Alpert returned just as the biggest storm of the season dumped two feet of snow on the streets of Newton. Leary invited him over to his house for a Saturday-night initiation. By now, Leary and his growing band of graduate students had started experimenting with a new batch of drugs they'd gotten from Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland. The drug was a synthesized form of psilocybin, the active ingredient in the magic mushrooms of Mexico. The psychic effects were the same, but the dose was easier to control.
While Alpert had been in California, Leary had begun to assemble an eclectic squadron of test pilots at his increasingly chaotic home. They included Beat poet Allen Ginsberg; jazz trumpeter Maynard Ferguson; William Burroughs, the legendary novelist and heroin addict; and Alan Watts, the popular Buddhist writer and commentator. Ginsberg was sitting at Leary's kitchen table the day Alpert burst in from the cold. Alpert joined them at the table, upon which stood a bottle of pink pills from Sandoz labs. He measured out 10 milligrams of the drug and washed the pills down with a few gulps of beer.
Allen and Tim and Richard sat down in the kitchen and waited. Right away there was a bit of a melodrama. Tim's son, Jack, was upstairs when the boy's dog ran out of the house. The dog had been out galloping around in deep snow and came in panting heavily. They all started thinking, "Oh, no! The dog is dying!" Then they figured out that they really couldn't tell if the dog was dying because they were so high. Their thinking and senses were too distorted. Jack was 11 years old. He was upstairs watching television and a bit peeved that these silly adults were bothering him. He came down, assured them that the dog was fine, then marched back upstairs to the TV.
Alpert started really coming onto the psilocybin. There was too much talking in the kitchen, so he walked into the living room, a darker and more peaceful setting. He sat down on the sofa and tried to collect himself. Looking up, he saw some people over in the corner. Who were they? Were they real? Then he started to see them as images of himself in his various roles. They were hallucinations, but they seemed so real. There was the professor with a cap and gown. There was a pilot with a pilot's hat. There was the lover. At first, he was a bit amused by the vision. Those are just my roles. That role can go. That role can go. I've had it with that role. Then he saw himself as his father's son. The feeling changed. Wait a minute. This drug is giving me amnesia! I'll wake up and I won't know who I am! That was terrifying, but Alpert reminded himself that those roles weren't really important. Stop worrying. It's fine. At least I have a body. Then Alpert looked down on the couch at his body. There's no body! Where's my body? There's no-body. There's nobody. That was terrifying. He started to call out for Tim. Wait a minute. How can I call out to Tim? Who was going to call for Tim? The minder of the store, me, would be calling for Tim. But who is me? It was terrifying at first, but all of a sudden Alpert started watching the whole show with a kind of calm compassion.
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