The Stanford Prison Experiment

I made the mistake of watching The Stanford Prison Experiment on Netflix the other night.

This is not a bad film. It’s fairly well portrayed. The set design, the clothing, the music, everything was well done. It’s the subject matter that fucked me up. See, I knew what the Stanford Prison Experiment was. My mistake was not reading more about it or looking at photos taken of the ‘inmates’. I just queued that shit up like it was Stranger Things.

[Oh, but you can bet your ass I’m still pissed off about Bob.]

If you want to see a perfect example of sociopathic tendencies, narcissism, and what happens when authority goes unchecked, The Stanford Prison Experiment will show you. And it will fuck you up.

It starts off with a bunch of young male college students being interviewed to be part of Dr Phillip Zimbardo’s experiment. All of them are doing it for the same reason: they need the money [$15 USD a day, which is about $98 in 2018 money]. You only see one ‘perpetrator’ being arrested by city police. He’s blindfolded on the spot and taken to the fake prison, which was created in the basement of Jordan Hall, Stanford’s psychology building. There he was stripped, searched, and given what looked like a jute ‘dress’ to wear. It had one chest pocket with a number sewn on. He and the other prisoners were also given sock caps that reminded me of women’s knee-high nylon stockings.

Nine prisoners shared three cells, each furnished only with camp beds. The ‘yard’ was the hallway. Across the room was a supply closet labelled ‘The Hole’.

Nine guards were issued khaki uniforms and mirrored aviator sunglasses. Each carried a baton. Three guards were assigned to each eight hour shift, were given a ‘break area’ away from the prison cells, could smoke, and were allowed to go wherever they liked after their ‘shift’ was over.

Immediately the guards began to abuse their power. They woke the prisoners up in the middle of the night for head counts. They made them recite their numbers repeatedly. If they weren’t pleased with the results they made the prisoners do calisthenics, at best. At worst they were thrown in the hole or subjected to dehumanising and demeaning remarks or orders. One prisoner asked for his eyeglasses and was denied. Another prisoner asked for his medicine and was also denied.

One prisoner asked for a cigarette, as it was in their contract that they could have cigarettes at certain times. A guard initially gave him one and helped him light it, only for one particular guard, nicknamed ‘John Wayne’, to take it from him immediately and smoke it himself.

The ‘John Wayne’ guard is the one that made my fists clench the hardest. He fucking lived for making the prisoners’ lives a living hell. He pushed them to their breaking point every chance he got. And he made sure to tell the guards on other shifts “We can do whatever we want and they won’t stop us.” And this actually excited them.

In time the prisoners in one cell barricaded their door. This led the guards to confiscate the mattresses from the other two cells, forcing the inmates to sleep on the floor. Soon they were denied access to proper toilets and forced to evacuate into steel buckets provided for them. Some of the guards agreed to come in on their off-time to help ‘restore order’ and ended up using a fire extinguisher on the barricaded prisoners. They whaled on the inmates with their batons and stripped them down. Two inmates left the experiment early when they exhibited signs of extreme duress.

When each inmate was brought before a ‘parole committee’ on the fifth day he had internalised his role as a prisoner so strongly that he truly believed he was a worthless human being. One of the interviewers, Christina Maslach [a psychology graduate student and Zimbardo’s girlfriend], raised concern over the conditions of the prisoners. She was immediately shut down by Zimbardo in an extremely patronising way. Maslach stormed off and I nearly screamed “LEAVE HIS ASS, GIRL! YOU DESERVE BETTER!”

Okay, yes, I yelled it very softly since my housemates were asleep.

Zimbardo went back to the observation room, where he and a handful of other men had been watching the experiment unfold through audio and video equipment. He watched ‘John Wayne’ force the prisoners to dry-hump each other, then bang on the door of the hold where #416 had been held all day for not eating his breakfast. Finally Zimbardo got up and went to tell the men “The experiment is over.”

‘John Wayne’ looked at him and said, “Does this mean we don’t get paid for the entire two weeks?”

In post-experiment interviews, the ‘prisoners’ explained how they felt during their six days of confinement. In the last scene we see #8612 talking to ‘John Wayne’, who showed no remorse for his actions. The other guards were shocked at what they had become when they let power go to their heads. ‘John Wayne’ [David Eshelman was his real name], said he was conducting his own experiment.

What came over me was not an accident. It was planned. I set out with a definite plan in mind, to try to force the action, force something to happen, so that the researchers would have something to work with. After all, what could they possibly learn from guys sitting around like it was a country club? So I consciously created this persona. I was in all kinds of drama productions in high school and college. It was something I was very familiar with: to take on another personality before you step out on the stage. I was kind of running my own experiment in there, by saying, “How far can I push these things and how much abuse will these people take before they say, ‘knock it off?'” But the other guards didn’t stop me. They seemed to join in. They were taking my lead. Not a single guard said, “I don’t think we should do this.”

