"What I'm dealing with is so vast and great that it can't be called the truth. It's above the truth." - Sun Ra

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tell it Like it Isn't (thoughts on TOAD ROAD and my own very gaudy life)

Like so many former space captains, I genuinely feel that when I did drugs as a youth it was a grand experiment; my friends and I were artists, musicians, in a band, and part of a big Syracuse hippie scene. We did it to enhance music, inspire wild poetry and flights of fancy, we loved drugs and alcohol like Christians love Jesus and Virgin Mary; the drugs and alcohol bonded us and showed us the way forward. I wasn't even a musician when I joined the band. Drugs did that! We were hanging out and discussing what to do since the latest bassist flaked, when I hallucinated John Doe's bass snaking around on the floor towards me as if a holy finger. It was five AM, but we were still up by the time the music store opened; I was on stage with my new bass that very night, still wide awake, every note I played reverberating through my skeleton in great purple rings. 

If I wound up in the gutter, then AA, and I never became a very good musician, because I kept tripping rather than practicing, who cares? No shame in being the Syd Barrett / Brian Jones / Pigpen.  I looked good up there, man. Like I belonged. I felt that old John Doe bass up my leg feeling when I decided to risk my future chances at the pesidency by combining Hunter Thompson / Bill Burroughs-esque gonzo first person-AA qualification history to film criticism for this site. So I set out to validate my glowing memories of past psychedelic experience, depicted in film and memories of watching films based on lengthy past experience, and to bring that 'gonzo' style to advanced psychoanalytic film theory, to show that drugs needn't make you stupid, but smarter and that finally, that you could be sober for ten years, doing the whole AA spirituality thing, and not demonize past excesses or become a dour killjoy. 
Jason Banker's Toad Road reminds me a lot of the years above, with the chilling caveat that we looked great to ourselves, but to a sober older civilian we seemed, no doubt, decadent, loud, shocking, full of ourselves, and erratic; and in its amateur found footage style it reminded me of my own early films, on super 8mm; they started as slasher parodies and ninja epics while in junior high and ended up in college as chronicles of drunken binges in college. In one film I lost a drinking contest of doing 162 proof Devil's Springs vodka shots with our band's guitar player (only because he cheated - eating a bunch of pasta beforehand while I was already drunk and still drinking, though I'm sure I was being obnoxious). Fellow Jasper grabbed my camera and there's this shot of me in the hallway, face down in my own puke, while someone brings my desk light close to my face, back and forth. Of course we screened the film a zillion times so even now I know the scene by heart:
Jasper: We're here at the end of the drinking contest with our current winner, Erich Kuersten. Erich, Erich!, Erich, tell the audience, are you ever gonna drink again? 
Erich: (pause, rolls over on floor) N-n-not after tomorrow night.
Jasper: Here that folks? He says he's never gonna drink again. Erich how do you feel? 
Erich: I feel.. (starts to sing) I feel / Like I been tied / to the whippin' pole / tied to the whippin' pole /tiedoodawippapoe (pretends to pass out while Jasper and filmmakers laugh / cut to Jasper rolling a fat joint of worthless homegrown leaves - film ends)
 
Even that drunk and miserable in reality, having thrown up and lying on my right side on the filthy wooden floor in my own vomit, I was still acting drunker, faking a slur, for the camera and refusing to renounce booze. as the next night was a big party and, even in my deplorable condition, I was looking forward to it.

Chronicling one's druggy excess changes the experience, flattens it, nails it to self conscious 3-D space time. But if you manage to get really out there, it definitely helps but have some record of the beyond. Without the record, you will only remember it from one angle, and subjective filtering will gradually reduce it to a few mental images stacked in a mental box in a mental safe in a mental storage unit. It was once testament to my being a badass, it's now--to me--just looks like I was being reckless, sad and dumb.

There's a huge beautiful old grave yard adjoining Syracuse campus. In 1987, I shot a film of a shrooming odyssey there (it's on youtube, but I can't find it). A big rolling hill graveyard where few people ever go is the best place to be 'enhanced' or to bring girls or wander at night in perpetual despair. The night after I first hooked up with this girl in 1989, when I was a senior at the heart of my boozy, shroomy powers, we went to the the H.B. Crouse tomb, on a nice little sloping hill, perfect for laying around on with the tomb of a 19th century Syracuse mayor to prop our backs against. I had always been able to climb through the narrow windows of the stone edifice, empty but for a small altar and raised plaques. But when we looked through  the coffins had been broken into, likely during the dead of night, while she and I were hooking up; through the cracks of the shattered coffin you could see a skull with a thin layer of flesh over it, and long thin strands of hair... I thought instantly I should climb through to get this skull for an art project, but this girl said please don't. And because she was hot, I agreed. We left. I imagined a film where me hooking up with this hottie after our band's party cross-cut with some black-robed frat pledges breaking into a tomb and smashing the concrete slabs atop the coffins with a sledge hammer.

