I’VE LABORED the last few days switching photos from one internet provider (SlickPic) to another (Flickr). There were over 500 shots, so it took quite a while, especially since I passed some of them through a service that gussied them up.
I reduced the 500+ to 425 but only 248 are visible to the public. You can see them here.
When my second wife kicked me to the curb in 1995, I left behind almost all photos taken during the 19 years I spent with her. And when I moved to Mexico in 2000, I culled even further. Most photos I have now were shot since I moved south.
But not all.
There are lots, and almost all are digital, i.e. online, nowhere else. One reason I moved to Flickr, which is far better than it used to be, is that it’s free (up to a point), and the photos will not vanish one year when I fail to pay. That could happen when I’m dead, and I want my child bride to have access to them.
During this process I came across some photos I’d not noticed in years, and I’m going to show a few to you. The first was taken in Mexico City in the 1970s. I was sitting with a French friend I’ve known since we met in the Air Force in 1963. He is a legal immigrant.
That’s me on the left, of course. I weighed about 225 pounds. Nowadays, I weigh about 165, making me rather skinny at 6′-3″ tall. I prefer the adjectives svelte, lean or trim. Skinny doesn’t sound good. I trimmed down around 1980 with a bit of effort.
And here I am beardless, a bit earlier than the above photo. I’m in the French Quarter of New Orleans, an extra in a movie titled Octoroon. The movie won no Oscars. Quite the contrary. It went straight to drive-ins. I was only in the first scene, walking down a sidewalk.
Oddly, I’ve always wanted to be an actor, and would have done theater work in New Orleans or Houston except for the fact that my newspaper career always had me working evenings, and that’s when theaters present plays. I never had a chance.
Thwarted by fate. I coulda been somebody!
And here is a photo of me and my mother that was taken during a visit to Georgia shortly after I relocated to Mexico. She died in 2009 at the age of 90.
Now let’s look way back to 1956. Here I am in, I think, the 7th Grade. I’m the kid in the middle. The boy on the right is Larry. A few years later, he lost a leg in a grisly highway accident during a nighttime hayride.
Are you old enough to remember hayrides?
Another boy, a friend of mine, was killed in that same accident. I had been invited to go, but I didn’t, and I don’t remember why. Luck, I guess.
WE CELEBRATED the first stage of our two-weekend, 17th anniversary on Sunday by driving clockwise around the lake and stopping at the German restaurant.
I had German sausage and sauerkraut, and my child bride went for trout a lá pistachio. Both were above average. Next weekend, we’ll repeat the route to celebrate again but at a different joint. Lots of restaurants to be found out there, especially if you drive clockwise.
Seventeen years is a long time to be married, especially if it’s a third marriage, which it is for me but not for her. She’s not a repeat offender. I was married to my first wife a bit over five years, to my second a tad over 10 years though I lived with No. 2 about 19 years.
So we have another two years to top all relationship records for me.
I like being married. My head drifts and my heart cracks when I’m single. I tend to lose my mind. If I’d done it right in the first place, marrying a Mexican, my entire life would have been different. I highly recommend Mexican wives.
Mexican husbands, nah, not so much. I hear things.
(I have mentioned my history with entheogens before, primarily on my previous website, the now-defunct Zapata Tales. A time or two since, readers have asked for details, most recently this week, so here they are. By the way, I don’t do this anymore because there is no need.)
* * * *
I WAS REARED an agnostic. My parents never went to church and never mentioned religion at home.
And I remained an agnostic till January 19, 1997. That was when I first ingested entheogens, first psilocybin mushrooms and, two days later, a mix of mushrooms and LSD.
Why did I do that? I was trying to make some sense out of my life because at that point, age 52, it seemed not to have any. My life, sense. My second divorce was two years behind me, not something I initiated, and it had thrown me into a massive tailspin.
In the space between ages 50 and 52, I had not found any equilibrium. I was drastically adrift, grasping at any semblance of a grounded straw. I looked at dreams. My daughter mentioned a psychologist she knew who was well-versed in dream interpretation.
He lived outside Tallahassee, Florida. We did a phone session about dreams, which was interesting. As the call wound down, I asked if he knew someone with access to peyote because I thought it would help me.
He then said he could help me in that way. I drove to Tallahassee.
And this is what I found out in the woods, a beautiful home where my new friend lived alone, a lifelong, handsome bachelor and truth-seeker, so to speak. A private practitioner with a Ph.D. from Florida State University.
