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Horizons: Perspectives on Psychedelics - Oct 5-7
An event in New York City that examines the role of psychedelic drugs
and plant medicines in science, medicine, culture and spirituality.
Out of the Memory Box: Prague 1992
by Ann Shulgin
Feb 2016
Citation:   Shulgin A. "Prague 1992: Out of the Memory Box". Erowid Extracts. Feb 2016;28:7. Online edition: Erowid.org/culture/characters/shulgin_ann/shulgin_ann_article2.shtml
Last week I went into the office to get my checkbook and saw on the desk a large box filled with what looked like old files - very old files - with tags like "Paris", "Barcelona", and "Prague". I reached for one in the middle of the box, the "Prague" file, as memories flew through my mind. The box, it turned out, was one of several containing notes on conferences Sasha and I had attended over the years. I bundled the olive green file under my arm and took it to the living room, where I began sorting through it.

The Prague conference was a rich experience. Not just the conference, but everything around it, in the city. The title of the meeting was "Science, Spirituality and the Global Crisis", one of the more discreet names given by those in the psychedelic community responsible for choosing ways of alerting interested citizens to what might be coming to their town. Titles of conferences around the western world have ranged from out-loud, blatant ones like "Psychedelics, Science and the War on Drugs", or perhaps, "Psychedelic Drugs, the Mind and the Soul", to the quiet, don't-make-too-much-noise ones like our Prague conference of June 1992. Somehow, no matter how careful the announcement, those most interested in the psychedelic experience managed to make their way to the meetings meant for them.

We found ourselves in this ancient, magnificent city at one of its most crucial moments, when President Hável - a lovely man, an intellectual, poet, philosopher and playwright - was being called on to preserve the integrity of his country (he failed) against the hold-outs of the Soviet system who wanted to separate themselves from those who had thrown the Soviets out (they succeeded). We could only watch and wish him luck, while observing the remnants of the Russian occupation.

Sitting at a table in an outdoor cafe, having coffee and a pastry, Sasha and I and some of our friends from the conference saw several workmen digging into the concrete of the street with loud jackhammers. Bits of white concrete were flying everywhere. We asked, through a translator, what was going on, and were told that the street used to be made entirely of large cobblestones, like most of the city streets, and that one of the first things the Soviets did was to pour concrete over all the cobblestones, for reasons of efficiency. Or for no reason. Another thing we observed was a multitude of workers scrubbing the walls of large buildings all through the city. What they seemed to be washing off was mostly graffiti. It was explained to us, eventually, that one of the most remarkable things about the Soviets was their disdain for beauty. Beauty in old cities, like cobblestones and the walls of ancient buildings, was considered bourgeois, decadent and meaningless. Now that the Soviets were gone, beauty was being coaxed back to the streets and buildings of Prague.

On our last evening there, Sasha and I, with a small group of friends, took a walk to the end of the Charles Bridge, the major bridge in the city, filled day and night with street musicians, artists and young dancers in elaborate costumes. At the far end was a short walk uphill to the huge castle, which we had explored the day before. This time, we turned around at the end of the bridge and walked slowly back, talking, sharing experiences of the city, and by the time we reached the last few yards, night had fallen and the lights were coming on everywhere. Suddenly, from below the bridge, somewhere on the edge of the Vltava River beneath us, probably from a cafe where a crowd of people - mostly young and enthusiastic, I would guess - had gathered for the evening, there came a chorus of sound:

We Will, We Will,
ROCK YOU! (clap - boom boom, clap)
We Will, We Will,
ROCK YOU! (clap - boom boom, clap)


We stood there, frozen, as chills spread from coccyx to crown in every one of us. When the triumphant shouts faded, we began to move again. I did my best to hide the tears that were streaking down my face. We were all chuckling, and a few of us were singing the song underneath our breaths as we left the bridge.

The song, as I'm sure you know, is by Queen. It's still one of my favorite pieces of music in the world.

Photo Credits #
  1. Photo from the Shulgin Archive.
Revision History #
  • v1.0 - Feb 2016 - published in Erowid Extracts.
  • v1.1 - Oct 2016 - Erowid - Published on Erowid.org.