I’m re-reading Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test at the moment, and absolutely loving it. I should be putting all my concentration into the degree I’m doing but I’ve tried that. It made me feel psychotic.
Wolfe’s book is from 1968. My time, or at least the time my heart belongs to (I was only 6 years old when the 60s ended). It’s the story of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, that famous band of day-glo loonies who turned the world onto LSD.
Ken Babbs, who I published in my poetry magazine Blue Fred’s Kitchen, is in it, gloriously so. Allen Ginsberg, my ultimate hero, is in it. Hunter Thompson is in it. Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead are in it. Neal Cassady famously drives the Pranksters’ psychedelic bus Furthur. Even Kerouac makes a guest appearance at a party in
early in the book. New York
These people have been companions and totems of mine for years. When I read about them it’s like someone telling me that all of the most dynamic and interesting men in the world have rolled into town at the same time. Everything becomes suffused with magic.
It might sound like I’m indulging myself, taking a break from “reality” by re-immersing myself (as if I ever dried off) in all my heroes. But I’m not. Actually I’m reminding myself what reality is when it’s not limited by fear or lack of imagination.
As Kesey himself said (I’m paraphrasing), everybody should be free to be as large as he feels he has it in him to be. Those are powerful words, and a heck of a challenge, not only to society but also to the people within it.
Have I become as large as I feel I have it in me to be? I haven’t even come close. But reading Acid Test reminds me how much I want to keep trying, and how much fun I’ll have in the attempt, even if I’m still nine-tenths unfulfilled potential when they wrap me in my winding sheet.
Better that than living someone else’s dream.