Last night I got the munchies and learned about brining meat. I grabbed a box of Triscuits and left the cupboard door open and noticed a box of Morton salt. I read a brief paragraph on the side of the box: “Brining creates extra tender, juicy and flavorful meat. It does so by locking in meat’s natural juices, which prevents meat from drying out while cooking. To brine, you simply soak the meat in a solution of salt and water prior to cooking.” This is how I spent the last few minutes of 2018. I heard a motorcycle go by at a tremendous speed. I could hear the scream of the engine. This was followed by the excited voices of men and women. This guy was in a hurry to die. Would he even live to see 2019?
At 11:50 p.m. we went out to watch the fireworks on the Space Needle. I noticed a huge crowd of people just a few feet below, on Fifth Avenue North. Where had they all come from? It was as if a number of charter buses had brought them up here. Was the crowd below so huge that this was now a good vantage point? One of them sent a giant bottle-rocket high into the air. It squiggled its way into the sky and then exploded loudly. Ka-boom! Bright red flakes of fire came drifting down.
One o’clock on New Year’s Day R and I went for a run. I put on my shirt and running pants and did 50 quick push-ups. I grabbed my socks and shoes and filled a plastic baggie with peanuts and put them by the hallway door. Then I did another series of 50 push-ups. The push-ups weirdly alleviate the arthritic pain my right shoulder. I put on my jacket and went out in the hallway and was joined by R. As soon as I went out I saw four or five crows waiting for me. R went back in the building for something and I continued to the bottom of our street and tossed some peanuts on a small patch of lawn. More and more crows appeared and swooped to the ground to grab a peanut. It’s become increasingly obvious that they know where I live and convene nearby at the approximate time I leave the building, which is generally around 2:00 p.m. My relationship with these birds is becoming stronger and I like that. I like feeling close to them. They’re highly intelligent birds and fly with great joy and imagination. R appeared and we began going up the switchback trail through Bhy Kracke Park. We emerged at Bigelow and began our run. It was sunny but bitingly cold. Fortunately it never takes much time to warm up.
There are a few other places along this four-mile run where I encounter crows that have grown familiar with me and my bag of unsalted peanuts. I stopped to feed four at McGraw and a few more by the library. After I toss the peanuts the crows continue to follow me. I don’t know who’s who. I haven’t gotten close enough to notice any mannerisms or qualities unique to a particular crow. I do know that they follow me. They’ll go a certain distance and then stop. I think they have territories.
I began feeding the crows last summer. I noticed a dramatic decline in insects and have since learned that the decrease in insect populations is global and calculated to be in the neighborhood of 80 percent. I worry about the crows getting enough to eat.
After dinner we watched a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad. R gets angrier and angrier as the series progresses and Walter White becomes more and more of a conniving, lying, manipulative, murderous drug lord in Albuquerque. She hates the guy. I hate him, too, but I’m also deeply fascinated by him. I don’t know what personal darkness drives the man to do what he does, what private bitterness is driving this bizarre transformation from dedicated high school chemistry teacher to mob boss of a drug syndicate specializing in methamphetamine, or what the writers of the show talk about as they create the situations in which White flounders and bullies and calculates and does his nastiness, but it sure is gripping.
10:00 a.m., January 2nd, 2019. I make scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast and sit down to eat and read an article in my French philosophy magazine about the psychology and philosophy of the feast, the festival, the Dionysian break from routine, titled “Les structures élémentaires de la festivité,” (“The Structural Elements of Festivity”), by Alexandre Lacroix. He quotes a passage from The Sacred and the Profane by the Romanian historian Mircea Eliade:
Religious participation in a festival implies emerging from ordinary temporal duration and reintegration of the mythical time reactualized by the festival itself. Hence sacred time is indefinitely recoverable, infinitely repeatable. From one point of view it could be said that it does not “pass,” that it does not constitute an irreversible duration. It is an ontological, Parmenidean time; it always remains equal to itself, it neither changes nor is exhausted. With each periodical festival, the participants find the same sacred time – the same that had been manifested in the festival of the previous year or in the festival of a century earlier; it is the time that was created and sanctified by the gods at the period of their gesta, of which the festival is precisely a reactualization.
