Fear & Loathing in NYC

This story begins at the American Retro Bar & Grill on 11th Avenue in Hell's Kitchen on a cold and rainy November night....

By 11:30PM that evening, I had been awake for at least 36 hours thanks to a sleepless Sunday, a hectic Monday, and an early flight on Tuesday morning from the new world surrealism of the Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Before getting to the terminal, I made sure to get nice and stoned in an effort to overcome my anxiety of flying, however this only served to make the entire TSA encounter just a little more difficult to deal with. It's such an unnecessary inconvenience, but that's another story for another day.

After the obligatory scan and pat down, I patiently waited at the gate for the boarding process to initiate. As to be expected, air travel around any holiday, especially Thanksgiving, is always a crazy time, and today was no exception. The plane was at capacity as I made my way down the aisle only to find that an old woman yielding a large framed print on her lap had hijacked my window seat. Ugggg. I had requested the window seat, but battling this old broad for seat supremacy wasn’t how I wanted to start my adventure, so I took the high road and let her stay-put. Whatever oversized framed picture that she brought aboard kept stabbing me in the leg and I had to passive-aggressively nudge it over a few times before she finally asked the flight attendant to store it in the overhead bin. Several minutes later, they made the obligatory safety announcements as the plane crept into takeoff position at the end of the runway. The jets roared as we launched into the sky and the trip was officially underway! It was about 6:55AM when the concentrated cannabis capsules that I had taken earlier began to kick in, and once they did, life became significantly more groovy and tolerable, especially for someone that hates flying, such as myself.

High as a kite...32,400 feet to be exact.

I immersed myself in music and zoned out for the next two hours, and as far as flights go, it was incredibly uneventful, however the landing left quite a bit to be desired. For the record, it's not the flying that I have an issue with, but rather the the possibilities of catastrophic failure upon takeoff and landing. That said, we hit the tarmac pretty hard, and for a few seconds, I was pretty certain that the landing gear was going to fail, however my panic was quickly extinguished once the aircraft slowed down and began turning into the terminal. By 9:20AM, we (my now ex-girlfriend and I) had safely landed at JFK Airport...

Rather than the standard yellow taxi cab, we foolishly/haphazardly accepted a ride from a stranger in a black Ford Suburban under the impression that he worked for a car service. In some places, they call this a gypsy cab, and sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind. Despite smelling a bit like a vitamin shop, the vehicle itself was decent, but was cluttered with dozens of club fliers for Reggaeton and Soca parties. The driver was a young Jamaican cat who spent most of the time talking on his cellphone and haphazardly weaving in and out of mid-morning traffic on the Queensboro Bridge. Despite gridlock at nearly every intersection, we made it to the hotel in pretty good time for less than what we would have paid for a proper cab.

After checking in, we roamed the streets of Manhattan and had lunch at the Bouchon Bakery where I obnoxiously indulged on wine and several pints of Storm King Imperial Stout. After a few hours of frivolous shopping, we made our way back to Hell's Kitchen, more specifically the American Retro Bar & Grill where we spent the next few hours drinking and eating their incredibly delicious Buffalo Tots. Around 10:45PM, my now ex-girlfriend decided to call it a night, but I was still in the mood for debauchery and mayhem. After walking her back to the hotel just a few blocks down, I made my way back to the bar, but not before dropping a hit of acid that I had stashed in my shaving bag. The time was approximately 11:15PM. 

