Here was another illustration of the childlike improvidence of this age and people.
Back in the mountains, Sally and I moved all our belongings from Star Lake to the lodge. The physical activity required to get everything organized was exhilarating. Dealing with the hardness of material things rather than the softness and mutability of human relationships is one of the best reasons for living in the woods as far as I am concerned. It’s very nice to be able to stand back from a job and say, “Well, that’s not going anywhere,” and know that, barring disasters, it won’t.
I repaired the dock, bolted down the decking, connected the water system, repaired the old water pump under the front porch, which drew through a stop-valve from the lake, fiberglassed and painted our biggest boat, a fourteen-footer, cleaned and repaired the outboard motors and, with considerable help from a seventy-five-year-old handyman who had spent his life on the lake and was full of fascinating historical anecdotes, got the generator out back in working order.
I made a trip to town once a day, landing at a floating dock behind the general store and proceeding immediately to the tiny one-room post office across the road to see if enough memberships had come in so we could make it through another day or two. The weekly average was usually enough for daily expenses: milk, cigarettes, beer, wine, kerosene, whiskey, gasoline, gin and food. The mortgage payments had to come from visitors’ contributions.
If I had it to do over again, I don’t think I would include a generator in a scene like Morning Glory Lodge, but depend on kerosene lamps, and a small gasoline motor for pumping water. It was nice to have music, however, and I included Susan’s favorite, “Linus the Lionhearted,” in every evening’s entertainment, usually right after Bobby Dylan, whom I had come to appreciate after great initial resistance caused by his phony accent. “Linus” also provided an opportunity to point out to visitors the philosophic and psychological lessons one might learn from a kid’s record interpreted in terms of solipsism and synchronicity. I can’t cover all the visitors here but I will mention those who turned out to be important later.
They almost always showed up at night. Johnnie Merchant’s big boat would appear off the end of the dock, pitching and wallowing; people waving, horn tooting. I would throw a switch which activated the generator and turned on a floodlight lashed to a tree overlooking the dock, and we would run out and take the mooring lines. We would then pull some city slickers up on the dock. They were usually stoned on grass and fortified with drinks they had just downed at Johnnie’s father’s motel-bar, the only such place in town. A merchant named Merchant. Having played the visitor role at Millbrook, I could fully sympathize with our visitors’ mixed feelings and apprehensions, as well as with their technique for solving the problem.
When Lisa Bieberman and a chemist friend from Boston, Tord Svenson, showed up, however, there was none of the usual nonsense. Lisa and Tord were old hands at the game. Good, I thought. Now is the time to have some fun with the stuff; take maybe 50 micrograms and enjoy the lake.
Tord, who had written some flowery letters, proved to be a delightful character. A weight lifter and motorcyclist as well as a “real” chemist, he looked like he had stepped out of a movie about the Vikings of old. His interests were as broad as his chest and he was always up to date on the latest psychological, sociological and political topics and loved to talk about them. His disposition was invariably sweet and almost childlike. When we were settled in around the fireplace with beers, Tord pulled a little bottle from his pocket and proudly announced that it contained the psychedelic bufotenin, normally found in the glands of the common Australian cane toad.
He had synthesized only one dose, so he planned to take it himself before they left. Would it be OK if he and Lisa tripped on acid tomorrow? Did we want to join them? Sally had to look after the kids, but I said I would be delighted.
Lisa filled us in on the latest developments in the Psychedelian world. The Psychedelic Review was alive and well, as was her own mimeographed bulletin, for which she charged practically nothing. She had carried an announcement of the formation of the Church in this bulletin and was herself bee hee of Cambridge. Since Tord had bufotenin in his possession, I suggested that he take the title of “Keeper of the Divine Toad,” which he accepted with glee. This post, ever since, has been reserved for “real” chemists.
Let’s not forget LSD was legal, more or less, at the time. There were no federal laws and few states had anything more threatening than vague, unenforced and unenforceable laws about “dangerous drugs” in general.As a result, although all of us worried about the laws which we feared might come, a spirit of enthusiasm and wonderment prevailed: Was it possible life could be so fascinating and enjoyable, so free, so full of promise?
I didn’t know anyone in the movement at the time who wasn’t basically happy. What “paranoia” existed resulted from possession of the lesser sacrament. I told those visitors who had any to bury it back in the woods and recover and smoke it one joint at a time.
This was the harbinger of evil times to come. The oligarchy’s mass media machine routinely ignores the psychological and social damage which the longest “war” in American history has done to us, while going on forever about the horrible consequences of the persecution of other minority populations, even if those persecutions have become ancient history.
If the drug laws frighten us as intended, and they certainly do, why don’t we give up the criminalized practices?
The unstoned are astonished that seemingly rational people continue, under such circumstances, to insist on doing something that isn’t profitable and isn’t addicting.
If the sacraments are merely “recreational” drugs that produce interesting hallucinations, this is indeed puzzling.
But even a light marijuana high is much more than a recreational experience. It is a liberating and uplifting experience which tends to bring out the best in people. (“The best” in some people may not seem like much to other people.)
At the other end of the spectrum, a death/rebirth trip on LSD generates the religious emotion in its most elemental form, so pure and elemental that few know what to call it, even when they have it, not having been introduced to any pure and elemental things since infancy. Named or not named, it’s hard to trivialize it, but they keep trying.
The typical liberal, but unstoned, observer cannot see any of this because religion, to the non-religious, is almost always seen as a wish system of fairy tales or mere institutionalized opinion, like political ideology. I ought to know. That’s exactly what I thought from about age fourteen to thirty-six.
In the terms acceptable to the pampered house niggers of the oligarchy, who are well paid to saturate the airwaves with the official line, thereby controlling the mental lives of the field niggers, the fact that many field niggers and almost all of us swamp niggers are willing to hazard life, liberty and property for certain drugs must be some kind of mass psychopathological aberration caused directly by the drugs themselves. I think most of these people are honestly unaware of any other way to explain it. (You must first con yourself to be a truly reliable and trustworthy house nigger.)
In former times, the conflict between Sado-Judeo-Paulinians and Psychedelians would have been seen clearly for what it is, an attack by the established power of religious orthodoxy on religious novelty. Nothing new about that.
But we live in a police state in which mass deception is the chief technique of domination. Almost nothing political is what it seems to be or claims to be. Spreading sociological and psychological horseshit around in the mass media is cheap, and the public will always react with gratitude and applause if it is the kind of crap they like to hear.
The con artists and swindlers with the gold, the guns and the TV sets at their command can hide the truth from the public and, to some extent, from themselves, behind a smokescreen of benign concern for the “mental health” of their victims and the protection, not of certain institutions they control, but of the “social fabric” or some such seeming universal good.
Whose social fabric, yours or mine? That’s the real question.
If no laws banning LSD had been passed and cannabis had been legalized in the early years covered by this book, the quality of American life would have undergone a radical and pervasive revolutionary change for the better. Large areas where nacht und nebel now prevail would be governed instead by sweetness and light, as some places are in fact so governed in the European Union today.
For the oligarchy and the established churches and the military-industrial complex, the drug laws have worked very well, not only in fending off the dreaded specter of European welfare statism (or “socialism” or “social democracy,” or whatever you want to call it) but in virtually abolishing the Bill of Rights and constitutional government in general, and dethroning rationality itself as the guiding principle in public life in the United States.
The fundamental beliefs of Psychedelians have changed very little since the days I am describing, in the sense that the answers to a questionnaire about attitudes towards drugs would be much different now than then, but the prevailing spirit and the everyday expectations, fears, wishes and attitudes that make up that spirit have been radically perverted because of the unrelenting persecutions to which we have been subjected.
Having been brought up in a professional religious household in which the history of religion was table talk, I expected something like this from the start, while hoping that I was wrong, but most Psychedelians at that time thought of the government as a benign but temporarily mistaken parent. All we had to do was “be nice,” cite all the objective evidence and ancient precedents, appeal to the First Amendment, and all would be well. Lisa was a classic example of that frame of mind.
