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.