Monday, August 6, 2018

A Vein of Fire




A Vein of Fire

 

Preparing the brew in the jar took several days’ work. The brew is just over two pounds of peeled cactus flesh, and half a lemon reduced to 16 ounces of opaque green liquid.

Most plant medicine tastes awful. In this case, awful would be a vast improvement. The brew looks like a jar of olive drab paint, and it’s just about as appetizing. The juice is slightly salty, and so intensely bitter that it causes your tongue to recoil. Only the acid bite of the lemon allows it to get past the gag reflex. It is nasty stuff. 

   It was 3:00 when I took the mason jar out of the refrigerator, and set it on the kitchen table  with a bottle of Italian mineral water, a fresh baguette, and a big container of sliced mango. The quart jar was half full, and I had to shake it a little to stir the sediment. I poured four ounces of the bitter green liquid into a measuring cup and took it down in two gulps.

Mary walked into the kitchen. She  was on her way out to spend some time with her brother’s family. “Well”, she asked, “How was it?”  
 I shudder a little, “It was awful. Not that bad, really. I’ll be able to do this.”

Mary gave me a kiss. “You have fun.”
Not many 65 year old guys are into this kind of thing, and fewer have wives who tell them to “have fun” on their trips. I am richly blessed.
 I ate a small slice of mango, and a little bread. Ten minutes later I swallowed the next four ounces. I chased each gulp with a swallow of mineral water, a mouthful of bread, and some mango. I knew I’d purge, and I wanted something for the belly to expel, so I wouldn’t dry heave. The jar was empty at twenty to four. 

 Nothing to do now, but wait. Of course, I’m nervous, full of anticipation, a little apprehensive. I walked around the house, checked the computer, went out front, watered the yard a little.  I was planning to just enjoy the afternoon at home, in familiar surroundings. Maybe later on I’ll walk to the park for a smoke, or take the bike for a ride.

The first wave of nausea bubbled up around 4:00. I knew I had to keep the juice down for about an hour, but I doubted if I was going to make it. By ten after four I was heaving. I drank some mineral water to cleanse my mouth and ate a mango slice to settle my stomach. I still felt a little sick. Soon I was pacing aimlessly around the house- a good sign that things were under way. By 4:30 there was no mistaking it... 

I’m coming on hard. Holy cow, this is going to be big!
 A soft electricity is streaming through my body, ringing in my ears like a sustained chord from some windstring instrument. It is strangely pleasant, but mostly- just- strange. I’ve never felt anything like it. And  I know this is just the beginning. The voltage on that soft electricity is creeping upward, the chord growing ever louder, and more intense. How intense will this get? Somehow I’m neither frightened, nor worried about it. This powerful body humming feels good.

 But I gotta’ barf again. Again, a little mango, a little mineral water. I’m sitting in the big green chair in the living room, sliding into this hazy soft drowsiness. Things are becoming dreamlike. Strange electric spasms charge up the back of my legs and into my groin. My pelvis involuntarily thrusts forward. This power bursting through my loins! A sleepy, soft dreaminess is slowly filling up my head. I fade into a slow trance, and then pop awake, and start sinking again. Then I’m restless, up pacing the room until the dream fades me out, and I return to the chair. 

By 5:30 I’m full of restless energy, and I decide to walk around the block. I barely make it to the curb before I have to run back in the house and barf again. But mineral water and mango, and I’m out the front door and I’m walking and it’s a relief to move, but I want to get back home, and it’s a long block, but I make it back. And so the cycle repeats. Sit, fade, dream, pace, sit, fade, dream, pace.

 6:00, and the dream trance is growing more and more hallucinatory. Things are suffused with the light of their own perfect essence. Wood grains are flowing; patterns and images drifting through the stucco ceiling. Sunshine like orange fire pouring down in the yard.  My artwork coming to life on the breathing walls. But I gotta’ puke again. I realize and accept that this is just going to be part of the experience. After this one I feel OK. 

Euphoria returns in huge waves of sensation. Energy fuses with lethargy in  the strangest blend of opposing forces. By now I’m dreaming all this.  But I’m restless again, and I need to walk. I’m in this sort of looping pattern where I sit in the chair, feeling like I’m falling asleep, but I don’t fall asleep. I fall adream, and begin sinking down into a trance… and the electric muscles pull me up on my feet. I  stand up, pace the floor, maybe barf. Sit down, and begin to fall adream… And the buzzing in my ears is getting louder. The soft electricity charging through my body, the dream trance embracing my consciousness grows thicker, and deeper, the hallucinations more pronounced. This is another world, a floating world, and it is wonderful, wonderful.

I need to walk. So I close up the house, and go out front. Once more, I barely make it to the curb before I have to barf again. So we go through the loop: barf, mineral water, mango, pace, sit. But now I’m OK. At least now…

 I’m OK! Holy cow, am I OK! Euphoria surges into the dream. The electricity powers me forward. I step  into the glowing solstice afternoon, and I am weightless. My body moves without effort; the neighborhood is washed in sunshine mellow gold, and energy flows through every living thing, and they all celebrate the pure and perfect essence of their being- the tree-ness of trees, the flower-ness of the flowers is all aglow in the dreamlight.

