Haight Ashbury to Jerome

There's an old joke that if you can remember the sixties, then you weren't there. But the truth is all together different. If you participated in the exploration of the human condition that went on at the time, you will never forget it. The experiences are branded into your DNA.

It is for this reason, and others more personal, that I sit down now and try to put down some of the memories of that period before I truly do forget. I don't expect readers of this modern era to be inspired by or even believe parts of the story that I am about to tell. But I want it to be on the record, perhaps because many of the people herein are no longer here to tell the story . . .

Where did the Freaks go after Haight Ashbury

We first came to Jerome in the winter of 67/68. A huge blizzard had just torn through the northern part of the state. It dumped so much snow in town that a half of a dozen roofs in town collapsed under the weight. It was the worst winter anyone could remember. We were coming out of the Haight, where the previous summer we had seen it go from a secret, psychedelic, urban paradise to a raging madhouse. When you gather together in a concentrated location the kind of magic and energy that was being generated in the Haight, it acts as a magnet, and it attracts everything. Saints, sinners, psychos, bikers, runaways, tourists, con men, hookers, dealers, artists, musicians, magicians, Tibetan monks, fast buck artists, thieves, murderers - everything. It was obvious early in the summer that we had to relocate outside of the cities and try to create smaller more manageable communities out in the country. So we scattered. Some went north to Marin, Mendicino, and Sonoma. Others pushed on to Oregon, Washington, and Canada. Some went south, hoping that places like Santa Cruz might offer a sanctuary. Still others went further south and east to Telluride, Sante Fe, and Taos. All looking for a place to continue the work. Between thirty and forty of us came to Jerome. A few of us had come up earlier in the fall, scouting. As soon as we saw it, we knew. This was the place. An old deserted boom town. The legend was that at one point in the twenties, there were fifteen thousand people living here. When we arrived there might have been fifty. They were the hard core. There was no real work for a hundred miles. It was an isolated ghost town a mile up on the side of a mountain that bounded the west side of an almost empty valley. There were a couple of towns in the valley, but they were so small and sleepy that they were dreaming. There wasn't a traffic light for sixty miles in any direction. The people living in town were there because they loved it. They were lucky if they were making a living. Most of them welcomed us with open arms.

When our initial scouting party arrived, we were walking up the Gulch when we ran into Senor Santillan. It was a late winter afternoon, but the sun was out and the air was comfortable. All the snow had melted, leaving a brown and barren landscape. Hugging the side of the dirt road, with not even a wooden sidewalk between them and the street, were a series of houses. All of them appeared to be empty. We were talking amongst ourselves about how great it would be to be able to rent one of the houses. At that point, we saw a man walking slowly down the dirt road in our direction. He was tall and thin, wore levis and a straw hat. He was probably in his sixties, but it was hard to tell. He carried himself like a younger man. His skin was dark, indian dark, and his eyes were like lights in that darkness. He smiled and wished us a good day.

One of us blurted out the question that we all wanted to ask.

"Would you know if any of these places are for rent?"

He spoke with a thick Mexican accent, but it didn't prevent communication.

"Yes", he said, starting to point at various houses around us, "That one and that one . . . and that one . . ."

He pointed out a half of a dozen before he was through. We all looked at each other, smiling.

"How much a month?", someone said.

"Fifty", is what we heard in his thick accent.

"Fifty?", someone said, laughing because it was so cheap.

"No, no", he said, laughing also, "Fifteeeen!"

When we walked into the first house, we saw a round oak table with spindle back chairs, a full wood-burning cook stove, brass beds, porches with a view, two bedrooms, electricity, and an outhouse.

We looked at Senor Santillan and said, "We'll take six."

As I learned years later, when the mines closed in the early fifties, there was a stampede of panicked people moving out of Jerome, selling their houses for bus fare out of town. In an area of town, called the Gulch, existed a lower working class neighborhood of board and batten houses with tin roofs, wood burning stoves, cold water, and outhouses. Some of them had electricity. Apparently, another die hard named Tony Lazano and Senor Santillan split the gulch between them, Lazano taking most of the lower Gulch and Santillan taking most of the upper.

It wasn't but a month later that the rest of our crew had moved up to the old ghost town. There was anywhere between thirty to forty people. Some ended up renting from Tony Lazano for more money. One couple even moved uptown into the Walsh apartments. They had hot water and a bath tub and an upright piano in their living room.

