Over the Swiss Rainbow
In December of 1992, my girlfriend Stacy and I flew from California back to Wisconsin to spend Christmas with my family. Everybody got to meet her for the first time and couldn’t believe how shockingly beautiful she was. We had a ball for Christmas with tons of laughs. Stacy fit right in and was immediately accepted by my parents despite her being nine years older. For New Year’s Eve, we drove the family van two hours to Madison, Wisconsin for a keg party with my best friend, Dirtball, his brother, Kevin, and several other friends from Whitefish Bay. We were staying a friend’s apartment just down the street from the party. About an hour before we left for the party, Stacy and I each took a pill of high grade ecstasy to get into the holiday spirit. We were no strangers to the drug as that was what we had been taking together at the Grateful Dead shows. We knew how to navigate through the intense high. An hour after we swallowed the pills, the drug didn’t kick in. We were very disappointed, but we had plan B ready to go. Our friend had a bunch of magic mushrooms. So we each gobbled up a handful which usually took about thirty minutes to kick in.
We walked over to the keg party and on the way about five minutes later, low and behold, the ecstasy started to kick in hard. We were feeling euphoric and on top of the world. The keg party was in the basement of some students’ home. It was wall to wall packed with tons of unfamiliar faces jumping to the blaring sound of music I couldn’t stand. It was a bad start of an evening that was just about to get a whole lot worse. About twenty minutes into the party, the mushrooms started kicking in on top of the ecstasy. I started to hallucinate and the unfamiliar faces became uglier and the music was tormenting my soul. Stacy, on the other hand, was having the time of her life.
Then there was a total game changer for the worse. Three “nerds” from my high school days came walking down the stairs. It was Grable, Hashker and Kopps and they knew my parents well. They were very straight laced and would only have a beer or two. In contrast, I was seeing evil dragons and angels flying all around the room. I had the vision in my mind that if I were to open my mouth to talk to them literally toys would come flying out of my mouth. I could barely form a sentence, let alone, carry on with sober people. I grabbed Stacy and left the party without saying goodbye to anybody. She was laughing at and having a great time and trying to get me to calm down, but the drugs were way too strong for me.
I was relating taking the drugs to jumping off the cliff in Greece. I was soaring super high and knew I had to stick the landing to come out on the other side; otherwise, I might end up in a straitjacket.
Suddenly walking back to the apartment, I remembered that the Grateful Dead were playing in Oakland, California at that very moment and it was supposed to be aired on the radio. I thought Jerry Garcia would be able to guide me through the turbulent experience. We hurried over to the van parked nearby and tried to tune in the concert. We couldn’t find it. All we could find of remote interest was some Michael Jackson, which put me further into a tailspin.
Stacy pulled the bed out in the back of the van and insisted that I lie down. She knew she was in crisis management mode at this juncture. I laid down, closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing. Stacy knelt down at my head, put her hands on my head, and started to calm me down with her gentle voice. I was seeing vivid kaleidoscope patterns swirling around in my brain. I wanted to shut it off, but I couldn’t. After about a half hour of listening to Stacy’s cute little children’s stories, the patterns came to a halt and I was in a totally peaceful place.
The next thing I knew, I envisioned my soul leaving my body and floating up to the ceiling of the van. My soul was looking down at me and Stacy, but I was dead and she was weeping gently over me. It was a total outer body experience I had read about in a Carlos Castaneda book that Trevor had given me.
Luckily, I had read the book, because otherwise, my brain may have gone down the wrong rabbit hole on a one-way ticket to a padded room. I was having another death and rebirth experience. I had a feeling of timelessness, so I have little idea I was experiencing this. Stacy hung in there with me the whole time for what seemed like several hours. The whole time she was ready to dial 911, but knew that it was a last resort. She was thinking about how livid my parents would have been if they had to drive out to Madison to find their son in a mental hospital.
My eyes slowly started to open and I came out of my trance. Stacy was so relieved she started crying profusely that I hadn’t died or gone nuts. I asked her in all sincerity, “What’s your name?” She said, “It’s me baby. Stacy.” I said, “What’s my name?” She laughed in joy that I was alive and said, “You’re J.P. and we’re in Madison, Wisconsin in your parents’ van.” My brain had been completely rebooted like hitting CTRL+ALT+DELETE on a computer and I needed to rebuild EVERYTHING. Luckily, I could still talk and rationalize. I asked, “Who are my parents?” She said, “Mouse and Joe and they love you very much.” I continued with a litany of questions to which she replied and started to put the puzzle together again. I asked what the purpose of life was and she responded, “The purpose in life is to get you thinking straight by the time we get home to your parents.” I said, “Sounds like a deal.” She said, “Come on. It’s not quite midnight.
Let’s go celebrate the New Year’s with your best friends at the keg party. Are you ready.” I obliged and went back to the packed party with Dirtball, Kevin, and the three nerds just in time for the midnight countdown.
Looking back, the man who had really saved me from a total epic failure that night was the famous mythologist Joseph Campbell. I had heard about him because he was a friend of the Grateful Dead members, Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart. In his book, The Power of Myth, he discussed the importance of accepting death as rebirth in the rites of passage in primitive societies and the story of Christ. I viewed my experience as a rite of passage into manhood. I survived the test.
