t 6am or so I couldn't sleep any more, so I got up and started surfing the web, assuming everyone else was dead to the world. I was feeling a little weird, but I didn't attribute this to the slowly dissolving dextromethorphan pills in my stomach. But then Jessika came springing through the door, with a weird look on her face, asking. "Are you tussin'? I'm tussin'!" Then I realized that I was tussin[g], in a weak kind of way. Of course, this level of tussing just wouldn't do, so Jessika and I decided to eat the rest of the dextromethorphan freebase left in the frying pan. I'd been doubtful that dextromethorphan freebase would have much effect, since I imagined it would dissolve too slowly in the stomach. But suddenly this didn't seem to be the case.
But tussin freebase has the look and consistency of chips of plastic; it's not easy stuff to eat even if it is flavourless. We needed something with which to wash it down. So Jessika and I set off through the frosty morning to a nearby drink machine to get a Pepsi.
We made a Pepsi slurry out of the little "tussin flakes" and swigged it down. It's very easy to drink that way, though for whatever reason I managed to drink the bulk of it. Then we lay around on a futon in the room that connects the kitchen to the living room. Jessika had a number of objects she'd found in her religious retreat room-cleaning job, and among these was a comprehensive Christmas carol lyric sheet. Have you ever taken a good look at the lyrics to Christmas carols? In addition to being written in ponderously archaic language, there are references to all sorts of vaguely creepy things, including Satan, physical torture, and even sexual acts (or, at least, what I take to be amaze at the lack thereof). Jessika made them into "Tussin carols" and substituted "tussin" for religious terms that mean nothing to either of us (theologians and prospective mothers take note: neither of us was ever baptized).
The dextromethorphan kicked in remarkably rapidly. I was babbling on and on in a typically tussinesque mind-detached-from-body way. I said that Dr. Seuss was an idea more than he ever was a person, and that, likewise, I also wanted to be an idea, not a person. Then, on reflection, I realized that some of us have no choice in the matter. Shira, dead of a drug overdose at the age of 20, will never get to be a person again; she'll have to live out eternity as an idea.
Suddenly Jessika realized that she had the perfect tape to play for our moods. She put on a recording of a radio show run by a guy named Joe Frank. It's a spoken word kind of thing, with crazy semi-philosophical musings encapsulated in hallucinogenic vignettes. It reminded me of heinovision.com in Alan's more abandoned moments, combined with the firmer logical reasoning of Coredumps from My Brain. It suited my mood perfectly, though I don't know what this says about the quality of the stories; I've noticed that I have a great deal of trouble following narratives when I'm on tussin. I think the beauty of the words, perhaps the lyrical quality and essential power of each atomic sentence is what pleased me. On tussin, I often feel as though I'm on the cusp of an exciting change in my life. These days, what with the changing status of my employment, I actually am on such a cusp. Joe Frank, the comfort of the futon, the tussin-induced vertigo, the chill of the room, being with Jessika, it all seemed to contribute to an overall sense of vaguely frightening contentment. We drifted into and out of sleep.
Not all was copacetic, however. CJ the redneck was up and about, fixing himself my coffee without even asking, babbling on and on about whatever had happened last night, and trying to get me to loan him one of my paintings. All I could think about was the foul substances that had ruptured from his body last night, about the archipelago of scars mincing the tattoos on his arms, and that big fresh new scab on his elbow, holding back a sea of hepatitis-infected blood. He phoned one of his friends, a redneck wench named Trudy, and told her to come pick him up. When she arrived, I answered the door, and she was most unpleasant. "Tell him to get out hee-year!" she said without eye contact or expressing any desire to come in from the cold. Whatever, she was taking the most miserable part of my morning away.
eya woke up and came down the stairs. She had it in her mind to go to an antique store, and invited Jessika and me to go with her (knowing full well that Jessika would want to go). Balled Andy was awake by this point, and we thought maybe he'd want to come along too, but he told Jessika that he didn't feel comfortable "following you around." This trip has left him alienated; last night he went off to find a tract of woods in which to play his African drums. None of us are exactly the drum-playing kind, if you know what I mean. He'd have been a lot happier if we'd dropped him off at Abundance House, I suppose. Even the fact that we all wear black coats and Andy's is blue contributes to his feeling of isolation. So anyway, we left him behind and headed to the antique store.
