Night of the Avalanche

I begin this post speaking directly to you; not through some scene from my life, or reflection of a thought, or roundabout story. It’s straight from me to you, and here’s my message: This is the one. This post sits at the apex of the blog “story arc.” [You can pretty much stop reading any posts that come after this one.] If you’ve been with me since the beginning, fantastic! If you’ve stumbled onto this post and none previous, what a great stroke of serendipity this could be, because….

This is the night of the avalanche! 

That’s what it was like one special night in April when a chain of clear and enlightened thoughts tumbled from my head with all the force and weight of an avalanche. 

More than a few times within this post I’ll include words or lines that are references to one or more of my previous 18 posts. I will not pause to point these moments out, because there will be a lot of them, but I will include links on occasion. This post (and this night) is where everything that’s gone before it “links” together like pieces of a puzzle.  

To get us from here to the pay-off, come into my house, come into my head, Tuesday evening, April 21, 2020. Live this evening with me. Many big life-lessons depend the axiom, you have to live it to get it. What stories are capable of doing is connecting us to the lives of others so that we can still learn by living within stories that are not our own. The life-changing conclusions I had arrived as the avalanche ended are revealed to you in this post. Perhaps it’s a longshot, but my hope would be for you to capture something from my story that becomes a piece in your own life’s puzzle.

By the way, every word that I write are my thoughts, [obvi], but when I use the italics, I’ll typically be signaling to you, “this is what I’m thinking.”

Are you ready? Here goes! Right now I am thinking, the avalanche is about to begin.


Cleared For An Edible

I like having a roommate. Simply sharing the space with someone else (provided you get along as well as Derek and I do), adds just enough human connection without being too much. Especially, when you and your roommate have opposite schedules. ;-). Derek is working tonight and out of the house until past midnight. I love it when I have the entire evening to myself.

It’s a Tuesday. I’ve made one of my deluxe veggie sandwiches for dinner. So good. I think it’s the arugula that makes it. Been thinking a lot about the new therapy I started. Sure seems like some freaky-ass voodoo to me, yet I’m still feeling excited to be taking it on. Last night was only my second session with the therapist so there’s nothing much to report so far. Sandwiches are nice sometimes for dinner… so long as they’re hearty enough. The cheese and avocado pack the hearty. 

Clean-up is relatively easy after a sandwich. I put the cutting board and knives into the sink to be washed later. Honestly, I love that Derek sometimes leaves his dishes in the sink; gives me permission to do the same.  It’s almost 7:30, that’s when I’ll eat one 10 mg square of my cannabis-infused dark chocolate. On the nights that are clear for an edible, like tonight, 7:30 always seemed like a good time to take it. I don’t have great reasons for believing this, but I figure I can enjoy my evening and then once it mostly wears off, it will be bedtime. 

One Hour and Counting

An hour and a half later I’m in the basement, moving laundry from the washer to the dryer. So annoying that the doors open in exactly the opposite direction you need them to for making the transfer of clothes easy. I can feel the edible. It kicked in slowly about 20 mins ago. Maybe it’ll be slightly more intense since I had avocado on my sandwich. They say the THC binds better with fatty foods which might make its effects slightly more intense. Who knows? I’m feeling its effects now and just hope I don’t forget my clothes in the dryer because I’m all lost in thought. “Hey Siri, countdown one hour,” I say towards my wrist. “One hour and counting,” she responds dutifully.

My mind has been so busy lately and my stomach upside down. All that stuff with Marianne has been a heavy load. I even thought about not doing the edible tonight because maybe I wasn’t in a good frame of mind for it. 

Last week it worked out okay. I did the same amount, one square, and ended up with an unexpectedly useful result. That’s when the straight and clear answer came to me saying I should sell my house in Austin. Man, if I sell that house, then what? I should really think about that. I grab my little bluetooth speaker from the kitchen and carry it with me. I’d been listening to the rest of The Young Turks while making my sandwich. Now, with the house all to myself, I am ready for some music. The portable speaker is all black and about the size of a 40 oz “tall boy.” Quite often it’s a “Pogo mix” on YouTube that feels right. 

The spring evening is cool in Denver. The front door is open to let in the magic hour’s light; the screen door keeps out the moths, though they always seem to find their way in anyway. I walk to the living room, set the speaker down on the big trunk topped with doilies we use as a coffee table. I then plunk myself onto the couch. I bet I could walk away with at least $350K from it. 

I keep thinking about what that Civilized to Death book had said about how our pre-”civilized” ancestors only worked about 3-4 hours a day. Not even work, really. Hanging out with their friends, cracking jokes, while gathering up some food from the trees or doing other basic tasks. I wonder how having this money could get me closer to that kind of lifestyle. Not the gathering my own food part, but just in general. I do think I would like to have a little garden, however

Do The Math

I look around the living room. Everything is old. I was once sitting in the living room while on a Skype call with my friend Boris, probably in the same spot where I sit now. He saw the decor behind me- old, darkened wood-grain, with thick drapery on the windows -and asked if I was traveling on the Orient Express. That guy sure has an eye for the obscure-but-true observations. What if I use the money to buy my own house. Do I even want to buy another house? If I did, I’d want it to have everything I want.

This was something I had already put a little bit of thought into. I’d want a four bedroom house, with the fourth bedroom set up with its own entrance so I could run an Airbnb like how I’d done it with my house in Austin. The master bedroom would be for me, duh….but the other one, or even two, would be for my roommate. Also on my wish list is a large “extra” room with tall windows all along one wall that faces the patio/garden. I would use the space for meditation or yoga or whatever else I wanted to use it for. Maybe I’d just play my music and dance.

If I sell the house and walk away with $350K, together with my other savings I’d be sitting on a total of about a half-million dollars. Man, that sounds like a lot. I wonder if I could just stop working now. I bet maybe I could. Wait, could I really? Don’t they say you need a million dollars to retire? I know I’ve heard that, or maybe it’s two million now. If I don’t have enough now…how much longer do I need to work until I have enough? Until I’m 65? Really….?! 

A sense of excitement starts to percolate inside my head. My thoughts begin rolling. I stand up to move around. Do I really have to work until I’m 65? Why do I think that? Oh my God! My arms rise up and my hands run half-way through my hair. It’s just like the 8 hour workday thing. I’m only assuming I need to work ‘til I’m 65, but who said that?! Jesus Christ! What am I working FOR, anyway?! I don’t even know. I’m just working. I’m working because that’s what we do? It’s expected. It’s “normal.” Work ‘til 65 or 66 or 70 and then retire. 

This realization is hitting me with unexpected force. How come I’ve never thought about this? Again I think, What am I working FOR!? I have my hands clasped behind my head now, my head is tilted back, mouth open, eyes wide, an expression of disbelief and shock. My eyes get a flush of moisture and start to blink more quickly. I have a feeling that I am emerging from the Truman Show, out from under the dome and into the real light of day. What am I doing here?! Is this why people talk to financial planners and junk? Why have I never done the math? WHY HAVE I NEVER DONE THE MATH?!!!

I’m getting that last one to the party feeling. I feel like a fool. Do other people think about this stuff? My gut tells me most people are just working working working because that’s what we’ve all been programmed to do. That’s been true of me. Maybe I need to check myself here. This feels big! I start wondering if maybe I am inside some cannabis-induced thought-vortex. All these rushing thoughts have me reeling. I pause the music.

Let me run through this again. I try to make all the same mental links. Civilization has handed us a way of life that in many ways is a bill of goods. The 8 hr workday was handed to us. Vacation time off per year- 2 weeks,handed to us. Where is my say-so? These are all pre-negotiated rules of society I had nothing to do with. How can I live on MY terms? Maybe I can; I’ve never done the math. Again, I think about working ‘till I’m 65 and how blindly I’ve accepted this as a stone-cold truth. After this second time through, I think, Oh man, I can see it in my mind. It’s real! 

Confident I am “on the right track,” I mentally race ahead. So if I leave my job, would I have enough money to live on? For how long? If I buy a house, have a roommate, and run an Airbnb, I wouldn’t need that much, right? Here’s the thing about me, I just want what I want. Being able to do what I want when I want to do it, makes me feel good. It’s my thing. Call me selfish, but it’s what I like. And the best news of all is that my wants just aren’t that grand, I don’t think. For example, it’s not like I need money to buy a boat or join a country club- I don’t even like golf and quite frankly find that whole scene off-putting (to put it gently). And if I can get away with not even owning a car, I will. 

What I want is an electric scooter, a quality set of cookware, and chopped pecans on my cereal in the morning. Yes, chopped pecans are kind of expensive. I know, I buy them all the time. But here’s how I think about it… Is my buying chopped pecans going to make a difference in my ability to afford living the life I want? That IS the life I want! Chopped pecans are not going to break me.

I walk from the living room back into the kitchen. I look around and imagine a different kitchen, MY kitchen. I told you about the living room being old and dark? Well, this kitchen hasn’t been up-dated in years. I go into the fridge for a passion fruit flavored La Croix.

The question I am zeroing in on, and the one I should have been asking all along is… how much money do I need for me to have the life I want- a four bedroom house, an electric scooter, quality cookware, and pecans for my cereal…. and still have enough to live on? Will half-a-million dollars do it? My gut says maybe. A feeling jabs my ego that I’ve been a fool for not ever mentally going down this road before. OMG! I’m still incredulous. I’ve never done the math! I’VE NEVER DONE THE FREAKING MATH! 

I Have Options

Ping…Ping….Ping… The alert on my watch goes off. The clothes should be dry. 

I open the door to the dryer and warmth spills out into the basement. Very much still in the elevated state of my cannabis high, it occurs to me how easy it would be to remove the clothes from the dryer all at once, if….. squatting down low, I put my left arm into the bottom of the dryer drum, but to the right of the pile of clothes, I insert my right arm also into the mouth of the dryer, also on the right side, but a little higher up on the drum. Then with my elbows I rotate the drum causing the clothes to tumble into my waiting arms for me to scoop. Whoa! That totally worked! I just invented a new way to get clothes out of a dryer.  

Back up in the living room, I spread out all the clothes on the couch and start my folding routine. Lay out the shirts first. I reach for a gray cotton work shirt. Where could I buy a house like I’m thinking? There’s more avalanche coming. Disregarding money for a second, I wonder…..If I were able to not work, and lived in a 4 bedroom house with the roommate and the Airbnb, where would I really want to live? I like Denver, but I’ve travelled a bit and honestly would not consider Denver to be one of the “great cities of the world.” 

More lightbulbs start going off. 

Oh my God! I have my hands back up to my head. If a half a million is somehow enough for me to live on and I don’t have to work any more, I could live anywhere. I wouldn’t be tied to a job! I could live ANYWHERE!  The proverbial bolt of lightning is knocking my socks right off. I think, if I were starting from scratch. Where would I live? Like…what city? What country? My mind has gone full global tilt. I think about my experiences traveling the world and all of the cities I visited: Quito; Santiago; Auckland; Hangzhou; Istanbul; and a hundred cities more.  

The US is going down, I’m convinced of it. Government corruption is beyond repair and will not be stopped by Trump, Biden, me or anyone else. I swear I tried. Late-stage capitalism sets the rules, our media is complicit, money has taken over every branch of government. This is not the America I was born into. It’s just not. And it’s only going to get worse from here, at least for regular schmoes like me. If America ever recovers from this mess it won’t be in my lifetime. But I don’t have to live here, do I? I could totally live in another country.

With this money, I have options.

I’m Leaving You Baby

In the blink of an idea, the turn has been made. With the same rational and pragmatic certainty I felt when I knew I should sell my house in Austin, I suddenly know I am going to leave America. Excitement around what this means for my life has my body moving and stretching, as if I am warming up for a big game. I pretzel my arms in front of me and feel the stretch through my shoulders and back. Oh my God, this is big! I bend my body at the waist and go all the way to the floor, rising a moment later with my arms outstretched to the sides. I am expanding.  

What would it be like to live in another country? The impact of this idea quickly reverberates. I have a pretty good chunk of my life left to live, at least another 25 years. I lived 55 years here, could I not live the next 25 somewhere else? There’s nothing stopping me, right? I have no family, no relationship partner to negotiate with. I do have options. I speak English and my Spanish is not too shabby either. 

No longer am I marching down the corridor of civilization that had kept me compliant all my life…. I DO HAVE OPTIONS!! 

The Final Poetic Confluence

That was it! I’d thought it through and come out the other side; the avalanche has settled. But it’s sure stirred up a lot of dust. I didn’t know everything, but I knew on that night that I wanted to make a new life for myself outside of America. I knew I wanted to start living life on my own terms. 

The very next day, I called my friend Vanessa in a rush. Give me Tim’s number. What’s his number? I need to make an appointment with him as soon as possible. Tim is the financial planner Vanessa had been trying to get me to have a conversation with for a while. As soon as she shares with me his contact info, I place the call. He doesn’t pick up so I leave a message. I send him a text, too, for good measure. A few minutes after that I call my real estate agent friend in Austin. Mike, I want to sell the house. I’m ready. What do we need to do? 

I feel the rush and it doesn’t stop for days. In one night I have set myself on a trajectory where so many, many things would be new. New house, new city, new country, new neighbors, friends, furniture, food, parks, radio, street signs… it would ALL be new to me. Depending on where I end up, I could potentially even be surrounded by a new language- one that is not my native tongue.  

And what of all this course of therapy I have committed myself to? This is the coup de grace, the pièce de résistance, the ultimate in poetic confluence– The thought that I might also, in some very key way, be a new me, psychologically and emotionally “cleansed” of burdens I’d carried for a lifetime, was too pure a merging of events to dismiss without excitement. Things happen for a reason is back on the board.

Let’s go! Let’s GO! LET’S GOOOOOOOO!!!!

Psychedelic Therapy…Is A Trip

My fate was sealed, my dad would soon be using his belt to give me a spanking. But why? I didn’t understand why. We didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong. We were playing with our toys and they broke. We weren’t doing anything stupid, we were just playing with them. What am I being punished for? It didn’t make any sense to me. To my angry dad, however, this is how he would teach us a lesson about taking better care of our things.

While my brother was getting spanked first, I slipped away and hid underneath my bed. It’s such a classic, child-like response. But I’m a small boy, about to be a victim of injustice, (or should I call it abuse…?). At six, I had no adult options. So I hid.