The whole film made me flash back to my four days in a psych ward, which I’ll document in another post once I’ve calmed down a little. It also reminded me of the Mother Jones reporter who spent four months as a prison guard in Louisiana, as well as Nellie Bly’s investigation into Blackwell’s Island.

The actor portraying Eshelman/’John Wayne’ made my blood freeze. His complete lack of empathy was typical sociopathic behaviour. When he apologised it was with no empathy. He didn’t care if he had hurt someone else. All he cared about was that he no longer got to be an abusive prick without any consequence.

I had to turn on Gabriel Iglesias after watching that shit. God damn, I love Fluffy. He cleansed my mind of that shit. Bless you, Fluffy. Bless you.

Posted in Serious Shit | Tagged , , , , ,

Preview of the Final Book

A preview of the last volume of the Brood Chronicles series…

The Isle of Squawk

The winter sun filtered through the bare trees. Fresh snow lay on the ground. Already it was disturbed by the footprints of a young woman and dragon.

Connor and Jerry walked side by side to the gate. This was it. It was time to face Lancaster and his army. Her job was to dismantle the border, opening Manchester up to whomever wanted to start a rumble. However, it was necessary if over five thousand wood folk were to teleport at the same time to the Isle of Squawk.

At the border she saw two of the Amazonian Ninja still standing guard. They both nodded to her, then they disappeared into the forest. Connor stepped forward, her hands held out so she could feel the invisible wall.

“It’s here,” Jerry said.

Connor looked up. His right hand was pressed flat against nothing. He reached for her wrist and guided her to the wall. She felt the cold, smooth surface. It was vibrating.

“All right,” she said, and reached back. She plunged her fist into the border with the full intent of smashing it in one blow. Her knuckles connected and bounced off. Pain radiated through her hand, down her wrist, and throughout her forearm. Her eyes clenched shut and she swore.

“You weren’t focusing hard enough, were you?” Jerry said, in his usual doleful voice.

Connor released another string of vulgarities. She shook off the pain and tried to focus again. She rammed her fist into the wall and it bounced off again. It never even cracked. A scream of anger erupted from her.

“When you’re done,” Jerry said, “you wanna tell me what’s wrong?”

“Is it not obvious?” she snapped. “There’s every chance Lancaster set up some sort of spying spell, or just a spy, to keep an eye on this area. Soon as I break that wall, they’re gonna alert Lancaster and he’s gonna send a bunch of people in here to try to sabotage us.”

“How do you know that?” Jerry said.

“Because it’s what I’d do,” Connor said.

Jerry sat back on his haunches and thought for a minute. “You have a point. But can I add this?”

“Add what?”

He stroked his beard. “Lancaster probably thinks the same as you. But he looks at you as an inferior, so if he thinks you would do A, he’ll want to do anything but A, because it’s something he attributes to you.”

Connor considered his point. “That makes sense,” she said. “But what if he decides to be petty, anyway?”

Jerry gave her a reproachful look. “There’s no one out there, Connor. And if someone did suddenly show up, I can eat them. And if I don’t eat them, Brenda’s kids will. Or they’ll barbecue them, anyway.”

Connor could easily picture Jerry’s sister’s hatchlings breathing fire on the possible invading hordes. She felt a little better about breaking the wall. She focused her will and started to reach back.

“Do you have to break it with so much force?” Jerry asked her.

She looked up at him. “Yes?”

Jerry shook his head. “You don’t always have to throw all of yourself into something. Save some energy for the real battles. You know, like the one we’re about to face.”

Connor looked back at her left hand, still pressed flat against the wall. She put her right hand up as well and gave a hard push, willing the wall to break. She felt it bend a little before there was a great shattering sound. She closed her eyes and braced herself for shards of something to fall on them. Nothing happened. She opened her eyes and saw the hibernating forest. There was no evidence that a wall of any sort had ever existed.

“Well done,” Jerry said. He turned to face west and pressed himself to the ground. “Let’s go.”

Connor pulled on her flight goggles and climbed into the seat of Jerry’s harness. He rose up and stretched his wings. He gave another deafening roar as his wings began to beat the air around them. Leaves and twigs and a very frightened squirrel were disturbed by the great wind Jerry’s wings created. Soon he and Connor were rising above the ground and he began flying westward.

Connor trusted Jerry’s navigation instincts, so very little was said between them. Several other dragons were flying in the same direction. Connor never expected flight traffic from dragons. Most were flying solo. The few who bore riders nodded to her as they passed each other. At one point she could have sworn she saw a dragon carrying both a terrified-looking wizard and a rather excited man in a flowered shirt. The man grinned and waved gleefully while the wizard yelled at him to keep his hands on the dragon. Connor waved back. Jerry and the dragon exchanged a few words in their draconian tongue and the other dragon headed northwest.

