Todd Forrest says: "That looks like bamboo wallpaper." Polaroids of Will Lemon (left)and Leo Fitzpatrick byTim Barber
In the past two years, the tides have turned drastically in the world of recreational drugs. Boredom and unemployment have brought on a massive resurgence of acid and mushrooms.
The late 90s belonged to coke, and it made perfect sense. Dot-com brats on $10,000 mountain bikes were the most natural demographic for coke since hair-rocker brats got way too laid in the mid-80s. Then the bubble burst and everyone's confidence was flushed down the financial toilet like poo. One month, you thought nothing of dropping $120 on an eightball of "Mt. Everest" every fucking night. The next, you were lucky if you could afford a nickel bag of the world's worst pot. What happened?
The unemployment rate amongst the college-educated went up 7% last year, and thanks to the $87 billion funneled into Iraq, it shows no signs of improving. This "lost generation" is more lost than ever. After all, you can only drink so much cheap coffee before a stronger buzz is in order, and idle hands do the devil's drugs. Shit, have you seen daytime TV lately? It's all court shows and infomercials and blah blah. Watching it makes you hate yourself and turns blasting your brains into the strato-sphere for twelve hours at a time with high-powered drugs into an almost irresistible option. It's not like you have to be at work––or even vaguely functional––tomorrow. The hippies, pampered kids who were afforded the luxury of rebellion, took sheet upon sheet of acid because they were rich and boring. We're taking it because we're poor and bored.
Music and art are already catching up to the insurgent summer of love that 2004 is sure to bring. Do you think the work of Forcefield or the fractured music of psych-folkie Devendra Banhart isn't fueled by copious tripping? You bet your ass it is. We've heard that Banhart gets handed so many hallucinogens by eager fans when he's out on tour that, if he were able to take them all, he'd be high until he was 46. And look at the hip movies of the 90s vis-à-vis those of today. In the time of coke, you had Pulp Fiction, a cranky, macho, faux-intellectual series of vignettes that was as jittery as Jayson Blair's hands after a bender. Now we have films like Spike Jonze's Adaptation, a multi-leveled, metatextual headfuck that you need to debate afterwards with your friends (why would he have a picture of her on his porno website?!).
The demand for mindbending trips has mushroom picking and acid production at staggering volumes. Vancouver and northern Florida, two of the biggest centers for psychedelic fungi, are becoming centers of culture in response to their sudden relevance to the rest of the US and Canada. This is evidenced by a sharp rise in art-college enrollment in Vancouver and a fresh crop of ever-stranger death metal bands from the Florida panhandle. San Francisco, still the acid capital of the world, is lumbering back awake like a gigantic sleeping hippie bum. The truth is undeniable: From sea to shining sea, everyone is hallucinating shining seas.
That is why, as we watch our previously square friends start turning on, it becomes ever more important to offer a helping hand and some cogent advice about swallowing drugs. What's the answer when your back's against the wall and the oblivion of hallucinogens seems like your only option? Or, to put the question more succinctly, which is more fun—acid or mushrooms?
The conventional wisdom about acid is that you go on a heavy trip of life-changing proportions and you see and hear beautiful and nonexistent things. The classic pitfalls: You might freak the fuck out and spend eight hours convinced your dead grandfather is eating from a dirty ashtray under your bed. Mushrooms are generally known to be more of an introspective and physical trip, with less visual hallucinations. Two of the most common downsides are panic attacks and the fact that they taste like eating out an ass. To settle the question and save you the $4 you might waste on acid if you're more of a shroom person, we sent two intrepid ne'er-do-wells into Brooklyn's Prospect Park on a recent Sunday. One (henceforth known as Subject A) was on a hit of high-quality blotter acid. The other (Subject B) ate about an eighth of the best shrooms we've ever seen.
Subject A (yes, that's the acid guy) first started exhibiting signs of tripping one half hour after swallowing the tab. He became shifty-eyed and a little apprehensive—a common state when one feels the onset of the drug and isn't sure what to expect from the coming trip. "I just tripped out on some guy's pants. They were a weird plaid but I couldn't tell if it was the drug or not. People's faces are starting to look really pink. But I feel good."
