Chasin’ Timothy Leary
My upstairs neighbour when I first moved to Austin in ’68 was Paul ___________. He was a smart, observant, dude about 5’5″ tall with thick reddish blonde hair well beyond shoulder length and an unquenchable thirst for Coca-Cola in glass bottles. While enrolled in the UT School of Business Administration , he was also a player in the high-risk, high-gain game of running contraband.
I first saw him when I was moving in and he was coming up the then unpaved alley known as E. 29th St. on his way home and I said, “Hey. What’s happenin’?” Without breaking stride he made eye contact with me and said, “You’ll find out.”
And I certainly did.
Part of what I found out was that Paul was supplying well-nigh half the city with product at bargain prices. The going street prices were $20.00 a lid for primo Michoacán and $3.00 – $5.00 a hit for Sunshine, Purple Haze, or Window Pane. But I was soon gettin’ it wholesale and runnin’ it North.
Then on one Tuesday afternoon (believe it or not), Paul walked up to me and said, “Here. You might like this.” and gave me a Chocolate Chip tab and said I should probably to turn on to Days of Future Passed if I wanted to do it.
I don’t know how word got around, but a little later, a neighbour whose name I’ve forgotten and who lived about two houses down and was aspiring to be the next R. Crumb, came around and said he knew I had some Chocolate Chip and asked if I would give him half of it. According to him, that one tab was enough for four people. I wasn’t too sure about that, but I figured that if he was gonna be okay with half then he wasn’t pissin’ on my leg and we did the deal.
At around 6:00 or 7:00 that night, I decided to drop my half and laid down to await the rush while listening to Days of Future Passed as Paul had suggested. I mean, it seemed seemed apropos, given the first track on the B side – Tuesday Afternoon – The music was alluring and things were going well until the string-art star I had put on the ceiling started to go from concave to convex and back ever more rapidly, until it turned into a bat and flew out my open door.
I knew there was no bat in the house nor was there anything else that could be goin’ out my door like that. Therefore, it couldn’t have happened, but it had. So, I turned my head to the side to focus on something that might be less mobile, which happened to be my black chest of drawers, on top of which I had put a nicely water-worn roughly cone-shaped piece of limestone I’d picked up at Lake Travis. But it didn’t help.
In a matter of seconds, the rock became a ten inch high sculpture of naked men and women clawing their way to the top of a small but steep hill. Then the figures started moving without getting anywhere and the now living rock took on the aspect of a humanoid head and merged with the chest of drawers.
And there I was – Eye-to-eye with King Kong and wanting very much not to be hauled off like an ersatz Fay Wray.
I wasn’t freaked, but I needed company. So I headed down to my wannabe comic book writer’s home where he and several others I knew were sittin’ around, smokin’ and yakkin’ and sharin’ a bottle of wine. The B side of Boney Joanie’s newest release – Any Day Now – was playing when I arrived and I took a seat on a sofa right next to the record player and facing my toonie friend.
Three things then happened in rapid succession. Someone handed the communal wine to me, the C side of the album dropped into place, and I first heard this about Love
Within the eight seconds it takes for the bass to come in, I was made mute, rendered deaf to any other sound, immobilized, and most of all, being schooled.
The bottle was in my hands, but I neither drank nor passed it along. After however much time I don’t know I felt my friend tapping on my knee to get my attention and saying something I couldn’t hear and to which I couldn’t reply. He kept pointing at the bottle and mouthing the words, “Can I have the wine?”, none of which registered, and he had to take the bottle from me.
Immediately the track ended hearing, speech, and mobility returned and leaving some of myself behind I got up and went home to rethink the universe…