The store (a big building across Preston Avenue from Preston Plaza) wasn't opened yet, so we walked down to Bodo's Bagels and ordered our usual favourites. As usual, Jessika got some kind of revolting bagel consisting largely of eggy slime. The day was fairly warm, so we went outside to eat. As people came out of the restaurant and headed to their cars, I tried to anticipate what cars they'd be going to based on their overall appearance. The yuppy couple did as expected, climbing into the sport utility vehicle. The somewhat weird looking guy with white sneakers and poofy hair also did the right thing, going directly to his shiny sky-blue late 70s American car. The lower-middle class housewife had the small late model fire-red car, etc. It's an amusing game to play if you ever find yourself hanging out in a parking lot. With their predictablity Americans confirm predestination.
Back at the antique store, the girls went directly upstairs to look at collections of old clothes. This is where my maleness always rears its ugly head. I had to go find some trinkets and gadgets to play with.
I found a collection of old toys, mostly from the middle of this century. Plastic is not a very stable substance for the long haul, and it was interesting to see how plastic toys had been transformed. one ridiculous little cheap baby doll playing a violin had its head kicked in, and the plastic had rumpled around the damage in an almost organic manner. I have no idea how the store thought it could get $2 for it.
Then there was this incredibly creepy wind-up crawling baby. Its arms came out of its body like some sort of lizard, and to accommodate the drive mechanism, its body was wide and flat in a frighteningly deformed way. To actually watch it crawl was terrifying. This thing couldn't have possibly been designed for a kid. I hypothesized that its designer is probably in a padded cell now if he's alive at all.
I was still on tussin so my mind was working in unusual ways. I found the whole "antique industry" suddenly fascinating. Here was a group of people who valued relics of the past, the things people once accepted as modern back in naïve times. Take for example the Mickey Mouse toothbrush (available for $28). It was some sort of trojan horse to get a toothbrush into a reluctant kid's mouth to save him from a lifetime of dental bills. In the 70s, parents had considered these gaudy plastic objects to be good investments. But then, when the kids grew older (or developed a sense of dignity), the Mickey Mouse toothbrush was moved to an attic. One day it was discovered by "people of the future" and taken to an antique shop for disposal, only to be remarketed at a price somewhat higher than that for which it had originally retailed. So now, someone (I'm picturing a middle-aged gay guy with poofy grey hair) can come along, buy it, take it home, and incorporate it as a bit of wonderful bathroom kitsch. In the 90s, I've noticed, tackiness has its own intrinsic value. This is starting to remind me of my very first musings entry.
There was also a wonderful ancient acoustic phonographic machine. It had an electric motor and an elegant system of tubes designed to boost the music patterned in the topographies of record grooves, picked up by a thick steel stylus that more resembled a compass pin than a "modern" phonographic needle. Rubbing that needle with the texture at the end of my finger, I could hear the cadence of ancient tunes. By now, of course, all the moving parts had becomes stiff and creaky. But at one time, it constituted a data recovery advance more profound than a 24X CD ROM drive.
Jessika and Deya finally came down from the clothes section to look at the trinkets and toys with me. Deya selected a little Tonka Recreational Vehicle to give to her father; it looked much like the RV that he'd used several times to transport me and my friends to the James River on occasions when we've gone tubing. No one was at the cash register (or even in the same room as the cash register) when we wanted to leave, so Deya left a note and a five dollar bill on the counter. For whatever reason, we believed it to be bad karma to steal from an antique store (or any place so trusting). On the other hand, it's totally cool to steal tussin from CVS, where electronic security devices guard the door, and we do it with impunity.
essika was feeling guilty about how long we'd spent at the antique store, since we'd left Balled Andy back at the house. So as we came in the Kappa Mutha Fucka front door, she was full of apologies. But all little social errors were about to be made up for; we had plans to explore abandoned houses in southern Albemarle County, and of course Balled Andy was invited.
