: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.
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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I WAS rowing dammit. I just couldn't keep up with Chris. What was in his batch of capsules - trucker speed? Of course, the purty lights didn't help either.
Everyone knows Japanese engines rev higher and are more efficient.
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