by Bill Atkinson, as told to Leo Laporte
by Bill Atkinson, as told to Leo Laporte
At this stage of the adventure, we’re still running a magazine called High Frontiers, getting towards our second edition or maybe just after it, which took over a year. When I started the adventure that became MONDO, I was imagining philosophizing and publishing and tripping only occasionally. Fortunately, at least from an experiential point of view something like the reverse actually took place for the first several years.
The following is excerpted
One of the longest strangest trips during this time really didn’t happen during the peak of the experience but during the sleepless day following it. We’d taken a strong acid dose the previous evening up at Tennessee Valley, and us three High Frontiers mainmen (Lord Nose, Mau Mau and myself) started to make our way down to Lord Nose’s car for our return to civilization. At some point, as we walked along the trail, we all had the same uncanny sense that we were coming down into a different universe than the one that we had started in — like we were characters in a Philip K. Dick novel. We sort of all started expressing this at the same time. We were reassured when we got in the car and found our way back to Mill Valley and nothing in that quaint little upscale village appeared to have changed. Lord Nose dropped us off at Mau Mau’s place and headed home for San Francisco. By the time we’d settled in, it was around 11 am so we stopped at this great little quickie burrito spot. We walked in and the guy in front of us on line was naked! We tittered… but we were both thinking, “Oh, OK. We actually did come down into an alternate universe.” The guy behind the counter just shrugged and said, “He does that all the time.” I’d never seen him before and I haven’t seen him since.
We got over the naked guy but we were still wide awake. I called Terence McKenna from a pay phone to get his take on whether we had come down into some kind of parallel reality. He howled with laughter. So we bought a six pack of beer and went to this sort of wretched little beach that’s right next to San Quentin Prison. It’s a rather horrendous location. We sat and brownbagged beers and listened to the San Francisco new wave station on my boombox.
We had recently become aware that Robert Anton Wilson was available to speak. He was touring around, setting up speaking engagements in a really cheap DIY operation — it wasn’t through an agency or anything like that. He was available to speak for $500.
Somehow we had got the idea that we should do it on a houseboat in Sausalito where Alan Watts — America’s most original and most eloquent sort of psychedelic Zen philosopher — had lived and held court for many years. And we got it in our head to go over there right then and check it out — see who was there or what was up with this semi-famous locale.
So there we were, still loaded from the strong acid, and having downed three beers each — and when you do that, the sort of acid trails that trippers are familiar with become sort of pleasantly blotchy. And we got to the houseboat, knocked on the door and this very wiry old women, sort of hunched over, looking very brittle, with a long nose and scratchy voice answered. Or at least that’s how she seemed to me in the moment — she was like the spitting image of an old crone. She told us she was the current caretaker for the place and she was very down and unhappy. The houseboat, she told us, was going to be taken away by some nefarious schemers. She went on with a litany of miseries and complaints for probably an hour while we just stood there in the doorway dumbfounded. Even the sky went from sunny to overcast. It was spooky.
(We later learned that she was at some intersection between a housesitter and a squatter)
Excerpt from the unpublished Mondo History Project by R.U. Sirius… partly from preface party from “Chapter 3”
Accept for the moment — if just as a literary conceit — that I was entrusted by certain unknowable cosmic extradimensional forces with bringing about what I — in my heyday — called “the total fucking transmutation of everything.” Accept that, a few days after taking a 600 microgram liquid LSD trip, this daft absurd little American whiteboy felt himself to be as one of those windup toys dropped into the play set of the late 20th century human dramedy with a fantastic cosmic mission to transform the human species. An agent of destiny.
This world — the very one we currently occupy — would be led off into n-dimensional hyperspace; or brought via drugs and technology into a novel mutation of being human several degrees up the evolutionary ladder. I would erect my holy grail and plunge forth. All boundaries, borders and banalities clenched by civilization’s tight asshole would be expulsed leaving behind only the alchemical transference of shit into philosopher’s gold and the energies of abundance.
This transmutation was not to lead to the innocent empty eyed bliss ninny paradise of new age gurunoiacs. It would be a postpunk neoyippie trickster utopia — utopia with booby traps to keep everyone on their toes; utopia with a cacophonic bite; with more than a hint of Burroughsian or Sadean perversity, and with just enough science factional ambition to launch a posthuman species into the cosmos.
