In July of 1968, eleven full-time members of the Briarpatch commune, as well as several itinerant hippie drifters and various hangers on, were gathered around a bonfire, singing a favored song by the psychedelic combo The Crystal Asparagus. Lydia, (sometimes called Gossamer) a frail, beautiful nineteen-year-old girl was watching big Goran Muth smoke a joint. The joint had been poorly rolled and was canoeing rapidly, twists of smoke escaping into the acid-charged atmosphere. The smoke curled into shapes as vivid and ceremonial as cave paintings, and Gossamer tried to memorize each one before it turned invisible in the dark air. She saw faces and bodies writhing together as if squeezed from a tube; swirling cartoons with a sweet aroma and a two-second lifespan. And the stoned folks around the fire sang:
Inhale the sonic waterfall
Sweep up the crumbled rainbow
Sprinkle the cosmic colors
On ancient ivory gravestones
Their voices were ragged and overlapped but they adhered to the beat. Three Briarpatch men pounded out a primitive rhythm on a hollow log, using thick sticks. The driving, percussive sounds that emanated from the dead wood seemed to match Gossamer’s nervous heartbeat and she started to worry about what would happen to her if they stopped.
Big Goran Muth noticed Gossamer staring at him and he extended the joint to her, now reduced to a smoldering roach. Gossamer shook her head. “No thanks,” she said. The acid she’d eaten was more than enough. In fact, it was too much. Big Goran Muth moved away. Without smoke to look at, Gossamer looked up at an active sky filled with spilling stars. They looked close enough to scrape her scalp. The peek of infinity they surrendered left her breathless and awestruck. And just as her mind had made crooked sense of the smoke, it now assembled the stars into complex patterns and designs of immeasurable mathematical complexity. And then the stars began to move and she saw horseback armies galloping across the galaxy, clashing against opposing forces with swords of white light. She saw crustaceans scuttling and floating through seas of milk, pursued by primordial predators. The visions were strong and Gossamer felt distressed by their violence. What did they say about her nature, her essence? Did she have a violent inner self? Was the LSD unleashing a warlike spirit? She took a hesitant step backward, afraid to continue looking and afraid to turn away. The stars were too much, the acid crawling up her spine was too much. She moved her gaze to the bonfire and thought she was dying, turning to liquid and pouring into Hell. Hell is also something the mind cannot measure. She slapped a hand over her eyes, but the churning monstrous faces that she saw behind her eyelids were even worse. She gasped and turned away from the heat, finding solace and safety in the blind darkness. The music, the beating of the log, ceased. Then started up again. This time the assembled throng sang “Blue Children of the Mushroom” also by The Crystal Asparagus.
“You okay, baby?” someone said and Gossamer turned toward the sound, still lost in darkness.
“Who’s there?” she said and with the question came sudden clarity of vision. There was a man standing in front of her, his bearded face disguised by flickering, splashing shadows cast by the fire. The shadows were black eels writhing.
“My name’s Bob, baby.” He was holding a can of beer.
“Hi Bob. And my name’s not Baby. It’s Lydia. Gossamer.”
“Are you all right, Lydia? Gossamer?”
“I think so. I just freaked out for a minute there.” Bob moved closer and she saw his face in sudden, excruciating detail. Shifting sands of expression.
“But you’re okay now? What freaked you out?”
“This!” She waved her hand, indicating the Universe. “I
feel like my dreams have seeped into the world.”
“Maybe they have.”
“I’ve been where you are,” Bob said. “Many times.”
“Yeah.” Bob stepped closer and placed his hand on her arm, his fingers were tentacles. “One time I dropped acid in the rain and I saw the face of God in every drop. And then every raindrop showed me a snapshot from my own suicide.”
“Sometimes. Sometimes the world is so full of heaviness and woe it breaks my heart...” He slid his hand to her shoulder and tried to lean in for a kiss.
Gossamer pulled away from him and said, “I’m sorry Bob, I can’t fuck you.” And then she walked away, disappearing into the folding dark.
Bob returned to the bonfire. He’d heard from The Underground that the girls at the Briarpatch commune were loose but Lydia’s was his second shootdown of the night. He didn’t understand it, his raindrop suicide rap usually worked on stoned hippie chicks. He eyed his next prize, a pale, blackhaired chick staring at the fire as if hypnotized. He approached her and said, “Pretty far out scene, huh?”
He didn’t get anywhere with her either.