Bamboo shadows on a rice paper floor

Today is the first warm sunny day since last fall, and every square yard of earth is covered with shoots, buds, tendrils, flowers, and new leaves. By afternoon, I was drowning in…what? Fecundity? No. Reality. I became confounded by the thought that being alive is so intense that I can't imagine how I've pulled it off all these years--or how I can possibly continue to pull it off. It's usually a bad idea to smoke pot when I'm anxious, so I contented myself with 30 mgs of oxycodone. Thirty is a wee small dose for me, but it's frightfully high by most standards, and I've vowed to never exceed it. Odds are that 50 would make me feel really good, but after a week on 50, I would need 60 to feel really good, and then the day would come that I would lie down to enjoy my opiate euphoria, and I wouldn't get up again.

At bedtime, I added 600 of Neurontin (another painkiller) to the oxycodone and, curiosity getting the better of me, smoked some pot. As soon as I turned out my light, the hallucinations started. A long procession of indistinct gray images appeared one after another after another until they exploded in a blinding barrage of light, color, and movement. Afterwards, the darkness pullulated with images that passed before me like so many room-size flash cards. Some were still lifes. Others were in motion. The one that touched me deepest was that of my dead neighbor, Belle, and her dead poodle, Lily. I liked Belle, but I loved Lily. (How I wish I could draw close to humans the way I draw close to dogs and, now that I have Brewsky, cats.) I fought to stay awake, but the Neurontin eventually won.

It’s now 2:50 in the afternoon on the following day. I feel hyper and am so near the edge of reality that I could easily start hallucinating again. 

Oh, NOOOOO!!ll! Leg cramps! WHOA! I had to to throw myself to the floor to massage them, only I would scarcely start on one before another one stabbed me. Paul Butterfield ( is starting into "East West" again. I've listened to all 13 minutes and 14 seconds of it scores of times since yesterday because I want to go deeper into whatever trip this is, and psychedelic music sure helps. 

The room is now pulsing ever so slightly, and I am very close to being dizzy. Everything around me—my monitor, the pictures on the wall, the chair in which Brewsky lies sleeping—appears to be slowly moving further to my right. Objects are also expanding and contracting as if breathing, yet I'm less surprised by all this motion on the part of inanimate objects than I am that I never noticed it before. In other words, I don't feel like I'm hallucinating; I feel like I'm seeing reality more clearly than ever, yet my rational brain keeps suggesting that it's pretty damn unlikely. I'm also jerking and trembling, almost too much to write, and I don’t even know why I'm having this wild trip. My best guess is that I’m high on some medication that I’m not supposed to get high on, although the only new drug I'm taking is the antibiotic Cipro (to hopefully rule out prostate cancer), and the only problem I've ever had with antibiotics was the runs. I definitely like this better. But what if it's not a drug behind the weirdness? Would I be okay with that? Probably. This will surely sound strange in the kinds of experiences I'm having, but I feel secure enough in my sanity to allow myself to be insane.

...I did it. I looked up Cipro, and sure enough, running amuck in a blind panic while having outrageous hallucinations are two of the 150 or so side-effects, and they actually looked pretty good compared to some of the others--liver failure, tendon rupture, cartilage destruction in weight-bearing joints, death! The website advised that I contact my doctor immediately about the hallucinations. Yeah, right. The odds that I’m going ask a doctor to fuck-up a really good drug trip are WHAT exactly?! Years ago, some other drug had euphoria listed as a side-effect that I was supposed to call the doctor about. I thought it would be pretty funny to get my internist out of bed at 3:00 a.m. to complain that his pills were making me exceedingly happy.

...Now I'm lost in the spaces between things. What is this nothingness that exists between us? Neither matter nor energy distinguishes it, yet we all agree it's there, and that entities which do consist of matter and energy couldn't exist without it. What, then, IS it? Is it a void—whatever that means? Might it swallow me up? Has it already swallowed me (all of us) up? Is that the problem, and does it go all the way back to the Big Bang? I often feel desperate for answers to questions that don't even make sense to a lot of people. Unfortunately, the questions that plague me most don’t necessarily have answers. They’re the SCARY questions, the ones that make existence too ironic to be believable, and so it is that I tremble.

Trembling is actually a big part of my life when I’m alone (I try to avoid experiencing life deeply when I'm not alone because people commonly interpret my intensity as something to be fixed or pitied, and this makes them a complete drag to have around). Drugs like pot — and Cipro, it would appear—that have the power to cause hallucinations, crank up my intensity many times over, which is why I’m drinking coffee and smoking marijuana right now. Life would be easier if I gave them up while I was on the Cipro, but it would also be less rewarding.... I just restarted "East West" for about the 100the time.

It's now another day—I don't know which one—and I'm still lost in a world that looks surprisingly different than any world I've ever seen. I went early to my second ever Qi Gong class today so I could stand directly in front of the teacher, Matsuko. I was very much enjoying the music she was playing because I imagined myself on a rice paper floor that was being slowly encircled by bamboo shadows cast from plants that were swaying in a soft breeze. This pleasant fantasy soon turned into a compelling hallucination in which I lost all awareness that I do now or ever did exist as anything other than Matsuko’s hypnotically undulating arms. I had been mirroring her body--but especially her arms--for nearly an hour with complete concentration from no more than eight feet away, and that, combined with my Cipro-altered state, bewitched me so profoundly that I ceased to exist in my own mind. All too soon, an internal (and maybe infernal) spring snapped me back into myself, and, remembering where I had gone, my eyes moistened with affection for this person whose arms I had experienced as if from the inside. I was so moved that I was contemplating leaving the room so I wouldn't make a spectacle of myself, but then my eyes looked of their own accord into Matsuko’s eyes for almost the first time since the lesson started. She was back at me as if in accepting acknowledgement that whatever I had just experienced, it must have been a doozy. After class, I very much wanted to tell her all about it, but I'm seriously considering becoming her student for the long haul, so I didn't dare risk it. 

By Jove, I feel inspired to write a proverb. Here it goes: "You should neither assume that your experiences during a drug trip have anything at all to do with the people about whom you have them, nor should you imagine that those people would be pleased to hear about them!" 

It is now yet another tomorrow—at least I think it is; I’ve edited this so much that I’m about to fall over—and I just took my last Cipro. I've been in a significantly altered state of consciousness for five days and have even gone out of my way to intensify an effect that the drug's manufacturer considers a grave problem; I'm tired. Really though, if they want you to call your doctor, shouldn't they give you a better reason than that you just embarked upon a five-day, all expenses paid, psychedelic vacation to the mountaintop of the holy mystics?

I finally put aside "East West," and have since been listening to various artists (Yanni is currently doing a great job with "In the Bleak Mid-Winter”). I want to share one of those artists with you. Please do me the favor of listening to Suzanne Ciani's "Silver Ship" for ten seconds. If you're not hooked by then...well, I would be astounded. In the presence of such perfection, I'm ever struck by the thought that it only takes a few minutes of absolute beauty to erase an entire lifetime of mistakes. Unfortunately, this speaks to the rarity of absolute beauty.