:Chloroform in Print
I want to go to the top of a really tall building, take a leak, finish, zip up, and then have my pee hit the ground. I want my entire pee to be airborne. Man I love beer.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
I spent the weekend in Spokanistan and all I got was this bitchin' Boo Radley's T-shirt
In heavy holiday traffic, under darkening skies, we nearly collided with it. A genuine Clown Car.

Until I saw it, I had no idea the Shriners had their very own Calliope Van. But there it was. I nearly drove us into several accidents while manuevering the car so my wife could take pictures. At first we were sure the driver spotted our attempts and was driving evasively to foil our plans, but when we pulled next to the van we realized this was not possible since the Shriner behind the wheel was apparently mummified. This was our first encounter with clowns and calliopes on the trip, but certainly not the last.

Hmm. Now that I look at the picture more closely, it's clear that nobody is driving the van.

Our first stop, as with any decent, respectable trip across the state, was in Ellensburg. I drive through a couple of times a year and each time am relieved to see the majestic Thunderbird Motel sign (and the somewhat less impressive motel that accompanies it) still exists. I celebrated by buying 2 pounds of ribs and eating all of them in between Ellensburg and Vantage. The stomachache was so worth it, even if the ribs weren't as good as I remembered them from last time.

Our first stop was Manito Park, all fresh and clean and damp from the recent rain. The lilacs were already past their prime, but the maples and other vegetation were still sporting the tender luminous green of spring. It wasn't difficult to envision couples from a century ago, weighed down by corsets and top hats, strolling across the rolling hills and underneath stately pines.

This was followed by a depressing visit to the Japanese gardens. The pond there used to have two bridges: one straight bridge, and one that zigzagged across the water's surface, which tradition holds prevents evil spirits from crossing the water. The crooked bridge has been removed, and the results are very apparent, as the gardens are now sadly neglected and overrun with booger children.

The river was as high as I've ever seen it, and the mighty Spokan Falls thundered. Legend says that the ghosts of horses leap out of the water at the falls. I have seen it for myself and tell you the stories are true. If you look carefully, you can see ghostly piles of horse crap floating downriver.

For the first time ever, I rode the gondola over the Falls. It was totally bitchin.

The weather darkened, but the gulls did not mind. And neither did we, because when the rain came down we were inside getting dizzy on the carrousel. My favorite part of the carrousel was not the incessant calliope music or shrieking children. No, it was the homeless people who tried to pretend like they were paying customers so they could be inside and out of the rain. Ah, Spokane.

Past, present, and future of Spokane, envisioned through the eyes of the 70s and reflected in the windows of the Opera House. Pardon me, I mean The INB Performing Arts Center.

A parting shot of Spokane in all her ominosity. Just minutes before this picture was taken, we saw a DeLorean pull into Dick's, clearly a sign of the coming Apocalypse, or maybe just confirmation that everybody in Spokane eats at Dick's.

Basement in Spokane, Basement in Spokane, Basement in Spokane!

Thursday, May 25, 2006
My Wife Holds Eddie Vedder Responsible for Emo
And dammit, she's right. I never liked that little goblin of a man, and now I know exactly why.

Come to think of it, all of Pearl Jam ought to be dipped in boiling pitch, if you want my opinion. I hold them responsible for helping to drive a dagger into the heart of Old Seattle and the traditional PNW way of life. Nasty little grubbers, honoring the life and death of their spiritual leader, the magnificient freak Landrew the Love God, by hiring a motherfucking Californian to make their music more accessible to the mainstream, and thereby alerting personality-deficient poseurs from all around the country that Seattle was now sufficiently lame enough for them to come invade.

Eddie Vedder is the bastard love child of Eeyore and an Oompa-Loompa, and he should, as my friend Probst once famously wrote, be fed 10 hits of acid and then fucked to death by a musk ox. If you want my opinion.

Have a nice day.

God, I wish I could write this good
"Miranda took her top off. Her long hair covered her body like a suit. 'God, you are just so beautiful!' screamed Jack... Tentatively, they began humping each other."

Now this is an event I can fully support. There is a certain kind of breathtakingly awesome awfulness that most of us abandon after adolescence, and it's good to be reminded of it every so often.

Must-see events for unwanted guests (PNW edition)
"...there's at least a decent chance one of them will get whapped upside the head with a fresh coho."

Well said, Mr. Judd, well said.

