Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Angel

One day when I was 19 and attending Walla Walla College in College Place, WA, two of my friends and I got our hands on some LSD. We decided to go ahead and drop it and, after some clever scheduling of class skipping, at noonish we did.

We took off on our bicycles and headed for the park in Walla Walla (the big city a couple miles away). Almost immediately on our arrival, we ran across a guy who was a friend of one of my co-trippers. He wasn't on any kind of substance but decided to tag along with us anyway. Fortuitously, he had his own bicycle.

First we rode over to a school to sit around and play on the equipment. We wound up talking about physics, including our guide's revelation that a bicycle is the most efficient machine that is powered by human energy alone. I've never verified his claim but it sounds reasonable and it sure made sense at the time. It left an impression on me.

Then we found ourselves riding through a cemetery. We came across an old-fashioned crematorium. We had some weed so someone got the bright idea to crawl into the crematorium and smoke it. So we did. Nothing exciting happened except realizing we were getting stoned in there with the remains of former humans.

Then our guide took us on a tour of the underground waterways of the city. It was dark and wet and probably not a great idea, especially since we weren't in our right minds, but it seemed fun at the time.

For me anyway, by this time I had developed a certain amount of trust in our guide. He seemed to have such a calm spirit and knew his way around. He seemed a natural at providing superb ground control for the three of us. Solid ground control is necessary for having a good trip. From my perspective, his was superb. Not only was he good at it, he seemed to enjoy it.

The day was wearing on and it was near dusk. Our guide told us about an observatory with a real telescope that was out in the middle of a wheat field a few miles from where we were. It belonged to Whitman College. It just so happened that our guide knew a guy who knew a guy who had his Ph.D. in astronomy. So after a couple phone calls, we found ourselves on our way to the telescope with our guide and astro doc in tow.

At this point, we stashed our bicycles for the ride out through the wheat fields. I was riding on the back of a motorcycle and the evening had turned cool, even though it was the middle of summer. The road was hilly - lots of small ups and downs - and I remember the temperature changing every time we went up and down a hill - warm at the top and cool at the bottom. It doesn't seem all that interesting now but I remember being pretty impressed back then.

So we got out to the wheat field, parked, and made our way to this cinder block structure - maybe 12x12 and four feet tall. The doc got inside and started turning a crank and the "roof" of the observatory rolled off. He turned various other cranks and the telescope was pointed at the sky. He would get everything situated then we would take turns standing on a chair and looking at the sky. And by sky, I mean some of the most amazing things I've ever seen - things I've only seen in pictures. There is no way to describe it so I'm not even going to try. If you have never been to an observatory, I highly recommend putting it on your bucket list and doing it.

After that grand experience we headed home. I can't remember at what point our guide went his separate way, but I have never forgotten that day and never will forget our guide. Not only did he give us a stellar experience for the day, he was always a calm, reassuring presence. Sometimes taking LSD can be a crap shoot. Most of the time it's good, but it can always turn scary. Nothing like that happened for me on that day.

Very recently I connected with him on Facebook. Neither his first or last name are so uncommon, but fortunately there were only a couple people with his name. Also fortunate is that he had a photo and I was pretty sure it was him. Turns out it was. I was very happy to hear that he remembers that day the same way I do - vividly and fondly.

If I believed in angels, I'd find it easy to believe he was one - a guardian angel.

What was his name you ask? Dean. Dean Angel.

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