The Westminster Dog Show is a hellscape packed to the gills with Midwesterners and dogs who receive more attention and have better lives than at least 40 percent of the world. The amount of misplaced love and resources funneled into these pooches on a daily basis is enough to make a stone-cold sober person uneasy. But yesterday I discovered that being thrust into the middle of the whole ordeal, while tripping acid, is a great way to kill an afternoon.
We started the day at our subject's apartment. This is Brayden, and this was his first time taking acid, which I didn't realize until a few days after he agreed to participate.
After about 30 minutes of sitting around on his roof, Brayden said he was "starting to feel a little weird." He looked up at the "little black mountain" that surrounds his building's staircase and said he wanted to climb it. We advised Brayden against climbing on a structure with nothing to prevent him from leaping 40 feet onto the pavement below, but he said, "Don't worry, I do this all the time" and then literally sprinted up the incline. When he reached the top he started grinning like an idiot and repeating that line from that crappy movie about being a golden god. Eventually I managed to coax him down and we headed to Madison Square Garden.
This was the first dog owner we spotted after getting out of the car. Brayden was hesitant to approach her because she was surrounded by an angry mob of other old people holding animals and screaming something about Mitt Romney. Unwilling to take "no" as an answer from a person tripping on LSD, I pushed him into her and she continued going on about what an asshole Mitt Romney is. Not because of his record at Bain or any of the policies he's proposed, but because one time he strapped his dog to the roof of his car and drove it from Massachusetts to Ontario or something.
As everyone knows, when you're tripping there are good-vibe-givers and bad-vibe-givers. This person dressed up as a dog sent Brayden his first wave of anxiety. He kept saying, "I really don't like that dog," and, "I can see through its nose that there's a mean Asian lady in there."
We walked through the press entrance into an empty hallway with an out-of-use turnstile pointed at the wall. Brayden thought this was absolutely hilarious and kept strolling through it and smooshing his face up to the cinderblock wall, before laughing hysterically and doing the whole routine all over again.
Finally, we made it out onto the main floor and found these people, who were probably the most awesome couple we talked to all day. When Brayden asked the guy who he was "rooting for," he rolled his eyes and said, "the difference between a dog and a cat show is that at a cat show the women are really heavy." The non-sequitur really cracked Brayden up.
On the main floor, most of the really interesting people were busy prancing their dogs up and down AstroTurf, so we made our way backstage.
On the way there we ran into these two. Whatever negative energy the Asian dog lady had put into Brayden was immediately erased by this pair. They somehow shot a telepathic dose of dopamine straight into Brayden's brain. He loved them and wanted to be near them. When we left the lady on the right gave him a stick of gum, and I think he kept it in his mouth for the rest of the day as a reminder of his cosmic interlocutors.
When I asked him what was so great about them he said, "They were warm and glowing. Didn't you feel that? I liked how they were bigger and snuggly, like two teddy bears that give you gum."
The breeders pit backstage at the Westminster Dog Show reminded me of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti before they were thrown out. The only things missing were a few dumb angry signs. If you had thrown that lady with the placard about Mitt's mutts or whatever in the middle of this place the scene would have been identical.
The first person we talked to was this guy. You know how some people on acid think animals, like, know, and feel some sort of weird connection with him or her? This guy was telling Brayden about how he made his dog look like that or whatever breeders shoot the shit about, but Brayden wasn't really paying attention. He was in The Zone, mind-melding with the guy's dog. After the interview, Brayden said he felt really confused.
Moving through the backstage area was a lot like being caught in a riptide. The crowd moves as one, and if you try to turn around or stop you cause an instant fender bender with the person behind you. Brayden spotted this woman who had sectioned herself off from the herd in an attempt to catch a nap, and instantly jumped out of the stream and stuck his microphone in her face and said, "Are you having fun?" She snapped to life like he hit her with a defibrillator and said, "Yes! We won! We're very excited!" She looked sort of confused, which I think confused Brayden, so we just jumped back into the stream and moved along.
Brayden has never owned a dog in his life, but for some reason he really wanted this free dog food they were giving out. He waited in line for about ten minutes for a tiny pouch. Then, without any forewarning, he popped a kernel in his mouth. He said it was disgusting and spit it out, but it all happened so quickly that I didn't get a chance to take a photo. So I made him eat another one.
If you can judge taste by facial expression, it was this bad.
Next, Brayden spotted this girl from across the room. He said he wanted to tell her, "Out of all the bitches here, you're the prettiest," but he ended up just telling her that she was the prettiest girl at the dog show. Which was true by a long shot.
On our way back out to the ring, Brayden got stuck in front of the escalator. Staring at the conveyer belt of faces provided by a moving staircase while tripping on acid could easily occupy the better part of one's day. When we pulled him away he said, "I just wanted to touch everyone's faces. They all looked so weird."
Back inside, the Junior portion of the competition was just finishing up. I don't want to say that this lady kidnaps Dalmatian puppies to murder them and make them into fur coats, but everything about her reminded me of Cruella de Vil. She was the judge, which, from what I could tell, meant she walked back and forth in front of the dogs while their owners molested their stubby tails to make them stand up straight.
As the line of dogs moved forward, instead of just pulling their leashes and making the dogs walk a couple of steps forward, the owners did something weird. As the lady in the middle is demonstrating, the standard way to pick up and move one's animal at Westminster is to place one hand on its vagina or penner and the other on the collar.
By this point Brayden was pretty much brain-dead, so he sat by himself in the crowd and took pictures of the ceiling.
This is one of those photos.
After everyone cleared off the AstroTurf, Brayden made a beeline for the podium. He stood there and talked about his day to our camera guy, who was standing a good 20 yards away for about ten minutes. When no one kicked us out for that blatant breach of dog show etiquette, we figured we'd tried our luck enough and went home to our dark, dogless apartments.
We videotaped Brayden's acid-influenced experience at Westminster, and you'll be able to watch it (on or off acid, it's your choice) sometime soon on VICE.com. Also, we published a selection of the photos Brayden took while tripping balls, which you can find right here.