Who knows why we did it in the morning, but we had the seeds! [See Part I] The question was, what should we do with them?
I’d gone down to Bob’s basement apartment. The weather outside was warm and sunny, but Bob’s one-room “pad” was dim and cool. Bookshelves and a bed occupied one side of the place, giant stereo speakers and a high-end audio system the other. A small passageway that also served as a kitchen led to a simple bathroom at the end. Bob locked the door so we wouldn’t be disturbed. He’d done more reading and decided we should simply eat a portion of the seeds, but how many? No one had a clue, so we each emptied a packet and proceeded to chew. (Trust me, you don’t ever want to do this.) It was like trying to eat gravel, but we persevered and washed down our respective mouthfuls of broken seeds with lots of water. Ugh.
Nothing happened right away, of course. As an utter psychedelic novice, I was disappointed. Bob thought that music would help, so he put a John Cage LP on the turntable and cranked the amplifier up. I can’t tell you which Cage piece we were listening to, but it sounded like cinder blocks being dragged across a sheet of glass. After a side of that, we listened to some Coltrane. This particular album reminded me of a stampeding herd of elephants in great pain, but I kind of liked it. At this point I began to feel a little woozy and stretched out on the bed.
As I lay there listening to the stampede, I had the thought that I was losing my mind. I was, of course, ho-ho, which had to be the point, but this was new and frightening. I started to panic and became upset. I also needed to throw up and ran to the tiny bathroom to barf my guts out. What a relief! The awful nausea disappeared, and then the other stuff began.
My first reaction was that I had never been so grateful to not be sick. My second reaction after flushing the toilet was to see the toilet: it’s A TOILET, HALLELUJAH! Such pure and utter bliss. You can’t imagine how wonderful that was (or maybe you can). I was still in the world, I hadn’t lost my mind exactly, but things were, um, different…
Staggering into the hall, I felt a roaring rush of joy, like I was happier than I’d ever been. GREAT FREAKING CHRIST, it’s a REFRIGERATOR! I passed my hands over the enameled steel and almost cried. And LOOK! A STOVE! A LITTLE GAS STOVE from PARADISE! With KNOBS!!! I must have been shouting, because I heard Bob cackling in the other room, even over the elephants. He’d been hit with a barfing fit as well but had to unlock the door and go outside because I was in the bathroom. When I came back into the main room, sunlight was streaming in the open door. We both were grinning like monsters and had to take this thing outdoors. Oh my Lord.
Texas had never been so beautiful as I stepped into the light. Neither of us went any farther than the bare dirt driveway just outside the door and didn’t have to. So HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY… I started looking at the little rocks and grass. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT, LOOK AT THIS! I squatted to have a closer look. The stones were frigging DIAMONDS full of color I had never seen. In the soft driveway dust under a baking sun, I noticed an impression of some kind. I thought I recognized it, but nothing clicked at first, and then the miracle: a BABY’S FOOTPRINT! A LITTLE BABY’S FOOTPRINT, RIGHT THERE IN THE DUST!!! We both got low and peered as closely as we could. An infant’s golden footprint, absolutely, the most intense, astounding thing. A goddamn baby-Jesus-Christ-child miracle for all time, right there underneath our noses!
Nothing else could top that. Neither of us wanted to hang out in the basement, anyway, and Bob was getting hungry. After a while, he grabbed his notebook and roared off on his motorcycle in search of coffee, doughnuts, and another waitress. I wandered back upstairs and watched as shallower reality returned. So this was “coming down,” and down was right! The numinosity began to fade. Gradually my thoughts intruded: where I had to go, what I had to do. But I was now “experienced.” (Thank you, Jimi.) I never chewed morning glory seeds again and didn’t have to. The main thing was that I had done this and I knew. To this day, the baby’s footprint stands out bright and clear inside my mind, and I remember how I felt. This would always prove to be the case. No swirling colors, no hallucinations, just diving deeper into what there is.
Was there a baby’s footprint? Who cares!
I wouldn’t do this now, though, I don’t think. The times just aren’t supportive of such exploration, although that could change. But it taught me that reality is very much a living thing, that there are layers of perception, that nothing is like our teachers, priests, and parents taught us, and that underneath it all is something palpable and indescribable and good. I was lucky to come of age when I did. Sometimes a sledgehammer is useful in eliciting these insights, especially for children of the ’50s, and the Universe provided.
These days I go out into the wilderness and it’s very much the same thing. Your time is right now, chilluns, and so is mine.
A nice experience, nicely described. But what significance beyond the pleasurable moment can a thing like that have? Does it have to have any such larger significance? Maybe not.
What I resist in this is not the experience itself but the implied message that it opens doors to anything of importance. Going for a ride on a roller coaster is also a pretty good experience, or sitting in the woods at a duck blind, or making love for the very first time – but these things end. You get off the careening car, put away your shotgun, rise from your bed – and you go into your real life. Those morning glory seeds brought you a comparable experience, but nothing beyond the veil of the moment, I suggest. Again, maybe that’s enough.
I liked your description, John, it was fine writing and a fine time was depicted. But are you claiming more for it than that?
How would you know what a psychedelic experience is like or whether it might be transformative? One way I suggest is to read this piece and accept what I say about my own reactions. You don’t get to argue with them, anyway! 🙂
reporting from my psychedelic experiences with othe substances, it was truly transformative. perhaps i am deluded, Ken. but i don’t think so.
Way to go, Katy.
Harpers magazine this month (they still publish!) has an article about Steven Pollock who did research in the 1980’s on the therapeutic uses of psilocybin mushrooms. He was found dead in his home and new evidence point to two police officers as the killers. I haven’t yet heard the entire story and don’t want to point fingers without good evidence but apparently Dr. Pollock was conducting clinical trials using the psychedelics as pallative drugs for conditions such as OCD, Tourettes and abnormal fear of death for end of life cancer patients. Better living through chemistry has always been MY motto in life. 🙂 xoxo
Beth! I’ll have to read that. Didn’t know all of Pollock’s story, but I’ve heard of similar experiments involving psychedelics for end of life counseling. Makes perfect sense to me. Great comment, thank you.