Part III – Choice – Written 2004

Because my story is so strange and twisted, with both emotion and substance, there is really no way to begin it. There is no possible way to describe to you the awesome events that have surrounded the last week of my life. Depending on perspective, this has been the most incredible moment of my life. This story isn’t real; it’s just what I experienced.

The last few months of my life, for about the last half year, I have been really active on the internet, learning lots of things and sharing excessive information. All my life has been a quest for information, true or false, as long as it’s real. This is the easiest explanation for my drug use – by altering my normal chemical state, I can experience life in a different way, ergo understanding things from a different perspective, making all things experienced like new experiences, regardless of what they are. On hallucinogens, every moment seems like your first moment; there is no past, there is no future, there is now and there is everything else. Our memories of the past are no more real than our visions of the future; both can only be imagined in the mind, and neither tell exactly what occurs. It could be said that memory is the enemy of humanity, while at the same time one of the things that makes us “intelligent.”

The whole week I was getting excited for the Wednesday Incubus show; they had played a great show in Charlotte Monday night and we were certain the Raleigh show would be equally awesome. The only bummer was that Thursday night I was forced to attend a speaker at my school who was a paraplegic after being in a drunk driving accident, but that whole concept was totally out-shadowed by the realizations of the week. In the end, it was a catalyst for a greater understanding. The whole day I felt fantastic, despite having gotten to bed at 3 am that morning after the Incubus show, the entire world was opening up to me. Earlier in the week, I had analyzed some Plato and was beginning to understand how my position in society could actually both serve society and serve myself, getting me into all kinds of thoughts. My whole life is oppositional – I like to start shit – I think destruction breeds creation and I think I can do a lot of good in the world with just a little bit of destruction. Sometimes society needs that, despite how much they don’t want it. My role is to blend into the sea of faces, see if I can make the blind see. Sadly, Nick and I both saw what was coming Wednesday night as we left the concert.

On Wednesday night I went to the best concert I have ever seen – Incubus at Raleigh, October 5, 2004 – with my girlfriend Mieko, and my two friends Nick and Erin, who are dating as well. I drove in my 1997 Toyota Corolla, gold in color and small in size, given that Nick was kind enough to hook us up with free tickets from his radio station. Incubus has been one of my favorite bands since 2001, when my friends finally warmed me up to them on a road trip to Boston. For that trip, though, there were five of us, Kevin, Lee, Adam, Rob (who hooked us up with his van), and myself. I hadn’t enjoyed Fungus Amongus, but when I heard S.C.I.E.N.C.E., I was hooked. For me, there are two bands who can absolutely do no wrong – Incubus and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The reasoning of taking my car was two-fold: first was that I wanted to show my appreciation for Nick’s excellent hook-up, the second being that I had a significantly better sound system than Nick’s 1980s BMW that he had just recently acquired and had yet to install a decent stereo.

Last night, Friday night, the 8th, was the Pi Kappa Alpha 80s party. The Pikes are a fraternity on campus, and in the opinion of some they are the fraternity on campus, but more importantly than that they are my friends. My history with them is as strange and twisted as this tale, and is a tale in itself. After my freshman year many of my best friends had joined. First semester of my sophomore year, I took my best friend Sam to one of their rush events – just a typical sausage party, beer pong (it’s really Beirut if you want to be technical), keg beer, fun for the whole house. Sam wasn’t really into it, and so we peaced; in actuality he was quite hoping on getting a bid from the Theta Chi house, who snubbed him in a long and typical pattern of bad decision making. Convinced that fraternities were bullshit, I swore them off, and the next semester Sam rushed Pi Kappa Alpha, without me. Since then, my connection with them has only gotten stronger, to the point where I strongly considered being part of their organization late last year. In the end it just didn’t make sense to me, but they’d probably say I’m a pussy. Maybe it’s true.