Of course, smart smug reader, this is all bullshit. I know it too. I knew it even then, except when I didn’t know it… which was just often enough to propel me forth to make this strange thing that was MONDO happen…
Mutant/Mutation/Transmutation/The Total Fucking Transmutation of Everything
In biology, a positive or beneficial mutation increases the fitness of the organism and promotes desirable traits.
As cultural signifiers, the words mutant and mutation have been in circulation amongst countercultural and subcultural types at least since the mid-1960s when the organizers of the first hippie Be-In declared the hippies “a new generation of mutants.” Around the same time, Timothy Leary started describing the rebellious youths of the ’’60s generation” as post-Hiroshima mutants. Since then, these words have continued to pop up amongst the various flavors of alternativeness. Many Science Fiction fans, for example, see themselves as mutants who are different from — and smarter than — the “normals.”
The main conceit, largely framed by media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, was that the new communications media — particularly TV — in combination with mind-active drugs, was causing the era’s youths to privilege mental and emotionally abilities that were entirely distinct from those privileged by the previous several hundred years of print, alcohol and caffeine-oriented Western Civilization, thus making them a sort of new species living in a linked-up, innately trippy “global village.”
Regarding transmutation, prior to Darwin, evolutionary theorists used the word to describe the transition from one species to the next. The term had been passed down from alchemy and thus also had — and continues to have — a resonance among occultists and other mystics.
The Total Fucking Transmutation of Everything, as conceived by your main narrator R.U. Sirius, represented the idea of a radical transformation in the human condition, both fundamental and surreal.
In fundamental terms, I imagined a humanity that had transcended poverty, unhappy labor, ill-considered taboos, national boundaries, rigid ideologies, racism, sexual repression, absolute gender categorization and identification, and biological and neurological limits on what a human being can do or experience.
At the more surreal level, I was inviting conditions and experiences that defied all possible expectations based on familiarity with how the world is supposed to function, but that might relate to psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna’s notion that during the 21st Century, we will enter into a place where “whatever we can imagine will simply come to be;” or singularitarian Vernor Vinge’s idea that we will take inside of us AIs with intelligences that will be to us as our intelligence is to the ant and that the future beyond that Singularity is beyond comprehension .
Or in a less explanatory but more lyrical modality, I once wrote and sang:
I inverted the very color of being
But you weren’t there
Yeah the big ball turned right over
It needs no justification
I wanted to be Salvador Dali
I wanted to be dead and unreasonable
Let’s grieve in concentric circles
To make the night release your brain
In other words, rationality aside, my biggest motivation for invoking the Total Fucking Transmutation Of Everything was probably a fuck-all boredom and impatience with reality.
By 1991, smart drugs and nutrients were all over the media with articles appearing in the New York Times and Vanity Fair; segments on network news shows both local and national and pitchmen-and-women going on afternoon talk shows to tout their efficacy (and, of course, Pearson and Shaw had been semi-regulars on The Mike Douglas Show for years). Mondo was running at least one article an issue dedicated to the what, where and how of it — with only the addition of St. Jude’s column, “Irresponsible Journalism,” using irony to sound a slight note of skepticism.
I was using 4 Piracetam a day, washed down with a Choline Cooler and 4 cups of coffee a day. Clearly, I liked feeling awake and the Piracetam worked for that purpose — until, after a couple of years, it started having the opposite effect. As to whether I accumulated any generalized intelligence increase, well… recalling some of my decisions during those times, I doubt it.
In some of my interviews for the M2k History Project, I ask people if Virtual Reality and Smart Drugs let us down… or did we let them down. One interesting response came from Jim English, a Mondo 2000 friend involved — then and now — in the vitamin and nutrient business: “I think that the us part that failed were that we are a nation of fads. And smart drugs and smart drinks were a big fad, and everyone wanted to go, “Oh, I had the smart drink. I had the… I had the Ginko a Go-Go with the such-and-such. I had the oxygen cocktail. I had this…™ And people embraced the stuff, and then I think as soon as it started to become a commercial product — you started to see stuff showing up on shelves, I think you saw a concomitant backlash, which was, ˜Well, it’s not really making me smarter. I can dance harder, but, you know, I’m just as exhausted the next day,™ I think the expectations kind of combined with the sense to be the first to adopt something, and the first to reject something. That’s how you keep your credibility. You know? ˜Well, I’m beyond that…™
“The hipster crowd backed away. ˜I’m into smart drinks. Oh, now I’m into deprynil. Now I’m into heroin.’ You know, you need to keep moving the bar forward or you lose your credibility. And I think a lot of people that I worked with kind of did that.”