The following morning dawned warm and blue as usual with just enough of a breeze to make the lake scintillate the way a good lake should. After we had all swallowed our pills, Lisa plunked herself down on the living room floor and indicated that she expected Tord and me to join her.
“Lisa,” Tord said, “it’s beautiful out there. Come on, you don’t really want to spend the whole trip indoors, do you?”
Despite his efforts to get Lisa to move, Tord didn’t seem very surprised by her assumption that we would all be delighted to spend the day squatting on the floor. I could hardly believe it. I wasn’t going to stay inside, no matter what Tord and Lisa did.
“But I believe in staying in one place during a trip,” Lisa said.
“That’s in Cambridge,” Tord answered. “You don’t have to worry about other people here. We’re out in the woods.”
“Well, OK,” Lisa said, getting up. “This will be a new experience for me.”
“I’m jealous,” Sally said from the kitchen where Klytie was getting cereal spooned into her mouth. “I promise I’ll watch the kids next time,” I said.
Although I pretended insouciance, I felt apprehensive. If another colossal visionary trip was coming up, I might be better off on the floor, but it seemed to me that if I was ever to enjoy acid the way I enjoyed grass and hash, I would have to change set and setting the way Learian doctrine indicated.
I was glad I did, because it worked. For the first time I had the kind of trip described in Huxley’s The Doors of Perception. No visions, just an incredible heightening of awareness.That’s exactly how I felt as I took Tord and Lisa on a tour of the lake, although I didn’t need to use it as a reason not to communicate because the only other people around were Tord and Lisa, who were just as stoned as I was.
Lisa, once she was out in the open air, fell right into the spirit of things and wandered around freely at our various stops along the shore, exclaiming over this or that natural wonder one would pass by routinely in a normal, stupid, blind and constipated state of consciousness. Our last stop was Birch Island, directly across from Morning Glory Lodge. There was a log cabin on it, surrounded by trees. The owner, a mysterious figure with, I had been told, a heavy Russian accent, never visited during the months we lived on the lake. I hoped to buy it, or find a fellow Psychedelian who would buy it. I told Tord about my plans:
“What we’ll do is prepare visitors for their first trip at the lodge,” I said. “Then, when we think they’re ready, we’ll have a boat waiting at the dock early in the morning with a mysterious, hooded figure at the oars. The boat will be painted black and have poles fore and aft with weird banners and flags and black gauze billowing out all over. We’ll have someone on the island ring a bell or beat a gong during the ride over, starting when the rising sun first touches the island.”
“Yeah, and just before the boat leaves a marijuana goddess will come running down to the boat and pass around a crystal goblet of champagne with acid in it. They all take a sip, and then the boat leaves for the Dawn of Nothing.”
Tord, a great giggler despite his bulk, giggled appreciatively.
“What kind of a scene will you have over here?” he asked, as we tied up the boat.
“I’m not sure. Maybe we should say there are several people on the island who will assist them but actually leave the place deserted. Let them make up their own people. No, too paranoia inducing. I suppose we could just take turns. Everyone who lives here would take shifts on the island to look after people taking their first trips.”
While Tord and I discussed such plans for the development of the scene, all of which required money we didn’t have, Lisa wandered off and then called us down to a mass of shelving rock on the north side of the island which served as a natural dock. She was sitting next to a puddle in the stone, peering into it intently.
“What’s that?” she asked, pointing to something in the puddle. Tord and I got down to nose level and looked. Some kind of tiny creature was swimming around frantically in the puddle. An immature tadpole, probably. It was hard to make out any distinguishing features.
Lisa was fascinated. She didn’t want to leave.
I rose to my feet and, adopting a mock-dramatic manner, asked, “Ah, you know what this means, Lisa, do you not?”
Gesturing grandly towards the puddle, Lisa, the rocks and the lake, I gave Lisa the benefit of my interpretation: “This tiny creature, trapped here in its puddle and separated from the great waters beyond by these masses of rock, is your personality!”
Lisa seemed a bit stunned but, sweeping metaphors being her bread and butter, so to speak, she seemed willing to entertain the notion. She nodded her head.
“Yeah, that’s right Lisa,” Tord said. “Do you want me to catch this little fella in my hands and put him in the lake? It won’t hurt him.”
Lisa gave the idea a lot of thought, but decided against it. The little fella liked it right where he was, she concluded. It is best not to interfere with the mysterious workings of Mother Nature, and all of that. We went back to the lodge.
The tadpole incident was the peak of the trip for Lisa. Mine came when, during lunch, I tried to play the usual baby-style games with Klytie, who was burbling away in her high chair in her characteristically happy fashion. Klytie took after Sally who, leaving aside her hang-ups, was a warm-hearted, good-natured, spontaneous person, while Susan was more like her father, intent on figuring out what was going on instead of simply making the most of it.
Playing with Klytie turned out to be more than I had bargained for. I was astounded at the complexity and virtuosity of the wordless games she played. It seemed that Klytie understood, in some weird way, all the implications of what was taking place, and was delighted to stage-manage the whole affair. I felt like I was talking to some fantastically brilliant creature from another planet, rather than a human baby. She was also hilariously funny. It finally got to be too much for me. I began to suspect that I might spend the rest of my life sitting around having conversations with babies, as St. Francis did with his birds, so I suggested that we all go swimming, which we did.
Tord’s bufotenin trip, a couple days later, was unspectacular, at least from the viewpoint of his audience. He went out to the end of the dock, meditated for an hour or so, and then drank the contents of his vial. To collect bufotenin, I understand, one subjects the Australian cane toad, Bufo Marinus, to a weak electrical current, and the resultant very dangerous exudation, which is a cocktail of poisonous compounds and must be greatly diluted and imbibed in experimental sips, drips into a dish. (If you try this, wear safety glasses.) Tord had the pure stuff. He stayed where he was for about four hours. I interrupted him once, about halfway through.
“How’s it going, Tord?” I asked.
“Well, it’s interesting. I’m convinced there is nothing on the other side of those hills over there.”
I congratulated Tord. A profound half-truth, in my opinion.
That was it. The trip lasted four hours and seemed, as interpreted by Tord, to be standard Yogacara Buddhism, which is the eau de parfum of the best doctrine, but about the most you can expect from most people. Even this after-shave lotion was too alarming for Tord, however, as we shall see. Many are called but few are chosen.
The “Void,” or any one of the many other terms meaning the same thing, is rarely mentioned in casual Psychedelian converse, although it is the central concept of the best classical teachings. People tend to shrink back in fear and trembling from the idea of utter nothingness.
Tord, a sweet guy in a desperate search for love and warmth, simply couldn’t take it. Before he and Lisa left, Tord told a story about one of his experiments with acid that seemed to sum it all up.
He took about a thousand micrograms of Sandoz one Saturday night and then went to a neighborhood Irish bar in Boston on his motor-cycle to experience social interaction while manifesting a play opportunity situation, or something. Once there, he announced he could drink every man in the place under the table. Tord, who was not a heavy drinker, then proceeded to prove his point to the dozen or so Irishmen who eagerly accepted his challenge and his free drinks.
“I must have put away a quart at least, Art,” Tord said, chortling merrily at the recollection. “The last thing I remember was seeing all these guys crowded into a corner while I was advancing on them. One of them kept yelling, ‘Throw him Ernie! Throw him Ernie!’ The next thing I remember is waking up on the kitchen floor out back the next morning with the bartender and the cook stepping over me. I didn’t have a hangover and there wasn’t a mark on me. Never found out if they threw me Ernie either.”
Tord wanted “involvement,” at almost any price.
I hated to see Tord and Lisa leave, but they both had jobs.
When it was Sally’s turn to trip a week or two later, two visitors having arrived whom we mistakenly considered to be our type, we learned that being at the lodge was no insurance against having spooky or frightening experiences.
The visitors were Ed Rosenfeld, at that time boo hoo of the West Side, and his girlfriend. They hadn’t been in the house fifteen minutes before Ed pulled out a vial of tablets and asked if it was OK if they dropped. It was around two in the afternoon, but I didn’t know then that the middle of the day is a chancy time to start a trip, because you come down in the middle of the night. It’s best to start late in the evening, so your return to the world of ordinary game routines coincides with the rising of the sun, or in the early morning, so you are well down by your ordinary bedtime.
