"National Trip Day"

In early 1980 I was seventeen; a smartass, constantly stoned (or drunk, or tripping, or something) and I wore a leather jacket. I searched out the fastest music possible and played it as loud as possible. I remember taking the stereo speakers and leaning them into each other, so the tops of the speakers came together. The speakers kind of formed a triangle. Then I lay down on the floor with my head in between the speakers and cranked the fuck out of the Ramones. It was twenty of the most well spent minutes in my life. I had plenty of acne. I guess I was a punk. I wanted to have as much fun as possible. I had a desire to find and do the most extreme things I could...and I was not alone. There were a bunch of kids who could be classified as punks. It was pretty much what was happening back in the day. Punk or nerd, the choice was yours.

Still other terms could also be applied to me, such as burnout, and fuck-up. I certainly wasn't as extremely punked-out as some people. I think I finally cut my long greasy hair sometime in early 1980. It is quite possible that if I were born fifteen years later I would have been playing hip-hop on my speaker triangle. Work with me here a little. Get the beat going:

Shikka-BOOM, shikka-BOOM-BOOM, Shikka-BOOM, Shikka-BOOM-BOOM ...

My name is JB, I got a story to tell
I threw my quarter in the wishing well
I wish I could rap, that's what I said
And now they call me wonderbread!
Because I am white as a cracker,
I'm white as a ghost
I'm white as a piece of uncooked toast
I'm proud of my homey, eminem
I am thinking that I can do it again
With the rappin and rhyming and calling the tunes
And getting the girlies to drop their pantaloons
I know about ghettos and all that crap
But I am bustin out white suburban rap
you must be true to yourself, be who you are
if you want to be a big rap star.

Yeah. Probably good I was there in the eighties. I don't think I would have done very well as a rapper. But, come to think of it I never really did very well in my punk bands either. Amazingly enough I opened for JFA (Jody Foster's Army) three different times in three different bands. It was The Truth, the Service and another band, maybe Necron 99? Anyway I thought it was cool.

We now return you to your regularly programmed story. In March of 1980 I moved into a house on the corner of Fourth and Madison. Apparently we were called the Mad Four. Not because we resembled the Fantastic Four in any way. It was because there were four of us living at Madison and Fourth. The MAD FOUR! Get it. HA-HA. Um...yeah, it was pretty dumb. But there we were, four groovy guys.

Now I must take you back in time. Come, Sherman, to the wayback machine. In early 1979 a few of us disgruntled youths were hanging out on the third floor of Commie High. We were bored. It was very cold outside. There were times when it seemed my feet never were warm. It had been snowing and cold and miserable for so long it seemed like forever. The conversation would its way around to what we would like to be doing. Romping in the Arb high on acid was suggested. It seemed like an excellent idea. So we set a date. We wanted to make sure the weather would be wonderful. We set the date for May 9th. It was decided that every year on May 9th we would all take acid together and trip out and have tons of fun and frolic. Sometimes when I was tripping I was actually too high to frolic. My mind would frolic and I would just kind of drool on myself or something.

So, anyway, we did it. A few of us went to the Arb, took some acid and sat around watching each other melt and morph and stuff. We would start to say something and then...we would...we would just laugh. We frolicked. National Trip Day 1979 was not that big a deal. I think there were five or six of us.

Before we knew it another year had passed us by and May 9th was rapidly approaching. While the normal children went out hunting for Easter eggs we went searching for acid. It came to us in the form of some really wicked shit called "Blue Dragon". It was a blotter with a really cool graphic of a dragon on it. It looked really cool. Of course we had to test it out before the actual holiday. It was very clean and very intense. The original plan was just to have a few people over at the house and we would have a nice little trip. Of course that is not the way it worked out.

Let me pause for a moment and introduce you to the Neighborhood. The Neighborhood was the name of a group of ruffians. It was essentially a street gang but not in the same way gangs are today. It was a group of people who would do wild and crazy thing together, often things of a criminal nature. The neighborhood of "the Neighborhood" was around Eberwhite School. The kids had all grown up together and the name "the Neighborhood" came about sort of organically by the various people saying things like, "I'm leaving downtown and going back to the neighborhood". A person might be in any of several houses in the neighborhood or hanging out in one of the parks or schools. Eventually the "Neighborhood" came to mean the people that lived in the neighborhood. It was a loose group in a way in that it never really had a leader, but it was a very tight knit organization.

I was never an actual member of the Neighborhood. I was an associate. I sold them weed and got them stoned and such. I committed various criminal activities of a low level nature with them from time to time. Petty theft and vandalism and things like that. They liked me and never kicked my ass. We were all friends and several of them were present for National Trip Day 1980. That is why I am mentioning them.