I can hear them calling my name, all of them. Yep, including my brother Bill. After he got it with the belt, he was happy to join the search party. At one point early in the hunt, I see Bill enter the bedroom we shared, the bedroom where I’m hidden. His feet walk over to the closet. I see it swing open. It’s quiet for a moment while he looks. Then it closes. I’m right here underneath my own bed. Surely he will look here next. But he doesn’t. He leaves the room and I am still unfound. Even at that age I had the presence of mind to think, How absurd is it that nobody has thought to look under the bed?!

Because of how our house was situated, I could hear some of their conversations from my hiding spot, “Where do you think he is?” My mom asks, “Do you think he could be hiding in the garage?” My brother says he’ll check and I hear the back door open and shut.  

Underneath the bed I wait and worry. I’m confused about what I did and what to do now. I don’t want to get a spanking. It’s gonna hurt. I start thinking, Seems like I’ve been under here a long time. Should I try to make a break for the front door? But then what would I do? Where would I go? Maybe if enough time passes, they’ll kinda forget about it. Or maybe once I’m found again they’ll be so happy I’m safe…I won’t get spanked. But I also consider that maybe I will get it double. 

I hear my brother come back from the garage. “He’s not there.” More conversation. “Look in the bedroom again,” she tells him. The scariest real-life game of hide ‘n seek is coming to an end. My brother enters the bedroom a second time. I see his feet stop in front of my bed, he crouches down and sees me. He lifts and turns his head to aim his voice down the hall and shouts, “Mom! Found him!.” He turns back to me, smiling, and says, “You’re gonna get it now.”   


Why All the “Voodoo?”

When referring to somatic therapy, both in the subtitle immediate above and in previous posts, I include the word “voodoo.” I even titled one entire post “Freaky-Ass Voodoo.” (which you might want to read before this one). Why such a seemingly derogatory / potentially offensive word choice? Am I trying to delegitimize this type of therapy from the get-go? Actually, not at all. The most obvious reason for calling it voodoo is… because it sounds funny and gets your attention. More interesting is the second reason. There will be aspects of this type of therapy that, when you hear about them, will seem borderline supernatural…like voodoo. 

somatic – Here’s what Webster’s says is the definition:  

1. of, relating to, or affecting the body; 2. of, or relating to, the wall of the body

To keep it simple, when you hear “somatic therapy,” just think “body therapy” and you’ll be fine. 

Somatic therapy works from the premise that unresolved emotional injury (trauma) is “stored” in the physical body. One quick example of the general mind-body link that should be relatable for many is the “nervous stomach.” I once heard the stomach referred to as our “second brain.” This certainly resonates with me. When I’m stressed out, my stomach will surely let me know. External stresses can turn a normal stomach into a storeroom for anxiety. But it doesn’t stop there. Back problems, neck pain, and even less obvious body parts of the body like a knee or shoulder, can house emotional pain which sometimes manifests itself as physical pain. And there is no statute of limitations on unresolved emotional injuries, either. Childhood trauma doesn’t magically go away. It stays buried in your body and agitates to be resolved. 

No Bells No Whistles

Despite feeling pretty sure this whole psychedelic-assisted somatic therapy thing I committed to is on the level, a part of me reserved suspicion. Before being introduced to my therapist, I thought… if he pulls out a bell and starts ringing it in a circular motion around my head in order to ‘harmonize my chakras,’ I’m out. No hate for harmonized chakras here, I’m just saying that’s not the type of therapy I signed up for. 

I met Gabe for the first time in-person on May 20th. Our first several appointments were via Zoom (thanks to Covid), and all were what they call “dry” sessions, meaning without any drug-assistance. On that Wednesday, it was my first time at the brick ‘m morter Innate Path Clinic on Holland Street, and my first time in the lounge chair. I can assure you that no bells touched my chakras, and I found Gabe to be just as firmly grounded in the rational world as I am. 

In a typical session, what is it that I’m actually trying to do? That’s my question. Immediately, I have found it gets tricky. As I understand it, I’m trying to mentally navigate my way into a state of mind where I can see/feel the connections between emotional-memories and specific sensations in my body. No, not an easy thing to do. First, you have to get your mind hyper-tuned-in to your body and, just like with meditation, that takes some practice. The second factor is that somatic therapy will have you burrowing into some rather uncomfortable emotional-memories, which can be extremely daunting for many. 

Yes, I’m saying “emotional-memories” because for somatic therapy to be effective, you have to do more than simply recall a moment in time. Unfortunately, you may have to emotionally revisit times in your life that really, really sucked. 

But don’t worry, you will have two allies in your corner- your therapist, and the wonders of chemistry. 

Step Aside, Self

Whoa! Altered states of mind can be super cool and I will take you inside my head in a few minutes. Just a couple more things need to be said first. 

As we all know, the human mind has some truly incredible capabilities. Add psychedelic compounds to your brain and you’ll be absolutely astounded at how incredibly expansive your mental capabilities become.  

Along those lines, I want to re-emphasize a point I made in a previous post, one that I regret not calling out more forcefully at the time. You should remember me talking about how hard its been for me to make a decision about what to do with my house in Austin (now that I’m living in Colorado). Keep it or sell it was the simple question, but my emotional/sentimental ties to that house I’d owned for over 30 years made it anything but simple. One evening back in April I ate a square of dark chocolate with 10 mg of cannabis. By the time I was ready for bed, its effects were diminished, however…. As I was falling asleep I continued thinking about the question, keep it or sell it? Keep it…or…sell it? With surprising clarity (in at least the thinking part of my brain), the right answer emerged from the deep: Suddenly, I knew I should sell it. Here’s how the cannabis effect was key. When in my “elevated” state of mind, I still had all the same sentimental concerns towards the house, but now those emotions sat down next to my rational thinking self, and did not stand in front of it.

That’s one of the special little powers of cannabis, ketamine and other psychedelics, and why these compounds have become useful therapeutic tools. Asking your emotions to stand on the far side of the room for a few minutes allows your rational mind to think through difficult subjects more clearly. 

It can also work in reverse. For someone like me, someone who protects himself by thinking his emotions away, it may be my rational mind that is asked to “take five,” so that my emotional self can find its way to the front of the room. 

Why You Be Trippin’

I went through the checkout line at the Sprouts the other day and took notice of something we’ve all had both direct and indirect experience with in many different situations. The cashier rang up my items and sent them down to the end of the station where I stood ready to bag them. As I placed the arugula, fruits, cereal, chopped pecans and another half-dozen items into my [Virtue-signalling alert!] environmentally-friendly, brought-from-home shopping bags, I took notice of the cashier. In that small window of time between her scanning my items and me completing payment at the card reader machine, I noticed that the cashier’s eyes were fixed to some non-location half-way between me and who knows where. She was gone, taken by her mind. I kepted bagging, but also watched to see how long she would hold this spacey stare before returning to her place behind the register in lane 3 of the Sprouts on Arapahoe in Boulder, Colorado. 

And………… she’s back, ladies and gentlemen. I was tempted to ask her, “Where’d you go?” But I resisted, thinking she might feel embarrassed at being busted for her daydreaming. The point of all this is to give you a sense of what it’s like to “trip.” She was at work, stone cold sober, but still mentally transported to some other time and place, even if only for half a minute. Daydreaming is tripping. Meditation is tripping. Sleeping is tripping. Getting into the zone…. is tripping. These sober categories of tripping vary in their flavor and intensity but they all demonstrate your brain’s natural ability to transport you away from the here and now.

When certain chemical compounds are introduced into the brain, they do an awesome job of accentuating this everyday ability we already possess. Add a therapist, a blindfold, and a comfortable lounge chair, and there you have it. Welcome to psychedelic-assisted therapy.

Good Enough for Me

Last thing before we take a little trip ourselves. I started doing the somatic therapy in April. It’s now August. You’d think I should be able to confirm to you whether it “works” or not, right? Agreed, but sorry… I still cannot say. Not because I’m being secretive or cagey, I can’t say because I don’t know. The course of somatic therapy is a bit of a process. Among other things, it involves some degree of trial and error. Patience is unfortunately required.

In talking about psychedelic-assisted somatic therapy, I want to be super clear that I know almost nothing about it, really. And it’s better this way, right? What you’ll hear is solely my experience, siloed away from outside influences. You see, before committing myself to this method of therapy, I did about 2% research. [It’s how I roll, yo.] I got the gist of what it is, it made intuitive sense to me, plus my friend said the clinical research studies behind it are legit. That’s good enough for me.     

As this post goes live, my course of therapy is still ongoing. So, wherever I’m headed…I’m not there yet.

Canada, Going Rogue

The therapy clinic where I’ve been going makes use of just two types of psychedelics, both legally available- ketamine and cannabis. Yes, cannabis…the same substance that is legal in Colorado but still counts as a crime federally and in a bunch of states I wouldn’t want to live in.

If you thought psychedelic-assisted therapy meant tripping-out on LSD or mushrooms, you were wrong. Just as I was wrong, too, when I made that same assumption in the beginning. LSD and magic mushroom therapy does exist but only in certain radical, rogue nations such as….Canada. But it’s okay. If it’s been found that cannabis is effective in this treatment, no shade needed. 

Ketamine, the other psychedelic used in my therapy, is one of those drugs that already had 18 different medical uses before they figured out its potential in this context. Ketamine affects the mind by distancing it from the body in a way that’s helpful to this therapeutic work. It causes you to mentally drift away from your body, the chair, the room. Even so, you remain perfectly lucid. It’s strange but nice feeling.

Ketamine Tastes Yucky

Here goes! I take a tablet of ketamine out of the prescription bottle and place it underneath my tongue. It tastes quite yucky, something like an aspirin were you to let it dissolve in your mouth instead of swallowing it with a gulp of water. Gabe tells me it’s best to just let it sit there, to not suck on it and move it around like you might do with a cough drop. I resist swallowing even my saliva, letting the nasty taste build up in my mouth. If the ketamine enters the stomach, it’s useless to the brain. But when absorbed into your bloodstream through the tissues of the mouth, in about 15 minutes, it will begin to take you away. 

“I think I’m starting to feel it,” I tell Gabe. The ketamine tablet has dissolved completely at that point and I luckily have a mint with me to replace its taste with something more pleasant. I place the blindfold over my eyes, pull the little ringed cord on the side of the Lazy-Boy lounge chair, and recline myself back as far as it goes. 

“What are you feeling? Describe it for me.”

“I feel kind of a tingling sensation in my arms and legs.” 

Gabe asks me to turn inwards and see what else I notice. Pretty soon I feel like I’m floating around in my own mind. My attention comes to my body and I give it a slow mental scan. My right shoulder feels cool on top. I wonder if that means anything. Should I tell Gabe it feels cool? Wait, what was that? My left foot feels like it’s buzzing? Is that something…or is that nothing? What I am supposed to be noticing? Honestly, these are the thoughts I’m having. The whole experience is shrouded in mystery. 

Gabe asks me to “zoom in” on whatever part of my body is calling my attention. I do this as best I can. In a short time, my mind ends up surfing around my childhood home on Creekwood. I am very willing to let myself go there because I figure that’s kind of the point. In theory, the person I was supposed to be got left behind in that house a half-century ago. 

That’s one thing I experienced with the ketamine. Childhood memories became more than just stories I’ve told and retold throughout my life. With the assistance of this drug, I am able to put my mind back in the house on Creekwood with little Gary and visualize in greater detail what each scene was like. I want to be clear that we are still talking about fragmented memories and visualizations. It’s not like watching a movie. 

It’s my first time ever doing ketamine so today’s session isn’t about seeking breakthroughs. The body and brain must first be comfortable with ketamine’s effects. It’s a foreign state of mind so trying to rush into the hard core therapy work doesn’t typically bear fruit the first time you do it. It’s a step-by-step process, not a one trip and done type of deal. Even so, my first time on ketamine I visited the memory of that is the scene described in the opening to this post. The hiding beneath the bed, my brother finding me, the spanking, the injustice…this was not a lost memory that the ketamine helped me recover. But what the ketamine did was bring the whole scene closer to the forefront. I was much more able to mentally crawl beneath that bed with my six year old self and be a present-day witness to his confusion. 

I feel this story of the unjust spanking must be significant, meaningful. But whether revisiting it in the Lazy-Boy or as a scene in my blog, I’m not able to feel it. I cannot find the emotion of it, the fear, the injury. The protective shell I have placed around my emotions is strong. More work is needed. 

The Dam

My first two sessions with Gabe were dry, the next three were aided by cannabis (edible). Now I’m working with ketamine. But regardless of the chemistry, every session is 90% me lying still and going into what is essentially a deep meditative state. Gabe mostly just sits there and observes me, occasionally checking-in to see where I am.

Much of my personal challenge is tapping into hard-core emotions. This is true of me in the everyday world and within the context of therapy, too. I am all dammed-up. Seven weeks into my therapy and I haven’t shed a tear. The small waste basket, partially-filled with used tissues, that I always see waiting there to the left of the lounge chair as never had an addition from me. Maybe I got a little misty-eyed once or twice, but I have not been able to “crack the nut,” as it were, in order to let it go.

There was one particular session with the ketamine where the feeling of being dammed-up became more prominent than ever. I was frustrated. Why can’t I do this? Every week I lie back in this lounge chair and “nothing happens.” Gabe hears my impatience. He summarizes in words what I’m feeling and offers them back to me. “Why isn’t this working?” “Why can’t I get it.” I nod my agreement.

I am so used to meditating that when I feel my eyebrows are furrowed or my jaw is tensed, I consciously exhale to relax them. But Gabe has told me it’s more useful to lean in towards those feelings and not try to breathe them away. So I furrow my brow and let it be. I tell him I’m having flashes of angry thoughts and feel like I’d like to hit something. He asks me if I’d like to try punching a cushion. “I don’t know what that would do.” I say to him, “That seems gimmicky.” I pause for another beat, before saying, “I mean, I’m open to trying it.”

I hear Gabe leave the room and return seconds later. He brings over a large sofa cushion and holds it in front of me. Still with my blindfold on, I sit up in the chair. My right hand makes a fist and I stick my arm out forward until I can feel the fabric of the cushion on my knuckles. He adjusts it so it’s a little closer. “Okay, you ready?” I ask him. He tells me to go for it. 