We got to the show late, at almost 8:30, the show having started at 7:30; our interest wasn’t in Ben Keller, but in Incubus, so we didn’t leave High Point until after 6:30. About ten miles west of Raleigh, we stopped into a wretched little town called Cary, which felt very much like someone built a huge strip-mall and then put a few houses between the stores. I couldn’t find a gas station to save our souls, and it took a solid ten minutes just to find a place to buy a couple of bottles of water to take to the show. In reality, taking things into the show was much easier than anticipated…I could have brought a handgun if I wanted to. Luckily, this was an Incubus concert, and it was obvious that any thoughts of angst or violence were far from this place; there was nothing but good vibes for me. The Goldbug slid into the last line of cars, a red Volkswagen Jetta with a broken side-view mirror parking directly to the left just as we pulled in. Stepping out of the car, Nick, Erin, and I ate some hallucinogenic mushrooms I had acquired and capsulated so they would be easier to conceal and swallow, as this particular type of mushroom has an atrocious flavor and is illegal.

The 80s party is always the biggest party of the year, having been said, “If you don’t go to any other party, go to the 80s party.” Mieko dressed in her Japanese schoolgirl outfit with a side pony-tail and way too much make-up – I acquired a can of black spray-paint, a can of blue hair dye, an 18” chain collar, a lime green sport coat from my friend Sam, and a pair of the most awful-looking pants I could find that fit me at Carolina Thrift…while there, I saw Chris, a Pike whom I always manage to see whenever I am at the thrift store…we must be working off the same chi in frugal instances. My inspiration was Steve-o from SLC Punk and I pulled it off well, with blue hair, black boots, and a plain white T-shirt with an “anarchy” symbol sprayed on it. This was definitely the outfit for me, and the party for me, despite the fact that it was a Pi Kappa Alpha/Alpha Gamma Delta mixer, and I’m not even Greek. You can play one independent on your team for intramural sports; I think you can let one into a party. Nonetheless, ball-busting ensued.

Little did I know, as I began to trip my face off at the Incubus concert, that there was trouble afoot with my brothers…two men caught in a web of lies that was finally brought to a head Thursday and Friday. What you must understand is that Eddie is big, that’s why we call him “Big Eddie,” the guy is a friggin’ tank. And he used to be bigger, back when he was working out like Schwarzenegger, now he’s toned himself down so his enemies only piss themselves rather than shit. His brain never stops and he is arguably the most intelligent of all my peers; unfortunately, he seems to have the same giant-sized heart he’s always had, love proving to be as strong a force as hate. For the last year, Eddie has been seeing this girl Heather who, as we later found out, he cared a lot more for than he let on. In some sequence of fucked up events, Heather managed to be all over my friend and Eddie’s fraternity brother Pat, who subsequently asked Eddie if he cared if Pat hook up with Heather, who allegedly said that it was perfectly fine. As one can already see, things were far from fine. Wednesday, while I was at the concert, Eddie confronted Pat and told him he never wanted to see him again.

The speaker Thursday night was gripping. He was a typical person, except he was in a wheelchair, but seemed like he was a very cool human being. My reason for being there was that I had to cover the event as best I could for my Journalism I course, so I of course took a place with some Pikes up on the balcony. The presentation was typical, filled with rhetoric and clichés, an attempt to make people understand that he was just like everyone else. And he was. He made good jokes, he made bad jokes – he laughed and he cried – we all saw true humanity on that stage that night, and some of us handled it better than others. As this was happening, Eddie was in the Pike apartments on Sixth Street, handing Pat his pin and renouncing his brotherhood. It all came as a shock, since Eddie had worked so hard and given up so much to be part of this fraternity he loved. The rumor was that he had driven directly to Chicago afterwards and that no one had heard from him.

After passing through the Alltel Pavilion gates, only slightly panicked that I was smuggling both a pipe and marijuana past uniformed guards, we took a bathroom break before heading up to the pavilion. Already, I was getting the spins, and knew it was best that we find a seat soon. I had brought a blanket that my parents had given to me years ago with an American Indian pattern on it, characteristic of plains tribes, as the Lakota Sioux were always my favorite. Just before nine, when we had expected Incubus to take the stage, we copped a squat inside the mass of people on the lawn, spotlights shining in our dilated eyes. Conversation was quick and pointless, the kind that only exists in an attempt to keep your mind off the fact that soon your stomach will be twisted and spasm uncontrollably, and that soon your mind will no longer be totally of your own control. The key to tripping is the same as extreme sports and religion – you must offer yourself up to that which is greater than yourself – you must know that even if you die doing what you do, which you know you won’t (I’ll get into that in just a few lines), that it’s worth it. Like Bodhi says in Point Break, it’s not tragic dying doing what you love. Luckily, hallucinogenic mushrooms have about the same toxicity as marijuana, which is to say that one would have to eat multiple pounds of either to facilitate an even mildly toxic event. This is obviously not true in all cases, but for the majority of people not allergic to them, they are virtually harmless on a physical level. Sure, dry mushrooms are a pain for the stomach to digest, and yes, smoke is bad for you, but please don’t tell me I can smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol but not do these things: at least they’re not as physically destructive and I actually get something out of them other than numbness and cancer.