About an hour into their flight Jerry began lowering altitude to avoid the clouds that blanketed the sky. Connor heard thunder and started to panic until she remembered the charms Kenton had added to her armour. Soon Jerry was dropping altitude again. Below them she saw the tiny island they were headed for.

“Next stop, Isle of Squawk,” Jerry called to her over the wind. “Hold on!”

It was the smoothest landing he had performed yet. Connor barely felt the bump when his feet touched the ground.

“We’re in the very middle of the island,” he told her. “Looks about the same as the last time I was here.”

Connor looked around. The island was mostly grassy plains. To the north she saw a long hill that stretched across perhaps the entire island. It sloped down to the field where she and Jerry were, and all the way to smaller hills some distance away. The salty ocean breeze blew through her hair. She shivered a little.

“We have no cover,” Jerry said. “The only trees are near the beach.”

“Kinda reminds me of Simethicone Valley,” Connor said. “Only I can hear seabirds and waves crashing.”

Jerry nodded. “Kinda peaceful, isn’t it?”

“And we’re about to fuck all that up with a war,” she added softly.

Jerry sighed and turned to the north. Connor instinctively pressed herself to his back as he took off again. He took them over the hill and down to a small copse. There he landed and lowered himself so she could dismount.

“I guess this is it,” she said, and she touched one of the trees. “I want to apologise for what’s about to happen,” she told it. “I wish it didn’t have to happen.”

What? Eh? Who are you? What’s going on?” the tree responded.

Connor tried to quickly explain who she was and that a rather nasty battle was about to happen. The tree kept interrupting her. Annoyed, she moved away and asked Jerry to give it a go.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” she said, and closed her eyes. She searched the cosmos for Kenton’s energy and found it immediately. She locked on to it and willed herself to his side.

The wind stopped and she felt Jeremy’s hand touch her shoulder. “Are you ready?” he asked.

She shook her head. “Never,” she replied, shrugging off her jacket. “But I can take you there.”

The remaining members of the English Legione each put a hand on Connor’s hands or arms. Lucas had to reach over Kenton to put his hand on her head. She closed her eyes, found Jerry’s energy, and willed them all to his side.

The wind was back. The others released her and she opened her eyes. Jerry was still trying to talk to the trees about what was happening. She heard him pause and groan.

“Okay, you know what? Don’t worry about it,” he said. “Go back to sleep. You probably won’t even see the battle.”

“You tried to warn the trees?” Layton said.

Connor shrugged. “Figured they might want to know why people were out here screaming.”

There were murmurs of agreement, then they all teleported away. A moment later they were back with a handful of warriors each. They looked around for a second, then they too teleported back. The process repeated until all five thousand warriors had been brought to the island.

“Form up!” Jeremy barked, and every single person fell into their battalion formation. Meanwhile, Jerry was at the top of the hill signaling to Brenda. Connor joined him and looked to the south. She felt Kenton come to stand by her side.

“Can you see them?” he asked.

“No,” she said, squinting. “It’s nearly one now.”

“It’s one on the dot,” Jeremy said as he too came to stand with them.

Brenda landed and gave Jerry a sisterly nuzzle. Jeremy produced a pair of binoculars so he could scan the horizon. For a minute or so he said nothing and Connor tried to calm her pounding heart.

Maybe they’ll back out at the last second, she hoped.

“Ah, there they are,” Jeremy said softly. “They used a portal. Have a look.”

Connor accepted the proffered binoculars. When she looked through them she was confused at first. It looked as if part of the forest surrounding Rickmansworth had been teleported to the island.

“They opened a portal?” Kenton snorted. “They must be desperate for proper sorcerers.”

“I know, right?” Jeremy chuckled. “That’s a great way to open your base up to invading forces. That’s what I’d do, anyway: try to invade while they’ve got a doorway open, especially one that big. So of course Lancaster won’t try it.”

Connor lowered the binoculars and shook her head. “I am so not cut out for leadership,” she said.

“Well, you’ll learn,” Jeremy assured her.

She shook her head and glanced through the binoculars again. She searched for Lancaster and was shocked to find him riding astride a bastigre. The rumours were true, then; some of them had been persuaded to join him. She lowered the binoculars and sighed.

“I guess it’s now or never,” she said, handing them back to Jeremy. “Let’s do this.”

Jeremy put away the binoculars and swiveled around to shout, “Company, MARCH!”

Behind them Connor heard the sound of five thousand warriors stomping up the hill. She drew her sword and advanced as well, with Kenton and Jerry on either side. They stopped at the bottom and Jeremy ordered the troops to halt as well.

“Should I even try to talk him out of this?” Connor muttered to no one in particular.

“He won’t listen,” Kenton said. “And to be honest, I want vengeance for my siblings.”

