By Human Head © 2005
On December 22, every portion of my shitty space in the world was covered in freezing, blowing snow. My friends and I considered our pre-holiday options. In a couple of days all of us would be shackled to spending time with our families, which at the time was an awful thing. What the hell were we all going to do if we couldn't hang out for three or four days? New Years Eve? Oh hell, you can’t bring that up, it's a lifetime away. Let's trip.
The last of the Alice in Wonderland on Humpty Dumpty. Merry Christmas to us.
Hanging out at my apartment was fast becoming a tiring proposition so we decided to head over to Doug's because he had the high end surround sound that would provide an optimal Pink Floyd listening experience. Doug's parents were rich, and oh yeah, he was good at selling drugs. A perfect example of the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in the heartland. Working third shift at the time, for the life of me I can't recall exactly why I had the night off. It must have been comp time or something along those lines. Who cares, really, it's inconsequential.
It was the annual tradition of the company I worked for to give each and every employee a Christmas turkey or ham. They even let you choose. How's that for magnanimous? They always handed out the free food to the coal faces on the 23rd. Deep into the night but early into the fry, I got it into my head that I had missed my free turkey that I would never actually cook, and began obsessing about it as though it were a crucial cog in the cosmic gears of life. What the hell was I going to do? I certainly couldn't spend the next nine hours worrying about this. Yes, nine hours was about what we still had left on the ride, since we had previous confirmation by experience attesting to the potency of this batch of mid-altering paper.
Doug and I were long time tripping buddies. Both of us typically shied away from tripping with our group of friends, well, because we felt like the drugs were wasted on them. Not only did we love our drugs, we took them seriously. Our heroes, the Morrisons and the Hendrixes of the world, knew as we did that one's life could be changed in a moment with this stuff. All a person had to do was be ready, and through every conversation that took place in twisted reality, we were on constant lookout. A request like mine from any other in our group would have invited a chorus of laughter and "what the fuck are you thinking" lectures, but I didn't go off on tangents like this very often and Doug knew it. The two of us promptly jumped into the car and headed out to get that fucking turkey (that I would never cook).
The snow was dry and constantly shifting, like a magical white desert that gave the impression of hovering rather than tires touching pavement. In our little bubble of a Camry, we braved the storm and finally arrived at the factory. Calling the 15-minute drive "wild" would be like calling Liberace "sort of gay." I sought out my boss while Doug tried to learn to play on the giant rolling conveyer belts, a task I had long since mastered through long hours of poorly paid servitude. The turkey I would never cook was going to be mine, come hell or high water.
"What the hell are you doing here," asked Rod (the 3rd shift super), "you don't work till after Christmas."
I stated matter-of-factly, "I came for my turkey."
"We don't give those out till the 23rd."
"Yeah, I know, but c'mon man, I came all the way here."
The look on his face confirmed that he indeed thought this was pretty odd. He seemed to be waiting for confirmation of facts that he must have intrinsically known, even if he didn't want to admit it. I certainly wasn't going to give him the out and out satisfaction; let him figure it out for himself. Then, through breaking brain clouds, there was a moment of clarity.
"Well, its 3:30 in the morning, so technically it's the 23rd, so you can go ahead and give me my turkey now. You won't have to bother later this way."
My cold and unerring logic had fucked him up enough that he just mumbled "okay" and went to get the free meat products for which I inexplicably longed. Doug was trying very hard to learn how to balance on conveyers, his face twisted in a determined grimace, so I decided not to bother him and head down to the break room and try to find one of the two or three cool folks there to talk to for a bit.
What I found was far cooler than any people I may have been looking for.
The 3rd shift holiday pot luck. All laid out very neatly for everyone to consume in, ummmm, welllll, geez, I figured about 30 minutes. It dawned on me that I was starving, having eaten nothing since about 9 PM. The mental stress of the journey there had really taken it out of me, and I could feel the drug peak slowly ebbing. There was sure to be more stress on the trip back, and I reviewed the available selections. Gallons of orange juice and a whole lot of food, all the peak-restoring tools were there. I had my excuse.
I went on a tasting frenzy.
When the smoke cleared and I was sated, it occurred on me that I had just done something I'd always wanted to do but never really thought I would. However, living my dream had physical consequences; I made a huge mess and fucked up a lot of food. I was a bit frantic and tried to remain calm as I moseyed back out to the main floor to see if my boss had procured my icy holiday freebie. If he didn't have it I would have to make a quick exit lest more painful physical consequences come my way, courtesy of the general work population. Being around when everyone discovered the war zone buffet would not be a good idea.
I spotted the wandering Rod, still clinging to a stupefied look, holding my frozen bird. I muttered an unintelligible thanks and no further explanation as I grabbed the swag and my fat friend from the conveyers. On the return trip through snow that was no longer shifting, I told my tale of wonder. While he agreed that it was kickass, Doug just shook his head.
"I can't believe we just did all this for a frozen turkey that you won't even cook." Then he just laughed. "Never mind, yes I can."
Doug always knew, kindred old souls are like that.
Wish You Were Here was on repeat as were the joints we smoked on our way to the post-trip mental state we referred to as "The Wastelands." The more superficial of our playmates had long since filtered out the door, some of them disappearing before we returned from our trek. Their absence was a welcome relief as I pondered the recent events and sought inspiration or validation or revelation or whatever it is that 18-year olds search for. I still think back from time to time how it came, in the brief moments on the edge of sleep, unintentionally through the words of a friend.
"You’re not living if you're not tasting."
The Human Head is a writer, gambler, and thinker from Whicita, Kansas.