Picture Yourself In A Boat On A River

One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice of Life this week is  an error of judgement.

Yeah, I made a pretty big error of judgement back in the day.

Warning – this post may contain drug references and graphic descriptions of drug use.

Well, not really. I’ve just always wanted to say that.

Here goes…..

I went to a party when I was 17. I remember I was wearing a batik print dress with sandals with cork soles and these enormous silver earrings with moons and stars on them that jangled as I walked. Yes, even though it was 1982, there was a Batik revival going on in Sydney and I thought I was the Cat’s PJs.

Mel had on a pink and purple batik ensemble with some kind of Buddhist temple on it. She hadn’t handwashed the dress before she put it on and in the summer heat the dye was beginning to come off on her neck and arms.

There were some boys in my class at that time who thought it was really cool or smart or funny or something to spike girls drinks. This resulted in a lot of people throwing up on the lawn at various parties. I remember Annabel Mason’s famous spew into her mother’s handpainted steel watering can imported all the way from France. It was the stuff of legend because her mother didn’t notice it for over a week and the spew hardened and the only way to get it out was to scrape it out with a spatula and a chisel which Annabel’s Mum made her do as punishment. Annabel’s nickname was the watering-can spewer from that day forward.

The thing is that the clued-up girls knew which boys were spiking the drinks so we avoided accepting drinks from them as well as setting up sentries around the punch bowl and the jugs of lemonade on the party tables. That’s why when Danny McAllister handed me a glass of Coke, I didn’t suspect a thing.

Danny and I were good friends. We were on the debating team and co-edited the school newspaper. He was a science geek who wore glasses but he had a heart of gold and a great sense of humour. I mention the geek part because Danny was teased a lot by the jocks. It’s such a common story, isn’t it? It’s as if as soon as you enter the school gates you get caught on this treadmill of stereotypical behaviour and you can’t get off until you’ve acted out your part.

Danny was teased by the jocks but instead of telling them to go and suck our big fat ones as the rest of us did, he went to great lengths to gain their acceptance. And that’s where my error of judgement comes in.

The spiked substance of choice at this particular party was LSD. There was a real 60s retro thing going on in my town. It was tangerine trees and marmalade skies all the way.

I had seen Danny talking to one of his Jock Idols a short time before he handed me my drink but I really didn’t put two and two squared together until the ground began to dip in some parts and rise up in others. I don’t know why but the organ riff Ray Manzarek plays in that Doors track Break On Thru To The Other Side popped into my head straight away.

The tune stuck in my head, obstinately, and I began to dance. But it was hard to dance because I was standing on a life raft that was floating rather precariously on a very choppy sea. And the colours in the world were so vivid my eyes were stinging.

I remember feeling like everything was rushing toward me and that objects and people were so enormous I thought they would crush me. Then they would retreat, farther and farther away until they were like ants at my feet.

And it happened. Just as everyone who has taken LSD says it does – I saw God. Well, actually, I saw St. Michael the Archangel. He was beautiful, terrifying, cruel and tender all at once. I wanted to run from him. I wanted to stay by his side. ‘You should remember me,’ he said. I often wonder what he meant by it.

Mel knew I was in trouble when she saw me holding up a handful of ice to the sky and whispering to myself. ‘You were somewhere else,’ she said. ‘And it scared me.’

I was somewhere else. I was hearing the harps of paradise as I stood by the acacia trees as well as the cries of the forgotten.

Mel got me out there. It was a pact we had. If ever one of us got into an awkward situation at a party the other one would bail her out.

I spent the rest of the night alternating between throwing up and seeing the world with kaleidoscope eyes.

During the course of the night Mel figured out Danny McAllister was to blame and called his mother. He spent the next month apologising to me and didn’t speak to any of the jocks for the rest of the school year.

I wasn’t mad at him – well, not really but it did make me think a lot about peer pressure and how the desire to be in the popular clique can cloud your judgement, sometimes adversely affecting not just yourself but other people you care about. You hear people say it all the time:

You think you know somebody…..

while shaking their heads.

And it makes you realise how difficult it is to be an independent spirit in a world of conformity.

17 thoughts on “Picture Yourself In A Boat On A River

  1. always having been the one that introduced the drugs to my own system, i cannot imagine what it felt like to know you had ingested something,, and had no choice but to allow it to run its course… especially acid.. yuck.. i have never had an enjoyable trip… in fact i “quit” doing it at 18,, definitely never my drug of choice..

    can you imagine the consequences had he been found out for doing the same in the police state of a world we live in today????


  2. PAISLEY – the consequences would definitely be different today. He would have been charged for sure. I know he shouldn’t have done it but I would hate to think he could possibly have ruined his life because of it. I understand what the pressure to fit in can do to a person. And you’re right – acid? Uuuuuugh. I don’t know how all those bands in the 60s managed to stomach it.


  3. I’ve never had that happen to me, but it did happen to one of my best friends when we were about 16. We never could figure out who spiked her drink and with what. Since then, I always got my own drinks and never shared.


  4. I loathe people who pull ‘stunts’ like this. Sometimes it ends up in needless tragedy, all for the ‘fun’ of a practical joke. I’m glad you were ok Selma but it must have been frightening for you.

    I tried an array of ahhhhemmm…these items as a teenager, also came out unscathed (I think). I had a flashback about 15 years later, our local park painted a vivid kelly green (WOW!!!) unexpected but I figured out right away what was happening and it didn’t last very long. I’m glad I tried what I did, even in spite of the dangers. For me, it was always interesting and not too scary.

    Any flashbacks to date Selma?