I would like to make a disclaimer here. That is that I really don't know what the fuck I am talking about and am generally "talking out my ass". Please understand that. I was not a member of the Neighborhood and have no right to write about it in any authoritarian way. The only thing I have ever been an expert on is being JB, and that is what this is about. My memories of this time may be completely warped and this is not meant to be a truly historical document. I am not using people's names for exactly that reason. I could be, and probably am, completely full of shit. Disclaimer over.

Back to 1980. As April was winding down we were stocking up on our Blue Dragon. I always thought that part of the fun about acid was the cool names it got. Even Purple Microdot was a pretty cool name. I remember "Mr. Naturals" and "Yellow Sunshine"; there was this really wicked stuff around just called Grey Blotter. It looked pretty plain but it projected a person far out into the astral plain.

Now as we were procuring the required substances word of the event began to spread. If asked about it I would not deny that National Trip Day celebrations would be taking place at my house. I did actually invite a few people over. My roommates also each invited a few people over. We did not really have any concerted effort to create a party. We never sat down and said let's have a bunch of tripping maniacs over on May 9th. It was simply National Trip Day and we were carrying on the tradition. It may have been a tradition that was only one year old, but still these traditions are the basis of our culture. Without traditions how can we separate ourselves as a people? It was our civic duty to take acid and fry our fucking minds out.

The guests would soon be arriving. Entertaining in one's home is always such a stressful activity. We did not have the benefit of having read any of Martha Stewart's books. We had some bonghits prepared as appetizers and of course a few cold beers. The downstairs stereo and the upstairs stereo were in a heated battle.

Stereo Wars was one of our favorite games. If a roommate pissed me off by playing their stereo either early in the morning or late at night, I would just crank the fuck out of some nasty punk rock to overpower whatever they were playing. Not every stitch of music played was punk. The Who, Stones and other sort of heavy rock and roll was mixed in with it. I had some records of obnoxious psychedelic 60's music that I would play really loudly. Bands like "the Magic Lanterns" and stuff. The weirder the better.

People started showing up and we all dropped acid. It was just like a regular party until the drugs kicked in. Then you could see what each person's trip was like. There must have been 30 or 40 tripping punks in this house all at once. I could see clearly what each person thought of them selves and what they wanted others to think of them. The social face that we wear unconsciously was worn openly all in attendance. We were all intensely aware of each other.

I remember one girl sitting in a chair in the middle of the living room. She was looking at us as if she was royalty. She was holding a rose that she waved about as a queen would wave her scepter. Then she dropped the rose and simply looked at it. It was beneath her dignity to reach down and pick it up.

The music was so loud it was hard to hear anybody talk. There was a lot of laughter. I went upstairs and there on the stair way was a friend of mine we was laughing. He was all by himself and laughing at everything and at nothing. He was leaning against the wall and ever so slowly, inch by slow inch, he was sliding down the wall. It seemed that this sliding was hilarious to his twisted mind and caused him to laugh more. The laughter was coming out in almost as panting. He was completely out of breath, smiling and just giggling insanely.

I propped him back up and went upstairs, where my room was. The record player was skipping and I removed the disk and placed another piece of vinyl on the turntable. Thank goodness it was semi-automatic and all I had to do was push a button to get it started. I sat on my bed and just kind of tripped for a while.

I noticed a few people in the other upstairs bedroom. I went in to see what they were doing. They were doing coke. I was offered a line but declined. I did not think it would have any effect on me so why waste it. I was about as high as I could get.

I went back down to the insanity, propping my friend on the stairway up again as I passed. He was still laughing. It was pretty crazy down there. The music stopped. Everybody looked around. Oh shit. The music stopped. My roommate came to the rescue by changing the record. The trip got back into a mellow groove. Many of the members of the Neighborhood were there and some of their macho bravado was gone. Erased by the intensity of the drugs. It was really nice to be able to relate simply as people. The people that we truly were as opposed to the people we pretend to be. So much energy gets taken up in posturing. So little is spent on friendship. It was a really cool vibe.

Then the shit hit the fan. All hell was breaking loose. We were being attacked! There was loud crashing and the sound of splintering wood. Then came the sound of angry yelling and screams. The mellow crowd became a frightened mob. A panic set in and people ran for the bathroom. I still have no idea why everybody ran for the bathroom, but that is where they went. They actually tried to climb out of the bathroom window, which would have put them into the pen where our insane neighbors kept their pit bull.

I broke free of the mob and ran to the top of the stairs only dimly aware of the violence that was unfolding. All I knew was that I was at the top of the stairs holding a bicycle pump and anybody who came up the stairs was going to get majorly fucked up. These tripping people were trying to call the cops in the other room and I was standing guard. They were doing a good job of making the call considering that these were tripping and terrified girls. I just stood my post.

