Pot, Paisley and Rock 'n Roll
Life in the Sixties
Life in the Sixties
by Don Robertson
Chapter One - Knockin' on Heaven's Door
We were cruising down Santa Monica Boulevard. Jim was seated firmly in the driver’s seat, his shoulders pressing forward as he tightly grasped the steering wheel. This familiar posture gave him assurance that he was in complete control of his car, and provided him with the latitude to devote his attention to his usual driving diversion – singing.
We were cruising down Santa Monica Boulevard. Jim was seated firmly in the driver’s seat, his shoulders pressing forward as he tightly grasped the steering wheel. This familiar posture gave him assurance that he was in complete control of his car, and provided him with the latitude to devote his attention to his usual driving diversion – singing.
The radio, like always, was tuned to KFWB - Channel 98, Los Angeles’s favorite rock station, delivering one by one the latest hits at top volume: The Beatles, The Mamas and The Papas, The Association, The Beach Boys, Dylan, Love, and the Byrds. Jim sang along with every song, word for word and note for note, creating perfect harmony with his precise falsetto voice, pronouncing every word with absolute clarity, his face beaming with joy. This was Jim’s religion, his life, and these songs were the Hymns of a New Credo… a New World… a New Age.
I tried interrupting his reverie.
Pretending not to hear me, Jim continued singing.
“Ooh I need your love Babe, guess you know it's true. Hope you need my love Babe, just like I need you. Hold me, love me. Hold me, love me. I ain't got nothin’ but love Babe, eight days a we-eek, eight days a we-eek…”
It was hard to interrupt Jim when he was singing.
“Jim!” I shouted over Jim’s voice and the radio, “A joint! A joint. You gotta joint?”
That got his attention.
“We can’t smoke in the car… you know that, man,” he managed to get out between verses.
It was a typical Los Angeles June day… warm, but not too hot… perfect for short-sleeves, and Jim was right about the joint -- 1966 was not the year to be smoking pot in your car. Of course, not many people knew what a joint was back then, but Jim and I knew well that if we were caught smoking one, we could end up in prison for five years.
“Ok, then let’s go up to my pad,” I replied.
I was happy to have someone to smoke pot with – not that either of us had been doing it for a long time. My first experience with marijuana had been only months before in Boulder, Colorado, where I had formed a rock and blues band with my African-American friend Ron. He had convinced me to try smoking some, telling me that when he got high, he could hear music in a whole new, wonderful way.
“You won’t believe how beautiful music is, man, when you’re stoned,” Ron had proclaimed.
Nothing was closer to home for me than music. The anticipation of hearing music as I had never heard it before finally outweighed my high-school marijuana memories of Mrs. Goldberg wheeling a projector into English class and making us watch black-and-white films about “Marijuana, the Killer Drug.”
And so I had agreed to try it. Ron and I drove to Denver to pick up one of his friends who would be waiting for us in a bar in the “Negro” neighborhood called Five Points. Ron’s friend got into my car and directed us out into East Denver to an alley where he kept his “stash” hidden in some weeds in an alley behind some houses. From the stash, he extracted seven homemade joints rolled in cigarette paper. Ron paid him, and we returned to Boulder.
Seated in my apartment, he fired up a joint.
“You gotta inhale and hold the smoke in your lungs for as long as you can… like this, man.”
Ron sucked in a monster drag, held it, trying not to cough. Then when he could no longer keep the smoke down, he quickly exhaled.
“Try it,” he said grinning.
I imitated him, holding the smoke in my lungs.
After three totes, he started laughing, telling me about how high he was.
“Maaaan. This be some weed! I’m sooo high!”
Laughing, he then looked at me.
I told him I couldn’t feel a thing. A few more puffs and still nothing.
“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about. I don’t feel nothin’. Maybe I’m not doin’ it right.”
I was about to give up when suddenly a powerful sensation fell over me.
The room began spinning. Now I was the one who was laughing.
Ron got up from his chair and began dancing humorously with slow, directed steps, singing the words to some made-up song. I laughed uproariously. What was happening?
This went on for at least fifteen minutes. I followed Ron around the apartment while he tip-toed in a comical fashion up to various items and then one of us said something about it, and then we would both break out in laughter.
“Maaan! Cheeeck this out. Whew!”
Ron finally sat down.
“Put on some jams, man,” Ron requested, his eyes closed, his mouth fashioned into a terrific grin.
I made it over to the record player and we listened to Bobbie Blue Bland.
“Cry, cry, cry!” Ron sang along with Bobby.
Later that evening, I drove Ron to the club where our band was playing that night. We had smoked another joint and I was very stoned. Laughing again, I tried desperately to keep my attention on the road, but I felt as if I were piloting a boat, being pulled side to side by great waves. After getting lost a few times, we finally found ourselves at the club where we set up our instruments. Ron was right. The music we played that night was great, and it was alive! I loved it. And that is how a new way of life had started for me just a few months before in Boulder, Colorado.
I thought about that for a minute, and then looked over at Jim. Like me, he was also pretty new at smoking pot, having had discovered it only a few months before. He was 19, more than four years younger than I. The son of a successful Jewish businessman, he had grown up nearby in the affluent community of Pacific Palisades.
I had met Jim soon after arriving in Los Angeles, and we had instantly become friends. After a few days of getting to know each other, I cautiously asked him if he had ever smoked pot. That was a pretty risky thing to do. You never knew who might be a nark! But within minutes, we were smoking together.
Jim had just graduated from high school and was slated for college in the fall. Meanwhile, he was the drummer and a harmony singer in the rock band that I had joined after seeing a notice posted in the music building at the University of California - UCLA, where I had been attending classes. It had said:
“Groovy band looking for a lead guitar player. Must play bitchen leads.”
Anxious to get back into a band, I called the number that was listed on the notice right away. Soon I was the band’s new lead-guitar player.
The other three kids in the band were still in high school. Tony was the lead singer, Gordy sang harmony parts and played rhythm guitar, and Brian played bass. Jim and I hadn’t dared tell them that we were smoking grass.
Jim turned his car onto Ocean Boulevard, and we headed for my place.
I lived less than a hundred feet from the ocean on Venice Beach. I had rented a three-bedroom walk-through apartment furnished with an old double bed and dresser, a wobbly kitchen table saturated with a dozen thick coats of paint, a ratty couch, and a few worn-out easy chairs. The walls in the apartment were so thin that every conversation from the adjoining apartment, where a woman and her son argued and yelled at each other constantly, sounded as though it were taking place in my own front room. The sparse décor and the lack of privacy didn’t bother me, however, as I spent most of my time seated at my rented piano learning to play a Beethoven’s piano sonata and Anton Webern’s Variations for Piano.
Venice was a little California beach town that had eroded down to a shadow of the elegant community that had once boasted of canals and gondolas like its famous Italian namesake. Survivors from the beatnik era of the 1950s now mostly populated the homes, and the place was permeated with an air of cool “hep” nonchalance. The beach was not particularly attractive, but I enjoyed digging my bare feet into the sand, and I loved to breathe the salty fragrance of the lapping ocean waves. I also liked to watch the beatniks in the backyards of the homes that lined the beach. One guy was building a totem pole, while others, dressed in brightly decorated shirts, were building boats, or were carefully decorating their gardens with colored rocks. These “beats” were the older guys. Guys like me were the next generation, whom the newspapers in a few years would call “hippies,” a derisive name made up by a newspaperman and popularized by a national magazine. What we really were, were rock musicians. Jim Morrison lived just blocks up the beach from me.
My girlfriend Marilyn and I had moved into the Venice apartment shortly after we first arrived in Los Angeles. She was a brunette, two-years younger than me. Having grown up in Phoenix, Arizona, she had just graduated from the University of Colorado in Boulder. I had met her during the previous November, and we had been inseparable until March, when I left Boulder with my band to play in Las Vegas. After graduation, she drove to Nevada to join me, and within days following her arrival, I, having become bored with the shimmering Las Vegas lifestyle, parted ways with my band. Marilyn and I then drove to Los Angeles. After co-signing the rental agreement for the Venice Beach apartment, Marilyn drove back to Boulder to gather the rest of her belongings. Not wanting her suspicious mother to know that we would be living together in what her mother considered to be a state of sin, Marilyn told her that she would be living by herself, using Jim’s address as her proof.
