If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or you came within smelling distance of my apartment in the late 80’s, you know that I used to do a lot of drugs. Mostly I stuck to pot, because it was prevalent, relatively cheap, and no one was going to lose their shit if you got caught getting high on it. But that didn’t mean that I wasn’t up for experimenting with other drugs if I happened across them, the word “experimenting” in this case meaning “ingested immediately without regard for quantity, safety, or whether or not it would interfere with my rigorous schedule of going to class once every couple of months or so”. But there was one drug that made me pause: LSD.
I knew several people who dropped acid in high school, and when I say “in high school” I mean they were in my actual high school while they were tripping. Some of the classes were rather boring, I’ll give you that, but I don’t think any of them were going to be improved upon by introducing demonic bats shooting rainbows and death metal out of their eye sockets. To each his own, I guess.
A high school classmate of mine named Rich made the mistake of arriving at a Grateful Dead show already tripping, and promptly got quadruple dosed in the back of a van without even knowing what had happened. He rode out the rest of the afternoon locked in a car, ripping his clothes off, shrieking, and tearing at his hair. “That wasn’t very cool,” he acknowledged later. They say LSD gives you great insights, but I would’ve expected something a little more cosmic than “That wasn’t very cool.”
I was at a large house party once, and some guys were in the kitchen making Electric Kool Aid. The idea was that they were going to hand out these paper shot glasses, and everyone would trip and… I’m not sure they had a plan beyond that, actually, they just knew that it would be Fucking Awesome if everyone was tripping balls as hard as they were.
Which turned out to be a little too hard because they kind of lost steam after they’d made the pitcher. Some guy I didn’t know, but had seen slamming beers earlier came into the kitchen looking a little worse for wear. Spotting the pitcher of Kool Aid, he grabbed a pint glass, filled it to the top and slammed it before any of the tripping guys thought to say anything. I walked in just as he was finishing it up.
Drunk Guy: Oh, man, I needed that.
Tripper #1: Dude, you just took more acid than I’ve ever seen anyone take. Ever.
Drunk Guy: Huh?
Tripper #1: Dude, that Kool Aid is dosed! With acid!
Drunk Guy: Wait, what?
Tripper #2: Dude, I hope you don’t have plans for the next 16 hours or so because you are gonna be FUCKED UP!
This is when the drunk guy was hit with The Panic. His plans for the next 16 hours involved mundane things like driving home, sleeping in his parent’s house, and not dealing with intergalactic beings from Planet Xxxyzzyxyxxx. He ran into the bathroom with a salt shaker in an effort to toss up what he’d drunk, but it was too late. He was tripping heavily inside an hour, and when I saw him last, he was falling down a steep wooded hill, screaming his ass off as cops broke up the party in the house above.
So when I was offered the opportunity to try acid for the first time, I hesitated. I’d seen and heard some pretty fucked up things about acid, and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to try it. I mean, having trees sing to me, smelling sounds, listening to colors, all of that sounded really, really cool, but I didn’t know if it was cool enough to offset the possibility that I might decide to jam my hands inside a meat grinder for kicks.
What sold me was Walking Death. Walking Death was a guy who was also in his first semester freshman year, but he had been dropping acid for years and assured us that he would be our guide. We called him Walking Death, by the way, because he looked like he had one foot in the grave. He chain smoked Marlboro Reds incessantly, deep, lung-busting drags that went all the way down to the filter, he was pale, often unwashed, and also happened to know where to get all the good drugs; a fact that may have had something to do with his appearance, now that I think about it.
So we each got a blotter hit of acid and promptly tucked them in between our cheek and gums. Well, everyone else did. I started with half a hit, then 45 minutes later as everyone else started to talk about seeing things, I took the other half of a hit. As a result, I had a weird, extended rush that never felt like it peaked, and really, really freaked me out.
And it kicked in at the worst possible time. We were sitting in some guy’s living room, flinging darts all the way across the room at a dart board maybe 30 feet away. I had just noticed that the darts were leaving these ghostly green, smeared traces of themselves in the air, when I started hearing horrible, obscene noises from the kitchen. Grunts, shouts, slamming noises, dishes falling over.
Me: Holy fuck, dude, I think something’s wrong with my fucking brain! I’m hearing all this weird shit!
Walking Death: No, that’s really happening. They’re wrestling in the kitchen.
Me: Wrestling? In the kitchen? What? Man, I am freaking out!
Walking Death: Relax, relax, dude, you’re fine. You’re not hearing things. Here, have a look.
Looking at the wrestling match did nothing to settle me down, and we left to visit another of Walking Death’s friends, this one having just set up his bedroom with a whole bunch of mirrors and glow-in-the-dark stars, which he had affixed to every possible surface. “Check it out,” he said as he turned off the lights. I damn near threw myself out the window.
