DUI Isn’t a Crime–It’s a Skill! (And…A Jeffrey Dahmer Sidebar)

Ok—I know I’m going to catch some shit for discussing this topic in an unorthodox way and for my somewhat snarky title, but please remember that I was born in Wisconsin in 1962 and that was a very different time and place.  So please don’t judge my behavior in 1979 by 2019 standards or I’ll be calling you a freakin’ snowflake! 

To be very clear about the different eras, when a cop pulled you over late on a Saturday night in the 1970s or 1980s (and it happened to me three times, once while I was underage) the first question he asked you was how many drinks you have had. The question was not today’s, “Have you been drinking?” because they knew damned well that you very likely had been and you had better not insult their intelligence by lying about it. With that in mind, you had also better not insult the cop’s intelligence by saying “a couple of beers” at 2am. He also knew damned well that you had probably been out partying for 4-6 hours, so the “correct” answer was “I think about 5 or 6, officer.” People’s jaws drop when I tell them that today because that answer would mean instant arrest for DUI. But back in 1980, the cop would talk to you for a minute to see if you were coherent and then give you a few field sobriety tests with the actual intention of seeing if you were capable of driving reasonably safely, not for the express purpose of arresting you for a DUI.

As I said, I was pulled over three times late at night after probably having 10-12 beers in a 4-6 hour period, and I actually could walk, talk, and drive. (More on that to come…) I think twice I had a taillight out and the third cop was just checking to see if I was OK at 3am cruising down our dark country roads. All three stops went pretty much the same–I talked calmly to the cop for a minute or two, he told me my taillight was out, had me walk the line, touch my nose, shined his light in my eyes, etc. and every time I passed the tests and he let me go. During the one stop when I was only 17, I thought for sure the cop would bust me for being underage, but he just made an offhand comment as he gave me my driver’s license back about how I should be more careful having working taillights at least until I was 18 in a few months–Hahaha!!!

We’ve all heard the phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics,” but I’m going to lay my personal driving track record stats on you and then explain why I’m grateful in a variety of ways. 

Eric’s Lifetime Driving Miles: Approximately 2,000,000 in 40 years

Eric’s Lifetime DUI Miles: Approximately 500,000

Eric’s Lifetime Auto Accident and DUI Record: 0

Let me begin by saying right upfront that my heart goes out to anyone who has experienced the potentially deadly result of people who don’t drive safely whether in a sober or DUI condition.  (And I do believe that there are actually plenty of sober drivers who are more dangerous than DUIers for a variety of reasons.)  Given my current experience with a deadly disease, I definitely have plenty of empathy to go around for anyone’s suffering no matter what the cause.

The first and probably most important thing I’m grateful for is my somewhat Zen ability to be at one with a car and the road, and I think I must have been born with this.  From the time I first drove my go-cart at age 10 (Thanks, Dad–You probably saved my life at least once!) to sneaking out in our parents’ cars when we were 14 and 15 (see “Learning to Drive in 1975” if you’re curious), I always LOVED to be behind the wheel and felt totally comfortable from the get go.  

When I first got my license, I had already been drinking and smoking weed for a couple of years, but just to be cautious I didn’t smoke or drink and drive for the first few months to see how confident I felt about driving all over town and to places I’d never driven before.  Even at age 16 I felt a responsibility to know my limits, and after a few months I felt comfortable enough to enjoy the freedom of driving to bars and partying with my friends. (The drinking age was 18 at the time; I looked about 14; but a few bucks, a friendly attitude and a fake ID would get you into a lot of places!)  After all, if you couldn’t drink a bunch of beers and a take a few tokes, why were you going out with your friends on a Saturday night?!  And FYI—I don’t think the phrase “designated driver” even existed back then.  To us, the “designated driver” was simply the one with the best overall road skills at closing time whether DUI or sober!  And due to my overall driving skills and sane attitude, I was usually elected as the “DDD” (“designated drunk driver”).

What made it work for me was my attitude of focus and diligence behind the wheel, and I’m very grateful I always had this attitude that driving was serious business.  The fact that I was chemically impaired never altered my personality to the point that I became completely irrational, overly emotional, or had all my sanity filters removed.  I could be in the bar or at the party for hours drinking, dancing, smoking, jamming, and generally living it up with my friends and feeling totally free as a bird.  A lot of my DUI miles and years were racked up when I was playing in bands and going to live music shows from age 16-30.  But when the gig or party night was over and I got behind the wheel, my party attitude immediately switched off and my 100% focus was becoming one with the car and the road so I could get everyone safely home without drawing the attention of the police.  If I got in a wreck or got busted, my freedom to have fun would be gone, and that was definitely strong motivation for a teenage boy!  I literally treated every buzzed drive as if I were taking a driver’s test.  My mental routine was to double-check everything possible in my mind before I even put the car in drive.  Headlights on?  Check.  The route home?  Check—Run it through my mind (no, we didn’t have GPS dashboard maps talking to us in those days—Hahaha!)  Weather conditions?  Check—It’s snowing tonight so be extra careful in that rear-wheel drive car with the nearly bald tires!  You get the idea, and I would never speed, tailgate, swerve around or drive in any other dangerous or risky way.  But I had friends who did, and I’ll be getting to them shortly…

What you younger readers and many of you from Arizona don’t know is that although DUI was obviously illegal everywhere even in the ancient 1970s and 1980s, the punishment in Wisconsin was a $180 fine and you lost your license for a whole 3 months with an allowance that you could still drive to and from work!  And I don’t think they even raised the fine or the loss of license time until your third or fourth offense.  While people today would consider that appallingly weak enforcement of DUI laws, the fact is that Wisconsin in the ’70s and ’80s was a drinking culture (and still is), and what me and my friends were doing was pretty much (except for the weed!) what our parents, their friends, and even the cops were doing on their party nights out.  I will confess to being a little bit worse than the older generation in the sense that I typically did a “wake and bake” at 7:30 in the morning on the drive to “high” school.  Of course, the older generation often had booze in their offices (I know my dad’s office did!), so we were probably pretty even on this score except that they waited until 10am at least—Hahaha!

Having said all that, I did have some incidents that challenged my driving diligence to a pretty extreme degree, and I can honestly say that I occasionally just got lucky.  I generally tried not to drive while taking psychedelic drugs, but it did happen a few times.  There’s nothing like driving through a storm of florescent purple snow while the road is melting in front of you!  (The road where this happened was ironically named “Lake Shore Drive,” and I’ll leave it to you to figure out the irony we saw in that—Hahaha!)  Talk about needing all your mental powers of focus…  Seeing double from too much alcohol was also a challenge as well.  Fortunately, there was a simple remedy for this in that you could close your non-dominant eye and focus on the lines on the road. Voila–No more double vision!