The next day we heard of a freshman named McQuain up in my old dorm, Flint Hall:
The police were notified after Mr. McQuain's roommate smelled a foul odor and looked in a pot of boiling water on top of a hot plate in their room. After seeing the skull, he alerted a dorm supervisor. 
The body-stealing charge, a rarely filed offense, is considered a Class E felony, the lowest-level felony, and carries a maximum sentence of four years upon conviction. Mr. McQuain told the police that he removed the skull from the John J. Crouse mausoleum Monday night and planned to use it as a model for an art class. Mr. Crouse, who died in 1886, was Syracuse's Mayor from 1876 to 1880. (NY Times, 1988)
It just goes to show you how hotness has its own premonitory powers, because in many other respects this beautiful girl was a real dope. I had actually been mad at her for not letting me grab it. She was so hot, though, and in this case, right, so I moved in with her.

After Toad Road I wonder... the hottie in that film and this girl I refer to were similar in hottie appearance.

Poetry was my thing freshman year, but in a very snide careless fashion. I was determined to prove it a lot of rot and prove is well that one might write gibberish, intentional nonsense, surrealistic automatic balderdash, and then, some subsequent evening, to the delight of some chippie, analyze it on the spot to mean some deep and abiding truth not approachable from any other direction. Meanwhile my depression freshmen year was so bad I'd wander the Syracuse quad late at night and stuff snow down my pants and my shirt and try to make myself throw up, just to feel that brief flicker of endorphins; my brain's miserly pharmacist had to be shocked and alarmed before it reluctantly opened its cobwebbed vault to disseminate into my neuron webs even the basic levels of joy most humans enjoyed.

But when I took shrooms for the first time at Student Union double feature of Yellow Submarine and Head in the spring of 1986 my life was changed forever. The door on the endorphin vault was laughed off its hinges. I was more or less struggling through a regimen of booze, music, socializing, cigarettes, micro-tripping, weed, sex, W.C. Fields movies, and writing, to keep that vibe alive in the subsequent decade. Even so, it eventually dissolved in my grip as if a life raft made of cardboard on a solvent salt sea.

One of my ancestors was once accused of having a blue boar come out of the woods and crawl into her window in Salem MA in the late 1680s. I imagine the witness to this as having some credibility: was she hallucinating on mushrooms, hunger, madness, or the ergot-ish mold of stale rye bread, as often happened accidentally in those times? Was she just malicious? Was it a hallucination that had underpinnings in transdimensional reality? Maybe there's a way to collapse the difference, wherein the brain stem reptilian vision of hallucination is and is not a conduit into higher intelligence, an ability to perceive the raw chaos of transdimensional existence.

Worse in some ways than jonesers, we dealt with buzzkuills like this a lot during our 'acid tests' my sophomore year.  Jonesers were annoying because they never brought anything to the table, but they didn't refuse it when offered either, and they knew it was share and share like. But the buzzkill is also worse than the wally, who is just plain clueless, unable to see or hear the music of the spheres. But the buzzkill has heard it, and stopped, often because his absentee parents found a joint in his drawer over summer break and sent him to rehab, mainly so they could go to Saint Barthes without him because if you know him, so would you, but now he's a holier than thou lecturer on mutating DNA and liver damage. But he still hangs out all the time anyway, usually because of a girl he likes who doesn't like him is too wasted and nice and young to just tell him to fuck off. She just wants to party, man. As Lou Reed once sang, "she wants to make love to the scene." I seem to the guy most annoyed by him, so he becomes an obsession.

I'm using the 'he' here because I'm describing also James' character, but I've also known the reverse: my sophomore girlfriend was this clingy insecure item, who lived to drag me away from parties right when they were getting good, so we could go back to her place and fool around, but she wasn't fooling me. Once or twice I had to lie next to her after we'd finished balling when it was only two or three AM, hearing the party still going on down the street or next door or downstairs, considering myself too much the feminist to get dressed and race back. But one night after a big show we played in this huge attic space, this other girl gave me fat blue-veined shroom stem as soon as I offstage and I washed it down with beer before my bitch girlfriend could see, and the girlfriend dragged me back to her apartment as usual...

