Interview With a 1960s Acid Guide—Part 6
Best Song of the '60s
BK: (Dr. Billy Kidd) There’s something else I’m wondering about.
AG: (Acid Guide) Go for it.
BK: What was the best song from the 1960s?
AG: People could argue about that all night. But I agree with Mick Jagger that it was “Visions of Johanna” by Dylan. It demonstrates the visions and the hopelessness of drugs and love. You know, when you mix the two. I figured Dylan could lose his mind after I heard that album, “Blonde on Blonde.” It was like total depression. I figured he’d have to go on to something else or die.
BK: And what happened?
AG: Dylan changed course with, ah, I think it was "Nashville Skyline". Down to earth stuff, rather than mystic depression. And I guess there was a motorcycle accident in between. But that’s all history. One man’s depression is another man’s gift. And great artists sometimes go crazy.
BK: What struck you about “Visions of Johanna”?
AG: [quotes Dylan] “Inside the museum infinity goes up on trial, voices echo through the chambers, this is what salvation must be like after a while.” That says it all for a sarcastic take on God and humans. And then there’s the line “Volts of electricity howl through the bones of her face.” If you haven’t been there and felt that, you really don’t know nothing about drugs.
BK: I believe you. But what is that—bolts of electricity howling from the bones of her face?
AG: It sometimes takes speed to get there and maybe some other psychedelic. It hits you when you’re thinking about some yes-or-no situation. Your jaw is where it starts. It gets electrified with tension—nothing like ordinary tension or even dramatic tension. But psycho tension. And your jaw starts grinding and if feels electrified. Then the whole thing takes you over. I’d grab a downer when this happened.
BK: Wow. I don’t know what to say. But listen, you look depressed just talking about this. Let’s move on, if it’s all right.
BK: I also noticed you don’t seem to talk much about the so-called free love of the ‘60s.
AG: Well, hey, sex was something you just did, not much more. Say I’d be driving somewhere and some women would be hitchhiking. I’d stop and usually they’d hit me up for some smoke and we might go to their place. At night I could hardly go out without someone wanting to get down. But when I was with Crystal, I just shined it all on.
BK: That’s it: Sex was something you just did? Didn’t think about?
AG: Yeah. Nobody thought much about sex. They just did it. You know, screw the one you’re with. That’s what the Crosby, Stills, and Nash song was all about.
Crosby, Stills, and Nash: Love the One You’re With
BK: OK, I guess. But tell me, what was it like moving on from being an acid guide and a drug dealer to studying psychology?
AG: I guess it started when Crystal and I broke up. She said she was tired of living where "anything goes". And she was right. Too many people were ending up in psyche wards. I really didn’t get it until John criticized my drug use. So I applied for school and left town. Just had to get away from the coke. After sobering up, I went into real estate. They said I was smart enough to become a psychologist. But by the time I got my degree, I had a couple houses I was renting out. And I realized that this was where the money was at. Rentals.
BK: So money was the motivator?
AG: America has created a culture that centers around money. They call it capitalism, and you’re not supposed to be happy with what you’ve got unless it’s leading to more money. So you gotta make more money. Otherwise, you give up because you have no opportunity to make more money. Then, if that happens, you resign yourself to living vicariously through the television.
BK: So you took your opportunity?
AG: No. I followed wherever my ambition led me. People who follow their ambition make money on the Light Side. People who are just out for the cash live in the Dark Side.
BK: What was your true ambition at that time—after you give up on drugs?
AG: I thought I had to get a life. Get married. Be normal. The ‘60s crashed and burned, so I had to forget it. Not spend my life like you do, getting all wound in people’s head trips that might trigger mine to come back. I’d had enough of that. But I wish the mental health community well. They’re taking on such a load without society appreciating them. You get paid about half of what you’re worth, right?
BK: Some say that. What if our wife finds this?
AG: Next question.
BK: Well, OK. I just want to say thank you for everything. I really appreciate you taking your time with me.
AG: I feel better getting that off my chest. Clean—like I confessed to a priest. I sense you’re kind of like one.
BK: I try to live righteously. But there’s one more thing that troubles me. Do you really hate drugs and drug users now? I mean you sort of flipped on those kids I was talking to about today’s drugs back at the coffee shop. They were meek compared to your thunder.
