“Rich, I just took a shit. I think I shit the acid out of my system.” Matt said.
“Is that possible?” I said watching the old-fashioned land line telephone bend and almost melt on my distorted hand.
Matt was freaking out and obviously still tripping on the acid we took a couple hours earlier. We shouldn’t have parted ways. Maybe I should have told him he better not flush it and find the hit of acid in his shit but I had my own demons to deal with. I was home with my family and on acid for the first time. I hid in my room trying to enjoy the trip.
It started earlier that day in High School. It was my Sophomore Year. By then I did drugs like candy when it was available. Whenever the candy man came around with different pills, powders, types of marijuana and hashish or basically anything I tried it. Everything was cheap enough and I loved new experiences. So when he showed up at lunch time with a sheet of paper cut into tiny smaller than quarter inch squares of what was called blotter acid I was one of the first of our 15- 20 members of the “freak” gang to try it.
All of the kids that hung out across the street from the school before and after school smoking cigarettes and doing drugs when we had them were labeled as “freaks”. I liked the nickname and as Jimi Hendrix advised I wore my “Freak Flag high”. When I finally saw the 1931 Todd Browning’s film Freaks years later I appreciated the title even more. I even understood the lyrics to “Freaks by Alice Cooper and “Pinhead” by the Ramones after seeing the movie.
The group of us put the little square of paper on our tongues, some of us not knowing what to expect but looking forward to it, right after lunch. We made it to 7th period before it kicked in. Around 5 or 6 of us were in the same class taking a test for a health class. Back then they used the computer print out cards to fill out our multiple choice answers with out number 2 pencils now waving up and down in my hand as I stared at the yellow card morphing into various types of paper and creatures. I didn’t panic. I was just hoping that the teacher and other students wouldn’t notice but me acting weird in High School would have been no surprise at that point anyway. I didn’t bother trying to read the test questions at that point. I just drew designs that intrigued me on the yellow card with the red circled multiple choices with my pencil and handed it in and waited to be dismissed. The 6 of us watched each other and gave the smile saying “Wow. This is awesome.” Except for the one kid who was freaking and looking around the classroom. I learned a new term that day- “bad trip.” I also learned that some people can’t handle some drugs and some can’t handle any. I, of course, was superior and handled mine fine. By fine I mean I enjoyed the drug of the day.
The last period of school was study hall and we ditched sitting in the cafeteria and hung in the senior lounge with the Juniors and Seniors who were cool about it most of the time. We sat quietly and watched tv for the most part. Everything was moving that’s not supposed to move. As much as it freaked me out I was loved it. I couldn’t wait for the bell to ring so I could leave school and experience . . .
I walked home with my best friend of the year and band mate (which makes us family in the Rock n Roll world) Matt and another friend Mark my future best friend and band mate and to become more of an expert on drugs than Matt and myself combined. We cut through the woods and smoked cigarettes and pot. As we re-entered the streets of suburbia we ran into the keyboardist of our band, Alex who was straighter than a clichéd arrow that wasn’t bending if we saw one. He was Mr honor roll and advanced classes and all that ear morphing jazz and we were trying to conceal our psychedelic hallucinations and reality stretches as he talked his large teeth grew larger and larger and they looked there was another set of teeth coming out of his mouth like the alien in the movie Alien. When he started hissing and resembling the alien entirely I mumbled something and motioned Matt and Mark to follow me but they were busy staring and talking to rocks and bushes. Our jig was up. Alex knew something was sour in the grapevine cement we carefully paced upon. Eventually, we made it out of there safely and my house was only a few blocks away. I knew I could make it. Mark was only a few blocks from me but Matt had another mile to go.
Somewhere along the linear curly line to my house from the nappy black tar beneath our feet I lost sight of my destination and my friends. They were gone. I couldn’t see them anyway. I made it home and presented my parental greetings brief as I counted the moving and swerving steps to my safe getaway bedroom. Or so I thought.
