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Upstairs at 9

My name is Zack.

My name is Zack. This passage describes my first substance-induced voyage into the spiritual world.

I remember having what was considered a bad day. I was still in an anti-smoking phase, and I didn't want tonight to turn into another "let's get psyched to do drugs then bug out and do nothing" like smoking had become. Only because my roommate, Eric, twisted my arm with much effort did I agree to trip. He told me to say nothing to anyone, just show up on the 3rd floor (of our fraternity house) at 9:00.

We had a mixer with a sorority that lived next door. (A mixer is the term coined when a fraternity and sorority get together, share in a "theme", drink, give each other diseases, etc. The sorority was alright, I guess, but I was not into the "greek relations" thing. To me, a mixer was as pointless as a high school prom. Anyway...) The big upcoming activity was not hyped up in advance. In fact, NOBODY was talking about it. I didn't know who was in. The mixer began with an outside barbeque around 6:30, and went on as if nothing were to happen.

At this point in my life, I was completely filled with doubt. My school grades were horrible, I was taking more classes than I was used to and it was starting to weigh on me. I was a 5th-year senior, the fraternity was not doing well, and I'd quit everything else I had been involved in to get my life in order. Additionally, I had no idea what I was getting into with this drug, and I wasn't sure all participants wanted me to be their friend. I felt lonely.

At 8:57, I opened the door to the 3rd floor. One of my fraternity brothers, Frank, whom I'd argued with pretty bitterly earlier that day, smiled and said he hoped I didn't hold a grudge against him. Another, John, was stirring a dark brown tea, and explained to me that mushrooms are similar to weed or alcohol: they amplify emotions. If you are a happy person, they will make you happy. This advice helped later. Chuck walked from his room, and commented, "Oh, Zack's with us?" in a noncommittal voice - not enthused that I was coming along, but not objecting to it. Within the next 10 minutes, eight of us had assembled in Chuck/Frank's room. Shortly after, eight teacups were distributed.

The group was: Julio, John, Jim, Chuck, Frank, Vance, Eric, and Me. So far as I know, only one person (Julio) had ever shroomed before. He partook once, and it was a weak trip. The other seven of us were virgins. We sat in a circle, and one-by-one, gave a toast. When each of us finished our toast, we drank a sip of our tea. By the 8th toast, we finished. The best toast was Jim's, the last to go. The rest of us praised our friendships, the upcoming night, or other "feel-good" topics. Jim flatly stated, "To Drugs." By Jim's toast, we were definitely having a good time.

Chuck had a delayed-action camera. We took a picture of ourselves. We sat back down, and hung out for what seemed like the entire night. We were much louder than when we drank. We were also more intelligent.

At the end of the night, we all agreed the rest of the house was going to be pissed at us for dissing the party. Our collective response would be, "Oh well, at least we had fun." (The mixer sure wasn't) This wasn't too intense like we'd been told, and Julio apologetically said, "I Don't know, guys, I thought these were gonna be good." We got up to get ready for bed, someone looked at his watch...

"GUYS, IT'S ONLY 10:30!!"

10:30!? The night's just STARTING!! I quickly realized what kind of night this was going to be. I braced myself for what was to come, for I knew how much fun these people were capable of having, without any help of any legal or illegal drugs. On THIS stuff...

We exploded out of the room, ran down three flights of stairs, and swarmed into our basement. It felt like a tunnel to another world. The only analogy I can give is in the movie Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, when they start at some point, go through a very cool-looking warp in a telephone booth, and a new world opens up around them.

The secret service gang-tackling a would-be presidential assassin could not have made a more dynamic entrance. As soon as I got down there and breathed in, I felt the trip kick from Park to Drive. I looked at my companions and some of their eyes spoke the same message. This was great! A couple of people overloaded from too much stimulus and ran outside; when they got there they shrieked in exstacy. I ran to them out of curiosity..the outdoors were LOVELY! I stood with them for all of 3 seconds before we instantly agreed we should regroup upstairs. This was WAY too much.

I ran upstairs, through the incubation room, and out onto the fire escape, where I met Chuck and Vance. (Vance had never even smoked before, and now he's one of the fun guys!) I sat with them, and we watched people walking around 3 stories below, telling stories of their classes and such, playing that charade we all did every Friday night. So cool. Vance was nursing a gallon of O.J., and we passed it around. A giant tree was 40 feet in front of us. It came alive. Ever consider that a tree could have intelligence? All those years it's around collecting input...made a good topic. We were relaxed. I had a disposable camera. I took our picture from an armslength...FLASH! "Hurry, cover your eyes, there's a keg in the middle!"

I looked down and saw my roommate Eric doing figure-8's on rollerblades. He has bladed across half the countries in Europe before, so I was not too concerned. But then a non-tripping fraternity brother ran up and tackled him, on the asphalt. Eric was uncontrollably laughing. Adrenaline shot through my system. I had to help him! Chuck really wanted me to stay. But I was a 2-liter bottle of soda being shaken up. I couldn't stay. I had to release my energy.

