“The hour is 10 PM, the frequency is 89.1 FM, the station broadcasting this signal is called FUCC, and you are hearing the magic of the electronically transmitted human condition. You and I are the receiver and the transmitter, I’m Popeye Kahn, and this, is Demerol Naked.
I bring the fader on channel one up on the MTX, we’re breaking the law.
“…Where there are sticky digits making messy juices running down…”
“The Ottoman Bigwigs, the band you just heard, are playing tomorrow night at the OK Hotel, and band members James Palmer and Chris Welch are here to add some insanity to this crazy mess we here at FUCC call radio. One of my best friends, singer-songwriter Jim Page, will be here later on to promote his latest album and give us a little history lesson on the tumultuous music of Belltown. We’ve got Captain Saturday doing the ambience you’re listening to, say hello Captain.”
“Hello I am the Captain of Satuday. I am hunched over, sitting on the floor holding a set of head phones tightly to my ears.”
“Dot, dot, dot said the Captain… First though, there’s story to tell– story number 455, which leaves only five hundred and forty six stories to go.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the passing of Ian Curtis and I can’t think of ‘long dead Ian without thinking of the drug Lysergic Acid Diethylamide. That’s right, LSD. This little tale I’m about to tell is about the very first time I tripped on Acid. So turn the lights down low, sit back in your favorite tripping chair, gaze into the Lava Lamp while the good Captain here spins some trippy sounds, and listen to the magic that is Radio…
Think, way back to the early 8th decade of this century of human history. Released for spring (breading ritual) break from my stupid college in Oklahoma City, I sojourned at my father’s home in Austin, Texas. My friend and part-time band mate Mike Drum called me up and invited me to a party at an apartment complex in North Austin, about 3 miles from where my father lived in Aroyo Seca. I had nothing else going so I told him to give me about an hour and I’d be there.
After much difficulty finding my way through the bleak, brand-new North Austin suburbs that all looked the same, I showed up at this little one bedroom flat on the second floor of a Texas-style beehive on the extreme north end of Rutland Ave. By the time I found the so-called party, thick rain sheeted in evenly spaced deluges distorting all vision through my windshield world, so my mood was for shit. I needed a drink, a drug, a soft body, or some distraction that’s for sure.
As I walked in the place unmolested, I noticed it looked and sounded like the lead-witch had just expired in the coven. All the lights were opposing colors: red in the front room, blue in the hall, I could see yellow in the bathroom, and green was the theme in the little bedroom all the way at the back of the dump. Shadowed figures of what looked like humans lay all over the floor, wrapped in blankets, and the air conditioner was on full blast. The big fancy Japanese stereo dominating the entire wall of the living room blared the craziest music I’d ever heard. I later found out the band was Throbbing Gristle but, at the time, I didn’t even know music like that could be found in the States. It was so foreign-sounding to my cultureless ears. The lumpy forms on the floor vacillated to the arrhythmic crazy shit screaming out of those huge ECI speakers.
I went straight for the kitchen where stood my friend and band mate, Mike Drum, putting the serious mack on a very pretty, very blond, very young giggling girl. He had her backed all the way into the opened refrigerator which supplied the only neutral light for the tiny kitchen. At that moment she was lamely trying to push him off of her.
“Hey, can I get in there?” I said.
“Fuck, Popeye, when did you get here?” Mike handed me a Shiner Bach from under the young lady’s ass.
“How long have you guys been standing there? This beer is warm.” I smiled her-ward.
“Oh hey Popeye, this is July, July meet Popeye Kahn, he’s the lead singer of our band, RAKE.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said. “July, like the month?”
“Yeah, July Polanski. Lead singer, huh, I wish I could sing.” She stepped out of the fridge, handing me her fingers like cold, rolled lunchmeat. “Wow man, that’s a crazy-ass name!”Her smile was immense.
“It’s Finnish” I said “Polanski–like the director? It’s not that I can sing, I just do…” I sniffed her chilled fingers, saying, “No thanks, I’m trying the vegetarian thing,” and giving her hand back like it was bad food.
“Director of what? Mike, your friend is weird.” She finished her beer and grabbed another then whispered to me, “Dude, you want some acid?”
“You mean like the sulfuric kind? No thanks, I don’t even know what to do with the stuff. Well I guess I could etch a big anarchy- A into the hood of a corvette or melt down some electronics for the gold but, after driving here through that rain, you are seriously over estimating my industrial ingenuity.”
“Mike, tell your friend with the weird name to shut up!” July plopped down in fetal position on the kitchen floor.
