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Candy Girl Researcher

teafaerie | Musings | Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

I worked at a big concert venue for a couple of years in the early ’90s, way back when I was first coming on to my vocation as a tripsitter. I was a Peachy Puff, which means I wore a tiny spangled outfit and carried a heavy box around my neck, slinging melted two- dollar candy bars by day and light-up toys at night.

I was a veritable tripper magnet. Just by virtue of glowing in the dark I became a beacon for the easily amused, and for the lost.

“Hi!” the addled apparition before me would begin, perhaps in greeting, or possibly in an awkward attempt to communicate his current state of being. “My name is Jimmy. I’m sixteen and I just took a few tabs of acid a little while ago and now things are starting to get a bit strange around the edges. Can I just stand by you for a little while?”

Sure you can, Jimmy. Sure you can.

Most nights I ended up with a little flock of lost lambs following me around. The other girls all seemed to regard them as a nuisance. I had only recently discovered the awesome and unpredictable power of psychedelics in my own life, so, for me, taking care of them was a sacred mercy mission.

Of course there were thousands of trippers at shows like the Grateful Dead (this was still in the Jerry days), but in any other concert crowd of 20,000 there were also always a few. Punk shows, country music festivals, rap, and even Christian rock concerts all seemed to inspire their share of intrepid souls; and the Teafaerie was always there to walk them to the bathroom, help them find their people, and listen to whatever they needed to say.

I started peachy-puffing around 1993, and while the internet was up and running then, it was not yet on the radar of the likes of me; as far as I knew, nobody had ever done any serious psychedelic research on a massive scale. I eventually printed up little questionnaires and started giving out lightsticks or candy to anyone willing and able to answer a few deceptively simple questions. I also took to carrying a micro-recorder around to collect live testimony.

I asked people what substances they were on and what sorts of effects they were experiencing. Regular Erowid readers will not be astonished by my discoveries. At the time, though, I thought I was breaking new ground. I was blown away by the results of my informal surveys. I started keeping tallies and drawing up little charts. The variation was striking, and, as far as I was concerned, the similarities were even more so.

About thirty percent of respondents said that they had, at some point, experienced something that met their personal definition of telepathy. Interesting. Seventy-five percent had experienced moderate to intense time dilation. Cool. Three different people reported being blown back to the beginning of time, traversing all of human history, and then passing through the present moment into a bright but indescribable event in the near future, barely missing some sort of target and getting blown back to the beginning of time again in faster and faster cycles until they whited out. Wow! The first time I heard this story it went down as an anomaly, the second time elevated it to the status of mystery, and the third one shocked me to the core.

I became obsessed with trying to figure out answers. I served as Ground Control for anybody who would let me. I attended conferences. I put on raves, I went on Phish tour, and I started going to Burning Man. I talked to hundreds upon hundreds of psychonauts; current, former, and habitual.

The responses I routinely got to one question in particular haunt me, confuse me, intrigue, amaze, and terrify me more than any other.

That question is WHY? Why did you do it, Jimmy? Why did you choose to embark upon a risky and potentially life-transforming journey at Lollapalooza? Almost invariably, the answer was, “I don’t know”.

And they really didn’t know. Ingesting psychedelics in a crowded public place is dodgy at best. Taking a handful of mystery drugs procured from some shady-looking character in the parking lot is downright stupid. I suspect the revered elders of the old guard would mostly be shocked and dismayed by my temporary charges’ choices of venue, and appalled by the apparent nonchalance with which such a profound endeavor often seemed to be undertaken. I was appalled too, at times, but also intrigued. I felt like I was discovering and documenting a whole new species of human being, one to whom such extreme forays were commonplace, easily entered into, and just as easily forgotten.

