During the weeks leading up to my vacation — a solo trip to Denver, Colorado, involving a plane, a train, lots of buses and my first ever Airbnb and Uber experiences — I was convinced that I was going to die while everyone around me felt sorry for me, traveling alone.
20 hours before the trip.
A friend and I went to lunch together the day before my scheduled flight.
“You’ve made it!” she celebrated, smiling. “You didn’t die!”
“Well,” I shook my head warily, “not quite. The plane takes off tomorrow… a lot could happen between now and then. I could choke,” I continued, gesturing down at my burrito bowl, “get hit by a car, trip down the stairs…”
She laughed. “What happened to you? I mean, really… did a childhood vacation get canceled, or something?”
I’d never considered the question before. I paused, dug around in my brain for a few seconds, and then found it. “Oh my god. Actually, I can trace this back… it wasn’t a vacation, though; it was a school party. I was allowed to go to public school from kindergarten through 4th grade, and on one memorable day in the first grade, my teacher in South Carolina — Mrs. Brasco — announced that there was going to be a class party.”
“Like a birthday party? Holiday party?”
I pressed my lips together. “No… nothing like that. Just an out-of-the-blue, snacks-and-music-and-games party. The news was well received, and I eagerly anticipated the event from the very moment she announced it would happen. I remember waking up the morning of the party, dressing myself, gathering my school things, and then excitedly prancing into my parents’ room. When I opened the door, though, it was dark, and my mother was still lying in bed.” I paused. “My heart sunk. I already knew. But still, I tried; ‘Mom!’ I cried urgently, ‘It’s time for me to go to school — let’s go!’ She rolled over, without leaving the bed, groaned a little, and said something to the effect of, ‘I’m not feeling well today, Rose; you can just stay home.'” I stirred the tofu, beans, and greens around in my bowl. “She possibly thought that she was doing me a favor — treating me; what kid doesn’t want to stay home from school? But I started crying. ‘We have to go though, MOM!’ I begged her. ‘There’s a party at school today and I can’t miss it!’ I hung out in the doorway for a few minutes, waiting, wishing, and willing to see her relaxed body tense up, become animate, set into motion… but nothing changed. I only heard, again, ‘I’m sorry, Rose.'”
My friend nodded up and down, slowly. “Wow. There it is.”
“Honestly, it wasn’t THAT big a deal,” I concluded, hovering over my food, “just a first grade class party… but I still remember the disappointment, and the feeling of powerlessness — wishing that I could take control of the situation. Annnnnnd maybe THAT’S why I’m always convinced that I’m going to die before anything good happens or before the departure date for some fun trip rolls around.” I smiled, raising a fork to my mouth.
16 hours before the trip.
“You’re traveling ALONE?” someone gushed.
“Oh wow… all by yourself? No friends or family?” a second voice chimed in, sadly.
“But you have to know people there, right?” another urged.
I smiled at each of them. “I am traveling by myself on purpose — I don’t want to have to worry about where the other person wants to go, how long they want to be there, what restaurant they’re in the mood for, etc etc. I have three objectives for this trip: 1. be self-sufficient, independent, and go on a loosely-planned but free-roaming adventure; 2. work on the novel; 3. find out if this is a place where I’d like to live someday.”
Still, even with my buoyant optimism and sound reasoning floating in the air, their looks revealed that they pitied me, the lonely traveler.
March 17th, 2017 finally rolled around, and when it did, I woke up, astonished; I’m alive. I’m awake. I haven’t missed my alarm, the flight, become severely injured, OR died… IT’S HAPPENING!
The morning and early afternoon elapsed in a flurry of activity; rolling luggage out to the car; being dropped off at the airport by my best friend, Charlie; inching through a security checkpoint (forgot you had to remove your shoes — glad I happened to wear matching socks that day); locating my gate, and then waiting, and then boarding the plane, and then finding my connecting flight in Atlanta, Georgia. I passed the time spent inside of the airport reading a book that I borrowed from the library, about a girl who could taste feelings in food, and passed the time on the plane looking out of the window at the strange, rolling landscape below. I was lit-trah-lee going to Denver… all by myself.
