EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's a condensed version of parts 3 through 8 from the first chapter of Ace's book Acid Hero, which he's trying to find a publisher for. If you can help, write him: Acebackwords2002@yahoo.com.
If you want to read the first 2 parts of the chapter that appeared in the Herald a while back, go to sfherald.com, click on "Columnists", and then click on Ace.
And then the Beatles toy got weird. While I had been out playing basketball and kickball in the schoolyard the Beatles had recorded what became known as their trilogy of "psychedelic drug" albums: Revolver, Sgt Pepper, and Magical Mystery Tour. Now there's nothing new about "musicians and drugs." There have always been "drug songs." There are all sorts of drug references in those old jazz songs from the ‘30s and ‘40s, mostly veiled references to "tea" and "reefer" and "skag." But it was only the jaded old hipsters and hepcats on the bohemian circuit that were hip to what the musicians were singing about. What was unprecedented about the Beatles "drug music" was that, for the first time, it was being marketed directly to millions of little kids like me. Piped directly into all the kiddies' bedrooms as a matter of fact....
Paul McCartney has said many times that the Magical Mystery Tour was directly inspired by Ken Kesey and his magic bus. You might remember Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. They were famous in the early ‘60s for throwing these big, wild LSD bashes. Like the one they threw in Los Angeles back in 1966. The Pranksters had big buckets full of free Kool-Aid that was dosed with pure LSD, man. Many of the people in the crowd didn't even know what LSD was, let alone that the Kool-aid was spiked with it. And there was 60s icon Wavy Gravy -- later famous as the emcee at Woodstock, the greatest LSD bash of the decade, standing behind the counter ladling out the free LSD to one and all. Many cool cats ended up in the nut house later that night ("Never trust a Prankster!" ha ha). What a cool party it was.
Of course McCartney, ever the cautious one, cleverly left the word "LSD" out of the lyrics to the "Magical Mystery LSD trip" so that nobody would get the wrong idea (wink wink). But whaddaya' know, millions of kids DID get the wrong idea (or was it the right idea?) and immediately went out looking for that magical LSD stuff. Last year it was gobbling down jellybeans, this year it's gobbling down LSD-25. And it comes in many exciting flavors: Orange Sunshine! Purple Haze! Blue Cheer! ("But don't eat the Brown Acid, kids, it's a bummer!" "Thanks, mister!")
Remember those old Pez candy-dispensers? Well, now it was like the new improved Beatles toy came with this fabulous new accessory: the LSD Pez dispenser. Just pop the top of the plastic John Lennon head and a hit of acid pops out at the end of John's smiling tongue! Cool!
Years later Paul, as cute as ever, would say: "I didn't want to excite people into taking LSD. Drugs have now become such a serious menace that it is very difficult to write about the subject;?I don't want to influence anyone in this day and age -- I've got kids of my own." But back in THOSE days, McCartney didn't seem to have any problem with inviting millions of OTHER people's kids to the Beatles fabulous new LSD drug party.
"Magical Mystery Tour" was followed by the animated Beatles movie "Yellow Submarine." So now you had a psychedelic cartoon movie for kiddies. What a life, sheesh. All aboard the Yellow Submarine, kiddies, we're on our way to that magical realm of Pepperland. And who's that at the head of the ship leading us on our voyage? Why it's John "The Walrus" Lennon: Captain Trips, The Man of a Thousand LSD trips. Talk about fun. And now the Beatles toy came with an exciting new accessory, not just regular old I-want-to-hold-your-hand-type Love, but the new improved Cosmic Love. All you need is love love love. Them Beatles were always going on about love love love. They were full of it. Or something.
Now I know what some of you are probably thinking: "Sour turd blames the Beatles for his own drug abuse." And there's probably some truth to that. But what's the point of writing a book in the first place if I can't even a few old scores in the process?
But ya see, maybe it wasn't just me. Maybe there was also something a little odd about the fabulous Beatles cartoon toy in the first place. Because like I said, unlike all the other cartoon characters in cartoon-land, there happened to be grown men inside the Beatles cartoon. It was as if after the Woody Woodpecker Cartoon Show was over, old Woody went backstage to his dressing room and pulled his cartoon mask off and there was a grown man behind it. And then Woody took out a cigarette and smoked, maybe rubbed the beard stubble on his chin or scratched his beer gut. And then Woody took out a big hit of heroin and injected it directly into his arm. And then the man put his Woody Woodpecker mask back on and went out and did his kiddie cartoon show. YEAH!! Its PECKER-MANIA!!
