Interview With a 1960s Acid Guide—Part 5
Night Life in Oakland
BK (Dr. Billy Kidd): When you lived in Oakland, was it a biracial neighborhood?
AG (Acid Guide): My house was the only white one on the block. I loved it. Me and my brothers would get together at night on a street corner, pass the bottle, and sing. And they’d take me clubbing. And I’m telling you, you ain’t seen nothing until you see the old black bartender toss down his bar towel and dance to all the different numbers the band can play. Those bartenders have seen it all, and know it all, and can dance all the different dances from the last 30 years.
AG: The crowd always went wild. And, hey, two sisters would come over to my house, trying to teach me how to dance. I thought I could dance until I started working out with them. We’d go to clubs together. There was none of this racial stuff that goes on in a lot of places.
AG: This was before crack and guns. Ah, well, except for the Black Panther Party. They had Governor Reagan tracking then down and killing their leaders. And people tended to side with the Panthers. But don’t think I was the white guy with money and a car, and that I was being used. No way. People in Oakland never hit me up for money. I was like a bro. But I did pay for drinks when I hoped the party would keep going.
Way too Loose
BK: I think you have laid some deep stuff down during our discussion. But I’m curious, how did it all end for you?
AG: Well, coke hit the streets, and I lost it at Hooker’s, and I got to thinking, I gotta run.
BK: That must have felt strange.
AG: It was very real. “Anything goes” was making everyone get way too loose. And you got to remember, I had to put all this behind me to move back into straight society. And you know, some people got these stereotypes of some groups being lazy and all these awful words lodged in their unconscious minds—just waiting to get baited. That’s why I put politics and religion on hold and kept to myself and my career.
BK: So you are what--apolitical?
AG: People gotta save themselves first. Politics comes later. I don’t make waves. I just contribute to worthy candidates.
BK: OK, I get that. Thank you for this amazing story. But let’s go back before all that. What else was funny on one of your journeys as an acid guide?
Meeting Santa on LSD
AG: I think you’re part badger, like this “Santa Claus” we met.
AG: Get this. I took a group of people to Big Sur. Had to see it on acid, they said. So I passed the jug and finally the drugs as we drove down the coast. And we stopped and sat on the edge of a cliff and watched the ocean. And suddenly, out of the bushes comes this large old man with a bushy beard. He was dressed in bright red coveralls—ya know, like farmers wear, but red. Someone yelled, “It’s Santa!” And we all laughed and jumped into the Santa trip.
AG: The amazing thing was that this dude was hip to our trip and could tell we were stoned. He went along with the program, saying he was just checking to see if we were naughty or nice. I said we’re gonna act like saints until after Christmas. We all laughed, and on and on this went. Us and Santa. You know, like, “Where are your rain deer?”
Big Sur, CA
BK: And then, what?
AG: “Santa” distracted the group, pointing out something the otters in the water, and the group went back to watching the ocean. Then, Santa waves me aside. And he questions me intensely, trying to learn more about acid. Finally, he says, I really ought to learn to do this sober. I would make a great group therapist. And hey, this guy was in my mind when I chose to run and study psychology in college.
AG: But geez, this was so funny because it was real for the group. He looked like Santa. He told me he worked in the area as a therapist, and that he recognized the entire scenario immediately. He said people like me stop here all the time.
BK: So this is why you studied psychology instead of forming a band?
AG: Hey, come on. Frisco was like a magnet—great wannabe musicians coming from all over the country. Janis Joplin hitched hiked to Frisco from across the U.S. And the people I knew who were cutting demo tapes were three times as good as me--at least when I was sober. And hey, I couldn’t concentrate eight hours a day practicing guitar in order to move up the food chain. That’s what it took then and that’s what it takes now. I have to use my mind. Plan things. Learn from people about new stuff.
BK: Were you a Joplin fan?
AG: No lie. Joplin embodied the soul of the ‘60s, especially in her song “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart”.
Janis Joplin: Take Another Little Piece of my Heart
The Crazy Contradiction
BK: Are you aware that you seem to contradict yourself about your musical abilities?
BK: You hypnotize a crowd on Thanksgiving, and this wealthy person records it. You hear it later. It’s great stuff. But then you say you were not good enough to form a band and record a tape.
AG: How’d you pick up on this stuff so quickly?
BK: Maybe I got an extra brain chip.
AG: When I played guitar on acid and meditated, I had this guitar teacher who took over my hands.
BK: Not the alien force, the wild man you mentioned.
AG: That was when I wasn't aware of what I was doing. You know, I was on acid and couldn't remember anyway. This was more like when I could. I would go into a trance, and it felt like this teacher was taking over the guitar and playing it for me.
BK: It actually took control of your hands and you sat there and watched it?
Just too Crazy
AG: Yes. I'd watch the guy play like I was an impartial observer. And what I guess it was now was that all the things I’d seen others play. And you know, I’d watch other guitar players closely. That stuff was getting played out. I couldn’t play like that without without being high on hash or something. But, like the meditation trance, this crazy thing scared me.
BK: I would think so.
AG: It happened at a party where I was playing guitar in someone’s bedroom, and I remember is coming out of it. There was this guy who was watching me; his eyes were totally wide open. And I spun the guitar around like it was electrified by a bolt of lightning. Then I put it back into its case like it was too hot to touch.
BK: So that scared Crystal, you being stoned crazy when you played?
AG: I just didn’t get it at the time. But I knew people were dying from this sort of magical mystery tour—taking the drug and doing the wildest things you could imagine. But eventually I got it. Taking acid was just too crazy. I mean it was like playing lottery with your mind.
BK: Sounds like it.
AG: And to think I only laughed when a friend said that if I could I would take my brain out and play with it. That's how those close to me were starting to see this drug haze I lived in.
BK: So you could play but didn’t know what, or you would watch your hands being taken over by this guitar instructor?
AG: Yes, and, hey, look, I quit acid. No one can handle it. Not forever. Your number will come up and you’ll be taken off to the psyche ward. End of story.
BK: OK, I understand that. But it all sounds almost totally unreal. It seems like what you learned on acid—running like a deer, playing the guitar—you could only do when you were stoned. Then, just getting stoned on acid started scaring the hell out of you, right?
AG: Yeah. I realized I had to run from the drug culture or else lose my mind. I chose to run.
BK: Now I understand why so many of the psychedelic people did a flip flop, became anti-drug, even Dylan quit using.
BK: When asked about LSD, Dylan said, “Why would you want to be a frog?”
AG: Ain’t that it.
Mr. Natural: High on Opium
BK: Right. OK. You didn’t want to be a deer or play guitar on acid until you went insane. But can you give me another example where you were using your unknown potential? Where it feels like another force takes you over?
AG: Well, to think of it, me and a couple buddies were stoned on opium.
AG: We took all the residue from our hash pipes, and it was mostly opium. You know, that stuff coming in from Amsterdam. And so we were shooting baskets—we each had a ball—and I shot ten left-handed hook shots—jump shots outside the 3-point line—all in a row. And I’m right-handed. I said something like, “That’s ten in a row.” And they just kept shooting, like it was supposed to be that way, me shooting ten baskets in a row.
BK: That must have been a mind blower.
AG: Not really. I realized it was my natural self and just kept on shooting—not that good, though.
BK: Now I see why drugs lead people to become delusional. You do a few wild things and become a believer. Addicted, like the gambler with his or her first big win. Then, you really believe you’ll get another big win—even if you’re $50,000 in debt. The same thing happens with LSD. And eventually it drives you insane. Is that it?
AG: You got it.