Chris from Parks and Recreation
6 hours later, when my second plane touched down, a rush of adrenaline pulsed through me. “Okay; now it’s REALLY go time.” My Airbnb host, a new age-y guy named Reed, had mentioned, via text, that he needed to head into work at 5 that day, meaning that I would need to check in with him by 4:30. My plane landed at 2:30, meaning I had exactly 2 hours to get there.
I quickly followed the maze-y trail leading out of the airport and then purchased a ticket for the RTD (Regional Transportation District) from a machine outside, learning that, for just $9, a ticket could be used for a 24-hour time period… to board any trains or buses meandering through the city. “Cool,” I thought. “I wish Birmingham had a well-mapped out public transit system like this one.” Denver: 1. Birmingham: 0.
The train ride into the heart of the city made me feel giddy; I was doing such a remarkable job… staying alive and getting from the airport to Reed’s house!
I exited the train once I reached Union Station, where a bunch of buses were parked. I checked the GPS on my phone; it was now 3:30, meaning I had an hour left to travel to Reed’s. Google estimated that walking would take 1 hour and 20 minutes, so I decided to hop onto a bus instead.
And I hopped onto 2 buses, actually; one getting me closer to his place, and the other, closer still. By the time I had finished with RTD, it was 4:15, and I was still 20 minutes away (by foot) from Reed’s. 😦
“Damn ittttttt,” I moaned, picking up the pace as I rolled my carry-on down the bumpy concrete sidewalk, shouldered my bulky, tightly-packed backpack on my left side, and sweated profusely underneath an indigo-colored jean jacket and a leather jacket. I’m going to Denver in the late winter, I had thought to myself while getting dressed earlier that morning. The actual temperature: 80 degrees. The last time I’d had water: maybe 5 hours before. #hustlin’
I walked up to Reed’s door, panting and red in the face, at 4:38, and to my surprise, he was still there… standing in the doorway, but obviously in the process of leaving. Upon seeing me, a surprised look passed over his face (and I’ll explain that later).
“Reed?” I ventured.
“Yeah… Jace…” he shook his head quickly, from side to side, obviously clearing his thoughts. “Yeah, I was just leaving, but I stuck a key in the mailbox for you,” and he nodded, indicating its location.
“Oh, wonderful! Thank you SO. MUCH. I know you’re in a rush, so I won’t keep you, but thank you so much for having me,” I smiled, bypassing him into the house and promptly greeting his plump orange cat, Yoshi.
I showered immediately, changed into clean, dry clothes, and then plopped down onto the couch that would be my home for the next 6 days, having foregone the luxury of renting a costly private room for the attractive alternative of paying $20 per night for a couch.
Welcome to Denver, I murmured, stroking Yoshi’s swirly, orange-and-white cheeks.
Denver was a trip. During my stay, I visited five of its local coffee shops (Amethyst, The Corner Beet, Thump, Roostercat, and Hudson Hill). Each of them was filled with living plants, big windows, and good vibes. I tried a root beer-flavored latte at Amethyst and a vanilla lavender-flavored latte at Hudson Hill; both were incredible. I worked on my novel inside of these bright and cheerful coffee shops; visited the art museum and Cheesman Park on a whim and – in between quick and $$ saving food runs at Whole Foods – treated myself to four vegetarian-friendly restaurants (Watercourse Foods, City O’ City, Illegal Pete’s, and Sputnik). Every single day, I traveled the city on foot, camera in hand, walking – on average – ten to twelve miles. That’s the really quick overview… below, I’ll share – in detail – my most memorable experiences while visiting the city.
1. The Spring Equinox Detox Yoga Class
2. Salsa Dancing (in a dress)
4. Excessive Consumption of Edibles
5. My conclusion
First up, The Spring Equinox Detox yoga class.
My Airbnb hosts, Reed and Jake — two bicycle-riding, yoga-loving, and 99.5% vegetarian gay guys — invited me to a yoga class that was scheduled for Monday night. Eager to glimpse as much of the local life as possible, I agreed to join them.
