On my new route we pass a spot that I visited 25 years ago. It was in the summer of '86 and I went to go see the Grateful dead with my roommate at the time, Jim. We got a ride to the show from two guys that I really should have looked at closer as I at the end of the show I didn't know what they looked like.
This show was down in the city at the UIC Pavilion. We smoked so much pot on the way down, I felt like was tripping already. We all had piles of Mardi gras beads that where left behind by an ex girlfriend of mine, around our necks. The Pavilion is a huge indoor stadium, with an exposed beams ceiling arcing over us and hundreds of crazy dressed kids running around. Turns out we had front row seats on the first balcony, near the middle. Not long after we had gotten there, Jim had scored 4 hits of acid called 'Superman'. He offered up a hit to each of us, but the other two guys didn't want to do it, so, Jim and I each took two.
WOW. That stuff hit fast... within a half hour I was seeing things, dark things like hairy shadows crawling around in the support beams of the roof. Kinda freaked me out, so I tried to not look up again. The light show was incredible, throbbing to the loud music, and I'd never even listened to much of their stuff before, so it was all new to me. I could see the entire audience moving in rhythm with the sounds and it got me thinking, maybe that wasn't a band on the stage, that glowing orb of light down there... maybe it was an alien that had put us under some kind of control, reaching out with plasma colored threads to each of us, looking into our minds. Then the spotlights came on, moving across the crowds like a giant probe. When this circle of light passed over each person, they'd jump up into the air like a moving bubble on top of the hundreds of heads. Then the spot light hit us... I swear I saw my feet out in front of me, like I was levitating, only to drop back into my seat with a thud when it passed, leaving us in the dark. Wow. The next thing I remember is a girl doing the zombie dance on the walkway in front of me. She was wearing a tie dye T shirt, and it pulsed it's colors at me as she danced back and forth, her arms looked like a blur of stalks of hay sticking out to the sides. I kept glancing over to see Jim's grinning face, then to look back at this apparition in front of me. Presently, she was gone, time moves differently when your tripping, you barely think, you absorb, see and hear. Your physical body melts away to you just being thoughts and visions. your world was an egg shaped ball with the band at the small end that you faced. Like a million fireworks shows, I let it all flow through me like wind through a screen window. It's like your seeing all your favorite movies at once, your senses are overwhelmed, so you open them as far as they will go. I felt like I was going to become a spark of energy, swirling off into the cosmos, never to return. It was a higher level of existence that I couldn't fully comprehend, like a cave man in times square on new years or on the strip of Las Vegas, bewildered, yet extremely absolutely, happy.
The show ended and we where walking through the crowds. I don't know where the guy that drove us was, I just knew that when I looked over, I'd see Jims grinning face, and so we stuck together. Walking out into the darkness and street lights, I saw a rather fat guy laying on his back on the ground. He had an all black T shirt except for a blotch of colors with sparks coming out of it in little spurts as he rolled back and fourth moaning. I turned to Jims and said, man, I hope that doesn't happen to me! I think we crossed a busy road as I recall horns honking and blurs of shapes, how we didn't get killed right there Ill never know. We where in a dazed phase, stunned by the last few hours of loudness and light, now wandering down a darkened sidewalk, to where, we didn't know. We just kept following other people. At some point, I realized we where in a bad part of town, the west side of Chicago. 25 years ago that was a dangerous area to be out in late at night. I mentioned this to Jim, looked down and said, 'and we are wearing jewelry!" We began ripping off the Mardi gras beads and throwing them to the ground.
We where lost, and didn't know what to do. We found a highway entrance ramp, and looking down it, Jim pointed and said, 'Home'. If we had a car, we might have made it there that way. Instead, we kept on wandering till we came by a store and spotted a pay phone. We could call someone to come pick us up! Then, as hard as we tried, we couldn't string two numbers, let alone an entire phone number. I kept saying to Jim, "I don't want to wake up in a gutter down here dude, I don't want to wake up in a gutter!"
Across a dark parking lot, we saw a taxi cab, so we headed over to him, but he wouldn't open his window, the jerk! There was a second cabbie nearby, and he said he'd give us a ride home. The thing was, he didn't know where Elk Grove was. He talked on the radio in some foreign language for some time, then said yes, he'd take us there. This guy seemed to have his finger in his ear most of the time he drove, digging for what, I dunno. For some reason, he took us around O'Hare airport's ring road a few times, the back end of the car sliding out a few times in the damp night, Jim was in one corner, I was in the other, our hands splayed out to hold on as best we could.
We finally made it home around 5 AM... the cab cost like $77. I don't think we slept till noon.
Normally I try to not glorify my old days of drug usage. We adults have a bad habit of relating the fun we had, but not all the down and dismal days also. And even if we do try to tell kids about the consequences, is that what they will remember form the discussion? Here I am at the other end of that wreckage, living in a homeless shelter not even a mile away from where this story happened, but what part of this is going to stick in your head an hour from now?