Most people who do acid do it three or four or ten times until they inevitably have that one bad trip, then they swear the stuff off for life. It is probably why in the mid-to-late nineties Ecstasy really took off in the States. It promised all the hallucinogenic fun of trip with none of the cruel side effects (provided what they sold you was really MDMA.) Personally, I loved all my acid trips--good and bad. The worst one left me sitting curled up in stone fireplace of a collapsed building behind the CU-Boulder campus, with the fall leaves transforming into severed heads and the sky trying to eat me. It probably didn't help that there was a pentagram marked in the dirt of the clearing outside in lime. Pretty traumatic stuff for most people. I found it cathartic. Sometimes acid shows all the rot and dirty little things inside you. Sometimes those are things that you need to face.
Being that I'm generally a psychological masochist, I kept on with my acid intake. I'd dose at least a couple times a month. Of course, it wreaked havoc on my general psychological well being. My serotonin would always be severely depleted and I was always depressed, but that didn't seem like such a big deal since I was nineteen and depressed anyway. I was seeing trails for days after I dosed and came down with quite a case of insomnia. After a few months of this, I was beginning to think that the rumors were right; that it just took three doses of acid to make a person considered certifiably insane, and I was way past three doses by that point.
Of course, that's bullshit. Having not taken acid for seven years, I can attest that your mental faculties bounce back rather quickly after you abstain. I also met quite a number of people who were crazier than me who never touched the stuff.
While I was quite the fiend for acid, the part I always hated was coming down off it. Other drugs like Ecstasy and mushrooms let you off easy; smoke some pot or drink a beer and watch cartoons until you fall asleep. Coming down off of acid makes your head feel like it's in a vice grip, pressing against your temples. Everything is coming back to normal, but never normal enough, and sleep is always distant. If a pill was invented (and I'm sure it has) that could make you fall asleep instantly, you desperately wish you had one.
That was me on the morning of October 27th 1996. The night before, I had gone to a pre-Halloween rave on University Hill with my buddies Alex and Schnitz (aka Chief Ten-Beers.) It took place in the basement that had formerly housed Pogo's and Ground Zero. Drugs were easy to come by, and instead of ecstasy, which was going for twenty dollars a hit, I opted for three hits of acid. Alex did the same while Schnitz just smoked a lot of pot, which had roughly the same effect on him.
This was the first time that Alex had ever done acid and he was in a pontificating mood. After Schnitz took off from the party around 2:30, we stood around and talked for an hour in the quietest corner of the room that wasn't occupied with drug dealers or people noodled out on X feeling each other up. I don't either of us could hear a word the other said--I was constantly distracted by his "London Calling" T-shirt, which was like a movie on his chest. All I can remember is that it was deep and he thanked me afterward for introducing him to the world of psychedelics. Alex left shortly after that, went back to his apartment and wrote poetry all over the walls with a black Sharpie (I found this out days later from his roommates, who were understandably pissed that their security deposit was pretty much gone.)
I stayed at the party until five o'clock when the house lights came up before walking across the empty campus to my dorm and fighting the urge to wander around (something I have a tendency to do when I'm tripping.) My roommate Imo had gone to Aurora that weekend to stay with some friends, so I had the place by myself to chill out. I put Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division into my CD player on repeat, then laid down on my bed and hallucinated that the paint on the walls was blistering.
Now, Joy Division is a bad thing to listen to when coming down off of acid. In fact, it's a bad thing to listen to while drinking alone or getting stoned or any number of things because it puts you into such a bleak mood, which is probably why Joy Division is so great. After the CD had repeated three times, the hallucinations were pretty much gone but my mood had gone way downhill. I could hear people starting to get up outside my door and for some reason it made me paranoid. I just wanted to go asleep, but my head was still buzzing. I didn't want to leave the room for any reason.
Then the phone started ringing.
This frightened me. I let the machine pick it up and it was just Imo's dad calling. There was nothing intrinsically menacing about his thick West Indies accent, but it seemed like a harbinger of doom. Suddenly, I wanted to be anywhere except my room.
I made sure there was no one in the hallway before I went out and locked the door to my room behind me. I went to the bathroom and took a piss and made absolutely sure I did not look at the mirror while I was in there. I had spent three hours in that damn bathroom staring at the mirror on one of my previous acid trips and I was still getting shit about that from the other people on my floor. If I had looked in the mirror, I would have seen that there was lipstick messily smeared all over my mouth, which would have been strange since I couldn't recall making out with any (hopefully) girls at the rave. Besides red, there was no color in my face, my jaw was still grinding like it had been all night, and my pupils were still the size of pencil erasers.