So yeah, you could say there were some disturbing connotations to the new improved Psychedelic Beatles Cartoon Show. The Beatles toy that all of us kiddies had been playing with had suddenly gotten WEIRD. And it was about to get weirder.
John Lennon would be my first Acid Hero. The first in a LONG line of Acid Heroes. You could say "the 60s" was about a lot of different things, but one thing they were definitely about was Acid Heroes.
The Acid Heroes came at you from every direction. There were the spiritual acid heroes, like Timothy Leary and Ram Dass and Alan Watts. There were the literary acid heroes like Aldous Huxley and Ken Kesey and Alan Ginsberg. There were the political acid heroes like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. There were movie star acid heroes like Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in "Easy Rider," man. And, of course, there were all the great rocknroll acid heroes like Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane and the Doors (of Perception). There were even jock acid heroes, like Dave Meggesey -- the first hippie in the NFL -- and Peter Gent of the Dallas Cowboys -- who wrote about his acid-tripping in his novel "North Dallas Forty," one of my favorite books as a kid -- and Phil Jackson -- the famous Zen basketball coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers, who started the first chapter of his jock autobiography with a heroic account of an acid trip that changed his life (for the better, naturally). And then there was the greatest of all the great 60s acid heroes: John Lennon, and Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Now a lot has been written about "the 60s generation." Probably too MUCH has been written about "the 60s generation." You know?? The ones who protested against the war in Vietnam, the ones who went to the Haight Ashbury with flowers in their hair, and blah blah blah. But very little has been written about the generation that came directly AFTER "the 60s generation." MY generation. And the fact is, from our slightly more objective vantage point, we might have seen "the 60s generation" more clearly than they saw themselves, in the same way that children usually see their parents more clearly than the parents see them (You ever notice how most kids can do a devastating impersonation of their parents, but it rarely works the other way around). We might have only been 7,8,9, and 10-years-old during "the 60s" but we nonetheless experienced all the turmoil, changes and confusion of that decade also. In fact, we were the first mutant flower to grow out of the 60s soil. So we knew the 60s in our BONES, man.
There have been a lot of books written by a lot of tedious boneheads that purport to explain What Happened During The 60s. Well, I'm going to tell you a secret: If you want to know what happened during the 60s, you really have to look at what happened in the 70s, the 80s, and the 90s. That's where all the real action was. The 60s was just the seed. What happened after that will tell you all you need to know about "the 60s." Or, as The Man put it: "By their fruits you will know them."
In September of 1968 I started the 7th grade. Meanwhile "the 60s" was sort of an off-stage, but all-pervasive, presence that was gradually seeping into the bubble of our self-enclosed junior high school world. One day Doug, one of the taller hipper kids in our class, brought in an album by a band named the Fugs for show-and-tell. The Fugs were about the dirtiest, hairiest, freakiest critters any of us kids had ever seen. If I remember right, there was a little flip-book that came with the album and you could flip the pages and watch a little movie of the Fugs stripping off their clothes. When our homeroom teacher Mr. Pitz got a load of that Fugs album, well, ole Doug was suspended for two whole weeks. Doug would be the first, but most definitely not the last, casualty of the Culture War that was "the 60s" in our 7th grade class.
It was the age of "turbulence, upheaval, and political dissent." And we 7th graders did our part, fighting and protesting and winning the right to wear blue jeans to class. "The people united will never be forced to wear corny plaid trousers!"? So there. Another crucial issue was hair length. And we fought with our parents over every inch over the ear, as if some kind of Battle Line was being drawn. Which it was.
The summer between 7th and 8th grade, Doug was the only one from our class to go to the big Woodstock hippie festival. He came back with tales of grooviness, and his hair was frizzed out into kind of a Hendrix white-boy afro. Shortly after that, Doug dropped out of school, amidst vague rumors that he was living in some kind of psychedelic shack and seeing colors.
