From our cast of characters:
Pure Sound Jack
I’m surprised you said you didn’t remember him. Here’s what I recall. He was someone Don brought to the house. He was a little older than most of the folks who lived in, hung around, or crashed at Irwin street. But I suppose that was true of you also. I don’t remember ever thinking about that at the time (or later for that matter).
By the way you know how we always referred to our house as Irwin Street? I couldn’t believe it when years later I noticed the street sign said Irwin Ave. Further proof that all those adventures happened in a parallel universe that almost matches this one. Anyway, back in that universe.
We called him Pure Sound Jack because he was always breaking into little musical noises… bawadda doop doop zap doop…etc. Meaningless syllables, melodies almost drifting into shape, and then heading off into other sounds, other rhythms, and once more almost shaping into a recognizable melody… dawa dawa budump adumpa daw dooom… He always wore a cowboy hat, often a long jacket. Hell, let’s give him a bolo tie. That’s how I remember him, with a bolo tie. I’m almost certain that part isn’t true but it fits well enough.
Jack is the one who introduced us to Asthmador. Does this picture ring a bell?
Until well into the 1970s, and maybe later, this was an over the counter asthma remedy. Having an attack you light up a small pile of the greenish powder and inhaled the thick smoke. The psycho-pharmacologists (amateur and professional) tell us that, the moss green mixture of Stramonium and Belladonna (derived from plants like Jimson weed, and Deadly Nightshade), was rich in, among other things, the alkaloids hyoscyamine, and hyoscine aka scopolamine. They also explain that the antichoinergic action of the drug is apparently good for breathing problems. It is certainly very good for getting stoned.
Pure Sound Jack distributed this compound to whomever he could interest in consuming it. He did so for the sheer joy of spreading the good news. He’d explain that despite what it said on the can, since you were looking to get stoned you wanted to swallow the substance itself, rather than inhale the fumes of this potentially lethal mixture. As was our common practice for gulping down loose mixtures of “chemical” (how we referred to most recreational drugs other than “pot”), a container formed from a single layer of tissue or toilet paper, made a convenient gulp-size bundle. And so it was. Fa rumpa zumpa zumpa tadafadadada.
I’ve got to admit I have no idea why I never tried it myself. Certainly I had no qualms moral, or medical —or even notions based on self-preservation— to stop me. But for whatever reason, I never tried asthmador. I do remember sitting in the kitchen watching you, Don and a few others seemingly totally oblivious to what was happening around them, deeply engrossed in important conversations with beings I for one couldn’t see. I’ve busied myself with my share of hallucinations, and seen lots of folks doing the same. But I never have, before or since, seen people so totally immersed in, so totally engaged with, hallucinations.
It was an interesting sight; especially when you consider that the great existential question that our late night conversation often returned to was: “…so if you were offered a hit of some acid that would leave you peaking for ever would you drop it?”(1)
I remember running into Pure Sound Jack some months later. He looked the same, dressed the same, and still generated pure sounds to fill any silence, or just as his contribution to a conversation. Bumpadatata bumpadadadoo…
But he told us he was no longer doing Asthmador. This was his explanation: A few days after telling his girl friend that he was going to cut down on his doping, and especially on his use of this potent mixture, some old friends dropped by his apartment. The two girls went out on the town and he and his buddy found themselves kicking around the apartment so bored they were soon rooting through the ashtrays looking for roaches—remember when every room in every one’s place had a few ashtrays—remember when roaches weren’t insects.(2)
They didn’t find any smoke but they did find that little green can he was so fond of. So they downed some of the contents and waited to see what would happen. And what happened was that the girls returned a few hours later to find their guys unconscious on the floor. They tried everything to rouse them and when they couldn’t they did the sensible thing, and called an ambulance. Jack and his buddy eventually came to strapped into gurneys in the emerg at St. Mikes (i.e. the emergency room at a local hospital).
When Jack told us this story he said he wanted to make it very clear that it wasn’t that which precipitated his going cold turkey on his favourite ride. What led to this drastic sacrifice was that he and his friend got into a row, and almost came to blows arguing about whose hallucination they were in. It was only later, after getting back to his apartment and realizing how totally fucked up they had been, that he swore off Asthmador. Skootle, ootle, madootle, scazaaah.
The internet is a wonderful thing. There have been a number of things that I recall which I’m not quite sure were real or imagined, like the Breatherian who claimed that he could teach you to live only on air but was busted when found gobbling up junk food. I finally convinced myself I must have made it up. Decades later he resurfaced. Now you can find lots of stuff about him (including video). Ya gotta love it. Well this is another one. I had come to doubt a lot of my memories about Jack and Asthamador but thanks to the mighty World Wide Web I found confirmation and more. My favourite is this report from the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association. It’s from the same time, maybe the same month as the events I’m talking about unfolded. It’s not about Jack but it could be.
And here’s some more stuff for your amusement and edification.
Check this out:
(1) P is for Peaking
All this talk of drugs compels me to add that I started using them when I was during my early teens and stopped taking all drugs except the social use of alcohol by the time I was 17. There were a few exceptions, including but not only, the occasional use of cannabis. However all that ended around the time I encountered Silo’s teaching. Even the occasional glass of wine or beer was something I eventually discontinued.
(2) R is for Roach