If you’re going to ingest mind-altering substances, and I’m not recommending that you do so (yes, I am), might I recommend mushrooms? Psychedelic mushrooms have many upsides — well, at least two that I can think of. One: they’re not addictive in any way, because they’re a natural product of the earth, which is nice if you’re a hippie, which I am not, f-ck hippies, where was I? …Ann-nnd two: they’re really not addictive, because no one wants to do mushrooms all the time. It’s not like cocaine, where your first thought is “This is brilliant, I should do this every second of the day.” No one wakes up every day and wants to take mushrooms. No one’s like “Hey, I want to see dragons and be unable to function normally for sixteen hours every day,” though maybe the world would be a better place if we did think that way, although probably not.
Anyway, here is a list of all the times I did mushrooms.
2000: I was in New Orleans for the first time, and at Mardi Gras for the first time; which, truly — if I could have picked a worse, more stressful way to do mushrooms for the first time; but no, I could not have done that, for that would be impossible. Ideally, the first time you do hallucinogens, you should be in a safe-feeling place; in a pillow-filled room, say, surrounded by people you love. And not surrounded by 19,000 puking frat guys at the world’s most horrible parade.
Anyway, I take mushrooms for the first time — they taste gross, but not horrendously gross, and then have my only funny moment ever for the next six hours. 0.5 seconds after we take them, I say, in a truly dopey voice, “Ohmigod, guys what is happening, have we been talking for hours; my hands, oh my god, my hands.” Drug humor, ha ha.
Then the mushrooms actually start to take effect. I see the soon-to-be-familiar Aztec-y tribal patterns that everyone sees on mushrooms, and there’s a medical-y reason why everyone sees them, but I forget why. Then we walk to the Mardi Gras parade. Then I forget my name. Awful.
Then I remember my name. Then I forget it again. Then I forget that I have forgotten my name. Then I remember that I have forgotten it. This quickly becomes excruciating for those around me — “OHMIGOD, MY NAME IS OLIVER. …Wait; what’s my name again?” — as everyone yells at me to shut up about the name thing.
Then I have a Vietnam flashback. Of course, I wasn’t really in the ‘Nam, or in “the sh-t,” as they call it, since I was one year old when the war ended. But you know what I mean. I believe that I am in the war. This was caused by the palm trees around us, the massive crowds of surging people (who looked like fleeing refugees to me), and the police helicopters continually flying over the parade route. Really, it was the helicopters that did it. That Apocalypse Now-ish constant whup whup whup of the rotor blades.
I start talking to my friend Tiffany. Tiffany is shorter than me, and has straight black hair. She is also wearing stupid clamdigger pants which increase the whole problematic illusion. Tiffany is in no way Asian, however.
“I saw this all before,” I say. “I was a hard-bitten G.I., and you were a Vietnamese boat child. I tried to save you, but you died. This all happened before, and you died. Like My Lai; like that picture in Life Magazine, the little girl, on fire, fleeing the burning napalm. I’ve seen this all before. And I failed. I tried to save you from your fate, but you died…”
“Shut up before I kill you,” Tiffany says.
2001: I do mushrooms with Jeremy, my grad school roommate, but I had been doing work all day, and hadn’t bothered to eat, and we took the ‘shrooms at 9 PM. I’m instantly starving, but eating on mushrooms proves to be impossible. And all Jeremy has to eat are blueberry vegan waffles with no syrup, which are bland and hard to force down under any circumstances. But on ‘shrooms, I end up analyzing the waffles, and pulling them apart, and examining each individual micron of their… waffleynesss, and so end up with a pile of vegan crumbs at my feet, no actual eating having taken place.
Later on, my girlfriend comes over, and we try to have sex, but no, you can’t have sex on ‘shrooms either, since you end up moving at the same one-micron-per-hour rate. I end up staring at the radiance streaming from her eyes instead.
2002: Jeremy again. This time, it goes better. Since we are two 27-year-old slackers in grad school, our apartment is completely disgusting, and we end up sitting on the floor. Everywhere that there is a pile of dirt and dust and crud and vegan crumbs, it is magically transformed into technicolor holographic glitter dragons, which resemble the dragons on holographic glitter stickers that you would get in the 80s — you know, from those machines where you slide in four quarters all standing up? And then you get a single adhesive sticker between two pieces of cardboard? Anyway, they looked like dragons from that.
Jeremy and I are very pleased, and end up screaming things like: “This is fantastic! Glitter dirt dragons! We’re never cleaning again, bahahahahaha!” And we never do clean again, or at least, we don’t clean very much.
