Sunday, February 27, 2005

Streatham Common

On a balcony, 7 floors up. A summer's day, t-shirt weather. Huge white clouds move meaningfully across the blue pan of hot sky, and the sun is everywhere. Enormous trees move their heads like moshers in a pit of suburbia, rocking with the warm wind, which undermines the ease of this glorious day with it's gentle threat of change.

In the room I had just left, 10 or so young people and a woman in her 50s were coming up on LSD. Attempts to roll joints were being hopelessly abandoned and everyone was hopelessly abandoning themselves to the drug as the rushes got stronger and the trip took hold. We knew this stuff was strong, but this was something we had never experienced, proper two-hundred-and-fifty-mikes-a-tab hippy-strength acid. We were not strong hippies. We were teenagers in the post-punk era, listening to My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, Public Image, Magazine and the Blockheads, attempting to score in Brixton, avoiding the race riots, the burning cars, the lines of police. There was a street of condemned houses in Clapham, which had been taken over, cleaned up and squatted, and we had worked out you could get stuff there. So we went there and gawped at the crazy interiors, spirals and acid faces on the walls, large parts of buildings knocked through so that the inhabitants of this temporary community were no longer boxed into small units but instead could walk the length of the terrace without stepping into the street. We found the strange long-haired time-warped inhabitants concerned that we knew what we were taking, and easy to do business with.

We knew this was different acid by it's look. Dolphins we were told. It was exquisitely made, in foot-square perforated sheets for easy distribution, and the print across the whole sheet was truly alluring, gold and blue with flecks of crimson, long Japanese-style flowing lines on white paper. Half a one will do it, we were told. It probably came from Richard Kemp, the man behind the Operation Julie case, who supplied the best LSD in Britain for several years, until the enlightened chemist's laboratory in Wales was finally busted. I think we paid a fiver a tab. They must have made a huge amount from us and all the other customers who trickled surreptitiously in off the main road, looking mostly for a smoke and sometimes for something more enervating, hash, weed, coke or trips, anything that wasn't beer or smack.

C's flat was a cool place, his Mum smoked pot, knew that we were safe, and was even interested in joining us on this trip. So we divided it up, and with that strange feeling of premonition, headed to Streatham and necked our acid.

My mates all got going on LSD a year before I did. I was happy to play Mama, stay up with them, get stoned, make tea, talk them out of doing stupid things, and tell them that, although they were indeed technically insane now, they would be alright in the morning, which was only a few hours away. I was used to the odd behaviour acid could produce in perfectly normal people, and also in the imaginative bunch of excitable curious friends I hung out with. About a month previously I had taken a weak 50-mike dose of acid and had experienced the irresistable rushing waves of coming up, some pleasantly strange hallucinations, and later, gloriously erotic experimental sex with my girlfriend. I had also been reading Huxley, Castaneda, Ginsberg, Baudelaire, Lilly, and anthropological textbooks from the library for years, so I knew about mind-altering drugs and the cultural roles they played, the risks, and the reasons for taking them. My own resistance had been that I was afraid I would freak out with my girlfriend, or that she would freak out with me. We'd both enjoyed the small trip, so we were up for another one. Nothing prepared us for this though.

As the room descended into chaos, it became clear that C's Mum was not going to last. She was entranced by the music - J. J. Cale - which she was hearing with an expression of delight spreading across her plump Polish face - but then obsessed by a minor spillage of tea on her carpet. She went into the kitchen and got a towel, and proceeded to gently tread the damp into the cloth, but she could no longer tell whether her efforts were at all effective. Then she experienced the mild dampness as soaking wet, and decided to get out of her trousers. As she realised that we all had a different view of events, and saw no problem with the floor or her trousers, she became very confused, a look of dismay hit her, and she had a moment of panic. She looked just like a pink pig, squealing in turn with pleasure and fear. She wasn't coping with the total derangement of her senses very well at all. She retired into her bedroom, and started to cope with the past 50 years of bottled-up grief, pain and disappointment as it welled up uncontrollably, just like the impossibly large tea stain on the carpet had done.

The living room walls were by now running with thick green lime juice cordial. Lovely, I thought, fluid walls. It was an easy trick, really, based on the underlying pattern of the wallpaper. I sat opposite me, big acid grin stretching his glowing face, and said, "It's great isn't it? But it's very DARK isn't it?"

He repeated this several times, and as he did, his costume developed until he was dressed in full gothic devil-vampire, with arching hooked epaulettes, black and red cloak, and a skull-like face. Fascinating, I thought, he just says "DARK" and dark he goes. I wasn't unnerved by this - after all, I knew I was tripping - but I decided that maybe I didn't want to go that way myself, so I exited, and I found myself on the balcony.

