Alone in a Basement, Painting Magazine Pictures


1. Pink Floyd in the Purple Room


It’s the last day of our lives I think. The planes are said to be headed to New Jersey to hit the pharmaceutical plant and finish off the job. But then again maybe they won’t come. Then we’ll just have ended up eating mushrooms for no reason. But that reason is good enough. It’s too soon to report anything. We don’t have the radio on and no one seems to be focused on the mission. I need to know more plus question all signals later after shrooming. Don’t believe in the shrooms or you might do something crazy; crazier than what you would normally do anyway. It’s always hard after shrooms to remain completely normal. Can’t be walking around like Jesus in New Jerusalem. No Gandhi shit here, buddy. Mm-mm. Take that shit back to the store where you found it. Hippies. You know what I’m saying? Don’t Believe The Hype. The shroom after-glow will wear off after about exactly forty ounces of malt liquor. That’ll cure ya up mate. Messes with your head a little bit. But you’ll be right as rain soon as yer start pissing. Therr yer go. Piss all yer rainbows, hearts, stars, and clovers away. Yer horse-shoes too. For some reason I hear Scrooge McDuck talking in my head. Where the fuck am I? Oh right. We’re shrooming. Do not forget the mission! Stand up soldier! Hop to! Dom hears me and smiles a purple grin. Remember the shrooms. Remember the way they tasted. Yum yum. Orange juice, yum yum. The juice makes the colors more vibrant


Chris has a high vocabulary. Probably did well on the Reading Section of the S.A.T. I’m just assuming of course, I never bothered to ask him. It’s actually never crossed my mind until just now. What time is it? It’s impossible to tell with all these black lights and the Pink Floyd totally symphonic in the Purple Room. Lots of color in that sentence. Save it for a piece later. “Pink Floyd in the Purple Room”. Maybe make something out of this trip after all. That’s right. Stay focused on the mission. What is the mission? 


The mission is now to make Pink Floyd in the Purple Room, whatever that is. It can be anything based on whatever happens from today. It can be anything based off of everything that happened before. It can be based on anything that will happen in the future. And. . . cow shit tastes like cow shit. I can’t imagine eating shrooms wet, Cheese is saying. You gotta put this shit in peanut butter. 


Peanut Butter?


Yeah, peanut butter dude. Here, try some. Cheese hands me a gob of peanut butter down  to melt down along with my fingers full of shrooms. 


‘Who would want to eat the peanut butter this guy is offering me?’ I cry and lean back from the unholy. 


They all laugh. The peanut butter spoon hangs in my face like the most obscene piece of metal you could dangle. Cheese has just cheesed the spoon, and now is offering to have me take his sloppy-seconds. 


No thanks, I say and try to not retch up what few shrooms I have managed to choke down. Dom takes him up on the spoon, but this being his room, supplies his own. He dips a big spoonful of  Skippy Smooth onto a spoon and then proceeds to chew some extra chunky fungi. He goes through a Sunday comics worth of shit before this feeling is over; a strained look of consternation on his face as if there is a word in the dictionary for this feeling that he just can’t put his finger. Either that or he’s concentrating on not throwing up. You can never tell with Dom. He’s always cool until that last minute, just before he loses his hoagie or whatever it was we had for lunch/dinner. And now this look of utter yearning, to swallow these shrooms and be done with it. He finally gets it down with that last swallow of orange juice, which does not match well with the peanut butter, but is essential for the vibrant colors we would soon be enjoying on this last day of our lives. He is chewing, choking, swallowing, swallowing. . . done! 


Okay, not done.


Now done. 


How it became the last day of our lives is dependent on who started it. Probably Dom. He was becoming full of insider activity, talking about signs and symbols being shown in the grass. It was unlike him seeing as how he was just a regular guy from Long Island, a decent catholic at that. But maybe it was all that Doomsday talk that had Dom by the balls. I, being the only other member of our circle to be familiar with Revelations, questioned him at length and found he knew it well. Weird dreams became premonitions, then downgraded to feelings. The inevitable ‘what does it mean?’ a strange echo running around locked in your head. He spoke about it often as we lounged around in gazebo afternoons between classes smoking cigarettes and passing weed and fidgeting with his hair. Ah, you’re worrying too much, Sonic nudged him passing pinched between his fingertips. 