I went outside to the courtyard and smoked a cigarette, which tasted particularly nasty since I'd smoked almost an entire pack of them in the course of the evening. Other residents were packing their parent purchased cars to go skiing. My residence hall was the rich kid residence hall. I come from a comfortably middle-class family, but I felt like a pauper compared to some of these people. Over half of the people here were in fraternities and sororities. The Greeks were so big there that some of those morons thought that I was in frat, despite the fact that I was usually dressed in a black trench coat covered in safety pins and combat boots. The only reason most of these people went to CU Boulder was so they could go skiing all the time. I'd lived in Colorado the majority of my life and hadn't gone skiing more than a handful of times. I tried to avoid eye contact with them.
I could only smoke half of my cigarette before tossing it in the bushes. My body was telling me it was hungry, though I didn't have much of an appetite. It had been close to fourteen hours since the last time I'd eaten and I figured some breakfast might chill me out some, so I went back inside and headed for the cafeteria.
The food at the dorm cafeteria, as it is at most institutions, was pretty gross. On the weekends it was even nastier since they were working with a skeleton crew. They typically took what was left over from the week and just tossed it in the steam tray. I could have just had cereal, but my body was craving protein, so I got two rubbery looking fried eggs, a couple of dried up sausages, some buttered toast and watery orange juice. Since it was early on a Saturday morning, the cafeteria was dead. Besides me, there was only one table of people eating in preparation for their ski trip and the homely foreign student from some former Eastern Bloc country who never socialized. It was easy to find a table to eat at alone, which was good since interacting with people was the last thing I wanted to do.
Sitting there, confronted with my meal, I felt even less appetized but forced myself to put food in my mouth, masticate, and swallow it. The yolk in the fried eggs was dried out into an orange paste, and the white took about a minute to chew to the point where it would easily slide down my throat. The sausage was more edible, but they made me think of shriveled severed Pygmy penises (oh the things that goes through someone's mind when they are coming down off acid...) I ate them anyway. The toast was fine and I was able to get past the fact that the orange juice reminded me of a diseased, cloudy urine sample. The point of this meal was sustenance, not enjoyment.
Two more people came into the cafeteria. One was Eric, who was one of my sort of friend of friends from around the dorm. He was one of the non-partiers (no excessive drinking and definitely no drugs) but managed to be weirder than most of them anyway. We got along because he was also one of the few non-Greeks in the dorm and we all had to stick together. I didn't know the other guy who came in with him.
"Hey Dave!" Eric said. "What's shaking?"
"H-hey...nothing...much," I said. The act of speech was surprisingly difficult.
Eric laughed, and that made me paranoid. "What on Earth did you do last night?"
I explained about going to the rave with Alan and Schnitz. I left out the part about dosing since it was probably painfully obvious at that point.
"What I want to know is how you got lipstick all over your face. Did you finally get with Rocky or something?"
Rocky (aka Raquel) was this chick that everyone suspected I was fucking, and in retrospect I probably should have, but that's another story. Right now, I was dismayed to learn I had lipstick on my mouth and tried to wipe it off with my napkin, only to succeed in smearing it all across my face. "H-how the fuck did that get there?"
"You know it's been a wild night when you wake up with lipstick on your face and you don't know how it got there," Eric said, and then he looked over to his friend. "Isn't that right, shithead?"
"Yes, very right indeed."
"Very right WHAT?"
His friend stiffened up. "Very right sir. Yessir."
"That's better," Eric said. "We're gonna get some food. We'll be right back." Then they ducked into the kitchen.
I didn't comprehend Eric freaking out about being called "sir" there and figured it was some in-joke of his I was too slow to get right then. Then again, I didn't get about sixty percent of his sense of humor. See, Eric was one of the charter members of the CU Improv Comedy troupe. He put flyers up for their shows all over the dorm and tried to talk everyone he could into going. Their shows were like watching an episode of What's My Line Anyway? only a hundred times stranger and more obtuse. The one show of theirs I went to consisted of him yelling "HELLO!" into a prop phone over and over until most of the audience left. He would do stuff like wear a banana peel as a necktie all day or sit in the TV room for 24 hours straight while doing MST3K-esque commentary on the Weather Channel. Basically, he fancied himself a modern day Andy Kaufman. His sense of humor straddled the line between being funny and annoying, more often than not straying towards the latter.