LSD-25, a derivative of lysergic acid

For the next hour, I chatted with the bartender and a female patron about all things New York City while getting hammered on a sea of potent microbrews and shots of whiskey. It was after midnight when the acid started kicking in, however I was already three sheets to the wind, so the onset felt like the floor of reality was slowly crumbling beneath my feet. Feeling this strange metamorphosis, I cashed out my tab and graciously thanked the bartender with a hefty tip. I popped in my earbuds, donned my ski-cap, and headed out into the 34 degree wet weather. I had made my 'NYC' playlist which consisted of classic hip-hop, mostly stuff by the Beastie Boys, which I blasted in my ears as I pranced down the rainy streets a la Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain, just minus the raincoat. I had made my way to Times Square, but by this point, I was soaking wet and the visuals were profoundly intense. I continued walking around Manhattan, but each step that I took felt like I was descending into a darker and more sinister place. I somehow navigated back to Columbus Circle near where we had lunch earlier, and it was at this point that any semblance to reality was gone. The cold had finally gotten to me and I was a shivering wet mess. I couldn't speak, let alone formulate a complete thought. I knew where I was, but at the same time, I had absolutely no clue as to where I really was. Since my shitty Android was serving as the soundtrack provider, the battery had drained rather quickly, but I did manage to get in touch with my now ex-girlfriend back at the hotel after several failed calls:

Girlfriend: Hello? 
Miscreant: (unintelligible)...it's cold and I'm soaking wet.
Girlfriend: Where are you? 
Miscreant: I dunno, but I dropped the acid and I'm downtown somewhere...
Girlfriend: Baby, are you okay?

It was at this point that my phone dropped the call and subsequently went dead. I walked confusedly for the next few minutes trying to find some shelter from the cold wind and rain. Feeling the situation was quickly turning sour, I desperately tried turning my phone back on, and after several attempts, it finally powered up. Quickly, I called my consigliere (aka Miley Violence) back in Florida:

Miley Violence: Hello?
Miscreant: Cookz, I need help! I dropped acid, water's up to my knees, and I don't know where I'm at.
Miley Violence: Where's [girlfriend]?
Miscreant: She's back at the hotel sleeping. It's so weird and beautiful here!
Miley Violence: Okay, are there any landmarks around you? What street are you on?
Miscreant: Nine something....there's a Baskin-Robbins over here. Do you think they're open?
Miley Violence: Stay focused...can you get a cab?
Miscreant: I don't think I can...oh my fucking god, I think there is a dead body over here.
Miley Violence: What? A dead body?
Miscreant: No...I think it's a garbage bag or something. I think I need an adult.

This ridiculous and confusing conversation went on for another three minutes until my phone completely died. Not only was my soundtrack gone, but so was my tether to the real world. I tried to power-up my phone several more times, but finally gave up with a loud "fuck it" and stuffed it back into my pocket and trudged forward into the heavy rain. I pulled out my camera to shoot an impromptu video of myself, however I failed to put the camera in movie mode, so I ended up with this still shot:

Can't stop the mindfuck when it's rollin' along...

After my assumed filming and probably ranting for several minutes about being lost, I ducked into an alley to relieve myself. It was getting colder and both my mental and physical functions began to deteriorate. I started mumbling and repeating to myself "all logic is lost in the cold" as if I was trying to hold on to something that was slipping away. My body tightened as cold daggers of wind cut through my drenched coat, and passed through my soaked thermal shirt and ripped into my skin. It was a pain unlike anything that I had never felt and soon I began to feel inhuman, and at the very same time defeated. Not defeated by the frigid weather, but defeated in a sense of mental collapse and overcome with the inability to reason.

Nothing made sense at this point. I was roaming the streets in a drunken, psychedelic stupor. I took several pictures along the way, however, and not surprisingly, they are all out of focus and make little sense, aside from visually notating what I was seeing during those particular moments. Everything was pulsating and long trails emitted from every visible light source. My arms felt like they were dragging on the ground and my legs were melting into the sidewalk. Moving patterns filled my line of sight and nothing distinguished one street from the next. That said, the this portion of the trip became a mission of desperation exaggerated by instinctual survival as I had mentally reduced myself to a creature that desired nothing more than than warmth and shelter, but as I soon found out, these two things were hard (if not impossible) to come by at 1:45AM in the city that supposedly never sleeps. 

One of the many blurry and confusing photos that I took that night.

