The Shadow Dragon

I had never seen – no less purchased – LSD before, so when the young man handed me the small strip of paper I asked, “About how many doses would you say this is?”

“About eleven,” he estimated. Normally they’re cut into small, individual tabs of paper, but this was one long piece that I would have to cut myself. I was preparing for a visit from a high school friend, and a colorful trip to Golden Gate Park with him the next day. I couldn’t very well embark on the trip without trying the stuff first, though – I had to make sure it was good and suss out what the effects were before a more public excursion.

I sat in my dorm room, cut off a small piece of paper, and stuck it in my mouth per my instructions. I waited about 45 minutes and thought, “Well I’m not feeling anything. Must not be that good. I’ll cut off another piece.” I did this another four or five times before I started to feel something. Turns out, the onset time is longer than I originally anticipated, and I probably could’ve stopped at one.

I stayed in the safety of my room for a while, then reasoned that I better eat something – I hadn’t eaten all day. I got up the courage to walk down the long flight of stairs to the cafeteria. Halfway down the stairs I stopped and stared at the trees, that were now clearly waving hello to me. I thought it’d be rude to ignore them, so I waved back saying, “Hello, trees,” then I continued down the stairs.

I stood in line, scanned my card, and collected my tray of roast beef and mashed potatoes with gravy. I sat in a table by myself, and was certain that every conversation happening around me was now about me. Not only that, but the small cafeteria I entered was now a giant and expanding food hall. As for my classmates, they were all now dinosaurs a la the 90’s television show Dinosaurs.

I hunched over in my seat trying to focus on my food and ignore the gossipy reptiles around me, but when my roast beef moved as I cut into it, I decided to give up on eating. I pushed my plate of living tissue away from me, and made my exit avoiding eye contact so as not to upset any T-rexes on my way out.

Back in the safety of my room, I turned to Guitar Hero for solace. I played better than I had ever played in my life up to that point or since. It was like I was one with my fake guitar. After a while I couldn’t handle the pace, and I was satisfied with my performance, so I turned out all the lights and got into my loft bed. I tried pulling the covers over my head, but my eyes were glued open.

I pulled the covers off, and was confronted by the Shadow Dragon. His beaming eyes looked right at me, and his long whiskers and body shifted around ceaselessly as if blown by a light breeze. He spoke to me in a deep, rolling voice that sounded like thunder. We talked for a while about life, then he was slain in the instant my roommate threw open the door and drenched the walls he called home with the light from the hallway.

“What have you done?!” I yelled at him.

“Uh… What are you talking about?” he asked, looking around the room. I explained everything to him about the dragon, and he said, “Hold on a second.” He ran out of the room, and returned a few moments later with four other people from our floor. They sat me in the middle of the room and quizzed me about the goings on in my day. I told them about the trees, the dinosaurs, how I killed it at Guitar Hero, and finally about the Shadow Dragon.

Eventually, I stopped mid-sentence, and sat there silently for a second. “I’m sorry, but I feel like I’m on stage and it’s freaking me out.” They all courteously excused themselves and I returned to the waking darkness of the room by myself, hoping for an opportunity to say my goodbyes to the Shadow Dragon who had guided me through a tumultuous time in my night.

Alas, I fell asleep after an hour or so, and I never saw or spoke to him again. If you’re out there reading this, Shadow Dragon, thank you, and farewell.

The Desert in the Off Season

We were greeted at our camp site by a ten foot tall neon green penis that sprayed a light, refreshing mist during the day, and shot fire from its tip in the evenings. We piled out of the Lincoln Town Car I rented to shuttle us to, from, and around the desert, and set up a camp of tents, shoddy 2×4 supporting structures, and an old parachute. It was Black Rock Desert, but there was no organization okaying our presence, no expensive tickets, no large-scale art or upsettingly large stacks of speakers pumping out garbled untz noises at 5am, and no rules.

After being there a couple hours my friend asked, “Hey are you cool with me taking the trunk off of that Town Car so we can fit more people in it?”

“If you feel confident that you can get it back on, then yes, absolutely!” He was a mechanic, so I felt confident in his abilities, and I also loved the idea. We were now able to (somewhat) comfortably transport up to 13 people at a time, meaning we were the party wherever we showed up.

When I wasn’t building or tinkering, I spent most of the daytime hours in the open desert teaching people how to do donuts in the Town Car, and lounging around at or near Frog Pond (ponds, really – it was a collection of small hot springs) in varying amounts of clothes. My particularly eccentric Ukrainian friend liked gathering the small fish or tadpoles inhabiting the pond into his mouth, then spitting them onto anybody who asked why his cheeks were puffed out. It was hilarious.

The evening rolled around, and my friend said, “Would you like any of the liquid acid I brought?” I feel like you can all guess what my answer was. “How many drops do you want?”

