We emerged one toke over the line from the shabby Astor Place subway station. The bowels of the East Village. Seedy New York. The skies buzzed purple. The bare trees of Tompkins Square Park ominous in winter sleek. We moved as a unit. Swaying up the concrete steps pushed forward by gentle swarms of long haired, tie-dyed, bell bottomed kids into a brisk November evening. The air pungent. Sweet, smokey scents drifting from brass pipes with primo pellets. Burning Moroccan resin. Loosely wrapped Zig Zag papers burning unevenly with Kentucky Blue passed freely among the throngs of ebullient hippies, students. Anyone under thirty really. Reefer madness. Nixon was cringing in la maison blanche. We were floating.
It was a happening. My first. 1969. A few months into the Woodstock Nation. I had just arrived from the innocence of a southern childhood. Delivered expectantly into a city a buzz with change. I happily traded color-coordinated Pappagallo skimmer flats paired with matching Lady Bug heather skirt and sweater ensembles for the new costume of the day. Fringed tan suede vest beaded the colors of the rainbow cropped mid-thigh swaying gracefully over slim Landlubber very low cut jeans, the sleeves of my silk blouse billowing as they slipped unfettered from the Indian poncho I had borrowed earlier from Christine Palmer. Hints of my gold hoop earrings peeked tantalizingly through stray locks that framed my fresh, eager face, my thick chestnut hair grazing my nubile waist. Nothing matched. I was ecstatic.
Here we were. In the thick of the burgeoning Woodstock revolution. My heart raced. My eyes blurred with this sea of young humanity flowing along the sidewalks toward Bill Graham's rock palace. The Fillmore East.
The Jefferson Airplane silhouetted by an enormous silver cinema screen stretching floor-to-the-tippy-top of the proscenium. Reflecting a liquid light show. Flowing psychedelic art. The kaleidoscope of intense color swirling blobs, pooling, morphing from indefinable shape to another whether my eyes were shut or not. My very own Elvis painting on the black velvet screen of my inner eyelids. Cool. I made my way up the stairs leading to the balcony. First row center.
White Rabbit on You Tube
Gracie Slick sang of Alice's Adventures into Wonderland. I hung on her every word. The nimble white rabbit luring me further into a trance. Lyrical comparisons to the hallucinatory effects of psychedelic drugs such as magic mushrooms and unknown liquids commingled and interspersed with the imagery found in the fantasy works of Lewis Carroll's stream of consciousness tales penned a century before. References in this fabled song so obvious to my very stoned self: the seductive hookah-smoking caterpillar, gallant White Knight, bitchy premenstrual Red Queen, wise Dormouse ... and experimenting Alice herself. My favorite childhood stories woven into my newly adult sensibilities. Or so I imagined.
What does this euphoric memory of my younger college age self have to do with anything? Caught up in the moment. High on life. The intensity. The promise. Oh yes. I do remember. So I still have a few active brain cells in my much-needed-to-be defragged hard drive. File drawers rusted sticky must be lubricated. Loosened up so the sparks can ignite cogent thought.
Yesterday morning's Health section in the New York Times featured an article touting the use of hallucinogens, the magic mushroom, psilocybin to be exact, in the treatment of despair. Doctors, not Timothy Leary of course, at Johns Hopkins medical school are conducting clinical trials for depression in cancer patients, end of life anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder ... and get this: addiction to drugs and alcohol. Now that's what I am talking about! Everything seems to have come full circle. Maybe that is what has kept me buoyed up all these years. Unburdened by substance abuse. No reaction to the mild terror I experienced in that marriage a decade and a half ago.
Cheers ... to acid flashbacks and psychedelic induced pyrotechnic light shows ... and to bona fide medical studies that might bring it all back again. This time funded by Medicare!