But my sense of pattern recognition is gone. I glide down my street, but the neighborhood is not familiar; it’s all new, somehow. I reach the end of the block, and wait.  I know where to go, but I don’t feel it. It is unfamiliar. I’m worried about getting lost out here.
In the midst of all this I realize that I did one thing right- I didn’t have anything else going today. I’m almost totally incapacitated. Getting up. Sitting down. Walking around. These are all great and difficult undertakings. There is no way I could socialize, or do anything else but be stoned. Take the bike out? No way. Walk to the park? Too dreamtired sleepy, I’d get lost. 

And I am very. Very. Just. Plain. Stoned. I am as stoned as ever I have been, and that’s saying a lot. The full-body humbuzzing, the glowing haze in my brain is as powerful as anything I’ve ever felt. It is not drunkenness, but I would be less intoxicated if that jar had held 16 ounces of moonshine.

 I‘m flying at full capacity. My thought stream is murky, the inner dialogue  reduced to vague murmurings, moodclouds, and shapeless feelings rather that articulated thought. I had been angry over some unpleasant business from this morning. As I round the block the discontent flows into the stream. It takes a thick, slow effort to steer my path away.  I am not safe from anger here in the dream. The ugly thoughts are quicksand traps. I can feel the danger of wading into one.

It’s cooling down quickly; I feel the wind pass through my T-shirt. The breeze swirls around my skin, and it feels like a full body tickle. Only cold. I’m skinny, and I chill easily. Round the corner and head back toward the house; it’s getting chilly and..

Get there just in time to be sick again. Now I feel it. There’s a devil in my stomach. A black nasty squirming thing, and He needs to be expelled. Heave and heave again. I pitch out a lump, and he’s gone. I’m on my knees at the bowl. Thank God for Mr. Mango. He’s been such a friend through all this. 

I need water. I need warm. Warm water comes from the bathroom. Takes too long in the kitchen. But there’s no cup in the bathroom. The cup is in the kitchen. So that means I have to go to the kitchen and get the cup, then take the cup into the bathroom. I can do this. I get the cup. I take it back. I fill the cup, but I have to take it back to the kitchen to drink. Warm water on my stomach. Oh, my God. Nothing in the entire experience of the whole human race feels as good as  warm water. Surely God loves the universe if He created warm water. I am so very grateful for this gift.

Back in the living room I’m sweating, feeling washed out and a little weak. Sitting in the green chair, the electricity charging up the back of my legs and out the groin. The living room floating in the haze. Am I falling asleep or just awakening? Always falling into the dreamawake. Again and again the pelvic thrust, and I see my legs looking so, so thin in my loose jeans. A surge in the voltage brings me to my feet.

  A moodcloud flows into the stream, this amorphous yearning for God. That God so loved the world… I think of the Christ, and say the Lord’s prayer aloud. The sound of my voice is startling.  The Word rolls through me like thunder, and at once I know in the depth of my bones that I am old. Old and thin. This body. This thin frail body that I’ve ridden so hard for so long. I am desiccated, withered as a mummy, a thin, dry chip of a man. I am a vein of fire at the center of a brittle husk, and I know that soon this husk will  crumble and return to the earth. Only the fire will continue. Somewhere. I know beyond all shadow that my time is mostly gone. I know that death is immanent in all. This is not horrifying. This is not frightening. This is Truth and I embrace it.

I stand at the sliding door looking out into the back yard. The bottle brush tree shines neon green, and scarlet fire in the deep late sun. It  sings beauty for the sheer glory of life. I am rapt in an infant's joy, a memory from the time before speech, and the days before words. I feel the Grandmother’s love radiating from the colors of the foliage. This is what I came here for. The sickness doesn’t matter; it doesn’t matter at all.  


It occurs to me, even in this dream trance, that it is the same sense of divine love that I felt from the Salvia so many years ago.

10:30 at night, and Mary is getting home. The peak has passed, and the visuals faded. I’m glad she’s back.  She asks me how the trip has been, and I try to explain, but it’s too hard to form coherent thoughts, and I drift out mid-sentence... But the mescaline! How very strange. 

Mary fixed me some broth and egg, and I sipped it spoon by spoon while she went to bed. 
Midnight.  Now there was just the humming in my ears, the all over soft current still flowing in every cell, the drowsiness, and the  restlessness. Sleep seems so near, but too much energy in the loins, and still slow dopey. This waking dream so drowsy... 

I so wanted to sleep. But there would be no sleep that night, just a slow winding down of the cycle. I didn’t want to spoil Mary’s night, so I stretched out on the couch, tried to breathe deep, and relax. The body slowed, but my mind sank only 99% asleep, and dangled above the darkness like Tantalus craving water.
 So I’d get up, drink a little water, sit on the futon in the den, relax, breathe deep, and again I’m so close to sleep. Each breath draws me halfway there but I never quite arrive. Blessedly, my mind was still and quiet. Eventually I just gave up and sat in the living room.

