Rick Strauss: Speed
Avatar #6
August 18-31, 1967
pp 6-7

I couldn't cry, I couldn't laugh,
Episode about a silken scarf.

"What does silken scarf mean to you?"
"Veiled reality, a veil over the face of reality."
"Veiled perception."
"Like someone sneaking up behind you and they're going to throttle you dead because you did something bad."

Sylvie hadn't been a virgin for a year and a half when she first went on speed. "Right then I had my first orgasm. I never had one before but I guess that's what it was." She has a soft, flower mouth and she smiles.

Mele is a strange, pale chick who lives in the fragment of a castle in the hills. Her hair is dark and hangs down to her waist:

"The first time I shot up there was this beautiful glow. Like it started in my arm and spread all over through every cell of my body. I just opened up like a flower and then, zap! I came! All over! I shook and I started to come, I kept coming all over like what seemed for hours. It was a wild ride, wild, wild!"

Jed is short, intense, dynamic, but very loose and cool:

"It didn't feel orgiastic to me, not in the usual sense that one would use the word. First of all, an injection of methedrine acts on the sphincter muscle and immediately you defecate and there's a certain sensual pleasure in that. It is definitely a sexual experience, but not in the usual sense. The actual introduction of the needle, and all that stuff has the same thing to it. You carry the sexual thing into that, you get hung up. There are needle freaks, you know."

The needle as a phallic symbol, except here the symbol actually substitutes for the real thing, all the way. The introduction of the needle triggers the flash.

Mele: "It takes your breath away. You sit there without breathing and you don't have to breathe. It fills you, inside, like this churning cloud of light with sparks shooting off, jagged, in all the colors of the rainbow, the universe in the process of creation. And you're a part of it."

Jed says, "...Just a coming of power, you know, just a coming of power! But beyond the flash, beyond the euphoric high... Which is fantastic... extreme, (He's been using meth in combination with LSD.)... there's that tremendous release of energy. I mean you're a superman, literally, for a time. You can do superhuman things, in anything. It doesn't matter what you're into, you can do it in an almost superhuman way."

He sits up and his hands start to move through the air. "I dropped out and went to New York and buried myself in painting. I became a kind of recluse. Suddenly there was this energy loose, something I hadn't had before. I was able to set up a condition where a certain kind of creative emotion could be sustained, where a painting could be completed while still in the frame in which I got into it. It would sometimes take three days of working, and I'd maintain this frame all the time, holding the moment, expanding the moment."

Riley is part mountebank, part wandering scholar, a ragged medieval minstrel. In some previous life he also was a high priest of Jupiter, radiating noumenal dignity:

"What got me hooked was the quality of scholarship. Your mind just becomes completely lucid, an efficient, beautiful thing. You have all the ideas you ever had available to you and you're able to relate them all and present them in a highly aesthetic way."

Mele grins, "Once I got on this kick, I was a mermaid, and we painted the whole house green inside.

Everything I did was like swimming. People used to come in and they had a hard time breathing, on account of the water, you know." She points up. "I don't know how I ever reached there unless I swam." The high gabled ceiling is green with sulphurous yellow streaks. "Seaweed!"

Dextro-amphetamine sulphate is refined to meta amphetamine sulphate (methedrine) which acts directly on the cortex, the frontal lobes of the brain. It causes chemical changes in the brain itself. It also affects the heart muscles, the tonus of the peripheral blood-vessels, kidney circulation, and the gastro-intestinal and urinary tracts.

The primary effect of amphetamines, benzedrine, dexterine, is that they suppress appetite and the need for sleep. Especially young people will work and play very hard under the influence of these drugs, without eating much or sleeping. Thus they deplete their bodies. The resulting lack of energy will make them easy prey for a deep depression.

Riley: "You take it in the morning to get up with, most people do, especially if you have a job. You'll take it and you have a fine morning. Then in the afternoon it'll start to wear off and you want it again, so you'll boost. Then when you get home, that'll be wearing off too and now the choice is to boost or not to boost. If you boost, you won't be able to sleep so the only thing you can do is, go through your daily depression. It's a terrible thing."

