San Francisco Hippie Collects Acid, Surprises No One
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San Francisco Hippie Collects Acid, Surprises No One


This post was originally published on April 3, 2014.

Only in San Francisco, guys—only in San Francisco. Vice brings us the tale of Mark McCloud, an aging hippie type who possesses, oh, roughly around 30,000 tabs of acid. NBD, right? Anyway, he collects the stuff, then catalogs it and frames it as artwork. He also gets “periodically arrested by the DEA,” which kinda makes sense.

McCloud’s Acidic Childhood

Most of McCloud’s acid is too old to do any good (i.e. it won’t take anyone on any kind of trip), but his convo with the Vice reporter is kind of a trip in itself.

McCloud recalls being raised in Buenos Aires until he was 12, then sent to boarding school in California in 1966. That’s when the then-8th-grader started reading stuff like The Doors of Perception “and doing pot, then mescaline.”

McCloud was only 13 when he discovered the wonders of LSD. He was in Santa Barbara, he recalls, “at a very nice hotel on the beach. Me and a friend had our own cabin and we ordered some cubes…The experience was very full-bodied even though I was nervous…I was blind, but then I could see.”

Then Comes the Nonsense

He later started collecting sheets of acid, but when asked about why he started framing them, McCloud gets a little, er, kooky: “Well, that’s another question about my rebirth. See, I was a very difficult 17-year-old. Hendrix had just died, so I took 300 mikes of orangesSunshine, and basically the fabric I existed on changed. I vibrated myself out of this world and into a different thing, and that’s when I really started collecting.”

Alrighty then.

When asked if everyone should try taking acid, McCloud replies, “No, because you have to ask the right question to take it. Do you want a one-on-one with your maker?” He then claims there’s a correlation between acid and “curing mental illness,” and says he realized “after my beautiful accidental rebirth that what we usually call psychology is actually just art.”

Spiritual or Sad?

OK, maybe I’m a stodgy old (37-year-old) fart, but I just can’t quite get on board with what McCloud’s selling here. I get that he’s a crazy aging hippie wanting to hold onto the glory days of his psychedelic youth and I can sympathize—I’m passionate about things that made me into the person I am, too and some of those things took place when I was young. But McCloud was a child when he started doing acid. He was staying in a cabin, on the beach, with a friend, at age 13—uh, where were their parents? Or, rather, their boarding school teachers?

I realize that lots of kids stumble into drugs around that same age, regardless of how much adult supervision they’ve got going on. I also know that acid is generally not considered addictive— notes that LSD “does not produce compulsive drug-seeking behavior.” But it saddens me when kids doing drugs gets recast and celebrated as some sort of spiritual “rebirth.”

Of course, LSD has been touted as a spiritual tool for mind-expansion for years and years. AA co-founder Bill Wilson even reportedly experimented with the drug in sobriety, praising it for being potentially “of some value to some people, and practically no damage to anyone.”

It’s Still a Hard Core Drug

But that assessment isn’t totally true. Acid-droppers who repeatedly take the drug build up a tolerance and must take higher and higher doses to reach the level of intoxication they hit before. As DrugFacts notes, “This is an extremely dangerous practice, given the unpredictability of the drug.”

Plus, flashbacks. Don’t forget flashbacks.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.