Woods Hole and the Acid Gods
Finally June and the end of school arrived. I skipped my graduation. I knew that
Cindy, had a babysitting job in Woods Hole but due to broken down communications,
I didn’t know exactly where. I threw my few tee-shirts and underwear into a brown
paper bag, along with two long white Muslim skirts that I’d made and embroidered
myself. Then I stuffed into my blue jean pocket, a tiny round tab of LSD stuck onto a
piece of white paper; just like the little pink round dot candies I’d peeled off the paper
with my teeth, as a kid. In Woods Hole, I ate the tab, tossing my fate to the Acid
Gods. Standing on a village green, I was mesmerized by my once-stubby hands
which became transformed into exquisite works of art. I had a revelation that my
hands could think ! Someone was calling my name. I looked up from my trance
and saw Cindy waving wildly and laughing from a psychedelic VW van. “Get in!”
she yelled gleefully.
Greg, the fuzzy creature at the steering wheel, had a face that wrinkled massively
when he smiled. He brought me home with him to share his clean, queen-size bed in
Boston’s East-West Center for Self Exploration, dedicated to Meher Baba. I was
overjoyed that I didn’t have to “pay rent”: he never laid a hand on me.
Each day Greg arose to work in a state hospital and I traipsed off to the Boston
Common to get stoned and play my recorder. One day as he was leaving, Greg said,
sarcastically, “Don’t pick too many flowers.” I thought about him wiping people while I
played fairy-queen and realized that I was living off him. Reality hit: I didn’t know how
to provide for myself.
By early August, Greg’s irritation had grown: he delivered me to a place where I
might be saved from whoring and addiction. It was better than the streets and I
couldn’t go home. I’d been banned again after Dad had said, “Millie…she’s trying to
Arrival at The Commune/ all that false instruction, cont.
As we scaled the Berkshires, hope seemed to be rewiring my nervous system. Up
narrowing roads, twisting under giant oaks and maples, smells of fir and spruce
carried in shimmering silvers and greens blew the traumas from my body. Streams
rushed to refill me with an old lust for living.
A hairpin turn up a steep hill, passing superimposed mountains, then around a bend,
and we suddenly descended upon a psychedelic wonderland. Multicolored signs
shouted out “All People Welcome.” And “ NO DRUGS. NO ALCOHOL NO
PROMISCUITY.” A purple farmhouse splashed with blue and green painted waves
stretched against meadows surrounded by forest. “Brotherhood of the Spirit” was
printed in gothic letters above a farmhouse door. Dozens of people were milling
about. Stepping down from the van, I eyed a fellow with glasses and a winning smile,
in animated discussion with someone. Soon he was standing alone, watching me
walk towards him. “Hi, do you live here?” “Yes,” he replied somberly, levelly studying
me. I was a fragment while he appeared solid, in control. “I’m Laura.” “I’m Stephen.”
He smelled like Patchouli and seemed attractive in a dangerous sort of way. I wished
he would smile at me.
“Where are you from?” I couldn’t think of an answer. Home no longer counted. I
settled on the response I’d heard so many times that summer.
Stephen stared at me, blankly. We just stood there. I considered saying, “I have to go
to the bathroom,” and not returning, but opted instead for a stream-of-consciousness
monologue about my father, the summer, and how I was led here by a series of
cosmic signs. I rambled. He said nothing, then finally interrupted. “Why are you telling
me this?” “I-I thought you wanted to know,” I stammered.
“I strongly suggest that you don’t speak for a week,” Stephen proclaimed, turning
abruptly and walking quickly away. I was shocked. In Boston, it had been acceptable
to be “spacey” and most glitches could be fixed with a smile, a hug or a fling, but
here, apparently, something else was going on.
I walked up the dirt driveway to the house, wishing for a joint, a butt, or a book to hide
behind. This two-hundred-year-old restaurant/inn seemed to have settled into the
land like it had grown there. In a fireplace room with hand-hewn beams, barn-board
trim, and hand-painted murals, there was a sign that read, “MEMBERS ONLY.”
Someone showed me to a makeshift addition that reminded me of the haphazard,
rambling, bungalow in my favorite childhood book, Pippi Longstocking. My
roommate, Denise, was a nervous New Yorker, who unexpectedly popped into
trances, channeling mundane information from the “other side.” I deposited my
sleeping bag and backpack and escaped down rickety stairs into a hall where food
was being served on the counter of a partitioned kitchen. The hallway was filling with
people. “Where are you from?” someone asked a woman. I heard her say
“Everywhere! Nowhere!” and cringed.
Wandering down the hall, I came to a door over which was posted, “Toilet City.” I
knocked. “Come on in!” I poked my head in, discovering a circle of seven toilets
where two women sat doing their business, and quickly retreated, opting for the
outhouse across the huge field. Inside the outhouse were two seats. A plump, young
Southern woman drawled, “Hi! I’m Donna, are you a visitor?” I sat on the other toilet.