Despite the fact that Smart Drugs were a big thing, I was surprised — while checking out an old 1991 discussion in the Mondo conference on The Well — to discover dozens of participants (and most of them professional types, not hippies, mind you) waxing enthusiastically about trying them out.
Presented below are just some brief entries from that much longer conversation about Smart Drugs and Nutrients… some of them chosen not so much because they are representative, but because they are kind of amusing. Btw, the discussion below is uncorrected. People were much less dickish back then about things like misspelled words, which created a relaxed atmosphere for conversation, despite the overstimulating drugs.
mondo.old 15: Experiences with “Smart Drugs” and Nutrients
#0 of 633: Gary Wolf (gwolf) Wed 01 May 1991 (09:15 PM)
I am writing a magazine story on “smart drugs,” including Hydergine, Piracetam, Choline, Vasopressin, and various nutrients and amino acids. Any experiences you would like to share for publication? Read more “Smart Drugs & Nutrients in 1991 (MONDO 2000 Flashback Friday)”
Illustrations courtesy Joseph Glen Daigle
by Todd Brendan Fahey
“I said, ‘Man, why don’t you come on in? I mean: we got a keg of codeine, five hundred cubic meters of nitrous oxide, a crateful of Special K—in those extra large ampoules you like.’ And Stan kind of kicks at the dirt and checks his watch: ‘Alright… But I only have fifteen minutes’.”
It is one of those delayed-megaton deliveries that pass into the cerebrum, whirl about for a bit, hit home as one is finishing the unfortunate angel food cake. And whilst speaking to the Dean.
Dr. Bryant Andersson turns his head just quickly enough, but nothing can save him—a fluffy and unnecessary concoction ridden of, flown from mouth and nostrils, so rude. But tenured, so nothing she can do about it—other than to suck her teeth, even though she gets it, too.
A collective wrack of guilty pleasure. A human buckling, at least one shot-through into the pool, fistpoundings on Home Depot outdoor dining sets and the general upset of disposal kitchenware. Fuck a Shriners roast: George Carlin would have shat himself.
From across the terrace, Stan nods mildly and stands a salute; Jack Jump flips him off and at ease. Infamy, notoriety: states to which he has always held a big brass Key. Read more “fragments of A String of Saturdays: The New Southern Romance”
“I noticed that all but one of them did a version of ‘White Rabbit.’ Jeff Mark
by Jeff Mark & R.U. Sirius
While I am currently working on a book about MONDO 2000 that will be primarily about the ideas that drove the magazine, I have a lot of memoir-ish materials collected from my own writings and interviews with — or writings by — various participants in the project. Jeff Mark was the first person I met through ads in local newsweeklies in 1983 looking for project participants… albeit I wasn’t sure what the project was yet. Just that you should dig RA Wilson, Leary and Bill Burroughs to join in.
These notes — a fragment from the original planned book — from myself and Jeff Mark are about a trip to L.A. to cement our friendship with neopsychedelic movement fellow travelers there. At the time, our magazine was called High Frontiers.
R.U. The “Neopsychedelic renaissance” continued apace, with major features in High Times, as well as several long forgotten zines, radio interviews and so on — usually with High Frontiers touted as the reigning representation. It seemed that I was blabbing to someone in the media about it at least a couple of times a month. Soon word hit us that people on the L.A. garage psychedelic scene were being drenched in high quality LSD and diggin’ High Frontiers. Greg Shaw’s Bomp Magazine was at the center of that scene and he sent us his back issues (which we were already buying, anyway) and suggested we come for a visit. Jeff Mark and I arranged to go down there
Jeff Mark: Winter Solstice 1985, R.U. and I took a trip to Los Angeles. The “Neopsychedelic Revival” was by then a real phenomenon. Newsweek had even done a feature piece on the L.A. manifestation, focusing on Greg Shaw who was putting together some L.A. neopsychedelic ‘zine. R.U.’s intention was to make contact and build a bridge. We hung out for a while with Greg. I think we did a little sightseeing, and then that night we went to see some bands being promoted by him.
