One Version of ‘One Version of Terence McKenna’s Life,’ by Tao Lin
The public story of Terence McKenna’s life—in my view, and by my estimates—is a ~450-page book, which could be titled One Version of Terence McKenna’s Life. It’s composed of Terence’s memoir, True Hallucinations (1993), his essays “I Understand Philip K. Dick” and “Among Ayahuasqueros,” certain sentences and anecdotes in dozens of his interviews and talks, and ~15% of The Brotherhood of the Screaming Abyss - My Life with Terence McKenna (2012) by Dennis McKenna, Terence’s younger brother by four years.
In a lecture called “Surfing Finnegan’s Wake,” Terence referred to a book of literary criticism that told James Joyce’s 656-page novel, Finnegans Wake (1939), in a one-page version, a ten-page version, and a 200-page version. The following biography (which to some degree presupposes knowledge of Terence McKenna’s Memes) is my eight-page, fractal-inflected, short-story-esque version of One Version of Terence McKenna’s Life.
The world which we perceive is a tiny fraction of the world which we canperceive, which is a tiny fraction of the perceivable world. – Terence McKenna, 1987. [“Understanding and Imagination in the Light of Nature”]
1. Paonia, Colorado (1946-1962)
Terence Kemp McKenna was born on November 16, 1946, in “a Colorado cattle and coal-mining town of 1,500 people named Paonia,” he said in an interview in 1993. He elaborated:
They wanted to name it Peony but didn’t know how to spell it. In your last year of high school, you got your girlfriend pregnant, married her, and went to work in the coalmines. An intellectual was someone who read TIME.
The Dark Side of the Rainbow Gathering
Heber City, Utah, is usually a quiet town. Nestled in a tranquil valley of the Wasatch Mountain Range, somewhere in between Salt Lake City and Provo, the little bedroom community has some of the lowest unemployment and crime rates in the state. More than 60 percent of the city is Mormon. So it came as a particular surprise when city officials learned that they would be playing host to this year’s gathering of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a loosely organized troupe of nudists, hippies, and itinerants that meets every summer for a month-long love-in.
Started in the late 1960s as an outgrowth of the anti-war and hippy movements, the Rainbow Family of Living Light describes itself as “the largest best coordinated nonpolitical nondenominational nonorganization of like-minded individuals on the planet.” The flagship Rainbow Family Gatherings, which have occurred every July since 1972 in a different US national forest, are like longer, more authentically weird versions of Burning Man, bringing together upwards of 10,000 “Rainbows” from a cross section of fringe culture: bikers, Jesus freaks, computer programmers, naked yogis, and gutter punks looking to escape “Babylon,” the Rainbow shorthand for the various evils of modern life. The gatherings are free and open to anyone. No one is in charge, and nobody can tell anyone else what to do.
“If you asked 20,000 Rainbows why they go to the gathering, you would probably get 20,000 different answers,” said Rob Savoye, a “Rainbow” who has attended gatherings since 1980 and runs the unofficial Rainbow website WelcomeHome.org. “I know rednecks, Orthodox religious people who go to the gatherings, so it’s really hard to put a label on it.
“People are tolerant, accepting of different stuff,” Savoye added. “A lot of us have had rough family lives, and the Rainbow has sort of filled that void for us.”
Leilani Garcia was arrested Monday for allegedly stabbing a man at the Rainbow Gathering camp. Photo courtesy of the Heber City Police Department
But as officials in Utah learned this week, recent gatherings have also had a more sinister side, attracting a seedier crowd that uses all the anachronistic peace-loving as cover for drug abuse, theft, and violent crime. On Monday, Heber City police arrested a woman known by the Rainbows as “Hitler,” who is accused of stabbing a man at the gathering’s encampment. Authorities are also investigating the death of a 39-year-old New Hampshire woman who was found lying outside at the camp last week. Over the weekend, law enforcement agents said they were called in to respond to a drug overdose at the camp, and to reports that a group of “Rainbows” crashed a wedding on their way to the gathering. “They just went into the reception and started taking the food,” Wasatch County Manager Mike Davis told the Salt Lake Tribune. “They weren’t trying to blend in.”
