I was driving across the province in a 1974 VW Camper Van, Burnt Orange, with Polyester plaid curtains and velour furnishings. I didn’t have a route planned, but I had a bag of mushrooms, some tequila, paint materials, and a package of wieners.
The reason for my trip was self-actualization. My thoughts were becoming too much for me… my art, too cumbersome and jaded… my writing, too distorted and dark. My mind was like a post-apocalyptic war zone with renegade thoughts ambushing innocent surviving moments of simplicity. The darkness was spreading and infecting what little positive thoughts existed. I needed to get to the root of the problem and stop myself from spiraling down a dirty drain of negative bacteria.
The first three days of my trip were spent driving, and then pulling over to the side of the road when I needed some sleep. I ate at truck stops and stopped for Tim’s double doubles every now and then. I zoned out a lot while driving and had arrogant BMWs up my ass every time my speed dropped. In the case of such, I pressed my brakes a lot and varied my speed, followed by a couple of degrading rearview mirror laughs and a flip off or two… Eventually the type A cocks would take me over screaming at the top of their lungs, gesturing to me in Italian hand signals. It was moments like those that prompted me to think “maybe I don’t want anyone to get close to me… Not just behind me while driving, but in general”. I had become very used to this solitary arty existence.
I often picked apart peoples thoughts, actions, and rationale, leaving them feeling alienated and damaged, while I… felt better. It seemed to be getting worse too. It’s not what I wanted and I hated feeling that way, but it almost felt intentional at times, like I was pushing others away… on purpose. Hoping that they’d hate me and not want to be near me anymore.
Finally I stopped at a campground. It was a family-oriented place, which bothered me, but I drove to a remote spot by the river and popped the top on my camper van. I positioned my camp site towards the river, so that the likelihood of random campers approaching me was slim.
In the distance I could hear kids laughing, men playing, women shouting orders, and the low hum of boats off in the faint background. I set up my fire pit ready for night fall, and grabbed my bottle of tequila. My folding camp chair was in the shade of the van, and the trees provided additional shade and made me aware of the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves.
When I was finished setting things up and had a chance to sit and relax, my mind started going off in its comfortable direction of negative introspection.
I remember thinking “What the fuck is my problem?”
After a couple of swigs of tequila, I decided to drop a dose of mushrooms in an attempt to gain some enlightenment, or truth… or perhaps just a temporary detour from my usual state of mind, which was getting on my own nerves.
After a half hour or so everything around me started breathing. The trees, the sky, the ground, the van, the air. Everything had a pulse. My ears felt as though they were just complimented with a Whisper 3000 and it felt like I was seeing through a broken kaleidoscope.
My thoughts began turning from negative introspection to extreme paranoia. The wind was sounding evil and my brainwaves were like tsunami tidal waves. Was it a storm? would I be trapped in a tornado and my life come to an untimely end, my rag doll of a body slamming into a tree?! My mouth was dry too. Oh God, all I brought was tequila… What if I dehydrate? What if I get alcohol poisoning. I should have brought some water. I only have 3 smokes left. Shit, that means I’m gonna have to talk to someone to bum a few. I’m high as a kite. What if they know? What if they think I’m insane for being here by myself tripping on hallucinogenic mushrooms? What if they call the park ranger or something?!……….
My heart jumped up into my throat as a football hit the front windshield of my van. Assuming that I was being attacked by fellow-campers, I retreated into the van and hid under the table for what felt like 5 minutes, but was probably more like 40.
As nightfall began to consume the campground, I realized that I was far too high to be building a fire and that I should perhaps enlist the help of a male camper, preferably one that was as high as I was, or drunk would do too.
I began my tripping through campgrounds trying to act as normal and friendly as I could without appearing suspicious. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to be working. A mother grabbed her two children pulling them close to her, another family just stared as they sat quietly at the picnic table eating their dinner, waiting for me to get out of sight before they could pass judgment.
Finally a random male camper… Approached me without fear and with a smile on his face. The conversation went a little something like this:
“blah blah blah blah help?>”
“yes blah blah blah blah fire.”
I guess we had reached some sort of agreement because he appeared to be following me back to my camp site and surely enough he got my fire going for me, gave me some cigs and left. I don’t remember the specifics, but I guess I must have been somewhat clear in my mushroom mouth communications. Bonus.
That night was a bit fear and loathing-esque with a carnival of events unfolding right before my eyes. Campers were coming by to see what I was up to and I was intense with activity most of the night.
The next morning I awoke to find my camp ground littered with paint and canvas. Some were burnt in the ashy remains of the fire, others were laid on the ground around the fire, and others spread out on the hood of the camper van. The one thing they all had in common – colour.
I wasn’t using Black / Blue / Purple and Gray. These were brightly coloured canvases inspired by nature and fire, brilliant Greens, Reds, Yellows, Oranges, and happy hues. Some of my best work in months lay sitting before me and I had absolutely no recollection of creating it.
I packed up all of my paintings and headed back on the road, on to the next spot. A little bit hungover and slightly hungry, I decided I would stop in 50KM or so to get some breakfast and freshen up in the washroom. I felt like I looked like an amazonian woman who had just finished getting slaughtered at paint ball.
As I settled into my highway hypnosis, I noticed something unusual about my thoughts… they weren’t negative. They weren’t positive either, more neutral, almost (dare I say) content. Something I rarely ever felt. Content… Who is content? Nobody is content. Why am I content? This is weird.
I pulled off the highway at the Route 66 Truck stop to have a greasy breakfast and perhaps do some writing. When I walked in, I was stared at as if I had just emerged limbless from a burning building. I sat down and ordered my breakfast without making eye contact with anyone. When my coffee came I drank it with unfamiliar soothing contentedness. This is what drinking coffee is supposed to feel like, I thought to myself.
When I went into the washroom to freshen up, I froze in shock when I caught a glimpse of myself in the dimly lit bathroom mirror. Apparently I had already done some writing. I had written the words “LOVE ME” on my face, “love” on the Left cheek, and “me” on the Right cheek. I smiled and began laughing out loud.
I slumped down on the dirty bathroom floor grinning and feeling slightly embarrassed, but realized the root of all of my recent problems. FAILURE. I don’t know why I couldn’t see it before, but now it was clear, it was failure that I was afraid of.
Social failure, artistic failure, relationship failure, professional failure…. It was all so clear. And what is the best way to avoid failure? Don’t try. That’s what I was doing. That’s what my fucking problem has been. Why didn’t I see it?!
I left the bathroom, words still proudly on my face, smiling. I threw a ten on the table (a 6 dollar tip) and left the truck stop to go home.
I was finished with my road trip, my mind trip, and my psychological detour. Ready to return to life and become what I had been fearing for months that I wouldn’t be.