Crazy Road Tripping

8th of September, 1990.

It was hot that morning as I walked past the Corner Market as if I had a destination already chosen. No one was answering their phones . Remember the days of no cell phones? Every time you stepped out your door to go visit friends was a gamble. You never knew where people were, not like you do today. Christ, you can track them with the GPS signal in their cell phones now. Thank god my parents never had that ability…

I had already resigned my self to the fact that today would be a boring day. See who’s home. Who is going to party tonite. If there was nothing worth while going on, rent a movie and call it a night. Such is life in a small town.  As I weighed my options the corner of my eye caught a glimpse of a blue VW Van heading towards me. It screeched to a stop just before it would have nailed the curb, tires smoking and leaving black marks on the hot pavement.

“Hey man, you want to go to a KISS concert?” Rod asked, the look in his eyes telling me that his party had started last night if not the night before. Rod was in the passenger seat and Mike, who was driving the van, was leaning on him with one arm and hanging from the steering wheel with the other. Drool seeped from his bottom lip and had formed a small pool on the floor of the van. Rod looked in a little better shape, eyes beet red as usual, behind his red tinted prescription sunglasses. His mouth was locked in a perma-grin that betrayed his mental state.

“Sure, where and when?” I replied without telling them I had no money. I had wanted to see KISS since I was 8 years old and first listened to my older brother’s records on my brand new spiffy record player.

“We’re leaving now man! We’re going to see KISS, WhiteSnake and Winger in Spokane tonight and we have two extra tickets. We’re going to pick up George right now.” Rod told me in slightly slurred speech.

“Sounds good to me!” I jumped in the van and Mike started laughing uncontrollably in the driver’s seat as he slammed the van in reverse and backed across the street to turn around. I was pretty sure I didn’t want any of what they had taken but Rod always had weed and I was never one to say no to a bowl of green bud.

“What’s up with him?” I asked Rod.

“Too many pills. Downers I think…” he said. “You want some?”

“No thanks, at least not right now” I wasn’t ready to start drooling yet.

We picked up George, who was a couple years older than us and whe I had met a few years earlier at the arcade. We had a running battle for high score on “ExciteBike” there and usually the top score screen on that game only had our names on it. The arcade had been a source of many fun nights in our small town. There was the time we got drunk on tequila behind the arcade when I was 14. I had done about 3 Tequila slammers before passing out, only to wake up to the sound of police in the arcade breaking up a fight an hour later. I walked in the back door just as they were chasing the shirtless George out the front. I raced to the front door to see Officer Bob throw his night stick at George’s legs as he ran away down the sidewalk. Good times in our small town.

With George in the van we were off to Mike’s girlfriend’s house. Mike said she was going to let us use her car since it got better gas mileage. When we showed up it became obvious that she hadn’t been involved in this decision making process. Perhaps Mike had been discussing it with the voices in his head over night? Kelly yelled, Mike yelled. Mike pleaded, Kelly caved. Eventually, we left in her car (actually her mom’s car) and George, who was oldest looking amongst us, picked up some beer and it was off to Spokane, Mike at the wheel, doing 95mph all the way there.

About halfway to Colfax Mike started to get really out of it. We knew he was not right when we bounced off a guard rail at 80mph around a corner. That prompted George to punch him in the back of his head, almost causing us to wreck.

“You stupid bastard! Let me drive!” George screamed, almost spilling his 40oz. bottle of Bud Light. Mike seemed to wake up a little with that and he avoided any other permanent structures for the remainder of the trip to Spokane.

We arrived around 5pm with a show time of 7:30 at the Spokane Coliseum, we paid a visit to our friends Derek and Graham. They were brothers that we went to high school with and they lived conveniently only 1/2 mile from the Coliseum and Downtown Spokane in a low rent apartment in and old run down building. We smoked some hash with them and then headed down town to score some acid for the concert. Graham and Derek decided to sit the night out as they had to work in the morning washing dishes at Thaddeaus T. Fuddrucker’s. They issued last words of warning as we headed out their apartment door: “Be careful what you look for down town, you might find it”.