Ken Kesey’s Son Is Using Kickstarter to Plan a Sequel to His Dad’s Legendary, Acid-Fueled Bus Trip
In 1964, Ken Kesey—intrepid psychedelic traveler and author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—piled into a multicolored school bus with his friends and a bunch of drugs and drove from La Honda, California, to New York City for Cuckoo’s Nest'sBroadway premiere. The gaggle of proto-hippies traveling with Kesey were dubbed the “Merry Pranksters,” and their goal was to freak the fuck out of Middle America and document the whole thing for a feature-length film.
The movie they wanted to make never quite came to fruition, but the trip, and the Pranksters’ subsequent LSD antics, were cemented in history in Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book,Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic Prankster adventure, and Kesey’s son, Zane, is looking to raise $27,500 to take the Pranksters’ psychedelic trip all over again. The original 1939 Harvester bus—named “Furthur”—is currently rusting in a swamp behind the Kesey Farm in Oregon, but Zane has a new one, and it’s even more decked-out than the original. If you want to get on the bus, you can donate $200 or more to be considered for the trip. And if you were off the bus in the first place, as Kesey once said, then it won’t make a damn.
If the Kickstarter hits its goal the new bus with its new Pranksters will be swinging through America later this summer. I called up Zane to learn a little more about the trip.
VICE: Hey, Zane. How long has the Kickstarter campaign been going on?
Zane Kesey: Like three weeks. We’re around halfway to our goal and have a week left.
Do you already know who will be onboard?
There have been 20 or 30 applications sent in. If you donate $200, we’ll give you a bunch of cool Prankster stuff—but you also get to apply to ride on the trip with us, be part of the movie that we’re making, and become a Merry Prankster. Even if we don’t choose you, we’ll still send you a Merry Prankster laminate. It will get you on the bus whenever we go parading through your town.
I know you haven’t planned the whole journey out yet, but are any stops lined up?
We’re going cross-country and hitting a few really good festivals along the way. Lockn’ Festival in Virginia is a big one. Furthur, the Grateful Dead side project that is named after the bus, is playing.
We’ll be at their only concert this year, at the final Allman Brothers concert, and then atPhases of the Moon Festival in Illinois. Then we’ll head to this art festival called Great North up in Maine, which has the best artists from across the country. We’re hoping they will paint on the bus.
My Top Secret Meeting with One of Silk Road’s Biggest Drug Lords
Dread Pirate Roberts captained a ship that many thought was unsinkable. But when the FBI seized the original Silk Road on October 1, 2013 ,and arrested the alleged kingpin—29-year-old Ross Ulbricht—the online drugs empire began to capsize. Its hundreds of thousands of customers scattered across the Deep Web, and up to seven known Silk Road vendors were identified and arrested.
As the chaos unravelled into the mainstream and stories of Dread Pirate Roberts’ (DPR) alleged murder-for-hire antics made headlines, one prominent Silk Road drugs syndicate sat in their European safe-house with a ton of opium and a decision to make—would they cut their losses and disappear into the ether while they were still ahead, or keep their lucrative online drugs network running in the midst of all this extra attention?
The displaced drugs syndicate, known on the Deep Web as the Scurvy Crew (TSC), decided to go back to work. For them, back to work meant laundering Bitcoins, vacuum packing drug parcels, and jumping the Moroccan border with bags stuffed full of uncut drugs. Silk Road may have died a sudden death at the hands of the authorities, but as one of the highest rated vendors before the FBI shut-down, the Scurvy Crew saw its demise as an opportunity to diversify.
After six months of negotiation, via encrypted email and several phone calls from throwaway SIM cards, the boss of the Scurvy Crew agreed to meet me. He told me he would explain to me the inner workings of his Deep Web drugs venture, from its humble beginnings to the near million-dollar profits it now apparently generates. Known to me only by the pseudonym “Ace,” the boss claimed to represent a new breed of drug dealer.