I cock-back my arm and punch. Something moves within me. I reel back my arm and punch a second time, even harder. A wave of something within pushes me to a cliff. I feel my anger! Pressure builds at my face, behind my eyes, and I clench my teeth. I punch the cushion a third time with all the rage I can find….

That’s when the dam breaks. It breaks, and I gush. For the first time since childhood I cry from my core. Waves of raw emotion are released and I feel them tumble out of me like warm water has been poured over my neck and shoulders. Throwing those punches has unlocked a storehouse of anger and I am finally able to let a chunk of it go. 

For maybe a minute I sob heavily and relish in the feeling. Tears drip from beneath my mask and my sinuses clog. I reached blind for the box of kleenex I’d always seen on the small table next to the lounge chair but never needed until today. Gabe assists me and places a couple of tissues in my hand. I go through them immediately and ask for a few more. 

“Wow!” I exhale. “Just wow.”

After the deluge has subsided, we talk softly about what happened. Minutes pass, some in silence, then Gabe asks me if I would like to go for another round. I accept the invitation. Once again he brings the cushion up to my fist and I release upon it another 4 or 5 times. The tears come again, not as intensely as before, but I am still very happy to see them. Gabe helps me find more tissue. 

I am now aware of being balled-up in the lounge chair, my back arched forward and my knees up close to my elbows, the blindfold still covering my eyes. I am drained. In this pose, I sit. Gabe waits patiently. 

After a time, I lower my feet back to the floor. A smile comes to my face. A bit of joy has entered the room. I did it. With my head still bowed forward and my blindfold on, I slowly raise my arms above my head in triumph. I have the feeling of…victory. 

It’s a Process

Indeed, it feels good to finally see a crack in my hardened shell. But I also know this “breakthrough” does not mean I’m at the end, not by a longshot. However, for someone like me, someone who’s heart-range is severely limited, anything that expands my emotional capacity is a step in the right direction. I am happy for the “progress.”

I will continue to blog about my experiences in therapy and do what I can to bring you along for the ride. Where exactly we are headed remains unclear to me. However, as I continue to peer further and deeper behind the scenes of the forces that molded me, my suspicion is that love, or the lack thereof may somehow lie at the core of it all. Stay tuned.


Next up, the 1 More World blog finally arrives to the night of the avalanche. Now you will see how every previous post fits together like pieces of a puzzle.

Breeding Ground for Suicide

My dad was coming in hot, not just from the warm, humid coastal air, but because I interrupted whatever he was working on; that’s all it took to make him angry. Or, was it because I was wasting gasoline by letting the mower run after I had finished? Who knows? Everything made him angry.

The lawnmower I used to cut the grass at our bay house was loud and I had to shout over it to get his attention. I couldn’t turn it off. I had just finished cutting the grass and there was no way to turn it off; it had no off switch. 

Being both depression-era cheap and a super-skilled handyman, my dad cobbled things together well-enough to work, though they might lack certain “luxuries,” such as a lawnmower having an off switch. 

He approached me almost running, with large impatient steps. How do I turn it off? I shouted again over the aggressive noise of the mower I stood behind. My dad came in close and jerked the handle away from me. He then turned the mower and shoved the whole thing into some high grass a few feet away, killing it immediately. 

Geez. I didn’t think of that. Why didn’t I think of that? I was 13 and already accustomed to my dad’s incredible ability to be impatient. But it still came as a shock to me every single time. Okay, I didn’t think of that, but why does my dad have to get so mad? Why can’t he just be a father? If that’s what it means to be a father, then I don’t ever want to be one. 

And so it was. In that moment, on that day, standing next to the junky lawnmower with no off switch…. I made my decision. I would never be a father.


No House of Horrors

Since beginning this blog I have visited my childhood home on Creekwood many times. I’ve comfortably tucked myself underneath the baby-grand piano in the formal living room as my father ran through the playlist of songs his fingers had memorized. He never learned to read music, but somehow possessed the ability to “play-by-ear.” He said he picked it up while in the Air Force, stationed in England during WWII. I could never comprehend the concept of playing by ear. You mean you just hear a song and then sit down and play it? Yes, I know it’s a little more than that; nonetheless, this is not a gift he passed along to me. 

I don’t think he knew how many times I crawled underneath that piano while he played, and marvelled at the little velvet hammers as they pounced upon the long steel strings inside its belly. It’s a lovely childhood memory. I wish I had more of them.

What’s amazing to me is just how relatively close to center my early upbringing was. There were no alcohol-fueled episodes of physical abuse, no child molestation, no cages, no torture chambers, no material for a future Netflix documentary. The dysfunction in my childhood home was the product of two parents living inside their own blind spots. My dad couldn’t see that his burst of anger went off like stun-grenades at our feet. My mother never figured out why her second marriage (to my dad) looked so similar to her first. I mean, I suppose it was an improvement….. my dad never physically abused her. 

Figuring out my dad’s explosive anger had few clues. I once asked my aunt (his sister), why he was like that. She said their mother was a “pushover” and whenever little Bobby didn’t get his way, he would throw a tantrum. It would seem he had great success with this strategy as a boy and kept up the behavior into adulthood. I readily admit this is pop-psy 101-level analysis, but it’s all I’ve got.

I might never have recognized how the angry, controlling nature of my dad was like a toddler’s temper tantrum, were it not for one particular incident. I was 23 when I lucked into purchasing a small house only a few miles north of downtown Austin. The simple 2-1 house built in the 50’s had been hastily painted white with yellow trim. I later re-painted it a color closer to periwinkle. The house didn’t cost much, mostly because it sat directly beneath the flightpath of every plane that landed at the old Austin airport. Believe me, it was a day of quiet celebration when Mueller was relocated to Austin-Bergstrom International and the bone-rattling roar of planes flying over my house stopped for good. 

The house didn’t come with a garage, which was so dilapidated the city required it to be torn down before the property could be sold. Building a new detached garage myself was the first major solo handyman project I’d ever taken on. Growing up, I was put to work on many of my Dad’s projects, and paid whatever the going child-labor rate was at that time. But this project was my own. One weekend, my dad drove from Houston to Austin to visit and to give me a little help on constructing the garage, which at that point was about 90% completed. We ended-up in a disagreement about where to add a side door. Yo! This was my garage, my project; I could put the door wherever I wanted. Though, I did have totally valid reasons for wanting to put it along the east wall. My dad simply disagreed for his own set of reasons. 

Once he knew he wasn’t getting his way, my dad released one final expression of his frustration and anger by quickly throwing something that wasn’t there at the ground with both arms. He didn’t crinkle up and start crying, but something about his quick and jerky movements reminded me of the temper tantrum you might see from a 3 year old. Now when I think back to all the hundreds of times my dad stormed out the back door after fighting with my mom, slamming it loudly behind him, I see a child unaccustomed to not getting his way. 

One time he slammed the door as our cat was crossing from outside to in. The final two inches of Towie’s tail was severed in the exchange. I am thankful this incident with the cat occurred prior to my birth. Towie, with the oddly shortened tail, was the cat I grew up with. He was my earliest best friend and the comfort I sorely needed to counterbalance a house too often filled with turmoil and tension.  

You Knew Who He Was Talking To

As hard as I try, I simply cannot figure out how my dad ended up so horrendously bad at parenting. He was a smart guy. How did this happen? I have to conclude he must have become the parent his own father was- stern, no nonsense, sit-up straight, no-elbows-on-the-table, and it’s May I, not Can I. In one of the few reflective conversations I ever had with my father, relatively near the end of his life, I asked him what his father used to call him when he was a kid. Was it Bobby, Bob, Robert, Rob, Robby, or some other endearing nickname, like Bobberino? My dad thought for a moment and said he didn’t remember his father calling him anything in particular. “When he looked at you…” my dad mimicked a serious face, like a bird of prey spotting a field mouse, “…you knew who he was talking to.” 

My dad almost never talked about his father. That tiny glimpse into my grandfather’s personality was all I had to go on. However, if the apple indeed doesn’t fall far from the tree, I grew up seeing much more of my grandfather than I ever deserved.

Patty Ann and Nancy 

One solid clue to my mom’s permanently broken heart came out quite randomly when I once asked her to name the one person in her life (besides her mother) she’s been closest to. She responded with a name I’d never heard her say before in my life- Nancy McFaddin. Super-puzzled, I asked, Who’s Nancy McFaddin? My mom tells me that her and Nancy were best friends from between about 8 and 12 years old. That’s all she said. It took me a couple of years to piece together the bigger picture. Here it is….

At 13 years old, my mom (known then as Patty Ann) left for school one morning… without a clue she would never see her own mother again. When she came home that afternoon, strangers were going in and out of her house. She was told her amazing mother, the closest, dearest, most loving person ever in my mom’s young life, had died suddenly….of a brain aneurysm, she learned later. The strangers helped my mom gather up a few belongings before sending her to live with an aunt. [I told that story previously as part of an excellent earlier post, Smoke ‘em If You Want to Live. It’s relevance here is even greater.] 

Patty Ann had her heart crushed at 13 by her mother’s sudden death, putting the axiom things happen for a reason on extremely thin ice. For what possible reason would that have been? It was a random twist of fate with consequences that would echo loudly into the next generation. And, if the abrupt loss of her own mother wasn’t enough for young Patty Ann to bear, she also lost her best friend that same day. As the authorities whisked my mother away to live with her Aunt Lou across town, Patty Ann Nichols never saw Nancy McFaddin again. 

Imagine my mother’s state of mind that night. I picture her as a 13 year old girl, spending her first night at the cousins’ house; she probably had to share the bed with one or two. When bedtime came around and the lights went out, I see my mother staring ahead into this strange new darkness, too filled with shock and bewilderment to close her eyes. Her body might have felt numb on the outside while boiling with alarm on the inside. In her head, beneath her red curls, the part of the brain that functions as “protector” delivers a new set of instructions to her entire nervous system. Those instructions tell her subconscious and all its minions, whatever you do, don’t allow Patty Ann to get close to anyone ever again….because that’s dangerous.

This incident from my mother’s past explains why I don’t remember tears coming from her eyes after Tommy, her 19 year old first born son, committed suicide in the garage of our house on Creekwood. I didn’t see any tears either when her second-born son committed suicide 40 years later. And if I had died before her, not a single tear would have been shed for me either. For all her life she remained numb on the outside, numb on the inside.    

Patricia Breaux was the best mom she knew how to be and she did a million things right. I also have no doubt she loved me…as much as her heart would allow before needing to hold back enough to keep safe from harm. 

If I describe my mother as “disconnected,” now you will understand. And if the true meaning of love has been a mystery to me these first 55 years and remains a mystery for whatever’s left, now you will understand that too. 

I Was The Witness

The avocado green clock on the kitchen wall says 7:22. The little hand went past the 7, and the big hand is on those little marks past the 20, looks like two of them. It’s 7:22. Not that hard. For my brother Bill, despite being almost a full 2 years older, it was hard….practically everything was hard. But this is not the story of how my brother was dumb, or even slow. It is the story of my dad’s goddam inability to have an ounce of empathy for his own son and what that lacking did to him. The anguish in my brother’s face when he tried to say what time it was but didn’t quite get it right, was something my day had no patience for. 

As I write this blog, my mind is going back in time, back to that lime green and avocado late 60’s kitchen with the formica countertop, back to the breakfast table where we typically ate as a family, back to the memory of us little boys, probably 4 and 6… learning to tell time. Me, with my strawberry blonde crew cut and my brother with the same in light brown. I’m trying. I’m trying so hard to zoom inside my father’s head, to be him as he “teaches” his son to read the face of a clock. I just can’t fathom it. Trying to put myself in my father’s shoes isn’t working. My brother couldn’t read the face of a clock, but my father couldn’t read the face of his own son.

My brother is clearly distressed at not getting it. My father, caught up in his own impatience and frustration, the man who intuitively played the piano by ear, will not stop the emotional abuse until Bill runs from the room crying. I am left as the witness. The feeling within me is smug satisfaction and a touch of confidence to be able to pick up on things so quickly. Honestly, I find my brother’s inability to get it unrelatable, but mostly….I feel grateful for not being the one in the line of fire. 

I received my dad’s harsh treatment at other times, but had one clear advantage my brother didn’t; I was an observant learner. Not for the piano, unfortunately. But for other things. My mom told me how as a toddler I would stand in my playpen and quietly watch the room. Not fussing, not playing with my toys, just observing. There is no doubt my brother had equal ability to learn as I did. What he lacked was someone to help him learn in a way that was a fit for him. 

There is a perilous and (I think) dubious story my mom once told my brother. I didn’t hear it first hand; he relayed it to me later. She said Bill was a happy baby. But around 18 months old he got sick and had a high fever for a couple of days. After that, he was never quite the same. Even if the story is true, based on everything I know… I highly doubt it was the fever. Those were the days of, Don’t baby him. And, Let him cry himself to sleep. Worst baby-book advice EVER!!!  When a child is in pain, comfort them. Let them know they are safe and cared for. Doing the opposite breeds a child (and later an adult), who sees the world through a lens of negativity and mistrust. 

Take this premium-add advice from the man who has no children- if your child is in pain, comfort them. Please… comfort them to their core.

Reasonably Tolerable

When a child is abused it is always unjust. Always, always. It is a universal injustice. By this I mean anyone of any age can see it and feel it. It can even be acknowledged by the abuser, but they first must escape the cell walls of their own abuse in order to see it. My brother Bill was not granted an ounce of empathy from his father for simply being a regular little knuckleheaded boy- no hitting was required for this most insidious form of abuse. The impatience of my father led to Bill being scolded, belittled, and yelled at from a very early age. The injustice made Bill angry inside. Then this anger was given its own target. Me. 

On nearly every front, we were the typical white American family. We lived in a predominantly white middle-class neighborhood on the southwest side of Houston. We lived in a 3-bedroom, 2-bath brick house on Creekwood, and enjoyed such luxuries as both a formal living room and a family room. We ate evening dinner together as a family, sometimes went on family bike rides afterwards, and from time to time played some pretty typical family games. We had a pool table that converted to a ping-pong table in the garage and sometimes played badminton or croquet in the backyard. 