These are the Limbo hours: no stream of thought, no metaphysical speculation, no deep and profound pondering of anything, no recounting the troubles and worries of daily life. Just a dull gray  fog. I could vaguely acknowledge that the insomnia was frustrating to madness, but I was neither frustrated, nor mad.  

 It was limbo,  a blank and empty place, soft, gray, and effortless. A mercy from whatever spirits rule this world. It sort of makes up for the barfing going in. (Not really.)  

The house was dark and cool, the sliding door open. I sat on the sofa looking at shadows, listening to quiet, and feeling time drip by. Now and again Littlecat came in to check on me. She’d bounce into the living room, rub against my ankle, want a pet and a scratch and then dart off into the night again.
 And so.
 Hour after hour, the night ticked on, my body winding down, my headspace blessedly empty. 

There would be no sleep all the next day, either. I could nibble at food, and sip water, but that was about it. I’d been beaten pretty hard, and by 3:00 that afternoon even the merciful sense of limbo was gone. All I could do was lie there and crave sleep. I could still feel the buzzing 24 hours after drinking the brew. All in all I was awake for about  forty hours, and on my ass for two days following. 


It was a tough, and amazing journey into the mescaline dream, like climbing up the roughest mountain to get to the most wonderful view imaginable, and crossing endless miles of flat featureless desert to return. You understand that the rough climb, the amazing view, and the desert are all parts of the trip.

 The nausea, the insomnia, the sheer level of intoxication all sound awful. I won’t sugar coat things and say that the sickness did not spoil much of the trip.  But the buzz was wonderful, and sickness and insomnia were integral to the experience. Just part of it. That’s all. Consider, that there was no time in the trip where I felt regret, panic or terror. Even during the sickness I never thought, ‘Please  make this stop!’ Even though I was tripping at my limit, I never wanted out. Even during the long empty hours I simply understood that this, too, was  a part of what I had asked for, and that it would pass eventually. All in all it was a magnificent experience.

I decided to revisit the world of psychedelics a little over a year ago, but like a lot of things, I sat on the decision for some months, and actually chickened out the first time I had a chance to get some LSD. When I set out I didn’t expect mescaline to be on the menu. Glad that it was. So what was I looking for? And did I find it?

Psychedelics can’t teach you anything that you don’t already know, but they can show you what you didn’t know you knew. 
Psychedelics aren’t  religion, but they can facilitate a religious experience. 
  I see these substances as natural wonders, strange  awe-inspiring places to visit  like the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone. 

These things are here for a reason. We can only speculate as to why God saw fit to create them, just as we may wonder that the Creation itself is suffused in beauty.

 I wanted  the experience for its own sake. I wanted a transcendent event. The Achuma gave it to me in spades, and for that I am grateful. Sickness and all. But it’s no game for an old man.  If life is a book, then the thick part of this volume is in my left hand. At this point I think I may have finished a chapter. But I always say that…
 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Into The Great Wide Empty







The first small excursion with LSD was a lot of fun. It left me with a renewed sense of gratitude for the many blessings I have in this life. For the next couple of weeks I was clear headed, optimistic, looking forward to retiring from my job at the end of the month.
 And I have to confess: I got a hell of a kick out of feeling like an old outlaw. You know- a wild and krazy guy, and all that stuff.  Especially at work around the twenty and thirty-something year old teachers at the elementary school. I showed up Monday with the broom and dustmop:

“Hey, JWM, how was your weekend. Do anything fun?”


But I’m getting sidetracked, here. Whatever afterglow I had from the day soon vanished under the weight of a bad case of influenza. I was scary sick for over a month, lost most of my hearing and developed a knot in my left shoulder that would leave me in pain for months to follow.

After the flu had passed I parceled out the rest of the first dose in three rather unremarkable, and not especially enjoyable turns with the blotter acid. The days had some enjoyable moments, but all in all were neither great fun, nor unduly unpleasant. Nonetheless, acid is very predictable, and the neutral trips taught me exactly what to expect from the LSD, and about when to expect it.  I had recovered most of my former stamina by the end of March. By April I was ready to go again.

It would prove to be a strange, but overall neutral event.

 Something was disturbing my sleep. I sat up in the middle of the night. A woman stood in the bedroom doorway. She wore pink. She had red hair, fair skin,  and she seemed to shine with a light that came from nowhere. I was startled, but not frightened. Before I could speak the woman vanished. I snapped awake. Lucid Dream. I hadn’t had one in years.


Two hours later it was still dark out, and I sat in the den coaxing my brain awake with my first cup of coffee. I jumped up in a charge of adrenaline when my wife screamed in the living room. I heard her throw the sliding glass door open as I bolted down the hall.

 Mary stood on the porch. “I saw Buddy the Cat all arched up,” she said. “There was a coyote stalking in the yard. I opened the door, and it jumped over the wall.”

 All three of my cats were there in the yard. It was nothing short of a miracle that Mary scared the coyote off before it took one of the cats. Now, all of us were out there scared, and agitated as hell. Ol’ Buddy, Skinny, and Littlecat hovered close around me, but just out of reach.  I couldn’t get them back into the house, so I had my coffee on the step huddled up in the dark with a flashlight in the cold morning.
 I finally coaxed the cats indoors, and shut them in the house. The sun was coming up. Now I could get a start on Bicycle Day.


