The Huge Fanged Snake

Ben Fine

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"Nothing really bad happened, no one got hurt, but that night I was eaten by a huge, red-eyed, big fanged, foamy-mouthed python."

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Suspendisse varius enim in eros elementum tristique. Duis cursus, mi quis viverra ornare, eros dolor interdum nulla, ut commodo diam libero vitae erat. Aenean faucibus nibh et justo cursus id rutrum lorem imperdiet. Nunc ut sem vitae risus tristique posuere.

Yolk began as an electric conversation around a picnic table in Saint Henri Square.

Our scruffy pioneer and present prose editor had previously approached each of us with an idea, a vision: We would establish our own literary magazine in Montreal. And so it was, or so it would be. After that original encounter, eight individuals devoted to the word resolved that they would gather bi-weekly, on Sundays, and bring something new into this busy, manic world—something that might slow its spin down somewhat and cause its patronage to say: “You know what, it ain’t so bad, is it, Susan?”

We are undergraduate, graduate, and graduated students of writing. Some of us learn our craft formally from accomplished authors in seminar courses, and some of us learn by looking out the window of the world and onto the streets that sing below. Some of us learn from screaming squirrels, old curtains, departed grandfathers, and bowel movements. We learn from old lovers, long winters, imperfect mothers, and from the deep internet where a musical genius remains entombed.

Yolk is cold floors on Sabbath mornings, home-brewed ginger beer in the endless afternoon, and downpours of French-pressed coffee in assorted artisanal mugs. Our first official gathering was scheduled for a duration of two hours; most of us remained for six, departing only to attend to the summons of our own beckoning realities. Together, with time suspended, we talked endlessly of contributing something to disrupt Montreal’s literary ecosystem. Something unparalleled, something true.

But what? There was nothing to discuss. There was everything to discuss.

We volunteer our time, hounding some elusive beast composed of combustible words and works. We are hopeful, truly hopeful, that we can give something new, a new way, a new light, and that if we cannot, we might at least uphold the traditions of our predecessors, cast star-wide nets to capture their echoes. We are a thousand decisions. We are a sanctuary for the orphaned word, the solitary writer, the cereal-eating artist who yearns for company, for the comfort of a like mind; we sit together with them at foggy dawn, it rains a baptism, with our arms and hands intertwined, we form an umbrella—underneath, they scribble madly, the perfect picture.

Yolk in no way presumes to be superior to its contemporaries, but its contemporaries should not presume yolk to be anything other than loud—quite, quite loud. We are yippidy jazzed to address the oh-so-technicolorful magnificence of the human experience, but we are prepared also to address the ugliness, to stare at its wet, hairy snout and into its square depth and to roar in return at the things that yearn to devour our skin, beset our ethos, and dig graves in our own backyards.

There’s so much to say, there’s so much we don’t know, but together, with you, we can placate that ignorance, render it peaceful, tolerable, and perhaps even, fucking beautiful.

And Susan says, “Amen.”

I’m a true child of the sixties, and like many of my social icons growing up, such as Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, I’ve recently passed my seventieth birthday. Despite the fact that I was a carouser, I’ve managed to avoid all the major addictions of my fellow baby boomers: alcohol, smoking, weed and hard drugs. Staying addiction-free has done well for me healthwise, and at seventy I’m still in excellent shape. I’m a professor, and as I tell my students, drugs are not as demonic as the strident anti-drug people tell you, but on the other hand they are not harmless, as drug usage advocates, especially marijuana advocates, espouse. I can tell an ex-drug user almost immediately—it stays with them for the rest of their lives.

