ones and zeroes

Better living through modern chemistry.


one day i was a pawn

It’s Sunday and I’m avoiding studying for mid-terms, so I thought I’d fire up the old’ and write out a more detailed report of an experience I had a few months ago, something that’s been on my mind all morning while I walked around my apartment soaking in the sounds of Shpongle.

It was the evening of June 24th, 2004 and Lucy and I had made our way over to the Luna Lounge to catch some free music in the form of Sam Champion and These Bones. By all means it was a normal night, with normal beers and normal talks, though the fellow with the dachshund on his lap, seated on the couch in the barroom the whole night, was definitely a most welcome example of out-of-place-ness. There is nothing like a dachshund to make my day.

The regular cast and crew were out, I can remember seeing more than one familiar face – a couple RANA folk, Jay, Beach, Daylen, and of course Matt, who would bear witness to the insanity to come. After the show was over, a couple of beers having been downed, Lucy, Matt and myself made our way back to 9th Street and to my apartment where we were planning on taking a couple of hits before parting ways with Matt, who would go back to Brooklyn.

While we passed around the batty that I had picked up at one of the Saratoga Springs Phish shows just a couple nights earlier, the topic of conversation centered on the act at hand, as we bandied about stories regarding psychedelics of all sorts. Finally the conversation turned to Salvia Divinorum, some of which I had come into at the aforementioned Phish shows.

Salvia Divinorum is completely legal under US law, the bastards haven’t gotten to it yet, but in a way it’s more dangerous to someone’s mental stability than pot could ever be. I had never tried it, only read about it extensively, and Matt had tried it once before with only slightly fuzzy effects. Salvia, a member of the sage family of plants, is best smoked through a bong, with a deep intake of smoke that is held for something in the neighborhood of 30 seconds before being exhaled. Most people don’t have any sort of reaction to it (a break-through, it’s called) beyond fuzziness unless they try it many times, working up to a higher-powered strain of it, but some break through immediately.

Naturally, with my inhibitions lessened thanks to a couple of Brooklyn Lagers and Matt’s Brooklyn grass, I broke out both the salvia and the bong, which Matt and I resolved to each take part in. Lucy, more hesitant than us to quite possibly blow her own mind, decided to just watch. Looking back now it is painfully clear how wrong the set and setting were. I’d read enough about drugs and had the sensibility enough about them to know that if you’re going to do something, you should do it right. But I left the lights on, and I left Built to Spill playing, and eased the finely crushed black powder out of the long, thin plastic Ziploc bag that held it, filling the bowl to the brim. I had no clue what I could possibly expect.

It seemed so routine, so natural, like smoking marijuana, and I settled back into my chair with Major Tom (the bong) in hand and took a few deep breaths. Keep It Like A Secret kept on pouring from the speakers. I looked down into the glass barrel of the shotgun that was about to blow my reality to bits, torched the contents of the bowl and pulled a couple lungfuls of clear, white smoke down through the water and into my throat, cleared the chamber and held on to the vapors tightly, placing the bong back on the table. During the time the smoke stayed in my chest, nothing was happening at all, I was just concentrating on keeping it there as Matt filled the bowl up for himself since I had taken the entire dose to the dome. I remember, after what must have been between 20 and 25 seconds, leaning forward and expelling an obscene amount of salvia smoke into the air just as Matt was preparing to take his hit.

The moment the smoke left my mouth and my lips were parted, I started laughing harder than I had ever laughed before. It was senseless, meaningless, pure and utter laughter and I remember being struck by the absolutely uncontrollable nature of it. It occurred to me that no matter how physically or mentally strong I was, that the laughter had control of me and nothing was going to stop it until it was done doing whatever it wanted to do. Matt lit the bowl, and started taking his bong hit, while I leaned back in my seat.

Reality, from the top-left corner of my perception down to the bottom-right, was torn like some badly sewn silk curtain.

And in that moment, there was no memory of Danny, no memory of New York City, or earth, or any knowledge greater than the confines of my own body, which was now the body of a four or five year old child, sitting on a lush green couch in a living room somewhat reminiscent of the living room in the apartment I grew up in. The reality of it was absolutely pure. I could smell the smells, feel the couch, see just as clearly as I can see right at this moment, I heard the distinct murmur of a TV in the distance, and I could feel every inch of my body as being MY body. Beyond me, sitting at a table, were two adults who I could only see from behind as they were both simply sitting there and staring at a wall in the far distance.

I took in the deepest breath I could, and as I clearly, vividly felt my lungs expanding was stricken with a terrible panic the likes of which I have never experienced in all my life. Something was very wrong here – this was the wrong place, and I was the wrong person, and though 99 percent of me was there and then, that remaining infinitesimally small part of my soul that still remained knew that something had happened which was not supposed to. I remember thinking of the words “The Twilight Zone” and being convinced that those two adults would never believe me when I started screaming that I was somebody else, that they would hush me and make me be quiet and if they had to tie me down while I screamed forever that that this was wrong. All that thought, in the moment of a breath.

“No! This is wrong! This is all wrong!”

I started pushing back against the cushions of the couch, crawling against the fabric and the two adults rose and moved towards me with an eerie supernatural quickness. The entire world started shaking and melting away, breaking up into tiny particles the closer they got to me.

