Monday, February 28, 2005

Aides to the Ex President 6: Gonzo Journalism

[Like I said, I swear, these were our true motivations at the time.]

We grabbed a table as far away from the door as possible, which meant we were sitting in near total darkness. This was good for my brain and my eyes too. Soon, our server came back to greet us. She was, it seemed, not even as old as I was (and I wasn't even old enough to be in there), and pretty in that sorority house way that I quit being attracted to shortly after arriving at college a year or two before. But that's OK--the entire district was full of ball caps and bangs, so while Jim and I were out of place, it was no different from any sports bar anywhere else.

"What can I get you fellas?" she asked with a dazzling smile.

"Turkey and coke, and a Bass Ale," was Jim's reply. She nodded and began to bounce away.

"HEY! My friend here might want something to drink too!"

She turned and reappraised us.

Jim was well on his way to being the "two hundred pound bald man," and with very little sleep over the last couple of days, not to mention no shower, he was beginning to look rather...scruffy. And vaguely menacing, I realized later. I probably wasn't much better, despite all my attempts to catch her eye and smile reassuringly. While I was probably not what you would call "menacing," there was most likely something subtly wrong with me, but not in any way she was able to pin down.

"I'm friend's been on the road a bit too long. I'll take one of those as well."

"One of what?" she asked suspiciously, "a Turkey or a beer?"

Oh Jesus, I thought, I HATE Wild Turkey. But it was too late now; we had to get the upper hand on this situation quickly, otherwise we would get tossed before we even had a chance to run up a bill.

"Both," I said, with an inner wince.

She flounced away, Jim got up to go look up the stairs, which had bright Texas sunshine spilling down the steps, but suspiciously no traffic at all.

She brought us our drinks, and retreated to the bar, where she glanced at us nervously while talking to the bartender, who likewise inspected us. "This is going nowhere," I thought. "We're gonna get tossed. Maybe even go to jail. God, I don't want to go to jail in Dallas, I thought."

She approached again, directly to me, and smiled her most winning smile. In a matter of seconds, I thought, I was going to be carded and tossed. I finished my Turkey, and eyeballed the beer.

"What are those?" she asked, nodding at something on the table.

I looked down. In front of me were two yellow legal pads and a pencil. I didn't remember bringing them in, but there they were--covered with what might be euphemistically termed "notes." They were pretty sloppy, and interspersed with a number of decidedly odd doodlings, and she seemed pretty interested in them. For my part, I couldn't decide if I should hide them (because the notes were one part nonsense and two parts criminal confession) or dangle them as bait. My indecision operated in the latter choice's favor, of course, so she grabbed on of the notebooks and turned it her way. I could see the word "ACID" written on it.

Jim suddenly snapped out of a reverie and snapped "Aides to the Ex President, ma'am. Those documents are classified!" He snatched them up and wandered off to the bathroom, cursing and throwing baleful looks around the bar.

The waitress was utterly confused by his bizarre behavior, but instead of looking at the bar, she looked at me. I shrugged, and tried to keep my hands where she could see them.

"He's crazy," I said, "they always give me the crazy ones."

"What are you doing here?" she breathed, looking into my eyes. Could she be...flirting with me?

"Well, our cover story, as you just heard, is that we're Aides to the Ex President. Nixon, you know? But really, we're writers from Rolling Stone, and we're here to cover this fantastic weekend here in Dallas. You wouldn't have gone to Lollapalooza last night, would you?"

She'd gone rather unfocused pretty quickly after I said the words "Rolling Stone," and her jaw dropped a bit. I could see the tip of a very pink tongue, and the glint of pearly whites.

"Wow," she said, "Rolling Stone? You mean, like, the magazine?"

Yes, I replied, but I didn't want a whole lot of notice. While we needed Total Coverage, we were here on a shoestring budget and had, in fact, stayed up the entire night before because we couldn't find a hotel room. Thus, I said, my notes were rather garbled--that, and we'd talked to a number of freaks from the Lollapalooza show the day before. Did she know anyone who'd been there?

"Ummmm...what's that?" she asked, almost embarrassed. "I just moved here from White Settlement."

"I'll bet you did, honey," I thought, as Jim staggered back to the table.

She disappeared back to the bar, and returned shortly with more whiskey and beers. She sat down across from me, and began asking me questions about our "assignment."

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Aides to the Ex President 5: Croc's

[that old coot would have to shoot himself right before the climax of this story, wouldn't he? I swear, this is how it happened.]