Being two years apart in age, Bill and I often played games against each other. For whatever magical reasons of fate, I tended to be a little more skilled than my brother at almost everything. I had no understanding at the time about how this must have reinforced the conditioning my brother was receiving in spades from my dad; to feel inferior, stupid.

This could be an unnecessary aside, but I feel compelled to tell you that for all his angry parenting, (aside from 2 or 3 spankings with a belt) my father never physically hit us in a moment of anger. He also never called us names to put us down. These were lines he would not cross. Between being impatient and angry, he was a reasonably tolerable and occasionally charming man. [I have deliberately worked in the phrase “reasonably tolerable” because that was my dad’s favorite way to respond when anyone asked him how he was doing. He was always, “reasonably tolerable.” Sounds as though he was perpetually damning himself with faint praise.]

Through the Croquet Wicket and Into the Swimming Pool

At 5 years old to my brother’s 7, we sometimes played croquet in the backyard. It always seemed I was a step ahead of him. His temper flared whenever he would miss a shot and his wooden ball would not go through the wicket he intended. However, something more was revealed by the rubber-tipped mallets and colorfully painted wooden balls. There’s a play in croquet where if your ball strikes your opponent’s, you get the chance to knock it away in any direction you want. I distinctly remember that whenever Bill got the opportunity to drive his saintly little brother’s ball to kingdom come, he would relish it and knock me away with all the fury he was physically capable of unloading. 

I was so young, and yet to this very day I can easily recall the anger bred into my brother’s nature by circumstance. Even at 5, I was becoming scared of him already. If I touched his croquet ball with mine and had equal opportunity to slam it to the far reaches of the yard, I would not give it my all. Seeing Bill get even more frustrated and angry wasn’t the game I wanted to play. I knew it would only be turned back upon me later. I was intimidated.  

Years later, Bill and I, along with several other kids around our 12-14 year age range, were splashing around one evening in an above-ground swimming pool at the house of a friend to my mother. We were jumping in and out of the pool, throwing nerf footballs around, playing Marco Polo, the usual kids stuff. Even after dark we continued playing. A mercury-vapor outdoor lamp provided plenty-enough light for us to keep swimming into the night.

At some point I was in the pool horsing around with Bill and he pushed me underwater. There would be no story here if he had pushed me under and then let me freely bounce back up. But this is not what happened. With his greater size and strength, he pushed me down but then held me there, keeping my head underwater. My butt was at the pool’s bottom and I wasn’t able to get my legs underneath me to push upwards against the pressure of his body weight. I cannot say how long he held me down or how near I was to literally sucking water into my lungs, but I can tell you I was nearing panic mode. I had experienced my brother’s dark side since the days we used to play croquet in the backyard. From back then to this moment years later in the swimming pool, I had endured my brother’s wicked bullying. But never before did I feel my life was being threatened.

When he finally let up and I thrust into the air, I was choking and coughing out water. My sinuses were burning from the chlorine that had entered. Why did you do that?! I yelled towards him. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?! I demanded. My brother backed his body away from me towards the other side of the pool and never said a word. His eyes looked left and then swung right, never towards me. Not a single word.

The Sultan of Darkness

On my world travels in 2014 I visited a real-life Sultan’s palace in Yogyakarta on the island of Java, Indonesia. Sections of the palace were open to the public for tours. One grand hall we walked through contained much older paintings, then black ‘n white portraits, and then more modern-era color photographs of the line of Sultans that had ruled the region for generations. 

Not a single Sultan throughout the ages was depicted with even the slightest hint of a smile. I asked the guide why that was. She explained that, as rulers of their people, the Sultan had to maintain an air of seriousness. A smile could be interpreted as a sign of weakness or vulnerability. 

Find any photograph of my brother Bill from about 10 years old and on, and you will not find a smile. My brother was not a Sultan in Indonesia. His motivations for not showing the world a happy face were not to demonstrate his confident power but rather his feelings of powerlessness. A smile could be interpreted as a sign of strength or invincibility….or worse yet, happiness. Bill possessed none of the above.

The light within a person shines outwardly through their smile. My poor brother Bill had no light to shine. 

No Escape Without Scars

The various stories I bring to you in this blog intertwine and overlap, just as they are within my psyche. You have learned that I once had two brothers, and that now both are gone by their own hand. If the thought, How did Gary turn out so “normal?” …ever crossed your mind, it may not cross your mind a second time after reading this blog. You see, the suicides you have read about [t] [b] are not the story. The toxic conditions within that seemingly ordinary brick house on Creekwood were a breeding ground for suicide. That’s the story. So how did I escape?

Perhaps through the luck-of-the-draw I escaped any predisposition towards suicide myself. However, my own wounds from the breeding ground are now the scars I wear behind my eyes. I am discomfortable in relationships. I am alone in this world without a single family member alive. I don’t know what love is. I am not sad, not depressed (which has to be a good thing, right?), but I am surely missing out on something. The person I could have been is still in there somewhere, and I’m running short on time to find him.  

Psychedelic-assisted freaky-ass voodoo somatic therapy is up next. Don’t move a muscle.

Freaky-Ass Voodoo

The rage burning inside my brother emerged through his hands as they wrapped around my mother’s neck. She was saying his name in strained protest, “BILL! BILL!” …as if trying to make contact with the little boy that was, not her violent 15 year old teenage son that backed her up against the wall at the end of the tiny hallway.

I stood nearby, paralyzed. My own experiences with Bill’s “mean-streak” rendered me useless. I was afraid of him, pure and simple. He was unpredictable, much like my father. Not knowing what someone is ultimately capable of leads to a belief they are capable of anything.

Our brains have a magical way of switching off the electrical wiring that sends power to our muscles during sleep. This grants us the freedom to dream of running or flying, frisbees or footballs, angels or demons, all while lying still in our beds. But on occasion, the dreams in our head are so intense, the emotions behind their creation so strong, they sneak past the gatekeepers and cause us to lurch in our sleep. Many, many times it happened that I awoke in the night with my body fully tense, only to realize I was having yet another dream where my fist was swinging directly towards my brother.  

What if I had been strong, brave, and fearless enough to throw an arm around his neck from behind and yank him backwards, off of his feet, off my defenseless mother? We might have crashed into chairs, lamps and tables while fighting inside the confines of our small apartment. I may have ended up bruised and bloodied in the exchange, but I could have stopped the assault and sent a clear message that the days of being afraid of him were over. 

But that’s not what I did. I stood there in shock and threw another layer of hatred for my brother onto the pile, and swallowed another dose of fear for myself.

Only in my dreams did I ever throw a punch.


How to Change My Mind

Back in January of this year, even though I had not done any psychedelics in over 30 years, I was feeling a renewed sense of excitement about their potential. After that chapter on psychedelics in the book Civilized to Death, my interest in the topic was reincarnated in this matured man’s body. I told a coworker I was learning some really cool new stuff about psychedelics from a book. He thought I might also like a very specific, almost 3-hour long, Joe Rogan podcast with some so-called “expert” on psychedelics- an ethnopharmacologist. I know I’ve already mentioned the Joe Rogan Podcast several times in previous posts, but at that point in time- January of 2020 -the one my coworker suggested I check out was the very first Joe Rogan podcast I’d ever listened to. I count it as a 2-fer… I finally got exposure to Joe Rogan, a bona-fide cultural phenomenon, plus, his interview with guest, Dennis McKenna (a person I’d never heard of before in my life), was marvelously fascinating. [Link]

That Joe Rogan podcast led me to listen to another of his with best-selling author, Michael Pollan. A few days later I began reading Michael Pollan’s book, How to Change Your Mind. If you don’t know Michael Pollan, he’s a popular author of several books that have become big-time cultural influencers: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, is perhaps the most famous among them. From there I launched into a second book on psychedelics called, The Explorer’s Guide to Psychedelics. Books, podcasts, articles, Netflix specials, YouTube videos…all about psychedelics. I was totally geeking out on information about psychedelics from every source imaginable and it’s blowing my mind. The only thing not happening was me actually doing any. But that’s coming. 

All of this new information, I can sum up for you as follows:  When done in the right setting and with the right intention, psychedelics offer most people astonishingly positive benefits. It’s just a plain simple FACT at this point. The jury is in. All legitimate debates are over. There is no way psychedelics should be illegal in the way they are today. Through smartly controlled clinical channels, they should be legally available to everyone who thinks they might benefit from them. [No, I do not believe we should add LSD to the public water supply.] 

It’s the testimonials that are irrefutably convincing. Did you know a stunningly high percentage of people who do psilocybin (magic mushrooms) in research studies end up calling it one of the 2 to 3 most important experiences of their life?! Read Michael Pollen’s book How to Change Your Mind, and you’ll see some of what I’m talking about. 

Who Doesn’t Like a Shortcut?

One of the things I pick out of this abundance of information is the term “psychedelic-assisted therapy.” Hmmm, that sounds interesting. I wonder if they have that around here. I google the phrase and add  “Denver” to it. A few clicks later and I’m on a clinic’s website, watching a video, and learning more about this compelling new method of therapy that involves the use of psychedelics. Interesting!

Throughout my life I’ve never been shy or unwilling to seek out therapy; meaning individual counseling, talk-therapy, group therapy, psychotherapy, life-coaching…whatever you want to call it. I’ve mostly found it helpful. But can we all please admit it’s also kind of a huge pain in the ass? It’s expensive, it takes up your time, it makes you sad, and progress is typically so slow it can take years and decades to materially improve your life. 

I know I’ve got stuff to work on, and I’m even willing to share it with you. But I’ve also had the thought that working through all my issues simply isn’t worth it. When I weigh it all out, I have to consider the fact that my particular “-isms” are not debilitating. All in all, I’m in a pretty good place now. So why would I bother? 

Because… psychedelics appear to be offering-up a shortcut. Yo! I’m no fool. If there’s a method of therapy out there that can replace a decade of weekly visits to a therapist, with 3 – 4 months of work…? C’mon, I gotta find out more. 

What Is My -ism

The psychological rabbit hole runs deep with everyone and I’m no exception. But I think I can give you a quick summation of what my problem is. Y’all ready for this? Sitting down? Hand over open mouth in scared anticipation?

I don’t get mad. 

Yes, that’s it. I don’t get mad. Booooo, you say? Oh ‘poor baby?’  Wait! Hear me out. Let me tell you why this is a problem. Getting mad has a far happier counterpart called feeling joyful. It turns out that if you can’t feel one, you’ll struggle to feel the other. The part of the brain that generates emotions regulates them as a set. If one goes down, they all go down. Anger, happiness, fear, sadness, love, these are all the basic emotions we start out with…. because we are human. When I tell you I don’t get mad, I’m also saying I don’t feel happiness, fear, sadness, love, etc. …at least not in the same way most people do. No, I’m not a robot. I do feel enough of these emotions to know what they are, but overall, I navigate life with all the worst… and best emotions tightly reined in. 

The truth of this dawned on me in a funny way also back in January. I went to a yoga class one Friday afternoon. At the close of class the instructor said something about having “joy in our hearts.” This made me do the Gary smirk. I couldn’t relate to the phrase. Later that same evening I met up with friends at a bar/restaurant. Because I’m generally not graceful in social settings, I bring up the yoga teacher talking about “joy in our hearts,” and how I couldn’t figure out what that even means. As I’m talking, I’m also looking at my friends around the table…looking for some nods. You people feel me, right? Amiright!?

But nobody nods. Nobody seems to know what I’m talking about. They’re looking at me like I’m the oddball for not knowing what joy in our hearts means. Oh SNAP! I am the oddball.   

Convulsion in the Lazy Boy

As I watch the video from that Denver psychedelic-assisted therapy clinic I’d found on the Internet, it starts getting a bit freaky. The sincere, matter-of-fact doctor that narrates the video explains their therapeutic approach this way: The body and the mind are not separate entities, they are integrated and must be healed together. My own analogy is that they are not two scoops of different flavored ice cream on a single cone, body and mind are the chocolate-vanilla swirl from the soft serve dispenser- completely intertwined. The doctor explains that if our minds store trauma and memories from our past, by default, our bodies participate in that storage. 

Psychedelics are utilized as a tool in this type of therapy to help patients access psychological and emotional “injuries” that lay buried within their nervous systems. Injuries of this type quite often occur in childhood when danger is present but the option to run away from it does not exist. In order to cope with the everyday, trauma gets sealed away within our biology as a means of protection. If we can dig these traumas up as adults, we are better able to process them in a safe and healthy way.

The freaky part of the video is when we see a patient wearing an eye-mask, lying back in a lazy-boy recliner, and experiencing this phenomenon in real time. Suddenly, the patient starts moving his legs like he’s running within a dream-state. He’s fully on his back so his legs are thumping on the foot-rest of the recliner; he is visibly in distress. This goes on for about 20 seconds, then the man starts tensing up his whole body. A second later he crests some invisible emotional hill and immediately begins to relax. “There, he’s made it through,” voices the doctor. 

The doctor explains that the patient, an ex-marine who served in Afghanistan, was working through his PTSD. What the video let’s us witness is the soldier mentally, emotionally and “physically” revisiting the site of the extreme high-stress, traumatic event; in this case an exploding IED. As he re-experiences it in this controlled way, with the aide of a trained therapist and the measured assistance of a psychedelic, he is then able to, in a sense, “release it.” He is able to shed it like a snake breaking out of its unwanted skin.

Okay, the clinic, the website, the doctor’s credentials, they all look legit… but what the hell?! This is some freaky-ass voodoo shit for sure, right?   

I’m intrigued by this innovative method of therapy but also extremely skeptical. A little deeper research finds the main guy that pioneered this type of what’s called somatic therapy. Hmmm, still seems legit, but no way, right? The next thing I do is ask my PhD friend Becky to check this quack out. Dr Becky’s day job is doing social science research at a university. If anyone can sniff out a quack, it’s Becky. 

It takes her a couple of days to research and get back with me, but when she does her conclusion is…it’s legit. WTF!

Stay tuned…. and I’ll soon tell you first-hand all about the freaky-ass voodoo somatic therapy.

But next up…we visit the breeding ground for suicide.

Life as Compost

The next day Bill drove back to his dirty apartment in Houston. By phone, we had what turned out to be our last conversation. His impending suicide looks like a forgone conclusion in hindsight.