“Dude, July’s got some heavy duty window pane that’s blowing my head off right now–try and be a little kinder, will you. What the hell are you talking about anyway, sulfuric acid?” Mike wasn’t asking really, and I noticed his pupils were dilated like two oily spots on the top of his face.
“Acid, huh? You mean like the Timothy Leary kind, or Tom Wolf’s Kool-Aid, Hunter S. Thompson’s red Cadillac trunk, or the Dark Side of the Moon? Sure, sounds fun, I guess. I mean taking something that’s called acid doesn’t really sound that fun but right now I could give a fuck what goes into my body as long as it’s something strong.” July stared at her hand and Mike laughed hysterically. I closed the refrigerator door and straddled a kitchen chair, setting my beer on the floor. The room became very eerie as the fridge light went out and those limited contrasting colors flooded in from all the other rooms in the place.
July looked up at me with a grin that stretched across a set of perfectly white Kylie Minogue-sized teeth and handed me what appeared to be a tiny square of clear blue candy. “Put this between your cheek and gum, cowboy, and don’t take it out, it’ll dissolve on its own and please, shut the fuck up!” This was funny, I guess, because she joined Mike’s mad laughter.
I did as instructed.
They sat on the floor and laughed and pointed at me. I put up with that for about a second before I got up, grabbed my Shiner-Bach and went back into the red living room with the strange music and the sheet-wrapped writhing bodies. In retrospect it seems almost instantaneous but time and sound seemed to pass at a much, not really slower, but different rate. As I sat on the floor a small dark shape made its way over to me and stared for a moment and took my beer from my hand.
“Joy Division.” A tiny voice, not male or female, came from the vague direction of the carpet. One of the human-ish figures wrapped in a black blanket had just approached me from within the floor of the red room.
“It was the section of the concentration camp where the Nazis kept all the pretty Jewish girls, the ones they wanted to fuck. It’s also the name of the band we’re listening to. Have you heard ‘em?” The voice did not grow louder or more distinct from the carpet.
“No. I mean, not until now.” And it was exposed in my mind that the red carpet was a shallow pool of blood. All of the dark, cocooned shapes in the pool became a million beautiful Jewish girls with a million grunting German soldiers on top of them fucking them to death. In my ears an off-key male baritone voice cracked out the single word Isolation, over and over again.
“They named their band that?”
“Yeah, isn’t that beautiful?”
“No, that’s a fucking drag!” I barely managed to speak, my voice sounding shaky and small inside my head.
“I don’t think you understand the irony man.”
“Irony, what does that mean?” The sound from the stereo mixed with the sound of the rain as it started to come down harder. Louder, louder still, the sound was joined by the sound of some kind of steam engine slowing down with the beat of the music, slowing… Slowing more.
Above the din, carpet voice yelled, “You know man, like satire, mockery, biting wit, insincerity…”
“I know what irony means, you twit, I just wanted to see if you did. I get the joke. I just don’t think it’s funny or ironic, I just think it’s sad.” I forced myself to stand up in the pool of blood. I was ankle deep and steaming with the music that was slowing like a train screeching into the night. I stumbled backward, my clothes dripping with the blood of a million beautiful dying young women. I tucked my head in my arms and my head hit what felt like a door. The door gave way and I fell through. Louder, steaming, slower, slower…
I looked up and I was holding my ears standing on the balcony in front of the apartment. As the door closed behind me the terrible music came to a sudden and peaceful STOP. The rain was now a quiet sprinkle although the water coming off the building still poured like mad.
“Wow, I have to drive. Is that a bad idea? Nah.” The voice in my head became stoic, calm and powerfully rational. I could trust it, him, me. Right?!
I reached into my right pocket, pulled out my keys, and stood there under the awning, out of the rain, for what seemed like the length of the Second World War which for reasons I couldn’t think of was on my mind. When I was sure that the war was over and the blood was all dried and mostly forgotten, I ducked my head and ran out into the parking lot, making a bee-line for my car.
Ah, my car, my haven…
Now, although I never considered myself, or was considered by anyone who knew me, a “Gear-Head”, a “Car-Freak”, or a so-called “Cockpit-Jockey”, my car was an automotive work of art. I had a friend who worked at a custom body shop and he told me that it was built by a drug dealer who had run plum out of whatever drug he was into. The dealer was so bummed that he blew his brains out in the front seat about an hour after the shop finished the building the car, right there in the parking lot. The shop got paid by the insurance company to fix it and they turned around and sold it to me for a song. Essentially the shop got paid twice for a job well done and I got a totally bad-ass car for about the price of a used ‘76 Chevette. She (the car) was a metal-flake-brown 1978 Z-28 Camaro. Her name was L.O.L.A. She could do 0 to 1000 miles per hour in 6.4 seconds flat.