Several years ago there was a documentary film, The Boys of Second Street Park, that won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. It was about the neighbourhood that I grew up in—Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, before it became the home of the Russian Mafia in America, Brighton Beach was a tough neighbourhood, set apart from the rest of Brooklyn and even more so from the rest of the United States. A one square mile enclave built over a filled-in swamp on the southern tip of Brooklyn, it appeared more as a European village than as any part of New York City. It was crowded, crisscrossed by tiny beach bungalows and low rise apartment buildings, and felt like a sort of Jewish Chinatown with a hefty mix of Italians thrown in. English was not the primary language and on Brighton Beach Avenue, the main shopping thoroughfare, one was always more likely to hear Yiddish or Italian. Brighton was so insular that when Kennedy was running for president, although I was already in junior high school, I didn’t understand the hubbub over his being Catholic. I thought all the presidents were Jewish. By their names I knew they weren’t Italian, and they certainly weren’t black, so what else could they be? Despite the dangers of a rough neighbourhood, Brighton Beach was a fun area to grow up in. My friends and I played baseball and a wide collection of other games and wandered the alleys, the ball fields, and the beach.

Second Street Park was one of several big neighbourhood playgrounds. It was located right off of the boardwalk and next to the beach. This park had metal-rimmed baskets with grey metal backboards and featured the best basketball in the area. My close friends and I played football and baseball and hung out at a different playground, Grady Park, several blocks away. The documentary The Boys of Second Street Park focused on my high school basketball team during the years 1964 to 1968, and followed what had happened to the players in the intervening decades. The movie, however, was as much about drugs, the Vietnam War, and the counterculture of the sixties in general as it was about the particular athletes profiled. Some old friends and I, all from Brighton, heard about the film, and gathered together to watch it. We knew and recognized most of the people who appeared in it. In the midst of watching the film, I blurted out, “We look a lot better than the guys on screen.”

My wife, who usually doesn’t swear, almost immediately answered, “That’s because you guys didn’t get fucked up on drugs.”

It was true—We did everything everyone else did: listened to music, joined the army, played ball, watched and participated in many of the protests, but somehow avoided all the narcotics, nicotine, and alcohol. In my case, how and why I managed to stay away from each of these addictions is a story in itself, and staying away from drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol is what this tale is about.

It was impossible to live through the sixties without confronting drugs and alcohol, even if this confrontation only involved seeing other people wasted and confused. In that decade, our whole view of drugs was transformed. In the early sixties, drugs were demonized. Taking that first joint was a sure step down the slippery slope to heroin. By the late sixties, though, we were told that taking that first joint was necessary for one’s physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing.

Any foray I might have had into heavy drug usage ended on a summer night in 1967. Nothing really bad happened, no one got hurt, but that night I was eaten by a menacing, red-eyed, huge-fanged, foamy-mouthed python. Before I get to the snake though, let me talk about smoking, drinking and weed.

My mother was a two-pack-a-day smoker. She never finished a cigarette without lighting the next one off the last one. My grandfather, with whom I lived until I was twelve years old, was a five-cigar-a-day man. There are no pictures of my grandfather without a cigar in his mouth. The smell of smoke of various types constantly filled our house, and to this day I love the smell of secondhand smoke. I hate the fact that smoking is now prohibited in restaurants and bars. The smell of cigarettes mixed with alcohol was to me one of the most welcoming aspects of taverns and lounges.

But despite this background, I never smoked cigarettes. I was an excellent athlete in high school, and although I was short, I had excellent speed and eye-hand coordination, making me a superb baseball player. I played football, too, but I was too small to be any good at the time. My parents knew nothing about sports, but a neighbour told my grandfather that I was a tremendous athlete and Papa George took over guiding my athletics and led me to the only sport he knew well: boxing. He had been a professional fighter and a circus performer in the early part of the century when he first came to America, and he had also done a great deal of street fighting in his job as a dues collector for the teamsters union. At close to seventy years old, my age now, he could still break a brick with his fists—not martial arts style, but with his bare knuckles. He was able to punch straight through a masonry block. Looking on in awe, I asked him many times how he did this, and he blithely told me mind over matter. My mind, however, could never beat matter, and I have several mangled fingers to show for my efforts.

