(excerpted from: Have a Nice Day, Man . . . tales from the dark side of the 70s)

Once I parked myself into all that space out west with my thumb, there was no heading back. Shortly after I first arrived, down on East Colfax in Denver, it was nothing but broken bottles, over-priced mexi-grass, cheap liquor, and cheaper hookers, all wearing floral print rayon dresses with one lazy strap slipping off their brown shoulders. Everyone smoked Marlboros or Camel regulars, thirty-five cents a pack, while the Rockies—about thirty-five miles to the west—looked on with majestic indifference. Pot’s pretty bad, and there’s no hash to be had like there was on the East Coast—only thing I missed about  it and I was less than one  month gone—so it was cheaper, easier, and just plain necessary to hike up into the foothills of those mountains. Settle in at about 7,000 feet, or so the altimeter said in my sunburned head, and pick poppies all day. Made my hands happy.

You just snap  off the top of the plant—flower, bulb, stem—and cook a bold concoction. Decades later, I discovered what I was making was the root of the Egyptian, Mother—a miracle cure-all the slaves kept in decorative urns hanging around their happy-to-work-all-day necks.

I just boiled it down till all that was left was a paste that I scraped off the bottom of the now-ruined pot. It was really too moist to smoke, I soon discovered, even blended with the utilitarian weed and fine Turkish tobacco. So naturally, I wound up eating it as much or more than I ever smoked it . . .  like an Egyptian slave. So that’s what fueled the erection of the pyramids. Theirs was the same whole poppy plant paste, except they would blend theirs with honey, some other herbs, and a little oil. As such, they would eat it as food, medicine, and a way to get high. Finally, they used it on their bodies as a sore muscle salve. This concoction was everything to them. Hence their name for it, Mother. Made from the whole plant harvested in full bloom, same as I was doing back in September, 1972. Each slave was proud to carry their own concoction  in an ornate vessel carved from soft stone that hung around their necks. Filled with the love of their Mother.

Their Royal masters knew above all else the slaves wouldn’t work for free. They would only toil for their Mother. And so they were kept well supplied. I was bursting with pride for  my creation I thought was so unique that no one had ever made it before. Brewed from wild poppies the Chinese had planted over a hundred years ago, working out west on the railroad, naturally, I took it to a Grateful Dead concert. See how it played there. No one was interested. Fools! Deadheads only want acid, speed, and pot, partner.

I stuck my thumb out immediately after the show and caught some big thunder. By the next day I was rocketing across Nevada on old US 50, America’s loneliest highway, headed for Bezerkley. There they would surely appreciate what I had made from the beautiful white flowered plants, the petals nodding like Easter Bonnets made in my mountains. And they did . . . see the purple mountain majesty deep inside the plant about two hours, or so, after eating it . . . Came on slow, but once it hit, the story just kept on unfolding, like a Woody Guthrie song that’s never going to end. It wasn’t so much you were high, as you became the plant and everything it knew. Strength, resiliency, endurance, vision, wisdom, elation, purpose, as long as you continued to ingest the plant, in rather modest quantities, you stayed up there in its lofty abode. You still slept, ate, and did everything you needed or wanted to do. You just performed it better—with more passion, cleverness, and primal joy.

The natives by the Bay traded me a bunch of pure LSD for just a few grams of my shit. I mean, it wasn’t like the stuff could be mass produced, or ever even duplicated. It was the wild poppies I had picked that September, in those foothills near Boulder, and cooked just the way I decided, or was guided to do it. Dried in the late summer sun. Presto, magic, chango . . .

I couldn’t wait to hitch back to Boulder and make more of my now famous, and blessed by the chemists in Berkeley, concoction. And I did. My partner and I, who lived in some Quonset huts converted into housing for freaks like him and me, took bigger satchels with us, and found where  it was growing much quicker this time. It was really quite a haul that day. He was hell bent on selling it, which, purist that I was about our creation, I was adamantly opposed to. I still had my stipend for college as I was enrolled at the University—though I only attended my dance class and my creative writing courses—so I didn’t need a cash crop like he did.

I slept on his floor with the raw, just-harvested plants. His place reeked of the strange brew. One day I left my stash back at his hut, and came down hard by the end of the day. I went back to his place, but he was out. Well, using the excuse that I had to get inside to feed my new kitten, I broke the small window pane in the front door so I could unlock it and get inside. I had to have it, my strange and lovely potion. I still have the scar on my right index finger that is shaped like the number seven. I had another scar I got a few months later when I was stabbed in the hand with a broken bottle by a prostitute I was staying with down in Kingston. That scar went away after twenty years or so. But the one on my right index finger has never left me.

I see it now as I type this out for you, and remember that perfect high. Made only the natural Rocky Mountain way. That pleasing poppy puree was certainly the end of my college enrollment at the University of Colorado. I needed that plant to teach me what it knew far more than what the lame college professors at Boulder grasped about life. It was sort of  a Jack Kerouac, Hunter S Thompson, and Albert Camus treatise all rolled into one pungent poppy ball of goo. And I ate that till I made my metamorphosis into something new.


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