So the grooviness that was "the 60s" was beginning to hit with full force. But there were dissenting voices on the horizon. One day, this guest lecturer came to our classroom, this drab looking woman in a gray Salvation Army type dress buttoned up to her chin. She had come to warn us about The Dangers of Drugs. And she had charts and graphs and she spoke in ominous tones about "drug parties," some involving kids as young as high school age, where they smoked "marihauna cigarettes" and took tabs of LSD and other pills. It might seem like fun at first she said, but pretty soon you'd end up staring into the sun until you went blind or jumping off a building thinking you could fly, and that sure didn't sound like fun. Eventually you'd end up living somewhere in the ghetto in a seedy hotel room with nothing but a mattress and you'd wear a guinea t-shirt and sweat all the time and have "tombstone eyes." And it would all start with one of those "marihuana cigarettes" which she said "looked just like a regular cigarette except they were twisted at the ends." So I made a mental note of being on the lookout for funny-looking?cigarettes that were twisted on the end.
Well sir, 8th grade finally came to an end, and we, the Doomed Class of 1970 got to choose which songs we would sing at the big graduation ceremony. So all of us wise-ass imps stuffed the ballot box so we could sing the famous "Fish Cheer" from the Woodstock album with the famous "What's that spell? FUCK!!!" intro, and "The Lemon Song" by Led Zeppelin with the line "I want to squeeze your lemons till the juice runs down your leg." We thought that it would be hilarious, all of us clean-cut 13-year-old kids in our best Sunday suits belting out "The Fish Cheer" and "The Lemon Song" to an audience of our adoring parents. But the principal got wind of our plot and nixed that one in the bud. The fascist. Instead we ended up singing that great hippie peace-and-love anthem "C'mon People Now" by Jesse Colin and the Youngbloods. I loved that song, and I'd get goose bumps as we rehearsed it, all 300 of us kids from the Doomed Class of 1970, belting it out at the top of their lungs, while a couple of the cool kids in our class who were in bands backed us up on electric guitar, bass and drums. "We are but a moments sunlight/ fading in the grass/ C'mon people now smile on your brother/ everybody get together try and love one another right now/ri-ight now/ RI-I-IGHT NOWWWWW!"
In 1970, age 13, I started my freshman year of high school. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all died that year, and it was supposed to be symbolic of something. Meanwhile all the cool kids in my class mysteriously started parting their hair in the middle, as if they had received a secret signal from somewhere. And the first longhaired hippie types were seen loping around the streets of suburban New Jersey.
Well, I did in fact end up stumbling upon one of those marihuana cigarettes with the twisted ends, and I did in fact smoke it. I got stoned for the first time at age 16 at a big free Carol King concert in New York City's Central Park. I went there with two of my high school buddies, Red and Brian. We were sitting in this big field with about a half a million people sprawled out on the grass. Somebody handed me a joint and the rest is history.
Later, still very stoned, we tried to order some hot dogs from an Italian hot dog vender. The vender kept asking, "You wanna mustard or onion?" To which Brian, in his stoned out bewilderment (I think it was his first time too) kept answering "Munions." The angry vendor cursed Brian out left and right as Brian stood there with his mouth open in confusion, as Red and I rolled on the sidewalk in fits of stoned-out laughter. And "munions" became an inside joke amongst our stoner crew for the rest of the school year.
Later that summer, Brian, Red and I went to the big outdoor Watkins Glenn rock festival featuring the Band, the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead. Almost a million people showed up, it was the biggest concert of all time, even bigger than Woodstock. On the other hand, nobody would call us The Watkins Glenn Generation, so it wasn't bigger than Woodstock in that sense.
I managed to worm my way into the big high school stoner scene, I started hanging out with Donna and Suzie Q, the two biggest stoner chicks in our class, or "the two air-heads" as they were affectionately known. We spent a lot of time in the parking lot cutting class and getting stoned, then staggering around in the hallways. Donna was a total pot freak, the first of a long line of pot freaks I would meet over the years. Pot was her thing. She owned every kind of pot paraphernalia; pipes and bongs and 20 different kinds of rolling papers and roach clips and stones and do-hickies, you name it she had it. Donna was dedicated to being on the cutting edge of all the latest technological advancements in the pot-smoking field. You wouldn't have thought it would be that difficult to take a weed and turn it into smoke, but there you go. One day in 1974 Donna whipped out the first issue of HIGH TIMES we had ever seen -- if memory serves me the cover featured an Eskimo woman holding a joint. It was vaguely shocking to see our secret, and very much illegal, pot-smoking habit on the cover of a mainstream looking magazine.
