Certain names in this post have been changed. The story, however, is unfortunately 100% accurate.
I probably could have gotten by with a half a hit, but I took the whole thing.
So did my girlfriend, Julie.
We were living on Martha's Vineyard. It was the summer of 1991. I had just turned twenty-one in May, but Julie would have to wait until that August. That certainly didn't stop her from getting in to, and drinking her ass off at, the many bars which peppered all but one town on the island: Vineyard Haven. Yuck! who would want to live in a "dry" town? That must be where all the loser, ex-alkies end up. Sounds pretty depressing if you ask me.
Live and learn-- if you're lucky, that is.
But we took a whole hit of "Red Robot" acid together, along with a couple of guys Julie had met at the beach-- a couple of miscreant college dropouts like us.
I can't remember their names so, for the sake of this story, I'll call them Barry and Jim.
Julie and I had been living in a rented room in a pink gingerbread style house in Oak Bluffs. It was more or less a boarding house. Two small bathrooms serviced about 15 tenants. Our room was the only one on the bottom floor. It was small, round, and dark. The couple of windows that we did have had been boarded up due to hurricane Bob.
It was owned by a woman named Breezy. Yes, Breezy.
Breezy was something else. A boisterous black woman in her 50's, she was about five foot two and 300 lbs of pure energy. Breezy would start her day, every day, at 6am by vacuuming the whole house. She, whether vacuuming or not, habitually wore a Walkman and would sing at the top of her lungs to no one in particular.
"When a man loves a wo-man ... yeah, yeah, yeah ... Oh baby ... pleeeze ... baby!"
The real words seemed entirely inconsequential. It was the feeling that mattered. Each song would start out correctly, and then morph into some interpretation that bordered on a exorcism.
I'd occasionally crack my door open and witness her in action in the living room across from our bedroom, waving her hands--complete with multi-colored nail extensions-- in the air, as if she were underwater and trying to save herself from drowning.
I'd close the door and, if I was lucky enough to have a day off, crawl back in bed with Julie who could, and would, sleep all day if she felt like it.
Love is blind and, apparently, quite lazy.
But, this particular day, I did, in fact, have to go to work at one of the three or so restaurants that I did time at. Pete's Seafood was the place, a little lunch joint on the Oak Bluffs pier.
The day ended, and I headed to my usual bar, The Rare Duck, on Circuit Ave. to wait for Julie who was at the beach. She finally made it in, buzzed from beers and burnt from the sun. She introduced me to her new friends.
"This is Barry and Jim and they just came here today and they say they have acid and they want to take it and they want to give some to us and they want to go to the beach. What do you think?"
"I think you should slow down, honey."
And Julie ordered a Sea Breeze and I paid as usual.
"Hi, Barry. Hi Jim ... I'm Alex"
And they sat down, and we had some drinks.
Barry and Jim were our age, early twenties, and seemed friendly enough. They were wearing the requisite Grateful Dead t-shirts (the hard to find ones, not the ones from the gift shop--always a good sign) and were on break from tour. Of course, as most men were, they were both taken by Julie.
She was young, beautiful, and trouble with a capital T. Long, golden-brown hair, a kind and optimistic smile, a petite yet curvy figure, and wide brown eyes like lighthouse lanterns, warning would be travelers of impending danger with every blink. She had, and still has, a magical spark about her. An energy field that seems to shatter any and all negative forces from entering her world. She is a bit manic, but that comes with the territory. Many a man has been dragged under the bridge by this unsuspecting, desirable, free spirited, ingenue. My scars have healed, and we are now good friends.
But back to the story at hand.
Afternoon turned into evening and we eventually made a plan: we would drop, and then hitchhike to the beach. We knew a great spot out in Menemsha where the moon rose over the water. There was to be a meteor shower that night. It was perfect.
As I said earlier, I probably could have gotten by with a half a hit, but I took the whole thing.
It's tough to tell from a half inch by half inch piece of paper, what the potency is. The best you can do is hear through the grapevine what "brand" is best, and which to stay away from.
The "Red Robot" acid came highly recommended.
We brought some supplies. Some weed, a bowl, a lighter, and a boom-box with one cassette.
One side of the cassette contained David Bowie's Diamond Dogs. The other side, The Police's Synchronicity.
It started to hit both of us in the giant Chevy Impala that we had been picked up in. That subtle kink in the neck, the dry metallic taste on the tongue, and the first trail you notice as you focus on an object in motion, like a sign post; that's when you know it's going to be a long night. But that's the last rational thought you can possibly have: that it's working. Everything else is controlled by your surroundings and your subconscious.
I looked at Barry and Jim and they were both smiling and staring out the rear window. I turned to look too, and watched the blinking red traffic light fade away.
I looked at Julie and said: "You ready?" And she nodded her head and smiled. She was on her way, no question about it.