    Hugs, G 🙂


  5. LINDA – getting your own drinks is definitely the way to go. It is really frightening to feel so peculiar and not know why. I know a number of people who’ve had it happen to them. It’s just so unnecessary. BTW, still thinking about your recipe. If I could have had it for breakfast this morning i would have. YUM!

    GERALDINE – no flashbacks so far. That would be a bizarre experience wouldn’t it? Your flashback sounds freaky. So glad you were OK.


  6. That was a tough lesson for Danny to learn at your expense. Peer pressure is such an awful mentor and makes good people do very bad things. I will admit I voluntarily tried acid at a party when I was in my 20’s. I thought I could fly and jumped out of a window on the second floor of my house. Luckily I landed in the bushes below and walked away with only scratches. My drug of choice was cocaine and I thank God I was able to walk away from it when I turned 30. Isn’t it amazing how we managed to survive!


  7. It’s a good thing you were able to resist Jim Morrison’s hypnotic lure while you’re on “the boat”… or that other side could have been, for you anyway, a river (puddle?) of psychedelic spit. (Humming In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida right now).


  8. CRICKET – you know I sometimes think that myself. How did we ever manage to get where we are now? There were so many pitfalls along the way. I am so glad you didn’t hurt yourself when you jumped out of the window. Acid is so damaging to the psyche. The strongest thing i take these days is aspirin. Yes, I am officially a square!

    CHRIS – Ha ha ha. Did you ever see that Simpsons episode where Bart substituted ‘In a Gadda Da Vida’ for the hymns at church? Brilliant. It’s one of those songs, however, that gets stuck in your head. D’oh – why did I have to say that?


  9. I can’t imagine how scary that must have been for both you and Mel. I never tried any kind of acid because I didn’t trust what my brain would do with that kind of freedom. 🙂 …and I don’t ever like the prospect of being that out of control. You were nice not to lay into your guy friend. That said, peer pressure is indeed a powerful thing.


  10. I went on a date when I was 19 and the guy spiked my drink. I lost almost 12 hours, but unfortunately (fortunately?, maybe, since it did help me get out of there in time) I didn’t lose the awareness of what he was trying to do to me. At that age I was too naive to realise what had actually happened; it was only a few years later before I put two and two together.


  11. HOLLY – I would never have tried it otherwise. I totally agree with you regarding what the brain would do with that freedom. Far too scary for me. Despite everything, I couldn’t lay into Danny. He was extremely repentant and I knew how much he had suffered at the hands of those guys who bullied him. I was just grateful to survive unscathed.

    DAOINE – OMG, thank goodness you got out of there. Oh, that is awful. Why do some young guys do this? If it’s sex they’re after why don’t they just go to a brothel? I read in the paper a couple of weeks ago about a woman who’d been drugged with Rohypnol. She nearly died because she had a bad reaction to it and now her speech is slurred and she has trouble retaining information. She will struggle with this for the rest of her life. It is just horrendous.


  12. Thats TERRIBLE.

    Oh My God.

    I hated LSD. I did it back in my touring with the grateful dead days and I always hated it. I would have hated it even more had I been given it against my own will.



  13. The stories nowadays make me sick. There’s just so much of it happening and I know how easy it is. I hated trying to make myself heard at a noisy bar, so when I was single I used to give the money to one of the guys in our group to go get the drinks. I don’t think I’d do that again even if I knew the person very well. The only person I trust to get a drink for me is my husband.


  14. MELEAH – it really is a shocker, isn’t it? I guess it was just part of the scene at the time. One day you should write a book about your experiences with the Grateful Dead. What an incredibly interesting life you’ve led!

    DAOINE – it’s scary out there in clubs and pubs. I just don’t get it. Those guys spiking the drinks are playing with people’s lives. It’s so wrong.

    HOLLY – how exciting. On my way right now!


  15. Ah. I never had a spiked beverage, but I was suspected of “dealing” in ninth grade.

    A girl in my math class had a headache. “Do you have any headache meds?” She asked. “I feel awful and I have atest next period.”

    “Sure!” I answered, glad to help. I handed her 2 Tylenol.

    At lunch time this BIG dude came up to me and slammed me against the lockers.

    “What’d you give my girlfriend, Bitch?”

    I had no idea who he was or what he was talking about, but I was TERRIFIED.

    “Um…uh…” I stalled (I seemed to be a bully magnet, so I had excellent stalling skills). “Well, Who IS your girlfriend? If I know that then maybe I can help you.”

    Even DefendoMan had to admit that this was reasonable.

    “Jane Doe. She said she had a headache in math class and some little twit named Sherry gave her some white pills. Last period she started throwing up and shaking all over. We had to call her mom from work to come pick her up.” He paused and built up his countenance to an I’m-gonna-pummel-you intensity, “So I’ll ask you again, Bitch. What’d you give her?”

    He loomed over me, threatening to squash me with his very presence.

    “T-t-tylenol!” I squeaked. I suddenly had an inspiration and began digging frantically in my purse. “S-s-see!” I exulted and I handed him the bottle. “You can take them if you want and check them out. They really are JUST TYLENOL!”

    He popped the cap and poured a couple into his hand. Happily for me, they were actually namebrand tylenol and not a generic knock-off, so the pills were clearly marked.

    “Hmmmph!” he grunted, then softened. “Sorry, kid. I guess she just has a bug and you were trying to help. Have a nice day!” And off he went.

    As I recall, that was a 3 donut day after school!


  16. GROOVY – I can’t type for laughing. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine you would have a story about being a suspected drug dealer. Oh, this is too good. Thanks for a most welcome laugh!!!!:D:D


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