zen, the designated trip guide

Feb 28, 2008

library 2
Originally uploaded by zen
Over at the Mountain Xpress forums, this thread is an interesting discussion of whether or not someone should take hallucinogenic mushrooms. Having been a "good trip guide" or "designated reality driver" for many people taking drugs in the past (and specializing in first-timers) i have learned techniques to prevent a person's hallucinatory experience from going awry which could prevent whatever lesson are possible from being mind-expanding. At the very least, my job has been to prevent anything bad happening to the person tripping, real, virtual or imagined. And maybe sometime i'll outline the main points, but for now i'd like to tell the story my first time as an unwilling drug guide. It was for my father.

it was 1971 and i was around 17 and still living at home, hanging on the streetcorner after dark with my buds when my Mom called me in. "Ruh roh," i thought, "what am i in trouble for now?" I came into the house and Mom told me at the top of the stairs that Dad had a question to ask me. WIth a worrisome look on her face she promptly left me with Dad in the living room.

My Dad, a nearly 40 year old former fringe beatnik was pacing the floor in an agitated state that i hadn't seen him in before. In fact his pacing was pretty self absorbed and i wasn't sure he knew i was in the room. I cleared my throat and he looked up, acknowledged me with a nod and turned to pace some more. My dad and i had a pretty glib relationship in which we could discuss most things theoretically, but i was still his kid and not beyond the discipline of "being grounded" if i did something that we both knew was wrong. However, i couldn't think of anything - at least recently - that i'd done, so i sat down and waited for the lecture. Twice he approached me, stopped and drew in his breath, and ended by shaking his head in thought and continuing to pace. Finally, he sat down on the other end of the long Scandanavian-style couch which left space for at least 2 people between us and began.

"Is it possible," he said in measured words "to 'bad trip' off of pot?"

At first i was floored. This was about him and not me? Was this a hypothetical question to trick me? Had he smoked something he thought was pot (he was a heavy cigarette smoker)? I couldn't help a Mona Lisa expression on my face. "Dad, have you smoked some marijuana?" I had to suppress the timbre of my voice wanting to sound the way a parent talks to a child who knocked over a glass vase and broke it.

He then proceeded to delineate his evening thus far, not just choosing his words carefully, but describing in an uncharacteristically detailed manner how he had rolled up two "marijuana cigarettes" down in his work den, began smoking them and timed the finish of both of them to coincide with the start of his favorite television show at the time, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He had done this because pot, he had heard, was supposed to increase the hilarity and accentuate his enjoyment of things he normally liked.

At this point Mom swept past the living room towards the kitchen to exclaim, in passing, that Dad had laughed at all the wrong parts and seemed to take the show much too seriously at other times. I don't believe she was listening in the halls deliberately or anything, just not real comfortable with Dad's mixed behavior.

"Where did you get the pot?" I asked, trying not to sound accusatory. Dad looked at me and didn't answer, probably judging on what level to answer me. As a parent (It's none of your business, son). As a concerned friend (From a guy behind the Bus Station, dude). As an authority figure (I grew it myself, officer). I continued. "I only want to make sure it is real pot and not laced with something." In the late 1960s, a US government sponsored program had an herbicide paraquat sprayed on marijuana fields in South America which caused a scare about whether people were actually smoking paraquat-laced pot and doing even more damage to themselves than just regular pot.

"Gary, a dealer i know who works for the government." He responded. "I trust him that it's good and untainted pot." "Ok, that's good." I told him. "Real pot shouldn't give you a bad trip, but you also need to learn a little bit about how to handle it."

I myself had tried pot years earlier only after reading Aldous Huxley and writers in "Le Club des Hashishins" which romanticized drug use to some degree, but that's another story for another time. "What makes you feel you're having a 'bad trip'?" Dad brightened. I was approaching this as he would, from a scientific, almost medical standpoint. He stopped for a moment and i could tell turned within to sense what it was he felt was wrong at the moment.

