Brutha Ray told me yesterday that my recent entries seem kind of on edge.
And he’s right of course. Ray’s always right, except when he disagrees with me. Then, he’s only right half the time.
Yeah, it’s true. I’ve been a little edgy lately. I could give you a catalog of the minor and major stresses in my life, the projects at work that are due to get announced next week at MacWorld, the things at work that provide a daily frustration and leave me thinking about a nice quiet, sane job at the funny farm. I could catalog the minor aches and pains and colds and allergies that come with the holidays. I could talk about wants and dreams and desires versus cold, stony reality.
But fuck all that whinin’. I got no patience with it.
Instead, let’s talk about LSD.
There’s a wonderful interview with Albert Hofmann, the man who invented LSD, in the NY Times.
…It was as he was synthesizing the drug on a Friday afternoon in April 1943 that he first experienced the altered state of consciousness for which it became famous. “Immediately, I recognized it as the same experience I had had as a child,” he said. “I didn’t know what caused it, but I knew that it was important.”
When he returned to his lab the next Monday, he tried to identify the source of his experience, believing first that it had come from the fumes of a chloroform-like solvent he had been using. Inhaling the fumes produced no effect, though, and he realized he must have somehow ingested a trace of LSD. “LSD spoke to me,” Mr. Hofmann said with an amused, animated smile. “He came to me and said, ‘You must find me.’ He told me, ‘Don’t give me to the pharmacologist, he won’t find anything.’ “
It’s a wonderful interview with the sort of person who reminds me of the scientists my father used to talk about. The sort of people who were both scientists and philosophers. Deep thinkers, people who seem to look at the world and just see more than the rest of us do. I pretend to be one of these people, but I’d have to be a scientist to pull it off.
I’m too young to have been in the acid culture of the sixties. I can imagine my father having been there though, if he’d been in the right circles. He never dropped acid, but he was a huge pothead (my first experiences with pot were stealing from his stash and taking it to school). He would have loved the heightened perceptual experience.
Oddly, even though I started smoking pot way too young, I managed to not encounter acid at all as a teenager. I wanted it, would have tried it. When I was fourteen or fifteen, I would have tried anything, any drug I could have laid hand on, any sexual experience with anyone of any age. I was already drinking, though not much (A stolen beer here or there, a sip of a drink). But I was already seeking experience and sensation. I wanted it all, now.
It wasn’t until I was around nineteen that I stumbled, almost literally, onto LSD.
I worked for Tower Record at the time, though not in the record store. At the time, Tower had a side business in ‘posters and plants’. Your basic seventies lifestyle store, we sold posters and plants, of course, plus incense, wall decor (heavy wood and beveled mirrors, a couple of which I still have on my wall now), tee shirts, pins and buttons and belt buckles with band logos, and of course, a major head shop. This is where I met my friend Papa Christo, the only person from that scene I’m still in close touch with and on the very very short list of my truly close friends.
I was in my element, selling coke mirrors and bongs and scales and pipes and papers. It was an ideal environment for a kid like me, immersed in drug culture for a living. I couldn’t have been much happier. It was there, at work, that I tried coke, mushrooms, quaaludes, crank, and a number of other things for the first time. It was there that I had my first true fall-down, puking drunk (on andre champagne – shudder). It was there that I first crossed paths with the kind of serious drug dealers who carry guns. And it was there I had my first acid experience.
Tower Posters was a funny place. Everyone assumed it was a drug emporium. Yet the managers and owners went out of their way to act like it wasn’t. But everyone knew when the manager was off-premesis, and someone was always on the lookout for the boss-man to show up after hours. When the boss was away, it was just like people assumed, drugs weighed out in the back room, coke on the desk, bongs all over the back room. Someone was always on something. We used to drink at the cash register, mixing sweet drinks in soda cups from wienerschnitzel.