It was a 2-hour event, taking place in a dimly-lit auditorium. Mats were provided, and in front of each mat, a blue crystal, a black stone, a typed mantra, and a fake candle were all provided.
A woman — one of the two young yoga instructors — walked over, smiled down at me, leaned forward to murmur something, and then sprayed something in my face. I coughed a little. “I’m sorry — what… was that?”
She smiled again. “I was cleansing your aura,” she whispered, mystically.
“Ohhhhh — okay… thank you!” I smiled back at her.
This same woman began the meditation. At her instruction, we all layed down, resting our backs against the mats, holding the blue crystal in our left hand, and placing the black stone where our third eye is — on our foreheads. She discussed the significance of this astrological year; explained how the crystal could absorb our negativity, our depression, our anxiety, and our bad vibes in general, and how the black stone would do something else powerful for us. I can’t remember everything.
Her session concluded with us both handwriting and visualizing a manifest list and a release list for the spiritual new year. “On your manifest list, I want you to envision what you want for yourself this year, and on your release list, I want you to picture yourself letting go of whatever is holding you back.”
My manifest list included words and phrases like: “Be confident; feel accepted; be stable; practice good mental health; be independent.”
My release list was much simpler; it contained a name and, underneath the name, the words “stop thinking you’re an outsider.”
I cried when the name entered my mind; I wrote the name down, I pictured letting the person go, and then the second instructor swept in, leading us through a 70-minute series of challenging stretches, movements, and poses while the salty tears dried on my cheeks.
Back at their apartment, the three of us stayed up late (for me; past 12), talking about the class, sharing our personal life stories, and snacking on food.
After I divulged my gender-identity-crisis-and-tragic-divorce story, Reed looked over at me, a small smile playing on his lips. “Hey — since we’re all being open here, do you want to hear something crazy?”
“Yeah!” I smiled at him, snuggling more deeply underneath my blanket (which, I learned, Jake’s grandmother had sewn by hand). It pictured teddy bears on one side and Native American people on the other.
“When you first booked your stay, and we saw your name and your profile picture and thought that you were a gay dude…” Reed admitted slowly.
“A cute one,” Jake added, winking at me and flicking another piece of popcorn into his mouth.
Our laughter filled the room, and then we journeyed outside, taking turns passing a lighter and burning our manifest and release lists so that our intentions could flow out into the universe, seeking fruition.
Up Next: Salsa Dancing with Senora and Jig.
I walked into a vintage clothing store on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, locking eyes with the corduroy pants, elbow-patched jackets, and retro patterns everywhere. The dresses, I realized, were in the very back of the store, and I approached them hesitantly, my hand brushing against at least 30 dresses before lingering on one viable candidate: velvet, with interesting straps, and long, with a swooshy, rainbow-patterned fabric. “Perfect for salsa dancing,” I murmured to myself, imagining twirling in it.
I grabbed it, folded it across my arm, and approached the store clerk, a young brunette wearing a black dress that was partially colored and partially see-through. She looked like a witch.
Understanding my need, she gestured towards the fitting room; I tried the dress on and texted a picture of it to my best friend. “What do you think?”
“Beautiful!!” his text read. “I love those colors and the skirt is classy. You have a wonderful body,” he added, as an afterthought.
I rolled my eyes and smiled.
I brought the dress back to the apartment, showered, changed into it, and then took an Uber ride to La Rumba, where the class was being held.
The instructors were, like my dress, very classy, and very serious. No jokes. No smiles. It was all business to them… this light matter of beginner salsa dancing.
Women were stationed on the right side of the room, and men were shooed over to the left. We each learned our separate movements. I struggled to keep up, at first, but then caught on to it; the only movement that stubbornly evaded me was the spin… its foot movements are extremely precise while my version is just a quick, purposeful twirl to get back to a forward-facing position.
After learning our separate movements, each man was tasked with choosing a partner. My heart started racing. I had wanted to learn the moves and face my fear of dancing in public, but I had not anticipated actually dancing with somebody.
