The first time I took acid…I have heard so many incredible stories that began with that phrase. When you’ve done acid a few times, you gain the ability to relate to every story anybody tells about doing acid. The acid reality becomes something you can so easily understand that anybody can tell you anything and if the events they’re describing took place in the context of acid, they make sense. And the first time anyone took acid is like the first time they had sex, except that it lasted a lot longer.
The first time I took acid, I was at Myrtle Beach, SC, with a friend. We were both nineteen and we drove across two state lines with a couple cases of beer, several bottles of Boone’s Farm, a half-ounce of marijuana and a couple hits of acid. We got stopped by cops four times in a twenty-four hour period and if any of them had searched the car, we would’ve done time in a federal prison. Since none of them did, we slept in the car, woke up, smoked a quarter, drank all day and then dropped. I must admit, I was a little nervous about acid because I’d heard horror stories, but my friend said it was cool and that was all I needed to know. We must have walked twenty miles up the beach and back, me talking nonstop. I couldn’t stop talking. My friend didn’t say much except to occasionally inform me that I was walking into the ocean. I kept walking into the ocean. The only thing I remember clearly was that I had a major epiphany regarding Rudimentary Peni’s “The Only Child”, in which Nick Blinko chants “I’m a little girl, I’m a little girl” in typically disturbing Blinko fashion. I realized that, in fact, I was a naked, eight-year-old English girl, but I do remember that clearly. I can still see the vision of myself as naked English girl. I can still feel the importance of that realization.
Acid got better as I got acclimated to it. The first few times I tripped, I was so enthralled with the visuals that I couldn’t get any deeper into the thing. I remember laying in my girlfriend’s waterbed and zoning out on the motion of the walls and ceiling for hours. I had to learn the hard way that acid was not a good drug to take before going to work or to a family dinner at Grandma’s house. Hanging out at the mall on acid was a bad idea. I eventually took enough tabs to figure out what was going to work for me and what wasn’t – I liked tripping at night, inside a residence or out in the woods, someplace where I wasn’t going to encounter and have to interact with strangers who were not on acid – and I figured out how to remind myself that I was on acid, which is something you have to do. When red and blue chalk-worms start wriggling out of your arm, you have to be able to remind yourself that you took a drug, the drug you took was acid, when you take acid you have hallucinations, the chalk-worms are not real. If you can do that, you can just enjoy the chalk-worms; if you can’t, you will have a bad trip.
One time, when I lived in Richmond, VA, a friend and I took acid and then went to a bar to see Fetchin’ Bones, who were a pretty good band in their early years, not so much toward the end. I was totally stressed out the whole time we were at the bar and the walk home was worse. Richmond always has a high violent crime rate and when I was there, it had the highest per capita homicide rate in the country. Most of that was gang-related and we were smart enough to stay out of those neighborhoods, but it was a kinda scary city and I was tripping so I was seeing crack-addicted rapist murder zombies falling out of the fucking trees the whole time we were out. As soon as we got into the apartment, I was good. I spent the night crawling around watching magic dust bunnies and chalk-worms and had a great time.
Another time, a bunch of us drove from Richmond to Deltaville, VA, which is way out in the sticks. A friend of ours was from there and there was going to be a big party so we all went. The party was miles down some dirt road and there was a hundred Deltavillians drinking beer and cracking crabs in the yard. They had Quiet Riot blasting from their car stereos. The few of us from Richmond, cool and worldly art students, were somewhat appalled by the unbridled redneck debauchery and then somebody showed up with a couple sheets of acid. Two hours later, after the standard ritual of taking acid, waiting fifteen minutes for the acid to kick in, which always takes an hour, deciding that nothing is happening so maybe we better take more, finding the guy and getting more, we were all in the greatest late-seventies, B-grade horror movie I have ever seen. It was unreal. The rednecks were mutilating crabs and flipping out, minds blowing left and right.We climbed a ladder and got into a sailboat that was sitting in the yard and talked about whether there was really a sailboat until the kid who lived there came up and yelled at us to get out of his dad’s sailboat. I mutilated some crabs. Some guy was puking in the yard and his friends started laughing at him and then somebody realized that he had shit his pants and they started kicking him. The art students and I were standing by a particularly fascinating tree asking each other if we were really seeing what we were seeing. I think I was in the tree. The guy managed to escape from his friends, who were still laughing as they kicked the shit out of him, ran to his Camaro and roared off in a cloud of gravel. At some point, I was wandering through the woods alone and there were monsters slithering all over everything, but because I knew I had taken acid, I was able to enjoy it. Some girl chewed the side off her thumb and we all drank her coppery blood. Somehow, I found myself in a convertible Mustang, red, ’65, with eight or ten rednecks who I’d never met, drinking Jack Daniels straight from the gallon jug, speeding along down a dirt road to the Piggly-Wiggly, which was closed. I could go on and on about that night. It was an especially acid trip.