The South Bay is the stretch of So Cal beaches that runs from Redondo up to Venice and Santa Monica. The South Bay beaches are thirty miles west of me,  through the some of the worst traffic in LA. That’s why I seldom go there. But  I had my 1961 classic Schwinn, and my trusty Dyno cruiser in the back of the truck.   I was taking the old Schwinn to Jack, a bike wizard in El Segundo. You don’t trust a machine that old with just anyone. 


 It was actually 4/20, the day after Bicycle Day, but it was a stoners’ holiday no matter. I was ready to party with a couple grams of some Private Reserve Gorilla Glue, a couple of grams of some high octane Jack Herrer, and a little bit o’ LSD. The 105 freeway was clear in the late morning, and the parking gods had my back. I dropped off the Schwinn, and pulled into the nearly empty lot at El Segundo Beach.

11:30 in the morning. This is the fifth time I’ve dropped acid after not having done it for over forty years. Now I’m upping the game a little and taking a generous third of a tab. I fish the little bag out of my pocket.  I’m getting adrenaline just looking at the tiny chip of blotter.

 You can back out!
My heart pounds a little as I take it out of the plastic bag.

Not today. Maybe some other time…
I ignore the voice in my head. The blotter is on my tongue.

 Spit it out.
Too late. Crunch. Crunch again. Swallow. I’m committed. 

The little wave of anxiety passes with a deep breath, and I hop on the bike. The morning is cool, the sky is clear and the air is slightly hazy. The plan is simple: trip out, and cruise. I’ll ride north past Santa Monica- see some of the bike path I’ve never seen, be back here in the late afternoon, cruise down toward Hermosa for food, and head home after the traffic clears.

 The wide South Bay beaches are all the same- 200 yards of empty yellow sand, shapeless gray surf crashing near the shore, jetties every so often. North in the haze is Marina Del Rey, the Venice boardwalk, Santa Monica, the carnival rides on the pier, the Malibu mountains, and long empty stretches of paved bike path.  I’m going to meet Mike, a buddy of mine, somewhere along the route. He’ll be coming south from Venice. I have the feeling he won’t hang for long, but it’ll be good to touch bases.


 The late morning is cool in  the diffuse spring sun, and I’m riding under a pale sky almost straight into a light breeze. I dressed for cold. I’m old, tall, and skinny, and I chill easily, especially on acid. Being a little too warm is a little uncomfortable; being too cold is misery. I wore my denim club vest, my “cut” as the kids say, but I had it more for the pockets than the image.

I reach Dockweiler, then  Playa Del Rey where the jets from LAX thunder and whine overheard. I run into Mike a mile or so later. We chat a bit as we bike along. Mike founded the bicycle club with me a little over five years ago, but now he has pretty much given up pedal power for E-biking. 

The speakers on his bike are linked to a radio station playing from his phone. It’s supposed to be a 4/20 themed day, but whatever they were playing is just getting irritating as hell. Besides, I can’t hear for shit. I can either talk or listen to that crappy radio. The music sucks and the commercials are annoying. I want to tell the guy on the radio to shut  the fuck up I…
Then I realize I’m starting to twangle a little already. The acid always starts this way, with some little thing becoming very urgent and demanding all my attention. It’s just been forty five minutes since I dropped. 
 I ask Mike to turn it down so we can talk. He’s cool with that. And I’m glad he’s here because it’s been a few years since I took this route, and getting through the loop around Marina Del Rey, and then back down to Venice is tricky.


 By the time we reach the boardwalk at Venice Beach I’m coming on pretty strong. I’ve got electricity in my head, and energy in my shoulders, and this just seems so totally appropriate!  Where else do you come on to your acid on 4/20 in LA except for the entrance to Venice Boardwalk?

 Everything is psychedelic murals, head shops, sunglasses, and T-shirts, mixed with art, street life, urban campers, even hippies. I’m excited. I have that little pressure in the head, and  more nervous energy than I need, but nothing intimidating, or scary. We stop at a shop on the boardwalk to chat with one of Mike’s pals, a guy who does E-bike tours through Venice.  I can feel myself grinning, and everything I’m looking at is suddenly a very interesting feature of this very Venice placeandpeople…. I’m getting that ‘I’m cool’ feeling that acid seems to give me. Mike introduces me to his pal, “Hey, Eddie, this is my friend, John. He’s down here tripping on acid.” 

Eddie kind of shakes his head- “Glad to meet you. Acid, huh? I haven’t done that shit in fifty years”.  
 I read that tone. It’s a thing I’ve noticed before when I tell people that I do acid, or mushrooms. Some think it’s pretty cool that a guy my age is still up for that stuff. Others sort of shake their head. Good thing I’m not hooked on the approval of others. 