As we were stopped at JPA Fastmart for deep discount microbrew, we saw Morgan Anarchy with Angela, walking Shira the Dog. Morgan joined our contingent with a 40 in one hand and a deep discount microbrew in the other.
Soon we were tooling down crazy little roads through obscure rural redneck enclaves. Some of these were virtual towns, or so they looked from the number of buildings, until one realized that many of these were abandoned. That was the trouble; it was difficult to find any remote enough to explore in peace. We did find an old warehouse, but it was locked up and boarded up and impossible to breach, though we tried awfully hard to smash off a door knob.
Finally we found an ancient crumbling barn, which gave me a chance to catch a few images for this page.
Occasionally we caught sight of the locals; one round little lady, a bouquet of native plants in her hands, stared at us wordlessly from under a sign that read "Stumptown" and made a little sound, somewhere between a grunt and a laugh. Perhaps she imagined us to be members of a satanic cult. As Jessika later put it, "that was a beautiful David Lynch type experience."
Down on the James River we looked through a beautiful old Victorian House that had been ravaged by flood waters. It was such a lovingly-built structure, and still contained classy furniture. Too bad there was a sand dune running through the living room. There was even a little silt on the second floor. People really need to do a little basic research before building a house down near a major river.
We went out to Fairview Farms (the large tract of land which includes Big Fun) and, after first having an unsuccessful go at jump-starting a tractor, explored a familiar abandoned house nearby.
A group of locals in a pickup truck drove by on the nearby muddy road, so we decided it best to leave. Either they or some other pickup truck came back as we neared our car and asked what we were doing "back in here." Jessika explained that it was a photography project that had been approved by Althia Hurt. That seemed to satisfy the inquisitors, and they left us in peace.
The opening was held in a classy restaurant on the main drag. Everyone except us was pretty well dressed and older. Both Deya's parents were there; some of the featured works were kaleidoscopes made by Deya's father. His tinkering is a lot like Deya's, except the things he makes seem to be endowed with more permanent value.
The eats were really good. There was shrimp, tortelinis on toothpicks, and falafel balls. The falafel balls were delicious, but since no non-Middle Eastern person over 25 eats falafel in this country, it was all for us, or me mostly. I especially love falafel even if I am almost 30. Don't trust anyone who doesn't eat falafel.
Too bad the punch, the only beverage available, was non-alcoholic. Jessika left her glass in the bathroom in disgust.
Jessika was eager to go. "We have to!" she kept insisting. But of course, I didn't want to. I'd been drummed out of that party in great humiliation last time I'd been there (for stealing their beer). Still, I have a lot of balls sometimes, and with Jessika's insistance, I decided to ride along. I rationalized that I could always sit in the car once we got there.
So soon we were heading down Route 6 on the way to the Gathering, this time to attend what we were already calling "The Jehu End of the World Party II."
The party was much bigger than it was two years ago. This time it was being called a "festival" and even more strings of lights had been deployed in the surrounding woods. I couldn't just wait in the car, I had to go in.
It looked the same as last time, only there were more people. The members of the Gathering were, as expected, in a forgiving mood. I reintroduced myself to Isis by saying Jessika had reformed me (this being intended as an end parenthesis to her little admonishment to Jessika two years ago about being too easily led astray by malevolent forces). It could be that Morgan was suspicious enough to distract most suspicion (and unflattering recollections) away from me. I don't know if Isis remembered me, but Jehu did. He said "behave yourself this time." I assured him I would.
And I did. I was so bloated from the art opening food, I could barely eat any of the abundance served up by the Gathering. I couldn't drink much either. There wasn't anyone particularly interesting to talk to, there was no interesting music (as there had been two years ago), so I just sat on a couch and felt my body wanting to fall asleep. We didn't stay all that long, and I slept for the entire ride home. I went directly to bed the moment we got back to Kappa Mutha Fucka.