Sunday, March 20, 2011
My Encounter with Owsley
By Paul Krassner
In 1967, there was a concert in Pittsburgh with the Grateful Dead, the Velvet Underground, the Fugs and me, playing the part of a stand-up satirist.
There were two shows, both completely sold out, and this was the first time anybody had realized how many hippies actually lived in Pittsburgh.
Backstage between shows, a man sidled up to me. “Call me ‘Bear,’” he said.
“Okay, you're ‘Bear.’”
“Don't you recognize me?”
“You look familiar, but–”
“Of course – Owsley acid!”
Fun fact: His nickname, “Bear,” was originally inspired by his prematurely hairy chest.
Now he presented me with a tab of Monterey Purple LSD. Not wishing to carry around an illegal drug in my pocket, I swallowed it instead.
Soon I found myself in the front lobby, talking with Jerry Garcia. As people from the audience wandered past us, he whimsically stuck out his hand, palm up.
“Got any spare change?”
Somebody passing by gave him a dime, and Garcia said thanks.
“He didn't recognize you,” I said.
“See, we all look alike.”
In the course of our conversation, I used the word “evil” to describe someone.
“There are no evil people,” Garcia said, just as the LSD was settling into my psyche. “There are only victims.”
“What does that mean? If a rapist is a victim, you should have compassion when you kick 'im in the balls?”
I did the second show while the Dead were setting up behind me. Then they began to play, softly, and as they built up their riff, I faded out and left the stage.
Later, some local folks brought me to a restaurant which, they told me, catered to a Mafia clientele. They pointed out a woman sitting at a table. The legend was that her fingers had once been chopped off, and she’d go to a theater, walk straight up to the ticket-taker, hold up her hand and say, “I have my stubs.”
With my long brown curly hair underneath my Mexican cowboy hat, I didn't quite fit in. The manager came over and asked me to kindly remove my hat. I was still tripping. I hardly ate any of my spaghetti after I noticed how it was wiggling on my plate.
I glanced around at the various Mafia figures sitting at their tables, wondering if they had killed anybody. Then I remembered what Jerry Garcia had said about evil. So these guys might be executioners, but they were also victims.
The spaghetti was still wiggling on my plate, but then I realized it wasn't really spaghetti, it was actually worms in tomato sauce. The other people at my table were all pretending not to notice.
It was, after all, the Summer of Love.
“Thanks for enhancing it, ‘Bear.’”
* * *
Excerpted from the expanded edition of Krassner's autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture – not sold in any bookstore. You'll find it only at paulkrassner.com, and as a Kindle e-book.