My first partner was a young man, my age or a little older.
“Hi,” he smiled bashfully.
“Hi,” I replied, smiling back at him. “I’m really bad at this,” I whispered.
“No problem,” he whispered back.
By the end of the class, I had danced with about 8 different partners — some of them better, and some of them worse than me. My favorite partner was a sophisticated older gentleman who appeared to be in his early 70s. He danced with me delicately, and respectfully, and he insisted on working with me on my spin until it was nearly perfect.
Another dancer — a local girl who was slightly younger than me — asked me to get coffee with her after the event. We walked to a local coffee shop together, chatted, and she ended up inviting me back to her apartment, where she offered to cook us dinner. I accepted, but when we arrived at her place, the apartment was so insanely messy that I just couldn’t stomach the idea of eating there. I told her that the coffee had taken my appetite away, and after an hour of chit-chatting, we walked over to Voodoo Donuts together, where she ordered a doughnut covered in Captain Crunch cereal and I requested an old fashioned plain cake.
“You two look really nice,” a hipster girl complimented us as we left the store.
“Thanks!” I gushed, smiling at her and thinking to myself, I’m actually wearing A DRESS right now… what kind of alternate reality is this?
“Salsa dress” w/avocado socks and Vans.
Snowboarding. It’s just like skateboarding, right? Wrong.
I’ve skateboarded for years… I snowboarded once, eight years ago in Connecticut. I recall it as being pretty intuitive, but I was also much younger and, when it came to physical pursuits, braver back then.
So last Wednesday, in Denver, I woke up at 5:30, paid an Uber driver to take me to Union Station, and then hopped onto a ski bus, which escorted me and about 15 other passengers an hour and a half up north, into the mountains.
Inside of the ski resort, I rented out a snowboard and a helmet. After purchasing these items in advance, I was ushered over to another counter, where a second clerk took a quick look at my contract and then completed my order. “So no snow boots?” he asked me, surprised.
“Oh — I’ve already got those,” I smiled smugly, balancing on one foot so I could hold the other one up and show him.
His face darkened. “Oh no… those aren’t going to work. You’ll break your ankle,” he stated plainly, shaking his head. “I tell you what — you can get back in line… actually,” he interjected himself, “just follow me.”
He led me over to an area with benches, measured my foot, and then brought out a pair of snow boot rentals, free of charge. I thanked him heartily. His name was Ghoul.
The ski resort was divided into 2 major parts: the basin and the valley. The valley was recommended for beginners, which I definitely considered myself to be, so off to the valley I went.
Now… the valley offered three separate chair lifts. Thinking each of them to be of equivalent complexity, I went with the third, which was far off to the left.
I stood on the platform, nervously waiting, and sure enough, it came along quickly, swinging from behind me; without missing a beat, the chairlift snatched me up and began carrying me away, high up into the mountain.
My stomach flipped just a little, at first; for one thing, there was no steel bar containing me… meaning that I could, hypothetically, if my OCD dictated, easily slip, fall, or slide off of the chair lift to certain pain (or death) below. Secondly, my right foot was strapped into the snowboard, leaving my left foot free. It felt strange; the board was heavy, and I couldn’t imagine how the hell I was going to get off of this thing without hurting myself. Thirdly, this lift was taking me way too fucking high.
I chanced a look down and groaned; I turned to look behind me, where tall, snow-capped mountains towered over me, and my heart rate and breathing both accelerated.
A sign a little ways ahead indicated that I should begin preparing for a drop off point. I steadied myself, attempting to gain control of my breathing, but when the time came to unload, I freaked out and just couldn’t do it. I passed the small, elevated bank, turning in my seat to look back at it. The attendant looked at me; I stared back at him, and tears began to fill my eyes as I receded further and further away from him. I resumed facing forward and started sobbing outright. I was going higher and higher — much higher than I imagined sane for any rider — and I was going to have to figure out how to get back down.