But these were very rare occurrences, and it’s also important to know that in these 2am situations there was generally not much traffic on the road, and any mishap would only injure me and my fellow party animals in the car.  And I am so grateful that never happened with me behind the wheel.  I wouldn’t be the same person today if I had hurt or killed someone (most likely a close friend) because of something stupid I had done while driving.  I tried to strike a balance between my WTF attitude that life was meant to be wild and fun with the idea that life is at risk when you don’t do your best to mitigate the risks you can.  I think I did a pretty good job balancing risk and reward, but I am also grateful for the luck that was involved in achieving half a million trouble-free DUI miles. 

OK—So that was my attitude toward diligent DUI in the ancient days, but unfortunately not all of my friends shared that attitude.  Like many young men, they thought they were Mr. Invincible and Mario Andretti (you youngsters look him up) all rolled into one whether sober or drunk.  I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been scared shitless by some of my friends’ driving behavior in a variety of both sober and altered states. 

One of my most memorable scared shitless moments came when four of us were driving from high school downtown about 15 miles or so to our friend Marc’s house after final exams one semester in high school.  I’m sure we fired up a fattie and popped a cold one in my friend Tim’s car on the way out of the parking lot, but DUI wasn’t really the issue that day.  Tim had a souped-up 1974 Firebird that really hauled ass, and he never missed an opportunity to let you know it! 

On the way to Marc’s house, we ran into some road construction and an ensuing traffic jam on the highway where they had closed off one lane and only left one lane open.  Of course this slowed us down from 70mph to 10mph, and we had a case of cold beer waiting for us at Marc’s house!  Well, Tim weaved back and forth for about a minute trying to see how long the traffic jam was, and it looked like it went on for quite a while.  The left lane was closed, the right lane was open, and I was sitting in the minuscule rear passenger seat with the rather narrow emergency lane to my right outside the window.  Tim kept jockeying in there to see if he could get a look ahead, and this brought my face to within literally inches of the 4′ tall solid cement retaining wall next to the narrow emergency lane.  This didn’t bother me much when we were stuck in traffic at 10mph, but Tim quickly became impatient and decided to drive in the narrow emergency lane instead.  (Apparently, he wanted that beer pretty soon!) 

For the first few seconds at about 25mph I was cool with my face so close to the retaining well that I could count the rebar pieces, but as he quickly picked up speed I started to get pretty nervous.  There was literally only about a foot between the line of slow cars to our left and about a foot between my face and the cement retaining wall.  All it would have taken was one other curious driver to weave into the emergency lane for a second to assess the jam ahead, and we (particularly me!) would be toast. 

When we hit about 40-50 with a line of nearly stopped cars to the left and the retaining wall almost touching my nose, I started to get really scared and yelled at Tim to chill out and slow down.  Tim kind of laughed at me in the rear view mirror, so I gave a quick glance in Tim’s younger brother Brian’s direction in the rear driver’s side seat beside me and kind of raised my eyebrows as if to say: “He’s your brother-Can you please say something?”  Brian kind of shook his head with a smirk as if to say: “Dude, you shouldn’t have said anything—It will only encourage him,” and damned if he wasn’t right about that!  My fear and Brian’s knowledge of his brother proved to be accurate as we immediately got going to around 70-80mph because “that was closer to the speed limit” as Tim said later. The stopped traffic was literally a blur on my left as the cars flew by, and the retaining wall was so close I could have kissed it. I yelled a few more times to no avail, and eventually closed my eyes and STFU hoping I wouldn’t feel any pain as I died.  The jam turned out to be about a mile long, and at 70mph that meant we made it through in about a minute, but I have to say that was one of the longest minutes of my life!  So my gratitude in this situation is for the purely random good luck we were given that no other impatient drivers decided to have a quick swerve to look at the jam or to do what we did and veer into the emergency lane unexpectedly to “beat the traffic!”

A few years after this, Tim and I were college roommates living in downtown Milwaukee.  One night we decided to go out drinking at a place called the Midget Tavern (also infamous serial killer/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer’s regular hangout, and I’ll get to that in a minute!), and my car must have been in the shop because we took Tim’s motorcycle, a rather tiny Honda 350 road bike.  The Midget was only about 3-4 miles away, so I thought nothing of it.  (I never learn—Hahaha!)  Of course we stayed until closing time (3:30am on Saturdays), and we were definitely pretty shit faced!  I asked Tim if he was OK to drive us home on the bike and he told me I could wear the helmet!  We were in the city so I knew we wouldn’t be going too far or too fast, so I hopped on. 

That was a tiny-ass bike for two guys to ride on! But at least it wasn’t very heavy…

I asked Tim if there was anything I needed to do as a passenger, and he told me that whenever we stopped at a light I should not put my feet down but keep them on the pegs and stay centered on the seat behind him.  He would do everything else, which turned out to mean everything except stay awake long enough to get us home in 10 minutes!  We got to a rather long stop light only a few blocks from our apartment, and I noticed Tim was slowly leaning the bike to the right for no apparent reason.  Like a good passenger, I followed his instructions and kept my feet on the pegs right up until we kept leaning further right and eventually hit the ground!  Of course we weren’t hurt and I apologized for not putting my feet down and asked him what happened.  He rather sheepishly (or sleepily) admitted to me that he had literally fallen asleep at the traffic light!  Obviously, this isn’t a particularly scary story, but if Tim had fallen asleep while we were going 35 on a main drag, the story could have had quite a different ending indeed!  So I’m grateful for that bit of good luck too…

Jeffrey Dahmer Wedding Sidebar

Ok–So it’s time for the Jeffrey Dahmer sidebar story here… The Midget Tavern had been a favorite hangout of Tim’s and Scooter’s since our high school days, and they knew the owner Mike very well. The “Midget” was a very apropos name for the place because it was a tiny neighborhood bar that seated literally maybe 20-30 people. Needless to say, Mike the owner was on a first-name basis with almost everybody who came into his bar. When Tim and Kathy got married in the early ’80s, they had a little pre-wedding get together at the Midget for the wedding party. I went to the wedding, but I missed the Midget gathering because I wasn’t in the wedding party. (In hindsight, I certainly wish I had been in the photos below!)

In the photos below, Tim and Kathy are the third and fourth people from the left, and best man Scooter is standing next to Tim. Tim’s niece Becky is the cute little flower girl on the other side of the bar, and the dude in the baseball cap right behind her is none other than infamous serial killer Jeffery Dahmer. He lived only a few blocks away and was a regular patron of the Midget. He and Mike the owner were on a first-name basis, and nobody knew at the time that he had a bunch of dismembered bodies in his freezer that he was scarfing down on a regular basis!

