We were driving down Peachtree, in Atlanta GA, in the middle of a traffic jam when the car next to us rolled down their window. I was driving my ’88 Subaru Station Wagon with the steer horns on the front and my window was already down due to the lack of air conditioning and the Southern heat.
“You guys want any trip?”
We knew he meant acid, what we didn't know was how he thought to ask us, a random red station wagon in a sea of cars downtown. There was me driving and, riding shotgun, was my friend Random (seriously, that’s his name). In the back seat sat Jason, who was sometimes referred to as Boggs and Stu (his real name is Matt). All of us Marines and all of us happy to stumble upon some acid.
We pulled off the main drag and into an abandon parking lot. The crumbling ruins of walls boasted amazing graffiti and the lack of street lights provided the cover one likes when buying contraband.
“How much do you have?” I asked because all of us were known for loving our doses.
“There’s no such thing.” I remember thinking that I sounded good and mysterious. When asked how he knew to ask us if we wanted his wares, this street pharmacist replied with a logical
“I saw the Oregon license plates.”
We bought all twenty hits, five per Marine and the vendor cut his page into four equal strips with the scissors from my Swiss Army Knife that was used as a keychain. Naturally, I licked the knife before returning it to my pocket and, with the strip of blotter paper dissolving on my tongue, I relieved myself in a dark corner painted with the graffiti image of a scary clown. Random was next to me and as our pee splattered the dry asphalt we both expressed our hope that the stuff was good and that we hadn’t just spend twenty bucks on strychnine soaked paper.
As we drove down Peachtree smoking cigarettes, the Southern summer night air blowing through the windows, each of us started to get restless. I could feel it creeping up my leg in anxious twitches that made the slow moving traffic all the more annoying. As I stretched my back for the fifth time that minute, Boggs mentioned something about how quick it all took effect. We all agreed and thus begun…
Peachtree is one of Atlanta’s main streets. It goes right through the heart of the night life and back out, through minor residential areas, all the way out of the city in a gentle loop that will eventually bring you right back downtown again. This was perfect for a car full of corkscrewed Marines with no plans for the evening.
I drove while we listened to jazz on the radio. Every once in a while, someone would ask if we could try something different but I always explained that I’m driving and I can listen to any music I want so quit pestering me. It’s not that I’m mean but the jazz, combined with the road and my Kamel Reds, was proving to be really fun and video game-esque in it’s diversity. First I drove slowly through the crowded night club level, than through the dark, hilly residential level, than out onto the highway level before coming back around to the brightly colored night life level again. Miles Davis was my co-pilot and not even my good friend Random was going to come between us.
After a few hours, we started to get low on gas and so I pulled into a Texaco to refuel. Getting out of the car proved to be more fun than I had foreseen. Atlanta is already a five hour trip from Beaufort, South Carolina and with the added cruising, we had been in the station wagon for probably nine hours. Standing up made the car and the surrounding atmosphere wave and shift as though it were under water. No longer burdened with the responsibility of driving, I was free to enjoy the visuals and twisted thoughts that usually accompany five hits of good blotter acid and thus begun…
There was a picture of a sheriff on the gas pump, holding a gas card and looking as happy as a Prozac poster child. I swear he was trying to hand me the gas card from his tiny space on the gas pump and his plastic smile sent me into fits of laughter that continued all the way into the Star Mart. I selected a quality orange juice, some orange Tic Tacs and got in line. With my hands full, I ordered two more packs of cigarettes and was impressed with myself for how smooth everything was going under the circumstances when I noticed Kurt Cobain. He was on the cover of Time Magazine with Lauren Hill and some others, grinning in a way that I had never known the lead singer of Nirvana to grin. Momentarily put out by this uncharacteristic display of happiness, I forgot where I was and what on earth I was doing.
Enter the Preacher.
He came staggering through the double doors with a Bible in his hand and already he was mid-sermon. His face was grimacing in a kind of half smile and I realized that this particular preacher was retarded. He forced the words out through is extra chromosome mouth in unintelligible grunts. I picked up a word or two but it was obvious from the smell that this particular retarded reverend was also very drunk. I looked at the normal people, behind me in line, to see what their response was, knowing that whatever I did would probably be wrong. They all ignored the man and I could tell that they were impatient to pay for their gas and be on their marry way. They were waiting for some slow asshole in the front of the line that wouldn’t do his business and move on – me.
