Dropping LSD to carry on a family tradition.
words NOAH DEWITT
art CHELSEY BOEHNKE
My dad did acid when he was my age — in San Francisco parks, with friends from his theater company, on museum meanderings and excursions in nature. He did it, he tells me, like so many others in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, because it changed the way he thought. It allowed him to perceive the world more fully and with less judgement, made the commonplace wondrous, and revealed the magic between the molecules.
Like father, like son.
I have ingested lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) four times in my 21 years. Two of those times, the stuff came dabbed on blotter paper. Another time, I took it in the form of an inoculated Smarty. But the batch of acid that spurred my wildest trip yet, with the most vivid hallucinations and the realest epiphanies, entered my bloodstream via two foil-wrapped Mini Oreos.
As soon as I filled in the last Scantron bubble of my anthropology exam, I hopped on my bike and raced home, where my closest friend and messiest roommate, Tyler, and our friend Josh were waiting. We initiated Spring Break 2011 by dropping one hit of acid each. I placed the tiny square of blotter paper on my tongue, held it there for some seconds, and swallowed. After that, we had no agenda; we knew from past experiences that spontaneity makes for good tripping.
At around 4 p.m., the first effects came on: stomach butterflies, scattered attention, childlike excitement. While Josh read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn on our porch swing, Tyler and I were in our respective rooms assembling our trip kits. I grabbed Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins (selecting passages at random and reading them aloud is great trip fodder), my journal and Rapidograph pen (on LSD, anyone’s an artist), and a strand of red and yellow clay beads, which my roommate Erin had given me as an amulet of positivity.
We mounted our saddles and pedaled to the south hills, huffed and heaved up Friendly Street, and plummeted down the other side. Josh led the way to a quiet country highway. We ventured out a ways, rested against an old barn, exchanged random passages from our books, howled as we coasted through a sun-lit drizzle, rode back into city limits, and ordered tea at a café.
Although we were enjoying a pleasant body high and could hardly control our laughter, the acid had been disappointingly weak. No hallucinations, no colors and no revelations.
Seated at a tiny round table next to the big front windows of the café, Tyler leaned forward. “I wouldn’t be opposed to taking more,” he said. “You guys down?”
“They’re on Oreos,” said Pirate Pete, as he rummaged through his backpack in our friend’s living room. Pirate Pete, a close acquaintance, earned minimum wage at a Goodwill Donation Center. His wardrobe consisted of oversize t-shirts with wolves on them, hooded sweatshirts and faded jean cutoffs that he’d skimmed off the secondhand influx. He had a knack for getting things without paying for them, hence the nickname.
He handed a tiny foil parcel to Tyler, who unfolded it and divvied the six cookie sandwiches among us.
“I forgot about Mini Oreos,” Josh said.
“Two for you,” Tyler said as he handed me my pair.
“Two for you.” He passed a ration to Josh.
“And two for me.”
Most Nabisco snacks meet the same fate. They occupy a vending machine coil or 7-11 shelf until purchased, provide instant gratification to some sweet-toothed sap, and make their small contribution to obesity and type-two diabetes. They are digested into oblivion, their wrappings discarded. But thanks to a college-aged hipster with a vial of acid in Eugene, Ore., a few Mini Oreos became the vessels of a shakingly beautiful and bizarre cognitive experience.
A few months earlier in a basement in Portland, a tattoo artist had inked the words “be here now” in all-capital Helvetica letters on Josh’s chest for cheap. Josh wanted the phrase to be his permanent mantra. Be Here Now was also the title of a spiritual guidebook for American hippies written in 1971 by Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert, Ph.D.), an American psychologist turned psychedelic advocate turned Hindu spiritual teacher. Josh became known as Ram Dawg.
You’d think that having the words carved into your skin forever would get the message across, but ironically enough, Josh was having trouble being present. We were at the crest of an enormous hill, and we were high. The stars winked at us and multiplied, red and blue and white. One of the sparse cumulus clouds looked and moved like a Chinese dragon. Leaves on boughs overhead squirmed and hissed in the streetlight’s orange glow. And Josh stood holding his bike, looking at the pavement, talking on the phone to his beloved Margot, who was with friends in New York City for spring break. Leaning against the top tubes of our bicycles, Tyler and I listened in agony as Josh tried not to let on that he was tripping balls and appease his girlfriend on another coast in another time zone.
“Ok,” I said. “So if Margot’s all the way in New York, then where are we?”
“Good question,” Tyler said, looking around him for a street sign. “I think we might be right here.” He pointed to the ground, and we both cracked up.
“Yep. We’re definitely here.”
“Ram Dawg, get off the phone! Be here now! Let’s bomb this hill!” Tyler said. “Why’s his phone even on?” he asked me. He took off down the grade. I followed.
Josh caught up with us at the foot of the hill, and we followed intuition where it took us. We gaped at the spiraling columns and shifting brick patterns in the façade of the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus; perched on the lowest branches of an enormous oak for almost an hour, philosophizing about matter, everlasting souls, art, language, and machines; gave Ken Kesey’s bronze statue in downtown Eugene a deep-tissue massage and thanked him for fathering the psychedelic movement; and returned home to watch abstract doodles dance around on my bedroom chalkboard.
On acid, my senses didn’t conjure, so much as they distorted. I didn’t see gnomes or freaky creatures or ancestral spirits or anything so fantastical. I saw what I would normally see — but differently. For example, a wooden chair, which would ordinarily seem plain, inanimate and useful, might have struck me as genius or comically tiny or pulsing. “Whoa” was never far from my lips.
Even when the hallucinations were over and things like wooden chairs regained their banality, my sense of awe didn’t disappear. I felt awakened. There’s more to the universe than matter in motion, I thought. Not everything can be explained.
My mom has always enforced a strict “don’t do drugs” policy, and for that reason, I will not be sending her a copy of this essay. Last March, when she phoned to catch up and asked how my spring break was, I answered with a vague “It was fun.” The guilt of withholding information from the woman who brought me into existence is terrible, but not as terrible, I hold, as the consequences of full disclosure (e.g., longwinded lectures on gateway drugs, intervention, disownment).
But when my father dropped me a line and asked me what I’d been up to, there was no hesitation. “After finals, I did acid with Tyler and Josh,” I told him. We laughed together over the phone as I recounted the trip, and he chimed in with anecdotes from his own experiments.
When I was 14, my older sister Rachael told me that Dad had dropped acid back in the day. A year later, he told me himself. He didn’t go into details about why he did it or what he gained from the experience. He didn’t express regrets.
In my junior year of high school I picked Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, a 70-page essay about the mescaline experience, off my dad’s bookshelf. Tucked between the pages was an essay that my dad had typewritten in the ‘70s, analyzing Huxley’s book. My adolescent mind formed a distinction: booze, dope, and pot are for shallow desires, whereas LSD, mescaline, and magic mushrooms are for noble ones.
At 4 a.m., Tyler, Josh, and I sat Indian-style on the dusty hardwood floor of my bedroom around one flickering votary candle. Our drawings twitched and squiggled on the dimly lit chalkboard. After rapping enthusiastically about the insignificance of our puny little lives in the eyes of the universe, we thought to ourselves in silence.
I thought of my dad, and asked: “Do you think our kids will do acid when they’re our age?”
DIY Gut Fish
words and art JULIAN WATTS [issuu viewMode=singlePage width=420 height=544 backgroundColor=%23222222 documentId=120124215316-2da3e8acd5c84594a0fb9513d4de2bf0 name=daddydiy username=ovmag tag=dad unit=px id=b80e0407-8102-71b7-4141-fdb07104d384 v=2] ...