*Names of people and locations in this story have been changed for the purpose of protecting privacy.
I ruled three kingdoms within the Palo Santo Country Club and Golf Course located outside Los Angeles, CA. Or so I thought, at the height of my acid induced hallucinations.
I did not wake up that morning, expecting to experiment with one of society’s most notoriously dangerous drugs. I was staying in an apartment borrowed from a friend of mine who was kind enough to lend it to me while he spent the season in southern France with a well-to-do aunt of his. I had made plans to see my oldest and closest friends last night and we agreed to meet at my friend Jack’s apartment later in the afternoon. There had been some murmur that there would be some acid at the gathering, so I spent the day reading up on LSD.
Lysergic acid diethylamide (also abbreviated as LSD, or LSD-25) is a psychedelic drug well known for its psychological effects which include altered thinking, closed and open-eyed hallucinations, synesthesia, altered sense of time, and (in special cases) religious/spiritual experiences. While LSD is non-addictive (contrary to what I had been told), it has been known to cause acute adverse psychiatric reactions such as anxiety, paranoia, and delusions — more colloquially known as a “bad trip.”
There had been some murmur that there would be some acid at the gathering, so I spent the day reading up on LSD.
More and more reading into LSD and psychedelics opened a fascinating world of sub-cultures that are too extensive to be covered here. Let it be sufficient to say that the 60s seem like a strange and wonderful time. The research was eye-opening for my previous assumptions about psychedelics that were based on peripheral knowledge of MKUltra and that one scene in Mad Men.
I arrived at Jack’s around four. The security guard at the gate eyed me over carefully as he called up to Jack’s apartment before letting me in. I was the first to arrive. Jack and I sat and shot the shit about the vacations and how we had been occupying ourselves.
We hadn’t seen each other in six months, and Jack barely got around to offering me a drink before Juan was knocking at the door. We all greeted each other, and before we got to the small talk again, Juan pulled out a very impressive stash of drugs. This added to the already mountainous mound of marijuana that Jack had sitting out on his living room table. We found ourselves with the minds and means for prolonged illicit activity; all we needed was an invitation.
“Do you guys wanna do acid?” asked Juan.
We found ourselves with the minds and means for prolonged illicit activity; all we needed was an invitation.
The question stirred the air, and I felt like something needed to be said before the silence settled in. I asked Juan and Jack what acid was like. They said that it was pretty wild, repeating a lot of the things I had read earlier with tidbits of personal experience sprinkled in.
After the short lecture, we each took a tab. I looked down at mine that had a whacked out smiley emoticon sticking its tongue out printed on it.
“It’s only one tab,” said Juan, “so it shouldn’t be too crazy.”
I later discovered that each tab contained approximately 400 mcg of LSD. The normal dose for a single tab is usually closer to 200 mcg.
A good dose of acid takes about 40 minutes to an hour to start setting in. So, we raided the kitchen, turned on some music, and walked out to the sunny balcony of Jack’s second floor apartment overlooking the 4th hole of the course. We sat and continued to talk about pleasantries until Red showed up and took a tab 20 minutes later.
It was soon after that the acid started to kick in. I noticed it when I looked down at the table to grab my drink and noticed the grain in the wood seemed to be flowing. I looked up and out over the railing, and the day suddenly looked brighter, vivid — dreamlike.
I noticed it when I looked down at the table to grab my drink and noticed the grain in the wood seemed to be flowing.
The four of us got very giggly and decided that we would go for a walk on one of the many jogging paths throughout the club that were usually populated by the attractive wives of loaded husbands and their usually bratty kids, followed by a maid or three that carried their toys and stuffed animals while the mothers gossiped. The trails, however, were mostly vacant on account of it being the sleepiest time of the summer at the hottest time of day. Anyone that was around was indoors or had gone to the pool.
The path we walked was one that started at the top of a small valley on the side of the building opposite the balcony. It wound around the two hills and down into the valley, almost like the trail had been drawn by the path of a quarter that you drop into one of those massive funnels at shopping malls and watch it go around, and around, and around, until it disappears.
As we walked deeper into the valley, the stronger the acid began to take hold. By the time we reached the bottom, we were in fits of wild hallucinogenic hysteria, laughing about anything, pointing out trees and stones. Anything and everything was a source of entertainment and distraction.
There were moments when I would be lying on the grass at the bottom of the valley during the height of my trip and look up to see the trees reaching for the sky, and I would forget which way was up. Sometimes I would be standing on the wall; other times I would be lying on the ceiling, and Red would be standing on the wall. In many ways, acid did exactly what I expected in very surprising ways.
Anything and everything was a source of entertainment and distraction.
Finally, we decided that it would be prudent to head back to Jack’s and get some food and water, so we began the long hike up to the top of the valley. By the time we got back to where the sun was warm and bright, a good three or four hours later, the strongest part of the trip was over.
And as we walked towards the entrance to Jack’s building, I walked slightly behind everyone and did a quick mental count and said, “Imagine all these nice, decent people, being all fancy, and then there’s the six of us, sullying the good reputation of this fine institution with our boisterous acid ramblings…”
Red turned and looked at me. “Bud, there’s only five of us…”
I turned to look where I could have sworn I had seen the dark outline of a person in my peripheral vision just moments before, but there was no one.
Red turned and looked at me. “Bud, there’s only five of us…”
Jack turned around to look at us. “Alright, now I got to get you morons in my apartment without looking like we’re completely wired on acid, so act normal for like ten seconds until we get to the elevator.”
We jumped through some bushes, which wasn’t helping our case, and walked up to the building, going inside quietly. We nodded a quiet greeting to the porter — who had watched us fall through the bushes and walk the 100 odd paces to the building — as he held the door for us. Once upstairs, we ate some, turned on some music, and smoked marijuana into the early hours of the morning, riveted in discussion about the trip, college, and stories we had gathered from our lives apart.
Acid trips (or the effects of any drug) are very much dependent on set and setting. Where you are and the people you are with make a huge difference. I was very lucky that I tried it somewhere familiar with people who are practically family.
What I can say from my experience is that it was a lot like being in a loop, like the quarter rolling down the funnel at the mall. Sometimes you feel like the quarter, going round and round in your mind. Other times, you are the observer, watching yourself as your roll deeper into the funnel.
Without going further into the hallucinations (which wouldn’t make sense out of context anyway), most of what I remember from that trip was how I felt — happy, wild, renewed — and the only thing I brought back with me is the stranger, who now lurks at a safe distance in my conscious mind.