Editor's note: I do not condone, nor recommend drug use. I am merely retelling an account which made a great impact on my life. Please take it for what it is: a cautionary tale. It is not meant to glorify or romanticize drugs (LSD in particular) in any way. If you take it as such, that is your choice. People will, and do, make their own decisions. I certainly have, and will continue to do so.
Continued from 4.29.08:
I was hurt. Bad.
How hurt, I couldn't even begin to speculate. All I knew was that in addition to the meteor shower and the LSD visuals, I had my own stars I was seeing. Much like in the cartoons, when someone gets hit over the head with a frying pan; those kind of stars. And each pointy star seemed to be jamming its beveled edges into my back after a short lap around my head.
Julie had come running back from a her frenzied sprint down the wet beach.
"Oh my god! Alex? Are you okay?"
"I ... I don't know ... I ... I can't move. I can barely breathe ... holy shit!"
Barry and Jim weren't much help. They kind of wandered over and gave me some cursory sympathy.
"Man, you okay?" Barry said.
"Uhh ... no ... no, I'm not okay at all."
"I've got it ... I know how to heal you ... come here," said Julie, who was still frantic but had calmed down considerably.
"We'll let nature heal you," she said." ... I know just what to do. ... Follow me."
Oh great. Nature, huh? Well, I had already let chemicals make my last decision, why not try nature. I tried to stand again, but the pain was too much. I grabbed hold of part of the lifeguard stand and tried to hoist myself up, but I fell down immediately. Julie was halfway to the water. Like I said, she never could stay in one place for very long. I crawled along the sand on my hands and knees, feeling like I had a piece of lit coal lodged inside me. I could feel every joint working hard to stay in sync as they compensated for the injured area.
The visuals had returned and I noticed patterns in the sand that looked like lace, then spiderwebs, then spiders, millions of them. Then the ground beneath me started to open up like a volcano and I was suddenly riding on top as it as it emerged from the ground below. I dropped to the ground and started to grab clumps of wet sand and throw them to either side to keep me from falling off the top.
"Baby, what are you doing?" Julie said.
"Watch out! ... What the hell are you just standing there for? ... Do you want to die!?"
She put her hands on my back and whispered in my ear.
"I'm going to heal you."
I looked around and realized I was still on flat land--still at the beach. Safe.
"Okay. I'll give it a shot."
I got back on my hands and knees and crawled until she told me to stop. The waves were not far away, and the sound was so loud I thought I was in the midst of a massive coliseum cheering with a hundred thousand other people. We were cheering for the moon, which had gotten my attention again. I looked back and saw Barry and Jim running up and jumping off the lifeguard stand. Man, it looked so easy.
Julie laid me down on my back and told me to lie still. The sand I was on was wet and cool, but it was still rough. I tried to lift my head and the pain came again; this time, even worse.
As I looked to my right I saw Julie feverishly digging in the sand. She was digging a grave, I was sure. For me? Maybe. She dug fast and deep for a good ten minutes, then she looked at me.
"What?" I said.
"Get in and let nature heal you."
And so, still on my back I moved like an inverted crab, sideways, until I came to the edge of the shallow ocean grave that had been dug for me. I summoned all my power and rolled myself in to the hole.
I landed on my side.
"Shhhh ... it's okay ... shhhh ... you'll be alright ... shhhh ... ."
I lifted myself up and over until I was flat on my back. The pain was excruciating. I felt the first clump of sand on my belly, then a two handed parcel of it, then it came faster and faster. Before I knew it I was covered up to my neck with cool, wet, heavy sand.
Julie carefully stepped on the sand to firm up the area. My back cooled instantly.
It felt good.
Then I tried to lift my arms.
I quickly realized that I was trapped in this god damned thing and couldn't move an inch. I was in a beach cast, practically paralyzed. What the hell? I tried to crane my neck to look around and the pain came again, so I just stared at the moon.
The moon became my mandala. And the stars became the lashes around my eyes. And the water, as it crept slowly towards me with the rising tide seemed to be calling my name.
The tape had flipped and I heard the Police again. "Walking in Your Footsteps" was playing and I let it calm me down.
