Trippy Tales: Adventures on LSD

Nearly all of my LSD experiences occurred between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four, which would be between 1969 and 1977, with most of the events in the beginning of that period. The stuff is hard on your body and unlike most drugs, LSD isn't habit forming for most people. It beats you up, and not many of us enjoy walking into the boxing ring more often than necessary. I probably took LSD a couple dozen times or so. I have included this section simply because I thought most people would find the stories interesting.

I actually started doing LSD before it was illegal in the U.S. Hundreds of us young people used to gather in a park on sunny days, on a particular hill where all the hippie-types hung out. Guys with long hair would walk among people strewn about on blankets, offering any kind of drug you could imagine - with the exception of heroin, cocaine, crank and all the other hard drugs that are popular today. This was the peace and love culture, not a bunch of escapists.

Marijuana was most often referred to as "grass" in those days, and you could buy an ounce, or "lid," for $10. (Now an ounce costs about $200.) The quality was lousy and you would have to smoke a whole cigarette (joint) to catch a mild buzz. That stuff came in from Mexico, and it wasn't until a few years later that "Columbian" pot became available. It was outrageously overpriced at $20 an ounce, but eventually that's all everyone wanted because the quality was so much better. The best stuff these days comes in from Hawaii, South America or is grown in hydroponic tanks in basements.

It wasn't long before LSD became illegal along with all the other drugs being sold on that hill, so every few weeks the cops would show up in force and the ground would be littered with tiny little pills and cellophane baggies as everyone dropped their stash and ran. The next day people would be picking through the lawn looking for goodies the cops had left behind.

LSD (acid) cost $2 a "hit" (pill). Most of it was referred to as "2-way" or even up to "8-way," which meant the number of people one hit could get high. It was and is both the cheapest and most potent drug widely available. Todays cost is around $5 a hit, and short of a rare exception you definitely can't split one hit between more than one person and get satisfactory results. (As I mentioned earlier, the stuff sold as LSD these days usually isn't real LSD.)

Acid had various "brand names" depending on who made it. Orange Barrel was a 4-way hit, a cylindrical pill about half the size of a paper match head. Purple Microdot was a 2-way hit, half again as small as Orange Barrel. Trying to split these tiny pills with a razor blade was so difficult most people just took the whole thing, which meant some really blazing adventures. The most sought after was called Clear Light. It looked like a piece of thick cellophane tape less than an eighth of an inch square. It was a 4-way hit and contained pure LSD, whereas the other stuff had preservatives like tiny amounts of strychnine added to prevent the LSD from evaporating. The preservatives sometimes caused stomach cramps and other unpleasant body sensations. Clear Light was free of these side effects.

My first trip happened when I was sixteen and did half of an 8-way hit with a guy I had met that same day. We sat around on the lawn of an apartment complex and all I remember of the first few hours was laughing at everything he said. Some friends of his, a guy and his girlfriend, gave us a ride in their Chevy Camaro. That's when we drove through the carwash and I saw the rainbow colors spraying against the window. But I didn't enjoy the ride at all. The two of us were in the back seat and the guy who was driving kept jerking the wheel back and forth and stepping on and off the break. We were so high we couldn't react fast enough to the motion of the car, which caused us to bang into each other and smack our heads together and against the windows and seats. Though I was seriously offended, we couldn't stop laughing compulsively so the driver thought he was entertaining us.

We went to a large public park after nightfall and when I went into the rest room my reality was assaulted for the first time. The first shock was seeing that my penis had shrunken to about four times smaller than it had ever been before. To me that meant four times smaller than possible. I was more than relieved that it stretched out to normal size again. I was still recovering from that bewilderment when I stepped out of the door and suddenly found myself standing in a universe of pure, endless yellow. No up, no down, no walls or floor, just yellow in every direction. I started to panic but immediately began to think about where I had been a moment before and tried to figure out what was going on.

I had been in a large public rest room, and encountered this yellow universe when I stepped out of the main room into the little entry way. So if that was still where I was at, I reasoned that if I stretched my right hand out into the yellow space I should encounter the door to the outside. I reached, felt something rough but springy, pushed against it and the outline of a doorway appeared. I pushed the door open all the way and saw a locomotive steam engine coming right at me!

