Blue Cars” by Dishwalla blasted on the radio waves and audio tracks behind vivid images on MTV, I was heading into my first 3 months of total wreckless abandonment as a young party-hungry miscreant.  I didn’t even catch the lyrical message of the Cranberries anthem “Salvation”, which foreshadowed brighter days to come.

To all those people doin’ lines,
Don’t do it, don’t do it.
Inject your soul with liberty,
It’s free, it’s free.

To all the kids with heroin eyes,
Don’t do it, don’t do it.
Because it’s not not what it seems,
No no it’s not not what it seems.

Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.
Salvation, salvation, salvation is free.

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

High at a Haunted House

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English: Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hil...

English: Vincent Price in House on Haunted Hill – cropped screenshot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Amidst the haze in my cobwebbed brain that paved a way into Halloween during October of 1996, I was convinced to be a part of the Hudson Haunted House.  The Hudson Haunted House was a locally known haunted favorite in the Cleveland/Akron area of Ohio back then, and it still is.

You have to understand that Hudson was a predominantly Upper-Middle Class community.  Most of the people of Hudson were well off, white Protestants.  We in our family were middle-class agnostics.  I felt caught like a rock in a hard place…  torn between two worlds.  The world of the lower-middle class, salt of the earth misfits always seemed to have an alluring grip upon me.

The Hudson Haunted House was full of infamous yard-birds, run by the “Hudson Jaycees”.  The Hudson Jaycees rightfully sought out disadvantaged and “troubled youth” to volunteer at the house.  This was quite a bunch of vandals, stoners, and mobile home dwellers.  We had Jeff, who had a throwback mullet from the 80’s heavy metal scene, and seemed to always have a 40 oz. bottle of Mickey’s Malt Liquor surging through his veins, and then there was Myron, caked in facial blemishes and at least 60 lbs. overweight.  There were many more of a colorful variety like this that worked with the Jaycees at the House.  And I was to join the band, a toothpick-thin skinny stoner with a 1966 Beatles haircut.

There was a lounge in the back room of the House where everyone hung out, smoked cigarettes, and geared up in costume for their next scare in a room.  The rooms all had a different theme and a plethora of costumes, complete with various rubber, decapitated body parts and unlikely weapons such as meat cleavers and hammers.

My favorite room was called “Bloody Butler”.  It must have been something of the only child narcissist in me, because it was a room that was run solo.  One would put on a torn up, sanguine steward’s uniform, and a zombie like mask with a bald head, and long, gray, curly hair sticking out over the ears and back of the head like George Washington.  The room would be strewn with decollated heads, arms and legs.  Their was a severely creepy chandelier that hung above, laden with cobwebs and dimly lit.  Organ music similar to a Bach fugue would play at a suspicious medium volume in the background.

As the Butler I would wait behind an unseen doorway and wait for a crowd of people to enter.  I would walk past a sensor quickly into the sight of the people and wave the meat cleaver in the air in front and close to them.  A strobe light would come on and a Vincent Price-esque laugh would blare at loud volume when the sensor was triggered.  Women would always scream and cling to their boyfriends or husbands.  Once or twice, a large football player would freak out and scream at a high pitch, which was satisfying to this Rock n’ Roll whey-face.

One day I was to work Butler, and Elysia my favorite hippie girl friend showed up before my time to go in.  She told me she had some really potent weed on her.  She grabbed me and we ran out into a forest nearby.  She packed that silver and black pipe she had full of herb and we smoked it.  Something about jogging a bit before doing this would intensify the high, because my lungs and adrenaline were pumping.  Also, I wasn’t one to run or exercise regularly, so any bit of it would really get my blood moving.

I walked back to get into costume, feeling insanely fried.  I don’t even remember putting on the costume or heading into the room…  But I do remember one instance that followed.