Jim and I arrived at the apartment and hurried inside. The woman and her son were shouting at each other next door.
“Let’s get wasted,” Jim whispered discreetly, to avoid detection by the noisy neighbors.
We sat at the kitchen table while Jim performed his usual ritual, rolling a joint. We always used Zigzag cigarette papers that Jim stole from some little drug store. It was too dangerous to buy them, Jim felt. After carefully sorting out the stems and seeds, he poured an even row of crushed leaf onto the paper. I watched as he slowly licked the edge. He liked a nice solid seal and an evenly rolled joint. After it was perfectly rolled, Jim eyed his newly created gem with satisfaction, contemplating the beautiful state of mind awaiting him. He, like myself, was anxious to get stoned.
Jim, dark-headed with clear, dark eyes, was just slightly plump, and had a finely sculpted face with clean Jewish features. In contrast, I was thin, in fact almost emaciated, with brown hair and eyes and thick oversized lips. We were about the same height, a few inches under six feet, and we both dressed carefully, having been raised in proper upper-middle-class homes.
“Ready?” Jim asked.
Jim struck a match and lighted the end of the joint. Carefully and melodramatically sucking in a great cloud of smoke. He then passed the joint to me, continuing to hold the smoke in his lungs for as long as he could, to extract every last bit of the grass’s magic. When the hot smoke began burning his throat, he quietly suppressed a cough. After another suppressed cough, he couldn’t hold his breath in any longer and with an explosive burst of air, he instantly exhaled. I followed suit and within minutes, we were both very, very high.
“Oh man, I’m stoned outta my mind…how ‘bout you?” I asked.
“Me too, man. Me too. This is some good shit… It’s outta sight.”
The reason that I had chosen to live in Los Angeles was because of a fellow named Richard O’Sullivan whom I had met back in Boulder. He worked in a record store near the CU campus and knew about my love of music and my constant desire to learn more and more about it. One day he had introduced me to a style music that I had never known existed, and to a great master musician who performed it. The music was the ancient traditional classical music of North India, and the great master musician was Ustad Ali Akbar Khan, who played an instrument called the sarod. I had come to Los Angeles to attend summer classes at the Institute of Ethnomusicology at UCLA, where teachers native to the culture taught music from the world’s great traditional ethnic cultures. Richard had told me about the institute and had suggested that I could learn to play the sarod there.
The Institute was in reality a number of rooms in the basement of the UCLA music building. It in these rooms the strange rites of ethnomusicology, also called world music, were performed. In 1966, a course in music from other cultures was not something that many colleges or universities offered, and so the Institute was definitely a departure from the norm. In other areas of the UCLA music building, cello virtuosos were in the making and film music composers were being trained, but there in the basement, slight-figured Orientals sat in lotus postures performing simplistic tunes on instruments made of teak and ivory – instruments that smelled of India, of China, and of Java and Bali – instruments that resonated with a strange-sounding nasal quality. Yet these instruments were older and somehow wiser than the cellos, the violins, and all of the intellectualism of twentieth-century Western classical music that was practiced on the floors above.
To me, the Institute was a miracle. It was a feast of new sounds, new directions, and new ideas that were really resurrections of old ideas… older than I could imagine. I filled my days with classes. I studied the Chinese guitar-like instrument called the pipa and the talking drums of Ghana. I played in the gamelan orchestras of Bali and Java, and I listened to the music of faraway Japan, ancient Persia, and Greece. But mainly, I had come to the Institute for one reason: to learn to play the classical music of North India and the sarod, The sweet strains of its melodies were a revelation to me, a song from within, a deep yearning from a distant land where magic ruled, where Gods and Goddess strummed the gilded strings of ancient instruments, and where the notes that they played turned into tiny swans and enchanted tropical birds, then floated away.
Only a few recordings of North Indian classical music were available in 1966, and I had managed to find several of them. Every time I listened to them, it seemed to me that the magic, the mystery, and the power of this magnificent ancient music became more deeply etched in my soul.
It had become a ritual. First I would smoke a joint, and then lie comfortably in bed, listening to the magic of this ancient classical music as it flowed through the intimacy of my earphones, helping me become deeply relaxed, transforming me and lifting me higher and higher until I felt as though I were floating above the earth, where the cares and problems of the world and the bickering of people from my daily journey were transformed into the nothingness that existed beyond space and time.
However, I quickly discovered that the summer program at the Institute did not include a course in North Indian classical music. It was only offered in the fall and spring semesters. Fortunately, I located the teacher who taught the fall course and arranged for private lessons in his home. The teacher’s name was Krishna, and he lived in a suburb of Los Angeles, an hour away. Krishna did not teach sarod, but he taught the sitar, a cousin instrument, and he was a student of a well-known Indian musician named Ravi Shankar.
* * *
Every afternoon after my courses at the Institute, on the days that I did not drive to my sitar lesson, I met with Jim and the band to practice. I had played in bands in a dozen clubs in Colorado and in several casinos in Las Vegas, but the kids in the band had no experience other than practicing in Brian’s front room. I realized that this young band had wonderful potential. Jim played drums pretty well and the others were decent musicians. The band’s forte, however, was singing in three-part harmony. Few bands could perform the songs of the Mamas and Papas and the Beatles in three-part harmony, but this band could, and I knew that once we got our sound polished, we would be ready for prime time.
After practice, Jim always drove me home, where we smoked grass.
One day, while we were enjoying a quiet smoke, Jim turned to me and said:
“Hey man, have you ever heard of LSD?”
“LSD? Yeah, I’ve heard of that. Some crazy guy named Leary… Timothy Leary, I think his name is. He’s into that shit. I read about it in Life Magazine. He and a bunch-a nuts take it, then paint their faces ‘n shit. Is that what you’re talking about?”
Jim paused for a few seconds, then turned to me, and with a dramatic look he carefully pronounced:
“LSD is serious, man.”
“How do you know?” I asked.
“I’ve taken it two times now.”
He paused, and then continuing to look at me sternly, he went on:
“It will completely change your life! It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever found.”
I was frozen in amazement. It had never occurred to me that I would ever meet anyone involved with LSD, let alone Jim.
“No shit, man,” Jim replied. “When you’re high on LSD and you listen to music, you hear it as it really is, and it’s like you’ve never heard music before. It’s so beautiful…so amazing! And when you look at colors – you know, like from floodlights ‘n shit – they come alive and are completely amazing! They take on a vibrancy that’ll blow your mind. I can’t explain it, man.” He paused for a moment in reflection, “It’s just fuckin’ absolutely amazing!”
Jim leaned back and looked at me carefully, to see if I was getting what he was saying.
“I thought it made people crazy,” I said.
“Don’t believe everything you read. I’ve been there,” Jim replied. “It’s not just music and colors, either. On my first trip, I took a bite from an orange and it just completely blew me away… I’d never tasted anything so amazing in my whole life!”
Jim grew more and more excited as he recalled his visions of colors and fruits. Then he paused shortly before continuing.
“They call it acid…. When you’re high on acid, you’ll see stuff that’s completely unbelievable…more real than this table, man,” said Jim knocking solidly on the old paint-laden table before him. “You’ll see the truth, man – what’s really out there.”
Jim paused again, then said:
“You get to the point on an acid trip, man, where you become totally fuckin’ enlightened!”
Then Jim jumped up from his chair.
“I‘m not shitin’ you, man! TOTALLY FUCKIN’ ENLIGHTENED!
He began laughing insanely, like a guru cracking his zen-stick.
It was a made-up, overly dramatic laugh designed to illustrate his point. “Enlightened” was a meaningful word, not to be taken lightly. He then quietly sat back down and resumed his normal disposition. He assumed that he had made his point.
It was a made-up, overly dramatic laugh designed to illustrate his point. “Enlightened” was a meaningful word, not to be taken lightly. He then quietly sat back down and resumed his normal disposition. He assumed that he had made his point.
And I was properly impressed.
