Chad M. Christensen

Boy With Shovel: Who’s Afraid of Terence McKenna?

Chad M. Christensen’s newest Boy With Shovel column, “Who’s Afraid of Terence McKenna?,” is about the Velvet Underground, nature gone wild, and psilocybin.


The sun’s casting some strange shadows in the kitchen right now—which means the clouds are moving through, and I’ve wasted a good portion of my day fuckin’ off. (Is what it is.) Just set the needle down nice and easy, let the Velvet Underground-ness flow. Some bizarre feelings with the opening track “Sunday Morning”—weird sensations behind the eyeballs. That’s right. Let it go.

My wife tells me mercury is in retrograde. I nod. It feels like every day, honestly. So, I’ve been saying the same phrase over and over to people. I think it grounds me. Here it is: We live on a rock floating through space. We don’t know where we came from, and we don’t know where we’re going. I guess we’ll see how long this lukewarm attempt at an ideology will go.

This morning, I watched a male cardinal snatch a cicada off our ginkgo tree and then ripped it apart in the front yard. You know, I didn’t realize cicadas could scream. Last week, I watched a Cooper’s Hawk make lunch of a baby bird. It sat in my neighbors Ponderosa pine tree and shredded it into tiny pieces before gulping it down. It was uncomfortable to watch.

During all this, the parents of this poor bird were swooping down around it. It was like a goddamn Greek tragedy—and all before 8:00 a.m. How does a person get up and go to church after that? Well, god will know. He’ll answer these horrific questions.

Welp, that’s not going to happen (thank you, Lou Reed & Lord Satan), but I did eat some fruit of the gods last weekend, and it was very informative. My wife’s friend brewed up some tea with lemon, and it didn’t take long to communicate with the Otherly. We were sitting with some friends discussing—something (I can’t remember)—and suddenly I felt the tingle in my limbs and thought, dear god, here it comes.


Also on The Big Smoke


I walked outside, pupils as big as dinner plates, and it looked like our juniper bush was on fire. I mean, the goddamn thing was shimmering like some lost beacon of hope. For a moment, I felt like the Charlton Heston version of Moses. It’s funny how things will linger in your peripheral, and you never notice them—not until god starts pressing down his cosmic thumb on your forehead telling ya to shut up and pay attention.

The rest of the evening was spent lingering close to the ground in the backyard, watching satellites soar through the sky. At one point, we spotted the International Space Station. It felt good to feel the earth move. Our blackberry bush (which looked like Medusa reincarnated) on the edge of the property was casting scary shadows. But like bright children who realize it’s an illusion, we accepted its role as a necessary element in the story.

On our way down to the spot, my wife’s friend (who was barefoot) had accidentally stepped in dog shit. Unfortunate, but it happens. Yet, I can’t erase the visual in my brain of her washing the dog shit off her foot in our bathtub. It reminded me of the time I had to take a shit during an intense trip—it was extremely unhinging. The whole act of defecating seemed like a foreign concept. It was as though I had just given birth to a calamity.

One of my early wanderings into the spirit world involved fireworks and a heroic dose of psilocybin. There’s nothing like talking to god via large artillery shells—and we certainly got his attention. Honestly, I’ve never been right since. The amount of weird body electricity and intense visuals were nothing like anything I’d experienced before. We were alive in the great blue sphere—the country boy Merkaba. I could feel every bone and muscle in my body, which is why it was difficult to sit on the car hood during the firework show. I kept sliding off the hood ’cause it felt uncomfortable to have my flesh up against metal. And, of course, walking was a problem, but we lurched along regardless. That’s when I looked at my watch and realized I couldn’t read it. It meant nothing. It looked like weird digital runes that were continually changing. And then, my hands—bizarre, lanky meat rakes.

Anyhow, that was the beginning of the great unraveling. When we finally made it back to the house (it felt like ages, but truthfully, it was only about five miles), we almost forgot about our friend we put in the trunk. I can’t imagine what he went through in there (dark retrospective fear, I suspect)—but I remember he was happy when we let him out.


… we almost forgot about our friend we put in the trunk. I can’t imagine what he went through in there (dark retrospective fear, I suspect)—but I remember he was happy when we let him out.


As we scrambled to get back into my house, I was horrified at what I saw as we opened the door. Two friends from high school were severely drunk on my couch. The girl was attempting to style the guy’s hair like a woman’s, using all sorts of hairpins and ties. He sorta looked like a haggard Elizabeth Taylor (right before she died).

Why were they here? I hadn’t seen or talked to them in forever, let alone invited them into my house. I was struggling to understand the situation. Here they were, dropping in on the peak of our spiritual journey. It just seemed so out of place. But we must have freaked them out (trunk boy eventually began to cry—said he was dying) because they left abruptly, and to this day, I have no idea why they were there—or if they were even really there.

Psilocybin has been called the Tiny Death, and rightly so. A wake-up call for the soul so drenched in cultural silly shit. Time, money, status, shiny plastic crap—things that don’t really matter when you’re floating on a rock through space, and you don’t know where you came from, and you don’t know where you’re going.


Chad M. Christensen

Chad M. Christensen lives in the Ponca Hills north of Omaha, Nebraska, and is the managing editor of the WSC Press and the co-director of the Plains Writers Series. He stole his MFA from the University of Nebraska and teaches writing and publishing at Wayne State College. Find him stumbling on Facebook & Twitter.

Related posts