With his encouragement, I stepped into the ring at sixteen years old and began to box. I never had a tremendous amount of talent, but I had three skills: fast hands, an extremely hard head, and dedication. My coach, a punch-drunk ex-fighter known only as Benny the Boxer, who hung out in the nightclub where my grandfather worked evenings as a bartender, warned me to never smoke. “It’ll destroy your wind,” he told me in his raspy voice, and so I never got into cigarettes. However, from boxing, I got into powerlifting and bodybuilding, and my coach never told me not to eat so much or work out so much. I managed to eat and weight-train my way through seven weight classes. Between the ages of sixteen and twenty, I morphed from a natural welterweight, five foot seven and 145 pounds, to a short heavyweight—still five foot seven, but now two hundred and five pounds. I had a huge neck and big shoulders, and at twenty years old, while sitting down, I looked like an NFL linebacker. When I stood up, I wasn’t much taller than when I was sitting. In the army, at twenty-two, I was on the boxing team but had to reshape my body to get to a reasonable weight to be able to fight at my height. I was even short at this weight. Yet, as a super middleweight at 168 pounds, and without cigarettes to hamper me, I had good wind. I did enjoy a good cigar though, and upon leaving the army I started to smoke these. My wife hated the smell of cigars, so I could only smoke alone in the car. But after I burned my pants several times driving, I gave up on cigars, also. Now when the insurance companies ask if I’ve ever smoked, I can honestly check off no.

Alcohol and weed are other situations. My grandfather, besides cigars, enjoyed a good cognac or two each evening before heading off to his job as a bartender. The lure of alcohol was never too great for me though, and for several reasons. My mother remarried when I was twelve, and her second husband was an abusive drunk who nursed scotch after scotch each evening. My mother tolerated his abuse, but for me, the next six years became an alcohol-infused nightmare. I had to say nothing, because if I told my grandfather he would have killed his son-in-law—No exaggeration, he could be violent. From his union days, he had a pearl-handled Colt .45 pistol that he kept in his dresser drawer. So I stayed silent and endured the abuse of my mother’s scumbag drunk husband for six years until, at eighteen years old, confident with two years of ring experience and now quite strong, I snapped, beat the hell out of him, and threw him out.

Further, for some reason—and I’m not certain why—I have a tremendous tolerance for alcohol. I can drink voluminous amounts without effect. On occasion I’ve gotten totally plastered, but those times, like my interactions with my drunken stepfather, are for other stories. The same was true with weed. It usually had little effect on me, although I’d toke at a party to be sociable. As marijuana becomes legal I return to a statement I first made forty years ago and still believe: If you’ve never smoked weed at twenty years old, you are either a complete goody two-shoes or you don’t have many friends. However, if you’re still smoking regularly at twenty-eight, you have a major problem.

Now I have to turn to hard drugs and hallucinogens. Many people I knew in 1967 and 1968 spoke glowingly of the wonders of cocaine, LSD, and mushrooms. As I alluded to, any foray I might have had into heavy drug usage ended on that summer night in 1967, when I was eaten by a huge python.

I was working as a lifeguard on Coney Island Beach, and my girlfriend had gone with her parents on a trip to Canada. After my early evening shift, I went with some of my coworkers to a party on the upper west side of Manhattan. I drove four in my car, an old Buick Skylark, and five other fellows followed in another car. We then paid ten bucks each, a hefty sum at the time, to get into an apartment just off Broadway at Seventy-Eighth Street. We entered to psychedelic lights, hot music, tons of people, and the sweet smell of magic everywhere. The others went off to find available girls, but being the loyal boyfriend that I was, I took a seat and began to drink, listening to the music. First I had two beers, then two more as the evening wore on, and then progressed to a vodka punch. I was already feeling pretty good when the first joint was passed to me.

“Hey man, you want a toke?” the fellow next to me on the couch asked. Now even though I didn’t smoke cigarettes, an occasional toke or two wasn’t bad, and in fact, sometimes felt even necessary. 