The space the bands would play in, around the corner from Hollywood & Vine… well, you couldn’t call it a club. It was just… a room. The entrance was at the top of an external staircase, from which I could see underneath the building, noting with some trepidation that the second floor was supported by a bunch of those steel jacks that builders use to keep a weak ceiling from collapsing. And this would be holding up a couple of hundred dancing humans.
There were maybe four or five different bands, each doing 30-45 minutes or so, and I noticed that all but one of them did a version of “White Rabbit.” I also noticed was that the bands each seemed to be made up of the same seven or eight people in varying combinations of four or five.
Anyway, the building didn’t collapse, and we retired after to some other location lost to history for a party. Everyone was high on MDMA, of course. As the evening progressed, I engaged in conversation with several very nice people, and by way of introducing each other, the usual “so what do you do?” kinds of questions arose. Now, I had a straight job at the time; civil service, thoroughly boring. But the people I spoke with described themselves as “make-up artists” or “costumers” or writers or artists of one flavor or another. I began to realize that vocationally, each of these people depended on all the others, networking (another not-yet-coined-term) to get to work on someone’s project about something; their livelihood depended on their social contacts.
Now, when you think about it, this was Hollywood; that’s how Hollywood works, that’s how creative communities, particularly those in collaborative crafts, operate. That’s how they produce. Obvious to many, but news to me. The pattern-recognition subsystems of my mind began to assemble what I would come to call my “Theory of Scenes”.
A few months later, we returned with (High Frontiers Art Director) Lord Nose to participate in an event that featured a couple of local bands, and somebody wheeling out Sky Saxon from the Seeds (“Pushing Too Hard”). And it struck me that the 200 or so people at that event, which included almost everyone we’d met in December, comprised the whole of the “neopsychedelic scene” in L.A. That was it. 250 people tops; and they were getting all this media attention. And I realized that’s how it probably was in ’65 as well. There was the Whiskey á Go-Go scene; one or two other places; a dozen or so bands with some duplication among their personnel, various friends and hangers on. In the Haight, the same thing. There was the Fillmore and the Matrix, the Diggers, the Oracle, and it was all the same… what, 300 people? It applies elsewhere also. There’s the NYC comedy scene (which in the 70s gave us SNL, and is now focused around The Daily Show), the Boston Harvard/National Lampoon scene, the L.A. Conception Corporation scene (whence came Spinal Tap). All of these basically, at least in the beginning, were not much more than groups of friends. Even in politics. One of my disappointments as I’ve gotten more sophisticated about politics is the realization that so much of what happens in a place like Washington D.C. takes place in what appears to be a social environment, which is why it reminds us so much of high school. And this was, largely, how MONDO functioned within the context of the Berkeley “scene.” Read more “Mondoid Memoir The Neopsychedelic Movement”
Interview by R.U. Sirius
Zach Leary is the host of both the “It’s All Happening with Zach Leary” podcast and “The MAPS Podcast.” They have helped to cement him as one of the most thought provoking podcasters in the cultural philosophy genre of podcasting. He’s also a blogger/writer, a futurist, spiritualist, a technology consultant and sociocultural theorist.
Raised from a young age by Timothy Leary and his mother Barbara Leary, Zach had the ultimate front row seat to Dr. Tim’s later years. I’m excited to have him share some of his memories and thoughts with us about Dr. Leary’s final years as he was dying from prostate cancer.
R.U. Sirius: Was there any sign of illness that you were aware of before your stepdad got his diagnosis of prostate cancer? Anything you can tell us about this?
Zach Leary: Looking back on it, it becomes much easier to connect the dots and to make sense of what went on with his sickness and physical deterioration. Before the actual cancer diagnosis occurred, he expressed to me many times how he was brokenhearted and dejected that Barbara (Zach’s mother, Tim’s wife) had left him. I remember one night less than six months after she left where he confessed that he felt a sense of completion and a loss of a will to live. He simply had so many personal heartbreaks in his life that eventually caught up to him. I suspect from that point forward, he let his personal state of mind effect his physical one. He started to get old fast, so by the time the actual diagnosis happened, it didn’t feel terribly out of place. To me it felt like it might have even been what he wanted.