Bill told me about an incident that took place when he was six years old and in the 1st grade. It was the start of the new school year. Mrs Maddox stood at the front of the room and instructed everyone to get out their Big Chief tablets and a pencil, turn to the first page, and write their names at the top. While all the other kids began moving in unison, little Bill froze. This fragile child was paralyzed by anxiety from head to toe. What makes a child of six have their first panic attack? Bill was overwhelmed, scared, not getting it quickly enough. Surely someone would soon be yelling at him. If he didn’t cry out loud, he cried inside.

And no one was there for him. No one was ever there for him.

He knew it was our last conversation and this was the story he wanted me to hear. Bill felt that moment in the first grade set the tone for his whole life…and so it did.

The uniformed police officer came out of Bill’s Houston apartment wearing his stoic and somber face. He avoided making eye contact with me as he approached. Once close enough to respectfully give me the news, he spoke in low tones without ever seeming to open his mouth. My brother Bill was in there, on the couch, dead from a bullet to the head. The officer asked me if I wished to come inside and see the body. I shook my head no. My eyes didn’t need to see a second brother dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. My much older brother Tommy had taken his own life with a shotgun 40 years earlier…when I was just six years old. Now my brother Bill has done the same; this time with a handgun.    

About five days before pulling the trigger, Bill came to Austin to visit our mother– one final time as it turned out. She lived in the little periwinkle house I’d purchased many years before. At this time I was living with my girlfriend in a different house about 1 ¼ miles away. My only interaction with Bill that weekend came when I dropped by to get a lawnmower from the garage. He came out of the house wearing his ever-present yellow tank. We stood together mid-way up the driveway under the partial shade of a persimmon tree. 

He was physically bigger than me, but on this day he looked small. He told me he was in pretty bad shape. Bill squinted with one eye when the sunlight found gaps between the leaves. He asked me if he could come to Austin…to live at my house. I reflected for only a moment. I both knew and didn’t know how bad off he was. My head told me if he moved from Houston to Austin his sad struggles would only move with him. That was my head; my heart wasn’t there. I was honest with him, “I don’t know, man. I don’t think that would really do anything. How would things be any different if you came here?” He didn’t disagree. and then shrank a little more.

The conclusion to his lifetime of angst was near. That day in the driveway, underneath the persimmon tree, Bill summed up how it was to be him, “I just wish I could take all of this,” gesturing towards his whole body, “…and just get it off me!” With that last part he lifted his left hand to his right arm, grimaced his face, and made a scraping motion from his shoulder down to his tensely splayed fingers. He was removing the layer of shit he was born without, but was placed upon him while growing up in that house on Creekwood. He then quickly did the same motion on his left side to say again. …just get it off me!

Berated by a father who had no business becoming one, cared for but never truly loved by a mother who’s own heart was dismantled at 13. He had fingernails that were bitten to nothing. He was molested by a pervy neighbor in his teens. He was trauma laiden, self-loathing, socially inept…. Bill lived 46 years of pain. He even had year-round allergies that rarely allowed him to breath like he wanted to….like a normal person. Now he was out of money, out of motivation, and out of options. He wanted the shit gone; all of it, all at once. 

After Bill’s body was placed in a bag and rolled out of his dingy apartment on a gurney, I sat on some steps nearby, soaking in sadness but not crying. One of the other policemen on the scene was hispanic. From where I sat I could overhear him talking with a neighbor named “Kiko.” It was clear that Kiko knew my brother; they were neighbors but also friends. The officer spoke to Kiko in Spanish. Bill had been really depressed lately, Kiko told the officer. He went to see his family in Austin last weekend, and…, there was a slight hesitation before Kiko finished his sentence, “…aun su familia no le quiere.” 

I wasn’t sitting very far away. My Spanish is pretty good. Kiko told the officer, Even his family doesn’t want him. 

No one was there for him. No one was ever there for him. I wasn’t there for him.  


A Tantalizing Tangent

Whoa, I was not expecting to encounter a chapter devoted to psychedelics embedded two-thirds of the way through the book I was reading– Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan. I talk some about the book (a.k.a. The Debbie Downer Book) in a previous post and make clear how impactful I found the book’s basic premise- that the modern lives we lead are largely at odds with our evolved human nature. Information in the book about our past, present, and potential use of psychedelics was an unexpected but tantalizing tangent. 

As the book explains, psychedelics have been a meaningful part of the human experience for thousands upon thousands of pre-civilized generations. Now that we are (supposedly) more civilized than ever, we have criminalized its usage and propagandized against it for multiple generations. The book makes a seriously strong case that much has been lost in our fervor to demonize any drug that doesn’t come from a pharmacist. The good news is that the tide appears to be slowly turning and psychedelics are once again becoming part of the human conversation. 

What exactly is meant by psychedelics? LSD, Magic Mushrooms, Ayahuasca, Peyote, Salvia, DMT, and the list goes on. Basically, it’s any of the class of chemical compounds capable of profoundly altering human consciousness. Alcohol alters consciousness, too. And in even smaller ways, so does coffee and cigarettes, (even energy drinks!), but to say they do so in a profound way would be a stretch. Marijuana certainly moves in that direction also, and one would not be wrong to consider it a psychedelic. However, for the sake of my conversation with you, I will keep cannabis and the list of classic psychedelics in distinct buckets.

Barely Legal Gary Plans a Trip

One reason I was particularly intrigued by Civilized to Death’s chapter on psychedelics is because [in a twist almost no one saw coming] I have some direct experience with it. I did LSD about a half-dozen times when I was 18-19 years old. Here’s how that came about.

In the intro to my Puzzle of a Thousand Pieces post, I retell the story of how, at six years old, I found my much older half-brother named Tommy in the gut-wrenching moments after he’d shot himself in the head with a shotgun. There was another brother I grew up with named Bill, twenty-two months older than me. 

Older brothers typically have an influence on their younger siblings, especially if the age difference is small. Overall, this influence was minimal in my case. I was the happy, straight-laced, goody-two-shoes brother, while Bill went in the opposite direction. At 18 and 20 years of age, respectively, we hadn’t lived under the same roof for at least the last 5 years. Our relationship was always strained and never close. For reasons I will explain in a later post, I had lots of reasons to dislike him. 

I’m not sure when or how Bill got introduced to LSD, but once he did, he became highly motivated to get me to try it. 

Reading Between the Lines

I eventually did experience LSD…but not before doing my own amatuer brand of due diligence. First, I went to the Houston Public Library and checked-out a book on it. I don’t remember it being an evangelical summation of the drug, but more of the textbook explanation I was looking for. The second thing I did was approach this one particular teacher at school, a substitute teacher whose name was Dean. If nothing else… Dean was “cool.” He was around 30, owned only one sport-coat, and wore his straight brown hair somewhere between surfer and hippie. One afternoon immediately after the day’s final bell, I found Dean by himself in a classroom. 

With reasonable caution, I tell Dean I’m thinking about doing LSD and want to get his opinion. He seems totally unprepared for my inquiry and is visibly uncomfortable even talking about this topic under the fluorescent lights of a classroom. As I recall the scene now, I did most of the talking and he said precious little. What he does say in the end can be summarized as follows: I’m not telling you to do it….  

I was 18 years old and savvy enough to finish his thought without requiring him say it out loud: 

but I’m not telling you not to.


In those days my thoughts on alcohol and drugs were not that complicated. If I had assessed them to have a net positive impact on life, they were given the okay. If not, banned for life. At 18 years old, I wasn’t aware of all the deep-rooted, childhood mental conditioning Christianity had “blessed” me with. In my mind, I was simply taking a logical approach to right and wrong. In the case of LSD, I rationalized it into the Okay column because, based on my own “extensive” research, it seemed as though LSD’s positive effects far outweighed any negative ones. In fact, there really didn’t seem to be any downside. [The huge caveat to this is that folks who may be predisposed to schizophrenia or other psychotic breaks, based on their personal family history, are strongly advised to steer clear of LSD as a precaution.]   

After all my amatuer preparation, which included taking two multivitamins that morning, my brother and I went to the sprawling Bear Creek Park in Houston early one Saturday. We found a semi-secluded spot, sat down in a couple of lawn chairs around my boom box (yes, this was in the 80’s), and let the trip begin. One of the first things I noticed were the “traces” trailing anything that moved. Then I noticed how the clouds began to move and change…their edges lifting off to form patterns.

I might use different words to convey the effects of LSD today, but at the time the one-word description I would use to describe its effects was simply MORE. Everything that is… becomes more. When you see green, red, blue, they are somehow more green, more red, and more blue. Clouds move, but now they move more. Songs that sound good, sound great. You hear more of the sound, with more clarity and more brilliance. When feeling anything, you feel more of it. I have a memory of reaching into my pocket for a quarter, and being fascinated to feel the finely etched raised rim, just inside the gear-toothed outer circumference. 

While I only did LSD about 5 additional times in all, the experiences were highly valuable for giving me a glimpse into an enhanced state of mind, and also for my understanding of how drugs might fit into a person’s life. I still wouldn’t drink, I wouldn’t smoke pot, I had zero interest in the obvious waste-of-time drugs like cocaine, speed, heroin, etc. But LSD enriched my life in an important way. I don’t regard it as life-changing; I hadn’t lived enough life yet. But it was nonetheless, most definitely, unequivocally, highly valuable.

In retrospect, the LSD trips I had with my brother Bill were the only positive life-experiences we ever shared as brothers. Prior to our first trip together that day in Bear Creek Park, Bill told me about being on previous LSD trips and hearing Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. It made him wish I was there with him, with him on his fantastical journeys. He craved for someone in his life, especially someone that he loved as a brother, to experience this amazing world as a window into his own. In retrospect, it’s the one time I was there for him. 


One clear picture that emerges after learning about psychedelics…there is a chasm of difference between doing these substances recreationally as a young person, and doing them later in life. There is so much more to be gained after one has lived. James Fadiman, author of the Explorer’s Guide to Psychedelics, put it this way: Psychedelics use your own life experience as compost….in order for new things to grow. 

Next up, we go even deeper down the rabbit hole.

Down Goes America

Texas Representative Paul Workman is a large, humorless man. Not overweight, just a big guy, maybe close to six-foot-three. He’s in his 60’s now with silver Republican hair, and little chance he wasn’t a star defensive lineman back in high school. My interactions with him at the Texas State Capitol were always brief and cordial. I didn’t live in his Westlake-centered district, but went to his office several times to help set up meetings with volunteers that did. 

Nearly everyone agrees we should do something about the problem of money in politics. But the people in positions of power, people like Paul Workman, don’t have the will to act.

One morning outside the House Chamber, Rep. Workman was the tallest one standing in this small half-huddle of three Wolf-PAC volunteers. We’d stopped him for some direct lobbying. He knew our organization already since a different set of vols had a meeting with him the previous legislative session. We were the citizen-volunteers trying to pass the Free & Fair Elections Resolution. Workman angled his body slightly, making it clear from the start our conversation would be a short one. I was quiet and let our most experienced volunteer do the talking. 

The whole time we’re making our case to him, Workman’s eyes are glancing around the generous marbled hallway filled with 3 or 4 other state reps and dozens of real lobbyists- the expensively dressed paid ones. At one point, just before he completes his turn away from our semi-circle, Workman leans towards our senior volunteer and says in a low tone, “You know I appreciate what you’re trying to do….but a lot of people helped me get to where I am.” 

Whoa! Did you hear that?! He just said the quiet part out loud. In case you missed it, I’ll translate. I got elected because my rich friends gave me a lot of money to run for office. My support of your legislation would be a poke in their eyes and I’m sorry but I can’t do that. 

And therein lies the rub.


This is the post I don’t want to write. America is in a steep decline right now and it’s not okay. The zillion ways in which we’re doing it wrong as a nation have left me feeling deeply frustrated and disappointed. 

If you’re now expecting me to launch into a zillion detailed rants explaining what I mean by we’re doing it wrong, it’s not going to happen. There is enough ranting out there already. I do want you to know what I know, not about what’s bad now, but about why it’s unlikely to get any better from here. 

In 1976, the US Supreme Court made a fatal ruling. And by fatal I truly mean that decision killed the America I was born into. The year of America’s bicentennial was also in ‘76. What a twisted coincidence the year America celebrates its grand 200th birthday is also the year its demise begins.

Maybe it seemed extra awesome because I was 12 years old, but I seriously remember America’s bicentennial celebration being a REALLY BIG DEAL. It was a triumphant celebration of our success as a nation. Y2K was big, and I partied like it was 1999. But ‘76 was bigger. I even collected enough special bicentennial edition quarters to make a full $10 roll out of them- back when we used to stuff them into those paper coin-rollup thingys.  

To be fair to the 7 supreme court justices that slow-killed America in 1976, I don’t believe they had ill-intent. Their decision was not malicious, they were simply unable to foresee the tragic and far-reaching consequences of their ruling. In short, they blew it!

The case I’m talking about is called Buckley v Valeo, and it’s the “money is speech” decision. What that ruling did was conflate your right to free speech with your right to spend money on political campaigns. All of the justices agreed limits on how much a person can give directly to a candidate were necessary because the government has an abiding interest not to incentivize corruption. That meant big-money direct campaign contributions were out. But,…for other types of political spending, seven of them said, Have at it, Haus. I think where they got hung up was on the notion that the government shouldn’t be able to tell someone what they can and can’t do with their own money. Which sounds correct as soon as you hear it, right? But what they missed were all the unintended consequences of puncturing the fragile legal seal we need between money and politicians. They unwittingly did exactly what they stated they wanted to avoid– to incentivize corruption. If money’s corrupting influence is not walled-off from government entirely, it will find its way in like water seeping into the basement during a flood. What this ruling did was remove a couple of the sandbags put in place to keep it out. 

After the Buckley v Valeo decision America didn’t come off the rails the next day. However, that single ruling made the locomotive of a long train surge forward and engage the car behind it, which then pulled upon the next and so on. The political-money-corruption train was on the move, on its way to becoming unstoppable. More rulings followed that added additional fuel to the engine, like the ruling two years later that said corporations should have rights just like people and also be able to contribute money to political campaigns. Corporate influence on our government is so taken for granted now that it seems almost unbelievable that prior to ‘78, it was ILLEGAL for corporations to make campaign contributions. They still kind of did, of course, but they had to sneak around the laws to do it. If they were too brazen about it they might find themselves in the hot seat on investigative news shows like the once mighty 60 Minutes.