Must-see events for unwanted guests

Monday, May 22, 2006
Even the Booger Children were Beautiful
or, The Perfect Day

Unlike most of our outings, this took place within the Seattle city limits instead of "somewhere out in the woods" or "well, we started out in someone's backyard and then I'm not really sure where it all went wrong." The occasion was a free outdoor concert in Volunteer Park, featuring Seattle's most accomplished hippy-dippy psychedelic rock outfit of the day - a band called Sky Cries Mary - as well as several other bands who were equally stoned but not as talented. I say 'talented' as a relative term, as their recorded output was none too impressive even back then, but live - assuming the proper, um, adjuncts - they put on a good show.

Of course, the event was more-or-less a corollary to the day's activities rather than the focus point. As it turned out, it was decidedly in the "less" category, as I recall very little about the concert itself aside from the pleasant background music it provided while we wandered about in blissful little dazes having cute, bleary little microadventures. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

A good deal of the background details have evaporated in the mists of time, or perhaps more likely, vaporized along with the brain cells that once housed them. So I'm sure parts of the story are missing in action.

We set out in the morning from our home base in Kitsap. I can't even remember exactly who all was along for the ride that day. I remember Dave, and The Blazer, and Chris for sure, and I think Vasky was along as well. If memory serves, we were probably in Chris's absurdly resilient Datsun B210, Dottie, which had to have been nearing the end of her run. All I know is that I wasn't driving.

Some might feel that the trip to the ferry was an adventure all on its own, but to us it was business as usual. We departed for the ferry somewhat after the time one would reasonably expect would be sufficient. Chris, who probably missed his calling as a getaway driver, proceeded to break several driving laws in an attempt to make up for lost time. For instance, at a clogged intersection, he pulled into the 'right turn only' lane, only to speed ahead of the 'straight ahead' traffic when the light turned green. Nothing serious like driving on the sidewalk, you understand, just what was necessary at the time.

Dottie screamed into the parking lot at the ferry terminal, careening around a corner and slaloming through rows of parked cars to the passenger drop-off. She screeched to a halt.

"Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!!" Chris chanted as we sprang from the car. The doors were barely closed before he shot off with a bark of the tires in search of an empty parking space. We ran inside to buy tickets, and just as the cashier handed them off, Chris burst through the door, backwards baseball cap askew and a wild look in his eyes. Nothing unusual, really.

The cashier, a grizzled veteran of the fare booth, looked at us. "Think you're going to make it?" he asked, tone somewhere between a chuckle and a sneer. But we were already gone.

At Winslow, an enclosed wooden walkway a couple hundred yards long leads to the upper deck boarding area. Anyone who has used the walkway more than once is familiar with the very particular sound it makes when run on - booming echoes, weirdly muted by the wood, that seem to both follow you and precede you. We sprinted pell-mell, The Blazer in the lead, enjoying the startled expressions of the few stragglers from the last ferry still in the hall.

And then we were on the ferry, and then we were in Seattle.

The first stop was at a house near the park, which was to serve as a staging area for the day's activities. The only resident of the house I'd met before was Callie, a high school friend of Chris and The Blazer's from high school who I only knew through parties. She was armed with formidable smarts and a caustic wit, and was home for the summer from one of the ultraliberal east coast women's colleges like Bryn Mawr or Smith or something. She had only one weakness - like most independent-thinking and intelligent young women, she maintained a relatively militant feminist viewpoint. Let me elaborate: this is in no way a character flaw, but, like any strongly held position, it does extend a target to those inclined to joust. Like, say, The Blazer.

A little background on my good friend The Blazer is in order. Although he doesn't actually hold such beliefs, he is an agent provocateur extraordinaire in the sport of misogyny. Much as I can drive my sister into a berserker rage with as little as a well-timed gesture of dismissal, The Blazer is able to infuriate feminists with maximum effectiveness and without visible effort. One must not mistake his efforts as accidentally insulting comments overheard by chance, or simple rudeness: they are instead the verbal equivalent of a surgical nuclear strike.

He was in fine form that day, unfortunately for Callie and one of her roommates, who was also a high school friend and no stranger to The Blazer's motives and methods. It was fascinating, and hilarious, to watch as he lobbed one unbelievably crass and sexist comment after another toward them. Plain as day, you could see them fighting with themselves as the insults collected in a heap on the floor between them like a pile of hand grenades. You could practically hear them repeating internally, "Don't take the bait! Don't take the bait! He's just trying to get you to react!" but it became increasingly obvious the clear voice of rationality was being systematically gagged, bound, and stuffed in a locker with a wedgie by the little lizard part of the brain that ultimately controls us.

