LSD: Interview With a 1960s Acid Guide—Part 2
Looking for a Guru
AG: (Acid Guide) I was on my own with this meditation trance thing. I was just suddenly doing it. And it calmed me, like royally.
BK: (Dr. Billy Kidd) OK. Can you tell me more about it? As long as you’re comfortable, and remember this is just an interview, not some sort of therapy session, we’re OK. Right?
AG: Well, I have to tell you, I’ve never told anyone about this. But yeah, as time went on, I started looking for a real guru who could help me manage this thing. I never found one who knew anything about anything—even the great ones, who I read up on.
BK: You looked for a guru?
AG: Yeah. And hey, Frisco drew flower children, drug addicts, musicians, and false gurus like a magnet. So I quit messing with that trance thing after meeting the phonies. It frightened me a little when I realized I might go into a trance and not come back. I’m not sure how I learned it because I meditated in all sorts of states of mind—even while playing guitar stoned on my ass. You understand what I’m saying?
BK: I’ll think on that one. You mentioned fear. Honestly, didn’t it bother you, taking chances that the people you would lead on LSD journeys could go psychotic?
The Summer of Love
AG: Well, that’s a bum trip that just doesn’t quit. So you’re stuck in the psychotic side of your unconscious mind. And hey, who knew? I started out in 1966 in the Bay Area. And everybody was already nuts about drugs.
BK: So you were in San Francisco for the Summer of Love.
AG: Well, yeah, and it was “anything goes.” No different than the year before or the year afterwards. And it really did start out as a love fest. I mean, the beautiful side of cool people really came out. Then cocaine hit the streets. And wacko dealers started carrying guns. That’s one of the things that led me to eventually go straight. You meet me somewhere carrying a gun and I get freaked. Sorry, Charlie, you lost the hook on this fish.
BK: I’ve always wondered about this. Was the Summer of Love really a summer of love?
AG: Geez, you could get high and wander from concert to concert, house to house, lover to lover. You’d crash and wake up, maybe not knowing where you were at or who you screwed. Grab some food from—who knew whose house it was—and hit the streets again. You could hitch hike across the country with just a few bucks in your pocket. I was like total freedom.
BK: They say it was “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll” that held it all together. Is that what you’re saying?
AG: It wasn’t what they say it was. We were anti-Establishment—period. They had their war in Nam going. Their businesses were making billions off of it. And what do you expect when your friend comes home missing a foot? And for us flower people, folks were generous until those people who were giving us a free ride started seeing hippies as leaches. By then, guns and coke had hit the streets, and then meth and death. Things turned nasty.
BK: Did you see yourself as a criminal?
AG: That message didn’t get to me until I stopped being an acid guide and dealt strictly in drugs. Then I realized that I was one of the pushers.
Guided LSD Trips
BK: OK, before drug dealing, tell me more about a LSD guided experience.
AG: I’d get 3, 4, or 5 people, maybe college kids from Frisco or Berkeley. Maybe people new to the area who knew each other, and I would drive around the Bay in a van.
BK: A VW?
AG: And get pulled over out on a lonely road by a redneck cop? No way. That happened once. The bastard took me out of the van—around behind it—and said if I came through his town again, he’d kill me.
BK: He what?
AG: Just a prick trying to protect his little community from drugs. And he saw my long hair. The van wasn’t the problem. It looked clean on the outside. The rig gave people room to move about, change places, come up and sit next to me driving. Hold hitchhikers. Pass a jug of wine. Play the guitar or the harp. Sing. It was totally a gas.
BK: Besides this policeman with an anti-hippie attitude, what trip stands out in your mind?
AG: A lot, really. But there was one that took me by surprise. Four college women. They wanted me to come on into one of their homes before we started. I went in and they were all decked out in chic clothing—and looked totally-ass straight. I took it in stride as they offered me a drink. So we drank and got giggly. That’s when they pulled out 5 tickets to a Riche Havens concert.
BK: This was shocking?