Back on the Road with Crazy John…

Although Tim was often a fast and aggressive driver, my high school friend John was absolutely nuts when sober, and he got even worse when drinking.  He would mouth off to guys twice his size, insult entire groups of people when it was just me and him (and I’ve never been in a fight in my life—Seriously!  And I’m grateful for that too!), and he would drive like an absolute maniac when alcohol lowered his inhibitions and removed all filters from his brain (and they were defective to begin with).  John had already gotten in at least two pretty serious wrecks by the time he was 18, and fortunately they were both one-car collisions and there were no passengers in his car.  Until wreck #3 where I was the passenger…

We had been to a party in an outer suburb of Milwaukee and we were staying at my house in a different outer suburb about 35 miles away.  So we had a good long drive ahead of us at about 2am, and the dozen beers each of us had didn’t help matters.  I should stop and say right here that if it had been one of my other friends, I might have been offered the keys as the sane, focused DDD (designated drunk driver) and things would likely have turned out differently.  But John had an ego the size of Texas and he was going to drive come hell or high water. 

At that time John drove a ’74 Triumph TR6 convertible, and it was summer so we were riding with the top down.  When we left the party around 2am, we noticed that one of our buddies had disconnected the two front seats from the floor and they were completely loose and floating on the floor!  We didn’t have the tools or the patience to reconnect them then, so we lined them up in their tracks the best we could and headed out to my house.  When we got about 5 miles away from home, we were on a rural road I knew quite well (it was that “Lake Shore Drive” again!), and we were going about 55 in a 35, but it was 2:30 in the morning so I wasn’t too worried until we started approaching what I knew to be a hairpin turn.   I mentioned it to John at least ¼ mile in advance and figured he would slow down, but he told his Triumph could handle that “no problem” because it was a “sports car,” it was made for that, and he babbled something about how he was going to “oversteer” or some arrogant driving geek bullshit that would allow him to navigate the hairpin turn flawlessly without touching the brakes.  

I started to panic when he didn’t slow down because I knew a few things he didn’t about the turn, namely that even in a “sports car” you couldn’t go faster than about 30, that there was no guardrail on the hairpin turn, the ditch was literally about 6 feet deep, and there were large oak trees planted just beyond the ditch in the yard adjacent to the road!  Knowing this, I yelled at him more loudly and firmly but to no avail.  We hit that turn at about 45 as John hit the brakes at the last second when he had his “Oh, shit!” moment, and we of course went careening right off the road and into the deep ditch before we even made it halfway around the turn.  I can still remember seeing one of the oak trees approaching the window directly in front of me, and I thought I was a goner.  But by some miracle, the car hit something else underneath a nanosecond before and shifted the car far enough to the left that I didn’t end up eating the oak tree as a midnight snack!  And remember, our seats weren’t even attached to the floor and we weren’t wearing our seatbelts because of that!  I would have likely been launched out of the convertible at 40mph to almost certain death. 

We crashed to a stop in the ditch without hitting a tree, and miraculously neither one of us was even hurt.  I think John may have bumped his head on the steering wheel, but that was it.  I let out a huge sigh of relief as I realized we had made it through this potentially deadly disaster unscathed but John was having none of that. The word “gratitude” did not exist in John’s vocabulary (nor the concept in his mind apparently either), and the first words out of his mouth were something like: “Why didn’t you tell me it was a REAL hairpin turn?!!” as though it were now somehow MY fault that he had crashed his car!  I barked back that I had been screaming at him to slow down for a ¼ mile, the sign on the road said “15 MPH” with a 90-degree curve icon on it, and I never stopped telling him to slow down right up until he hit the brakes at the last second when it was already too late. 

That shut him up long enough for us to think about how we were going to go the 5 remaining miles to my house (there was no Uber and Lyft in 1980—Hahaha!), and we certainly didn’t want to hang around until some neighbor called the cops and John got a DUI.  This was rural BFE land in Mequon (my semi-rural suburb at the time), so there was nobody around at 3am.  We started walking down the road and my plan was to make it a mile or so to the more major intersection and dream up a good story I could tell my Mom when I called her on the pay phone.  As we were walking, a car approached and just for grins we put our thumbs out to try and hitch a ride.  We figured nobody would stop at 3am, but it turned out to be a cool dude about our age who did us a total solid and drove us all the way back to my house! 

I thought we were home free, but my Mom heard us come in and I made the mistake of telling her the truth about John putting his car in the ditch.  I told her we weren’t hurt and we were going to hit the hay and deal with it in the morning.  What I hadn’t counted on was my Mom’s “play by The Man’s rules” authoritarian side rising out of bed at 3am and insisting on calling the local police to report the “accident.”  I told her we didn’t hit any other cars, nobody else was remotely involved, etc. but to no avail.  Mom had to “do the right thing” in her mind, and although I was a bit nervous (for John really—I wasn’t driving), I thought the cops would just tell us to sort it out in the morning since we had already left the scene, and they wouldn’t want to schlep out there at 4am, etc. 

Unfortunately, I underestimated how little the Mequon police had to do at 4am, and they insisted that Mom drive us both back to the scene of the accident so they could investigate, write their report, etc.  So into Mom’s ’74 Eldorado we went, and there were four cops there when we arrived.  My Mom had figured out by this time that we were quite drunk and she told us both to shut the hell up and stay near her car while she went over to talk to the cops.  That actually surprised me, but Mom was walking the tightrope between trying to follow “the rules” while still trying to protect us from the wrath of the law.  The cops didn’t have too much trouble figuring out what happened, and we figured John would get breath tested, arrested, and be on his way to a DUI. 

Buuuuuut…We got really lucky in that one of the cops was Robert, our former next-door neighbor for about 10 years, and our families knew each other very well.  In fact, Robert’s family were the local farmers who developed our neighborhood and we actually bought our house from them!  My Mom confirmed Robert’s suspicions that we were probably quite drunk, and Robert had the kindness to not take things any further.  They made John show his driver’s license, sign the report, and arrange for the car to be towed out of the ditch, and my Mom had already told both of us to shut the hell up and be nice to the cops because they were doing us (well really John) a huge favor as long as we didn’t say something stupid and piss them off.  For once, John listened to some sound advice! Of course my Mom had to call John’s Mom and tell her what happened, and of course John bitched about that.  I don’t think I need to explain the huge amount of gratitude I have for escaping my closest call ever with a premature death.  Sure, things are pretty ugly now but that was nearly 40 years ago and I’m very grateful for that near miss with death and several others as well.  I’ve already had nine lives, and I’m very glad “Lake Shore Drive” never got me over the years!  (And it gave me my “Eric the Nudist” story, so I really can’t complain about the Tao of LSD, er—I mean “Lake Shore Drive.”)