Aside from the shock produced by hearing the crazy laugh of a loon flying over the lake early in the trip (thereafter, I warned visitors to expect unearthly shrieks as the shades of night were falling), Ed and girl had no particular difficulty, but Sally, who was unusually quiet for the first few hours, went through a classic death-rebirth in our bedroom as soon as it was dark. As long as she was agitated, the phenomenal world continued to exist for her. As soon as she relaxed, it disappeared. We all sat on the bed holding on to her and saying the usual reassuring words. After half an hour of flipping back and forth, she came out of it and the rest of the trip proceeded along normal lines in the living room, but Sally remained shaken for hours.
When everyone was down, Sally and I drove Ed and girl to Saranac Lake to catch a bus. The talk was almost entirely about death. Ed described several DMT trips he had taken in New York and the effects sounded similar to my peak experiences and, to Sally, a lot like what she had been through the night before, but so fleeting in duration as to be in a different class altogether.
The question was the usual one: Is it “real”? Sally and I had talked about this before, but it’s one thing to indulge in philosophic speculation while smoking a joint or two and it’s another thing altogether to consider certain fundamental questions after having just died and been reborn on 500 micrograms of the Supreme Sacrament. The images summoned up have a certain immediacy and familiarity unknown to most philosophers. A veritable clamor is heard in the forefront of one’s mind that these issues be given prompt attention, as if they were long overdue bills or a toothache.
Many virtually illiterate but natively intelligent lads and lassies rush to the library after their first death-rebirth experiences as if their lives depended on it. Similarly, literate people long sunk in naive realism will suddenly awaken to the fact that “naive” is actually the right word for it, and they will reexamine their prejudices.
In the early days of the movement this aspect of things was generally recognized, even in the mass media. Writers, painters, musicians, scientists and even mathematicians testified to the stimulating effect of psychedelic experience on their creative work. It was taken for granted that intelligent people who took LSD would develop a serious interest in philosophic thought. Tastes in literature and art would move up a notch or two also.
Does one “really” die on a death/rebirth trip?
The reason people doubt that they have “really” died is that afterwards they “come back” and people tell them they were never absent for a moment. Furthermore, they witness other people, who later say they died, being right there, breathing, the whole time. Supporting the above arguments, however, is the unspoken assumption of the externality of relations. One’s life or death is thought of as something within another, greater continuum of space and time. Reincarnation, as it is ordinarily thought of, is but a special case of this. The entity, whatever its relative power, still exists within a continuum with an independent dynamism.
If the externality of relations is denied, on the other hand, there is no reason, Snazzm, to consider a death-rebirth experience as more delusional than anything else around.
I have as yet to hear anyone on a death-rebirth trip express a wish to come back as a cherub in a world of pink clouds or anything like it. Every now and then, on or off trips, people will drop dead and stay dead, requiring the disposal of the corpse, but what of it? If people didn’t come and go in dreams, things would become unbearably crowded and crazy, and so it is in “real” life. A dream jammed with people who never go away is as good a vision of Hell as I can imagine. A sort of Bangladesh of the mind, but Bangladesh is the Bangladesh of the mind.
These “problems” about death remind me of Dick Alpert’s question on our walk at Millbrook, shortly after my Enlightenment, “Well, I do have a life of my own, don’t I?”
Why ask me?
All I know about Dick, or anyone or anything else, in waking or sleeping life, is what my sense impressions tell me. And I’m content to have Dick, or anyone else, think about me the same way.
I wish they would. Peace on Earth might be the result.
When things become extraordinarily non-dualistic or “magical” and the usual guideposts to what is (to be presumed as) external and what is (to be presumed as) internal vanish, some people will freeze, freak out, become paranoid, and so forth, particularly if they recall no previous experience with the state. That kind of stuff cannot be called a reduction of suffering, per se, but the experience of being in this condition and surviving can demonstrate that one is a lot tougher, mentally, than one thought one was, and that can lead to a great reduction in suffering.
The Slobovenoid Blobovenoidal variety of monism is no better than conventional super-naturalism for handling this kind of stress and answering these kinds of questions. Just as God may be drunk or insane, so your “Higher Self” may be drunk or insane. There’s lots of evidence to support either diagnosis.
If He is, and you believe you are merely His creature or holographic fragment or appendage or outpost or whatever, you are not in an enviable position.
Sally’s psychedelic experience did not overcome her imprints and conditioning and since I hadn’t yet invented the Zmms, I didn’t have the terminology to make the most important distinctions clear to her and, even if I had, living with me at that time required radical changes which Sally was not young enough, or free enough, or rich enough, or brave enough, or crazy enough, or stoned enough, to make. Oh, well.
The rest of the summer passed in a succession of neat episodes. Visitors would arrive at our dock, one kind of drama or another would develop, and then they would leave from the same dock, usually happier and perhaps, so some claimed, wiser.
A couple of good old transcendentalist boys showed up: a wino professor of English literature from Canton and Walter Houston Clark, at that time a full professor of theology at Andover Newton Theological School, which had been founded by Calvinists to combat the Unitarian heresy of Harvard Divinity. Clark looked and talked like Dr. Spock, and his buddy reminded me of Jack Spratt, but of a somewhat older vintage. All they wanted to do was shoot the breeze, look the place over, and perform their sacred function as general gadabouts and learned gossips of Psychedelia. Fine with me.
They had met a few months earlier, they told me, as enthusiastic recruits to what I thought was an extremely interesting experiment. Who conducted it, I can’t remember. Some quasi-academic association, I think, of which there were several at the time, and I’m happy to report that one of them did something useful. The subjects, all mature and well-educated adults, took increasingly large doses of LSD every day for several days until they “maxed out.” The big surprise at the time was that after three days or so no dose, no matter how large, had any effect whatever on anyone. It’s a “trigger drug” all right, as this and many other trials have shown, and so it seems are all major psychedelics. The actual sacraments are in the brain, awaiting activation.
According to his buddy, with whom I had one or two private conversations as the day wore on, Clark was a “millionaire” (why is this term routinely applied to both those who have the capital and those who have the income?), but also a skinflint of the old school. “You’ll never get a dime out of him,” said the Blake expert, “so save your breath.”
Unabashed selfishness is in the grand old Transcendentalist tradition. Since “everyone” is an “aspect” (or something) of the Giant Blob, everyone must be, somehow, getting what he deserves, Blobwise, sort of. Neither justice nor charity (nor truth, in my opinion) is an important idea among Oversoulians.
“Do not tell me, as a good man did today, of my obligation to put all poor men in a good situation. Are they my poor? I tell thee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge the dollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do not belong to me and to whom I do not belong,” wrote Emerson.
No wonder Ralph Waldo, like Tim, did so well on the lecture circuit. He made people “feel good about themselves.” If you tell people (who can afford the price of tickets) what they want to hear, they will come out for it.
I did get more than a dime out of Clark, however. Along with other notables on Lisa Bieberman’s hit list, he put up a couple hundred towards my bail when I was busted in Florida. I didn’t pay him back right away and he neglected to mention the Neo-American Church in the Encyclopedia Britannica article he wrote on psychedelic drugs and religion shortly thereafter. The Church of the Awakening, of which Clark was a director, and which hoisted the white flag around ’70 or ’71 after losing some feeble administrative law skirmishes for tax exemption, was mentioned. In the years to come, Clark requested a few dozen small favors of me and I obliged him at no cost, which I figured made us come out about even, pretty much.
I think I irritated Clark for the same reasons I irritated Lisa and other academical refugees from the classic New England seance circuit. I wasn’t playing by the rules. I wasn’t trying to find common ground. I ignored the canon. I showed little or no interest in the various “psychedelic” groups then around which derived from the traditions of the Higher Learning in America and were mostly composed of college teachers and always led by them. Based largely on personal experience, I had developed a very Veblenish view of the professorate and of scholarly traditions and customs in the U.S. of A. in general.