Mike and I burn a couple bowls of the Jack Herrer. It’s my favorite strain, a sharp, edgy sativa that throws my mind into overdrive.  This is my wake n’ bake, the first tweet of the day. The energy from the Jack hits the acid, and starts cranking up the voltage.  Now I’m really feeling it. I’m more than a little surprised at how high I’m getting. Everything is taking on the quality of a dreamy well-orchestrated scene. I’ve got electricity in my head, like a gently buzzing transformer, a little giddiness in the solar plexus. I feel like I want to move, and not stop. 


We saddle up, and start down the bike path, and I’m glad that we’re moving again. That grin keeps returning, but I’m feeling a sense of urgency, and more nervous energy than I’m comfortable with. I find myself hunching my shoulders, and reminding myself to relax. I try to explain to Mike what’s going on. Mike isn’t particularly interested. I tell him about the dream I’d had last night, and the episode with the coyote. How everything seems all of a piece, how it fits in, and how it all is…

 Mike cuts in, “It was probably a ghost. After all, didn’t your Mom die in that house?” 
Leave it to Mike to come up with exactly what NOT to say to someone who’s tripping. It doesn’t bother me though. A few minutes later he decides his E-bike isn’t working right and  he heads back home. 


This was exactly what I had predicted would happen. Actually, I am glad to be on my own. I’m past the come-on, and climbing that slow arc toward the peak. I stop and take a couple more tweets. Weed and LSD go together like a cigarette and coffee. The added buzz throws it all into motion, and I pick up my pace a little. 


Bicycling is hypnotic, and I become the rhythm and the pace, and the wind is the sound and the sound is the wind, and I breathe, and pedal, and I flow though all of it and I’m at the still center of things with the wind slowly pushing the world past me. Thought bubbles float up from the deep to be observed, entertained, or dismissed as dangerous. 

Far to my right, now, the Venice Boardwalk gives way to beach front apartments in Santa Monica. I’m watching the slowmotion roller coaster pier. The beach seems strangely empty for a holiday. Then I remember that it’s Friday. You don’t get a day off for 4/20.

 The bike path tunnels under the huge pier for what seems like hundreds of yards, and there are fireworks in the darkness. I burst out into the sunlight all dazzled. The parking lot and the last of the beach attractions slide past, and soon I’m farther north than I’ve ever ridden on this path.


 I have the whole world to myself. I pulse along in a fast hypnotic dream and it all becomes still. Wide yellow beach on either side of me, city brown cliffs far to the right and the pale slate ocean far to the left and the pedal and pulse of the afternoon windblast is picking up cold roaring in my ears making it hard to push, and the hazy spring sun in the pale washed sky, the sea a pale slate, the light sand all of a piece, a moving watercolor in cool pastels…

Where am I now, and what do I feel out here?  Suddenly there is no point of reference. This electrical buzz, the urgency, energy driving me. There is this overall sense of “enscenement” (“en scene ment”), that is, everything takes on the quality of a perfectly staged scene, a masterfully painted landscape, with all harmonious elements merged into a living singularity with the wind and sun, and the hypnotic pulse of riding riding riding. 

But I can’t tell how buzzed I am. Or how fast I’m going. Or how far I’ve ridden. Or what time it might be.

 How long ago did I pass Annenberg House? There is no point of reference. No one around for miles.  How alone out here! 

What did you set out to do this day? Take my bike to Jack, and drop acid at the beach for 4/20.
 What did you expect? A party? A love-in? Free music, and hippies dancing in the sand? None of that, really, but it felt like it should be here, and so I came. 

And what did you find? I find myself alone on my bike.
Riding Way alone. Riding Way out here. Riding Like always. Like a million times before. Riding Like on the Harley. Riding Like in the car. Like Interstate 40, like Interstate 64, 70, 90…  Like I... Riding Alone on the road. How many times across the continent? Riding  Twelve? Fourteen?  

Riding Alone on the road, alone on the bike path. Riding  See a pattern here? It’s who you are, John.
 
What about the dream? Mary said it was a guardian angel.
 You believe that? Of course, and not just because I’m tripping. Riding Guardian angels look out for us, and looking out for those Riding we love is looking out us. And my cats-  I love those silly cats. If anything had happened to Ol’ Buddy…

Don’t go here. Change the subject.  The angel was a blessing. Riding  Don’t tell yourself scary stories.  And so the subject is changed, and the brain slides into neutral.

 Riding  So what is this? What do I feel here? This is an acid trip. I’ve been on lots of them, but that was all so very long ago.
 It wasn’t like this, then. Or was it? The December trip was filled with  a sense of amazement. Wonder. Elation. Delight. I remember my head lit up with a million ideas.
 Riding riding riding Hallucinations? Tracers? Colors? Not since the 70’s…
 This isn’t like that; it just- it just -is. I mean, I’m not feeling elation, or euphoria. Neither am I feeling great sadness, anxiety, or fear. The experience is Riding  not unpleasant, but it isn’t a lot of fun either. It just is.

 Or maybe it’s  being way out here alone on the cold empty beach that  isn’t much fun.
Hard to tell.

 Maybe this is why I quit doing this so many years ago. It’s just a place to be. It’s everyday life, only with all the dials cranked up, and teasing the edges of discomfort. 