Yeah, let it go man. You can’t change it anyways. 


Dom continued to stare at us gravely. You can see it. If you just look for it, you can see it. I don’t know. I get this weird feeling. 


He sat back having made his point and proceeded to look glum in a movie star kind of way. There was nothing we could say to convince him that it was all in his head. After all, hadn’t two American airliners just flown nose-dive full collision into the World Trade Center? The image was fresh and burned into our memories. It only seemed natural that all of us should see this as the end of the world. We talked about it often, mostly with a keen interest to the details of jungle survival. . . But to Dom, it was Biblical. The coming of the Horsemen, The Famine, The War, The Mind Control, the Mark of the Beast, Get Your Spaghetti in This Line Only! I saw myriads of people with trays in wretched gray issue prison jumpsuit. The spaghetti hanging all sloppy and wet.  But it wasn’t only our imaginations that told us World War 3 would jump-off by winter. There were signs everywhere, everyday. The flight of airplanes above us smoking in the soccer field became the drone of enemy jet fighters. The smoke from a heater was obvious poison gas. Every envelope addressed to you remained unopened. It didn’t matter if it was sent from the university or not. Even Rodney the Custodian was laid under scrutiny. But apparently, he was cleared a week ago. It turned out he wasn’t a Black Muslim. He was just Black. 


You got to get mystical when you’re about to trip balls. People may change, landscape get strange. You never know what will happen. We might meet at the end of a circle. We might come away thinking something that was not, or was it, and what does that even mean anymore? I’m lost. Whatever the case and whatever happens, no one is responsible for their own actions. Just keep your goddamn pants on. No wild running or skipping in the woods butt-naked now you hear me?! Scrooge McDuck is back. The boys get a good laugh out of McDuck as he hops around looking for his “cane”. He uses his cane to smoke and passes his cane to someone else. Smokin’Around Town Joe Frasier ducking and jiving doing a one two jab into my gut. I cough and then catch the joint which he now passes me and wiggles underneath my nose like a wake-up worm. Sonic and Chris and Cheese all shuffling now over to the door. I look at them all like “Shit. Is it time to go outside already?” No pow-wow? Shouldn’t we like, I don’t know. . . hold hands and meditate? Get our chi straight? My chi is straight, Sonic cracks, flexing without flexing. Everyone laughs. No avoiding it now. Just pretend to be normal and try not to get arrested by campus or city police. It’s a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Try not to think. Go off instinct. Auto-pilot. Losing control. Stay in control. Don’t forget the mission. You don’t want to get a weird fear of geranium bushes for no reason, making up stories to your grandkids about how you were in the war and the Japs used to hide their weapons and supplies in geraniums. Ambush ya. That’s what Japs’ll do. Don’t go outside when you’re shrooming, or just before, or any moment at all. You just have to wait until you don’t know what’s going to happen. You need to go when the time is right. And keep it down to about four or five people, people you’ve done other drugs with so you have some sense of what they’ll be like tripping balls. You don’t want anyone else’s bad trip sending you spiraling to the ground. Make sure they’re not on medication. You might walk out of there with some damaged goods, hear me pa? That’s rule numero uno. I mean, other stuff they teach you in orientation, but never do they teach you the basics of what you need to live. Someone should make a pamphlet, you know what I’m saying? Get that shit down on paper. Spread it around and help people live. They’re always telling you what not to do, you know what I’m saying? Then what should I do motherfucker? What should I do?


You should calm your ass down, Sonic says as we gather outside the door, feeling the premonition of an anarchist’s fantasy. All of us wearing hoodies with the hoods over our heads. I am the only one who seems to notice it, but after awhile I expect one of us should turn to the other and say, “Why golly! We’ve all got our hoods on!” and then laughingly we pull off hoods to reveal boyish haircuts, slapping each other on the back in black and white, before being sent off to the trenches. No, the hoods stay on. It’s getting a bit chilly after all. 