1967 LSD blossoms into 1968 peyote In the beginning, it was heaven. The weather just got better through the spring and early summer. The trees filled out, blossomed, and got green. Irises and roses were blooming everywhere. We set to fixing up the places, building furniture and other necessities using wood from the falling down, abandoned houses in the neighborhood, renovating the outhouses and making them tolerable.

Every night there would be a potluck at a different house. Everyone would bring something to eat or drink, and then, by candlelight, we would eat, get stoned, play music, watch the stars, and talk of building a community that could survive the disasters that we saw coming at us within the next thirty years. I suppose I should say at this point that none of us were over twenty-two years old, and we were all in agreement that the current state of the world was terminal. At that point, the threat of global thermo-nuclear war was very real. Vietnam was heating up, and many of us were avoiding the draft one way or another. But it really wasn't the threat of war that concerned us. We saw a much deeper sickness in the world, one that was causing the human race to destroy the thin envelope of livable environment that surrounds the planet. We wanted to create an alternative to the fossil fuel driven, consumer economy that was gobbling up the earth's resources and shitting them back out as deadly pollution. We talked of solar, wind, and hydro power. We talked of non-blood related extended families that would have less impact on the environment. We talked of recycling. We talked of getting in touch with the deeper spiritual layers of ourselves. We talked of love and magic.

I suppose I should introduce myself at this point in the narrative, but it doesn't really matter who I am specifically. In those days it was all about the group or the tribe. I was one of the group of young people who were using their own bodies and minds as as experiments. We were all in it together, and the group consciousness was strong. The uncrossable line between you and another person was not so defined as it is today - not so inviolate. So, please bear with me and allow me to concentrate on the events as they happened and not worry so much about my name, or physical description, or who my parents were, or what my irrelevant history might be.

Life took on a the kind of leisurely pace we had never known. We had no television, radio, movies, telephones. We were cut off from the world and found it pleasant and sane. We found ourselves falling into certain comfortable rhythms and routines. Life was stripped down to certain basics. In the mornings, for instance, I would walk uptown to the English Kitchen to have tea with Mr. Yee. Mr. Yee was a Chinese man of indeterminate age who ran one of the two restaurants in town. And when I say "have tea with Mr. Yee", I mean that I would have tea and Mr. Yee would read a Chinese newspaper from who knows what year as he sat under a thick cloud of blue opium smoke. There was a routine that we had. I would walk into the restaurant and sit down at one of the stools at the counter. After a while, he would get up from his seat at one of the highbacked narrow wooden booths, walk behind the counter, look at me, and say something in Chinese. I would then say, "I would like some hot tea." He would then look at me, as if I were talking in some unknown tongue, and ask, "Ot-tee? . . . Ot-tee? . . . " Then a look of illumination would flash across his face, and he would exclaim, "Ohhh! Ot-tee!" He loved playing dumb. Eventually, I caught him speaking fluent Spanish to Preta Lomeli down at the Jerome Market.

opium smoking chinese master living with the ghosts
Photo by Art Clark

Sometimes, tea would take most of the morning. Which was fine, because I was no longer in any hurry to do any thing. Eventually, I would find my way back to the gulch and usually wind up getting stoned with some friends. There was always something interesting going on, because there were always new people passing through. It was like living in a depot of an underground railroad. Freaks from all parts of the globe would appear at all hours of the day and night, stay for days, or weeks, or hours and then be gone. One day, a group of blonde California boys showed up. They were from the Mystic Arts Brotherhood in Laguna, who were, at that time, manufacturing more LSD than anyone in the known world. This particular group had just gotten back from Afghanistan where they had purchased hundreds of pounds of primo hash, hidden it in rolled up carpets, ceramic lamps, and clay elephants, and drove it overland to Europe. They then flew back to the States and drove cross country to Jerome, on their way back to Laguna. Fellow freaks were always welcomed. There was truly a feeling of family in those days that is hard to understand in these modern times. We made room for them in our houses, fed them, partied with them, sharing what we had. After a few days, they had to be on their way. Before they left, they made sure that every house in the gulch had a chunk of black hash as big as a baseball.

I remember the following two weeks as being exceedingly peaceful. We smoked hash in our pipestone pipes; we rolled it up in our cigarettes; we rolled it in our joints. We made tea out of it. We made brownies with it. We put it in our scrambled eggs in the morning. One afternoon, as I was walking up the gulch, one of my friends called to me from his kitchen window and asked if I wanted to smoke his hash pipe. I said sure and walked up the driveway to his house. As I sat down at his old barnwood kitchen table, he pulled out his dark brown pipe, filled it with weed, fired it up with a stick match, took a few quick drags to get the bowl burning evenly, and then handed me the pipe. I took a hit and then handed it back to him. It went back and forth a couple of times before I said, "I thought we were going to smoke some hash." "We are", he said, "Look at the pipe." As I looked down at the pipe in my hand, I realized that it was hash. The entire pipe had been carved out of one solid piece of hash. When the full bowl of weed burned as a large ember, it ignited the inner walls of the hash pipe. It was a pleasant afternoon.

