This is the last of three columns about my 1969 trip in my van with my Samoyed puppy, Jude, through the western U.S. and Canada. (Inspired by John Steinbeck’s last novel which was about a road trip with his dog, “Travels with Charley.”) My 5-month adventure was filled with beautiful scenery, people and memories but also an occasional calamity I survived as in the following tale.
At Zion National Park I met George, a congenial Canadian from Vancouver who encouraged me to visit him if I came to British Columbia. (Seemingly for young Canucks a hippie from California road tripping was the epitome of cool.)
Sure enough, after traveling to Banff, Canada and the breathtaking Lake Louise, a mere 1700 miles from L.A., I did wind up in Vancouver. But for three days it was perpetually rainy and gloomy and worse, George was out of town. But, causing a total transformation, the sun finally came out revealing a glorious city.
And two days later George returned and enthusiastically invited me to stay where he lived. On the “North Shore,” up in the hills, was his father’s warehouse that stored his tourist buses which George managed. Otherwise barren it did have a kitchen, a shower and a TV. George suggested I sleep in my van right outside but have complete access to the warehouse’s “amenities.”
Excitedly, George said Friday night would be the city’s biggest summer party at a palatial estate overlooking the bay owned by a drug dealer nicknamed Rick. Given Rick’s “occupation” I hesitated but George insisted every beautiful young woman in Vancouver would be there. Shallow as it sounds, I was all in.
Rick’s house was more than impressive with a bay view from every room (including the master bathroom!) The huge crowd was thoroughly stoned on pot and hash including a sexy 20-year-old was petting Jude and asking all about my trip. As she and I chatted flirtatiously George said Rick wanted to meet me. (I had no idea the young woman was his girlfriend, he was uncontrollably jealous and had a stash of guns in the house.)
Rick was in his ultra modern kitchen busily mixing batter for the hash brownies. After putting them in the oven he handed me the stirring spoon loaded with batter which I eagerly consumed. When George walked in Rick handed him a smaller spoon which he quickly licked clean.
When the party finally ended Rick bid me an unsettling adieu, “You’re going to get higher than you’ve ever been in your life.” After George and I went arrived back at the bus warehouse we watched “Jezebel” (1938) starring Bette Davis and Henry Fonda. I was struck how the dialogue was so overly dramatic as Davis would deliver an overblown monologue and Fonda responded in kind.
Asking George backfired because suddenly he had turned into a zombie. Seconds later I was psychedelically hallucinating: the waves coming from the TV, the buses and the walls moving, the light from the lamp suddenly giving off all sorts of phosphorescent colors.
Panicked, I grabbed Jude and went outside trying desperately to figure out what was happening. My brain was racing like a computer on “search.” Vivid images of the party flashed in my mind, until one froze, Rick giving me the spoonful of batter! I realized Rick had slipped me LSD! (As opposed to me having lost my mind.)
In the pitch dark I started walking aimlessly on a winding dirt road into the wilderness to get help. (As if there was going to be a clinic in the forest?) As Jude walked ahead I could see gorgeous white electric energy streams coming from his paws. A few times he looked at me funny as if to say, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
Finally a car came along and the passenger’s side window rolled down. A concerned teenage girl asked, “Are you okay?” I explained I needed to get to a hospital but she responded, “Well, just be careful” as she rolled up the window and they drove off. WTF? I realized I had only thought my words and not said them.
I had no idea how many hours had passed or what to do so I just followed Jude. Meanwhile I was hearing perfectly arranged classical music emanating from my acid-laced brain. (And I never listened to classical music!)
Much later and in the distance I saw the most beautiful sight…my van! Suddenly my overwhelming panic turned into spiritual euphoria. I got on my knees in the dirt and reached heavenward feeling the blood of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob coursing through my veins. (I have no idea where that shtick came from.)
I think I slept in the van but I’m not sure because the classical music would return and then disappear. The next day I was no longer hallucinating except when I closed my eyes. (So I kept my eyes open.) Recovered, George confirmed we had definitely been slipped a monster dose of LSD. I wanted revenge until George reminded me of “Slick” Rick’s gun stash.
While my acid trip was primarily terrifying I could see why native Americans believe peyote brings the user understanding of the spiritual world. Despite my critique of Bette Davis being overly dramatic in “Jezebel,” I must note she won an Oscar for it. Lastly, I still love brownies but, even to this day, I occasionally associate them with classical music.
Assuming he’s not having an acid flashback, Jack can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to a management decision, starting March 12, Laughing Matters has been cut back to every other Friday. Jack is at: facebook.com/jackneworth and twitter.com/jackneworth