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EEL PIE DHARMA - a memoir / haibun -  © 1990 Chris Faiers

Chapter 16 - Tripping

Many of the 'communards' were heavily into LSD trips.  I was wary of the group trips, both because I didn't trust the motives of some involved, and also because the effects of too much acid were becoming apparent to me.

A sad case was Mark. He and his girlfriend Andrea spent most of the time locked in their room.  Mark was tall and thin, with a narrow, very pale face. He looked like a mime, doing an impression of a hippy.  He had always been theatrical, and the acid must have stripped away the already thin boundaries that separated fantasy from reality.  The stories of his irrational antics grew.  In a self-styled 'guerilla theatre' gesture he had stolen dresses from a ladies shop in the very working class Twickenham.  He was always yelling off-key rock'n'roll lyrics, and wandering around the hotel in a daze.

One night Mark stumbled into my room in the middle of the night.  I was asleep, and I awoke to find Mark naked and hovering above me.  He was whispering something.  "Egg, Egg", he was repeating.  In his hands he cradled a hard-boiled egg.  The mysteries of life were being revealed to him on acid, and he wanted to share the discovery with me:

    to a naked man
         with a peeled egg

Another story was that Mark had befriended Peter Townshend, leader of the famous rock group The Who.  Part of the story was true, because a 16-track recorder appeared in one of the rooms at Eel Pie, loaned by Townshend.  Listening to it one day, I could make out the faint sounds of the Who's rock opera Tommy still ghosted on the tape.  Townshend's house house was on the embankment at the foot of the Eel Pie bridge. The story went that Mark had taken to visiting Townshend on his nocturnal wanderings, and Townshend initially found Mark interesting, possible as some sort of acid savant.  Their friendship didn't last long, though, the story going that Mark had made a pass at Townshend's wife, and the volatile Townshend had chased Mark back across the bridge with an axe!

Other events made me wary of acid. Indian Alex was a self-styled nature freak.  He lived on a vegetarian diet, scrounging castoff produce from the bins behind the Twickenham grocery stores.  He would add nuts and berries which he found in the woods and mix up salad and rice dishes.  One evening many of the Eel Piers were enjoying the effects of a group acid trip on the front lawn, lounging by the river to put on a show for any passing boaters, when Indian Alex began convulsing.  The trippers gathered around, and in their stoned state they thought Alex was experiencing some form of religious ecstacy.  "Wow, man, what a far-out trip that guy's on!"

Alex had accidentally mixed some hemlock root into his evening meal, and had gone into epileptic seizure.  Fortunately a few of us weren't stoned on acid, and called an ambulance. Alex had to be hospitalized, but he survived, although his front teeth were knocked out by the medics during his seizure.

Acid had a freeing effect on most people for the first few trips, but for those with mental problems, the acid quickly worsened their state.  It had a similar effect on group dynamics.  The effects of a strong hallucinatory trip were so overwhelming that some people looked for leadership at any cost to free them from the confusion.  A few of the Eel Piers, such as Magic Mike, were only too happy to assume the mantle of acid guru.

One night shouting awoke me.  I was heavily stoned from smoking hash, and in a mood of stoned susceptibility.  The noise was coming from downstaors, and I went to investigate.  Magic Mike and other Eel Piers were haranguing a new dosser.  Magic Mike had worked himself up into a state of acid righteousness, and he was demanding the dosser leave.  Everyone was tripped out of their minds, and the lines between reality and fantasy had blurred, because Magic Mike and the others were talking cosmic nonsense, a sort of acid fascism.  In my stoned state some of it even made sense to me, and when I started to intervene on behalf of the dosser, who only seemed to want a place to stay, Magic Mike started screaming, "Nature is here.  I feel the presence of nature.  Who is representing nature?".

I knew I was being addressed.  From the communal trips those present had assumed 'cosmic' personalities, and as everyone knew how much I loved nature and knew about my haiku poems, I knew that Magic Mike was challenging me.  I had been in the commune longer than any of those present, and I still had cachet because of this, and so I let the dosser sleep in my room, away from the ravings of the self-styled acid fascists.  The commune was changing for the worse, and much of the problem was the acid:

    these clouds reveal too much

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revised 8 March 2017