Another ritual that I developed was having coffee with Senor Santillan a couple of days a week in the late afternoon. I can't quite remember how it had started. Probably when I had gone up to pay the rent one month, I would think. At any rate, I would go up to his house around five in the afternoon. His wife would be making dinner, and the spicy aromas would drift out over the hillside. The old man himself would brew the coffee. He liked it thick and black. We would sit on his screened-porch and look out over the gulch, which by this time was lush with growth. Fruit trees, Paradise trees, large stands of bamboo and cane, waist high wild wheat. We would sit and sip the hot, bitter, black coffee and watch the world go by. We never talked much, because I didn't speak Spanish, and his English was thick enough to wade through. He always made me feel welcome and wanted however - by his manner and his generosity. I sometimes had the feeling that he wanted to examine one of us - to see what made us tick - as if we were some exotic species that he was studying. He always seemed to have an amused look on his face when I was around. Sometimes I would catch him watching me out of the corner of his eye. I didn't mind. I knew we weren't what he was used to.

One afternoon, just before the monsoon season, I made my way up to Senor Santillian's place to find a stranger sitting with the old man on his porch. The newcomer was about Santillan's age. He was shorter, stockier, with close cropped gray hair. He wore old working boots, faded levis, and a long sleeve, plaid flannel shirt. They seemed to be alike in only a couple of ways. One; they were both dark skinned. Indian, I assumed. Two; they both seemed to share an amused and slightly quizzical attitude toward me. Senor Santillan introduced his friend as Senor. Matus. As the introductions were taking place and I shook Senor Matus' hand, I felt a strange sensation, not so much through my body as around it, as if someone were slightly brushing their hands down and around the outside of my skin. I didn't think much of it at the time, because I had just eaten about a gram of hash, and I was used to experiencing body rushes under its influence. I did catch a look that passed between them. Senor. Matus smiled and knotted up his brow as if surprised at something. We proceeded to have our coffee, and, for the first time, Senor Santillan told me how he had walked up from deep in Mexico in the twenties to work in the mines. After he made enough money, he brought his family up a few years later. Senor. Matus nodded at times, as if he too had gone through the same experiences, but he mentioned nothing of his history. I was pretty sure that he wasn't from Jerome, because by this time I believed I had at least seen everyone who lived in town, if not met them. There was something about him, however, that intrigued me. Although he, like Senor Santillan, seemed to be in his sixties, he exuded a youthful energy and power that was very incongruous considering his age. It made him a bit of a mystery to me.

The next few times that I visited Senor Santillan, Senor Matus was still there. He was always friendly and curious about my friends and I. He asked why we had moved here, why we let our hair grow long, why we lived the way we did, and many more probing questions, that, frankly, made me wonder even more about him. I answered as best that I could without referring to our experimentation with psychedelics and the like. Fortunately, he spoke better English than Senor Santillan, so I was able to explain certain things in more depth. It was strange talking to an old, Mexican/Indian about things like the spiritual ignorance and denial of an entire culture, or about alternative energy resources, or recycling, or any number of other subjects that, at first glance, would seem very alien and probably uninteresting to someone from his background. But he seemed fascinated. I began looking forward to talking to him. I always left him feeling energized.

One afternoon, just after a particularly intense acid trip the night before, I was sitting with the two older men, talking and drinking coffee, when I noticed their auras. I had heard about the electro-magnetic field that emanated from the body, but I had never seen one. A friend of ours named Ron had been seeing them since he was five and had been forced to go to shrinks until he lied and said he made it all up. He had talked to me a length about it a few times, and I always envied him slightly. I thought it would be cool to read people's health and emotions in the lights and colors that swirled around them. But I never could, until this day. Both men glowed brightly. Their auras were white in color and oval in shape, with narrow tendrils emanating from around their solar plexus. I, of course, didn't say anything, but inside I was pleased to see these fields for the first time. As the acid wore off, the lights faded and my vision returned to normal.

