My cell phone rang. I was on my way home from work the week before Halloween 1998, and Mark was on the other end of the line. "I think I'm ready to do mushrooms."
I met Mark in college. We had been pretty good friends for a few years. Mark had a goatee, like my own, and easily outweighed me by sixty pounds of muscle. He also out-heighted me by three or four inches.
I had been trying to get him to do mushrooms for about two years. I had made the magical discovery three years before, and wanted all of my friends to know the joy.
"Excellent, how about this weekend," I asked.
Halloween was that coming Friday, and I had been saving a bunch of mushrooms I acquired over the summer for a rainy day. If this were a typical Portland Halloween, it'd be raining.
"I talked to Vince, and he said we could do them at his apartment this Friday, and crash there if we want," responded Mark.
I had met Vince at a small party about a year before. Vince was a thin guy, about an inch or two taller than I was, with maybe 10 pounds on me. He was about five foot nine, at around 135 pounds. He had little glasses, and blond hair.
"Okay, has he done them before?"
"He's done acid before."
"Andy wants to do them too."
I met Andy at that same party a year earlier. Andy was fat. He was probably five foot eight, and weighed around 200 pounds. He had round glasses, and a goatee.
"Has he done them before," I asked, still not wanting to trip-sit anyone.
"He says he has."
"Okay, where and when?"
Mark gave me directions to Vince's apartment, as I drove home.
When I showed up that Friday, at around 6:00pm, I was introduced by Mark to Andy, standing in front of the apartment building's door. Apparently, Vince had just legally changed his name, and nobody could remember the new one - we couldn't figure out which button to press on the buzz panel. Vince didn't have a phone either. As we stood debating what to do next, a couple walked out of the building and we sneaked in to the lobby just before the door closed.
As we wandered in, we found the elevator, which looked and felt like a closet. There's a really weird feeling riding in a closet.
We found Vince's room, and knocked on the door. Vince answered, and led us in.
Vince's apartment was very small. It almost had the feeling of a jail cell. The old and exposed plumbing in the bathroom didn't help.
The living room was sparsely furnished. A single couch, a small table, a cushy chair, a standing lamp, and a television on top of a milk-crate shelf were the major features. There were little dead vines apparently glued to the hallway doorframe.
We sat around bullshitting for a few minutes, and then devised a dosing plan. We would go down to Fred Meyer's and pick up some sandwiches and grapefruit juice.
When we got back, I proceeded to divide up the bounty. I wasn't sure of how much I had left, and was even less sure of their potency, considering they'd sat for several months. I just decided to split up what I had left four ways. This ended up being a fairly significant amount to choke down, and we all needed a lot of mustard to cover the foul taste.
As 7:00pm rolled around, we decided it was time to dose. Andy wanted our mushroom consumption to be a sacred ceremony, so Vince lit some candles, and we sat on the floor in a circle, eating our sacramental sandwiches.
We bullshitted for the next half-hour. We talked about the recent Tool concert, and what Mark should expect when the Mushrooms begin twisting his mind. We went out on the balcony-roof thing, and hung out there for a few minutes. I could tell my vision was getting sharper. Andy finally whined about the height, and we all went back inside.
Vince went to change his clothes, came back in a tank top, and made a comment about his ex-boyfriend. Andy and I looked at each other briefly, and dismissed it with a shrug.
As I began to feel the high well up from my guts, I decided that I wanted us all to go outside and enjoy the night. I had tripped once before downtown, and it was spectacular. I didn't want my friends to miss out on what this could be.
"We should all go for a walk," I announced.
"I'm up for it," Mark chimed.
"I don't want to," Andy said nervously.
This was my first clue to how the evening was going to turn out.
"Come on, you'll like it," I said in my best peer-pressure voice.
"No, I think we should all stay inside," said Andy.
I worked on getting everybody outside for the next five minutes, but Andy was dead-set against it. Mark decided to stay in the apartment while Vince and I went for a walk down to the park.
Vince and I wandered down the stairs and through a little gated corridor. Vince briefly sang something in Latin, which sounded very cool in the surrounding echo chamber.
We walked a few blocks, and made it to the park. I went straight for the jungle gym and stared at the bark dust for five minutes, watching the patterns form. I realized how long I had been standing there, and noticed that Vince had ended up quite far from me. I ran to catch up, where he suggested we go check out the Jewish temple. I immediately agreed, and we made the short trek.