I walked the couple of feet to the rail, and looked down the few floors to the grass beneath which seemed soft, spongey and incredibly lush. With mild surprise I realised how easy it would be for someone to be convinced that it would be safe to land on, even from his height, but I also noticed that I had no inclination to jump and smiled at the thought. This is how people think they can fly. It really did look very soft though, and very close. I looked back into the room, where people were laughing and trying to communicate and spouting nonsense and enjoying the music. It felt nice to be out here. There was some washing hanging up on a small line, wooden clothes pegs. I squeezed one and took it off the line, marvelling at the tensile strength of the steel which kept the peg closed. It pinged from my fingers and fell to the balcony floor, so I dropped down on my haunches to pick it up.

Arriving suddenly at floor height, I realised I had left my consciousness above me, in the space my head had been occupying. This was such an odd feeling I stayed down for a few seconds, experiencing the feeling of me three feet displaced. I stood up again, holding the peg, but I didn't return to being me. In fact, now I thought of it, I couldn't remember who I was.

This is the place I forgot who I was.

Strangely unworried, I knew I couldn't return to the living room without remembering who I was, because, otherwise, how would I know to make the right response? What sort of thing would the person I had forgotten I was say in such a situation? I had no idea. Or if I did have an idea, I didn't know what it was, because I didn't know where "I" was. Fantastic.

I looked across Streatham Common, the trees still bobbing their dread-heads in summer wind, and the white clouds dwarfing the skin of the world. We were so very small, and the universe so immense. I actually could sense the scale of the universe, which when you think about it, is so big, it defies comprehension. You can't be doing this and, say, doing a job, or shopping, or even conversing. Then I remembered who I was. I was Deek. I experienced a profound moment of truth then which gave me great pleasure. I liked being Deek, he was alright. I can do Deek. I can be him. Not such a bum trip, being Deek. Grinning, holding the peg, I walked back into the living room, and calmly announced that I had become myself on the balcony.

I don't recall my announcement having any particular effect on the madness which was splendidly unfolding. I realised everyone was pretty far gone. I saw that there was a rocking chair free, and some headphones attached to the stereo next to it, so I made my way to that comfort zone, and listened to King Crimson's Frame by Frame eyes closed... I could feel the music coming up the wires into the headphones get converted into audio and then pass through my ears into my brain and I watched my subconscious mind map itself before me, saw endless unfolding images, peeling and dissolving one into another... there were such a lot of smiling magazine faces, beautiful models with teeth and eyes and hair... it seemed that all the conditioning I had ever been exposed to was being revealed to me... as the album played on, Fripp's hypnotically yearning emotion in The Sheltering Sky caught me, and I let go completely into the trip and the ecstasy of synaesthetic realisation.

In the midst of this, I knew that Being and Time were indistinguishable; to exist WAS time. Time depending upon existence. I knew this applied to me. I wondered if it also applied to rocks, to the inorganic matter of the planet. I suspected it did. I knew that change was the only constant, that time itself is fluid energy, it's linear track merely the result of limited comprehension. I had never read Heidegger, or Sartre, or Robbe-Grillet. I had never watched Empire State Building by Warhol. I had never walked all day and all night and all day again until the walk became the man became the journey became everything and nothing and all was just pure existence. But I had finally seen who I was, and accepted myself, and so this was the beginning of me, aged 19.

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At 3:08 PM, Blogger transience quoth...

i relived every glorious moment with you. your storytelling is like LSD itself. thank you. i hope you had a fine 43.

At 8:28 AM, Blogger Astrid quoth...

Am I mistaken or do I miss a birthday-post in between this post and the last one? *Astrid gives Deek a big birthday-hug and nearly squeezes him* Sorry, at some days, I underestimate my strength! Hope you had a MORE THAN BRILLIANT DAY!!! Miles of smiles, Astrid.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Kate Ford quoth...

I love this post Deek! These are great descriptions to which I can relate. The story reminds me so much of a trip I took at about the same age with some lovely mushrooms. Things kinda got out of hand with a couple of other friends but all in all it was still an interesting experience. I think those trips permanently change our perception of things. :o)

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Lagowski quoth...

What a load of hippy bollocks!

At 8:12 PM, Blogger Deek Deekster quoth...

we wouldn't be here without bollocks

At 11:55 AM, Blogger dweller quoth...

damn, when that guy said
"its kind of DARK" I felt that sense of inevitably following him down that dark acid path. Not something that is very suitable for a childrens library on saturday morning...


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