Anyway, pot really tripped me out, it seemed to stimulate my intellect, I would see things in a deeper way, things I hadn't noticed before. And I would FEEL things intensely. At first I thought I could "see through" people, see through the surface of all the high school games, to a deeper psychological reality. Then the pot turned on me and I'd get hideously self-conscious; I'd sit there in the back of the class bug-eyed, thinking that everyone could tell that I was stoned out of my gourd.
Anyway, one afternoon as we were smoking pot on "the path" behind the school Donna asked me if I wanted to try some acid she had just scored.
"Acid?" I asked. "What's it do to you?"
"It like makes you see trippy colors and stuff," said Donna. "You hallucinate, like when you move your hand you see tracers and stuff."
Donna had tried acid two or three times before, so she was the expert. Well, that sounded pretty cool, seeing tracers and shit, and I had always been curious about LSD ever since I read that Beatles book back when I was 11-years-old. I wanted to see the "tangerine trees" and "marmalade skies" for myself. I had always been fascinated by all things "60s", reading anything I could get my hands on about the subject. LSD seemed like the missing piece that would explain all the "love" that the hippies had experienced at Woodstock, and maybe even unlock the mystery that was "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vidda." I wanted to take the Magic Carpet Ride that all the rock stars had been singing about. Donna handed me two hits of blotter acid. "You chew it up like bubble gum then you swallow it," she explained. We sat there on the bleachers behind the high school and waited.
I shuddered involuntarily as the bitter taste of the LSD went down my throat.
"It takes about an hour to take effect," said Donna.
The plan was to sit in the bleachers and watch the baseball game while we tripped on acid. My friend Roger was pitching in the game...
"Do you feel anything yet?" asked Donna.
I looked over at Donna, her eyes were glassy and she was grinning wildly.
"Yeah," I said.
Now is there anything more boring than acid stories? (Guess I should have thought about that before I started writing this damn book.) Or, as 60s cartoonist R. Crumb put it: "Our generation told acid stories like the previous generation told war stories! ....AND THERE I WAS!! TRIPPING ON 100 MIKES ON THE FREAKIN' SUBWAY...!!!"
And besides, I've never been able to convey the LSD experience in words. Its kind of like trying to describe a dream, usually the imagery is too personal and symbolic to make sense to anybody else. The closest I've come to describing the LSD experience is: "It's kind of like having somebody else's brain suddenly stuck inside your head, and not necessarily a human brain, perhaps the brain of an ancient reptile or some alien creature from another dimension." Which is perhaps the first shock of the LSD experience. Because you suddenly realize that your own brain is creating the pictures. And that when you alter the chemicals in your brain, the world that you thought was Out There -- the so-called Real World --changes along with it.
"What are you doing?" asked Donna.
"I'm staring at my hand," I explained. The palm of my hand was glowing, throbbing, undulating, with this translucent beauty.
"Why are you staring at your hand?" asked Donna.
"I just realized something incredible!" I explained, beaming with happiness. "All this time people have been looking at baseball games thinking it was the national pastime. When looking at your hand should have been the national pastime all along!? It's been there all along, only nobody noticed it before. If only they would take the time to look at their own hand. It's all right there in the palm of their hand!"
"Wow!" said Donna.
The next day when I came down from the experience -- that's assuming you EVER really come down --?I felt stunned in a pleasant sort of way. LSD had definitely lived up to its billing. It had been a powerful, magical, and exhilarating experience with curiously uplifting spiritual and -- YES! -- even cosmic overtones. So LSD was quickly added to our repertoire of weekend party drugs along with beer, pot, vodka, and Boones Farm Strawberry Wine.
One night Donna and I tripped on acid and staggered across the street to the big strawberry farm by my house. Strawberry Fields Forever, literally. We laid on our backs in the wet dewwy strawberry patch staring up at the black sky and the twinkling stars of forever feeling like we were lying on top of a massive space ship that was hurtling us through the endless expanses of time and space at amazing speed. Which it was, of course.
Near the end of the school year I got busted by the cops for smoking a bowl of pot in my car. My mom and dad had to come down to the police station to pick me up. Mom was distraught to the verge of tears. My son the drug addict. My father sternly said: "We're going to search your bedroom for drugs and if we find anything we're going to turn you in to the police."