We got started before dawn the next morning. He gave me ecstasy, which had no effect whatsoever, which was revealing. Getting nowhere with that, he mixed a brew of psilocybin mushrooms that he cultivated himself.
Bingo! That did the trick.
I was lying on the living room sofa with my eyes covered with a sleep mask. I descended into a massive cavern where native people danced. The music came from a CD player, but I did not know it at the time. It was The Serpent’s Egg by Dead Can Dance.
Music is an excellent assist to entheogens, a term I prefer over drugs, which is a wider category that usually carries bad connotations.
Entheogens are not addictive.
After the cavern, I fell further into a world so extreme and astonishing that putting it into words cannot be done. About eight hours later, the effects begin to wear off. What remains is the knowledge of having seen the “other side.” It is not an hallucination.
A good book to read is The Secret Chief by Myron J. Stolaroff. The author believes this, and I agree with him: We are born with a faucet connected to our minds, and that faucet is shut tight because if it weren’t, we could not function. Taking entheogens opens the faucet temporarily.
Imagine yourself sitting on the stage of a theater in the round. The curtain is closed, and then it begins to open all around you, and you see for the first time beyond the stage which is your everyday world.
You see what’s really out there.
When the entheogen effects begin to wear off, the curtain starts to shut again till it’s closed entirely, and you’re back to “normal,” sitting on that stage of everyday life. But you remember.
My new friend recommended a recess, which I took the following day, driving around the rural, wooded area of the Florida Panhandle.
* * * *
One more time
As dawn arrived the day after that, I was ready, I thought, for Session Two, which was a combination of LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. People with experience say it’s important to state your intention before going on these expeditions. This is true.
For this second event, my intention was that I wanted to dance with love. What did I expect with such a notion? Here’s what I thought would happen based on my experience two days earlier. I thought a beautiful woman would appear, and we would dance.
But the Goddess has her own ideas, so that did not happen. What happened was this: There was no vision. I saw absolutely nothing, but what I felt was stunning. A feeling of extreme caring embraced me. It was like nothing I had ever experienced or imagined.
* * * *
The puma and the woman
Hours later, around midnight, I felt relatively normal again, and I was sitting in my new friend’s living room facing him. I thought it was over, so I told him to go to bed, and I would do the same. He went upstairs.
My bedroom was on the ground floor right off the living room, a short walk. I went in, undressed and lay atop the sheets. The lights were off, and it was the sort of darkness you find in the forest on a moonless night.
Lying there, I turned into a woman. Just like that. I could see nothing due to the lack of light, but I turned into a woman. I felt it. It’s quite different from being a man. I felt an unfamiliar, strong need to be cared for.
And then I turned into a black puma. I moved my long tail from one side to the other at the foot of the bed. My whiskers twitched. I felt incredibly powerful.
And then it ended. I went to sleep.
That episode was about the only one that I recall fairly clearly. I suspect that is due to its happening near the end of that night’s experience. I was not totally under the influence but in a twilight zone.
* * * *
Going home, buckets of blood
My new friend offered a third night of this therapy or whatever you’d call it, but I told him no. I was overwhelmed. I drove back to Texas.
But I returned nine months later for LSD. The second night of my first visit had entailed a mixture of both psilocybin mushrooms and LSD. The psilocybin effect had been the more powerful by far.
I knew this later, not then.
The LSD experience was very different. Psilocybin is softer than LSD. Here’s what stood out about the LSD, the only thing I remember: Buckets of blood. I was under a waterfall of blood that poured over me. A voice told me it was time to grow up, to become a man.
This sounds horrible, but it wasn’t. It was a shove I needed.
Many hours later, after the effects had diminished, my friend told me that I had been laughing loudly, something I was unaware of during the experience. I’ve felt immensely better since that night.
Entheogens have been used for direct religious experiences through human history and beyond. Primitive art shows it.
Indeed, since verbal descriptions of what happens can be next to impossible, art comes into play.
In 1999, I attended an entheogen conference in Palenque, Chiapas. That was a year before I moved to Mexico. Amusingly, one of the attendees was a New York Port Authority cop. Another attendee was a dentist from Tennessee who gave me a dose of 5-MeO-DMT.
5-MeO-DMT provides an experience similar to LSD but it comes on far faster, instantaneously, and only lasts about 15 minutes.
