S.M. Park

Risen Apes: Cloud Nine

S.M. Park’s column Risen Apes about being a 70-year-old boomer. In “Cloud Nine,” Park talks of a “friend’s” passing, overdoing mescaline, and rating shrooms.


I got an e-mail this morning telling me my old friend Gabe Ricci died. He had open heart surgery, was returned to the ICU and never woke up (passing a week later), a quiet, peaceful end for a loud and chaotic character.

And though I call him a “friend” I stopped talking to Gabe a decade ago. Too erratic, too stoned, too undependable; these weren’t unusual traits among my friends and customers but Ricci’s flakiness affected my business. I sold to two dozen people every two months, each of whom received a minimum amount and usually wanted more, so demand always outstripped supply.

Which means I took great pains to divide the crop as quickly and equitably as possible, so each customer (no matter where they were coming from) would know what was available for them. This was particularly important for out-of-staters (one of whom drove all the way from Utah) as they needed to be sure the trip was worth it.

Gabe was aware of that; he’d spent a decade growing indoors himself. But then he’d ask me for a quarter-pound he absolutely had to have, and when it was ready I’d call and call and he wouldn’t respond, leaving me with four ounces those out-of-towners (who’d come and gone by then) would have snapped up.

I forgive most things once, but when he did it a second and third time I cut him out of my life. He’d broken the Cardinal Rule (i.e. Do Unto Others) by taking advantage of our friendship. It’s the one thing I caution young rummies about, how fringe characters can’t afford to burn bridges.

The last time I did it was back in ’74, when I visited Bellingham, Washington with my buddy Moochie. We hooked up with Bittermonk (another old friend) and his roommate Carl at a local tavern. We were drinking from pitchers and we’d each taken a hit of mescaline earlier (I bought them in jars of a hundred back then) and while we sat there, sipping our brews, I decided the rush wasn’t up to snuff and, by extension, that the others would feel the same way, so I dropped another cap in each of our glasses.

Moochie barely blinked but Bittermonk and Carl took issue with my presumptuousness. They turned to pour their beers into a planter.

“No no, stop!” I said. “I’ll drink ’em.”

“I’ll help,” offered Moochie (ever the psychedelic sidekick).

The next thing I remember is sitting in Bittermonk’s kitchen twelve hours later, asking one of his roommates if she was a hairy anteater.


The next thing I remember is sitting in Bittermonk’s kitchen twelve hours later, asking one of his roommates if she was a hairy anteater.


Then nothing until Moochie and I woke on the living room floor around noon. I knew he was next to me because I could hear him moaning; peeled my sticky cheek off the carpet, rolled over and looked at him.

It wasn’t a pretty sight. I had little hope of clarification, given that he’d been matching me blackout for blackout since I met him, but I asked anyway:

“Say, O’Leary,” I croaked. “What the fuck did we do last night?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

“The tavern, I think. Drinking all that mescaline.”

“Me, too.” Then he paused, coughed up some phlegm, wiped a sliver of drool from his chin. “But High?”


“Whatever we did … it wasn’t good. I got a bad feeling about this one.”

As if on cue Bittermonk and the anteater stomped into the room, began regaling us with all the atrocities we’d committed.

I was sure they were exaggerating, at least until the anteater stopped talking and started kicking me.

I threw up my hands in surrender:

“Enough, old buddy,” I cried to Bittermonk. “I get it … Moochie and I don’t travel well.”

He drew closer, started thumping me himself as the anteater moved on to Moochie.

Old buddy!?” he yelled. “Old buddy!? I’ll old buddy you, ya’ piece of shit!”

His other nickname was “Powder” (because he was always going off). It made me careful around him as a rule but hey! once you’ve blacked out on psychedelics … all bets are off.

Moochie and I fled quickly that day and I was pretty sure I’d never see or hear from Bittermonk again. (I missed his Cajun volatility but knew I’d crossed the line.)

Then seven years later, when I was living in a Green Lake, Washington studio apartment, I heard a knock at the door.

This wasn’t unusual; I had no phone at the time, so if friends wanted to see me they had to drop by. I was surprised, though, to find Bittermonk standing there.

He was holding a paper bag by his side.

“That isn’t a gun in there, is it, Bittermonk?” I asked. “Because I’m still not worth killing.”

He grinned, drew out the longest, thickest marijuana cola I’d ever seen.

“No, High,” he said, “I’m a Humboldt County grower now, and I brought you one of my buds as a peace offering.”

I lunged for it but he stepped back quickly:

“Assuming you still smoke pot, that is.”

We both had a good laugh over that one.

* * *

Speaking of drugs: I was just reading a Leafly article by Nick Jikomes, PhD., on the subject of magic mushrooms. He was detailing the effects of given doses of shrooms and his results mirrored my own, i.e. a Low dose (1 gram) equals euphoria and enhanced senses, a Medium one (1.75 grams) leads to perceptual distortions and heavier euphoria, a High dose (3.5 grams) produces larger distortions and the dissolution of ego (the amount used for therapeutic purposes), and finally, the Ultra High amount (5 grams) that Terrence McKenna (the shroom guru) preferred, which results in a complete disconnect from reality and the appearance of “little green men.”

If I wanted to be really amped—at a rock concert or Niners game, for instance—I was partial to three or four grams myself, but my favorite walkin’ around, improve your job, put a smile on your face dose was the one to one-and-a-half gram range. That’s shrooms at their most basic, a convenient serotonin booster with few negative side effects.


Also on The Big Smoke


Casinos were the best place to use them (and heavy machinery the worst), but like mescaline they were applicable to most jobs as long as you kept the wacky grin in check. (Particularly when—like me—you could be a grumpy bastard otherwise.)

I wasn’t worried about being caught, of course (I thought acting like you weren’t high was the point). Toss in my loathing of work in general and you had a guy who—when he did let his guard down, actually revealed how fucked up he was—immediately told employers or co-workers why:

“Sorry about that. I had some psilocybin for lunch.”

“Oh sure, Wilson,” they’d say.

I might have been nuts, but no one was that nuts. Now? There’s people micro dosing every day.

Talk about a trailblazer …


S.M. Park is the author and illustrator of his memoirs High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.


S.M. Park

S.M. Park lives two blocks from the Salish Sea in Port Townsend, Washington. His passions include walking, wondering and weed. Park, in his guise as Wilson High, has written and illustrated two memoirs, High & Dry and The Grass Is Greener, both published by University of Hell Press.

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