My first year at Berkeley, I resided in the Channing-Bowditch student apartments, which was a far less interesting place to live than the co-ops or dormitories. The apartments reminded me of the waiting room at the doctor’s office, only the magazine selection was a little worse.
I composed the following poem my second semester. My first semester had been largely spent doing every conceivable thing I could think of to get expelled so that I could return home with a (not really) valid excuse: I attended class infrequently, got written up for drinking dozens of times (a building record if I’m not mistaken), and acted erratically.
Basically, I was just being my normal, lovable self.
But I didn’t get expelled, and my second semester found me living with The Acid Kid* in room #233. Every apartment in the building had the exact same layout: two bedrooms with two beds each and an adjoining shared kitchen, living room, and bathroom. The Acid Kid and I shared one room, and these two real square kids shared the other. I think they were engineering majors or something equally lame, but they didn’t drink or smoke or curse or fuck or anything. They were there to study and better themselves and were, as you may imagine, not into the perpetual soiree of self-destruction that Acid Kid and myself had going on.
We would do real weird shit together, Acid Kid and I. We would spend entire days in our little room putting off reading assignments and getting liquored up and recording music (which we also got written up for several times on account of noise complaints). We got so delusional together that we thought these two squares in the other bedroom were out to get us. We sincerely believed that they were in cahoots with the school authorities and that their one and only goal was to get us thrown out of Berkeley (which we likely wouldn’t have minded all that much) and tossed into some sort of roustabout reeducation camp.
It got to where we were scared to leave the room when they were home. This made showering and eating exceedingly arduous, although we didn’t do that much anyways. Pissing wasn’t that big a deal since we always had empty bottles lying around and just took to relieving ourselves into those. On one occasion, Acid Kid thought that he had scored by discovering a nearly full forty ounce Steel Reserve behind the bed. As it turns out, it was just piss, although he couldn’t even taste the difference and I had to hip him to his folly. The kid didn’t even gag–he merely looked at me, lowered his shoulders in defeat as if to say, “I’m not even surprised by this kind of shit anymore,” and said, “Oh man… Oh man…”
These were the kinds of conditions and activities I had going on when I composed the next one. I had always been prone to vivid and strange dreams, but during this period, they started to get real looney toons. I began receiving regular nightly visions that would have made the Marquis de Sade blush and, what’s more, I was having a rather difficult time differentiating my waking hours from my slumbering ones.
Did I really do that with the garbage disposal? I couldn’t have! I’d definitely have scars from that. Let me check…
If I remember correctly (doubtful), I composed this poem after a particularly rough forty-eight hour bender that started with Carlo Rossi and ended with skinny dipping atop a luxury hotel in San Francisco. I hadn’t slept in over two days and I was afraid to start then. I knew things would get weird(er), but I also knew there probably wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
Except write a poem about it, of course. Man, I hate repeating myself, but some things truly never change.
*The Acid Kid was the cofounder of Zevonism, a Warren Zevon-centric religion that I wrote about in “An Excitable Boy Reminisces.”
Hanging With Mr. Carter
Sleep never comes.
But when it does, I wish it hadn’t.
I’ve heard of lucid dreams,
but mine are downright lurid.
Debased in their honesty,
treacherous in their revelations.
My God, what dreams may come crashing down
through the precariously placed moral fibers
and clumsily constructed social mores
I’ve draped over myself
in hasty, half-hearted defense.
Then you realize you’re a beast:
Some slobbering, horrific, primordial,
malignant, soul-sucking, mother-fucking
(Hints of Oedipus:
Rexy, you’re so sexy.
You can tell yourself all day long
You can conduct yourself with
propriety and manners,
hide your disdain up your sleeve
like a dirty deck of marked cards
(You think your dreams don’t know
you’re cheating, kid?)
In dreams, you walk with you
but the candy-colored clowns
will surely be right there
to make you breakfast
in the morning.
I’ve never outgrown my fear of the dark.
The fear of the dark is not
the fear of the unknown–
it’s the fear of the known.
When the lights go out
and you’re left bouncing ping pong balls
around in your head,
playing Tetris with your disconnected thoughts,
trying to fit all the pieces together,
even though everyone knows you can never win at that damn game,
then you know:
You know you just wish sleep would come
or that you at least had some god damn Vicodin
to go nicely with your cool glass of whiskey.
Whiskey dreams are Randolph Carter dreams:
they never end pretty.
But you can’t help but feel relief
when they’re done.