After being at the party about an hour, a few shots in and about halfway through my bottle of sake, a rather unattractive Gam that, for whatever reason, was standing next to me asked me a question that would have otherwise been harmless. Had the tone not been accusatory, it wouldn’t have been offensive, and this girl could have had a nice smile. Instead, she is a wretched blonde with no face but the one I give her, now as twisted and frightening as the story you read before you. She said, “Who are you?”

Looking her in the eye, I replied, “I’m Joseph…who are you?”

She answered in the same biting tone, making me disregard her answer altogether. After an uncomfortable silence, she asked the question she had really come to ask.

“Are you a Pike?”

To which I of course smiled wide and said, “Nope.”

“Then why are you here?” in her arrogant condescending tone. My smile remained fast, for I knew what house I was in, and it didn’t have the name “Alpha Gamma Delta” on it. I turned to my friend Mike who only moments prior had advised me of what Eddie had done the night before, and asked him why I was there.

Putting his arm around me, and with a big smile, he turned to the girl saying, “Because he’s Joseph.” Her puzzled look remained as Mike’s brief inquisition continued, asking, “Do you know my name?” She, of course, had no idea, and Mike did an “about-face” and walked away, not hearing me tell her that I could name every brother and where they were from. I turned as well, following Mike into the house, Mieko on my arm. We could all have used a bong hit. Mieko didn’t feel like walking out in the cold with her skirt on, so I left her in Sam’s capable hands behind the bar and went back to my house to acquire some ganja.

The lights went down all at once, after a thousand prayers from the crowd to stop the madness, with an eruption of sound from the sea of fans. Subtly, the Gregorian-style chant that is the theme for Halo came over the speakers…I doubt I will ever hear so many people going insane for music centuries old. The chant lasted about thirty seconds, as Incubus dropped right into their set, filled with energy and color. My first thoughts were the same as many people – darkness descended, and those on heavy hallucinogens would step into the world of illusion, a world filled with irrationality. Fear grips, as you are unsure of your place in the crowd or their reason of existing; you try to block it out and concentrate on the band, but the energy is overwhelming. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, I had what could be called a “moment of clarity.” My week has been full of them. I realized that no Incubus fan, and it was obvious that all these people were true Incubus fans, would ever desire to start a fight, especially at an Incubus concert. There were too many good vibes to get carried away by the fear – the thing I heard most often was “I’m sorry, man” from people accidentally stepping on my feet.

Chris, that was the speaker’s name, he was talking a lot about decision-making, and it got me thinking. I thought about everything that I had just come to know and understand, thought about how I have never felt so secure in my entire life, and yet both this paraplegic and Plato make the same valid claim: the strongest man can be killed by the weakest man. Each of us must fall asleep, and we are all interconnected, destiny is real and it is intertwined. I know these things because I know them, to explain why here would be impossible. The reality of the world is simple – everything interacts with everything. All events are connected. There is no such thing as coincidence. Every molecule, down to its electrons, has a constant communiqué with others like it. And, as everything is the same, interaction is unhindered on this very basic level. This concept both challenges and pervades Einstein’s theory of relativity, for if this theory was true, and molecules communicated regardless of distance, then that link would travel faster than light. As we all know, as one approaches the speed of light, time slows down. To break the speed of light would be to pass into the fourth dimension, where this link lies. This is really to say that time doesn’t exist: that our primitive minds can’t comprehend the simplest connections at our most basic form because we’re overdeveloped. I realize the irony is layered. This was all becoming clear as the crippled commentator continued his gut-wrenching tale of his accident, making my mind move at a most rapid rate.

