The Berlin Diaries – Tripping Balls By A Lake

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Hey, some new cool stuff has gone down in Berlin, and you can read it! Or not, I dunno. Do what you want! You’re free!

Also – I’ve changed the names in this article because, you know, privacy and stuff. I will take on an alias also, because: drugs. Let’s call me, oh I don’t know, Anubis. Yeah. Nice.

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So yeah I did shrooms again. The first time was at Woodstock in Poland a month ago. They come in the form of chocolate; it’s easy to get in this city if you know where to look. At the festival I ate one single square and had a lovely giggly time staring at the trees and thinking about Jesus. It was an incredibly mellow and enjoyable experience, and I could very much sense that shrooms have much more in store with higher doses.

This weekend, then, I jumped at the chance to venture out into the woods and get all wavy with some of my favourite people. I met Ben, Amy and Sarah at Neukolln S-Bahn, and we were all separately 20 minutes late which meant that we were all basically on time. I hadn’t met Ben before; he’s a friend of Amy’s. He’s lived all over the world, but hails from Nimbin, the weed-tastic hippy town in Australia where I once ate cookies with an ex-girlfriend and spent hours not remembering how to do a normal facial expression.

Amy is an English girl working in film production (she worked on fucking Star Wars man) whose self-deprecating humour gives my funny bone an absolute ravaging. Sarah is a music producer from California that I met at a radio show three or four weeks back and have since got eye-poppingly twatted with many times. I recently introduced her to Peep Show, through which she is learning the way of the awkward Englishman. I love the people you meet in this city. It’s fucking brilliant.

Together, Ben, Amy, Sarah and me, Anubis (fuck yeah), headed out of the city to one of its many orbital lakes, Krumme Lanke. We had a bouquet of beers, a bit of food, and three bars of shroom chocolate courtesy of Amy. Three bars is a lot. The guy in the shop warned us to split one bar between two people.

We found a little shady spot next to the lake with the sun spearing through gaps in the leaves and branches, cracked the beers and put some music on. We ate two squares each, twice as much as I ate in Poland, and sat around chatting. I used to feel anxious when waiting for a drug to kick in, but I’ve learned that the best way to guarantee you have a great time is to forget about it.

It creeps up on you. At first, you’re not sure if it’s just a placebo effect. Is everything just a tad more silly, or are you just in a good mood? We were giggling at a man swimming in the lake, bobbing up and down below the water’s surface like a huffing walrus. We began to feel envious of a cluster of people across the lake, frolicking on a sun kissed beach. We didn’t want to be around other people particularly, but the sun was too inviting.

We packed up and wandered over with haste, hoping to get settled before it properly kicked in. I still had a semblance of sanity left, although movement was very strange and I had a nagging sense of guilt; guilt at being in the middle of such a beautiful wood and ruining the tranquility with my silly presence and shabby clothes.

We stumbled around to the beach with our speakers playing, but drug-induced paranoia told us to shut off the speaker for fear we should annoy the surrounding families. We lay by the lake’s edge and I stripped down to swimming trunks, and lay back looking at the clouds. Sarah was dressed head to toe in black, and we couldn’t have looked more out of place alongside the frolicking German sun worshippers.

The four of us lay in a row and drank our beers and watched the clouds. I had previously been around the same level of wavy as I had been in Poland, but as time went by things grew more and more absurd. Everything anybody said was thigh-slappingly hilarious; everything around us seemed utterly, utterly silly. A duck floated by and quacked, and the notion of it made me cackle. Why would a duck quack? What is it saying? Just floating around by itself, yelling about nothing, watching us with beady eyes.

2CB allowed me to see patterns in pretty much everything, but mushrooms provided much stronger hallucinations. I told Amy that the hairs on my leg were dancing around, waving all over as though they were underwater. “Damn, I wish I’d not shaved my legs today,” she said. I told her not to worry; she could borrow my leg to stare at. Cue rush of laughter.

We all tripped out in different ways. Ben was quiet and pensive, watching idle clouds drift across the azure sky. Amy and I were rolling around laughing at every other sentence. I noticed Sarah hadn’t said anything in a while, and asked if she was okay. “Just enjoying the view,” she mumbled. I glanced over and saw she had her hat pulled down over her face, and burst out laughing. I couldn’t stop, and I loved it. There was joy in everything.

I found myself really enjoying words and sentences. No surprise really; writing is one of my greatest joys. Everything anyone said, I would repeat slowly, turning the words over in my head. Amy told us about a bad acid trip she had in a tent at a festival, and said she remembered feeling like a “fat slag on a tarpaulin”. After my giggles had passed, I spent a long time turning the words over in my head. Fat slag on a tarpaulin. It was poetry, it was brilliant, it was so fucking silly.