L.O.L.A. (pronounced El-ow-El-Ay) had a Chevy 350 with a custom four bolt main and a ¾ cam, 8 high temperature alloyed titanium pop-up pistons sitting under an Edelbrock high rise manifold topped with a Holly 850 double-pumper and a nitrous oxide injector for kicks. L.O.L.A.’s Hurst four-on-the-floor tranny ended in a posi-track rear end and she got 6 miles to each of the 80-cent gallons of her high-octane fuel that I pumped into her about 20 times a week.
When I turned the key, L.O.L.A. exploded to life. All of her dashboard lights were aquamarine and her dome light was a whorehouse red. That car attracted a pair of 6 inch pumps faster than you can blow off a warn out simile about a stupid car.
L.O.L.A.’s stereo was 150 watts of precision German audio engineering bumping through four tri-axles in the back shelf, two co-axles in the doors, and a pair of tri’s on the dash. Her tank was full and in the deck slid Eno’s Another Green World. The steady voice in my head proclaimed, Might as well go back to OKC tonight. I could make it back to campus by the time the acid wears off. But I have got to get out of this rain…
Eno sang, “I’ll find a place somewhere in the corner…”
L.O.L.A. didn’t purr, she growled and chopped like the volatile piece of machinery she was. I put her in gear with a clunk and waited for the chorus to release the clutch.
“I’ll come running to tie your shoe…” And off we went my car, my calm inner-voice, and I, into the wet Texas night tripping balls and singing Eno. As high as I was, once L.O.L.A was lit up I felt in control of everything in my world. My-Wet-Green-World.
Fuck the Nazis! Joy Division, power symbols. Wow, once again I find out that those mother fuckers could put two cool sounding words together and fuck the lives of so many people. They had the best fashion, all the cool symbols, the best rocket people, the only rocket people! Fuck, how could so much hate exist? Did they know that they were defining hate for the next 7 generations of monkeys with thumbs? Monkey see, monkey do, kill a generation, yes sir! How many Einsteins were in that 6 million people those fuckers destroyed?
“I’ll come running to tie your shoe…”
I sat at the stop sign with the flashing red light at the corner of Rutland and Quail Creek for an inordinate amount of time, staring at the rain coming down in waves. My foot dropped and L.O.L.A. chugged a metal fugue through the rain.
Time… Is time going to heal the 6 million open wounds…
“I know I’ll name my band Treblinka or Aushwitz. How’s about the Hitlers?” I said to no one.
STOP!!! “Where am I?” The corner of Burnett Road and Hwy 183. Hummmm.
“I wonder if Julie Smith is home. I could go to her place on Shoal Creek, say hi, run back over to my Dad’s after that, pick up my back pack, and head out for OKC from there. Yeah!”
Acid, LSD, Window-Pane, Blotter, Micro-Dot and on and on mind running running faster than I had ever been able to make it go on any other drug.
This fucking drug was made for ME!
Green light and L.O.L.A. roars down Burnett Road all by her lonesome.
Nobody is out tonight, weird…
The rain is now coming down in sheets so thick that L.O.L.A.’s wipers can’t keep up.
“Sorry Eno, gotta check the weather…”
“This is KLBJ 94.7 fm and that was Icehouse with the song Icehouse from their debut album, that’s right, Icehouse. I’m your host for this stormy evening. My name is Jody Denberg and I have a little weather report for all of you travelers out there. We’ve got a severe thunder storm warning in effect for all of Travis County until 6:00am with flash flood warnings throughout Austin and the outlying areas. Wow and check this out, if you’re in the Shoal Creek area you should know that the White Horse Bridge has just collapsed and there is no access from White Horse to Shoal Creek.”
Damn, that’s close. I mean like two blocks away…
“Once again you’re listening to FM 94.7 KLBJ and this is for all you people that have to be out and about tonight, the Kinks with Lola…”
You hear that L.O.L.A., it’s your song… What the fuck… Oh shiiiiiii…”
Describing what happened next entails backing out of the acid trip, impossible to do at the time, and reviewing a situation that was incomprehensible to me while it was happening–a situation that has in fact taken me decades to comprehend. With that in mind, try and picture this: I drove south on Shoal Creek, west of the actual waterway called Shoal Creek. Between Shoal Creek (the street) and White Horse (the street) was White Horse (the bridge) that crossed Shoal Creek (the creek) at an angle perpendicular to Shoal Creek (the street). I mean, before10:50 pm that night there had been a bridge. Anyway that bridge that crossed Shoal Creek had collapsed about two blocks in front of me. The street called White Horse, incidentally the street Julie Smith lived on, was flooded by a wall of water traveling at about 30 MPH heading straight for me and L.O.L.A. The flood hit us and very effectively endo’ed L.O.L.A. with me in her. About 40 tons of debris had come screaming through that old suburban neighborhood, knocking down and being augmented by four houses, six cedar fences, 25 telephone poles, a bridge, and one bitchen metal-flake-brown 1978 Z-28 Camaro.