“Sure, man,” I told him as I took the number. One long toke became two and then three. As I said before, weed usually had little effect on me, and I’d only smoke dope to be sociable, but that night, mixed with the vodka punch, it was doing what it was supposed to do.

“Try one of these, they’re dynamite,” my new friend next to me said while passing me a shiny red pill. I usually would have turned him down, but instead, I took it quickly and washed it down with the remainder of the vodka. The weed and the booze and whatever was in that pill put me in a wonderful place—that beautiful kind of high when you’re inside yourself but still in control. The music was by some obscure band on an album I had never heard, but it sounded like it was being sung directly to me.

Still, I was in control, and I looked at my watch. It was past 2 a.m. and I needed to be on the beach by 7 a.m. One of my pals was on the next couch with a girl he’d picked up.

“Hey Constantine—It’s getting late, we have to go.”

“I’m not leaving my lady love here,” he cooed as he kissed the sweet young curly-haired girl in a print dress sitting on his lap. She looked to be about seventeen and he suddenly asked her, “What’s your name, babe?”

“Denise,” she cooed back.

“I have to go,” I told him.

“Then go,” he said. “We’ll all squeeze into Chooch’s car. Just go.”

Now even with the stupidity of being nineteen years old, I knew it was dangerous to drive back to Brooklyn in the condition I was in. However, I told myself foolishly, “I really didn’t have that much,” and I found my car easily out on Broadway, definitely a good sign. Then I tested myself and walked along one of the cracks on the sidewalk both forwards and backwards like a tightrope. I said the alphabet to myself backwards and forwards. Satisfied that I was probably all right, I jumped in the car and took off. I entered the old West Side Highway at Seventy-Second Street. For someone really wasted, the old highway was a challenge: It was curvy and covered with cobblestones that were killers when they got wet.

But I had no problem. I sailed down the highway, totally in control. Warm night, windows open, wind blowing in my long, bushy hair, and singing “Stoned Soul Picnic” to the empty car.

When I reached the entrance to the Battery Tunnel back to Brooklyn though, I stopped dead. The red lights marking the tunnel entrance had turned into large, fiery red eyes, and the tunnel itself was transformed into a huge snake: one with big teeth and a foamy mouth, just waiting to devour me. The red brick roadway inside the tunnel became a flicking red-forked tongue, beckoning me in.

“This is crazy,” I said to myself, “that’s just the fricking tunnel.” Yet I was too panic-stricken to take my foot off the brake and put it on the accelerator. I sat there, staring at the snake’s fiery red eyes and humongous fangs. No other cars came by. How long I sat there I have no idea, but quite suddenly, a police car drove up next to me. The cop yelled over to my car, “Hey, are you alright?”

The sight of the police sent an adrenaline rush through my body and I partially sobered up in a hurry. I looked over at the police car and hesitantly told him, “I’m just lost.” My mind was racing. I could smell the vodka mixed with beer coming off of my body, and my pupils must have been gigantic. If the cop got out and came over I would have been cooked.

Luckily, he stayed in his car and yelled over to me, in the polite way of New York policemen, “Well, you can’t stay here buddy, and you can’t turn around—so get on through the tunnel!”

What could I do? I entered the snake’s mouth. I drove through the whole length of the tunnel shaking and quivering, just waiting for the teeth to hit me. My body didn’t ease up and I didn’t calm down until the snake ejected me safely out of the far end of the tunnel. Along with the sudden safety of Brooklyn, any great desire for more drugs was left forever inside the giant python’s belly.