Where am I now? How long have I been out here?  Ridingridingriding how long riding…

Stop. Stop for a rest.
 
 I quit pedaling, and roll slowly to a  stop. Hop off, and straddle the bike. It seems strange to be still. The hypnosis breaks. Where am I now? Wasn’t I supposed to be riding? Check the phone. It’s twenty to three. More than four hours in.

 I realize what’s wrong. I’m thirsty and tired. I’ve been cranking hard into the wind, and I haven’t stopped for hours. Take the lid off the water bottle, and slowly drink it all. Take a breather. Damn. Water is really good.
That wind in my ears! I have a sense that I’m very stoned, but it’s oddly hard to tell just how stoned. I can feel the water soaking through my stomach and small intestine. I feel my body cool, my head clear. A girl floats by on the bike path, and merges with the scenery. Time to turn around.


 Suddenly the wind‘s at my back, and the sun is behind me. Everything flashes from windblown hazy cold pale spring to Southland lit up for summer. The scene turns from watercolor to bright circus tempera. The water is flushing into my limbs, and it feels good. I can feel this thing peaking, like reaching the crest of a hill.

 Odd that I should be so much more buzzed than I was on the ¼ hits. This is a strong one. I can feel the nervousness still, so I break out the Gorilla Glue. This stuff is ridiculously strong, and it does a great job of stuffing a pillow over the voices in your head. I’m thinking of the Country Joe, and the Fish song…

“Heyyy, partner- Won’t you pass that reefer around? My world is spinning yeah. Just got to sloooow it down…”

The indica based smoke is sweet as maple syrup, and the body rush eases the tension in my shoulders. Now I’m feeling good; let’s get high! I knock back three more tokes, and hit the path. Now the wind is at my back. I’ve gone from pushing against the cold, to floating effortless, nice warm an’ easy. The sunlight has gone from silver to gold. The world from pale to bright. The weed starts glowing up in my head, and I’m sliding into the familiar dreamy euphoria. Yes, four tokes was too much, and I am very stoned, and it feels good.


 I start back toward Santa Monica. Dang it’s a long ways away, but the colors are in bloom. I’m floating on weightless pedals with the wind at my back. The air around my ears is still and quiet. The pier, and then the carnival rides on the pier slowly grow closer and more distinct. How pokey slow the rollercoaster. Before I know it, I’m charging through the dark stretch under the pier again, now breaking triumphantly into the light.

 I’m flying along through Santa Monica, passing the slower bikes, feeling one with the wind, and my trusty cruiser. I notice a group of young guys- college age kids sitting on the block wall. One of them smiles and waves, “Happy 4/20”, he calls out. I can’t let that slide.

 I back pedal, skid the tire around, and ride back up to the guys on the wall. (Keep in mind, I’m 65 damn years old, and not a youthful 65 at that. I look like a crusty ass wannabe outlaw in my club vest and patch.)

 I smile at the kid, “You, sir, are the first person today to wish me a happy 4/20. I believe that calls for a toke. Indica or Sativa?” His buddies chuckle.

 “Sativa”, he says.

“A man after mine own heart. I am a sativa fan myself.” I pack a really fat bowl of the Jack Herrer, and hand him my old school brass pipe. He tries to light with a Bic. It won’t work in the wind.

“I need…”

“You need a torch.”  I hand him my torch, and his buddies crack up.
 “Watch out for the metal pipe. It can bite you.” He gets a monster toke, and headrushes so bad he has to hang on to the wall..
“Thanks”, he coughs. “Oh fuck!”  “So what are you doing out here today?”
“Just out celebrating 4/20 and bicycle day.”
“Bicycle day?”
 “UH, yeah. You know.  4/19… Albert Hoffman… 1943…”
Blank look. They don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m grinning like an idiot. “It’s the day to go trippin’. Look it up on your phone. Hey, you guys take care.”


I ride off laughing a little. Figure I gave them a story to tell—“We saw this old guy on a cruiser bike…”
Before I know it I‘m back in Venice. I can see the boardwalk, crowded in the mid afternoon. It’s a combination freak show, skid row, carnival midway, and hippie swap meet. It’s a ways off the bike path. I look over there, and really don’t feel much like merging into a big crazy crowd.  But Venice is also where the bike path makes a detour of several miles inland on Washington Boulevard to get around Marina Del Rey, and over Ballona Creek.

 What was the landmark for Washington Boulevard? I can’t remember. I’ve done this a zillion times, but suddenly I’m disoriented, and not sure if Washington is ahead of me, or if I passed it.

 I stop the bike. My head is buzzing, everything around is floating, I’m unsure of where I am, and I am peaking surprisingly hard for such a small dose. What to do? Gotta’ ask directions. That means going on the boardwalk. So. We go. Into the parade of madness.