The calories present in one can of Budweiser beer were sufficient for me to get one man out of bed, all of our gear packed, and Jim installed in the driver's seat. Shortly afterward, we arrived at one of those plastic breakfast places--the kind we generally got thrown out of at 2 in the morning, back home. Maybe that would have been the case in Dallas, except the sun was already shining and the whole place was covered with Lollapalooza rejects.

I had intended to spend some time taking notes, with the eventual goal of maybe writing about the events of the weekend (oh, to find those notes now). At the time, this proceeded as far as me bringing in a couple of pads of yellow legal paper, which did nothing more than burn my eyes and make me think of urine and canaries. I doodled aimlessly.

Jim, on the other hand, was chipper--after all, he'd had a four or five hour nap. We ordered food, and he began flirting with a couple of girls seated behind us.

They were kind of an odd pair, in my LSD-fugued brain. In retrospect, they reminded me of a Jim Morrison poem about meeting two women on a beach, blonde (Freedom) and dark (Enterprise). At the time, though, the blonde reminded me of Janis from the Muppet Show, and the other of a rather chubby Valerie Bertinelli. Like I said, a rather odd pair.

They had plainly been up most of the night as well, although from Janis' post nasal drip it wasn't the same type of night. Jim's enthusiasm was infectious, and soon all four of us were talking over the back of our booth.

Jim, of course, led in those conversations, as he still does. It's hard for me to reign in someone who so plainly loves to bullshit people, and my brain wasn't working too well. I stayed mostly in the background and concentrated on my sausage and eggs, until the girls asked where we were from.

"San Clemente, California," Jim replied (which was kind of true-he'd only recently returned from a visit to our friend Ed who was living out there).

Now, most of you kids don't know this, but the most famous resident of San Clemente back in the early 90's (and even the 70's and 80's, come to think of it) was Richard Nixon. Jim has a bit of a Nixon fetish, so Ed had shown him the walls of the estate (complete, as legend has it, with a spiked fence 100 yards out into the ocean). I knew this, and I knew what was next.

"California," the girls breathed, wide eyed. "Like, wow! What do you do out there?"

"Aides to the Ex President," I barked. "Why do you ask?"

The girls were confused and aroused--they had no idea what I was talking about, but it sure beat going home to Denton. Jim took it and ran, as I got up to visit the bathroom.

"Well, see, Jefe's been driving a long time, so he's kinda touchy. We're part of the advance team for Richard Nixon, who's thinking about running for Governor of Texas. It's all very hush-hush--he shouldn't have said anything."

They were still nodding sagely as I slid back into my side of the booth.

"You girls know where we can get a beer in this town? The last place we stopped at didn't have any. What's this 'dry county' business, anyway?"

They giggled nervously, and Valerie looked around for a clock. Or a cop. "West End," they said.

I softened my demeanor--there were serious dealings afoot, but none of them precluded having a couple of hipster chicks along for the ride. And this Ex-President thing could turn into something worthwhile (it never did, and he died two years later).

Jim, however, didn't ask them to come along--apparently he'd caught the whiff of a lunchtime beer, or was beginning to obsess on the football game that night, but after a bit more confused dialogue and nervous glances in my direction, they paid their tab and left.

Jim was beginning to be concerned about our money situation, recognizing that we barely had enough money to get home, much less get into a damn Dallas Cowboys football game. I knew what we were going to do, but convincing him that we'd be better off watching the game on television in some sports bar (which was, itself, a compromise for me--the BEST place I could think of to watch it would be in my own living room) was a task far beyond my mental capacity at the time. Besides, a dark place was something I needed--consequently, I coaxed him into finding a bar, and we split for downtown Dallas shortly thereafter.

West End Dallas is a hellhole of malls, boutiques, and restaurants. It's like Bricktown in OKC, 6th Street in Austin, and the Riverwalk in San Antonio. For those of you not familiar with the above, imagine the love child of the East Village and McDonalds, or the Waterfront in SF and, say, Gap Clothing. It's horrifying to me now, but when we finally found the place, I looked on it as a prime place to fuck with people. Maybe create our own Temporary Autonomous Zone--or at least get our drinks for free. The Aides to the Ex President line had given me an idea, and I was intent on finding out how far we could go before I crashed, or we were arrested.

The restaurant we chose was a place called "Croc's," or some variant thereof. We chose it simply because it was the only one that had a dining area on the roof. This would give us a stellar view of the whole West End, which was pretty packed due to the game in a few hours, and the events of the preceding nights. We sat down at the bar with $25.00 between us, about half of which was needed to fill my gas tank. Time to put up or shut up, I thought, Thompson would demand TOTAL COVERAGE, which meant a rooftop seat. And there was a red velvet rope across the staircase. The rope, I noted, was dusty.

