San Diego Comic Con has a no-smoking policy. But not, as yet, a no-shrooms policy.
Joseph Kyle Schmidt writes,
People plan their entire year around the act of crawling out of a cat's butthole. For Anwar Newton, being a piece of human catshit was just too much. But that just might be the shrooms talking.
Newton is a Phoenix resident, an aspiring stand-up comedian, and a pop-culture junky. You might have heard of him recently as the man who took psychedelic mushrooms at San Diego Comic-Con and texted (many, strange, accurate) observations to his girlfriend and then posting them online.
The response was overwhelming for the fledgling jokester, and at the time of publication the original images have received over 300,000 hits in just two days and countless reblogs.
I've met Newton before—a couple months ago at a tUnE-yArDs concert in downtown Phoenix—through a mutual friend, a guy named Portillo. Portillo is mentioned a few times in the texts and accompanied Newton to San Diego, acting as his (comparatively) sober companion and "spiritual sherpa."
We were supposed to get drinks together this night, but Portillo never returned my texts. His excuse is valid, in my book. Though I now regret not meeting up with them sooner.
Newton has gone viral with these texts but aside from the humorous musings or asinine comparisons, he also has some apt observations about the pervasive selfishness inherent to convention dwellers. I caught up with him to chat about his newfound fame, his penchant for hallucinogens, and what he really thinks about waiting in line for a t-shirt with poop on it. Most importantly, I just had to make sense of what he saw.
Bleeding Cool (Joseph Kyle Schmidt): Why am I talking to you right now?
Anwar Newton: This past weekend, the nation suffered the annual rise of San Diego Comic-Con. I went there to take shrooms and see how awful it could be. It's been on my bucket list for the last three years. I'm a big comic book fan, a big anime fan, and I'm a pen-and-pencil artist. I wanted to experience the hoopla. Over the last year, I've started doing more stand-up comedy and I figured if I took shrooms one of the days I'd get something funny for my act.
BC: What did you do?
Newton: On Saturday, I wanted to run into people who I couldn't discern, who weren't just regular people dressed up. I wanted to think they were actually the people they dressed up as. I originally thought I didn't have enough to get a good trip—I've done it before, and I know levels of it. I took just about an eighth. I got them through a different person, so they were stronger than what I was getting before. I ate it on an empty stomach. I immediately started tripping out within 20 minutes, which is a lot quicker than I was used to. Usually it takes me an hour to "get there."
BC: Was this your first time taking them alone?
Newton: This was the first time taking mushrooms and going outside and being around, really, way too many people. I started freaking out. Every time I've done them, I can't really understand what people are saying. They literally sound like they're speaking a different language. While I was walking around, and all these people just talking in these noises, I felt I was Professor X in Cerebro. Like, I'm hearing all of these poor, young children with mutant powers just trying to get their voices heard, and I was freaking out. But… this isn't the first time I've done drugs. It's probably the first time I've done a drug that I could get fired from my dayjob for. Wait for that to happen.
BC: It's not like your identity is out there, though. Your name isn't on there.
Newton: No, but someone found my Facebook and linked to it. People started friending me, I got random friend requests. Ultimately I want to be known for it, I guess. Comedically, what I put into it, I tried to be as funny as possible in describing what I was seeing. But I don't think I'm big enough to get away with it. Where will this go? Ride the wave.
BC: What was your plan?
Newton: I was completely unprepared for what I was getting into. Day 1, I ended up waiting in line for 4 hours and I was done with that. This seems like the entire experience, waiting in line. I'm too stupid to realize like, duh, there's 20 thousand-million people showing up for this, and there's celebrities. Of course you're waiting in line, dummy. Saturday I was like, forget this, I'm going to the convention floor just blasted out of my mind on shrooms. Originally I wanted Portillo to record everything, then maybe we could have a funny video of some guy doing shrooms at Comic-Con. But I took a lot less shrooms to the con than I thought I would. We kind of abandoned it. At that point I didn't care, I wanted to do shrooms for myself and maybe get a few laughs from my friends. But I didn't even make it to the convention center. We got so distracted by the crap happening around the Con that I was just tripping out there. We made it to the Walking Dead PetCo Park thing and the Adult Swim Fun House. This is enough! I had had enough of everything, of the overwhelming chaos that I was dealing with at that point. And with the knowledge of how stressful it is to see anything of note… And then, the tangent of walking through a pro-Palestinian protest next to the con, I was just upset with humanity at that point.