A moment later normal reality reappeared when I realized the steam engine was on display in the park right outside of the rest rooms. I turned and looked into the "yellow universe" behind the door I was still holding open, and realized that the entire entry room had been painted yellow - walls, floor, ceiling, even the window screen on the door, which is what I had felt as the "springy" substance when I first reached out with my hand.

Using the bathroom hasn't been as exciting since then.

My second trip produced my first experience of psychedelic visual patterns. A friend and I had gone to the house of one of his friends (who I hadn't met before) to score the acid. We took the drug there and sat around in a room filled with black light posters, with the typical overstuffed chairs, a lava lamp, a fish net hanging from the ceiling and a big stereo system. After an hour or so we were listening to a very popular, 20-minute acid rock song, "Inagodadivida" by Iron Butterfly. The music was loud and consumed ALL of my attention as I sat back with my eyes closed.

I hadn't noticed anything particularly unusual other than feeling very high and thinking I was listening to the best stereo in the world, till the song neared the end of the long guitar lead. At the time I didn't know how the sounds I heard were produced, but I later realized the guitarist was dragging a thin piece of metal across the strings to create an intermittent screeching tone.

When this totally unexpected sound first appeared rather quiet and sinister in the background, a bright point of light appeared "in the distance" to my closed eyes. It was shaped like a window frame with the corners altered so they curved inwards.

With the next "screech" from the guitar the image appeared larger and closer. I was looking at a bright red glow seeming to come out from behind the black wibdow-shape, outlining the edges. The music became more tense and dramatic and the next screech produced a similar increase in size and brightness, this time dominating my entire field of vision. I had never in my life seen detailed images with such absolute clarity in my minds eye. Such a mental picture was impossible as far as I was concerned and to actually be experiencing it was both fascinating and frightening. As the screeching faded, so did the visual image. The song ended and suddenly the guy who owned the house decided to throw us stoners out.

One other memorable event that night was driving home on the new freeway. It had just been opened and I hadn't driven on that section before. It was about 2:00 AM and there was no traffic on the road, but being so high I had trouble judging how fast I was going. A look at the speedometer said 35 mph was slow enough to attract the attention of the police so I pushed myself to drive 65 mph - just as the road ahead of me disappeared! I went flying out into the darkness expecting to crash into the bottom of some giant-sized black pit - only to realize that the street lights had been turned off beyond that point. When my eyes adjusted I could drive again, but that experience made me very aware that driving on LSD isn't very smart.

I remember one time when three of us were just "coming on" to some Clear Light and were watching the clouds as the sun set. We were all sitting around in my father's barn, looking out the open doors of the hay loft, describing what the cloud shapes reminded us of. "That one looks like a Christian cross," one guy would say. "Which one?" we'd ask and the guy would point to a particular cloud. Sure enough, it was very clearly shaped like that, so much so I couldn't understand why I hadn't noticed it earlier.

"That one looks like a top hat," and again I would see a shape where I hadn't noticed it before. "That one looks like Mickey Mouse." As soon as a shape was described by someone the rest of us would see it, even if we had just been looking at that part of the sky and had seen something else there. It wasn't long before the sky was filled with elaborate, highly detailed, 3-dimensional cartoon characters made of cloud.

The effect of the drug grew stronger as the sun set and lit the sky with blazing colors. The clouds were no longer stationary, but actually churned like smoke above a raging fire. I have never seen anything so impressive as the sky that night. Just imagine neon-bright flames boiling up through tumbling clouds as the sky itself burned. A hydrogen bomb might create similar motion in the clouds, but not the beautiful colors, and you couldn't be as close as we were and live to tell about it. Each of us saw the same sky that night, or at least our individual interpretation of an event that awed us all.