Europe 2013 and “Fun with the French Police”

One of the highlights of my life was a 23-day tour of Northern Europe with Sandy and our very good friends Marc & Traci.  I have to give credit where credit is due (sorry, Marc—Hahahaha!), but Marc’s ex-wife Traci planned this excursion out to the last detail for months and did a great job of it!  The rest of us were along for the ride, and what an interesting ride it was!  The itinerary was a direct flight to London where we spent 4 days; a 13-day Baltic Sea cruise (it was July of course!), and we ended with 2 days in Amsterdam (duh!) and 4 days in Paris.  The cruise stopped in Copenhagen, Berlin, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, and Tallinn, Estonia. 

I’ll tell this story mostly in pictures with the exception of a few “interesting” incidents, and I’ll say that I really loved the trip because we got to experience so many different cultures and a ton of art museums, including the Lourve and the Hermitage (St. Petersburg’s version of the Louvre and a very apt description!).  Marc and Traci weren’t into the art thing as much, so they would explore the city while Sandy and I were exploring the art.  Then they would have amazing dinner and evening plans ready to go when we got out of the art gallery.  Talk about a win-win situation!

Let’s go to Europe and see what happens next…

My first of many beers in Europe at Heathrow Airport. One of my favorite things about Europe was that you were allowed to drink your beer just about anywhere. “Open container” law? They had no idea what that even was and were amazed at how uptight America is in this regard.
Sandy & I on “The Tube” or whatever the hell they call it over there.
Marc & Traci chilling in the park near Buckingham Palace.

One of the major differences between Europe and the US is that the Europeans aren’t nearly as fond of either fat or guns anywhere on their bodies (or more accurately, guns anywhere except for a few in the hands of the police.)  Now I certainly appreciated the European attitude toward physical health, but we had a lot of fun messing with their views on guns throughout our travels!  Now before anyone jumps to conclusions regarding we ‘ugly Americans” with big mouths obnoxiously pushing our views on the “more civilized” residents of our host countries, I can honestly say that at least 80% of the time it was the Europeans who brought up the gun issue when they found out we were Americans!  We seemed like normal, friendly, outgoing people to them, and they naturally assumed that we weren’t part of the “crazy, extremist” (or libertarian!) crowd who believed in gun ownership for the peons.  Or at the very least, they were nosy and self-righteous enough that they wanted to give the “ugly Americans” a bunch of shit if they didn’t agree with the European view of things!  We had at least a half dozen or so fun debates about this issue, and it was definitely an unexpected pleasure as anyone who knows me will understand–Hahahaha!

Marc & I asking these nice London police officers why the are UNARMED…. They explained that only “special police” in England were armed. We told them they looked “special” enough to us and that we would feel safer if they were armed since we obviously weren’t! They pointed to their radios and said that they could have the “special police” here in 10 minutes or so should the need arise. Seriously?!!!
But they were very sweet and friendly enough to pose for a photo with us! (And with me wearing my anarchist “anti-flag” shirt!)
The Museum of Modern Art in London
Uh oh–Let the trouble begin…

Those of you who don’t know Marc need to know that he’s a criminal defense attorney (and one of the best in the state!), so when ex-wife Traci wanted to bring her weed stash with her to Europe, Marc put the kibosh on that idea in a nanosecond or less.  But after a couple of days had passed and we adjusted to the time change, Traci decided she wanted to score some weed in London.  Marc wouldn’t have anything to do with it, but given my past history, she talked me into helping her.  After a detour to a guy who tried to sell us oregano (I’m not kidding—He still thought it was 1975 apparently!), we ended up making Traci happy, and that was a good thing considering we still had 20 more days in Europe together!

We can see who has “the munchies!”
OK–Twist my arm. I confess…

Christinana was a very unique part of the Netherlands because it was technically about 800 acres of its own country and not part of the EU either.  I’m not going to go into it’s interesting history here, but you can tell from the pics that it’s a different place altogether.  Weed is actually legal there and they grow it and sell it openly, but hard drugs are strictly verboten.  We met some very interesting characters there, and although photos are forbidden, the most interesting character of all let us photograph him! Ironically, he was the only European we met that agreed with gun ownership for civilians. As you can see from his tattoo, he didn’t trust the police–Hahahaha!!!

Next stop–Berlin

Our next stop was Berlin where we met Alessandro and Domitia. They are still friends to this day! Alessandro and Marc had met on the internet, and we hit it off so well at lunch that they took us on a bus tour of Berlin!

We spent part of a day in Helsinki, Finland, and then it was off to Russkieville for two days. St. Petersberg was an interesting place and much different than the rest of Europe. Almost nobody speaks English there, and you can’t read the signs in the Cyrillic alphabet! The Russian government requires you to have an approved tour guide with you at all times, and that’s the guy in the pics. He wasn’t too happy with us when Marc & Traci ditched him at the Hermitage museum and wandered around town by themselves–Hahahaha!! I did manage to talk him down off the ledge and convince him that they wouldn’t get into trouble and to continue the Hermitage tour which Sandy & I traveled literally halfway around the world to see! (I think St. Petersburg is actually 11 or 12 time zones east of Phoenix.) We had an awesome tour, and to say the Hermitage rivals the Louvre is no exaggeration at all. The Russkies claim it is superior to the Louvre, and they could be right.

Next Stop–Tallinn, Estonia (I never thought I would get to go there in my life!

Last stop–4 days in Paris!

Of course, no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower, and and we arrived in the large park around the tower about an hour before sunset.  It started out harmlessly enough with Traci & I sneaking a couple of hits while strolling through the Eiffel Tower Park with our non-smoking mates (somebody had to remember the way back to the hotel—Hahahaha!!)  We checked out the tower for a while, took a few pics, and then strolled across the park again to chill a little bit more.

Traci and I wanted to enjoy the rest of our herbage, so we had a seat on the lawn in a pretty remote part of the park (I chose the spot, so what comes next is largely on me!), and fired up the rest of our “smoky treat.”  Sandy (very wisely in hindsight!) stood about 50 yards away from us and was waiting for us to do our thing.  Marc, being the Mr. Social that he is, sat down with Traci & I so we could all talk for a few.  Traci & I passed the smoky treat between us a few times, and just as I was enjoying a big puff of the treat, four French police officers rode out of the woods on the bike path and stopped right in front of me!  The main officer was a woman, and I exhaled a bunch of smoke she asked me in French what I was holding in my hand.  (I don’t speak a word of French, but I was pretty sure that’s what she was asking!)  I was speechless for a variety of reasons: First, I don’t speak French and don’t know the correct word for “weed”; second, I was scared shitless at being possibly busted for weed in a foreign country, and third, I could hear the words of a very good criminal defense attorney friend of mind echoing through the canyons of my admittedly altered mind.  Those words were: “Never talk to the police!!!”  Of course, the person who had said this to me 100 times happened to be my good friend Marc, who was sitting right next to me! 

