Last night I fell asleep around 9PM and somehow managed to wake up at 7:55 AM, 5 minutes before I needed to be at work. I jumped into the front seat of my van and pulled out of the random dirt shoulder I was parked on in residential Los Osos. These types of dirt shoulders are a dime a dozen in Los Osos, a sleepy beach town with few beach houses or architectural review. A hodge podge of sheds, mcmansions, and ranchettes line the pot-hole filled streets. A gravelly, mushy sound came in through my window. My home/transportation was deflated. Perhaps this was the karmic price I had to pay for what I did over a 24 hour period in the redwoods the day before.
A veil of ganja smoke covered the crowd as Third World came to the grandstand. This was a mandatory scene. I made the pilgrimage to Humboldt County to attend the 30th Reggae on the River Music Festival. It was my 1st. Ironically I had stopped heavily smoking marijuana over 4 years ago, but everyone still sees me as a stoner.
I look high all the time. By far it is not my drug of choice.
How I stopped loving weed? I really don’t know why, but I can tell you the precise moment when I stopped being a hardcore stoner.
Shortly after New Years 2010 I was sitting with my ex-boyfriend and his parents in their living room a lazy evening after a long drive from his cousin’s New Years wedding extravaganza in Las Vegas back to the Santa Barbara area. As we had done a million times, we all took a few rips of the simple mini plastic bong in the backyard. The dad sat in the recliner, mom on the couch, my dood on the other recliner, and I was on the floor. Law and Order was on the TV. Unlike most Americans, I had never experienced Law and Order. Unfortunately I started to pay attention to the dialogue of this time-honored TV drama. Saccharin. Poorly-acted. Not even enjoyable in an over-the-top way. A vice gripped my innards. How could most Americans find pleasure in this rotten indulgence? I looked at the glowing faces around me hypnotized. I stared at my then boyfriend. We had been together nearly 5 years. All my thoughts and emotions then spiraled out of control. Before the end of the episode I was freaking the fuck out. I wondered how my boyfriend and I could still be in love after so many years of being together. I excused myself to the guest room and laid in the darkness unable to go to sleep. In my panic attack I convinced myself that if my boyfriend really loved me he would come into the room and have sex with me. He did come into the room to see how I was. In exasperation I asked him to fuck me. Because his parents were awake in the other room he denied me. He left the room. This was the beginning of my marijuana induced paranoia.
I had already been at the music festival for half a day. I pretty much missed the first day of reggae. I drove my home, my 1989 Toyota Van, up from San Luis Obispo on Thursday. I briefly stopped in Berkeley to visit some friends and continued on my way Friday morning. Somehow a 4 hour drive turned into an all day affair. Time is slowed down by the sparsely populated landscape of Northern California. Sweat dripped from every part of my body as I entered the land of redwoods. I’m from Southern California. I am sucked in by the verdant mountainsides leading into blue river valleys. My trance is broken by a violent sputtering sound coming from my van accompanied with a loss of power. I was a fool. The fuel gauge was in a new realm of empty. It was at least 20 miles from any gas station. I pull off the road. You can always rely on the kindness of strangers said Blanche DuBois. And I do.
My physical exhaustion subsided as I saw a diamond-shaped orange sign indicating a special event was ahead. I had arrived! CHP had built a road block to cross festival goers from the campground to other side of Hwy 101 to the stage adjacent to the Eel River. The sun was setting. A mass of traveling kids were posted by the gas station by the entrance of the campground. I was alone. A brief visitor to Northern California. After I parked the van I carefully filled my plastic water bottle with a mixture of pomegranate kefir and leftover seagrams vodka. It was surprisingly good. I was alone and needed to ease my social anxiety. A group of hispanic men from Willits parked next to me and proceeded to roll up a blunt. Blunts would not help the feelings I had inside myself. Their faces were emotionless as they inhaled and exhaled. I too have been working on having one emotion.
After a brief night of drunken dancing, I spent my Saturday morning taking in the scene at the Eel River. Bodies of all shapes and sizes were soaking in the warm waters of the river. It was hot. Water, check. Vodka kefir, check. Vodka flask, check. Jacket, check. Wallet, check. Drugs, no drugs. I had a mushroom cap, but nothing in the quantity to bring excitement to my mental state. Although I am at a reggae music festival the only high I seek is the one which will open my mind to new worlds. Remember I don’t enjoy that green high no more. Psychedelics are therapeutic. They clean. I am a dirty girl.
In 2014 I had found much mental relief and revelation in super psychedelic experiences. After a few sips of my alcoholic concoction I had some meaningless conversations with strangers in the river. I walk into the concert area and go to buy something to mix with the vodka I had in my flask. While walking around I run into a friend from Santa Barbara. I buy a lemonade, pour a shit ton of vodka in it, and smoke some herb with her and her boyfriend. When I am drunk I find little harm in smoking. So I inhale lightly. We move towards the stage to get ready to see Third World. She hands me a mushroom pill. I put it in my drink. The music is loud and my friends move to the back to enjoy the show. I stay up front.
A veil of ganja smoke covered the crowd as Third World played their set. I am lost in dance. I look over to my left. There is a shirtless man with shaggy blond hair. His face is covered in a cacophony of neon colors. I am instantly jealous. I want his paint all over my face. My instincts tell me that he is the one I must talk to. He must of felt the same way because we start exchanging glances. After the set I ask him to help my mind explode in rainbows. He tells me he asked his friend to paint his face like a psychedelic Ultimate Warrior.
