Another new year, another chance to drink a bit too much, sleep less, and generally disappoint your parents. Here we provide you with a compilation of stories from your fellow students to help ease the shame you still feel from that Christmas party where you had a few too many rum and eggnogs, ate all the cocktail shrimp, and passed out spooning the dog. Find comfort in learning it could have been so much worse.
New Year’s Nausea
Each year around the beginning of December the same brief, somewhat scrambled conversations are heard:
“What are your plans for New Years?”
“How are you ending this year and starting the fresh one?”
Many place almost superstitious effort into determining where and how they will celebrate the turnover, as if whatever it is that you do will resonate on and influence the entirety of your year.
I’m not the type to place much stock on this kind of religiosity, so my partner and I decided to stay in this year, give the “quiet night alone on New Years” thing a shot. We prepped for the evening with a trip to the liquor store, a bottle of wine for each of us made sense, it was New Year’s after all. Once back, we settled in, bottles in hand and cued up Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket on the TV.
As we cozied up and made our way through the wine and movie our social instincts began to jitter.
“I really don’t know if I can handle unceremoniously sitting through the turn of the year,” I said to my partner. “Maybe we can head over to a nearby friend’s place around 11ish and just spend an hour or so out before turning in?”
She agreed, and so once the film was over and the wine was done we made our way (walking, as at this point in the bottle of wine driving was out of the question) up the hill to a nearby NYE celebration.
We stumbled our way over and greeted our surprised, smug friends by ignoring their jabs that they knew we wouldn’t make it through the night without a little partying.
Being only moderately social we slipped out back of the party to sip on a cigarette. Several others were already congregated with similar intentions.
I did not know most of them, but one of them, eager to make a friend, offered me a drag on his joint.
“It’s an oil joint, so take it easy,” my new friend said.
I proudly shrugged and took my long, deep toke before passing it on. It came back around a few times; each time I took my turn. I’m only moderately acquainted with the well known party treat of Mary-Jane, but I figured my past experience made me ready for whatever this oil joint had to offer.
Before long, the effects set in and I became deeply certain that I was now, in fact, God. I recalled how I had created everything at one point and that all of existence was simply for my own entertainment and viewing pleasure.
About half an hour later I was on my hands and knees on the sidewalk down the street from my friend’s celebration puking up a litre of wine and my dinner from earlier that evening. My partner patted my back consolingly as my certainty of being God began to come into question. Everything was hazy, spinning, and altogether hopeless. This must be my three days in hell.
I continued like this, pausing every 10 steps to wretch a little more, down the hill and back to my house only by the will of my partner who so graciously half-carried me all the way home.
I arrived at my stoop but did not possess the functions to enter the house nor could I even comprehend the idea of climbing the stairs to my bed. So I sat there eyes shut, head spinning as I continued to puke onto the sidewalk in front of me. In the distance I heard concussive explosions and the banging of metal pots. My partner ruffled my hair and whispered in my ear.
“Happy New Year, babe.”
Every time I see the large, iron cross which still sits at the foot of my bed I’m reminded of the time I, along with a few others of course, smoked a little too much marijuana and thought that it was a good idea to steal a grave marker from a graveyard.
It’s not as bad as it sounds; we didn’t actually dig the cross out of the ground and away from the grave that it identified. It was laying off to the side, close to the outlining fence of a graveyard that seemed abandoned, at least by landscapers, and like it hadn’t seen any new residents move in anytime recently. Barely visible through the tall grass, the cross seemed to simply have been dropped and forgotten there. But the name, Josephine, and age at time of death (no actual dates or anything) implied that it was once in use, despite how rusted and weathered it now looked.
The night began with us smoking weed in the abandoned graveyard. It was a clear summer night, and I remember feeling strange that in all the tall grass and old oaks there wasn’t the sound of a single insect or animal; no cricket chirping, frog, or caw from a crow. It was dead silent. As our paranoia grew, we began to worry if we would be able to lift the gravestone. When the time came, we walked from our spot on the hill and across the yard. We stayed in the shadows of the tall trees lining the overgrown path, reached the cross, and all four of us dragged it out through the tangled and snagging weeds to the trunk of the car without being detected. It was easier than we thought it would be, and it didn’t take long at all until the cross was relocated as a staple decorative piece in my living room.
That didn’t last, though; the roommate was creeped out at the thought of having a gravestone in her living room. So, rather than taking the cross back to its home like I should have, it was instead moved into my bedroom because that seemed like an easier solution at the time than dragging it back out to my car and to the graveyard it was originally from.
The cross has now been in my room longer than I’d like to admit and I usually just forget it’s even there, until someone notices it and I have to tell the story, trying to relay that I’m not a maniacal sociopath but rather just got really baked one time and haven’t gotten around to getting rid of it. I really should do that soon though.
