My heavy acid use created several of my current traits, including my spirituality, reflectiveness, and appreciation for patterned prints. Although it seems odd that a foreign substance influenced my view of the world, acid changed my point of view. Luckily for me, these life-changing trips were positive experiences—my use of psychedelics had its darkish spots, but I never had a real bad trip. If a bad trip’s lows were as low as a great trip’s highs, I thought a bad trip would have driven me straight up insane. I based this suspicion off the night my buddy Bol had a bad trip.
I began dabbling with hallucinogens halfway through my freshmen year of college, when my friend Sambones brought four hits back to Philly, where we attended college. We had originally planned on taking two hits each, but one night when we were at our buddy Sour Joe’s place along with Bol, we decided to share the wealth. When Sambones broke out the hits, I was glad to take only half the decided dose—the paper squares were about the size of six hits. We soon learned their doses were also as strong as six hits.
Because Sour Joe’s dad was about to stop by to pick something up, we took the hits before he arrived. We figured he would be in-and-out within 30 minutes and the acid would kick in after he left. Sour Joe’s dad arrived on time, but our trips started when he said goodbye to Sour Joe at the front door. Sambones, Bol, and I were feet away watching Lord Of The Rings when my vision began bulging like it was about to burst with color, and a swarm of giggles bubbled in my stomach and rose up my throat. I could barely hold back my giggles when I heard Sour Joe’s dad say, “I’m proud of you, son.” The second his father left and the front door clicked shut, a thousand gallons of imaginary paint poured out of the walls. Simultaneously, we all lost our minds with laughter, marveling at our brain’s vivid make-believe. We spent about an hour sitting around the coffee table and communicating in confusing sentences, every attempted conversation ending in unbridled laughter.
At some point, I noticed Bol was being quiet, so I offered him a cigarette. His eyes shot up at me menacingly. In a low voice, he said, “I know what you’re trying to do to me.” Naturally, I started laughing, and that was when Bol’s bad trip became apparent to everyone in the room. Sour Joe, Sambones and I all watched Bol as he peered back at us, falling away into an abyss. He was immensely paranoid. Every time we tried to talk to him, he would accuse us of tricking him in some way. When he disappeared into the bathroom, we briefly discussed what was happening. He rushed back into the room breathing heavily and looking at us with terrified eyes, but we didn’t know if he heard us. None of us knew what to do for our friend, but somehow it had no effect on our individual trips. We continued cracking each other up and tinkering with the toys lying around Sour Joe’s apartment. As Bol brooded, the specter of his trip was just a presence in the room. We were waiting it out with him, keeping the atmosphere in the room pleasant until we finally came down.
When the sun came up and we walked across Washington Square to catch a cab, a sober Bol apologized for ruining the evening. We quickly shushed him. We hoped we’d be joking about it by evening, but then when we went to smoke a bowl like we usually did, he wasn’t there. He finally came around after a few days, but he seemed guarded and a little unfriendly. He had stopped smoking weed—this was a red flag. Bol’s sobriety would inevitably create a gulf in our friendship, so it was important we got to the bottom of what had happened to him. In private, I hotly debated the issue with Sambones and Sour. Bol felt comfortable enough talking to Sambones about his bad trip and told Sambones that he couldn’t burn with Sour and I for a bit, because we had turned into demons when he was tripping. Sour is a snide bastard, so I didn’t question that perception of him, but I was a little hurt he saw me as a demon too, because Bol and I were tight. Before we tripped, we freestyled together and chilled on a regular basis. But things remained strained. We stopped hitting each other up, and he seemed weirdly aggressive when we crossed paths. One time on April Fool’s Day, he threw a milk crate at my head, because I convinced him that the rapper Guru had died. (This was several years before he actually died.)
After a few years, we gradually became blazing buddies again. We never talked about that crazy trip, unless we talked about hallucinogens. The rest of us continued to share our experiences with hallucinogens, but never again with Bol. He no longer treated acid with wonder—or so it seemed.
