From: The Horrors of Acid by David Arthur Walters
Introduction to Tripping
“I have all of his books,” Patrick, my twenty-something friend said proudly as we sat sipping our Starbuck’s coffee on a bench near Lincoln Center. Patrick, a dancer, used a pointed foot to perform a small rond de jamb on the grimy sidewalk beneath us. “His gravestone lies flat on the ground, and it’s only this big,” he indicated with his foot.
“I remember him well.”
“He was so beat! But Ginsberg and the others disagreed with him because he wasn’t into flag burning.”
“I thought he burned a flag or a draft card.”
“No. Once he was handed a flag to abuse, but he just folded it properly because he was proud of his country. Anyway, people like me come from all over the world to crowd around his grave and worship his memory.”
“How did he die?” I couldn’t help but ask my usual question, given my age and interest in writers.
“He drank himself to death. He was depressed. He didn’t think his literature had the impact he had wanted.”
“Alcohol!” I exclaimed all too knowingly, having been dry for almost three serious years. “Just what did he want? What was his objective?”
“Well, he wanted to be great, like Tom Wolfe,” Patrick responded.
“But what was his objective?” I persisted. “I mean, what effect did he want to have?”
Patrick hesitated for a moment, and then emphatically declared, “He wanted to set people free!”
Bingo! Freedom! I remembered “freedom” was Sartre’s answer to “Why Write?” That issue is of prime importance to me as I ponder on what to do with the next and perhaps final stage of my life, now that the passion that got me through the last stage has fled.
I didn’t query Patrick on the particulars of freedom: Freedom from what? I thought I’d best keep the subject general in order to contemplate the vague universal. To hell with the facts: They can take care of themselves!
Later that day, I heard a radio newscaster say that Los Angeles is taxing writers on the $7,000 average annual income they make after giving each an imaginary share of the tons of money the top 5% make.
Why write? I looked for Sartre’s book in my stacks. I considered throwing every volume away except that one, if only I could find it, to free myself from everything I think I should know someday, to focus on an ideal.
I could see an ideal gleam in Patrick’s eye as he spoke of the idolized author. Youth does tend to idolize. That serves to perpetuate the species, yet painful disappointments come with the package. Indeed, I had invited Patrick out for coffee after jazz class because I noticed that he had an anguished expression on his face. Perhaps I could help.
Patrick said the dance master he idolizes, Luigi Facciuto, hurt his feelings by making an unfavorable comparison of his ballet technique with that of a Baryshnikov.
“Patrick, you must not allow your identity to depend on what others say or do,” I advised, emulating the whole pack of hypocrites who deny that a human being is a social product.
I was glad that he didn’t object to my unqualified offering; at least my intentions were good. Besides, specious advice has kept many a freedom fighter on the road.
Patrick revealed another sore spot. He had also idolized his best friend, a beautiful young woman who resembles the statue of Isis, absent the fecund potbelly, found in one of the pyramids. This modern, flat-tummy Isis had recently become available and, much to Patrick’s chagrin, she chose to date an “older” man, a custom I heartily approve of. She apparently considered Patrick and herself to be just friends. Sadly to say, he desired much more. I love her too, with a fatherly interest of course.
“Patrick,” I adopted a fatherly tone reminiscent of the one taken by my own father when he said: There are lots of skirts out there, no need to chase that one. “It’s numbers, that’s all it is. The sooner you make a move on a woman the better, ’cause if she says no, you have plenty of time to ask the next one.”
“But I want to be reasonable, to have the right one for me.”
“Reasonable?” I snorted. “If I had of been reasonable, I would have nothing, no wives, no houses, no cars, no divorces, no life, no nothing. At your age, you should just run through as many women as you can.”
“I want it to last!”
“It will last when one of them clings to you instead of you clinging to them,” I countered, espousing a philosophy just opposite to the conduct of my entire life. “By the way, which is his best book?”
“Which is the best book of all his books?”
“On The Road. I tell people that, once they read it, there is no going back. Your life is forever changed. You know, you are a great writer yourself. You should write about your life. Please tell me one of your stories about the horrors of acid.”
“O.K. I’ll tell you about my first acid trip. Not that I recommend dropping LSD. Au contraire! If you do, I warn you, there is no going back. Your life is changed forever.”
-To Be Continued-