Do you have stories where you ask, “How am I still alive?” Maybe it was magik? Here’s a story that defines my mental health journey.
The intersection of North and Broad streets is an exciting part of town, an old section in the city. The buildings packed into the crossing of these two roads are chock-full of history.
Broad Street is home to Liberty Hall, a landmark-resting stop for the Liberty Bell back in September of 1777. Adjacent to Liberty Hall on Main Street is the Lion Inn, which was the central point of the Tax Rebellion of 1799.
Directly across the street from the Lion Inn is an old brick factory building converted into a storefront-apartment combo. Nothing lasts in the first-floor storefront, and a new business inhabits the space every few months.
Local artist and musician Eddie rented the apartment just above the revolving business trap. Eddie is the primary songwriter and guitarist of local band Dark Woods, which has been rumored to gain the attention of a few record labels looking to sign more Beck-related acts.
The apartment décor is made up of Eddie’s artwork, which is a rotating self-gallery of sorts. As soon as you walk into the apartment, there are a few nineteen-inch screen T.V.s stacked in a pyramid with the displays smashed out, no doubt a statement about the evils of mediocre media and the atrocities of advertising.
In another room, there is a drop tile ceiling, and each tile is painted with a nightmarish scene of people trying to escape from demons or flee some sort of peril. In every room, there is an ashtray, empty cans of beer, bottles of booze, and plenty of musical instruments.
Eddie has two roommates Karl and J.C. Karl plays in Dark Wood, and I’m not sure the connection to J.C.? What I do know about J.C. is that he’s the spitting image of Jesus Christ and he’s legit schizophrenic. With his long blonde hair and beard, J.C. walks around the apartment often talking to the dial tone on the landline or mumbling incoherently. J.C. also likes to discuss physics, math equations, and the space-time continuum, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a mad genius.
Inside Eddie’s second-floor apartment, you can stand in the living room and look out at the Lion Inn, and from J.C.’s bedroom you can look out at Liberty Hall. We are entirely surrounded by historical acts of rebellion, and so it made sense that we partake in rebellious acts ourselves, getting lost in art and drugs. If only it made a difference outside of this apartment.
The usual crew at Eddie’s consisted of Eddie, Karl and J.C. plus Stone, Ken, and D.J. On any given night, other local artists and musicians, including the remaining members of Dark Wood would stop in for drinks, to get high, talk about art, maybe write songs and bounce ideas of each other. Each night was an adventure, and tonight would be no different.
I got to Eddie’s around eight-thirty. It was raining so when I pulled up out front I quickly jumped out of my car and made a b-line for the door. I ran up the flight of stairs leading to Eddie’s apartment door, lit a cigarette, and walked in.
“What’s up,” I called out wildly. “We doin’ this?”
The reason I rushed over to Eddie’s was that D.J. scored some shrooms and everyone was going to trip, which was sure to be an adventure, and I didn’t want to miss out. D.J. was sitting on the couch with an ounce of dried out fungi. He was just sitting there, holding the bag and staring at it with hungry eyes.
Looking at D.J., I said, “Hey man, nice score!”
D.J. slowly turned his head and shot me a mischievous grin. Smiling back, I jumped over the couch to land next to him and grabbed the bag out his hands.
The rest of the crew spilled into the living room and huddled around the couch. D.J. handed out doses, and we began to chew.
Stone, whispered, “See ya on the other side.”
In my head I was thinking, tonight is going to either be completely insane or pure magic.
Partaking in hallucinogenic drugs is something that I’m enjoying as it opens the mind in ways that everyday experiences just can’t touch. I’ve been listening to a lot of Ram Dass talks on tape and reading Alan Watts. Listening to them both speak about consciousness and the nature of reality is a real treat.
When you eat shrooms, the effect is not immediate and can take up to twenty minutes for anything to happen. As you wait for it to take effect, some folks can think they got a terrible batch.
“It’s been fifteen minutes, and I don’t feel shit,” I looked over to see Ken get up to walk to the bathroom most likely to force puke.
There’s a school of thought that if you eat shrooms, you should make yourself puke fifteen to twenty minutes after eating the fungi so that you trip harder, but I think it’s a total crock. I hear Ken yacking in the bathroom and in between heaves he’s singing some made-up song about flying in the clouds.
