Days of psychedelics and roses
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Goodby Savannah, Hello Atlanta!
I left Savannah, GA for Atlanta. Walking out of the Greyhound bus station, my sense of place was wholly zapped. Nothing about me was familiar, I didn't know how to get anywhere. A dizzily exhilarating moment. At last I was free of my home town which had come to see like a narrow prison. The Big City! (To be fair Atlanta seemed a modest metropolis when I later lived in Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Manhattan (to Hell with the rest of New York City).
My first night was spent in Father Lloyd's, ahem, youth hostel. A few houses away was my first apartment away from momma and daddy. On Piedmont a half block from 10th. Midtown the neighborhood was called. Midtown I gather has since gentrified. Back then it was the place the drag queens, hustlers, Children of God, Hari Krishnas, junkies and assorted street folk lived. To John and Jane Q. middle-class it was a dangerous ugly neighborhood. After a childhood of chastity and colorless caution Midtown was paradise. Better to hang with a hooker than a banker. For me the social center of Midtown was Frederick Law Olmstead's Piedmont Park. The (often homely) young hustlers plied there trade, advertising their status as a commodity by lounging and slouching around the lake. At night gay men had sex in the bushes. (Not me, nor did I go to the bathhouses so popular back then. Anonymous sex – I needed at least fifteen minutes conversation – never won me over. A character flaw.)
Heaven on earth.... they call it Peachtree Street
More ambitious, usually more colorful entrepreneurs were up on Peachtree Street: the drug dealers. And their clients. The waifish speed freaks – methamphetamine addicts – were sometimes kind of sexy in a bony fashion (I was strongly biased against muscles back then). Though their waxy skin often militated against the erotic appeal of their burnt-out eyes. Amphetamines I sampled once only: a Black Beauty. The illusions of clarity and infinite capability let me know that I'd met a drug that could easily enslave me. But I appreciated the ready availability of LSD.
First drink, first toke
Back in Savannah, my first best friend, Victor, had introduced me to drugs and liquor. Screwdrivers became a nightly pleasure. Stupidly I'd stuff myself with food and the food would end up on the street, Victor's car or one time along the side of building that I'd vomited on from the second floor. My involuntary decoration remained for months. Had I been hip to the NYC art scene I might've found a way to establish a - very transtiory - vogue.
Victor always had pot from awakening to his bedtime joint. Like many a thrifty toker he'd taken to selling weed to keep himself in copious supply. Marijuana has never thrilled me much. Good for sex: the sharpening of tactile sensitivity can make another's skin an even greater joy to touch. (And can make masturbation more than mundane pumping.) Marijuana's best use was boosting psychedelics. With Victor and the acquaintances his dealing (and simply happy joy in getting high) had brought around I sampled ever psychotropic drug offered.
MDA: Had only one trip with MDA. Sitting on the grass of Forsyth Park I kept kept jumping up. The ground seeemed to be falling away under me. Again and again I felt I was tumbling into an abyss. My least happy drug experience until I unwittingly smoked a joint laced with 'angel dust' (PCP).
Plenty of peyote, lots of mescaline. I took them because they were available. Peyote and mescaline seemed too mild. They didn't have the nervous, biting edge of LSD.
I loved LSD.
My best loved trip was the night a tear into reality opened before me. Chaos on the other side. Spooked me greatly. Scared or not to have my sense of actuality so flatly subverted tickled me. And I always treasured that silly metaphysical sort of hallucination. Thankfully it didn't make me silly like Timothy Leary or Aldous Huxley.
The first records I ever bought were electronic music. Not the electronic around nowadays. Not even Switched on Bach. It was by academics. University produced music. I didn't enjoy it. Most likely didn't understand it. I played it once when doing some oddball psychedelic. Don't remember which. I had the hallucination that I'd been translated to Mars. It seemed like the record was never going to do the merciful thing and end.
Another vivid hallucination that was in the borderland between visual and mood was where I felt that I was in a cathedral. Even as a little kid I always wished I could see things that weren't there. One night at a little boy I woke up terrified seeing a Frankenstein monster at the end of my bed. When my heartbeat steadied I was so happy to have been fooled. But that same night I was also memorized by the sound of myself pissing.* So much for the edifying afforded by lysergic acid diethylamide.
