Lissen up, Albuquerque undercover:
I found Heisenberg, and he’s not dead. He’s not Walter White and he’s not even in New Mexico. He’s in Southfield, Michigan and he’s switched his drug dementias mid-season, from meth to absinthe. And also Chartreuse, single-malt scotch, Limoncello and ultra-premium gin.
And my Heisenberg is in it for the lolz and the buzz, not for the scrilla.
In fact, revenuers, cops and dudes with swastikas on their necks, take note: My Heisenberg distills only for personal consumption and for his occasional soirée—especially his annual, meticulously planned, four-day Thanksgiving extravaganza wherein he prepares exactly one million calories (no more, no less) for the huddled masses yearning to eat and drink free.
But like your Heisenberg, what this mad Michigan mastermind has set out to do is not only duplicate his favorite medicament, but to use his innate smarts and chemistry skills to make it better. Not just ‘better’, though. Ne plus ultra better: The best.
Guy Wicker is Heisenberg. Or At Least, He’s Heidelberg
Now, figure from the outset that any story purporting to unfurl a comprehensible portrait of this guy Guy will be long and filled with non sequiturs. I could write about him from now until it was time for the Easter Egg hunt and barely get beyond the starting blocks. Let it be said that this precocious mop-haired poindexter, who looks like the love child of Sideshow Bob and a fully-charged Van de Graaff generator, approaches himself, his world and his laboratory experiments with the utmost OCD seriousness.
So, far be it from me to draft his intent, subsequent successes and pre-dreadlock jewfro with any affectation less.
Take his center-stage altar. It’s in his living room, on his hearth, and the focus is upon a small carved wooden idol like Yolo, the one that Queequeg carried around in Moby Dick. It’s festooned with the sacrificial offerings of myrmidons who have passed through these peculiar portals: There are strange four-dollar bills with the Kokovoko god pictured the center; there is a fully-assembled Mr. Potato Head, a pompadoured Big Boy figurine, a golden ankh, a bunch of other tchotchkes. But prominent among the pagan presents is a red plastic chug jug filled with absinthe, and absinthe, it happens, is the Wicker elixir elect.
Not many stories about a guy like Guy—a guy who is a prospective bazillionaire once his half-price solar panel business finds seed capital—begin with a Keweenaw County teenager reading books on absinthe, but this one does. The son of a rock doc in one of the most isolated, but geologically complex counties in Michigan, Wicker developed an early obsession with moonshine via The Foxfire Books, and then became fascinated with absinthe—the high octane European booze that was, at the time, illegal in the United States.
It is at this point that Wicker informs me that during this phase of his life, he really didn’t like to drink—commercial, affordable, available booze made him physically sick. It was the do-it-yourself aspects of the distilling arts that intrigued him, and wasn’t until he studied refining techniques and learned the value in multiple-distillation and filtering that he realized that his aversion to drink was an aversion to the impurities in drink, not the ethanol. So passionately and convincingly does he now rail against the crude manufacturing practices used by cheap liquor producers that I’m not sure I’ll ever again drink another fifth of Five O’Clock vodka before noon.
‘The Full-On Thujone Experience’
Having thus divined the secrets of exotic, world-class tipple, Guy Wicker—like Walter White only without the cell growth in the lung tissue—sallied forth to make his drugs (in this case, his chugs), which meant distilling the purest moonshine that money can’t buy, then infusing it with great quantities of bulk Chinese herbs. With duct-tape, rubber hoses, empty keggers and a couple of sixty-gallon food-grade plastic barrels, Wicker jerry-rigged a basement still and began to churn out La Fée Verte (The Green Fairy ) like he was Rouge Vert (Red Green).
You and me would have screwed this up; take it to the bank—but we don’t have engineering degrees from Michigan Tech, do we? As ghetto as the operation looks, every annotated act, every calculated calorie, every yeoman’s weld is carefully considered, so that the ambrosia that finally trickles from the business end is really something wonderful. Part of Wicker’s purification process involves filtering the raw liquor through two stories worth of charcoal particles jammed inside a sixteen-foot PCV pipe followed by another distillation.
From that point, the botanicals take over.
The main active ingredient in absinthe is wormwood, and Wicker uses two pounds of it per batch; it serves the spirit both as a flavoring agent and a hallucinogen. Most sources, most makers and most absinthe aficionados will assure you that the drink’s psychotropic reputation is quite exaggerated, but our guy Guy swears by it. Of course, he may use more thujone-rich Artemisia absinthium than the FDA’s recommended daily allowance, but it is wise to note that before the commercial producers got in on the absinthe craze of the early 20th century, most of it—like the stuff that drove people like Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Wilde and Aleister Crowley bonkers—was made in a farmhouse without federal regulations.