After Mike and I picked up the weed from my house, we continued around the corner, back to the party. We didn’t think about it, but this would require us going past Eddie’s old house, which as we passed happened to have Eddie’s car in front of it. We pounded on the door to find our friend Eddie drunk as a skunk for the first time in exactly six months. To the damned day. Ten seconds with Mike and me was all it took to bring it all out – the misconceptions, the miscommunications, the misinformation. If anyone had known Eddie felt so strongly about Heather, Pat never would have gotten anywhere near her. Instead, Eddie played the tough guy, acting like he didn’t care about a dumb bitch that obviously didn’t care about him. But it’s not who loves you, but who you love. Eddie was a train wreck, just like I was just the night before.

Unfortunately, Erin was not nearly as comfortable as I was with the situation, and Nick had to take my keys and take Erin back to the car just a few songs into the set. The next hour or so was a blur – the show was incredible, and my thoughts felt like they were true and real, even though they weren’t really either. On mushrooms, you are the smartest person in the universe, and you can understand anything. On our ride home, I taught Nick and Erin Plato’s cave theory, changed our whole perspective. Speaking of or departure, Mieko and I left the pavilion at about 10:30, the temperature being cold enough to drive me away from an Incubus concert. We arrived at the car to find Nick and Erin listening to Incubus, of course, crumpled up in the backseat looking really twisted. We sat for a few minutes, letting the car warm up, defogging the heavy miasma that had become the interior of my car, specifically adhering to the windows. Just as we were packing up a bowl to begin our journey back to High Point, our neighbors in the red Jetta returned; this time the girl was barely able to stand up. The guy, who honestly looked and sounded like a typical dumb redneck, put the drunk girl in the passenger seat he had exited two hours prior, then he climbed in to drive and started the vehicle. As he pulled away, Nick and I looked at each other, fully realizing that we were indeed hallucinating heavily and that where our personal empathetic abilities are concerned, we are usually apathetic to those we don’t know. At the same time, in the same words, we both said, “I’ve got a bad vibe.” I saw him exit the back of the lot, so I pulled away and went that way as well. We couldn’t have left more than thirty seconds after him, him drunk and us tripping, my beautiful girlfriend riding shotgun. Each of us recoiled in horror as the Goldbug turned the corner, passing the wreckage.

My breathing got shorter and my heartbeats got faster, and suddenly there was a light ringing in my ears as I began to feel very warm. I stood up and walked out of the door of the balcony, my brain feeling as if it was having a seizure, I crashed into the balcony guardrail before collapsing in a heap on the floor, staring into nothingness, unable to move, gripped with the reality of it all. Above me stood my friend Brandon, most likely freaking out, not knowing what was going on. Slowly, I made my way back to the illusion of the real world, my body feeling numb, my ears deafened by an intense ringing. He had to pick me up off the ground as I told him I felt like throwing up, but never ended up doing it, and slowly made our way to the elevator. By the time we exited the building, I could walk fine, but still felt the numbness, especially in my head.

We had never seen Eddie like this – we never want to again. It was as if someone was holding his heart captive, using it to present mental ransom demands. After about an hour of very serious talk, and more serious realizations, Mike and I walked up the street to get Pat, who was back at the party. He was reluctant at first, as were all of the brothers; the comment I heard most was, “Bad idea, bro.” It wasn’t a bad idea – that’s why I was at that party – that’s why, if you only come to one party all year, you come to the 80s party. It took twenty minutes to get Pat to make the block-long walk (remember, he’s still “Big” Eddie), but we somehow managed to get there and get Eddie out. It didn’t take long to clear the whole thing up, whether it was despite of or thanks to Eddie’s drunkenness. I, on the other hand, was in hot water with my five foot, 115 pound girlfriend, who had now been standing over an hour with Sam behind the bar. We managed to all get back to the house, me carrying Eddie over my shoulder like he was a sack of potatoes. After getting him upstairs, where I left him to his family, where he should have been in the first place, I took care of my drunk girlfriend.

So now it’s the end, at least of this story. People go crazy, people get hurt, hell, people even die. But nothing is the end. There is never an end, it’s all one perpetual moment that we’ve decided to break into little segments we call “time” in some futile attempt to rationalize our existence. Live in the moment, that’s all you have. It could get taken at any time, and to go back is very hard to do; some say you can never go back. We need to be loyal to each other, to everything. I need to love more; I need to treat people better. Maybe we all do. We’re all here for a reason. Stop asking why. It doesn’t matter if you break your neck or your heart; your mind can seize, but there will come a time where you will prevail, because you are the universe, and just like everything else, you are infinite if you choose to be.

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