However high-minded and sincere the individuals involved, I was convinced that these associations would dissolve on receipt of the first stern memo from the Dean or the Provost or the President or the Chancellor or maybe even the janitor, and so they did. (I was very pleasantly surprised when these people actually put up a fight over Vietnam.)
But it was pleasant to associate with book-reading gentlemen for a change, summer soldiers and sunshine patriots though they may have been. Emerson, so long as no donations were requested, was a reliable cheerer-upper in any kind of weather and among all classes and conditions of mankind, and Clark and pal were most amiable also.
Shortly before their visit, Sally and I had been ripped off by a mating pair of Jewish heroin addicts from the old-style druggie world, whom we foolishly trusted, simply because they talked like Psychedelians, to deliver her coin collection to a dealer in New York. People of this kind had a field day for a while. Pickings had been slim, and then an enormous flock of starry-eyed lambs had appeared in their midst, ready to be fleeced. But most of the people we met that summer were, like ourselves, harmless unless tormented.
Sally and the kids left for Manhasset early in August. Her father had died shortly after we bought Morning Glory Lodge, only a few days after he had retired from the museum to his version of the great American dream, a charming Cape Cod which descended in three levels to front on a small beach on Gardiner’s Bay near Southold, Long Island, complete with red sails in the sunset, etc. He died of a fast stroke, standing in the watery morning sunshine, while on the phone with the movers.
Her mother was selling the new house and moving to Florida. Sally’s help was needed. Perhaps we would move to Florida for the winter also. Since there was no money available to winterize the lodge, and Sally was opposed to staying anyway, it didn’t seem to me I had much choice, but I was damned if I was going to leave before things got too chilly for comfort.
September is often the best month in the North Country. Most of the tourists are gone, the foliage becomes so magnificent as to verge on ostentation, and the weather is delightful. It’s usually warm enough to swim during the day, but clear and cool enough at night so the stars appear in overpowering numbers when one steps out to take a piss or goes down to the water’s edge to think something over.
After Sally’s departure, with a boatload of lesbians from New York City, who had enjoyed freaking freely in the woods like the Amazons of old, I had a few days to myself.
Then Kimberly Harrison and Stove (“Ah is all stoved in, man.”) arrived, followed by Steve Newell and then Mike and Gai Duncan. It was an entertaining group.
Stove and Kimberly had a strange story to tell. They were both from Miami, where Kimberly, a classic blonde beauty, plied her trade as a Miami Beach hooker. She had met Stove after he had freaked out on the most colossal and one of the weirdest bummers I had heard about up to that time. It involved hordes of fleas appearing in his house on some crazy but exact schedule, not being able to take a shower because the water wouldn’t touch his skin, and aimless wanderings during which he was pursued by flocks of blackbirds and was picked up on the road by kindly spades driving white cars who knew all about him even though he had never seen any of them before in his life.
Kimberly, who had heard about the lodge from a friend of Ed Rosenfeld, had driven Stove up to be cooled out, paying all the bills along the way, in the ancient and honorable tradition of the whore with a heart of gold. She loved every variety of psychedelic drug, and never had anything but splendid and happy experiences while stoned.
Steve Newell was something else, also. An alcoholic with a large private income and a family he frequently deserted to go on month-long binges in Mexican whorehouses and amnesic tours of the USA in his big, black Thunderbird, Steve had discovered peyote about a year prior to his visit and, as he put it, had “forgotten to drink.”
His kick was magic, pure and simple. He used Renard’s Grimoire to summon up demons, travel around in his “astral body,” and so on. He tripped alone in every one of the cabins and reported that each one had a different set of entities, rather ungeheimlich in the North, but decent sorts in the South, which, I noted, correlated with the quality of the plumbing.
Mike and Gai Duncan, not yet married, whom I found sleeping in the grass in front of one of the cabins one morning (not having noticed the arrival of the boat the night before on account of being stupefied), were what I would later come to recognize as classic “heads.” They were ragged and appeared to be poor but, it turned out, were well-off, having incomes from trust funds adequate to do pretty much as they liked.
Mike displayed, in high relief, every characteristic of the head, or “freak” or “kid” subculture. “Hippy?” The media and media mongers like Tim used the term constantly but the Psychedelians I knew in the ’60s almost never used it to refer to themselves. For good or for ill, whatever this population was doing Mike and Gai did also. And they could be counted on to do it early, not being simply imitative, and to do it in a big way.
It’s hard to name any enthusiasm which enjoyed a transitory popularity in the kid culture in which Mike and Gai did not, at one time or another, participate. For several years, they zoomed around the country in a crazy-quilt pattern, trying every psychedelic drug available and visiting every guru they heard about. The earthly perfection which they sought was always just over the horizon. They wanted someone to tell them exactly what they wanted to hear and to transfer something to them. They didn’t know what this was but they knew what it wasn’t. They expected, upon hearing The Message and/or getting whatever It was, to be elevated beyond all mundane cares. Their conversation was almost exclusively about drugs and gurus. They were pursuing happiness with the zeal with which the English country gentry is said to pursue foxes.
I approved of this, sort of, but found it almost impossible to talk to Mike without losing my temper. He would ask me exactly those questions which I wanted to hear, and I would answer them with a feeling that I was accomplishing something important. Mike would listen attentively and respond in such a way that I was sure he had grasped my meaning perfectly. Then, often as not, a few minutes later he would quote with approval some moronic, supernaturalistic tripe he had picked up from a trashy pamphlet somewhere, thereby demonstrating that my efforts had been a waste of breath.
Michael and the class he represented so accurately likewise, lacked the primary requirement for all successful prospectors for gold: the ability to recognize it when you have it in hand. They had read too many dumb books and listened to too many shithouse rumors describing the stuff as, perhaps, heavenly blue in color, at least when Venus was in Aquarius, and as having a powerful odor of sanctity and cant about it at all times. And if the current claimant didn’t fit those specs, something was wrong somewhere.
Sages are not generally honored in their own country, because their countrymen are so full of self-doubt that they cannot believe anyone who speaks their language and lives the way they live can be worth much, and so it was with Michael. Whatever glittered at the bottom of his pan had to be fool’s gold, while anything he couldn’t see, but was told, or had read, existed in some exotic place, was most likely the genuine article, or at l east he thought so until he got there and whatever it was became familiar rather than exotic and therefore not good enough for him, more or less by definition.
But, despite my irritation, or perhaps partly because of it, I did better than the average guru with both Mike and Gai, and I must also mention that Mike’s most characteristic remark was, “Well, since we’re already this stoned, why not have one more and get really stoned?” This is an attitude which compensates in my system of bookkeeping for a multitude of sins.
I spent a lot of time talking to Stove, whose crazy adventures fascinated me. In former years, I would have regarded him as a “well-defended” paranoid and let it go at that. He would have been considered “well-defended” because he did not, most of the time, do anything particularly bizarre or fail to handle the routines of ordinary life in an acceptable manner. Stove’s sense of humor, for example, was intact. He had classic Capricornian saturnine features and a deep, rich voice to match, and his favorite gag was to reply to any blithe or optimistic statement made in his vicinity with a drawn out “Oh, yea-a-a-a-a-ah?” which expressed his earnest conviction that all those who saw the future of Psychedelianism in a positive way were doomed to disillusionment.
“Listen, Stove,” I said at one point, “why don’t we build you a tree house out back? Then, when visitors come we can tell them we have this hermit who will answer one and only one question for each group of visitors. They should take their time and work out some question that’s really complex and covers everything. Then they have to prostrate themselves under your tree and go through some kind of mumbo-jumbo to get you to come out on your porch or limb or whatever. You don’t say anything. Just listen gravely as the question is read out. Then you say, ‘Oh, yea-a-a-a-a-ah?’ and go back in your house.”
Stove thought this was a good idea, but he didn’t want to be separated from Kimberly, even though he had been impotent since his strange adventures began.