As I turned back to the gas station attendant, I noticed his eyes roll in a defeated annoyance that said that this wasn’t the first time our friend the retarded preacher chose this Texaco for his church with the rack of gum and breath mints as his pulpit.
He scanned my selected items and I knew that they were going to cost money. This would require some thought on my part but the babbling pastor and the grinning Kurt Cobain had sent me into a mild panic.
It was a number, I was sure of that much and I would bet that it had something to do with the price. Staring at my open wallet, I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff in there. Credit cards, IDs, a guitar pick, receipts, and of course cash. Lots of it, green and cryptic and all folded in a wad of nonsense. I pulled all of it out (close to $300) and handed it to the open hand. Meanwhile, I had gathered up my orange juice, cigarettes and Tic Tacs and waited for my turn to be over. He handed me back a lot of the money and I thanked him, probably sounding more surprised than I should of. I told him to keep the change and pushed my way out the door. My hands full, my mind baffled, I whispered words of good luck to Stu, who was behind me in line.
Shaken from the preacher and the stresses of buying gas, we took to the road again but decided to head to a party. I knew now that we had a destination, what I didn’t know is that Random had bought three bags of candy and was eating them in the backseat at the rate of an ADD chipmunk without its Ritalin. Meanwhile, Stu and Boggs were going through pint of orange juice after pint of orange juice. These were traditional trippers who believed that Vitamin C will heighten and prolong the effects. We got lost, which none of us really minded but the fuse of bladders was growing short and Random had so much sugar he could have gnawed a hole through a wall and thus begun…
I saw a truck stop on the outskirts of the city and we stopped there in the darkness of the gravel parking lot. The two pissers ran into the building while I crouched on the hood of my car using the steer horns for support and watched Random throw up a bright pink pile of processed sugar. It seemed to me that there was far more puke coming out of him than his small frame could hold so I stayed on the safety of my hood and directed him to puke in different places so that, if the piles were connected, it would be a triangle. Random, who wasn’t really sick but just rebounding the large quantity of Blow-Pops he’d eaten, was enjoying the concept that his vomit was being used as art while the dark gravel provided an ample medium for us to work.
We were both smoking and admiring the triangle of pink dots when the other two came running up, out of breath. Behind them we could hear the noise of lumbering footsteps from whoever was chasing them.
“Drive!” shouted Boggs melodramatically but one look at his face and I knew he was serious.
From out of the darkness, came the drunken silhouette of the retarded preacher. My foot punched the gas and gravel sprayed against the fenders as his Bible bounced off the top of our getaway car. The sound of onion skin pages and marble-mouthed yelling of Proverbs 27:6 could be heard through the open windows but was fading into the night like the lights from the vanishing Truck Stop.
With wide eyes we drove in silence, each of us deep in an introspective interpretation of the evening. If you’re good at acid, you know better than to trust your brain. It’s not that nothing is real but how your mind processes the information should be constantly questioned. We didn't doubt that we were just chased by the same retarded preacher but you had to wonder about the odds of this happening twice in one night.
There’s only one place in Atlanta that I know how to get to and that’s Little Five Points. It’s really one of the few places people like us, in the condition that we were in can relax knowing that everyone we see this time of night will understand. So we went there and stopped at another Party Store to use the pay phone. We stood in the shadows by the dumpster, smoking cigarettes and recounting the evening back to each other, each adding our own philosophical slant. Random with his simple, hippie acceptance of everything. Me with my rhetoric and loquacious poetry. Stu with his paranoid theories and Boggs with his endearing inability to make sense.
It was a long night and it didn’t end there. More fun was had and more drugs were ingested but we were never again confronted with the dilemma of a retarded preacher. As far as I know, his church was only held when Marines were on acid and his pulpit was always the Gas Station Church. I never saw him again and, to this day, I wonder if he was real or if, like Brigadoon, he only came out once in a blue moon.