It's not worth trying to describe the scene that ensued, mostly because I don't remember the details. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of emphatic shouting from the one side and delighted smirking on the other. The odd thing was that this scene had played itself out many times, yet Callie and The Blazer remained friends. Like many people, I think she enjoyed the excuse to engage in a little righteous indignation every so often, and she also knew that underneath the shriveled, blackened exterior of his soul, The Blazer is an essentially decent person. But don't tell him I told you.

At some point, the goods came out. I remember somebody had some tabs, which were shared equally, and it's safe to assume some weed got smoked, which is pretty much a safe assumption at any point with this cast of characters. It's quite likely there was a haphazard and largely unsuccessful attempt to corral the various members of the group (another safe assumption, whether or not drugs were involved), but we finally reached escape velocity and attained a trajectory in the general direction of the park.

The weather was perfect. If you've ever been in Seattle on a perfect summer day, you know the kind. Bright but not too bright, toasty warm but not too hot, with a faint cooling breeze blowing in off Puget Sound and just enough humidity to keep it comfortable. The sky was brilliant blue with a few small, puffy clouds to break up the monotony of all that blueness. The trees were lush, and though the grass had gone dormant it hadn't yet become threadbare and dusty, littered with popsicle sticks and chewed gum, like it would later in the summer.

The acid started creeping in, gently, not with an unexpected wallop in the back of the head. Grins became wider, laughs a little louder, the warmth and breeze a little more intense but not too much. A pleasant but not overwhelming swirling feeling nestled in the back of my head, keeping me company.

We reached the park and claimed an area of turf while the bands set up in the flat area at the bottom of a gentle slope. A medium-sized crowd was gathered in front of the stage, but there was no need or desire to get up close amongst the tribe of aromatic hippies.

What I chiefly remember from this point was just how much I was diggin' my overalls. Earlier that spring, I had come into possession of my first pair of overalls since the Osh Kosh B'goshes I had when I was wee. Their unsurpassed comfort was revelation. Clothes that barely touched your skin! It was almost like being naked in disguise!

As the temperature rose, I quickly removed everything that decorum allowed. This pretty much consisted of my t-shirt, which I tied to the hammer loop, and I seem to recall carrying my sandals around instead of wearing them for most of the day. Cool breezes wafted up through my rolled-up pants legs and the other gaps in the overalls superstructure. I was as comfortable as could be, and wouldn't shut up about it. Yet nobody seemed to care. It was that kind of day.

After some time, some of us started getting restless and got up to explore the rest of the park. To our right stood a small grove of trees, and beyond it a kiddie pool and fountain. The sound of splashing and fascinating reflections from the surface of the water drew us in like cats to a fish tank.

The scene at the pool could easily have been horrific. We found ourselves enveloped in a roiling crowd of infants, tots, children who were really too old to be in the kiddie pool, parents, and a smattering of drug-impaired concertgoers. The combination of too much sensory input, too many people, and frankly, too much ugly public humanity - particularly in the open air, brilliantly lit by sunshine, where there is no place for your mind to find refuge - is often a recipe for disaster when you're tripping. At best, you're looking at a deeply unpleasant spell of high-grade paranoia, and full-scale, shrieking, oh shit they're calling an ambulance freakouts are always a possibility.

But this day, none of it mattered. The grimy white trash parents? Their nasty, snot-drooling, saggy-diapered offspring? The neo-hippy with body odor so intense it had a physical presence? None of these things bothered us in the slightest.

Years later, when I first visited Vegas, I had a similar experience. At first, it was pure hell. I was existentially offended by the disgusting excess and uber-American vulgarity of the place -but then my wife forced me to watch one of the shows. It featured athletic dance numbers performed by a pack of blandly attractive kids hoping for a showbiz break, twin Chinese acrobats, jugglers, and a hilariously pompous illusionist who reacted angrily when the audience did not display the proper level of reverence for his artistry. Even better, the musical accompaniment - billed in the advertisements as a full band - was instead a balding, ponytailed, middle-aged dude wearing a Hawaiian shirt and operating a synthesizer. And there, halfway through the show, I suddenly understood Vegas: it's supposed to be tacky and vulgar and pointlessly excessive! The rest of my time there, I laughed uproariously at, well, pretty much everything. The horrifying had become hilarious.

