As the year slid into the summer of 1999, I wanted my world to be freer than ever. I had stayed sober from psychedelic and harder drugs for 3 months in order to attempt graduating high school. I had succeeded by the skin of my teeth, and my marginal success had dumped me back into libertine freedom. I had used self-control to avoid the humiliation of staying back a grade in my senior year and joining the class of 2000. As soon as I accomplished what I had to, I let my inhibitions go once again.
There is no institutional moment that a typical high-school student longs for more than their senior prom. Mine was on its’ way. My girlfriend Jamie had been away at an all-girls school in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania, for almost the entire spring semester of that year. She was to return back to the town of Hudson, Ohio, and back into my life. She had made a few friends during her stint at the school who were partiers, but she swore up and down that her sobriety had remained in tact. She had only continued to smoke Camel Red Lights daily, drink coffee, and study, or so she said. Of course, our MDMA fueled romance led me to believe what I wanted to believe- that she was completely faithful to her word and to me. To this day, I’m unsure of details as to how many lies were flying around, but I was equally guilty of living in a fantasy world.
Jamie was to be my prom date at the senior prom of 1999. Hudson High School was a wealthy school fueled by stinking rich, Upper-Middle class taxpayers. We were to have our senior prom at the newly built Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland Ohio. This should have been a dream come true for me, as my life was fueled by the inductees who did and were to line the halls… people like Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Sting, Jim Morrison, Bono, Eddie Van Halen, Kurt Cobain and Lars Ulrich. But by this point, drugs and their subsequent selfish pursuits had pulled me far away from pursuing the heights with playing music. I hadn’t been in a well functioning band in years, and my efforts at making music were very secluded and personal. I made songs for Jaime and myself instead of sharing them with my peers. To make it worse, the rival high-school band, who went by the name “Discordant”, had become far more popular than me and my friends. They were going to play live on the Rock Hall’s prestigious stage during our prom. I hated them passionately for this. Joni Mitchell, the great folk songwriter who began her career in the late sixties once wrote;
Oh the jealousy, the greed is the unraveling
It’s the unraveling
And it undoes all the joy that could be
When James, the brother of Jesus, spoke of the jealousy that was among Jesus’ early followers, he said that “where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16), and he was speaking to people who were supposed to have known better. I suppose in a way, I should’ve known better as well. But just like Joni Mitchell and James the brother of Jesus collaboratively pointed out nineteen centuries apart, my jealousy was unraveling my soul and leading me down a road of bitterness and stagnant soul-eradication.
This is the downward spiral of the drug user. One who uses drugs to cope with life becomes more and more disabled within reality. Deep inside I hated most everyone, especially those who were “succeeding” in life, I loathed myself for my disinclined suicidal tendencies and instead of rightfully blaming myself and beginning to deal with the problems that plagued me, I blamed everyone else. I was the victim in their cruel game. As long as I stayed high or drunk, everything would at least seem serene.
The High School prom of Hudson High in 1999 was an amazing party that only the most privileged would have attended, relishing the memory for years beyond. Jamie and I went and had dinner with another couple, my friend Duane and his date Kali, we attended the prom, fueled by an over-load of caffeine and nicotine. We slow danced a few times and I sat in rage and sweaty bitterness as Discordant played through their pop rock set, complaining to Jamie about how much they were sell-outs that sucked, though inwardly I wished I was in their place. In my mind were delusions of grandeur, the way life should have been. Me up there on the Rock Hall stage playing solo with my back up band… “Ben White and the Misfits of Love”, singing original tunes that made people cry and ponder the deep things of life. Instead, I was a washed up drug addict that had barely made it out of High School, with his drug addict girlfriend who was two years younger than him.
During the “after-prom”, they had decked out the Hudson High School gymnasium with inflatable obstacle courses, games, photo booths, memories, and other joyous moments of the past four years that our entire class could share together.
Jamie and I ditched the after-prom, and headed to the backyard of my parents’ house. It was 1 a.m. and they were asleep. I had a half ounce of psilocybin mushrooms, and we were going to take a small dose and trip the night away. Forget our peers. Forget meaningful social ties. We were wanna-be hippies and just wanted to do what we always did best; hide in a vacuum and waste our lives away.
We each took a small dose of psilocybin mushrooms and sat in my parents’ backyard, staring at the canopy of the trees above us as it merged and twisted like a kaleidoscope. Our peers were at the all night lock-in at my High School, which was a couple of miles away from my parents’ house. There we were, alone and tripping, the dissenters continuing their lone escapade. We stayed up all night, most of which I don’t recall, and the morning brought in a new summer that would certainly be filled with wanton hedonism.
We had purchased these mushrooms at a large reenactment of the 1969 Woodstock concert aptly named “Hookahville” somewhere in the middle of nowhere in central Ohio. Jamie and I had paid about $50 apiece to enter the concert for one day, even though we paid for the three day event. We couldn’t come up with lies to stay all three days together, because we knew our parents would figure out we were both gone.
Hookahville was a wild array of hippies, and proved that even in the year 1999, the Grateful Dead’s anthem “Golden road to unlimited devotion”, written in 1967, was still being lived out;
Well everybody’s dancin’ in a ring around the sun
Nobody’s finished, we ain’t even begun.
So take off your shoes, child, and take off your hat.
Try on your wings and find out where it’s at.
This place was a huge collection of hippies. There were people with long hair and beards that walked around in a thick haze of psychedelic craziness. Many people were wearing tie-dyes and bell bottoms, and the air smelled of dope smoke and patchouli incense. These were happenings where somehow the cops couldn’t come, either. So there were literally little stands that sold balls of peanut butter and marijuana for $10 and called them “Dank Goo-Balls”. For me at the time, I felt that I had stepped into a utopian dream, though really, it was a disturbing place full of darkness and people wandering around on an imaginary lost planet.
But being the gregarious one I was, I knew what Jamie and I had come for. I wanted to find a bag of psilocybin mushrooms. I literally walked around just yelling; “Shrooms! Does anybody have shrooms?” Even Jamie thought I was totally crazy.
A wild cat heard me. He had black opal dilated pupils, and was thin as a rail with a huge beard, long hair, and a tall hat that belonged on the head of the Mad Hatter of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. “Hey man, you need shrooms?” He said, obviously tripping on them himself. “Yeah that’d be great man.” I responded, trying my best at the age of seventeen to appear like an experienced hippie.
That was where we scored our half ounce of mushrooms for prom. We didn’t stick around long for Hookahville after, even though the Grateful Dead spin-off band “Ratdog” led by ex-Dead guitarist and singer Bob Weir, were on the stage, making all the hippies dance like it was the summer of love. We needed to get back home before curfew.
Fast-forward to the day after prom, after the first dose of those shrooms had been consumed. Jaime had to head back to her boarding school in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania to take her finals. We had only taken a very small amount of these mushrooms, and I was left with more than three-eighths of an ounce of them to myself. When Jaime headed back for her finals, she made me promise her something. She pleaded with me; “Ben, please save these for me so we can do them together again.” Of course I agreed. But I was a drug-head with an insatiable hunger to do stupid things. I hadn’t yet tasted the sweet honey of wisdom, the “drippings of the honeycomb sweet to the taste, such could wisdom have been to my soul; where if I had found it, there would be a future, and my hope would not be cut off.” (Prov. 24:13-14) Instead, I was often tasting the bitter gall of sin and self-loathing. Leaving a huge bag of mushrooms in the hands of such a young man was a bad thing to do…