Last night, my girlfriend Hope and I went to a friend’s party. The party was hastily brought together by my new friend Evan, who’d pulled me aside two days ago, and said something akin to, “hey man, I’m putting together a party. I’m going to tell the story of my crazy trip going to the Sasquatch music festival. And I’m also going to talk about what happened at the festival itself. It was this amazing shroom fueled experience and I figured out some things about the meaning of my life.”
Immediately I was skeptical. It wasn’t that Evan didn’t have something to say. I knew that he did. But I was concerned. Sometimes when someone so readily makes something (ahem…like your own website…named after yourself…) so brazenly about themselves, it can make a person appear to be a self-indulgent egomaniac. And then things just can be so painful and embarrassing for everyone around that person in the present, and in the aftermath.
When I awoke yesterday, I brought up the idea of going to the party with Hope, and when she said she’d like to go, I knew we’d go. I also knew we’d be the oldest geezers there (in our early 40’s, everyone else was in their early to mid 20’s I think.) Moreover, I knew this had the potential to be a self-obsessed waste of time, not on the same scale as the Grammy’s, but potentially just as sloppy.
No doubt about it, Evan was taking a risk.
My own experiences with shrooms and concerts were amazing, but making it translate as something understandable to someone else? I don’t know. I tried to do it once. I wrote a cover story feature article for the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper concerning my shroomy weedy experience at the 1994 Lollapalooza, 20 friggin years ago, while in the burning heat of the Las Vegas Sam Boyd Silver Bowl.
My article was read by over 100,000 people. I thought that was such a big deal. But the article was not everything I wanted it to be. The title of it was: No Alternative: Lollapalooza Just Another Rock Show. From there, the article goes on to show my obvious love of Hunter S. Thompson. And what I wrote was prescient in terms of outing Generation X as an overwhelmingly self-satisfied group of corporatists, consumers who wanted to rail against something, but of course, in the end we really didn’t want to change anything, did we?… The music was, by and large, pretty great (Johnny Cash, Green Day, Nick Cave, L7, The Breeders, George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars, A Tribe Called Quest, Smashing Pumpkins, and my all-time favorite band, Beastie Boys…) yet I didn’t write about my epiphany, my shroom vision/cognition, as I was there. And for this reason, I’ve always felt as if the article was something of a failure.
This is what my epiphany was: everything is light, light at all times is good, and we’re all just beings of light having a human experience.
I was 20 years old. I was too ashamed to throw that stuff in my article – I thought my editor would laugh me right out of the room… my fear kept me from expressing the most important thing I learned from my experience. To 100,000 people anyway.
We arrive at the party, and the apartment is set up audience seating style. Oh man. He’s got a computer set up, and it’s linked to the tv screen. Now I’m thinking this is almost definitely going to be a train wreck, multi-media style. Oh well. We have some pizza, we share some wine, and then Evan launches in.
Five minutes in, I’m enthralled and I know there’s no going back – this guy could go on for five hours and there’s no way I can leave this room. Hope’s into it too, and it really does seem Evan’s connecting with most everyone in the room. He’s baring something real. He’s vulnerable. If someone wanted to tear him down at this time they most certainly could…even if they really, truly couldn’t.
Why? Because what Evan did was courageous and inspirational and untouchable and strong. As an old buddy used to tell me, “People want to show you how strong they are. But its when a person wants to show you how weak they are, that’s when you know you’ve met someone strong.”
I’m not going to try to relay Evan’s story – it was personal, it was hilarious, it was sad, it was enlightening. To give some context without going into too much background here, Evan is a stage manager for a singing competition tv show, and his whole job is to make sure that the performer’s moment is everything they want it to be – because it’s that person’s time to shine. And Evan wants them to shine as brightly as possible each time, which to me, says a lot about Evan. Anyway, the central theme of his story is that he came to the realization that the meaning of his life may revolve around two poles: a) if he’s a person who’s meant to stage things, & set people up for their moment of glory, and share in that glory, albeit sort of on the sidelines… is that enough?… or… b) is he a person who will push himself to find that place and that big moment where the stage belongs to him, and all others around are sharing his big moment while he shines his light, so to speak…
Hope and I asked Evan if he’d ever heard of Spalding Gray, as his storytelling reminded me very much of the kind of stuff that Spalding Gray ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spalding_Gray ) and John Leguizamo used to do, back in the 80’s and 90’s. Both men did the kind of incredible personal storytelling that you just couldn’t ignore. SWIMMING IN CAMBODIA was a feature film of Spalding Gray telling a story…by himself. That’s how damn good of a storyteller the guy was, and yet, of course, Hope and I being the two old fogies in the room, had to come to grips with the fact that not one person at this party had heard of Spalding Gray…
I think Spalding Gray would’ve enjoyed the fact that Evan told his story. Because like Gray, Evan did the thing that any good storyteller can do – he made you want to tell your own story just as well.