Monday, December 23, 2019

The Mushroom Diaries - Vol. 5 - On the unexpected death of an old friend

Last night i got word that on old friend of mine had died. Fucking cancer. He was 51 with three kids, the youngest a special needs kid who he adored and from what i understand spent countless hours working with and volunteering. The word was it was a short battle. One of those times when by the time they found it there was nothing left to do. It's been mentioned before that a long time ago i was a hot shit basketball player. When my father was sick i ventured back to the old gym to watch another old friend of mine coach. He had taken over our high school team and was trying to resurrect a tired and flailing program. It was at this game when my now deceased friend came over to me to talk about my dad. He offered me a place to stay, he invited me to dinner, he hadn't seen me in twenty years and didn't have to say or do anything but he did. I'm sure he had heard the myths of El Kono that had circulated and how the once wunderkind had walked into the wilderness in search of something. Suburban gossip can reach all sorts of sordid and unexpected heights (though i'm sure not even the sewing cirlces could have dreamed up what i was up to.) Yet he still offered me a place to stay, offered to talk, offered to help. He was the most decent of human beings and that is the highest compliment.

Flashback over 30 years. The summer after i graduated my friend's father offered us a deal. We'd scrape and paint his house and in return he'd buy us tickets out to California, a place to stay, a car, the kind of shit a 17yr old kid rarely gets to do. Of course my summer was not without the usual drama and my boy here stood by and helped me navigate my stupidity. The woman who messaged me the news yesterday was my girlfriend way back then, of course the night of my graduation party she got sick and left and later that evening, early morning actually, i made sure a friend of hers got a ride home, a friend who then invited me in and took me to bed. It didn't take long for word to get out and i was busted. Oh the angst of teenage lust. Really i just didn't want to go through the summer before i left for college without an easy fuck. I was such a thoughtful young man. And so i did my best to show remorse (not the most genuine but a good enough act to keep me getting laid.) My boy here helped me devise plans and work out apologetic speeches, drove me to buy flowers, told me to write letters, it all worked to perfection. It kept me fucked through the summer. It only took 3 days to cheat on her when i got to college. Always the gentleman.

Sometime in July of '88 we flew out to California. We were met at LAX by his dad's friend who immediately drove us to a Costco type place and stocked up on Corona and wine coolers (cut me some slack i was 17.) He gave us use of his 1980-something brown Lincoln Town Car, a behemoth in which we kept a cooler full of booze in the back seat while driving around blaring Ice-T's Rhyme Pays cassette. It was here after an afternoon golfing, (i fucking detest golf by the way but our host loved it and asked us to hit the links a few times with him and since he was a nice guy we did) that i had my first foray into a strip club. Les Girls near San Diego. It's still there. It's where as a 17yr old rube i was asked out by a 23yr old stripper. Over the next couple weeks we were there so much they actually summoned me to the desk to get them coffee and drinks from a Jack in the Box across the street. They were all nude how were they gonna do it right? At least that's the line they gave me. The look on my friend's face when my name came over the sound system between dancers was priceless. After another afternoon golfing our host went back with us, after we'd basically become regulars, and laughed his ass off at how i had become the human clothes rack. Was there a reason half the girls came out and handed me there g-strings? i smiled and shrugged. It was a fine time for a 17yr old kid. We ran ball at Laguna Beach, perused the Venice boardwalk, sat in a dive bar in Newport Beach, spent days trying to pick up Cali girls who laughed at our Midwest ways. It was gorgeous.

It strange how the unexpected news of someones death, especially someone close to your age (he was a grade ahead and two years older than me) can affect you. I was stunned after i had heard and was a bit in a fog and so when the boyos were settled in for the night i took the opportunity to clear the mind. Three medium pinches of the mushroom dust and the guise of a west coast hockey game. I lay on the couch and waited for the onset, the television on mute, the lights out, the intermittent flicker of the tube, i drifted, there is a beautiful and peaceful state of consciousness that washes over one and soon i hit the button on the telly and sat in the dark listening to the sound of my breathing, listening to the general hum and buzz of the world, to the soft steps of a cat strolling by, and in it all there was everything and there was nothing and at times everything melted into one and then would slowly come back, a recognition of the sound of my breathing, the faces of the boyos, a smile on my lips, knowing that the void is out there but that there's no use in worrying about it, it'll get here when it gets here an in the meantime it's best to just ride this wave, not worrying about the end or the beginning but only where i'm at.

So to my friend, who entered the void a few days back, i hope you went easy my man, i hope the DMT flooded the mind and your were surrounded by the faces of your sons and the ones you loved. I remember looking at the blue Pacific on a ridge above Laguna Beach, i remember Les Girls and the golf and the hours of basketball practice. I remember your kindness and i remember you, for that is all we can do for those who have entered the void, remember. It was a fine time treading the terra with you so many moons ago my friend. Namaste.


looby said...

Oooohhh....fucking hell, I@m saiiing on your words, the keyboard's going a bit with lines all over it, but that was great my friend. This comes from a very appreciative stoned friend in Bristol! X

daisyfae said...

as far as tributes go, it doesn't get much better. he was a good human. and despite the foibles and fuck ups of your teenaged self, you are too, kono. god, i have so many similar regrets. they don't do me much good... to let go of all that and find the joy in the memories. as good as it can be.