I did my normal gig of walking past the sensor and into people’s faces to scare them.  Besides making one lazy, hungry, affected and aloof, ganja affects one’s depth perception, to where sometimes things right in front of you look almost two-dimensional instead of three-dimensional.  I went out past the sensor and towards the crowd, while lethargically waving my meat cleaver into the air.  There was a gated fence made of black iron that separated me from the line of people coming through, and I fell over it and practically right on top of this girl!  She was screaming her head off and freaking out.  One of the security guys, Brutus, who wore a yellow shirt labeled “STAFF” and generally watched for the welfare of our customers punched me in the head and cussed me out.

I was taken into a room and scolded by someone, I don’t remember who.  I just know that I stared at them lackadaisically with a dumb smirk, which intensified their anger and irritation.

After that I think I was asked to leave the Hudson Haunted House.  But I didn’t care.  It was all the more reason to blaze up another joint, have another beer, do another shot, eat another caffeine pill, chain smoke some cigarettes, and slip into oblivion.  By this time I was spending at least $10 a week on dope, probably $40 a month on liquor and beer, and smoking a pack of cigarettes every three days, which back then cost about $1.85.  Where did I get the money you ask?  From my parents.  I would use the money for this stuff instead of lunch at school or other things.  That was also why I got so skinny, because I would spend money on drugs instead of food.

I began to write weird, dark, depressing songs.  They cried out in desperation, sorrow, and heartbreak as these emotions crept through a haze of inadvertence.  I was addicted also to the depression and pain that came with my self-induced blues.

Local H’s “Bound for the Floor” was popular in 1996.  The lyrics described my life and echoed into my soul, though I would have explained them to be about someone else.

“And you just don’t get it, you keep your copasetic, and you learn to accept it, and no, you’re so pathetic…”

I was in ignorant bliss, as the world around me seemed to continue crumbling.  My parent’s and I fought more, my grades plummeted, my feelings for my ex-girlfriend Harmony seemed to magnify, but it seemed that there was nothing I could do about it.  I drowned myself into a haze of smoke and liquid, as the holidays approached nearer and nearer.  I don’t remember the Christmas season of 1996, but I’m sure that I was stoned and drunk for most of it.

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.

Let’s Hotbox and Talk of Parallel Universes

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its too late

its too late (Photo credit: smokershighlife)

Clam-Baking, or what is now called “Hotboxing”, was a way to get higher on dope by shutting the Air Conditioning and rolling up all the windows in a car, then smoking as much ganja as possible, letting the car cloud up so that one would be breathing in THC infested soot with every breath.

My friend and former drummer, Duane and I would get together often at 10:30pm on weekends to devour hot fudge sundaes after a clam-baked car ride.  We’d cloud up the car and inevitably stumble out like a couple of circus clowns stumbling out of a Volkswagon Bug, a thick fog of vaporous, toxic smoke traveling out of the car doors behind us.

We’d come up to get a table…  Duane would murmur, “Uhhh…  two…”  to the hostess.  To which she’d reply, “Smoking or Non-Smoking?”  We’d both grumble, “Uhh… smoking… yeah thanks man…”  (a true wanna-be hippie kid uses the word “man” as a noun, adjective, exclamation and verb… the same goes for modern hipsters or whatever you want to call us)  We’d then sit down to an endless cup of cheap, burnt, caffeinated brown water and begin to chain smoke, spouting out one wild psychadelic idea after another, and sooner or later, we’d eat a hot fudge sundae or something else that calmed the craving that pot often produced (which is aptly called “the munchies”).

Duane and I were always interested in the spiritual side of things.  Marijuana certainly fueled our out of the box ethereal pursuits.  Once Duane and I were talking over a hot fudge sundae, stoned out of our minds on dank weed.  I had what I thought was a profound revelation…

“So check this out Duane…  seriously man!  Listen to me dude!  I’ve figured out the answer man.”  I exclaimed.

“Yeah…  what?”  Duane replied somewhat apathetically, yet with a gleam in his eye.  He knew I loved to think and say totally insane things, and this was definitely going to be another one.

“Like did you ever think we were totally on an atom man?”

“What?”

