How RU Sirius Slipped into Another Dimension
by RU Sirius
(Interviewed by Frank Shook)
FRANK SHOOK: On his blog, my ghost-writer Rudy Rucker mentioned that “RU is slightly worried these days, he thinks he may have wandered into a parallel universe, further down the binary tree than the node where he was born.”
RU: Yes. Well, one day in the mid-1990s I was informed that the social security number that I’d been using all my life was wrong and that the correct number was (xxx-xx-xxxx). Now, this seemed impossible since I’d gone to college, been employed (rarely), and been issued social security cards under the previous number.
Since the SS can never be wrong, I can only conclude that I slipped into another dimension where everything is the same as it was before except my social security number has changed. Maybe it happened during a particularly interesting LSD trip.
I do remember one strong dose trip with three friends in the woods. As we walked back to the car in the late morning after a most interesting night, we all had the same uncanny feeling that we were like characters in a Dick novel and that he had just switched realities on us. Truly, we actually shared these thoughts and feelings in just those terms.
We were reassured when we got in the car and found our way back to Mill Valley and nothing in that quaint little upscale village appeared to have changed. But it was just about lunchtime, so we stopped at this great little quickie burrito spot. We walked in and the guy in front of us on line was naked! We tittered but we were also seriously frightened that it could be true – we really had slipped into a different reality. The guy behind the counter just shrugged and said, “He does that all the time.” I’d never seen him before and I haven’t seen him since.
I’m really open to the idea that there are other dimensions where I am living other lives – slightly different ones and radically different ones. I hope that in some other dimensions, one of my rock bands was really successful and I got to express myself in that way and be an overindulged rock star. Even though I’m sure I must have died young and left a funny-looking corpse, I find the thought reassuring.
I also frequently get the sense that this entire universe is a simulacrum to some other-dimensional or higher-dimensional intelligences. We are the Second Life.
FRANK SHOOK: So what happens when your ss#, which is really your core identifier in America, suddenly changes.
RU: Weirdly, there were no real consequences for years. I got a new card. I went to my bank, showed them my card and said, “Whoops, wrong planet.” I submitted my taxes under the new number and nothing happened.
But a few months ago, I was invited to speak in Amsterdam with Rudy Rucker. My passport was expired but I didn’t think much about if for a couple of weeks. With almost two months left before it was time for me to go, I decided I better get around to dealing with the renewal. I got the form and put it aside for another couple of days – no worries. Then I sat down one morning and started filling it out and there it was – a space for filling in my Social Security number. And it all came back to me. Oh fuck!
Anyway, I did eventually get my passport just in time to join Rudy in Amsterdam. I suffered from a bureaucratic nightmare, but the nightmare was related to my inability to ever communicate with a reasonable and empowered human being associated with the passport office. I received my passport without comment.
For a while, I imagined being a prisoner of America. In the 1980s, my friend Timothy Leary wrote, “America is a minimum security prison and the Soviet Union is a maximum security prison. How can you tell the difference? If you can’t get out, you know you’re in maximum.”
FRANK SHOOK: How many women have you fucked?
RU: Can you ever really tell for sure? Was it me doing the fucking, and were they actually women? My seed has been aborted many times. John Perry Barlow took great delight in telling Randall Terry, from Operation Rescue, all about it when we were all in the green room getting ready to be interviewed by Chris Matthews for a late night talk show called “NBC Night Focus” back in 1992. Rudy was there too. Incidentally, Terry – like me – spent his adolescence in Binghamton New York. And part of his story is that he took acid in high school. A friend of mine distributed most of the acid in Binghamton in the mid-70s when Terry was in High School. So I feel some vague quantum contagion might be afoot here between Terry and myself.
FRANK SHOOK: Really?
RU: No. In “Cyberia”, Doug Rushkoff writes about my former girlfriend from the ‘90s having an abortion on acid. How’s that for weird?
Anyway, how many chicks did I fuck? That’s a pretty Howard Stern sorta question. I like that. Enough of this highfalutin’ SF talk… let’s get down to the bare bones… didja fuck ‘er? So I took your question seriously and I did a… errr… head count… and I think it’s only 26. I’m kind of embarrassed, but then again -- half of them were in one night. One of the last two sentences is false.
