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psychedelicadventures.com

 

Pamela
b. 1957
nurse
resides in suburban Chicago
raised in suburban Chicago

 

The board-game with pieces that moved on their own

              Just after college in Illinois, I moved to the East Village in New York, sharing an apartment in a brownstone on Sixth Street, the block with all the Indian restaurants. Back then, in 1979, the neighborhood was totally Punk. All the clerks in the grocery store had tattoos and chains and black nail-polish. I worked as a dancer, performing in off-off Broadway productions, and also waitressed. I had a succession of roommates, all artists, including two from Canada, one of whom brought back some LSD from up north.

            One night that summer, there were four of us women sitting around doing nothing, and they convinced me to try some. I was very nervous about it, so I took just a half a tab. While we were tripping, one of my ex-roommates, a girl from the East Coast, showed up with her boyfriend, a med student at a school in Manhattan. We didn't tell them that we’d just taken some acid, and they hung out with us for the rest of the evening.

            The apartment was virtually an artist studio. There was no furniture in the living room and easels and paintings everywhere. The other women were promoting my creativity, so I started doing some artwork, which I’d never done before. The four of us were painting on two reams of paper on the floor. I was making a collage I eventually entitled “Acid Indigestion” on which I pasted a cigarette and some ashes, among other things.

            I thought it was a marvelous work and my roommates thought it was just terrific, but the med student poo-pooed it, saying, "What are you doing? It looks like a kid's drawing." “Leave her alone,” my roommates defended me. “She's being creative.” So I paid no attention to him and stayed at it for hours, blocking out everything else. The next day, I looked at the results and thought, "What the hell was I doing?" Still, the trip had been a burst of creative impulses which totally absorbed me, and I felt good about it.

            A couple of months later, I got up the courage to take a whole tab. At that point, Philip, an ex-roommate’s brother, was staying with us until he found an apartment. He was a very studious classical musician, a couple years older than me. He was an uptight sort of a guy, but he had wacky, dry sense of humor, and we were good friends, as I'd been close to his sister since high school.

            Philip had never tried acid before either, so we decided to do it together. I was still nervous about it and wanted somebody I could trust to be with me. I had visions of jumping off a building or doing something drastic if I went outside. We figured we’d start early in the day and spend the whole day in the apartment, where we’d  protect each other in the event one of us did something crazy. My roommates gave us each a tab and left for their art classes.

            We took it on a warm summer day and almost immediately I felt much stranger than I did the first time. I tried very hard to remain in control. The idea of “going with the flow” made me nervous. So I spent the first hour trying to act normal.

            I insisted that Philip play backgammon with me, to focus our attention on something safe and grounded, but the pieces jumped all over the board and I couldn't concentrate on it. Still, I forced him to play anyway and tried to hold my ground, staring at the board, trying to assure myself, “I can do this, I can do this.”

            Eventually I really craved a cigarette, but I was all out of them. There was a newspaper stand at the end of the block where a pack could be bought. I’d hoped that Philip would brave the real world and get it, but he said there was no way he was going outside the apartment, so I said, “Alright, I'm gonna do it.” Then it took me an hour to build up the confidence to venture outside.

            I took a five-dollar bill with me and stepped out on the street. As I was walking down the block, an old woman with an unopened umbrella came along and as she passed me I could have sworn that she said, "I'm gonna get you" or "I'm gonna kill you" or something hostile like that. I told myself, "This is the acid This is not really happening." But I still wondered if she’d really threatened me. There were plenty of bag people around the neighborhood. She could have been a mentally disturbed homeless woman and actually said what I thought she did, but I couldn’t be sure since I was so high.

            I made my way to the corner and got my cigarettes and returned to the apartment, boasting to Philip that I’d caught the guy at the newsstand giving me the wrong change. He’d given me the balance of a dollar (cigarettes were still under a buck back then) instead of a five. "No, no,” I spoke up. “I gave you a five" to which the cashier said, "Oh, you're right. I'm sorry" and then handed me the remaining four dollars. "Isn't it amazing I caught the mistake and then had the presence of mind and grace under pressure to demand the correct amount?” I was very proud f of myself.

            Then we started listening to music. Philip was given to classical, playing harpsichord in a quartet, so he took out a recording of a piece written for orchestra and organ music from his extensive LP collection and blasted it. It was a very somber composition, like ancient church music. We lay down on the floor to listen and I began to have the most profound auditory experience of my life. Never have I heard music with such clarity and precision.

            Normally, when you listen to a symphony, you experience it more or less a whole, hearing basically just the instruments -- the strings or the horns, for instance -- that carry the melody. But I could pick out every instrument and isolate it, even if it was playing very softly. I’d say to myself, "Now I want to hear percussion.... Now the oboe” and so on. I’d concentrate for a second and then I’d hear my selection very loud to the exclusion of everything else. Prior to that I'd never had that much appreciation for classical music, but now I felt I could listen to it all day. Listening to Gregorian chants later, I was able to pick out the individual voices.

            At certain intervals throughout the day, I said to myself, "Just go with it. Stop being so uptight about this” and would then see hallucinations. At one point, I went into the bathroom and the sink turned bright orange. I looked at myself in the mirror and the image looked jumbled, like pieces of a puzzle that didn't fit together quite right. As we lay on my bed, a mattress on the floor, the flowered sheets undulated and came toward me like waves. Inanimate objects changed appearance, but I could always stop the distorted images at will. I’d shut my eyes a minute, say, “Stop it” to myself, and when I opened them it would look normal again. I tested myself this way throughout the day.

            Suddenly the doorbell rang, startling the shit out of us. It was Philip’s mother. We buzzed her up, panic stricken. We almost had a heart attack. We felt we had to get rid of her quick, before she sensed we were high. We knew she was in town, but we weren't expecting her. She just decided to pop by unexpectedly. It would have been very awkward for me to leave or shut myself up in my room, because she’d known me since I was thirteen, when I began playing with her daughter.

            We tried to hold a normal conversation. Fortunately, she’s a real chatterbox and just kept talking, so we didn't have to say much. “Uh huh. Yes, uh huh. Right....” I didn’t know what she was talking about, but pretended to and just kept nodding and affirming. Philip and I were afraid to look at each other, because we thought we'd burst out laughing or say something silly, so we avoided eye contact.

            She was completely clueless about our state of mind, which we couldn’t believe. We were very relieved when she finally left after about a half hour that felt like much longer. It took a humungous effort to act normal. I was terrified that I might say something that made no sense.

            "Oh my god, what were we saying? How was I acting?"

            "I don't know. How was I doing?"

            We didn't start coming down until evening. For the next two or three days afterwards, I was forgetful and felt like somebody had taken my head and shaken it. I felt jumbled, addled, not quite with it. "That's it,” I decided. “If I feel the effects three days later, I'm not going to do it.” I’m the sort of person who’s willing to try everything once, so I felt adventurous yet still satiated.

            I later tried to listen to the same music we'd heard that day to see if I could hear it the same way, but I couldn't, which was a little disappointing. I remember thinking that I would probably have had a much better time if I’d just relaxed and gone with the flow. I'd spent so much effort trying to not be high, I'd probably ruined a lot of it.

            If my parents knew about this, they'd have coronaries. As a teenager, I was a good Midwestern girl, getting good grades and not staying out too late. As a nurse today, I don't know anyone anymore who did such things. All my colleagues went to nursing school when they were nineteen and had relatively sheltered lives. I don't talk about dropping acid with them. As for discussing my drug adventures with my kids, I'm still at the “let's just lie and deny it for now” stage.

 

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