By doing my amateur research at concerts, raves, and festivals, I’ve had an opportunity to study the habits of a unique and fascinating demographic, one which I cannot entirely deny being a part of, though I like to fancy myself more thoughtful and sophisticated than the mean. We are largely young, hip, fairly well-off and well-educated, and willing to go to extraordinary lengths to be Truly Amused. Born when the Sixties were already history, we came of age in an environment that was largely manifested by the psychedelic vision in one sense or another. We’ve been soaking in its imagery since we were born. The current youth culture takes digital telepathy entirely for granted and gets impatient when it takes all of fifteen seconds to literally pluck any bit of information in the world out of thin air. We’ve been trained by consumer culture to seek maximum overload.

We want it brief, bright, interactive, hyperconnected and coming at us at a million miles per hour. Ecological collapse is practically a foregone conclusion, and if we manage to dodge that bullet, novel doomsday scenarios are waiting in the wings. We have always assumed that the Eschaton would come within our lifetimes in one form or another, and yet we carry on watching cartoons and playing video games. We’re like stunned bunnies frozen by the dazzling light of the onrushing singularity. We have 50,000 songs in our pockets and can’t think of anything we want to listen to. It should come as no surprise that some of us are willing to die for fun from time to time, so long as we stand a decent chance of living to tell about it. The thing that is urgently manifesting itself on this planet burns brightly in our hearts. It’s calling us, shaping us, training us, and goading us to push the envelope. The future, if any, is going to be much more intense than an acid trip and however clumsily we go about it, I do truly believe that we’re preparing ourselves to meet it head on.

Almost every night for two springs and summers, I watched thousands of young people pour into that amphitheater in their mommies’ SUVs, looking for an authentic experience. And once in a while a few of them found, for a change, more than they bargained for. So be it. You buy the ticket and you take the ride. I’m lucky to have had the chance to help a few fellow travelers make their way through the night. In the process, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to learn a great deal about the actions of these puzzling and impressive substances that humans have discovered or created, and the light they may shed upon who we are and where we’re going.

This was a couple of years before Erowid first appeared, and nowhere near as awesome, but I like to think that I was driven by something like the same spirit that moved its founders, Earth and Fire, to start providing data online. Direct experience may be the only true knowing, but in order to establish any kind of consensus we are obliged to ask, report, analyze, and speculate. It took me about five years to give up on my naive fantasy of finding all the answers and settle into the serious business of trying to figure out what the questions are. The project continues apace.


  1. I’m really looking forward to reading more from you!

    Comment by Charles — August 26, 2008 @ 5:12 am

  2. Howdy there. I was just browsing erowid for the latest in drug news when i stumbled upon this bloggything. I just want you to know that we need more people like you in the world. those who are willing to listen and to care. Even if it’s just having someone there makes a huge difference so thank you. I also wanted to mention that ive been in the ‘baby-sitter’ position many times and i find a huge fascination in listening to someone whos mind will be somewhere no one elses will ever be. Yes, there are the stereotypical signs of being high, but for every acid trip, bong hit, dropped pill, and what have you, everyone’s mind goes to a place that only it can go. and to hear the story of that journey i think is fantastic.

    Comment by Charlie — August 26, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

  3. wow you did all that, all that research and work.

    btw how is space camp?

    Comment by Jack — August 27, 2008 @ 3:29 pm

  4. This is an excellent undertaking. Do keep up the work. The “Ground Control” piece is especially well-written and beautifully thought out. At 63, I’ve yet to understood the “party” animals who will take these potent sacraments and stumble around rock concerts inviting a freak-out — essentially “abusing” the drug and cranking up the “just say jail” hysteria.

    OTOH: one can never underestimate our capacity for hysteria. They tell me pot is still illegal.

    Comment by Travis — August 28, 2008 @ 9:09 am

  5. Beautiful. You certainly are setting the standards pretty high for yourself with these first two posts, but I am loving your insight and inspiration. Thank you.

    Comment by Grubaugh — August 29, 2008 @ 4:29 am

  6. Hello!

    I completely agree with “Ingesting psychedelics in a crowded public place is dodgy at best. ”

    I have quite a lot of experience with psychedelics – lots of good trips and some bad ones too. I always took them alone or in very small groups.The bad ones always gave me more to ponder about.