That particular acid trip was quite remarkable. I remember being so high I couldn't move without a huge force of will, and the breeze blowing in through the open loft doors caused the corner of a brightly printed black and white sheet to pull lose from the thumb tacks holding it to the ceiling. The cloth beat against my face and I couldn't get myself to function well enough to do anything about it. Each time the "swrilled checkerboard" pattern on the cloth hit my face the pattern would become brightly colored and continue "into my brain." The cloth would hit my face and the colorful patterns would continue inward. Everyone laughed at me sitting there helpless to do anything about the cloth beating me in the face. Later one of the other guys said he saw his brain and spinal cord crawl out of his body and move like an inch worm across the floor.

We decided to walk down to the convenience store about half a mile away but I was simply too high to deal with the situation. Every hundred feet or so I would sit on someone's lawn and tell them I just couldn't go on. The other two would say, "What about the cops, man?" and that would get me on my feet again, over and over, every hundred feet for half a mile.

When we arrived at the store I knew there was no way I could handle going inside so I just told them to get me a 16 ounce bottle of coke while I waited outside in the middle of an empty, weed strewn lot on the corner. They disappeared into the store and were gone for what seemed a very long time when I became aware of, "what about the cops," again. I was standing in the middle of a small field illuminated by an bright street light at 2:00 AM, and realized that if any of the few cars that stopped at the corner happened to be the police they would definitely come investigate what I was doing there. The idea of encountering the cops while that wasted on LSD was even more frightening than going into the convenience store, so I went in to find out what was taking my two friends so long.

The moment I stepped in the door I was nearly knocked flat by the intensity of the color I experienced. All the packaging on the shelves was neon bright, and seemed impossibly well organized in neat. color-coordinated rows. Once I recovered from that shock, I noticed my two friends standing at the counter on the opposite side. (The store had two counters with cash registers on them so clerks could stand between them to service customers on either side.)

My two buddies looked ridiculous. They were laughing and giggling and leaning on each other, standing with their mouths hanging open and pawing at some money on the counter as if their hands were paralyzed. They looked like they were beyond raging drunk. It was such a funny sight I laughed out loud - and was instantly overcome with horror.

The graveyard cashier was a tall woman, very fat and had carrot-red hair. She had worked in that store since I was a kid and all of us pre-teens had referred to her (rather rudely) as "the pig." When I laughed she became aware of me and turned in my direction, and at that moment she turned into a 3-dimensional, animated cartoon pig - round, up turned nose, hoofs for hands, painted pink skin, the whole works.

"Can I help you?" said the cartoon pig in a squeaky cartoon voice complete with intermittent grunts. My two friends burst out laughing as the pig shook her head at us, pointy ears flopping, and made some grotesque facial gesture indicating disgust. All I could do was turn around and walk out the door, waiting for my friends behind the building. When they finally came out they said they couldn't count their money and eventually just threw a pile of cash on the counter and told the woman to take what she needed.

We were in a much better mood on the walk back. All of us again sharing the same hallucinatory effects, this time having to do with the texture of the asphalt pavement we were walking on. The black road was "diamond tucked" like the upholstery on the seats of 1950's customized cars, and with each step the pavement would ripple outward from our shoes for as far as we could see - fast little ripples shooting out through the padded pavement. The ripples produced a sound like echoes across the ground. All three of us commented on the uniqueness of the effect, and how interesting it was that we shared the same hallucinations.

When we got back to the barn my two friends said they wanted to go for a drive. I told them there was no way in hell I could drive being as high as I was, but both of them insisted they could do it. So we got in the car. I was up front in the passenger seat and we hadn't gone two blocks before I knew this was a big mistake. The headlights of approaching cars became centers of brilliant, radiating patterns of light, like neon kaleidoscopes. The colors covered the windshield, the headlights of approaching cars appearing as two little points radiating light, moving across from right to left as each car passed going the other way. The colors were totally opaque, as if the windshield had been covered with paint, and there was no way I could make out where the road was, period. The guy driving wasn't having those same problems, but I knew that if I was too high to drive, so was he and I demanded to be let out of the car on the spot. I walked home while those two drove around for hours without any problem.