“An atom bro, like an explosive little sphere…  a MOLECULE!”  It must have looked wild to have my eyes open up so wide when they were so beet red.

“Uhh…  ok.”  Duane muttered.

“Yeah, like we’re on the earth…  right?”

“Yup.”  Duane inhaled a huge hit of his Winston cigarette and blew it out.

“And like, when we die…  if we’re like filled with good karma maybe we go to this next race man…  This race of giant DEMIGODS man.  And THOSE KATS are the ones that LOOK DOWN on OUR UNIVERSE as like a LITTLE ATOM!!!”

“Wow man, that would be crazy man!”  Duane’s interest perked up.

“And guess what too bro, guess what???  Like there could be MILLIONS OF ATOMS in that dimension…  earths just like ours man!  PARALLEL UNIVERSES!  In fact man, in fact bro- think about this…  THINK ABOUT THIS!  What if in ALL THOSE UNIVERSES- two dudes like me and you are having this EXACT SAME CONVERSATION RIGHT NOW!  Isn’t that frickin’ crazy man?”

“Yeah man, and like there’s another dimension beyond that and another beyond that!”

“Yeah, and another below us and another below us!  The atoms we’re looking at in a microscope are like LITTLE UNIVERSES with little beings like people that we CAN’T SEE!!!”

This is the kind of stoned chatter that would fill up a Friday or Saturday night from time to time.  Of course, I’m leaving out all the colorful expletives that we used.  It was thoughts like this that began to birth a spirituality of my own invention.  It was not a spirituality that brought me peace, assurance, clarity, focus, graciousness, love, or purpose.  It was a spirituality that furthered my confusion and existential despair, and yet philosophically justified my personal vices and desires.

I began to write concept albums, searching for the real meaning of life on earth, and reaching out for answers in the universe.  One album actually concluded with the words of the final song “Spiral Dimensia”,

“Don’t stop exploration, the answer will be found.

The mysteries of life will be set free.

Searching for the final answer, all intentions so profound

Feeling insignificant, a speck of dust

On a plane of dimensions

That stretch out longer than in infinity

A never ending spectrum

And we move on with no consequence?

Is there a God who looks upon us?

Are we all alone?

Is there someone out there?”

And they were sung with a raspy, off-key, haunting tone.  My spiritual search had truly begun, right in the middle of drugs pounding my brain.  Who was I?  Where was I going?  Would I even make it past age 20?  Age 18?  Was there some vague power out there?  A demigod?  A Cartoonist who wrote the story of our lives, and was ready at any time to crumple up the pages of the story and throw them into the trash?  Was there any real meaning at all to anything I was doing?  My parents’ had once said in the middle of a fight with each other and me, that if it weren’t for me being around, they’d be divorced.  Did I have a purpose?

The Guy With the Bong

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A bong with a circular carburation port in the...

A bong with a circular carburation port in the front of the bowl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yep, back in my Junior Year of High School, I was “the guy with the bong”.

My girlfriend Harmony and I were seemingly doing getting along as winter crept into the year of 1997.  She had a greater moral conscience than I, and refused to give in to sex and rampant drug abuse.  We fooled around on the edge of these things, but she always kept her standards higher than mine.  At the time, I was somewhat frustrated, but held her in such high esteem that I chose to respect her wishes.  Looking back now, I realize that she was doing the honorable thing.  Yet in a culture that appeared then as it is now; driven by sexual tension and immediate gratification, it was more than difficult to maintain such a level of perspective without some sacrosanct sentient being empowering us.  I was driven by mere carnal knowledge and the hunger of now…  the present need…  genitive satisfaction.  Therefore, God gave me up in the lust of my heart to impurity, to the dishonoring of my body among anyone who would join with me. (Rom. 1:24)

After all, my views about God were varied.  In my mind, “He” could have been an “It” or “She” or even an alien or unseen cosmic force.  I wasn’t sure that God existed.  In some of my more paranoid moments I may have questioned whether God was there or not.  Mostly, I felt that God was some impersonal type of force that got kicks out of watching people on the earth make a mess of themselves.  I may have pulled this idea from Greek myth, because the Greeks believed that their gods were truly making a mockery of them and out to play tricks on and destroy the people they had authority of.  Mostly God to me at this time was a figment of my imagination.