We run from the festival to his luxury truck to find some trouble. He dumps out a couple bumps of coke onto his galaxy tablet. More running. We sneak into the volunteer area onto a school bus his friends drove to the festival. He finds a backpack and starts digging. He then proceeds to open a number of tie-dyed plastic cases. To me they look like contact lens holders, but he informs me they are to hold doses. We found no doses, but did find some molly. Bump! Bump! The psychedelic Ultimate Warrior is an apt guide, but has yet to provision me with the tour I really want to walk through.
Back to the festival we go. We run around trying to find his friends. A band I don’t care for is playing, so we run back out to try to find them. A young man who knows the psychedelic Ultimate Warrior stops him in conversation. He mentions our quest for “L”. As if the answer was painfully obvious, the young man says “I have some.” One accrid palm drop later we walk back to see Jimmy Cliff. Maybe because of the coke, or maybe because I had waited a decade to see Jimmy Cliff, I danced harder than I’ve danced in a long time. It was incredible. And then abruptly the music stopped, and the crowd was directed to leave as it was the last set of the night.
Suddenly, the full extent of psychedelia set in. The en masse exit of festival-goers was like being stuck in fetid, shit-filled rapids. I was helplessly being pushed down the rapids. All I wanted to do was to break free from the current and be an individual. I stuck close to the Warrior and asked him if we could get out of these waters. He assured me we were close to something. I wasn’t sure what we were nearing. I was growing nauseous as the world swirled around me and the grumbling voices overwhelmed my aural senses. We pulled to the right of a giant flood light. We were back at Warrior’s truck. He turns his key and the interior of the car lights up like a control panel of a spaceship. The interior of the beastly truck was a sanctuary. We were on a boat, bobbing in turbulent seas. Occasionally I would peer out the window and get sea sick. I saw gray banshees writhing in the grey waters. There was no need to leave. I had the company of the psychedelic Ultimate Warrior.
With the first moments of stillness on our rainbow journey I started to notice some details about my guide. He had the most ridiculous tattoo on his back. He tells me it is his pot farm accompanied by the url for the dispensary business he owns. Business is apparently really good. His hands are incredibly fucked up. I can’t see his face. I have no idea who I’ve been traveling with. I can’t see beyond the neon strokes. The paint is starting to peel off, but there is no reference to features on his face. I am fixated on his eyes which are wide and blue. His pupils are just pinpoints. They really are beautiful.
As I hold the brown felt hat I was wearing all day in front of me it floats around like a flying saucer. I flip it on its side and stare inside. It is an infinite black hole. I utter “the hat is vast.” I cannot handle the endlessness of the hat and put it back on my head.
Psychedelic Ultimate Warrior starts to open up about himself. He had relocated to this area some time ago from the east coast. He grew up a poor white boy that had a precocious mind. Because he was able to navigate the public education system while “raging” he got a full ride scholarship to a private university up north. He got two Bachelor’s of Science degrees and sold some type of computer solution to a huge IT company. There was a very conventional route he could have excelled in. This is not what he wanted. All throughout college he grew marijuana. His mama had shown him how to garden. We all have free will. We all have choices.
He had fathered two children with an old money girl who was “a looker” but was not OK with his profession of choice. He had to dump his “babies mama.” He goes on to divulge how his hand got so fucked up (a bad car accident), how he had been a first responder to a girl who lost the front of her face to a shotgun blast (she lived; he’s a volunteer firefighter), telling me about his truck collection, and his love of john deere hats. He then explains how he is really a black man. Usually he is G’d up, but tonight he decided to be a psychedelic Ultimate Warrior. I’m glad he is because I wouldn’t have talked to him otherwise. There were far too many g’d up doods at the festival. I saw him more as a trippy hippy surfer guy.
Push play. Three Six Mafia blasts from his sound system. He gloats about being obnoxious. The music does not fare well with my rainbow trip. Bitch. Hoe. Fuck. Pussy. Money. I ask him to turn it off. Why Warrior why? Because, he explains, he appreciates how these men can make money by saying dumb shit. We keep talking. He tells me I should come up north and work for him this harvest season. I politely decline. We all have choices.
He turns on the seat warmers. I want to do something, but everytime I try to leave the confines of the truck, the gray waters make my head spin. I come back. He just wants to be a good father. I ain’t no dead beat dad. I’ve saved a college fund for my girls. The sun starts to come up. I wonder if my faculties will come back to me. Reggae. Slowly. Yes. My mind is here.
With the light of the morning sun coming into the truck, I start to see the Psychedelic Ultimate Warrior is a mere mortal. I have to drive back 8 hours to go to work the next day. I have a big presentation. It cannot be missed. Reggae. Sunshine. Rivers. Slowly I crack open the door. An overweight woman in a Raiders jacket is smoking a cigarette. The air is already hot and dry. I throw a giant scarf around my hat. I can’t handle the outside world.
Reality. Oh reality. I guess it was all real. Can’t deny what I perceive is real. I’m thirsty. I’m hungry. I’m tired. The psychedelic Ultimate Warrior needs to find his workers. They are out there making good money. “Crushin’ it!” I softly place my feet on the dirt road. My feet are in pain. Off I crawl to my van, down highway 101, away from the redwoods, away from rainbows, away from superheros. Before I know it I’m standing in front of a projector, saying words I don’t quite understand. Part of me is still dancing while I gesture into the next slide. I wonder if I’ll ever journey with the psychedelic Ultimate Warrior again. It was a good time with a side of reggae. Free will. Choices. Where salaries and benefits don’t mean a damn thing.