I'm not sure if it was on that same trip, or during some other LSD adventure near the same time period, when I first experienced prolonged, internal visual imagery. "Acid patterns" is what we used to call them, images of tremendous complexity, somewhat similar to fractal images generated by computer, but believe it or not they were more intricate. Fractals are two-dimensional, but these acid patterns were three-dimensional and moved in impossible ways, i.e., forward and backward at the same time.

These "mental images" moved in perfect synchronization to the music one would be listening to, and being a naive seventeen-year-old I believed the patterns had been created by the musicians. It made sense that "acid rock" contained these images but only people on acid would be able to perceive them. That ridiculous conviction stuck with me for quite a long time, till I learned that other people on LSD that listened to the same music would see entirely different patterns. Some wouldn't see patterns at all, but cartoon-like images.

It was this misconception, that the music contained the images, that inspired me to try to find a way to actually do that, to create pictures you "see with your ears." I developed the Audio Animation theories in 1976 The theories were first published in MIX, June 1984, with the most recent publication being in Soundworks, August 2000.

Aother effect of doing acid is a sense of spiritual enlightenment. It doesn't happen to everyone, but it generally happens to anyone who takes a moment to ponder what is happening to them rather than simply indulging in the strange perceptions. But there is a price to gaining this insight. After my first, introspective acid trip I became acutely aware that the world is not as solid and real as I had always believed it was. The physical planet had always been so huge, so predictable, so real that I never questioned it's reality. Now it is little more than a convincing illusion, a place no more solid than heaven or a dream landscape. One doesn't realize how much comfort there is in perceiving the universe as "really as it appears to be" until it is no longer perceived that way.

On the other hand the awareness that reality is an illusion brings profound appreciation for the inconceivable intelligence that causes the world to appear as solid and predictable as it does. In a universe that doesn't take up time and space there is a place for heaven and dreams to exist with just as much reality. An infinite number of very real worlds, totally different universes, are therefore possible. Profound spiritual awareness, whether brought about from drug use, meditation or spontaneous illumination, brings with it the realization that we are all part of the same creative beingness. When we realize "we are all God" we are no longer alone, no longer isolated islands of consciousness. It's kind of like finally getting your computer hooked up to the Internet.

One other LSD experience worth noting is the effect it has while making love. The heightened awareness of shared psychological perception makes it possible to "merge consciousness" with your partner and experience sex on a "telepathic" level. Good sex is something that works best when all of your attention is on the other person, and if both people are focused on the other in this way it becomes possible to share physical sensations as well as emotional ones. My first love making experience on LSD resulted in both of us feeling like we were "one body that was both bodies." That was very cool.

Psychedelic drugs in general produce experiences similar to those described here, though everyone is an individual and experiences vary vastly with temperament and level of awareness. Some drugs like mushrooms produce less visual effects but stronger physical sensations. Ecstasy (MDMA) is only mildly psychedelic but stimulates emotional awareness.

I am not an expert on all the drugs out there, but there are several important observations that can be drawn from the experiences described here. The shared "hallucinations" by more than one person indicates how perception follows our expectations, and points to the possibility that all of reality made be a shared hallucination of sorts. This is further demonstrated by the experience of Visual Telepathy, which, by the way, does not require drug use.

And I again want to emphasize that the "acid" currently available on the street is not the same stuff that is described here. It's often garbage. If you are serious about enhancing your awareness with the assistance of drug use, your best bet is probably combining meditation with small amounts of marijuana. This can be very effective because pot doesn't grab you by the balls and fling you out into la la land like real LSD does. A tiny bit of pot smoked during meditation can give you a bit of a boost when you seem stuck firmly in the illusion that all this is as real and solid as it appears to be. Sometimes a little boost can be very helpful. Other times it may seem appealing to strap the rocket boosters on and blast off for other dimensions, but only you can be the judge of what is safe and practical for you. As Seth would say, it is only the belief that you need drugs to assist your development that makes drug use of value, and if you get rid of that belief you wouldn't need drugs. True. But sometimes we are stuck being less than perfect and can use a little help. It's up to you to choose wisely - and use enough caution to avoid getting caught!