It was a strange feeling last Saturday night, and not just because of the window pane, which I hadn't even seen since the early '80s, let alone dropped. But then doctors always do get the best drugs.
And it wasn't simply because I was dosing (just half a hit at my age) with a candidate for president of the United States. You get over things like celebrity when you're a pro. After hanging out with Hunter Thompson in New York in the late 90s, it would take a lot to throw me off my game.
No, it was the things Ben Carson was saying while we sat in his basement rec room, shadows cavorting in our eyes from the dancing candles he placed strategically, like the acid veteran he seems to be. It was that I felt like I'd heard these words before, heard them all my life. They were simultaneously comforting and disturbing.
I don't recommend conducting interviews on LSD, but it's a good way to get your subjects to open up.
Doc, I know this West Point thing has got you a little weirded out. But, aside from the semantics of the whole thing, what turned you off to the idea?
"Can't find war nowhere at all. See nothing but sunshine all around."
Yeah. This is good stuff.
"Evil man make me kill ya, evil man make you kill me, evil man make me kill you," he said softly, as is his way.
Makes sense. You do come across as a pretty peaceful cat, but I can't help thinking there's something underneath the surface of this rapture vibe you put down. Besides your attempt to stab Bob when you were a kid, I heard you had an even more violent episode in your youth. I heard you shot your lady down.1
"Yes, I did. I shot her. You know I caught my old lady messin' 'round town."
That ain't too cool. Anyway, what's the deal with Trump, man? How is it running against him, the two of you up in the clouds above the rest?
"Sometimes it's not so easy, baby, especially when your only friend talks, sees, looks and feels like you, and you do just the same as him," he said.
Trump's your only friend? What about Bob? Besides, he doesn't look like you, Doc, I said. Or talk like you. And you guys don't really do a lot of things the same way.
Carson just smiled. Not sure he heard me. He had the stereo up pretty loud.
As I said, you're a pretty mellow guy for someone in this kind of whirlwind. Almost beatific. Is it the drugs?
"Lord, I feel the ocean swaying me, washing away all my pain. See where I used to be wounded? Remember the scars? Now you can't see a thing. And I don't feel no pain, oh no."
Gotcha. You have some higher power working inside you, don't you?
"Well, I'm bold, bold as love," he said. "I'm bold as love. Just ask the Axis. He knows everything."
Is he here? Is that the guy upstairs?
The doctor offered me some tea. Tea is so great when you're tripping. He knows.
So, dude. Why do this? What led you to this place? I asked. He began to look all around him, at his basement party room, as if he didn't understand the question.
No, ha -- no, man. Not here, literally. I mean the run for office.
"A little boy inside a dream just the other day. His mind fell out of his face and the wind blew it away."
Oh boy. Ben Carson must be peaking.
"A hand came out from Heaven and pinned a badge on his chest. It said, `Get out there man and do your best."
OK, it's the Messianic thing. Obviously it's working for you. How about Carly, by the way? If you weren't running, would you dig her message?
"Well, she's walking through the clouds -- with a circus mind that's running wild," he said. I could feel the warmth of the tea course through even the tiniest of my capillaries. "Butterflies and zebras and moonbeams, and fairy tales. That's all she ever thinks about."
She does seem a little out there, you're right. So, hey, you're a man of science. Climate change is a thing, right?
"I have lived here before -- the days of ice -- and of course this is why I'm so concerned. And I come back to find the stars misplaced and the smell of a world that is burned. A smell of a world that is burned. Yeah well, maybe, hmm... Maybe it's just a... change of climate."
Carson shrugged his shoulders and raised his eyebrows as if to say, "See?" But I got lost in his eyes. It was like each contained its own universe. It reminded me of that scene in 'Animal House,' when Pinto thought the same thing about his fingernail, and Donald Sutherland played along.
You think Clinton is worried about Sanders? She pretty much choked in 2008. Could it happen again?
"Anger, he smiles, towering in shiny metallic purple armour," Carson said with a giggle. "Queen jealousy, envy waits behind him. Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground."
I knew it.
What's the hardest thing about campaigning for president?
"Every day in the week I'm in a different city," he said, pouring the rest of his tea over his chest and rubbing it in lightly. "If I stay too long people try to pull me down."
You're talking about South Carolina, aren't you?
"Hey, and that's why you can't hold me down. I don't want to be down -- I gotta move on."
Yeah, you're better off in North Carolina for now.
(Read My Lips is a column dedicated to the proposition that men and women in a position of power, or the pursuit of it, will say or do things for which they will be sorry. In this case, Carson said none of this. Jimi Hendrix did.)