Jim then looked directly at me eye-to-eye, and with an expression of importance and compassion said: “You’ve gotta try it for yourself, man.”
I was dumbfounded at the thought of trying something that was so unknown, so untried. I sat silently for a few minutes, reaching for words. I decided to change the subject, to buy some time to reflect on what Jim had just said.
For the next few days, every time that we got together, Jim continued to talk about LSD. At first I was unconvinced, but gradually I started to wonder if what Jim was saying wasn’t true. I wanted to believe him more than anything, because the LSD experience sounded so amazing, but it was difficult for me to get past the fear. From what I had read in the few magazine articles that I had read, LSD could be a very dangerous drug! Finally my fear gave in to my desire to transcend my own limitations and I began talking with Jim about the possibility of reserving a night for an LSD experience. He told me that he could get his hands on the best LSD available on the West Coast. It came either embedded in a little piece of an ink blotter – which you actually ate – or saturated in a sugar cube that you would let disintegrate in your mouth.
“This is serious shit, man….It’s like a religion!” Jim exclaimed. “And because it’s serious, when you take what they call a trip, you’ve gotta have a guide, and I’ll be your guide. I’ll use an amazing book written by Timothy Leary called The Psychedelic Experience. It’s a guide that takes you step by step through an acid trip. This is the book that my friend who originally guided me used.”
I mulled over what Jim was saying. LSD was completely legal, and so there was no fear about being arrested.
“Each session is called a “trip,” ‘cause if you take enough, you’ll completely leave your body. That’s called trippin’. And you’ll experience shit that you wouldn’t think was possible. Acid is a spiritual trip!”
The spiritual part of Jim’s rhetoric sounded a little fishy to me, a confirmed atheist dedicated to the cause of putting down religions, churches, and everything that they represented. But I finally agreed to try Jim’s LSD and we set the date for the following Friday night. Jim was elated.
The week passed quickly and soon Friday arrived. Jim arrived at my pad early in the evening. As this was going to be his first experience as a “guide,” Jim intended to properly set up my little bedroom to create the perfect environment for the trip. Based on Leary’s book, Jim had already planned the sequence of events that would take place – what we would do, and in what order. He had purchased the best fruits available from his mother’s fancy grocery store – bananas, oranges, and mangos – and these he had carefully lined up side-by-side, as if they were precious jewels awaiting examination by a panel of experts. After Jim had rearranged the furniture, I readied the record player with the Ustad’s recording of “Raag Kirwani.” The event was scheduled to start precisely at seven o’clock that evening.
We waited, watching the clock, and then promptly at seven, I chewed and then swallowed the sugar tablet that Jim had brought with him.
“You won’t feel anything for an hour,” Jim assured me.
As I waited for some kind of effect to take place, we talked. I wondered what I was in store for, half-frightened and half-hoping that some great miracle might occur. Perhaps I would hear the Ustad Ali Akbar Khan’s music in an entirely new way, and the magic of the music would permeate every cell in my body. Or maybe I would pick up my guitar and begin to play it, and as I strummed the chords, a great new song would miraculously spring forth, and it would be a new kind of music that no one on earth had ever heard before. Certainly the first time that I had smoked grass with Ron in Boulder, I had heard music in a new way.
“How are you doing,” Jim asked
“Fine,” I replied.
“You still have a half hour to go, before you’ll feel anything.”
And so we sat …waiting for something to happen, waiting for the feeling to begin. “Would it be like grass?” I wondered.
Promptly at eight o’clock I began noticing a strange sensation in my body and a feeling unlike anything that I had ever experienced before. Then suddenly an even stronger feeling began to ripple and roll through my body like a cascading wave… an amazing sensation. Grass had always made me high, but this feeling was unbelievable, beyond high.
“Now it’s time for a joint,” Jim announced, “to augment the acid.”
We smoked together, with me shaking slightly from the effect of the LSD. Halfway through the joint, surges of energy began rushing through my body and I started to shiver and shake more violently. My trusty guide gently unfolded the blanket that he had prepared and placed it over my legs.
The surges grew more powerful as new feelings began to overtake me. I wanted to give in to them because they felt so wonderful, and so I did. When I closed my eyes, I saw magnificent colors: reds, blues, greens, stunning purples and glowing beautiful bright yellows. It was wonderful: colors, colors…colors so bright and so pure that all the colors that I had ever seen before now seemed faded, worn and opaque. And as these amazing colors unfolded before me, they began to weave themselves into stunning images.
“Wow!” I shouted suddenly. “Wow!”
“I know. I know,” Jim said proudly. He was “The Guide,” the one who would lead me through this trip, this life-changing experience.
Because my wobbly legs could barely support the weight of my body, Jim helped me walk over to one of the easy chairs that he had moved into the bedroom, and there I sat for the next eight hours as one colored panorama after another unfolded before my eyes. I sat spellbound, watching the inner screen of my own magnificent movie, more real, yet more surreal, than anything that I could ever have imagined.
When I finally began regaining my composure, just before the breaking of dawn, Jim drove me to a special spot that he had picked for me to witness the glory of the rising sun. As we passed the typical Southern California-style 1950’s apartment complexes decorated with palm trees and semi-tropical plants, I was amazed at the purity of colors that I could now see when I gazed at the sides of apartment buildings that were illuminated with flood lamps fitted with colored filters, typical in the Southern California of that time. When we finally reached Jim’s favorite sunrise-watching spot – a small lookout point on the side of a hill near Los Angeles – Jim turned off the ignition and we both waited in silence for the first glimpse of the day’s new sun.
“Wow!” we both exclaimed as the golden rays tipped the horizon. “Wow, wow, wow!” I was spellbound. Never before had I seen anything so beautiful.
* * *
On Monday morning, I drove to the Institute. I was calmer, more relaxed and more patient than I could ever remember having been before. I was extremely disappointed that I could recall very little of my amazing Friday-night experience, however. I knew that what I had gone through was so real and so incredible, but I could not fully recapture my amazing visions. All that I could remember was that each moment was like a lifetime and that each experience was worthy of contemplation for eternity. Jim told me that what I had gone through was called “blowing my mind.”
That night, Marilyn called me from Boulder to tell me that she would be arriving on Friday. I didn’t mention the acid trip, deciding instead to wait until she arrived. She left Boulder several days later with her car filled with all her belongings. When she arrived at the apartment, I helped her bring everything into our apartment. We then went into the bedroom to make love. She was so sexy. I loved every minute in bed with her.
Afterwards, we smoked a joint and I told her about the trip that I had taken, and how Jim had been my guide. She was intrigued and told me she wanted to take LSD too. I was happy that she had returned and that we would now be able to take an acid trip together.
We told Jim, and he found a couple of tabs of acid for us. This time, they were little pills that came from San Francisco. “From a guy named Owsley,” Jim told us. The double trip was set for the following Friday night, and Jim would be our guide. It was great having Marilyn back with me again.
Settling into her new life in California, Marilyn had decided to cook a special meal for the two of us. It was to be a celebration of our new apartment and our new adventures together. Shopping carefully, she examined all of the choice cuts of meat in the supermarket, and then she decided to buy a roast. Back In Boulder, she had existed on sandwiches and canned soup. Now that she would be living with me, she would be more domestic she figured, and a roast seemed to be the perfect choice for our new beginning. Needing a cookbook, she thumbed through the various offerings at a neighborhood bookstore and finally bought the I Hate to Cook book. I looked at this new volume apprehensively. “If she hates cooking, what’ll this special dinner be like?” I wondered.
After preparing the roast, Marilyn placed it in the oven where it cooked for a long time. Finally at eight-thirty that night, she placed it triumphantly on the table. We seated ourselves and I prepared for carving duty. First I pressed gently on the roast with the carving knife, but it wouldn’t penetrate the meat. I continued to press, and then I started sawing back and forth, but the knife still wouldn’t make a cut. I continued to press harder, sawing back and forth, and then harder, and finally I jokingly attacked the roast with a vengeance, plunging the knife with full force into it. I was trying to turn misfortune into humor, but it was to no avail. Marilyn broke into tears and fled from the room, locking herself in the bathroom. Our domestic life together was not off to a great start.
