This is Part Two in a series. You can find part one here.
It didn’t take a lot of coaxing for me to find myself, a half-hour later, idling on the curb in front of a rundown bungalow on the outskirts of Columbus, with future Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan inside said bungalow scoring what he had assured me would be a primo bag of weed. As always, the transaction took much longer than it should have, with either Ryan or his dealer trapping one another in some strange conversation about astrology or TV. I sat in the driver’s seat of my car scanning the radio, eventually settling on a classic rock station when everything else on the dial turned out to be country.
Finally, Ryan came out of the house.
“Thanks, man!” He called back to the dealer, with a little too much enthusiasm in his voice.
“Shhh,” replied the drug dealer, in one of those half whisper-half shouts that only serve to amplify whatever you’re trying to keep on the DL, “I told you not to say ‘thank you’ when you leave, I got neighbors, man.”
“Oh, right. Sorry… Thanks…” Ryan nervously stammered back.
With that he slid into the passenger seat and broke out a joint as I peeled off into the night. After the first few tokes I could tell the kid knew his shit. The stuff was as good as advertised. After we had driven along for a while, passing the joint between us, Ryan broke me out of a daze with a soft nudge to my shoulder.
“Hey, man. Want some?” he said, as he held a sheet of what I could only assume was high-grade blotter acid in front of my face. “The dude back there hooked me up with this as, like, a good customer thing.”
I shook my head furiously back and forth. The weed was already hitting me pretty hard.
“More for me then.” He immediately went to town on the sheet, chewing up each tab like a hungry pig at the trough. I thought about urging him to slow down, but when a junkie gets their mind on something few obstacles can stand in their way.
Once he finished his snack we drove along silently again for a little while. I happened to look over at the book bag he’d been carrying, and saw a copy of “The Communist Manifesto” poking out of the top. Considering his appearance and attitude it seemed about right.
“How are you liking the book?” I asked.
“Huh? Oh, yeah, it’s really, really good,” he said, suddenly getting excited. “I mean, I’ve been down with the whole redistribution of wealth scene for a long time, but I’ve just finally gotten around to this. Brilliant shit. Those two guys definitely know what they’re talking about. Especially Engels. Fucking unbelievable.”
Despite not necessarily agreeing with his politics, I was a bit surprised at his erudition. Most druggies I’d come across were blathering idiots who could only read the directions on a bag of popcorn.
“I guess that’s kind of noble of you,” I told him. “It seems like most college kids I know these days only want to be finance majors and make a million dollars.”
“Yeah, not me, man. I’m not into that wealth bullshit. Money and politics. Fuckin’ power.” It was obvious the weed had rocked him a bit as well, as his train of thought seemed to be flickering in and out. “It’s like all about power, man. The fuckin’ politicians and the rich people are all screwing us over. It’s a travesty, man. That’s why I’m gonna, like, just drop out, man. After I get my degree, I’m just gonna go, like, live on a farm or something. Politics and money are such bullshit…”
He trailed off after that, to the point where I thought the acid was kicking in. But I realized it had only been ten minutes since he ate it, it couldn’t be coming on this fast. I began to wonder if this kid was going to be able to handle whatever crazy shit that sheet of acid was about to throw at him? I also began to wonder whether I want to be around when it did?
The two of us went back into our own little cocoons. Me worrying about all the sick, demented things this acid freak might try to pull on me. Him thinking about God knows what. We sat there like that for what must have been thirty minutes, until the first strums of a familiar guitar lick lit up the speakers. I don’t think either of us had been listening to the radio since Ryan got back in the car after leaving the dealer’s house, but when the first chords of Stranglehold came on the air he turned to me, his eyeball the size of mangoes, denoting the onset of a severe acid trip, and grabbed my arm, digging his fingers deep into it.
“Turn this up, man!” he exclaimed.
“You like Nugent?” I asked, as I reached for the volume dial.
“Is that who this is?” he responded. “I’ve never heard this before.” His eyes were glazed over in that drugged out look where you’re both completely locked into the moment while also staring off into another dimension.
“Really?” I was surprised. “I thought everybody’s listened to Ted Nugent.”
“Not me, man. But this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard. I feel like entirely new worlds are being opened up to me right now.”
“Are you sure that isn’t just the acid?”
“Yeah, man. I’m sure. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this Ted Nugent guy until tonight. Now that I have I never want to listen to anyone else ever again.”
“Well, I’ve got a couple of his CDs in the back. That should hold you over for at least a couple of hours.”
Ryan only smiled and nodded and reached for the volume dial, turning the song up until the speakers sounded like they were ready to burst. I stepped on the accelerator again, and as Stranglehold reached its crescendo Ryan rolled down his window, slithered halfway out, and released a might howl out into the dank Ohio night.
End of part two. To be continued…