By this time I feel a body high, and from the looks of the group, they’re experiencing it too. The group in the living room breaks up dispersing throughout the apartment, so I go to the kitchen and grab a beer out of the fridge. I’m starting to feel the drug kick in more, and it’s coming on pretty strong, seems like D.J. got some potent stuff.
It’s now forty-five minutes post chew, and I’d say we’re all feeling pretty good. Well accept for D.J., he hasn’t left the couch yet, and no one bothers him.
D.J. is a deep thinker, probably a mad genius like J.C. and he’s known for going on long and arduous rants about pop culture icons, the history of WWII, and the pornographic nature of the human species. The rants, although intriguing, take a lot of mental calisthenics, and tonight I’m here to try and relax.
“Drink this.” I throw D.J. a beer.
Behind the couch is Stone standing in front of an oscillating fan and I can tell he’s feeling no pain. Stone, once on his way to becoming a professional skater, is now homeless and an alcoholic. Before we began our trip, he had already consumed a case of cheap beer.
“I bet you I can stick my nuts in this fan,” Stone yells.
Why would you do that, I was thinking to myself but the rest of the crew overhearing this madness began to trickle back into the living room to egg him on, but D.J. is still just sitting on the couch.
Stone pulled his nut sack out over the waistline of his pants as if to taunt the fan like it was a lover. Who knows, maybe he was tripping so hard he thought it was?
“Do it, do it, do it.” And so he did. He grabbed his sack, stuck it right into the fan blades, and immediately screamed at the top of his lungs. The crew burst into tears while Stone composed and put himself away. No severe damage but my god maybe it was Stone who was crazy? I suppose it’s hard to tell with this group?
After this little trick, I made my way to the bathroom to take a leak. As I passed J.C.’s room, I noticed that he was sitting at his desk. Staring at a computer monitor flashing numbers, J.C. was again speaking into the dial tone of the phone. I just kept walking.
After the bathroom break, I grab another beer from the fridge and make my way over to the couch to check on D.J. He’s still sitting there. So, I open my beer and plop down next to him and ask how’s he doing? No response, he’s just staring forward. Clearly, he’s been stewing for what I think has been long enough, so I offer to get him a beer.
Just as I’m about to stand up, D.J. turns towards me and gets within inches of my face. He screams an ungodly scream, “KILL ME!!”
I jump back in total dismay, and Ken rushes over to grab D.J.
“Dude, chill out, man.” It takes a long while to calm him down, but we do.
Lighting a cigarette I walk over to an open window, I need some air. The rain is still falling hard as it hits the street outside; I see the ripples vibrate across the road, interconnecting concentric circles that go on for infinity.
“You okay?” I turn to see Eddie standing by the window blowing out smoke. Before I can answer, we both notice two people walking on the sidewalk, a guy and a girl, and they’re both soaking wet.
“Hey,” Eddie yells down to the street, “You guys want to come up and get out of the rain?”
The two stop, curious, and lookup. It wasn’t clear if either one were thinking who the hell is this whack job or thank god we need to get out of this rain?
“Open the door and come up the stairs, we’ll meet you at the apartment door, said Eddie.” So they did and the next thing I know they’re standing in the living room drinking beers with us.
The guy is older than us, probably in his late twenties and he’s wearing glasses that are fogged up and covered in raindrops. The girl, she doesn’t speak, but she appears to be around the same age. The guy introduces himself as Magic with a “k.”
An unusual choice for a name, naturally everyone asks why his name is Magik. He explains that he likes to do magic tricks.
“What kind of magic tricks?” I hear J.C. yell from his room.
“Well, I’m pretty famous for three tricks. I eat light bulbs, stick nails into my nose, and I do a balloon trick.” He pulls balloons out of his pocket like he’s a traveling magician and just keeps these things on his person.
My mind is totally blown, is this really happening right now?
Ken asks where the two are from because we haven’t seen them around town. The girl still keeps quiet, and Magik tells us how they’re just passing through town making there way to Philly. No one seems to care, and we keep drinking.
After two beers, Magik asks if we’re ready to see some tricks?