I was able to bounce back from total insanity by the time we arrived home the next day and my parents didn’t suspect a thing. I was a lucky man. I could have died from an overdose or been indefinitely hospitalized. I wish I could say in retrospect that I learned my lesson, but that scary, yet incredible experience only made me want more. I hadn’t been diagnosed with any mental disease up to that point, so I didn’t know just how much I was playing with fire.
Mania Lands Me Behind Bars
At Santa Clara University, I played drums in a Grateful Dead tribute band at the local watering hole, the Cypress Lounge. We were called the Lotus Eaters and we rocked the house. We even had groupies and roadies. We scheduled a party one Saturday at the house I was living at in Santa Clara, CA. The Santa Clara police showed up at about 5:30pm and shut the band down despite the fact we were allowed to make noise till 10:00pm. We took the whole party over to ‘the barn’ on the other side of the tracks in the city of Campbell. The band started up, the kegs were tapped.
During the show, a few underage youngsters sneaked into the party to poach our beer. The local police were driving by, saw the minors from outside and decided to storm the party. I was playing drums in the
band, but had taken a break to go upstairs to get a phone call from my girlfriend. When I came down the stairs, much to my dismay, there were about three cops raiding the party and breaking it up. I figured it was my party because I organized the original party in Santa Clara. I insisted that I say something to them. Had I not been manic, I would have laid low like a reasonable person would. But no. Neutron has to be in the middle of the action.
I said to the cop, “Hey buddy, can I help you?” To which he replied, “I’m not your buddy” and proceeded to rip me out of the party by my arm, put me in handcuffs and chained me to the railing out front. The cops paraded the entire party out of the barn in front of me. I was the laughing stock of the party.
In the patrol car on the way to the station, the cop tried to get a rise out of me. I was strongly antagonizing, and he reciprocated. I was dropping the “F” bomb every other word and screaming at him like a deranged maniac. Well actually, I was deranged at the time. I was pissed off as hell. I was honestly just trying to help, not be a wise ass. As soon as we got out of the patrol car at the station, he said he’d give me one shot to punch him as hard as I could. Even as naïve and riled up as I was at 21 years old, I didn’t give him the privilege and pleasure of thoroughly kicking my ass. Needless to say, I suppressed the mania and didn’t take a swing.
They booked me and interrogated me. I slept in the holding tank full of drunks. I wasn’t even inebriated. I was one of the soberest people at the party. Then at 5:00am I was released. I went to the pay phones to call my girlfriend to come pick me up. She was so angry and disappointed, she didn’t come for me. I was livid at her reaction. At the phone next to me was a drunk that was thrown in the tank for drunk driving. He still reeked of booze and turns out his wife was still in jail because she got lippy with the cop. He overheard my conversation and offered me a ride back to my girlfriend’s house.
I went inside the house, screamed at her at the top of my lungs and threw all of my clothes out the second story window, went downstairs, picked them up and walked two miles to the train station to go back home.
It wasn’t till later in my life that I looked back at this story and realize it was one of my first manic outbursts. I was truly out of control. I know now that when I had first approached that cop, I had a psychotic look on my face. When I was losing control in the patrol car, it was a symptom of not being balanced in the least. The same thing goes for when I shouted at my girlfriend. Lesson learned.
Laguna Seca Daze
Less than two weeks later, I went to a music festival with my girlfriend and our friends. We had kissed and stubbornly made up. It was called Laguna Seca Daze(LSD) with about twelve awesome live bands playing over ten hours of music. The headliner was the psychedelic band called Phish. One of her friends owed her money for a small loan from the previous year. I stepped in and made sure that he did something to pay it off finally and bury the hatchet. He decided he was going to sell nitrous oxide in the parking lot and give her back her $400. Well he didn’t have money to buy the laughing gas, so we had to lend that to him. He proceeded to sell over $1,500 at the concert and gave her only the $400 back without paying for the cost of the gas. We demanded that he pay for it.
He had sucked down so much of the nitrous oxide a few cars down from us that he wasn’t thinking straight. He said that we had to pay for it. It made no sense. I confronted him on it. He puffed his chest and got in my face. I was so pissed off that I cocked my arm back and gave him a onetime knockout blow to the face. He passed out on the way to the ground and smashed his head on the car.
My girlfriend started screaming and crying. I said, “Honey, I did it for you!” Clearly, I was manic and, yet again, out of control. It was the only time in my life that I ever got into a fight, well quasi fight up to that point.
The following week I went down south to Cupertino to pick up my girlfriend. We went to the movies and had dinner afterwards. Driving home, we got into an argument over something trivial. I think it was over which part of the lobster was the best to eat – the claws or the tail. Stupid. I got so mad I started shouting in a very unacceptable, abusive tone and started driving like a madman. I was erratic slamming on the brakes then sticking my pedal to the metal and speeding up rapidly. It was typical of a person in a manic episode. She said, “Take me home. I’m done with you.” I took her home, grabbed the rest of my stuff and she dropped me off at the train station. That was the last of our two-year relationship. I screwed up. She was a real keeper that deserved better than what I was offering at the time.
I immediately fell into a depression. Deep down, I loved her with all of my heart. I could no longer concentrate at school. I started showing up late at class or not at all. I turned in my papers late and did poorly on my exams. The depression lasted for months and became crippling. The only salvation was that I had a job lined up in Switzerland for the summer which was only a few weeks away.