Eric and his friend came back to the table. They also made the mistake of choosing the eggs, but I didn't point it out to them. As his friend was sitting down, I decided to introduce myself. "By the way, my name is Dave."
He reached out to shake my hand and introduce himself, but Eric snapped. "His name is Shithead. Tell him that."
"My name is Shithead," Eric's friend said.
"Dave offered you his hand. Now be polite and shake it!"
I sheepishly let "Shithead" shake my hand, thinking that this wasn't very nice (or typical) of Eric. Then again, "Shithead" was smiling the whole time. He looked like he was on the verge of laughter, which led me to believe that this was another one of Eric's jokes that I was not privy to. I was too slow to figure it out myself, so I decided to just ask: "What's going on with that?"
"With what?" Eric asked through a mouthful of egg. Apparently he didn't mind that it tasted like rubber.
"That 'Shithead' thing?"
"Oh," Eric said, swallowing. "I'm initiating Shithead here into Improv group. His sense of humor is just not up to our standards yet, so he's got to prove to me that he's got what it takes to hang with us."
"O-kay," I said. I hadn't realized that joining an improv group was like rushing for a frat. The fratties where always closed-lipped about their initiation processes, which always led me to believe the worst; semi-Satanic rituals involving sheep-fucking, Everclear, homoerotic circle-jerks, and gang-raping drugged coeds. In reality it probably involved none of the above, it was only their silence that seemed to prove to me otherwise.
Anyway, Eric's improv group was a pretty tight knit clique. I guess they had to be since they were the only people who thought they were funny. Why anyone would go out of their way to be in deep with them, I had no fucking clue. To each their own...
"Hurry up and eat Shithead," Eric snarled to his compatriot as he shoveled more of those foul eggs into his mouth between sips of Diet Coke. "We have to be at the radio station in fifteen minutes! You did remember to bring my Sonny Rollins record, right?"
"Shithead" stopped mid-bite. "Oh fuck..."
"You FORGOT THEM?"
"I'm sorry sir..."
"Yes...you are sorry. You are extremely fucking sorry! You realize that this will be the second weekend in a row we'll have to play 'A Love Supreme' in it's entirety just to make up the gap in our playlist? I guarantee this will bode badly for you at our next rehearsal."
I rolled my eyes. In addition to improv comedy, one of Eric's extra-curricular activities was DJing a jazz show at the CU radio-station 1190AM at nine each Saturday. He took his job extremely seriously, considering the fact that in 1996, 1190's transmitter was barely powerful enough to broadcast to the entirety campus, and there was no one on the campus awake at nine in the morning on a Saturday.
Eric continued wolfing down food while giving the occasionally dirty glance over to 'Shithead', when suddenly he dropped his fork and poking his finger up in the air dramatically "AHA! I know how we can fill some dead air this morning! Dave...how would you like to be interviewed this morning?"
"It'll just be a random, man-off-the-street type thing. You know, to give a voice to those who might not otherwise be heard on the airwaves. Hey, if it turns out well...I could make it into a career! I'd be an interviewer! Think of that!"
Eric punched 'Shithead' in the arm just as he was shoveling another bit of food into his mouth. He spilled his hash browns and jabbed the fork into his lip hard enough to draw blood. Eric seemed either to not know or not care. "Egads, Shithead! Your error may have just given us the perfect new shtick!"
("Egads?"...what the fuck...)
'Shithead' wiped the blood off his lip with his napkin. "'dhank oo, s'hir."
"So Dave...will you do it?"
I was exhausted, but still hours away from getting my synapses to calm down enough to achieve sleep. Perhaps getting out for a bit would bring me down some, so I said, "Sure. I'll do it."
The University Memorial Center Student Union was close to empty. There were a few foreign students hanging out in the clubrooms and maybe one or two loners having breakfast in the cafeteria. I was grateful that the entrance hallway wasn't filled with tables of people doing the whole "sign up for our credit card and get a free t-shirt" scam. The eight-minute walk from the dorm had cleared up my head somewhat. Ambient noises still sounded distorted, but the paranoia had mostly subsided.
Eric continued to berate "Shithead" the whole way over. I ignored most of it, like I do the majority of Eric's stupid in-jokes.
I followed him down the stairs to the level the (currently closed) university bookstore was on. We went further down the hall than I usually went, past some bathrooms and maintenance closets and around a corner to where 1190's offices and studios were located.