So it was here at the kiddie pool. The very things that normally would have given us the screaming heebie jeebies were instead providing amusement. I spent a few minutes wading in the pool to enjoy the cooling goodness of the water, and couldn't help but notice a particularly mongoloid child frolicking spastically nearby. He had pale hair, absurdly swollen and goggled eyes, a flattened nose that issued copious amounts of snot, and a harelip, accented by a sagging and likely loaded diaper. He squealed and gibbered unsettlingly while unsuccessfully attempting to, by all appearances, ingest a cheap inflatable beach ball.

I returned to the side of the pool, where Dave and The Blazer sat watching the crowd, elbowing each other and laughing quietly with the deep and intense amusement that sometimes comes on trips, if you're lucky.

"Did you see that kid?" I motioned back toward the pool, where the snot baby was now trying to mount the beach ball.

"You mean the booger with the beach ball?" said Dave, immediately bursting into a fit of giggles.

"Holy shit! I mean, that's fucked up," I said. "His parents need to be clubbed and sterilized for the good of the gene pool. But..."

"...even the booger children are beautiful today," finished The Blazer.

The three of us nodded in unison at this profundity. Sensing that the pool had enlightened us as much as it was going to, we returned to our base camp on the hillside above the stage. Various members of the group came and went at random intervals; lazy conversations arose and drifted away; people milled in and out of the park; music droned; all melted together smoothly and seamlessly. I dozed off.

"I want to go climb a tree!" Chris announced. He was already halfway up as he uttered the thought.

"Wha? Huh? Oh yeah, that sounds good," someone else said. "Hey, wait up!"

The rest of us trailed Chris over to the grove, where he had already disappeared under the canopy of branches. Once inside, it was instantly apparent just how good an idea it was. A group of several trees, mostly cedars, had formed a small pocket of shady forest calm, almost completely cut off from the brightness and activity outside by low-hanging branches. The branches were worn smooth of sharp twigs from being scaled thousands of times, and once you got about 30 feet up they thinned out enough to give you a clear view of the park and surrounding neighborhood, while offering enough cover to remain mostly invisible.

Afternoon was deepening by now, and the show was winding down. But the sound and activity continued, as impromptu drum circles had started on the hillside, preparing to take over the sacred hippy polyrhythms from the official musicmakers.

Returning to ground level, each of us found a comfortable perch in the lower branches. In a day filled with goodness, this little haven was the cherry on top, and we were in no hurry to leave.

A guy wandered into the space, blinking for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the light, followed by the ritual exchanging of the universal dude salutation. There was a brief pause.

"You guys like mushrooms?" he asked.

Silently, without so much as looking at one another, everyone pulled out their wallets in unison to see what kind of cash we had on hand. As it turned out, and to nobody's surprise, it was just enough. Once the transaction had taken place, as if on cue, we filed out of the grove to begin the trip home.

On the way out, we passed a man taking his pot-bellied pig out for a walk. Nobody was surprised.

Just to mix things up, the ferry ride home was mostly uneventful, until we disembarked. A mad fever suddenly possessed The Blazer, and he pushed to the front of the crowd waiting for the gate to open. The rest of us looked at each other in question, then decided to follow him just in case.

The second the gate was opened, The Blazer burst through it and started running up the walkway at top speed, a terrified expression on his face.

He began shrieking. "Snakes! Snakes!" he called out, "Snakes on the ferry!" The pounding of footfalls followed him, booming through the corridor like Indian war drums. Passengers for the next ferry, queued up in a neat line along one wall, gawked and pointed.

We sprinted after him in delighted amazement. Rounding a bend, we nearly collided with a man and his young son, who had seen The Blazer coming first and wisely pressed up against the wall.

As we passed them, the dad leaned down to his son.

"Are you going to act like that when you get older?" he asked.

"Oh, no. No way," the boy said.

When I was his age, I made a lot of promises I didn't end up keeping, either.

Friday, May 19, 2006
Apparently, I'm in a rut
Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Stupid Things I've Done (part of an ongoing series)
When I was still a young jackass a younger man, I suffered from an insatiable urge to alter my consciousness, coupled with spotty-at-best access to common recreational drugs. Here are some of the stupid things I tried to get high with.