The only thing that seemed to help settle The Fear, it seemed, was walking. Lots and lots of walking. And since acid lasts for eight hours, that really did mean a lot of walking. I wrote about this before, so some of you may be familiar with the story, but around 2:00 AM I convinced myself that an imaginary rabbit had erased my memory by leaving paw-prints in the snow that I had hallucinated in someone’s front yard. And, naturally concerned about this turn of events, I squatted down to smooth out the snow, covering the paw-prints, and recovering my lost memory. All of this made perfect sense to me, although Walking Death and my other friend seemed to differ. “Dude, what the fuck are you doing?”
“Oh. Oh, wow. I just… Ok, yeah, that was pretty messed up.”
Later on, walking home, I had a epiphany: “Hey, guys, listen up: Life is basically a series of events, one after the other. And each of these events has an impact on the next set of events. We live in these events…” and I went on like this, stating obvious facts in a calm, logical manner, until at the end I arrived at a conclusion so brilliant, so correct, so undeniably true that we were stunned.
“Holy shit,” said Walking Death. “We gotta write that down.”
“I can’t believe nobody figured that out before,” I said.
“We gotta write that down before we forget it,” repeated Walking Death.
Fifteen minutes later, when we made it to Walking Death’s dorm room, he rummaged around until he found paper and a pen to write with. “Ok, let’s start from the beginning.”
“That thing you said? About the… You know!”
“What are you talking about?”
We’d forgotten the entire thing. I told this to a friend once, and he asked me if I was upset over having forgotten the Secret to Everything. “Have you ever tried acid? I guarantee you that the Secret to Everything was just short of screaming gibberish.”
I’m sure I didn’t have any profound, game-changing insight. You get out of drugs exactly what you put into them: You’re not going to be converted into a wise man because you crammed a chemical-soaked piece of paper in your pie-hole.
I certainly wasn’t a wise man, but in a few short hours I had to at least pretend to be a semi-intelligent man. I had shrewdly elected to drop acid nine hours before a chemistry lab that I could not miss. So, feeling extremely tired and extremely weird, I slogged my way to the Chem Lab at 8:00 AM, and walked up to my lab bench.
My lab partner took one look at me and said, “Whoah, you look like shit. What happened?”
I was glancing at the lab experiment for the day, which involved large quantities of hydrochloric acid, and knew I was in over my head. “Look, I dropped acid last night, and I’m not all the way down. Can I just copy your data when we’re done? I’m just gonna boil water for three hours.”
And so that’s what I did: I boiled water for three hours while trying to stay awake, because acid wrings every last bit of energy out of you. At one point my lab instructor happened by and wanted to know what I was doing. He was a Chinese guy with a heavy, heavy accent who informed us on the first day that his name was “(unpronounceable) Feng, but you can call me Eddie.” We called him Fast Eddie Feng. So Fast Eddie Feng is in my face, I’m still not done tripping, and can’t understand a word he’s saying.
“Excuse me, I think I’m going to be sick,” I blurted out, as I half ran from the lab. I hid out in the bathroom for a while, came back, boiled more water, and Fast Eddie Feng never said another word about it. I went home, slept for 20 hours, and woke up groggy, my thinking thick and sludgy, and got over it.
I can’t say that was enjoyable, but I didn’t completely freak out and it was certainly interesting. So on occasion, I’d try it again, especially if I had a few drinks in me. I learned that I had a much more enjoyable trip if I was drunk when I dropped. That’s dangerous, though, because you can drink ungodly amounts of alcohol when tripping and never feel a thing. I had a friend who weighed 140, tops. He drank an entire case of beer while tripping. When the acid wore off, he threw up and passed out for a long, long time, waking to the worst hangover in recorded history.
I double dosed with long-time reader Squatch and his brother one time. We tripped all night, and when we found ourselves feeling rather chipper as the acid wore off, we dropped again and decided to go golfing. No shit. We went golfing on acid. It was pretty fucking cool. But I do remember one hole that weirded me out.
We golfed on this shitsplat of a par 3 golf course, where you rented a wedge, a nine iron, and a putter, and fucked around on the course all day. We’d get drunk out there, high, whatever. The type of people playing on a par 3 golf course aren’t there for the authentic PGA course ambience, so they tolerated a little weirdness.
On one hole, Squatch and his brother had teed off, and I was in the middle of my backswing when an old dude came barreling out of the woods. “You don’t belong here! You don’t belong here!” he kept screaming.
This, incidentally, is what your mind keeps telling you when you’re in public on LSD. “You don’t belong here. Everybody knows!” So to have an octogenarian crash out of the woods waving a nine iron in your face, screaming “You don’t belong here!” was a little much. But before I could attack him with a sand wedge, Squatch stepped up to him.
“What’s the problem?”
“You… You… You… You don’t belong here! You weren’t playing in front of me!”
“Uh, we let the twosome behind us play through. You got a problem with that?”
Realizing his mistake, the old geezer stepped back. “Oh. I’m sorry.”
