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Evidently Tripping Balls
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Evidently Tripping Balls on Koh Pha’Ngan - By Tyler Trafas
Josh, being the calculated risk-taker that he is, had decided that the stakes we just right, and Jason, being the unapologetic party beast that he is, was definitely ready from the go. I on the other hand left it to a completely spontaneous decision, a mental coin toss if you will, to partake in the magic mushroom milkshake drinking contest.
We were staying on a relatively uninhabited corner of the Thai island Koh Peng’ang. With nothing else to do that day we engaged in an all out beach volleyball war. Waging both honor and drinks at the bar; we bumped, slammed and screamed our way out of dawn into the early afternoon. We battled under the cool morning sky, fierce rains and a red tropical sun. The words “double or nothing” were yelled more than once and eventually “triple or nothing” confirmed the fact that we would not rest until the opponent dropped from exhaustion or the volleyball popped. At about 2:00 we finally gave up. Jon and I bought drinks.

It was over a well-earned breakfast that the idea surfaced. Jon reminded us of a friend from Osaka had recommended the island because of its “user friendly nature” specifically a small restaurant/bar walking distance from our resort that specialized in Funky Fungus cuisine. As I mentioned before Jason, being more than slightly bored with the sleepy beach resort we had chosen, jumped on the idea. Josh, who had been somewhat reluctant to experiment with drugs in college, surprised me when he confirmed a go for the night’s mission. I was definitely going to go along for the ride, but still hadn’t decided if I was up for a hallucinogenic drug. The mushroom shake tasted somewhat like a mix dirt and strawberry Jell-O mix. We found the bar around 9:30 after about 20 minutes scouting. Josh, taking command of the mission had three brown and pink shakes at our table by 9:40. He earned his sergeant stripes for sure. For some unknown reason, perhaps because of the intense “volleywar” we had that day, Jon decided to smoke up the rest of the weed we had instead of trying the shrooms. As you will read later, we were all grateful for his decision for survival and comedic reasons. By 9:46, with our hands over our noses, Jason cried, “bottoms up boys.”
Before I move on to the second phase of the story I’d like to explain that time was very important to my experience so every chance I was capable of checking the time I did. When I wasn’t physically capable, my concept of time is based in itself on how things occurred in sequence. What I mean by this is that time was a huge factor in the alteration of reality which I experienced that night. I bring this to your attention not only for the purpose of the story, but also because time has always been an elaborate human construction. Time is why the ancient Hindu Shaman preferred the hallucinogenic drug Soma to invocate the gods. Without such a profane tool of cosmic organization, perhaps they never would have had such a profoundly unraveling experience.

At exactly 10:32 Jason started to feel his shake. Jon had left us alone on the beach, which was perhaps not such a good idea because Jay was really starting to freak out. He was spitting gibberish at a rapid pace as he stormed up and down the same stretch of beach in about 7 different directions. He kept on saying everything was cool and we assumed it was until he peeled over and started dry-heaving. A split second later he back in pacing mode, but hadn’t spewed yet. When we ran over to help him just as he pivoted and launched his shake. Now don’t think Jay was out of the game this early, on the contrary it appeared his body ingested just enough of the drug to keep him ringing the whole night. It just chose to kick the excess out.