BC: That brings up one of my next points. I wanted to ask, what was up with the whole thing with Palestine? I didn't see the rally you were talking about.
Newton: On Friday, we left the Con after getting some swag from a panel we waited forever to get to. Me and Portillo were done. We're done. Let's get away from people. Let's go back to being fake adults. We started making our way to the street toward the busses. We see people yelling, we thought it was a con thing, but it was a real Palestinian support protest going on. We got there and I'm waiting at the light. One light changes, and it changes again, and the people in front of us just stand there. We were a part of this protest for, like, a minute. That was what was fresh on my mind on Saturday.
BC: When did you start texting your girlfriend?
Newton: The first text went out about 3:30 pm. That was over two-and-a-half hours of typing that out. I was finally at the height, and I was like, I am done with everything.
BC: So you took them in the afternoon?
Newton: I took them about noonish, and the trip hit crescendo around 3 through 6.
BC: That's a good trip, that long.
Newton: I started to come down right before it was our ticket time for the Adult Swim Fun House. [Note: This is where you crawl out of the cat's butthole. Of course it's something from Adult Swim.] Everything I planned went to shit. None of this was planned on my end, on any level, that actually got notoriety. I didn't get the video recorded, I didn't get to wander the con floor with the costumes, I didn't even get to the fun house as a consolation while tripping out. My texts were the only thing that were, "Oh, this is kind of funny," when I looked at it the next day.
BC: What caused you to say "I don't know what the fuck I was thinking," and what caused the grown woman crying?
Newton: That came directly after standing in line to get registered for the fun house. I'm standing in line, I'm freaking out, I'm getting paranoid people are staring at my haircut, I've got this haircut… I put sunglasses on just to ignore everyone looking at me.
[At this point, Anwar starts talking quieter. He's hiding from a co-worker who happens to chance across him in the midst of this sordid tale. "My H.R. rep just walked by me. I'm hiding in this garden from getting fired. This is the weirdest thing I've ever done in my life." Back to the story…]
Newton: I get to the front of the line and I knew what I needed to do, I had to register at the computer. But I'm tripping out on all of the colors. I ignore what the helpers are saying, and I try to type in my name. It's taking longer than most people. They're doing it really fast, like bada bing bada boom. Link to Facebook. Get online. Get your ticket. I'm sitting there typing out my name, I can't understand, there are a bunch of colors on the screen. All of the sudden I can't even read what's on the computer. I'm so fucked up, I can't even understand written English at this point. I'm reluctant to turn to this girl behind me who is helping people in line. I do it anyway, and she has the look of someone who doesn't give a shit about the con. It's just a paycheck. I tug on this cape they probably made her wear against her will. She comes over, she takes a look, I don't understand anything she's saying. But it turns out it was in a foreign language! It was in French on the screen. And I'm so fucked up, that I'm looking at French thinking it should be English and I'm afraid that people are thinking I'm crazy because I can't read English. And that's how messed up I was at that point, and I was like, "this was a fucking mistake. What am I doing? Everyone knows I'm out of my mind right now."
BC: What did you do after you guys left the line for the fun house?
Newton: We ran into this weird drone exercise for the 24 booth. That started upsetting me because then I started making the connection with Palestine and actual warfare and why we're making a game out of flying fucking drones.
BC: What was going through your mind?
Newton: I'm thinking… We're out here, I've spent hundred dollars to come to Comic-Con, and here I am flying an actual drone that's killed schools of children in the Middle East. This is what I'm doing, this is what I've spent my money on. And I just got upset that that was happening. Anytime I thought of something, it was like 'the Gaza Strip,' 'Palestine,' argh. I said to Portillo, go fly the drone and crash it and yell "FREE PALESTINE!" And then do it again and yell "FREE ISRAEL" so people don't even know what you're supporting, that you're just bringing awareness to this bullshit. He ended up crashing the drone and not yelling anything, but I was proud of him for destroying something expensive. [Note: Portillo says he did crash the drone, but not for Palestinian solidarity. He just wanted to ruin some expensive shit.] At that point I was in line for the t-shirt. That's when everything else started coming out.
BC: The t-shirt with poop on it?
