The humiliation of being a flagrant drug addict gets old, and brings one to myriad crossroads. On the freeway of addiction one road sign reads; “It’s time to cut back”. Another sign reads; “It’s time to quit altogether”. Yet these signs are small and seem to speed by in an incoherent blur. They unnoticeably lurk in small font on the side of the road while the vehicle of life is travelling at seventy-two miles per hour. Then, a large, green exit sign with huge white letters states what has seemed obvious all along; “Try new drugs” it exclaims in your face. It seems to beckon to you like a side road hotel after a 10-hour road trip. You slow down and prepare to exit, to a new freeway, and a new wild ride where you do not know the destination at the journey’s end.
John Lennon tried LSD almost by mistake with George Harrison in 1966. They were spending time with a friend that they would later call “Dr. Robert” in a song on the album “Revolver”. The lyrics lilt in a melody laden with psychedelic oblivion;
Well, well, well you’re feeling fine
Well, well, well he’ll make you
John and George’s friend convinced them to try this new drug, “lysergic acid-diethylamide” and put some in their tea, and said it was all the rage among young swingers and hipsters of the time. An hour later Lennon described his experience, that they were going up a “lift” (British for “elevator”) and swore that the building was on fire and were in a frenzy, and then minutes later, the fear abated and everything went to normal. This was the way of the mysterious acid trip… a game of Russian roulette in the mind. Would insanity strike? Insane joy? Fear? Reckless abandonment? Power? Violence? Harmony with the universe?
In the second semester of my Junior year of High School in Hudson, Ohio, I joined the Orchestra to play percussion. I had heard it was an easy gig and we had a sweet-hearted teacher named Mrs. Bush. Mrs. Bush made music fun and easy, and didn’t have incredibly high requirements for our excellence. Also, if one joined the orchestra, they could be in the steel drum band with Mrs. Bush’s son, Mark. This was a larger motivator for me to join, because my friend Mitchell played bass in that group, and aside from all my personal creative pursuits I longed to be busy playing music again.
In the group were a great collection of misfits, including one David Wilt. David Wilt was six foot two inches tall. He had long hair that he pulled behind his ears. He wore tie-dyed shirts and smoked the best weed in town. He also sold acid.
David Wilt didn’t only find acid to distribute, he actually made it at home. He had a conversation with me one day about it. “Hey Benny, I know that you dig smoking dope. Have you tried acid yet?” I answered in haste, “Ummm… no man.”
I had a pensiveness about LSD. I knew that the Beatles and Hendrix did it. But didn’t this stuff put people in the Looney-bin? I talked further with David Wilt about it.
“Look man…” I said, “Isn’t that stuff kind of crazy?”
“No bro,” David replied, “This stuff is killer man. You just have to be in the right state of mind to take it.”
“Right state of mind?”
“Yeah man. If you like have a bad thought, or are in a bad place with weird people when you take it or something, then your trip will go bad. But if you surround yourself with the right situation and the right people, you’ll have like the best time of your life bro. I’ve done it a bunch of times, and never had a bad trip! It’s 10 times better than getting high or drunk, and it lasts like 8 hours! It’s also cheap man, 5 bucks for a hit, or take two hits if you wanna really trip your brains out.”
The reasoning made sense to me. In fact, it seemed like taking this drug would even guarantee a good situation! Just remove any bummer from your surroundings, and it would go well.
I didn’t know then that David meant that you couldn’t have a notion of conscience or awareness of mortality while you were on an acid trip. I didn’t know then that you couldn’t have a friend around that really cared about your health and well-being, because they would bum your trip. I only knew that I wanted to get higher than I was before. And hey man, if this drug helped produce songs like “I am the Walrus” by John Lennon and “Axis: Bold as Love” by Jimi Hendrix, then I was in. I wanted to make heavier, deeper, more colorful music like that too.
My theological framework was one that adopted the religious and spiritual views of my heroes. John Lennon sang “All You need is love”, so I wanted to follow him. My room was actually a John Lennon shrine. There were times when I actually believed I was praying to his spirit, and asking him for guidance. I know it sounds wild, but these were some of the many wild religious thoughts that crossed my mind in the middle of my pursuit of “higher consciousness” or “enlightenment”. I didn’t have any specific belief about God or gods that may have existed beyond me, just a plethora of ideas that came and went in and out of my mind.
I wanted to write songs like the Beatles did, so the next step of risk seemed to be taking the plunge into heavier drugs. “So Dave…” I said to my tall, new hippie friend, “Can I score some of this stuff off of you?”