“Yeah....” It was good to have an identity again. “I’m a P.M.,” she announced. “What’s
that?” “Perspective Member.... It’s what you’ll be if you stay.” [The word, written and
spoken, was “perspective,” not prospective.] Graffiti on the pine walls read, “I am
vibrating creative energy. I vow to loose myself from my carnal self.” “Where’s the
toilet paper?” I asked. Donna handed me The Medium is the Message by Marshall
“They’re too intellectual. Here, if you crumple up the pages, they work fine.”
I hobbled back to the house and stood in line for dinner. As I stood in line, a guy next
to me with matted hair delivered the party line: Material world is illusion. The planet is
a school where we learn to transcend our physical or emotional limitation. We save
the world by living together spiritually. Being spirit means we can do anything, from
altering the weather to saving the world. We set no limits on our abilities or each
other. Being spirit means defying one’s lower self. Seeing no trace of coffee
anywhere, I worried about rising to the challenge.
. I was behind a guy with incredibly matted hair. I reached out and combed it out with
my fingers. He warmly introduced himself to me as Toby. Toby was a wiry,
spectacled, absent-minded professor type. People kept asking him for advice
about cars and he answered every question with a torrent of words that tumbled over
each other. Once in a while I could decipher what he was saying: “You just cram the
(thingamagic) up the (whatever) and then she’ll turn over for you.” I contemplated
Toby’s red mouth and those long knobby fingers. My eyes wandered. A guy named
Gurf was sitting on the radiator next to a woman with large breasts. She wore a
denim skirt, gold and chartreuse socks and hiking boots. She reminded me of Joan
Baez. He was saying to her “I don’t think you’re really being open to me.” She
quickly answered “Hey, I don’t really know you very well....” and he answered “Yes
you do, we’ve had many lives together, can’t you see it in my eyes?”
I filled my plate with brown rice and vegetables and escaped into a huge
dining/meeting room, rushing down the long, loosely tiled hall that seemed to heave
and buckle from the comings and goings of heavy work-boots and dirty sneakers.
Someone was sawing out windows as people ate.
Painted in gold leaf upon slats of ceiling were something like the new-age Ten
Commandments; “The Seven Immutable Laws of the Universe” included Order,
Balance, Harmony, Growth, God-Perception, Spiritual Love, and Compassion. I sat
on the floor at a low, round table, staring at chiseled cheekbones and a waist-long
ponytail, as “Hoopie” explained to me that most people were on the fifth progression,
“God-Perception.” The commune’s leader, Michael (in New York, recording “Spirit in
Flesh”) was on the sixth. I worried silently that I was on the fourth: Growth “from the
carnal to the celestial.” Dale was in charge, Hoopie said, pointing towards a big,
reddish guy with long braids who was play wrestling with two yelping Great Danes.
“You seem a little blown out.” Hoopie counseled, “You have to stop using your brain!
Just lose yourself in serving others.... That’s what I do.” Then, eyes searching, he
added, “It’s easy to get blown out by the energy here.... Man, when I first got here I
tried to use my brain, but when I let go of my brain, like Wow! I was a fish who
suddenly became a bird! Be sure to chew each mouthful a hundred times.”
After dinner a cowbell rang and cries of, “Meeting! Meeting!” brought droves of
hippies indoors. I squeezed into a “full lotus” on the dirty floor to more easily center
myself. I was desperate. Laughter... I opened my eyes and realized with horror that
Dale was pointing at me.” “You don’t need fancy positions to be spiritual,” he
declared. Alarmed, I uncrossed my legs as he launched into a hypnotically vague
monologue, looking intently from one person to another, often closing his eyes, “...I
stayed up all night, meditating and praying... suddenly an owl swooped right across
my vision....” Long pause.... then, “I can not relate the peace that filled me!” The more
he talked, the more I wished he would disappear. It wasn’t the words, but the way he
said them, lulling, then accusing, entering my mind with eerie intensity and then
drilling me with the euphoric smile of either a master or a lunatic. When he looked my
way, I nodded defensively. After the meeting, he strode over to me and purred, “Hi.
“I know,” he said, dismissively. “You’re Jackie’s sister...” Another tortuous pause,
“You nodded before, but your heart wasn’t open.” A pang of panic shot through me
as Dale burst into laughter. I would have left, but had nowhere to go.
After the meeting, Dale told us to pair up with someone we felt uncomfortable with.
That was easy. A man who looked like a rabbi and I simultaneously chose each
other. We sat on a picnic-table, eyeing each other. In high school, I’d led “encounter
groups,” but this was no high school and I was younger than the college age kids
here. Again, I found myself at a loss for words. I wiped away tears as “the rabbi”
condemned me with, “I think you need to relax.” I sent myself to bed early, for crimes
I couldn’t comprehend.
When I walked into the room, I stopped short. In front of me was a wall of flashing
light. Strobe-white-pulses everywhere. At least I could understand what they meant
by “the energy here.” I found and unrolled my sleeping bag. Relieved that Denise
was gone, I collapsed, thinking of Ram Dass’ book, “Be Here Now.” It had been my
Bible, but now it seemed vague: where was “here”? And who was “I”?