May 15 2012

Paradise Is Santa Cruz: First Ecstasy (MONDO 2000 History Project Entry #15)

""){ ?> By R.U. Sirius


Meanwhile, behind closed doors there seemed to be a mild hubbub going on… Eventually the door opened and one could see a bunch of guys in a sort of ill-formed circle around the very tall Peter Stafford so that we could just see his naked chest, goofy grinning laughing face and wildly flailing arms.  Everybody seemed to be arguing with Peter.  Bruce sighed.  “Peter likes to get naked when he’s high.”….


The following entry is from the early part of the MONDO 2000 story, when “Somerset Mau Mau” and I were distributing the first newsprint edition of High Frontiers, the magazine that became MONDO.

Peter Stafford and Bruce Eisner were two psychedelic veterans who had produced a very interesting magazine called Blotter out of Santa Cruz in the late ’70s and early ’80s.   Both were widely noted writers on the topic of psychedelic drugs.  Stafford had written the widely distributed and highly respected The Psychedelics Encycleopedia.  Having gotten wind of the fact that I was planning a new psychedelic magazine, Bruce and Peter had visited me in my Mill Valley share when the magazine was barely gleaming in my eye.

Upon entering, Bruce had said, “The commodore wants to know why you haven’t called him yet!”  He then fetched the phone number for Timothy Leary out of his pocket and dialed him up. I was nervous and intimidated.  But once I started speaking to Tim and explained the idea for the magazine, he was very kind and funny and enthusiastic.  Bruce later told me that they were excited to meet me because — as I was living in upscale Mill Valley — he and Peter assumed I was a “business head” and the psychedelic movement really needed a “business head.”

Bruce and Peter contributed an entertaining and much needed professionally-written column to our first edition titled Psychedelic Scenarios. It would be an ongoing column bringing news bytes from the psychedelic movement.

A few weeks after publication, Bruce suggested that we really should hustle down to his and Peter’s hometown of Santa Cruz because there weren’t any copies available in the stores and people had already grabbed the few we had sent them for free.   Also, it would be good to meet the folks in the Santa Cruz psychedelic community.  We were invited to stay at Peter Stafford’s apartment.

We arrived at Peter’s place, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Entering a spacious two room apartment with high ceilings and sunlight streaming in through huge picture windows,  Eisner greeted us in the living room.  Meanwhile, behind closed doors there seemed to be a mild hubbub going on.  We stood making small talk with Bruce as the door to this other room — it soon became clear it was a bedroom — would quickly open and close.

Eventually the door opened and one could see a bunch of guys in a sort of ill-formed circle around the very tall Peter Stafford so that we could just see his naked chest, goofy grinning laughing face and wildly flailing arms.  Everybody seemed to be arguing with Peter.  Bruce sighed.  “Peter likes to get naked when he’s high,” he said.  We assured Bruce that we had no problems with anybody greeting us naked.  Eventually, Stafford apparently compromised with his friends and came out to great us wearing a pair of white undies.  We immediately fell into a rapture with Peter, as he excitedly ran us through a full course in his personal psychedelic history; tossing books he’d written at us and waxing mega-enthusiastic — as I recall — about squeezing mescaline from a cactus among so many other trippy matters.

And then the party began.  Although I’m remembering it was just drink and powerful weed, the next few days were a blur of way-stoned, half-drunk but absolutely lucid lessons in drug history and psychopharmacology as preached by Peter interrupted by brief forays around Santa Cruz to meet the local heads.  Most impressive were two older women, probably in their 60s or 70s.  Nina Graboi lived in a neatly furnished modest but brightly colored apartment with huichol peyote paintings on the wall.  She had been the Director of the New York Chapter of the League for Spiritual Discovery (LSD), Timothy Leary’s earliest attempt at organizing for educating psychedelic explorers and defending their rights to trip and had continued to work with psychedelic substances and people ever since. Mau Mau and I felt ourselves in the presence of deep psychedelic history.

The other elder was Liz Gips — a funky gal in baggy blue jeans who seemed to have the hint of a southern accent.  I remember being very impressed with her intellect as she laid out the Santa Cruz psychoactive scene and told us about the radio show she hosted on a local public radio station.  She invited us to come on her show to talk about High Frontiers a couple of days hence.

The last day of our planned visit arrived and I woke up irritated that we’d stayed so loaded that we hadn’t done what we planned to do.  The drinking and lack of discipline weighed on me.  People who wanted to just stay high were clearly too irresponsible to stay on mission, I thought, even when the mission was pretty simple.

As everybody in the house came to consciousness, I pressed my case for getting out right away and getting to Santa Cruz bookstores with copies of the magazine.  My plan was hazily agreed to, but bowls of weed were smoked and lazy conversations sputtered along until the morning was completely gone.  I finally got openly pissed and Mau Mau and I got ready to haul ass out the door to distribute the zines.  Just as we were walking to the door, this absolutely perfect young blondehaired surfer-looking dude with blazing blue eyes and an almost blinding shiny white toothed grin walked in.  “Does anybody want some MDMA?”

Mau Mau and I had never had MDMA (ecstasy) so we eagerly purchased a few hits for ourselves, as did Peter and some other hangabouts — one of them being a rainbow tribe sorta guy named Verge Belanger (who will appear in a dramatic moment later in this epic.)  “Fine,” I said.  “Now let’s go distribute the magazines.”

That wasn’t going to happen.  “You’ve never had ecstasy?!” Stafford asked, stunned by our virginity.  You really need to try this now!”  After a few minutes intransigence on my part, irrepressibility prevailed and we downed our capsules.  I sat alone out on a porch that was attached to Stafford’s place feeling irritated and trapped.   Then there was a slight turning of the sky into deeper gentler pastels, a few seconds of mild nausea, and suddenly I was back through the doors and back into the living room where everybody at once started telling everybody else how wonderful they were; how the essence of that person was just a wonder to behold.   My concerns and irritation was gone.  The barriers between my self and the world melted.  Clearly, most of the things we let make us crazy are less important in actuality than they seem in our own heads.   We communed blissfully and I, for the first time, understood what actual contentment — the complete absence of an nagging doubt about the safety and rightness of being in that moment — felt like. Later that night, we went on Liz Gips radio show and promoted the magazine.  We were relaxed and funny and informative.  I had never done radio before and I’m sure if it had not been for the ecstasy, I would have been – and more importantly, sounded – nervous on my first try.

We stayed in la Cruz an extra day — me missing a day of work as a phone salesman — and finally got the magazines to the local outlets.  Meanwhile, I was pretty nearly convinced that ecstasy was the key to the psychedelic revival.  Surely, I thought, even mindless lugheads who could take acid and mescaline and learn nothing from it other than that it’s fun to stare at flashing colored lights couldn’t miss the point of this.  This one really was the magic bullet; the peace pill; the cure for cultural anxiety and neurosis; the start of an era of hedonic sweetness.  Surely, people couldn’t take this drug, this ecstasy, and not be changed by it.  Surely…

  • By Jason L, May 16, 2012 @ 10:56 am


  • By Perry Fushnish, May 16, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

    That second High Frontiers is $160 now on Amazon. Ree-dick-ulous !

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