LSD: Interview With a 1960s Acid Guide—Part 3
Life in a Commune
BK (Dr. Billy Kidd): Did you live in a commune?
AG (Acid Guide): Yeah. My girlfriend, Crystal, and I lived in a big two-story house in Berkeley. Everyone paid for their own room. But the deal was, it had a large living room. And on one Thanksgiving we put several tables together. Set the thing for twenty or so people. Each person brought something. My girlfriend made hash brownies and I brought wine. Someone had a bottle of liquid acid and passed that around the table.
BK: Liquid LSD?
AG: That’s what you’d make blotter acid with. Let drops of it dry on paper then cut them out. I preferred to put it on sugar cubes. People thought that was fun. Ya know, when you’re not experienced and I hand you a sugar cube, it kinda sets the stage for a fun trip.
BK: Like candy.
BK: This party—it was not exactly a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
AG: No, but tradition speaks in many forms. And so we’re having this cool communion—feeling like family. When it wound up real high, Crystal suddenly wanted people to hop in the van and go for a ride to Frisco. The last thing I remembered was driving across the Bay Bridge, looking up at the steel beams. I woke up in this plush house—with one of my guitars beside me—lying on the floor with people I didn’t know. Other musicians with their instruments. It was morning and I wondered, what the hell happened? Then I headed for the door. From the porch I could see the van parked down the hill. That made me think that the van follows me around, and I had to laugh.
BK: What about your girlfriend?
AG: She was sleeping in our bed when I got back to Berkeley.
BK: Tell me more about the commune? Was it a crash pad?
AG: There was usually about twelve of us with several people in each room. We all loved each other. When we had parties, the next morning, you never knew who’d be crashed on the floor. And then there were visiting friends. There’d occasionally be a visiting guru—usually with bad karma and dealing false ideas. I was an acid specialist, so I knew better. If you're really a guru, you don't brag about it. Kind of like practitioners of meditation. Ya don't call yourself a Zen master.
BK: So you were an acid guide, but everyone in the commune knew about it. Right?
AG: People only thought I played guitar for spare change. That was it. You couldn't advertise.
AG: No one knew about my stash or my connections, not even Crystal. I was just an acid guide as far as she knew. And I’d usually come home sober. Ha-ha-ha! Sober back then was just being stoned on marijuana or hash.
BK: So you’ve always kinda kept things to yourself?
AG: I had to play it safe. And ya know, it's taken me forty some years to open up like this. And it--finally--feels good.
BK: Did Crystal have a gig?
AG: She made these cool leather goods—purses, belts, wallets. She sold her stuff on the sidewalk on Telegraph Avenue, along with all the other artists.
Sex on LSD
BK: That sounds creative. Oh, by the way, was there sex involved on your acid guide journeys?
AG: When I’d take a couple, they’d usually trip out following their own imagination in their new acid reality. So couples generally wandered their own ways, unless we’d be having one of these spontaneous get-togethers where we’d all be on the same trip. And sex isn’t good on LSD, anyway. You’re so damn sensitive to so many things, inside and outside of yourself, especially with your own projections of your imagination onto the world—that you wouldn’t think about sex.
There's Tremendous Suggestibility on LSD
BK: What was your favorite place to take people?
AG: I liked tripping in Muir Woods and Marin County. In the woods, someone might see an elf—really see it. Like the time a hippie band was playing and the lead woman in our party says, “Look, elves!” Everyone laughed and went off on her trip, thinking we were seeing little people who dwelt in the woods. I always carried a bottle of hooch in my bag. I got it out and we shared it with the elves. The band was hip to our trip. So they played up the role and started speaking in elf language! Damn that was funny, seeing my group asking questions about how elves lived and what they ate. Then some how—God knows how—they played an elf song.
BK: Cool. But to me it sounds like everyone is quite open to suggestion when they’re on or around LSD?
AG: Yeah, and that’s why a musician, who wrote a hit for the Beach Boys, could end up leading a gang of crazies to murder people.
