The Night Richard Blew It



There is a living spirit of earth and sky that guides human beings on the wolf’s road.   The spirit doesn’t make you take the road, you are already on it.  If you touch the spirit on the road it becomes your shamanic journey.  The journey is a joyous, frightening, sublime ecstasy.  The Indians in Texas for the last ten thousand years called the spirit Father Peyote.  The dope mystics I hung around with called it acid.

There is acid that is peaceful and beautiful.  There is acid that is deep and dangerous.  There is acid that is none of these things and there is acid that is all of these things. 

In 1968 good and evil fucked like rabbits.  The year started with Tet.  Martin Luther King got shot in Memphis in the spring and then Bobby Kennedy got killed in LA.  That summer everybody took LSD.  That fall Richard Nixon got elected President of the United States. At Christmas the Earth got its first good look at itself.  You had to be there.

Before he went to Vietnam, Kevin and I dropped acid and went over to the University of St. Thomas where we talked some anti-war bullshit with some people until the acid came on.  Then we got lost for a while in a forest of parking lot lamp posts.   

Toward evening we walked over to the cool second story flat in the Montrose where Mark and Babs and Illana and Richard lived.  It had an airy kitchen with French windows and big comfortable rooms.  The Montrose district was in the trash and treasure transition from old uptown rich to antique store chic on its merry way to full-blown upscale gay.  On every street there were beautiful and whacked out people and plenty of every kind of drink and dope to keep them that way.  This flat was a way station for all that.  Mark was studying to be an acoustical engineer.  Babs earned a few bucks acquiring and cataloging the entire Beatles portfolio for a wealthy art collector.  Like most of the finest hippie chicks, she acted like she had no idea how good-looking she was. You wanted to bathe at Baxter’s with Babs. 

Illana was beautiful in a way that made you believe she was the living incarnation of Aphrodite. She was as fragrant as a rose caressed by the morning dew.  She was your “girl’s brown body” in Cream’s Tales of Brave Ulysses.  You wanted to taste the down above her lips and drink from her porcelain cheek.  One time when I scored a pound of pretty good weed from Austin I called Cynthia and she brought Illana with her and we spent that whole fantastic day getting stoned. That was what the world is supposed to be like.  Many years later her sister told me Illana went to live in “a community” in Hawaii.  A crystalline soul, confused but never evil in that finely sculpted envelope of flesh, to be become some manner of Pentecostal Christian. Christ, she was a beautiful young woman.  Funny, I did not think to ask if she took Richard with her.

This was before all that when Illana was the love of Richard’s life.

I am pretty sure Richard wanted to kill me because back when she lived with her parents I got stoned on acid and kept Illana out all night. Her parents freaked but nothing happened except we drove to Freeport and I talked to the Gulf of Mexico.  Later, she moved in with Richard and they lived in the Montrose with two cats they called Hookah and Nabis.  He may have hated me so much that he torched my apartment.  The fire could have been the poltergeist that showed up after Kevin cursed God, or because of the time Ronnie fucked Cynthia, but it could have been Richard, so I did not feel bad that night when I bought his soul.

As we gathered around to smoke a few joints, Richard’s friend opened a small sheet of foil.  There were enough sky blue tablets for everybody.

“Strong,” he said, more a promise than a warning, “333 righteous mikes.” 

Everybody in the room except Illana and Babs dropped that acid.

The TV was visible in the other room with the sound off.  Hubert H. Humphrey’s acceptance speech gestures fluttered like some Bruce Lee staggered motion kata swirling in the pool of Grace Slick’s vocal in Wooden Ships.  The rest of the whole world was watching those Chicago Democratic Convention assholes busting heads on the street.

That beautiful blue tab started to rush. 

I don’t know what Richard was doing, but I knew he hated me on some level.  His dilated eyes gazed into mine, “You think too much.”  It was weakness hating strength.  To hate me he must bare his soul to me, so I took it.

Richard’s ill will reached out for me, so I wrapped it around his head.  We were all stoned on acid, bartering immortality for souls.  I used Mephistopheles’ business model, the Faustian bargain.  Your soul for immortality.  Sign here.  This acid was strong enough to believe we had souls, because everything else was beginning to fall away, first like a thin curtain at an open bright window, then like leaves in a gust of wind.  Richard sealed the deal because at that time and place he thought to live forever meant that this sex drugs and rock and roll moment would last forever. I bought his soul because he really did hate my guts and I was going to fuck him over for that, if nothing else.  I bought Kevin’s soul out of kindness, to protect him.  Kevin bought the deal because he wanted to live the next two years.  With good reason.  He had a draft notice in his wallet.   

It was a foolproof deal: if you died, I must have been conning you.

This was heavy acid and after the rush it kept coming on.

You felt your conscious core soul-self unhitch from its sensory pier, the inside of your head tear away from the outside of your head and its eyes and ears and whatever else was hanging on to space and time to go deeper, farther into a shadowy theatre where the synaesthesic eruption turned After Bathing at Baxters into floating word-wrapped leaves on waves of light.  Your own human speech was to leap across the kitchen into somebody else’s head, paranoid construals dancing around a room filled with countless molecules of air.  Layer after layer of dissolving conscious connections, fractured pictures, misrouted emotions, exchanged senses and the realization “There is no God here, only self!”  Within that self, a diamond-hard impenetrable center that was your soul.

One moment Richard’s slapping his head in his hands, “This is really great acid!” and some other moment he’s wandering around the flat and then for some reason Richard was on the telephone in the hall.  He’s talking to his parents.  Illana and Babs were somehow aware that he had to be talked to and down at this end before somebody or everybody goes out a window.

“Yes, Mom,” says Richard into the phone that is welding itself to his jaw, “I’ll stand right here till you come over.”  The phone started to melt into his head.

“—With the fucking cops,” the outside me said.  A new waking focus opened the curtain of self and carried the inside me quickly to the door.  Both me’s grabbed Kevin on the way out.

Maybe my deal helped. Kevin did his tour in Vietnam as a corpsman.  We enjoyed a fine correspondence throughout those terrible days.  I would send him stuff like my poems to cheer him up, “rough-hewn drawings,” inspired by my divinations of the I Ching, to transport his mind somewhere else.


By the light of stars delayed by time

Every river seeks its own ocean.


Our failure is a victory over false meanings

By great good fortune

We have an abundance of questions.


When his tour was over, we had a few drinks to celebrate.  Just before we both passed out, Kevin says, “You know how you’re supposed to be able to land a crippled chopper with auto-rotation?”


“It don’t work.”

Kevin got back in the world and studied medicine. 

But maybe the deal cracked Richard.  Maybe it was that righteous acid.  He didn’t jump out a window, he just blew it.

The rest of that night Kevin and I walked back to Earth by following empty urban railroad tracks.

Later I burned the signatures, just in case.


Peter Ahrens

Before Halloween 2014

Nexial Quest (c) Pete Ahrens 1999 - 2014