Two or three weeks later, an older friend showed up. His name was Ed, and he might have been in his late twenties. The story was that he had been a hit man for the Detroit mob when he got turned on to peyote and turned his life around. To look at him was to believe the story. He was built like a bulldog and had a face to match. A few of us had first met him at the corner of Fifth Street and Mill Avenue in Tempe before we all moved to San Francisco. We were getting stoned, one night, at a girl's apartment just above the closed drug store. The apartment had a balcony that overlooked Mill. We were on the balcony realizing how lucky we were to be alive at this moment in history. By this time we had all taken a lot of acid, and what it was revealing to us seemed staggering and beautiful. We laughed a lot. We were letting our hair grow. We wore tight pants and Beatle boots. As we passed a joint around and laughed, a beat-up 1952 GMC pick-up pulled up and parked below us. Two men got out and walked around to the back of the truck. They looked like something out of the past. They both had beards and long hair braided down their backs. They were wearing head-to-toe buckskin outfits like the mountain men of the pre-civil war west.

At that time in our history, anyone with long hair was a head. A head was someone who got stoned. These two men had long hair, therefore, they got stoned. We called down to them and asked them if they wanted a toke. They, of course, said yes, so we ran down the stairs to their truck. As we were introducing ourselves and passing the joint around, we could hear strange noises from the back of the truck. As we talked, we found that their names were Frank and Ed and they had just left the peyote fields down in southwest Texas by the Mexican border. The noises continued coming from the back of the truck until one of us finally asked them what they were carrying. We walked around to the back of the pick-up which was covered a tarp thrown over a rickety wooden camper structure. Ed pulled back the tarp, and we saw what they were carrying. There were a few large gunny sacks filled with freshly cut peyote. There were gallons of petouli oil. And there were wooden and wire cages. Inside the cages were rattlesnakes, baby bobcats, and owls. The large round eyes of the owls stared back at us. It was spooky. It was cool. One of us asked what the fields were like.

Ed looked at us and said, "They're haunted."

He said it with a nonchalant seriousness that was impressive. By that time, we had seen and done things that you only read about in books. The acid had released us to experiences viewed by most people as paranormal. The intensity of those days astonish me even now. Telepathy, levitation, alien abduction, trips into the void. Even as I write the words, they seem unreal. But the experiences themselves were all too real. Some of them were so beyond the pale that we tended to put them up on a mental shelf, so to speak, so we could take them down and examine them more thoroughly at a later date. So, when Ed said the fields were haunted, we did not dismiss the claim out of hand.

"Haunted by what?", someone asked.

"The Kiowa dead", said Ed, "They're a presence. They talk to you . . . "

He trailed off, and we left it at that. We recognized the symptoms.

Peyote Ed and Mouse/Kelly have visions at the Pacific Ocean Trading
Poster by Mouse/Kelly

We asked where they were going, and they told us that they were headed for San Francisco. Haight Ashbury. And more precisely to a store on Haight Street called, The Pacific Ocean Trading Company. Over the next few months, we saw them a few times as they passed through town, and we became smoking buddies. So, when Ed showed up in the gulch, he was welcomed with opened arms. He said he had just come down from Parks, about forty miles west of Flagstaff, where he had been living. He went on to say that the winter had been so bad up there that he wanted to move down to Jerome. He had come to check it out and was happy and surprised to find us already there.

By this time, my girlfriend and her four year old son and I had moved into one of Lazano's houses across the gulch creek (which was running strong that year). The green house next to us was available, so I introduced Ed to Tony and he rented the house immediately. I didn't tell Ed about the house. I didn't think it mattered at that point. It was the only house with which we had had a problem. Initially, right after my girlfriend, her boy, and I had moved in, some friends of ours moved into the green house next door. After a couple of days, one of the girls came over and said that they had a problem. I asked if the roof leaked or if the plumbing or electric was bad, but she said no and that I should just come over and check it out for myself.

As soon as I walked in the back door, I knew something was wrong. The backdoor opened into a short hallway. Off to the left was the bathroom. Off to the right was the kitchen which led into the rest of the house. At the end of the hallway, I could sense something. I couldn't see or hear anything. But I could feel an extremely violent anger being projected at me. I was speechless. I blinked my eyes. I shook my head. It was still there. I didn't know what to think. I looked at the girl, and she just said, "See what I mean?" There was something in the hallway. It was very angry. It wanted to attack you. It was palpable. Now, up to this point in all of our experimentation with paranormal activity and psychic phenomenon, we had never encountered what people called ghosts. As I had grown up, I had seen movies and read books and heard stories of ghostly apparitions of one sort or another, but this was unlike anything I had ever heard about. I couldn't tell if it was a male or female, or if it was even a person. It was just this violent, animal-like hostility wanting to tear you apart, emanating from the end of the hallway.

