Strange how things work out sometimes… something unusual happens in your life and you wonder, “What on Earth was that all about?” Then one day, years down the line, it comes back to you and you realize that it is actually one of the missing pieces to the puzzle you have spent a lifetime piecing together.
Recently I rewrote “Letting Go,” and came upon an incident I have not thought about for some time…
We were spending the weekend in Philadelphia at the apartment we rented with profits from drug sells. We had become the main suppliers for the Bethesda Naval Hospital and had earned a good reputation because we never sold a bad product. Every batch of acid we sold was tested personally by us before we would sell it to anyone else. Our clients were not just the enlisted personnel but included officers as well and Randy was the one who insisted on it being top quality. He did not want anyone to have a bad trip from something we sold.
It’s about four in the afternoon when we arrive at the apartment. Everyone is hungry so Phil and I go out to a Jewish delicatessen a few blocks from the apartment to purchase submarine sandwiches. When we return we find Randy sitting at the table, staring blankly into space, his eyes are moist. John and Mary are at the table as well but no one is talking and it is obvious that something bad has happened.
“What’s up guys?” Phil inquires.
“Randy’s mother just called,” Mary responds soberly, “she says James has just died from a drug overdose in New Orleans.”
Randy and I had become close friends but I had never seen him show emotion before. It was obvious the day we met James at the airport that the two of them were close but I didn’t realize until now just how close they had been. We all sat quietly for several minutes, none of us really knowing what to say. It was Randy who broke the silence. “Isn’t anyone hungry?” he asks, as he reaches for the bags of submarine sandwiches.
We all breathe a sigh of relief and join him in devouring the sandwiches. “Anyone know who is playing tonight?” Randy inquires.
“You mean you want to go out tonight?” I ask.
“Sure, why not? James wouldn’t like us just sitting around mourning him. Let’s have some fun. We can all drop acid and see a good band; that’s what James would want. In fact, I think I will take a double hit just for the occasion.”
“I don’t know man; I don’t think that is such a good idea.” I caution.
“It’ll be fun; you worry too much Wayne… So who’s in town?”
Phil returns with a flyer from the Electric Factory, an old warehouse painted completely black on the inside. Seating was on carpeted floors and you had to get there early for the front seats. It was small compared to other places making for some good interaction with the bands. Several new groups had started their American tours from the Factory including Alice Cooper, who we had seen just a few weeks before and walked out of with several others when Alice came out in the second set with a sequined dress. “If this is where rock music is going, I don’t want any part of it!” someone said, as we were leaving, and most of us were in agreement.
“There’s a Canadian group I have never heard of playing at the Factory but that’s about all for tonight. I think they are more Country than Rock.”
“Sounds great to me,” Randy says, “I just need to get up.”
I am less than enthusiastic, but for the sake of the group I try not to show it. We finish our meal and by the time we’re ready to go it is late. “We won’t get very good seats you know and the band will already be playing by the time we get there.”
“We can drop now, that way we will be off by the time we get there.” Randy suggest as he goes to the refrigerator for the bag of acid.
“Anyone doing a double hit with me?”
Everyone takes two tablets and the bag is passed to me. I hesitate but can feel them staring at me, and so I pull out two tabs and pop them in to my mouth. “Going up,” I say jokingly but more for the sake of the group than because I feel like it. I knew all to well what can happen, if you drop while having negative thoughts and I didn’t want to be responsible for the group having a bummer tonight.
The parking lot is full and I’m flying by the time we get into the building. The only seats available are in the back centre, directly in front of the control table. We sit down and I can feel the cables running beneath the carpet. The band sounds fairly good and I begin to relax as they play a country ballad.
Randy comes in with some large Cokes for everyone and takes a seat next to me. “How you doing?” he asked.
“Great!” I respond, smiling, “and you?”
“Pretty good stuff.” he replies, leaning back against the table.
We both sit in silence through the next song, enjoying the effects of the acid. My head is floating and I feel so relaxed that I have to remind myself to breathe. The song ends and the band goes immediately into their next song:
(Turn, turn, turn,)
There is a season,
(Turn, turn, turn,)
And a time to every purpose under Heaven……….”
I’m not sure exactly what happened next. I must have reached down for my Coke and was lifting it up when the band sang “A time to be born,” it slipped out of my hands and in slow motion I could feel it falling on to my pants and then hitting the floor where the microphone cables were running under me. Something in my mind must have associated the accident with electrocution just as the band sang “a time to die” because I could feel myself rising up slowly out of my body and looking down on the whole crowd while the band kept repeating, like a broken record, the words “die, die, die, die.”
It must have been apparent to Randy that something was wrong because he leaned over and asked if I was OK. While I could see his lips moving, the sounds didn’t come through until later, as if he were somewhere in the distance and although I tried, I was incapable of answering him. The band in front of me was melting like wax figures into the stage and while the intensity of the strobe light increased; the entire audience began to blend together and I could see only my body, sitting sadly alone on top of the sea of colour.[/quote]
With Randy’s help I was able to get through the acid trip, but not without some scary moments running through the busy streets of Philadelphia. I dropped LSD one more time after that but immediately went to a very bad place and decided never to do it again. For a time I tried to find some meaning to the incident, but like everything else in the 60s… nothing made much sense.
Forty-three years have passed since that experience and I now believe myself to be a much wiser person… although I’m sure there are some who might disagree. The foundation, upon which I had built my life, caved in years ago, as the falsehoods it was built from became more and more clear to me. Wisdom comes from knowledge, and knowledge has a price that some choose not to pay, but the bliss of ignorance was not something I desired and so I set out instead, to find the Truth.
What I found was rather scary and not at all what I had expected, for like the experience I had with LSD, I found myself sitting completely alone, surrounded by greed, corruption and injustice. The teachers I once respected and followed, all failed to live up to my expectations and I finally came to the conclusion that in all likelihood, regardless of what I or anyone else tries to do, humankind would not be getting any better and was in fact on a path of self-destruction.
I ran from the LSD experience 43 years ago because I didn’t like the feeling of being all alone. Over the years however, I have come to realize that what I should have done then, was to try and get to know that person who was sitting below me. I have since walked out on religion and turned my back on the God I was raised to believe in. Today I try only to make a little difference in the lives of the people I meet and although I still search for God, I no longer look for Him outside myself… for I have found Him living within me.
“Given the scale of life in the cosmos, one human life is no more than a tiny blip. Each one of us is just a visitor to this planet, a guest, who will only stay for a limited time. What greater folly could there be than to spend this short time alone, unhappy or in conflict with our companions? Far better, surely, to use our short time here in living a meaningful life, enriched by our sense of connection with others and being of service to them.”—Dalai Lama
We truly are the Universe experiencing Itself.