The fascinating part that makes him so different than most people is that he didn’t let it affect his work and prolific output. During the last 3-4 years of the downward life spiral he still found time to produce some of his most compelling work and inspire everyone around him. He had a stiff upper lip and marched forward.
RUS: How did you learn of Timothy’s cancer? How/when did he talk to you about it?
ZL: Honestly, I don’t remember the specific moment. I do remember him letting me know, but I can’t recall it being a formal “sit down.” The more severe talk/disclosure occurred after his one and only chemo treatment. He went to one chemo session and said “FUCK THIS. I’m not going to do it. From here on out, I’m calling my cancer Mademoiselle Cancer and we’re going to make friends with it!”
He did gauge my feedback by having a talk with me that he wasn’t going to get any treatment — which, in turn, meant he was going to let it kill him. I was young and didn’t know what to do with that information. He seemed to be at peace with it so I played along. That said, it took me awhile to really make peace with it. I was just starting to be an adult and the thought of not having his paternal wisdom in my adult life freaked me out. He certainly was very open and vulnerable to anyone wanting to talk about it, that’s for sure. He didn’t hide one bit!
RU: Was there a slow or immediate transition to “the mother of all parties” — his public celebration of the dying process? Do you remember any complications around that… practically or emotionally?
ZL: As far as I recall, the transition to what you’re calling “the mother of all parties” was immediate. He instantly recognized the juggernaut potential of making the death and dying process into the final act of his life’s work. That’s how I remember it anyway.
Once he decided that he wasn’t going to get any treatment for the cancer there was a short and very much unsustained grieving process. He somehow charmed us into making his dying into a celebration. Had I been older and more mature, I certainly would have handled that differently. His death, while of course profound and inspiring, hit me after the fact in a very challenging way. I was a lost young man with no identity of my own and part of that was due to me never really having much time to feel the loss and process. We had some really sweet father and son moments towards the end that contained some very necessary tears. But overall I think Timmy’s ability to barnstorm through emotionally difficult milestones was ultimately a downfall of his.
I’m glad the whole “designer dying” idea of his found such strong footing and uncovered so many important topics for our culture, but I do wish there was a more sensitive way to offset the public celebration with some compassion for those close to him. Immediately after he died, my life fell apart very quickly — when that happens it’s no ones fault, but I was by no means prepared for life without him.
An interview with Steven L. Davis, co-author of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD.
On September 13, 1970, Timothy Leary escaped from a low security California prison by pulling himself on a high wire over a 12 foot chain linked fence topped with barbed wire. He was ferreted underground by the radical Weather Underground who helped him escape America. He ended up in Algeria with an exiled chapter of the Black Panther Party lead by Eldridge Cleaver.
All MONDO readers probably know this, but I thought I’d set the scene a bit.
While I was a participant in the late 1960s counterculture — to the extent that a high school student in a smallish town could be — I wasn’t particularly obsessed with Leary. I enjoyed reading his occasional piece in the underground press, but Abbie Hoffman was more my thing. Until the escape. After that, I developed a lifelong interest in his action adventure episode and how it impacted on his philosophical ideas.
That’s why I was excited to learn of the publication of The Most Dangerous Man in America: Timothy Leary, Richard Nixon and the Hunt for the Fugitive King of LSD by Bill Minutaglio and Steve Davis. The book doesn’t disappoint. The narrative is in present tense and fast forward. It’s a ripping yarn that bounces back and forth between Leary’s life on the lam and President Richard Nixon’s own personal delirium as he copes with the Vietnam war, extreme rebellion in the streets of America and his own obsession with capturing Leary.
For those MONDO readers, who have followed Leary’s philosophical musings over the years, this period is kind of the last phase of Tim’s cosmic hippieishness. He comes across as deep into mysticism; consulting the i Ching and the Tarot for strategic decisions and so forth. In some ways, his intellectual credibility would rely on things he wrote before this time and after it. And yet, I think he gained a lot, in terms of sophistication and insight from the experience, that showed up in his later writing.
I interviewed Steve Davis about the book via email
R.U. There are a number of things that are illuminated for Leary fanatics (as many Mondo readers are) by your book. One of them is the degree to which many of the ultra-radicals of that crazy period in the early 1970s were not really Tim’s friends. Particularly the lawyer, Michael Kennedy. What can you tell us about this “alliance”?