"Shithead, you stay right by me," Eric said as he unlocked the office. "And DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!"
"Yessir," he replied snappily.
"I'm gonna take a piss," I muttered, heading back to the restrooms on this floor.
"Whoa! That's way too much information there Davey-boy!" Eric said. "But go ahead. It'll take me a minute or two to get this set up."
The can on the lower level was just a small, single-pisser. I pulled my dick out and started hosing down the pink toilet cake. The graffiti scratched into the walls had been recently painted over, but you could still make out all the swastikas and FUCK ALL SPICS & NIGGERS under it. This at a school that frequently touted its progressive values and tolerance. All of the hate was barely hidden under the white paint.
Egads! I had just stumbled upon a metaphor for race relations at this school. The stream of piss seemed endless. Maybe I'd use it someday, but I probably would just forget it.
I shook my cold and limp penis until I'd flung every last drop of piss off the end, then tucked it back in my pants. I figured I had come down enough to be able to look at myself in the mirror without standing there for two hours, though when I did, I wished I didn't. I looked like shit run over by a truck, but there was no one around but Eric and another person who was content to be called "Shithead", so I wasn't too freaked out.
So I made my way back to the station, through the office that was lined with Program Council flyers for bands and movies. I could hear Eric clacking away at stuff in the back studio, so I went there. He was sitting at the DJ station, a microphone in front of him while "Shithead" sat next to him. He was loading tapes that looked like 8-tracks into the console. There were racks and racks of CDs all over the walls, mostly promotional copies and singles of bands I'd never heard of, but it the collection was impressive.
"CU, at the sound of the gong...GONNNNNG...it is nine o'clock in the AM and you are listening to your early morning, Weekend Jazz fix with me, Eric Ramirez and friends. Yes, I am not alone today; I've brought friends. I really do have friends, even though none of them seem to call me. I encourage all of you out there to give me a call and talk with me and my friends. I'll introduce them after these important announcements from our sponsors..."
He pressed a button on the console and one of the 8-tracks started playing a jingle for Mad Mushroom Pizza (Boulder businesses were all about thinly veiled drug references.) Eric grabbed one of his mic booms and swung it towards me, bouncing off my chest.
"Keep it about one inch from your face. Speak clearly, but not louder than you would in a typical conversation."
I got into a seat and said, "Hello, is this on?"
"No. It isn't," he said. "I'll turn it on after the ad is over...and Dave, no potty mouths on the air. I have a delay button and I'll use it."
"That's fuckin' gay," I muttered.
I looked around the room until the jingle was over. Eric pressed another button on the console and started talking. "Wow, that was great. I'm definitely going to get one of those two for one Tuesday specials over there. Let me tell you folks, there ain't no money in radio..."
"I told you I brought friends with me today, and here in the studio we have..." he looked over to Shithead. "Wait, what should we call him? Darn, we need to come up with a name for him, quick. I know! We'll call him...Pequod! Yes, that's good. Pequod! Do you know what that is?"
I cleared my throat. "Is this on?"
"Yes, now it's on. You are live on the air."
"It's like...isn't it the ship in Moby Dick?"
Eric punched a button on his console and simulated awed crowd noise. "Wow! You got that right off the bat. How did you know that?"
"Umm...my minor is in English."
"Do you know why I want to call you that?"
"I've no idea."
"Because I am reading it right now!" Eric said, way too loudly and enthusiastically. "I am reading it for class, but I'm loving it anyway! Call me Ishmael! In fact, yes, literally call me Ishmael, for the rest of the show. Eric is gone; there is no more Eric. Eric is off the air! Call me Ishmael."
Call him off his meds, but it was making Shithead laugh, and it was his show. Maybe if I didn't feel like shit I'd think it was funnier.
"Well, folks, I've got some bad news for all of my rabid fans out there. Eric will no longer be on the air. I, Ishmael will likely not be on the air next week either. I have actually been fired and you will have a new, and probably incredibly boring, host for Weekend Jazz next Saturday."
"Why?" I asked.
"Well, for a couple of stupid reasons, the main one being that I never show up for their meetings, but their meetings are inconsequential to what we do here on Weekend Jazz! We are on a different plane than all those monkeys who just doing it for class credits. What do you think of that?"
"I think it's fucked up," I said.
Eric hissed, then hit a button on the console and the yellow light on top went out. He glowered angrily at me.
