Bianca and I had a history together of explorations in consciousness and mischief as then practicing Buddhist Mystics and were eager for our next adventure in enlightenment. We had worked together on Wall Street when liquid lunches and bottles of wine in your desk drawer was standard practice, and attended meditation retreats for the exhilaration and clarity. Our wild, risk-taking spirits with the thirst for more far-reaching experiences of the mind drove us to find psilocybin, and Bianca did.
Neither of us were new to “magic mushrooms” though my previous excursions were as a teen. Back then I had the proper “set and setting” with my high school boyfriend in the New Mexico desert and watched a Red-Tail Hawk create the sky by weaving trailing lines together. We had also merged with the unifying music of a Yes concert after chewing on ‘shrooms in his Volkswagon Beetle. As well, a best friend and I took mushrooms and found ourselves waist-high in the midst of a huge Poison Oak field while taking a shortcut hiking. She had evenly said not to worry, the plants were our friends – and we didn’t contract a rash.
This time, it’s a holiday weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. I was finishing a tech contract and Bianca flew out, “smuggling” a baggie of dried psilocybin on the plane from D.C. I wondered how our adventure would be different from my younger explorations.
That morning we leave the hotel in my rental car and head for the Blue Ridge mountains.
The fall trail is crisp and colorful with expansive views of the hills below us. We start out nibbling a few mushroom caps, but then it becomes one of those classic ‘Gee, nothing’s happening’ scenarios, and we eat the rest – the entire baggie full.
By the time we get back to the parking lot we are laughing our heads off. We’re cracking up about when we surprised an entire room of teammates on an animation software project with a risque female lead character. Doubled over, we are breathless. We had based her on a Jamie Lee Curtis film then out, Blue Steel, trading the revolver for a machine gun, gave her twirling naked breasts emitting an array of acid colors, and otherwise dressed like Madonna. The shock in the room made us realize we’d probably gone over the line.
I marvel at how it seems Bianca’s astral body is releasing holding patterns, and she can’t believe the car is the size of a toy. We twirl our arms and dance in the lot until we realize the sun is gradually disappearing behind the tall trees. We’re the only ones here and do not want to get stuck on the mountain top.
Utterly stoned, it feels like I’m driving 20mph down the long, curvy road. I sense everything distinctly moving through me: the rolling tarmac, the turning car tires, up through the steering wheel and into my arms, shoulders, back and legs. My eyes are glued to the black top, and the green canopy of trees surrounding us is sharp with Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room splendor. In the passenger seat, Bianca calmly repeats what a great job I’m doing and her soothing, soft voice goes down my throat like nectar.
We roll to a stop at the intersection and I freeze. Was this the direction we came? Which way do we turn? My body fills with panic as images of police approaching the car and busting us for our blazing eyes, or sleeping in the car with weirdos attacking us, flood my mind.
“Bianca,” I say, my eyes feeling like pin wheels, my teeth like ice. “I can manage if you tell me which way to go. Just pick a direction.”
Bianca hesitates for half a moment. She looks left, then right, and back again left. “That way!” she points.
I drive with confidence even though we have no real idea where we are or how to find the main highway – following the road down, like a river, must lead to the freeway.
Instead, the route eventually takes us from the woods into a strange village. It’s like we’ve entered a surreal fairy tale. Vernacular buildings with pointy red rooftops, green latticed windows, turrets and stone walls arrange the landscape. The sidewalks are teeming with people. We pass a large sign that reads:
“Alpine Village of Georgia
It’s Labor Day Weekend and this is a Bavarian tourist town.
The psilocybin is coming on strong, and the openness of our fluid psyches is slammed with a wall of human aura. Who are these people and why are they here? It’s not as if there are any Ferris wheels or carousels or roller coasters. Bianca and I are like two pixies in a land of ogres. Yet the town itself seems cheerful so we decide to park and walk around.
As we stroll up the main street looking for a restaurant, my legs and torso reach up to the sky and back down, elongating then retracting with each step. The ground feels like sponge. The sensation is freeing and fun, yet I nervously ponder if anyone can see this phenomenon. But no one seems to notice as my eye level never changes despite the giant strides, so can this really be happening?
“Wow, Bianca, my legs feel like Carlos Castaneda’s in the desert with Don Juan! Like Gumby.”
She giggles. “Mine too!”
Our psychotropic journey is feeling more like a Hunter S. Thompson trip by the minute.
Dodging drunks, we find a friendly place where we can sit outside on a corner and choose the most secluded table.
“We need to eat, we have to eat to come down,” I say.
“I’m not that hungry,” Bianca shrugs.
“Doesn’t matter, just get food in you. We have to drive back to Atlanta and need to be more solid.”
Entering the crowded restaurant we find German and Swiss tchotchkes everywhere. “Look how cute this is!” Bianca holds up a horse drawn wagon. I don’t want to look at people because their heads are too big, skin too shiny, eyes too full of grasping desires and confusion. One of them is asking me something. His mouth forms silent shapes. Then I make out, “Excuse...tell...bathroom” and I point behind me to what looks like a long dark tunnel, puzzled why anyone would want to go down there. Every wooden scalloped eave and post around us pulses and pops. Are those Elves peeking out?