I could have written the lyrics myself to “Sex and Candy” by Marcy Playground.  (Go ahead and play the video, you know you’ve got to hear it again fellow 90’s junkies!)  www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KT-r2vHeMM

I smell sex and candy here

Who’s that lounging in my chair

Who’s that casting devious stares

In my direction

Mama this surely is a dream

I was living in a pseudo-dream world.  THC from constant marijuana smoke was consistently floating around in my brain, causing wild philosophical madness, strange dark creativity and depression, as well as apathy, sloth, lapsed superego reactionary prowess, and a deep narcissism and hedonism that stole my entire being and spread around my soul like red food dye in a glass of ice water.

Along came New Year’s Eve, 1997 to 1998.  I worked carry-out with all my friends who were employed at Tai-Wah Chinese Restaurant.  It was the busiest night of Chinese carry-out all year.  We were slinging Sweet & Sour Chicken, Beef & Broccoli, Egg Foo Young, and Fried Rice like wild ping-pong players on speed.  We knew the reward would come, a New Year’s Eve Party at Cynthia Plum’s house complete with endless alcohol and reckless abandonment.

We got out of work after a busy night.  I was such a bum in these days that I didn’t bother to change out of my work clothes.  After all, I was the guy with the bong.  Mitchell, Harmony, Doug Rankin, Chris Plummer, Dinah Sortec, and others all piled into cars and we headed over to Cynthia Plum’s house, ready for wildness.

I was the guy with the purple bong.  I had a quarter ounce of strong weed all saved up and ready to diminish throughout the evening and share with whoever was ready and willing.  I packed up a bong and filled it with cran-grape juice on the car ride over.  A couple of friends took a hit or two, and then began to quit on me.  “C’mon man!”  I yelled in my stoner accent, “It’s New Year’s guys, don’t quit on me!”

Misery loves company folks.  I was so constantly high, that I couldn’t take it when people didn’t want to party themselves sick and crazy just like me.  I finished the bong by myself nonetheless, and the party had begun.

The night was filled with a haze of nicotine and THC smoke, beers being “bonged” down my throat, or in other words swallowed in one gulp, with the help of poking a hole in the bottom, and cracking open the can at the top, while sucking down the cheap barley and hops through the hole.  We only drank Natural Ice or Milwaukee’s Best beer, the cheapest and most similar to urine-flavored beer on the market.  We just wanted to get a buzz and lose our inhibitions.

At one point in the during the night I went out in the snow covered Northeast Ohio night to take a leak in the woods.  I don’t know why I didn’t choose Cynthia Plum’s restroom to do so.  I think I just wanted to go outside and look at the stars.  I did gaze at the stars when I had found a pine tree to take a whiz on.  I gazed up, thinking, “man I am SOOOO wasted!”  I was lost in the universe and eternal supernova sky above.

I walked in and exclaimed, “Hey guys!  Ready for some more weed?  Hahahahahaha!>(**#&$”

I had my bong raised in the air.

Everyone pointed down toward my pelvic area and began to laugh hysterically.  I looked down and realized that I had tinkled all over my pants.  I suppose I hadn’t aimed very well and hit a pine branch that had sent it down my pant-leg.  “Oh man guys, I didn’t pee myself man!  I totally just missed when I wizzed outside!”  There were no explanations that could save me at this point.  My friends just continued to point and laugh.  Luckily Harmony had gone home by this point so she wouldn’t have to witness my humiliation.

I begged Cynthia Plum for a pair of her father’s pants.  She only said, “Sorry Ben, you’re on your own! …”  She looked down at my pants again and exclaimed,   “So gross!”  I spent the rest of the night in a basement room, by myself, smoking Camel cigarettes…  the lyrics of “Sex and Candy” ringing in my head.