Mele: "Swing along fine and high but at the end of the day, you know you got to face it, you know it's coming sooner or later, like punishment, like retribution. You can really only stand it because you know you're guilty. My shrinker explained it to me. You're wicked and you deserve to be punished."

Unconscious guilt seems to be a necessary prerequisite for being a meth-freak.

Sylvie's voice is low and tense: I'd get these nightmares, fantasies like I knew what would happen to me if I went on with meth. These things were very sexual and a couple of them were tied in together: Like I dreamed I was shooting speed and I digressed so much I was very asexual."

Riley talks about coming down: "Because you're just ragged you're getting the feedback thing. You start talking about something and you can't turn it off. You just go on talking, regretting what you've said, trying to correct it to infinity. Just total feedback. Where you're between two echo-chambers. You'll say this and your mind echoes something else over there and you're not able to say it all, just a lot of trivia, babbling, continual digression."

Sylvie continues: "I digressed so much I didn't feel any need for men or for male companionship, because my emotions kept wandering all over the place, and I seemed to be very proud of it to the point where sex was very meaningless, so I found myself getting very paranoid in this dream and not wanting to deal anymore for fear of getting busted again and completely cutting off my meth supply, so I turned prostitute."

"I lived with a prostitute and her husband and went through a succession of men in a week. The nightmare was that she'd call up men to come over and meet me. Their reaction to me was like to a very Mona-Lisa-type virgin. Now I don't know what that's symbolic of, but every man's reaction was the same."

Mele explains: You find these good-looking chicks with that superior you-can't-get-anywhere-near-me smile. It's supposed to be very sexy and mysterious and they photograph it all the time. Now that shows the paranoid streak. It's a defense mechanism. If you hold yourself aloof and avoid close contact, maybe you can avoid the pain and the punishment that is always handed to you at the end."

A veil over the face of reality. Which is reality, which is the dream?

Riley: "Using amphetamines for a long time tends to detract from your sensuality. You tend to be cold, have sweaty hands, a cold sweat. One day I turned on to LSD. I was driving down the street and I passed this girl. Suddenly I looked at her and gave her a mental fuck and I realized that I hadn't done that for about three weeks. In other words that was the first time I had looked at a girl in about three weeks. Now, when you're on speed and you're actually making it with a girl you have great energy. You can just vibrate all night. But at the same time you don't feel sensual toward her. It becomes mechanical."

Jefferson Airplane.

Mele: "Were all mermaids. We lure sailors to join us below the sea, but it's just kicks for us. We don't feel much of anything. Fish blood!"

Shooting meth, the addict has an orgasm without a lover. Sexual energy should be focused, polarized, otherwise it scatters and spatters all over the place. Instead of being augmented by love, the personality is fragmented, unable to make contact.

Sylvie: "I didn't have an orgasm, even after I came off methedrine. I didn't have an orgasm for an awful long time. I didn't know how to give myself or feel or emote, I had no emotions left whatsoever. I couldn't cry or laugh. One thing I remember is, I haven't been able to cry until recently, and I couldn't give of myself because I didn't know how to receive. I was a robot."

"I never completed any feelings, any emotions. I'd start getting disgusted with where I lived or where I was just staying. I didn't even have a place of my own, because I couldn't work, I couldn't do anything, couldn't function." Sylvie's mobile soft mouth tightens with self-disdain. "I'd get disgusted with that too but the feeling was never even carried through to the point where there was any action."

Hepatitis is a common disease among methedrine users. The virus is transmitted through improperly sterilized needles or through carelessness about contact with feces. It is not methedrine that causes disease but it creates the condition where disease can flourish. Lack of food and sleep results in a-vitaminosis, insufficient protein (kwashiorkor), general debility.

Other symptoms of incipient starvation are a wasting away of fat deposits. The stomach and the liver shrivel in size. The linings of the intestines become thin and smooth thus losing some of their absorptive capacity. Diarrhea ensues. Menstruation ceases in women. In men there is often impotence and lack of sexual desire. Hair becomes dull and bristly. The skin takes on a dry, brittly quality like paper. The teeth loosen and, in extreme cases, cancrum oris can devour the tissues around the mouth, the lips and the cheeks, especially in the very young.