But then, magic. The shroom kicked in right as our nightly fight began, and the psilocybin spirit gave me the strength to snarl "I'm going back to the party and if you don't like it then fuck off!" I ran out the door of her apartment to the sound of smashing plates, hurling salt and pepper shakers down the stairs after me, screaming so loud I could hear her all the way across the street, and right back into the warm and waiting arms of 614 Euclid, and the girl who'd given me the stem.

I'd never felt freer.

That stem was like a concentrated six years of therapy - it took one look through my eyes and said, well this shit has to stop, let's get out of here, and tell this bitch to fuck off.

So fuck off, James!

The thing you must know if you have not had one of these experiences is that the dimensions of a hallucination/vision are not the same. You can't begin to 'imagine' the hypercomplexity of infinity as it's represented to your third eye. You can only witness it, on a level similar to how you see and hear within your dreams, merged to enhance the outer view of the real. The combination of the two, when in perfect sync -- all three eyes, so to speak -- reveals there is no outside to these shapes, that's the thing, only fractals above and below the levels your senses can perceive, as well as in within that sensory spectrum.

When you get lost in the webs of the machine elf spiders you become aware of the great love and the great sense of security, but also of existential loneliness, and the thought of a finite event on the horizon, a realigning of good and dark forces - not in the fantasy where good guys win and bad guys vanish, because reality is a complex impermanence constructed and maintained moment to moment --nothing is permanent, and nothing ever dies for long. Good and bad must always be integrated, and/or disintegrate mutually. Any repression eventually swells and erupts into the thing that has repressed it. When all is good then the less good becomes the evil. Balance demands extreme counterweights. One must befriend and include the enemy -- you have to make sure the power stay fluid, let him win a few hands if he's behind. Otherwise, the game gets boring. 

That sort of thing is what makes allies for life, not the cessation of fighting, but the removal of fighting from the realm of fear and hate and into the realm of sport, of joy, of loving your enemy even as you swing your sword down upon his screaming children.

I offer these four things to keep in mind while chasing this golden ladder:

     1) If the full truth of existence, the inescapable Lovecraftian horror, was truly and totally comprehended, you would go insane - that's why your brain hides it from you. Your brain is set up so it can't abide this truth for long - in fact the whole brain and its blinders-based perception decoding is a defense against this realization. Be grateful then that you never find what you are truly looking for, because unless you've got a lot of experience with meditation and are in a good place emotionally, you will be as freaked out and panicked as an off-meds schizophrenic, or someone on a really really bad trip who can't ever look forward to coming down.

     2) There is no 'total truth' that's fixed in time and space - you can reach nirvana one weekend, find the Elysian fields and see beautiful suns, then go back the next and find just ruins dotted with ozone-bleached faun skeletons. A week passes like centuries in that dimension. Who knows why they were wiped out by evil reptilian interdimensional brigands? Did our precieving these realms alert the enemy? No answer is suitable. 

     3) When prophets speak of eternity in hell and heaven they really just mean timelessness. A minute can feel like a year when you are outside the time-space continuum and vice versa. The month I spent outside time and space in the fall of 2012 (triggered by the galactic alignment) lasted longer than the entirety of my life up to that point x two.

4)  We all wish we could live 'in eternity' somewhere nice - but the one constant of the universe - and all its parallel dimensions - is that absolutely nothing ever stays the same, and that by running from pain and pursuing pleasure, pain seems inescapable and permanent, while pleasure is fleeting and quickly forgotten. Reverse the strategem! You can never escape pleasure! All pain is fleeting. Enlightened monks embrace the most ungainly and humiliating chores as if gold. 

5) Avoid wallies, glommers, parasites, energy vampires, sleazebags, murfs, jonesers, copy-cats, nagging harpies, vultures, buzzkills, scammers, junkies and baseheads AT ALL COSTS. Cut and RUN.

6) Learn from the poor girl in TOAD ROAD: she so desperately needed to get rid of this glomming wally she vanished beyond the 7th Gate of Hell rather than endure him a moment longer! But do it with love in your heart, and above all firmness. Trying to be nice is a big mistake - they feed on that. If anything, tell them the truth about why you don't like them, and how they should change (get therapy, etc.) Tell them you want to help them get a therapist or into rehab or go to your church, and believe me, they'll keep away. 

2 comments:

Dennis said...

You are a master story teller. I could almost see a reflection. Way to express the Bacchus shizzle. In fun, Dennis

Anonymous said...

thank you for the wonderful advice, yet again and again and again