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Additional reading

I’m a true child of the sixties, and like many of my social icons growing up, such as Paul McCartney and Mick Jagger, I’ve recently passed my seventieth birthday. Despite the fact that I was a carouser, I’ve managed to avoid all the major addictions of my fellow baby boomers: alcohol, smoking, weed and hard drugs. Staying addiction-free has done well for me healthwise, and at seventy I’m still in excellent shape. I’m a professor, and as I tell my students, drugs are not as demonic as the strident anti-drug people tell you, but on the other hand they are not harmless, as drug usage advocates, especially marijuana advocates, espouse. I can tell an ex-drug user almost immediately—it stays with them for the rest of their lives. Several years ago there was a documentary film, The Boys of Second Street Park, that won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. It was about the neighbourhood that I grew up in—Brighton Beach, in Brooklyn. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, before it became the home of the Russian Mafia in America, Brighton Beach was a tough neighbourhood, set apart from the rest of Brooklyn and even more so from the rest of the United States. A one square mile enclave built over a filled-in swamp on the southern tip of Brooklyn, it appeared more as a European village than as any part of New York City. It was crowded, crisscrossed by tiny beach bungalows and low rise apartment buildings, and felt like a sort of Jewish Chinatown with a hefty mix of Italians thrown in. English was not the primary language and on Brighton Beach Avenue, the main shopping thoroughfare, one was always more likely to hear Yiddish or Italian. Brighton was so insular that when Kennedy was running for president, although I was already in junior high school, I didn’t understand the hubbub over his being Catholic. I thought all the presidents were Jewish. By their names I knew they weren’t Italian, and they certainly weren’t black, so what else could they be? Despite the dangers of a rough neighbourhood, Brighton Beach was a fun area to grow up in. My friends and I played baseball and a wide collection of other games and wandered the alleys, the ball fields, and the beach. Second Street Park was one of several big neighbourhood playgrounds. It was located right off of the boardwalk and next to the beach. This park had metal-rimmed baskets with grey metal backboards and featured the best basketball in the area. My close friends and I played football and baseball and hung out at a different playground, Grady Park, several blocks away. The documentary The Boys of Second Street Park focused on my high school basketball team during the years 1964 to 1968, and followed what had happened to the players in the intervening decades. The movie, however, was as much about drugs, the Vietnam War, and the counterculture of the sixties in general as it was about the particular athletes profiled. Some old friends and I, all from Brighton, heard about the film, and gathered together to watch it. We knew and recognized most of the people who appeared in it. In the midst of watching the film, I blurted out, “We look a lot better than the guys on screen.” My wife, who usually doesn’t swear, almost immediately answered, “That’s because you guys didn’t get fucked up on drugs.” It was true—We did everything everyone else did: listened to music, joined the army, played ball, watched and participated in many of the protests, but somehow avoided all the narcotics, nicotine, and alcohol. In my case, how and why I managed to stay away from each of these addictions is a story in itself, and staying away from drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol is what this tale is about. It was impossible to live through the sixties without confronting drugs and alcohol, even if this confrontation only involved seeing other people wasted and confused. In that decade, our whole view of drugs was transformed. In the early sixties, drugs were demonized. Taking that first joint was a sure step down the slippery slope to heroin. By the late sixties, though, we were told that taking that first joint was necessary for one’s physical, spiritual, and emotional wellbeing. Any foray I might have had into heavy drug usage ended on a summer night in 1967. Nothing really bad happened, no one got hurt, but that night I was eaten by a menacing, red-eyed, huge-fanged, foamy-mouthed python. Before I get to the snake though, let me talk about smoking, drinking and weed. My mother was a two-pack-a-day smoker. She never finished a cigarette without lighting the next one off the last one. My grandfather, with whom I lived until I was twelve years old, was a five-cigar-a-day man. There are no pictures of my grandfather without a cigar in his mouth. The smell of smoke of various types constantly filled our house, and to this day I