One quiet afternoon, while Stove was on the porch reading, Kimberly came upstairs and knelt on the floor next to my chair, where I had been alternately writing and looking out over the lake. She had a problem. It wasn’t that Stove was “uptight,” she explained. Far from it. Night after night she would apply every devise of titillation known to a class-A Miami Beach hooker, but Stove would merely gaze at her fondly and compassionately from a million miles away. Resting her lovely head on my knee, Kimberly drawled in her soft Texan accents (her father, she said, was a big shipper in Port Arthur), “Ah jus ’ don understan’ it, Ahthur. Ahm known on the beach for mah haid jobs. Wah, nobody can resist a good haid job!”
Although this was clearly an invitation, Kimberly delivered it as casually as if she had been offering me a stick of chewing gum.
“Well, I can resist it if the young lady in question has a boyfriend who is likely to walk up the stairs at any moment, Kimberly,” I said. “As far as Stove is concerned, he thinks you’re an angel or something. If he allowed himself to have dirty ideas about you, it would break the spell.”
This analysis went over well, probably because it was correct.
I had a private trip with Kimberly a couple nights later, or at least she had a trip and I just smoked a lot of hashish while she told me the story of her life, which hadn’t been all that bad, really. When the sun came up, we went down to the dock where, in a matter of two or three seconds, a fish jumped out of the water at our feet, two ducks landed a little further out, and a big tree fell, with a long, rending crash, in the woods right behind the lodge.
This was but one of the many times I did not take LSD at Morning Glory Lodge and elsewhere.
Stove came down from one of the cabins right after the tree crashed, and reclaimed his prize. Her honor had not been stained in any way. Poor Kim, whom I liked enormously, probably thought she was losing her touch, but the fact was I thought she was pretty inhuman myself, and therefore invulnerable, and therefore not a natural object of masculine desire, or something. That’s a pretty vague “fact,” I’ve got to admit.
Stove, more often than he wanted, was still having visions with eyes closed and occasionally with eyes open, such as movie-style Indians running through the woods and similar unenlightening absurdities. I told him about the “winkle buttons” I had been seeing, off and on, ever since my Kundalini experience.
These were colored, illuminated discs and sometimes sharp glaiks of bright light which appeared for one heartbeat or so from three to ten feet away from me in space. I still get them, although not as frequently as I did in those days. They seem to function as exclamation points or question marks to what I’m thinking or hearing or reading. Most often they are blue, contain many parallel horizontal lines, and are about two inches in diameter, although once, just before coming upon a bear in the road during a night drive from Cranberry to Star Lake, I saw one as big as a dinner plate over the hood of the car, which made me slow down, thereby averting minor or major damage not only to me and my car but to the bear as well.
Stove was delighted to hear about these apparitions, since they were evidence a few pseudo-hallucinations here and there were not necessarily fatal, and he listened to my discourse on the subject of synchronicity with intense attention. He had interpreted all the synchronicity he had experienced in terms of vast and impersonal occult forces contending for possession of his soul, in the worst Judaic tradition. Monstrous forces were at work, guiding the historical process and playing with men as if they were toys. I showed him how these events could be interpreted in an entirely different way. I was talking about Snazzm, as opposed to Fazzm, although I hadn’t invented the terms yet.
It’s important, when talking to someone in this kind of fix, to never question the genuineness of the events themselves. I don’t think there is much difference between ordinary, down-home paranoids with cheek of tan and people on paranoid trips. Almost all delusional paranoids were labeled “paranoid schizophrenic” in the days when I worked as a psychologist, but most of them were not schizophrenic at all. It has become pretty clear that schizophrenia is a biochemical brain disease. Paranoia, on the other hand, is often entirely “functional” in origin. No disease process need be involved.
Paranoids are most often just ordinary people who have noticed the synchronistic aspect of events in their lives, and made the worst of it, frequently as a consequence of supernaturalist ideation instilled in childhood. They can be talked out of it simply through the use of reason.
If you’re in the business and dealing with institutionalized paranoids who have “acted out,” try getting three or four of them together around a table. Have them read sentences in succession from the pages of books picked at random to show how coincidences will, up to a point, fit almost any system, if you’re looking out for them. This kind of demonstration can snap some paranoids out of it in one easy lesson.
Steve Newell was an entirely different kind of guy. He liked it in the dark and spooky woodlands of Weir, and his “magic” was unusual and, in a way, admirable because his attitude towards it was completely lacking in the pseudo-scientific double-talk and fantastic ontological categorical speculations which pass for philosophy among most occultists. Steve arrived, naturally, on a pitch-dark, windy, rainy night. After he had settled in he let us all know his idea of a good time was to walk through walls and talk to the dead, or at least to beings that did not conform to the usual restrictions of time and space. Could we buy that? Did we think it was crazy?
I responded with my standard “life is a dream” pitch. “You can go on any kind of trip you like. I don’t think you will learn much by doing that kind of stuff, but maybe that’s what you have to learn,” I concluded.
Steve was relieved at my response. That was how he saw it too. About once a week on average, Steve did the things one reads about in occultist literature, the kinds of things most of the authors of such works have no first-hand experience with at all, but only dabble with and babble about, pretending all the while to be “objective” and “scientific” although very few of them even know the meaning of the words.
All occultist-supernaturalist philosophy is based on the fear of death and a wish for personal immortality. In my experience, the difference between people like Steve who practice “magic” and the standard occultists who only talk about it is that the former concede, based on their experience, what the latter frantically deny, based on their ignorance: that the whole thing is mental. The genuine practitioner will admit that walking through a wall and walking down to the corner to buy a six-pack are both illusions, thereby making ordinary life more strange and “astral” life more ordinary.
People like Steve have grasped the basic principle of Enlightenment but are having serious trouble with the application. Supernaturalists, on the other hand, attempt to preserve “reality” as an ontological base, and therefore imagine themselves pulled out of shape somehow, or their memories transferred from one box to another, as it were, within a mechanical universe. All they actually save are vague images of moving, labeled blobs, or, to use the term many of them prefer, “souls.”
As adventure and entertainment, rather than philosophy, a spook show every now and then has its place. And, given the moons and the loons and everything, an isolated lodge in the Adirondacks, in which a heterogeneous group of people, until recently strangers to one another, are gathered together after nightfall for the avowed purpose of undergoing strange changes, is not the kind of place in which to turn on fluorescent lights and listen to the radio, rather than discuss, and perhaps even practice, some of the spookier diversions which such a setting suggests to the imagination.
If communicating with the elves is your trip, well, give my regards to the King of the Elves! But in the morning, let’s go fishing.
An astrologer who had named himself “Yossarian” after the hero of Catch-22, and Anna (I never learned her last name), his newly acquired and extraordinarily voluptuous mistress, showed up and stayed for about a week. They tripped on morning glory seeds, properly prepared, and had a good one, by both reports, mostly private, but partly public, down by a campfire near the shore. Yossarian, however, like most astrologers I have known, showed various paranoid inclinations then and more later, on those infrequent occasions when I ran into him here and there. He didn’t think he could hold on to Anna, and, as it turned out, he was right.
At the Ashram in Arizona, after Millbrook broke up, Anna switched to Ted Druck, who came to Millbrook with the Ashram in 1966. Fed up with abuse from Haines in Arizona, Ted and Anna moved to Tucson, where they were a big help to me during one of the lowest periods of my life. Hearts of gold in both cases, and good examples of why LSD should not be restricted to the intellectual elite. It can be of enormous service to regular folks also, who have as much right to practice their religions as anyone else.
I usually stopped in at Merchant’s bar in the morning after picking up mail and groceries, which I stowed in the boat. (Another nice thing about the North Country in those days was that you didn’t have to worry much about petty theft.) After I had taken the first sip of my usual Michelob draft, Charlie Merchant, who looked like an old Chinese warlord, minus the pigtail, told me there had been a call for me from Millbrook. I was supposed to call back.
When I was connected with the Big House, where a pay phone had been installed at the foot of the stairs, Tim got on the line. He and Billy Hitchcock would be flying up in Billy’s plane that afternoon. Could I meet them at the Tupper Lake field?
Even Charlie Merchant got excited. He was old enough to remember newspaper stories about Billy’s father, the polo-playing champ of the ’30s. Dr. Leary, the Mephisto of the modern world, would also be worth looking over. I promised to stop in before we went over to MGL.