Fifty million years ago
you walked upon the planet so
Lord of all that you could see
just a little bit like me
walking in your footsteps
walking in your footsteps
walking in your footsteps
walking in your footsteps
Andy Summers' primal screech of guitar, coupled with Stuart Copeland's mesmerising drumming, took the visuals to new levels. Vines seemed to come out of the sky. A panther suddenly appeared and licked my forehead, then scampered off with a friendly roar. I was completely out of my mind. The obligatory paranoid thoughts came. Were we safe? Was anyone safe? I decided these were questions best left unanswered.
The Police took me on a most magical journey. Still, to this day, Synchronicity holds a special place in my musical consciousness as a most comforting guide through one of the more trying times of my life (with the exception of Andy Summers' one vocal contribution,"Mother" which made me want to end it all).
The one tape we had brought ended again. No one flipped it over. Everyone was starting to come down, including me.
When my blood pressure returned to normal (as far as I could tell) and the immediate shock of the injury had subsided, I attempted to free myself from the confines of the sandy tomb that I had spent what seemed like a few hours in. It was more likely the better part of one.
I got to my knees, and Julie came running over.
"Alex ... how are you feeling?"
"Like I want to go home."
"Me too, let's get out of here. Can you walk?
"I can try."
And I tried. I walked, slowly. Very slowly. I found a piece of driftwood to use as a makeshift cane.
Barry and Jim were ahead of us and I think they were pretty bummed that they had to deal with an accident like this one on a massive trip. If they only knew how I felt.
I probably shouldn't have walked. I obviously hadn't broken my back, but I should have been brought to a hospital. In retrospect, it was most likely a good idea to keep me away from the doctors. They might have kept me there for a while, if you know what I mean.
It was light now, and we walked for what seemed like a mile. I did my best to hold up. Barry and Jim had been hitchhiking with not much luck at 5am. Finally, a pickup truck stopped, and we all climbed in. I was so happy to not have to walk that I threw myself on the back of the open flat bed, clenching my teeth from the pain. I straightened out and sat upright and looked back. My feet hung off the edge of the tailgate. The jolt from the acceleration almost tossed me to the pavement.
I looked around me and marveled at the landscape.
The flora and fauna of Martha's Vineyard is some of the most intricate and unique in the Northeast. Spindly ferns, puffy pinwheel shaped orbs perched atop long, tall, green stems. Better still, they were all sticky from the morning dew. Long rows of pampas grass that seemed to be bidding us a farewell as the truck bumped and chugged along. It was all so unbelievably gorgeous. It made the pain go away for a few precious minutes as I took it all in. I looked at Julie and she smiled and patted my leg.
We were on our way home.
The truck dropped us off in Vineyard Haven, one town away from our destination in Oak Bluffs. We both decided to wait for the bus. As I sat on the bus stop bench, I started to notice the summer sun gleaming off what appeared to be fishing lines stretching down from the trees. What the hell? I stood up and felt something drop on my head.
A tiny, brown and green caterpillar had been rappelling down from the oak tree it had been born in, and was making it's way to the ground to start the next chapter in its life. I wondered if it had any idea what it was to become just a little on down the road.
I looked up and then it all made sense. Hundreds, if not thousands of caterpillars were slowly, intently, spinning themselves down from the tree above. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever seen. I looked for Julie who, by this time, was collecting the caterpillars in a her hand.
She came over and her palms were covered and eerily alive.
"Cool," she said.
"Yeah," I replied. "Cool."
I kissed her on her forehead and she smiled.
The big yellow bus pulled up and we got in. Barry and Jim had made their goodbyes earlier, and were on theie way off the island. I had thanked them for the doses, and they said, "No worries!" They both said they had a good time. Despite the disastrous lapse in judgement, I had too.
I'm not used to hearing music on public transportation. So, when I cautiously stepped up and sat down in my seat and Crowded House's "Never Be The Same" started playing, I was a bit shocked. Temple of Lo Men which the song comes from, is a fantastic pop album from 1988. Tiny percussion creeps around corners. Guitars chunk and scrape out hooks that stick with you long after listening. The record sounds great in any circumstances: straight, or high.
But on this summer morning, as the bus pulled away from the stop, leaving the thousands of caterpillars to chance everything and throw themselves into a world unknown, I felt much like them.
I knew I would never be the same.
I sat back, still very much in pain, and listened to the music. I looked at Julie whose head was on my shoulder. She was asleep.
It had been a very long day.
but we might still survive
and rise up through the maze
if you could change your life
and never be the same
and never be the same
Thanks for reading
R.I.P. Albert Hoffmann
January 11, 1906-April 29, 2008