When I called Billy last night I didn’t expect a stranger answering the phone and declaring to me that it was raining hummingbirds. I had figured the old man would be drinking alone, busy trying to die. What I was not prepared for was Johnny. I decided channeling my best Mary Poppins/kindly elderly aunt was the only way to go, and not wanting to freak out whoever had stolen Billy’s phone, not sure Billy was even with them, I needed information. I needed information more than I was free to allow my distaste and infuriation get in the way of my intelligence gathering exercise in futility. “That’s nice, dear, are they behaving themselves?…but WHO are you?” I replied as gently as I could manage. That is the problem with being straight, square, feet on the earth, dealing with spacemen is a drag. What fears and tendencies, whichever talents and hang ups get writ large in neon for the duration, boring every poor soul unfortunate enough to have to deal with you.
I extracted the fact that his name was Johnny, he believed himself to be a flower, not just any flower, but every flower that ever was, and ever will be at any point in time. I quickly saw which way this was going, and cursing the Fates, that had clearly seen me watching the documentary on the late great Hunter S Thompson the night before, and wanted to torture me or at least tease, I settled in for what was going to be a delicate operation in defusing psyches whilst trying to get the stubborn old goat to go to a damn hospital. I failed. I feel like I’m on some ancient Greek adventure, or a particularly impossible Assassins’ Creed subquest, get the Old man on the DMT to the nearest Hospital. Everyone I talk to seems to be an anti-hospital-imentarian. No one wants to play ball.
I found out the psychedelic in question was “who knows, might be LSD but probably DMT,” which means some dark web research chemical that could be just about anything, I found out that they were both also drinking, that Johnny was 26, played the guitar (of course he did..he was with Billy) and had a nauseating penchant for describing females as ladies. He also fancied himself quite the shaman. My dear readers, there is one thing I know for sure is that interesting drugs make boring people even more vapid, derivative and dull. They amplify whatever a person already is, they do not transform, that is just a trick they play on the experimenter, making them feel wholly new and interesting. If that person is Johnny, it ain’t good.
Johnny was peddling a pretty standard mix of jailhouse philosophy and self help book enlightenment with a dash, just a soupcon of sci-fi. He tells me knows a woman (unlikely), a nurse in a jail in a small Oregon City, she is Norwegian but might be German and don’t speak much English, but she is good at detoxing, she connects with people on a psychic level and will help him. Apparently. Boring, Johnny, boring! He had been forging Burroughs Ratchet nurse with Nico and the blonde of his dreams who can make all the bad boo boos go bye bye. Vomit.
I wonder out loud how he is planning to travel through space and time to get Billy and his dangerous alcoholic disastrous tendency to have seizures, to the imaginary nurse from Norway. This is where I am not proud. A veteran of a few psychic wars myself, I figure I might be able to freak Johnny out into calling an ambulance. I tell him matter of fact and clear and insistent…Billy has seizures coming off the booze. Real life grand mal ones. Deadly ones, Jonny. I tell him about the brain tumor. I tell him about the strokes. I ask him if he has ever seen anyone have a seizure, they flip and flop alarmingly, they hurt themselves. Sometimes they bite off their own tongues. I laid it on thick and cruel, acid test style. I put Bitches Brew on in the background in all it’s menacing hooting witchy glory. I asked what would he do if Billy died while a bunch of freaks tried to detox him from the alcohol? I ask him if he feels he wants to be left with that situation right now? I question his competence to deal with the situation. It didn’t work. Johnny, unable to face reality, simply skipped over it. Johnny instead played me a song. He sang to me about being a lady who loves a man, some boring shit in E that borrowed heavily from Howling Wolf. Johnny then enquired, the irritating little fucker, if I knew what permanence was, and promptly asked me to define window, when I asked him what he could see out of it. I wanted to slap Johnny gently with Salvador Dali’s dead haddock until he remembered what a window was again. Johnny is too simple, too empty to have an easily triggered bad trip.