AG: C’mon, tripping with totally straight people? It would have been called it a “mind funk” at the time. So I figured these were really “light weights.” And I realized I’d better only pass out small amounts of the LSD. I didn’t know where this thing was going. But I was drinking with four lovely women and thought it would be OK. I mean, that they would stick together, have no runners taking off and getting lost in the crowd. And hey, what are you going to do when a women sets the agenda? You see if you can man-up to the task. After all, I had done other people’s agendas, acting like a taxi, doing sampling at the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. So what the hell?
BK: How’d that go?
Coke paid so much it was like free money
AG: I had a reputation for being a good driver and host. So we’d hit the wineries and get totally blasted. Inevitably, the pot came out, then some acid, and we’d be flying high. When my career moved on from acid to coke, that paid a lot. So I got a classier van. I’d dress in a straight outfit and take some high-rollers on the tour of their lives. You know, by then I had cut my hair and stop wearing headbands, beads, maybe scarves tied around my thighs. I didn’t want to stand out anymore.
BK: So you did move into the coke scene.
AG: Coke paid so much it was like free money. I had to get a safe deposit box and come in wearing a sport coat, just to stash the stuff.
BK: Whoa. What about the four women and the concert?
AG: We got there and Havens takes it over on the top. I mean, he gave his whole soul up for a rendering. The women were hypnotized by it, thank God. And when it was over—get this—one of the women ran to the stage and yelled, “Richie!” He and the conga player laughed and came over to talk to her. With all four ladies suddenly down there hooting it up with them, they invited us to follow their limo over to the Fillmore. We got there and they took us backstage. That’s where we watched Riche’s next concert. And I’ve got to say, he was just so totally cool—“the Man” all right.
Richie Havens: The Opening Act, Woodstock
BK: What happened next?
AG: We gave Richie a goodbye hug. Then we drove around the Bay smoking hash, and I took them back home.
BK: Hash, not weed?
AG: I was connected to these dealers who brought opiated hash in from Canada. They’d tape it to a fat woman in Amsterdam. Fly it to Canada. Move it into the U.S. It was called the Big Mamas’ Hash Ring.
AG: Hey, I got to tell you, people who weren’t there just don’t know what “psychedelic” means.
BK: I guess. But is that how most acid trips started? At someone’s house and you’d go to concerts?
Buddha on the Side of the Road
AG: A few concerts, yeah—but it was generally too risky. I usually planned daytime trips. Like a country drive. And I’d pass out the stuff as we drove. They’d take it eagerly. I mean even straight-A students wanted to see what the hype was all about. I never knew what would happen next. Someone might think they saw Buddha as we drove along a country road.
AG: For real—the old man himself. And we’d stop and talk to the person if it was a hippie. Long-hairs could sense who was high and who wasn’t. So they’d go along with the program, playing with my stoners' head-trips. If the person was hitchhiking, we might take ‘em along. Once in a while I’d let ‘em stay with us if they fit into the group.
BK: Can you give me another example of an acid trip?
AG: All night long! So we’re driving along the beach north of Frisco, and this law student thinks the sand is snow and wants to go skiing. I pulled the van over and everyone traverses down the sand dune like they were skiing. Me, too. It was fun, adults playing like children. And you got to be hip to their trip or you’ll lose somebody. So I was on it—imagining I was really skiing.
BK: A child’s mind?
AG: Yeah. And so later, one guy imagines he’s an animal, or something, and runs down this boulder embankment like some mountain goat, bouncing from one huge boulder to another with ease—down this damn thing. Everybody was aghast, foreseeing immanent death. He must have seen nirvana. When we followed him, we took caution just jumping from one boulder to the next. Anyway, at the bottom, he races to the ocean and dives in. Then, suddenly, he’s takes off running down the beach like he had a case of instant runner’s high.
BK: Instant runner’s high?
AG: Sprinting like all hell. And down the beach, he ran out of sight.
BK: Can you explain how he could do that—running down the embankment?