BK: You mean Manson?
AG: Yeah. It’s not hard to start a cult when you mix acid and coke together. And the crazy thing is, there is no good side to this. Cult leaders are all from the Dark Side. And many of their people end up abandoned on the street because they go crazy.
BK: Right, I get that. But what I don’t get is how you found clients.
AG: I was a regular playing my guitar on the steps of the student union building and Sather Gate at the University in Berkeley, or in the park in Frisco. Places like that. And someone would ask about acid, and I’d tell them about my guided tours. It was safe that way—not selling anything on the street, just tours. By the time the acid came out, we’d be rolling down the road and I’d have you and your people figured out.
Jung and Freud
BK: What was your wildest trip?
AG: Well, I guess it was when I was walking in a forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I was up there visiting a commune—and delivering drugs. I took a hit of acid and wandered off. At one point, the forest broke into a huge, beautiful meadow. I was meandering among the flowers when a gigantic plastic-like, clear dome suddenly covered about half the field. Maybe 500 feet high.
BK: For real?
AG: Yeah. I was standing outside of this bubble watching all these archetype characters—maybe a hundred of them—floating around inside. I didn’t have the word for archetypes yet. But I knew they were images that were stored in my mind, projected into the bubble.
BK: You were on acid and you knew that?
AG: Yeah, somehow I knew I knew that much. I was experienced, as Hendrix would say. And then, there was this force calling silently to me to enter the dome. I dwelt on it, and suddenly I was compelled to turn my back and walk away and not look back. I knew that was the so-called Door of Perception. And I knew that if I stepped in I’d never come out. So, go figure that projection, Dr. Shrink.
BK: I don’t know what to say except maybe ask, did you see Jung’s archetypes?
AG: Jung had a very short list of archetypes. There's so many more.
BK: I’m kind of breathless—your certainty about this. Tell me more if you can about Jung.
AG: Well, there's the synchronicity thing. In it's extreme form, it's the projection of your unconscious mind onto the environment—mixing it with hocus pocus, egocentric ideas—and then believing what you see was meant to happen and bring meaning to your life.
BK: I understand that. But life itself—in full—is a meaningful coincidence.
AG: I’ll agree to that one. And Jung probably would have, too. But people take it too far--especially if they take LSD.
BK: You have left me wondering: What made you walk away from the bubble?
AG: The Great Spirit of It All was with me, or it’s built into my brain. What I do know is not to go where you don’t belong.
BK: The grace of God, maybe?
AG: Powerful survival instincts, maybe. God. Who really knows these things?
BK: OK. So you think Jung didn't quite get all the archetypes. What about Freud? Any thoughts on him?
AG: He was one of the heavy duty addicts. I mean one of the guys who could really handle cocaine without flipping. But he projected his sex addiction onto his clients—even children.
AG: I've heard there's many books about Freud and cocaine. In those days, when I came down, I'd read. Freud's idea of riding the Id horse and trying to restrain it with the ego--he couldn't have come up with that unless he had a low threshold into his unconscious mind. You know, a very thin line between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Take enough coke and it does that. And that helps explain Freud's pure brilliance of seeing people using defense mechanisms. So the best I can come up with is that Freud could handle cocaine about like Jimi Hendrix could handle LSD. Only one in a thousand people can do any of this and not flip out.
BK: But Hendrix died.
AG: From too many barbiturates. Probably just to get some sleep, like Marilyn Monroe.
Jimi Hendrix: Are You Experienced
LSD and Psychotherapy
BK: What about today, right now? There is talk of testing LSD as a cure for psychological problems like PTSD?
AG: Let’s get something straight: LSD opens the Doors of Deception, not the Doors of Perception like that one jerk was talking about. And so you ask me about treating people that have PTSD with acid. Well, I got to tell you, I had a veteran who’d gotten stoned on opium in North Vietnam.
BK: North Vietnam?
