I met Dave the summer before my senior year. He was a childhood friend of a guy I knew from drama classes, Justin, and while we had not exactly hit it off, Justin believed that me and Dave had a lot more in common, and insisted he introduce me when Dave came up from Texas to visit during the summer. The first meeting took place on an early morning when I picked up Justin and Dave, and with our friend Jeff also in tow the four of us headed from Newton to Des Moines to get a head start in line for a concert featuring Metallica, Danzig and Suicidal Tendencies later that day. As Jeff and I got to know Dave, and vice versa, we invented makeshift tents by tying our flannels to crowd control railing, and started a quickly followed trend of leaping through nearby sprinklers to escape the heat of the blistering Iowa day, which got us on the news that night. The show, of course, was amazing. Mike Muir somehow impaled himself in the leg with a very large wooden splinter and was bleeding pretty intensely, but continued to mosh around like a madman. Finally medics rushed the stage and after consulting them for a moment Muir announced they would do one more song before he would be forced to get medical attention. They played like three or four more, and he basically had to be dragged off stage. Suicidal for life, motherfugkrz!
Justin was correct, Dave and I got along like gangbusters, and for a few years shared one of the closest friendships I have ever had the joy to experience. I had resources and he had courage and together we combined them to achieve some incredibly memorable mischief. But we also shared a deep closeness, and shared a lot of our thoughts and feelings on a lot of things. I can remember one night when we couldn’t find any weed to smoke, we eventually went to the convenience store and bought a bottle of ephedrine, and took about 17 each, which somehow culminated in a tearful discussion wherein we admitted to a sentimental attachment to The Eagles. It somehow felt incredibly vulnerable to admit to that, even though we had shared far more personal stories and thoughts.
One story that Dave hold told me on a few occasions involved a time back in Texas when he and his sister had each consumed almost two dozen Dramamine tablets and completely lost their minds. The location at which they had decided to conduct this experiment was raided by police at some point, at which time Dave and his sister decided to depart. Dave was dragged out the back door by his sister before he could get both shoes on, and was only wearing one of them when they fled on foot and pretty quickly got separated. Dave recalled that he kept thinking the shoe he was wearing was the one he was missing, and would try to pick the shoe up while still wearing it. At some point he had a long conversation with an air conditioning unit and then talked to an empty car which he believed his niece and nephew were sitting in. At some point somebody called the cops, but he somehow escaped the night unscathed by the fuzz and all the other things that can go wrong during half-shoeless conversations with cooling devices and make believe children in empty cars.
While 99% of people would say, “That sounds dangerous and horrible, please don’t ever do that again,” – I said, “That sounds fascinating and hilarious, please do that for my amusement in the near future,” – and eventually he did. However it was more out of genuine curiosity than any wickedness or ill will, as I would never want to see harm come to him, and this time he would have me to babysit.
During this time Dave was kinda seeing this woman named Dana, and she accompanied us (in actuality – wait for it) during the first part of the journey. The first symptoms kicked in at the trailer where I lived with a young couple that I worked with, starting when Dave complained of the remote control for the television being too heavy. Suddenly everything was too heavy, and soon Dave was making incredibly strange reports about his experiences, so we decided to move the weirdness out into the country via gravel roads so it could unwind without the restraints of civilization.
I drove to a bridge on a level B road, which I was later inadvertently responsible for being accidentally burnt down – but that is a story for another time, and we hung out in the pleasant warmth of the late summer evening. Dave chain-smoked Newports, as was our custom at the time, and made incoherent statements that ranged from hilarious nonsense to absurd paranoia. At some point he had wandered to the other side of the bridge as Dana and I talked, and suddenly started loudly yelling about how our friend Jason was “upstairs dying and you don’t even care”. He was genuinely and deeply concerned, but I calmly explained that we were outside on a bridge and there is no upstairs and Jason was in Brazil at the time, and Dave seemed to settle down. Then he looked at me as though deeply annoyed and said, “Enough about the chicken, where’s my Mountain Dew?” He had a half a bottle of Hawaiian Punch which I directed him to as I firmly denied the accusations of having partaken in any poultrycentric conversation.
Shortly after that Dana parted ways and we continued cruising gravel roads and eventually pulled over to watch the sunset as we waited for some friends to drive past us on their way home from work. During this time Dave was experiencing hallucinations of other people, and would often turn around to talk to people in the back seat. Not only was there nobody there, there was no back seat. It was a two-seater Bertone and he was having conversations with a rear window which he believed to be multiple different friends. At one point he also came to believe that I was Dana, and was making flirtatious comments, which began with him telling me that he liked me better than other girls my age because I was more mature. Unfortunately his credibility on assessing maturity was severely diminished, and I was not Dana, but I took it as a compliment anyway.
After about eight hours Dave started making sense again and I dropped him off to finish his comedown solo as I went to get a few hours sleep before work the next day. If I can recall he decided to watch the movie Ghost in the Machine and became somewhat convinced the film’s premise had leaked into real life, which is a pretty meta interpretation of that film, before eventually surrendering to sanity and sleep.
For a few years between the ages of 17 and 20 Dave and I had many great adventures together, both in Iowa and in Texas. But as each of us stumbled into adulthood, and became separated by several states, we grew apart. MySpace, then Facebook, resurrected our friendship in some small way, and about five years back he actually stayed a night in Iowa on his way to do some sportsball related tourism. It was a great time, but not quite the same, though how could it be? As we grow older we become more guarded and confident, which means the vulnerability which once worked to bond us to our friends is no longer so strong as to produce that kind of closeness so easily. Friendships in older age take a lot of work and humility to maintain, but if I have learned anything the past few years it is that other people are what make life worth living. No matter how maddening they may be at times, good experiences with other people are the most rewarding part of this existence, and it is well worth the effort to nurture friendships even when it no longer comes as easily as it did in our youth. It might never be quite the same, just like you’ll probably never be able to buy legal speed at gas stations again, but that is a feature and not a bug.
This is definitely not the last story involving Dave I have to tell, and I will get back to our hi-jinx again in future memoirs.
Bonus Anecdote: Dave and I used to memorize a dozen words in a particular order so that we could trick people we hung out with into believing we had some mutual telepathic connection, and it often worked. We also had a system by which, if either of us used the others full first name (ie: David/Joshua) it was a signal we were ready to leave whatever company we were in as soon as possible, which we both respected by abiding regardless of whether both of us wanted to leave. Over those few years we developed a number of these silly tricks and secret languages and in-jokes, a sort of creative playfulness that no longer seems to exist in our media saturated lives.