It is 1994. The year of alternative rock, the 60's revival and Interview with the Vampire. At least that was what it was for me. I was 14 or 15, so I tended to view the world in black and white. What was important to my group of friends was the most important thing in the world. We were rock n' roll soul rebels. We listened to SoundGarden and watched Pulp Fiction. There were just a small sample of the things that made us special.
I had one best friend, a boy a full eight months older than me. When you are 14 or 15, 8 months, together with an alpha male personality, leads you to think that someone can have all the knowledge and ability with dealing with the world that one person can have. On a school retreat, early in 1994, he tried to organize us into a Dungeons & Dragons group. I don't think we made it more than one session. This might have been a hint of what is to come. One night, we are getting bored, and we want to go somewhere. I lose my temper and complain loudly about my boredom. He takes me aside and tells me that making noise doesn't change anything. It was this kind of idea that made me admire him. He also told me to always say please and thank you if I want to get my way.
We would stay up late every night for that three week retreat, talking about the evils of racism or sexism, and talking about the stupid and backwards behavior of other cliques. We were far superior to them, but also had to help them out of noblesse oblige. This would be our official ideology for the next few years, even after we moved on to much more dramatic theatres than junior high.
Around that time, I was still entranced by Be Here Now, and one time, during a discussion of the meaning of life, I suggested LSD might have the answers. "LSD is for retarded people" was the reply. I didn't argue with him, he seemed to be more tuned into reality than my hippy fantasies were.
After the summer, things changed. Things change a lot in three months when you are a teenager. But our ideology was unchanged. There was quite a bit of other surrounding business, as there always is when you are a teenager, but our ideology remained our central pillar.
I remember he talked about his hands. He said each one of them could exert more pressure than my entire body weighed. This should have been a warning, for several reasons. I should have had the good sense to take my resentment seriously. But I couldn't argue abou the fact that in our fishbowl world, he really did understand things in way that I didn't.
A few months later, there was another big plan. The plan was to make money fast, in the most direct and literal way. I remember knowing it was a bad idea. I remember not arguing too much. I can't say why I wouldn't realize what a stupid plan this was, or the fact that it had fuck all to do with all the positive meaningful stuff we'd talked about prior to that point. Maybe I didn't trust my fat awkward self compared to the adrenalin rush of wealth and power. Or maybe the adrenalin rush of not thinking.
This particular plan fell though, netting several hundred dollars and no arrests.
I left that school. We kept on being friends. He started smoking marijuana. At the time, I thought it was probably a good idea.
It was years later, although many years ago, that someone told me he was taking opiates, specifically a variety of oral narcotics. I actually did, upon learning this, run and tell an adult, although it didn't do much good.
The real shock, I guess, was seeing him smoke a tobacco cigarette. For various reasons having to do with health, an anti-corporate stance and just our general ideology, smoking was a no-no. The ideology had apparently died. Or else it had just mutated into meaning the opposite of what it originally meant. He would mumble something about Wittgenstein or whomever. I couldn't make enough sense to be convinced.
The last plan that he had, that hearkened back to the plots he would churn out by the truckload when we were younger, was to buy a bus, and redecorate it, and offer people tours around the country. He told me about this, and one afternoon we went to the craft store to buy balsa wood to make a model. He got about halfway through when he had to leave for other business. His grand plan seemed to end at spending about $20 and an afternoon trying to make a model.
Around this time, maybe a few months before or after, we were wrestling, as a game. He tried to put on pressure point locks on me. It's not a good idea to try to put on pressure point holds with nothing to back them up. Holding things with your hands is manipulation. Manipulation without the rest of your body behind it rarely works for long.
I finally broke all contact and 86ed him for breaking in on my personal time twice, once while drunk and again while sober.
One of the books that I loved when we first started out was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It was a book that captured my desire to break the old repressive society and build a new one. This book, along with Ken Kesey's other novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, reflect a trickster cycle, where a selfish trickster figure learns to use his gifts benevolently.
Americans love trickster figures. I shouldn't make such broad statements, so I will say that for myself at the time, it seemed to be what America was about: Refusing the old orders that obscured human nature and replacing them with an existential openness to experience.
A trickster sneaks through the cracks of the system, that the people run the system are too blind, and self-satisfied, and self-superior to see. Having gotten through, they bring the treasure out for the common people to see. This is what Prometheus and Randall P. Murphy did.
Tricksters are rarely that benevolent. Very often they don't mature. Very often it is the trickster that is the most blind, who doesn't see the situation as well as the people in power. Tricksters very rarely see actually unfettered human nature. Tricksters often see only what is neccesary to convince themselves and those around them that whatever impulse they are currently experiencing at that moment is the perfect idea.
Manipulating and tricking people, and being a maverick that cuts corners to get your goals is not a sign of glamour. It is not fun. It is not the new rock n' roll. It is a sign that someone is clueless and immature, and doesn't fully understand the subtly of the world and the consequences of their actions. I wish I had known this years ago.