The Life Of a 1960s LSD Acid Guide
This is a discussion between psychotherapist Dr. Billy Kidd and a 1960s Acid Guide. The Acid Guide Lived in Berkeley, California, across the Bay from San Francisco.
The Summer of Love
BK (Dr. Billy Kidd) Were in San Francisco for the Summer of Love?
AG: I started out in 1966 in the Bay Area. Everybody was already nuts about drugs.
BK: Tell me about it.
AG: It was anything goes. No different than the year before or the year afterwards. It really did start out as a love fest. I mean, the beautiful side of cool people really came out. Later cocaine hit the streets, and dealers started carrying guns. That is one of the things that led me to eventually quit dealing drugs.
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 would crash on the floor and wake up, maybe not knowing where you were at, or who you screwed. Grab some food. Sometimes you did not even know whose house it was. Then you would 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 was not what they say it was. We were anti-Establishment. Period. They had their war in Nam going. Businesses were making billions off of it. So what do you expect when your friend comes home missing a foot? 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 did not get to me until I stopped being an acid guide and dealt strictly in drugs. Then I realized that I was a criminal according to the law.
BK: Before that, did you worry about going to jail?
AG: It never crossed my mind until the big money rolled in from selling cocaine.
Guided LSD Trips
BK: OK, before drug dealing. Tell me more about a LSD guided experience.
AG: I would get 3, 4, or 5 people together, maybe college kids from Frisco or Berkeley. Sometimes I guided people new to the area who knew each other. 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 would kill me.
BK: He what?
AG: Just a blowhard trying to protect his little community from drugs. He saw my long hair. The van was not 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 home before we started. I went in, and they were all decked out in chic clothing, and looked totally straight. I took it in stride as they offered me a drink. So we drank and got giggly. That is when they pulled out 5 tickets to a Riche Havens concert.
BK: This was shocking?
AG: C’mon, tripping with totally straight people? I figured these were really light weights. And I realized I had better only pass out small amounts of the LSD. I did not 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. Hey. What are you going to do when 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 heck?
BK: How did 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 would hit the wineries and get totally blasted. Inevitably, the pot came out, then some acid, and we would 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. 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 is where we watched Riche’s next concert. I’ve got to say, Havens was just so totally cool.
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 would 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: I got to tell you, people who were not there just do nor know what “psychedelic” means.
BK: I guess. But is that how most acid trips started? At someone’s house?
Buddha Sitting Along the Highway
A Typical Acid Journey
AG: A few would start at people's homes. If we started in Frisco I would meet the group in Golden Gate Park. I usually planned daytime trips. Like a country drive. I would pass out the stuff as we drove. People would 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. One guy thought he saw Buddha as we drove along a country road in Merlin.
AG: For real. The old man himself. This hippie was sitting on the shoulder of the road, legs crossed, hands on his knees, eyes shut. Someone in the van yells "Stop! It's Buddha." So I pulled over. People are very suggestable when on LSD, and soon everyone was saying "I want to talk to Buddha." Long-hairs could sense who was high and who was not. So they would go along with the program, playing with my stoners' head trips. This guy said, "How can I help you my children." And away it went, my crowd talking with their vision of Buddha.
BK: That sound like group hypnosis.Then what happened?
AG: The group asked him questions. Buddha finally said, "It was nice meeting you. I have to get back to meditating now." The acid trippers said their goodbyes and got back in the van and away we went.
Later we stopped near the beach. The steep embankment was covered with boulders. One guy must have imagined he was an animal. He ran down this boulder embankment like some mountain goat, bouncing from one huge boulder to another with ease. Down this damn thing. He must have seen nirvana. When we followed him, we took caution jumping from one boulder to the next. Anyway, at the bottom, he races to the ocean and dives in. Then, suddenly, he 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. Down the beach, he ran out of sight.
BK: Can you explain how he could run down the embankment?
AG: My best take on it is that the animal instinct that humans carry in their genes takes over. That is why the whole thing can be thrilling beyond belief. In this case, I knew he would probably be all right. That is because I had 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. The best as I remember, I was a deer in my own mind, leading the herd.
BK: Were there people with you?
AG: Yes. When they caught up with me, I snapped out of the deer thing.
BK: So you have been there and done that?
BK: The runner. You went after him. Right?
AG: I was no Jesus, going to 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 borrowed a shovel and was vigorously digging a hole in the sand on her way to China. The law student was helping a kid fly a kite. His parents were long-hairs. 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: Yes, 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. Why would you want to break out of that trance? It is a total escape, even if you are acting like a complete jackass.
BK: I think I get it. OK. You were saying you had a guy running out of sight on the beach.
AG: The runners are often the safest because they will eventually get winded and go trip on something that is 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. 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. 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 would say it was “really trippy”.
BK: Not groovy?
AG: Groovy was crusing on weed. You had the day with your friends, out in the open, just hanging 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 is a contact high?
AG: It is getting triggered by being in the circumstances where you usually get high. So up up up you go. AA talks about triggers. You know, staying away from the people and places where you usually drink. With acid, the whole head trip can get triggered years later. 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 am older and reminiscing on life. But I gotta tell you, I did not 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: I get that one. But it is weird having done something I studied later in college, suppression, while actually doing it myself.
BK: That is 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.
BK: It is probably safe to talk about it now. 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 you 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.