There are two things about this that I find very curious from a personal standpoint: the linkage between the festival as a religious occasion and the festival as how I experienced it, an occasion to get drunk, shitfaced, fucked up. Religion was never involved, alcohol always; there’s no way on earth I ever could have broken free of the profane, mundane time of routine, of jobs, of the everyday, without imbibing a robust amount of alcohol. Alcohol is essential. And, since I haven’t drunk any alcohol in almost 29 years, it’s been at least 29 years since I’ve liberated my being from the shackles of profane temporality.
But it doesn’t feel that way, at least not entirely. There have been occasions in which I felt more than usually exalted, a little transcendent, felt a sense of divine liberation. If I expand the meaning of the festival to include moments when I felt a little more acutely a sense of the sublime, a sense of “sacred time,” then rather than refer to a state of drunkenness I might talk about “getting high.”
I once told a therapist that I was concerned about the length of time that I’d been taking Lorazepam. I’d be taking 1 milligram of Lorazepam daily for over a year. He told me that since I wasn’t using it to get high, there wasn’t anything to worry about.
This puzzled me. Using it to get high? How do you do that?
You don’t. There’s no way on earth anyone can get high on Lorazepam. All it does is relieve you of anxiety and help you into a feeling of calm. That’s not getting high; that’s simply relieving a symptom. My therapist seemed to be giving me credit, trying to reassure me, by suggesting that since I wasn’t abusing – misusing - the drug by trying to get high on it, that I had that much less to worry about. He was trying to do his job as a therapist. But it was apparent that he and I had very different notions about what it is to get high.
Which is what? What is it to get high? Inducing euphoria? None of the benzodiazepines induce euphoria. Valium, maybe just a little. Benzodiazepines will help achieve a sense of well-being. But is a sense of well-being considered a high? Isn’t there more to it than that? Hallucinations, visions, epiphanies, delirium, a state of divine madness, enhanced creativity?
Sounds good to me. Marijuana does a far better job at these things than benzos. Hell, you stand a better chance of getting high on sobriety than getting high on a benzo.
How about enlightenment or satori? Satori is the Japanese term for awakening, comprehension, understanding. Seeing into one’s true nature. Which is what? Which is emptiness. That doesn’t sound like getting high. Not at all.
Altering one’s consciousness is a big part of it, but alter it how? Which way? Up or down? Expanded consciousness or reduced consciousness? Alcohol is great for reducing consciousness. LSD is a powerful way to boost consciousness. The motivating factor behind taking these things is going to have a lot to do with one’s reaction to them. If, as I did a number of times back in the 60s, you drop acid for kicks, chances are good you’ll wind up having the same terrible reaction I had on my last acid trip. I was 18. The incident took place 53 years ago. My mind boggles when I think – as I’m sure a lot of people do – that I’m not dead already. I did a spectacular number of stupid things.
The more I think about getting high the less I think I know about what getting high means. I think I need to get to the bottom of getting high.
I would also rule out cocaine. Everybody’s different. I can’t speak for all people. But I always found cocaine to be a big disappointment. Definitely not worth they hype.
There are a lot of drugs and substances I haven’t taken: peyote, psilocybin, DMT (a.k.a. “the spirit molecule”), ecstasy, heroin, or opium. I’m not an expert. Not a psychonaut. Not like, say, Terence McKenna. That’s the guy you want to go to for information on psychedelic experience. Another is Rupert Sheldrake. I would also highly recommend the essays in Michael McClure’s Meat Science Essays. These are brilliant, poetic, highly imaginative and intensely descriptive reactions to substances such as peyote, heroin, and cocaine.
Drugs aren’t the only way to get high, achieve euphoria, or gain insights into one’s consciousness and the mysteries of the cosmos. There’s also long distance running and the sweat lodge ceremony.
But again: get high? I still don’t know get what that means. Why high? Why not “get low,” “get wide,” “get specific,” “get ambiguous”? Hey man, let’s go get ambiguous!
The English word ‘get’ has always struck me as a rather odd word. It’s so aggressively possessive. I feel the grip of a hand in that tight little fisted word.
I like the term “well-being.” I like that basic Heideggerian ring in the word ‘being.’ So down to earth, so full of blood and fluidity and the pulse of being.