I backed out of the house and went next door. We got together with the kids who had rented the house and talked it over. We came to the agreement that it must be some kind of ghost. Probably someone who had died there and wouldn't leave, who maybe even didn't know, or wouldn't admit, that they were dead. We decided to drop some acid, go back over there as a group, and help the ghost move along to wherever ghosts are supposed to go. The next morning, three of us dropped some Owsley four way tabs and went next door. We walked through the hateful energy field in the hallway, through the kitchen, and into the living room. We decided not to talk out loud to the being, but to try and communicate with it in the same manner it was communicating with us - with pure energy. We sat quietly, and each in our own way, urged the ghost to realize that it was dead and that it had to move on. We tried to do this calmly and with understanding and compassion. As the hours went by, not one word was spoken. Little by little it seemed as if the house became calmer and calmer, until eventually, we felt the anger and violence suddenly disappear. From that day on, the house seemed clear and empty of any non-physical energy.

So, I didn't tell Ed about the problem we had with the house, because by that time it was ancient history to us. After he checked the house out, he asked me if I would go back to Parks with him and help him move. We left the next morning.

At that time, Parks seemed to consist of three houses. Ed and his old lady, Diane, were living in one. The weather in the high country had finally eased up and they were able to let the animals out of their little one bedroom house. They had a donkey, a horse, two goats, chickens, and dogs. They had all lived together in that house all winter, and it smelled like it. Next to Ed lived a big, beefy Navajo man and his family. His name was Andy, and, at the time, he was the head of the Native American Church. Next to Andy lived an anglo couple named Kurt and Hazel. Kurt was about my age with thick bushy black hair and eyebrows. Hazel was a small, thin, brown haired girl who dressed like a Navajo woman - long skirt, velvet blouse, silver and turquoise jewelry. She looked to be about eight or nine months pregnant. They had a little six year old dark haired boy named Caleb. Like many of us headed back to the land, they considered native Americans to be their role models. They had decided to tough it out a little longer in Parks, hoping next winter wouldn't be so bad. Ed and Diane and I loaded up two pickup trucks and a trailer full of animals and headed back to Jerome.

After we arrived and got them moved in, we cooked up some spaghetti at my place and ate in the light of a kerosene lamp. It was a beautiful summer night. Quiet, warm, lush. We could hear the creek running thirty yards outside our front door. We sat on the wide front porch and passed a pipe around. As I said before, we had no television, no radio, no telephones. We had a stereo someone had given us, but no albums - and no desire to have any. It was as if time was standing still on those summer nights, and we didn't want to do anything to change that. The only sound to be heard was the singing of crickets and frogs.

Later in the evening, after the girls had gone to bed, Ed said, "The only thing we need now is some peyote."

I said that sounded good to me, and we said goodnight and went to bed.

The next morning, Ed and I decided to walk uptown to have some breakfast at the Candy Kitchen which was right next to the Spirit Room bar on Main Street. As we reached the top of the gulch road, where it met the highway, a brand new red Ford pickup truck pulled up and stopped. A Navajo man leaned out the driver's window and looked at Ed.

"I heard you were looking for me." he said, matter-of-factly.

Ed smiled and walked over to the truck. He shook his friend's hand and introduced me to him.

"This is my friend, Sam Boone. He's a road chief for the Church."

We jumped in the truck and headed up the hill for pancakes and coffee. When we were done, we drove back to my place. In the back of Sam's truck was a hundred pound gunny sack full of fresh peyote buttons. He hauled it out and brought it into my living room. He sat it down in the middle of the floor, pulled out his sacred rattle and eagle feather fan and danced around the bag, blessing it. I had never seen anything like this before and was fascinated by his dancing and singing. I was surprised to suddenly see Senor Matus standing at my open door, watching intently and respectfully. When Sam was done, the older man talked to him in the Navajo language. He seemed to be asking him questions about us. I could tell by the way Sam looked over at us two or three times that we were at least one of the subjects of their conversation. They finished talking quickly, and Senor Matus left. Sam looked over to Ed with raised eyebrows.

An artifact from deep in the roots of American Psychedelia Peyote buttons from outside of Laredo Texas

"You guys are attracting some attention", he said.

"What are you talking about?", Ed asked.

"That guy's a Yaqui from Mexico. He's a brujo."

Ed seemed dutifully impressed, but I was in the dark.