I boated to the lodge and picked up Mike Duncan, and we drove to Tupper Lake, but not before I bought a bottle of Wilson’s from Charlie.
Tim and Billy arrived on schedule, but so did a vast bank of black clouds, apparently fulfilling an assignment from Olympus to fuck up my most important visit of the summer. By the time we got back to Charlie’s bar it was raining cats and dogs. Spears of water were dancing all over the shrouded lake. Mike and I were already smashed on whiskey and stoned on grass. Tim seemed preoccupied and neither smoked nor drank. Billy, since he was flying, wisely refrained. When we got in the boat, Tim crawled under the small covered area in front but even Tim was soaked by the time we came bounding and sliding into the dock. In rough weather it was no joke to land on a lee shore.
Aside from one hell of a roaring blaze in the fireplace, practically nothing notable occurred during Tim and Billy’s short, wet sojourn at the cabin. The whole thing reminded me of the God-awful ministerial visits to members of the congregation I had to sit through as a child. Here we were, a collection of screwballs such as the world seldom witnessed, and the conversation was downright forced. I found out later that Tim was in the process of losing his fair-haired beauty to a bald-headed, fake-Tantric specialist in coitus reservatus. Billy, unstoned, was worrying about the weather. Mike and I were just plain drunk. I think everyone else was overawed.
The professional in the religion racket will not be surprised to learn that Mike and Gai, whom I treated bluntly, to put it mildly, out-contributed Billy Hitchcock, whom I treated with kid gloves, by about 20-to-1 in the years that followed. I hope they became Enlightened Beings with auras at least six feet in diameter (very convenient for stunning mosquitoes) and nice beach houses in Hawaii for every member of the family.
Indeed, Mike and Gai became my salvation, which is one of the reasons I have never given up entirely on fake Indians and the occultist multitudes, although, any day now, I intend to discard all hopes of big bucks from the filthy rich.
After closing up Morning Glory Lodge for the winter, all visitors having departed (Kimberly had to sell the air conditioner and the radio out of her car to make it back to Miami with Stove), I set out for Southold in the hope that Mary Francis could be persuaded not to move to Florida. The new house was big enough for all of us and, it seemed to me, might make a great setting for a groovy-guru-type Psychedelian psychologist during the winter. Nothing I had heard about Florida sounded attractive to me, whereas the “Far East,” Long Island variety, was still a wild and romantic place in many ways, with the kind of population mix that suited my inclinations and ambitions besides.
I stopped at Millbrook on the way down.
The place was loaded with visitors. Starting from the Big House, cars were lined up along the road halfway to the Gatehouse.
Tim gave me a copy of his Psychedelic Prayers, which had just come out. He inscribed it to “Art Kleps, a laughing man with a bad reputation,” one of the types listed as “trustworthy” in the back of the book. I liked both the inscription and the “prayers” themselves, which Tim claimed were “based” on the Tao Te Ching. I have doubts about that, but this book was a step up from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Tim wanted to hear everything I could tell him about Kimberly, who had stopped at Millbrook for a few days after leaving the lodge and had made a big hit with him. He also wanted reports on some more or less routine cases, usually couples, whom he had sent up to take their first trips away from the Millbrook maelstrom during the summer.
When I told him acid seemed to function more as an aphrodisiac than a key to the Mysteries for some of them, he was enormously pleased. Millbrook was definitely on a sex kick, and it was, one might say, an official sex kick, as if Hugh Hefner had taken over. Dick Alpert, who seemed to be enjoying himself enormously, was specializing in producing a sort of Reichian transcendence of “body-armor” and Tim, never content with ordinary objectives, was talking in terms of 1,000,000 “orgasms” a second. His Playboy interview is worth reading, as are many other Playboy interviews from the era. They convey the spirit of the times better than any of the “social histories” published since.
Personally, and all of my remarks on this subject are based on my own experience and the testimony of friends, I have found acid to be as sexually distracting as it is intensifying, but the lesser sacrament almost always seems to encourage people to screw like mink if they are so inclined to begin with.
Although one should keep in mind that grass highs often have more of a “mini trip” quality for people who have had major LSD experiences, as contrasted with those who have not had such experience, and all kinds of other class and individual variations abound, cannabis, in general, takes second place only to nitrous oxide as an aphrodisiac. Motels owners should provide both substances, as an alternative to overindulgence in booze, and thus do well while doing good, and make life more pleasant for their housekeepers also.
Acid intensifies immediate experience like crazy, but is much harder to control. One is directed not only to certain preselected charms, but to all and any charms around, and charms not normally around at all. Under such circumstances, getting laid may seem like something you might as well put off for a while.
If you insist, however, it’s true that the experience is in a class by itself, especially on a visionary level. Enough variety to satisfy the most jaded palate, one might say. It’s like taking on central casting. But, in my experience, those who routinely and exclusively use acid this way are tamasic characters in almost every case, devoid of higher aspirations or interests beyond the satisfaction of their immediate personal impulses and untrustworthy on that account. If you want to get ripped off, or betrayed, just associate with couples who spend all their time on trips screwing.
On to Southold. Mary Francis and Sally thought I should take a train to Miami, where my brother Leonard lived, to look things over and return with a report. This I did.
My report was unfavorable. As far as I could see, the place was some kind of giant glob. My-am-I. Possession is identity. The sky was too low. General somnambulism seemed to prevail, even among the heads, several of whom arrived to pay their respects soon after I arrived. My kid brother’s middle-class style of life depressed me. Miami struck me as a purgatory world, in which nothing of consequence would ever happen, at least not to me. On the other hand, it would just be for the winter. Sally’s mother wanted to go. She had the money. We went.
That winter passed like an alcoholic fantasy or coma, or both. We rented a modest house and held meetings once a week. I met some interesting people and got local TV and radio coverage, but the sensation of suspended animation persisted. So I stayed half smashed most of the time, and fooled around with a Tuesday Weld-type University of Miami student, Jean Valier, who deserved better of me, as did Sally, to dispel the general miasmic boredom which seemed to seep out of the ground itself. I couldn’t face a full-scale acid trip in Florida. I was sure I would bolt.
Sally, aside from the apprehensions engendered by having sacramental sugar cubes in the refrigerator, loved the place. During meetings, she would take the kids over to the uninteresting house her mother had bought. The meetings were fairly sedate affairs, involving, if anything, tiny doses of the Supreme Sacrament. We would have multiple readings, watch TV with the sound off while listening to a radio program to pick up the synch, and discuss the usual Psychedelian philosophic questions.
I couldn’t allow full-scale group sessions in the house because we were surrounded on all sides by conventional burghers, who never gave us any trouble although they knew what was going on, but who would surely have called the cops if naked freaks claiming to be pelicans had appeared on their doorsteps asking for directions to grandmother’s house, or something similar, as would have happened if everyone had been routinely stoned on large hits whenever we had a meeting. The freedom and honesty I had enjoyed so much at MGL and Millbrook had been replaced by all kinds of restraints and compromises. I felt trapped, so I drank a lot.
News of Tim’s bust in Laredo, Texas, didn’t improve my mood. After crossing the border, the Leary family had been turned back on the Mexican side because Tim was on a persona non grata list in Mexico, and they were then stopped and strip-searched by the border guards on the American side. Sure enough, Susan had what was left of the family stash, a very small quantity, in her panties. Her father, as most honorable fathers would in similar circumstances, took responsibility. He refused to cop a plea, and was convicted and sentenced to thirty years in a federal prison, but was released on bail pending his appeal, which he based on a claim that he was a “Hindu,” which, if true, he thought, meant that his possession of cannabis was protected under the First Amendment.
These events, as reported on TV and in the Miami paper, were almost too crazy and pathetic to bear thinking about but very suitable to drink about.
Jack Kerouac called up and then showed up one evening, smashed on wine, and entertained us with great wit, verve, and erudition until the wee hours. We added a little acid to the wine. As luck would have it, I had just finished reading his latest romance and was feeling pretty Kerouacish myself in consequence.