We stared at the polished marble on the stairs for several minutes. Vince said we should go since he saw a security guard coming. I thought he was seeing things, but didn't want to argue. We headed straight back to the apartment.
When we arrived, we found the place completely darkened. The shades were pulled, the lamps unplugged, and Bram Stoker's Dracula was playing on the TV. It was apparently Andy's bright idea to bring over the tape to watch during our trip.
It was 8:00pm, and I was beginning to realize just how potent my mushrooms had stayed over the summer. The amount I had decided to dose was about twice as potent as I had guessed. I was seeing patterns on the walls, and melting into my chair. I began to look at a book entitled, Fantastic Art, by Christian De Boek. This book really was fantastic. To this day, it has made me a Guiseppe Archimboldo fan. Things were going well.
Andy began to get fidgety. He kept putting his hands over his face and sliding them off. He turned off the TV. He started to whine about going to sleep, but I couldn't make out exactly what he was saying. I finally was able to determine that he wanted us all to turn out the lights and go to sleep. I thought this quite odd, considering what we all had consumed.
"You guys can try, but there's no way I'm going to sleep. It's a physical impossibility," I said while turning the pages in my art book.
"Andy, you can go and sleep in my room," Vince offered.
Andy didn't move. He was becoming even less coherent. After several silent seconds, he rolled off the couch and onto the hardwood floor, with quite a thud. He sat up. We all stared at him, wide-eyed.
Vince offered some Tylenol III with codeine to Andy to help him sleep.
Andy didn't respond.
Vince got up and went to the kitchen, and returned with a bottle of pills, and a glass of water. Vince tried to coax Andy to take the pills for about a minute. "Here, these will help you sleep. These will put you to sleep."
As Vince began to open the bottle, Andy violently knocked it out of Vince's hands. This gave us all quite a start, and began to put me on edge.
Vince and Mark then helped Andy up, and dragged him into Vince's room, and presumably dropped him on the bed. I couldn't tell - I was trying to ignore Andy, and enjoy my book.
After about ten minutes, I grew tired of the book, and moved to the couch, where Andy had just been. I began to relax again, and melted into the couch, comfortably. Things seemed to be going well again.
I then heard the most awful sound of my life. I don't know if it was the acoustics of the apartment, or my enhanced auditory perception, but the sound of Andy's vomiting was something I will never forget. I thought he was going to puke up his feet. This didn't help my newfound couch-bliss, and I got nervous again.
Vince came out of the bathroom and said, "Andy's sick. How long is this going to last?"
I stared for a few seconds in disbelief. I thought these guys had done this before, and was now getting irritated. I glanced at my watch - 9:00pm. "It's only been two hours!"
Vince walked back to the bathroom. I tried to let the nervousness melt away into the couch. A minute later, Vince came back out and asked, "How long is this going to last; is Andy going to come down pretty soon?"
"Yes," I replied.
Vince disappeared into the bathroom again. I couldn't shake the nerves now. I was rattled.
Another minute passed, and Vince came back out, knelt by my couch and said, "Ok, Andy is having some convulsions. We're thinking about taking him to the hospital."
I bolted upright in my couch. "Do not take him to the hospital. He will come down."
At this point, all of our judgement had been seriously impaired, and I was looking out more for my own well being than Andy's. I thought to myself, "This Vince guy is high on 'shrooms -- he doesn't know what convulsions are right now."
Vince nodded, got up, and went back to the bathroom.
I was seriously pissed off now. Let me tell you, it is no fun to be tripping hard, and pissed. You want to be sober immediately.
Vince came back to the living room to talk to me some more.
"You've done this more than all of us. Is Andy going to be alright?"
I sighed, and said, "He will come down."
Vince, nearly crying said, "But, have you ever seen this before?"
I paused, dumbfounded, and just managed a reassuring, "He will come down."
Vince left the room and I lay back on the couch, wondering how I got convinced to trip with these amateurs.
I got up off the couch, and wandered in the bathroom to check on Andy and company. Andy was laying on the floor in a fetal position. Mark made the toilet talk by ventriloquism, and manipulating the seat. This gave us all a well-needed laugh.
Mark and Vince and I walked out into the hallway, and tried to discuss our options. Vince sat down in the doorframe, and said, "I think I'm going to go to the hospital. I'm not feeling very well."
A wave of fright passed through me, and I took a deep breath and replied as sternly as I could, "Please, please, please, please, please do not go to the hospital."