But still, life was good. The band was sounding fine and we had mastered enough Beatles and Mamas and Papas tunes to start looking for a gig. Additionally, my studies at the Institute were a revelation for me each day, and as I stumbled my way through the Beethoven Sonata and the Webern Variations, I was getting better at playing the piano.
When Friday evening finally arrived, Marilyn and I were ready for our acid trip. We called Jim to see what time he would be arriving, but Jim couldn’t come. Stressing the importance of his function as our guide, he begged us to postpone our trip. We assured him that we would wait for another opportunity, but as soon as I hung up the phone, we took the pills anyway. An hour later, we were off on our trip together. Soon we were flying high and enjoying every experience. We were seated in the bedroom where we had set up our two easy chairs facing each other.
As the trip unfolded, a strange sequence of events began to occur. First I noticed that Marilyn was staring at me with an odd and curious intensity. Suddenly she began to scream.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Kent!” she cried. “Kent!”
“Who is Kent?”
“Kent Bosworth…. I thought you were dead.”
I quickly realized that in Marilyn’s eyes, I had somehow become a person named Kent, who was apparently an old friend of hers who had died. Suddenly I, or rather Kent, began talking to Marilyn. From the way that Marilyn responded, it seemed to me that what I was saying to her, only Marilyn and Kent would have been privy to. But as abruptly as that experience had begun, it ended. Marilyn and I quickly retreated back into our own private worlds, each experiencing our own colors and graphic imagery.
After a short period of time, we opened our eyes to reconnect with each other, and another strange event then began unfolding. This time, I became Marilyn’s younger sister. At first, I didn’t know what was happening, but then, I realized that Marilyn was gazing at me intently. Suddenly she plunged forward and slapped me fiercely on my face. Stunned, I gravitated for a moment in an unfamiliar space between the intensity of the acid and the stinging sensation on my cheek. She scowled at me for a few seconds, but then all of a sudden her expression changed to one of complete surprise.
“Oh I’m sorry!” she said apologetically. “You were Sally for a minute!”
I realized that she must be talking about her younger sister, Sally.
“Yeah. I went back in time and relieved an experience that I’d completely forgotten about. Mom had just come home with Sally from the hospital after she was born, and she was lying in her crib. I was in the room alone with her. I kept staring at her when all of a sudden I realized that I was just really pissed at her and I hauled off and slapped her!” Marilyn looked at me with remorse. “I had forgotten that incident until just now! I’m sorry. It was just like I was there, reliving the moment.”
“It’s OK,” I said as I closed my eyes to return to the peaceful feeling of moving through light years, in and out, where there was no past, no present, and no future – a world of colors and feeling that poured through my body and my soul, a world where one powerful emotion after another gripped me, then faded into another, all while I felt as though I were wrapped in the arms of Beauty herself, transported by time and space through a magical world, a world that I wanted to inhabit forever, a world so real and so familiar, yet so new and unknown.
Finally, Marilyn told me that she was cold, so cold that the blanket she was wrapped in was not enough to keep her warm.
“I am going into the front room to get my sweater,” she announced.
We were both so completely stoned that I couldn’t imagine that it would be possible for Marilyn to get up and walk somewhere. I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to get up and walk without falling. I offered her the blanket that I had covered myself with, but she was determined to go get her sweater. I was so stoned that the room around me seemed to be in a dream. Colors continued to appear before me, expanding and contracting.
The sweater was in the front room. To get there, Marilyn would have to walk from one end of the walk-through apartment to the other. In our current state, this seemed like a very long distance. She would need to walk through the kitchen to get to the front room, and both rooms were completely dark. Since it was unknown whether we had the resources to find such things as light switches, we needed a plan. In my whirling mind, I got an idea.
“Ah,” I announced, as my chemically expanded brain realized the perfect solution. “I’ll create a light in the air to guide you!”
Marilyn looked at me with a surprised expression, but then quickly accepted the possibility of my proposition, which under normal conditions would have appeared bizarre and crazy. She then slowly and deliberately got up from her chair and began inching her way to the door leading into the kitchen. Without strain, my brain fully expanded on LSD, I created a beautiful glowing ball of pure red light about six inches in diameter in the air directly in front of her. From it, a luminous pure white light streamed forth, illuminating everything in the room.
Marilyn stopped suddenly. She stared at the light for a moment then asked, “Are you doing that?”
“Uh-uh,” I exclaimed matter-of-factly. “With my mind! Go to the front room. I’ll keep the light in front of you so you can see where you are going.”
It never occurred to me in my expanded state that creating such a ball of light in the air with my mind was impossible. It seemed as natural to me as lifting a finger. However, in my current state, lifting a finger was more improbable than creating a ball of light. At the time, I felt like I could create balls of light at will forever.
Marilyn started walking slowly toward the front room. As she passed into the kitchen, I led her with the ball of light. From my chair in the bedroom, I could clearly see through the wall into the kitchen. She walked slowly and deliberately into the front room, which was now fully illuminated by the ball of light, and after finding her sweater, she turned and carefully began her return trip, while I continued to lead her, my ball of light enabling her to see.
Comfortably seated in my chair, I could see both the light and Marilyn in the front room very clearly through two walls that were now transparent. When she reached the kitchen again, she stopped and said skeptically, “Are you really creating that light?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Watch… I’ll prove it to you.”
Looking through the wall at the red ball of light suspended in mid-air in the kitchen in front of Marilyn, I announced: “I’ll change the color of the ball to blue.”
Suddenly the ball of light became a beautiful deep blue color instead of red, still lighting the room with clear bright light.
“There! See that?”
“Yeah. It’s blue now,” she said.
“Now watch, I’ll move it around the kitchen and I’ll tell you where it’s gonna go before I move it. First I’ll bounce it off the stove.”
The ball shot over to the stove and bounced off the top of the range, I could easily move it with my mind.
“Now I’ll bounce it off the refrigerator.”
The ball of light obeyed my mental command.
“Next… off the cupboards.”
I continued to bounce the ball around the kitchen. Then I returned the blue ball of light to where it formerly had been in the air in front of Marilyn, ready to lead her back into the bedroom. She returned to the chair beside me and I turned of my magical light. It disappeared.
* * *
After the breaking of dawn, the effects of the trip were quickly wearing off. Tired, we soon were in bed and asleep. When we awoke later that day, I continued having small but wonderful residual surges of energy. We both felt calm and relaxed and different. But the effects of the LSD had almost worn off, much to our disappointment.
I sat quietly, reflecting on the miracles of the night before. I now knew that another world beyond the conscious world existed, and that both Marilyn and I had experienced it. There were magical worlds of light beyond the normal dimensions of our lives. I also knew that few people would ever believe me if I ever tried to explain this to them.
The experience of the ball of light gave me much to think about that evening. Instead of attributing this so-called miracle to something beyond myself, my ego took ahold of it and I began considering it as an example of some great power that only I possessed, and I launched into a long discourse about of the power of My Mind with Marilyn. The fact that I was able to create such a miracle proved to me that my mental prowess was greater than that of most mortals, and I told Marilyn that I was going to use my Great Mind to guide the two of us through life. From now on out, Marilyn and I would be guided by My Mind - the mind that was capable of creating such a miracle as a ball of light. We now had an all-powerful and unstoppable Trinity. Delusions of grandeur propelled me as I rambled on, and she quietly listened.
We called Jim on the telephone to tell him about our trip. He was shocked that we hadn’t waited for him. We assured him that we were fine, that all went well without his capable guidance. When we told him about the colored ball of light, I got the impression that he did not want to talk about it. Jim must be jealous, I figured. Jim seemed pretty passé about what we were telling him until Marilyn began describing my ramblings about “Marilyn, Me, and My Mind: the great all-powerful Trinity.” That pronouncement was more than Jim could bear, and in a half-hour’s time he was at our doorstep. While the neighbors shouted and argued in the next apartment, Jim sat before us, like a great father figure…our guide… explaining to us that my mind was no greater than Marilyn’s and that we were both equally as intelligent and capable.