Music. I wanted to hear some music to trip on acid to. I went for the king of hallucinatory drugs and the greatest guitar player in my teenage world, Jimi Hendrix. I used to hallucinate to his music totally straight and sober. I couldn’t wait to hear the music of a man who was rumored to dip his headband in liquid acid and cut his forehead open to absorb the drug faster. Electric Ladyland or Axis Bold as Love? I couldn’t decide. I still can’t 20 years later. I chose Electric Ladyland because of the right to left to right to left stereo sound designed to make my head spin. I carefully placed the needle on the groove of side 1 of 4 on my archaic record player. I let the genius chaotic madness of “…And the Gods Made Love.”
I made it through the opening (some say the greatest opening and I agree, on a rock n roll album) with the distorted voices of Hendrix indistinguishable from my own disfigured voices drifting in my psyche. Painful yet disorienting pleasure filled the room rivaled by electric guitars passing through every manipulative device made and invented at the time before reaching my ears. I made it to the 3rd track “Crosstown Traffic” before I had to turn it off due to the visual and audio hallucinations gone haywire. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the auditory attack but it was new to me and I wanted to calm down. I tried to find the least psychedelic music to listen to and pulled out my copy of the Blues Brothers’ “A Briefcase Full of Blues”, their album before the classic John Landis movie came out, thinking for some reason it would be less hallucinatory. Even the steady beats and blues guitars were no match for what I was experiencing.
When I later listened to Jimi Hendrix ask “Have you ever been experienced?” in his song “Are You Experienced?” I not only comprehended the question for the first time, I could answer “Yes.”. For the time I was experiencing and not quite experienced yet.
I decided to go with the quiet and draw. I wanted to cram all of artistic clichés into my first acid trip not knowing if I would ever do it again. I attacked drawing first. I drew a pencil sketch of Jim Morrison once I could concentrate and was way too distracted to finish it. I have it buried somewhere in a drawing pad buried somewhere in my vast art collection of my own work. I tried writing a poem, something about my friend’s alien teeth and it was also too much for me at the time. I went back to listening to music and watching the ceiling tiles breathe until dinnertime.
My parents had invited my friend Doug over for dinner. I forgot. Doug was also very straight. He was one of my friends that actually looked the part of what society thought a drug user should look like. Long hair, scraggly half grown beard that wouldn’t quite grow yet. T-shirts and ripped jeans. He was very political and listened to psychedelic bands that the rest o weren’t into like the Jefferson Airplane. I was told he wasn’t always like this. He used to wear suits to school as a kid and bring his brief case. He predicted the weather to his fello 5th graders every morning. He changed by the time I moved to Haddonfield and met him in 8th grade. We bonded over our mutual lack of female attention, our dark sense of humor and our ability to discuss our feelings with another man or boy.
He knew I was on acid but my parents didn’t. I had to fake it through the meal and let everyone else do the talking. They did. At one point my father’s head was changing colors and contorting and I almost blew my cover again.
“You know, you look like . . . never mind.” I said.
That was the extent of my dinner conversation when the phone call from Matt saved the day.
“Rich, I just took a shit. I think I shit the acid out of my system.” Matt said.
“Is that possible?” I said watching the old-fashioned landline telephone bend and almost melt on my distorted hand.
At the end of the day when it started to wear off I decided I liked acid. I only did it a few more times in high school. I stuck with what was available the most: alcohol, weed and the occasional amphetamine. I always remembered my great experiences on acid and when I found steady suppliers in college and after I graduated I took it whenever I could. It seemed t have a reverse effect on me. I felt more in control on the drug that made most people feel out of control.
I don’t use drugs today except the ones my Doctor prescribes and I take them as directed but it’s not the same. Not to say I miss them. It’s like ex-girlfriends for me. I remember the good times then remember it all comes to an end.
Self-proclaimed addicts shouldn’t dream about how great their drugs were without remembering why they quit to begin with or is it end with.
Like all of my firsts- my first girlfriend, first time on the honor roll, first award for my art and poetry, first time I had sex and so on, I’ll never forget the first time I took acid.
image © Jon Kroll and Dave Bohn