Steve Davis: Well, you can see this alliance of “dope and dynamite,” as Michael Kennedy enjoyed calling it, play out throughout the book. In some sense both Tim and the radical left were using each other for their own purposes. For Tim, of course, the revolutionary outlaws provided the means for his escape from prison – something he wanted desperately. But then of course once he climbed over the prison fence he entered a blind maze of new prisons – and as you say, these people did not have Timothy Leary’s best interests in mind, from the Weather Undeground demanding his rhetorical fealty to their vision of a violent revolution to Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers demanding that Tim renounce LSD and join them in calling for Death to the Fascists. On and on it went. Tim had to keep shape-shifting to save his own skin. He basically became a pawn of both the far left and the far right (Nixon and his cronies) during this era – and of course when everything ended and he looked back on it, he realized that the law-and-order struggles between the far left and the far right were two sides of the same coin. I think the experience made him suspicious of any alliance after that. Hell, it would do the same to any of us! Read more “Timothy Leary’s Great-ish Escape”
“It was serendipity. I was looking for something. I did not find what I was looking for. I found something else. That’s the meaning of serendipity.”
From the first issue of High Frontiers, the magazine that became MONDO 2000, a great flashback interview with Dr. Albert Hoffman, who discovered LSD
Dr. Albert Hofmann, Swiss chemist, and discoverer of LSD, was in America last summer to celebrate and promote his book, LSD – My Problem Child. While here, he stopped by Shared Visions, where he was interviewed by Will Nofke, before an appreciative audience. As Will said in his introduction of Dr. Hofmann, he is a radiant being. Well into his seventies, he has maintained the good-natured flexibility and sense of humor of an enlightened man.
Will Nofke: Dr. Hofmann, you’ve said that it’s necessary to be well-prepared to use the substance known as LSD, and it seems that your life prepared you for the discovery of this particular substance which has been such a catalyst in so many lives. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about the process of that discovery. What lead to it ?
Albert Hoffman: It’s my belief that I was really prepared for this work. As you know, I was not searching to find a psychoactive compound. When I prepared this lysergic acid diethylamide, LSD, I had planned to get an analeptic compound with a circulatory stimulant activity, a stimulant for the heart and breathing. It turned out to be a psychic stimulant, instead. We made this kind of discovery not by chance. It was serendipity. I was looking for something. I did not find what I was looking for. I found something else. That’s the definition of serendipity.
W.N. Seems to be the definition of life itself.
A.H. Yes, maybe. Do you know who coined this word ?
W.N. No. I don’t.
A.H.- That was Horace Walpole in 1756, I believe. He had just read this fairy tale about the 3 princes of Serendip. Serendip is the ancient name for Salem. This was the story of some princes who went out on an expedition. They were searching for something they had planned to find, but then they did not find what they were looking for. But because they were open-minded and curious, they found other things which were all useful. After having read that story, he coined the word Serendipity.
W.N.- Could you tell us a little bit about how your discovery took place, because it is quite unusual ?
A.H.- Yes. I prepared this compound for the first time in 1938 with the intention to get an analeptic. I gave it, in the normal way, to our pharmacological department at Sandoz. There, compounds are tested in animals, and in isolated organs, but we did not find any extraordinary activity of this compound. And very strangely, quite unusually for me, 5 years later, I should, just once more, prepare this compound and make it available to our pharmacologists, and ask them to do broader, more extended testing, because I just had a feeling that there could be something more in this compound.
W.N. You sensed something was there.