Monday, February 21, 2005

He Stomped On The Terra

Hunter S. Thompson: "No mas, no mas."

I'm saddened beyond words to hear that Dr. Gonzo has taken his own life. While I believe it's someone's right to make the decision as to whether they live or die, it's still hard for me reconcile the man I looked up to for years for his lust for life with the tired old man who blew his brains out yesterday.

I started reading HST by purest chance: at age 14 or 15, I joined QPB, which was (or maybe still is, who knows) a sort of literary Columbia House. You got six books, I think, and promised to buy 3 more over the next three years. One of those books happened to be Generation of Swine. It was the best of the lot-in fact, I can't recall any of the other titles at all. I gave it to my dad to take on a business trip to Israel, and he came back a fan as well--his words were "I laughed out loud, in the airport. And you haven't SEEN funny looks until you start laughing out loud, alone, in an Israeli airport."

So if my political persona was in large part shaped by Generation of Swine and Campaign Trail 72 (how many 15 year old boys do you know who can rattle off the Democratic contenders for the '72 campaign?), my greater feelings of freedom to live my life the way I wanted to were probably formed by The Great Shark Hunt and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Coming out of small town Oklahoma, I was consistently impressed that this guy was not only able to get away with the things he was, but was able to make a fine living doing so. It gave me hope (in a very stressful time of my life) that you didn't have to follow the same road everyone else did.

HST was one of my idols, perhaps even more so than Buk or Bill Burroughs. News of his death last night was stunning--I just sat there for a few minutes, at a loss.

I wonder what was going through his mind--I wouldn't be surprised to hear he'd been diagnosed with cancer, or some other terminal disease. I'm disappointed to learn that he's gone out like the rest of us do, instead of sublimated directly to Hell or just plain disappearing--but the world is a much less colorful place without him in it.

I think this weekend, I rob a liquor store and go get a tattoo somewhere. I've been leery of getting HST related tattoos on both arms, but there's no question in my mind now.

Res Ipsa Loquitor, Doctor Thompson. You are missed.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Aides to the Ex President 4: A Single Beer

Shortly after 2am, Jim turned on the television. The Egg had begun to pall, and we didn’t have much to amuse ourselves with, so we settled in to watch a Woody Allen flick.

The film is called “Sleeper,” and it’s hysterical. Now, many people don’t like Mr. Allen, and don’t think he’s funny. I’m certainly not a part of the cult, but still, I could see why the cult exists.

Liz, incidentally, found him distasteful because he always wrote himself in as getting the girl, which plainly a man of his looks and characteristics could never really do. She also felt he was something of a misogynist, I think, although I never really got too far in that with her.

Anyway, it’s a sort of “Brave New World” spoof where Woody (or his character) awakens in the 24th Century (or some other time far in the future) to find that health food has been determined bad for you, and that basically the whole planet has no problems at all. Given his reaction, I guess the point of the film is that some people aren’t happy unless there’s some aspect of their lives which sucks.

The next film, which Jim never saw, was “Some Like it Hot.”

I liked that one too, and with my acid-influenced perceptions thought all the cross dressing stuff was absolutely subversive. It put me in mind of the old bastard who taught my typing class in high school, who opined weekly about the creeping into the mainstream of homosexuality. “First,” he’d say, “it was just down there in one corner. Now, it’s everywhere you look!” And given that this was small town Oklahoma (small enough that we didn’t have a stoplight), we were all a little confused about what programs he was watching. Mr. Morris is now a personality archetype for one of the most entertaining folks out there, the Apocalypse Nut. And while I’ll admit that California has a lot of these types, Oklahoma has some real gems (a couple of years later, I met a set of twins whose father pulled them out of school once or twice a year for the Rapture, I suppose to make sure they didn’t miss the bus or something).

Sometime around dawn, I went outside to watch the sun come up.

I used to hate seeing the sun come up, because that generally meant I was a) already up preparing to do some sort of horrible country chore, or b) already up and in some duck blind, cold and wet. It wasn’t until my first semester of college that I realized you could wring a lot more satisfaction from a sunrise by actually staying up all night the night before. Even without acid, the right crew on an all nighter can be worthwhile.

But all the heavy thinking from this specific night (I won’t go into it, except that a lot of it had to do with the tatters my relationship with Alethea was in), I was content to see the dawn. Once the sky begins to brighten to the east, I have several feelings:

1) I’ve survived this drug yet again.
2) Sunrises denote a new day, a chance to act on all the things discussed the night before (or at least, examine them under different light, mentally speaking).
3) A general feeling of superiority to folks that have actually been to bed. Many of them are getting up to go to work, or otherwise prepare for a day of stricture and stifling conformity. I was free, in other words, and had all day to play.

