My first introduction to Carlos Castenada was when I got back from Australia with its gold tops and moved into a flat in Frankton with Diane and Kristine and Sam.
I shifted all my gear in on a Saturday morning and went off to a band practice with the tail-end of Grief. When I came home the house was on fire with a huge party and there was a famous television presenter having sex in my bed with some bloke.
Her brother put Hard Nose the Highway on the stereo and remarked to his hippie friend that the cover reminded him of Don Juan. They waxed lyrical about the books and I was intrigued.
We all moved in to the ghost house on Grey Street where I studied the Whole Earth Catalogue as well and Kristine and I got together. The pair of us moved out to a country cottage in Ohaupo with Demelza the goat and Maddy the cat.
I decided I’d try and take on Fly Agaric.
We climbed a small mountain in Cambridge and I found the perfect specimen glinting in the light in a glade. I found a hatful of others after that and collected them all.
The catalogue had specified that vomiting after thirty minutes was essential and so it was.
After that I sat down on the floor in the lounge and put Blood on the Tracks on the stereo…
As Idiot Wind was blowing my head off a huge bird wandered in and calmly sat down beside me.
I’d seen it before – it had been hanging around outside for several days on the power lines and was like a shag. It whispered into my ear the secret of the universe then I fell into a kind of slumber.
The sound of the telephone brought me to – it was Kristine telling me she was staying in town over night with her folks because it was late and she didn’t like driving at night. It was still daytime to me – I walked about outside in what seemed like broad daylight though I couldn’t pinpoint the sun.
My friend the bird had long gone and I was slowly losing the memory of what it told me as I drifted off and the world went dark.
A few weeks later I thought I’d try it again to see if I could re-access that knowledge. I went through identical steps to prepare the new toadstool but as soon as I got the first spoonful of muesli to my lips my body went into convulsions like it was telling me a second dose would kill me.
So I never took them again and certainly wouldn’t recommend them to anyone but somewhere deep within the dim recesses of my mind lies the secret of the universe and I really hope one day I can remember what it was or maybe meet that bird again.