Catching up with old friends
I had just finished spending an afternoon with a friend. I’d driven over to chat and, by-the-by, touch base. We both were still alive and doing well, maybe a little stressed — they with their challenging-yet-rewarding day job, me with my part-time job and my studies.
Take heart, we each told the other, those early greying locks in our mid-‘50s will surely be worth it. Tension can only be a sign of productivity. And after all, it’s not as if we can’t take breaks. “As a matter of fact,” said my ambiguous, unnamed compadre, slyly reaching into his jacket pocket, “why don’t we take one now?” He lit the hand-rolled cigarette in his hand, inhaling before offering it to me. As we walked through the park at dusk our intentions seemed altogether unambiguous. Blunt, even.
After a while we finished talking and parted ways. By now the sun was down and I started walking in the direction of my car. He had scarcely left, when I saw it. A cop car was slowly rolling down the street. It pulled to the curb some good feet behind me and turned its engine off. “Woop-woop,” it chirped as its lights turned on.
Beautiful. I thought as the vehicle’s engine turned over and the car crawled toward me. The window began descending. Just great.
“How are you doing, officer?”
“Alright. And how are you yourself?”
“Oh, not bad. Just out for a walk.”
“Look, I’m going to cut to the chase here. You reek of pot.”
Well, he had me. What was I going to say? At least he was cordial. “Look, I don’t want to search you,” he said, eyeing me over. “So how about you just hand over whatever it is you have.”
I said I didn’t have anything (and friends, that’s the truth). He believed me apparently, because he said, “I don’t know whose car that is over there but I’m going to be driving around, and if I see it I’m going to make sure you’re not the one driving it.”
Which was a reasonable thing to say to my inebriated self. So I agreed: “Fair enough.”
I called a friend who very graciously called another and they drove the relatively short distance home. Sure enough, the law stops us to peek in the window and nod patronizingly. “Carry on.”
I want off this wild ride
On April 10 I thought I was witnessing my own death. I don’t smoke much, so my first experience with edibles (double dose cookie that was a little dry; also, I prefer smarties to chocolate chips) went about as well as you would expect. I was having a great time during the climb, but things slowly began unravelling as the magic medicine began to do its work. It was small at first; my friends had been planning a road trip for a while, but I began to zone out since they were repeating a story about their itinerary that I thought I had already heard earlier that day. I zoned back in, but still got the feeling that the story and the moment seemed eerily familiar. I had that déjà vu feeling in my gut and was getting uneasy. It was as if every single word spoken, every small movement made, even my own thoughts were echos from a memory past. It was an intense and panic-inducing déjà vu, and of course my only reasonable explanation for it was that I had in fact already died and these memories being played were synapses firing off in my brain in a last hurrah. I tried to ground myself in time, I started cross-examining my friends as to how we had gotten there, what we had done earlier, and how they could prove that it was in fact April 10 and we had not had this conversation before. You wouldn’t believe the terror in my heart when the YouTube playlist on the television played a Kid Cudi song followed by a remix with the same lyrics.
All in all it was a pretty crappy evening. There were a few moments, though, where I felt like I was peeling at the corner of reality and catching a small glimpse of what was behind it. Of a universe of caves, shadows, mirrors, and masks.
Still, just going to stick to bongs from now on, they have never yet failed me or my sanity.
Shrooms killed me, and then they saved my life
I was always one of those kids who wanted to be practically everything when I grew up: a doctor, an archaeologist, a marine biologist, a rockstar, an artist, a writer — the list was long. And suddenly I found myself in my early 20s, on no particular career path because I had never been able to narrow it down.
One night I was invited to eat some psilocybin (“magic”) mushrooms with a few friends. I had tried shrooms a couple of times before and both experiences had been very positive, so I joined in. Later that night after everyone had gone home, my trip suddenly took a very dark turn. I somehow became convinced that it was my last night on Earth. Reflecting on my life, I was horrified at how little I had accomplished. I had once had so many dreams and aspirations, yet I was still stuck working a crumby job, in a dead-end town, not on any path towards any one specific goal. I had wasted so much time, and now, once I was gone, what would I have left behind that would resonate? What would I be remembered for? What good had I done, not just for myself, but for others as well?
My spouse, sitting in the chair next to me, could barely contain giggles, trying over and over to convince me that I was in fact fine, and not going to die. “You don’t understand!” I wailed, “I wanted to do so much, and I wasted so much time, and now what do I have to show for it? I wanted to make a lasting, positive impact on the world if I could, and do something that would help others, that might keep helping even after I’m gone…”
And it was that moment, in my bad-shroom-trip-fuelled mind, that I finally decided. I had always had a natural talent and affinity for biology, and as much as I love my music, art, and other fields of interest, I decided that utilizing, nurturing, and expanding upon my skills in science would be the best way to hopefully achieve my goal. Being an epileptic, I was always drawn to the idea of helping those suffering from some form of epilepsy, especially those with far more severe types than my own. (Like cancer, epilepsy is not a single disease, but a large group of them.)