Just as I am thinking all of this (with a racing heart and feeling a little breathless to say the least), Marc leans in toward me with a shit-eating grin on his face and says (no, I’m not kidding!): “This is going to be an interesting conversation.”  Seriously.  That is exactly what he said and oddly enough, Marc turned out to be exactly right in the end.  But at that moment all I could think was: “Easy for you to say—I’m the one sitting here holding a burning doobie with a French cop and her three friends talking to me in French!!!   I did reply I English that I didn’t speak French, and she gave me a look of disdain as if to say, “Oh—A dumb American smoking weed in our park, and then proceeded to ask me in English what I was holding in my hand (as though she didn’t know!)  I didn’t say a word because I knew if I said the wrong thing I might hurt my cause, but more importantly I knew I would never hear the end of it from Marc who was sitting right next to me.  After a very long and awkward pregnant pause, Marc finally spoke up (it’s a good thing when your friend and criminal defense attorney is already there when the cops have questions for you—Hahahaha!!) and said something to the effect of: “I think we all know what that is officer.”  There was a bit more of an exchange between them and I think he did finally admit it was weed (which I honestly can’t remember because I was high as all hell, scared shitless and still holding a joint in my hand!), and the French police officer told me to put the joint out and shred it up into the grass!!  I was quite surprised and quickly did exactly that before she changed her mind.  Imagine being told by the cops to destroy the evidence—Things were definitely looking up!!  She asked where we had been before we came to France, and then told us that we weren’t in Amsterdam anymore and that weed wasn’t legal in France.  At that point I mumbled an apology and thanked her, and Marc started into profusely complimenting the French police for their sanity and reason, pointing out that things would have gone quite badly for us in the US, and launching into a libertarian diatribe of sorts praising Europe in general.

At some point, they noticed Sandy standing in the wings and asked if she was with us, invited her to join the group, and we all talked for about another half hour or so about the differences between Europe and America, and a bunch of other stuff that Marc brought up.  Mr. Social Libertarian was definitely leading the conversation after the first few minutes.  The upshot of the situation was that their “search” of me consisted of asking me if I had anymore weed (I truthfully replied that I didn’t), a very cursory pat down of my pockets (“that’s just my wallet, officer”), and at the end of the day, they didn’t even kick us out of the park!!!  Marc tried to talk them into an iPhone photo with us so we could add it to our collection of European police officers (see the British police at the beginning of this piece), but I think by then they had heard enough from Marc (who was doing almost all the talking by now), and politely backed away and rode off on their bikes. 

Thanks so much, man!!!  I owe you one.  Talk about good luck that your close friend and criminal defense attorney just happens to be sitting right next to you when the cops catch you with weed in a foreign country!!!  Am I seriously lucky, blessed, leading a charmed life or whatever words you choose to describe it?  I am truly grateful for that experience indeed!!!

We spent another day or so in Paris, and I had my final meal in France—Steak tartare, of course—Yum!!!  Sorry to all you veegie-weegies out there, Marc—Hahahaha!!!  I just had to celebrate my freedom in a truly French way…

Celebrating my good fortune and wonderful life…

Fun with the Police–Chapter 2

Unfortunately, this story didn’t end quite as well as the first one, probably because it involved the “big city” Milwaukee police department instead of our local small-town suburban police.  Things started out innocently enough with my girlfriend and I and another couple chilling out in a local city park in a place called Brown Deer, WI.  I was 17, she was 16, and the drinking age at the time was 18.  Not that it mattered a hell of a lot in Wisconsin at the time, and the park was literally deserted on a weekday afternoon in the summer around 1:00.  The other couple wasn’t drinking, but my girlfriend and I decided to share a six-pack of beer.  No big deal, we thought…

After we were about halfway through our beers, we noticed a couple of middle-aged guys in jeans and T-shirts tossing a football around about 100 yards away from us and didn’t really think anything of it.  They gradually got closer, and pretty soon they were pretty much right on top of us in a giant empty park.  Just as I was thinking how weird this was, one of the guys whips out his badge and tells us they are cops.  I really wasn’t too nervous at this point—In Wisconsin in the 1970s, the cops were pretty lax about alcohol, and I honestly thought they would probably check our IDs, make us dump the beer, and kick us out of the park.  But, alas—It was not to be.  It turns out these clowns were “detectives” who were busy slacking off in the park, tossing a football around, and busting harmless kids for having a few beers (and getting waaaaaay overpaid to do it!).  They carded us all and then started searching our pockets and looking for a reason to arrest us.  Well, the beer was technically enough to arrest my girlfriend and I, but I had the misfortune to have the princely sum of about $3 worth of weed in my pocket.  Officer Slacker immediately slapped the cuffs on us and radioed for (get this!) an old-school paddy wagon to cart us all the way downtown to the main county jail! 

As the cops made us do the proverbial “walk of shame” handcuffed together (I kind of liked that part-wink!) through the park to the paddy wagon, my girlfriend was crying thinking about her parents punishing her (even though they knew full well that she drank beer like many other kids in that era!) In contrast, I was actually pretty pissed off at the hyperbolic response by these two “undercover detectives” looking for an easy day at work on the taxpayers’ dime rather than looking for any real criminals (who existed in large quantities only a few miles from the park!) Of course…Yours truly could not resist offering the cops exactly that opinion of their “work” that day pretty much from the moment they slapped the cuffs on us to when they sat me down in the station for what they thought would be their lecture to me.  I expressed my annoyance at their lame lecture and gave them a piece of my mind about “harmless kids” versus “real criminals” and told them that two guys spending 6 hours each busting two kids for drinking beer was a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money!

The detectives did not take kindly to my diatribe and thought they would teach me a lesson by locking me in a real jail cell in the room behind them.  I just shook my head and peacefully complied of course, and I spent the only three hours of my life I would ever spend inside a real jail cell.  (And it was the old-school kind with rusty pale green bars, etc.—Kind of like this one.)

Not the actual jail but you get the idea! (This one is the original City of Phoenix jail, and we did a few video shoots here in my advertising years. I could come and go as I pleased, but it actually wasn’t as much fun as the real jail in Milwaukee turned out to be…

The jail was nearly empty on a weekday afternoon of course, so I had my own cell (probably because I was a minor I would guess).  But there were two other people in nearby cells, and one of them gave me a friendly greeting as the cop led me past him into my cell.  He was a white guy a few years older than me, and we started talking for a while about why we were there, etc.  He was in the cell beside me so I couldn’t really see him.  What I did notice for the first time in my life though was a black dude dressed in drag passed out on his bunk in the cell directly across from me!  Being a suburban white dude, I had never seen anything like that before!  I asked the other guy what the hell was up with that, and he explained that the passed out drag dude was probably a heroin addict they caught trying to turn tricks in exchange for his H. 