We’re all tripping on shrooms and drunk, of course, we’re prepared to see some magic. So he takes his balloon, like a balloon used to make balloon animals, and starts feeding it into his nose. Eventually, he works the balloon down into his mouth and pulls the other end out past his teeth.
As if she’s his assistant, the quiet girl walks over to Magik and blows the balloon up ever so slightly. Now he has this red balloon protruding from his nose and mouth, and he places both hands on either end of the balloon. Slowly he begins moving the balloon back and forth like the balloon was a dust cloth used to clean his sinus.
“Goddamn, I want to try that!” Stone walks over to Magik and asks how he does it. Following some brief instructions, Stone is working a balloon through his nose and out his mouth. Once more, quiet girl assists in blowing up the balloon, and Stone is laughing, uncontrollably.
“Look at me, look at me.” Stone gestures to his face.
We’re all laughing too. Then Stone tries to do the dusting thing and the balloon pops. Instantly, he’s gagging and coughing trying work the balloon pieces out. Pulling on both ends, he spits out some blood, but he retrieves all parts.
“Shit, dude.” Magik grabs Stone to see if he’s okay and half-jokingly mentions that he could be a great showman. Too bad Magik missed the nuts to the fan trick. Stone grabs another beer and settles in for the next trick.
Magik asks Eddie if he has a hammer, which he does. Eddie goes to a closet, pulls out a hammer and hands it to Magik. Then, Magik reaches into the opposite pocket from where he pulled out a balloon but this time pulls out a nail.
No one asks what is going to happen because he mentioned earlier that he sticks nails into his nose, but we’re all still enthralled. Slowly, Magik tilts his head back and gently places the nail into his left nostril. He picks up the hammer and begins to tap on the nail head, driving it deeper and deeper into his nose.
“Jesus Christ,” I hear Ken over my shoulder.
The nail is entirely in his nose, and I’m wondering if the dude punctured his brain? Just then he takes the claw end of the hammer, and little by little pulls the nail from his nasal passage.
I turn to look at Stone. “Yo, dude I’m not doing that one,” he laughs.
“For my final trick, I need a light bulb,” Magik says to Eddie. Eddie runs over to the closet again, grabs a light bulb and hurries back to Magik.
Eddie passes the bulb, “Here you go.”
Again we all know what’s coming, but it’s the act that is just mind-blowing. I’m sure watching someone eat a light bulb sober is crazy, but watching someone eat a light bulb while tripping on shrooms is insanity.
At a leisurely pace, Magik takes a few teeth and punctures the top of the light bulb. Once he has it cracked, like an egg, it’s game time. The crunching of glass breaking inside his mouth makes me want to puke, but the calm look on his face settles my stomach.
It takes Magik a minute or two to consume the glass of the light bulb. He picks up his beer from the windowsill and cracking a joke about washing down the bulb, Magik takes a long, hard swig from the bottle. And just like that, Magik has completed his show.
The crowd goes wild clapping and Magik takes a bow. His assistant, the quiet girl, just stands there looking forward. I don’t think she even blinked her eyes the entire time she’s been inside the apartment. It made me wonder if maybe she was tripping too? Who knows?
I look over at the clock above the kitchen sink, and it’s two am. It’s been a long night, and my mind is still trying to comprehend what the hell just happened. I’m not really hallucinating but again feel a body high, and from the looks of the room, everyone else is coming down too.
Eddie addresses the group, “You either sleep here or get out.”
Eddie offered Magik and his assistant a place to crash, but Magik graciously declined, “We gotta get back on the road, can’t stay in one place for too long.”
“Okay, no worries. Good luck getting to Philly.” Eddie showed them the door.
Shortly after, I made my rounds saying bye to everyone, made sure D.J. was okay, lit a cigarette, and headed out the door.
The next day, I woke up late in the afternoon and headed downstairs to get some food. The paper was opened up on the kitchen table. Munching on an untoasted bagel, I noticed a headline on the bottom of the front page: “Two Inmates Escape State Hospital.”
See More Personal Stories
I’ve been sharing a lot of personal stories over at the Good Men Project and on Stigma Fighters, but you can also check out all my personal stories here. Each story is a glimpse into mental illness; historical, factual, and defining moments which brought me to where I am today.
A version of this post was previously published on CharlesMinguez and is republished here with permission from the author.
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