“As you wish,” Connor said, and glanced to Jeremy. Father and child exchanged a knowing look, and he cried out to the troops.

“Company, CHARGE!”

And Connor raised her weapon to follow her father’s order.

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How to Anger an Irishman

Before I begin my tale…yes, I am Irish. My dad’s family hails from Ireland, and so does part of my mother’s family. We are also English, French, Dutch, Welsh… Just lob about a dozen darts at a map of Europe and they’ll land on most of my heritage.

Since I rarely drink I shan’t be celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day like most Americans do: by getting shit-faced on green beer, eating corned beef and cabbage, wearing green, and singing Irish drinking songs. [Although I am fond of this tune by the Corrigan Brothers…] Instead I’ll probably watch Father Ted and maybe try a recipe for colcannon. It looks like a rather good Irish potato recipe.

Speaking of potatoes…lemme tell you a story…

The first place I moved to in East Point was with my friend The Baker. She likes to bake, obviously, and to travel, and has made friends all over the world. One of them was an English chap named Greg.

Greg came over to visit about a month after I moved in. The Baker told Greg that I love British foods and Greg very kindly brought over some really nice crisps and sweets. He also said he’d make bangers and mash. I was chuffed! I mean, it’s just sausages and mashed potatoes but to actually have them prepared by a real Briton…this made me excited! I looked forward to it with utmost anticipation.

Finally the day came: Greg cooked up some sausages and made a big pot of mashed potatoes for us. There was gravy, so much gravy. I sat down at the table while he bounced around the kitchen doing god knows what. I tried the sausage: not bad. Then I shoved a forkful of mash into my mouth…

…and tasted vanilla.

Now, back then my palate wasn’t very refined. I couldn’t detect flavours as easily as I can today. But I could definitely taste something very odd in those potatoes. It tasted like vanilla. And it created this cognitive dissonance between my tongue and my brain.

Tongue: I taste vanilla.
Brain: Illogical. Vanilla doesn’t go in potatoes.
Tongue: No. Listen to me. This is…it’s vanilla. I know it is.
Brain: Don’t fuck with me, Tongue. Why would anyone put vanilla in mashed potatoes?
Tongue: I…I don’t know. But I know I taste it.
Brain: You’re tasting things that aren’t there, Tongue. Try again.
Tongue: Okay. [another forkful] No. Dude. Trust me on this.

I calmly asked Greg, “Did you do something to these potatoes? Did you add something weird to them?”

And Greg admitted, “Yeah, I added vanilla. They’re vanilla potatoes.”
Record scratch
“You what?”
He laughed. “Come on, Dale! Like you’ve never experimented in the kitchen before!”
“Oh yes, I have. But even I know you don’t put fucking vanilla in your mashed potatoes!
He laughed again. “Go on, try it! You might like it.”

So I tried to eat these potatoes. I couldn’t. They were absolutely naff. With every bite I could feel the souls of my Irish ancestors gnashing their teeth with rage. My departed southern grandmothers whispered to me to throttle him for wasting good potatoes and gravy. I wanted Samwise Gamgee to burst through the door and smite Greg with a cast iron skillet while screaming “PO-TAY-TOES!”

Eventually I got up and threw out the potatoes. Everyone else at the table had tried in vain to eat them as well. Greg was too busy doing something else to notice we had barely touched them. Later, either The Baker or her cousin told me that Greg had accidentally dumped a bunch of The Baker’s vanilla extract into the potatoes, and that he tried to pass it off as something posh. I don’t remember any further details. I just know I stuck to making my own British foods from then on, and got recipes from my other English friends.

Mind you, Editor’s recipe for Scotch eggs is sort of impossible given my current geographical location. [“Go to Morrison’s, buy a package of pre-made Scotch eggs…”]

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At the end of 2017, I took a long look at myself. As usual, I wasn’t happy with what I saw.

I am a fat boy. I know I am. I always have been. I’ve never been one to exercise. I’ve never been motivated to do it, and depression usually killed off what little motivation I had. Didn’t help that my childhood was spent in the company of abusive fuckwads who ripped on me any time I made any effort. So, combine that with undiagnosed depression and food addiction, and you get a fat kid with self-esteem issues.

Many years later I’m thirty-six and still overweight. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, mostly because I don’t give a shit about what others think. However, I know being overweight screws with my joints and keeps me from enjoying a lot of things in life. I also know if the zombie apocalypse came tomorrow I’d be fucked trying to run from the shambling corpses.

My lipid panel also looked a bit dodgy back in December, and my doctor wanted to talk to me about it. I knew what he was going to say: statin drugs. NOPE.

So around 30 December 2017, I pulled out my weight bench, plates, barbell, dumbbells, ab wheel, and dusted off my Nintendo Wii. The idea was this: every day I would spend at least thirty minutes on physical activity of some sort. If it wasn’t strength training it would be Wii Fit. There was no goal in mind other than increasing my strength and improving my cardiac health.