Sarah took out a sketchbook and began to draw. I watched her diligently etching away, and after a while I asked to see her work. She held up the book and I cackled to see it was full of spidery nonsense scrawlings. She passed me the book so I could doodle too, but for some reason I had no desire to create anything. My job is writing, my hobby is writing, and writing at that moment seemed a chore. I didn’t want to do anything at all; just existing was a joy.

I had no desire to write anything down because to make a mark in a book suddenly seemed very egotistical. Who was I to write something down? To say something with any certainty? Everybody who has ever written anything down takes themselves way too seriously. I was just a dick head on a beach, rolling in the sand and laughing forever, why would anyone care what I thought? Even I didn’t care what I thought; it didn’t seem to matter at all. I told Sarah this, and she reminded me that it is literally my entire career and life ambition to write, which I had momentarily forgotten. More helpless giggles.

We talked about drawing, and I told Sarah I used to sketch castles all the time when I was little. I was wicked at drawing castles. Then I realised that I had left her book open on my chest, and was getting sweat all over it. “Shit sorry Sarah,” I said, “I’m perspiring in your diary.” And, obviously, couldn’t breathe with laughter for five minutes after.

Closing my eyes brought strange visions of fractal patterns and neon animals, endless repetitions of symbols. Eyes open, the lake glittered silver and the shifting sands of the beach shimmered. Everything was wonderful, and I felt very safe and cared for.

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We spoke about Jack Kerouac for a while. Amy wondered aloud if it was possible to be in love with someone who has been dead for fifty years. I didn’t think that sounded so strange at all. I told them that if I was ever to have sleep with a guy, it would have been him. Then I took it back, because it sounded so crude. It wasn’t about sex; it’s his spirit, his eye for beauty that compels me to him.

In the quiet moments between fits of beautiful bubble laughter, I thought about myself. I’ve been very up and down since moving to Berlin, and on occasion, during my blue moods, I’ve felt afraid that there might be a darkness inside myself, a growing cynicism, a weariness born from too many late nights and a scarred heart. Here though, on the beach, I felt like I’d seen inside my own mind, and I loved what I saw.

There was absolutely nothing profound about my trip, nothing intense or life-defining or religious. Everything was just fucking silly, and I loved it. And I realised that all my darkness and pain isn’t my fault, it’s not me. It’s extraneous factors, all of it. It’s the world, it’s other people, the darkness that has gripped me in the past wasn’t born in my own heart.

I looked inside myself, and I found nothing but warmth and silliness. Not happiness, because happiness is relative, but something far better. Through the secret door unlocked by the mushrooms, I explored the core of my personality, inside a room in my mind that I always knew was there but never dared venture inside. And in it, I found a vault full not of sadness, not of happiness, but contentedness; far better, far safer, far cosier. And I realised it had always been there, available to me. It was never locked; I just forgot how to open the door. That is the real me, the real Dan. I’m not an angry person, I’m not a sad person, I’m not a bad person. I’m just me, this laughing guy planted in the sand who finds a duck’s quack absolutely hilarious. And that’s who I want to be. That’s who I really, really want to be. And that’s who I was. And it was good.

It felt like meeting an old friend after a long absence. I was so proud of myself. I realised that I was funny, witty, handsome, and I always had been, but I had just been so weighed down by life and circumstance that I’d forgotten it. I sat up on the beach and squinted into the sun, watching the light dance off the ripples cast by children playing. It was so beautiful, though I wasn’t smiling; I didn’t need to. The feeling was contained within my heart, just for me. It felt as though someone had emptied out my mind’s bedroom, given everything a spring clean and a vacuum, washed the bedsheets, and replaced everything, now gleaming and unburdened. Everything had been reset. I hadn’t laughed so much in years. I hadn’t laughed so much ever.

The girls went into the woods together to wee. Sarah noted that I hadn’t been yet, which for me is unheard of, with my child’s bladder. “Wow, yeah,” I replied, “that’s actually miraculous.” Then I rolled the sentence around in my head and noted aloud that it wasn’t that miraculous. “Maybe miraculous is the wrong word. Not-pissing isn’t exactly walking on water, is it? Nobody’s going to write a book about that,” I mused, and the four of us doubled over.

The girls were gone ages, and I sat chatting to Ben, who was crazy interesting. We eventually turned around and saw the girls stood back in the trees on a hill, stroking the bark. We were such morons, helpless and childlike and natural and fantastic. Maybe people were watching us, maybe they were judging, but I couldn’t have cared less. Everything was so silly. What was judgement, anyway? The concept seemed completely alien and useless.