"What's a brujo?" I asked.

Sam looked at Ed and then back to me.

"A brujo is a . . . " He was searching for a word.

"A medicine man?" I offered.

"No", he said, "More like a sorcerer." A concerned look crossed his face and he looked back to Ed. "Big mojo. Be careful."

I was surprised at his manner, which was both impressed and worried. Senor Matus seemed to be a friendly, kindly old man. I was sure that Senor Santillan had good judgment in people and would never harbor anyone who was dangerous or evil. I dismissed his concern, figuring that he was reading too much into whatever Senor Matus had said.

The moment passed and we proceeded to haul a big flat-topped, wood burning stove out on the porch, vent it up past the roof line, fill a ten gallon washtub up with water, set it on the stove, and fire it up. We then started cleaning the peyote buttons and cutting out the white tufts in the center of the plant. We tossed the clean buttons into the wash tub and started brewing peyote tea in a major fashion. We offered to put Sam up for the night, but he said that he had to get back to the Res, and he took off after giving Ed a big hug and smacking him on the top of the head.

We brewed the tea for days. In the meantime, we ate it raw, like cucumbers or carrots. It had a taste so bitter that it curled your toes, but after you had downed a few buttons, it wasn't so bad. And the high, of course, was a beautiful thing. Peyote was unlike acid in that it opened a door to other levels of consciousness and invited you to walk through. Acid just dropped out the trap door and there you were - no choice involved. Peyote was also different in that it was much more organic, and I mean that in various ways. It seemed to focus you physically and tune you into the earth around you. I felt centered on the planet in a way I never had before. It was comfortable. I could sense the consciousness in the trees and plants around me. I could feel that I was on a rock hurtling safely through the infinity of space. I felt protected and part of everything around me. I ended up hanging out down at the creek a lot, watching the water flow by and the elementals dance. I was content and had no other desires.

After the first couple of days and nights, we were able to eat and sleep on a regular basis, even as we drank cup after cup of the stout tea. We kept the fire going night and day under that washtub, occasionally adding more buttons to boost our high. About the seventh day, Ed decided that he needed to go back to Parks, see Andy, and pick up a few last items that he had left. We told him that we would look after his animals, and he and Diane split. The next day, I decided to eat a few fresh buttons to see how high I could get. My girlfriend, Gerry, didn't want to be left behind, so she did the same. By this time, her boy, Billy, had started drinking the tea and seemed to handle it very well. There were a couple of other young kids in the gulch and he took off with them. I went into the bedroom and lied down on our creaky brass bed. As peyote comes on in a rush, many people will vomit, and then get really high. The cactus never caused me to throw up, but I always experienced a strong body rush and would have to lie down until it passed.

I was lying on my stomach, letting the wave of energy sweep through me when I heard Gerry talking to someone in the front room. I couldn't make out what they were saying, but I figured that it was just one of our friends and didn't think anything more about it. I was too occupied with getting over the physical discomfort. I closed my eyes and started to almost drift off into sleep. The rush was passing and the high was coming on. Then suddenly I felt something odd. I felt as if someone was stroking my long hair, strand by strand. It was as if they had gently lifted a hair and were tugging very, very slightly on it. Then I realized that it wasn't that at all. Someone was indeed tugging on some part of me, but it wasn't my hair. I turned over and saw Gerry sitting on the edge of the bed with her right hand about eighteen inches from my head. Her palm was turned toward me, and she moved her hand slowly, as if she were waving at me. But she wasn't waving. Her hand moved back and forth, and, as it did, I felt part of myself moving with it. Some invisible, elastic part of me being stroked by her fingers. I looked at her, startled, and she laughed softly.

"What", I said, "is that?"

I looked over to the bedroom door and there was Senor Matus, smiling. He looked over to Gerry.

"See", he said, "It is also physical. It has substance. We think of light as weightless. But this light is not."

Naturally, I was instantly curious about this phenomenon and started asking the two of them what was going on.

"Remember the other afternoon, when you saw me?"

The way in which he said the word saw let me know immediately what he was talking about.

"How did you know I could see your aura?"

"Aura? Is that what you call it? Interesting word." He paused for a beat and then went on. "I saw you seeing me."

At this point, I was reaching a very high and clear plateau. What should have been a shocking revelation seemed to be a perfectly normal and almost expected statement. What Sam had said was obviously true. Senor Matus was something special.

"Well, what are you doing here?" I motioned in Gerry's direction. "What's this all about?"

"I came down to talk to you, but when I saw that you and your woman had eaten Mescalito, I thought it would easier just to show you some things about your aura."