To be honest, I’ve always liked the idea of weightlifting and running. For years I’ve had visions of being strong enough to do bodyweight feats with my lean, dense muscles. I could see myself running ten, twenty miles at a time, especially after reading Matthew Inman’s comic strips about running. [I can seriously relate, Bruh.]

But when I’d actually try to do it I’d get discouraged, because I was so out of shape. It’s hard work, exercise. So I’d lose motivation and go back to watching Frasier and eating nachos.

Since 30 December I’ve worked out every day. If I haven’t done strength training I’ve used Wii Fit, particularly the running ‘game’ since my agoraphobia’s been really bad. And at first it was horrible and painful and I was left a sweaty, gasping mess. And I felt like giving up a few times when my depression really fucked with my head. But I stuck to it and have only missed maybe three days since I began.

I even found something to make it more fun: music. Years ago I used to go for long walks with my music cranked up. I could sort of zone out and enjoy myself. But I never pushed myself. I didn’t have any reason for it. Strangely enough, about a month into my new workout regime I found some motivation, and it helped me push through when things got really tough.

Six weeks later I noticed several things. One, I can lift more weight. Second, my cardio health has improved dramatically. Third, Wii Fit ‘running’ is very different from real running, so lately I’ve been doing short jogs up and down the block to get my body accustomed to it.

What I didn’t expect: I’ve become addicted to running. I crave it. Every day at the same time I start getting edgy. I pull on my running clothes, stuff my earbuds in, crank up Disturbed, and turn on Wii Fit. I’ve gone from 60% burn rate to a record 288%. I’ve cut my ‘Island Lap’ time down from twelve minutes to ten. When I’m finished I’m sweaty but I’m breathing normally. I recover quickly and end up clicking ‘Retry’ until I’ve put in anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes. Yes. An hour or two per day.

What I also didn’t expect: my food addiction has nearly disappeared. I still enjoy cooking but now I eat maybe a third of what I used to. If I’m careful and make better choices I can easily get by on less than 1300 calories a day. Meanwhile, if Fat Secret is right, my calorie deficit is an average 1500 a day.

My trousers were starting to feel snug around Christmas. Now at seven weeks I can wear a smaller size. I noticed a couple days ago that my shirts felt weird. I wear extra-large, so I dug out a large and tried it on. It felt the way my XL shirts used to feel.

This is fucking with my head. I’m not used to this. But I guess if I can get used to running every day, maybe I can get used to wearing smaller trousers, my shirts fitting properly, my feet hurting, and not gasping for air even after two hours of cardio.

I guess I’m not just running for my physical health. I’m also running for my mental health. I’m running to give myself a bit of quiet time. And maybe I’m also running from my past, from a childhood and early adulthood spent believing I deserved all the horrible things people said and did to me, that I wasn’t good enough, strong enough, smart enough…that I wasn’t enough.

Fuck that noise. I’m going for a run. Anyone wanna join me?

Posted in Running, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Head Count, Please!

Hi there, Interwebs citizens!

I’ve been cleaning up my old social media accounts and began wondering how many people are actually following me here on WordPress. How many are reading my posts. Are they cross-posting or linking or sharing or…?

So I’d love to hear from you. Otherwise, I’m kinda tempted to just shut this down, maybe try again another time. Yes, I am working on the last Brood Chronicles book whenever I can make myself. No, I’ve given up on Forty-Two for now and have handed it over to my business partner. He can draw so much better than I can, anyway.

In other news, it’s suddenly become a bit warm in Atlanta. This is much more accurate for our regional climate. I’m pleased, but sceptical.

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SSIDAAK Chapter Six: Drugs Are Really Expensive [Pt 2]

Stupid Shit I Did As A Kid

Chapter Six: Drugs Are Really Expensive

Part Two: The Bad Times

I haven’t enjoyed cannabis in several years. I can’t afford it and my anxiety is so easily exacerbated I don’t dare chance it. Weird thing is, there were only two incidents, maybe three, where I had a bad time.

The first one doesn’t really count because I was just so high I probably thought I was a worm. Apparently I was moving very slowly across the floor on my belly.

The second time was when I was twenty-four. My friend Lauren shared some green with me and our friend Maria. Not long after we smoked I began to feel odd. For some reason it felt like there was a draft in my skull. I was certain cold air was blowing across the back of my brain. I remember holding the back of my head because I was terrified my skull had somehow disappeared. Meanwhile, Lauren was arguing with Maria about whether or not John Lennon beat Yoko Ono. I kept trying to get Lauren’s attention.

“Lauren? Lauren?! LAUREN!”
Finally she snapped, “WHAT?”
“Lauren, was that shit laced with something?”
“No,” she said, and went back to arguing.
“Lauren! Seriously, was it?”
“Dale, you’re fine. Why do you think it was laced?”
“Because I think my brain’s about to fall out.”