"OK," Vince uttered sheepishly.
I continued to plea for him not to go to the hospital, and he tugged on my pantleg, and said, "I'm feeling OK now. I'm OK."
I sighed in relief, and went back to the couch.
Five minutes later, Mark and Vince carried Andy from the bathroom and dropped him on my couch, forcibly ejecting me. I lay down on the hard wood floor, and found it remarkably soft.
Several minutes went by as I stared at a piece of graph paper. Andy rolled off the couch again, and began to sing what I assumed was a grade school rhyme, pissing me off more.
Vince wandered in three or four times to ask Andy if he wanted any water. I got annoyed quickly with that, and barked "Will you stop asking him that? He doesn't want any water!"
Vince apologized with a very sincere "I'm sorry."
"It's OK," I countered.
After I could no longer put up with Andy, I went into Vince's room, where Mark and Vince were chatting about something. I sat down, and was cheerfully greeted. Vince had his portable phone in hand, apparently eager to dial 911. Mark had built up a little pile of technology with his cell phone, pager, and watch.
We sat around for a while, making jokes, and little rhymes, like "I want to ski! Into a tree!"
I'd finish with "And then you DIE!" That got a good laugh out of all of us, and brought our spirits up.
Mark decided to go out to check on Andy, and left me with Vince.
Vince talked at me for probably an hour. I wasn't listening to all of it, but I heard that his parents had disowned him because he was gay, and under Satan's power. He talked about how being raised Catholic messed him up, and joked that he felt like he was the devil, and how Mark, Andy, and myself looked like his minions with our goatees.
We ended up telling some jokes and decided we were doing all right.
Mark then rushed back to inform us Andy was trying to kill himself. Mark and Vince jumped into action to move the mattress into the hallway to prevent Andy from wandering outside. I put my head in my hands. I couldn't believe things had gotten this bad.
Mark informed us that he was going to stay in the living room with Andy to prevent him from jumping out the window. Vince and I decided Mark would be the best to do that, since he was the only one who could possibly physically restrain Andy.
After we all calmed down again, Vince asked me what it would take for me to actually bite the bullet and call 911. "Would it take someone lying unconscious, convulsing, or not breathing?"
I thought for a second, and shamefully replied, "Yes. I don't want to go to jail. I don't want to lose my job and all the money I'm making."
That was kind of a disturbing thing to learn about myself.
"We could just tell the cops that we bought them off some crack-whore in the park, and that's all," Vince Suggested.
"If you decide to call 911, or go to the hospital, I'm going to take off, and you don't know me."
Mark walked in about then and told us that he wasn't able to restrain Andy any longer, but he was making fewer attempts to jump out of the window. (We failed to realize that the windows were barred, and there was no chance that anyone could even figure out how to open the latch on the glass.)
Mark then informed us that he thought he had a heart attack in his last attempt to restrain Andy. I didn't really believe him until he began to describe what happened. He said it was just like his grandfather described, and that he thought he "peed himself."
Vince said, "That's not good. That means your body shut down."
That freaked me out. At that point I wanted to take Mark to the hospital. I was still too messed up to drive, and was thinking about calling 911. The craziest part is that Mark convinced me that he'd just go to the doctor on Monday, and have himself checked out, and he didn't need to go to the hospital. I was still high enough to be convinced this was an acceptable course for a heart attack.
After we calmed down again, Andy walked into the room under his own power. He was finally coming down. He plopped himself down on the bed, and asked, "Do aliens have wings?"
We all just looked at each other, and I decided some words were better than no words.
Andy continued to act crazy for the remainder of the night. He kept asking, "What's going on," and kissed Mark on the cheek at one point.
Mark replied with a sarcastic, "Cute."
Andy made a couple last attempts (so we thought) to jump out the window by hurling himself at the blinds. We coaxed him back.
When the morning came, Andy was cheerful, and we asked him if at any point he had suicidal thoughts. He hadn't. It was just our own drug-induced paranoia getting the best of us. We asked him about trying to jump out of the window. He said that there were aliens in the sun, and he had to get to them or something. He claims little or no memory of the trip.
Mark felt fine the next day. He decided he hadn't had a heart attack, which was quite a relief to me. And he hadn't really "peed himself." I've felt the same `wetness' before, only to find myself completely dry.
The biggest lesson I learned from all of this is that unlike alcohol, the intoxicating effect of mushrooms cannot be determined by body weight - it's more like weight of mind.