“I don’t do this just for the money,” he wrote to me via email. “I like to provide a premium service.”
Should everyone take acid?
No because you have to ask the right question to take it. Do you want a one-on-one with your maker?
And what if the answer is yes, even if you’ve got a mental illness?
Well there’s a correlation between acid and curing mental illness. I realized after my beautiful accidental rebirth that what we usually call psychology is actually just art.
You use a lot of complicated metaphors.
No, I just use the truth.
—Mark McCloud, the San Francisco man who has 30,000 tabs of LSD in his house, sounds exactly like you’d expect
A Visit to a Mormon Temple… On Acid!
No religion is complete without a little mystery—Catholicism with its Immaculate Conception, Scientology with its OT Levels, Buddhism with its Nirvana. It goes without saying that the Latter-day Saints have their share of enigmatic rituals. Some Christian fundamentalists are quick to point out the esoteric beliefs of the LDS church, including the ideas that Mormons become gods of their own planets when they reach one of three heavens, that Jesus vacationed in the Americas, and that they once sort of had a thingagainst black people.
The Mormon obsession with building gigantic temples around the globe also raises some eyebrows in non-believers, owing to the secrecy of whatever goes on inside.
Mormons hold regular Sunday services in churches open to the public, even slobs like you and me. But unless you’re an incredibly loyal, obedient member, you won’t be getting into any of the temples, a “house of the lord” specialized for prayer, fasting, marriage, baptism (including the controversial “baptism of the dead”), and other “ordinances” or contracts with the Almighty.
Nevertheless, the LDS church hosts an open house when it completes a new temple, inviting society to stroll through God’s crib, free of charge. Afterward, they dedicate the place, forbidding public entry. Naturally, the rumors fly: The temples are rooted in Freemasonry. In temple ceremonies, you are given a secret new name. You learn a secret handshake. Couples are sealed for all eternity in a “celestial marriage,” and in the afterlife, women will forever give birth to “spirit babies.” I could list dozens of other weird rumors I’ve heard—for instance that, after an open house, the church tears out and replaces the carpet—but I can barely find references to these online, let alone confirm them.
Angry French Bigots… On Acid!
In early January, a bunch of bigoted French people gathered in Paris’s Bastille Square to celebrate their rage with a “Day of Anger.” About 20,000 of them turned up in the rain to complain about various things. Some were mad at the country’s President, François Hollande, for being too much of a liberal. Some were mad about abortion. A whole bunch of them were mad about gays. And the Jews. Quite a few people were mad about the Jews.
Anyway, our friend Félix dropped a tab, walked around, and talked to all the pissed off people. We hope you enjoy it at least as much as he did.
The Kentucky Derby… on Acid!
This is my good friend Caitlin (whose name isn’t really Caitlin). That is a hit of acid on her tongue. She did acid once, four years ago, and she’s doing it again now, just before we head out to the Kentucky Derby, because the only way to attend the most famous horse race in the world—an event that features thousands of drunken gamblers, straight-up drunks, and a roiling, seersuckered mess of Southern gentry—is to trip your head off for the whole thing.
An hour later, we arrived at Churchill Downs, which was pretty miserable in the rain. As with every major public gathering in America, tons of cops and security guards were on hand at the entrance to direct foot traffic and remind us all that we live in a post-9/11 security state. I knew the acid was starting to kick in when she compared this routine checkpoint to being a Jew in Hitler’s Germany: “I swear we are in a concentration camp. Look at how they are herding everyone.” Is this how Alex Jones fans are made?
Our tickets were for the infield, the area surrounded by the racetrack that turns into a big muddy party for the duration—sort of like a music festival without music but worse, if you can picture that. This area is designated for those who don’t want to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a ticket, belligerent drunks, and 40-something divorcees trying to get freaky. It’s cheap because you can’t really tell what’s going on, horse-racing wise.
…But in order to reach the infield, we first had to fight our way through a tunnel that smelled like a rotting asshole—the air was filled with cigar and cigarette smoke, vomit, and bourbon. Caitlin asked me if we were in hell.