FRANK SHOOK: You have a reputation as a wild freak but Rudy reports from Amsterdam that you’re pretty mellow these days. Say it ain’t so.
RU: I’m practically straight now. Then again, maybe I’m just contrarian. Rudy was worried that he sort of felt like getting high in Amsterdam. I was worried that I didn’t feel like getting high. Dali said, “I don’t take drugs. I am drugs.” Snort me while I’m still alive folks.
FRANK SHOOK: What’s the strongest drug you ever took?
RU: I had a belladonna overdose when I was 15. When I’m feeling mystical, I start to think that I journeyed to a rare underworld and it was some sort of shamanic initiation. I emerged as a zeitgeist savant with a few neural circuits directly hooked into the dark matter of the universe. I’m intimate with emptiness in a very profound and scary sense -- I’ll say that. But I have the decency not to impose it on anyone else.
I’ve talked about the belladonna experience before though. I’ve talked less about an experience I had on a strong dose of dextromethorphan (Robo). I experienced what disembodied infinity would be like. Imagine saying to yourself, “This will never end”, and knowing it will never end. Disembodied infinity is the most horrifying idea a human being can come up with.
FRANK SHOOK: Do you want to color everything purple?
RU: Paint It Purple? Black not good enough for ya? In the mid- ‘70s, a friend of mine was going to have himself made a pink leather jacket with “FLOWER POWER” on it. It was ironic. He was into violent revolution, but he was also into glam rock and confounding people. Does anybody remember the days when people thought that Ulrike Meinhoff was sort of glamorous… and Brian Eno was glamorous?
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pink leather jacket. I’d like one.
FRANK SHOOK: Why is Tuesday?
RU: Hmmmm. I’m all for linear time in the sense that I want people to show up for my podcasts on time. Neat compartments of time are neat! I always watch my watch.
FRANK SHOOK: I have a hole in the dimensions for you right outside. See out the window? The shape like a saucer? You won’t need a passport. All we’ll want is some sperm. We can take you to any world you like. Got any special requests?
RU: Take me anywhere that young techno-pinheads don’t prefer dreary factoids to outrageously self-indulgent imagination and make it snappy!
FRANK SHOOK: Fine, but — you know — I’d still like to hear about the belladonna. C’mon.
RU: It was early in the summer of 1968. Myself and my friends had heard stories about people taking this drug, Asthamador, that you could buy in the drug store that contained belladonna. Someone described spending the entire night picking bugs off of his skin. Nothing speaks to the weird reality of being fifteen than this fact – we all agreed that this sounded really cool! We decided to get some of this belladonna and take it that Saturday night for the Ronnie Dio (yes, that Ronnie Dio) and the Electric Elves show downtown. Dio was our biggest local star.
The day of the show, bottle of asthmador in my hand, we walked down to the neighborhood store and bought drinks to wash down the medicine. I bought a Coke, and I can’t remember what the other guys bought, but the Coke would turn out to be important. We went into the alley behind the store where teens sometimes would hang out and smoke cigarettes. Finding it empty, we prepared to take our medicine. None of us really knew anything about dosage, so we just went with what we had, a tablespoon that my friend Dave Waffle had grabbed out of his kitchen. I went first. I gulped down the tablespoon of asthmador, washing it down with the Coke. You do not know the meaning of the word bitter unless you’ve done this. It was like swallowing Satan’s fetid bowels, which should have given me a clue as to the kind of experience that was to follow. I vomited some of it, but still managed to keep most of it down. After watching me, the rest of the gang decided to take only half a tablespoon. I learned an invaluable lesson in drug experimentation that would stay with me for life: never go first.
Once we’d swallowed our poison, we decided to go back into the store for some snacks to wash away the taste. Things seemed pretty normal and I picked out a package of chocolate Hostess cupcakes that used to be so popular – the ones with the white squiggles down the middle. I reached out to grab it off the shelf, but the cupcakes jumped away, eluding my grasp. The little white squiggles had turned into eyes, nose and mouth. The cupcakes laughed at me.