I said something like, “Damn—I’m never doing that shit.  I’ll stick to beer and weed!”  The guy immediately replied, “Oh, you smoke weed?”  I reiterated that I did and he surprised the hell out of me by asking if I wanted to smoke with him!!!  I said: “You mean here?  INSIDE THE MILWAUKEE COUNTY JAIL?!!!”  He replied that that was exactly what he meant, and I asked him how he managed to get his weed inside the jail.  I told him they took mine from my front pocket during my arrest, and he said: “Well, you should have put a doobie in your sock like I did!”  It turns out he even had a pack of matches in there, so I can honestly say that the only time I ever went to jail, I arrived sober and left high. Talk about something that is very unusual to be grateful for—Hahahaha!!!  Fortunately, the cops let me cool my heels in there for about three hours before my Mom showed up to get me.  They told my Mom I seemed like a good kid who just had a problem with authority (you think?!) and that if I stayed out of trouble for a few more months until I was 18 my record would be expunged.  I don’t happen to believe that “expunged records” really exist—Someone probably scanned them into a computer at some point in 1995 just in case…  If not, they can read my blog about it!


Needless to say, my Mom was none too pleased as we left the station; she explained that my father was furious and that I would be grounded for a long time to come.  Of course I can’t blame someone from her generation from being mortified at having to pick her son up from the police station, but I was still hopping mad about the way the whole thing went down and what I maintained was the cops’ huge overreaction.  My Mom and I were on opposite sides of this authoritarian issue (and remain so to this day!), so I received an indefinite grounding as punishment.  But a friend of mine was having a party that night (her parents were out of town—imagine that!), so I decided that I was simply not going to accept my punishment. 

In my mind, I had done nothing wrong to anyone; I was behaving nicely and minding my own business drinking beer with my girlfriend, and it was the cops who were in the wrong for arresting me rather than simply dumping my beer and booting us out of the park.  In that spirit, I went into the basement of our house, walked out the door, snagged my bike from the garage (couldn’t risk Mom & Dad hearing my car start!) and rode my bike to the party in about 20 minutes.  To my credit, I called my parents immediately when I arrived so they wouldn’t worry about where I was and told them I did not agree with their punishment and simply refused to accept it.  I didn’t want them to worry about me or be an asshole about it, but I had to be true to myself and honest with them.  After getting over their initial anger, I think my parents understood that I had a point, and the next day we agreed on a 2-week grounding to keep peace in the household.  Hey, even we anarchist libertarians can compromise for love…

Fun with the Police–Chapter 1

I’m not sure all of you will approve of these stories either, but now that you have some idea who I am, you might be wondering whether I had any run-ins with the police in my lifetime.  I can honestly say that I had several notable experiences but was fortunate enough to escape relatively unscathed in every sense.  I can also say that I was still the same easygoing fun person I am today.  I never thought of myself as some crazy rebel who hated the police or anything—I just didn’t (and still don’t!) believe that other people had some magical authority over me in terms of forcing “naptime” upon me at age 4 or telling me I couldn’t drink a beer or smoke a plant at age 16.  I guess I was always hard wired to be an anarchist libertarian.  At the end of the day, I’m grateful for my run-ins and close calls with the police at a young age because it made the concept of freedom crystal clear to me and gave me a healthy fear of what authoritarians could do to you if you weren’t careful.  And holding freedom as one of my highest values allowed me to enjoy life waaaaaay more than I otherwise would have.  (And I think they are pretty funny and ironic stories you may enjoy…)

My First Close Call (1978)

It was in 1978, and I was 16 years old at the time.  Back in the 1970s, a steady supply of weed was difficult to come by consistently, particularly since we lived in Wisconsin about 1,500 miles from the Mexican border. Since my buds and I were regular weed smokers, it was a bummer when the town went “dry” for a month (usually in the winter when we needed it most!), and this pissed me off considering that we lived in a so-called “capitalist country.”  My solution to the problem was quite rational (or so I thought at the time!)—I simply decided to buy quarter pounds of weed instead of smaller amounts (called “nickel bags” and “dime bags” back in the day because of their respective $5 and $10 price tags) so at least my close friends and I wouldn’t have to suffer during the dry spells.  I would have enough in my inventory to sell to my friends for a while, and it had the added benefit of reducing the per unit cost by about 40% so I would get to smoke for free!  (Yes, I was a capitalist even as a weed-smoking teenager!)

I had just returned to our local burg from my downtown high school where I scored a “QP” (quarter pound) of so-called “Gold ‘Lumbo” (it was probably grown in some hillbilly’s greenhouse in Kentucky—Hahahaha!) and went over to my friend K’s empty house (his parents had put it up for sale but he still had the keys) to divide it into smaller quantities I could share with my friends.  We went inside for a while to smoke a quick one and shoot a round of pool, and I divided the bulk weed into 16 quarter ounces in sandwich baggies (how 1970s!!).  We locked up the house around 5pm or so, hopped in K’s car, and were just about to take off when literally at least a half dozen cop cars (and at least twice as many cops) pulled into the driveway surrounding us!  I was sitting in the back seat behind K, and was quickly getting pretty freaked out!  A few thoughts went through my head (none of them good!) as I frantically stashed the bags of weed under the back seat of the car.  Not only did I have weed; I had a quarter pound of it, AND it was in 16 separate baggies which automatically made me an evil “dope dealer!”  Things could have turned out badly for me indeed!

Fortunately for all of us, K had the presence of mind to jump out of the car and immediately greet the first “Officer Friendly” who was walking up to the car.  K quickly explained that he was the owner’s son and that his Dad sent him over to check on things or some BS story.  While this was going on, one of the other cops peered through the windows at the rest of us, and I thought for sure he was going to search us or the car or both.  Thankfully, K was such a great schmoozer that the cops bought his story and let us ride peacefully away in a few minutes.  We were all sweating bullets of course and glad to have escaped unscathed.  But that left a really important unanswered question…

I’m sure you’re wondering why all those cop cars would pull into the driveway of a residential home in a small town without suspecting a thing about us.  I know I was confused, and it turns out that K’s dad (unbeknownst to K) had given the local cops permission to use his house and 5-acre lot for “training purposes,” and that’s why nearly every cop on the force showed up at once.  For a training exercise.  Talk about an unlucky coincidence!  But it worked out much better than my next interaction in “Fun with the Police-Chapter 2…”

We Be Trippin’!

I think the photo speaks for itself (most of the time!)

