An LSD Story for the Soul

by Robert Altman

It all happened in 1969 when I was a novitiate photojournalist given the opportunity to get up close and personal with my favorite maverick of the day- Dr. Timothy Leary.

To some Tim was perceived to be a genius. To President Nixon he was "The most dangerous Man in America." You might get the scoundrel Tim or the visionary good Doctor; the excommunicated Harvard Professor or the international luminary. The man had many facets.

The Timothy Leary I got to know was the sunny and charismatic Pied Piper Tim. He was simply and always a joy to be around.

How did I get there? Early on fortune smiled my way. With a pinch of God given talent and some extra hard work I became an accomplished photojournalist. And my camera became my passport. This cachet enabled me to meet some of the remarkable movers and shakers of the Sixties.

Once in a while I was granted even greater intimate access to these wunderkind and let me tell you- it was down right intoxicating hanging with these guys.

And for me Timothy Francis Leary topped them all.

Tim possessed a great and original intellect. But that was just the beginning. This guy knew his way around people. He was a charmer cum laude. Socially, the sun always shone when Tim Leary was around. You might say that when he entered a room the air was sucked out and replaced by pure oxygen. Being in Tim's constellation was a unique experience.

One day in 1969, Tim decided to run for Governor of California. Is it no wonder that Nixon didn't know what to do with him? His campaign slogan was "Come Together - Join the Party."

Tim and his lovely wife Rosemary kicked the campaign off with a Press Conference in Berkeley, California which was the ground zero epicenter of the counter culture. I was there to record the affair for the media. After the event ended we lingered. Tim and Ro needed a ride to San Francisco. I was happy to oblige.

I did the driving while my pal Barbara Mauritz rode shotgun. Tim and Ro occupied the back seat. Somewhere in the middle of the San Francisco Bay bridge Tim's arm reached over. I spot a powdered residue in his palm.

"Want some?"

It could only be one substance, no explanation necessary.

"Wow!" I thought. "This is an occasion."

Sharing acid with the great Tim Leary. I needed no second invite and immediately accepted my guest's granular overture. Physically restricted at this 'moving' moment the only thing I could do was stick out my tongue and lap it up.

I was thrilled. Indeed I trilled inwardly "Hey, I just licked acid off Tim Leary's palm!" This would be one of those 'great moments' I'll share with my grandchildren.

Some time now passes. Lively conversation ensues and soon we decide to go out for dinner. A medium priced Chinese restaurant was chosen and we merry four finally sat down to eat. Once again I was beaming. A young fella of 23 delighted to be in my mentor's company. Bon mots flowed as we reviewed the genial nature of the day's events. Tim and Ro's future look promising.

So much was going on that by this time I completely and absolutely forgot that I had just imbibed a powerful psychedelic. This absurd amnesia became the kernel of my next shocking flash.

We were now in the middle of dinner when I found myself gazing at the good Doctor's face. "Hey, what's going on?" I asked myself. All of a sudden I see Tim's physiognomy in a brand new light. Here it was suddenly respirating, undulating, almost liquefying right in front of me!

My God...the only time I've ever seen this kind of thing was when I was tripping! This guy is the real deal. He must have taken so much acid and evolved so far that his presence alone was enough to raise a psychedelic experience in others. No money down. No chemicals necessary. Talk about "Tune In. Turn on." Holy shit!

Couldn't take my eyes off him. Amazing. What a presence!

This kept on for a good ten minutes...indeed it was stupefying and most profound.

Finally the mental tapes of the palm lick got replayed in my, well let's face it, addled brain. Uh oh. How embarrassing.

Ah, the Sixties. If you remember it you weren't there. Seems I couldn't even remember it as it was happening.