The Simpsons Are Talking to Me
I am not a very experienced drug user. Full disclosure: I have smoked a lot of pot in my time, and I will resume doing so as soon as my daughter goes away to college and I no longer have to stare into her innocent, crying eyes as she asks me, “why, daddy, why?”
But other than that, my experience is pretty limited. I’ve never tried cocaine or ecstasy. Partly because I’ve never really hung out with people who were big drug users, and partly because I’m afraid I would like those drugs far too much if I ever did try them. Heroin or crack or meth, forget it. I’m sure those drugs are fantastic. I mean, that’s why people get insanely addicted to them. So, better to not even go down that path, I’ve always said.
I have done acid and mushrooms in very limited amounts. Acid, I did maybe 4 times in college. Mushrooms I’ve done about the same. In the grand scheme of things, I would say that still counts as relatively inexperienced.
The last time I did acid was with my roommate, A___ (name changed b/c it’s a drug story). My junior year of college, I lived with one guy — Josh — and four women — A___, Kelly, Karen, and Denise. Kelly and Karen I didn’t really know ahead of time but I liked both of them and had a fine time being their roommate. Josh is one of my best friends in the world to this day. Denise I was madly in love with and I had to live underneath her and cry myself to sleep every night as she dated a string of guys who were way cooler than I would ever be.
A___ I’d known since freshman year. Everyone loved A___. She was just cool. And smart, and funny, and into interesting things. Like: she knew a lot about edible insects, and she would hold talks from time to time in which she cooked mealworm muffins and cricket choco-pops and people would come and eat her concoctions and squeal. She was pretty into insects. She kept a pair of Madagascar hissing cockroaches as pets. Sometimes she’d get them out of their cage and let them crawl around her hands. I refused to hold them, because cockroaches are horrendous, especially evil, giant, hissing ones. But to each their own, and at the end of the day, I would rather be friends with someone who kept hissing cockroaches as pets than, say, the president of the Celine Dion fan club.
So, acid. It was a lovely spring day and A___ had some acid and I didn’t have to work so we took a tab each and went to the Arb to get in touch with nature. The Arb was, as you might guess, an arboretum. It was beautiful and remote and the only place you would want to be while on acid at the University of Michigan. We spent a few hours wandering around the Arb and feeling strange. I don’t remember any hallucinations or anything. I never really hallucinated on acid. If you ask me what it’s like to do acid or mushrooms, here’s what I would tell you: imagine the difference between viewing the world on an old school, regular definition television, and viewing the world on an Imax screen. The world still basically looks the same, but it does become bigger, and every little detail takes on new characteristics.
At some point as we were wandering around, A___ lost her Birkenstocks. I remember this being a pretty tragic occurrence. It almost veered into bad trip territory. Luckily, A___ spent most of her time walking around barefoot and had developed calluses on her feet the consistency of asphalt. So it wasn’t a problem getting home or anything. But they were an expensive pair of sandals and she was pretty bummed out and I remember it taking a lot of gentle words to get her out of her state of despair. So if any kids are reading this and thinking about taking acid, let this be your warning: you might lose your Birkenstocks.
When we got back to our house we were still in the swing of the trip and were terrified to learn that Karen’s parents had stopped by for a visit. Talking to other people on acid is a nightmare, especially if those people are parents. Somehow we blustered our way through the greetings and scurried off upstairs to hole ourselves up in the closet until they left. I’m sure they thought we were retarded.
When everything had settled down and Karen’s parents had left for the evening, we snuck back down to the living room to watch The Simpsons. I distinctly remember which episode was playing, because it was one of the key moments of my life.
It was the original airing of the “Homerpalooza” episode. The episode was remarkable for a number of reasons. #1 It featured Sonic Youth and Smashing Pumpkins, two of my favorite bands at the time. #2 there was a joke in which Otto is on acid and his shoes are talking to him, and we were on acid and had lost our shoes.
#3 is the big one. This is the one that convinced me The Simpsons writers were writing the episode directly for me, and me alone. At the beginning of the episode, Homer is driving the kids to school, when a Grand Funk Railroad song comes on the radio. I am from Flint, Michigan, the home of Grand Funk. Not only that, but one of my best friends growing up (and later my roommate in New York), was named Don Verheeck. Don’s uncle was Don Brewer, the drummer for Grand Funk Railroad. Another of our friends growing up, Jeff Schacher, was the cousin of Mel Schacher, the bass player for Grand Funk Railroad. So Grand Funk Railroad has been a pivotal part of my life since I was just a small child, even though I’ve never really heard any of their music other than the ones we all know. (Believe it or not, we all know more Grand Funk Railroad songs than you might think.)
But that wasn’t all. They didn’t just mention the band in passing. When Homer turns the volume up on the Grand Funk, Bart and his friends start complaining about his old fogey music. “You don’t remember Grand Funk Railroad?” Homer asks, incredulously. “The wild, shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner? The bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher? The competent drumwork of Don Brewer?”
It’s pretty cool for the Simpsons to namecheck your best friend’s uncle. If you happen to be on acid at the time, it’s more than just cool. It’s a sign from God. I don’t know what the sign was telling me, exactly. But I never did acid again.