It was utterly commonplace to walk in the back room and find someone doing some drug – “Here, want some?” Since I was a shift leader on the night crew and would always take a register for someone who was high or going out to score or weighing something out in the back room, I always got cut in to whatever was moving through the place, if I wanted it. And I almost always wanted it.
This particular night it was late and I think I was near my end of shift. I don’t quite remember now. But what I do remember was walking into the back room and finding a co-worker, Jim, cutting out lines.
Jim was a classic drug case. Hippy-dippy, lived and breathed the Moody Blues. Had a mop of curly blond rock-star hair. He had an athletic build, wore women’s jeans because he couldn’t find men’s jeans that were tight enough, and was always in a tank top no matter how cold it was. Jim’s eyes always had a bugged-out quality even when he wasn’t high, like something in him was permanently tweaking.
I walked into the office that night, and Jim handed me the mirror that lived in our office desk, a black glass thing with some sort of vines and flowers laminated to the back of it.
“Want some?” he asked me.
I was almost nose down in it with our preferred tooter, a bic pen with ink insert pulled out (to this day I half expect these pens to have a white crust inside) when Jim stopped me.
“Wait, that’s not blow.”
I’m engaged. I’m ready. I no longer care. “What is it?” I ask.
Turns out he’d taken microdot acid, a pill form I didn’t see much after the early eighties, and crushed it up and was cutting it into lines.
Whatever, I would have thought at the time. It was there, and I’d try absolutely anything I could lay hands on.
I snorted. It burned like fuck, and tasted weird in the back of my throat, and I pretty much felt nothing, not like coke where you know within seconds that you’re fulla coke. No rush, no numb, no nuthin.
“Wait a bit,” Jim said.
I went back to work for a while, but I was off the till and didn’t have a lot to do.
The memory turns hazy after that. I don’t know what I did. I think I went back for more, and the second dose had coke mixed in with it. I remember Jim’s eyes getting even bigger than usual. I remember feeling really, really, really good.
I remember driving home in my ’73 Chevy nova, a car I hated then but would kill to have now. I remember the bright moonlight and how I felt like my vision went around to the back of my head. I remember having trouble keeping my eyes on the road because there were things out there in the moonlit dark that I Really. Needed. To. See.
I remember trying to watch an old movie when I got home, unable to sit still. Drinking a big barrel can of Foster’s Lager in hopes it would calm me down and not even feeling the alcohol I called my girlfriend and woke her up, then decided to go see her, and drove more through that scary moonlit world full of things that I wasn’t used to seeing.
My girlfriend didn’t want me there, she wanted to sleep, and it was her parents house so I had to be quiet and couldn’t crawl in bed with her and couldn’t watch teevee. I was too high to read and couldn’t relax.
I remember much later, in an empty room elsewhere, watching teevee as stations went off the air, too high and too tired to drive anymore, wanting to talk to someone but unable to work the telephone, hungry but with no place to go get food. Utterly helpless and lonely and thinking, I’m never, ever touching this shit again, I hate it.
I didn’t sleep until the middle of the next day. And I didn’t keep the promise I made myself about never touching it again. And only once did I ever have another bad experience with it, a night I knew I shouldn’t drop but did anyway. That, though, is a different story.
This was supposed to be a piece about Hofmann and the spiritual potential of LSD, about the mind-expanding quality, about how a drug with such amazing potential is, typically in our culture, treated like a menace and a danger because it brings pleasure. It was about drugs like Methaqualone and MDMA and so many others that have medical, spiritual and recreational value that are illegal for not good reason. And it was supposed to be about how some of the great minds of science, literature, music and art all found release in drugs, from LSD to alcohol to laudenum to heroin to opium to pot to cocaine. It’s a thread that runs through the entire history of creativity and spiritualism, and there’s even speculation that early man learned to cultivate grain not to make bread, but to make beer, seeking the divinity of intoxication over a simple food source.
Instead, it turned into a personal drug reminiscence. Which is, I’m sure. much more entertaining.