"Sorry. I forgot."
He didn't say anything. When the light came back on, he said. "Folks, that ten seconds of dead air was the sound of Pequod here not being able to watch his mouth. Seriously Pequod; do you kiss your mother with that mouth."
"No, I kiss your mother. Right on her cu..." I was about to say "cunt", but amended it to, "...lips."
"Very well," he said. "You still got a Moby Dick reference right off the bat, which probably makes us the smartest people on broadcast radio at this hour of the morning," he opened up a drawer and tossed some tickets at me. "For being so intelligent, there are two tickets to see Firecracker Five at Club 156 (the student union music club) Yes...Firecracker Five. Another crappy punk band that thinks its trendy to have a number in their name. In fact you will probably prove your intelligence by not using those tickets."
He pulled the rest of the stack of promo tickets and started shredding them and tossing them in the air like confetti. He tossed a stack to me and "Shithead" and said, "Get to work!"
For a minute, it was nothing but dead air while we tore up the tickets that were inside that desk. Eric made a point of ripping his right next to the microphone, to at least give some idea of what we were doing. I figured most of these tickets were just promo ones, the kind bands and promoters leave at music and clothing stores to get people through the door so they will sell more booze. Then I noticed Eric picking up a stack of PJ Harvey tickets (she was playing at Macky Auditorium next week) and I hissed...
"What the fu...heck are doing?"
"We are giving the audience one less reason to listen to this station, since the primary reason, me, has been fired..." Eric gripped the tickets between both of his hands and started to twist.
"Well, w-wait...if you're gonna tear 'em up...can I have one?"
Eric eased his grip on the tickets, then handed me one from the stack. "Certainly. Folks, Pequod here will be seeing PJ Harvey...whoever the hell he is...at Macky Auditorium next week. I do this to show our appreciation for him being here with us on our final show. He will be the only person going to the PJ Harvey show courtesy of this radio station."
The ticket was a little creased from where he had been getting ready to tear it. "Um...can I have two tickets?"
"Pequod, you can have three!" he threw the other two at me across the console. It was sweet that I had scored sixty-bucks worth of tickets this morning, but it still made me wince when Eric ripped the rest of the stack in half and chucked them aside. I wasn't even the world's biggest PJ Harvey or anything.
"Okay everybody out there in radio-land!" Eric said. "I know most of you faithfully tune in every morning to hear my witty banter, but you also tune in to listen to some music, so we will play some cuts off of 'Brighten the Corner', Ella Fitzgerald's first album for Capitol Records while we look for stuff to steal around the station. Enjoy!" Eric hit a couple buttons on the console and then hit play on the CD player. He took his headphones off and stood up.
"Shithead, go into the office and look for a ruler or a letter opener, or anything long, flat and thin that I can use to unlatch that cabinet over there."
I stuffed the three tickets into the pocket of my leather jacket. "Uh, hey Eric. Isn't the station gonna get pissed about you ripping up all their tickets?"
"Naw," he said, patting me on my shoulder. "It's all from shows being put on by the Program Council, so the station can get more, no problem. Besides, everyone plays pranks on their last show. One guy had sex with an inflatable doll on his last show."
"Okay..." I said, not entirely convinced. While Eric and "Shithead" went to fiddle with the cabinet, I wandered out of the DJ booth to check out the stacks of vinyl records in the hallway. It looked like there was a thousand albums there, with two smaller bookshelves of 45s behind that. I'm not a vinyl junkie, but I do respect it. I browsed through the titles, none of it arranged in any discernable order. Most of them were by groups or singer I'd never heard of, or was stuff like "A Glen Campbell Christmas" that I'd never touch. I did run across a copy of Unknown Pleasures. While I was sick of listening to it, I did fondle the record for quite some time.
There was a snapping sound in the booth, followed by a "Goddammit!" I tucked Unknown Pleasures safely back into the stack of records to see what was going on.
"Shithead" had snapped a ruler in half while trying to jimmy the cabinet open for Eric. "The end is jammed in here dude," "Shithead" said as he tried to pry the broken end out with a pen.
"Keep working at it," Eric sneered from the console. He had three staplers he'd collected from the office in front of him. "I have a two-liter of Jolt and rubber chicken in there and I will NOT be leaving without them. I made that very clear to Kaycee when she fired me and it's her fault for not leaving that cabinet unlocked in the first place."