Jed: "The damn stuff just eats into your foundations is what it does. You burn up all the energy you have – I used to relate to it as trying to drive a Ferrari with the gas pedal stuck to the floor all the time, through town and everything. That's kind of how you burn it up. Or like a Ferrari that's parked with the pedal stuck on the floor. It does itself even more harm that way."

Riley: "The chief thing is that lack of sensuality, that physical coldness, a kind of clamminess. Your emotions get that way. You'll see someone you love, and you'll be totally unable to relate to them."

Yet Jed says, "I'm convinced that people get onto amphetamines because they lack attention in their lives, attention they'd normally get from their father and mother."

Methedrine is a habit that is self-defeating. You take it up because you can't make contact. You make even less contact when you take it up for it turns you paranoid.

Mele: "Meth-freaks! They all walk around with those bristles sticking out all over them, very careful not to touch each other. And they stick together because each knows how the other feels so they don't try to intrude."

It is not uncommon for heavy users to become actually poisoned by methedrine. The drug stays in them and if the heavy doses continue, they may develop a paranoid psychosis which may last for weeks and months, even after the blood level of meth subsides. Then they tend to do all kinds of things which are injurious and destructive to themselves. They accuse people of trying to injure them and cut themselves off completely from all family life, or they drive over a cliff because God ordered them to prove to the world that one can fly without wings.

Sylvie: "I was in this room and I got to feeling itchy. Everything was sort of gray, murky and someone had painted those yellow jagged zig-zags all over the ceiling. And everybody was dressed in gray or black."

Mele: "Eric Berne says something about you've got to get stroked, you know, like petted, otherwise you'll shrivel up inside."

Jed: "So this lack of attention, it robs people of a certain vital energy and this they substitute for with methedrine. That's where the trap is. I got so I depended on speed to give me energy... I made my own trap. I'd save all my energy for one burst. Just go on trips like that."

Sylvie. "All that mattered was shooting up and sitting back, going into my little wonderland or listening to music which was about the only thing I could groove to. I was grooving to these horrible sadistic very negative things, stuff that was very gloomy, a lot of it centered around death, like young Bobby Dylan. And these were the only things I could groove behind, the only things I could just sit back and let everything go and groove behind."

Mele: "Being a mermaid gets to be awful cold, and lonely."

Riley: "You have to double the dosage every day. About the fifth day I would lay off. I had to lay off for about two days to get my tolerance down. Those two days would be complete depression, just plain utter despair."

Jed: "This girl I was involved with, who first introduced me to methedrine, she's dead. And she didn't die from methedrine. She committed suicide because she couldn't get rid of the addiction to methedrine and she couldn't take the despair.

Jed: "The energy you get from methedrine is out of control. Your body is pouring out energy and not taking any in It's like a fire out of control, just devouring everything in sight. You deplete not only the energy you have accumulated you also break down the foundation that stores this energy. When you want to withdraw from the drug there is a long period of time during which you have to heal and rebuild that foundation before you can actually heal and rebuild the body."

"I only got the strength to withdraw from the drug when I once more got involved with my family, when attention was again being given me, loving attention coming to me from people, not just my children, but other people around me, then my energy came back."

"Now I know I don't need methedrine. I can create as long as I want to as long as I don't let the foundations deteriorate."

"Be creative at whatever your given pace is. You can even learn how to increase your output for short periods of time, without the use of drugs, any drugs. I've learned how to do this to some degree, and I believe that when my body is healed enough I'll be able to do some things that right now I don't even attempt."

Sylvie: "Since October I haven't had any nightmares. I started taking LSD and with some very beautiful people, and the nightmares started diminishing, and I started progressing. J- H- is the one person who helped me very much, just by being, being with me and for me."

Mele: "Love is where it's at. Every human being needs and wants and deserves love. Mermaids are human too."

"What does silken scarf mean to you?"

Sylvie: "Silken scarf? Once my reaction to 'silken scarf' would have been it's where they tie off to shoot up. But 'silken scarf' means something entirely different to me now."

Rick Strauss

Reprinted from the Oracle of Southern California.

Mel Lyman