A Night Inside My Mind at the New York Philharmonic
It was at around six PM that Eric called me and asked if I wanted to go to the New York Philharmonic. I had enough shrooms for two and asked if he wanted to do some to enhance the experience. He agreed. I took half of the shrooms (excited about how good they tasted compared to the last time I did them—I had expected they would taste bad so put them in pasta to disguise the taste. This only succeeded in making me feel nauseous for a few hours, which I rationalize as adding to the bad trip, and now I can only think about eating shrooms when I eat pasta. I guess it didn’t help my nerves that I had picked my first psychedelic drug experience to be during Hurricane Sandy). I started tripping as I left my apartment.
I knew I would want to be outside later so I dressed warmly (It was February). I sat in the subway by myself. That’s when things started to go sour.
I became entirely too aware of the existence of the things that normally inhabited my mouth: my tongue, the sensation of my teeth and lips, my mouth as a whole. You don’t usually think about your mouth, you just let it do its thing.
But more jarring were the angry subway tile faces staring at me: two black “175” markers and the indentation under them combined to make a giant frowning face, and together with the stains on the tiles, it was quite terrifying.
The train came. I tried to put on some music that would calm my nerves and found myself not wanting to listen to most of my favorite songs. It was the once in a lifetime that I did not want to listen to “Once in a Lifetime” by The Talking Heads, one of my favorite songs which I sometimes play it in an endless loop like a psychopath. At that moment I couldn’t stand the sound of it.
Once I got off the train I found it difficult to look at my phone, which made it hard to look up whether or not I was dying from some rare allergic reaction to mushrooms that might cause my throat to close up, or whether this sensation was normal, like the nausea I had experienced last time. Knowing the plethora of mushrooms and their different effects on humans, it was totally possible that if I had been given the wrong mushroom, and it would not be unheard of for me to drop dead or go completely crazy. Normally I’m completely in love with the idea of mushrooms, and not just the psilocin kind. There’s so many things on our planet that exist in so many different varieties, things that can cure illnesses, taste great, kill you, or make you hallucinate. Earth is such a cool place to live.
I got to Avery Fisher Hall where Eric was waiting. I wanted water and he had a water bottle. I remembered the last time we went to the Philharmonic a little differently and could have sworn there was a water fountain right outside the entrance. I walked outside with Eric by the big Lincoln Center fountain (which I regrettably could not drink out of even though it definitely crossed my mind) and gave him the rest of my shrooms to take. He wanted to be outside. I wanted to be inside. I found my friend Alex in the lobby, who had appeared while we were by the fountain and was less than thrilled to be our trip-sitter. Alex is a neurotic mom type. She does a lot of drugs, but they’re all prescription. The two of us waited for Eric while the ushers told us we had to hurry up or they would close the doors.
I needed to get more water. The ushers told us we couldn’t get to our seats in time and should sit in the back of the orchestra, so we did. I put down my belongings and asked if I could leave to use the bathroom. They said it would be about nine minutes. I said “Ok,” and went to the bathroom to fill up the water bottle. When I returned, they would not let me back inside. Apparently nine minutes meant it would be nine minutes before I could get back inside, not that it was nine minutes before the show started. That made sense in retrospect, but boy did it make me angry.
I was in complete agony. It felt like my throat was closing up and my tongue was trying to choke me. I paced around the lobby of Avery Fisher, occasionally sitting on the benches. I asked one of the ushers if they had any Benadryl, knowing it was a far-fetched request. If I was actually having an allergic reaction, Benadryl would make me not die. She said that they might have some in the first aid kit, so I asked the other usher about the first aid kit. They didn’t have the first aid kit and so she suggested I go to Duane Reade a few blocks away, to get some. My purse was locked inside the room I wouldn’t be able to get into for another seven minutes. I didn’t even have my phone so I couldn’t look up whether or not I was dying or whether it was normal. So I waited. I sat in the lobby staring at the closed doors laughing at me like the 175 tiles on the subway. At least the doors didn’t look as menacing as the subway tiles.