I’m not sure all of you will approve of these stories, but I am grateful that I took some risks in life and had some amazing experiences as a result.  Liberating the mind and opening the famous “doors of perception” made for some very interesting experiences!  And with death staring me in the face right now, it’s particularly interesting to contemplate exactly what reality is in terms of life and death.  My friend Tim has been talking lately about the entire universe simply being a high-tech simulation of sorts, and I find that rather intriguing as well…

My First Trip (1978)

It was the summer of 1978 and I was 15 years old at the time.  My friend Shelly and I had smoked weed a few times, and she thought it might be fun to turn the “newby” on to LSD one Saturday afternoon.   Shelly’s mom worked in the office at the local bank, and she and her boss normally spent Saturday afternoons somewhere his wife wouldn’t look, so we had her house to ourselves for a while at least.  I rode my bike over to Shelly’s around 11am and took the psychedelic plunge.  To Shelly’s credit, she was a great acid coach in terms of telling me what to expect, and she explained that we were just going to chill in her peaceful yard and let our minds explore the universe.  The trip was textbook in every way, from the initial giddy laughter to the visual trails and philosophizing about life as much as you can as a teenager.  Around 5pm Shelly’s mom arrived home, and I started getting a little nervous.  The way my mind felt, I was sure everyone else would know I was hallucinating, etc. and we would be busted for sure.  Shelly was very reassuring, and sure enough, we sat down and talked to her mom for almost an hour and she didn’t suspect a thing!   

Of course I told all my friends about my experience, and a few of them were dying to try it.  At that point, I started becoming the “acid king” and the rest is history.  Here are just a few of over 100 psychedelic experiences I’ve had between ages 15 and 28.

Dosing the HS Football Team (1979)

Before I got involved with dosing about a dozen of the local football players, I first had an experience with some close friends (K & T) who were local jocks but regularly smoked weed and drank with my best friend Kevin and I.  One night, we went over to K’s house and Kevin and I decided to drop some acid.  Our football friends were definitely opposed to the idea and gave us “freaks” the stinkeye for doing it.  But a couple hours later when Kevin and I were laughing our asses off and seeing trails, these two decided that they wanted to try it now.  The only caveat was that we had to keep it a secret from their football buddies so they wouldn’t be ostracized or thrown off the team for hanging out with “the freaks”—Hahahaha!!  The only problem was that I had only brought the two hits for Kevin and I, and the rest was stashed in the kitchen freezer at my parents’ house!  After a little convincing, K’s sister drove me back across town where I surprised my parents (while tripping my ass off—Thanks for the lesson in “maintaining” Shelly!) and made up some lame excuse about forgetting a record album or something and snuck into the freezer for a couple more hits when they weren’t looking.

I dosed K & T when we got back and within a couple of hours all four of us were pretty much on the same mental page.  Listening to music, hallucinating a bit, laughing a lot and the “jocks” were really having a great time on their first trip.  Shelly had trained me well to be an “acid coach” and everything was working out fine.  Just then the doorbell rang (surprise, surprise!) and it was my ex-GF Kim and her friend Terri who was visiting from Florida.  Now my Kim was certainly attractive, but her friend Terri looked like some femme fatale version of a voluptuous cartoon that had come to life!  Our tripping football friends weren’t quite sure if this was reality or some alternate universe and frankly I wasn’t so sure myself! 

Terri was from somewhere in Florida and spoke with this surreal sexy  southern accent that drove the boys crazy.  And of course it was the summer of 1979, and Miss Voluptuous was literally wearing nothing more than tiny shorts, a cropped T-shirt and tennis shoes.  (And I mean nothing else!!!)  Nothing happened (except in our minds of course—Hahaha!), but that was that was K & T’s first foray into the land of psychedelia.  I think they enjoyed it on several levels!

Of course, Kevin and I kept our promise to keep our friends’ trip a secret, but within a week I was getting phone calls from other members of the local football team wanting to know if I could “turn them on” too.  Apparently, the experience was so intense that the boys just couldn’t keep their own secret!  We lived in a small town, so my Mom knew that I didn’t hang out with the jock crowd and was wondering why they were calling me all of a sudden.  I think my Dad figured it out, and he made some cryptic comment to me that he knew “something was going on.”  But I don’t think he ever found out the truth!  The truth was that I ended up dosing about a dozen members of the local football team a few weeks later, and what a “trip” that was for me to be “coaching” a bunch of high school jocks on the joys of psychedelia—Hahahaha!

Larry’ Bad Trip (1981)

My best friend Kevin’s friend Larry (MUHS Class of ’81 boys) had a trip so bad he completely lost touch with reality.  I was a class ahead of Kevin (Class of 1980), so he and his Class of 1981 friends came out to visit me while I was a freshman in college at the U of Wisconsin—Madison.  It’s important to know that UW Madison (and Wisconsin in general!) was a “party hearty” place like no other I’ve seen since, especially where alcohol was concerned.  In this case, Larry brought some LSD with him so we could have a dose and enjoy the music festival going on that weekend.

Larry & I dropped some acid (and many beers of course), but Kevin and Zach stuck to only weed and beer.  When the acid started kicking in for Larry and I, we all went cruising around the backyard parties on Mifflin St. during the “Mifflin St. Days” festival, ending up in the backyard of a house watching a pretty good Doors cover band.  During the show, Larry grabbed my arm and said something like: “Damn—Jim Morrison is really awesome!”  I thought he meant that the singer was doing a pretty good job and I agreed that yes he was doing a very good Jim Morrison impression.  Larry looked at me in a strange and anxious way as though I were nuts for not understanding that the guy was REALLY JIM MORRISON.  The weird part was that the singer was kind of a shorter half-Hispanic guy and didn’t actually LOOK like Morrison at all!  Kevin and I noticed Larry’s increasing disorientation and anxiety and kept a very close eye on him.  We stayed for a bit longer and I thought Larry would eventually figure it out, but he kept making comments about how awesome “The Doors” were!  At one point I actually stated flat out that Jim Morrison had died 10 years earlier, and this was strictly a tribute band.  Larry sort of looked at me in disbelief, and my concern definitely increased at that point!

Kevin and I decided it might be best if we head back to my dorm room and get Larry out of his delusion, so we trekked out of there and stopped at the local liquor store (where I was quite well known by the owner for buying at least a case of Point beer every week!) on the way back.  I grabbed the case of Point, threw it on the counter and then realized I had forgotten my wallet.  I asked Larry if he would loan my $5 (yes, a case of swill beer was actually $5 in 1981!), so he pulled out his wallet, started looking at me and the liquor store owner quite strangely, and dashed out of the store without paying!   The liquor store owner knew something was up, told me I could bring him the $5 tomorrow (imagine that!), and suggested I better keep a close eye on my friend.  I told him I hoped the beer would help…  

We went back to my dorm room to chill to some music (and not The Doors!!!), and see if Larry would come back to reality at some point.  He eventually did, but things definitely got much worse before they got better.  During the next hour or two (my sense of time was bit distorted), Larry lost further touch with reality and started saying that we (his HS friends) were cops, totally freaked out, and tried to eat all of the drugs in his pocket!!!!  He had quite a bit of speed and acid in that baggie and could have died!  Thankfully, we were able to stop him in time and wrestle the drugs out of his hands and pockets.  He still didn’t know who we were.  We kept talking to him and trying to get him to recognize us and come back to reality, but he just sat there breathing hard and looking paranoid as hell.  