AG: My best take on it is that the animal instinct that humans carry in their genes takes over. That’s why the whole thing can be thrilling beyond belief. In this case, I knew he’d probably be all right. That’s ‘cause I’d seen the side of a mountain look level. And I sprinted down, seeing it like it was flat—leaping over logs, boulders, right straight to the bottom. And best as I remember, I was a deer in my own mind, leading the herd.
BK: Were there people with you?
AG: Yeah. When they caught up with me, I snapped out of the deer thing.
BK: So you’d been there and done that?
AG: Uh huh.
BK: The runner. You went after him, right?
AG: I was no Jesus, gonna save a single lamb. I mean, as it played out in the next few minutes I had a women fully clothed in the ocean breakers acting like she thought she was a fish. This other woman was vigorously digging a hole in the sand on her way to China—she borrowed a shovel from some other people. And I had a guy playing my guitar who thought he was Bob Dylan.
BK: What? Do you mean people could really believe they were other people?
AG: Yeah, and that’s dangerous, thinking you’re somebody else.
AG: Best I can say is that you truly believe you are that person. It’s like all your dreams have come true. And why would you want to break out of that trance? It’s a total escape, even if you’re acting like a complete jackass.
BK: OK, I think I get it . OK. You were saying, you were on the beach.
AG: Well, the law student was helping a kid fly a kite. His parents were long-hairs, but it worried me. And listen, the runners are often the safest because they’ll eventually get winded and go trip on something that’s not dangerous. It’s OK as long as there isn’t a crowd of people around. Then you could lose them and they could go psycho.
BK: What happened with this one?
AG: The runner came back, pointing at the water. "You can see eternity in the ocean; just watch the waves," he said. "The ocean is our mother." I agreed with him. And he sat down in the sand and stared at the waves. After a while, he started chanting. Then the fish girl showed up and soon we were all chanting with him. That was mystical for me because together we sounded beautiful. And by then, our “Bob Dylan” had put the thing to music. I got so high.
BK: A "kumbaya moment"?
AG: An “ah-hah” moment. I never heard anyone use the expression kumbaya, except later in the media. Back then you’d say it was “really trippy”.
BK: Not “groovy”?
AG: Groovy was crusin’ on weed. You had the day with your friends, out in the open, just hangin’ in the glory of being alive.
The Young Rascals: Groovin’
A Contact High or a Natural One
BK: OK. But back at the beach. You said it was “really trippy” for you. Were you stoned?
AG: Not on acid. It could have been a natural high or a contact high. I don’t know.
BK: What’s a contact high?
AG: It’s getting triggered by being in the circumstances where you usually get high. So up up up you go. AA talks about triggers—staying away from the people and places where you usually drink. With acid, the whole head trip can get triggered years later. And if you start thinking it was totally cool, you start reliving the experiences over and over. That’s why I blocked this all out of my mind. But now I’m older and reminiscing on life. But I gotta tell ya, I didn’t know that I could remember so much, not until now.
BK: Right, you busted through this roadblock in your mind. That means you successfully suppressed it to protect yourself.
AG: Okay. I get that one. But hey, you know it’s weird having done something I studied later in college—suppression—while actually doing it myself.
BK: That’s what aging does to people. They often face who they were because when you retire the show is over. You know, there is no need to cover your butt. Suddenly, after a few painful adjustments, your ego can handle the real you.
AG: I get that one.
BK: And it’s probably safe to talk about it now, right? But if you’d like to stop, it’s OK.
AG: No. This is starting to feel good. Like I’ve been holding back too long.
BK: Great. So, tell me what is the difference between getting stoned and having a natural high? An "ah-ha" moment.
AG: A natural high in this situation would have been seeing life from the depths of my soul because of the signing and the music. Singing and music are languages of the spirit. If you take it all the way, you can find a higher love. Steve Winwood was talking about it in that song “Higher Love.” It’s why monks chant and Christians and some Jews sing. It’s probably why people do rituals. And ya know, I love those folks. They get a glimpse of their souls by singing, and then they lead better lives. Well, as often as not.