The gray carpet goes on and on. That’s when it hits me. Pink Floyd in the Purple Room. It’s beginning to make sense. Who else can know what to do or say. You have to be the script! Chinese restaurant on Route 27. You can’t forget a thing like that too easily. Unless it happens all the time. Who knows how often these girls get asked to go eat Chinese buffet. You can’t say ‘no’ to that. The fortune is guaranteed. Like there’s no tomorrow, this girl; and no yesterdays either. Yesterdays are now. Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski, all the things that don’t happen, right here in this moment. I didn’t go to school dances because I considered myself a real “I don’t do that shit” kind of guy, I hear myself explaining to her. Talk to her. It’s that easy. You don’t have to get all Leonardo DiCaprio on her ass. If she wants to take her clothes off, that’s her decision. Talk to her. That’s the only way you’re gonna get her, is through language. It’s talking Joselito- this is the butterfly that sings in the bird’s breast. Like a hummingbird’s wing. You need to move your tongue like this: Th-th-th-th-th-th-th to play the woodwind. I blow and a ball of nothingness becomes the seed which unrolls like a soft little bug, on the tip of my tongue, springing forth now to take flight and open itself within her ears, those beautiful whorls of auditory cave pierced with golden jewels hanging as silver lamps in the moonlight. Why am I even here. When is someone going to talk to me? Someone with enough cojones to get the job done. Her thoughts go ringing from the bug back through silent echo vibration now back into my ears. I can read her mind. I see her. I feel her signal. I look back and say, Well, I might as well go over there and talk to her, eh? Whattaya think men? Should I go over there and talk to her? 


“Stop being a pussy!” someone in the crowd yells, and the audience murmurs and nod their heads in agreement.


Don’t worry about it. It’s under control.


She sits alight the wire like a bird in the last hours of sunset. Everyone else outside in their usual commute to learn something, fall in love, smoke, flirt, or search for a new drug, and she sits beside her two friends Celia and Gwen smoking away the rest of the afternoon, laughing, their shaking shoulders, obviously saying something funny, maybe about you, maybe about me, her hair tossing in the lightly cooled air in slow blueberry fusion, micro-brewed in Micronesia, something dark, rich, and smart. Cigarette at her side, now it’s 1930 Daddy-O, and you’re in the Great Depression. Come with your swing if you think you’ll stay awhile. Maybe hop skip a beat or two, let little Suzy loose and cool on an ice-cube. Why don’t people talk like that anymore? Is she waiting for me to say something? She has the supplies- that’s obvious. Her security in life riding backseat, the promise of a future career elevating her from where I’m standing on the mountains. And that’s a tenacious bubble. One that seems to make its own laws about gravity, never demanding recounts after too large a meal at Chili’s. No desire to be part of the drunken comedy which constantly unfolds around her, hearts of men breaking down into geometric fragments as she walks down the stairs. Everything in its own place. A smile that suggests that she’s smarter than you, and it’s present. Nerdy filipino girl suddenly turns beautiful when she gets to college, that magic summer when next-door neighbors are scandalized through window-shades in the dark. Pools.


The movie stops. End film. 


Where are you guys going? Vita asks me as the boys keep marching forward. I, the broken link in the chain of hoodies, am left to respond. Ga-ze-bo, I feeling myself saying in slow-motion looking into her sunset eyes, the word finally blossoms on my tongue like a strange ambrosia. There’s that momentary echo, as if the word is coming from deep within the outer-space of myself, listening to the faint echo of it as I stand there smiling melting into whatever response she has just said, her lips in slow motion back to me, cigarette smoke rising in soft tendrils from the corners of her mouth turned to smile, her eyes soft and broken rays studded around the pupil which glistens warmly back towards Earth. Is it five o’clock or six? Why it matters is because it makes all the difference upon whether or not this can be shelved along the other files of “reality”. We have to know how much light is dispensed which would’ve made all the difference (for this real or not) end of summer to not be a bi-product of your over-excited irises bursting cones and rods like fireworks. She’s a living face-soap commercial. 