Subject B was already getting off a mere 15 minutes after eating the mushrooms. He projected an air of quiet serenity. "I wish we'd eaten some breakfast first. It's happening a lot faster than I thought, which is nice because it's been a long time since it was like in the daytime, in the park…" [Trails off and stares at the sun]
The subjects move deeper into the park at this point, and soon encounter a quintessential hallucinogen dilemma: Is something weird because we're high, or is it actually weird? Nobody seems to know if those creepy dudes we just saw in that fucked-up part of the park wanted to kill Subjects A and B or if everyone was just being paranoid.
Subject A is agitated and seems to have a surplus of confused physical energy. "I feel so good now that we're out of the basketball jungle. There were some really weird things going around. It didn't sound like nature. It sounded like cars and fucked-up shit. We could have been walking into an ambush. Those guys in there made it a point not to look at my face because they were about to slit my throat."
Subject B is on a bench calmly sipping Gatorade. "I think we just went into the part of the park you aren't supposed to see. The sketchy dudes, like, plotting our demise. They were ready to mug us in broad daylight. But I don't know—the shrooms have been on forever now. It's, like, everything. Just walking in the grass, and the sounds… It's, like, sensory."
It's decided that even completely sober, Prospect Park would be a bum trip. At this point we adjourn to a nearby diner, thereby making one of the larger mistakes in relation to LSD: looking at food.
Subject A is visibly uncomfortable and muttering nonsensical half phrases like how he is glad he had his own entrance into the diner (something that nobody else can understand). He gradually kneads a cloth napkin into a tightly wound knot sculpture, which gets tinted gray by his sweaty hands. "There's some kind of metal in my tea here. I think it's magnesium. I feel like I can taste everything. Maybe I'm just paying all the attention."
Subject B manages to order food (chicken fingers and cream of chicken soup). He eats two bites before giving up. "God, this soup looks gnarly. It's like a mental hospital in here. [Looks at Subject A] I feel like we're hanging out with Ponce de Leon."
Back at home base (the VICE office), both subjects have reached the peaks of their trips. Subject A is almost completely incoherent, alternately pacing and laughing maniacally. "I can still see stuff moving. Like the table and all, it's shifting like an ocean. But it's OK. The best part of today has been talking. Like, we had the best crew. Everyone was talking, and just, the laughter, man…"
Subject B started to come down, and has just eaten another handful of shrooms. "I'm in it for the long haul… just hanging out with everything." [Closes eyes and stops talking]
Subject B is completely high again, and Subject A seems to still be peaking. Subject A's trip has taken on an edge of anger. At this point, we decide to take each of them out to the hallway one at a time and ask them what their favorite thing about nature is.
Subject A is nervous about being questioned, and doesn't want to be apart from Subject B for too long. "Oh, man. Fuck. Nature is the best possible thing. Nature is the everything that is not a human being, you know? We could all die—every fucking person on the planet could collapse and die, and you know what? I don't know what's gonna happen. Compared with nature, humans are the worst, Mother Nature keeps on giving good things and we keep giving them shit. I mean, I smoke too, but cigarettes are like the most horrible thing that comes from nature. But I don't know. Fuck it. Nobody should be around to destroy it. But also, imagine if it was just a bunch of naked dudes playing with balls."
Subject B has a magnanimous glow and is unfazable. As a result, he also seems a bit distant during his private interview. "I like that nature is there at my disposal. For a guy who likes to do mushrooms, it's weird but I like it to be distant, like in parks and shit. I'm pro-nature, I guess. There's no answer to this puzzle. It's like, who's better, The Smiths or The Cure? There's no answer."
Subject A exhibited the quintessential characteristics of a person in the grips of LSD. He was wary, fragile, and difficult to speak with. According to his reports, he experienced mild visual hallucinations, a sense of utter detachment from the world, and uncontrollable laughter. He also reported feeling "fucking weird."
We recommend LSD for users 18–24, people who watch more TV than they read books, and "dog people."
Subject B exhibited the classic symptoms of psychedelic mushroom intoxication. He was introspective but kind of endearing and, like Subject A, distant. Subject B reported feeling wise, physically warm, and "like, everything."
We recommend mushrooms for people 25 and older, those who are erudite, and, obviously, "cat people."