Joseph A. Morse, San Quentin Prison’s Death Row, 1972.
After nearly a decade of subsisting on valium, seconal, prison-made wine and
a little heroin, I was introduced to LSD. My fellow condemned prisoners were a little reluctant to try the new chemical because of the gloomy environment, but I had practically been raised on death row. I had arrived there at age 19, and after nearly a decade I was still about 19 mentally and emotionally. So, what the fuck? Bring on a bad trip. How could it be any worse than reality?
I’ll leave out some of the particulars, saying only that we had access to a considerable amount of acid, of pretty decent quality. Not quite the caliber of Owsley’s but several notches above windowpane. I had taken a couple of preliminary launches early in the year to get my confidence. Then boredom and youth allowed me to decide: "Let’s see just what this shit can do. Look out, Neptune, here I come."
It was about 4 p.m. when I swallowed several hits. I lay back on the bunk in my 41/2′ x 12′ cell and put the institutional earphones on. I heard America singing something about a "horse with no name" when my neck and shoulders turned into solid rock. "Uh-oh," I thought. "I think ya might have fucked up, pal." This was nothing like I had felt at the start of my earlier launches. I had never felt terror like this in my entire stay on death row, and they were executing people pretty regularly when I first arrived there. About a tenth of me was arguing that I yell for help. The rest of me responded, "Naw, fuck that. You got yourself into this. Shut the fuck up and ride it out." It was probably lucky that I started with that frame of mind.
I immediately headed toward the things I feared most. A heavy steel door slammed shut. I was in a dark cell. Voices outside were saying, "He has gone insane. Nothing we can do." "I don’t wanna be no fucking looney tune," I thought. "Can’t you motherfuckers do something?" Several long minutes were spent bemoaning my status as a blithering psychotic. "Man, what’s my girlfriend gonna think now? Bad enough her boyfriend is on death row. Now he’s a fucking Fruit Loop." It was my internal dialogue that made me finally realize that I could still think coherent thoughts. There was no pain. The confusion subsided. "Hey, insanity ain’t so bad," I decided. I started feeling half-ass cocky. "LSD ain’t shit. Drove me all the way nuts and I still have control. Maybe I shoulda taken more."
Whoever scripted that trip wasn’t done with me yet. Since insanity hadn’t
frightened me enough to say "Never again," I was given a taste of death. A
thundering explosion. I was instantly buried alive under a pile of steel I beams, concrete, automobiles and people. Los Angeles had collapsed, and I was buried alive under it. I was going to die. "Man, I’m too fucking young to die! Not like this!" Minutes of silence. Then a beam of light. "Hey, I can see out. Being dead ain’t shit either!" I found myself inside a cavern, complete with a seven-foot Grim Reaper standing there.
He was going to introduce me to some people. "People? I don’t wanna meet no stinking people." I knew this had to be a trick. A large wooden door opened. Inside there were several infants. "Where’s the people?" I
asked. "These are people," the Grim Reaper replied. I began muttering, "These
ain’t no stinking people," when I heard my name being called. "Morse!" My eyes opened. At my cell door stood a prison guard, normal from the waist up. From the waist down he was a skeleton. "How ya doing?" the guard asked. "Huh?" "What do you think about the news?" I said nothing, thinking to myself, "You ain’t tricking me, you motherfucker." The guard remained there until he concluded that I had nothing to say. He walked off and the man in the next cell yelled, "Hey, Joe, here it is again." I was told to put the earphones on and listen to a news broadcast coming over the television that was bolted outside our cells. I apprehensively plugged in the earphones and heard a newscaster saying, "A radio station in Los Angeles is announcing that the California Supreme Court has abolished capital punishment. Details to follow." "Right," I chuckled. "As if I’m so fucking stupid I don’t know
this is part of the trip." I had peaked enough to plug back into the radio and lay back on the bed. The music in that era was rather soothing, so I listened and relaxed as someone sang about "Me and you and a dog named Boo…" I drifted off down a highway with a hippie broad, paying no attention to the growing talk back and forth between the death row cells.
At 10 a.m. the following morning it was our exercise time on the tier. My fellow convicts were still talking about the court ruling. "What the fuck’s wrong with these guys," I wondered. I would walk up to two or three men discussing it and listen. Then I’d walk to another group. Same chatter.
"Man, _all_ these motherfuckers are trying to psych me out." At noon I listened with everyone else to the news broadcast. It had not been a trip. A friend said,"Hey, fuck it. We’re outta here. Let’s celebrate. Got any acid left?" I had quite a bit left. I gave him some, but didn’t go into orbit with him. I hadn’t taken my last acid trip, but several weeks passed before I had the balls to try it again.
- 01-Skip Spence // Lawrence Of Euphoria
- 02-Twink // Ten Thousand Words In ACardboard Box
- 03-Small Faces // Here Comes The Nice
- 04-Ennio Morricone // Beat N.3
- 05-West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band // AChild’s Guide To Good And Evil
- 06-13th Floor Elevators // Reverberation
- 07-Blue Cheer // Come And Get It
- 08-Pretty Things // Balloon Burning
- 09-Country Joe And The Fish // Bass
- 10-Gong // ASprinkling Of Clouds