Jack was a true monologist of the old school if there ever was one. When smashed, he would go for days without sleep with his friends working in shifts to look after him. His greatest performance when in this condition, according to a story Watts told me, was an appearance before an exclusive group of literary and academic figures at Harvard shortly after On the Road was published. He staggered to the lectern and said, “Well, this is a fine-looking collection of cocksuckers.” Then he threw up. His audience, but not, I suspect, the janitor, rose as one man and applauded, with genuine appreciation and respect, according to Watts, this masterful performance.
Ah, where is that glorious spirit of yesteryear which once prevailed? Be gone ye dour faced demons!
“A Christian could and should be gay, but the devil shits on him!” (Martin Luther)
Although Jack and I hit it off very well, I forgot to ask him to sign up, or to invite him to visit MGL or even to get his phone number, which is as good an illustration as any of my characterological inability to imitate Tim in the mass-media-mongering way of life, much less compete with him. Tim would probably have appeared arm-in-arm with Jack in front of a TV camera within a few hours of meeting him. I’m convinced, based on my record, that I’m not only not very good at that kind of stuff, I’m downright subnormal.
We did manage to enlist some useful members in Miami, although only a few lasted very long. I was greatly surprised when a Jewish psychiatrist from New York, Joe Gross, signed up after attending a meeting. Almost all of the psychiatrists I had met in my career had struck me as being so far beyond redemption that only shock treatments or lobotomies could shake their rigid orthodoxies. Accordingly, Joe’s adherence to the cause lifted my spirits considerably. If a psychiatrist could defy his trade association, so could almost anyone, no matter how depraved. I stopped drinking for about twenty-four hours to celebrate.
However, the most fateful event which occurred that winter in Miami was also the most disgusting first trip I had ever witnessed.
Steve Newell showed up one evening with a friend, a lawyer named Frank Green, whom Steve had convinced to try acid as a possible cure for his psychopathological disorders. Throughout his trip Frank blubbered about his ex-wife. She had recently divorced him, getting custody of their only child and denying Frank any visiting rights. He rolled around on the floor in front of the couch on which Sally was sitting, moaning and groaning and occasionally addressing Sally by his first wife’s name.
Sally, he asserted, was the spitting image of this unfortunate woman. When he went to the toilet, which was frequently, it took two of us to get him past the gas heater in the hall, which he thought was “a passageway.” It had been placed there to suck wife beaters down to their just rewards in the infernal regions. When he left, after Steve apologized profusely for his friend’s behavior, I thought no more of the matter. Little did I realize that this monumental creep would be the proximate cause of much suffering for me in the future.
In Miami, I also learned that there are people who seem to be constitutionally incapable of tripping, no matter how much LSD they take, and that individual reactions to identical doses may vary widely. Light and infrequent users may have fantastic and glorious experiences on a few tokes of the Lesser Sacrament. And others, who take what would normally be staggering amounts of LSD, may experience only minor changes in perception and learn comparatively little from it. These are the extremes of a distribution which seems to be normal (bell-shaped), so the reactions of most people are about what one would expect, but the reactions of any particular person, chosen at random, can’t be predicted with certainty.
A prosperous, middle-aged couple from Coconut Grove, who showed up at about the same time a drunken reporter and a photographer from Life magazine were hanging around, demonstrated both extremes of the distribution. The wife was so eager to try the stuff she almost drooled when she talked about it. For years, she had devoted her spare time to checking out the standard swamis and such and, much to her credit, had rejected them all.
Then she had read about Tim, IFIF, the aborted Zihuatenejo experiment, the Castalia Foundation, and the rest of it. This was it! She dragged her husband, a good-natured and open-minded person, hundreds of miles to hear Tim speak, and contributed generously to the cause, but somehow could never lay her hands on any acid. My appearance in Miami, therefore, struck her as a godsend.
I made arrangements to turn her on at her house one morning, when everyone would be away. They had two college-age sons living at home. Since I had just put a gram of new crystal in vodka in portions of 250 micrograms per drop, I gave it to her right on the tongue, after signing her up. With rare exceptions, I didn’t turn anyone on who hadn’t joined the Church. An hour later, nothing had happened. I gave her another drop. She seemed to become slightly nervous.
So did I.
I took her over to my house, half convinced by this time that there was something seriously wrong with the acid, if it was acid at all. I gave her a sugar cube from a former gram. Nothing! I was dumbfounded. By evening, she had taken 2,000 micrograms from both the new gram of supposed crystal LSD and the previous gram, which I knew from personal experience was as good as it gets, with no observable or reported effects whatever.
When her husband came over I had twenty or thirty Necco wafers, with a drop from the new batch on each, drying out on the coffee table in front of me but I wasn’t sure what I ought to do with them. I wanted to nibble some myself but I still believed in the “ground control” idea, and for all I knew, the 2,000-microgram woman, still an utter novice, would suddenly start tripping like crazy at 3 a.m. and need my assistance.
“I guess I’ll just hand them out free to some of our most experienced people but I will have to warn them,” I said. “The fact is that I don’t really know what this stuff is.”
“Why don’t I try one?” her husband suggested. I handed him a slimy pink disc, thinking he would take it later, but he popped it down without a second’s hesitation. Off they went in their Cadillac. I lit up a joint, poured a drink and turned on the stereo.
The phone rang. It was the 2,000-microgram woman, still straight. “Everything” was “fine” but she thought I ought to come over to their house. Whew. When I walked in I found her husband, wearing a bathrobe, seated in an easy chair, surrounded by his adoring family and beaming away like a lighthouse.
“Ask me anything!” he announced, making a lordly gesture. He was on one of the most beautiful, well-balanced, dignified, humorous, kind, loving, optimistic and altogether glorious trips I have ever witnessed. The man was brimming over with good cheer and happy news for one and all. His sons both had good trips in the days that followed, but their poor mother never got an inch off the ground, although she tried several times.
When Life’s hired scrivener asked for the name of someone to interview, I arranged a meeting for him with my favorite new Psychedelian family. His article, entitled “A Midwestern Businessman’s Trip,” appeared on the first page of Life’sspread on LSD. The Neo-American Church wasn’t mentioned, so I put a curse on Life and it has since become a mere shadow of its former self.
Miami was educational and I had some fun, but it was largely a big drag. I could hardly wait to get back to MGL. When, in the merry month of May, I heard that the ice was melting in God’s country, I packed up the car and told Sally, who was unwilling to leave so early, to follow with the kids by plane as soon as she could. Things were not going well domestically but it seemed to me that once we escaped from Florida this would change. We had enough money to pay the bills. An enjoyable spring, summer and fall at the lodge stretched before us. Surely Sally would see how lucky we were to have escaped the dreary lockstep of the typical American family. Right? Wrong.
Unfortunately, I decided to drink my way back north. No doubt certain anxieties were gnawing away at the back of my mind, despite the pleasant prospect at the forefront.
Most heavy drinkers have an alternate personality which takes over when they are drunk, and I was no exception.
Arch Kleps, whom I might as well call this character, was generally nonviolent, but extroverted, boisterous and reckless. Drunken consciousness can have a delightfully dramatic and magical quality, and it’s no accident that the best poets are so often lushes as well. Used just right, alcohol (and barbiturates, which are much more dangerous, also) can produce a state in which there is no difference between thought and talk; it all just reels out effortlessly, without any sense of alienation or self-doubt and, assuming one has interesting ideas (Watts comes to mind), the results can be worth the cost and risk, both of which are high.
Unfortunately, just a couple drinks beyond this happy state, in which everything appears clear as a bell, lies the land of the stupid, drunken slob, in which there is no tomorrow and no yesterday, a world which will vanish when the hangover starts. I see it all in terms of split personality. Arch would have been better suited to former times, when life was generally nasty, brutal and short and the only way to live was to forget about personal safety and try to generate as good a show as possible with whatever was at hand before the inevitable happened. It was a matter of style, as if Arch were an actor on a stage. Drama was what he was after, and what he fled was boredom, futility and routine.
