What do you know, the less interested I am in school, the more time I find to write. I even have a few drafts that have not made it to the post, but at least I have been keeping up on it.
Of course, not much else is new: this routine will continue until the beginning of June. So, maybe a short story from the past. Talkin' bout Cave J. Inspired by conversations last night at band practice, where my band-mates and I briefly talked about the small towns that we grew up in, and how strange they were.
How about some background? As I have discussed before (I think), the town I grew up in was a very small Oregon town, near the border of northern California. Somewhat off the beaten path, you need to exit the freeway at another small town called Grants Pass, then take Redwood Highway going to the coast. Grants Pass was "the city" for Cave Junction, where you would drive to find fast-food restaurants and and even some chain-department stores. It's a small, suburban-feeling shit-hole where the banner across the main street in the town reads "It's the Climate." While the sign is not trying to be intentionally funny, it potentially answers some amusing questions: Why is everyone an asshole here? What the hell is going on in this town? Continue on Redwood highway for about a half an hour and you'll find Cave Junction.
Before Cave Junction, though, there exists a town (sort of), named Selma, somewhere around the mid-way point in the route: it has a grocery store, a post office, a gas-station, an ice cream shop, and a notoriously deadly intersection. The only other "shops" are houses with big wood signs offering things like homemade antiques or puppies or firewood or whatever. There is a man-made lake about ten minutes from the main highway, "Lake Selmac," which is also notorious, but for being filthy and disgusting and occasionally hosting big biker rallies, where bikers can shoot off firearms, snort crank and beat the shit out of each other in peace. This sort of sets the stage for the weird small town that I grew up in, I think.
Cave J., or "the junk," is a town that hasn't gotten around to changing its population sign. It reads: "Cave Junction: population 1234." I always imagined an ellipses at the end. It has, of course, surpassed 1,234 people, probably more like 2,500 or 3,000. But then again, it may have declined since I've lived there. It is a severely economically-depressed town; a retiree town, really, since there is almost no industry there, probably barely supported by what tourists pass through. It has gotten steadily worse, I feel, though I have no proof of this. I can't quite tell if that feeling is from an older perspective, when I go back and hang out near the coffee stand and kind of take-in the desolate landscape. There at least used to be some young kids there hanging out around town, but this doesn't even seem to be the case anymore. Hanging out in town is the source of this particular story.
When I was in junior-high, seventh grade, there was a new student who appeared at Lorna Byrne Middle School. I believe her name was Sabrina, and I remember that she looked older than the average middle-school student. Anyhow, she sat next to me in Math class, and I remember one day she was talking about speed and "uppers," and asked me "hey, you wanna do some speed?" Being at an age where I was up for almost anything, I said "sure, you have some?" She replied, "we can go to the pharmacy and get some." I was confused. She then started talking up something called "Vivarin," which I had no idea existed, and mentioned that it was something you could purchase over the counter.
Vivarin are caffeine pills, each pill the equivalent of two cups of coffee. I'm not sure what kind of coffee they are making comparisons with, probably Folger's, but enough of them can do the trick, as I was to find out. Sabrina and I made a plan to do some "speed" on the weekend, at the local park, "Jubilee park," since it was so close to the local pharmacy. The park was the place to do drugs, in general, even though there were regular rounds done by the police. It must have been because of the quick escape-routes into the woods. There was a baseball game happening that day in the park, as well, which, I suppose, made us feel like we wouldn't stand out as a lone bunch of speed freaks hanging out by ourselves in the park, and invitation to trouble, no doubt.
As I recall, earlier that day I had convinced some friends to join in on the Vivarin-plan and we started the day off hanging out in the parking lot of the Christian Academy: the private Christian school that was directly across the street from the public middle-school. A friend had some whiskey, and I remember drinking a shot or so. The only food that day that I remember eating was a handful or two of red grapes. So, whiskey and red grapes on the stomach before ingesting about 7 Vivarin pills. Keep this scenario in your mind.
So, the first part of the "trip" was largely imagined by myself. At first, I was convincing myself that I was high and reading far too much into any sensation I felt, and I think I even convinced myself that my vision was slightly distorting. I remember walking down the bleachers/stands right next to the dugout at the baseball diamond and feeling like my steps were wobbly, when they really weren't. I laid out in the grass in another area of the park, and even here I felt like I was high when I wasn't. I then walked over to try to find Sabrina and my friend Elizabeth, whom I planned to meet up with. I found them both sitting down in the small alley between the pharmacy and another store, where the Vivarin had definitely kicked in for them. Their eyes looked unusually large, or maybe it was pupil-dilation; either way, they were just sitting there looking quite fucked-up. For me, my Vivarin experience didn't seem to be that intense.
I returned to the park, thinking, "well this is nice, a nice gentle body-high." That was until the Vivarin actually kicked in. At that point, there was no denying that I was high. I wouldn't even call it being high; I would call it "tweaking." That awful sensation when you are grinding your teeth, clenching and un-clenching your fists, scratching at sudden, weird itches, or pawing at your face because it feels like a lump of clay. Walking started to actually become an issue, as I was dizzy as hell. After about an hour of disorientation, I started getting a stomach-ache. Then I was queazy. I left the park earlier than expected and then walked to my grandmother's house, which was not terribly far from the park.
When I got there, I pretty much immediately went into the bathroom and started wretching. Not much was coming out, since grapes and whiskey were the entirety of the contents of my stomach. That meant a lot of dry-heaving. I was holding onto the towel-rack and eventually tore it off of the bathroom-wall. Of course, my grandmother was concerned, and was probably wondering why I was all-of-a-sudden so sick, as she had seen me earlier that day completely fine. This vomiting continued on for about an hour, since I didn't feel secure enough to leave the toilet up until that point.
While I was in the throes of my sickness, I remember this particular feeling of wanting to confess everything to my grandmother. I still remember this feeling, as if confessing would make me feel physically better. I suppose there was guilt, as well, but it was a stranger feeling than just that. It was like a truth-serum, where the sickness was enough to consume most of my brain activity, especially concentrating. Lying, of course, takes some concentration to keep a story straight, so it becomes even more painful to maintain a lie while giving explanations in between vomiting. However, I didn't end up mentioning the Vivarin. I just spent the next two days with a hangover, chalking it up to something like bad-food, I think.
I believe that this was an experience that genuinely went under the radar of my parents, as opposed to my later cigarette and stoner days, where my cover-ups sometimes enhanced my guilt. A word to the wise: slathering oneself with Preferred Stock cologne actually draws quite a bit of olfactory-attention, which then a discerning nose can detect cigarette stank residing next to, rather than masked by, that awful fucking cologne.
That was my first and last time taking Vivarin, or any other caffeine pills. A later experience of drinking cough syrup would have, largely, the same results. But that's another story.