If you’re a a level 4 dead head who knows me personally and was with me that day, you’d know this post is about selling fake shrooms at a dead show to subsidize an LSD fueled nitrous oxide binge.
It was 1990, and I was 18 yrs old. I was familiar with the Grateful Dead and enjoyed a few songs; Ripple, Franklin’s Tower, Estimated Prophet – basically the popular songs that any true dead head would never admit to liking. I had seen them live a couple of times and thought they were boring. A 40 minute drum solo in the middle of every show? Did they know that Tommy Lee played his drums on a train that circled the inside of the arena? That’s entertainment. What I did like about dead shows was walking around the parking lot making fun of all the people looking for new VW bus engines and a small bowl of wheat pasta for their dog. All dogs at dead shows were required to wear a green, yellow and red rasta necklace. I don’t know who made up that rule, but apparently it was enforced quite strictly.
There were three of us, Jeremy Hoar (a popular 365 blog subject), Chris Howes (a now famous jazz violinist) and me. We had almost no money, but The Dead were playing an afternoon outdoor show at Buckeye Lake so we had to find a way to make it work. Large cooking mushrooms look like either, well, large cooking mushrooms, or the weirdest, most awesome magic mushrooms you’ve ever seen (at least that’s how we planned on marketing them.) We packed up 10 or 12 ziplock baggies, and shuffled into Jeremy’s Mercury Topaz.
There were no plans of actually going into the show. We just wanted to wander around outside in the blazing sun, get FUBARed up and eat disgusting burritos made by white chicks with dreads and sweet soft voices. The first thing we did was trade our fake mushrooms for some real LSD. Selling fake mushrooms to dead heads is easy because it’s so taboo that no one would dream an asshole of that caliber would ever set foot on such sacred ground. No one at a Joel Olsteen sermon is going to question whether the bibles you’re selling are authentic. Get it? We dropped the acid and showed each other our tongues (Why, I have no idea. Seems sorta tribal).
Our clientele was comprised mostly of skinny shirtless tan dudes who appeared to somehow own a quiet long haired woman laying on a bed in a nearby van. They traveled around to dead shows spending all their money on drugs instead of proper room and board. We felt OK with the bamboozle because we were providing them with much needed sustenance. It’s like we were going to inner city Detroit and selling multivitamins that looked like crack rocks. We were heroes, really. Doctors without Borders.
The money from each bag we sold went directly to one of the 5 or 6 dudes (dentists) who had nitrous tanks. I don’t know if you’ve ever sucked on a nitrous balloon while tripping, but imagine for a minute that that everything is already hysterically bizarre and then God takes a giant pair of salad tongs, squeezes your brain until it almost pops and then lets go really quickly. I think Chris passed out 5 or 6 times, regaining consciousness mid laugh.
It’s important to remember, that at this point, we had sold 4 or 5 bags of these fake shrooms and were paranoid about someone finding us out. It would be an angry mob of people who couldn’t bring themselves to hurt anyone: Adorable, but still a little frightening due to the uncertainty of the actual punishment. I imagined a drum circle of shame
We did end up running into a couple people we had sold to. They inexplicably both told us how hard they were tripping on the shrooms we sold them. “Dudes, those tasties you sold me are so so kind.” For a second, we thought, “Holy shit, Jeremy’s Mom had real shrooms stashed in her pantry.” Then we realized, that dead heads are always kinda trippin’ on something, and the power of suggestion is more than enough to throw them over the edge. Not only did we feed these poor people, we also contributed to a body of scientific knowledge about “the placebo effect”.