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b. 1956
Chef, caterer, entrepreneur, mother
resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan
raised in Rhode Island.

Someone you had to be afraid of

            I took psychedelics quite a few times my senior year of high school at Miss Piddingsdale’s boarding school in southern New England. One time my friend Morton sent me this package of chocolate mescaline and told me to snort it. So I snorted this brown, cocoa-powdery stuff and got incredibly high with two friends, Amber and Blythe.

            We had permission to spend the night together at one of our respective dorms. It was time to be over there for check-in. I was down in the smoking room of my dormitory and as I was going up the stairs, I was aware that my feet were sinking right through the steps. The step would close around my foot, making it completely disappear. It must have taken me an hour to get up those stairs!

            (Stairways are trouble for me on psychedelics. On another occasion, I was going up the outside fire escape in another dorm and there were flames shooting up through the metal-grate stairs. My feet would go through the step and fire shot up to my knees. It was extremely frightening. I wanted to get up those stairs real fast).

            After what felt like an elongated uphill struggle with the stairs and the clock, we arrived at the appointed dormitory just before check-in time, the moment the dorm supervisor would go to everyone's room to make sure you were there. This was an adult, someone you had to be frightened of. You certainly didn't want to tip him off you were tripping your brains out or it would have been very bad news.

            We were out in a common area watching -- or pretending to watch -- a show called Toma on a black-and-white tv set. I'll never forget how the hallucinations caused the picture to divide itself into vertical slats of alternate black and white. There was no "picture" but this psychedelic beechnut-stripe pattern. I had no idea what was really on the screen, though I could still hear the audio for Toma.

            So I sat there struggling to see a real tv image, thinking "Oh, my god, what is happening here?", when the fucking dorm supervisor came to check us in. I thought "Oh, no, I'm never going to be lucid enough to even answer my name." They always said something like "Oh, I see you're spending the night." You had to interact in a way that was lucid and "normal."

            The three of us were glassy-eyed looking at this tube. I had just had the frightening experience of coming up the swallowing staircase and now I was sitting in front of the slatted tv screen, gaping keenly at a procession of stripes. I figured the supervisor is going to know I'm tripping, because I won't be able to answer a question coherently. I was nervous. I felt frozen waiting for him. My heart was beating heavily.

            But he came and said something and I must have said the right thing back. My friends stayed absolutely silent, but he ignored them and went away.

Right through to the core


            Back around 1975, when I was eighteen and living in Boston, I bought a whole bunch of acid, little red tabs called "red apple," which I was supposed to sell but wound up dropping myself with friends.

            One night, I went to see my friend Susie, a Harvard student, perform in a play and afterwards, we went to her dorm and took acid with a couple of others. Susie had been dating a hippy guy named Jimmy, an elfin fellow with sandy blond hair, pinkish skin, and a sort of unformed face: a squashy nose and not much bone structure.

            On this night, we ditched him deliberately. Susie had had enough of this guy and didn't want to sleep with him or have him hanging around her anymore. She told him he should bug off before we took the acid that night, but he just wouldn't go away. To escape him, we went to a friend's house in Cambridge, around three in the morning.

            At one point in the night, there came among us another peculiar individual, a dark-haired guy who had terrible acne but was kind of nice looking nonetheless. He peddled Real papers, an alternative daily newspaper, on the street. He was a really pleasant guy, but we unfortunately didn't have enough acid to share with him. He was cool about it though and just hung out with us, picking up a contact high.

            We were out walking around and suddenly realized we could hear Jimmy calling for Susie. He was roaming the streets of Cambridge, yelling "Susie! Susie!" pathetically. We thought this was hilarious but also scary. We were really high, on the verge of hallucinating, and felt kind of paranoid that we couldn't get rid of this guy. It was like a bad dream that he was emerging out of the mists of Cambridge from nowhere when we were so sure we'd lost him.

            He caught up with us eventually and we concealed Susie. What was acutely evident to me on the acid was that he had completely disintegrated. His personality had fallen apart. He'd become a sickening blob of unformed need. I hated him. He was frightening. I didn't know what he would do next. He begged us to tell him where Susie was and why she wasn't there. We lied to protect her and finally he disappeared.

            The sun had started to come up, and everyone else was going home, so the Real papers hawker walked me home. I was still very high. He said he knew this really nice place to take a walk right nearby. We went up to the end of the street to this hole in a chain length fence amidst all this overgrown brushy crap I'd never thought to pay attention to. He led me through this hole like the hare led Alice to Wonderland. Through this little window in the urban facade was an Arcadian fantasy. It was magical.

            We went through a beautiful forest glade that couldn't have been nicer. There was all this mist in the trees which was gold from the sun. The birds were singing. The paths were easy to walk. It was very green and it smelled great. We walked around there for about two hours until I finally started to come down. He walked me home and I went upstairs and went to bed.

            But beginning with this trip, I could see a person's inner motivations whenever I was high on acid, and from then onwards I never felt the same about that individual. It was an extremely uncomfortable, unpleasant feeling that happened a lot when I tripped and went to my local saloon, the Plough and Stars, where I virtually lived.