I was lost somewhere in Manhattan, likely somewhere near the Upper West Side, and all I knew is that I was staying at the Ink48 hotel, but I had no idea how to get back there. My soaked, oversized army coat and general unshaven demeanor made me look like a derelict, despite having several hundred dollars cash on me as well as my credit card. I could not function enough to flag down down a cab, let alone could I even speak in complete sentences. I walked block to block and street to street seeking shelter, even if just for a few moments as my waterlogged body struggled to retain what little warmth it had. I pulled on every door handle I passed without success, but among the multitude of locked apartment and business doors, I found one that was unlocked and I took immediate refuge inside. The bright white lights were blinding as I struggled to understand where I was, but before any realistic evaluation of my situation was realized, an angry suited doorman bellowed from across the lobby, "Hey, get out of here! Take it somewhere else!".

I could hardly form any intelligible words, but I was able to muster "I'm trying to get back to my hotel". The doorman glared at me as I stood there drenched, spaced out, swaying back and forth, hardly able to keep my balance. "Ink48", I mumbled, and for some reason, I started to take out my wallet.

"Get the hell out of here!", he irately commanded from behind his desk. I couldn't clearly see his face, but from his tone, I had the good sense to know that this guy was not to be fucked with, so I promptly stumbled out the door that I came in, and continued walking down the sidewalk in search of shelter. As I was walking, I noticed that a running delivery truck was parked on the street and the accordion door in the rear was slightly ajar. Desperate for shelter, I quickly threw myself under the door and crawled over several bundles until I found a little nook that I could curl into, and I sat there for several minutes trying to warm up and get my bearings. Without warning, the truck began to move and the reality of what was happening suddenly hit me; I was drunk and tripping my balls off in the back of a moving vehicle in New York City.

Not the exact truck, but you get the idea. 

I had no idea where I was, or had any idea where the truck was going, however physical and mental exhaustion had drained me to the point of apathy. As the truck drove for what felt like several miles without stopping, I pulled my ski-cap over my face and closed my eyes, all the while, waving the white flag of surrender. My mind began to shut down and my body followed shortly thereafter. I was out.

Over the years, I've taken numerous trips on various psychedelic substances, and up until this point, I have had nothing but pleasant and beautiful experiences. I've always maintained a certain degree of control and kept a firm grasp on reality, no matter how out there I may have been. In short, I have never had the dreaded bad trip. Mixing an abundance of alcohol with LSD was a very, very bad idea, and doing it on a night when I was already beyond exhausted added further volatility to the situation. I'm not sure how long I was passed out, but I would estimate somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes.

"Hey, wake up! How'd you get in here?! Get out of there!" commanded an unseen angry voice. As I slowly raised the ski-cap from my face, I saw a the outline of a large man wearing a heavy coat and gloves. 

"What are you doing in there? Get out of here, go!" yelled another man with a island accent.

Still in complete daze, I walked out onto a well-lit loading dock and tried to make sense of the orange lights and yellow hydraulic platforms. "I'm trying to get back to my hotel", I pathetically muttered while being lead outside the warehouse that I inadvertently Trojan horsed into. Once we reached the exit, I again started to feel the sharp pins of icey rain stabbing my face. The downpour was horrendous. "Can you help me find my hotel?", I begged.

"Hotel? What hotel? Where's it at?", one of the men disbelievingly asked. 

I took a deep breath and replied "Ink48" and they both laughed as they turned their backs and closed the door. I instinctually slogged off into the night knowing that my journey was far from over. I can laugh about this in hindsight, but at the time, this felt nothing short of insane. I was scared. I really felt like my brain was breaking into a thousand pieces.

Sloggin' on until the break of dawn.

A block or so away from the loading dock, I discovered a 24 hour walk-in clinic and drunkenly stumbled inside. Again, the lights were blinding and it was difficult to see or focus on anything, even if it was just a few feet away from me. The young man at the front desk looked at me with a curious eye and quickly sized me up as a homeless mental patient looking for a handout. I maintained my distance from the desk and once again asked for help getting back to my hotel. When he asked the name, I repeated "Ink48" and after a brief pause added "it's a Kimpton Hotel" as if stating the company's tagline would somehow help the situation. He quickly responded by saying that he'd never heard of it, and gave me the tonal impression that he didn't want me to patronize his lobby. I sarcastically thanked him and headed back out the door into the icy rain, but not before slamming my head against the plexiglass partition in show of frustration. His complete lack of reaction or professional empathy gave me the impression that he sees this sort of thing all of the time.

