Saturday, February 19, 2011
Cities of the Plain
Purchase at Talking Leaves...Books.
During our senior year in high school, M. and I both discovered the Grateful Dead. I think we went to our first show in the summer of 1986 at RFK Stadium in Washington. Not long after that, M. went off to school in Wheeling, WV, and I moved to Colorado, having decided to take a year off before college. As it happened, I ended up attending Wheeling after I returned. Not because of M., but because it was the only college that would have me!
We remained friends, but the friendship was strained at times due to my being a late arrival on the scene. M. had made a new set of friends and they had all gone through the inevitable bonding process that takes place among freshman at any college. Whatever our friendship had been, it did not include that particular bond.
My year at Wheeling was a difficult one emotionally. That same sense of being outside of everything, of not having a niche, increased along with my consumption of drugs and alcohol. The spiral of abuse that led to my sobering up two years later began at Wheeling. The drug culture there was such that I don't think there was any other culture to speak of.
One experience in particular I think captures the feelings I had there.
This night began as any other: lots of drinking and pot smoking. Then someone started handing out some kind of hallucinogen, which I took more than I should have. By dawn everyone had gone to sleep at a party I'd attended, so I tiptoed out of the house and walked back to campus.
Shadows cast by the rising sun distorted everything naturally, my addled brain did the rest. I had the feeling suddenly that I was a tiny creature, no taller than an ant, wandering among these colossal brick buildings and dark, gargantuan mountains. I became terribly frightened that someone or something might step on my head and crush the life out of me. I eventually managed to zigzag back to my dorm room and close my eyes. I was still hallucinating after sleeping for twelve hours.
In the fall, M. and I decided to go back to DC to see the Dead at the Capitol Center. I think they played three or four shows that September and we had tickets to all of them. Our plan was to get a ride to DC and then hitchhike back. (My memory goes blank here -- I have a sense that we might have actually hitchhiked to DC, but I can't say for sure). We had a great time at the concerts, though I recall one night M. was so out his mind he mistook the exit for the entrance and left the concert halfway through. The guards refused to let him re-enter, and I found him sulking in the parking lot afterwards.
Someone, I forget who, drove us from DC to a place called Grantsville, MD., about an hour or so on the road toward Wheeling, which was five hours from DC. Grantsville was a quiet old farm town along route 70 west. We stood on the onramp for 3 hours trying to get a ride, but no one would pick us up. Eventually, we had to call someone at school to make the 4 hour drive down to get us, otherwise we'd have been stranded there.
At the end of the year, I transferred out of Wheeling to George Mason University in Virginia. Our friendship wasn't over at the point, but it began to change until it faded eventually away.
Off to doggy obedience class -- no excerpt today!