“I dunno. Three? Four? That sounds reasonable.”

“Okay, tilt your head back and open your mouth. One… Two… Thr- OOPS!”

“Throops?! How many is throops?!”

“Uh… Maybe like… Eight to ten?”

Great. Clearly it was time to load up into the Town Car and head out into the desert. There were thousands of people spread out over the vast expanse of public land (you were only legally allowed to have so many people at each campsite, which seemed to be the only rule people were interested in following), so you just had to drive toward the lights to find a group partying. For some reason, I was still elected to be the driver, and we may or may not have spent 30 minutes following around a car with a flashing light on it, and we must have visited upwards of ten different locations.

My friend that throopsed me and I stood watching a group burn a five-foot high wooden man, and they neglected to tell us that they filled it with fireworks. One of them zipped right between our heads; neither of us moved. We turned slowly to each other and I said, “Well that was close, huh?” Then we laughed until it was time to move on to the next place.

When we’d had our fill of nonsense, we headed back through the pitch black desert to our camp. I was still driving, but my passenger was dictating all of my wheel turns, as I could not see. “Okay, straight. Left… LEFT! MORE LEFT!” We narrowly avoided a large muddy patch that the car would have sunken into, and I finally decided I had had enough of the driving thing, stopped, and made my passenger drive, which he was basically already doing. When we got back, I did that cartoon thing Homer Simpson does where you spin around in circles on the ground saying, “WOOOOOP, WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP-WOOP!” until I got tired and went to bed.

The finale of the event comes in the form of a 30-foot tall frog with vampire teeth and bat wings, made primarily from wood and propane tanks, constructed at the far end of the shooting range (there was a shooting range). I took my shotgun and lined up with about 40 to 50 other naked or nearly naked people with guns, then someone yelled, “Holy shit, it’s a Frog Bat!” And everyone opened fire.

The explosions reverberated through your bones, and the thing went up in a glorious mushroom cloud of smoke, fire, and Frog Bat bits. Having slain the beast, there was nothing to do but pack up, put the trunk back on, and head home – tired, hungover, sunburnt, and victorious.

A Not-So-Brief Review of A Not-So-Brief Engagement – Part I

I was at the tail end of my first year of college, and on one of my too-frequent trips back to The Valley to putz around doing not much of anything. I dropped my friend off in the parking lot of one of the many strip malls that litter the suburbs of my hometown, popped two hits of acid into my mouth and drove away in no particular direction. After three or four aimless turns, I decided to head back to see what my friend was up to for the rest of the night.

“Sean!” I heard a female voice from behind me that wasn’t immediately recognizable, and I turned just in time to catch the embrace of one of my former classmates from AP English in 11th Grade. We hadn’t hung out much, but she was always someone that caught my eye. She was always dressed in ridiculous, haphazard outfits, her hair and makeup were always a finely-tuned mess, and she was absent from class about as often as I was.

“Me and my friends are going to a poetry reading across the street – do you wanna come?”

“Sure!” I eked out, as I swallowed the two small pieces of paper that were still moistening under my tongue. I had never been to a poetry reading before, and per usual, I was in the mood for a new experience.

The event was in the back room of a piano shop. I was ushered in along with my lady friend and her hoard of regulars. It was dark, had a blue hue to it, and was filled with your standard hippy amount of local art, tapestries at odd angles, and stray cushions. I sat at a table by myself, and waited to be entertained.

“Welcome to the [I forgot the name of the show] Poetry Night!” boomed the overweight, heavily-bearded host with an ironic and expensive black hat covering his receding hairline. “As most of you here know, each and every one of the people here is required to come up on stage and perform something!”

Oh shit… I thought. Maybe if I just sit quietly, I won’t be noticed. There are so many people here… They can’t know everybody.

They can. “You there!” The host was pointing directly at me. “I don’t recognize your face, and I noticed that you’ve yet to go up on stage. It’s the end of the night, which means it’s your turn to get up here!”

Just then the effects of the acid started peaking. I hesitantly got up out of my chair, went up on stage, and sat on the stool in the center.

“My name is Sean Farrell, and this is my first time.”

My memory clicks off here. I don’t know what exactly it is that I said, but I spoke for about five minutes. My memory clicks back on as I thank the audience and walk offstage into a sea of applause, hooting, hollering, and women wiping tears from their eyes.

The host came up to me, clasped me firmly by the hand and said, “That was truly incredible, man. You’re welcome to come back here and do that again any time you want!”

“Thank you, but I really don’t think that I can.”

The rest of the evening is a blur, as I was whisked from place to place with this new group of poet friends, and one old classmate who I had managed to woo with my performance. Bottles of red wine were passed around, I drank heartily, endearing myself to the group all the more as that’s what artists do, and to them, I was an artist.