There may have been an opportunity early on to stop the train that took off in ‘76, but that unfortunately did not happen. A lot of noise is often made about how terrible the Citizens United decision was in 2010 (that’s the case that ushered in the era of the Super-PAC), but the truth is… we were long since doomed. Now, here in 2020, the political-money-corruption train is barrelling ahead at full speed and we are living within the trainwreck right now. 

Fatal Flaw

The Supreme Court’s job is to review legal decisions made by lower courts and make sure they pass Constitutional muster. In the case of Buckley v. Valeo, seven justices equated a person’s freedom to spend their own money in politics with their right to free speech. The problem was that the Constitution lists the rights it intended to protect from government intrusion and the freedom to spend one’s own money on politics wasn’t among them. The court’s ruling stretched the right of free speech and freedom of expression to include money spent on public policy. The fact that our Constitution is silent on how political campaigns are funded will end up being it’s fatal flaw. 

This flaw can theoretically be fixed. Not guaranteeing women the right to vote was a flaw in our Constitution, also, but within 5 years after the women’s suffrage movement began, the fix was made- the 19th Amendment was ratified…..100 years ago this month, by the way. Adding an Amendment to the US Constitution was intentionally designed to be a difficult process… but we have managed to do it 27 times before. We should, again theoretically, be able to do it once more.

So how do you stop a train? Not to get all wonky on ya, but Article V of the Constitution itself spells out two routes for adding amendments, one is through Congress, the other through the states. At this point in time, Congress is a lost cause. Money’s magical power to buy hearts and minds has already completed its purchase of Washington, DC. Within the halls of Congress, there is no appetite for biting the hand that feeds.  

Adding an amendment through the state route is pretty much our only hope. Elected officials in state government are far closer to the people than the folks we send off to Washington, only to become crushed by the money train.  

I Swear I Tried

From late in 2014 up to the beginning of this year, I personally spent thousands of hours volunteering for an organization called Wolf-PAC. What this organization attempts to do is get state lawmakers to pass a bill that says, Yo, our state wants to get together with all the other states and do what Washington is incapable of- amending the constitution so we can finally start applying some brakes to the political-money-corruption train. The wording of the bills isn’t exactly like I just said it, but the idea is the same.

Nobody said the effort would be easy, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be impossible. It kills me to even say that. But I’ve seen the evidence first hand; just like the folks we love to hate in Washington, our state politicians are also unwilling to do what’s necessary to fix this most obvious problem in the world- our federal government is corrupt and money corrupted it. In my personal interactions with state lawmakers, I heard excuse after excuse: I think your efforts would be better spent working to get out the vote; I don’t think there’s much momentum for the issue this legislative session; And my personal least favorite, I’m sorry, but our office doesn’t have the band-width to take this on. 

If you think I was trying to get these bills passed alone, you would be quite wrong. The organization was named Wolf-PAC, because… as Rudyard Kipling said quite famously in The Jungle Book, “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.” Naming the organization Wolf-PAC shows it was known from the start that in order to get this done it would require many people working together. I was not a lone volunteer, not a lone wolf, as it were. I worked alongside a good number of really smart people to get this accomplished. Nonetheless, too many of our politicians (at every level) keep one eye on the political ramifications whenever making decisions. 

Urgent Family Hunting Trip, What?

Before the 2016 Texas legislative session even started, we met face to face with a Republican legislator named Lyle Larson, the representative of a district near San Antonio. Our top volunteers met with him at his district office. By all accounts the conversation went extremely well; there was a definite meeting of the minds. We showed him our bill’s language. He read it, set it back down on his desk, tapped his finger on top of the paper twice and said, “I’ll file this bill for you.” BAM! Done. We had his commitment right there. Let’s roll. Finding someone to file a bill is the first step and often the most difficult. Representative Lyle Larson has come to save America!

Or has he? When we followed up with him later he was somehow “unavailable.” We were told he was either tending to an urgent family matter or on a hunting trip. Or maybe it was both. The truth was that invisible political forces had intervened and he was running away from his own words. He didn’t file the bill and never provided any explanation as to why.

Another legislative year, Representative J.D. Sheffield, a kindly and thoughtful physician from Gatesville, Texas, signed his name to our bill as a co-author. For volunteers like me this was a huge victory. Being a co-author on a bill is like saying, I believe in this bill so much I might as well have written it myself. Sheffield is a Republican and the bill’s primary sponsor was a Democrat. Bipartisanship always makes a bill more likely to pass. However, here we go again… within 24 hours after physically signing his name to the bill, Sheffield’s office asked that it be removed. We literally had to white-out his signature. When we followed up with Sheffield later, he said softly that he’d discussed the bill with his “political consultant” and was advised to remove his name. AAAAARRRGHHHH!!!!! He should have discussed it with his constituents instead. 

I have many more stories similar to these from both democrats and republicans, all equally as dismaying. I wanted to believe that democracy was real, that ordinary citizens like me have the power to bring about real political change, but we simply do not. 

The Princeton Study

Most everyone in my circle already knows about The Princeton Study. But I have to assume most regular folks don’t. I will attempt to summarize it in four sentences. Two professors from Princeton University performed an analysis of 1,800 public policy survey questions and matched them against actual laws passed by Congress over the same 21 year time span (1981 – 2002). They wanted to see how well public opinion corresponded to which policy proposals ended up becoming laws. What they found was that the majority public opinion had no correlation to laws passed. However, when broken down by income levels, they discovered excellent correlation between what the wealthy wanted (and by no coincidence, what corporations wanted) and which laws were passed. Huh, ya don’t say.

In 2017 Congress voted to lower the US Corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, with almost no tax loopholes closed. What a super nice break for those poor corporations! The curious thing is that I do not remember a huge groundswell of support among the citizenry for such a generous tax cut. What I do remember is that after over 500 people were shot by a gunman in Las Vegas and then four months later another school shooting took out 17 students and faculty in Parkland, Florida, we had massive protests in the streets demanding our gun laws be reformed. Over a year later, bump stocks were banned. Crumbs!

Some polling shows that 96% of Americans favor universal background checks on anyone purchasing a gun. Whether you are among the 96% or the 4%, I really don’t care, and your elected representatives don’t care either. My point is only to demonstrate unequivocally the degree to which we do not run our own government.   

The sad truth is that our “of the people, by the people, for the people” government is gone-zo. Our government now belongs to the political-money-corruption train and those that fuel it with their dollars.

Alternate Universes

There is something else that has me disheartened about America. I truly was not aware the degree to which our country is divided. Political differences between groups are nothing new but I don’t recall those divisions being this severe or penetrating so deeply into our everyday lives and specifically, our relationships. To get what I’m saying, think about the record high number of Facebook unfriend-ings that have occurred since Trump’s presidency began.

Politically, I’m on the side of truth, justice, and the American way. In other words, the liberal side of the spectrum. What I never realized before Trump was just how many Americans live in an alternate universe. For Trump to still be supported by a third of the country is so revealing. What it means is that roughly 100 million Americans have no habit of thinking critically and live in a media bubble where 2 + 2 = Frog. 


America is going down because we’ve lost our democracy and all we have left is apathy on one end and rage on the other. I think of America now like a sports team on a losing streak that will never end. It hurts. It’s my team, man. Of course I love my team and will always want it to win. But now that multinational corporations and the super-rich have been able to slowly change the rules of the game in their favor, they have all but guaranteed themselves victory, while America as a whole suffers one heartbreaking loss after another.

There. I’ve done it. It’s written for all to see. What now? 

That last question I will answer in a future post called, The Night of the Avalanche. You don’t want to miss it.

Cannabis for an Alien, Part III

It was April 21st, a Tuesday evening. I ate the dark chocolate square at 7:30. In about an hour and 10 minutes it will start to kick in. I check the clock. By 8:40 I should start to notice a subtle shift in the way my thoughts flow.

Before eating the square, I hesitated, maybe tonight’s not a good night for this.

Ugh. The problems I was having with Marianne, the next door neighbor of my house in Austin, were weighing heavily on my mind. Over a month had passed since coronavirus cancellations wiped our calendar clean of guests and Marianne was agitating to be paid. Paid for what?! There were no guests. I understood Covid was wreaking havoc on Marianne’s expectations of income and she was stressing out. Now her texts to me were stressing me out. It got bad, too. She would send me streams of texts throughout the day, each one more demanding than the last. My phone was blowing up and my stomach was in knots.

One week prior to the 21st I’d eaten the same amount of chocolate edible and had an interesting thought while lying in bed, lights out. I pondered what I should do about my house in Austin. Things were headed south with Marianne, I could feel it, but at that point didn’t know just how bad it would eventually get. From somewhere in my brain emerged a truth. The right answer was for me to sell my house. All my insanely deep emotional ties to this wonderful house I’d owned for 32 years remained intact, but those emotions sat next to that truth….they didn’t sit on top of it. That was the cannabis effect.

Here I am a week later and spending another evening with this strange new (to me) organic compound. The situation with Marianne has worsened and I’m in need of answers. What truths will emerge this night as the cannabis sprinkles my mind with fairy-dust?

Where I began and where I ended that evening are miles apart. With cannabis’ silent influence, one thought led to three, then three to a dozen more. The avalanche had begun….


The “Stoner” Brain

One loose-end I still want tied up relates to the part about cannabis getting you lost in thought. No joke, it can be great if you’re doing some mundane chore like cleaning the house or folding laundry, but…. well, it’s all good until it’s not, right? If you are cooking dinner and need to somewhat stay on task, getting lost in thought about why holes in the bottom of the strainer have that particular pattern, may not be what you need at that moment. This is where the term “stoner” enters the conversation.

If you’ve ever dealt with someone while they are truly stoned, you might quickly conclude pot is making them dumb. This is not actually what is happening. They are still as smart (or smarter) than ever, they simply cannot corral their thoughts enough to be relatable during a normal conversation.

When lost in thought, you might forget you left the water running, or that you walked away from the cash register with your cell phone still on the counter. As dosage in your system increases, the faster you will think, the more things you will notice, and the more lost in thought you will become, until a threshold is reached where functioning in the everyday world becomes a “challenge.” If you can’t keep your own thoughts in order, navigating moderately complicated tasks can take on a comical tone. I do not wish to imply it’s a bad or harmful state of mind to be in. One simply needs to be choosy about when and where it’s okay to let yourself “spin out,” a term I think is way more descriptive than getting “stoned.”

For me this is one of the biggest busted myths about cannabis. Based on all of the movies, sitcoms, stand-up routines and personal anecdotes, of course one would conclude it turns your mind into potato salad. The reality is your mind becomes a smorgasbord of thoughts and it’s hard to know which to eat first.

Yrag Returns

I know many of my friends are already on-board the cannabis train (and several cars ahead of me, too), but just as many are not. Will any of my friends read my account and begin to reconsider their own view of cannabis? And what of the blogosphere I am now a part of? It’s a big place and perhaps one of those 100 million anti-marijuana souls out there will stumble upon this post (plus Parts I and II) and think about cannabis just a few degrees differently than before.

There is also a completely different group of people who I would like my story to reach. It’s all the party people that have never considered cannabis an intellectual catalyst. Maybe it was years ago when they last smoked out, got stoned, ate a bunch of snacks, and had Good Times! If that was you, I bet you missed out on the kind of perspective-shifting benefit cannabis offers and that I have now described at great length.

Or, maybe you are like Yrag the alien was….and become a late-bloomer.

Where is young three years ago Yrag? Wait! I see him over there in a bath of unadulterated chocolate bars. “Yrag! Come, let’s talk a bit more.”

“I need you to listen carefully. You’ve been carrying around a whole lot of misconceptions about marijuana for too long already. It’s high time we pry you out of your rut. When you’re truly ready, here’s how to derive the most benefit from introducing cannabis into your life.”

“It sounds like you want me to join a cult,” says Yrag. “But I’m willing to hear you out.”

“That’s good enough for me,” I tell him. “First, go with an edible. From everything I’ve heard and read, edibles have more of that perspective-shifting potential than smoked weed does. It’s also very easy to manage your dosage”

“Okay….edibles. I’m ready.”

“Dude, you won’t be ready for another few years.”

“Whatever. Just tell me what I need to know.” If not impatient, Yrag seems genuinely curious.

“Okay, start with a very small amount, like 3-4 mgs. Do it in the evening when you don’t have much else going on. You don’t have children or other immovable obligations like the majority of people do, but even if you did it wouldn’t matter. Such a small amount will not alter your ability to do anything you normally would.”

‘Next thing… lower your expectations. As we talked about around the dinner table in Part II, you’re unlikely to “feel” anything at those small doses, but trust me, it will be there. The influence of cannabis is so dang subtle. Simply go about your business and see what comes from the experience. You may end up saying, Well, that was a big nothing burger….but I bet you’ll still find you’ve had a productive evening.”  

Yrag says exactly what I expect him to, “This idea that you can take a drug but don’t feel anything, still seems strange to me.” He’s such a hard head.

“That’s why I’m telling you, because it’s a common misperception. Okay, last thing and probably the most important… Be patient. It took me 2 ½ years to finally come to an understanding of what pot is and isn’t. Pot is not an earthquake; it’s not one and done. The benefits it offers come slowly over time as small shifts to your way of thinking begin to accumulate; and your mind steadily expands.”

Yrag nods in understanding. “Okay, bro. I appreciate someone trying to explain it like that. But I have one more question…”

“Go for it.”

“Is this one of those things where you can learn about it all day long, but really….you have to live it to get it?”

“Yes it is, young Yrag. Yes it is.”

With that last word, Yrag thanked me, and turned away. In this misty blog-world of time travel and made-up conversations, Yrag was unable to see the purple parrot beneath his next step. He stumbled comically and fell to the ground, hitting his head on a garden gnome. The knock to his noggin did not kill him outright but was just hard enough to make him forgot everything I’d said.  [Sigh]


I will end this epic 3-parter with a roughly transcribed quote I heard in a podcast just a couple of weeks after the night of the avalanche. When I heard it, I thought, That’s exactly what happened to me!! It was awesome validation of what I intuitively knew at that point but could not have summarized as well as it’s done here:

Cannabis allows people to gain a greater perspective…gives them the opportunity to step outside the momentum of their own lives and look at things with fresh eyes… and make clearer decisions. This is one of the best things that drugs provide, an escape from the momentum of this life that you’ve created….or found yourself a part of. It’s very difficult for people to stop behavior patterns, to look at themselves objectively, and rethink, regroup, reassess. This is one of the best things about cannabis and a lot of these other drugs. They give you a new-found perspective that allows you to reconsider everything.

