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Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregonby Chuck Palahniuk
(a postcard from 1981)
Acid and LSD are the same thing. I'm only telling you this because I didn't know it.
This year, I'm nineteen years old and living in a rented room on the second floor at 2221 NW Flanders Street. The Hampton Court Apartments. My friends and I, we buy our jeans at the Squire Shop on SW Broadway and Alder Street. We wear high-waisted, buckle-back carpenter pants with a loop midway down the thigh, so you can hook a hammer there. The Squire Shop has the white-denim painter pants and the striped engineer jeans. We listen to the Flying Lizards and Pink Floyd.
In high school I'd watched a spooky movie called Focus on Acid. Acid could make you mistake the gas flame on a stove for a lovely blue carnation. You'd have flashbacks years later and wreck your car.
Still, when some friends suggested eating a tab of LSD and watching the Pink Floyd laser light show at the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) planetarium, I said sure. Let's go.
LSD was lysergic acid diethylamide. A simple alkaloid. Just another chemical. It was science.
This was December, when OMSI used to be in the West Hills, high above the city near the zoo. We sat in the cold parking lot at dusk and each ate a little paper stamp impregnated with LSD, and my friends told me what to expect. First, we'd laugh a lot. We'd smile so long and hard our face muscles would ache for days. Then, we'd grind our teeth. This was important to know so you didn't wear down your molars. My friends talked about how each light and color would bleed a little comet trail. The paint would seem to run down the walls. First, we'd watch the laser light show, then we'd wander through the West Hills mansions and trip on the Christmas lights.
In the OMSI planetarium the seats are in circles around the projector in the center of the round room. My friends sit on one side of me. A woman I don't know sits on my other side. Pink Floyd blares out of speakers and red laser squiggles around the dark, domed ceiling, and I'm laughing so hard I can't stop. They play "Dark Side of the Moon," and my jaws start to ache. They play "The Wall," and the friend on my left side says, "Put something in your mouth." He says, "You're going to wreck your teeth."
He's right, my back teeth feel hot and there's that burned-metal taste you get having a cavity drilled. I'm grinding my teeth that hard.
This is December, so we're wearing denim jackets with fake sheepskin lining. Stocking caps and thick, knitted mufflers. With my muffler stuffed in my mouth, I go back to chewing.
The next thing I know, I'm choking. My throat is full of something soft and dry. I'm gagging, and my mouth is stuffed with something chewy and matted. Some kind of fibers. Or hairs.
In the dark, the laser squiggling and Pink Floyd blasting, my muffler doesn't feel right. It's too soft, and I'm spitting and picking bits of animal fur out of my mouth. If it's mink or rabbit, I don't know, but this is fur.
The woman who sat down next to me, she was wearing a fur coat and dropped it into her seat. She dropped it so one sleeve fell across my lap. That's what I've put in my mouth, and here in the dark, I've chewed, gnawed, gobbled up everything between the elbow and the cuff.
Now my friends are trying to pass me some cleaning solvent poured on a bandanna. To huff. It stinks like dirty socks, and people sitting around us are starting to gripe about the smell.
At any minute the lasers and the music will stop. The lights will come up, and people will get to their feet. They'll slip into their hats and gloves. And the stranger beside me will find a drooly mess where her coat sleeve used to be. Me, I'll be sitting here with wet fur all around my mouth. Strands of fur still stuck between my teeth. Coughing up a mink hairball.
My friends are elbowing me, still trying to pass me the stinking bandanna soaked in solvent. Carbon tetrachloride, another simple chemical. And the fur coat woman on my other side says, "Christ, what is that smell?"
As the last song ends, before the lights come on, I stand. I tell my friends, we're going. Now. I'm shoving them out into the aisle. As the lights come up, I'm climbing over them, telling them, "Run. Don't ask questions, just get outside."
Of course, they think this is a game. So we're running. Outside the fire exit doors, the acres of parking lot are dark, and it's started to snow.
With the snow falling in fat clumps around us, we're running. Through Washington Park at night. Past the zoo and the Christmas lights on the big mansions, each spot of color smearing. Trailing. We're running through the rose garden, the downtown stretched out below. And my friends are laughing. Their fingers and faces stinking of chemical solvent, they run through the falling snow, not thinking this is anything but fun.
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