We approach the checkout and pick up menus. The food descriptions run together. A golden haired “Swiss Miss” in her layered Dirndl stands at the register ready to ring us up. She looks like a caricature from The Sound of Music. Her blond locks gleam with a thousand suns. I can see every drop of perspiration on her face. The old-fashioned register’s round keys are enormous, the artfully detailed numbers and brass borders large enough for me to sit under; I could slip down its glistening façade like a water slide and into the open cash drawer’s cavernous compartments.
Bianca begins to give her order, and then, as I stare at the choices, the room erupts into white light.
And I literally disappear.
For a moment or moments there is no “me”. One minute I am aware of myself contemplating the shrimp salad, then I completely go away. There is no awareness of “me”, and then I return and realize I’d been gone. I wonder if dying is like this.
Feeling a slight moment of panic and embarrassment I don’t know if I placed my request or not. I glance at Bianca who nonchalantly nods her head.
“That’ll be $12.95,” the Alpine beauty says to me with a genuine Bavarian accent.
So I had ordered the salad in my stead.
“I’ll bring those out to you shortly,” she smiles. I nod, partially comprehending her.
Bianca’s brown eyes are big and molten and she has a huge smile on her own face as we make our way back to the table carefully stepping over the wood floor which is moving in languid waves.
We plunk down at our table and I hunch over in my chair watching a horse drawn wagon filled with tourists go by. Bianca relaxes, her long arms draped over the sides of her seat. As I watch the horse and wagon trace a circular path, passing by us over and over, I consider the never-ending cycles of existence.
Then I start obsessing about my boyfriend and how we’ll probably have to break up because he wants the whole “white picket fence” thing and I do not. I can’t stop analyzing it.
As though she feels my tension, Bianca croons softly, “It’s alright. Everything will be ok.” I look at her, a sacred modern deity with loose brown hair and baby bangs, wearing a tee shirt and jeans, her eyes focused on something inward, enfolded in the arms of Eternity, and receive something like ‘darshan’. It is going to be okay, with her here.
“I’ll go check on our orders.” I jump up. The restaurant is bustling and it has been awhile.
I feel like I’m bobbling as my energy expands in all directions, breathing air through my nose that feels thick with every molecule since the beginning of time.
Back inside the restaurant, I see our Bavarian waitress coming toward me carrying our salad bowls in two hands – except there’s been a change. She’s now a blond braided Alpine version of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi with white luminescence pouring out her mouth dressed in an aproned dirndl and clogs, and four graceful arms. Gold luster is radiating all around her. I am so elevated I believe myself to be in a heavenly realm.
“I’m coming!” she says, and I follow her back to our table. I want to bow deeply to her but keep it regular and say, “Thank you.” She hurries back inside.
“Bianca! Our waitress – she turned into a four-armed Goddess!”
“Wow, dude! How cool,” she laughs, digging into her salad bowl.
“Everything really is sacred,” I muse.
After hogging the table for what seems like several hours, there is the vague memory of us trying to take in a hotel in Helen because we think we’re still too high to drive, but it must have been too raucous or otherwise weird because we head to Atlanta after all. Somehow we make it back, Bianca providing directions with me at the wheel, passing through the high-intensity toll lights like a rock star stadium. We feel triumphant, the same as Bill and Ted, our fictional movie heroes from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
The next morning we eat breakfast at an iHop. We are lucid and clear and the artificially sweet blueberry syrup on sticky pancakes hits the spot. I feel alive and connected to my surroundings in a way I hadn’t before and suddenly have a direct insight. For years I had sought big experiences of the spirit, inwardly eschewing the mundane and trying to block the pain of the world, yet God-consciousness was inherently there too. It would be difficult but it was time for me to learn how to blend the earthly and the divine together.
“Bianca, this may sound ironic, but I’m realizing that human bands of perception are actually good for us. It plugs us in. We belong here.”
“It’s grounding,” she said, shoving pancake into her mouth.
“Yeah. It feels … healthy!”
With this realization we make our way to the huge indoor mall where plenty of paraphernalia for the Olympic Games Atlanta would host in two years was on display. We buy a couple of commemorative sweatshirts and then go to a photo station to have our picture taken.
The result is still one of my favorites: Bianca’s hair is pulled back revealing her resplendent, shining face that beams with the power of the moon and sun; me in a long-sleeved black velvet shirt and French cross necklace, looking ethereal and melty. Our post-psilocybin glow could have lit up the dark recesses of the universe.
At this point, we should call it a day, but decide to take in a movie. Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers just came out. We know nothing about it, and have no idea what we’re in for – we’re just Oliver Stone fans.
The theater is packed, we sit close to the front, trying to process the dense concoction of violent images, Juliette Lewis’ glorious, vicious wildness like a mad Mahakali, and Stone’s heavy messaging through the pure filter of our expanded consciousnesses. In retrospect, my mind felt like an Ali Banisadr painting watching that film: a cacophony of shapes, shadows, repeated colors, and meaning within flashes of coherence.
“What the fuck was that??” Bianca said when the movie ended.
“The only scene that really made any sense was with the Navajo Indian healer. Do you know that was Russell Means?” I said.
Natural Born Killers was the tantric end to our psily high. Maybe that was the perfect way to reenter the world.
Tara Reale wrote and illustrated her first book at thirteen, self-publishing it in the manner of the time: xerox copies bound with extensive masking tape. She is currently working on a memoir.