We got dropped off close to the beach. I remember the look the driver gave us as we fell out of the roomy and ancient back seat in hysterical fits from nothing in particular. It was as if he were saying to himself, I remember this. And I wish I could do it again. Enjoy it while you're young, kids.
We set up our minimal camp at a lifeguard stand. It was about 15 feet high and immediately engulfed by four tripping maniacs.
I pressed play in the boom-box cassette deck and was practically shot in the chest by the opening, staccato, slightly atonal keyboards on track one. And then Sting sang:
with one breath
with one flow
you will know
a sleep trance
a dream dance
a shared romance
And I climbed down the lifeguard tower, peeled off my shirt, and ran into the salty sea ahead of me feeling every piece of my skin moving on my body.
The darkness had taken over, and the moon had risen. It was like a giant, brilliant, cotton-ball, precariously balanced as the stars around it banged and bounced on the blue-black trampoline that was the sky. Words meant nothing, and egos were out the window. It was discovery time. Time to learn who is inside our psyche as we forever alter the person who we will become.
I know it has changed me, most definitely for the better.
For the uninitiated, the psychedelic compound, LSD, is an extremely useful, and unbelievably powerful tool which Dr. Albert Hoffmann stumbled upon in 1943. It has potential for abuse, but due to the inherent emotional and physical toll it takes on a person, is not likely. It has been used to treat alcoholism, depression, and other psychological disorders, with--like many legal drugs--many positive results.
From Wikipedia: "LSD is generally considered nontoxic; it may temporarily impair the ability to make sensible judgments and understand common dangers, thus making the user more susceptible to accidents and personal injury."
And from Time Magazine: "To such recognized LSD experts as Los Angeles' Dr. Sidney Cohen, author of The Beyond Within (TIME, Dec. 18, 1964), the "acid head" who is "taking a trip" is more likely to become passively fascinated by the glories or horrors of contemplating his own navel than to react violently against others."
A person can read all they want about LSD, but, until one has taken it, their opinion is merely hearsay.
We sat on the sand and let the water engulf us slowly. The shine of the moon off the waves was brighter than a 100 watt bulb. The lighthouse's beam blinked and bobbed like a drunk firefly, slowly spinning around to match the swirl of the wind. Meanwhile, Barry and Jim were busy jumping off the lifeguard stand and onto the sand below. It looked like fun.
Julie disappeared, once again. She never stayed in one place long. There was always just too much going on everywhere to be somewhere in particular.
Now, she was jumping off the lifeguard stand too.
The title track from Bowie's Diamond Dogs was playing distortedly loud from the four inch, sand specked speakers in the stereo.
In the year of the scavenger
the season of the bitch
sashay on the boardwalk
scurry to the ditch
just another future song
lonely little kitsch
there's gonna be sorrow
try and wake up tomorrow ...
And I ran up to the lifeguard stand where the music was living. As I did, I felt every atom of air, every grain of sand, every droplet of wind-whipped water cascading over and past my body. I ran my fingers through my hair and patted both my cheeks with my hands. I grabbed hold of the white, wind-weathered ladder and climbed up.
One ... two ... three ... four ...
Each step brought the music closer to me. Each step brought me closer to the maniacs on the playground lookout tower. With each step I felt more and more insane.
... come out of the garden, baby
you'll catch your death in the fog
young girl, they call them the diamond dogs
young girl, they call them the diamond dogs ...
As I pulled myself up and over the last rung and onto the platform I watched both Barry, then Jim, then Julie, jump off the tower, and roll in the soft sand below. I peered out and tried in vain to judge the distance. I had climbed what, maybe six or seven stairs tops, right? How high could I be?
I had no idea.
I balanced, crouched, with both feet on the edge and my right hand holding on to the railing.
"Jump!" they yelled.
"Come on, Alex. Jump!"
I looked over the edge and the ground was waving back and forth and coming up and saying hello and goodbye at the same instance. My eyes were pulsing and my breath was quick. I must have been sweating, but the cool air was keeping it from collecting on my goose-bumped skin. I looked at the sky and couldn't tell if the trails of light were from the acid or the meteor shower. It all seemed so explosive.
I pushed off with both feet. I felt my body shifting into a horizontal position as I fell ...
... and I knew it was not going to end well.
I hit the deceptively unforgiving sand on my back with my legs and arms outstretched. My head met the ground a millisecond later. I felt a viciously sharp electrical vibration and then it all went black.
As I came to, I heard Bowie singing in the background, much quieter this time ...
beware of the diamond dogs
beware of the diamond dogs
Julie ran over to me and bent down as if to kiss me, but stopped short by about an inch.
"Alex ... are you okay?"
"I ... I can't move."
And I heard Julie's voice, softer on each word, as she ran down the beach screaming ...
"Oh my god ..."
To be continued ...
Thanks for reading.
Editor's note: I was made aware, several hours after this post was written, that Albert Hoffmann, the chemist who discovered LSD, passed away on this very day in Switzerland at the age of 102.