I also convinced my bass player friend Mitchell to take this stuff with me. I told him how we’d probably make music like the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band era. I told him it would open up our minds more. I tried to convince my drummer friend Duane to do it with us. He just agreed to be there with us and get stoned with us while we were tripping.
I bought the weirdest dose of LSD that I would ever buy from there on out off of David. It was homemade, and not cut into regular doses. It looked like a bunch of purple, dried-up, crooked jello-glass. David explained to me that he didn’t divvy it out correctly, and just to try little pieces of it at a time, and eat more if it wasn’t kicking in after an hour.
The moment of this monumental risk came like an adrenaline flood of chaotic fear and excitement. It was the feeling one would have before going on a rollercoaster or bungee jumping. Would we make it to the other side without losing ourselves, or would we understand what Jim Morrison meant when he sang “Break on through to the other side”?
Mitchell and I got Duane to drive us to the Acme Plaza where we always hung out on a Friday after school. I had all this strange purple acid in a little baggie, which I had paid $20 for. I also had a $40 bag of mid-grade Mary-Jane, a lighter, and a new blue and purple glass pipe I had recently purchased to cement my constant pot habit, and I also had my trusty pack of Camel Lights.
Mitchell and I each ate a small shard of what looked like purple jello glass. We were totally freaking out. “Oh man! We’re going to trip, we’re going to trip!” Many colorful expletives were used to exclaim our excitement and fear.
We lit up a pipe of dope and passed it around in Duane’s car. The stoned feeling began to kick in and I don’t remember much of what happened after. Though I do remember when the acid kicked in.
We were walking towards a large water tower in the town of Hudson, Ohio, and the water tower began to vibrate and pulse. A body buzz kicked in that seemed to overtake me with total numbness. I think I turned to Mitchell and said, “Man, are you high right now?” And he said with a euphoric foolery, “Oh yeah man!” I honestly don’t remember the rest of that day. But I do remember more of the next time we took it.
Mitchell and I had a history exam to study for. It was a good front to convince his parents to let us have an overnight study session at his house during the week. Mitchell and I shared one thing- a crazy streak. We had a hunger for adventure and wildness, and loved to break rules. I brought my study stuff over on a Wednesday night the next week, and we faked like we were studying from 8pm to 10pm. His Dad came in and told us we should go to bed. I had a sleeping bag on the floor and Mitchell was in his bed. We ate more of that weird purple LSD that I had. We actually split up the bag and finished the rest of it- what was probably the equivalent of 2 hits each, because it was certainly a mild batch (something I would discover later).
Mitchell and I were into prog-rock and were listening to an album by Steve Hackett- the former guitarist for the original Genesis (with Peter Gabriel- pre-Phil Collins corniness). We played his album “Voyage of the Acolyte” – a wild, instrumental, medieval, psychedelic masterpiece. The acid kicked in, and the song from the album called “A Tower Struck Down” was played about 10 times consecutively throughout the evening. The song made us laugh like little children with all it’s dissonance and maniacal melodies. Click on this link to hear it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxl6RLlKkHI (Listening to it now I laugh, because I realize how ridiculous it was- yet at that point we literally thought the music was going to make the ceiling cave in!) We stared at Mitchell’s ceiling fan and watched it rotate, which he had put a blue, red and black lightbulb in. We began to explain that it was “The Wheel of Fire”, because the fan blades would catch trails of each other and look like a vortex. The guitar of Steve Hackett wailed through the night, and we got no shut-eye, all the way up until 3 am, when Mitchell’s Dad busted in with grave anger, likely because he heard our hysterics and brain-fried laughter. “What in the world are you boys doing?” He exclaimed… well… he used more expletives than that. “Uhhh… nothing Dad!” Mitchell exclaimed, his eyes dilated and wide open. “We were just about to go to sleep!”
Of course we got absolutely no sleep, and the sun came up. We went to school that next day, sleeping in class and telling all our friends about our wild experience. The Beatles albums like “Revolver” and “Magical Mystery Tour” seemed to make more sense to me, as did Pink Floyd’s “Piper at the Gates of Dawn”. It would be our own version of the year 1967 soon, and the trip was about to get wilder than ever.
My grades plummeted to D’s and F’s, my relationship with my parents grew more strained. As for my girlfriend, Harmony, I told her about this first trip and encouraged her to take it with me. It freaked her out really bad and she wanted nothing to do with it. She made me promise I would never take acid again, and I agreed. I decided that I would keep taking it, and not ever tell her.