1. Nutmeg.
My friend Chris and I tried smoking some of the ground stuff from a tin, which only made us cough explosively. Then I did some more research and discovered only the oil (which evaporates quickly once the nutmeg is ground) is psychoactive. So I bought an entire nutmeg - about the size of a small walnut - used a hammer to pound it into the consistency of coarse sand, and ingested it mixed with a glass of lemonade. Saying that this is not recommended is one of the bigger understatements I've ever made. Worst. trip. ever. Even worse than eating a 12-pack of NyQuil tablets (see below). I suffered through a drooling, gagging, nauseated stupor for over 8 hours, followed by a 24-hour hangover that persisted through a night of sleep and a nap. Every time I swallowed or burped the overwhelming essence of nutmeg came roaring up from the depths, laden with holiday cheer and the threat of uncontrolled vomiting. It was a good 5 years before I could tolerate the smell of nutmeg without gagging.

2. Kinnickinnick.
This low-growing, evergreen shrub (also known as bearberry) is a common landscaping feature in the PNW. In pioneer days it was also called 'Indian Tobacco' as the natives used to smoke the leaves when they ran out of the real stuff. It is reputed to have a mildly tranquilizing effect.
Smoking it was not unpleasant - it's at least as tasty as tobacco ? but the net effect was like taking a hit from a pot pipe without any pot in it.

3. Morning glory seeds.
Morning glory seeds contain a psychoactive chemical, lysergic acid amide, which is a precursor to lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). (Any complaints about the accuracy of the names or representation of these chemical compounds may be directed to my lawyer, the Hon. Robert Q. Gofuckyourself.) It's supposed to be a mildly effective hallucinogen - ghetto acid, if you will.
Commercially sold morning glory seeds are supposedly treated with a mildly poisonous chemical to deter you from ingesting them. There were no warnings on the seed packet, so I washed the seeds (just to be on the safe side), then chewed them up. It definitely didn't get me high, but it did make me faintly nauseous. I had another plan in the works, which involved growing my own morning glories over the summer, but I had to go back to school before they produced seeds. Thwarted again.
Later, I remembered reading a passage in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test that made reference to people having lame little trips, vexed by the unpleasant feeling of hundreds of morning glory seeds sloshing half-digested in their bellies. I should have listened. Story of my life.

4. Dextromethorphan
The secret is out on this shit nowadays, and I understand you can now obtain pure, crystalline DM over the internet. But we did it old school, gagging down an entire bottle of cough syrup in exchange for an all-night trip, accompanied by various degrees of unpleasant gastrointestinal side-effects ranging from nausea to bioweapons-grade intestinal gas.
The first time I tried the stuff I drank a bottle of Robitussin DM, which also contains the expectorant guafenesin. I soon discovered that I am allergic to guafenesin. It made my entire face swell up, especially my lips and eyelids, and caused body-wide itching. My face was so swollen that when I stopped by a friend's room on my way to class the next morning, he was unable to recognize me at first. Yet I soldiered on, undeterred as usual.
We soon discovered alternate preparations that featured only DM as the active ingredient, or paired with less-reactionary ingredients like acetiminophen (Tylenol) or chlorphenaramine (OTC antihistamine). Actually had a number of excellent trips on this one as it is a legitimate psychedelic with empathic and euphoric qualities. (It's especially entertaining as an adjunct to the works of David Lynch.) Alas, over time the hangovers got progressively more brutal, featuring not only the typically brain-depleted lethargy common to hallucinogens, but also crushing depression for most of the next day.
An extra special side note to the Cough Syrup Follies: toward the end of my run experimenting with the stuff, NyQuil became available in liquid capusle form. NyQuil does contain DM, but only as a component of a frighteningly potent pharmaceutical cocktail that should probably only be available via prescription, if even then. In theory, this was a fantastic development, given that the encapsulated form eliminated the need to choke down a full bottle of nasty, viscous, nauseating gloop. In practice, eating a 12-pack of those sinister little bonbons caused a horribly unpleasant episode: face-down on Vasky's filthy dorm room carpet for several hours in a paralyzed, drooling stupor, tormented by boring yet irritatingly unpleasant hallucinations.

Looking back, it is downright pathetic what kids will turn to when they can't find weed.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Dare to be Stupid
What's more subversive: Devo subverting pop culture via brilliantly subversive pop music, or Weird Al subverting Devo subverting pop culture via a brilliant pop music parody of Devo's subversion of pop culture via subversive pop music?