Come back safe, she says slowly, her eyes locking with mine and smiling in that way of knowing. How does she know? She always knows.


Guys, I think it’s starting to hit me. I feel a little sick.


Whattsa matta? You think you-a gonna puke?




I want to check out Neilson.


Think so?


Yeah, we should definitely go to the dining hall after this.


Are you serious?


Dude, dining hall is gonna be crazy while we’re tripping! Sonic cries.


I don’t like looking at food while I’m tripping, Chris mutters.


Me neither, I say clutching my stomach now.


I wouldn’t mind getting some more juice. I’m kind of thirsty, says Cheese.


Well, we probably still got about thirty minutes before it starts hitting us, Dom says after some thought. Let’s smoke this and head over to the dining hall. 


He smiles and winks at me the “It’s O.K” signal which somehow makes me feel better., until I feel nauseous. Why did I not eat lunch? Why she no dancing? Why she smarter than everyone. (Chinese restaurant owner) You not always expecting the girls in college to be popular in high school. They get baby before school year over, maybe these their more studious replacements. It like, evolution or something. Battle of beauty and brain, and then just beauty, then just brain. Then again, people can change and blossom and rearrange their faces if they’re Korean or Jewish. Happy Graduation sweetie!


Man. Can you imagine what it’s like when every guy in the world is trying to bang you? Can you imagine what the world must look like to those girls? The world is their fucking oyster, bro. If they ain’t brought into it, they bought into it. One way or another. Beautiful people don’t stay poor for long. 


Don’t seem to work the other way around though. 


Nah, sure it does. If you’re a good looking guy and you’re on T.V. . . 


Yeah, but no one gives a shit what you look like when you’re going for business. You want something? You gotta just go.


You gotta just go.


Well, you don’t know the answer to that for awhile, and maybe a long while after that. You see the impossible, and you just go for it. There’s nothing you can do about it, and there’s nothing holding you back either. Even if it means going up and breaking a few windows, just to let the girl know you were there. Better than leaving finger-marks if you know what I’m saying. . .


Pass this shit. 


Okay, thank you old man. 


There’s always an old wise man telling you what to do on the space-ship. He is blind, and yet, he sees all.


With tangerine trees, and marmalade skies. . . 


Somebody calls you, you answer, quite slowly. . . 


None of us know the rest of the words. The Beatles echoes out and over the silent cul-de-sac and lawn. People are walking back and forth in and out of the dorms, probably to dinner at Neilson Dining Hall. We’re now choosing this opportune moment of semi-secluded spot to pass the J around quickly, but not so quickly it seems suspicious. Better to seem to be doing nothing at all. 


Oh? That smell? Yeah, I think I smell it too. 


Meanwhile the person in front of you is speaking to you from some other planet. Cannot read your signal. Go. Away. Please.


I once watched a girl take a hit on a glass bowl, she didn’t even know what it was. It was next to this bar in the city called Blue, or at least, that’s what it was called back then. 


I’ve been to Blue. Over on 32nd.


Right. Anyway. they were visiting from Korea or something, and we went up to their hotel room. I was smoking a lot of weed back then. I mean, I’m always smoking a lot of weed as long as I can get it, but you know what I’m saying. I was getting it. So I had this little bowl. I used to call this bowl Chip. Reason is because first time I bought it, I’m saying like my very first bowl and shit, beautiful little thing like this big, and it was like this nice little green and purple glass spoon, and anyway, I had that shit and I took it out at my friend’s house, right? And I dropped that shit. Right on his back-porch bro, I’m telling you!


Oh man!


And shit just got chipped up like that man. So anyway, I named it Chip. I had crazy good times with that bowl though. Finally, it broke.


They break, Dom says solemnly.


So what happened with the girl in the hotel? 