Little was said about the colored ball of light, but this inexplicable experience remained with me, causing me to reflect upon the very nature of existence itself, and to begin to challenge the concepts that had been drilled into me since childhood. I would never be the same as I had been before: a dedicated materialist, hating religions and scoffing at people who talked about spirituality. Now that I had experienced things that I would have previously believed impossible, I was seeing all things with new eyes.
During the following weeks, Jim drew closer to the two of us. His demeanor appeared to be changing, however. He was taking his role as guide even more seriously than before. Whenever we got high on grass, he would dominate our conversations, expounding eloquently on the inner secrets of life. Marilyn seemed to enjoy it, but I was growing weary of it all and was beginning to wonder if Jim were not really just a pompous and arrogant ass.
* * *
As the summer ended, so did my studies at the Institute. I had taken a full complement of courses, audited a number of others, and now knew so much more about music than I had before.
Meanwhile, taking Brian into our confidence, Jim and I offered him a joint. Soon all three of us were smoking regularly together. Brian wasn’t interested in LSD, however. We also began to follow the example that began with the Beatles several years before: we allowed our hair to grow longer than was acceptable by society at that time.
I don’t know how the Beatles had came up with the idea of letting their hair grow out over their ears, but as far as I know, it was an absolute first. No man or boy would ever consider allowing his hair to grow longer than the prevalent short-cut styles of the time. We sported flattops, crew cuts, and the ivy-league coif of the late president John F. Kennedy, and normally it was required that we visit a barbershop once a week for our dollar-fifty haircut. The line had been clearly drawn between the sexes: men wore their hair short, women long – and nothing was ever going to change that… except for the Beatles, of course. They had dared to drastically break tradition by letting their hair grow over the tops of their ears. And now Brian, Jim, and I were doing the same. This was a very daring move, even in such a savvy metropolis as Los Angeles.
Jim was the bravest of the three of us. His hair had grown to almost three-quarters of an inch over his ears, and wherever he went, people stared at him. When we went out to eat restaurants, every eye in the room turned to follow us as we entered. After we were seated, we would overhear people at the other tables whispering about us in shocked tones. This constant attention made Brian and me uncomfortable, but Jim relished it. He especially liked the effect his hair length had upon the oldest folks, who sometimes glared at him throughout their entire meal, their faces twisted into expressions of anger and disgust. He chuckled, knowing that just by being there, he had ruined their dinners!
But sometimes, having longer hair was a hindrance. Jim and I were no longer welcome at Disneyland, for example, where the gate attendees refused to allow us in, by decree of Mr. Disney himself, they said.
There were a few other young men in Los Angeles who were allowing their hair grow out, and when we passed them on the street, there was always a quiet acknowledgment. Lie us, they were young members of rock bands. In fact, being a rock musician was the only excuse that there existed at that time for staying away from a barber for longer than two weeks. Additionally, they were heads, the term that all of us used for members of the Secret Society Of The Elect, those who were “turned on.” Among the heads were the acidheads who took LSD, like Jim and I, and now Marilyn, and there were the potheads, who smoked marijuana. Other types of drugs were unknown and unwanted among The Elect. In fact, they were as out of the question as were liquor and beer, intoxicants that Jim and I now brushed off as being really dumb. LSD and pot were not drugs; they were ritualistic substances that put you in touch with reality.
The discreet, knowing look, the “hip” glance, was the invisible secret handshake of this newly forming society of “Knowing Ones”… the hip. If you were not a head, you were not hip, and thus, you were “straight,” and straight people were either The Enemy… like those old people in restaurants and on the streets who glared at you, or candidates for being turned on… potential neophytes and initiates.
Jim and I felt that only the acidheads had found the answer! Only we knew the truth, and only by opening the doors of perception would that truth be revealed to the aspirant. The heads were the Disciples of The New Faith, the Knowing Ones, The Initiates.
Speaking of heads, all of this started going to Jim’s head as he evolved further into a kind of spiritual teacher, a role that had now transcended that of mere guide. Marilyn and I would sit with him in our front room while he laid the truths out to us, beaming with pride and arrogance. It was all so simple, he would tell us. All that people had to do was turn on, tune in, and drop out. And WE would turn on the ones who were ready to experience the magic of LSD, and they too would then see The Truth, joining the ranks of The Great Initiated. They would tune in to the cosmic reality and to the new rock music of The Initiated – the Beatles, the Byrds and Bob Dylan – and drop out of a society ruled by blind and ignorant straight people. The result would be that there would soon be a huge mass of enlightened young people leading the world into a new age of enlightenment and peace! And being among the initiated, it was Jim’s job, and thus mine and Marilyn’s, to accomplish one goal: to get rid of hang-ups!
Hang-up was a term that had become a part of the psychedelic subculture. Hang-ups were those internal problems that got in the way of enlightenment and freedom. Marilyn and I discussed our hang-ups during our philosophical discussions with Jim. We talked about ways to rid ourselves of these menacing problems, to break free of them completely and forever.
“Oh, it’s so beautiful, so freeing to live without hang-ups,” Jim would moan with a kind of impassioned ecstasy, as if he were experiencing the ultimate cosmic bliss while speaking these magic words.
“Once you are free of hang-ups, all you feel is love… for everyone and everything… Love that wells up inside you like beautiful waves in the ocean…”
He would then pause after a word like “ocean” to look over at me and then at Marilyn, his two spiritual children, allowing us time to fully assimilate this magnificent concept, to digest it, and to taste its wondrous fruit, then continue:
“…the ocean…. the ocean of love that pours forth from within each one of us.”
At this point, he would reach over to us and we would all embrace, a tear gently touching Jim’s knowing eye.
It was all so new! Before LSD, the kinds of things that Marilyn and I were now discussing with Jim would have never entered our minds. But now we felt great powerful feelings that we had never known before. Love was now something grand and powerful. It was a spiritual kind of love, a love that – when you were high on LSD – would rise up inside of you until you wanted to burst open with it, jumping into the air with your hands upraised, dancing and singing, running through the streets with flowers, shouting to the stunned passers-by:
“Love, love, love… all there is, is love!”
We wanted to kiss each person profoundly, awakening them to new powers, new heights.
LSD was not to be taken lightly. I knew from the few trips that I had taken that LSD was not a recreational drug, as I had considered marijuana, but it was some kind of key to the door of the Universe.
Marilyn and I would take one more trip that summer, and again we experienced so much that when the subtle hint of dawn began to appear the following morning and the effects were dying away, we looked at each other in astonishment, knowing that we would never be the same as we had been before, knowing that we had experienced eight hours of something that we could never describe to the uninitiated, to the straight… the up-tight.
When we were high on LSD, the cause of some of our biggest hang-ups would become apparent to us in the most dramatic ways. We might relive a childhood event that had been the instigator of a deeply rooted hang-up. Other times we might experience a deeply hidden emotion that had been locked away since childhood. I began to realize that having been raised in a family where the expression of love had been repressed, I had become hardened, and I had developed a shield, a tough iron-like shell that protected me from my feelings. But on the trips, emotion could overpower me and bring me to a sobbing mass of sadness or joy that broke cleanly through my shell.
That morning after our last acid trip, while we were still slightly high from the LSD, I began to think about my sister, Francis. Her image had suddenly appeared clearly in my mind and caused me to began reliving an experience from my youth. This revelation brought me to tears and sympathy.
“What’s wrong?” Marilyn asked.
“It’s Francis,” I cried. “How sad it is, how sad.”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s in pain. I can see it all. I can feel her pain.”
“Why’s she in pain?”
“Dad did it to her,” I replied. “When we were kids!”
A vision of my father came to me, and I as I sat in stunned silence, I viewed the tormented expression on his face, strained with anger and frustration, and I remembered bitterly how he continually unleashed onto his two children, the anger and frustration that he brought home from work, creating in me a deep-seated fear and insecurity, and causing Francis to retreat into a world of her own. I began re-experiencing that particular day when Dad had returned home from his office and Frances had invited one of her girl friends from school to spend the night.