Dare to be Stupid

Monday, May 01, 2006
Stupidity on Hood Canal
Looking back on it, I can't remember whose idea the trip was. Doesn't really matter. Regardless of who initiated it, it was a monumentally stupid thing to attempt, even by our standards.

Our goal was an island about a mile away from our launch point, Salsbury Point, just north of the Bridge. All well and good, but the only vessel at our disposal was, shall we say, poorly suited for the task. A 12-foot aluminum rowboat can reasonably, even relatively comfortably, hold 4 adult males. Add in a family sized tent, packs, firewood, and other effluvia, however...not so much. By the time we had loaded, rearranged, unloaded, downsized, reloaded, rearranged again, and assumed our places in the boat, we were drafting less than 6 inches. For the uninitiated, this means that less than 6 inches of boat cleared the surface of water on the sides.

A minor dispute broke out at this point. Among our supplies for the trip were a small bag of weed and a collection of exactly 28 gelatin capsules filled with dried, powdered psychedelic mushrooms - 7 for each of us. As is frequently the case with shrooms, we didn't know how powerful they would be, but our friend Big Dave, who had supplied them, had assured us of their potency. It wasn't until later that we realized this was an unusually large dose.

Chris, for whom patience is a foreign concept, was all for downing them on the spot. Vasky, who in contrast frequently leans toward over-caution, was dead-set against. Dave, who on this trip assumed the guise of Switzerland in World War II - in other words, a neutral and largely useless bystander - had no opinion on the matter. My natural inclination is usually to follow the path that leads to a more intense experience within a given situation, but this is offset by a healthy respect for danger. Accordingly, I brokered a compromise: we'd take them halfway across.

Let me clear something up before I go any further with the story. It's not like we weren't fully aware that what we were doing was stupid and potentially dangerous. That's why it was fun. It's one thing to get yourself into stupid and dangerous situations without having any concept that what you're doing is stupid and dangerous, but quite another to do so despite the risks. What can I say? We enjoyed a challenge.

As we struggled to load the boat, a couple of old coots who were pulling a boat out of the water watched us - first with curiosity, then with rapidly growing amusement. After we had managed to board the precariously balanced craft and shove off (predictably almost capsizing in the process), one of them called out: "Where you boys headed?"

"Over to that island," Chris announced, pointing to our destination about half a mile across the Canal.

"Ha!" the old coot snorted. "Good luck with that!" His companion would have added his own comment, but was unable to speak, doubled over in laughter as he was.

"Oh, we'll make it," said Chris, annoyed. "Don't you guys have something better to do than watch us?"

"Nope," he said. "Haven't seen nobody as foolish as you boys in quite a spell and I intend to enjoy it. Haw haw!"

Their hilarity only increased as we struggled to get the craft moving. The boat, a three-seater, was filled with so much gear that the small bow seat was fully taken up, leaving only the two wide seats in the middle and aft. The boat carried enough weight that we decided the logical option would be for two to sit on the aft bench, while the other two sat in the middle, each manning an oar. In theory, we should have been able to move more quickly this way with a person on each oar rather than a single person for both oars.

In theory. In reality, we veered drunkenly from side to side as Chris, with characteristic overexuberance, pulled twice as often as Vasky, who tends toward sloth unless prodded. I had only partial success prodding him to put some effort into it and Chris to ease off. Meanwhile, Dave, who is easily amused by retarded antics of all kinds, was laughing too hard to provide a steady count, and I - overly impressed with my nominal rank of Captain (the boat belonging to me) grew increasingly frustrated by our ineptitude and seethed with the certainly that things would work out if only the others would follow my instructions. Loud guffaws and jeering from the beach accompanied our struggles, but after adopting a ragged stroke count we began to slowly move in a more-or-less straight line across the Canal.

Against the odds, we managed to get things together enough to make reasonably good time for an hour or so, including a couple of shaky and ill-advised seat changes to swap out rowers. Things had been going as well as could be expected under the circumstances - the weather was bright and sunny, the water was calm, and our destination was within reach. We were halfway across.

Out came the capsules, which were divvied up equally. Vasky, who had never fully relaxed, was still wavering and tried to talk us into waiting until we'd reached shore, but I sincerely believe Chris would have force-fed him had he refused. Down they went, and we resumed rowing: Chris on one oar, Dave on another, Vasky and I "navigating" from the aft seat.

