The journey down south (pt. 4)
(^^Read those first.)
Getting into Asheville did not go as expected. But didn’t care at all.
I was grateful to be with my friends. We got up that Saturday morning and got breakfast tacos and mimosas. I asked my buddy a few thought experiments as we munched on our spicy chorizo.
“If you got $100 billion tomorrow, tax-free, what would you do with the money?”
He fired back the best response I’ve ever heard to the question. After a few typical answers—properties, investments, cocaine—he smiled and said…
“But then I’d probably spiral into a crippling depression as I realize that money wouldn’t make me happier.”
“Whoa,” I nodded. “You want another mimosa?”
We walked back to the house. A thought occurred to me as I was laughing with my bud.
I’m quite lucky that all of my best friends have partners I get along with and consider good friends of my own. I love hanging out with them. But nothing beats one-on-one time with someone you’ve been close with for decades, especially if you only get to experience it once a year.
With the whole day ahead of us, we walked their dog and drove downtown. I wanted to do something I’ve been really getting into lately.
Just kidding—rock climbing.
We parked and walked to this tiny gym. It was so small we sped right past it the first time around. One guy ran the whole thing—the register, instruction, he even climbed with us.
My buddy had never climbed and I was a total novice. “We’ll suck, but we’ll suck together,” I told him. We started with the beginner-level problems.
I could see that his technique was off, but I had no idea how to correct him. Not wanting to give him damaging advice, I said nothing. This was mainly because I had terrible technique myself.
We lasted about an hour until our forearms and hands couldn’t take it anymore. But it was such a treat to do something active and challenging with a friend.
We also met the guy who ran the gym, Sam. He was chill.
After a lovely Japanese dinner, we bought some shrooms from one of his work friends. Apparently, mushrooms are easier to get in Asheville than anything else. It’s common for people to grow them in their own backyards.
When we got back, my buddy’s girlfriend had returned from work (on a Saturday, damn Communists). We cooked up some food, ate a small portion of mushrooms, and my buddy and I played a few games of chess.
I don’t really like doing drugs, especially psychedelics. When I trip, I tend to lose my social skills. And whenever I lose the ability to articulate my thoughts and feelings, I get wildly insecure. It makes me feel like a baby. Like…an actual infant.
So I only took one that was about an inch long, skinny, and with a tiny cap. Taking such a small amount usually leads to a giggly energy boost. I have no interest in hallucinating or entering the baby state.
After brutally destroying my friend in one or two games of chess, we cracked some beers and waited to go out for the night. They lived two blocks from the main street with a bunch of bars and restaurants.
One of my buddy’s coworkers walked by the house and shouted to him. They started chatting it up. Meanwhile, his partner and I started talking about…something.
I have no idea what the topic was, but I loved it. It seemed we couldn’t finish a sentence without laughing. What were we laughing at? I have no idea.
I felt pure joy. Everything seemed to be flowing as she and I were chuckling and sharing insights. The windows were open to let the breeze in. Then I looked around and noticed that every color around me was twice as vivid.
“I think these mushrooms are stronger than we thought,” I suggested.
“I was just about to say the same thing,” she replied.
We kept chatting, picked a spot to go eat, and drank another beer. Eventually, my buddy came inside from the balcony and said, “Yo, I think these shrooms are stronger than we thought.”
We burst into laughter.
Once we gathered ourselves we started walking to the first bar. I felt like a kid, but in the best way possible. It was as though everything was funny and we had nothing to worry about. Everything someone said led to laughter.
We sat down at the restaurant, ordered food, and I asked the bartender to make me his favorite cocktail. It was hands down the worst drink I’ve ever had. My friends agreed.
It was getting later (which is how time works) and we went to one more bar down the street. When we walked in, I saw people playing chess toward the front. My people.
My friends and I ordered some beers and they got some more food. I walked right over to the chess table and made friends with the group of five immediately.
The main guy asked me if I played. Not wanting to reveal my hand, I gave my usual answer: “I love to play!” When I asked him how good he was, he told me he was venomous. Uh oh.
My buddy’s girlfriend went home to go to sleep but he stayed with me to watch me play. I introduced him to the chess peeps, he joked with them, and then he sat down in one of the nearby high chairs. His eyes were only half-open so I knew I was running against the clock.
Five moves into the game with Mr. Venom, and I realized he was not nearly as good as he spouted. He hung a piece and I improved my position. Eventually, I got cocky and stopped paying close attention. Then I hung a piece. We got into an endgame where I forced a trade of Queens to ensure a pawn promotion.
In other words, I won and he resigned.
He was a great sport. We shook hands and he bought my friend and me another beer each. Though I wasn’t sure how much more my friend could handle before he fell asleep in his chair—something I’ve witnessed more than once when we were in college.
We finished the fun. I paid the tab. And we stumbled home.