Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 23 Apr 10 09:02
Jeez, Steve, why didn't you just ask Don what the meaning of life is? :)
uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Fri 23 Apr 10 09:06
That's was a follow-up question.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 23 Apr 10 09:18
Oh sorry. I forgot that, while interviewing a writer on the religion beat about drugs that are used in indigenous cultures to reveal the sacred behind the veil of mere appearances, I should keep my questions to, "So, ya think Leary was like really high when he said to 'turn on, tune in, and drop out'?"
uber-muso hipster hyperbole (pjm) Fri 23 Apr 10 09:48
I love it when someone with Don's background gets asked a question like that, and he seems willing to elaborate.
bobby (bobby) Fri 23 Apr 10 10:03
these are great conversations, hope they continue
Don Lattin (donlattin) Fri 23 Apr 10 11:50
Hey, kids. HE'S BACK! And willing to evade any and all questions.
Don Lattin (donlattin) Fri 23 Apr 10 12:00
1) What might you now do differently in writing this book? I would have spent more time fact-checking. I keep finding embarrassing mistakes that really piss me off. (Actually, some fixes I sent before publication were never made.) The worst one is I went brain dead in one reference and quote Leary saying "Tune in. Turn on. Drop out." (That mistake was passed on, unwittingly, in a NY Times headline). Gotta "Turn on" first, obviously. That was one of a batch that were supposed to be fixed by the second printing. Just saw the third printing and none of my corrections have been made. I assume they will in the paperback. They did change the dust jacket to say "National Bestseller," so I guess I shouldn't complain... 2) I would also spend more time re-writing. I made a late decision to to re-write the entire thing it as narrative non-fiction, meaning present-time scenes instead of having people recalling things. I "recreated" some dialog. Not sure that was a good idea. I could have done a much better job, but ran out of time. I hate reading it now because I keep finding sentences that I should have re-written.
Don Lattin (donlattin) Fri 23 Apr 10 12:07
3) What comes next for you? I'm trying to resist the temptation to write a memoir about my years covering God. I DO have a great title: MESSIAHS I HAVE KNOWN Leary is certainly one of them... I got some funny stories about flying around on the pope's plane or chasing sex crazed gurus (Da Free John) to private islands in Fiji. One problem is that I WILL have to figure out the meaning of life if I have the balls to write a memoir. The first line will be "Writing a memoir is a shameless act of self-indulgence, an admission that, yes, ladies and gentleman, I DO believe that the world revolves around me."
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Fri 23 Apr 10 12:29
>I remember some drug-testing lab -- was it PharmChem, if you remember them? -- stating that of all the thousands of samples of street "mescaline" they'd tested over the years, *not a single one* was authentic. Inevitably, when I mention this, someone pipes up and says "But I had a tab of chocolate mesc in the '70s that was real!" When I then point out that even pharmaceutically pure mescaline sulfate requires two double-oh size capsules full of fluffy white, needle-shaped crystals to produce an effect, they're generally quiet after that.< Amazingly enough, my informant's very first "experience", in Sept '71, involved getting a large cap from a guy at the Ashby Ave Co-Op parking lot in Berkeley (now Whole Foods), who said this was organic mescaline (extracted from peyote, vs manufactured). Very interesting experience, though my informant concluded later it couldn't be mescaline, as he read that PharmChem report. In '93, he was to get 2 large caps from a friend who knew the source and was sure this was mescaline. He took them, and... it was very much like the experience of 22 years earlier (and fitted with every description of the experience to the t). I guess that in '71 he lucked upon an exception to the PharmChem rule.:-)
Robin Russell (rrussell8) Fri 23 Apr 10 13:13
I'll repeat mine from #159: Acid was leaking out of Harvard into the inner circles of Washington?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 23 Apr 10 16:07
I remember reading my dad's Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines when I was a kid, and I remember there being an acid trip in one of them, and sure enough, I tracked it down (thank you, Google). December 1967. Wellknown geek mag decides to look into the LSD phenomena at a late stage in the game. A "non-cop, non-hippie" report features freelance (?) writer Robert Gannon actually dropping acid, using Sandoz' research-strength product in a "controlled environment"... meaning a mental hospital, with a nut-doctor by his side. Set & setting less than optional in other words, but obviously necessary as not to constitute a felony. The dosage of 170 micrograms is reported as equalling much more in a "street" substance, and it certainly is a wild ride being described. As far as acid trip reports go, not bad at all, with some fun and touching aspects. Well worth reading. Some background data is given. No pics. Article is 8 pp.
bill braasch (bbraasch) Fri 23 Apr 10 18:25
Back around 1970, the Chicago Seed ran a review of the new Sunshine 69 that described the ride like a day at the track in a fine race car. Smooth and quick in the straightaways, hunkers down with you in the curves. some fine inspired writing, says my informant.
what another day it takes: (oilers1972) Fri 23 Apr 10 18:44
"Coming this fall: The NEW 1969 Pontiac Orange Sunshine! This will take you on your wildest, most enjoyable trip--over and over again!"