 Bums. Skaters. Chicks. Tourists. Negroes. Hippies. Rasta looking dudes. College lookin’ kids.  Foreigners. They’re all stereotypes- perfectly exaggerated caricatures of some sort even if I’m not sure what sort. Who looks like they know where they are? Nobody! It’s getting very chaotic. Before I know it I’m completely lost in the crowd, and I don’t know where I’m going, or which way is north or south. But I remember not to panic. It’s just the “L” as we used to say. Eventually I walk up to a guy in a sunglasses stand. He is a human version of Jabba the Hut. “Could you tell me, where’s Washington Blvd?” I ask. The guy points down the boardwalk, and speaks in a mystery accent. “Righ’ there a’ the pier.”

 Not fifty yards away.
 Oh. Yeah. The Pier. I knew that. 

I lock up the bike and go to piss.  I walk in out of the sunlight, and the whole restroom is swimming in colors. The stainless steel urinal becomes the horrible maw of some alien beast, as I’m peeing down its throat. I remember this kind of stuff from high school. Not bad. I smile. 


It’s a tense and sketchy ride going up Washington. Traffic everywhere. Rough pavement. Cars. Trucks. Busses. Noise. The annoying sense of being lost. Are we there yet? And finally the entrance to the bike path. Down the bike maze, pass the marina. And *finally* there’s the bridge over Ballona Creek.

 I stop for a drink of water. I feel like I’ve escaped from something. About a mile further down the path I feel the peak begin to break.  Relief. I can take a deep breath. That sense of urgency that has haunted the day is relaxing into a soft melancholy.  We’re coming down.
 
Actually, I’m kind of glad. As I start the last leg of the cruise it occurs to me that this may well be my last dance with Lucy. I probably won’t do this again. But I said that the last time. Or was it the time before? It’s part of it, too…  Like starting out by getting all nervous over some silly thing…  Ends by thinking you won’t come back here… Just part of it. Still…

 There was nothing really unpleasant about the day, but like I said earlier, the experience was just oddly neutral. On the fun scale the day was just a flat five out of ten. But all I did was ride and ride and ride. 

Too much solitude?  Yeah. Too much alone- no one to remind you to stop and take a break.
 Too far from home? Yeah, all that…
 What about the rest of your stash? The rest of the acid? The shrooms? The sage? Nothing sounds like fun just now. I don’t know.  Maybe you’re just too old for this shit. I don’t know… 

 Maybe I’m just tired out. Odd, but only now I begin to realize how stoned I’ve been all day. It’s almost five when I roll up to the truck. And I realize I’ve been on that bike for almost six hours. I need food. I’m beat.

And I realized again for the millionth time, and the first ever that I had wildly overestimated my stamina. It was so very typical. I had watched me do this kind of thing for decades, and here I was doing it again. The plan was to get to this point, and roll down to Hermosa, have dinner, and hang around until traffic clears. No fucking way did I have the energy to ride to Hermosa. I’m still wired from the acid, and I don’t want to eat.  This is Friday afternoon. Between me and home is thirty miles of bumper to bumper traffic (in a stick shift truck).

Strangely enough, one of the benefits of taking LSD is that it keeps me very patient, and very attentive when I drive.  Good thing too, because for the next seventy five minutes I would not make it out of second gear. I felt like a total hero for making it home. It was after seven. Fourteen miles per hour average. Life in So Cal. Don’t think about it. I’m just numb.


A shower, food, and coffee brought me back to life. I flopped in the living room, played with the cats, and knocked back a bowl of the Jack Herrer. It’s good weed. Another bowl, and the room is floating in lights, and  for ten or fifteen minutes it let me revisit the peak from the comfort of my favorite chair. Last dance with Lucy? Ah, maybe not, maybe not.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

First Trip in 40 Years






First Trip in 40 Years




I started this series with the Salvia event even though it happened over ten years ago. The sage experience is what planted the seed that would grow into this collection of post middle-age psychedelic adventures. My first acid trip was in August of 1968, and the last time I tripped out would have been sometime in the summer of 1976 or ‘77. Forty years is a long time to be away. But I was determined to get reacquainted.

The first problem I encountered when I decided to begin this adventure was getting my hands on some LSD. It’s kind of hard to come by. But synchronicity always seems to come into play when you start poking around metaphysical realms of any sort, psychedelics included.   I (finally) encountered an ethical and trustworthy source, and got hold of some blotters and a gel tab. I didn't want to risk getting in over my head (been there. No fun.) so I started out with a modest dose. I did a crappy job of quartering one of the blotters, so I went for the biggest one of the four, somewhere between 1/4 and 1/3 of a hit. 

The event was our monthly bike club ride. There’s about a dozen of us in the bicycle gang including my wife and me, and we all ride on fat tire cruisers, antique Schwinns, stretch bikes and custom choppers. We gather once a month to cruise the down the riverbed bike path to the beach, and then up the coast for food, beer, and buzz. It’s an all-day party. We had a parking lot potluck at our meet-up spot that morning. Everyone was bringing food, coffee, beer, and of course, tons of weed. 

 I stopped to get cash and a soda on the drive down. I came out of the 7/11, took the green plastic can out of my pocket and popped it open. Such a tiny chip of blotter. My heart was pounding as I put it on my tongue. Crunch. Swallow. Committed. Deep breath.  I looked at the clock in the truck. 8:43. Twenty minutes later we joined our friends.