I went to save Eric, but he disappeared. I went looking for him. As it turns out, he got up, went into traffic and started weaving around moving cars! The street was a residential, fairly busy 2-lane highway. Myself, Jim, John, and I think Julio started shrieking at him. He could've gotten himself killed! He came back with a massive energy rush, saying the headlights were moving around. "That was SO awesome!"

Very few brothers had tripped, or been around trippers, before. We loved the confused looks on others' faces. Some were trying not to show their annoyance at our being so anti-social. Some tried to join into our wavelength. They didn't come close. One offered John and I a beer. "No thanks, we've had enough." Five of us sat in a circle on the sidewalk; we created our own little campfire. Some guy off the street walked up to John and asked if there were any leftovers. This bugged him out...he promptly got a hat that covered his eyes.

Eric walked out and triumphantly offered me a cigarette. I rarely smoked nicotine, but he was in such a good mood I couldn't turn him down. He lit a match in front of my face. It was...oh, just try it sometime.

This 'gear-shifting' pattern continued all night. We were in a maze, and every corner we turned became a new experience. There was a 'bubble of awareness' around the 8 of us. The whites of our eyes shone a bit brighter. When one of us saw another, we'd laugh and shout in an instant homecoming, reenergizing each other.

Much more than what I wrote happened during this peak time, but it would be redundant to mention it all. The word that kept cycling through my head was acceleration. If I had to use numbers, I'd say this was 1/3rd of all that happened the first 30 minutes. I felt like a baseball player moving from T-ball to the Major Leagues. We watched the everyone else's who were still operating in T-ball mode. By now, the mixer became a "whoever happens to walk by" party. At this point I began conversing with people.

I was never a sociable person before. I'd had incredible conversations with some people, but they were on rare occasions, late at night, and one-on-one. Aside from that, I never caught on to the art of party/BS talk. That changed. The art of conversation became so EASY...I could talk with anybody about anything. I could lift people's emotions from being upset at their drunk roommate to loving this night for all it was. In fact, all of us became sources of happiness. What was a "college frat party" became an experience that had a utopian quality many ambitous movies, even religious ceremonies, try to create.

After 15 minutes of meeting just about every person there, I realized Eric had disappeared. Oh NO!! He could be having a bad trip...I had to find him. I started asking people I'd just met if they saw him recently. Nobody had. So I embarked on my night's quest: to find my roommate.

So many things happened, and I remember them all...Here are some of the more significant events:

  • There was a room with 3 heavy-duty blacklight fixtures, a few thousand glow-star stickers, and a wall-sized mirror. (Dozens of plastic stars were also suspended from the ceiling by thread, giving a 3-D effect) We visited this room a number of times.
  • I went to the "incubation room", where Chuck and Frank were chilling. I just missed a track on Dark Side of the Moon - Great Gig in the Sky - and wanted to rewind the CD. "Hey Zack, just chill and stay here. The CD's on repeat." "hmmm...OK!" So I waited until the album finished, looped back to the beginning, and I stayed through Great Gig in the Sky. Their music is so...flavorful. Others visited us, Chuck twirled a yellow whiffleball bat, Frank played Pitfall '95 on his computer. We agreed that Chuck and Frank were perfect roommates/friends/big-little for each other.
  • Vance dragged me into my room, turned out all the lights, and we sat in silence/darkness for a few minutes. We just sat quietly, sipping orange juice. I got some deep thoughts through my head during this time, sitting there. It was a pit stop; a recharge. After a few minutes, our energy came back to Full. We got up and continued the night.
  • Eric was still gone. I couldn't find him ANYWHERE. All night I told non-trippers, "Hey, this conversation is great, but I'm looking for my roommate. I have something VERY important to tell him." Mostly, I said this when I didn't feel like talking anymore.
  • Julio and I went into the stars room, which had other people. We were the two alive people in the room. We jumpstarted that room into a kickin time. I think Julio left when people started hooking up with each other. I stayed around, and after a few minutes, most everyone was kissing somebody else. I think there were 6 or 7 coed couples sitting together on beds, couches, beanbags, or the floor. (No non-coed couples) I looked around and smiled.
  • A freshman girl was drunk for her first time. Member of the marching band. I had a great conversation with her, in my room, and she snuggled on my bed. Wanted me to lay down with her. She WAS cute. But I...didn't want to. It was just not right. (If you don't get why, I won't explain) The door was closed, and 3 of her friends knocked, wondering where she was. Easy to imagine their mindset when I opened the door. But I wanted people to be happy. A couple of minutes later, we all were.
  • All night, non-trippers were coming up to me saying, "I'm still looking for your roommate! When I find him, I'll tell him you have an important message for him!" I went along with it, this was fun!
  • Some people were smoking weed. I think one 'alive' person was with them. I didn't understand that. Shrooms had the opposite effects of weed. Everything seemed so real, and I didn't want pot to drag me down. I wasn't interested.