The second drop off point — the highest point on the freaking mountain — was the last one. I had no choice. When the elevated bank arrived, I lowered my board down onto it with a sustained, fearful cry. I stepped out of the lift, placing my left foot onto the back of board, and slid down the six foot decline, landing face first, with a scream and a thud, my board awkwardly stuck to my right foot, behind me.
The attendant came out of his station to check on me; asked if I was alright, and explained that this was an advanced beginner lift. He looked sorry but helpless.
“Well… all I can do is try,” I decided, strapping my left foot in and positioning my board to begin the descent. I picked up speed way too fucking fast and freaked out, forcing myself to fall down because I hadn’t yet learned how to make the board “stop” or change direction.
“That’s IT,” I muttered, unstrapping both feet. I turned some music on my phone, tucked the heavy board underneath my right arm, and began walking down the hill… slowly and carefully.
I met up with two other snowboarders; they were sitting on the side of the hill, as one of them had sustained an injury. They watched me pass on foot and then, moments later, caught up with me, asking if we could all trek down together.
The one who had sustained an injury — a blonde girl from Texas — fell again during our journey down, but instead of resisting the fall, me and her boyfriend watched in awe as she surrendered herself to the mountain, allowing it to carry her downhill much faster than our cautious stepping did.
He and I looked at each other. “Wanna do that?” I asked.
The rest of the trip down was actually pretty fun… a fine blend of walking and sliding and screaming and laughing.
I returned all of my rental gear within about 90 minutes of checking it out.
“You’re… done done?” the clerk asked.
I ordered a bowl of vegan soup in the cafeteria and a cup of hot chocolate from the cafe (the young barista slid the hot chocolate over to me with a smile and then walked away before I could pay her). I sat outside, in awe of the majestic and magical mountains enclosing me, firmly deciding to not feel bad for giving up so soon.
Annnnnnnnd #4: Excessive Consumption of Edibles. Sigh…
Ahhhh, yes. Edibles. Some are likely wondering, what exactly are they? Here’s the short answer.
Starting with the basics, cannabis is a plant that can be used medicinally, as well as recreationally. Medically, cannabis (or marijuana) is helpful in alleviating unpleasant symptoms (like joint inflammation, nausea, and anxiety disorders) and even in preventing or lessening the effects of certain diseases and illnesses (like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and epilepsy). Recreationally, people smoke, eat, and drink marijuana to simply relax, unwind, and have a good time. It can also enhance the enjoyment of certain experiences, like fairs and concerts.
This plant, cannabis, contains – among many other things – something called THC. THC is a naturally occurring chemical that, interestingly enough, acts as the plant’s immune system, helping it fight off parasites, bacteria, and other bad things. When humans smoke marijuana, eat baked goods laced with marijuana-infused butters, or drink beverages containing THC, the effects they experience can be strange and wonderful. The muscles relax; time slows down; thoughts and ideas are magnified; bodily sensations are amplified.
There are two major “strains” of marijuana: indica and sativa. Indica provides its user with an energetic high, while sativa offers a deeply relaxing and “spacey” high.
Now… back to explaining edibles. Edibles are simply food items that have been cooked with marijuana, meaning that – instead of smoking to achieve your high – you can pop a chocolate mint-flavored cookie, a brownie, or a cranberry orange chocolate bar into your mouth. But be careful, because that shit is powerful, and it takes a little while for it to really sink in.
Want to hear about my first experience with edibles (in a wonderfully progressive state where the recreational use of marijuana has been legalized)? K. Better buckle up for this ride.
I got into CO on a Friday, but due to travel exhaustion, didn’t really venture out into the city until Saturday. I had included “visiting a dispensary” on my agenda, thinking that it would be unlikely that I’d just stumble upon one and that I’d actually have to spend one morning or afternoon going out of my way to find a place. Wrooooooong. They’re everywhere.
As I was exploring the downtown scene on Saturday morning — sizing up all of the coffee shops and making a mental note to retrace my steps and visit the art museum — I saw my very first one: a dispensary with a green and white sign that read “Mile High Green Cross.”
