Set and Setting

I recently remembered that I have a whole section on this blog titled ‘Tales Beyond the Statute of Limitations’, where I was hoping to recount all my past, ehhhmmm, extra-curricular activities. I’ve never actually posted anything there, that I remember. Frankly, my life has been rather on the dull side, and so that would not be an overflowing section of this blog. The question is, were I to do so, whether I would have the good sense not to incriminate myself. Or perhaps it is a sense of cowardice that keeps me from writing about my few adventurous moments in life. On the one hand, this blog is relatively anonymous, and on the other, that doesn’t really amount to much1. The question boils down to who would actually give a shit, but that is a tale for another time. Today, I want to discuss a stupid little crime, and why I wasn’t the one who committed it.

Back in 2015 I had a bit of spare time before starting a new job in China, so instead of taking a boring old airplane, I boarded the Hanjin Geneva, a cargo vessel, in Seattle. On the ship’s second stop in Vancouver, we picked up three other passengers, all three Canadian nationals. Over the course of the journey, being united by a common language and culture, we became friends of sorts. All three were interesting in different ways, but we are only going to focus on one of them for now.

Travel on a cargo ship is not exciting. It’s best left to those people who can entertain themselves. I based my time mostly with reading and studying, interrupted with long walks about the decks. On one such walk I ran into one of the other passengers (I have no idea what his name was. Let’s call him J), lounging on a chair by himself. After a slightly odd conversation he confessed to be pretty baked on LSD, and offered me some.

To be fair, the fact that we managed to have a conversation at all shows that his dose was likely very small.

In the seconds after he asked, I thought pretty deeply about the offer. ‘Set and Setting‘ is a good rule for LSD. I am pretty damn grateful I was aware of it when he made the offer. The basic idea is that if you should do a drug like LSD, you should be in the right mindset, and in the right place. Not doing so could only ever lead to some bad results. I was not in a good place in my head at the time, but all this is something that would be pretty boring to read about, despite being a very relevant factor. Setting, however, made no sense to me. We were about a day out of the Bering sea, which were some of the worst waters I have ever been in2, and while I wouldn’t call this particular trajectory dangerous, cargo ships have a baseline of danger that is slightly more elevated than regular everyday life. The crew made it clear to us that is you went into that fucking drink, you had three minutes to live. No one was ever known to make it out alive. While I am a seasoned drunk known to make it home regardless of what was consumed, I am not confident in my skill sat doing so when the actual world around me isn’t sitting still. There were a few pretty treacherous moments while we were at the Bering sea.

There was of course also the call of the void, which is a surprisingly strong force when you are in the middle of an ocean.

So, I said no to the LSD. But I thanked the guy. It could have been fun. But the risk didn’t seem worth it.

Maybe a week or two later we came to port in Tokyo. It turned out that the ship was going to be there long enough for us to go on shore and stretch our legs – or just barely. We would need to spend two hours in customs for two hours on shore. And there was no real way for us to make it downtown properly, so the best they could do is drop us off at a mall near the customs and immigration office. Still, after three weeks at sea it seemed worth it. So me and the Canadians decided to go stretch our legs, a journey that mostly entailed us being in a lot of offices and then eating very good Japanese fast food (it is 100% true, as a friend told me, that you cannot get bad food in Japan). There was enough time after the food for me and the Canadians to tramp around a bit, and the same LSD guy started asking around for a post office. We had a bit of time, so we took a walk till we found one.

After he finished at the post office, I inquired as to why he needed it. It was to mail the remaining tabs of acid to a friend of his in Korea.

A few days later we got Busan, South Korea, where I disembarked, once again with LSD guy and his girlfriend. There was obviously some nervousness in his girlfriend as we went through a pretty rigorous customs process where our bags were inspected rather thoroughly. Clearly, it wasn’t thorough enough, as LSD guy had smuggled something in. I decided not to inquire what it was. We had a pretty nice lunch together, where LSD guy tried to convince me that the real money was in Korea, not China were I was ultimately bound for, and that I should consider dropping my employment in China and just picking up a job with then in Seoul. To this day, part of me regrets not taking them up on it. It certainly would have been one hell of an adventure, and I could have learned a lot from them.

Clearly, when it comes to my actions cowardice is a factor. I don’t think admitting that is any kind of slight on myself. We all cognate risk in different ways. Once again, I think it boils down to set and setting. I think it can be applied more broadly than just LSD. I don’t think I will ever be in the mindset to be in a foreign country and mail a friend some acid. Setting fits in nicely, as I have some ideas of the consequences for breaking such laws in foreign countries. As someone who has been working in ESL as long as I have (sigh), having that on my record would permanently fuck me out of employment for the rest of my days. But it is sometimes a lot more fun to imagine a more courageous version of myself, who may have let himself go down a different trail.

1 ‘Relatively anonymous’ in that I haven’t, inshallah, used my real name on here. Nor do I advertise this blog all that much. I paid for WHOIS anonymity too, but I am sure someone smarter than myself could get around it. Thankfuly, I am buffered by additional anonymity from having a name that is as common as dirt. Good luck distinguishing me from all the other losers I share a name with.

Anyway, anyone who knows enough about me would look at this blog and piece things together from the info here. So yea, relatively anonymous.

2 I’ll go ahead and jerk myself off for a minute by saying that ‘Yes, I have traveled enough by sea to make this assessment.’

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