So yeah. . . shit, I give her the bowl right. And I’m like trying to explain to her, you can’t put your lips right on the tip because it’s got this chip on it. And she like, doesn’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, probably just listening to me rhyme and shit, thinks I’m rapping, and plus she can’t understand English, so finally I manage to explain to her in my broken Korean to just sort of suck the edge a little bit. And you know, for a girl that never even seen pot before, smoking out of a bowl is probably crazy. She’s probably expecting like the drug-poster imperfectly rolled weed stick they always show with the kid on the playground and shit. So she’s kind of awkwardly handling my bowl, so I help her light it, and she’s like on her knees on the hotel bed and now I’m on the hotel bed with my shoes off and I’m holding the lighter lighting the bowl for her and all the while I’m doing that, sort of releasing the carb for her too, she’s like, moving her head and lips back and forth and . . . it was like she was sucking my dick. 




Yeah. And while I’m doing that, there’re like my other friend, she’s the girl who was friends with the girl, and my brother in the room waiting for their hit. Maybe they didn’t think there was anything sexual about it from where they were standing, but while it was happening, I swear to God, Mary Jane became like this physical being, or something.


And I thought I loved weed.


You guys ever try that?




Getting it on while tripping?


Man, I can’t even do it.


Nah, not me man. My shit is good.


It’s fucking weird, bro. It’s fucking crazy. It’s fucking. . . WHEEE! 


We laugh as Dom shoots into the air like a bottle rocket and bursts forth into a million little rainbows. My trip might be getting stronger now, or it might be the weed, but I feel as though I can see the gradation in his skin turn from flesh to purple and pink in some hidden candle-light with the sky brightening down to electric blue. Are the lines moving? he gasps later to a passerby on the street. She thinks he’s referring to the dining halls. 


We’re getting there.


We fell silent and passed what was left of the weed in relative silence, while we recounted our most memorable encounters with girls and drugs. My encounters were pretty limited. My thoughts lay mostly on raves and getting massages, and then more wholesome days of emails and instant messaging, when AOL was still relevant. I had a lot of internet girlfriends back then. I was kind of the mack in that sense. But you never had enough money to go see them, or they never seemed to be able to match up the time more than a few times a year when you would go see each other on buses. High school, you’re just sitting around waiting for shit to do. You’ll do anything really. We used to write letters to each other and all, even after we changed screen-names.


Did I ever tell you guys I used to be pitcher on my school’s baseball team? Chris says now, sitting back, the spell of some ancient mariner now set upon us. Ahoy matey. We’re going thatta way. Chris is still sitting but it is apparent that we’re moving down a channel, down the cul-de-sac lane and Sonic is laughing in the trees, but no, that’s just my imagination.


I was the star pitcher on varsity senior year. We were really good. I’m no trying to brag or nothing, but I was really good. I brought our team to the State Championships. Anyway, I was doing mad shit back then. You guys have seen me here? This is nothing to the way I was in high school. You know, I do a lot of shit, but I get my shit done. So anyways, I used to flip a lot of acid back then. Like blotter sheets of this really good acid. And basically I was hustling that plus other things and doing all that shit for free. So I was dropping mad acid, and I got so into it, I started dropping before baseball games.




All of us rising and falling into the rhythms of his dream. The night began to settle now, and the once electric blue was now fading as the shadows of the dusk started settling above us and behind us, in the trees.


Yeah, Chris says laughing. I used pitch no-hitters some of those games. I was on fire. It was fucking crazy. Whenever I would throw a ball, I could aim it exactly where I wanted it to go. And when someone would throw it back to me, I could see the whole trail the ball made flying through the air, and it would go like, perfectly into my glove.


Whoa! That’s crazy!


Chris laughs. He blows an O, wipes his nose, and goes on.


Yeah, so anyway, this was cool all the way until the final game of the season. By this point, I was doing so much acid, I had crazy tolerance. I was doing like, fix and six hits and it was just cool or whatever, but nothing crazy. So one day I get some liquid, right? And with liquid, you’re supposed to only take one hit, unless you’re some kind of like, jam-band hippie, but my dumb ass decides to take three. 