Another blurry and confusing photo, but this is precisely how everything looked. 

I was a horrible mess, soaking wet and freezing when I suddenly felt the urge to urinate. I headed to the nearest wall and tried to unzip my pants, but my hands were so cold that I couldn't move my fingers enough to grab the zipper. The pressure built as I struggled to connect my thumb and index finger, but it was too late. A warm sensation came over me as I began to shamelessly piss myself, and as I felt the urine running down my leg, a powerful, yet pleasurable groan escaped my lips. Once I finished, I continued walking and saw a taxi minivan stopped at the intersection. Thinking that I had found salvation, I stumbled forward, opened the sliding door of the van, and threw myself on the floor. I'm not sure what exactly transpired, but there were two or three people already in the van, there was a bit of yelling, and the next thing I  know, I'm crawling from the van back onto the street. I was beyond desperation and soon found myself asking passers by for help, but nobody acknowledged my presence, let alone responded. In hindsight, I can't say that I blame them, after all; I smelled like piss and looked insane. I continued incoherently walking down the street...

I peed my pants...here.

The rain had briefly let up, but the wind remained steady, and although the signs were more readable, I still had no idea where I was at. I began muttering the words "I give up" over and over as I wandered the streets desperately trying to get back to my hotel. I was emotionally drained, and wasn't sure how much further I could go. Hopeless, and in a last ditch effort, I walked into the first open hotel lobby and was immediately intercepted by a husky, well-dressed doorman.

"Good morning, can I help you", he politely, yet suspiciously asked.

"I'm trying to get back to my hotel, it's the Ink48 and I have money. Can you please help and call me a cab?". With a slight pause, he looked me up and down, nodded his head in acceptance, and lead me back outside into the cold. In what felt like a split second, he hailed a cab and when one turned around to his beckon, he opened the door and closed it behind me. I sat silently for a moment trying to figure out if I was actually in a taxi, or if this was a hallucination. 

"Hey bud, where are we going?", inquired the driver. 

After a few seconds, I replied "the Ink48. I don't know the address, but it's in Hell's Kitchen, maybe it's on 48th and.."

Before I finished, the driver interrupted, "no problem...I know right where that's at", and cut a sharp u-turn in the middle of the street. The ride wasn't too long, and as we turned the last corner, I recognized the Cool as a Cucumber billboard that was across the street from the hotel. After a $5.45 fare , a $14.55 tip, and several hours of unexplainable insanity, I finally made it back to the Ink48. I walked into the lobby overcome with emotion, still soaking wet and stinking of piss and made a beeline for the elevator and promptly headed for the 17th floor. I opened the hotel room door and walked into the darkness and immediately heard my now ex-girlfriend's voice. It was 5:05AM.

The Ink48...it's a Kimpton Hotel.

"Baby?", she asked, and before I even had a chance to respond, I broke down in tears as I began peeling off my wet clothes. She quickly sat up in bed and turned on the light.

As the sun rose over New York City, I spent the next several hours trying to recall everything that happened and where I'd been, but it felt like I was referencing a dream rather than something that really took place. Besides my clothes being completely soaked, I had bumps, bruises, and my Adidas kicks smelled like piss. I had my clothes from that night laundered, but I ended up throwing out the shoes because there was no salvation from the stench of human urine. I lost my ski-cap and headphones that night, but considering that I didn't lose anything else, I guess I'm pretty lucky. I spent the next several days in a foul, hungover haze and couldn't wait to get back to my own bed back at home in South Florida.

Overlooking the city that terrified me just a few hours earlier.

In summation, this was this was, by far one of the most surreal and terrifying trips that I've ever experienced. To this day, I'm still not fully clear on what went down that night, but from what I do recall; it was hell, but not hell in the religious sense, but hell in the sense that logic and reason did not exist. When it comes to responsible mind destruction, there are certain rules that need to be followed, and if those rules aren't followed, the consequences can be severe, and in most cases, unforgiving. That said, one should never mix alcohol and psychedelics, especially in a strange and unfamiliar town on a cold and rainy night.