Tuesday, April 12, 2016


DECADES AGO living away from home for the first time and going to college--attending the very institution for which I would eventually teach (at the lowest possible level while yet receiving the greatest honor, though not in terms of money)--my housemates threw a party. I didn't understand how to live with other students sharing a house, and didn't know that I didn't understand until after awhile they told me.

My housemates were two young women. We'll call them Velma and Daphne. Velma's parents down in Los Angeles gave her the house, kind of. We paid our rent to her directly. She was always nice to me. I liked Velma. Daphne, being particularly desirable, of course had a boyfriend. Gunter was from Norway. He was a blonde guy who looked like a surfer and smoked cigarettes all the time. Together we listened to the Beastie Boys and AC/DC. Velma and Daphne eventually said they thought it was weird how I'd hang out in the kitchen. And it was true, when I was making my dinner, often I would see one or both of them making their dinner as well. Instead of spiriting myself away to my room, I'd try to make conversation. They let me know how weird they thought that was, until they realized I was trying to make friends.

Fuckin' duh.

We lived up a hill in Arcata within walking distance of Humboldt State University. The city was just beginning to develop that hillside area at the time. The four of us in the house trekked up around in the woods often, never dreaming how fast those woods would go. On the night we held the rager, all around that quiet residential loop cars filled the hill. Gunter and I had Who Made Who on vinyl blasting away early to kick things off. Eventually the girls required their turn though, and switched the record selection over to Depeche Mode, Midnight Oil, the soft crap.

Strange faces floated all around. Music loud, bodies close, everybody trying to maintain foamy keg beer in red plastic cups. A joint or two was going around. There's always a joint or two going around. But these weren't growers. These were college students, most of whom came from afar. Certainly we'd all seen Animal House. Ours was the party. We were the ragers. We knew exactly how to act.

Amazing things happened I'll neverremember. SometimesIfelt notsogreat. But dammit I had to continue, had to...press on. I would arm wrestle anyone, and I always won. The Road Warrior t-shirt I wore I picked up in Santa Cruz the year before on a post-senior prom excursion to the Mustang Ranch whorehouse which sadly or fortunately fell through around the Bay Area because my buddy and I had left spontaneously at midnight and were just absolutely dead tired.

Daphne appeared at my elbow. "You see that girl over there?" I could see the one she meant. The pretty one in the chair. "You should go talk to her," she said, pulling me toward her as she said so. Daphne introduced me to a beautiful young woman who looked like Jane Seymour, only more intense. Her face was remarkably heart-shaped, framed by dark perfect eyebrows. She sat on a sweater that she had tied around her waist. Forgetting all about that Daphne person, we found ourselves engaged in animated conversation.

Jane, as we'll call her, had arrived rather late. She lived around the corner in a housemate situation just like ours. After awhile we noticed that almost everyone else had gone. Loathe for her to leave, I escorted Jane around the block while she walked with her ten speed bike.

Not long thereafter, an acquaintance from the party appeared at the house one afternoon. One of Daphne and Gunter's friends. Velma didn't much like him, but that seemed like because he rebuked her. He came over all excited about this acid he knew he could get. Not just LSD. Mushrooms, too. These were famous drugs. These were our road to the '60s. We were in college now.

The only sticking point with me was price. Sure, I had enough dough to rent a VCR player and a couple videos of a weekend, perhaps Mutiny on the Bounty or The Maltese Falcon. But my means were meager. I had to stretch the value of my drugging dollar in a most responsible manner. Then I found out it was only two bucks a hit. Holy shit! Once I learned that, I signed on for four bucks' worth.

That night, I couldn't wait. I looked at my two little pieces of paper, and I thought, "You know, I sure do have a strong constitution. Gosh these pieces of paper are small. Sure would like to get my money's worth. What the fuck, down the hatch."

So I waited. About fifteen minutes. Then I called up Jane.

"Jane," I said, "you wouldn't believe what I just did." We talked a little bit and she said to come on over. So I walked around the block, all excited to see Jane again. She came to the door as soon as I knocked. Standing in the doorway she looked in both directions before pulling me inside. "Quickly, to my room."

For some reason, or no reason, we couldn't be seen. I think she didn't want her housemates to know. She was afraid they'd ask if I was her boyfriend. Fine with me, because it meant we were right up next to each other listening to the Beatles. She told me all about the story of her Help! album. Her sincerity still overwhelms. Many items held tremendous importance. Baby, her ten speed bicycle, listened to much from Jane. For no particular reason she seems to me now like a character in a Hayao Miyazaki film.

Sitting next to each other, we began to get closer. But she was shy, and I had to drain the lizard. There was no hiding it now, and verily a man did exit Jane's very room with strong intent to set used beer free. Didn't see nobody, neither. Silly trepidation for naught. When lo, haha, the floor tile seemed to move. I watched the patterns crawl around while I relieved myself, laughing. Couldn't wait to tell her what I saw.