love the smell of secondhand smoke. I hate the fact that smoking is now prohibited in restaurants and bars. The smell of cigarettes mixed with alcohol was to me one of the most welcoming aspects of taverns and lounges. But despite this background, I never smoked cigarettes. I was an excellent athlete in high school, and although I was short, I had excellent speed and eye-hand coordination, making me a superb baseball player. I played football, too, but I was too small to be any good at the time. My parents knew nothing about sports, but a neighbour told my grandfather that I was a tremendous athlete and Papa George took over guiding my athletics and led me to the only sport he knew well: boxing. He had been a professional fighter and a circus performer in the early part of the century when he first came to America, and he had also done a great deal of street fighting in his job as a dues collector for the teamsters union. At close to seventy years old, my age now, he could still break a brick with his fists—not martial arts style, but with his bare knuckles. He was able to punch straight through a masonry block. Looking on in awe, I asked him many times how he did this, and he blithely told me mind over matter. My mind, however, could never beat matter, and I have several mangled fingers to show for my efforts. With his encouragement, I stepped into the ring at sixteen years old and began to box. I never had a tremendous amount of talent, but I had three skills: fast hands, an extremely hard head, and dedication. My coach, a punch-drunk ex-fighter known only as Benny the Boxer, who hung out in the nightclub where my grandfather worked evenings as a bartender, warned me to never smoke. “It’ll destroy your wind,” he told me in his raspy voice, and so I never got into cigarettes. However, from boxing, I got into powerlifting and bodybuilding, and my coach never told me not to eat so much or work out so much. I managed to eat and weight-train my way through seven weight classes. Between the ages of sixteen and twenty, I morphed from a natural welterweight, five foot seven and 145 pounds, to a short heavyweight—still five foot seven, but now two hundred and five pounds. I had a huge neck and big shoulders, and at twenty years old, while sitting down, I looked like an NFL linebacker. When I stood up, I wasn’t much taller than when I was sitting. In the army, at twenty-two, I was on the boxing team but had to reshape my body to get to a reasonable weight to be able to fight at my height. I was even short at this weight. Yet, as a super middleweight at 168 pounds, and without cigarettes to hamper me, I had good wind. I did enjoy a good cigar though, and upon leaving the army I started to smoke these. My wife hated the smell of cigars, so I could only smoke alone in the car. But after I burned my pants several times driving, I gave up on cigars, also. Now when the insurance companies ask if I’ve ever smoked, I can honestly check off no. Alcohol and weed are other situations. My grandfather, besides cigars, enjoyed a good cognac or two each evening before heading off to his job as a bartender. The lure of alcohol was never too great for me though, and for several reasons. My mother remarried when I was twelve, and her second husband was an abusive drunk who nursed scotch after scotch each evening. My mother tolerated his abuse, but for me, the next six years became an alcohol-infused nightmare. I had to say nothing, because if I told my grandfather he would have killed his son-in-law—No exaggeration, he could be violent. From his union days, he had a pearl-handled Colt .45 pistol that he kept in his dresser drawer. So I stayed silent and endured the abuse of my mother’s scumbag drunk husband for six years until, at eighteen years old, confident with two years of ring experience and now quite strong, I snapped, beat the hell out of him, and threw him out. Further, for some reason—and I’m not certain why—I have a tremendous tolerance for alcohol. I can drink voluminous amounts without effect. On occasion I’ve gotten totally plastered, but those times, like my interactions with my drunken stepfather, are for other stories. The same was true with weed. It usually had little effect on me, although I’d toke at a party to be sociable. As marijuana becomes legal I return to a statement I first made forty years ago and still believe: If you’ve never smoked weed at twenty years old, you are either a complete goody two-shoes or you don’t have many friends. However, if you’re still smoking regularly at twenty-eight, you have a major problem. Now I have to turn to hard drugs and hallucinogens. Many people I knew in 1967 and 1968 spoke glowingly of the wonders of cocaine, LSD, and mushrooms. As I alluded to, any foray I might have had into heavy drug usage ended on that summer night in 1967, when I was eaten by a huge python. I was working as a lifeguard on Coney Island Beach, and my girlfriend