He put his headset back on and pressed another button on the console, abruptly cutting Ella off mid-song. "Have you ever loved a chicken? I mean really loved a chicken? You would love it clucking, picking grasshoppers out of your lawn or extra-tasty-crispy-Kentucky fried? I happen to love a chicken. A rubber chicken. You don't need a rubber to love a rubber chicken my friend. Pequod, do you know why?"
Remembering that "Pequod" was my name today, I quickly went back to my seat and grunted out, "I dunno."
"BECAUSE IT'S INANIMATE! BECAUSE IT'S A TOY! TOY'S DON'T HAVE VENEREAL DISEASES! I thought you were bright Pequod..."
"Fuck you," I said, remembering I couldn't say that just as the words left my mouth.
Eric once again made a huge deal of hitting the delay button. "What did I tell you about using swear words? I could get fined by the FCC for that!"
"Relax, no one's even listening to us right now. Especially the FCC," I said. "Besides, you're the one talking about rubber chickens with venereal diseases and have a friend you call 'Shithead'. Kinda sets the tone for what's appropriate."
"His name is not 'Shithead' in here! Here he is called...'Big Night'. Have you seen that movie yet? The one with Stanley Tucci in it?"
I shook my head.
"Well you should! Especially since you call yourself a film major!"
I shrugged. I pretty much gave up on the notion of being a film major my freshman year, but I was too fucked up and Eric was too hyper for me to really explain that to him now.
Finally the light flashed back on the console. "Once again, that pause was Pequod here using potty language. I am now going to dispatch him to go rinse his mouth out with soap. Go on Pequod. They got the yummy liquid stuff in the bathroom down there."
I was about to say, "Fuck you," again, but I contented myself by just sitting there with a look on my face that said I wasn't going anywhere, much less to eat liquid soap. Besides, this whole scene was getting to be annoying and I didn't want to be in his fucking improv group.
"Fine then," Eric said. "You can stay, but you'll have to eat lye the next time you swear. Big Night, quit trying to break into that cabinet and mind your microphone."
"Shithead" or "Big Night" or whatever he was being called now left the pen jammed into the cabinet and sat down by his microphone.
"I will now give you a preview of what you can expect to hear next Saturday on Weekend Jazz..." He started swapping CD's out of the player as he spoke. "It will be run by this fellow named Josh, who fancies himself a DJ and is one of those...'alternative' types. He will be changing the format somewhat to include stuff he calls Acid Jazz, and sounds a little bit like this selection from what is known as the James Taylor Quartet called Supernatural Feeling. Listen!"
He pressed play on the player and we listened to about thirty seconds of it before Eric hit eject. "In other words, sub-Kenny G aural excrement that will never pollute the signal here at 1190 EVER AGAIN!"
Eric struggled with two hands to snap the CD in two. Finally it did break, sending shards flying all over the studio. "Ishmael here has just learned that CDs are surprisingly hard to break. Call me...enlightened! Big Night, hand me that mike stand over there. Hurry up! This is dead air!"
"Shit-" I mean, "Big Night" went over across the room to fetch the stand for Eric. "Here you go, sir."
In the meantime, he was queuing up Ella Fitzgerald again. "While I, Ishmael, Pequod and Big Night all figure out what we will be playing for the rest of the show, I will grace you all with real jazz, sung by real-life bona-fide Negroes."
When the music started, Eric once again ripped off his headphones and jumped over to the CD rack. "There's got to be something here that isn't total diarrhea that we can listen too..." He started picking CDs out and throwing them over his shoulder at random on the floor. At last, he yelled, "All these CDs suck!" then picked up one of the staplers on the console and threw them into the shelves. About twenty came cascading down to the floor, complete with broken jewel cases and all. I couldn't attest to the quality of the collection, regardless this wanton destruction of music was making me extremely uneasy. This was way beyond the pale of a last day prank.
Eric went over to the CDs scattered on the floor. "At last I found it!" he picked up one disc that had been knocked loose from its case. "Kenny G! We must play this in its entirety if only to make the world suffer!" Eric sat the Kenny G CD with care on the console, then picked up the mike stand "Shithead" had gotten for him and started smashing them down on the rest of the discs and cases on the floor. The institutional carpet has littered with broken plastic.
"Take it easy man," I said. "They're gonna get super pissed when they find this mess."
"Don't worry, Pequod," Eric said. "These are all promotional CDs. Labels send these to the radio station all the time for free. This isn't costing them anything. Just chill out."