My heart started racing. Am I really doing this?!! I squealed inwardly, tugging the door open while looking back over my shoulder, feeling like an absolute criminal and just waiting for the police sirens to blare as men in blue suits raced toward me with tasers in their hands and light bouncing on and off of their shiny handcuffs.
But I opened the door, stepped inside, and nothing happened. Everything had remained just as quiet as it was.
I approached the front desk tentatively, where a man behind a glass window smiled at me.
“Hi…” I began, awkwardly. “I’m here to um, purchase, the recreational, marijuana…”
“Sure! Just need to see your ID.”
I fumbled with my wallet for a few seconds and then dropped my license into the space between the top of the counter and the bottom of the glass wall. Panic seized my heart again. Oh nooooooooo… are they going to report me to the authorities in Birmingham? It’s legal here, so surely I won’t get in trouble… but WHAT IF I DO?! What if they’re waiting for me right when I arrive back at the airport on Thursday?!
I swallowed hard.
“Alrighty — they’re ready for you in the back!” he announced cheerfully, nodding toward a door I hadn’t noticed before.
“So I just… open it?” I clarified, pointing at the door.
I entered cautiously, and then relaxed, because the room smelled wonderful. I can’t even describe it. A young girl met me at the counter, asking what I’d come in for today.
“Well, I’d like to try edibles,” I announced in a soft voice, eyeing the items on display.
“Awesomeeeeeeee,” she cheered me on, nodding enthusiastically. “Which ones are you interested in? We have gummies, candies, chocolate bars…”
“Uhhhh… do you have any cookies?” I whispered.
She smiled, reached down into the display case, and withdrew a white package containing two fudge mint-flavored cookies.
“These are really good,” she commented, handing them to me so I could look at them. “The package contains 10 milligrams, so if you’re just now starting out…” she peered at me, waiting.
“Yes — this will be my first time,” I confirmed.
“Right,” she nodded, “so if you’re starting out, I’d recommend taking just one cookie — which would be 5 mg — giving it about 2 hours to kick in, and then, if you aren’t feeling the way you want to feel in TWO hours, taking the other one.”
“Got it!” I smiled, excited at the idea of experiencing something new. “I’ll take them!”
I purchased the tiny package of cookies, ate just one of them, waited almost two hours, and then took the other one. I enjoyed perusing the art museum with an ever-so-slightly affected mindset, and the afternoon passed very pleasantly and smoothly.
But the next day, I really fucked up.
I visited another dispensary — this time, purchasing a chocolate peanut butter bar containing 100 milligrams of THC; ten times as much as the previous food item.
The clerk gave me the same spiel — “take a little, wait a few hours, then take some more” — I nodded quickly in understanding, paid with cash, and then left.
I popped one of ten chocolate squares into my mouth, letting it melt on my tongue, and then swallowed. 10 milligrams down… double the amount I’d initially consumed yesterday. And the THC — I swear, I could taste it better in the bar than I had been able to in the cookie. Its flavor was unique; distinctive.
I walked to the park, plopped down with my backpack, and — feeling very much the same — decided to take another square and a half — consuming an additional 15 milligrams. And I did this maybe 45 minutes after consuming my first square.
I gazed up at the sky for about half of an hour, thinking about things, and then continued on to Whole Foods, where I purchased a smoothie and sat down to work on my novel.
For the first half hour, I felt completely sane, and then suddenly, I realized that I had been revising the same sentence — about Jinx the rabbit wearing “a butter-yellow apron speckled with white flour” — for what felt like 15 minutes.
What the hell? I thought inwardly, wondering where the time had gone. I turned my head to the left, and was startled to discover that it took about three seconds to register what I was seeing. I turned my head to the right, and the same delay was present.
My heart started pounding. Oh shit. It’s happening.
I sat staring at my Chromebook for a few minutes, trying to not hyperventilate. There were lots of people in the room — laughing and talking so so SO very loudly and probably staring at me. Maybe they’d noticed the strange expression on my face. Maybe they’d phoned the police.
I’ve got to get out of here, I resolved.