I also felt completely drained and enervated. Nothing to eat all night, body burning fuel like nobody’s business (LSD causes tightening of the muscles all over the body, but worst in the neck and back, in my experience), and nothing to do but grit my teeth for the last 3 or 4 hours. I was at, I felt, a zero point.

And it was precisely at that point that the guys in the next room came up the stairs again. They could tell I was on acid, I think, and I had the impression they were wondering if I’d spent the entire night outside, jumping off the second floor railing. They entered their room, and one of them returned and said “dude, you want a beer?”

It was one of those unconscious acts of kindness that words can’t describe. One of those casual, quickly forgotten, almost automatic gestures which garner one more good karma than you can burn in a lifetime. Of course I wanted a beer, but through the long night of spiritual discovery, cross dressing jazz musicians, and wobbling, amorphous black eggs, I’d forgotten that such a thing as beer existed.

Not only was it beer, but the can, as he handed it to me, was cold and beaded with icewater. No measly refrigerator for THIS—it was plainly From A Cooler, which means this beer had Been Places. As if the extra work done to keep its temperature low could be extracted from the can and used to fuel my body, since we were only halfway through this trip.

I don’t recall speaking any more with the guys next door—they were in the process of checking out, I think, and I didn’t bother them. I greedily cracked open the can, and took a sip. The taste was pure bliss, of course, but as I sat there, cross legged in the warm Dallas sunshine, I could actually feel the energy being pulled out of the malted barley and transferred to my hungry cells. I drank it all, savoring each mouthful, and once the can was empty, went inside to wake Jim.


Let me tell you about a little moral tug of war that I've been having with myself recently:

After getting 3 posts into Aides to the Ex President, I realized that my time frame was all fucked up. Not sure why, other than it happened 13 years ago and I'm an idiot, but since we only spent 2 days in Dallas, and the Dallas/Washington game was on a Sunday, then we must have spent SATURDAY night tripping, not Friday.

Thus, this story is about a third shorter than you were probably thinking it would be, which will most likely be a relief.

But the quandary in which I found myself is this: do I confess the error, or do I go back and edit the original post, and play dumb?

Obviously, the former, but a little more info: First, it would be duplicitous, and while I'm perfectly capable of being duplicitous, it's generally for a lot better reason than to hide a stupid error I've made. Second, this is an acid story, and that puts me in mind of a lot of the elaborate paranoid schemes my mind thinks up during those times. I know it wouldn't be the same to you, but still, it's mean. Third, I realized that I've been putting off writing another part of the story because of indecision about what to do, so it doesn't matter that much more anyway.

So, problem solved. If I stay in tonight, I'll endeavor to write another post. I'll have to do some thinking about it, because with Jim asleep, there's not a whole lot more action til the following morning, other than a lot of really heavy thinking and a few televised movies. Which is generally what happens when you take acid alone, come to think of it, if you're fortunate enough to have a television with cable.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Aides to the Ex President 3: The Egg

I think it was Aldous Huxley who pointed out that hallucinogens take away the filters our mind sets up to allow us to function in a meaningful way. These filters are what allow us to distinguish between a cow wandering in our direction, and a Greyhound bus. Important things, filters, but at times it's interesting to turn them off.

Thus, it's possible to spend hours staring at your face in the bathroom, which is the worst possible thing you can do if you have self-image problems (or don't, and want to keep it that way). It doesn't take very long to realize that skin is gross, and by extension, humanity is gross. Don't worry, it makes sense. And heaven forbid you look at your EYEBALLS. There's something unnatural about them--naturally, the pupils are blown, but if you make the mistake of really looking at them, you realize that your eyes are actually pressurized balls of fluid (not unlike grapes), and your pupil is really a HOLE IN YOUR EYEBALL. Some experts also warn there's a very real danger of actually falling into your own pupils, which I've never done, although I think I've come close a time or two.

As a rule of thumb, it's best to just stay away from the bathroom if possible. However, nature will generally call at some point during your technicolor dream theater, so it's OK then. But keep your eyes tightly closed, and try to develop what Rachel (or Aleister Crowley) will probably have a name for, but I do not. It's the skill that longtime trippers have of absorbing all, but focusing on nothing inordinately. Come to think of it, this is actually forcing your reality filters back into place to a degree, for a time, but I like it better if someone can come up with the proper metaphysical term for it.

But enough about bathrooms and bodily functions. Onward to The Egg.