And they both cracked up. I’m sitting there, holding my brain for dear life, and they thought it was the most hilarious thing ever. We went to bed a couple hours after that. The next day was Pride Saturday. All thoughts of the weird feeling were clouded by hot lesbian butts.

The last time I ever indulged was a brownie my friend made. This was in November 2009, if I remember right. I’d never had an edible, so I took a couple home. A few days later I told Mom I was going to try one. She gave me an Ah shit look and said, “Okay, go for it.”

My parents never flipped out on me or my sibling for doing the same stupid things they did when they were younger. They knew it’d be hypocritical. I’m very grateful for that.

I ate the brownie. Half an hour went by, nothing. So I rang up my ex, a cannabis connoisseur of sorts, and told her she could have the other brownie. As we were talking the first brownie started working. I couldn’t keep up the conversation. I started giggling. Lisa said she was coming over for the other brownie.

A few minutes later I was holding on to my mother and begging her to make it stop. Make it stop, please, for the love of god! This weird coldness, similar to the one I’d felt at Lauren’s, had crept all over my body. It felt so fucking weird and it scared me. Mom kept telling me to relax, just enjoy the buzz. But I couldn’t. I’d lost control of my body. If I allowed myself to relax and fall asleep, I was going to die.

Lisa arrived and sat down with me while Mom went to get some water. It took about three hours for me to come down enough that I could go to bed. Lisa left soon after [with the other brownie]. The next morning I woke up and Mom came into my bedroom.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“That good, huh?”
“You ever gonna do that shit again?”
“Fuck no.”
“That’s what I thought. I did the same thing when I was your age.”
“Why didn’t you warn me?”
“You needed to experience it yourself.”
“Good point.”

After that night I was no longer afraid of hell. If it truly existed, I had already experienced it and lived to tell the tale.

Were I in better mental health, I think I would like to visit a state that has legalised cannabis. Or perhaps talk to someone here who has connections. Then I remember D.A.R.E. and what it really stands for: Drugs Are Really Expensive. With that, I heave a weary sigh and pop another Xanax to get me through the day.

Posted in Stupid Shit I Do, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , ,

SSIDAAK Chapter Six: Drugs Are Really Expensive [Pt 1]

Stupid Shit I Did As A Kid

Chapter Six: Drugs Are Really Expensive

Part One: The Good Times

If you ask someone if they’ve ever tried cannabis and they say no, they’re lying.

Everyone I know has consumed cannabis at some point in their life. Can you really blame them? Despite all the bullshit our teachers and parents belched at us throughout our formative years [especially during the eighties and nineties], most of us have come to realise cannabis is safe when used in moderation.

And let’s face it: the moment you make something ‘taboo’ or ‘forbidden’, you’re pretty much ensuring that a kid will fucking do it. You’ve made it more desirable. Now give up the ‘D.A.R.E.’ bullshit and the ‘war on drugs’ and start telling kids the god damn truth.

The first time I tried pot was probably thirteen, at a friend’s house. Her mom passed a joint around to her friend, [they were both probably forty], to my friend [thirteen], to her sister [eleven!], and then to me. And I didn’t know you had to inhale. They laughed at me, so I took another hit and coughed so hard. I don’t remember if I felt anything.

The second time didn’t come until I was sixteen. Remember Bongo, from the Christmas 1997 post? Bongo’s uncle was living in the basement of her mom’s house. She and he asked if I wanted to smoke a bowl. Sure, why not? So Uncle packed a pipe and we went outside to smoke it. They showed me how to light the pipe and told me to inhale and hold it as long as possible. I coughed, of course

When we were done we went back inside. I remember feeling spaced out. Bongo made me lie down on a sofa downstairs. She disappeared and came back with a plate of chips [American version: fries] and some ketchup. She told me to eat them, that it would help me come down faster. [Bullshit, really, but I think she wanted me to come down and leave.]

So I’m eating these chips and moving kinda slow. Bongo made the mistake of saying, “Are you okay over there? I’ve seen people stab themselves in the face with a fry, they were so high.”

And I lost it. I was laughing so hard and kept pretending to poke myself in the face with those naff chips. Bongo kept trying to shush me; her mom didn’t know she smoked. But you know how it is. Cannabis can cause euphoria, and I was having the best fucking time.

I finally came down enough that I could drive safely. Bongo’s Mom’s friend came over just as we were walking out, and we were introduced. I can’t remember the woman’s name, but I remember she insisted on hugging me. That was…weird. I’ve met many like her since then. Stranger Huggers.

Later that year I dated a guy who on probation for selling cannabis and other stuff. As soon as he was off probation he was back to buying and selling it. Sometimes he’d bring it home so we could smoke and play video games. He was the sort of person that made a lot of very bad choices and refused to learn from any of them. If you told him “Don’t poke that bear; if you do she’ll chase you, catch you, and maul you”, he’d still poke the bear. Then he’d bemoan the fact that the bear did chase, catch, and maul him because of his harmless poking.