L.O.L.A. looooola, la la la-la Lola…
“This is not happening to me. This can not be happening. Oh my ggggg!!!”
L.O.L.A. flipped end over end once, spun 180 degrees, slammed into a house, and passed backward through the living room of another home where a very large, shirtless man sat white knuckled in front of a blank television set in an Easy Boy. A telephone pole smashed through my windshield on the passenger side and passed effortlessly through the shotgun-seat neck support, continuing through the rear windshield. The massive pole stuck in the mud behind the car forcing the front-end straight up pole-vaulting L.O.L.A. backward four times at, at least, 30 miles per hour.
I was strapped in with the quick release seat belt from an F104 (Vietnam-era) Fighter cockpit that came with the car. I wasn’t going anywhere unless I smacked that red button in the center of my chest and I wasn’t going to do that until the fucking car stopped or at least slowed enough for me to jump out.
Muddy water filled L.O.L.A. up to my waist and, as we pole-vaulted along, the water spun around inside the car blinding me every third second or so.
In my car I turned 90 degrees left on the pole and hit a very large oak tree that shattered the driver’s side window and stuck me in the face with a thousand tiny branches covered with handsome fresh spring buds.
I hit the quick release in the center of my chest and grabbed at the tiny branches, shedding the soggy environs of the car and catapulting me into the giant oak tree.
“L.O.L.A. Lola, La La La-La, Lola…”
The music kept coming from that remarkable German stereo as the car whisked away from me in the thundering, crashing, bubbling, gurgling, rushing flash-flood. I had managed to release myself and grab the oak tree through the shattered window just before L.O.L.A. went under for the last time. I was now stuck in a 150-year-old Texas white oak tree, submerged to the waist in ice cold muddy creek water, tripping hard on acid for the very first time in my life.
“Stop!!!” I screamed once again to no one.
Holy shit, there goes my car, the stoic yawned, shivered.
“L.O.L.A. Lola…” I heard the Kinks singing L.O.L.A.’s theme song for another twenty years/30 seconds after the car was under water and rolling downstream, my own headlights pointed back at me, blinked out.
“Please stop, dark-screaming, rushing, pounding!”
How am I going to get back to Oklahoma City tonight?
I looked up and could barely make out the street that was Shoal Creek about 20 yards from the tree that was now my miserable salvation. I held onto that sturdy old tree for dear life and watched large chunks of Austin’s oldest suburban neighborhood float by doing 25 to 30 miles per hour.
My legs were going numb.
One of the most mercilessly torturous things a person can experience is getting a song, you hate but don’t even know all the words to, stuck in your head. That used to happen to me a lot with C.J. McCall’s big hit “Convoy”. I’d get that piece of shit firmly wedged in my head every time I’d get stuck walking somewhere. Since I didn’t know the words, well, except for: “…So we crashed the gate do’n 98 say’n let them truckers roar, 10-4”, I would have to make up my own words that would lead up to the ones I knew. Like say: “’Cuz I’m run’n late and I got’a skate say’n let them…” or something like: “When I masturbate and I mess with fate I got’a let them truckers roar, 10-4…”
(Ok, so I wasn’t a very creative kid…) Presently, stuck in an oak tree asshole-high in the juice of a city, I was a-wish’n for ‘ol C.J. to come to mind. Instead, I got an off-key English baritone voice crooning the word “Isolation, Isolatio…o…on, Isolation… Over and over and… and Dot dot dot and et-fucking-cet!”
Because I couldn’t for the life of me remember any of the other words to that stupid song. Once again, I heard the steam engine sound rise with the strength of the torrential rain and I could see thousands of cocooned bodies floating by with all of the houses, above-ground pools, telephone poles, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, and, of course, cheesy late 70’s muscle cars.
Shivering uncontrollably, every part of my body caked with mud, blood, and the detritus of a small town, all I could think of was…
Desperately, with every single part of my being, I held onto that giant tree. My knuckles white as crepe paper and the rest of my body racked with waves of pain and shivers, I screamed:
With that scream I felt every part of me that wasn’t underwater warm just enough to scream again, and again, and again.