AG: That has never happen before. And thanks for coming over and talking to me. I’ve kept this pressed down in the back of my mind for so long. And I’m getting older, and I’m suddenly rumination on my whole life—over and over and over. It gets monotonous sometimes. And the drug thing keeps popping up when I really thought I couldn’t even remember it. At least they’re not flashbacks. What bothers me is that people lose years on drugs. First goes your mind, then your body, then your life. And with designer drugs and crack, you can blow your mind much quicker. Almost overnight.
BK: Why is that?
AG: The new street drugs all take you to the land of delusions—zap. Just like that. At first it’s fun. But then you start believing in the delusion you’ve created to escape reality. And like any addict, you protect your stash. Doesn’t matter if it’s a hidden bottle or a bizarre idea. You’ll fight to keep it. And then down the drain you go. Like Freud said, resistance to treatment and help.
BK: So you were one of the lucky ‘60s flower children who escaped from your delusions?
AG: I was lucky to get out when I did. I was starting to live on the other side—the Dark Side. I mean, being high was cool back then, right? Yet in my heart I knew that people didn’t go anywhere with drugs. Didn’t learn much of anything. And you know, it’s like the Great Spirit stepped in and warned me a couple times. And then I suddenly had this feeling that if I didn’t run away from Frisco I was going to freak out big time. "Anything goes" is not a safe environment.
BK: I can appreciate that. And I’ve got to say I have learned something. I just have one lingering thought.
Prayer, Meditation, and Zen
BK: You say you meditate now. What’s that like and did the drugs get you going in that direction?
AG: The drugs slowed me down. I’d already started meditating before I smoked grass. Did yoga since I was twelve. The bottom line is that meditation is a practice. Something you do. Kind of like a silent prayer.
BK: So, did you master it. I guess I mean, psychologically, I've always wondered what’s a Zen master?
AG: There is no such thing as a Zen master. Zen is a practice, just like meditation and praying. Did you ever hear someone talk about having mastered prayer?
AG: Praying is something you do. Perhaps daily when you’re down and out or really high on life. Meditation as a practice clears the mind of all the irrational stuff that goes on around you. This lets you see clearly. Appreciate the way the world as a whole turns. Suzuki said it all. It’s looking at life through a "beginner’s mind". Everyday, starting when you wake up. That takes work in this madhouse world.
BK: OK. I will have to dwell on that one. You've opened up a Pandora's box of questions for me. But what I hope right now is that I haven’t pressured you too much on all this.
AG: Actually, I’m feeling a sense of freedom, right now—getting this out. I had closed the drug chapter and never spoke about it.
BK: Maybe you were kind of afraid of it.
AG: I was afraid to talk about it. You sure couldn’t in my social circles. So I refused to think about it, too. If you think about it, and that it was cool, you trigger a flashback.
BK: If this conversation or anything else triggers a PTSD flashback, and you feel high, see a psychiatrist immediately. There’s modern prescription medications on the market, like olanzapine, that’ll clear your head in a jiffy, without messing with your mind. And if you need to talk confidentially about any emotional problems that might arise from your reflections, go see a psychologist.
AG: Will do.
BK: I don’t know how to thank you enough.
AG: Just get the anti-drug message out.
BK: Got it. But there’s one thing I don’t quite understand.
BK: I hear old men talking of the ‘60s, and their faces light up. Then they agree they’d rather be back there, if just for a day. Then they giggle.
AG: Yeah, I saw that once. They were light-weights. They did a few fun things with grass and sex. They weren’t hippies who lived the grind, wore patch pants because they couldn’t afford new ones. And now these guys probably wish they had their youth back—when they were free and fit and sex was loose. But they never lost a friend due to drugs or experienced the Dark Side of their unconscious mind.
BK: Did you lose anyone?
AG: One to heroin, a couple to meth, and some to LSD.
BK: Sorry. But didn’t that slow you down, make you think?
AG: I thought about the straight-A student from UCB taking acid. Later he shot up meth. But to me at the time, he was a crazy drug abuser—I mean he could no longer talk. Just grunted. I didn’t really see that LSD is a gateway drug to things like that—meth or heroin.
BK: You were too caught up in the drug culture to see it, right?
AG: For real.
BK: Did you ever want to go back to the ‘60s?
AG: Hell no. And I’m satisfied with life and my body and don’t want to go through none of that crazy stuff again.
BK: Yes, I can understand that. For me, life is still a discovery experience.
AG: Ain’t that it.