of the
Jon Gallant

Peyote, unlike alcohol, gives you a hangover before rather than after. The taste was so loathsome, no matter how we disguised the baked cactus in food or brewed it into tea, that we generally threw up at the very start. This endowed the psychedelic experience, which set in somewhat after throwing up, with a quality of virtue: it seemed to be hard-won.

However, so much virtue was out of character for us, and eventually we discovered how to get the magic cactus down with less suffering, almost comfortably. We placed the dried powder in gelatin capsules (size 00, as I recall), and swallowed them like medicine, with a little bland food. The capsules also provided a convenient way to make travel plans: 5-10 capsules for a recreational evening, 12-16 for a substantial trip, 20 or more for a voyage to Arcturus, which typically occupied forty-eight hours.

One afternoon, my friend Carlos and I set sail together on such a voyage, while my wife (who never took the sacred cactus after her first and last trip) rode shotgun for us. After a period of exchanging incredible witticisms (which my wife later reported were incredibly brainless), Carlos and I parted company, each to his own planet. Carlos, wrapped up in a quilt in a deep chair, was exploring the inner universe we called "the projection room," while I undertook a minute investigation of the rug on the living room floor.

It was a golden-yellow color, with an intricate weave that had concealed, until that very afternoon, the presence of innumerable living beings. These were tiny, intelligent creatures, whole villages of them, whole cities, provinces, countries, all going soberly about their business: they strolled about in their central squares, conducted commerce, built temples and civic monuments, traveled from one city in the rug to another --- all under my watchful eyes. It was like that classic science fiction story (was it by Theodore Sturgeon?) except that the little creatures did not worship me, and had no knowledge of me at all. I was thus all the more God-like, observing all but never intervening.

Some of them were gathered in the Agora, like Plato's students, when a repairman from our world unexpectedly arrived to fix the washing machine. My wife ushered him in, and he stood in the doorway. I greeted the repairman civilly from the rug, explaining that I was tied up at the moment with my little people, but he was welcome to go ahead with his work. He was a strange piece of work himself, elongated and angular like a figure in an El Greco painting, and slanted at an impossible angle halfway between vertical and horizontal. I suggested that he might want to do something about the slant of the floor after he had fixed the washing machine, and turned back to my little people in the rug. Carlos, wrapped up in his quilt, looked more like a pile of laundry than a sentient being, except that muffled, insane laughter emerged at intervals from the pile. The repairman bid us both a pleasant afternoon, and went out to the porch to work on the washing machine. It was the 60s.

Most of the great discoveries we made on these voyages could not be remembered at all when we came down. A few things did stick in the mind, so to speak. On one voyage, I discovered the secret of Bach's relentless, irresistible Little Fugue in G minor: it was, I grasped, the dogs. You see, there are dogs stationed behind the most important notes, fast racing dogs, swift as Whippets, and they race along carrying the music's impulse between their teeth. This seemed a profound insight to me at the time. I would bring this insight into my own music, if I had the slightest clue as to what it means.

But something from the peyotl trips did remain. At the ragged end of the trips, I began to notice little furry but indistinct creatures at the edge of my field of vision, always scurrying from the barely-glimpsed to the just out-of-sight. I call them the Eenie-Weenies. I had seen them often as a young child, of course. We all have. But then came the years of school, college, striving, the social world, and seeing what I was expected to see. During those years, I lost track of them.

They came back during the years of peyotl. And, although I haven't laid eyes on a cactus button in thirty years, the Eenie Weenies are with me still. There goes one now.

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