Got an email last night reminding me that I promised to tell the mescaline camping story a few weeks ago. So, here it is.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Really, when someone asks you about your experiences with hallucinogenic drugs, that’s a pretty good answer. You win some, you lose some. When the L column starts outnumbering the W column, you call it quits.
This was the 70′s. Most of our drug use involved using bongs made out of household products, sitting around in someone’s art deco basement discussing Syd Barrett’s sanity or Jim Morrison’s dick. Every bong hit was chased with piss warm Miller Lite stolen from someone’s garage. Sometimes there was hash – smooth, blessed hash – and sometimes – ok, a lot of times, there was acid and mescaline.
Oh, mescaline. To this day, whenever I think of that beautiful purple microdot, I can almost feel that metallic taste form on my tongue, that signal that the mesc was working its way through my body and I was about to fly. Most of my friends preferred LSD as their means of flying; I preferred the mesc. Never a bad trip. Never a dull moment. And never a feeling of disappointment when you realize that the Mickey Mouse blotter you just licked was a fake, which is the price you pay for trusting your drug money to hippies camped outside a Hot Tuna concert. I knew that when I drove all the way to Alley Pond Park and placed my bills in Fat Albert’s hands, I was getting the real deal. Fat Al didn’t mess around. Fat Al had a reputation to uphold. And I’m sure he’s still upholding it on Riker’s Island. But that’s another story.
Let me just cut right to the camping trip. Guys, I am not a camper. Do I seem like a camper to you? Hell no. I need electricity. I need a real bed. I need to not have to take a piss in the middle of some godforsaken woods in upstate New York. I need to not hear someone reprimand me for not using “nature’s toilet paper” a/k/a, a leaf, and using a page from their notebook instead. Yet, I went on a camping trip. They talked me into it. I don’t know how the hell they did it, but they talked me into it.
Bear Mountain, New York. April, also known as the rainy season around here. I swear, the second we got up there it started pouring on and off. We sat in this thin, falling apart tent watching the water seep in. Gee, I’m so glad I came on this camping trip with you. How else would I get the experience of drowning in my sleep?
I spent about two hours cursing my decision before I said, the hell with this. I know we were supposed to save the mesc for the next night, but I was going to make this camping trip work somehow. If I had to trip to do it, so be it.
I was finally able to convince everyone that tonight was the night to have our big party because if this rain kept up, we’d all be boarding an ark the next day and asking Noah to make us breakfast. Let’s live while we can. So we did. We broke out the beers, broke out the bongs, broke out the mescaline. All at once. I’m not going to say how many tabs we had each. Suffice it to say it was more than the daily recommended dosage.
Let me tell you, when you are high and drunk and feeling the beginnings of a drug induced euphoria, you don’t care if it’s raining piss from heaven. You just don’t care. You open your mouth and catch the drops and think jesus christ himself is feeding you liquid gold. We cranked the tunes and listened to Shine On You Crazy Diamond echo around the mountains. We were all kind of floating.
And then I heard it. What the hell was that? Singing? Guys singing? Huh? Was that… 99 bottles of beer on the wall? Except they weren’t saying beer….”98 bottles of”…….”97 bottles of..”….we turned down the Pink Floyd and listened. Hell, I was so relieved everyone else had heard it too because if this was going to be my hallucination for the night, I was gonna be pissed. Fat Albert would pay. But no, we all heard it. “95 bottles of Pepsi on the wall, 95 bottles of Pepsi…….if one of those bottles just happens to fall, what a waste of…..soda?” SODA?
A few of us started walking in the general direction of the singing. I stopped short when I got to the clearing where the singing guys were. I stared. No. No fucking way. Bad mesc. Bad trip. No bueno. I shook my head to clear it. You ever do that when you’re tripping out? You think you can rattle your brains back to reality. But I shook and shook and those guys were still standing there. Boy scouts. No, not boy scouts. Men scouts. And it wasn’t bad drugs. It was real. They were sitting around a raging campfire in full boy scout regalia, the tie and cap and shorts and knee socks, I kid you not. They stared up at us, a couple of teenagers all messed up on drugs, wearing soaking wet clothes, staring with incredulity at these guys. And they just stared back at us until we were caught in some bizarre showdown of the stares with these dorks. Finally, I broke the contest and just blurted out, “It’s boy scouts!” The lead scout (you can tell he was the lead guy because he was holding the lantern) stood up and said, kind of obnoxiously, “That’s Eagle Scouts, young lady. Eagle Scouts.” Well holy fuck, we were in the presence of super scouts! I mean, there’s nothing wrong with being an Eagle Scout, but there’s something wrong with being an Eagle Scout in full uniform on a camping trip singing 95 bottles of Pepsi on the wall at 10 pm on a Friday night. Something seriously wrong. So I did what anyone else would have done under the circumstances. I said, “Hey guys. Wanna party?”
Something about reporting us to the authorities. Something about disrespect for the wonders of our natural habitat. Something about bears coming down from the mountain and eating us for breakfast. We got bored with their lecture and headed down toward the lake. By this time the mesc was really starting to take hold. That familiar taste on my tongue, the light buzz in my head, the feeling that this all may or may not be a dream and that I was suddenly sure I had the answer to life, the universe and everything and it wasn’t 42. No, it was…….the Statue of Liberty. What?
Oh yea. There it was. See, I had somehow found myself sitting on this huge boulder that was sticking out of the lake. And I was piloting this boulder because it was gonna lift off and take us toward…toward there. You see it? Up there on the top of Bear Mountain? It’s Lady Liberty. Lady Liberty waving her torch and she’s whispering to me. It’s like a Neil Diamond song come to life. What? You don’t see that? How can you not see it, it’s like 700 feet tall? I start humming America the Beautiful. And I think about the Eagles Scouts and how I disrespected nature by making a bong out of a tree branch and I may have a tear rolling down my cheek like that Indian in the commercial.
I think it’s when I shouted Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute, that they pulled me off the boulder and dragged me up to the tent. I was repeating over and over, Lady Liberty loves you, Lady Liberty loves you and then guys, tell her to put out her torch cause she’s gonna start a forest fire and Smoky is gonna be pissed the fuck off. I had to make a break for it. I had to get over there and put out the torch before Lady Liberty fell asleep, like that time my grandfather fell asleep with a cigar in his hand and almost burned the kitchen down. I was just about to devise a plan to escape the clutches of my friends when a wave of bliss hit me. Oh yea, Buddha was calling. Buddha was calling. Buddha was saying…..chill out, dude. Relax. I went limp. I laid down on the grass and stared up and oh yes, it had stopped raining. The sky had cleared. Hallelujah and all that. I stared up at the stars and thought I could count them. I started singing softly, “one billion stars in the sky, one billion stars in the sky, if one of those stars just happen to fall……..” and then I shit you not, I am not making this up, I swear on the heart of Neil Diamond, a shooting star streaked across the sky. Wish, wish, I gotta make a wish, what the hell would I wish for? Oh yea. Music would be nice. Waste of a wish, but I was in this alternate universe high. Ok, buddah of the shooting stars, I wish for some music and no more Pink Floyd please.
And I heard it. A harmonica, softly playing something familiar, something that brought back memories of a hot summer day on the back lawn of the local church, lots of kids and…oh, hell. This is what I wished for? Kumbaya on a harmonica with backing vocals by Eagle and the Scouts? Yea, this is where it ends. This is where I find the warm beer and drink enough to put me to sleep. The bliss of mescaline can only take you so far. When you got overgrown boy scouts serenading you with church songs in the middle of a mountain, there’s only so far Fat Albert’s product can take you.
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