Next up, let’s not board this train made of money and politics. It’s going in the wrong direction.

Meditation- A Whole Lotta Nothing

E 49 1/2 Street

The next three light chunks are all relevant pieces to the 1 More World puzzle. They just didn’t find a natural place to hide among the existing and planned content.   


Two Eggs From My Neighbor

I thought selling the house I’ve owned since I was 23 would break my heart. That adorable little periwinkle house on E 49 ½ Street in Austin has meant so much to me. My work as a competent handyman is all over that house, every inch of it. My identity is tiled, hammered and painted into the walls. Even though I’d moved away from Austin in 2017, I still had that home-sweet-home in Austin to anchor my soul. My emotional connection to that house has been so strong…I’ve been resistant to even think about selling it. Always in the back of my mind was the thought that no matter how far I wandered, someday… when I am old and sick and seeking only comfort, I will return to that peaceful house and close out my days.

Marianne, my immediate next door neighbor of that same house, pitched herself pretty hard on being the right person to help take over management of my Airbnb starting in 2020. This meant I would have someone local, right next door in fact, to respond to guest inquiries and clean the space for each new guest. For her services she would earn a share of the revenues, of course. I admit to feeling some hints of doubt about Marianne from the get-go, but her enthusiasm for the side-hustle opportunity was genuine and I was soon feeling (mostly) comfortable that I’d made a solid business decision. 

What I didn’t know in January of 2020 was that the coronavirus pandemic was poised to wipe out every one of the dozen reservations we’d already had sitting on the books. March, my most profitable month, was going to collapse to zero. My relationship with Marianne was going to sour in less that 2 months…. and end with her going B-A-N-A-N-A-S and throwing two eggs at the side of my house. In response, I both reported her to the police and also sent her a legally binding cease and desist letter. Really, it was a stressful nightmare, all of it. 

And Marianne continues to live next door.

Suddenly, selling my golden house just got a helluva lot easier. Do things happen for a reason? I find that phrase problematic at best. But it sure seems a perfect fit for this situation.

Once I sell the house (it goes on the market this third week of August), I will miss many things about it, perhaps above all else the sense of financial security it gave me. I will also miss making the same little funny I’d made countless times since owning the house. Whenever I told someone over the phone my address was on E 49 ½ Street, I would say it…..pause….(for just the right amount of time)…..then add, “I couldn’t afford the whole street.”


Meditation- A Whole Lotta Nothing

My two cents on mediation doesn’t warrant its own post, nor does it play a huge “connective” role in the working of my puzzle. Yet, I don’t want to leave it out completely. It’s something I learned how to do (though I’m still at the intro level) and intend to get more into it over the next 25 years.

For any readers not here since the start, in a previous post I talked about getting introduced to cannabis in 2017 in the form of honey for my Sleepy-Time Tea. This was all for the targeted purpose of helping me sleep better in the wake of a hard break-up. Well, you should know that cannabis wasn’t the only car I was test-driving. I also tried meditation; to help me sleep but more generally to help me slog through my post-breakup sadness and uncertainty. Since it’s hard to blink twice these days without hearing about the profound benefits of meditation, I committed myself to getting onboard the meditation train. Here’s how it went down and what I got out of it.

Geez I had to be patient! It wasn’t until my 6th or 7th WEEK! of nearly daily attempts to “meditate” that I felt I’d finally achieved some brief, minimal, level-one meditative state of mind. That’s why most people that try to meditate give up after a few days. For the first month and a half of daily attempts to “meditate,” it was never more than just normal me sittin’ in a chair with my eyes closed, trying to both hold still and relax, while thinking about my breathing. Day after day I did it, but I swear nothing was happening. In other words, I never once felt like I was in a meditative state of anything. It was always just me sitting there like a chump in my regular old everyday mind. (Though, I guess I’m not counting the many times I feel asleep.)

So what happened? When did I finally slip into something more than nothing? 

I will describe finding yourself in a meditative state like this. You know how when you enter one room from another there is sometimes a slightly different atmosphere to it? It’s kinda like that. Think of a 1970’s era newsroom at a busy newspaper- all the reporters shouting into their black corded phones, interns and cubs rushing all around with notes in their hands. Then the editor calls you into his office at one end of the floor. It’s walled off with glass. You enter and close the door behind you. The sights, sounds and general hub-out of the main room are still there, just beyond the glass walls, but the atmosphere of the editor’s office is clearly different. Slipping into a meditative state is sort of like that, though the contrast in atmosphere one would feel in the above scenario is far greater than most would find when meditating. Nevertheless, I think this analogy gives you the basic sense of it. 

Do you now want to know the big secret? I mean, do you wanna know what happens when you cross that threshold into a meditative state?

A whole lot of nothing! It’s my experience that once that threshold into a meditative state is crossed, nothing changes in terms of what I’m doing. I keep-on counting my breaths just like I had been and see how long I can hold onto it. My way of counting breaths is to count both inhales and exhales from one to ten and then back to one again. Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s super-boring- just counting your breaths, I mean. And it’s not easy since the mind has a mind of its own. But if you’re able to do it steady enough and for long enough, it does appear to be a portal into meditation…. into the inner-space cavern of your mind. 

What I got out of meditation is so hard to quantify. After meditating month after month, I felt better. But was that the mediation? Or that I was sleeping better with the aid of a few molecules of cannabis? Or simply that more time had passed since the breakup? Best answer here is going to be D) All of the above.

Whether mediation by itself helped me feel better or not takes a back seat to my feeling of accomplishment for simply crossing that meditation threshold. Though I’ve not taking the meditation highway very far- I’m barely beyond the on ramp -I do believe there is good value in it. One of the most helpful things I tell myself as I prepare to meditate is this, For the next 15 minutes (or however much time I’ve carved out for myself), I have nothing to do. That right there feels like a respite.

Meditation may be a whole lotta nothing….but there’s definitely something to it.


Writing as Therapy

As you will learn in a post that’s coming up about three into the future, two months ago I began doing a very curious type of therapy. One and a half months ago, I started writing this blog.

It would be normal to assume these two events are connected. Nope! It was more of a lucky break. I approached each of these endeavors totally independently. It’s not like the therapist told me to start writing a blog; though I do recognize that would be a very typical therapisty type of suggestion. All over the world therapists are saying it right now, Have you thought about keeping a journal?  

I totally get it now!!! 

At least part of why therapy works (theoretically) is that when you talk about your baggage and start to figure out why you turned out like you did, that new-found knowledge helps your present-self manage life a little better. Journaling, or writing the type of blog this one is, has me trekking backwards into territory I hadn’t trespassed on this thoroughly since childhood. 

The Maybe I’m Jesus! post is a prime example. When I began the post my intention was to tell you about the day I thought I might be Jesus; a day I’ve long thought of as both foundational and shamefully funny. In order to tell the story, I had to set it up. That’s when I found an old cigar box of nascent memories and underlying truths.

The process of writing that post showed me that my upbringing was far more strongly anchored in Christianity than I was previously aware. My next awareness was of just how shitty and F’d up that whole charade was. I should be raging mad about it. In just a few posts ahead I will explain to you why I’m not. 


The very next post- Cannabis for an Alien, Part III -finishes off my cannabis chunk of the 1 More World puzzle. [Adios, Yrag!] I must say, this was a very challenging topic to write about. There was so much I thought was worth saying. The problem was how to organize the content in a way that flows. But the biggest challenge of all was how to make it interesting. I aimed to make it a good read for both cannabis newcomers and longtime “potheads.” I welcome any comments regarding how well I pulled it off. 

Lots more awesome posts up ahead… Do you like mushrooms?

Cannabis for an Alien, Part II

Will my hands tingle? Will my nose feel warm? Will I get a dizzy sensation? What!? How will I know if it’s working? My friends around the table are chuckling at my questions, but also don’t really have any answers for me, either. One person says they sometimes feel a warmth at the base of the skull. No one else concurs. 

I was at a dinner gathering with about five or six friends. We’d finished eating and one of the friends popped open a Tupperware container full of “treats.” This was more than a year before I turned 50. Remember, I was still a complete novice at this point…an alien exploring a new planet.

Feeling comfortable enough with where I was in life and with the friends I was with, I boldly agreed to eat a treat.

After downing the sweet treat, I wait. I am not so ignorant about cannabis to not know it takes a while to have an effect. That is when I start asking my totally legitimate questions. The fact that I can’t get a straight answer out of my friends is perplexing. Why doesn’t someone just tell me what it’s like.  I feel like my friends must be messing with me. With what I know today, however, I understand why they were unable to hit me with a short answer. Altered states of minds don’t have short answers.   

If you know me even 1%, you know I like to explain things. I am sometimes good at it, too. I wonder….how would the person I am today have explained cannabis to my earlier self?  If the me of today had been a guest at that dinner– which would be back-to-the-future level cool –the question is what would I have said to Yrag? That’s what I’ll call my former self….Yrag. (pronounced EE-rahg). Yes, I’m quite aware that’s just Gary spelled backwards. But it’s perfect! In those days, at least regarding cannabis, I was indeed quite backwards.  So, here is how I would have explained cannabis to young Yrag, alien from the Planet of the Saints.

Kicking In 

“First off, Yrag, you keep asking what you’re going to feel. Well, you may not feel anything in particular at all. If you’ve taken a low dose, the mind can be affected without the body feeling anything different…. until the dosage becomes stronger. That’s why you’ll hear a lot of people say they did pot but “nothing happened?” Or, that they “didn’t feel anything?” Well, something was happening…they were simply missing it because of their expectations.” 

Yrag asks, “Was what I just ate a low dose or a high dose.” I turn to the friend that brought them. With a shrug, she delivers the most predicable answer ever, I don’t know, everybody’s different.

“Just tell me how I’ll know when it starts kicking in,” says Yrag, glancing at his watch but instantly not remembering what it said.

“Well, it can honestly be hard to tell,” I respond. “…unless the dosage is high enough so that it’s obvious. IAnd if that’s the case, your body might feel a kind of internal vibration all over, not just in your hands. It’ll be nice. But if the dosage is below a certain threshold, again…you may not be able to feel it at all.”

Yrag is getting impatient, “So, if I can’t feel it, I’m back to asking the same obvious question, how will I know it’s doing anything?”

“Well, here’s where it gets tricky and why nobody else at this table has been able to answer you. You might notice few things but they’re all very abstract. For example, your sense of time may start to seem a little off. You’ll start finding yourself lost in thought. And, you’ll probably start noticing things more. Like, ordinary things. Something will catch your attention and you’ll just start thinking about it. You might think, Hmmm, I never noticed these placemats have a scene of the Eiffel tower on them. Were these bought during a trip to Paris? Or maybe just a trip to TJ Maxx. They probably sell these at TJ Maxx. Look how the artist drew all the people wearing yellow shirts. I wonder if that means something. And then you’re like, Wait, what just happened?” I then add, “It can be a little disorienting.”

“Oh geez! Why am I even doing this? Feeling disoriented doesn’t sound like much fun at all.” 

“Dude, relax. Just chill and go with it.” I lean back a bit. “Knowing you as well as I do, I think part of the problem is that you’re looking for a science exhibit in an art museum. Or maybe you’re thinking it’s like alcohol. It’s not. Nobody else will tell you this either, but it’s actually not about ‘having fun.’ And anyway, you can’t just do it once and expect to get it. Tonight you’ll have one experience, hopefully a positive one. Then you’ll have an idea for the next time. Stay open-minded and explore. You have to gain some experience with it to know what feels right to you and in what situation.”

Yrag’s listening with his arms crossed. “Well, whatever, I guess I’m in it now. How much longer ‘til I don’t feel anything?” he says critically.

“I said you might but you might not. It depends on the dosage!” Now I’m thinking, Man, this is harder than I thought. “For now, just know this…people like pot because, in one way or another, it simply makes them feel a little better… less stressed, and even a little more appreciative of the world around them. And if you’re curious enough to learn about it, it will probably have the same effect on you.”


World Library of Cannabis Knowledge

I may be done with Yrag (for now), but I’m not anywhere near done. And here is why. My perspective on cannabis is genuinely unique. I came from a place of extreme self-imposed prohibition against drugs, as defined by me with the help of Jesus, God, and Ronald Reagan. I am also unique in that my introduction to cannabis began so late in life and was entered into so extremely gradually. Therefore, I am able to explain the effects of cannabis in ways someone who used it early in life and in a very different context, could not. What I have is an outsider’s perspective.

As I talk about cannabis in greater depth, keep in mind that my own personal use of cannabis (so far) has been extremely limited. For starters, I only have things to say about the effects of cannabis at relatively low doses. Also, I don’t smoke it, edibles only. After all my personal trauma around smoking, I’m just not there yet. (When I get there…I’ll blog it.) Finally, I won’t be talking at all about the many reported benefits of cannabis, like the treatment of anxiety, arthritis or epilepsy, or who knows what else. I won’t talk about these things because I don’t know anything about them. 

With all that background out of the way, we can finally dive into the nitty-gritty of cannabis. By the time I’m done, you will see how the topic of cannabis becomes both a section of my puzzle and the catalyst that helps me work it.

[Note: Regular cannabis users may find almost nothing I say regarding cannabis particularly interesting. You already get it, but there are still millions of people out there that don’t.]

Does Cannabis Make You Smarter?

Here’s what cannabis does to you in the most non-scientific terms I can think of. It changes how the brain thinks in small and subtle ways, but still manages to have surprisingly powerful consequences. This is because any small shift in how our brain processes incoming information is also a shift in our perspective. Imagine if you wear a pair of glasses that allows you to see everything you look at from above, like having an overhead camera. Your surroundings are exactly the same, but when seen from above, different elements of the scene are noticed. This is what cannabis does, not to your vision, but to your thinking. Routine subjects get a fresh look from the overhead view. It’s kind of like approaching a familiar intersection from an odd direction, it will seem different to you and you will notice new things.