Many years later, here I am! Still alive, and a third-year biology major in the bachelor of science program at our lovely UFV, aspiring towards a career in genetics — it has been discovered that different types of epilepsy can be attributed to different genetic mutations, and targeted gene therapy may lead to breakthroughs which could vastly improve the quality of life for, and even save the lives of, many people.
Since then, I’ve eaten psilocybin mushrooms again on a few occasions and thankfully haven’t had any other frightening bad trips. But I can’t deny that as scary as it was, I am also very glad that the scare helped me finally get off my butt, make a decision, and start working harder to make my dreams a reality. As Jack Kornfield wrote in Buddha’s Little Instruction Book: “The trouble is, you think you have time.”
Rice whiskey tastes like oblivion
I arrived in Luang Prabang that afternoon after a three-day slow boat down the Mekong river from North Thailand into Laos. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO world heritage site for its pristine temples and shockingly majestic architecture. After walking the main road, which was vaulted (as it is every day) with elaborate tents housing local merchants peddling handmade fabrics, journals, incense, and jewelry, I found a clean cheap room down a cobblestone alley a few turns off the main street, shucked my bag, and headed back out to sample the traditional food. I meandered along the road overlooking the river and wound up throughout different alleyways, all of which were uncommonly spotless, until I found a nice little hole in the wall where a few locals were eating and I was the only foreigner in sight. I ordered a chicken soup for $3 and it was the most truly spicy thing I have ever eaten; not a spice that burns your mouth or makes your nose run, a consuming heat that you feel in your blood like a shot of moonshine that stings your extremities and opens every pour and sweat gland. There were two middle-aged men sitting at a table deeper in the restaurant / home and after I had finished my soup they beckoned me over. They had been laughing and banging on the table and seemed to be having a good time, so I joined them and was immediately treated to a shot of homemade rice whiskey. They were drinking out of an old plastic water bottle, pouring the cloudy liquid into a tiny plastic shooter a little bigger than a bottle cap and splashing it down their throats. It tasted like paint thinner. The one man spoke broken English and taught me Laos phrases while his partner transitioned from stoic concentration as I pronounced each word to howling with laughter. One amazing part of Laos drinking culture is how after one person takes a shot, that person then continues to shake the hands of all the other party members present.
So there I was, feeling fine on rice whiskey repeating endless foreign phrases and shaking hand after hand all the while. The broken English guy managed to say “bowling,” and before I knew it I was in the back of a puny flatbed truck whizzing through the late afternoon city while the driver honked and waved at all of his friends (which seemed to be everyone we passed) and they all pointed at me and laughed, yelling things at him that I’m sure meant “Oh, you crazy old fool, where are you going with that foreigner on the back of your truck,” and he replied with what could only have been “This is my new best friend from Canada and I’m going to introduce him to the boys and then we’re going have a ball.”
I don’t know how long I was on the back of the truck. The moonshine rice whiskey hit hard and all I remember is the truck stopping and me stumbling off the bed now completely drunk in the dark of night. We walked toward the bowling alley, which was a succession of dirt lanes outside of a warehouse-type building that sold beer. The game was called petanque (similar to bocce or curling) and the facility was called a boulodrome, one of a million similar Laos-style bowling facilities across the country. There were nearly a dozen of us now. I bought a round of beer. They kept pouring shots. Karaoke blared from a covered area near the back. It was a barrage of throwing a metal ball down a dirt lane, sipping beer on ice, shooting back that vile whiskey, and everybody shaking everybody’s hands. And then darkness.
The rest of the night comes through in flashes. Laying on the bed of the truck driving back to Luang Prabang I locked my arm around the metal grate against the cab to stop myself from rolling off into oblivion. Darkness. Dropped off on some unknown street near where we’d started drinking that afternoon, but now everything was closed-up and looked uniform and indistinguishable. It was around this time that I realized (in my dim and diminished mind) I hadn’t remembered the name of my hostel, or written down the address. Darkness. I stumbled hopelessly through random side streets for God knows how long, not recognizing anyplace nor anything and too drunk to even care. The next thing I remember is standing in front of a door wobbling back and forth. I don’t know how I ever found my room that night; maybe the Buddha had mercy on my pathetic state, for even to this day it seems nothing short of a miracle. Standing there, swaying in a glassy-eyed stupor, I had to focus all of my energy into getting my key into the doorknob. I pulled the key from my pocket, considered it, wobbled, and felt an overwhelming sense of pride, as if I was the most competent person in the world when I slid the key seamlessly into the lock on the first try and opened the door; from there it’s all darkness.