As the vision of this particular experience continued to unfold before me, I could hear the sound of Dad’s car pulling into the garage, an event that always awakened a tremendous anxiety inside of me. The vision continued. I saw myself gathering together the various projects that I had been working on that day, things that Dad did not approve of, and quickly hiding them. Under the bed went my stamp collection and a stack of phonograph records, followed by boxes filled with photos of railroad locomotives, a stack of comic books, and my coin collection. After quickly glancing around the room to ensure that no other incriminating evidence was in sight, I seated myself in my chair, innocently, waiting for the inevitable and all-to-familiar grimacing face of my father to appear in the doorway. This was a ritual that had been enacted every evening of every week, when Dad, tired and grumpy, returned from God-knows-what kind of day in the business world.
My vision continued as I watched Dad moving quietly into the kitchen, where Mom was preparing dinner. After a perfunctory peck-of-a kiss and the obligatory three-minute conversation with her, Dad slowly climbed the stairs to the second floor where I huddled in my bedroom in fear and dread. As my bedroom door opened slowly and deliberately, I looked up to behold the stern figure of my father standing in the doorway. I waited quietly for the beginning of Dad’s nightly tirade of criticism.
“Why aren’t you outside playing ball like other boys? You spend all of your time looking at stamps and those Goddamned train pictures!” he bellowed as I sat speechless, realizing I had forgotten to hide a stamp album that lay open beside a small pile of railroad books. “Look at this goddamn mess! It looks like a goddamned pigsty in here!”
This was the dreaded ritual that I had to endure every night. Francis, however, had been avoiding this tirade by keeping herself locked in her bedroom. After a few more statements about my unworthiness and uselessness, I watched as Dad turned around to squarely face the door of Francis’s bedroom. Reaching down and trying the door handle to see if it was locked and finding that it was, Dad’s pent-up frustration suddenly came to a head. Unable to control the rage that burned deep inside of him, a fierce, violent streak of anger burst in him like an angry flood topping a dam, and he began pounding heavily on the door, shouting to his daughter to open it at once.
She had invited a girl friend over that night for a sleepover and they were already in her twin beds.
“No, we’re already in our beds!” Francis cried out.
“I don’t care if you’re in bed or not! Open the Goddamn door!” he shouted.
When she did not respond, he became completely unhinged, his tight thick jowls turning a deep purple hue. He threw his great weight into the door, ripping it from its hinges, and causing it to crash across the twin beds where Francis and her little friend, frozen in fear, lay.
I could hear Dad bellowing with rage: “Next time I tell you to open the goddamn door, open the goddamn door!” he shouted.
Reliving the horror of this event gripped me profoundly, and I was filled with sadness. Never before had I felt such sympathy for my sister. Never had I realized what a terrifying and horrible experience this must have been for her! Always too terrified of my demanding, depressed, and frightening father to sympathize with my sister, now I was sobbing with compassion.
“We’ve got to get her out here to take LSD with us,” I announced to Marilyn, “so she can get rid of her hang-ups.”
I called Francis in Denver and soon, I had her on the phone.
“Francis, you’ve got to come to California to take LSD with us. It important!” I said, my voice most likely very different from normal because of my state.
“LSD? Are you nuts?”
“Francis, you don’t understand. LSD is amazing. We see things now that we didn’t even know existed before! On LSD and grass you find out about the things that’ve caused your hang-ups, and you can get rid of ‘em. I just now experienced that time when Dad broke your door down, and I can see how you’ve become hung-up by the way he treated you. If you come out here and take LSD with us, you’ll get free of your hang-ups!”
“You’re crazy. I’m not taking that junk. You’re nuts!”
It was extremely difficult to turn people on… even to grass. Smoking marijuana was not socially acceptable. People were afraid of it, and it was illegal. I had heard stories about young people who had been caught with just one marijuana seed being locked up for years. Because of this, and because you became so vulnerable when you were high, you became very paranoid when you were stoned on grass, and you could easily conjure up mental visions of being pinned to the wall by several 250-pound cops armed with night sticks and riot guns, while a third produced the incriminating seed from somewhere between the cushions of your front-room couch. There were just a select few, like my own sister, to whom I would ever reveal our secret.
But that all changed one night when Krishna’s student Martin came to our apartment for a visit.
He had called that day to ask me if he could stop by to pick up some record albums of Indian music that he had loaned me. He was leaving for India in a few weeks and did not plan to return.
Martin studied North Indian tabla drums with Krishna, and he was a straight. In fact, he was so straight that I felt sorry for him. His only redeeming quality, I had decided, was that he loved Indian music. Otherwise, he was straight, straight, straight! He kept his hair cut in a closely trimmed flattop, and he always wore the shinny brown pants and ugly shinny yellow short-sleeved shirts that only a kid who was in love with science would wear. But Martin was a nice guy, and I knew that Marilyn and I would enjoy our visit with him, even though there would not be much to talk about. Marilyn made some herbal tea, and when Martin arrived, we all sat in the bedroom where we could listen to Indian music.
Martin had only been with us for a half-hour when Jim showed up unexpectedly.
“Ah…good evening my dear friend,” Jim said with the usual warm embrace of the Knowing One, when Marilyn greeted him at the door. His face glowed with enlightened self-importance.
She took Jim back to the bedroom and introduced him to Martin. Jim pressed his hand forward and shook Martin’s with a great gesture of sincerity, then seated himself.
Jim was always in charge in any group setting. He loved being responsible for all discussions, bringing forth bits of wit and wisdom, manna from the master’s table.
“Ah, and just what do you do, Martin?” he asked.
Martin explained that he was a tabla student of Krishna’s and that he was moving to India in a few weeks. He explained to Jim that the tabla are the drums that accompany the sitar and sarod in performances of Indian classical music. Jim set forth a great “ah” of knowing approval.
“That sounds so…” Jim paused for a moment to emphasize the word that he was about to pronounce – to show that he was not just saying the word, but that behind it was his full realization of its power and importance, “…so…beautiful!”
Jim then leaned back in his chair, an obvious look of satisfaction beaming from his face. “Beautiful!” he repeated, a slight tear of acknowledgment and knowing entering his eye.
Martin then inquired about Jim, who replied that he was going to be a freshman psychology student at UCLA. Then he told Martin a little about the band. The formalities were now over. We tried to proceed onto worthier discussions, but there was not a lot that either I, Marilyn, or Jim could say to this straight guy. We sat quietly while Indian music played in the background, the silence broken by occasional banalities such as a request for more tea or an announcement regarding the use of the bathroom. Marilyn and I had become accustomed to the warm and witty evenings when Jim entertained us with his philosophy, when we discussed the miracles of LSD, and the hang-ups that we were now getting rid of, and how we were becoming free, loving Children of the Universe.
Jim finally broke the ice. Reaching into his shirt pocket, he produced a joint. It was one of his proudly rolled joints, carefully packed with grass from which all the stems and seeds had been meticulously extracted. It was a beautifully firm joint, rolled without wrinkle or crease.
I felt as if my chin had just joined my stomach! Shocked and amazed, I could not believe what I was seeing. In front of a perfect stranger, a completely straight one at that, Jim was going to light up a joint! I glanced at Marilyn. She was as speechless as I was, and we stared in amazement as the drama continued to unfold before our eyes. Even Jim, with all of his flamboyance and style, had not accomplished anything quite like this before. Few people were ever introduced to our secret life, and these were always people who had been carefully screened for weeks, or were at least a close relative like my sister Francis. Martin was so straight-looking that he could have even been a nark! I had guessed that Jim must have taken Martin at his word when he said that he was going to India in a matter of weeks and had decided that the risk was worth taking.
“I have a marijuana cigarette,” he announced, the words rolling off his lips with great finesse and unctuousness. He then proceeded to light the joint with his usual exaggerated flair, sucking a great cloud of smoke into his lungs, holding it down while he passed the joint to me. Next I passed the joint to Marilyn, and after she taken her draw, she passed it back to Jim. Jim then slowly turned to Martin while Marilyn and I cringed with discomfort. I felt badly for Martin and hoped that he wouldn’t despise me forever because of this, and that he would not tell Krishna about it.
“Would you care for some,” he asked Martin.
Martin declined politely. “I don’t smoke marijuana,” he said.