Ben and I now faced a dilemma: how to carry the bags up the hill? We didn’t have enough arms. The sheer spread of the towels, bags and shoes was bewildering, and we stood staring at the mess for a solid five minutes. It seemed like a huge operation. Would we… carry the shoes on our hands, then put the bags over our shoulders?  But shoes don’t go on hands, so that wouldn’t work. We decided we couldn’t carry it all, so we would simply take the valuables with us and leave the rest. But wait- what is a valuable? Phones are obviously valuables, right, but, why? Where did we learn that? In school? What is value – isn’t that something that changes from person to person? A thousand questions needed answering before we could even begin to gather everything up.

In the end we brought the bags and left the rest, which gained us a collective exasperated “MEN” from the girls, who went back for everything else. We sat on the hill together above the lake and found a new freedom away from the other humans, who seemed so serious and stiff compared to our tumbling giggling quartet. We were barefooted and semi naked, beer sipping, sharing idle stories and thoughts, people watching, glittering sunset crowning our six hour trip and setting the tree line ablaze, making everyone’s eyes beautiful and beaming through the veins of green leaves.

The pattern of the leaves was intensely satisfying. Nature is a joy. I commented that this must be how dogs see the world; it explained why my gorgeous old boy Paddy was always so giddy to smell the flowers every morning. At one point, I saw a pattern of swastikas in the leaves, and I told the others. “Whoa, that’s dark,” Ben told me, but I disagreed. It wasn’t dark in my mind because it was so absurd. It was silly. There’s nothing to fear from a symbol – and humans are so daft to think otherwise. We drape ourselves in symbolism and reverence, we pull rank on one another, we wear suits and ties and- why? We’re all so full of shit, it’s hilarious. Then we remembered that before the Nazi’s used it, swastikas were Buddhist, an ancient symbol for well-being. And it made a lot more sense.

We fell silent at one point, for a blissful ten minutes. It’s rare that humans can tolerate absolute silence. Someone always breaks it, always laughs, always says something silly like “this silence is lovely, isn’t it?”, but none of us did. We were happy, lost in thought, idling in the trees watching birds and insects zigzag before the crimson sun. After an eternity, a wheezing jogger passed far below, and his panting broke us out into a new fit of laughter.

Sarah told us she had been thinking about trees, and how they’re similar to the direction of a human life. You begin as a seed, you grow and new branches form; vocations, relationships, personal traits; and they blossom, and the main trunk is you at your core; you keep going, growing skyward, and sometimes branches can break off, relationships end, passions are lost, scars are gained, but you always remain. I thought that was the loveliest thing I’d ever heard.

Mushrooms aren’t like other drugs. Powders and pills seem grotesque in comparison. Mushrooms are natural. Your body doesn’t fight them or try to reject them. The whole experience feels so right. Yes, you close your eyes and see fractal lightshows and tigers made of lightbeams, and the hairs on your leg dance and sway like grass in a meadow, but it’s not shocking, it’s not wrong; it just is. You glance at the forest floor and see it gently warp and contract and bulge, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, in fact the opposite – of course life sways that way. It’s all a working part of one incredible whole.

The drug doesn’t dump you and leave you in the cold after like others do; Sarah described the return to sobriety as like being slowly released from a warm hug. The sun went down, everyone at the lake left, and we eventually made our way down to the lakeside once more where, free from the leafy canopy, we were treated to an infinite of stars not visible from the depths of the city. The darkness held no horrors as we walked back to the train. There was nothing to fear in the woods.

We found the U Bahn home empty, and reveled in having it to ourselves for several stops before a hundred people got on at once on the way back from a ‘Visual Perception’ conference at a university, which was deliciously ironic. We drank one last beer together in Neukolln, and headed home.

Today, the day after, I feel I’ve been reset. I’ve been dismantled, well oiled and lovingly reassembled, and my head has never been clearer. I feel emotionally sturdy, stress free, and loving. I’ve a smile for everyone, and those strange concepts of future and past don’t cause me upset. I don’t have to try and be happy; I don’t have to do anything.

Life just seems a little simpler today. Time slips by a little easier. I know that over the course of the week I will no doubt drift back to normality, but that’s okay too, because I’ll always remember that beautiful afternoon by the lake, with the sun shining and the best company, and I’ll always remember that the real Dan, the one I love, is made of rolling giggles and sandy feet and all those easy smiles, and hes is only ever a duck’s quack away.

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