A.H. Yes. So, I just prepared this compound. I was working the afternoon of the 18th of April, ’43, and I was just at the final stage of this synthesis, which consists of the crystalization of a dilution in methanol, and the compound comes out in a pure state. I started to feel quite strange and I had a kind of daydream. I went out of the normal world, into a kind of other reality. I went home, laid down, and had a beautiful experience. Everything which I thought about, it was immediately before my eyes, just quite vivid and alive. Then these symptoms disappeared, and I thought, “Something has happened with me that is most unusual.” And I thought maybe I had used a solvent closely related to chloroform, which was known to be an intoxicant. I thought maybe the chloroform had caused this kind of inebriation, and I had reacted in such a strange way. The next day, I sniffed some of this compound (chloroform) and nothing happened. So, I thought that maybe some of this compound I had been working on, this diethylamide of lysergic acid, could have been the cause. I decided to get to the bottom of this problem and make a self-experiment with this compound. Being a cautious man, I started out with one-fourth of a milligram, which is unusually low, with the intention to increase, gradually, the amount. I then ingested this in the laboratory. Soon, after a half-an-hour, “Oh. That was the compound I had used. It came up very, very strong. It took me, and when I came home, I asked the laboratory assistant to accompany me. That was the famous bicycle ride. I rode the bicycle 6 kilometers, 4 miles home and, finally at home, I got into a very terrifying situation. All was so strange and I had the feeling maybe I have become insane now. Because I did not know if ever I would come back off this other reality, and that was very terrifying. At the climax of the experience, about 3 or 4 hours after I had ingested it, I had the feeling of being out of my body and I thought, “You may have died and you are now in another world, and you have made a big discovery, and now you cannot even enjoy it and use it, and you can never sell it to anybody, and you’ve left your family with 3 children.” It was really a terrible situation. But then, finally, I got the feeling that I would come back and then a beautiful, a joyful, a peaceful experience came and it was like a rebirth. After death, a rebirth. Then I enjoyed the stimulated fantasy, the array of colors and stimulated feeling of life, life coming again, and I was really happy, and it was a happiness which I had not experienced before. Finally, I slept, and the next morning I was a changed human being. I had the feeling I had died and been reborn. This was the beginning of my thinking about both these realities. Because I had left our everyday reality. I’d been in another reality, and that was the beginning of an insight into our world, which I never would have had without this experience. Read more “Albert Hofmann – Everybody Has Cosmogonic Potency (1984)”
artwork by Chad Essley
Unlikely Texas music historian Ben Graham talks San Antonio acid, 1960s psychedelic rock and writing Scatological Alchemy, his new book about the Butthole Surfers
By Michael Pinchera
In May 2015, Brighton, England-based author Ben Graham visited Texas for the first time. The impetus for the trip was to see the 13th Floor Elevators’ 50th anniversary reunion show at the Levitation festival in Austin — the first time in decades all living members of the influential Texas psych band would play together—yet it also acted as the U.S. launch of his book, A Gathering of Promises.
“I was a little bit embarrassed about that because A Gathering of Promises was all about the 13th Floor Elevators and the 1960s psychedelic scene around the Austin area. And I basically wrote that without ever having been to Texas,” he explains. “I felt a bit like one of those 19th-century explorers who writes entire books on Africa whilst in the comfort of their sort of drawing room at home.”
On paper, this is an incredible setting for a book launch party; in reality, the last-minute arrangements he’d made with Levitation festival organizers basically meant A Gathering of Promises would be available at the event’s merch table before any other outlet in the U.S. But he was given a pass to the three-day, outdoor music festival—covering it for a couple of publications—and was finally able to spend a week in Austin, an almost mythical place about which he’d been immersed on a time-traveling, research-and-interview level.
“The people I met there were super friendly, especially all the older guys who’d been around, all the musicians, just so happy and interested that this younger English guy had written a book about their music and their scene, and they were really happy to share their stories,” he says. “A lot of the people I interviewed or people who were just around in that scene were amazed that I’d captured it so well, certainly without having been there in the 60s, but I hadn’t been to Texas at all.”
Having entirely missed the 1960s, the closest that 40-something Graham had previously been to the Austin area was 1,800 miles away, decades earlier, during a six-month American Studies college program in New York.
“I went [to the Levitation festival] because I’d finished the book and thought I’d never get to see the 13th Floor Elevators live—even though I’d seen Roky Erickson play in the U.K. a couple of times,” he says, summarizing the rationale that started the narrative you’re reading.
Recipe for a memorable Texas trip: Take one music journalist/fanboy, add an essential 1960s psychedelic band that’s reformed for one time only, add a tab of San Antonio acid and levitate. Wait a second…“San Antonio acid?” Since when is that a brand of prestige?
“I think that’s the way I described it to friends when I got home,” Graham says, indicating that in all likelihood, someone from San Antonio simply provided the substance. “You know, I’m an English guy, there’s an exoticism to the phrase that conjured up something a bit Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas to me: ‘Yeah, I had some San Antonio acid!’ I have no idea of the provenance—it may have been made in a lab in London.” Read more “Making Sense of the Butthole Surfers”