Somehow I made it out of the store. I can remember walking for maybe two blocks, carrying my sneakers. At some point I just winked out. Even today, I still have some sense, or recollection, of what my hallucinations were like – I experienced a flash of recognition a couple of years later. When I saw Munch’s The Scream, it resonated – not just the face and the distortion but the sense that one is surrounded by some unfathomably horrific presence that probably hides an infinity of other unfathomably horrific presences both within and beyond it, endlessly layered. I also remember seeing my father sitting in a chair and smoking his pipe, disappearing slowly from his feet to his head while asking me what was wrong. Two cops found me staggering down Main Street, eyes without irises – just big pools of black. I writhed and struggled and screamed and vomited as the officers tried to restrain me. One cop wanted to take me to jail, but the other one recognized the need to rush me to the hospital and he prevailed.
I entered Binghamton General Hospital wrapped up in a straightjacket and was immediately given a shot of morphine. Once they got me to stop flailing, they were able to find my wallet. They pulled it out to see who I was. In those far less paranoid times, teenagers didn’t necessarily carry ID cards. But my friend Vinny had found these sort-of IDs that had a space on them to write your name and address and phone number and we’d had some fun one night writing the names of our heroes, or of odd characters, onto the cards and sticking them in our wallets. I had two cards on which I had written two different names. Since the admission authorities knew I wasn’t Ho Chi Minh, they figured the other ID must be the correct one. I was admitted as Frank Zappa.
It took a few hours for the doctors to make their diagnosis – atropine poisoning potentiated by Coca Cola (which apparently potentiates the atropine several times over). Meanwhile, the rest of the gang made it to the Ronnie Dio show, but Dave Waffle never got to see the big finale. At some point in the show, he hallucinated that he was back home but that the song on the radio really sucked. Irritated, he walked to the radio and started twisting the dial which, unfortunately, was some girl’s knee (okay, it could have been worse.) He was dragged out of the hall and thrown into the street. Fortunately, an older friend of his brothers saw that Waffle was out of control and decided to drive him home. Once home, Waffle managed to make it up to his own house, but he went into his mother’s bedroom and started taking off his clothes. She screamed at him but he thought it was another friend, “Frog”, yelling at him to open up the window to talk. Waffle leaned out the window holding a conversation with the imaginary “Frog” while his mom called an ambulance.
The arrival of the ambulance got the attention of my parents. Gloria shouted something about an LSD overdose and as Waffle was rushed to the emergency room, my father thought to call and check regarding any other LSD overdoses. A nurse checked. “No. No LSD overdoses,” a nurse reported. A few hours later, when it was well past curfew and I still hadn’t returned home, my father called again and the dots were connected. Frank Zappa, who was in the emergency room after having his stomach pumped, had little chance of survival.
I woke up 36 hours later, looked up at the ceiling, noticed the blurry versions of my brothers who were standing by the side of the bed. I asked them why they’d taken down the poster of Stokely Carmichael that I kept on my ceiling. A cheer went up and one of them rushed into the waiting room to tell my mom and dad that I was still alive.
I remained in the hospital for about a week. (Those were the days, huh?) And while my first hallucinatory trip had not produced much insight, I quickly learned that, throughout my coma, I had been waited on and mourned by crowds of crying teenage girls, some of whom had to be forced out of the waiting room when visiting hours were over. So I did learn that girls liked me – although I was still too goofy to take full advantage of the situation.
And was I full of contrition? Were we contrite? No, we were incorrigible. Vinny showed up at the hospital and left behind a cake that had some weak and improperly prepared marijuana baked into it. It was inactive, but hey, it’s the thought that counts. And when Mark Perone, my 14-year-old hoodlum rock guitarist neighbor left me a pack of firecrackers, I got a hold of some matches, opened the bathroom window and, lighting them one at a time, tossed them outside, until a nurse finally came running in. Exasperated, she asked me why I wanted to make more trouble. “I didn’t,” I told her. “I just didn’t want the firecrackers to go to waste. I guess I just wasn’t thinking.”
FRANK SHOOK: All right! Let's go there again and get it right. Just follow me around this tricky bit here...
About the Author
RU Sirius was born to a French whore named Babette in 19th Century France. He currently does a vast array of media projects that are all conglomerated at the MondoGlobo Network. His most recent book, True Mutations: Interviews on the Edge of Science, Technology & Consciousness includes interviews with Cory Doctorow, D.J. Spooky, Howard Bloom, Lynn Hershman, Genesis P. Orridge, Steven Johnson and other edge runners. He lives quietly these days in Mill Valley with his wife Eve and his cat Princess.
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