"I think my left leg is dying." he pronounced. I guess i gave him a bit of an askance look because he looked back at me sheepishly. "Well, i'm not sure i can't feel my legs." I said, "You were using them pretty well to pace a minute ago." And we laughed. And i knew he was going to be alright. I also knew what i had to do was get his mind off of the "fact" that he smoked pot and needed to evaluate every sensation in a left-brained sort of way. He needed to relax and enjoy rather than evaluate, but he was sort-of stuck in a mindset of this-is-going-on-this-very-moment-and-i-need-to-understand-it. So i moved closer to him and opened a magazine on the table and started a sort of question/answer game with him about what he thought about each photograph. His answers were pretty normal for the most part and i could see him begin to relax into having a mission pretty quickly.

On one of the photos the printing was malformed and it produced a pretty trippy version of a pirate ship that looked kinda like one of those 3D images that you have to unfocus your eyes to see. I pointed, "What do you think about this?" i almost smirked thinking he'd say "Wow, man, that's weird!" but he looked at it only casually and said, "Some sort of printing error i suppose, but look at THIS!" He pointed to an ad for a brand new corvette and threw back his head and laughed heartily. A belly laugh. "Now that's weird!" he said, pretty much leaving me to wonder what he thought was weird about it. A few more minutes and i could tell he was starting to get bored with the analysis game and so i said "Hey! Why don't we go down to the rec room and play some Toss-Across?"

Toss Across was a Mattel game which players scored X's or O's by tossing a small bean bag at the plastic board and depending how the bean bag hit the surface either an X or an O would result. Dad liked the mindless skill of the game and so i bounded downstairs after him. Opponents stood opposite each other about 10 to 12 feet and would take turns tossing bean bags at the board. Dad tossed first and the bean bag just flopped on the corner of the board scoring nothing. Then he went and got his bean bag. I tossed my bean bag and managed to get an O but not in the critical middle. Dad went up and got my bean bag. He tossed again and then i did and each time he would retrieve the tossed bean bag until he had all 6 of the bean bags in his hot little mitts, nudging his chin towards me telling me it was my turn to go. But i didn't have any to toss and he forgot about it anyway because he began dropping bean bags on the ground and just laughing a high-pitched cackle as each one dropped. He kept dropping them and laughing. I guess he even forgot i was there so i had to interrupt him to ask him what the story was.

"Oh!" he looked up, surprised there was another human in the room. He got a bit serious for a moment and said, "You know how when you drop something it has a certain reaction? Like for instance a plate strikes the hard floor and splatters into a million shards. " he paused to let me imagine it as vividly as i'm sure he was imagining it. "Or a rubber ball takes that stored energy, compresses it and then like a coiled spring leaps back up into the air. You know?"

"Yes, i see that." Dad and i are both visual processors. Dad got a kid-like grin on his face. But a bean bag, " he said and dropped one of them from his hand to the ground, "a bean bag is unwilling to do ANYTHING!" and pealed laughter filled up the rec room with his huge infectious mirth. I laughed too. Each time he would drop another bean bag he would roar with laughter as if the bean bag were the laziest object in the universe. And it was.

And slowly as several hours unfolded father and son enjoyed Dad's 'bad trip' filled with personal and philosophical revelations until he got the munchies and several bowls of "tongue-lickin' crackers" Which is a whole other blog entry, but this was my first introduction to taking someone down the drug path to meet themselves on the other side.

Dad never smoked again to my knowledge, however. The first experience of confusion and unpleasant body sensations kinda took the thrill out of the experience. The bag of pot he got from Gary which he kept in the back of his filing cabinet, seemed to be affected by a mysteriously slow evaporation where about a bud a week would be gone until it was only stems and some flakes. It was dank and powerful. And tasted good!


Thanks for sharing, bud. I'll never look at a beanbag the same way again. :)


Anonymous said...
March 9, 2008 at 7:57 PM  
oakleyses said...
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oakleyses said...
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