Thursday, July 06, 2006

Harping-On Hamburgers and Freaked-Out Fish

"Real Communion with the Universe"
(Borrowed from Williamsburger's Photos, at Flickr)

Less-brilliant drugheads than the doctor's kid in my Ozark hometown didn't receive communications from the entirety of the universe but from bits and pieces of its detritus.

For instance, one friend named "Burris," whom we nicknamed 'Burrass,' received from his experiments with LSD an ability to comprehend the languages of fish and hamburgers.

Burrass was taking acid and working at Lake Norfork one summer for a restaurant, and his challenging job was to tote fish in buckets from the lakeside where they were kept to the kitchen where they were cooked. The challenge for Burrass was how to get fish from lake to kitchen without being distracted.

But distractions soon began.

They started with a simple "Pssst" to get his attention as he was lugging a bucket of fish up the hill.

Burrass stopped and looked around but didn't see anybody talking to him. He was about to continue on up the hill, but again came -- more urgent this time -- the "Pssst!"

Burrass again stopped and looked around. Some old men sitting on a nearby dock were now observing him with mild curiosity but hadn't addressed him. Then came the "Pssst!" once more, and a yet more urgent, "Down here."

At that, Burrass looked down and saw a big-mouthed catfish staring up at him. Now that it had his attention, it asked, "Where are you taking us?"

Realizing that the acid was doing the real talking, Burrass tried to ignore the illusory catfish, but the stubborn hallucination refused to go away. It addressed him again: You! Where are you taking us?"

Burrass gave in and answered. "Well, it's my job, you know. I'm supposed to take you to that restaurant up the hill."

"What happens then?" the fish asked.

"Well," Burrass replied, reluctant but pressured into talking, "the cook there will cut you up and fry you for somebody to eat."

"Are you really going to take us up there?" the fish asked.

"I have to take you up there," Burrass said, "or I'll lose my job."

By this point, the old men were laughing at this crazy, longhaired teenager talking to a bucket of fish, so Burrass steeled himself and got back to work, lugging bucket after bucket of pleading fish up that hill.

Later on, during a break, he decided to get a hamburger from the restaurant, and had just settled down onto a rock in the cool shade of an oak tree to bite into his juicy hamburger, fitting reward for his hard labor, when it suddenly squealed, "Don't eat me, you merciless carnivore!"

This time, he didn't argue. He just put the hamburger down, leaving that still-complaining sandwich on the rock in the shade, and headed for home.

But he hadn't yet learned his lesson about drugs, for in retelling the story, he found it terribly amusing ... as did we.

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At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years ago I did what one might call postgraduate work in drugs. I tried nearly everything, liked some, hated most, and emerged with a bunch of funny stories and interesting insights into human behavior. I stopped when I grew bored and never looked back. I feel lucky. Very, very lucky.

Your posts remind me of something Philip Dick wrote. Doing drugs is akin to playing in traffic. It's exhilirating and fun. It's dangerous as hell. And you'll be lucky to survive.

At 12:25 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Every generation has its rebellion against the previous, I suppose, but the risks have gotten riskier.

As I recently mentioned to my friend Bruce Cochran (the wine-guy), our generation engaged in a lot of highly risky behavior in a very reckless time.

The risks now are even higher.

We survivors have insights, but no one (of course) ever listens.

I didn't start out to write about the topic of this series. It simply grew and grew as I realized that I didn't want anybody to imagine that just because I see the humor in drug-addled behavior that I also look at drug problems in a light-hearted way.

I don't.

Good analogy to playing in traffic, by the way.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:15 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes suggested that before we developed consciousness, a time he guessed was just somewhat pre-Homeric, we were constantly at the mercy of such voices. The high frequency of schizophrenia reflects the inability to reconcile the two states of being. LSD might just be a cheap ticket to earlier days.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I hadn't thought of that connection. I guess Jaynes would have thought we were all crazy once long ago...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:00 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

I think he thought we were all different than we are today, but we lived in harmony with the gods who told us what to do. Since the gods, in his parlance, only speak to those today who are not mentally sound, the harmony is gone.


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