He then went on to explain that it was this field that the spirit actually inhabited. The physical body was too dense for the discorporate consciousness to enter and that what people called the aura was actually the vehicle that the soul used to enter into the body. Although we saw this field as light, it actually had a substance that you could touch and manipulate. He said that a powerful sorcerer or witch could do this at a distance. After watching us all for weeks, he had come down to warn me of the dangers of what we were doing. It was fine, according to him, for us to eat Mescalito, because it awakened us and made us strong. But, at the same time, we must be alert to outside forces. According to him, a person with the appropriate training and focus of will, could leave the body and go wherever they wanted. Not all of these people, he cautioned, were benevolent.

All of this, obviously, was a lot to digest. But my curiosity was stronger than any caution.

"How did Gerry do what she just did?", I asked.

"Come, let's go back into the living room.", he answered.

He sat Gerry and I on the couch, sitting sideways so that her back was toward me.

"Now", he said, "Hold your hands up, palms facing the back of her head, but about a foot and a half away."

I followed his instructions.

"Slowly move your hands back and forth and try to feel a slight buzzing sensation in the tips of your thumb and two forefingers."

After a moment, I could feel just that, and I told him so.

"Alright, now slowly move your hands back and forth."

As I did what he said, I felt that I was pulling on some invisible elastic-like, taffy-like substance that was part of Gerry.

"Whoa!", she said, "I feel it. That's weird."

I was very intrigued by the whole experience and impressed that Senor Matus knew so much, but, in the end, I had my reservations. As I said before, some of the experiences that we had collected over the last two years of experimenting with psychedelics were so outlandish that we had to take them with a grain of salt. There were a small group of us, for instance, back when we were at the university, who had experienced what much later had come to be called an alien abduction - missing hours, lost memory, or vague memories of the interior of a ufo - an experience at the time so intense that its reality could not be denied - but, that is, in fact, what we had to do - or at least put it to the side to try and sort out at a later date.

So I said to Senor Matus, "All this is very intriguing, but Gerry and I are really stoned, and we've learned to not believe everything that happens to us in this state."

He laughed then. "You remind me of an apprentice of mine. Always needing some kind of scientific proof for everything that happens." He laughed again.

At that point, a good friend of ours named Dan showed up at our door. He was carrying an album with him.

"Hey, someone just brought up the new Doors album. Can I listen to it? I'll use the earphones." He saw Senor Matus. "Hi, how are you doing?" He then looked back at me. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"

"No, no", I said. There was no question. We all pretty much shared everything. "Go ahead."

He put the album on the turntable, slipped the earphones on, turned up the volume, lied down on the couch, and closed his eyes. As he did I turned back to Senor Matus to continue our conversation. He spoke first.

"Now's your chance", he said, looking at Dan.

I was sitting in an overstuffed chair at the end of the couch. Dan's head was just a couple of feet away from me. I looked back to the old indian and he spread his hands out as if to say, "Well, what are you waiting for?"

Not really believing that it would work, I repeated the same gestures that I had used on Gerry. Within seconds I could feel the electricity in my fingers. Again, the sensation was in the thumb and two forefingers. I began to pull on Dan's aura ever so slightly and felt the field yield like very very soft elastic. Even as I was feeling the give and take of whatever part of him I was touching, I still thought that I might be hallucinating the whole affair.

Suddenly, Dan, went stiff. Then he threw off the headphones with both hands, sat bolt upright, and spun around looking at me with his eyes almost popping out of his head.

"What the fuck are you doing!?"

Fortunately, Dan had taken a lot of psychedelics. Even so, it took us the better part of an hour to explain what was going on and finally calm him down. He left, shaken and impressed.

We continued to talk with Senor Matus until late into the evening. He explained that he came out of a long line of, what he called, "men of knowledge" down in Mexico. It was just lately that he had been exposed to other traditions around the world that approached the same knowledge in different ways. He said that his teachers would be astounded to see numbers of young anglos eating peyote and mushrooms and trying to open themselves up to what they viewed as secret and esoteric teachings. He, himself, still found it hard to believe, and when Senor Santillan had written him about us, he had to come and see for himself. He wished us well in our journey, but warned us again that barging headlong as we were doing had its attendant dangers. He had always been taught that one needed a teacher in order to, and I'll never forget how he phrased it, "burst one's bubble of perception from the outside" He told us that if we ever got down into Mexico that we should stop and visit him. He gave us an address and said that he was leaving in the morning, because he had a "mitote", which was, he said, a formal peyote ceremony. He said he had to be back in Mexico for the seventh of June. He had to catch a bus the next morning. He hugged Gerry and her eyes went wide. We shook hands and I felt a jolt of energy run up my arm and flush through my entire body. It made me laugh. He shook his head and laughed also.