By 10:41, the three of us had made it to the other side of our beach, perhaps half a km walk, to the hippie bar where we scored the bag of pot two nights ago. I still wasn’t feeling the effects, but Jay was on a rant about the sand and the sea, when Josh’s dose kicked in. In his first trip saw the jungle’s edge was breathing. Then he thought the lights of the bar were pulsating. We weren’t going in there anymore. Instead, Josh, Jay and I just laid down right on the sand and stared up at the illuminated night sky. On the first and one of the best trips of the night, Josh figured out that he could move the universe around with the tip of his pointer finger. So for a while Josh and Jay just traded stars like they were baseball cards. They started swimming from one point in the sky to the next, yelping and giggling as they traded the Big Dipper for the North Star and so on, but I just lay thinking the mushrooms still hadn’t taken effect. That’s just about when Josh poked the half moon and it started bleeding cheese. I couldn’t believe my eyes. When I told Josh and Jay they started cracking up but after a moment they saw the oozing cheese too. You see that’s really the coolest thing about doing this drug with friends. When one guys gets going on a cool trip he can simply vocalize it and everyone else can join in on the Hallucination to some degree. At the same time if you are on a bad trip only your friends can pull you out prematurely. Otherwise you would have to finish is out on your own. This is another lesson I learned that night.
After the cheese incident I looked at Josh and his face quickly turned into an Alien from the X-Files. So I looked over at Jay and his two front teeth were HUGE. He looked like one of those inflatable punching bag clowns I had as a child, with that big freaky grin and no matter how hard you nailed it right in the face it always popped up from the ground for more. I was about to throw a swing at it when Josh looked at me and yelled “Ty, you look like Skelator,” and they started running off lines from the old He-Man cartoon show. The more we looked at each other the more freaked out I got so when I started to wig out and just got up to walk away. As I did, Josh and Jay turned back up to the sky and got on a roller coaster with tracks running through the cosmos. I was on a bad trip, and at this point I was destined to finish it out by myself. I walked more than a safe distance from Josh and Jay and looked out at Salad bay. What I was seeing really started to make me crazy. It was as if my mind’s eye could snap a photograph, and slowly but subtly that photograph contorted and mutated in itself. The ocean became a blanket. Sand ripples became a million fleas. Palm Trees howled and hissed at me. I saw the boat from that surrealistic video game Myst, and it called my name. Stars became spotlights, and I had no escape. One thing that I figure I should let you in on about my personality is that I am a control freak. FREAK. Even when I drink I rarely reach the point of incapacity. If I can’t control a situation, I get out of it. Pure and simple. Because these hallucinations were technically being created by my mind, and I was conscious of this it was bearable, but barely. Finally, I just sat down and put my head in my hands, resting each elbow on a knee, and watched it all in third person. With time I became comfortable with my new reality as the drug kicked in full force. This was the pinnacle of my experience, but far and away the least enjoyable. I was fine as long as I stared out into my picture, where I realized that not being in control of each transformation was kind of thrilling. I began to relax and actually managed to lay down for the first time since I left Josh and Jay on the other end of the beach, but I didn’t take my eyes off the picture.

I must have past a fair amount of time like this before I saw it approaching. It walked at a slow but melodically pace, approaching at a ninety-degree angle to me. Then It gave a cool and muffled “heellooo” as it stepped through the black cloud of night. I sat up, shooting it a quick glance. Taken back for a moment I realized that it was Jon, but at the same time It was very new and I wasn’t ready for new. There was no place for it in my picture, so I asked It nicely to sit out of my eyesight. I told It to sit but also that I was unsure of how I felt, and that I could change my mind at anytime, “15 seconds, 15 minutes or even 15 hours.” I wonder how much time we spent looking at my picture as I powered through an explanation of my hallucination, but it must have come out just as contorted as what I was seeing. Not a moment to soon I heard Jon say, “OOOkay Brooo, I’m gonna go see how the other guys are doin,” and with those words It left just as quickly as it had come.
After Jon’s departure I came to the conclusion that reality is not a matter of control, it’s a matter of balance and boundaries. What fits into normal space we think belongs and what doesn’t we simply discard as unreal. That is what the balanced mind does. It is the inability to differentiate between sensual reality and possible reality that scares us. It’s purely from this duality that I began to think about the idea of Oneness. There is no other, no duality. There can’t be reality and unreality. If it is created for the mind or even seen in the mind it is all still part of the same reality. Is this what its like to be insane, to be out of balance, to just let go of sensual reality? Or is a touch of emptiness? I was diving deep into these thoughts when my Bodhisattva returned. But it wasn’t his presence that took me out of this profound state, it was the chick who walked by a few moments after. She wore a long beach sarong and a white tank-top. She said something as she walked by us, but I missed it. Anyway, from where I lay, my sight was set at the 45-degree angle fixed on her path down the beach. Her dress was flapping in the night breeze enunciating her pristine figure as she moved in a stylized saunter like something out of a 1920’s deco print ad. I watched every step of her brisk but casual pace as her figure became smaller and smaller, then in an instant she simply disappeared. I decided I had had enough of philosophy for one night.
I jumped to my feet, and a very anxious Jon joined me. He repeated the same words he had just told Josh and Jay. “OK Ty, three rules. Number one, no throwing things. Number two, no swimming in the ocean. Number three, no being loud.” By the end of the night I had broken all three. I tried to look at his face as he said these words, half ignoring my baby-sitter’s speech, but found that still way too new. In fact I never looked at Jon’s face the whole night, so I don’t have any idea what he looks really looks like.
The other two goons saw us standing and came running down the beach. Jason was eager to show me his cigarette trick, where he spins his arm like a windmill and the leaves an orange glow in the air. I have to admit it was cool, but then he did figure eights, and that was just too much for me and I told him to stop. Jay caught up with Jon down the beach and I walked with Josh as we went back to the resort. The casual banter brought me to a good state of mind. Josh was curious why I had taken off and I tried explained the whole “new thing” to him but he got lost and kept on saying, “Dude. Ty. It’s me, Josh…you know Josh” and I would say “yeah, but you’re new now bro.” We would go back and forth like that till we just gave up and looked at the tree.