Wicker swears that his concoction has the ability to produce peyote-like phantasmagoria in your external objective space so long as your body is suitably prepared. And by prepared, I mean, you have to beat the shit out of yourself, either through exhaustion, sweat-lodge-quality heat overdose and/or excessive alcohol consumption.
“Your physical state has to be sufficiently run down,” he says. “Otherwise, like a virus, you have a natural ability to fight it off. In a perfectly-tuned system, nothing will happen. In a weakened state, you will see ten-foot tall monsters with orange hair and fangs.”
He speaks with horrific nostalgia about one such experience during his million-calorie Thanksgiving a few years ago when a friend poured him a tumbler of absinthe, which he really didn’t want—but even less did he want to pour it back into the jug and risk contaminating the rest of the batch. So, he drank it.
“I saw things that I really would rather not see again,” he shudders. “Fortunately for the world, I spend most of the night in the bathroom hugging the toilet—a side effect of that much ethanol.”
A side effect of his non-hallucinating—if somewhat embalmed—analytical left brain is his rambling, self-possessed Southfield home; a mind-blowing trip all on its own. Although it’s about what you’d expect from a Tibetan Yak-haired, wife-free, offspring-free, middle-aged Einstein with the weird-science conceits of a twelve-year-old l’enfant terrible prodigy and the grown-up wherewithal to pull it all off.
Besides the sacrificial Yolo altar, the bookshelves are plastered with all the smart people technical epistles required in Wicker’s various random experimenting, and the walls are hung with bizarre, bloodthirsty paintings, many done by an Ann Arbor artist called κροκόδειλος of whom I know little beyond the fact that he once cast a resin Cthulhu so big he couldn’t get it out of his kitchen and that, according to Wicker, he has a crush on my oldest daughter.
But there are also a number of wholesome, mom ‘n’ pop-type oil paintings hanging about, classical works like Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Van Gogh’s Harvest at La Crau for which Wicker pays some starving Chinese artist forty bucks to forge. He seems somewhat surprised when I don’t quite ‘grasp’ that as genuine oils rather than modge-podge reproductions, owning these fake paintings is almost as good as owning the real thing. Likewise, there is a puzzled pause when I do not entirely grok his next front room makeover project which includes a six-foot silver-plated angel’s wing hanging from the ceiling.
Well and good, but actually, it’s not here, but out back in his ‘armory’ that things really go all jacko nuts; this is where Wicker’s loco star truly reaches its zenith. Inside, in the foreground, is a set of very expensive chrome apparati used in the manufacture of his cutting-edge solar panels, and in the background are the real cutting edges—swords, shields, clubs and suits of armor, everything handmade and used in the backyard gladiator tournaments he holds. And these are no child’s play tournaments, either—no Dungeons and Dragons this.
He claims, “I can tell the sound of bones breaking so distinctly that I don’t even have to look anymore.”
And for a sheer WTF?-fest, all this actually pales in comparison to his laboratory, which is next door and protected (poorly, I’m guessing) by a stern-looking sign reading, ‘Restricted Area: Authorized Personnel Only’.
Inside, Guy has an x-ray machine, every single element from the Periodic Table, including some I’m pretty sure he isn’t supposed to have, and most outrageously, a complete chemistry lab with all the bells and whistles—Erlenmeyer flasks, glass beakers, graduated cylinders, bunsen burners…
And, conspicuously arranged on the counter, in Baggies, is a quantity of some strange blue crystalline substance.
And that isn’t even the weirdest part. The weirdest part is that, although I have been steadily Cracking Bad—nothing but off-key Heisenberg jokes since I walked in, long before I saw the lab—Guy Wicker doesn’t even think the weirdest part is all that weird.
Now, I had to ask him, so I now know what the blue powder is. And it ain’t Blue Sky meth. But I don’t think I’m going to tell you what it really is because I like the idea of the whole Wacko Wicker Wonderland; I like the mysterious aura of uncertainty that hovers over the place like The Munster’s eerie microclimate.
And anyway, I’m afraid if I divulge too many of Guy Wicker’s secrets, I might seriously piss off Yolo, or at very least the Kokovokoan mafia , and we can’t have that.