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Fri 23 Apr 10 18:52
Wow, Robert Gannon - I'd forgotten about him. He was sort of their "I'll try anything" young Turk, as I recall. Those were great years for Popular Science. I read them at my grandparents' house.
(fom) Fri 23 Apr 10 23:32
#185 I think some of that is covered in the book Acid Dreams. >fluffy white, needle-shaped crystals With a slight bluish cast to them. Extremely distinctive crystals. Or so I have heard.
Don Lattin (donlattin) Sat 24 Apr 10 10:34
#159, #185 -- "Acid was leaking out of Harvard into the inner circles of Washington?" I get into this a bit on page 109-110 of "The Harvard Psychedelic Club." Leary claimed that he supplied D.C. socialite Mary Pinchot Meyer with LSD that she used to turn on JFK in the White House. Leary says she told him after the assassination that "he was learning too much" and that she was scared. From what I can tell, Meyer DID have an affair with JFK, WAS given LSD by Leary and WAS the ex-wife of a CIA-operative Cord Meyer, who knew Leary back in the 1950s. Meyer WAS murdered in a D.C. park 11 months after the JFK assassination. Enough to keep conspiracy theorists busy for decades.
Don Lattin (donlattin) Sat 24 Apr 10 10:51
Early on, we were talking about the differences in the way Native Americans use psychedelics. Here's an account on an experience I had that I lifted from one of my earlier books, Following Our Bliss: It was the summer of 1989 and Emerson Jackson, the president of the Native American Church of North America, had invited me to participate in a Saturday night peyote ritual not far from the Four Corners Monument. Jackson had waived the churchs strict ban on outside visitors because the U.S. Supreme Court was about to hear arguments in a lawsuit involving two members of the Native American Church in Oregon. They had been fired from their jobs at a drug treatment center for participating in an all-night peyote ritual. Jackson wanted to show my readers and me that these gatherings were not wild drug parties, but serious religious ceremonies. I could only attend if I agreed to take the peyote, and not to take notes. We met in a coffee shop in Shiprock and I followed his car as he roared across the winding dirt roads of vast Navajo reservation. We wound up outside a giant teepee erected earlier that day on a high bluff in the southeast corner of Utah. It was just before sunset and members of the tribal clan were still arriving in an assortment of old cars and new pick-up trucks. The ritual wouldnt start for hours, but the emotional, 11-hour ceremony was to be a unique, powerful experience - a rare glimpse at the social, spiritual and psychedelic world of the Native American Church's Half Moon Ceremony. These gatherings are usually held for a particular purpose - to pray for a sick child or help a church member work through a life crisis. Terrance Tom's family sponsored the Saturday night session to pray for success in a new job that was taking Tom, his wife and his three young children off the reservation and into the white man's world. There was only one problem. Emerson had neglected to tell Terrance that he was bringing a reporter along with him. Some of the older Indians were not happy with the peyote priest, and definitely not happy to see me. They wanted to know who I was, what I was going to write, and who was going to read it. There were a series of loud meetings, mostly in Navajo, before Jackson finally convinced the family that the upcoming Supreme Court case was important and people off the reservation needed to have a better understanding of the peyote circle. My story, he promised, would do that. Twenty of us sat on the ground in a circle inside the teepee. We began the ceremony by rolling our own cigarettes in pieces of dried corn husk, smoking the tobacco as a ritual act of purification, the way Catholic priests use incense before Mass. Most of the night was spent passing around a drum, gourd rattle and peyote staff while we drummed and chanted guttural, fast-paced hymns. Periodically, a glass jar of dried peyote was passed around the teepee, and we chased it down with several swallows of the bitter peyote tea. Jackson sprinkled some water on a handful of powdered cactus and molded the bitter potion into two balls about the size of strawberries. "This is a sacrament," he said, handing the psychedelic mixture to Tom. Everyone inside the teepee had already ingested two or three tablespoons of dried peyote. Sometime after midnight, the Navajos' peyote fans - kaleidoscopes of bright feathers and intricate beadwork - took on a pulsing luminescence. American Indian chants, the gourd rattles and the drum carried the congregation off to another reality. Chief Peyote, the psychedelic cactus button that inspires these ancient rites, was working its magic. Speaking a mixture of Navajo and English, Tom humbly confessed his fears and insecurities about the coming move to Albuquerque. Tears rolled down his checks and welled up in the eyes of friends and family as they responded with encouragement and stream-of-consciousness prayers of support. Tom's wife and three young children were there throughout the night. Even the