About an hour later, there was this loud crackling sound in my Witte Hall Madison dorm room, and we all looked around at each other as the universe completely changed.  At first I thought it was an illusion in my tripping mind but we all audibly heard it.  Even Kevin and Zach, who had ingested no psychedelics whatsoever, confirmed that they heard it too, and we all looked at Larry and knew he was 100% back to reality in that instant.  He knew who we were and didn’t remember much of his bad trip at all.  When we told him about it he reacted in total disbelief.  We had to show him the bag of drugs we wrestled from him, and we definitely didn’t return it to him until the next day! 

I’m still not sure what all that means, but perhaps it is something about “The Doors of Perception” which speaks to my friend Tim’s theory about changing the simulation.  One door closed and another one opened in an instant.  Very strange…

My Last Trip (1990)

I had at least 100 good trips before I had a bad trip and then I was done.  My good friend Brian was there—We saw the Doors movie (what is it about The Doors?  Hmmmmm…) that had just come out in the theaters and it depressed me and messed with my head a bit.  Nothing too serious—I knew who and where I was, but it was a total downer nonetheless.  Brian took the exact same stuff and dose and felt fine as far as I remember.  I can understand why psychedelics can be scary to many people, and I certainly saw a few others have bad trips much worse than mine.  I remember our mutual friend Jeff being afraid to try acid, so we had mercy on him and didn’t dose him without his consent anyway.  We did contemplate it briefly, but my libertarian side would never go for that!

Crickey the “Acid King” (one of my many nicknames—I owe that one to Kevin!)

Letter to Ben and Jim–Doing Drugs at Age 6

My Sister Kristin & I at ages 4 & 6.

Hi Ben & Jim–

Your story tears at my heart because I had a similar experience 40 years ago when I was a 6-year-old boy in grade school in the late 1960s.  Ritalin was fairly new on the market, and schools and shrinks were just getting into the act of drugging kids who were bored with the “education” they were receiving in government indoctrination camps (aka “schools”).  Like you and most boys with above average intelligence, I found school to be incredibly boring and felt the need to talk out of turn, doodle on my workbook, read things other than what were part of the plan, etc.  The teacher sent me down to the school psychologist (a fairly new job title back in 1968) to find out what was “wrong” with me.  The psychologist and the teacher had a counseling session with my mother and I, and he determined that I was “hyperactive” (they didn’t call it ADHD back then) and some Ritalin was just what the doctor ordered.  My Mom filled the prescription for psychoactive drugs, and VOILA!–I became a walking Zombie overnight!  I’m sure my teacher was very happy during the few days I was doped up in her classroom, but when my father came home from an out-of-town business trip, he was anything but pleased.  

In my case the slogan should have read: “Ritalin–So much easier than TEACHING.”

(Full disclosure about my Mom: She loves me very much and wasn’t trying to harm me.  She thought she was helping me.  Unfortunately, my Mom has a blind spot when it comes to trusting authority.  If a guy with a lab coat, an advanced degree, or a shiny badge tells her to do something, she will do it.  I’ve been working on her about this authoritarian crap my entire life to no avail.)

My father came home from working out of town to find his normally energetic, extremely talkative six-year-old son moping at the kitchen table with a glazed look in his eyes.  He immediately knew something was wrong but not knowing the cause, he asked my Mom what was going on.  Had I had a bad day in school?  Was I being punished for something?  When my Mom told him what had gone on that week at school while he was away, my father HIT THE FREAKING ROOF!!!  He first gave my Mom an earful about it, and knowing my father I’m sure voices were raised (mostly his) and fists were pounded on tables.  The Ritalin went into the trash immediately.  Whoever prescribed the drugs suffered my father’s wrath next. 

Back in the 1960s, “better living through chemistry” was the motto of both the medical establishment and the counterculture.  Of course, Big Pharma was trying to gain a larger clientele by hook or by crook.  (Oh, wait–Some things never change.  Thankfully, my father trusted his own wisdom over that of the “doctors.”)  The next morning, my father called the principal of the school and reamed her a new one. 

He was rightfully appalled that the schools would recommend drugging children as a first option rather than using the children’s feedback of boredom to improve the “educational” system (which can’t be improved in its current incarnation by the way–The school system is rotten to the core. Personal teaching and learning is by far the best way to educate, and anyone who is interested should read “The Underground History of American Education’ by John Taylor Gatto.  It’s both comprehensive and brilliant.) 

However, my father did insist that if the regular class work could not keep my mind engaged, the school had better assign me some additional, more challenging assignments.  The principal babbled some lame apology to my father and within a week, I and another above average kid (coincidentally my close friend and next door neighbor Chris) were placed at a table in the rear of the classroom with advanced work–simply textbooks and workbooks from the third grade (we were in first grade at the time).  When we finished with the third grade material (in several months), we moved on to the fourth grade math & reading books.  By the time I was actually in the fourth grade, I was reading at the eighth grade level and my boredom problem was solved by me sneak reading books of my choice in class while the teacher droned on about stuff I already knew.  Of course, I was occasionally punished for this, but it sure beat the heck out of taking the Zombie pills.  Thank you, DAD!!! I owe you one!

The sad thing about our country is that things have gone so far downhill in the past 40 years.  My father was able to rectify the attempted dumbing down of his son simply by pounding his fist on the table, reaming several ignorant people, and asserting his parental rights.  Everyone backed down, no judges forced drugs on me, and I went on to become a highly functional and successful (though often non-conformist!) individual.  Obviously, things have changed for the worst when a father cannot insist on the right to educate his own son in his own way without the state insisting on drugging his child and forcing him into the government indoctrination camp. 

My best advice to everyone is to keep your own mind as active and free as possible under the circumstances.  Most of your “education” will not occur in school; it will occur by your own choices of topics and ideas you research in the library and on the internet.  I graduated from ASU with honors in 1987 and I freely admit that most of what I was taught was absolutely useless nonsense.  I knew college was crap at the time, and I have spent the past 22 years unlearning what little garbage “knowledge” took hold in my subconscious.  I continuously read books of my choice when my reading skills reached the eighth-grade level (in the fourth grade) and have been educating myself since then.   This may not be the “norm” in modern America, but the good news is that nobody can really control your mind–Keep educating yourself and you will be OK in the end.  You will be 18 before you know it, and you will be 47 shortly after that (like me!). And it will happen much faster than you think.  Life is very short, but make the most of it.  It is a cool experience if you can just get through the childhood part of it where people tend to have more control over you. There are some wonderful adult experiences awaiting you if you keep an open mind and think for yourself…

Kind Regards,

Eric Cartridge

(I apparently wrote this under one of my “stage names”—Hahahaha!)