But 'the moment' came from a week-old, half-eaten cheeseburger sitting on a dirty frying pan. Jim, John, and I stood around it for several seconds explaining the signifigance of this burger to a couple girls, ("Doesn't the sight of this just TURN YOU ON??!?" "No." "Don't you want to spend the night in our rooms NOW!!!" "Yuk. No!" "I'm surprised..." "...the inside of this burger isn't completely dried through..." "..Yeah, really." "...Right, this is pretty fresh in OUR house..." "...hey, let's dress it up with this old macaroni and cheese...." "oh, good call, yo, here's some chili from the other day...") and things were getting out of hand. Jim and I, very unnaturally, kept getting louder and building up the meaning of this burger, and John, in the middle, was just laughing faster and faster, until I said: "Y'know, I'm gonna take a bite of this sandwich." -CHOMP-

I think all three of us peaked. John and Jim immediately fell to the ground, bawling their heads off. Others, even fellow fun-guys, saw all this and stood amazed. I was trying hard to keep the food in my mouth...I was losing that battle; I gave up. I spat the food out on the floor, and screamed at the top of my lungs, "I HAVE TO FIND MY ROOMMATE!!" as I walked away. I briefly remembered there had been girls with us. I glanced at them. They stood like statues. I was done here - I walked down the stairs.

Sooo many things happened. I could write a book about this night. (I have barely touched on anyone else's adventures during the night) It was as if the 8 of us were the only people who were truly alive, and this house was its own planet. I swore this was the most incredible thing I'd ever experienced, and I would never do shrooms again because nothing could match how awesome I felt tonight. I was flipping out of control on several occasions because I was generating more energy than I could burn.

At the (real) end of the night I ran into Eric, and it was as if we hadn't seen each other in a year. We exchanged stories at well above the posted speed limit. He got lost in some park with some girl, and ended up having to explain why he was there to a cop. I think his mental toughness moved up a couple of notches from this night.

At 5am, I went to a diner for breakfast with Frank, Chuck, and one non-tripper. We were done 'tripping' for sure, but it was still so much easier to read Frank and Chuck's wavelengths. By the crack of sunrise I finally managed to feel like sleeping. I felt like I was lying down, on a field after the Super Bowl, completely exhausted, with a new ring on my finger.


The snapshot of the 8 of us is, to this day and forever after, immortalized. I will be able to mention this night, ten years from now, and all of us will remember details.

This night was a gateway. Most of us have tripped since. Many tried acid a month later. I just soaked myself in this night for a long time. The common talk, afterwards, was that simmering the shrooms into tea made them weaker, and this was a very weak trip. (If that was a weak trip, then the thought of a strong trip made me shudder)

Since that night, very occasionally, I have decided to trip again. I've "devirginized" at least a half-dozen people, acting as their "guide" on their first trip. I love being around tripping people; others often think I am tripping, even when I'm not.

After discussing this trip with other, more experienced psychonauts I knew, I was confused by two things:

First: they concluded the shrooms must have been laced with something, probably speed. We shouldn't have gotten that hyper. I disagreed:

  • Only four of the eight of us became hyperactive: Myself, Eric, John and Jim accelerated, but Julio, Vance, Frank and Chuck were much more mellow. Also, I also had some extended times of complete relaxation.
  • I get like this every time I shroom (3 times since). I once sat still in a moving van for 20 minutes while tripping, and I wanted to scream. That I couldn't scream threw me into a bad trip and it took all my effort to fight the drug down. (Somehow my mind 'aborted' that trip 90 minutes after I ingested, and I was sober for the rest of the night) Those I've shroomed with don't understand why I get so excited. (I do, but won't explain here)

Second: I had NO visuals. No trails (even when the match was lit in my face), no morphing patterns on walls, no spectrum diffusing of lights, nothing. And again, this has been true every trip since. (Although I do get "audials", or sounds morphing into other sounds, coming from nowhere, etc.)

Two weeks before this writing, I visited my old Fraternity house. I met a couple dozen new faces, had a great time with them, and at one point I reflected that three years ago, I would not have been so bold.

The personalities we carry are usually influenced, not by a slow, steady course of events, but by single, catalystic turning points that burn themselves into our memories forever. They can be an award ceremony, a losing election moment, a breakthrough creative effort, a philosophical conversation, a shocking discovery about your parents, or any other powerful experience.

My first mushroom trip was such a turning point for me. I doubt even any of my 'alive' companions realized the change I was going through, but I would later gain a reputation as being "the one who can talk to anybody about anything." (In the fraternity, in later jobs, music bands, anywhere I'd go) I directly attribute this to that night.

I recommend a good, wholesome, first mushroom trip to anybody, provided they can find the right conditions. I DO NOT EVER recommend anyone to trip while in the mental mindset that I was in beforehand. But if you can find the right surroundings, companions, music, toys, etc., you will realize new dimensions of awareness, not to mention sore stomach muscles from laughing so damn much. That is the story of my first trip, written down for the first time 2 1/2 years later.

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