had gone with her parents on a trip to Canada. After my early evening shift, I went with some of my coworkers to a party on the upper west side of Manhattan. I drove four in my car, an old Buick Skylark, and five other fellows followed in another car. We then paid ten bucks each, a hefty sum at the time, to get into an apartment just off Broadway at Seventy-Eighth Street. We entered to psychedelic lights, hot music, tons of people, and the sweet smell of magic everywhere. The others went off to find available girls, but being the loyal boyfriend that I was, I took a seat and began to drink, listening to the music. First I had two beers, then two more as the evening wore on, and then progressed to a vodka punch. I was already feeling pretty good when the first joint was passed to me. “Hey man, you want a toke?” the fellow next to me on the couch asked. Now even though I didn’t smoke cigarettes, an occasional toke or two wasn’t bad, and in fact, sometimes felt even necessary. “Sure, man,” I told him as I took the number. One long toke became two and then three. As I said before, weed usually had little effect on me, and I’d only smoke dope to be sociable, but that night, mixed with the vodka punch, it was doing what it was supposed to do. “Try one of these, they’re dynamite,” my new friend next to me said while passing me a shiny red pill. I usually would have turned him down, but instead, I took it quickly and washed it down with the remainder of the vodka. The weed and the booze and whatever was in that pill put me in a wonderful place—that beautiful kind of high when you’re inside yourself but still in control. The music was by some obscure band on an album I had never heard, but it sounded like it was being sung directly to me. Still, I was in control, and I looked at my watch. It was past 2 a.m. and I needed to be on the beach by 7 a.m. One of my pals was on the next couch with a girl he’d picked up. “Hey Constantine—It’s getting late, we have to go.” “I’m not leaving my lady love here,” he cooed as he kissed the sweet young curly-haired girl in a print dress sitting on his lap. She looked to be about seventeen and he suddenly asked her, “What’s your name, babe?” “Denise,” she cooed back. “I have to go,” I told him. “Then go,” he said. “We’ll all squeeze into Chooch’s car. Just go.” Now even with the stupidity of being nineteen years old, I knew it was dangerous to drive back to Brooklyn in the condition I was in. However, I told myself foolishly, “I really didn’t have that much,” and I found my car easily out on Broadway, definitely a good sign. Then I tested myself and walked along one of the cracks on the sidewalk both forwards and backwards like a tightrope. I said the alphabet to myself backwards and forwards. Satisfied that I was probably all right, I jumped in the car and took off. I entered the old West Side Highway at Seventy-Second Street. For someone really wasted, the old highway was a challenge: It was curvy and covered with cobblestones that were killers when they got wet. But I had no problem. I sailed down the highway, totally in control. Warm night, windows open, wind blowing in my long, bushy hair, and singing “Stoned Soul Picnic” to the empty car. When I reached the entrance to the Battery Tunnel back to Brooklyn though, I stopped dead. The red lights marking the tunnel entrance had turned into large, fiery red eyes, and the tunnel itself was transformed into a huge snake: one with big teeth and a foamy mouth, just waiting to devour me. The red brick roadway inside the tunnel became a flicking red-forked tongue, beckoning me in. “This is crazy,” I said to myself, “that’s just the fricking tunnel.” Yet I was too panic-stricken to take my foot off the brake and put it on the accelerator. I sat there, staring at the snake’s fiery red eyes and humongous fangs. No other cars came by. How long I sat there I have no idea, but quite suddenly, a police car drove up next to me. The cop yelled over to my car, “Hey, are you alright?” The sight of the police sent an adrenaline rush through my body and I partially sobered up in a hurry. I looked over at the police car and hesitantly told him, “I’m just lost.” My mind was racing. I could smell the vodka mixed with beer coming off of my body, and my pupils must have been gigantic. If the cop got out and came over I would have been cooked. Luckily, he stayed in his car and yelled over to me, in the polite way of New York policemen, “Well, you can’t stay here buddy, and you can’t turn around—so get on through the tunnel!” What could I do? I entered the snake’s mouth. I drove through the whole length of the tunnel shaking and quivering, just waiting for the teeth to hit me. My body didn’t ease up and I didn’t calm down until the snake ejected me safely out of the far end of the tunnel. Along with the sudden safety of Brooklyn, any great desire for more drugs was left forever inside the giant python’s belly.