By Gary Swoboda


      All I can tell you is that those shocker machines do exactly what any normal thinking person would expect them to do -- they give you one excruciatingly intense headache. Make your next migraine seem like an orgasm. Shock your poor, already screwed-up brain with a thousand-or-how-ever-many volts of electricity -- makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? (I guess they've turned the voltage down quite a bit since the sixties and seventies -- less hard core "bad-trippers" to contend with, I imagine. I've been told that this milder form can be beneficial for some people. Still, intentionally inducing siezures seems a bit mad to me -- at least now it does -- but this is coming from someone whose brain has been fried, scrambled, and siezed.)
      Being in that psych ward had really set some disturbing parameters for me early on in life. I was forced to learn at the tender age of nineteen that "crazy" wasn't that far off for me. It's a hell of a thing to discover about yourself, especially at that age. It's tough to live with knowing that you've gotta dodge that bullet for the rest of your natural born days, which just happens to statistically constitute about three-fourths of your life expectancy and all of your adult life. I hadn't even made it to legal drinking age, and I was already certifiable. Worse yet, I was aware of it. I wasn't even granted the mercy of delusions about my own sanity.



      Jeff's older brother Cliff was at Vortex when I got there. He took his first psychedelic trip the same day I did. I remember spotting him sitting cross-legged under a large evergreen tree eating a can of Gerber's baby food -- peaches, I think. I asked him what the hell he was doing, of course, saying something like, "What the hell are you doing?" He informed me that he was eating his mescaline. He had taken the capsule apart and had dumped the powder in his baby food because he couldn't swallow pills worth a darn. Which explained the swallowing part, but not the choice of food. I mean, why not applesauce (the adult variety) or something? It's one of those vivid images that kind of stays with you -- a nearly grown man sitting under a tree eating baby food mixed with mescaline. Some sort of hidden irony there, I'm thinking, although I'm not quite sure what it would be. Well, to each his own.

For one thing, I personally didn't find getting hit in the face by another man's fist all that pleasurable. In fact, I've only been hit in the face once in my adult life. And this "once" was by someone I knew, at a bachelor party many years ago. A guy we went to high school with, Billy Buchanan, possessed a different attitude than the people I normally hung with. He didn't seem to mind getting hit in the face. Nor, evidently, did he mind striking other humans in this manner from time to time. Usually this would occur with complete strangers -but since there were only one or two people at this party that Billy didn't know, when he found himself "in the mood" that night, there were very few targets to lash out at. (Billy liked to hit multiple objects when he got in the mood.)
Billy was six-foot-five, two hundred fifty pounds of pure, iron-pumping muscle. Not exactly the best guy in the world to be the only person to hit you in the face in your adult life. But it was primarily an accident. (Billy might be reading this, or having someone read it to him, and I don't want to tick him off again.)