For reasons explained in my previous post about possibly being Jesus [Link], I’ve long had some serious ruts in my way of thinking about drugs and alcohol. A shift in my perspective towards these two things has taken decades to come about. What’s so ironic is that the one drug, marijuana, prohibited by a particularly deep trench in my mind, all along had the enormous potential to free myself from that rut and many more. One of the most popular and readily available drugs out there was all around me, and I could not reach it. 


When you are in a cannabis-influenced state of mind, that little shift in perspective is what leads you to notice things with fresh eyes. Simultaneously, cannabis gives your mind permission to explore. Which is how you end up getting lost in thought. This can be a great thing…it can mean focusing your mind on a single train of thought and really exploring it from all the news angles. 

Here is the key. These new avenues of thinking made possible by cannabis don’t go away when the effects fade from your system. Once you’ve thought about it, it becomes part of you. This is exactly what is meant when they say marijuana expands your mind. It expands your thinking while it’s with you, and then your mind stays expanded when it’s not. 

Taking this a step further… Pattern recognition is one of those things the human mind is particularly well-suited for. With that little fairy-dusting of cannabis on our thinking, more possibilities are considered, and essentially thinking becomes slightly enhanced, like going from regular to HD. You become “smarter.” Yes, I just said that. But don’t get too excited, it’s not like the movie Limitless (with Bradley Cooper), where he takes a pill and it makes him infinitely smart. Even without the Hollywood treatment, however… marijuana definitely moves you in a smarter direction. Who knew?!

One friend described being on cannabis as having a mini “superpower.” Yes, it’s kind of like that.

In Cannabis for an Alien, Part I, I mentioned that time can seem distorted while on cannabis. This happens because one effect cannabis has on your brain is that it marginally “speeds up” your rate of thinking. How literal this is I’m not sure; it could just be the perception. But I tend to believe it’s literal based on the feeling that time slows down. As the brakes come off your thoughts, you will fit more of them into, let’s say…10 seconds of time. Therefore, those 10 seconds will seem elongated. Same goes for a minute, same goes for an hour. More thinking, more pondering, more perspectives, more connections, more of life happens in the same amount of time.

Chocolate Chunk

Vanessa, one of my close friends in Boulder, who does not do pot at all, told me about having smoked it with friends a few times when she was much younger. The handful of times she did it, she felt weird and self-conscious the whole time. Unsurprisingly, she soon concluded it wasn’t for her and that was the end of that…. until late in 2019. 

In the second half of 2019, my own comfort around pot was firmer, but still not where it is today. I was eating an edible 2 or 3 times a week, but only when I could count on: a) having the house to myself, b) having nothing important to do, and c) not having to interact with anyone. The amount I would eat was typically a 10 mg chunk of either a chocolate bar or a gummy- both readily available to me at the dispensary down the block. It was cool! I would play the kind of music I’m into, slice up some fruit for a fruit bowl, and simply have a good evening. 

One afternoon, Vanessa and I both eat an edible with the plan of just hanging out. This is my first time to eat an edible with the intention of hanging out with someone. But we’re friends and it’ll be kinda this fun experiment. It will be Vanessa’s very first dabble since back in the day, and possibly her very first edible ever. She eats one 10 mg gummy, same as me. Not too long after it kicks in, however… Vanessa is not loving it.

But that is not where her part of the story ends. About a week later, Vanessa tells me she ate half a gummy on her own and got a bunch of stuff done around the house. Hmmm, lower dose and a far better, more productive experience.

There are probably millions of people out there that, like Vanessa, tried pot a few times when they were younger and then stopped because they either consciously decided it wasn’t for them or they “outgrew” it, whatever that means. My take on this common phenomenon is that the doses were typically too high to be useful.

Walter White

A quick word on dosage. Me saying I ate a 10 mg gummy means nothing to the uninitiated. Here, this should help. When you buy a package of gummies from a dispensary, each one typically contains 10 mg. Think of 10 mg like a standard amount in the same way 12 oz is the standard amount of liquid in a can of Coke. You can always drink more or less than one can, of course, the point is that the ubiquitous 12 oz portion has become the baseline soda quantity living (rent free) inside everyone’s head. 

For me, 10 mg is a staying in, no obligations, no interactions dose. If I have obligations and interactions ahead of me, I wouldn’t do more than 5 – 7 mg. Even a phone call on 10 mg was not something I was comfortable with for a very long time, not because I’d be talking all crazy and shit, but I might start feeling self-conscious about losing my train of thought. (Hmmm, are there still insecurities within me that need to be protected?)

I would always cut-up my gummies in the kitchen to split the 10 mg dose. I would transfer the little orange, yellow, or green, sugar-coated squares carefully onto the cutting board, reach for a knife from my set, and carefully slice that evening’s gummy into a half or two-thirds. You’d have thought I was Walter White from Breaking Bad. At that point in time, despite being an outspoken advocate for it in thought and conversation, I still owned large fragments of marijuana’s social stigma and I didn’t even know it. That stigma wouldn’t be cleansed completely, by the way, until some time after my tepid exploration of psychedelics had begun in early 2020. 

Against Cannabis? Go Punch Coconuts

Up until near 50 I carried a personal prohibition against doing pot. To be super-clear, this personal choice of mine in no way interfered with my enthusiastic support for marijuana as a concept. I truly had no idea what the hell it really was but that didn’t matter. My opinion that it need to be legalized everywhere was based solely on my logical interpretation of the facts surrounding it. For example, pot doesn’t kill anyone, alcohol does. Alcohol is legal, pot is not. Makes no sense! 

Also, for one group of adults, lawmakers in this case, to tell everyone else they can’t ingest some plant, again…. Makes no sense! Imagine two people stuck on an island and one of them finds a plant that makes them feel better when they chew on it. But then the other one says, “Hey, buddy, I say you shouldn’t chew on that plant and if I catch you doing it, I’ll lock you up in that cave over there.” If I’m the plant-chewer, I would tell my island-mate to go punch coconuts. 

I make this point about being universally in favor of it and personally against it to emphasize just how hardcore my own internal prohibition against pot was. It was definitely not philosophical. 

Just Say Yes to Curiosity

What really bugs me today is that the person I was yesterday was so incurious about both alcohol and pot. I feel like I am an intellectually curious person by nature. But my Goody Two Shoes brain had somehow constructed a steel wall in front of these two ultra popular substances. Being curious about them never even occurred to me; these items were on the other side of the wall between good and bad, and I functionally operated only on the good side. My religious upbringing cock-blocked my own freedom of thought.

Another big component of my story (and the story of many others) has to be the media component of Reagan’s War On Drugs. I was in my late teens when Just Say No and This Is Your Brain On Drugs campaigns were all over the airwaves. My mind was already conditioned early by Jesus. The Just Say No media blitz sealed the deal. It was brainwashing with a one-two punch. That’s how I became a man in my 50’s approaching cannabis one eye-dropper drip at a time.

So, while I have always been rational about the need to legalize it, think of all the people out there still clinging to the double-whammy of being opposed to it both personally and legally. Public opinion towards legalizing marijuana is at an all time ‘high’ at around two-thirds. But this still means approximately 100 million people in the US remain brainwashed by the same Jesus, God, and Ronald Reagan that did a number on me. It also means we don’t live in a democracy, but that’s a story I’ll get to later. 

What happened to you, 100 million souls? Why are you still against this? Who told you it was wrong or bad? Who closed your mind?

For the love of humanity, legalize it! For the love of yourself, just say no to all the external influences that have suppressed your freedom of thought and stunted even your curiosity. 

It took me more than a half-century, but I finally came around.


Learn of Yrag’s eventual fate when Cannabis for an Alien, Part III goes up next week.

Write Me In, Coach

How can I be expected to wait?! Since when does Amazon take two weeks to deliver one simple item?! That item I anxiously await is….. a puzzle….and it has a thousand pieces.

In case it hasn’t been made clear yet, I’ll spell it out for you now. The “story arc” of this whole blog-thing is centered around me finding answers to this existential proposition: I have 25 years to live. What am I going to do?  It is this thought-puzzle I have named, “1 More World.”

My pathway to solving this grandest of all mental puzzles, and the way various divergent stories have linked together in my head, reminds me of how it is to work a real jigsaw puzzle- slowly, methodically…with bursts and dry spells included.

Of course, if it’s your typical puzzle you know what it will look like when finished– exactly like the picture on the box, right? But what if there is no box? What if all you have are the pieces? …and not even all of those? In that case you wouldn’t know the image until doggedly laboring towards the very end. This is what we are doing. The analogy isn’t perfect, but it’s totally working for me.  

With each blog post I (somewhat carefully) choose an image to go along with it. For the Puzzle of a Thousand Pieces post [Link], I found a stock photo of a bunch of puzzle pieces. Good, but I wasn’t completely satisfied. That’s when the idea came to me. What if I find an actual physical jigsaw puzzle that mirrors the metaphorical one we are solving in my head? What poetic symmetry that would be to work a real puzzle over the next few weeks as my story simultaneously unfolds within the blog. This is brilliant!! 

Sure enough, I found the perfect puzzle on Amazon and One-Click later the $35 order was placed. It’s going to be a beast to work by me-self. Once finished, it will be time for the big reveal.



By the 3rd week of June, the paradigm shifts, revelations, and epiphanies that had flooded my head since January could no longer be contained by my cranium. It was all too good, too exciting, too universal in nature, to not be shared with the world…. or at least with the six people who I imagined would be willing to follow along. I was on a trip for work at the time, staying at the Homewood Suites by Hilton on Long Island in New York City, (mostly working in Queens). With few distractions (other than the work I was sent there to do), I dove in… fingertips first. 

As already mentioned too many times, I created a travel blog some 6-7 years ago [Link], but his endeavor would be far different. A travel blog is easy. You simply write about your experiences, add a few pics, and click the Publish button in the top right-hand corner of the screen. The audience for the travel blog is mostly yourself anyway, plus the few friends you hope might follow along but mostly don’t. The writing is light and straightforward- no real need for philosophizing or introspection. A travel blog need not contain any more “wisdom” than a postcard, and mine easily met that standard.

This blog, however, presents a much different challenge.

Writing Insecurity

I’ve always liked to write. But that does not mean I’m any good at it. I like to play Ultimate frisbee, too. But that does not mean I’m any good at it. My honest self-assessment on both counts is that I’m pretty good, competent, I can hang, hold my own, etc. But the truly excellent writers or the top-ranked Ultimate players wouldn’t want me cluttering up their field for too long. I am simply not in their league. 

One thing about 55 year old Gary the Ultimate player is that my room for improvement is nearly tapped out. After playing for 23 years, the chances that I will suddenly get much better are small; I will persist nonetheless. btw. As a writer, however… maybe there is still a chance to take myself from being a competent 5 to a solid 7, with 10 being those at the top of their game. But how does one go about learning to write gooder? Should I read a book? Take a class? Should I google it?

Of course, I googled it. 

I found a small, two-person company named WriteByNight that boasts an experienced network of writing instructors. The company’s mission is to help wannabe writers (like me) improve their skills. When I first checked-into WriteByNight several years ago they were based in Austin, Texas, where I also lived at the time. I signed up for one of their short-story workshops at the O’Henry Museum and mostly enjoyed the experience. By the way, my short story (a 5-minute read) was titled, Possum Number Four. The workshop was cool and all, but not exactly what I was looking for.

Fast-forward to 2020 when I reached out to WriteByNight again with clearer goals. I told them, I am writing a blog. Help me write well enough so that my graduate-level friends don’t wince when they read it. [Yes, I’m looking at you, Double-D.] Their answer was to set me up with a writing coach, who in this case, was WriteByNight’s co-founder, David Duhr. [different DD]

Is it expensive? Well, yes, kinda. But learning to write better is something I’ve always wanted to do, and in the grand scheme of things, setting aside $300-$400 for this purpose sounded to me like money well spent.  

During my first conversation with David, I let him know what I hoped to get out of my writing coach. [My “writing coach,” C’mon man!!! I know, right?! It sounds all at once luxurious and far too hoity-toity.] The way it works is that I email my writing coach a sample of my writing- my next couple of blog posts -he reads them through, makes notes, then we discuss the posts in a one-hour session the following day. It can vary, but each session costs me around $85.

Oh Thank Goodness

By the time we’d had just two sessions, here’s what happened– my confidence as a writer swelled like a hot air balloon. Here’s why. What David helped me understand is that rules of proper grammar and “punctuation” can be inhibitors to an author’s ability to convey their ideas and especially feelings. During our initial conversation I told David that I had no formal training as a writer. These were not his exact words, but what I heard him say was, Oh thank goodness

The absolute most helpful thing he told me was this, “As long as the reader isn’t getting tripped-up as they’re reading, you’ve done your job as a writer.” Thank you for that, David! And with this advice I stopped feeling insecure about whether or not I was adhering to the correct rules of writing as they attempted to teach to me in grade school. I am an adult now and I’m free to follow my instincts. It’s freeing! 

David also had some dynomite suggestions, especially around how to assemble material in a blog-styled format. But the truth is, I was most of the way there on my own. Turns out my instincts for writing are pretty good. Maybe I’m not a 5….maybe I’m already a 7! When we narrowed it down to individual sentences or paragraphs, more often than not, David was pointing out what I had done really well. To be clear, he was also drawing my attention to anything that didn’t land for him as a reader. That phrasing- “didn’t land” or “really landed” made total sense to my brain, too. 

Wrisky Writing

With each written sentence I am taking a chance. Will the reader know what I’m trying to say? Am I making sense? Is it compelling enough to move them down the page? David has a lot of experience writing. He also participates in writing clubs, teaches workshops, leads classes, does coaching, etc. And still he says…. even for him, even after all that….the process of writing is still fraught with uncertainty.

A few times David was highly complimentary about something I’d written. Who doesn’t appreciate praise, right? But what made it real was how he drew upon his experience to explain why what I had written landed so well. He was breaking down in detail things I was unconsciously doing. This said to me again that my instincts could be trusted. I can do this. 

I think it’s time to update my LinkedIn profile, ‘cause I’m a freakin’ writer!


Up next, meet Yrag in Cannabis for an Alien, Part II