So what happened was the night of our last game, County Championships, I fucking started freaking out, man. I started bugging. Like, it was all right in the beginning, you know what I’m saying? At first, it was like we were playing on this field in heaven. I swear to God I thought I died and went to heaven, and I didn’t even believe in that shit back then, still don’t, but it was ill! There were fucking ghost players everywhere, and I swear they all had wings. And all of us were just floating around this magic baseball field, and it was sunset, only the sky was so bright, it was like the middle of the day, only crazy like, I don’t know, red flowing into pink flowing into this and that, I don’t know dude, it was crazy. . .


And so then we’re getting down to the end of the game. Bases are loaded, all that shit. I started bugging out man. I don’t know why. The shit just like, started coming over me all of a sudden. It always just starts off of one thing, you know what I’m saying? There was this one fucking cloud man, this one fucking cloud. It was like this dark, foreboding cloud, you know? And, everything, everywhere you looked, it was perfect except this one cloud man! And I don’t know why but it just started making me so depressed. So anyway, then it started raining, like, I don’t know clouds came out of nowhere and it just started to drizzle, and I watched everyone’s faces melt off, and I don’t know it was pretty bad man. . .


It seemed like it was the apocalypse, like the Final Day, and I was playing for my soul. I was throwing like the most perfect game you could ever play, but then I don’t know, the rain just got to me. I started freaking out. Next thing I know, I’m fucking all cut-up on the barbed-wire and shit they had on the fence. I ran off the field and my teammates had to run and get me. They said I ran for like an hour.


Finally, I landed in the hospital and they said I was bugging out. That’s where I got this scar and shit.


Chris shows us the long nail-line scar along his arm and elbows. 


We breathed and leaned in, quite stoned now, and feeling all kinds of other shit.


So, did you guys win? 


Yeah, we won. But I couldn’t get my trophy. I got kicked off the team, as you would probably guess, Chris says and we all laugh merrily at this tragedy, of which we knew not the degree, but at least the familiarity of its comedy. Chris can’t help smiling thinking of what he could’ve been if he had won that trophy.


Honestly, I don’t think I even give a shit anymore, Chris said with simple finality, and there became the end of his tale. 


We sat around and chewed it over for a moment, or simply lost focus at story’s end. There was a lot to concentrate on, and things were becoming difficult as we sat trying to hang on to whatever normalcy was possible in this cloud of weed, at dinnertime on the commons, electrified, pulsing, beating blood full of hallucinogenic fiber going straight to our gray matter. Now was the perfect time. Why not? Everyone return from dinner. We will be animals, loose, unchained and unleashed into the world of other men, crazy men, though enslaved in their simple day to day thoughts, still remain to be envied for their decent amount of self-control. We, on the other hand, would see things, feel things, experience things in a world so corrupt and gone wrong there would be no way to avoid that feeling of fear. It were as man first stepped out of the garden, and confronted life’s bleak misery and rugged beauty, and now the sensation of death.


Sorry, if that bummed you guys out.


No, not at all!


That was an awesome story! 


Yeah, seriously. That was pretty intense man.


We walk along the strange Wizard of Oz path. All of us, somehow embedded into the rock and still moving, all forward on the same path. The side-walk is moving like one of those automatic floors you find in an airport, or The Jetson’s. I mention this to the others. They laugh. JET-SON! Sonic bellows. 


You think anyone knows we’re tripping?


How would they know?


I don’t know. Five guys walking around with black hoods on.


It’s cold.


Yeah it is. What happened to the sun?


Nowhere. Just, you know, getting a bite to eat.


Oh really, Charles?


The air has a beautiful blue temperature to it. It’s cool and yet warm to the touch, those last thirty seconds of summer before it dies out on you. Then welcome the coming cool season. But summer you hold onto just because it’s the only thing really worth holding onto for that long. 


And I was like, riding that shooting star like a cowboy, bro! I swear to God. It felt like outer-space.


Dom suddenly turns and with his face turned white looks at us wide in the eyes and says, “I gotta take a shit.”

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