Then he swung the mike stand itself against the CD racks, knocking about a third of the stations total collection on the floor.
The paranoia from my acid trip, which had receded to a tolerable level in the past hour, now came back with a cold vengeance. I wondered if I was going to get in trouble for this. I took the PJ Harvey tickets out of my pocket and quietly left them on the desk, just so there would be no way I could be accused of theft. Perhaps they had brought me here to frame me for causing all this? Or maybe, this was some practical joke being played on me. Considering the damage that Eric was causing, that was an unlikely scenario.
In the meantime, "Shithead" had gotten into the act, stomping on the piles of jewel cases like he was stomping on grapes. I couldn't bring myself to do it. "Hey guys, I'm taking off. I need a nap."
Eric stopped destroying CDs long enough to go back to his mike. "Folks, Pequod is leaving us for the day. 'Bye Pequod! Thanks for coming down here and giving us your insightful if foulmouthed commentary. And now what you all have been dying to listen to all this time on Weekend Jazz...Kenny G."
As he swapped Ella Fitzgerald for Kenny G, Eric said to me. "Oh before you go Dave, I wanted to tell you that the Improv group is doing a show in the commons room tonight at nine. We'll have pizza. You should come."
All I could really focus on was the destruction wrought in the office. "Yeah...I'll try to make it."
Eric smiled. "See you there then." I made my way out of 1190's offices (now carefully trying to not leave any fingerprints) with the sounds of shattering plastic and Kenny G behind me.
I got back to my room and locked the door. I was back safe in the place I should never have left in the first place. I laid down and turned the cheap TV we had on. The only station it had was Fox, so I watched the weekend action marathon as I tried to fall asleep. The first was a badly edited-for-TV version of Marked for Death with Steven Seagal. I still couldn't sleep, so I watched Red Scorpion with Dolph Lundgren next and I still couldn't fall asleep.
It was about two-thirty in the afternoon when I finally fell asleep in the middle of that bad Jean-Claude Van Damme flick Lionheart. I slept for about twelve hours. I missed Eric's improv show.
Besides a two hundred word blurb in the campus newspaper the following week ("CAMPUS RADIO STATION VANDALIZED"), that was the last I heard of the whole CD smashing incident. I certainly was never implicated in it. One time years later at a party, I met a fellow who had worked at 1190 around the same time and mentioned that I knew Eric Ramirez. "God, I hated that fucker," is about all he would say about the matter.
About a month later, I went by his room to pick up a book of Pink Floyd guitar tablature I'd lent to him in the beginning of the semester (I got the urge to practice the solo from "Comfortably Numb" for some reason.) I went down to his room and knocked on his door.
"Pequod!" he said as he opened up the door. He had taken to calling me that all the time now, and it had stuck. It was pretty much my nickname with everybody by then. "Come in. What can I do for you?"
Four other people from his improv group were all hanging out in there, including "Shithead" (who I hadn't seen since that morning), who was sitting on the couch and looked like he was going to throw up. There was a weird smell in the room. "Um, I'm just wondering, are you done with that Pink Floyd guitar book I lent you?"
"Oh, yeah. I haven't used it in awhile. I just can't get the changing time signatures in 'Mother'. It's worse than a heavy metal song."
He dug in his shelves for a moment until he found the book and handed it to me.
"Thanks," I said. "Hey, what's that smell?"
"Ohhh," Eric said, turning back to his friends who started giggling. "It's Tommy. We're making him eat shit."
"Ha-ha," I said, assuming that Tommy was the true name of "Shithead". The humor was quickly leeched out of the situation when I realized the odor in the air did smell like shit. Then my eyes looked on his desk next to me and I saw a plastic Independence Day cup like the kind the give away as promotions at fast-food restaurants. Inside it was a thick snake of feces with a Spork sticking out of it.
"You're seriously making him eat shit?"
Eric nodded. "He flubbed his cue at last week's performance."
"And he's seriously eating the shit just because you're telling him to?"
Eric nodded again, but I just had to see the green look on Tommy/"Shithead's" face to know that it was likely to be true.
"O-kay. I think I'm gonna get some dinner," I said, even though my appetite had just been brought down several notches.
"Yeah, we'll probably be hitting the cafeteria ourselves soon," Eric said. "We'll see you in there."
I didn't reply. I just shut the door behind me.
I never saw Tommy/"Shithead" after that day.
I lost touch with Eric after that year as well.