We took the short cut through the park as the sun went down. Against the flow of the concert goers we made a direct line for the corner of Sprague and 3rd where you could find pretty much any drug you wanted in those days. Within 15minutes we had scored about 10 hits of acid. Rod was paying so he and mike each got three hits and George and I took two each. I was feeling the effects by the time we presented our tickets at the concert entrance.

I don’t remember much about the actual concert but here’s a summary: sweaty bodies packed like sardines for three hours; first-Winger with front man Kip Winger in all his 80’s Hair Band glory, the women went wild!; then Whitesnake played their greatest hits before giving the stage to the headliner – KISS!! when they took the stage I was flying high, caught up in the music as visions of craziness filled my sight. Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace, they were all there playing and I honestly don’t remember much of it at all. Then, suddenly I realized the music had stopped (at least in the real world) and I was being moved along toward the exit with the thousands of other people, ushered into the streets of Spokane at 11:30pm.

I managed to find my buddies and we decided we were going to be peaking soon and didn’t want to burden Derek and Graham with our craziness tonite so we’d take a walk down to River Front Park. Laser Light shows filled the skies above us as we crossed the foot bridge to the heart of the park. The crowds we had been walking in started to get smaller as people found their rides or their homes. Soon we were the only people we could see (of course everything was extremely psychedelic by this time). George and I settled at the top of a great grassy hill where you could see across the park to the streets of downtown.

Mike and Rod had decidedto keep going and we saw them disappear around the corner of a street. They vanished from sight and mind, the mind distracted by a dancing Statue of Liberty on the side of a tall building. Fireworks exploded in symphonic synchronization above us and everything was alive. Trees moved and the grass seemed to welcome us to sit and relax all night. I asked George what he was seeing and he described much the same thing. Now the tall Ms. Liberty had left the building she had been painted on and was riding a large rocket through the night sky, spreading a rainbow of colors in her wake she waved her torch like a giant sparkler on the fourth of July. It was truly one of the most intense and pleasurable experiences I’ve had with LSD. And I’ve had my share.

A shout broke the peace and quiet. “THERE THEY ARE!!” from out of nowhere, Mike was frantically yelling and pointing in our direction from the downtown street. I thought I saw blood in the corner of his mouth when he yelled again. “THOSE ARE MY FRIENDS AND THEY ARE GOING TO FUCK YOU UP!” he screamed to the guy who was holding his arm. This guy looked pretty menacing, a sport jacket over his black t-shirt and jeans. Black boot/shoes. Looked like a mafia underling (or was it the acid?) and he wasn’t alone.

George and I were already walking toward them, not really understanding what was taking place here. It can be hard to accept reality when your reality is “enhanced”. Rod came around the corner, also being escorted by a large dude. He was in worse shape than Mike, glasses bent, blood covering his chin and his shirt nearly ripped off. The guy holding his arm was probably 6ft 3inches, 230lbs. and he might have been an albino. His blonde/red hair was a huge afro and he wore an LA Lakers Jersey with sweat pants. He was obviously with the Mafia guy and his other friend. The Mafia guy’s friend was a short Mexican looking dude wearing an army surplus jacket that was too big but threatened to be a good hiding place for some kind of knife or other weapon. George and I slowed as we reached the other side of the street from them, reality started to creep up on us like a bad dream.

Just then, Basketball guy hauls off and round-house kicks Rod in the face! Mike pushes Mafia guy and runs right past George and I, heading for the darkness of the park. Rod too, ran for it while Mafia, Basketball and the Mexican became aware of George and I and before I knew it, Basketball was grabbing me from behind and saying that he wanted to kick my ass next. About that time, the Mexican and Mafia ran towards George who seemed to wake from his trance and immediately sprang in to action. He turned on a dime and was in the park before they could catch him.