Another time, my girlfriend and I locked the door, unplugged the phone and took acid. We had three bottles of Night Train and I suppose she might have drunk a half-bottle, leaving the rest for me. We crawled out the window and lightning struck right in front of our faces – have I told you this one? We ate some lettuce, which was the most amazing lettuce I ever ate and spent a really long time trying to fuck. Fucking on acid is incredibly frustrating if you forget to let go of any attachment to outcomes; if you just kind of let it go the way it goes, it can be a lot of fun. Later, I became a spider.
I don’t know how many times I took acid, but twenty-five probably isn’t too far off. I frequently took multiple hits, but that’s still not a lot. I know people who tripped hundreds of times. Nevertheless, and even though I can’t explain exactly how, acid changed me. It isn’t that seeing monsters or trying to crawl headfirst into my girlfriend’s vagina or becoming a spider had some profound impact on me – it’s that the cumulative effect of voluntarily separating myself from any knowable reality, deliberately diving down the rabbit hole over and over, opened my head somehow. I think anybody who has taken acid an appreciable number of times would know what I mean. I was kind of weird and could easily zone out on seemingly inconsequential patterns in wood and such before I took acid and acid really ran with that. I think that it had more of an impact on me because I was the way I was, if that makes any sense. My personality or mind or whatever was fertile ground for acid.
When I was twenty-two, I decided to stop dropping. My alcoholism and addictions to other dugs had progressed, as had my then-untreated depression. The last few trips weren’t bad in the sense of freaking out and ripping my fingernails off, they were just kinda depressing. I realized that sitting around watching trails and being depressed for eight hours wasn’t fun. There were other drugs that blotted my consciousness out, which seemed more appealing at the time than expanding it. I wasn’t addicted to acid. It was easy to just stop.
Now my depression is well taken care of and I’m off the other shit. I have a good life and I enjoy most of what I do. Sometimes I think I’d like to take acid again. It really is the only chemical that I miss. I would love to go out into the George Washington National Forest, drop a few tabs and wander off into the vision quest. I’ve studied shamanic techniques. I know how it’s done. But I’m an addict and I am not willing to go tripping around on the slippery slope of dabbling in drugs. That could very easily turn ugly and I’m not willing to gamble my life.
I cannot say I would never take a traditional entheogen. I won’t take acid, which is a man-made drug, but I might take one of the others, if I was in the right setting and my head was right. I don’t know. There isn’t a Peruvian medicine man standing in the room offering me ayahuasca right now so I don’t have to decide. I do believe that they can be used for spiritual growth
All cultures that use chemical compounds to achieve altered states for the purpose of communing with the gods and/or having spiritual visions acknowledge that, in earlier times, those methods were not necessary. Shamans and other people were able, in those days, to achieve those states without peyote or fly agaric mushrooms or ayahuasca or whatever. It is because of the degradation of the shamans that direct contact with the unseen powers has become more difficult. There are other techniques, other ways of achieving altered states. I use those. It takes some effort but it works. I’m certain that my history of ingesting a veritable plethora of chemicals in various combinations altered my grey matter in a way that makes it fairly easy for me to step out of the arbitrary co-construction that the majority of people in the society in which I live agree is reality. I can go into trance without much provocation. I’m sure the other substances played a part, but acid is universally recognized as having consciousness altering effects for a reason: it does. LSD-25 is called “acid” because it burns away the dross, the impurities, that pollute consciousness. Crystal meth doesn’t do that. Benzo’s don’t do that. Marijuana may do that for some people, but all I ever got from pot was heavily clouded. Again, I can’t articulate exactly how acid changed me, but even now, over twenty years after my last trip, I know that it did. For the better? Yes. Absolutely and emphatically, yes, acid changed me for the better. I had to quit using alcohol and drugs, stay clean and sober for a few years and develop a spiritual life to realize it, but it did. I can read myth and understand it on multiple levels simultaneously. I have no problem understanding that God/Wakan Tanka/Brahman both is and is not, neither is nor is not; is universal and impersonal, but also has very direct impact on my specific life. The contradictions and paradoxes which are inherent and essential to all religions don’t faze me at all. I have been a spider and I somehow continue to be a little naked English girl. Reality is relative.
But, as I said drugs are bad and you shouldn’t take them. But if you are going to take any drug, make it acid and listen to The Big Drum In The Sky Religion while you’re on it because that shit will blow your mind, man.