My second experience with the drug LSD happened at the beginning of summer in 2016. I’m not sure if it was a ‘bad’ trip or not. Its impact nonetheless was intense. So much so it still resonates more than half a year later. I was with my friend Ace at his apartment in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. It was late afternoon when I met him on the street after he just returned from a trip to the art store having bought a ridiculous amount of supplies. We carried it in and set up a painting station on the living room floor to paint that night. He had the idea of dropping acid, but i wasn’t sure about it myself because of the conditions. The environment was congested. There was the small interior space of the apartment that was more like an artist’s studio than a living space with paint everywhere. The apartment building was surrounded by similar buildings that stretched out for miles with no end. This was the opposite from my first experience with the drug a year before where i was in the spacious, solitude of the countryside. Ace poured a drop of the transparent liquid LSD on a paper tissue creating a stain the size of a dime. The stain’s shape resembled a cock with testicles, and this became the joke of the night. He suggested starting with half a dose, using the language of choosing to swallow the cock or the balls but not both at once. I can’t recall which I chose. We began painting on the floor of the living room and immediately all distractions were removed as I lost myself to the process of painting. We did a few collaborations and I was feeling great. Great in the way of how joyous it was to be painting with my friend. I didn’t notice any effects from the drug beyond this, but in a moment this changed. Ace suggested we relocate onto the small balcony. A tiny stretch of cement, with just enough space for the two of us to paint on, we clumsily layed out materials. Ace struggled with the mini speaker as well, getting it to work properly outside. I became self conscious suddenly, feeling exposed, but i went along with it. It was a beautiful scene, a dark summer night in NY, sitting here on a top floor balcony overlooking the backyards of all the neighbors below though know one was out. Further out the the tall buildings of Manhattan lit up with its lights. Ace put on gregorian chant music and it seemed a bit loud. It probably wasn’t, but the unusual silence of the city felt amplified from the vulnerable state with being under the influence of this drug. I didn’t want to affect Ace with the sourness I felt coming on so I just sat with it. It was a challenging situation, one where i had no experience with and my mishandling of it turned to paranoia. I thought of the neighbors calling the cops and knocking on the door? My imagination created a cinema with Ace reacting to the police aggressively and the 2 of us hauled off to the station with me tripping out in the back of a squad car. Thoughts like these were gaps in the spaces where I returned my attention to painting. I mentioned the music’s volume and Ace’s response was a shrug saying, “Yo, this is Bushwick!”. I got his point. No one cared, but I couldn’t shake my worry. I layed out a few small canvas sheets on the ground and painted with blue and white. Ace pointed my attention to the moon, and it looked like a giant slice of lime. I was taken back by its glowing radiance and suddenly the ground beneath vanished and it felt as if I were floating into the black void of the night sky. The gregorian chant was a reinforcing soundtrack creating a holy atmosphere. It was magnificent for a moment, but I couldn’t shake off being surrounded by thousands of strangers even if they were concealed in their homes. It was too much because of the people element, and it brought on some anxiety. I calmly told Ace I was going back in. We weren’t out long at all so I’m sure my behavior was obvious with how I was feeling. I returned to the position of sitting on my knees, hunched over a canvas on the floor. The hallucinations were only beginning, and the paint became alive with a pulse. I lost all control of it. The canvas was like a cage, and the paint a living creature wanting to be free. It ran off the page slowly and I could only watch it. I gave up using a brush and moved my arms in the air over the piece in a tai chi like motion waving my arms thru the wrists into the hands as if making small waves, influencing the direction of the paint. It was working! Overwhelmed by paint, I grabbed the small bag of chalk pastels nearby. There were hundreds of them in a black plastic bag, the kind they give you at the liquor store. Reaching for a color, the interior of the bag appeared ancient with all the crumbled chalk bits and dust speckling in the light like gold. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This was all too much and I wanted the trip to end but it was just beginning. Before any of this Ace mentioned if having a bad trip, taking Xanax would knock one into a deep sleep into the next day. I asked for some at this point where he replied with shock, ‘What!? Already?’