I guess it was some such consideration for keeping the script lively that moved me to offer a gas station attendant in central Florida, who seemed disgruntled, a sugar cube. Here, pal, try one of these sometime. It will cure what ails you. Middle of the night. Black as ink. I had no idea where I was. Ten minutes later I pulled up in front of a closed grocery store and went to sleep in the front seat. I awoke to find a cop shining his flashlight directly in the plastic bucket of foil-wrapped sugar cubes at my feet.
“Whatcha got there, buddy?” he asked.
“I have nothing to say,” I replied, as all students of ACLU pamphlets are taught to respond under such circumstances.
I felt no anxiety. The meaning of the word “anxiety” was as unknown to Arch Kleps as it was to Superman, Batman or Captain Marvel. How can you have an adventure unless it looks like the villains may win? At the same time, Batman, or his author, knows in his heart it is all a farce and he just can’t lose.
At the police station I was locked in a featureless holding cell painted a sickly yellow, while my captor called his captain. During the hour or so while I waited for his arrival, I actually dozed off for a few minutes, although I was thinking with perfect clarity and was by no means “stupefied” or in any similar state of mental inefficiency.
When I was ushered before the captain, he asked, “Do you care to tell me what this is, Mr. Kleps? We can have it analyzed, you know.”
The correct words seemed to come out of my mouth as if the whole exchange had been scripted and I had it on tape. “No, I can’t tell you exactly what it is but it is the sacrament of my Church.” A brief summary of the practices of the Native American Church and our belief that our organization has the same legal rights under the constitution reeled out of my mouth. Click.
“Exactly what does it do to you?” A brief summary of the mystical tradition in Western and Oriental literature, brilliantly and modestly expressed, reeled out. Click.
The captain sat back in his chair and fingered his chin. Maybe he had a personal interest in my cubes. Maybe this, maybe that.
“Captain,” I said, “I don’t blame your man for picking me up, and I understand that you have to hold on to what you have confiscated. If you like I will give you a release for it. But all I am interested in right now is being on my way. I have an appointment with a writer who is doing an interview with me for Pageant magazine up north and I don’t want to be late for it. All I can tell you is that if you arrest me your county is going to have one hell of an expensive case on its hands.” Click.
What I had said about the Pageant article was true. Bob Eddy, an old college friend who had become a Unitarian minister in Michigan, had asked me to fly over from New York to his place to do an interview as soon as I got there.
“OK,” the captain said. “You can go. But I have to hold this stuff.”
It was a mixed blessing to be introduced to the anti-Psychedelian cold war this way. It encouraged me to entertain the foolish notion that I might be invulnerable to such inconveniences as being arrested and incarcerated for my religious practices, although it was routine for less noble mortals. Did I have a metaphysical “get out of jail free” card? Why not? Offhand, I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of the honor.
Without a worry in the world, Arch went on to Gainesville and dropped in on the local bee hee for some well-deserved rest and recreation, but Art woke up with the hangover, and all kinds of worries.
The usual. Pregnancy? Clap? Divorce? Where is my wallet? And, holy shit, the unusual but distinct possibility some junior G-man was busy analyzing my sugar cubes soaked in LSD at that very moment.
Once this virtual certainty became a clear image in my mind, the entire affair didn’t appear at all to be the amusing adventure Arch had described to the fascinated and wide-eyed young scholar the previous night. In a matter of minutes I was out of the house and into my car and I didn’t stop except for gas, until I was out of the state of Florida.
The only real stop I made all the way back to New York was in Pennsylvania, to visit a couple old friends, Jean Lewis and Brad Jones, who had married and were living in Bethlehem.
In the ’50s, Brad had looked a lot like Warren Beatty, but taller, and with soft brown eyes, instead of that ethereal blue, the looking into of which became so tiresome to Queen Victoria. To continue evading descriptive details by means of what might be called the Hollywood shortcut, Brad behaved, even more than I did in those days, like Errol Flynn, an inclination he did nothing to hide from Jeannie, who merely frowned like Natalie Wood would, and perhaps tapped a little brown loafer, when neglected because of such diversions. It didn’t seem to annoy Jeannie much more than poker nights. “Boys will be boys,” one could almost hear her thinking. Or perhaps, “Men are like putty in the hands of these sluts. What can one do?”
I had shared an apartment in Syracuse with Brad one summer, and Jeannie and I had known each other since she was fifteen and I was twenty-one, back in Utica in 1949.
In many ways, pretty but deliberately unflashy Jeannie and handsome, charming Brad embodied the essence of ’50s coolitude, as I had known it. Jeannie had long, light-brown hair, a red MG roadster, into the passenger’s seat of which I could fit only by jamming my knees against the dashboard, and a seemingly unlimited supply of plaid, pleated skirts and muted, matching sweaters. She belonged to Alpha Chi Omega, the “best” (richest) sorority adorning the University at the time. Brad, also faultlessly attired in the collegiate styles of the day, drove a big Buick convertible, seemed to know everyone and something about everything, at least glancingly, had a hollow leg and, naturally, was a member of DKE.
The three of us got along fine. I can’t remember exchanging as much as a cross word with either Brad or Jeannie. I met Sally while sharing the apartment with Brad. After reviewing the psychological profiles of the four of us, I’m pretty sure most good psychologists would have advised us to switch partners immediately, for the greatest good of the greatest number.
Yet, improbably, Jeannie and I had always been “just friends,” and we stayed that way. Whenever our paths crossed, the party of the second part was involved in an entangling alliance with a party of the third part which the party of the first part could not but respect.
On arrival, I was happy to see that J&B had acquired a cute house and produced two cute kids but it swiftly became apparent that all was not well. Jeannie gamely tried to catch up with my intake all afternoon as we talked about old times. It seemed strange to be on such intimate terms with an unstoned person.
“Shouldn’t have wasted those cubes,” I said to myself as I turned back onto the interstate, and also, “I have got to sober up,” which I did.
The last ice of winter was still on the lake when I arrived at Cranberry Lake, although the air was balmy. The wind was from the west. Fountains of sparkling ice crystals spun up in the sunlight where the last long, wide, thin sheets crashed against the shore. To fully appreciate this display of aesthetic whimsicality on the part of Mother Nature (a wonderful, tinkling music is part of the show), I stayed with the rocks and boulders and cobbles and stones and pebbles and little sandy beaches along the shore as much as I could, all the way to the house, which was unchanged. It didn’t even seem weathered, much less, as I had feared, vandalized.
There is no joy like being exactly where you want to be.
I flew to Michigan to do the interview. It’s in the Boo Hoo Bible, just as Pageant magazine printed it, complete with the god-awful “With LSD, I Saw God” title they slapped on it. This stupid concept haunted me for years but I came to regard this as just punishment for the sloppy language I used in those days, long before I learned that if you give the bastards an inch they will take a mile or more.
On my return, I spent a happy week with various tools in hand, getting everything in order, and not thinking about slithery semantics in the slightest.
Since I had to walk to town before the ice went out and I could use a boat, I had plenty of time to notice how the state campsite road was being extended in loops and tentacles down the shore and towards MGL. Land in the forest preserve in New York State is protected, not by ordinary law, but by an amendment to the state constitution which declares that it shall be “forever wild,” an amendment which the Conservation Department has attempted to overturn, unsuccessfully, several times. The amendment is also peculiar in allowing any citizen of the state to bring a suit against the state for violations. What the Conservation Department was doing was clearly illegal. I wrote and threatened suit if the road went any further. They wrote back and said they had no such plans and the road they had put in was for “fire control” purposes only. Provisions for campers were “incidental.”
Sheer horseshit, no doubt. But such facilities are better than a lot of garish motels in the towns. I let it drop. So did the other owners in the region.
The principle is clear. When, in the United States, a government agency breaks the law because the law fails to take everything into account and gets in the way of genuine and pressing human needs, the individuals whose rights are violated thereby are expected to adopt a liberal attitude and let it pass, and usually do. The “Golden Rule” comes first, in other words. When, however, a mere citizen of this republic violates the law, an entirely different ethic, based on what might be called “the spirit killeth, but the letter giveth life” rule, derived from the tribal customs of an insane and murderous mideastern cult, and perhaps imposing thirty years in a dungeon for anyone whose daughter has the wrong kind of flowers in her panties, applies with unforgiving wrath.