Twenty six year old Johnny, a traveler on the coast of perfection, decided to school me. Little old female me on the intricacies of tripping. He called me a SQUAW, I start to tell him how horrible that is on so many levels then give up. He is the offensive descendent of Hippy Bob and every other hippy free love toad that has ever sent me running to the arms of women crying out in disgust and offense. I was agog. He told me that he came where he was summoned (spooky right?…Nah…dull dull dull), and he was willing to give of himself everything he was asked to. I asked him to give me the peace of knowing that Billy, the old guy he was partying with, was safely in a hospital tonight. That he couldn’t do. He deferred to Billy at one point, after I asked him if he was prepared to feed and clean up after Billy? Was he prepared to care for him, because I was not doing that any more. Jonny whined over to his partner in crimes-against-psychedelics, that his “chick” thought he should go to the hospital. “No hospitals!” Bellowed Billy, selfishly. And that was that. The kid demanded I return and care for Billy. The kid told me what was what. The kid started hanging onto my apron strings and calling for mommy. I almost felt sorry for him. He was way way out of his depth in a way that could turn into an ugly situation real quick. I was not worried so much for Billy, at least not psychologically. Billy has been permanently tripping since about 1966. Tripping is Billy’s default state of being. Billy’s tripped in jungles and in ditches. Billy made LSD his best friend. No one else was happy about the fact, but Billy was deeply in love with psychedelics. He once ate an entire bag of shrooms meant for the entire band, leaving not a speck for anyone else. Johnny started to ask me if I was a cop. Or in the intelligence services. It was going to go the same paranoid way a million trips have gone before. They both decided they didn’t trust me – paranoia is more contagious than covid. Johnny got as bored of me not playing games with him, as I was with him and his stock standard tripping. Billy’s tolerance for my pushing him towards sensible options was at an all time low. It was clearly time to for me to go and leave them to it, but I suppose I’m a glutton for punishment.
Billy told me how they were going to be in a band, go on a world tour, how I would be sorry I left. That I was to “enjoy Johnny’s rap”, that he was Having Fun without me. It made me so very sad. I still can’t do it, I cant go back to him, but it made me so sad to hear how lonely he was, how lost without me, how driven to desperate acts after forcing me to go. I probably shouldn’t feel so sorry for him, he was clearly having a ball.
I also managed to find out that Billy had done more probably-DMT, probably-not-acid, than Johnny had ever seen a human being do before (virgin), though he thought there might be someone, somewhere that did more (just a disclaimer, so many young people nowadays are so fond of disclaimers and careful faux academic ways of talking, they curate not collect, they are so brow-beaten by internet pedantics that it is infused into their speech patterns and the way they communicate, and it makes me sick in a way that only intergenerational misunderstandings can)…., that it was a party, and no one was touching Johnny’s cup. Because it was so revolting that no one would think to steal it. It was the only way, he declared, of keeping Billy away from booze that was not his. I told him it wouldn’t work. I had watched bikers gob into their whiskey bottles in an effort to keep Billy away from it. That didn’t work either, and I figured Creeper’s spit considerably more toxic that a bit of ash from a joint and a dash of beer in the everclear.
What followed next, sometime after the sad realization that I’m now unbearably square and infinitely sober, was something between performance and an audition of the crazy-house. They started singing. Declaring their undying brotherhood. They were having fun. I was livid. How dare they leave me with the worry, the care, the fear and abdicate from reality and responsibility, leaving me wondering how on earth this would pan out if Billy’s blood pressure could not handle the research chems and he stroked out. I asked Johnny to do me a favor, if he would, since he was where he was needed at any given time and being the good space traveler he was, the code of the road follower, he would not find it too tedious a request. I asked him, if Billy died, would be please call me and tell me, so that I’m not left wondering if he is dead or alive. He said he would, if he was aware of the event and knew how to at the time. I can’t believe I’m relying on rent-a-shaman to do that job for me. Damn Billy!
Johnny asked me to bring them desert. Brownies ideally. Ice cream. One of those sprite cakes they do at the local grocery store, covered in thick artificial lemoney frosting. I tell him I can’t and I won’t. He pouts. They love desert. I really wish people who were not my children didn’t mistake me for their mother.
I put down the phone, to Billy shouting “enjoy this, Paltry! Enjoy this! This is for you, babe!” I called back, asked to talk to Billy. I asked him again, if he would go to the detox, or to the ER. I told him I cared. He told me to fuck off. And that was that.
A young man who had never left Oregon, an old man who had failed me in every way possible, as a friend and as a lover, as help and as a human being, telling me that I knew nothing, was nothing, they were special, they were beautiful, they were living on the edge and I knew nothing about nothing. It was just more men being men. Drugs being drugs and life being life. But if any fucker calls me chick again…I swear…I swear…nothing….there is nothing I can do about any of it.