. This caused me to second guess myself and trust he was suggesting I shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity. This moment became an episode like the movie Ground Hog Day where I experienced this same brief conversation over and over, losing concept of time altogether. “What about the Xanax?”. “What about the Xanax?” No matter what was happening, i would find myself reliving this moment kneeled down on the floor over my painting with Ace on my right positioned similarly, asking about the Xanax. His answer always changed slightly, and I could no longer tell if this was being re-inacted in my head or was i actually asking each time. Terror grabbed me, fearingI was stuck in this situation for eternity. It came in waves, and yet there was a salvation that lifted me above it though I always fell right back into it. My salvation was in the grand beauty of the world. All it’s colors in particular. Perhaps influenced by the Gregorian music, the Catholic image of the feminine appeared in my mind’s eye. The thought of painting her over and over washed away all my human suffering. I felt a deep motivation in my soul to work with such an image. And after this entire experience, the motivation remains just as fresh. This was all feeling, in the face of the turmoil of my thoughts and emotions as well as the hallucinations. I didn’t see or hallucinate the image of the female saint, but i felt her stronger making it just as real if not more than anything tangible. I found myself traveling deeper into the feeling of bliss. I was scared I might not return from it, yet I allowed myself to go further. Ace would make a comment, usually cracking a joke now and then which acted like an anchor returning me to reality. I was grateful as if he were doing it intentionally for this reason. Although I must say commenting on subjects such as Hitler having a micro penis didn’t help matters for me, or being told you’re not that far from being a living Van Gogh. Thanks Ace. At one point I traveled so far away into that feeling and came back to myself with such force that I involuntary clapped my hands over my head. It was like being woken up from a daydream by a car crash right before the moment of impact. My hands for whatever reason were already in prayer form. The clap caught Ace’s attention with him still painting ten feet to my right. I didn’t even try to explain what i was going thru. I looked over at him and there was the large head of a demon coming off of his canvas. It was alive and moving its head about. Ace was calm as could be, in absolute control of the thing as me moved his brush around. It was like a domesticated pet to him. I turned my head away in shock. I was distressed by the sight, yet I couldn’t help but return my glance. He came over at one point to talk and I was distracted by how he was fragmenting before my eyes. The contours of his entire body were breaking away into pixels that dissolved into the air. I went to use the restroom, and the bathroom was covered in a neon glow as if it were a forest illuminated by moss. Dead flower life began forming from the ground and tiny specks of dirt or dust moved taking the form of ants. I urniated and the liquid was pure neon. I thought of a story with the Buddha in that moment, and how everywhere he stepped flowers grew in his footsteps. This changed the space, where the rotting vegetation became tiny flowers that budded in all sorts of colors. I returned to the living room and found Ace in the kitchen. I went over to him and was caught by how beautiful he appeared. He was radiating an aura like the pictures of the saints in Catholic churches. He was a living stain glass entity. I couldn’t help but say how beautiful he appeared. He laughed. There was a self portrait I had given him and he placed on his wall. We looked at it together. I had done the painting over a decade ago. Like one of those reflector images that changes with every angle you tilt it at, becoming a new image. The self portrait changed from youth to elder in a slow chronological evolution. The beauty of it all floored me and I felt such an honor to be involved in a tradition, a ritual such as painting. The night carried on in these ways. Traveling on a spectrum between freaking out and being blissed. Dawn eventually arrived. I again asked for the Xanax and Ace placed a few in my hand. The repeating episodes were gone after. I was already feeling the return to feeling ‘normal’ again, and the Xanax made me a bit drowsy but i couldn’t sleep. I was too excited. I went to the rooftop and looked at the sun rising over Manhattan. I looked over the edge and saw Ace on the balcony painting away still. Oblivious to the rest of the world. I felt excited and relieved as if having just survived a trauma I felt grateful to have gone thru.
painting by Ace where I looked over and saw the head of a demon coming to life from the canvas
painting made by me early in the stages after having taken LSD
collaboration piece we made together on the balcony