“Shhh,” they said, the one on the left putting her hands on my left shoulders, the other putting his hands on my right. Their faces were impossible to make out as the world behind them turned into a swirling mess and I could not escape the thought that this was death and that these creatures, be they angels or devils, were here to take me to my next stop, that the moment before death must be a return to childhood of some sort and now came the judgment. I tried to ask them if I was dying, but different words came out.

“Is this the moment of my decay?”

“No,” they said, shaking their heads and they pushed me down into the couch, which melted beneath me. I started sinking deep into it and it began closing around me, like they were pushing me down into some endless, hungry abyss.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive.”

The phrasing of the answer from the male being somewhat comforted me, told me that I shouldn’t fear him or what was happening, but that was already essentially impossible. The couch closed above me, and what happened afterwards is almost harder to transcribe.

I fell, and was slipping through an endless array of lifetimes and lifelines and timelines. I was falling through an endless column of rows and rows of neon lights in colors that had never existed before, and every time I passed through one line of color it was as if I experienced eternity all over again. My mind began to associate each color as being a page of some great book, and it was as if every time I passed through a page I glimpsed some alternate life that I could have lived.

These lives are hard to remember and in fact the only one that comes through with crystal clarity was an instance where I fell into a light, and was suddenly some unknown item on the shelf of a department store, wrapped in packaging. A woman in a fifties-style poodle skirt was reaching out to pick me up and inspect me when I fell through that reality and passed on into another one.

This went on for longer than any of us will live, longer than any of us could possibly comprehend, and I resigned myself to the fact that it would never end and that this was death, and death was forever, when suddenly a voice was calling from afar. Some familiar voice was calling out to me from far below, from the place that I was falling to.

“You’re’re fine, everything’s okay. Everything Is Okay.”

Hearing that voice I knew that it was coming from my page, the right page, the page that I was really from, and it was at this point that I felt conscious of my body as being what was falling through the lifelines, as opposed to just my soul. I pivoted myself into a position that felt like I was swan diving straight down into reality and angled myself towards the voice.

When I fell out of the sky, and through the fifth floor of the building, straight down through the ceiling of my apartment and right back into my chair, I actually felt the impact. It was as if someone had dropped me out of space straight into my chair and though there was no pain associated with the fall, I felt as if I had just been thrown down hard into the chair. I could not move a single muscle except for my eyes, and that was when I looked down and realized that Matt was crouching in front of me and trying to calm me down and that it was Matt telling me that I was okay. At this point though, I still didn’t know who Matt was, or who I was, or where I was.

I heard a sound behind me as Lucy left the bathroom, where she had retreated after being freaked out from the “real” side of my experience. Matt told her to bring me water and she did. Nothing would sit still, and everything in the apartment was still slightly fluttering the way that pages down when you wave a paperback book by the spine. Matt was the only clear thing I could see, since he had called me back, and I looked suspiciously to my right at this blurry image of a person holding a glass, and I could not understand what was going on. Matt tried asking me questions, but all I could answer with was:

“Don’t ask don’t understand, you don’t understand . . .”

I was still convinced that I would never return to a state of normality. I took the glass of water, my fucked up barely-able-to-move mouth opening to drink it, and after saying I didn’t think I could drink it, I gulped the entire thing down at once. As soon as I had touched the glass it became quite real to me, and stopped moving, and soon that was extending to everything else.

And suddenly, just as the entire experience had started, some sort of razor tore diagonally across my reality and settled everything into its binary nature. The yins and yangs separated and balanced each other out. It is hard to explain beyond simply feeling that everything had settled into lefts and rights, ups and downs, and that when it was arranged that way reality was much easier to understand. I irritably asked them to shut the music off, suddenly realizing that I had heard it the entire time of my experience, in the far distance.

It took a minute or so for me to completely settle in and be able to move my arms and legs and again, and then the words started spilling out as I tried my hardest to recount the experience in the greatest possible detail, since I already felt it slipping away into incomprehension. Then I got their side of the story: I had leaned back after the laughing, and my eyes had rolled back into my head, at which point I gripped the armrests of my chair and started babbling a lot while rocking the chair violently back and forth, murmuring about how to get from A to B. The questions I had asked of the creatures they had heard – and answered, which made me realize that the entire experience essentially scrambled my brain and rearranged everything in my reality to form a new one, that the pushing into the couch was actually Lucy and Matt trying to soothe me. But of course, that wasn’t what it was for me, and that most certainly means something. When they told me that all of this had lasted only about one or two minutes, I wanted to weep.

I woke up the next day and I cried a little, then rolled around in bed soaking in the entire experience before going in to work. It was as if some indiscriminately tricky god had picked me up from my place on my chessboard and not merely moved me across the field but to another board entirely, to play an entirely new game for which I was not in the slightest prepared. I spent the day in a state of unease, riddled by the thought that at any moment everything could slip away and be shown to be a farce, that one day I could wake up and this all would be a daydream in some little boy’s head while he watched television with his parents. There is still more salvia in my drawer.

And it scares the living daylights out of me.


  • At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    that scared the shit out of me and gave me goosebumps....... but it also made me want to try it. should i?


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