By our junior year of college, we were over the novelty of tripping. Bol had started spending a lot of time with a group whose parties could best be described as hippy raves. This scene’s appreciation for mind-altering drugs exceeded our humble crew’s interest in acid, so we were pretty surprised when we learned that Bol was going ape with the hallucinogens. Over the next few months, he underwent a transformation that left him more relaxed and in possession of many different rocks and crystals. It seemed he had put his bad trip behind him and dug deeper into tripping. He now talked differently, consistently steering conversation to the metaphysical—the types of discussions the rest of us had exhausted. At times, he seemed frustrated with us, like we weren’t enlightened enough to follow his thoughts. We appreciated his sentiments, but we simply weren’t there anymore.
Bol continued to drift from the crew, eventually requiring the advent of an informal college reunion to get us all in the same room. One night, Bol, Sour Joe, Sambones, Marv, and I gathered at a now-defunct hookah bar in South Philly. (Marv is the guy who shat himself in a previous Weediquette.) When we asked Bol what he had been up to, he glossed over the details of work and life to tell us about DMT. He said it was the greatest fucking thing in the world, and we all had to try it at least once. We were intrigued.
“It’s really something incredible. After you take it, you just lose consciousness and your perception begins from scratch, unrestricted by the form of the world around you. You essentially leave your body. You just fall back, lose control of your bowels, and your mind takes you through time and space to the essence of what you perceive. You could be anywhere, you could be anything, but you’re everywhere and everything. It’s really amazing. I’m not sure I can even describe how wonderful it is.”
We all sat silently for a minute. A couple of us shifted uncomfortably. Everyone looked like they wanted to ask Bol a question about doing DMT. Finally, Marv did.
“So… you shit yourself?”
Bol looked annoyed. “Well, that’s not really the point. It’s really about the experience,” he said.
“Yeah, it sounds awesome,” I said, “but does that have to happen? Well, I guess if it does, do you take some kind of precaution?”
“You could sit on the toilet when you do it,” said Sour Joe between sips of his beer.
“But then we can’t really do it together, right?” Sambones said. “I guess we could all be in the bathroom. But then who gets the toilet?”
“Whoever’s house it is, I think,” Marv said. “By the way, we are definitely not doing this at my house. Wait, but then I wouldn’t get the toilet.”
I proposed a compromise. “How about diapers. That work for everybody?”
Everyone muttered in agreement, except Bol, who was more than a little annoyed.
“You guys are completely missing the point! It doesn’t matter that you shit yourself, because the experience could potentially change your life and open your minds in ways that you guys could never imagine. You just don’t get it. You’re obsessing over the most trivial part. It’s just such an immature way to think about this!”
He had a point, but the rest of us were pretty sure that shitting ourselves was more immature than wondering where to shit when we took DMT. I mentioned that to Bol, and he gave up. To him, in the midst of his life’s hallucinogenic renaissance, we seemed like a bunch of children, but he had forgotten that once upon a time, we were in his position. Bol’s bad trip was a hiccup in his psychedelic experience—a metaphorical shitting of his pants that he allowed to obscure the true value of tripping when we learned it. He had hit the game after we were burnt out on tripping, and now it felt like he was talking down to us.
Most people who have tried a hallucinogen will agree that everyone should trip at least once, but it’s weird when psychedelic experiences become a rite of passage. A smart guy with dreadlocks once told me that acid is not a drug—it’s a tool. You can use it to find yourself, God, or whatever else you’re looking for, but tripping doesn’t make you smarter than people who never tripped. I had just enough trips to get me thinking the way I do now, and I don’t feel like I need acid anymore (save for the occasional trip to the woods). I’m sure Bol will feel the same way one day.
For Marv. Happy 29th Birthday, numb-nuts.
Previously - The Great Cookie War of 2003