Mama this surely is a dream, yeah

Mama this surely is a dream, dig it

Midnight came and went without me.  Eventually I got a ride home.  I don’t really remember.  I only know that the pee had dried and I passed out in someone’s backseat like a crazy vagrant.

A Stoner on Local Cable TV

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The Human Condition [a tribute to René Magritte]

The Human Condition [a tribute to René Magritte] (Photo credit: [ piXo ])

One of the worst things about drug addiction is the tolerance factor.  When one uses drugs frequently they need more and more of them to get the effects they once experienced.  This was the case for me as April and May of 1998 rolled around.  I had been using harder drugs like psychedelics and prescription speed.  My marijuana use was through the roof.  To get any effect from using pot I would have to do 4 or 5 times the amount that I normally did to even feel it, and at times I didn’t even enjoy it any longer.  This did a number on my lungs.  There were times at the end of a dope smoking session that I would feel as if I could barely breathe.

It’s amazing the illusion one cultivates in the midst of addiction.  Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible.  (Proverbs 10:23)  It’s a horrible thing to have your health deteriorating at the age of 16, but when you’re high you almost don’t care.  As time rolls forward you convince yourself that committing slow suicide is the way to go.  People used to ask me at the age of 16, “So Ben, what do you see yourself doing with your life?”  I would answer, “I don’t know man.  I might not even make it past 20…  But I’m going to party as hard as I can until then.”  Drugs had become my god.  I even believed that my destiny was destruction, and my glory was in their shame, because my mind was set on earthly things.  (Phil. 3:19)  I was even willing to die because of drugs and for drugs, because they seemed to give me my only moments of manufactured happiness amidst the desperation and brokenness of the social order I observed around me.  On the outside I was the court jester, a king of fools, a peace-child wanna-be sixties hippie, and on the inside I was growing more cynical and angry every day.  The alienation that one experiences in the midst of chronic drug use is profound and deeply devitalizing.

Despite the popular music of 1998, early 90’s bands like Alice in Chains began to sing the lyrics of my existence.

Down in a hole, feelin’ so small

Down in a hole, losin’ my soul

Down in a hole, outta control

I’d like to fly but my

Wings have been so denied

In moments alone, stark moments of sobriety which lasted only minutes and hours, I was buried in a hole.  I was lying to everyone I really cared about- my girlfriend Harmony, my parents, and even some of my friends.  In fact, many of my friends were becoming afraid of me.  I began to identify more with people who I once thought were too crazy or too criminal to associate with.  There were strange moments when I longed for my childhood again…  days when I felt untainted and more innocent.

Where was my soul in all of this?  I suppose I had buried it beneath the mounds of drugs, alcohol, and lapsed memories.  My conscience had been hardened in so many ways.  I didn’t care if I turned in homework at all, and I had no problem lying all of the time.  It didn’t matter to me if everything around me crumbled.  “These are all things that society just expects me to do man…”  I would reason to myself.  I may have kept a calm exterior because I was self-medicated all of the time.  But deep inside my world was spinning out of control.  “If there is a God out there he definitely wouldn’t want anything to do with me”, I often thought in my darkest moments.  I would just do another shot, smoke another bowl, pop another pill or drop another tab to try and forget about my deeper thoughts.  To me, God was a distant memory, a figment of my childhood imagination.  “Maybe God doesn’t really exist”, I thought.  “Maybe just the moral, do-gooders of the world made him up to feel like they’re better than everybody”.  These were the honest reflections of my mind as I became more marginalized by the mainstream people of my little microcosm of culture.  “No one will ever really love me”, I thought.  “Nobody really wants to understand me or know me”.  “I’m all alone in this world…  in my addiction and misery”.  I would’ve mustered the strength to pray if I thought someone was listening, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that.  How was I even sure that anyone was there?  Nobody really cared anyways, I thought to myself.

