Saturday, August 28, 2010


From time to time the missus brings up one of my last acid trips in conversation. We'll be having dinner somewhere, and I'll hear her say, "He was conducting the clouds," and I know the story.

For the record, I haven't done illegal psychedelics for well over a decade. But also for the record, I'm glad I did them. Literally saved my life at one point, provided me with valuable mental skills, and provided enrichment in any number of ways. I am a saner, abler, happier person for my psychedelic experiences.

But there was a sort of a drawback, in addition to the obvious risks. There was a sort of reality bleed-through. Sometimes hallucinations were shared. And sometimes I saw things that should have been hallucinations. I'll start with an example that's pretty easy to regard skeptically before moving on to the odd stuff. Nothing UFO-ey or anything, just the kind of synchronicity that gives you the weebs.

It was an important trip for me, the one where I actually got to mess with the wiring in my visual cortex. (This is a guess, but a reasonably educated one.) I've never been a frequent user of psychedelics, preferring extremely infrequent experiences that are conducted in a ritualistic fashion. This time the dose was eight hits of what I thought was about five hundred microgram blotter acid, which would have made the four thousand mikes that was the standard dose in the sixties. Funny how pot kept getting stronger and acid kept getting weaker...


One of my tricks for recognizing the point at which things were really kicking in was to periodically study patterns or textures. Blue jeans, book covers, wood grain, that sort of thing. When they would begin to move or throb or extrude into three-dimensional shapes that formed golden living hieroglyphs whose flashing angled pantomimes revealed that my concept of existence was an inherently flawed and limited experience of a mathematical set whose metamathematics were complex beyond my capacity to process, then I knew I was coming on.

In this case, I was looking at a nasty old Persian rug. And all of the little facets and paisleys and flowers sort of unlocked, split into separate shapes that floated in the air. I was able to rearrange them in patterns, use them to form pointillist images while maintaining the clarity and specificity of each of the hundreds of individual shapes.

I looked around and saw that everything in the world was visually constructed from flat planes of tone. And I could take each of those planes and pull it away from its point of origin, rotate it to see it from every different angle, and then use it as an element in the construction of an image. The world had shattered, and I could build things with the pieces.

I was messing with the clouds when the missus came upstairs. And I showed her what I was doing. "Watch me make a dragon. Now the sea and there's a ship on it." I even took some requests.

She saw what I was doing. From her perspective, I was literally shaping the clouds. I believe that I was having an intense revelatory experience and she picked up on it through her mirror neurons or some other physical mechanism. Y'all go ahead and make your own interpretation. I can't stop you.

After that trip, I was a better artist. This isn't a subjective call; it was very soon after this that I did a number of pencil drawings that have been mistaken for photographs by both artists and photographers, and that intense visual sensitivity was a long-term skill gained directly from the acid. But as I said, the edges of perceived reality blurred.

That was a weirdy. More frequently, that blurring took the form of seeing real things that should have been hallucinations. On my first acid trip, I was walking in the woods at night and the sound of crickets suddenly seemed to me to be the sound of giant spiders rubbing their jaws together. With the nightmare rider's instincts that have served me well through many a vision, I thought, "Well, of course they're giant spiders. Friendly giant spiders."

And I look down into a patch of moonlight and sure enough, there was a giant spider. Not dog-sized, but it had a leg span nearly as wide as the palm of my hand. So I bent down and let it crawl on my hand and we just hung for a while, me and my new giant spider buddy. Who knew acid hallucinations were so vivid?

Well, they aren't. Turns out there were tarantulas around there. Same thing turned out to be true of the glowing worms -- I even asked my biology teacher about those, and it turns out that hardly anyone gets a chance to see them. For some reason, when I dose, reality fucks with me in a way that seems intentional. Which is why I'm cautious and conscious about this stuff. When reality seems intentional, you're crazy!

At the same time, when your life includes glowing worms and giant spiders it's hard not to start feeling like you've drifted into B-movie reality...

And this kind of thing happened over and over, right from the very beginning. On my second mushroom trip, me and my buddy Mac were on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, brains wreathed in a fungal embrace. This was back in the late seventies, so what you will spot as obvious was a mystery to us.

See, all of a sudden I saw a glowing red dot on Mac's shirt. "Dude, check it out."

He looked down, and it was there. We both saw it.

Then it moved.

It was on one side of his shirt, then the other, then on the sidewalk. So I looked across the street and there was a hippiebeard pointing a long beige box at us. It was a laser he'd built. No commercially available lasers back then, kiddies! At least not for non-geeks! What were the odds of us running across that the one time we were tripping?

We were still talking about it when we got back to the car. Shut the doors, turn on the headlights -- there's someone in front of us.

They look... weird. It's hard to describe this in a way that won't make you hate me when you find out what was going on, so I'm not even going to try. I'm afraid that if I'm going to tell you this in a way that lets you understand my experience, you're just going to have to hate me.

The person in front of us just doesn't look quite human. There's a touch of the goblin to them, a hint of the homunculus. And the fact that they're dressed in some kind of odd, colorful ritualistic outfit doesn't make me feel any more comfortable. Did you ever see the movie The Warriors, and there was that creepy bunch of violent Olde-Fashioned baseball mimes? This person was wearing one of those kinds of outfits.

Especially when another one of them lurches into sight. There are more, behind us, in front of us, all around us, hundreds of them. And their heads are too big or too small, they list to one side. Faces glisten with sweat and slobber -- yes, oh, god, some of them are slobbering, and they're all wearing the same outfit. Are they a cult? An army? Were they all released from the same underground lab?

One of them bounces off the car and our eyes meet and he grins triumphantly -- and I realize that they are all grinning, laughing. I can feel the mass of the crowd throb with unholy joy. Their kind has triumphed; the day of men has passed. The goblin waves and sneers, then staggers off, and after a time the crowd thins and passes and finally we are safe and alone on the night street. After Mac recovers, we drive home, frightened for our future.

Of course it turned out to be the Special Olympics. Do you think it's possible for reality to giggle at a person?


EFKelley said...

I do believe you're being practised upon by the universe.

Fortunately, you're able to take it in stride, which I believe the universe appreciates. The universe might be responsible for horrors and failures, but it hates taking the blame. Laugh along with it like a good sport, and you'll manage life famously!

Favorite quote 'wrapped in a fungal embrace'. Brilliant.

Sneedy McCreedy said...

Hey there - Mac here - my psychadelic experiences by and large weren't as salutary as Sean's, but pretty much the only ones I ever had (and the total number isn't very big and not likely to get bigger) that weren't torturous paranoid hells were the ones I enjoyed with Sean. My favorite was when visiting him at UCSB in the 80s - wrapped in a fungal embrace - and as we stood on a dune at the beach on a crystal clear night I was struck very forcefully (as often happens in these embraces) by the sheer complexity and modernness of life, with its lights and communications systems and roads and ... well we were tripping our balls off. Someone (no doubt straight) nearby heard my tripped-out exclamations and smiled a kindly knowing smile in our direction (helped obviate any potential paranoia), and Sean, being generally agreeable, agreed.