Newton: The poop shirt was me making it up, I guess. I didn't know what the t-shirts were. I just knew that you got a free t-shirt. At that point I was like, this is all that this is really about. Come look at someone famous, and get a fucking t-shirt. That's all I've done the whole time. I wasn't amazed by anything. I wanted to meet creators of certain shows and comic books. I ran into Frank Cho's booth, he wasn't there. I wanted to listen to Dan Harmon, I missed that standing in line. I realized, the whole thing is trying to see famous people and get a t-shirt. A t-shirt you can make on your own if you just had some ingenuity. I'm irate at that point. Another fucking line and another fucking t-shirt. This is Comic-Con. It's just a t-shirt of poop! Then I realized every time I looked up someone was staring at me. Asking me about the shitty Batman shirt I was wearing or my haircut. I didn't want that. So I just kept looking at my phone and would peak up from behind my sunglasses so I could report what atrocity I would see next. That's when the observations just started pouring in.
BC: I think I saw you mention that it's getting hard not to reply to people on the internet.
Newton: Overwhelmingly, there have been two sides of the coin. One side, this is funny. People at the con say, you definitely keyed in on what it's about. The other side… You know, things get lost in translation when you read it on the internet. You have this natural anger about you when you get on the internet, you want to get the fakeness out, you don't want people to be stupid. You know, that sort of weirdness you bring to the internet… The other side of the coin says, "This is definitely fake. You're a liar. You're a piece of shit. I hate your existence. You're a doofus. That's not how it is on shrooms. That's not how shrooms do." How do you fucking know how I dealt with it? You're such a wise guru on drug use that you know exactly what I was dealing with? Maybe I'm not so dumb that I can't type out responses. Maybe they hit me a little differently than they hit you. I can tell you on first hand account, I've hung out with people doing the same shit I'm doing, and it's worked on them in completely different ways… You can't really say it hits you the same way. That's a lie. You can't use your own personal experience as the universal experience everyone has with any sort of substance… People say 'good trip/bad trip,' but I've never experienced that dichotomy. It's always been a good trip to me.
BC: Back to Palestine (a phrase I never thought I'd say), you compared the struggle to "a bunch of oily kids" "suffering on an anatomical level" just for a t-shirt, and that they actually have a reason to live for. Do you still feel that way?
Newton: I just have more respect for anyone who goes to Comic-Con, really. While I'm talking shit about the selfish nature of the con, how ridiculous it is, I have nothing of respect for people who actually know how to con. Get in line at certain hours to get into panels on time, get the swag they want, camping out to get these collectibles. You guys are masters of a world I will never be able to be even slightly important in. It brings new meaning. People say, "oh they're nerds, they're geeks." No, these dudes are fucking LAND WARRIORS. I bet they could sit out in the Phoenix sun for 12 hours with nothing but a Hi-C Ecto Cooler and be fine. They've planned it all out, they know what they were doing. And we were just some fucking idiots. We did it all wrong. I don't even know what I was thinking with the Palestine comparison. I guess I was thinking, these kids are going through a lot for something that is meaningless to me. I don't have any religious alignment, so that was me being a fucking condescending asshole. That's all that was.
BC: Portillo is a good dude, funny and fun. But he's a weenie when it comes to drugs. What did he do?
Newton: He was my spiritual sherpa through all that. He was trying to keep me from killing myself, and I don't know if he could have stopped that at that point. He was hilarious. I wish I would have edited his name out, but he's taking it well now. We were on the same page as far as how we felt about the con. The lines, the swag. It wasn't what we expected, and we were both exhausted. He just kept along and pointed me to the most interesting shit. I was paranoid and at one point I begged him not to be upset with me, and he was just like "ok man, whatever."
BC: So, overall, you enjoyed yourself?
Newton: Oh yeah. I thought it was a blast. All of this coming up, I think it's great fun. I'm glad people are enjoying it. It was a good experience, really.
BC: What was your least favorite part?
Newton: The existentialist stuff… My least favorite part was that that was what I decided to do. I could have done the research and got some really cool stuff. But I was like, Oh I'm going to do drugs because I'm a moron and those are my life choices. But hey, the internet liked it. So, yeah.
Follow Joe and Anwar on twitter: @woeisjoe and @anwardinoczar, respectively. Tell us your drug experiences. Or yell at us for pushing such hedonistic values. Or muse about the history of boners. Whatever rocks your jolly, you know.