    But I always had the idea of taking a medium-to-strong dose of psychedelics and going to a death/black/satanic concert full of angry people. Just for the experience sake. It would be quite a soul shock. Have you met any people who have done such a thing (i.e. purposefully put themselves in a bad trip situation)?

    I really like your your posts! Keep up the good work!

    love, m

    Comment by mimac — August 30, 2008 @ 3:01 am

  7. thank you, festivals need more people like you,
    go to nelsons ledges ohio sometime.

    you have probly been there already

    ive had lots of pleasant visits there
    some kinda outta control but,
    thats what is expected when you take the shit

    keep on keepin on

    Comment by rabbit — August 30, 2008 @ 12:01 pm

  8. wonderfully written. You have great empathy and compassion and it’s nice to encounter a truly humane voice in an anger filled world. Looking forward to your future posts.

    Comment by JVermont — August 30, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

  9. Wow!
    I love your writing, very enjoyable to read.
    What you did is amazing, thanks for sharing with us. You write with a lot of passion and emotion, I can hear your voice through your writing.
    I was just browsing some 5-meo-dmt and came ac cross this, what a nice suprise!

    Comment by Sl33p3r — September 1, 2008 @ 2:10 am

  10. I only wish to say that you have quite a beautiful style of writing and even more splendid is your research in the field of psychoactives; I hope to hear more from you in the future.


    Comment by bi(space)Neon — September 2, 2008 @ 10:12 pm

  11. Just came across this and was surprised to find a great read. Thank you! Your writing style is warm and fluid, and I feel very similarly to you about psychedelics and psychedelic culture. I’ll definitely be reading this in the future. Keep it up!


    Comment by campfire — September 4, 2008 @ 1:39 pm

  12. yo this is a great column and hope to see more SOON! :P i wish i could go to these places u have seen like burning man and meet others just like me

    Comment by Blazin_Ridim — September 5, 2008 @ 2:17 pm

  13. I am eagerly awaiting future posts, keep it up! Wish you could have been there to keep me in line a few times but I tend to find that you really uncover your true identity best in the worst of situations (i.e. tripping at concerts and my personal favorite, baseball games) To have somebody document other people like myself in the world that enjoy these activities is quite interesting and intriguing. Long Live Hunter S!

    Comment by omb puzr — September 6, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

  14. Cant wait to hear more from you. That was incredibly well written and voices alot of my thoughts exactly.

    Comment by Whitepaint — September 8, 2008 @ 1:12 pm

  15. It is so encouraging to know there are others out there. As an American youth, it’s easy to lose hope amongst all those too distracted to look into the very crux of life. Keep em’ coming.

    I suppose by comparison to some of these vets I’m just getting my feet wet, but I must admit, its quite the plunge.

    Comment by Lucio P. Valence — September 9, 2008 @ 4:26 pm

  16. Unfortunately, given the current view, whereby drugs are dangerous and bad and drug users ostracized, there are few places outside of private little hovels where people can use, and raves and concerts are about it. There is societal feeling that drug use will be tolerated at these venues and police and security uphold this feeling by allowing it. We are all social beings and sometimes there is something about certain drugs, especially psychedelics that lend themselves to being used in a shared setting. So until society attitude changes and drug use is tolerated in a variety of different settings, this behavior will continue. As more persons come on board and become educated and experienced to discover there are other settings, maybe even better settings, the situation will generally change.

    Comment by a being — September 24, 2009 @ 6:20 pm

  17. WoW, how inspiring! This post brings so many things to the surface of my mind, it’s like a freaking activating code, a goddamn portal! I will show it to everyone.

    Personally, the most important thing is, you validated an idea I’ve been toying with, of becoming a psychedelic researcher, but on the ground, not on the lab (I’m a chemist and tired of the lab!) and all the while guiding people because that’s what I’ve been doing all my life: guiding people, both sober and on psychedelics (it’s just that the ones on psychedelics are more fun to guide xD)

    There are no words to express how grateful I am so grab this HUG, hope you can feel it

    In Lak’ech

    Comment by Katyuska Molluska — August 23, 2012 @ 3:38 am

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