children, who slept on colorful Navajo rugs through most of the ceremony, took small amounts of peyote. Intense waves of emotion and empathy thunder through the teepee, forging a powerful unity of twenty souls. Few foods on Earth taste as bad as peyote, which can easily turn the stomach. You dont leave the teepee to vomit. You do it right there where you are sitting, in the dirt, and someone comes around and cleans it up. I managed to keep the bitter mixture down, but still wanted get out of the teepee. My mind was racing. I was torn between just letting the peyote sweep me away and holding onto my reporters mind to remember everything that was going on. Was I here for them, or for me? Meanwhile, I was getting hostile looks from some of the old Indian women, the ones who didnt want me there. They would lower their peyote fans and stare into my eyes with terrifying power. Feeling claustrophobic, and a bit paranoid, I got up and left the teepee. You were allowed to leave the sacred enclosure only briefly, to urinate, but I once I got out into the night I could not return. It seemed impossible to leave the revelatory scene that awaited me outside. The stars were so brilliant and alive that they didnt seem to be above me, but surrounding me. Looking out from the bluff, I saw another five or six other teepees glowing in the night across the vast reservation. There was a kind of magnetic power pulling me into the earth, so I laid down on the ground, flat on my back and just melted into the dirt, staring up into the magnificent night. I dont know if I laid there for a minute or an hour until the face of one of the younger Indian men suddenly popped into my field of vision. You must come back, he said, turning toward the teepee. I didnt want to go. I felt so much more at peace outside the teepee and by myself. But this was not for me. I was there to tell someone elses story. Back inside, I took my place and watched the Fire Man tend a small fire in the middle of the teepee. There was an altar behind the fire - a three-inch-high sand sculpture in the shape of a long crescent. Chief Peyote - the bulbous cactus flower - sat atop the crescent of sand, watching us all. With amazing artistry, the Fire Man sculpted embers and ash into the glowing image of an eagle in flight. In the early morning hours, as the peyote priest blew on a whistle made from the bone of an eagle's wing, the eagle rose from the swept red dirt floor and flew out the top of the teepee. Amazed by that vision, I looked back down into the faces of the Navajo. One of the old women, one of the hostile ones with a dark and wrinkled face, sent me out a small smile, like shed seen the same thing. In the end, I understood why the family was hesitant about having an outsider inside their teepee. This was not just a religious service. It was also a session of family therapy conducted on psychedelic drugs. It was Thanksgiving dinner, a drug party, a religious ritual and a visit to the family therapist all rolled into one. Back in San Francisco, I talked about the experience with Ralph Metzner, who teaches at the California Institute for Integral Studies. A veteran researcher of the psychedelic experience, Metzner was at Harvard back in the early sixties with Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. He nodded knowingly when I told him what happened with the Navajo. Native Americans regard the peyote ceremony as religious, medicinal and psychotherapeutic. It's an integrated, holistic approach, and a genuine religious experience, he said. The white man goes to church and hears about God. The Indians go to the peyote circle and talk to God.
Searchlight Casting (jstrahl) Sat 24 Apr 10 15:51
Wow! What a terrific story, thanks so much, Don!!!
We're carrot people. (unkljohn) Sun 25 Apr 10 06:20
That was a fabulous story, thank you! Just found in other parts of The WeLL.....Jerry Garcia interview where he goes into more detail about pstchedelics. http://www.relix.com/features/2010/04/20/q-a-with-jerry-garcia-portrait-of-an -artist-as-a-tripper Or the tiny url http://tinyurl.com/y3d3xgr
We're carrot people. (unkljohn) Sun 25 Apr 10 06:27
>>>pstchedelics Oops! I guess that's eating pistachios while tripping!
Don Lattin (donlattin) Sun 25 Apr 10 07:50
Thanks for that link to the Jerry Garcia interview. Wish I had seen that before. I mention Garcia's impressions of the Acid Tests in a scene in the book, but based it on some of his comments in a film about those happenings. That interview account is much more vivid. I keep coming across great new source material. Maybe HarperCollins will let me do some major revisions for the paperback.
We're carrot people. (unkljohn) Sun 25 Apr 10 09:55
That would be excellent. I thought it interesting that the interviewer did all sorts of interviews for an upcoming (as yet unpublished) book about LSD!
Steve Silberman (digaman) Mon 26 Apr 10 11:17
Does anyone have any further questions for Don before we wind up? This has been wonderful.
We're carrot people. (unkljohn) Mon 26 Apr 10 12:46
Yes, Thank you Don very much! I am enjoying the FB stuff too.
Peter Conners (peterconners) Mon 26 Apr 10 13:50
Thank you, Don!
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