Can you write your way out of the darkness? Can you trip your way out of the darkness? These questions have been rolling around in my brain for years. The simple answer is yes i believe you can (science is actually beginning to back me on the latter) and if i was a more clear and concise writer i could end this post right now and get on with whatever it is i planned on doing today. Mainly organizing my record collection cuz for all my hippie talk about meaningless possessions i sure do possess a lot of records (and books). But back to the question or questions at hand, questions that seem to have always gone hand in hand with my so-called development as a human as well as my existence.
So let us go back to the origin of the species known as El Kono, when this young and earnest man-child was in the early stages of his development as both half-ass writer type and full blown psychonaut. The beginning of both my writing and my love of psychedelics traverse a rather similar timeline and believe coincide with a certain event in my life. It's a subject that i'm surprised there hasn't been more research on because the more i hear about ex-athletes and what happens to them after they stop playing the more i think there should be some kind of help for them even if they weren't at the highest levels because even to get to a certain level, say college athletics, it takes commitment and focus which tends to skew the other areas of one's life.
Roughly less than 10% of high school athletes will go on to play college sports and way back in the late 80s i was one of those less than 10%. I was a Division 1 basketball recruit who unfortunately was a little late to the game so that i had to wait to see if the 6'10 kid took the last scholarship available at a certain school in Oklahoma. The word i got back was that (pre-internet) i had signed with a Division 2 power in Michigan hence why a lot of schools stopped recruiting me when the reality was i hadn't signed anywhere. When the 6'10 kid took the scholarship the assistant coach of said Div. 1 school called me and said not to worry as they already had a place for me to play and that they wanted me to go there, get bigger (meaning hit the weight room) and then transfer in after two years. I was banished to the northeast corner of Wyoming where my culture shock rating was off the fucking charts. Needless to say i could write a whole series on my year in exile and most likely will (or have?) but for now will just gloss over it. After adjusting to my new surroundings, teammates, etc i settled in as well as i could. The biggest adjustment is going from being the hot shit star of the team to one struggling to get playing time. What i didn't quite grasp was all these kids were former hot shit stars but i seemed to always have this belief that i was better and sooner or later i'd show it. It always helps to put that proverbial chip on my shoulder and once there things took a turn for the better... and so by the end of that year i was earmarked as the star of what would have been my upcoming sophomore season. I had grown up and was taking every player on the team apart, no one could guard me, my defense was vastly improved to the point one could call me a good defender and i was a 6'4 guard who could run the point or better yet be set up to run the offense through because by now i was scoring at will.
But i was homesick... desperately so.... and my rather playboy ways had made me persona non grata among the young females of the area, my charm not being so charming once you've run through a half dozen girlfriends in my first four months. Small towns are just that, small, and word spreads quick. One could say i liked variety others could say i was a bastard who couldn't keep it in my pants. Both would be correct. But back to the point... after this year i bailed on my free ride to come back east for less scholarship money and the slow disenchantment of college athletics. Needless to say that a rather significant injury and long rehab gave me time to think and get away from the game i had spent my life playing and after realizing i wasn't much in the coach's plan after my first year at my new school i decided i'd use a medical redshirt to keep what little money the hoop team was still kicking me and then tell them i was done playing at the end of the year. And here's where things get strange for the newly christened ex-athlete...
Over the years i've heard story after story about what happens to all of us players who don't make the big time or devote our lives to being nomads hopping countries and chasing the dream of getting paid to play. Most of the stories involve drugs and alcohol, often wrapped up with psychological issues because when one is suddenly unable to do what they spent their whole life trying to do it's a bit of a mindfuck. Hence why you see and hear stories of ex-athletes and their substance and mental health issues. There is no support system when you leave the team or graduate or get cut. You're on you own. When you're not the hot shit athlete anymore you tend to find out who your friends really are.
When i finally hung up the sneakers i ended up in a weird place. Basketball had taken up a large part of my identity and now it was gone. Who was i? what do i do? These were things to be reckoned with and when you go about it on your own it can get a bit messy to say the least. The first thing that took the place of basketball was boozing. Not that i didn't drink before that but with my new found free time the party was always on, as well as getting stoned, between the two of them they took up most of my free time. The other activity that suddenly began occupying my time was the reading of books. So once again there sits the interesting yin-yang, a part of me one could say was self destructive, meaning the heroic amounts of booze i was drinking while the other side was now hiding out in the library reading books. Somewhere along that strange line i wandered into the university bookstore and bought myself some notebooks and began writing, spurred on mainly from what i was reading.
Of course i have to admit that one of the reasons i began writing was what i call the Rite of :Passage of the Suburban White Boy. Basically it involved reading No One Here Gets Out Alive, the biography of Jim Morrison along with a few books of his poetry. But in that biography there were other writers mentioned and in there the seed was planted. Now don't get me wrong as i'm not here to harsh on The Doors or Jim as i do actually like their music. At this time i was listening to quite a bit of it along with my indie hipster stuff and like most suburban white boys caught in this cycle dreamt of being the Lizard King. It was after this school year that i ended up in that rooming house in Ocean City where two more major events of my life took place. Wandering into the 2nd St. book store and walking out with books by Henry Miller, Kerouac, Bukowski, Burroughs, Hunter Thompson, Jean Genet and devouring them. I'm not sure how many books i read that summer but it was well over 25 in the couple months i was there. I couldn't get enough and found that each week when i got my paycheck the first thing i did was put aside the drug money and then run down to the bookstore to buy more books.
The second event was that fateful night where i took my first hit of acid followed a few days later by my first dose of mushrooms. In the great weed drought of the summer of '91 the one thing that was abundantly available was acid, the shrooms not so much but they were about and i grabbed my share but at this point my first love was most definitely LSD... and oh what glorious stuff it was as those who remember those days can attest that the blue peace sign tabs of that year were of the highest quality. Most of my acid adventures of that summer have been documented here on the lounge so i won't repeat them but it was those two events combined that somehow helped me figure out who i was and what i wanted to do... not that either of those things involved some sort of career or success or monetary gain but they did give me a way through, taught me that i was more than just some kid who was good at tossing an orange ball through a metal hoop. I kept on writing all that summer, the shittiest poetry one could imagine... and haven't stopped since. Except for a few years in the wilderness where i was a bit too busy to be bothered but i often laugh and state those years were research.
So while things in these parts have veered towards the darkness these days i understand, the universe is made of light and dark and last weekend while i huddled on my couch bed listening to music in the dark, the boomers kicking through my system, there was a slight smile stuck on my face, in the middle of the literal and figurative darkness i was currently occupying i gazed towards the starlight slipping through the shades, i got up and wandered towards the window, i stretched my aching back, and i knew, as i've always known that i was nothing and everything, not a basketball player or writer or addict or priest, i was the eternal now, just as we all are if we'd only stop and realize it. The point of life is to live it and sometimes in the process of such we will encounter spaces where we must navigate the darkness (and the light) with whatever tools we have at are disposal... and we have many tools if we choose to use them... so while the pen and the fungi (among other substances) are tools they can only be effective in combination with the self and if we choose to put them to work... though the self is nothing more than a word for the cosmic hum that we are and the tools nothing more than ways to pluck the strings so we can hear the music, so we can dance... and really? isn't that the whole point?