I sat on a bed, smoked it, and collapsed backwards. About 15 minutes later, I was back to normal. It’s the only time I tried 5-MeO-DMT successfully.
In 2000, about eight months after moving to Mexico, I flew to Atlanta, rented a car and drove back to the Panhandle of Florida to participate in a group session in which the entheogen was a chemical analogue of ayahuasca. And that was the end for me.
I was told — you do hear voices — that I didn’t need to do that sort of thing anymore, so I haven’t. By the way, group sessions are far from ideal. Stick to solo sessions with an experienced helper.
* * * *
Many, probably most, people who take psychedelics do it for fun. I take a neutral stance on this matter. There is a consciousness out there — God if you will — and she will let you see her if that is your wish.
However, if your desire is recreational, she will not let you see her, or perhaps not to the same degree. I wouldn’t know because I’ve never done this for fun. Your mindset matters very much.
* * * *
I was an agnostic for most of my adult life. I am not anymore. It would be next to impossible to experience the things entheogens provide and not realize there is something far beyond our daily consciousness.
AS YOU MAY know, I’ve been married three times. That means I’ve had three fathers-in-law and three mothers-in-law. This can be a good thing or not.
Let’s look at my in-laws because it’s the in-laws who created the wives.
* * * *
Buddy and Violet
My first in-laws lived in a shack in the woods of Louisiana on the outer reaches of New Orleans. Well, not exactly the woods, but it was close to it.
It looked like a shack in the woods. A car motor slept on the floor of the living room, and as you sat on the toilet you could see the ground through a hole in the floor between your legs. The shack sat on stumpy brick pilings.
There was ancient grease on the kitchen ceiling.
My father-in-law was a carpenter when sober and a raging drunk when not. He was more the latter than the former. In spite of this, he and I always got along fine, not because we were drinking buddies because this was before I started drinking.
And I never drank like him. He was a world champ, and I never rose above bush-league status. My first father-in-law was named Durward, but everyone called him Buddy or Bud. Maybe it was after Budweiser.
Buddy was a beer man, 100 percent.
To his credit, in late middle age, Buddy went cold-turkey, completely on the wagon, and he never drank again. When sober, he was charming. He was also a wonderful artist.
His wife was named Violet. She mostly bore up. It was a life of endurance. I liked her. She never drank at all that I recall.
* * * *
Art and Dorothy
My second in-laws lived in a big, beautiful house in St. Louis, Mo. You couldn’t see the ground through a hole in the floor in any of their bathrooms.
I don’t recall exactly how they came to live in that lovely house because my in-laws didn’t buy it. Someone bought it for them. I forget the details.
Art was a schizophrenic who spent long periods institutionalized. He’d be released on occasion, and my second wife-to-be would find herself with another sibling. Release, baby. Release, baby and so on. They were Catholics.
People who breed.
When he wasn’t in the mental hospital, he was a lathe operator, apparently a very good one. He finally was put on lithium and spent the rest of his life very subdued. Dorothy, who always welcomed him home with open arms and open legs, worked, but I don’t recall exactly what, something to do with offices.
They had ten children. My second ex-wife was the first of the litter.
I don’t recall meeting Art more than once. We lived in New Orleans and later Houston, and we never went to St. Louis but one time.
* * * *
Carlos and Margarita
I never met my third set of in-laws because they died before I came upon the Mexican scene, but I hear good things about them. They were neither drunks nor schizophrenics.
They were hard-working folks.
They had one thing in common with my second in-laws, however. They were fertile, producing five babies. There definitely would have been more had not Margarita died in labor while having her final child. She was just 31.
Carlos was a doctor, a general practitioner and surgeon in Los Reyes, Michoacán. He remarried and went on to produce another six babies, well, that we know of.
The doc was a lover. A heart attack killed him when he was 61.
I would have liked to meet my third set of in-laws, if for no other reason than they produced the best — for me — wife of the lot. Carlos was not fond of Gringos, I’m told, but that was true of the whole family. My charm brought them around.
* * * *
It’s said that one’s childhood plays a large role in forming the adult. I put more stock into this idea than many folks do. I believe the effect is enormous.
I look back on my in-laws and later the problems I had with their children, my wives. And I look at my parents and see issues my former wives had with me.
With luck, you mellow as you age. I think that’s why my child bride has few problems with me. I have none with her.