Eventually, they opened the doors and started setting up for another performance. I went inside and my friends were relieved to see me. I looked up on my phone what might be happening to me but the Google results were more than my brain could comprehend. Not only were there too many hits of negative possibilities, but my brain found it difficult to concentrate on the task of typing and scrolling through the results for relevant information. It felt like it took ten minutes to write. I also had a voicemail from someone I had called earlier that only sounded like gibberish and I cursed at it. The colors of the world seemed to get more wrong when I looked at my phone, as if someone had adjusted the saturation, shadow, and sharpness settings on Photoshop instantaneously. The show started and so did my uncomfortable writhing.
The next few hours were the most miserable I have experienced in my life. My brain did not process information correctly. I felt like I was being possessed or had gone completely crack-head crazy. I could process sound the most normally of everything, which is not to say that I could process it normally. It didn’t help that the sound I was hearing was people singing Bach compositions in German.
I was sitting in a chair and had to remain mostly still and silent. I was left to contemplate my imminent death, the sporadic numbness of my limbs and tongue, and whether or not the varying levels of my throat closing meant I was dying faster or slower than I had been a minute ago. I was also aware that I had to, or would eventually have to, go to the bathroom from all of the water I was drinking to make my throat feel less like it was closing, and that this uncomfortable sensation would eventually heighten my misery.
Each time they took a break, my friends and I were able to speak to each other, but what came out of my brain was an expression of my misery. I was unable to not simultaneously laugh uncontrollably and cry while doing so, so I must have looked like the textbook definition of a hot mess. At first I wasn’t sure if I was actually crying or I was imagining it. I remember them asking me a few questions about what would make me want to die less (as most of the things I said were about how my throat was closing up and I was going to die). They said, “What could make this better for you?” I told them, “To go to the bathroom and be in the future.”
I am a writer by profession and at heart, usually when I want to write things down I write them on the notes function of my phone, however, not only was this impossible because I could not have my phone out during the performance, but I would have been physically unable to type what I wanted to write. About halfway through the performance I realized that I could write whatever I wanted on my program. I had a pen in my bag and opened it to look for it. Finding the pen that I knew was in my bag proved too difficult a task for my brain to handle so I settled on my eyeliner pencil. My precious notes, in eyeliner pencil, in the order in which I wrote them, are as follows:
(I was completely miserable but I noticed in front of us a few rows there was a guy who was coughing and was visibly uncomfortable. I realized that he was the one person in the space who might be having a worse time than I was because he was probably self-conscious that he was coughing and found this hilarious. Also, I knew that I would cease to feel crazy in a few hours but he would still have to live with himself for being old and pathetic. So, on the cover of the playbill, in eyeliner pencil, I wrote):
“Every day that goes by where I do not feel like this is a good day.”
And then on the bottom of the playbill:
“But in 5 hours I will not feel like this, but that guy who is coughing will still be that guy.”
And in the middle of the playbill, on a bunch of drawings of Bach’s face:
“I WANT TO DIE!” I underlined it but broke the tip of my eyeliner pencil doing so. I noted that my future non-possessed self would regret having only half an eyeliner pencil left. It seemed to be a zeitgeist in my mind for my level of desperation that I broke the tip of my eyeliner pencil writing, “I want do die,” in all caps on the cover of my playbill.
I had used up most of the white-ish space on the cover of the playbill so I turned to one of the inserts and wrote, still in eyeliner pencil:
“I am going to meet my death listening to people sing in German.”
During the next break Eric and Alex told me they both had pens. I also had a pen. In between bouts of numbness, uncontrollable crying, feeling liquid snot drip down my throat (which was still closing), I was clutching Alex’s hand to a point of what must have been pain for her. She gave me a pen and I discovered that one of the inserts of the playbill had a blank side, which I filled up with the following:
- This side is blank! Now I don’t have to write on people’s faces! Why am I crying so much? Is it because I am crazy? I feel like I am in the movie version of a nightmare directed by my mind and cinematography by Satan.