 After greeting everyone, and shooting the shit a little I grabbed a sandwich and coffee, and sat in a folding chair, waiting. I was a little nervous, and the food made me feel grounded. The coffee was hot and strong, and the morning was cool and sweet. I checked the time. Almost 10:00. More coffee. 

Suddenly I’m very concerned about our bikes being all clean and shiny.  I know I have a rag, but I can’t find it. I borrow a rag, and start cleaning the wheels on my wife’s bicycle. Then I spot the rag that I couldn’t find a minute ago. Get to work on those wheels! Oh, wait. They’re not so bad. Oh. So then what? Oh. I recognize this! Here we go. I could feel it coming on in waves of excitement, and energy. Suddenly I’m all smiles walking around the parking lot drinking coffee, and talking with my friends. I have the distinct feeling that today is an event of some importance. The sense of apprehension has faded, and the monthly ride has the quality of a holiday like your birthday, or Christmas.

 But I hadn’t taken a wake n’ bake yet. I got some stupid expensive private reserve sativa for just this occasion, and I was waiting for just the right moment. Which arrived like- now. Before I knew it we were locking up the cars, smearing on sunscreen, checking that we got everything OK, and forming up a group to roll out. I knocked back three or four fat tokes, and saddled up my trusty Dyno stretch cruiser. The bicycle felt comfortable as an old shoe. The sativa settled in over the coffee, awakened the mild acid buzz, and turned the morning into a dream.
 All my senses cranked up to 11. All the colors were art, all the sounds, music. Puddles in the low-tide riverbed were clear and incredibly beautiful. We had a small turnout; it was just our club and a handful of close friends. The morning was sweet and clear: perfect for a cruise down the river, and out along the coast. 

As I said, I took a modest dose, and didn't get deep enough to have "visuals". The exception was when we got to the beach, and stopped at the park restrooms to pee. You know how that is when you walk out of bright sunlight into the dark. Add some acid, and it like you're stepping into a closet full of fireworks. This is fun! Rainbow pigeons shuffled and cooed up on the roof. The gods were with me on the dosage; it was *exactly* enough- just what I had hoped to experience.

We headed up the coast. This stretch of beach holds deep, deep memories for me. This is where I first saw the ocean on summer vacation, 1963. I couldn’t wait to really taste the salt water. I was on my first acid trip here in ’68. I learned to surf here in the 70’s. Saw people die in these waters. I scattered my father’s ashes here. And my mother’s, and my grandmother’s.  Last summer when I was here on mushrooms, I could feel their spirits tearing though me in the wind. It made me cry out… All this floated through the morning like a deep incense of memory on the sea breeze. The winter sunlight is honey gold on my face. And I recalled something about acid from years back-

My youngest brother and I often didn’t get along. The dinner table turned into a battleground a couple times a week, easy. Unless I came home high on LSD. Then all the antics my brother would pull to get me pissed would make me laugh instead. Odd how I hadn’t thought of that in so long. But it was of a piece with everything in the world this day. No need for anger. I had also forgotten what a good social lubricant acid can be. All day it just felt as though I were in the right place, saying all the right things at the right time, part of my bicycling family, high as a kite, and just thoroughly enjoying it all. The day was framed and painted with everything that makes life good. The small dose made it all glow and shine.

The important part, though, was the deep perspective that came after the peak had passed, and the excitement had settled. Riding back down the coast and up the river to the cars, the tide was up, the river was full, and the still water reflected the mountains and the sky. The afternoon sun bathed it all in deep golden light. The sheer beauty of it all nearly brought me to tears. And I *realized*. I was so very acutely aware that in another age and time I wouldn't be taking 20 mile bike rides. I'd now be dead, or an invalid from heart disease. Nor could I be drinking in this beauty through plastic eyes because I'd be blinded from cataracts. I wouldn't be out partying and loving life at 65 years of age, because I'd have worked myself to death.

 I can give you the phrases, and they will sound like lots of stuff you’ve heard before:
 "There is *so* much beauty”.
” The Creation is steeped in glory."
 "Your very existence is miraculous."
 "We are so richly blessed."
Life is a gift.

Sometimes this stuff sounds tired and trite until we get those flashes of insight into cosmic/ metaphysical Truth, and those phrases light up like fireworks. The LSD turns that flash into a sustained glow; lets us savor those truths. Of course, that glow fades. But the realization stays. Lucy had one more gift for me that day.

I have a bad problem with road rage. So Cal traffic is awful, and usually by the time I get home from the drive to the beach and back I’m an infuriated screaming wreck. Saturday, after the ride, I glided through that traffic like I was cruising a country road. No hint of frustration or anger. And the anger wasn’t anesthetized as if I’d taken a Xanax or something. Today, I was just not the kind of person who lets a little thing like traffic get him frustrated.  I got home cool, calm, and happy.

 Seven months later although I still dislike driving, I still keep my temper in traffic. No small thing.  Lesson: It is not the external situation that is the problem, but my response to it. I CAN drive mellow. I just had to see it. What else is possible? Like I said- it's all stuff we know all along. The magic is right here when we choose to see it.