Also, and I SWEAR THAT THIS REALLY HAPPENED EXCEPT NO IT COULDN’T HAVE — we could see through the floor in spots to the apartment below us, and see the people walking around in the apartment below us: leading their little lives, making dinner, feeding the dog, watching TV. Which was great and amazing, plus that’s the sort of thing that I really want from drugs. X-Ray vision. Superpowers.
2002: Jeremy again again. He has this stupid screensaver on his Macbook that spits out quotations in a loud voice, while showing pictures of… galaxies and nebulae and things. Such a hippie thing to have as your screensaver. Anyway, I become convinced that this is the voice of God. Repeated — and progressively louder — statements on Jeremy’s part eventually manage to convince me that his screensaver is not, in fact, God.
2004: Tiffany again. We’re at a party and she goes into the bathroom while on mushrooms, and stays there for an hour, transfixed by the awesomehorribleness of her appearance. Since I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder to start out with, I have never made the stupid mistake of looking at myself in the mirror while on ‘shrooms.
When she emerges, an hour later, we go out on the balcony to escape the party. Then our friend Kat comes out. I never much cared for Kat. Why do we have friends we can’t stand? — and is that a mushroom thought, or a normal thought, I ask myself. And Kat talks, and talks, and talks. About her impending engagement, mostly. And talks. Has anyone ever talked for longer and have I ever wanted to stab out anyone’s eyes more? And there’s nothing I can do about it. …Nothing. …Then Tiffany says, “Kat, can you leave the balcony? I’ve always hated talking to you.” It’s like a bolt of blue from out of nowhere. I feel like I can breathe again for the first time in years. “…I’ve always hated talking to you.” BRILLIANT. …Amazing. The thing that you want to say that no one ever says! And really; truly brilliant. It’s like Alexander the Great, slicing the Gordian Knot in half, out there in the desert, out there in the past. A seemingly insolvable problem, solved so easily. Kat storms off and of course never, ever forgives Tiffany — ever — but still, it’s all so worth it. Just to witness a moment of perfection like that. And if you are going to piss someone off, why not just go all the way like that, right?
2005: With my girlfriend Tiana. We decide to drive to the park. I leave her alone in the car for a second in order to get supplies from the trunk.
“Now remember, don’t look in any mirrors. I told you what happened to Tiffany.”
“Jesus, I know already; Jesus Christ, shut up.”
I return from the trunk area two minutes later and she is staring directly into the rear-view mirror and weeping. Just gushing. Weeping buckets. How can anyone even cry so much, so quickly?
“I’m the ugliest girl in the history of the world! Why did no one ever tell me? Why did you never tell me?”
Great. And then we’re just nauseous for the rest of the day anyway.
2005: With Tiffany and friends, again. Final time. We decide to walk to a bar. I have my “maybe you had to be there” moment of funniness on ‘shrooms. You have to understand how suggestible you are on mushrooms, and how suggestible everyone around you is. Anyway, we’re walking, and soon it’s obvious that we’ve been walking for five hours and getting nowhere (we’ve been walking for five minutes), and that we’re walking so insanely quickly that I can’t keep up (3mph) and that I will die if we don’t slow down.
“Jesus Christ!” I scream. “What’s with the enforced Bataan Death March?!”
Everyone collapsed into laughter. You really had to be there.
The buildings on the way to the bar start melting. Then, we get to the bar.
In the bar, a bunch of foreign-y people in suits are talking in a conspiring way near us. We joke that they seem like Bulgarian mobsters, which leads to us forgetting along the way that that was a joke, so then we believe they really are Bulgarian mobsters. “Stop laughing! Christ, they can hear us. …Is that metal thing he’s holding a gun? No; it’s a pen. No, a gun.” So we spend the rest of the night fearing being killed by the Bulgarian mob, and since we’re standing and they’re sitting, they seem short. So they seem like midgets, so then, they are midgets. So that’s how we spend the rest of the night; fearing being shot by a group of midget mobsters.
…And that’s the last time I take mushrooms. Often, still, when I tell this story, I still forget that they weren’t really mobsters. So I just tell a story about being afraid of being shot by the mob while on mushrooms. …But that wasn’t what happened. The whole thing was all in our heads. But that’s the likable part of mushrooms; they let your perceptions be what you want them to be. And that’s what I try to do in my life anyway. And that’s what we all should do. Or at least; it’s what I choose to do. I choose to remember the past the way that I wish it would have been.