I believe this event occurred when I was 18, just out of high school and working at the Italian restaurant where I was employed as a pizza maker. I usually worked from 4:00 until midnight on weekdays and much later on weekends, which meant if I wanted to make any mischief, it had to be during the week.
My friend came by the restaurant at about nine one night to offer some blotter acid making the rounds in town. "We're going to the beach tonight," he said. "This is strong. Drop it right after you leave work. We'll pick you up at your house around one." This was good. I hated to drive while tripping.
I cleaned up the marble pizza table, scraped the oven, and swept up. I needed a shower to clean the flour dust out of my skin, hair and crevices. As I started the old black Chevy, I swallowed the blotter, figuring about thirty minutes for it to take effect.
I managed to get into the house and to the bathroom without seeing anyone. Mom was napping on the sofa in the living room, Dad was in bed, and the other kids were out or asleep. I could feel the acid taking effect as I dressed, a stimulating rush creeping up the back of my neck and my senses becoming more acute. In the living room, I sat on the love seat diagonally across from Mom so I could see the TV.
The TV was tuned to a local channel showing a late movie. I watched a few minutes of it while Mom dozed, and couldn't be sure if the main character in the movie wasn't tripping as well, based on what I saw.
The main character was a fellow called Ned, played by Burt Lancaster. His character has apparently been away for a while, and he returns in time to attend a party at a friend's home. Someone comments that there are a long string of pools at each home in the upscale valley. Ned decides to "swim home" by going from house to house and swimming in each pool until he arrives at his own residence.
During his journey, he encounters many familiar people, including old friends, fellow executives, and neighbors. They react oddly when he arrives at each house, and they're all surprised to see him. Some are angry, some indifferent, some aloof, seemingly afraid to ask certain questions. The quest turns creepy as he moves from home to home, dressed only in a bathing suit, fighting his way through the woods or along highways. At one point, he arrives at a public pool, where's he's humiliated by the staff who force him to shower before he winds his way through the crowd in the water.
When Ned finally arrives at his home, he finds his family gone and his house deserted. The large house is unkempt, in need of repair and landscaping, indicating that the wealthy owners were forced to abandon the luxury in which they lived.
The obvious symbolism of the movie was too obtuse for me to grasp at that moment. Nevertheless, my acid-addled brain was facsinated by the action on the screen and I found myself so glued to this strange story, I didn't hear my mother calling to me from across the room. "Are you oaky?" she asked. "You're staring at the TV..."
I don't recall even turning to her. "Yeah, I'm fine," I remember saying. "But this movie is so weird."
A few days later, I remembered the movie and looked it up in the TV magazine. It was The Swimmer, a 1968 movie directed by Frank Perry. More importantly, I discovered it was based on a short story by one of my favorite writers, John Cheever.
As I sat on the beach later that night, my head still humming, I kept thinking old Ned was going to emerge from the ocean waters and stroll up to me as I sat in the sand on the south shore of Long Island.