I haven’t seen him since I was eighteen. He was about to leave for North Carolina and had impregnated two women, which he was rather good at. Fortunately, I escaped without a uterine parasite.

Click here for Part Two…

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SSIDAAK Chapter Five: Christmas 1997

Stupid Shit I Did As A Kid

Chapter Five: Christmas 1997

As I mentioned in a previous story, my best friend didn’t get his license until six months after I did. What I didn’t mention is that I transferred to an evening high school, because this bitch is nocturnal and always has been.

I didn’t get to see Soy Taco very much so I began stopping by High School to see him before his mom picked him up from school. She had no idea I was there. It was for the best. Like I said, his parents didn’t like me and they kinda blamed me for anything he did that was bad. You know how it is. I made him smoke. I made him gay. I made him an atheist. Blah blah.

Yeah, I’m still a little bitter about it.

Anyway, in December 1997 I had some extra money and got him a Christmas gift. So I went over to High School and we ran into another friend. We’ll call her Bongo. She will feature in another story, where I shall call her Bongo as well.

So, for some reason we all decided to go back to my place for a few minutes so Soy Taco could open his gift. This was back in the day when mobile phones were expensive as balls, so not common to own. But Soy Taco did have a pager. And while we were hanging out and talking, Soy Taco’s pager started buzzing. Soon it was smoking. Okay, not literally, but it should have. His mom was trying to find him.

Fortunately, his parents didn’t have CallerID, so Soy Taco used our landlocked phone to ring his mom. I could hear her screaming over the line “WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?!” Remember, his parents are über-Christians who attend church every Wednesday and Sunday, tithe regularly, never smoke or drink or swear. So this shocked me that she actually said H E double-hockey sticks.

Soy Taco was so fucking smooth and cool. “Mom, I’m okay. I’m still at school. I’ve been in the bathroom. You know how my stomach is… Uh huh… Okay… Yeah, I should be out in about ten minutes… Okay… Okay. See you.”

We bolted to the car and I drove that old Chevy as fast as I could back to High School. It was only about three miles away, maybe. I drove into the lower parking lot, let him out, and hung back while he walked around toward the front. Sure enough, we saw his parents’ green Honda roll in. He got in the car and I went home.

It still kinda cracks me up, how frantic his mom was. At the same time I don’t get it. At what point did it become a bad thing for a kid to make friends, hang out with them, have adventures in the forest, and make great memories to reminisce about when life becomes extra shitty? When did parents decide that it was a bad thing to let their kids get scraped knees, make mistakes, learn from them, and develop their confidence so they could become independent adults?

Asking for a friend.

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SSIDAAK Chapter Four: Adventures in the ‘Wild’

Stupid Shit I Did As A Kid

Chapter Four: Adventures in the ‘Wild’

When I was fourteen we lived in a kinda shittily-built house. The builders had cut a lot of corners and hopefully were crucified when they were finally caught. The neighbourhood itself was pretty nice and behind the houses was a really cool wooded area.

Mom was working more those days so I had freedom to be a normal kid instead of this sheltered little child who rarely went outside. Which always pissed me off, because when my brother was twelve, maybe younger, he was allowed to walk through the neighbourhood, ride his bike to his friend’s house down the road, go to the lake cove around the corner… You know, be a fucking kid and explore shit and be independent.

When I got to that same age I was forbidden. There was some bullshit argument and ultimately I had to back down. Long story, best told over gin.

With this newfound freedom I explored the shit out of those woods. I was a teenage Calvin without a Hobbes. I quickly found a creek just beyond the edge of the property line. I made a trail to it and would spend hours mucking about in the water.

Only problem was, the creek was so old that the bankside was probably four or five feet tall in most places. There were also places where trees had fallen, blocking the way, or the foliage growing on either side had created a barrier. It was also muddy, cold, and there were snakes hiding in some of the brush.

Fuck it. I was still going to explore that shit. Over time I made a trail that led to a small pool fed by a waterfall. It was so pretty! I explored the area a bit, going downstream first. Then I went upstream for a bit and actually ended up behind some houses on a neighbouring street. In the distance I could see the bypass, and a massive pipe beneath it where the water gushed out.

I never went to check out the pipe; I knew I was already pushing my luck. I had seen a couple snakes slide into the water just a few feet away. I had been cut up by thorns and branches. I had stepped into quicksand a few times and scrambled out. And then there was the time I went out there and the creek was orange with runoff from gods only knew what.

One day I decided to go across the creek and explore. I clambered up the bank and found myself in thick, brambly woods. I couldn’t really move, so I just went back.