"Good luck", he said and left.

The next few days, as I visited with Senor Santillan on his porch, drinking coffee, and sitting in rusted metal chairs, I asked him about Senor Matus, but he would say little or nothing at all. It seemed as if his accent got thicker and thicker, and his grasp of the English language became more and more tenuous. I got the message and stopped asking anything at all. It was enough to share the afternoon and coffee with him on his porch, looking out over the gulch. It put me at peace somehow. Perhaps, because he was so at peace.

The days, and weeks, and months drifted by throughout that summer and fall. The life we led was relaxed, leisurely, and loving. People came and went with the rhythm of the weather. Dinners, parties, love affairs, psychedelic trips, hikes into the canyons, skinny dipping in the river down in the valley, planting and harvesting gardens, in and out of ramshackle greenhouses - it all flowed together seamlessly and effortlessly into the current that was our life. It seemed as if it would go on forever. But eventually, little by little, people began getting pulled away. A death in the family, an invitation from a lover in Madrid, a hash run to Nepal, a sickness, a longing for indoor plumbing, an opportunity to buy land down by the river, a bad acid trip - all these things contributed to the slow erosion of our community.

After a time, even Ed and I convinced ourselves that the grass might be greener in Colorado. We evolved a plan to acquire a couple of more horses and mules, pack up our gear, and drop out even further into the wilderness. It was easy enough to gather together the necessary animals and equipment, and we were two days from leaving when one of my best friends showed up from Phoenix. His name was Ron. We had been together since the very beginning two years earlier. We had gone through the early, underground, legal lsd trips - helped to create an entire sub-culture in Tempe - gone to the Haight together - discovered Jerome together - done it all.

When he heard what we were going to do, he wanted desperately to come, but he said that he needed to go back to Phoenix to wrap up some business. He wanted me to come with him. He said it wasn't so bad, and I could see some old friends from the University, and then we would come right back and take off on our adventure. I wasn't too enthusiastic about his plan, and I told him to let me sleep on it.

The next morning I got up, made a bowl of cereal, walked out of the house, and down to the creek to eat. I was thinking about what I wanted to do when I looked up at the tall cliffs of the narrow gulch canyon. In the morning, the cliffs were lit up in a warm dark red color from the sun rising in the east over the rim. As I looked at the cliffs, which I had seen a thousand times before, I suddenly felt something hit me like a blow to my solar plexus. It wasn't a stomach ache and had nothing to do with the cereal I was eating. The cliffs themselves seemed to be speaking to me, as if they were inhabited by their own consciousness. Their message was clear. They were saying - "It's time for you to leave." It wasn't a suggestion. It was a command. It felt like a door closing.

I was stunned. It was so unexpected. So unreal. So definite. There was no denying the experience. I felt it deeply - physically. Never before or since has a place spoken to me with such undeniable force and clarity. I didn't know what to make of it. I had never read or heard about anything like it before. I sat there, dumbfounded. I wasn't even high on anything, but the energy would not let up.

So, that morning Gerry, and Billy, and I packed up our small amount of possessions and left with Ron down to Phoenix. It was six years, a breakup, a marriage, three kids, and another breakup before I left Phoenix again.

As we rode down to Phoenix that morning, Ron handed me a book. He said it was tripped out - about a Mexican sorcerer who took peyote and mushrooms and knew lots of magic. I looked at the title. "The Teachings of Don Juan - A Yaqui Way of Knowledge". In the introduction, the writer talked about meeting a Juan Matus at a bus station at a border town in Arizona in 1960 and about how for the next four years he was this man's apprentice. He said Don Juan was a brujo.

As I look back now on those days, many different emotions run through me. I miss the life we had. It was as close to perfect as I may ever know. All the people I knew and loved then are either dead or on some grand adventure or simply missing in action . Sometimes it feels as if it all never happened. There are no photos, no film or tape, no witnesses, no participants left to verify, no monuments - just the vivid memories someone who is approaching the age of the two old men who watched us all from a screened-in porch in an old ghost town, drinking black coffee in the warmth of a few lost summer afternoons.

To the West you can see the High Water Mark

For the prequel, "The Haight", click here.

The White Ship      by Terry Molloy       Copyright 2002      All Rights Reserved

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