“I Want to Do It”: LSD and The Gang

Excerpt from This Is All a Dream We Dreamed: An Oral History of the Grateful Dead by Blair Jackson and David Gans, published by Flatiron Books. Signed copies  are available from http://perfectible.net

David Nelson: [Rick Shubb] had a contact in Berkeley and he said, “I can get some hits of acid.” Everybody was like, “Okay, I want to do it, I want to do it!” And Hunter’s back there shaking his head, because he had been through this two years before that. He said, “You guys are nuts. You don’t realize what you’re in for.”

David Nelson
David Nelson | Photograph © Bob Minkin

So Shubb comes over on that day. I think it was thirteen people that all took acid at the same time for their first time. It was Jerry and Sara, me, Eric Thompson, David and Bonnie [Parker], Rick Shubb, and some more. We all decided, “Yeah I think it’s best the first time — ‘I’m kind of queasy and nervous’ — and let’s all go off and then we’ll meet when we’re [high].” That was a good idea. I went and laid on the bed and stuff started to go swirling around and everything, and I’d go, “I feel good now.” Several of us are sitting there and we said, “What if there are dangerous pitfalls and things to watch out for? We gotta go ask Hunter! He’s done it before.” And so we all run down over to Ramona Street and knock on his door and he looks at us and he goes, “Do you always jump out of planes without a parachute?” We said, “Please, please, Mr. Man, will you please help us here?” So he says, “Okay, just a minute,” and he set these chairs up facing him. I remember him talking and it sounding really profound, but I remember he made a gesture [with his hand] and I saw brrd, brrd, brrd, brrrrrrrrrrrd — the fingers fan. The visual stuff was just fantastic!

Then we went back to the house and we discovered looking at yourself in the mirror is a total thing. It’s like, “Who is that? I didn’t know I looked like that!” You don’t look the same; you really don’t. And you look at your hand, it doesn’t look like the same hand. There’s all kinds of stuff; really fun. 

Dave Parker: In those days you could be wandering around and feeling the weirdest way imaginable and feeling obvious, but nobody would notice. It wouldn’t even occur to somebody to think that you’re on drugs. We were wandering around the house and in and out of the house and walking up and down the streets and around the block, looking up at the streetlights. Police cars would go by and they paid no attention. I remember feeling as demented and bizarre as I could imagine and then some, and yet it was all very soft and innocent walking around Palo Alto. There was no sense of threat or paranoia; it was all happy and wonderful, though very strange at the same time. I thought later what a weird scene that must have been for the other people in the neighborhood. But I’m sure it didn’t look as weird as it felt.