Psychedelics typically take some time to kick in. The usual expectation is around an hour of lead time. The first effects, which include heightened sensory and auditory perceptions and slow degradation of attention span and ability to maintain linear thought, take hold anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes after ingestion, and then ramp up from there. But you can usually count on a good hour of reasonably lucid perception before the fireworks begin. This time cushion is largely why I agreed to take the shrooms when we did; I figured we'd be on shore or close to it by the time the fun and games were fully underway.

It's hard to say why the usual rules didn't apply that day. Maybe it was the increased circulation from the exertion of rowing, maybe it was the gods deciding to entertain themselves at our expense, maybe it was some kind of karmic payback for our hubris and stupidity. But those fucking mushrooms kicked in almost immediately. Instead of just beginning to feel the effects, we were (as the kids say nowadays) tripping balls within 15 minutes.

I remember bursts of light and color from the sunlight reflecting off the water, and a vast, swirling incoherence that immediately derailed any train of thought as I struggled to maintain some kind of control over my mind. Dave, who had been amused by the proceedings from the beginning, dissolved into an utterly useless, compulsively giggling cretin. Vasky's nervousness blossomed into a full-blown neurotic paranoia, which was annoying enough on its own, but made even more unbearable as it brought out the sulky, whining, accusatory manner he sometimes reverts to under stress.

And then there was Chris. His overly active metabolism, cranked even higher by a rigorous training regimen in preparation for a triathlon, allowed the shrooms to take hold of him almost instantly. His Japanese heritage caused his skin to flush red whenever under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and this manifested alarmingly as his face grew nearly purple and his eyes bulged wildly. He became frighteningly agitated and restless within a matter of minutes.

"I. gotta. fucking. ROW!" he burst out through clenched teeth, pulling on his oar with an insane vigor. The boat sped forward as Vasky fretted beside me and I struggled vainly to maintain coherence. For a stretch, all I remember was the frenzied creaking of the oars in their sockets, a dizzying sense of motion, and frequent loud splashes as an oar bounced off the surface of the water instead of digging in.

"Whee!" Dave announced occasionally between giggles, and gradually, through my drug-induced confusion, I slowly became aware that something was wrong. Through a superhuman effort of concentration, I managed to focus both visually and mentally and came to the unpleasant realization that while Chris was working his oar with all the strength and speed he could muster, Dave's oar was trailing in the water, completely unused as he snickered and stared transfixed at the patterns of light playing off the surface of the water. For who knows how long, we had been going in circles.

"STOP!" I barked. "STOP ROWING! CHRIS!" He stared at me aggressively, bug-eyed, openly angry and bloated with adrenaline.

"No! I gotta fucking row or I'm gonna go nuts!" he growled, gritting his teeth and sweating profusely.

"WE'RE GOING IN CIRCLES," I shot back.

"I knew this was going to happen," Vasky whined petulantly from next to me. "I knew we should have waited. We're never going to get to the other side, I know it, we're going to tip the boat over!"

"SHUT UP," I told him. "You're not helping anything. Just fucking relax!"

"I gotta fucking row!" repeated Chris. Dave giggled moronically beside him, delighted by this new and hilarious turn of events.

"Hang on a minute, goddammit," I said. "We have to figure out what to do or we're going to keep going in circles."

"I'm going to swim to shore then," he threatened.

This was no idle threat, either - he was a competitive swimmer and had been training obsessively over the last several months. Moreover, he was just crazy enough to do something that stupid - even in the 50-degree water of the upper Canal.

"NO." I commanded. "No fucking way!"

"I'm gonna do it!" Chris said. "I'm gonna lose it if I have to sit still!" He started trying to take off his shirt.

"NO," I repeated. "You're going to tip the goddamn boat over if you try to get out. STAY IN THE BOAT."

Meanwhile, about a hundred yards off, the head of a seal popped to the surface, or at least I thought it did. It goggled at us for a long minute, then slipped back under the water. Great. Another distraction.

Even in my drugged haze, the sheer absurdity of the situation was impossible to ignore. From a third-person perspective, it would have been hilarious, and in retrospect Dave's reaction was entirely justified. Then again, he was free from responsibility. Someone had to take the reins and that person, much to my chagrin, was me.

