I’m at that age, I feel, where I can comfortably share tales of youthful exploit without worry (or care) of any adverse judgment or ramification for what transpired. It is with this idea, and having also started a new book by Dennis McKenna (brother to the late Terence McKenna – axial sage of psychopharmacology and psychedelic exploration), that I am inspired to share this upcoming story. Names of participatory parties have been reduced to first letters only, so that they may remember that they were indeed accomplice to this hallucinatory gong show, without revealing their identity to the rest of the world.
When I was 18 or 19, I held firmly the belief that my body was a laboratory for rigorous and thorough psychedelic experimentation. As a student of mind-expanding mushrooms, I was always on the lookout for the natural buzz, particularly the elusive peyote button, a rarity in Virginia. In those days I worked as a gardener in the summer, often sweating to near hallucination under the burning orb of the sun. It was to my great surprise and intrigue that I learned Datura stramonium, loved for its large, ghostly white trumpet flowers, possessed psychotropic properties. A regular queen of the flowerbeds, Datura was something that I worked with regularly. My interest in botany was budding and it was fascinating to me that this plant could be so elegant, and yet deceptively dangerous. (My understanding of women was on a parallel trajectory).
It was from a golf course manager buddy, we’ll call him Pa, and his bunch that news of the seeds came about. They maintained that Datura seeds, if brewed in a tea, would produce a pleasantly strong trip with vivid hallucinations and all the trappings of a proper tab of acid. The seeds could be collected freely, and more importantly legally, from the roughs of the golf course and so that’s where I went one afternoon to do some collecting. I recall there were four or five of us – Pa, Pe, Ke, myself and maybe Je, or Jo? It’s hard to be sure. I do remember the big thorny seedpods looking like something out of a Tim Burton movie, and the hundreds of black seeds contained within each one. After 30 minutes or so, I had half a Big Gulp cup of seeds, surely enough to produce some effect or another.
That night hanging at Ka, Ta and Pa’s house, eight or so of us took random doses of Datura. The girls had tea, I think, and Ka may have vomited soon after. I, being a dude, opted to pour two mouthfuls of dry seeds into my mouth, washing them down with beer. This seemed to me the purest way to go about it. To be honest, I was skeptical that anything would come of it, despite the stories from Pe about his escapades with Jo, Ke and Ju. Their car had broken down on 395 outside of DC and they were tripping quite hard when the police came to assist them. While talking to the police, Jo had suddenly broken from the group to run off down the side of the road, thinking he had seen Ke hit by a car. But it had only been a figment of his supercharged imagination and he returned to the group, seemingly without having been noticed.
Anyhow, I remember having a few beers, not feeling anything particularly psychedelic, and then going home to make lunch for work the next day. I must have showered first, for I was downstairs by myself making a sandwich in my boxers when I noticed Pe standing beside me. He was talking at length about his truck and I listened, nodding and responding. We exchanged thoughts and then I concentrated on finishing my sandwich, only to realize the next second that Pe had never been there. I remember shrugging to myself, saying, “It’s the seeds…you’re tripping,” and then setting about to make a second ham and cheese.
No sooner had I slathered a slice of bread in mustard than Pe reappeared, going on about needing new tires. I advised him – I remember hearing my own voice – to go for more of an all terrain tire, as mudding tires would just lower gas mileage. Back to the sandwich and once again “Oh! Nobody’s here except me. It’s the seeds, you dummy.”
This happened several times before I finished making lunch and I remember that when I looked at the clock in my bedroom, the numbers were warped like a Salvador Dali painting. No worries, I was tired. A good sleep would bring me around. I tried to close my eyes, but was interrupted this time by Ka, who was floating just above me. We spoke a moment about a concern she had with her dog and then fatigue pulled me away and I drifted off, only to wake a moment later and remind myself “Oh…it’s the seeds.”
This kept up for another half hour or so, as each member of the little seed soiree I’d attended a few hours earlier came by to check in with me. Finally I feel asleep, waking up at about 3am from the absolute worst cottonmouth I’ve ever experienced. It was as if I’d swallowed a mouthful of sand…I was completely incapable of swallowing. On instinct I went downstairs to the fridge for milk. My bowels were cramped and it felt like I had to sit on the toilet, but nothing happened when I did. It was a precarious trip, as my limbs and eyesight were out of calibration, and I moved like some disjointed beast from The Dark Crystal. I remember using the banister going down and back up the stairs and still being unable to read my clock upon my return to bed.
When the alarm went off the next morning at 6:30, the numbers bent like phantom stick men in the morning light. I picked up a book and failed to discern anything that looked like the English language. “Great”, I thought, “I’ve blinded myself.” But it turned out to be just close range sight, for when I went to the bathroom I could see quite clearly that my pupils had dilated to the point where all but a thin blue ring of iris remained.
I tried to speak but there was a choke hold on my vocal chords, and the best I could manage was to croak. I looked pale, bent and gollumish and it was like this that I went down into the sunlit kitchen of my parent’s house to call in to work. Whatever stupidity they (both parents and work) suspected of me they kept it quiet. My siblings, who were readying for the school bus, seemed oblivious to my wretched state. I slunk back up to bed and slept for the better part of the day. It wasn’t until that evening that things returned to normal and I had a sense that life would go on, without me needing therapy of one kind or another.
The next day at work when I told my boss An (a woman so steeped in knowledge and lore of plants I feel it criminal she hasn’t written her own book) she confirmed my suspicion that I’d done something dangerous.
“You’re lucky to be alive,” she said, matter-of-factly. “Witches used to ‘ride’ their brooms with Datura. That shit will kill you…dumbass.”
Or something to that effect. She was right, of course, and boy am I glad now that none of us did die from our funkadelic foraging party. When I look at Wikipedia (just in it nascent beginnings when all of this happened), it seems surprising the American government hasn’t put Datura on the list of illegals. Then again, who’s going to eat Datura seeds when there’re safe, glorious little mushrooms growing in colonies under the cow patties? It was a weird trip, but I reckon the guy in this video had it worse:
*TL/DR – Don’t eat Datura.