For some reason I’ve been thinking about some of the stupid things I used to do back when I used to take drugs. LSD is another one of them.
Now, back in the ’60s, all the acid gurus used to stress the importance of “set and setting” while tripping on LSD. In other words, you should pick a safe and buccolic setting when you’re experiencing that transformation of consciousness to a state that has been variously described as a state of insanity or a state of mysticism. And everything in between. Unfortunately, most of the settings for my acid trips took place in the real world full of sharp objects and weird people.
I remember one such night where I found myself peaking on acid while stumbling around in a very rough neighborhood in Oakland, well after midnight. Hardly the most ideal setting for a groovy LSD trip. It was the kind of neighborhood where you needed to have your wits about you just walking around in the middle of the day. Let alone in the middle of the night, deranged on drugs.
I forget how that had come about. I think I’d been hoping to spend the night at my friend Mary’s place, she lived in that neighborhood, but she probably kicked me out when I started going loony-tunes from the LSD. So now I had to come up with a Plan B. Namely, how I was going to navigate my way all the way back to Berkeley while my brains were exploding from the LSD effect, it’s wonders to behold. Further complicating matters as I wandered around, every couple of minutes I’d be distracted by one hallucination or another. I remember staring for a long time at this neon light that seemed to be some kind of profound symbol — a message of some sort — from some ancient and otherworldly realm.
Now, one of the beguiling and mind-fucking thing about psychedelic drugs is: While tripping you feel things more profoundly. But what you’re feeling is not necessarily profound. LSD completely skews that meter that allows you to distinguish your imagination from reality. And it also skews your cause-and-effect logic (just ask Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter crew). It can be like an intense and surreal dream with it’s own cock-eyed logic. And like a dream, you have no idea that you’re dreaming. It all seems completely real at the time.
For example, at one point I passed this parking lot full of shiny, brand new cars. I immediately had a profound epiphany. All these expensive cars massed in the middle of this mostly-black neighborhood in Oakland was a clear-cut sign that the black community was emerging as a dominant force in today’s global economy and would soon rule the world. (I prided myself on my ability to spot these new and emerging social trends before everyone else, even if I sometimes had to manufacture them in my imagination.) (PS. The next day I realized it had just been an ordinary used-car lot.)
After wandering around in circles for some time I came to the savvy conclusion that I better get my ass home and quick before I got into some real trouble. I knew I was too crazed to get on a bus full of people. Especially full of the late-night denizens in that neck of the woods. So I did something I rarely did and hailed a taxi.
Things were going fine as I sat there in the back seat of the cab, congratulating myself for having successfully found this safe haven. The taxi driver was a bland, heavy-set, middle-aged guy. The thing I most remember is how he kept looking over his shoulder at me as he chatted amiably. His face kept shifting from the changing lights and shadows of the streetlights and the headlights. And as I looked into his face I suddenly had yet another one of those incredibly jarring and profound LSD revelations. This was no mere taxi driver. He was Satan himself! And this taxi cab was taking me directly to Hell!
I was stunned by this realization. But I could see it clear as a bell on the taxi-driver’s face. Which kept shifting back and forth from bland taxi driver to Satan himself. He kept looking back at me with this leering, malevolent smile. Like he was enjoying the cat-and-mouse game with me. I realized I was a trapped rat, completely helpless, with no escape. The doors were surely all locked. I was his prisoner. I was doomed. A lamb being led to slaughter. I was never going to get out of this cab alive. I was on a one-way trip to Hell!!!!!
I was overcome with panic, and began to perspire profusely. I briefly considered tryng to physically over-power Satan. But I knew that was hopeless, I was no match for all of Satan’s satanic and supernatural powers. So instead I concentrated feverishly on his seemingly inane patter. Perhaps there was some way I could reason with him. Perhaps this was all a big misunderstanding and he had mistakenly picked the wrong doomed soul. I couldn’t remember signing any contracts lately.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the cab came to a stop. “End of the line,” said the cabbie ominously. I made a desparate grab for the door handle. And much to my surprise, the door opened. When I stepped outside, stood firmly on the ground, I realized, much to my great relief, I wasn’t in Hell after all, but was standing in front of my apartment building. Somehow, I had managed to escape the grasp of eternal death. I was a free man! Thank God all mighty. I was so happy and relieved, I gave the taxi driver a $40 tip for a $20 ride.
LSD really is a stupid drug.