Next door to our house there lived these insane Viet Nam veterans. These guys had the 1000-yard stare. It was pretty spooky. They would just look out sometimes, and you knew they had seen too much death. Anyway, they saw it us as in a primitive tribal sense, our people and their people. Well, one of our people, a member of the Neighborhood, had vaulted over the hood of one of their cars. I am sure that they were watching the weird punks and listening to the insane chaos for some time. The planting of a hand on the hood of one of their vehicles and the punk leaping across the hood of said vehicle caused some kind of flashback. It was the proverbial straw.

The Viet Nam vets were alcoholics. They also smoked weed but being drunk was the buzz of choice for their people. They formed a small war party and made a mission over to the punk house. There were maybe six or seven of them. I thought it was pretty ballsy, considering we numbered about 30 or 40. I think they could see what kind of condition we were in. They were also drunk and had courage from that.

This one incredibly ugly, overweight, drunk, female thing picks up a bike and was going to throw it on the porch but fell over backwards instead. There was one really mean vet who had one of his arms blown off in the war and he brought a cinder block with him, in his good arm, of course. Like neighbors sometimes do, he threw the cinderblock at the house. It was just his way of communicating. He threw it through the porch railing and broke several slats out. There was a loud crashing. The panic started inside.

The Viet Nam people started yelling, but a few members of the Neighborhood were on the porch. This type of thing was nothing new to them. Perhaps the ugly woman and the guy with half his arm blown off were a little different, but it was good old-fashioned violence. An erstwhile warrior of the punk clan grabbed a porch slat and braced himself for battle. Two other rather large punks stayed on the porch to defend castle Mad Four. Upon seeing that weapons were going to be used the ugly woman pulled out a carving knife.

Let me tell you about this knife. It was a big carving knife of the type used in the movie psycho. It was a long and heavy knife. Now let me tell you how this knife looked on acid. It was a huge length of metal forged in the pits of hell for the sole purpose of inflicting death. It was being wielded by a person who was totally insane and had no regard for life. It was easily the most dangerous thing I had ever seen in my entire life.

The panic attack that went through the tripping crowd left only a few members of the Neighborhood on the porch. Only one of them had a rail slat and they were faced with half a dozen Viet Nam veterans who were intent on killing them. A few punks came up behind the Viet Nam vets, keeping a safe distance. It got the Viet Nam vets to pause in their charge and consider the situation. A few more punks showed up and it looked as if the vets were losing their nerve.

Suddenly three patrol cars swept down the street and screeched to a halt. Everybody ran. Punks and vets scattered to the winds. I was still at the top of the stairs waiting for anybody, fucking ANYBODY, to try to come up those stairs. My knuckles were white as I gripped my chosen weapon, the bicycle pump. Adrenaline was mixing with the acid coursing through my veins. My laughing friend was quiet now. He was behind me, as a back up, in case anything should happen. The three people who called the cops were huddled in my roommate's room, furtively peering out the window. They soon told me about the arrival of the cops and the subsequent dispersal of everyone.

It was known that the cops did not arrest anybody. They simply dispersed the crowd. That meant that the Viet Nam vets were still out there. These people had killed dozens, perhaps hundreds of times. I had no real idea of their weaponry or their capabilities and I was still tripping. There were five or six punks still inside the house. One of our roommates was unaccounted for, although he was assumed to be safe.

We decided it would be best to stay away from the windows. We huddled near the stairs, in the center of the house. We were no longer sharing a trip. Each person had gone back inside his own head. The women had all left. I kept my bike pump near at hand. I looked into the tripping eyes of my few friends who had chosen to stay and tried to smile reassuringly at them. I have no idea what I looked like. Their eyes did not meet mine for long.

After a few minutes we started talking about what we should do. Some people wanted to go upstairs and play some tunes. I wanted to just stay put. I knew that the vets were out there and I wanted to be downstairs in case they made another attack. Then there was a debate as to what the next move of the enemy was going to be. What were the chances of them coming back to attack us? What would it be like living next to them?

It was then that the knock came. To my tripping ears it sounded like a brutal bashing upon the portal of our humble abode. I quickly grabbed my bike pump and moved against the wall along side of the door. The other various punks found some sort of cover. I noticed with satisfaction that several of them had grabbed weapons of some type. We knew the vets would be more determined the second time around and we were not going to make it easy for them.

The knock came again. Tightly gripping my bike pump I open the door and found myself staring right into the face of this cute little sixteen-year-old girl. "Hi", She said, "I heard there was a party here tonight". "Yeah", I said, "get in. get down. Shut up." She didn't stay long.

Three days later the vet with one arm appeared on our porch. I went out to meet him. He had come over to make peace between our tribes. We smoked the bong of peace. I shook his stump and he went home. I remember thinking about how similar our two tribes were, and how incredibly different. ---JB, April 2004