            I gravitated toward this neighborhood bar because I’d just moved to the city on my own. It was very chummy and homey and they cooked food and sold it cheap. Beer was cheap too and it was good. It was a fun and lively place. There was music every Friday night. I knew all the bartenders.

            I dated this MIT student who was going to be a doctor. He was happening, but others were real low-lifes. I knew all these losers and flakes and alcoholics. If I took LSD and talked to someone I'd talked to fifty or a hundred times before, his or her inner motivation would become clear. Layers of personality would strip away and I would see right inside to the core, and what was usually in there was fear.

            I almost always saw that they were afraid, afraid that I would discover something yucky about them, that their self esteem was zero, and that I would find out they were nothing. I was not able to pick up the scent of their weakness and fear until I took acid.

            There was one European guy in his early forties who always had a crush on me. I don't know what he was doing in the Plough and Stars. I saw into him that he was afraid of something about himself. He was always checking to see how I was perceiving him. I could see this big mushy mass of fear and self loathing.

            Once I saw people in this special, acid-illuminated way, I never saw them in any other way again. The impression they made while I was under the influence was a true one, and I was able to see the same thing again when I was straight. I could never see that older guy, for example, any other way again. Same with that poor pathetic moron Susie dumped, who revolted me whenever I ran into him.

            As for myself, In spite of the queasiness of this sixth sense of insight into people, I felt invincible on acid, at first. One of the nicest things was the feeling, however short lived, of how much personal power you had.

            The strange guy who took me on the walk in the secret garden was solid and cool. He didn't seem to have any neuroses. He didn't place any demands on me. He didn't come on to me sexually. He wasn't exacting in any way. He was just a nice guy, comforting. I didn't see any weakness or fear in him.

            I finally had to stop taking acid when I started to feel my brain cells burning up. I saw people who lost a lot, some who lost their marbles. There was one guy who became a gibbering idiot with serious mental health problems subsequent to his excessive use of acid.

            After I'd taken it about a dozen times, I would experience these excruciating body pains while coming down, terrible twinges all over, in my arms, my feet, and my hands. I guess they were muscle spasms, but they were really painful. I never did acid after that.

I saw you there


            When I was working at the Harvard Law Library, there was a kid there named Jamie about seventeen years old. I was nineteen at the time, a bit more mature. We worked together behind the reference desk, checking research materials in and out and shelving them. It was a nifty little job, perfect for me because I could read the whole time.

            One day, we decided to drop acid at the beginning of our shift, which was five p.m. to midnight. Now, don't ask me why I felt I needed to trip during my employment duties, but I did.

            We got really really high. In fact, I got so high, I had to go home. Fortunately, I had an hour for dinner break, so as soon as I found myself going right over the edge, I took my break.

            People were coming up to ask me to check out a book or magazine or periodical and I would not understand what they were saying. Then I had the totally scary experience of having to write. I could not do it. It was really very weird. I totally lost the faculty of understanding how written language works.

            There I was in front of this very intense law student, who's like "Well? Well? What's the problem here?" I was supposed to be writing down his name and I couldn't form any letters.

            “I'm sorry, I'm not feeling well," I managed to get out and went to get someone else to do it. Then I told the supervisor I had to leave and go on my dinner break immediately. So I instantly exited and went home, where I had a glass of milk and some food, which always brought me down right away. At the end of the hour, I was still pretty high but more in control.

            Well, I get back to the Library and poor little Jamie had been there by himself with no tripping partner to talk to him.  And he was right out of his mind. I mean totally insane. He kept saying "I saw you there. I saw you there."

            "What are you talking about, Jamie?" I asked him. He said "You've got to come here with me and talk to me. This is really serious." So we went into a section of the Library that’s hardly ever used and sat down on some steps in a huge hallway.

            "What's the problem here?" I asked. By this time, I wasn’t straight, but I was certainly lucid.

            "I saw you in that gay bar."

            "What gay bar?" I had actually been to a gay bar a few months back with my boyfriend at the time. The place he was talking about was not the place I'd been and I definitely was not there the night he was telling me I was.

            I was unable to convince him of this, though. He'd decided that he'd seen me at this “underground” bar wearing these big red and white feathers in my hair, which I had actually worn for Valentine's Day or something, but not on the night in question.

            And he was convinced that I was going to tell people and that I knew he was a “faggot.” It was a horrible experience for him. In the social climate back then, being gay was nowhere near as acceptable as it is now. For a seventeen year old boy especially, it was really a big deal.

            I assured him, first of all, that I'd never been in "his" gay bar, though I had been at this other one. And I told him that it was perfectly alright for him to go to a gay bar. He should relax about it. I certainly wouldn't tell anyone. It was none of my business and I didn't care one way or the other. He should be calm about it and maybe he should go home for dinner break!

            It was really tragic. He'd become so paranoid about this, that it totally ruined his trip and it also ruined our relationship. He was never comfortable with me again after that. He never got over it. He'd decided I'd already seen him at this bar and even if I hadn't, now he'd spilled the beans to me, so now I knew he was gay and there was no going back. It was really sad. He was a nice kid. I liked him.  

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