The hotel room was mostly white, and other than the beds and television, there was a sort of desk or credenza built into the wall. Said credenza was of crappy construction, of thin particleboard laminated with white plastic. All in all, something not worth a second look. And it wouldn't have been looked at twice, except if we decided to break it, if the floor hadn't been carpeted.

The Egg is a highly polished bolus of stone which fell from the sky aeons ago, as Cthulhu was first bound into his watery prison off the coast of Indonesia. Bloody is the history of its passing through the ages, and mystery shrouds the extradimensional space from which it came. Its coloration is black as the void, and it is curiously cold to the touch. It is also, obviously, eggshaped.

I don't know why I took it with me that day. I had a vague feeling that it might be useful as a triptoy, or worry stone, or something-but as soon as I saw that white, cheapass credenza, I knew we were in for a long night.

See, acid also fucks with your mind in the visual cognition department (I'm probably butchering clinical language, so please correct me if I'm misusing a term), so when something moves through your field of vision, it leaves behind slight images of itself in the air, just long enough for your mind to recognize something's there, but not precisely what it is. These are called "tracers," and if you're reading this on a Microsoft OS, you can go to your mouse settings and make your very own. It's crude, and annoying after a while, because it's obviously the same stupid white arrow, but when it's all over the place, it can be very...impressive.

Imagine everything you see being some sort of optical illusion, and you've got an idea.

Tracers, furthermore, aren't just where an object is, they're where you think the object will go. This quality has developed into a game called "Dope Ball," in which two or more people sort of twiddle their fingers, in the manner of someone casually shaking a pair of dice. If done properly, there's the illusion of something actually there, that is, the Dope Ball. Once everyone agrees that yes, there is a Dope Ball, the person holding the Ball will throw it, and since the mind has conceived of an object, the movement of the thrower's hand will present the optical illusion of that object moving through space.

It's an absolutely ridiculous game, of course, but loads of fun at the time.

The reason I'm going into so much detail about how LSD affects your brain is because most of what goes on during an acid trip is completely pointless and dumb to someone who's not tripping.

So The Egg, being black, contrasted nicely (or absolutely, come to think of it) with the dead white plastic of the desk. Idly, I rolled The Egg around, and noted a serious rumble accompanying its movements (due to the acoustics of the desk). A toy was born, and in short order, we were spinning The Egg like a top, listening to the vibrating rumble from various points around the desk--underneath, directly above, ear pressed to desk, etc..

I told you it looked stupid.

Then, we noticed something. The Egg, being symmetric along its long axis, and being of uniform color, did not appear to be rotating at all. The noise was leading us to believe that it was rotating, but once the sound was eliminated (by means of a pillow on my knees, jammed underneath the desk), the illusion of an egg wandering around under its own power was hypnotizing.

And then, it happened. The Egg melted.

It didn't actually melt, of course--it just quit rotating. And as it quit rotating, it spun down, from point to side, where it spun for a second and stopped.

We were both silent. Jim picked it up and spun it again, wordlessly. We both put our heads on the desk and watched.

It occurred to me that the Egg, when properly viewed, was Schroedinger's Cat. I'm not going to explain the theory, except to say that during a specific period of time, the cat was in an indeterminate state, a state between alive and dead. You can't judge the state of the cat without seeing it, which is prevented by an ingenious device (which also has a fun feature of killing the cat at some random point). Anyway, the theory isn't about acid heads with stone eggs, or even about cats, but my thoughts were that:

1) if you accept that The Egg was not rotating, but standing on its tip

2) if The Egg suddenly begins to change shape (that is, grow shorter and fatter), then ultimately

3) comes to rest as a different Egg, well, then a number of things happen.

First, you've got a king hell Egg on your hands. Kinda like that singin' frog in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Second, in the intermediate state b), it's producing more tracers than I've ever seen in one place, all dead black against a white background, which is the best way to play with tracers, which, after all are visual snipes. And finally, you can kill a HELL of a lot of time with this party trick.

We spent, quite literally, two hours watching this thing and turning it over in our minds. One and a half hours was spent with the shape changing bit, then and extra half hour was spent arguing about whether it was, in fact, completely dead black. It's not. There's a faint metallic gold sheen in one part of it, which exists even when we're not completely out of our minds on acid.

I've still got the thing. Up until I moved into a house that had carpeting, and reduced my acid taking to a couple of weeks in the desert each year, I brought it out with every trip, and blew a lot of people's minds with it. Currently, it's resting in a kitchen drawer at home, so saturated with LSD sweat that even I'm afraid to touch it.

At about 3am, Jim decided to crash, so I turned on the TV to see what sort of rubbish I could rot my brain with before dawn, and the beginning of our second day in Dallas.