MARK VONNEGUT is the son of novelist Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. In 1969 he graduated from Swarthmore College. Bored with East Coast academia, suspicious of his father's sudden literary notoriety and determined to stay true to the principles of hippiedom, Mark headed for the wilds of British Columbia to build a commune and find his panacea. Two years later, on Valentine's Day, 1971, Vonnegut was committed to Hollywood Psychiatric Hospital in Vancouver- diagnosed severely schizophrenic. The Eden Express, his first book, is his personal account of his bout with schizophrenia.Pub.Bantam Books 1975 ISBN 0-553-02755-7

JUNE 1969  Drugs. Most of the people at the farm were well-seasoned trippers. It hadn't rotted their brains or taken over their lives. It was just something they had done several times a year for the past three or four, something they enjoyed and felt helped them grow and understand more. From the way I looked and talked and the friends I hung around with, people who didn't know me well assumed that I had done my share of tripping. They were always a little surprised to find out that I had never dropped acid and that my sum-total experience with psychedelics was one mescaline trip, and that not until I was an old man of twenty-two and out of college.

I rarely admitted even to myself that I might be afraid of drugs. I just kept saying that feelings of love, beauty, peace, and cosmic insights. could be achieved more lastingly and meaningfully in other ways. But the drugs were always there and more and more tempting, if only to find out what the bell everyone was so excited about. So one fine and sunny day, two weeks after graduating from Swarthmore, Vincent, his girl friend of the moment, and Virge and I headed down from Boston to the incomparable dunes of Sandy Neck to do something about Mark's virginity. Vincent had four caps of super organic mescaline. Oh, well, thought I, I'm going to trip. Strange travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God. I had a slight feeling of anxiety in the pit of my stomach but I laughed at it. No one ever has a bad trip on mescaline. It's not like it's acid or something. What bad could happen anyway? Down the hatch went the little pill. When's it gonna start? When's it gonna start? How silly. Here we are on an absolutely beautiful day, four beautiful people in one of the world's most amazingly beautiful places. What are we messing around with some drug for? What more could we want? What more could there be?

I never called it a "bad trip." Sometimes other people would call it that when I told them what had happened. "Bad trip" didn't really describe it. It wasn't saying enough. It was saying too much. If you had a bad trip it was because you were a bad person. If you weren't a bad person, then at the very least having a bad trip indicated that work was needed on this or that part of your head; a lack of wisdom or something like it was at the root of your bad trip. People would always talk about what a terrible trip someone like Nixon would have and what a nice wonderful beautiful trip someone they really loved or admired would have. I found the logic appealing. It made sense to me that the drug somehow opened you up and that if you were somehow pure, everything would go fine, but if you were twisted and kinky, you'd have a bad trip. Finding myself on the other end of the stick, the end of the stick I had hoped to use on Nixon, Mitchell, etc., didn't lessen the appeal of the logic.

I was shaking, I was crying, I was scared. Not the whole time but for quite a bit of it. The only honest thing to say is it was a bad trip. And that thought became an obsession. I was different from other people. That was the meat of it. Vincent, Virginia, and Gloria were all fine. They didn't end up crying, shaking, scared. For them it seemed to end after eight hours. They all felt a tinge of regret about it. "If only it could be like this all the time." The hell of it was that for me it was. Had I had a rock-stable world to start with, I might well have enjoyed an extracurricular jaunt into psychedelic perception. But it was just too close to home and accelerated everything I was trying to keep a lid on.

It had really been acid. I was grasping at straws, something to make the fact that I was shaking, scared, crying, more reasonable. An honest mistake? It happened all the time. Mescaline was in big demand. Some bastard had sold Vincent acid as mescaline. And the bastard got closer and closer, as bastards always do. It became Vincent and it wasn't for money. It was to show Virginia what a fucked-up person I was deep down inside. Maybe they had all taken dummy capsules and I had been given a whomping dose of acid. That was too heavy. In a switch I decided that yes, I had been deceived but I was deceived because they loved me so much.

They knew me better than I knew myself. They had given me this acid to straighten out my kinks, to make me see how beautiful I was. To make me love myself as much as they loved me. They knew I wouldn't have taken it if I had known it was acid. That was part of the stupid but charming thing about me that they were trying to help me with. It went back and forth. Bad plot, no plot, good plot, no plot, bad plot, no plot, good plot. Back and forth, faster and faster, and then a few days later, after many cold showers and lots of staying in bed, it finally started slowing down and then went away. But the nasty fact that mescaline had made me crying, shaking, scared remained. It haunted me. If the good fairy had appeared and granted me one wish, it would have been a good trip.

JANUARY 1971 And then it happened. I got my wish. Just after Christmas, a year and a half after my mescaline disaster, I had a "normal" acid trip. I went up, got high, and came down Just like my fellow trippers, Virge and a couple from the Prior Road commune. Unlike the mescaline, which had woven itself too well into the fabric of my mind, the acid let me tell when it came and what it was doing and when it went. It was a pleasant, giggly day, and a huge relief to me.

And then one night, after several days of pure Eden, as I was trying to get to sleep, marveling at the fullness of each moment, feeling that I was living whole lifetimes within each moment, I started listening to and feeling my heart beat. Suddenly I became terribly frightened that it would stop. And from out of nowhere came an incredibly wrinkled, iridescent face. Starting as a small point infinitely distant, it rushed forward, becoming infinitely huge. I could see nothing else. My heart had stopped. The moment stretched forever. I tried to make the face go away but it mocked me. I had somehow gained control over my heartbeat but I didn't know how to use it. I was holding my life in my hands and was powerless to stop it from dripping through my fingers. I tried to look the face in the eyes and realized I had left all familiar ground.

When I first saw the face coming toward me I had thought, "Oh, goody." What I had in mind was a nice reasonable conversation. I had lots of things I wanted to talk about, lots of questions it must have answers to. God, Jesus, the Bible,, the Ching, mescaline, art, music, history, evolution, physics, mathematics. How they all fit together. Just a nice bull session, but a bull session with a difference. A bull session with someone who knew. My enthusiasm was short-lived. He, she, or whatever didn't seem much interested in the sort of conversation I had in mind. It also seemed not to like me much. But the worst of it was it didn't stop coming. It had no respect for my personal space, no inclination to maintain a conversational distance. When I could easily make out all its features, when it and I were more or less on the same scale, when I thought there was maybe a foot or two between us, it had actually been hundreds of miles away, and it kept coming and coming till I was lost somewhere in some pore in its nose and it still kept coming. I was enveloped, dwarfed. No way to get any perspective on the thiog at all, and for all I really knew it wa? still light-years away and coming and coming and coming. My own insignificance again? Shit, I sort of wanted to leam something new. "So you really want to go on a trip, do you? OK, punk, now you're really going to fly." Or words to that effect. Not words exactly, more like thunder.


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