This was no ordinary tree. It was growing at the corner of a retaining wall, with its roots in and out of the wall. Together we stared at the layers of roots growing in and around the tree, making out several images in it, including a woman’s legs entangled in a giant spider. For some reason we found this fascinating and just stared for a while. When we recovered our attention Josh looked down the beach and proclaimed “Ty, The beach is huge! It goes on forever!” I looked down the beach and had to agree, it went on forever. After a moment of awe at the beach’s foreverness we turned and climbed the steps back into the resort, where we instantaneously met our next challenge. Sitting by the Volleyball net where we had our little battle at dawn, was a group of backpackers also staying at the resort. Josh decided that they all had four eyes, the normal set and the ones in the forehead, and was determined to poke them out one by one. I tried to compose myself to a state capable of talking to real human beings; well at least they were real until I lifted my gaze for a moment looked at them. The heavyset guy at the end of the table had a bulldog in place of his head, and the light-skinned girl next to him was wearing an octopus for a hat. I tried to keep myself from screaming at them and regain my composure when Josh attempted his most brilliant feat of the night and totally distracted me. He tried to hurl his water bottle into the black air, but at the same moment remembered Jon’s first warning and refused to let go of it. Instead, his body was dragged under the force and momentum of the half-toss, and he stumbled over himself for a couple yards, barely catching his balance before he ran into the volleyball net. Our audience found this very amusing, as did I. We quickly moved on.

Before we returned to the Bungalow we took a moment to laugh at that little mishap, and decided people were a bad idea for the rest of the night. I went inside and threw my wallet and travel watch on my bed, forgetting to check the time. After relieving myself of some unwanted fluids, which was a bad idea to try in my state, I went outside and saw Jason on the edge of the patio overlooking the beach. He was setting up the speakers, and I wondered how music would effect my night. It was cool, and almost instantaneously I started to see images changing shape to the beat of Mr. Brightside. Jon met us with a camera, but later when we developed the pictures they all came out black. Ironic. Josh was nowhere to be seen. Evidently, Josh was trying to sleep. Jay and I found this unacceptable and followed Jon back to their bungalow.
Low and behold Josh, sitting alone in the room, was on a bad trip. He had decided that there were ants everywhere, in his bed, in his hair and on the walls, everywhere. To him each particle of sand had become another ant and three showers later he still wasn’t rid of them. Jay and I dragged him outside and brought him to the edge of the resort. We sat for a while and looked at different things. The moon, grew a face and looked like an image from the “Tonight, Tonight” music video. Jay saw it wink at him. Josh saw it too, but still wasn’t over the ants. Like I said before, friends have the power to make or break your experience with shrooms. So we both looked at Josh and in soft but stern voices said, “DUDE, THERE ARE NO ANTS.” Following a quick glance Josh looked up and replied, “oh shit, you’re right,” and like that the ants crawling on his arms and legs simply disappeared. I think it’s kind of cool that your friends can eliminate an advancing army with a single suggestive proclamation. Spontaneous images were becoming more and more frequent now since I couldn’t keep my mind one thing for more than a moment. The three of us sat looking at the ocean and it gray silky cover for quite a while, and Josh started to dose a bit. Jay and I went off on a tangent about an old McDonalds add campaign for the BigMac. The commercial featured a cool jazz playing, lunar-faced mack-daddy wearing a sleek zuit-suit. In the adds, the Mac would cruise the galaxies in his oversized Cadillac convertible, with thick black framed Ray-Bans covering his crescent moon face as he hunted his BigMac. When he found the BigMac he sought, his face would glow in happiness and he would lift his shades giving you a slow star for a wink. The image was a perfect allusion to the half-moon illuminating the black Thai sky. When Jay and I saw him drive by in his blue Caddy we fell over ourselves with laughter. Josh woke up.
Some random guy came by and told us he couldn’t sleep. We asked him if we were being to loud and he said no, but we know he was just being cool. Stripping to a Speedo and pair of goggles the guy sped out to the ocean and jumped in. We heard the slash over the music, and Josh woke up a bit. We talked about the different jungle sights and sounds, and I could see Josh wasn’t going to make it much longer. Looking out over the beach we saw a series of ripples and then like the SwapThing our friendly insomniac emerged from the black silk blanket in front of us. None of us could say anything as he walked by, but shortly after ol’swampy was out of earshot Josh said, “now that was weird.”
As much as I enjoyed my little adventure with Josh and the patio table overlooking Salad beach, it was the water that moved me into the fourth phase of the night, by far the most enjoyable. Josh had gone to sleep, leaving only Jay and I in the episode. Without a word I got up and went down the steps to the edge of the ocean. I remembered Jon’s second warning, so just put one foot in. I watched in awe as my foot disappeared into the dark silk. It was when Jason changed the CD to a Postal Service album my whole outlook changed and I knew what had to be done. I walked over to a big rock and stripped down to nothing. Giving off a primal scream, I eased my way down the slope of the sandy floor and watched my body disappear until water was well above my shoulders, leaving only my head in the world.