Now it’s me and the Basketball guy and he’s taking off my glasses for me before he starts to kick my ass but Mafia and the Mexican came back and Mafia told him to stop and give my glasses back. He wanted to ask me some questions. “Where are your friends going?” He asked nicely but I told him I didn’t know where they were going, I had just met them tonight and I don’t have any idea what is going on. I told them I wasn’t even sure this was real anymore and just wanted to get back home. I had put my glasses back on and was struggling to make sense of the swirling images in my eyes. Mafia walked a few steps away and then turned back, “ISREAL!” he said-or was it “IT’S REAL”? I guess I’ll never know but I couldn’t figure out at the time why he called me Isreal. As he walked back he reached inside his sport jacket and I saw him pull out a small hand gun, maybe a .38. That was enough for me, I broke free from Basketball’s grip and knocked him to the ground as I went right through him and in to the darkness of the park again.

They were screaming after me but I didn’t hear the gun go off so I just kept running. I looked back and didn’t see anyone. They hadn’t followed me in to the park. I ran down the length of the park. Occasionally running in to a garbage can and finally slowed to a walk along the walking path. I walked for what seemed like a long time, even running in to a Police Office once and assuring him that I was okay, just going home, not wanting to spend any more time around him while I was clearly peaking on acid. Eventually I came to a place where an overpass crossed the park and the river that ran down it’s middle. I took the stairs and walked on the sidewalk across the river. Streets empty and glowing in that orangish-yellow light of 3am. Not one car passed as I collected myself and tried to remember how to get to Derek and Graham’s house. Then, from behind I heard the sound of an engine revving up.

I looked back to see a black 70’s Camaro creeping up on me. It pulled alongside and in the driver seat was Mafia, pointing his gun at me again. I fucking hate that! “Isreal(It’s Real?), where’s your friends?!?” he demanded but before he could finish the words I had jumped the guard rail and fell 15 feet to the park grass below. Luckily I wasn’t still over the river at that point. I rolled and hit the ground running, faster than ever, and again they didn’t follow me in to the park.

By this time I was almost to the apartment building and safety. I had to leave the security of the lightless park interior and walk at least four city blocks to get there. The streets were deserted as I made the first block, looking left and right as I crossed the street, no cars for miles either direction. Just me and LSD and the night. Two blocks to go, I was feeling confident that I was going to make it, that I wasn’t going to end up as a newspaper story about some kid from a small town murdered in the city for no reason. What had happened to my friends? Had they gotten to the car and left me in Spokane? Were they freaking out and wondering what had become of me? “Isreal, we only want your friends” said Mafia as he stepped out from the alley two feet in front of me with the pistol pointed squarely at my chest. I saw the black car and the doors opening as Basketball and the Mexican got out. Again, my “fight or flight” response said “FLIGHT!” and I actually shoved him to the ground and ran right over the top of him while his buddies were still behind the car door.

One block to go now, I started yelling at the top of my lungs. “Graham!  Derek, open the goddamn door!” I was crossing the parking lot of their building and was only a hundred yards from the building’s security door that had to be opened by a key or by someone in their apartment. No lights were on in the building  so I yelled louder. “Graham! Derek! Hurry up, they’r going to kill me! Someone! Open the fucking door!” I pulled on the handle just as  Mafia, Basketball and the Mexica came around the corner of a row of cars. Buzz, I heard the lock unlatch and slipped inside just in the nick of time.

Derek and Graham came down and took me to their apartment where they decided I needed chocolate milk to help me come down from the bad trip I seemed to be caught up in. They had seen Mike and Rod and George a couple hours earlier and they were out driving around looking for me. We smoked enormous bowls of green bud and hash while they continued to assure me that we were safe and the bad guys had left. I checked the window periodically and didn’t see them again.

Mike, Rod and George showed up a little while later and we spent the night in the living room there swapping stories of the crazy fucked up night. Rod and Mike had gotten the attention of theses hoodlums when Mike had punched a window out in a store, not realizing that he didn’t have the power to go through objects without harm. They had been mugged and beaten for a few minutes before we came upon them, apparently saving them from further harm.

We went back down town in the morning and found Rod’s glasses and his wallet (sans money) laying on the stairs where we had found them being mugged. Everyone was starting to come down and we were hungry so we ate at the local fast food joint and left without paying before we made the long and paranoid trip back home. Constantly checking the mirrors and rear window for any sign of a black Camaro.

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