The joint then made the rounds again, first Jim, then me, then Marilyn. We continued to smoke it until it was nearly gone. Jim then turned to Martin in a last-ditch effort.
“Are you certain you don’t want to try it? Marijuana is really, really amazing! It can change your whole life and help you see things that you would never have seen otherwise!” He paused for a minute to make sure he would select just the right words, and then he said, “It’s a miracle!”
“No thanks.” Martin declined again.
Jim took another hit from the joint, then looked at Martin again.
“You should really consider trying it. I’m sure that you would be really happy that you did.”
“No thanks,” said Martin.
There was a quiet, uncomfortable pause in conversation, and Jim wondered what to do next. But quite unexpectedly Martin then added:
“I’m an acidhead.”
The word acidhead cut through the room like a knife. At that moment, the little world that Jim, Marilyn and I had shared came to an abrupt end, shattered, with no traces of the energy that had empowered it only moments before.
“An…an… acidhead?” Jim repeated in obvious amazement.
“Acidhead,” Martin repeated. “Lysergic acid diethylamide, better known as LSD.”
Marilyn and I were in shock. The Secret Society that we had been enjoying with Jim now lay at our feet in ruins as we struggled to put the pieces back together. How could Martin be an acidhead? He didn’t look like an acidhead! None of the signs were there, the all-knowing look, the long hair, the new LSD-related expressions that we were now using… like turn me on, bummer, trippy, freaked and far out.
“Actually, I am not an acidhead anymore,” Martin continued. “Now that I am going to India, I’ve stopped taking LSD.”
Jim staggered for a moment trying to find some words. His slick condescending demeanor was now gone, blown away – as one would have said in LSD-speak – and it was obvious that he found it difficult to discourse with the great flair of the All-Knowing One as he had before. Wind no longer powered his sails.
“Well ah, we have all taken LSD, too.” He finally volunteered.
Martin nodded, but without the great all-knowing in look of the Great Secret Society that Jim would have provided.
“In fact, I have taken five trips already,” Jim said proudly, to show that he truly was a pioneer. “How about you?” he asked Martin.
“I’ve been taking LSD for five years,” Martin responded rather matter-of-factly.
They were all in shock. Taking LSD since 1961? How could that be? It seemed as if LSD was completely new on the scene!
Suddenly Martin had been transformed in their eyes from the straight guy with shiny paints that Jim had been humoring into an amazing person, the likes of which could scarcely be believed. Anything that we could have previously imagined about someone who had been taking LSD for five years would be impossible to imagine now. The great myth of the long hair, the hip clothes and the grand gestures of enlightenment and passion were now being exposed and left barren before our eyes.
Martin went on to explain to us his amazing journey. He used to drive out to several chemical companies located near Los Angeles to purchase the necessary ingredients. Back in his home, he mixed them together and, voila, he would produce LSD! He told us that whenever he took a trip, he always carefully monitored the dosages, just as Jim had been doing with Marilyn and me. Jim’s maximum dosage was 250 milligrams per trip. He asked Martin what the largest dosage was that he had ever taken.
“I took 1,500 milligrams one time,” Martin replied. “I went all the way back to the geometric-form stage.”
This revelation was followed by a stony silence. There was nothing more that could be said! I was suddenly feeling that there was so much more to life than I had ever realized… that there were levels inside my mind and my being that were far deeper than I had ever before imagined. Thoughts of my past flashed before me and I began to realize that my life was really just shallow and empty. I realized that I had nothing to offer anyone but empty gestures and mannerisms… forms with no content.
The “geometric form stage”… what did Martin mean? I knew the power of this amazing substance called LSD because I had experienced it myself: the ball of colored light that I had created with my mind, the fact that I had been able to see clearly through the walls of our apartment. These occurrences lived with me now each minute of each day, changing me minute by minute, turning me into someone new that I could have never before dreamed of before.
Now, before me, was this perfectly normal-appearing man, seated in an easy chair in our bedroom with his shinny brown pants and his plain yellow shirt, telling us that he had taken a dose of LSD so powerful, so large, that the dosages that Jim and I had taken paled in comparison, and that he had gone all the way back to the “geometric form stage.” It was becoming clear to me that life was no longer just a day-to-day existence, it was no longer the talking, the stories, the bragging, the trips to the store, the daily interactions, the sun rising in the morning and setting at night. Life was now about something so much more than all of this. It was a radiant center of creation somehow waiting to be discovered deep within my being, something so great, so powerful and so miraculous that mere words could not describe it. Inside the mind, deep inside, was where real life lay, the causes. And I knew now that I had only experienced just one little part of life, the tip of the iceberg. I began to feel that the farther that I reached inside myself, the deeper life would become, and the less all that I saw around me would appear real, fading like the sinking of the sun over the hilltops at night until at some point, after years of exploration, I would hit the very foundation of all life, buried deep with my being, the “geometrical form stage” itself, where all the pieces and parts of life’s puzzle began: the building blocks, the very elements of life and of the mind itself. And I knew I would somehow have to do it without taking LSD.
I was completely awed.
* * *
Brian brought me good news came that week.
“I got us a gig!” he announced.
“We’re only getting’ fifty bucks, but hell, it’s a gig.”
We were going to play for a dance at Brian’s high school. We had practiced Beatles and Mamas and the Papas tunes so much that we could sing them in clear three-part harmony with fine balance and good tone.
The dance gig was soon followed by others, each teaching us a little more, and each helping us to perfect our sound. We still did not have a name for our band, but that didn’t appear to be an obstruction… after all, we were just there for the music. Someone suggested that we call ourselves The Glass Menagerie, the name of a popular Tennessee Williams play, and we adopted that as our name, but when we showed up at one of our gigs, a Hollywood bar, we discovered that another band playing there on a different night was also using that name. And so our band name was always changing, or just told people we didn’t have one.
Music danced from our mouths and fingertips. We loved the songs that we covered. They were a new message with a new feeling of harmony and love. We probably had perfected twenty great Beatles songs, some Mama’s and Papa’s songs, and some of the current songs being recorded by British bands. Then there were the songs of the Los Angeles bands from that year, the Byrds and Love. As soon as these appeared on the radio, on KFWB and KHJ, Jim would quickly master the lyrics, singing along with them as he piloted his auto around the vast city, and then teach them to us in our rehearsals, which now were held two and three times a week in Tony’s parents’ big front room.
It was at one of these rehearsals one afternoon when a fellow named Milton Cranston showed up. He had been the manager of a Los Angeles rock group that had a hit record called “Along Came Mary.” Because he had not had an airtight contract with them, they had left him for someone farther up the food chain, and now he was looking for another group to manage and promote. A quiet, soft-spoken young man in his early thirties, Milton was clearly interested in us, and within a week he had lined us up with a gig. We were going to be a part of a big CBS documentary that was being filmed about the Los Angeles pot and LSD scene! This special would be televised nationally. We were amazed.
Milton told us that the gig would take place the following Saturday. Taping would begin at two. CBS had reserved a section of the beach near the town of Redondo Beach for the afternoon session. We wondered how we would be able to be heard on a windy beach with lapping waves, but for a major project like this, we were willing to play anywhere.
Saturday finally came. We all met on the beach after lunch. The big CBS mobile trucks were already there, and crews were milling about, while the bigwigs in suits discussed logistics. CBS had rounded up three- or four-dozen extras: tanned, good-looking teenaged guys and fifteen-year-old girls with skinny little bikinis. Randy and I could not keep our eyes off of them.
“Bitchen!” Randy exclaimed.
Jim was being more practical. “We need to find out where we’re to set up. I’ll go find Milton.”
“Check out the babes!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, this place is bitch-en, bitch-en!”
“Do you think they’ll film a whole song?” Tony wanted to know.
“How would I know? We know nothin’. I still can’t figure out how we’re going to hear ourselves out here.”
A muscle-bound, well-tanned beach stud pulled up on his Harley to examine the happenings. The CBS trucks and the kids were attracting some attention.
“Hey, what’s goin’ on man?” he called to me.
“CBS is doing a special on the California scene.”
One of the CBS executives fully dressed in a dark blue suit walked over to us.