I packed my backpack — an activity that took a ridiculous twenty freaking minutes: unplugging my laptop and phone charger from the wall; trying to figure out where one cord started and the other one ended; sliding my Chromebook into its case; zipping it up; placing it gently inside of my backpack; picking my empty smoothie cup up and, trying to look as normal as possible, walking it over to the trash bin, feeling dizzy and freaky as hell.
I finally slipped my backpack on and somehow made it to the bathroom. I texted Charlie: “I took too much. I hate myself. I’m scared.”
I knew I needed to get back “home” — to my Airbnb host’s apartment — right away. And it was eight blocks away. Damn it.
I exited the bathroom and then attempted to exit the store. I spent what felt like an hour walking around the aisles, getting lost, caught in a maze — passing by frozen foods, canned soups, facial masks — pointing and laughing at certain items, dancing and swaying as I followed the carefully mapped out pathways that keep you trapped inside of the store when you’re high and absolutely need to leave. I startled myself when I passed by the pints of ice cream for what felt like the fourth or fifth time, realizing, holy shit, this is NOT a dream… this is REAL. I’m awake, and I don’t know how long I’ve been here, doing this, and who has been watching me. My heartbeat quickened its pace even more.
Don’t panic, Jace. This is all in your mind, I coached myself. The only way you’re going to make it through this is to imagine that you’re a video game character who just needs to power up. You’re in a weak state, but you’re still alive, still in the game. Like a tiny, little Mario.
I nodded, agreeing with myself, blinked, and then mentally woke up again, standing beside a case of purple and green grapes.
WHAT THE FUCK, I cried inwardly. How did this happen?! How am I still stuck inside of this grocery store?!!
I elevated my gaze, found the exit sign, and walked steadily toward it, trying to keep my heavy head up.
I made it outside, feeling the sun on my hair, forehead, and hands. Thank goodness.
Eight blocks… 5 east, and then 3 south, I whispered. Just make it home alive.
I started walking drowsily in the correct direction, but as I walked, my anxiety only grew stronger as the high began to peak; I patted my back jean pocket, so relieved to find my wallet still tucked into it that I could have cried. I didn’t remember putting it in there, but maybe I’d never taken it out. Who knows.
This is the stupidest shit ever, I sobbed. Consuming a psychedelic FOR THE FIRST TIME, BY YOURSELF, IN A STATE YOU’VE NEVER BEEN BEFORE. I shook my head. You’re a real idiot, Jace, but you’re learning.
I fumbled in my front pocket, trying to locate my phone. After successfully doing so, in-between centuries of blinking, where my vision could barely process the ending of sidewalks and the beginning of street crossings, I phoned my dad. He always answers, I reassured myself. But this time, he didn’t.
Damn it, I sighed. I briefly considered phoning my manager (but how weird would THAT be? “Hi, boss; I’m high out of my mind, a thousand miles away… can you please talk me through this?”) and my best friend (but he was at work, and I still had enough sense to know that disturbing him there was a bad idea), but there was really only one other person to call. My mother.
I touched her name and took a deep, sad breath as the ringing began, hoping that she wouldn’t answer almost as much as I hoped she would.
“Hey sweetie!” Sierra’s cheerful voice entered the line. “Whatcha up to?”
“Hello, Sierra,” I began in a steady voice, “I’m good, but I need to tell you something — I am stoned out of my mind right now. I took too much marijuana today and I am falling asleep but I’m trying to make it safely home and I just need you to stay on the line and talk to me so I don’t pass out. Okay? I’m sorry… I know.”
There was silence. Then: “Oh my… okay. I’m here. Okay.” She took a few deep breaths, steadying herself. “I… I don’t know anything about marijuana, Rose; do you think you should call the hospital? Have an ambulance come pick you up?”
I shook my head, although she obviously couldn’t see it. “No, mother; this is all in my mind. Physically, I’m fine… I’m not going to DIE or anything… you can’t really overdose. I just feel really tired and panicky and I know it will go away in a few hours. I took too much,” I repeated in a shaky voice, beginning to cry as I crossed another road and wondered if a car really was coming at me and I just hadn’t processed its image yet.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” Sierra cooed into the phone. And my mother stayed on the line with me for two and a half hours that night, asking me questions, telling me stories, and learning lots of things about me that, in my sane and sober mind, I’d never have told her.