My frustration and annoyance at having to manage these three idiots while heavily distracted by the drugs built up to a nearly unbearable level, but somehow I managed to formulate a plan.

"Dave. Dave. DAVE! Move back to this seat. Chris, stay where you are. Vasky, slide over," I directed.

"Why do I have to move over?" sulked Vasky. "I want to sit in the middle!"


Grumbling petulantly, he did. Somehow he managed to drag out this operation, which entailed him moving all of 8 inches to the left. Dave oozed into the space between us, giggling and drooling.

"OK, it's all yours," I told Chris unnecessarily, as he had already seized the oars and begun rowing with even more force than before, if that was indeed possible. Was he rowing in a straight line? Take a wild guess. But it was close enough as long as one of us kept an eye on shore.

Present crisis averted, the three of us in the back seat were mostly free to observe our surroundings and enjoy the drugs. Except for Vasky, who had worked himself into a permanently agitated state. He clutched the side rail and fretted, bug-eyed, trying to will himself ashore from the looks of it.

"Hey, check it out," Dave called out. "Isn't that a seal? Or am I just hallucinating?"

Chris halted his blistering pace on the oars and the boat settled down off its plane with an enormous whooshing sensation. He adjusted his glasses and peered off in the distance. "I think you're right," he said.

"There's another one!" Now there were two of them, the second much closer than the first, and they were definitely checking us out. All of us were now watching the seals and trying to focus through the drugs. The furthest slipped beneath the water and then resurfaced closer to the boat, about 25 yards away.

Still paranoid, Vasky was the first to look behind, you know, in case something was sneaking up on us. And what do you know - there was.

"Shit!" he yelped. "There's 3 of them over here!"

Amazingly enough, he wasn't exaggerating. Within minutes, we were surrounded by at least 8 seals.

I grew up near the Canal and have spent countless hours, in various sizes of boats, on its waters. But I'd never seen anything like this before. When we were kids, it was big excitement to see a single seal, and that was usually because it was after the bait we were using to fish with. This, on the other hand, was an entirely different experience.

Seals (actually sea lions, but everyone around here calls them seals) don't look too big when you can only see their head poking out of the water, but like an iceberg, most of their bulk lies beneath the surface. Adult males average 12 feet in length and can weigh more than a ton. Our little craft, in contrast, was 12 feet long but weighed considerably less than a ton even with a ridiculous amount of gear crammed into it. That's not even mentioning its lack of maneuverability (or submersibility) compared to a seal.

Now, it's well known that psychedelics make the user prone to paranoia, which is usually conjured up out of thin air or simply overblown given the situation. But on occasion, it's fully justified. This was one of those times. Adrift in a tiny, overburdened rowboat in the middle of a half-mile wide stretch of open water, tripping hard on shrooms, and surrounded by what appeared to be a coordinated gang of aggressive sea mammals qualifies as circumstances where wild-eyed paranoia was the only reasonable reaction.

"Holy fuck!" Dave said. "They're movin' in on us!"

He was right - they were getting closer. We'd spot one a hundred yards away, it would disappear briefly, then resurface 50 yards away. Then 10. Then within just a few feet of the boat. Staring at us - menacingly, it seemed. It was difficult not to get the impression we were being sized up for a beating, or at the minimum, laughed at contemptuously.

"They're gonna tip us over, I know it! I knew we should have waited to take the shrooms! Why did I listen to you guys, I should have known I couldn't trust you!" Vasky whimpered piteously.

"Aw, shut up! They're not gonna tip us over," I countered. "At least, I think they're not," I trailed off, confidence draining from my voice.

Chris just goggled at the seals, transfixed. He was probably fantasizing how much fun it would be to jump out of the boat and swim to shore with an escort of seals. It took several calls to rouse him back to something resembling coherence.

"Maybe you should start rowing," Dave suggested. "I'm thinking this isn't a good place to stay."

Indeed, it was all remarkably like inadvertently wandering into a bad part of town and getting menaced by a pack of delinquent youths. Aquatic, 12-foot delinquent youths with flippers and really bad breath, sure, but still, otherwise it was exactly the same.

The boat slowly resumed its forward progress. For a while, the seals followed, but after a while they lost interest. Apparently we had moved out of their turf.

The rest of our passage across the Canal was uneventful. We eventually reached shore, where a fresh set of misadventures awaited us. But that is another story.

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