Thursday, April 28, 2022

Three Berkeley Trips

        Three Berkeley Trips

     By a Goat, Sleep, and Abstinence



          I had some wild times during my days in Berkeley, California. The Sixties were long gone by the time I got there, but some of the spirit lingered, and I sought it out. My three trippiest times there had nothing to do with drugs. These three weird experiences were caused by, respectively, a goat, sleep, and abstinence.


          Trip 1, by a Goat

        Or: Thurber’s World


          I was visiting Marion Zimmer Bradley’s house. After a few rounds of dilemma chess with the fantasy writer’s son, I stepped out to their back yard for a stroll and a breath of fresh air.

          It was evening; the zenith had darkened to deep blue, the horizon glowed orange and red. A crescent moon shone, and a few stars, and Venus too.

          I stopped, amazed; for there in front of me stood a goat. An Angora goat, waist-tall, with silky white hair… and a single horn.

He was Lancelot, a successful animal-husbandry experiment by Morning Glory and Otter Zell. At the goat’s birth, they had surgically fused Lancelot’s two hornbuds together; the fused hornbud grew into an imposing monohorn.

          Lancelot was a unicorn. That surgically-modified Angora goat looked like he had stepped out of a medieval tapestry. Morning Glory and Otter Zell claimed that surgery like theirs was entirely possible for the medievals; so perhaps unicorns had been real enough all along.

          Just then, in the evening twilight, with Moon and Venus overhead, that unicorn looked more than real; for Lancelot was eating Marion Zimmer Bradley’s rosebushes. Those of you who have read James Thurber’s stories know the one about the unicorn eating the rosebushes. In that surreal moment, I learned that a visit to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s place can put you in a Thurber story.

          I also learned that unicorn droppings are about one centimeter long and about half a centimeter wide.




          Trip 2, by Sleep

        Or: Which was the Dream?


          I was sitting up in bed, reading a book. It was late, I was tired. Then I noticed something odd; the words of the book were changing and shifting. But why? Then I noticed something even stranger; my eyes were shut. I felt my eyelids firmly sealed together; yet I could see. But how?

I realized that I was asleep and dreaming. Within that lucid dream, I looked up from the book and scanned the room. There was the bookshelf, there were the knick-knacks, there was the couch, there was the computer desk, there were the windows and shades… all dreams.

          Then I willed myself awake. I opened my eyes, and the first thing I noticed was that I was slumped over. I sat up, closed the book, and looked around. Same bookshelf, same knick-knacks, same couch, same computer desk, same windows and shades.

          The two rooms were identical.



          Trip 3, by Abstinence

        Or: Planet of the Boobs


          The nurse said, “You need to schedule another blood test next week.”

          I shrugged. “OK.”

          “And to test hormone levels,” she continued, “you’ll have to abstain from all sexual activity.”

          “All sexual activity? For a week?”


          “Including masturbation?”


          I shrugged. A week without masturbation sounded easy enough. We scheduled the blood test, I went home and put away my one-hand magazines. (These were in the days before the Internet.)

          A day came and went without inconvenience, then another. But on the third day something odd happened. I was walking down Telegraph Avenue, and I noticed that every woman on the street had unusually large breasts. Not just some of the women; all of them. This strange change in half the human population of Berkeley persisted all day, and I realized that it wasn’t them, it was me.

          My perceptions were distorted, due to hormonal imbalance. Every woman’s breasts weren’t really bigger than before; they just seemed that way to me. I was hormone-addled, and seeing things strangely; I knew this, but the knowledge did not decrease the perceptual distortion effect. 

          The effect increased on the fourth day. Every woman, everywhere, had an amazingly ample bosom. I knew that was an illusion, but it was a very convincing illusion. I tried not to look, or seem to notice; but my judgment was probably as impaired as my perception; so if you noticed, then please forgive my peeking, dear women of Berkeley!

          By the fifth and sixth days, I was adrift in an impossible parallel universe of fantastic mammary antigravitation. I knew that I was hallucinating, but still I saw the mirage as plain as day. I was amazed how clear, specific and florid the hallucination was; and as before, knowledge of illusion did not dispel illusion.

          On the seventh day I went to the clinic and gave a blood sample. Then I went home and got out the one-hand magazines.

          The next day, every woman’s breasts were back to normal size.


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