Fortunately they didn't find the 20 hits of blotter acid I had stashed between a book. A couple of weeks later, my parents discreetly slipped a copy of "Helter Skelter" (about the Manson family and their LSD rampages) into my collection of books. I guess to warn me about where I was headed.
Alas, my high school acid-tripping career would end on a sour note. Finally it was June, the last big weekend of our senior year, the end of the line, the culmination of 13 long years on the scholastic assembly line. And now, here we all were, poised on the verge of leaving the cocoon of school and stepping out for the first time into the mysterious Adult World of jobs, careers and marriages. But first there would be the big graduation party on the last Friday of the school year, the last gathering of the tribe that was the Doomed Class of 1974.
The big graduation party was at the home of Stan Oinst, the star quarterback of the football team. Just about the entire senior class was there that night crammed into Stan's suburban house. Donna and I decided to add a little sparkle to the occasion by gobbling down some LSD, naturally. We were "the stoners" of course so we had to live up to our high school roles. Party on, dude.
We entered Stan Oinst's house just as the first rush of the acid was kicking in. There was a rock band playing in the living room, the coolest kids from the cool crowd, naturally, and they were playing the hits of the day, mostly "folk rock" which was the thing that year. The room was jam-packed with people and I tripped out on all the faces, my classmates, I had known for the last 6 years, and all the secret stories between us. The band was playing a cover of the Eagles hit "Take It Easy" and I wanted to get a good look at the band, so I made my way to the front of the room. It was extremely crowded but I managed to find what seemed like a good place to sit and groove to the tunes.
Unbeknownst to me, what I was sitting on was, alas, a glass coffee table. Suddenly there was some kind of loud explosion and shards of glass went flying straight up into the air in slow motion like the coolest hallucination. And then I noticed I was sitting on the floor ?amidst the broken shards of glass that only moments before had been Stan Oinst's glass coffee table. Suddenly it had gotten very quiet and everyone was staring at me. The band had stopped playing their instruments like -- THAT! -- which was a jolt in itself, the first inkling that something had gone tragically awry. Everyone from the Doomed Class of 1974 was staring at me, it was like a frozen painting and only I was moving. I sat there amidst the broken glass, tripping on powerful LSD as my brain struggled to make sense of this queer scene. Surely this was one of those strange hallucinations that occur with regularity on acid. Wait'll I tell Donna about this one, she'll laugh good about that. And I had a momentary sense of hopefulness. Which quickly passed.
Next thing I knew I was in the kitchen and Donna was helping to wash the blood and glass splinters from my hands. Everyone was glaring daggers at me. I caught a glimpse of Stan Oinst -- star quarterback -- as he was rushing back and forth from room to room with his hand on his forehead in an anguished pose. I felt an urgent need to talk to Stan Oinst at that moment, to straighten out this misunderstanding. Whatever it was. Surely he would understand. Perhaps there was some way I could fix the shattered glass coffee table and make things right, possibly with glue or tape. Then Stan Oinst was standing in front of me. We went back a long ways, Stan and me. We had been the 11th and 12th men on the end of the bench of the junior varsity basketball team in 1971, and we had spent a lot of time on that bench arguing over which one of us was actually the worst player on the team (it was Stan). I momentarily considered mentioning to Stan an amusing anecdote from that season past, but Stan cut me short.
"Just leave!" he said.
Next thing I knew Donna was driving me around in her car as I slipped into a subhuman funk. "Just don't think," said Donna. I thought about that for a while. I was the cosmic loser of all-time (but at least it was cosmic). I had made a fool out of myself in front of the entire class. One final memory of me to last a lifetime. "So long kids, I'll never forget YOU!" I had cemented my reputation as High School Loser forever. Plus the fiendish intensity of the LSD drug was magnifying everything a thousand percent. Donna pulled her car over to the shoulder of an off ramp and we got out for some fresh air. We stood there on top of a bridge overlooking the buzzing traffic of the car headlights below, and I just wanted to fly away to somewhere else, and to BE somebody else, forever.
The next day was the big cap-and-gown graduation ceremony on the football field behind the high school. I listlessly pushed my way through my acid-hangover knowing that I had made a fool of myself in front of everybody and that they all knew.
"I heard you had a smashing time last night," smirked sexpot Suzie Q.
She had always thought of me as a fool, and now I had officially confirmed it. My high school career was over, so I threw my cap in the garbage and went off to face my so-called adult life, whatever that would be.###