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Travels in the New Psychedelic Bazaar


Offline, the drugs began to dribble into the hypersocial 24-hour YOLO party-people scene, particularly among the older crowd—“gravers,” or adult ravers, in neon and feathers—and among the BDSM community. The Wizard was even playing with his sexuality, coming out as bisexual and establishing a “Temple of Discord” with a big pink lacquered cross in his three-car garage. Some in the polyamory scene, of which Pelger is also a part, are embracing the new ketamine drugs, like 3-MeO-PCP. “Those are lovely—the best sex drugs and dissociatives out there, I would say,” says Pelger at Jivamuktea. “Longer than K, about two hours, a little goopier, a little less boundaries between skin.” He pauses. “It’s great for people in the kink community, too. If you want to do some hard play, like take your sex-worker girlfriend, knock her out for two hours, and have men come in and fuck her and film it and let her wake up and watch it, then it’s a safe way to do that.”

Of course, dangerous games become not games at all if someone forgets where the lines are. That’s always been the thing with heavy drugs, mental structures can give way without warning, which can be exhilarating—or something else.

As he got deeper into drug use, the Wizard began living a Summer of Love lifestyle in a contemporary world, and as it turned out, it wasn’t that hard to do. He began taking road trips up and down the West Coast in a 1979 Chevy school bus, though he soon flipped it for a regular car—it turns out that it costs a lot in gas to drive a school bus a thousand miles. He bought a scale and reagent tests so that he could be sure of what he was taking—put a little bit of the solution, usually mixed with sulfuric acid, on the drug, and it turns a different color for each type. He also started calling himself a “harm-reduction specialist,” offering “medical missionary” services at underground parties, and wrote this ditty:

Traveling from town to town
From show to show
Testing that shit, and letting them know
With his laptop in hand he’s ready to post
Wherever he’s at from coast to coast
Be it pills, liquid, powder, or gel
Best rep it properly or else he’ll yell
Letting people know what the drugs ­
really are
Mandelin and Marquis
[various names of reagent tests]
He’ll even show up to test at parties
So the next time that you are at a show
Ask “who has a test” and then you’ll know
That the harm reduction
specialists are far and few
But they’ll tell you what’s in a pill,
and not just that it’s blue

It sounds wholesome. But it was so easy to cross the line from drug fan to DIY ­chemist—doing simple extractions of DMT and salvia and learning about more advanced chemistry from someone making AMT and 2C-I—and, from there, a small hop to selling these wares. Soon, he and his friends were dealing drugs at festivals like Earthdance, the Oregon Country Fair, and Bonaroo, which he calls “Bustaroo” because a friend was busted there. “He got high on a Greyhound and ended up passing out waiting at a layover,” says the Wizard. “When the police woke him up, they found a few pounds of mushroom and 500,000 hits of a research chemical called DOB.” He strokes his beard. “The cops said he was a chemist, but I know enough to know that he wasn’t the chemist.”

This sounds like such an interesting world, doesn’t it? There’s only one problem—unlike with LSD, pot, or mushrooms, which are known to be among the safest drugs on the planet, people die from synthetics. Not a lot. But a few. Bromo-DragonFLY, a drug pilfered from the Purdue University lab of pharmacologist David Nichols for commercial release and considered to be the strongest serotonin agonist in the world, caused some people to lose their arms after taking high doses. “It clamped down so much on the blood vessels that the limbs die—you’re literally strangled from the inside,” says Jeff Lapoint, a medical toxicologist and emergency physician at Kaiser Permanente. After hearing stories like this, Chemical Ali and his group of “fellow travelers” decided to take a “threshold dose” of 1 milligram of each package they get in the mail and wait a day, for safety reasons. The Erowids even advise users of esoteric drugs to have a blood-pressure and pulse-monitoring device on hand. “When one takes a new and unstudied drug, one makes oneself a human guinea pig,” they say. “The drug may be perfectly safe. It may even be beneficial. On the other hand, after three uses one might suddenly find one’s body frozen up with symptoms resembling Parkinson’s disease.”


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