At one point, while I was safely reclining against the couch and petting the cat, my vision still blurry and my mind full of goo, she related the following.
“One of my Facebook friends posted something SCARY this morning,” she shared. “She said that she woke up during the middle of the night last night because her room was suddenly FREEZING. She opened her eyes in the dark and discovered that her bedroom door, which she had closed the night before, was open… and then when she walked outside of the doorway, to her horror, the front door to her house was open, too!!”
I blinked and laughed. “Mom… do you really think you should be telling me this right now? In my current state?”
She laughed, too. “Ohhhhhhh… don’t be so paranoid, Rose!”
I rolled my eyes. She really doesn’t know anything about marijuana.
I left the rest of the chocolate peanut butter bar in my Airbnb host’s fridge the following morning, with a note that said: Please enjoy the remainder of this chocolate bar… I can’t handle it. 🙂 ❤ Jace
Those are my stories. It was an incredible trip. <pun somewhat intended.
A little less interestingly, here are some things I learned along the way — universally and personally.
- Learning a new style of dance is so, so fun. Grooving in an environment where there are goals, instructions, and objectives also seems to take the embarrassing sense of anxiety away (that might otherwise be associated with an unguided, “freestyle” dance floor). And honestly, dresses aren’t that bad, either… since wearing one two years ago, I had forgotten how comfortable they can be.
- Meditating is healing. My pattern seems to be scheduling time for yoga once every 2-3 months, and right now, that works for me. It helps me process through emotions that I’ve been stifling and it always leaves me feeling lighter, happier, and more clearheaded. Creating and recreating a “manifest and release” list from time to time is also a good idea in general, whether you’re into the stretches and crystals or not.
- Snowboarding is nothing like skateboarding. And all chair lifts in the valley are not equal. Next time you give it a go, ask which one’s the easiest.
- Marijuana is a powerful substance; respect it. If it’s ever legalized in my state, I will definitely use it again, but under wiser circumstances (IE moderately, in an environment that is familiar and comfortable, and in the presence of people I trust). Even if it isn’t recreationally legalized anytime soon, I do hope that medical marijuana will soon be condoned. Just imagine the good it could do. When I think of how many seizures my brother still suffered from (notwithstanding the multitude of prescription drugs he was on), it breaks my heart that he never got to experiment with something natural like marijuana. It could have been his breakthrough. But because of these ignorant governmental bastards…
- Lastly, my answer to the question: Would I like to move to Denver, CO? For years, I imagined the answer would be yes. I felt certain – without having ever seen, stepped foot in, or breathed the place – that it would be suitable for me… full of mountains, and coffee shops, and boasting a progressive and embracive LGBTQ community… but the truth is that, while the vibes were good and the people were cool, I didn’t feel like I belonged there. The population is booming (with Denver being 5x the size of Birmingham), and as unique and alternative and trendy as the hoards of yoga practicers, bike riders, and pot lovers were, their coolness seemed to erect invisible walls around them — thick layers of pretenses that made me feel like an unwelcome outsider. But then again, I feel like an outsider pretty much everywhere I go, so that may have been me, not them. 🙂 And as a sidebar, that one — “feeling like an outsider — made it onto the “release” list, too.So while the state was delicious and beautiful and my time there was full of nonstop adventure, I’m happy, for the time being, to continue living where I’m at… in the good ole’ South, where my neighbors watch football, eat barbecue, and love Jesus, and I’m just the alternative weirdo living next door who smiles and waves at them and drives off and then pulls up again, over and over in her dingy blue car, and we never really speak at all.
My final thought: You don’t have to pick up and move in order to keep life exciting and get your kicks; just travel as often and as far away as you can, and — my last piece of advice? — never repeat the same place twice. Who has time for that?
I wasn’t here…