In my best off-key English baritone, I sang, “Isolation, Isola-tio,o,o,on…” at the top of my voice until my voice was nothing but a tiny squeak and I cried. Pathetically, I bawled like a little-bitty baby until all that was left of me was a grasping, shivering mess mouthing the word Isolation, over and over and over again.
A column of blinding white light swept over the water and found me, hovered over me as though it was going to beam me up. Oh how I wanted to be beamed up!
The fumes of a diesel engine cleared my muddy sinuses and I heard an airbrake being set and a bunch of people yelling. I heard an authoritative voice giving orders, more yelling and more running about. Time passed with the sound of heavy machinery being moved but I knew it was finite.
A large gloved hand appeared right in front of my face. It belonged to a fireman on a fully extended ladder hanging over the rushing water. I couldn’t hear what he was saying. I smiled at him, my body was racked with another bout of shivers. I felt safer with him there.
“You have to give me your hand!” He clearly didn’t understand that was not an option. I was not letting go of my tree.
“Please, just give me one of your hands, I’ll do the rest. All you have to do is give me your right hand!”
“No,” I whispered with the force of a shitsu puppy.
“What is your name, son?” His face reshaped like a nurse lying about a shot she’s about to give you in the knee.
“Ice, I so, Isolation…”
“Yes, I understand, now give me your hand.” Over the screaming of the flood, his voice sounded marginally better than my tree.
Finally I pried my right hand off the tiny branch that held my life and it felt wonderful, but in that instant and with a crack from my beloved branch I was pulled away from my refuge by the raging torrent and all I could manage was a very stupid looking astonished look. As I was pulled away from the tree, the fireman dove in after me. He grabbed me around the neck and tried to swim back to the curb of the street but we were both yanked into the rushing current. We were pulled under for what felt like our last painful second/hour/eternity when inexplicably I felt air somehow enter into my lungs. The fireman still had a strangle hold around my neck but I couldn’t see or feel anything else, only the pain and taste of muddy air in my lungs. I coughed what felt like gravel. Out of my thick brown world, I felt two giant hands grab my tattered shirt and pull me out of the mud. Sucking into my lungs the sweet diesel fumes of existence, I said, “Hi,” to my gathered champions and projectile-vomited a powerful two second stream of coal black Austin Punch all over the man who saved my life.
I wondered to myself in that moment if I was now peaking on the acid and started to hysterically laugh out loud. The surrounding wall of large do-gooders started laughing with me, as if on cue. God, my lungs hurt and I coughed like a dog but I couldn’t stop laughing. None of us could. We all sat there in the rain and laughed our collective asses off until the ambulance showed up. Still laughing the firemen strapped me in and the ambulance took me away. Being poked and prodded, I laughed all the way to the hospital, singing: “Isolation, I-so-lay-shu-u-n…”
I was diagnosed with a severe case of hypothermia below the waist, a broken nose, and a fractured cheekbone. They put an electric blanket on my legs, a piece of tape on my nose, some salve on my cheek and all the other cuts and sores all over my body, kept me on some very expensive monitoring machines for 24 hours, let me go.
They never figured out that I was tripping on acid and I never let them in on the joke that kept me laughing for most of that night.
Two days later I got a call from the Austin P.D. They had found my car standing upright inside the second floor of an old house that had been gutted by the flood. The telephone pole was still sticking through both windshields and someone had wiped away the dried mud where it said Z-28 at the bottom of the driver side door. Other than that one clean spot, L.O.L.A. was completely unrecognizable.
I couldn’t wait for the insurance company to settle before I had to get back to school so I got a ride with my older brother, who went to the same school as I did. He had spent spring break with some friends in San Marcus, about 15 miles south of Austin, floating down the San Jacinto River getting a sunburn and a hangover. He didn’t even know it had rained.
Two months later my insurance company paid out on my totaled car, giving me enough cash to buy a beautiful, almost new, white four-wheel-drive Chevy Silverado monster truck. When I went into the insurance office to pick up the check for my totaled car, the big fat insurance adjuster sat back in his generous leather chair. He told me how they had discovered my car in the second floor of that house, saying, “It was the radio. The cops said they heard the radio and just followed the sound to your car. You must’ve had some kind of magic radio in that hot-rod kid!”
“Didn’t you know,” I said, taking the check from his hand, “radio IS magic!”
I sat back in the DJ chair and exhaled into the first beat of Joy Division’s Isolation.
I looked over to Captain Saturday and mouthed the word, “Magic!”