S.M. Park

Risen Apes: Sky Pilot

S.M. Park’s column Risen Apes about being a 70-year-old boomer. In “Sky Pilot,” Park talks about misplacing things, prescription eyeglasses, and achieving sight through psychedelics. 

 

I lost my prescription reading glasses yesterday and searched for them for an hour afterwards. I used a routine I’ve honed carefully over the years, as losing things used to unhinge me: I’d storm around, yell, toss furniture, kick the couch if I couldn’t find the item I sought.

It was ludicrous on so many levels. For openers I’m a stoner: if it was drugs I’d lost (which was usually the case), it was probably because I’d already smoked or eaten them.

Then there was the source of the irritation itself (and most of the woes in my life), i.e. impatience. I didn’t have time to look for or replace something when, in fact, from my forties ’til now, I’ve had nothing but! It’s what growing dope bought me.

Not to mention the clutter that follows me around. I’m better than I used to be (you can actually see the carpet in this studio, for instance), but it’s a miracle I don’t lose everything to it.

Mostly, though, losing my temper was just too unseemly: we’re here to learn and if you haven’t wised up with age you aren’t doing it right. So now when I misplace something I take a deep breath and retrace my steps thoroughly and carefully. This usually yields the misplaced object, and—when it doesn’t—buys me time to simmer down.

Which is what happened with the reading glasses. (I assume they slipped from my pocket as I passed the tangle of bushes outside but that’s why it’s a tangle: I want nothing to do with it.)

So I called my optometry office. Asked if I could order a replacement pair over the phone.

“I saw Dr. Stern a few weeks ago,” I said, “and he told me my prescription was the same.”

“Well, yes,” replied the tech, “but you have to pick out frames. We no longer carry your old ones.”

“That’s all right. Give me anything ya’ got.”

“Pardon?”

“It doesn’t matter. I live alone and believe me … no one cares what I look like, least of all me.”

She thought that was so funny. I told myself she was laughing with me, of course, and only appreciated the irony later (after she’d agreed to choose the frames herself), as glasses may be my sole sartorial whim: I think everyone looks better in them.

 

 

And I mean everyone, from super models to the neighborhood wino.

I read the other day that Trump is half-blind but, as you’d expect, he’s too vain for eyewear: his teleprompter letters are nearly four inches high. Yet I saw a photo of him in a limousine with glasses on and it was the first time, in his decades of public mugging, that he looked like he had a brain in his head.

I got my first pair at thirty-five and, except for sleep, have rarely taken them off since. (I’d wear them during sex but they fog up.) In the meanwhile a dermal condition around my eyes (brought on by too much sun in my youth), and having to rub the lids with steroidal ointments for forty-five years as a consequence, has resulted in optic nerve damage.

Before I knew that I blamed it on Visine.

“This is all about the Visine, isn’t it?” I’d say to the opticians.

“Oh, no,” they’d answer. “You’d have to use a ton of it to really hurt your eyes.”

“How about all day every day for forty years?”

Maybe they hear that all the time from light-eyed stoners. I thought of it recently as I watched a documentary on the increasing use of psychedelics for depression, anxiety, cancer, PTSD or substance abuse. Patients are given “heroic doses” of psilocybin (according to Terrence McKenna, the late ’shrooms guru, you see the “little green men” after five grams) and spend six hours on a couch with a shrink nearby.

The results have been positive so far, as it’s the first time many of the subjects have recognized—not just the interrelatedness of things—but present time and the silly stories we tell ourselves, allowing them to leave their egos behind and move on.

It made me wonder about my own psyche. I took psychedelics … what? four or five hundred times? It’s hard to say because it’s not like I was counting (though I often bought them in quantities of a hundred or more).

Not to mention sacks of peyote buds, or the roughly ten thousand edibles I’ve eaten since 1990. Jesus, who admits to shit like that? Based on those latest studies I should be a fully actualized being by now! Instead I’m left with the greatest irony of all, i.e. what I most enjoyed on psychedelics … was pretending I wasn’t.

 

I took psychedelics … what? four or five hundred times? It’s hard to say because it’s not like I was counting (though I often bought them in quantities of a hundred or more).

 

It was part of my lifelong war with ennui, which for me is synonymous with “employment.” All those years of wretched, menial, lowlife jobs: it was hard to smoke dope or drink on them without smelling like it (though I certainly tried), but mescaline or ’shrooms, maybe some LSD micro dosing?

This is where the Visine and tinted glasses came in: you’d “dump the lump” at work and suddenly the simplest act assumed a sense of urgency. How to drive the tractor in a straight line, for instance, or balance the tray of soup bowls in a restaurant, or input thirty double spaced pages in an hour when being a “regular guy” had—like virtually everything else—lost its meaning.

I called it the tightrope, with embarrassment and humiliation on one side, ridicule and disgrace on the other (no missteps allowed). Concerts, communing with nature, meditating or having sex on mind benders … those were fine if all you sought was a heightened sense of reality.

But I was an adrenaline junkie: I liked doubling down, milking that psychedelic tsunami for all it was worth, particularly with real life carrying on around me. I got my first taste of it in the d.t.’s and, though I can’t say I enjoyed delirium, surviving it was a real confidence booster.

It’s no wonder I lived in the same Portland neighborhood for twenty-five years and no one realized my home was a pot factory.

On that note I see they’ve isolated Delta THC-8 now and are offering it in vapes, waxes, edibles, etc., a marijuana molecule that doesn’t get you as high or anxious as the real deal (THC-9).

So what’s the point? Who wants to get kind of loaded, or take the edge off of highs? For all the times I got stoned on jobs I can’t remember a single instance where (as I came on) I wasn’t overcome by stage fright, where I didn’t think, This is it! I’m fucked now, I took too much, I can’t pull this off!

Casinos were Ground Zero for that kind of action, as they were the holy grail of theater straight. Cameras tracking you, supervisors scrutinizing your every move, being responsible for tens of thousands in cash while all around you bells chimed, colors flashed and change girls and customers clamored for your attention.

Not to mention being the tallest person in the room, or hopscotching across the parking lot moments earlier because you thought the asphalt had turned to lava. It makes me think of Up in the Air, the George Clooney film where his character (he would have looked better in glasses), is counseling his prospective brother-in-law on his wedding day. The groom is balking but Clooney, in effect, asks him to remember the best moments of his life, how they all happened in the company of another person.

Really? I’d opt for being alone in a crowd of strangers with your lips peeled back on your gums. I claim I was never caught (which is mostly true), but there was the inquisition at Harvey’s Casino after I left in ’76. My whole shift was called in and hooked up, one after another, to a lie detector, and asked if they’d smoked dope with me in the parking lot.

All of them had, of course, and yeah, it was my killer Thai Stick/Maui Wowie blend, but how about some props for keeping the MDA and mescaline to myself?

 

S.M. Park is the author and illustrator of his memoirs High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.

 

S.M. Park

S.M. Park lives two blocks from the Salish Sea in Port Townsend, Washington. His passions include walking, wondering and weed. Park, in his guise as Wilson High, has written and illustrated two memoirs, High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.

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