- Why do the tears sting on my face? Is it because I am crazy? Yes.
- Note to self: DON’T BE CRAZY.
- This is what insanity feels like.
- Don’t look at phone.
- Don’t look at hands (I had discovered that looking at my hands made things worse and made me very angry).
- Writing is OK (except it took a great deal of effort).
- I will never be depressed again when this is over. But that is a lie.
- This will all be meaningless when I am not crazy. It looks like an insane child wrote it. Everyone looks like aliens but the wardrobe design is exquisite.
(It did not help that a lot of the people there were old and strange looking to begin with, plus wearing bizarre and somewhat fancy winter clothing, but they all seemed to look like they belonged in Men In Black. Some of them had trouble walking, they sounded weird, and the saturated lighting and color that my mind was adding to everything was not flattering on them).
- I thought I was feeling less crazy but I was wrong.
- Then I ran out of space on the blank page and wrote sideways on the right margin:
- I feel bad for crazy people because they have to feel like this all of the time. But I…
It was here that the act of writing became too strenuous for my mind to control my arm and hand to accomplish. I articulated this later, in smaller handwriting, on another blank part of the same paper:
- Writing is hard. I give up.
Occasionally I would stop writing and notice my hands. This was bad. They looked like blurry little sausages, at which point I felt compelled to write, “I hate you fat sausages!” and “SAUSAGE!” On the insides of three of my fingers on my left hand (the logical thing to do, of course, because I was out of paper), followed by “Memento”, because writing on myself reminded me of the movie “Memento”, and then I wrote “Death by Ink Poisoning!” on my palm. I had more space on my right hand but since I am right handed, I knew that the task of attempting to write on my right hand would be near impossible. All of this, of course, was after I had gone through a particularly agonizing period of full body numbness and jarring throat sensations where I had written “DEATH DEATH CRAZY DEATH” on the outside of my left hand. I made a mental note that if I lived, I should scrub these precious notes off my hand before going to dinner with my father the following night.
I was getting a little restless and started writing notes with the intention of passing them to Alex. They were written, most of them sideways, on another insert of the playbill which already had typing and pictures on it, and were as follows:
“At least my throat hasn’t closed up yet!” (Next to which I drew a smiley face), and:
“Present Bebo only understands death and crazy. Future Bebo understands normal (sort of).”
“I have to buy some kombucha after the show, can you go with? Future Bebo needs kombucha. Future Bebo is alive and working on a ‘Bob’s Burgers’ spec script.”
I sat writhing in misery for a while longer. Then I heard the trumpets. They were wonderful. I scratched “DEATH DEATH DEATH” off my hand, leaving only “CRAZY”. I love brass in general, but this seemed especially wonderful and made me feel less angry for no apparent reason, and it was made even better when the show ended seconds later. I was so excited that the show was over. I put down my things and walked to the bathroom, which miraculously didn’t have a line.
The symphonic experience of the bathroom was more of a feast for my ears than the actual New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, and the combination of patterned marble on the stalls and the patterned floor tiles made for a wonderful visual experience. I felt like I was peeing for five minutes. It was great. Best time I’ve ever spent in a bathroom, and some shits I’ve taken in my life have been better than orgasms.
Upon exiting the bathroom, things got better. I noticed how beautiful the taxis and the lights of the city looked from the giant windows in Avery Fisher Hall and stopped to take them in for a few seconds before realizing that I should get back to my friends or they would get worried that I had drowned myself in the toilet like a modern-day Ophelia.
They were happy to find that had done a complete 180 from my temperament from the last few hours and we set out for Whole Foods with a light freezing rain falling upon us. I can’t walk into any set revolving doors without thinking of the time I was tripping balls that night and Alex got squished between the doors at the Time Warner Center entrance because I sort of, maybe pushed her.
The world was more wonderful than it had ever been. I loved feeling the cold and the rain on all parts of my face. I didn’t even put on my hat.