The water lifted the sand and sweat from my skin, washing away all the impurities I’d collected during the night. I lifted my arms up through the water’s surface and watched the dark-silky beads fall from my body. Finally I let myself fall, giving way to the subtle movements of the changing tide. My last experience on Salad beach was nothing like the philosophical phase I had at earlier in the night; it was more like my mind was a clean slate. I looked out across the bay and took in everything I could. The hills of the bay formed an elliptical wall around Salad beach, lined with palm trees and craggy rocks. The water still seemed to be made from a dim silk blanket stretching through the valley and holding within it whole different world of mysteries. Only what was on the surface was accessible. A fleet of Thai fishing boats moved into picture, each with a brilliant spotlight on board. At the far edge of the scene the world collapsed at the horizon.
I remained still for quite a while just experiencing this scene without bias. Perhaps it’s why such a slight anomaly turned into the most moving vision all night. The lights coming off the fishing ships formed a series of ladder-like illustrations on the surface of the ocean blanket. Each ladder then melted into the moving tide and broke off, slowly but methodically making its way toward the shore. When the luminous shapes reached the tidal swells to the center of the bay, they calmly rode over and under each ripple. Even the smallest wave formed a tsunami for these particles of light to surf. I couldn’t help but smile. During my time in the ocean the poison finally finished its course through me. Despite being sober I still watched the night-surfers.
When Jay and I returned to the Bungalow I saw my travel watch on the bed. I turned to Jay and asked,” I wonder what time it now?” He gave a quick glance at his watch and asked me what I thought. “It’s gotta be 4 or 4:30 in the morning,” I replied, thinking that it was impossible to have experienced all we did in less that six or seven hours. He looked up at me and said its ”1:20.”

That night on Salad Beach was the existential experience of my life. The drug unlocks childhood memories filed so far away they were as good as forgotten. Things like cartoon characters, commercial jingles, toys, and faces become vivid in the mind’s eye for quick and sometimes random glimpses. I probably had 1000 different trips, but they all melted into 4 major phases. The first and most painful was sitting on the beach contemplating reality. It was as if my body was at 10% but my brain was running at 300%. But without such a daunting experience I don’t think I could have emptied my brain to the extent I did while lying naked in the surf of Salad bay. Perhaps I will never have such an empty mind again, but I am cannot express how valuable this was to my current outlook on life. I guess it was the closest thing to a conscious dream I’ve ever experienced for only in our dreams are we truly free from the rigid limitations of a conscious reality. - Tyler Trafas

Check out Tyler's debut book on Amazon: Tropical Depression: A surfer's journey from concrete jungle to empty shores

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