Monday, February 4, 2013

No. 486 – The Pusher

Performer: Steppenwolf
Songwriter: Hoyt Axton
Original Release: Steppenwolf
Year: 1968
Definitive Version: None

I remember playing this song once when Casey and I were in the office at Dad’s house in Columbus, and Casey’s comment was, “this guy’s crazy.” I agreed, but little did I know at the time that Steppenwolf’s searing indictment of hard drugs was penned by none other than the country guy who famously played an ex-beau of Jennifer’s on WKRP. Crazy, indeed.

Speaking of Casey, he finally was let in on the true nature of our trip to California in June 2004 on the drive to Carmel. It wasn’t a bachelor party at all; it was a religious ceremony—the actual wedding, as it turned out. I signed the legal documents later that night, so I know. He was OK with it.

Fortunately, everyone seemed to be OK by morning. The day before, as I noted a while back, had been rough, but the sun was shining, and all systems were go. The handfasting was scheduled for sundown—the day of the Summer Solstice—so we had some time to kill.

Matt and Casey hung out in Carmel, but Scott and Shani wanted to go up to Monterey and check out the aquarium. That sounded good to me, so I tagged along. We borrowed one of the vans for the drive.

There was a line at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it wasn’t too bad. The big exhibit was jellyfish, and it was worth the price of admission. I’ve seen jellyfish before, or at least I thought I had, but usually only washed up on the beach in Florida. (OK, so those were mostly Portuguese man of war, which aren’t really jellyfish, I know, but work with me here.)

The aquarium had about 15 windows in the exhibit with jellyfish of all types and sizes swimming or floating around. There were minute jellyfish that seemed to have LEDs along the sides of their bodies. There were jellyfish almost as transparent as glass. There were even jellies that swam upside down. My favorite display were pancake-golden-brown jellies about the size of a dinner plate that bobbed in water tinted bright blue to see them better.

The whole thing was other-worldly. I mean, there’s nothing about the appearance of jellyfish that looks like it belongs on this planet. When we got lunch afterward, Scott, Shani and I agreed we had our minds blown by the exhibit, and we hadn’t had anything from any of Hoyt Axton’s cast of characters to enhance the experience. We didn’t need any.

Finally, it was time to get ready for the handfasting. The dress was mostly casual—whatever you felt comfortable wearing—and we caravanned to the beach south of town. (I wore a dress shirt and tie but no jacket.) By now the sky had clouded over, but it wasn’t cold or rainy. It wasn’t perfect; it was what it needed to be.

Now, I was the most well-versed of my family (outside of Jin, of course) when it came to Pagan rituals, which is to say I didn’t know anything, but nothing was bewildering. The priest knew he was dealing with a lot of newbies and explained everything wonderfully about the circle and how things would unfold, but really, there wasn’t anything wrong to do.

Jin wore a dark green dress with a white-floral tiara, as though she had just stepped out of a Robin Hood fable. Paul wore a kilt. Other people were on the beach, but none of them paid us any heed.

The ceremony was nice and fairly brief. The key part for those who aren’t aware is when the bride and groom’s hands are bound—the handfasting—and I liked how when they called the corners, Paul’s friend Jason, who called the south, or fire, wore an aloha shirt with flames.

Another notable part was where the couple went to everyone to offer wine and in return received a gift, which was meant to be a token representing something bigger. I got them little candy hearts with the funky sayings on them, for love. Matt and Casey stole an ace and jack from a deck of cards at the hotel where we stayed—blackjack, for luck.

When the ceremony was over, and we left the circle, we were supposed to do something to relieve the psychic energy that built up during the ceremony. Jin had told me about this beforehand. One way was to walk down to the ocean and dip your feet in the surf. Another was to eat. Well, we had a big dinner planned at a fish house up the road closer to town, and I didn’t want everyone waiting on me. I really wanted to walk down to the ocean. I didn’t.

Maybe it was the psychic energy or maybe it was bad timing, but shortly after we got to the restaurant, I started to get one of my headaches—a real facemelter. I was caught unprepared, without Advil, and I had to endure it the entire two-hour dinner, of which I remember little other than the desperate need to have someone mercifully blow my brains out.

When we got back to the hotel, I took two Advil and went to sleep on the floor. (I let Matt and Casey have the beds.) It was no good. My headache roared to life and woke me in the middle of the night. I took four more Advil and flopped around on the floor for a while. The Pusher man would’ve been welcome had he shown up, but sleep finally reclaimed me.

I was pretty groggy the next day, but my headache was gone. To this day, I wonder if it would have made any difference to walk down to the ocean, like I had wanted. No matter. We spent the morning wandering around Carmel before we drove back to L.A. We again took the windy way down Highway 1, and this time there was no incident as the vans stayed close. I did kick Casey’s butt in darts at a pub in Big Sur where we stopped for a late lunch.

We flew out the next day—Matt separately to Michigan; Scott, Shani, Casey and I back to Columbus. This time, my suitcase came out at the baggage claim, thank goodness.

It had been quite a trip, and as far as I know, Casey kept his secret. No one ever said a word to me about it.

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