“You guys the band?”
“That’s right, sir.”
“You can set up over there,” he said, pointing to a spot on the beach, “over by that life-guard stand. Not too close to it though, about thirty feet away on the other side.”
“What about electricity for our amps.”
“We’ll get you a plug-in. Hey, if you guys know anyone who wants to be in on this, let me know. We need some extras.”
I thought about the muscle-bound guy.
“Ask that guy over there on the Harley.”
The executive took a look at him, and then wandered over.
“You want to be a part of this? We need some extras.”
“You want to be a part of this? We need some extras.”
The guy on the bike looked slowly up at the suited figure. “Man, you’ll have to talk to my agent. I don’t do nothin’ except through my agent.”
I laughed and turned to the others. “Isn’t that typical. In L.A., everyone on the beach has an agent!”
We moved the band equipment over to the designated spot, plugged in, and started rehearsing. By now a little breeze was fanning the ocean waves and it was difficult to hear. None of this made any difference to the CBS crew, however. The whole idea of a band playing on the beach was bizarre anyway. I wondered what any of this had to do with what was really happening in California.
The crews kept repositioning their cameras trying to find the right shots, while the director and some of the other CBS people arranged extras in various positions on the beach. After a half-hour or so, the band got the high sign to start playing, the cameras began rolling, and for two or three minutes they panned the scene on the beach, catching shots of the band and the teenyboppers and the studs, and then it was all over.
“Thank you very much. You can go home now.”
* * *
The rush from the experience on the beach passed quickly, and soon the band was back at Tony’s house rehearsing. Within a few days, Milton was also back, and he had another gig.
“I’ve got you a shot at Gazarri’s,” he said calmly. “I got you an audition there.”
“Gazzarri’s!” Randy cried. “That’s the bitchenest club on the strip! Bitch-chen!”
Milton knew the owner of the famous Sunset Strip club, and he had arranged for the band to go on stage to play a couple of numbers as an audition. Gazzarri’s was indeed one of the hottest clubs on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, and the fact that we were going to audition there was unimaginable for us. We practiced every night in preparation.
Meanwhile, the summer session at the Institute was now over and Marilyn and I had been discussing what we were going to do next. My heart was set on moving to New York City and enrolling at the Juilliard School of Music. My original plan had been to spend the summer in Los Angeles, taking every course that was available at the Institute, and then move to New York City in time to sign up for the fall semester at Juilliard. With things starting to shape up for the band, the decision to move was becoming a difficult one to continue to commit too, but I was adamant. I had told the other guys in the band of my plans when I first joined them. Now they were all hoping that I would reconsider, but I held to my decision.
There was another problem also. Marilyn was still lying to her mother, telling her that she had her own apartment in Los Angeles, using Jim’s address for mail from her mom.
“Why don’t you just tell her,” I complained.
“She will never forgive me!”
“So what? Who cares! You’re old enough to make your own decisions. Why do you still have to pretend?”
Out of these conversions the subject of marriage began to grow. Marilyn felt that we should become legitimately married.
“I am not going to go to New York with you unless we get married,” she finally said. “If I’m going to be living with you, we have to be married.”
“Well,” I rationalized, “I guess at least we’ll get a bunch of loot for wedding presents!”
Marilyn called her mom and told her the news. We had decided to get married the following month, September, in Phoenix, where Marilyn’s parents lived. After the wedding, we would drive to New York City and get an apartment.
* * *
When the audition time at Gizzarri’s arrived, the band was really excited. We packed everything up and all met in front of the club.
“This place is bitchen,” Randy said.
“Hey look who’s playing here,” remarked Jim, pointing to the marquee.
“Bo Diddley! Far out!”
It was all too much! We reverently stepped inside the club and beheld Bo Diddley playing his large rectangular-shaped guitar on the stage.
It was at that moment that reality began to sink in.
“Oh, man….” Tony sighed. He was suddenly nervous.
“Don’t worry you guys,” I said encouragingly, “you should try playing on the stage at the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas like I did! This is nothin’!”
When Bo Diddley’s set had ended, Milton motioned us forward, and we quickly and nervously moved out onto the darkened stage, unpacked our guitars and bass, and situated ourselves at the microphones, Jim at the drumset. Jim tested each drum and cymbal one by one while we set up our instruments. In a few minutes we were ready. The spotlights suddenly sprang to life all at once and the emcee walked out onto the stage to announce us with a band name that we had just made up. The intense spotlights blinding us, we found ourselves at the epicenter of attention, bathed in bright white light, unable to see the audience.
The sudden onslaught of spotlights caught the band off guard and all of them, excepting me, froze in place. It took them at least thirty seconds before they got over the initial shock enough to start playing and singing. It didn’t take long for me to realize how stiff the others were and how forced their singing was, and I knew I would have to do something quickly to prevent us from bombing. Even debonair Jim was uptight. One by one, I made eye contact with each one of them, moving in front of them and bending over if I needed to get their frightened attention. Once I had that, I stared at them comically, then made faces and pointed stupidly at them. At first they were shocked, but quickly my antics softened them and they began laughing, and after a few minutes they forgot that they were at Gizzarri’s and got into the music. We sang two or three songs and the audience gave us a friendly, accepting round of applause. We pulled our instruments from the stage, and I went to find Marilyn.
She told me:
“I was standin' in the doorway back there, and when you started playin' your first guitar lead, Bo Diddley came in to listen. He stood there until the end of your set, and when you were done he turned to me and said ‘Man that cat can play guitar!’ He then walked away. He had no idea who I was!”
The band was all pumped up. It was like a dream. I was flabbergasted that such a famous person as Bo Diddley would like my guitar solos.
But the dream was over.
“Are you really going to leave?” they asked me.
“Next week,” I replied. They glanced at each other in stony silence.
* * *
Soon Marilyn packed her things into her car and left for Phoenix to help her mom with wedding preparations.
At the end of the week, I packed my car and bid the lady next door and her son good-bye. I was glad that I wouldn’t have to listen to them argue anymore. I had one stop to make before leaving town for Phoenix, however. I had arranged to buy a kilo of grass.
I picked Jim up at his house and we drove to the place where we were to meet the guys with the kilo: an intersection in West Los Angles. After a half-hour wait, a green pickup truck pulled up next to my car.
“You the guy that’s lookin’ for the key?” the driver asked.
We made the exchange. I then quickly piloted the car onto the freeway, headed for Arizona. Jim was coming with me to Phoenix to be my best man.
We rode out into the night and soon found ourselves crossing the Mojave Desert in beautiful full moonlight. I was driving, and Jim was fast asleep next to me. We were going to reach Phoenix sometime in the small hours of the morning.
I rolled down the car window and drew in a deep breath of cool crisp air from the clear beautiful night. The stars twinkled brightly overhead, and when I looked up at them, I felt somehow that I had never seen them before. In this night, this clear California desert night, the stars seemed more alive than ever before… farther away, yet so close. As I watched these little points of light in the sky, all else faded in comparison… my car, the sleeping body next to me, my few belongings carefully packed in the back seat and in the trunk… all so small and insignificant compared with the magnificence of the sky and its myriad twinkling stars.
Suddenly a falling star raced across the night sky, then faded.
The sky, I thought, was a great wonder, stretching beyond any distance that man could possibly imagine – a vast expanse of such rare beauty and harmony that was so much more powerful and awesome than anything imaginable on this small planet. A great feeling of tremendous peace came over me and I knew that something very great had been happening inside of me, something that was going to change my life forever. The soft arms of this cosmic peace continued to caress me for several hours as I drove into the night.
The desert sky spoke to me, and somewhere along that road I had a realization that the Universe was really just a single mind, and that every being was a part of that mind. This was what God was really all about, I thought. God is a Divine Mind, a great mind so vast and so intelligent that mere mortals could not comprehend it, but each creature was a part of it… although only a small part. A warm feeling then enveloped me… a new feeling. I wanted to dedicate my life to understanding and experiencing what this great Divine Mind was all about, and to share my experience with the world through music!
The sixties had begun for me...
© 2002 & 2016 by Don Robertson
© 2002 & 2016 by Don Robertson