I’m standing there in the tee box, tripping balls, and now everyone turns to me. “Oh yeah, I’m sure this shot will be one for the ages,” I thought as I stepped back up to the ball. Getting jitters when people are watching you tee off is natural. I cannot describe how freaked out I was just trying to act like a human being. Hitting a golf ball? Forget about it.
So naturally I hit the best shot of my life, straight, high, and rolled up to a couple of feet from the cup. “Take your time, boys!” said Squatch as we sauntered off to play our next shot. That old guy glared at us as we moseyed away, but you could tell that my shot had unnerved him. How had these long haired weirdos, ingesting God knows what kind of drugs to be awake at this ungodly hour, how had they mastered a game that he had worked at for decades? It probably haunted him to his final days.
Or at least I hope it did. I could have hallucinated him for all I know. That’s the kind of thing your brain likes to cook up for kicks every now and again. I remember Halloween night, 1991, as my roommates and I stumbled around town on LSD. At one point we heard this gigantic crash that sounded like a freight train had plowed into a sheet metal factory full of explosives. All of us heard it, and it shocked us so much we ran around the corner and, spying a cop, ran up to inform him that Something Was Wrong:
Me: Hey, did you hear that? That was a MASSIVE crash!
Cop: What? Where?
Roommate: You didn’t hear that? Holy crap, my ears are still ringing!
Cop: Hear what? When?
Me: That super-loud crash! Like 15 seconds ago! Right here!
Cop: I’ve been standing right here for 5 minutes. I didn’t hear anything.
(Roommate and I turn around, walk away, whistling nonchalantly)
That wasn’t the first cop we’d run across that evening. My roommate got pulled over as we left a liquor store (don’t ask me why we were driving). My roommate had forgotten to turn on his lights, and the cop was just pulling us over to give us a friendly reminder.
“What are you fellas up to tonight?”
“Definitely not abusing dangerous drugs!”
After I left college, I tended to not get quite so out of my head, but there were a coupe of notable exceptions. Once I saw Traffic open up for the Grateful Dead in Las Vegas. In the summer. In an outdoor stadium surrounded by hundreds of acres of asphalt. It was 116 degrees that day, and I was never sure if I was hallucinating the evil heat or just registering it. Wrung out and weird, we spent the evening on the Las Vegas strip, grooving on all the colors and shiny things.
I spent another night at a Dead show, this time in the parking lot. I had been wandering around when a guy next to me behind a table said, “Free samples of home brew for anyone who wants some!” A multitude of hands shot forth to grab a shot glass, so I grabbed one too. As I was putting it down the guy looked at me and said, “Wait. Did you just drink that shot? It was like half-full?”
“Oh, no problem. Just… Well, have fun!”
“Ok, thanks!” I said, and walked away. A couple of minutes later it hit me: “Have fun? What the fuck does that mean?” I tried to find the guy, but the parking lot at a Grateful Dead show is like a refugee camp on drugs: Everything looks the same in every direction, only refugees probably shower more.
About an hour later, as I was walking through the parking lot, I noticed that my hands felt like bowling balls. I spent the rest of the night tripping, hanging out with strangers in the parking lot. It was lots of fun. One guy was sitting there, holding a sign that read, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Knowing my Tolkien, I said to him, “Deep roots are not reached by the frost” and BLEW HIS FUCKING MIND. I mean, he lost his shit. As I turned a corner, I could see others reaching out to him as he wigged out, repeating “Whoah! WHOAH! WHOOOOOOAAAAAHHHH!”
Acid can really mess up your head, but sometimes it can be downright fun. I decided to go sit on the hood of the car and listen to the music from the parking lot. An RV parked 50 feet away from me opened up, erupting smoke, music, and a bunch of coughing hairy dudes. They invited me over and we spent an evening drinking insane amounts of beer, which we either laughed out of our noses, or filtered into the foul chemical RV toilet.
That was the last time I took acid, and I believe I left on a high note. I’m older now, and I value my brain cells too much to be fucking around with harsh drugs like LSD. I’ve outgrown drugs. I understand why people do them, I don’t think they should necessarily be illegal, but I do understand that you can’t just turn everyone loose all at once on them. If we were to start selling liquid doses at 7-11 tomorrow, the next few months would be exceedingly weird, with airline pilots doing lazy loop-de-loops in the sky, mail carriers biting dogs, and teachers lecturing their classrooms on the problems presented by giant memory-erasing acid rabbits.
So it’s probably a good thing that LSD exists in a small, particularly druggy niche in our society, a niche that was being filled by a rather disoriented person I saw at the mall the other day. Eyes like black basketballs, sweating, and lazily waving his hand in front of his face (the international sign for “I am tripping balls”), he stood off near the edge of the food court as I took my daily air-conditioned walk.
I felt like telling him all of the above, sharing stories from when I too explored Inner Space, letting him know that there were fellow travelers out there, even if some of us had long since decided that we had traveled enough. I wanted to tell him all of these things, but figured he was in no shape to understand them. So instead, as I walked by him, I whispered just loudly enough to be heard, “You don’t belong here! Everybody knows!”