AG: C’mon, man. The U.S. had snipers shooting leaders throughout Southeast Asia. OK? And they’d want to be high as a kite so they could handle the situation. You know, the high mortality rate—getting dropped off behind enemy lines with the risk of not getting picked up again.
BK: I guess I would want to be drugged too.
AG: Anyway, this ex-sniper wanted a “real high.” He sat with me on Mt. Tamalpias and just talked and talked about the war. Then suddenly, he starts screaming “Gook!” and attacks me, thinking I’m the enemy.
AG: The blood from his broken nose brought him halfway back to reality. But he was still mumbling “Gook,” bumming the rest of the trippers out, when we dropped him off at the Free Clinic. His friends went in with him. I learned a lesson from that one, for sure.
BK: You took out a combat soldier?
AG: I was sober. He was freaked out. It wasn’t like the guy was on PCP. If that were it, I’d of had a big problem. And hey, I was smart enough to only do a couple PCP trips with other people. It’s too unpredictable what someone will do. They get violent, crazy, run naked, anything goes. PCP does that even to normal people.
BK: I take it you were anti-veteran?
AG: Hell, no! I am pro-veteran and I always was. When my buddy came back missing a foot, I visited him at the Alameda Naval Hospital. He was suicidal. So I brought him back to the commune. Everyone loved him ‘cause he’s a beautiful human. And we fed him and pushed him around Berkeley and Frisco in his wheelchair. We found him dates. After about six months or so, his prosthesis worked. So he got to walking, and after a while he got his own apartment. I’d spend time there entertaining people.
BK: What, with your guitar?
AG: You name it. My buddy liked hash until he sobered up and went to college. Now he’s married and is a member of the planning commission in the city where he lives.
BK: I take it you avoided the draft?
Tested by the Military
AG: Well, kinda. I got called in. And they chided me about my long hair and how they we’re going to cut it. I told them they could all go to frigging hell. So they took me to see their shrink. I told him that I’d like the military to make me the best killer possible. That’s because when I got back from Nam I was going to kill every Senator who voted for the war.
BK: For real?
AG: No lie. I used to get pretty nasty if you made me angry. So, anyway, the shrink leaves out the back door. After a while, he returns. Then he takes me out the front door of his office. Suddenly I’m surrounded by four big jar heads and they start throwing punches. I see red when attacked. So I don’t know what happened. But I snapped out of it when the shrink yelled, “At ease, men!” And for some strange reason, like the gift of amazing grace was over me, I stopped just as I was about to stab a jar head in the throat with my pen.
BK: Geez, that’s unbelievable. Just unbelievable.
AG: Oh, it was very real, all right.
BK: Right. OK. But then what happened?
AG: They told me to go home. So I asked them the same question, “And then what?” The shrink said, “Just forget about it. We won’t be calling you back.”
BK: That’s quite a story. I’ve heard about stuff like this secondhand but nothing from anyone who has been there. I bet you were really pissed at those folks.
AG: No. I just went back to what I was doing. You can’t have crap in your head and do drugs. Or it will drive you insane.
BK: You felt nothing?
AG: At the time I shined it on as just another assault. And I’ve had a few. The first was in the eleventh grade. And I got through that. But looking back, I see now that the military had to test people to see if their bite was as big as their bark. And the shrink handled it the best way he knew how. You do realize there were a lot of officers getting shot by their own men. So it makes sense to not draft a totally noncompliant S.O. B.
BK: I’m trying to get it. I mean, how did you learn to fight?
AG: I went on a few runs with a friend. He was a top street fighter on our side of town. So I followed his lead—totally aggressive. Make a fast advance swinging like Mike Tyson. My buddy quit fighting when the game got rough. He finally built up a business for himself.
BK: Amazing … So regarding the sniper who flipped on you—you’d say that street drugs like LSD are not the answer to mental health issues?
AG: Street drugs create mental problems. They don’t cure a frigging thing.