When I came back in, all happy and proud at what I'd accomplished, she welcomed me with open arms in a lime green button-down shirt and we kissed on her bed so sweetly, so gently, with innocent ardor and inexperienced lust. Every now and then I'd stop to look at my fingers waving before my face and laugh at the colors that they left.

All of this took about an hour. Jane expressed her pleasure, and her reservation. "Wow, that is really interesting. Wow. I have to get up early tomorrow, though." It was time for me to go.

Wow indeed! That was fun! I very much enjoyed it. Acid, you're a-ok with me! Thanks for that good time. Heading back around the block I felt like a walking chunk of Americana.

So, sending one last smile to the stars for the eventide, off I trundled to me quarters fer a bit o respite as it were sir, none the worse for wear.

Opened the door, shh, all quiet as I closed it, went on down the hall, into my room, turned on the light, felt queasy while I looked at the homework on my desk next to my bed. I had to sleep. What a day. I took off my clothes, turned out the light, and got in bed.

At first I felt okay. Just a little queasy still. Perhaps that was to be expected on one's first acid trip, taking two hits, at night, alone. But then...then, somehow, I knew that there was a gigantic spider dangling from the ceiling in the dark directly over me. It was impossible. But it was there. Huge. I withstood this as long as I could, until I couldn't take it any longer. Leaping up, I turned on the light.

Suddenly the entire room moved around in weird ways. Posters on the walls rolled up and down. Everything took on a meaty look, an unreal look, like things in the Claymation world of Gumby or some other form of stop motion animation. The striped lines of the wallpaper on one wall blew outward and curled back in like party favors.

I open the door to my room and enter an Oz-like world.

The color is incredible. Everything is incredible. I understand things now that I never understood before. Never needed to before, and never will again. I go over into a corner and look at some books. Holy shit why do I not do this more often? Look at what is available unto the human mind. We are here in time and space. Fascinating.

I go back to my room. Have some adventures there. Do all kinds of things. Then I happen to notice the time is 12:00 midnight. Neat.

So I go back out there unto the living room and now I see one of my housemates. How wonderful! And I have adventures. All sorts of amazing things happen. Until eventually I wander back into my room and I see. The time.

It's 12:01.

What? One minute? After all that, and only one minute has passed? It's not possible. It's not possible.

I go to take a shower. As soon as I get in, snakes and blood and terrible things come flowing out upon me. Spiders and frogs down at my feet move like the tile earlier. When I get out I am sparkling scarlet, beet red all over. Looking at my face in the mirror I tear apart my flesh and see my skull.

Probably I had turned on the hot water only, because as soon as I get out of the bathroom--and I'm amazed I managed to put on pants or shorts or anything at all--soon as I leave the bathroom, I see Velma, her expression of horror and confusion still etched in my mind. She's asking if I'm okay. She's asking if I've done any drugs. By way of reply I stomp a hoof twice.

"Shumendy lo bapa." Color zipping. Her mouth moves. "Shumendy du baspa?"

While I'm on the couch being red, and Velma's trying to get my sister's phone number out of me, Daphne and Gunter walk in the front door with their dog. They have strange expressions on their faces as they walk in, then they stop. They reverse motion. They walk back out through the front door, backwards. The dog walks backwards, they walk backwards, the door shuts. Then the front door opens again and in they walk, looking at me. Now backwards. Door shuts. Door opens. In they walk in again. Looking at me. My mind replays this over and over.

Eventually my sister appears with her boyfriend. They try giving me food. They try walking me around the block. Flailing and blithering I try to comply. At some point after an eternity of sheer hell I finally throw up in the hall on my way to the bathroom. Last thing I remember, I'm lying in bed with my sister crouched on the floor next to me holding my hand.

When I woke up, I saw my sister's boyfriend sitting on the floor against the wall with his eyes closed. My sister was still on the floor next to me. Every part of my being rang with incredible pain. Through the room's single window, the first rays of dawn began sifting in.

"How do you feel?" my sister asked.

Everything hurt so much. World's worst hangover. "Like I died," I said.

"You should drink some water and have something gentle on your stomach."

"I remember throwing up."

"Yeah, you bolted out of bed and threw up in the hall. You almost made it! Just a few more inches and it would've been on the linoleum. Well, a little bit was on the linoleum."

"Oh god."

"It's all right. Velma did most of the cleaning."

"Oh my god. Never again."

"You should thank her."

"I'm so sorry."

"She was really worried about you."

Many years later I told a friend about this episode and he said he doubted it was actually acid that I took. May well be true. I've talked to people who said they've taken literally hundreds of doses, yet never experienced anything like what I went through. I always figured I got lucky. One rotten night of hell and I was done with that shit forever. Now every time I pass by a TV I see a prescription drug commercial touting the wonders of getting back into life by popping some pill with side-effects, including blindness, organ failure, depression, suicidal thoughts, paralysis, death, and not only vomiting, but severe diarrhea, as well. 

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