I was a steady customer of Peachtree Street's LSD hawkers: and hawk they did. If you've ever walked by a strip joint where the doorman hails every passerby to come on in and enjoy the show you have an image of the guys walking up and down bragging that their blotter acid was the best stuff (made my Owsley himself).
At my peak, which lasted only a couple of weeks, I was buying a dozen hits or more at a time. Not that all were ingested at once. I kept myself wrapped in my own private pocket of distorted space-time.
My friends Gordon and Ebba had told me to empty and clean their cats litter boxes while they were away. On their return they found the apartment a shitty mess. Ebba fled the apartment in a fit. Enough of my brain was working for me to run after her. While I apologized her translucent eyeballs stared at me from the sky.
My system was so steadily fed with acid that even after I felt that I'd come down it would bleed into the next day. For a $1.65 / hour I delivered architectural blueprints to Atlanta's architects. Feeling clouds were my shoes I was pleasantly zombified as I walked in and out of the offices of John Portman and the other architects that were getting rich turning Atlanta into a big city.
Then I quit. It wasn't that I decided I had enough of the nervous jolts LSD afforded me. Psychotropic drugs gave me what they could and I didn't think to buy them anymore.
Several years later in San Francisco I took acid with the Only Woman. Her first trip. She enjoyed it immensely. I was bored. Not even the small armies the Japanese tourists, camera on the neck to a person, made me laugh. Proved that I couldn't get much out of a tripping anymore. In the old days I loved to feel the high coming on in a mall or grocery store. All those pointless products repeated over and over again. The depersonalized consumer mass-culture. We did do Thai sticks. Cannabis as as pure as it gets aside from has or THC. Cannabis is good with making love. Without cannabinol I probably would've have spent a few years as a heterosexual (bisexual, pansexual, whatever).
I did shoot-up a drug once. I got a junkie acquaintance to inject me with some THC. It was a good, strong high but taking it that way diminished the length of time that I was high. Having had an experience using a needle to get high I never tried it again (this was before AIDS).
I never did heroin. Didn't know where to find it. I did know a bunch of junkies but was always wary of them. Didn't even try to get the one who was in love with me to find some for me. Cocaine was just showing up as drugs were beginning to bore me so I missed that. For years I was of half a mind to try some but never felt like putting effort or money into the enterprise. If it knocked at the door and offered itself to me I'd do crack or ecstasy. But not if I have to go out looking.
Robitussin-DM was a popular prison high. I did that a few times under John's tutelage. The buzz was OK. Felt like it was a hallucinogen but sadly wasn't.
Primatene has just enough speed in it to give a boost but isn't strong enough to give you a buzz.
I bought my jimson weed aka loco weed aka datura stramonium in an upscale Atlanta health food store. What miracle effects the nutty owner promised me I've forgotten. Back on Piedmont Ave. I made some tea. No buzz. I rolled a loco weed joint. Then my brain twisted at right angles to all known dimensions.
All I can remember of that night is watching TV. Not that we owned a television. My roommates who'd planned to go out until my behavior made them stay for my sake said I tried to eat an issue of Doctor Strange with a spoon.
Going down to Savannah I had to give my friends a taste. What happened that night I can't say. Victor's mother was mightily upset but would never tell. John had a doctor's appointment the next day. When the nurse he'd been chatting with turned into a hatrack he fled the office.
In the meantime I was spending my day with Victor and Nancy's son. I kept hearing this little boy make an unending series of obscene suggestions. He wasn't saying anything. Thankfully I knew that was was happening in my mind had no correlation with the outside world.
Jimson weed, grows wild all over the US. You can try some for free.
When I could find it here in Durham I started smoking pot a bit again. I've never found a better cure for my insomnia. Instead of heading out to wreak reefer madness mayhem I'd smoke half a joint, listen to a little music and go to bed. When I met Charles he found what passes nowadays for a good amount (during the time I was writing of above an ounce of good weed cost about $20, a kilo $200). He smoked most of it. Little did I suspect that was a foretaste of days to come.
* That night would prove more memorable for other reasons later. Victor and Nancy were sleeping together. John had no idea. But he found out shortly thereafter. His relationship with Victor ended and he moved to Atlanta. I stupidly felt in love with him. It was a miserable time. But it tempered me and kept me from continuing to be a victim of my romantic inclinations. It wouldn't be the only time I found myself involved with a drug addict.
See also: The crack addict