Some time later I went to the creek and saw a bulldozer had cleared a trail just beyond a thick line of trees. So of course I went across and stood in a wide, muddy path. Someone was about to build a road. To what and from where, I had no idea.

I followed it and found myself staring at the bypass. Four lanes of seventy-mile-an-hour traffic stood a quick jog from me. Nope, not going over there. Oh look, a big oak tree! I love big oak trees. Tree hug! Oh look, another wide trail. I’m gonna check it out.

Yeah, I didn’t go far up that trail before I heard someone or something. I panicked and went into the ditch. I stupidly thought I could throw some dead leaves over myself for camouflage. I was wearing a dark red hoodie and jeans. I stood out like a lime green Kawasaki Ninja at Sturgis.

I don’t know how long I stayed in that ditch. No one ever came down the trail. Finally I got up and found my way back to the wide, muddy path, back to the creek, and home.

After I turned sixteen I quit having adventures in those woods. I had too much going on in the civilized world to bother with creeks and snakes and quicksand and trails and giant oak trees. It was time to be an adult and do some adult things. Twenty years later, I still think of those fun times and how carefree I was. I miss that so much.

Oh look, clothing-optional campgrounds…

Don’t know about you, but as a kid I was terrified of quicksand and bogs and such. Can you blame me? Films and telly made that shit look terrifying! Fortunately, after a night of researching [because half of writing is researching shit] I learned that it’s nothing like what’s depicted on telly.

Why did I include this? Because it’s my way of saying that most of the time we fear what we don’t understand. Rather than avoid Scary Things or lashing out at them, it’s better to spend a little time learning about a Scary Thing. After that it’s usually not so frightening any more.

Did…did I just channel Fred Rogers? ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

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SSIDAAK Chapter Three: Secure Hold Super

Stupid Shit I Did As A Kid

Chapter Three: Secure Hold Super

My best friend is about six months younger than I am, so I had my driver’s license before he did. His dad took him driving every weekend for a while to teach him. I was given the keys to my grandmother’s Chevy sedan and told to drive with her in the passenger seat. She was 85 and could barely walk.

Nut Milk* took a part-time job in the summer following his sixteenth birthday. I won’t say where it was, except that it was a popular department store and the staff wore red vests. He got to clean up the toy department, which is actually pretty cool no matter what age you are.

One day when he was off I went with Nut Milk to the store. We got some cigars and cigarettes from one of the display stands near the registers. Does that tell you how long ago this shit was? 1998. Nineteen ninety-fucking-eight. Tobacco products weren’t being guarded by staff behind counters. You could literally walk up to a stand, pick out a pack of Camels, toss it in your trolley, and walk around the shop.

You still had to be eighteen to buy tobacco, so I wondered how the fuck we were going to pay for this stuff. I figured Nut Milk knew someone who wouldn’t ID us, or who would just pretend we were old enough. So we grabbed the stuff and walked over toward the pharmacy. He took me toward the menstrual hygiene section, which was an entire wall of products. He started giggling nervously and said, “Secure hold super!”

“Secure hold super! Look!”

He pointed to a package of sanitary napkins that said ‘Secure Hold Super’. I knew he wasn’t squeamish about this stuff, so this was just weird.

“Secure Hold Super!” he laughed, and his friend laughed too. She was also pushing a packet of cigarettes into her pocket.

My eyes widened with shock. I saw Nut Milk was putting a thin packet of Swisher Sweets cigars down his trousers. He whispered that the security cameras had a blind spot, and we were standing in it. If they couldn’t see us nicking things, they wouldn’t bother us. So I followed their lead and shoved a packet of cheap smokes into my pocket.

A few minutes later we strolled out of the store just as casual as you please. We went to the back of the car park where my old Chevy and his Mustang were waiting. There we took out the stuff we nicked. It was all cigarettes and cheap cigars and fire lighters. We lit up a couple of the sweet cigars and one of the ‘nicer’ ones that came in a wooden box. I kept that box for several years after.

From then on, Secure Hold Super was the code word for shoplifting. I didn’t do it for very long. The most expensive thing I ever nicked was probably a box of condoms. I never got caught. Nut Milk wasn’t so lucky. A year or so later he and his friend Crystal were caught at a bookshop in Duluth. The police were called but no charges were filed since the stuff he had didn’t cost more than five dollars. But his parents were pretty pissed off.

The department store closed a few years later and was eventually torn down. A large shopping centre took its place. Nut Milk and I in our mid-thirties now and can do pretty much anything and everything allowed to an adult of majority age. We can vote, buy tobacco, alcohol, firearms, and run for political office. We kinda shy away from that last one, mostly because we have no experience in politics.

We also, as you have been reading, have rather dodgy pasts.

*Best Friend asked me to change his name in these posts, so expect some interesting monikers as time goes by, mostly because he’s choosing them. Hey, I told you, we still are the weird kids.

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