Even music had become an afterthought for me.  It was ironic, because I had originally thought that drugs would enhance my music.  Quite the opposite was true.  In years before, I had written between thirty and fifty songs a year.  In the year of 1997, I had only written about twenty songs, which were getting increasingly weird.  The recordings I made contained more mistakes than ever, and my vocals were out of key at times.  Even the sound of my voice deteriorated as I assaulted it daily with a variety of smoke, sleepless nights and hard living.  Throughout the winter and spring of 1998, and all the way into summer, I continually worked on the recording of one eight-minute song, and kept scrapping parts because I was too constantly intoxicated to produce anything of musical value.  I certainly hadn’t found the inspiration that I thought would come from LSD…  Lucy was so far away in the sky with diamonds that I couldn’t make out her distorted face in the clouds.  The only happiness I experienced was chemical… fake… and I began to view everyone and everything through that lens.  ”What a bunch of fakes and phonies” I thought about the world and society around me.

In Ohio, at Hudson High School, during the spring of 1998, the teachers had gotten tired of a bad contract and decided to go on strike.  This meant that we would get a lot of press from the local news stations.  This also meant that they would try to set up a system to keep us in school.  They sent teachers in to substitute and pick up where the others had left off.  But because of the strike we knew there was no legal requirement for us to attend.

I remember when the cameras from the local news showed up at our institution.  All the students had decided to march out of the building and skip at 10am.  There was nothing anyone could do about it- not the school board, not the cops.  When 10am arrived, we all marched our way out of the temple of learning in great defiance.  I felt like I was part of the late 1960’s.  The cameras from the news station were there as we walked out.  I was definitely out of my mind when I saw them, and was yelling expletives as they passed by…  I was shocked that I didn’t make it on the local news that night at 11pm.  Looking back I realize how silly I was to think that they’d put a loudmouth kid swearing at the camera on TV.

This began 18 days of freedom from responsibility.  It was like summer vacation.  We never went to school.  Of course I started to go completely out of control.  I was using more than I ever had before.  I honestly don’t even remember one detail about those 18 days.  I just know that I was let loose like a wild, untamed golden retriever in a vacant candy store.  I was bound to leave a trail of devastation behind…  and have no idea exactly what that devastation even looked like.

I do know that we had RockFest for our Junior year of High School after the strike was over.  I was playing bass in a psychedelic cover band with mostly guys that were older than me at the show, and was invited to play one acoustic tune on my own.  The Hudson local channel had come to film the performance and interview the performers.  I only heard about this afterwards, because they had supposedly interviewed me and I had absolutely no recollection of even talking to them.  But there I was, on local TV for all the parents of Hudson students and local authorities to see me.  I never watched what I said, but people told me that I acted completely insane and babbled in incoherent riddles.  I do also know that I played the song “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd acoustically when I had my solo spot.  I invited an older friend, Willie Martin, to sing with me.  At one point I was addressing the audience;

“Hey man…  is Willie Martin out there?” I said into the microphone before an audience of about 300 kids.  “I need him to come up and sing with me…  Yo Willie, where are you brotha?  Haha…”

I was told later that I kept asking for Willie to come up, for about 3 minutes.  He had been right next to me on the microphone to my left for about 2 of those minutes.  I do remember only the moment when I looked over and saw him.  I exclaimed,  “Oh man, there you are!”  and everyone was laughing at me.  I officially had the reputation of being a complete stoner.

The summer of 1998 was about to unleash me into a wild realm of reckless existence.  My friend Mitchell began to become afraid of doing harder drugs.  He backed away from my pursuit of deeper aberration.  I was beginning to hang out in the haunts of my town with the freaks, drop-outs and super bohemians.  I had friends in their twenties who dealt drugs.  I was stepping into a world of danger that I knew nothing about, but I didn’t care where it led me…  whether it be insanity, prison, or even death.  I know that my parents were afraid for me, but I didn’t care what they thought anymore.  I didn’t want to follow any rules except the voice of id.