Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 18, No. 1, 2019
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
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David Solway
Louis René Beres
Nick Catalano
Lynda Renée
Gary Olson
Howard Richler
Oslavi Linares
Chris Barry
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
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Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward





Former lead singer of the legendary 222s, arguably Montreal's first punk rock band, Chris is now a freelance writer based in Montreal. You can check out his writing at where he combines the sardonic humour of David Foster Wallace and the deliciously contrived irreverence of Anthony Bourdain.

I adore psychedelics. And while I may not have spent the summers of my youth wearing tie-die and following the Grateful Dead around, I can honestly state that many of my life’s happiest moments stem from being totally whacked out of my head on either acid, mushrooms, peyote or mescaline. To my mind, or what’s left of it, there are few things more joyous than floating up a downtown street, brain cells burning, and pointing and laughing hysterically at my fellow citizens for having webbed feet and antennas growing out of their ears. That a five dollar investment in a blotter of acid can bring such pleasure is truly one of the Lord’s great gifts. Thank you, Jesus.

The only thing is now that I’m not as young as I used to be I’m finding I just don’t recover that well from these drugs anymore. That familiar yet uncomfortable yellowy-orange glow that once coloured my world for maybe a day or so after an acid or mescaline adventure now sticks to me for several days, forcing me to consider just how much I may or may not need a fully functioning brain the week following one of my psychedelic excursions. This has become something of a minor tragedy to me. My mind is getting expanded a lot less often than it used to, and, well, I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve been feeling more than just a little melancholy about having the doors of perception suddenly shut in my face.

So you can only imagine my enthusiasm when I started hearing about this fucked up new psychedelic, salvia divinorum, a drug that not only promised to have me conversing with the angels, but was actually still legal in Canada until 2010. [Editor's note]. Word on the street was that salvia, as the hipsters and those who don’t know how to pronounce the word divinorum like to call it, provided one with nothing less than an intense, pseudo god-fuckin-damned religious experience for close to 20 minutes, and, when it was all over, returned your brain back to you as though nothing had ever happened. Fuck baby, here was a drug that could have you conversing with the spirits on your lunch hour, and still leave enough time for you to fully enjoy your Happy Meal before heading back to work. Better yet, word was you could order the junk online or just walk on over to most neighbourhood head shops and buy it, legally, from them. Cool.

Now salvia divinorum, obviously, is not some new plant that just suddenly decided to sprout up out of nowhere. The indigenous Mazatec people of Oaxaca, Mexico have been ingesting its leaves since the time of the Spanish Conquest, if not earlier. These dudes champion the muck as a gateway to the supernatural world, and, not surprisingly, are always sure to have a heapin’ helping of the shit around whenever the local shamans are called upon to provide a little spiritual healin’. To the Mazatec, salvia divinorum is nothing less than a sacred entity, a plant whose leaves should be treated with the utmost respect and only ingested responsibly.

And while its use in these parts is a relatively new phenomenon, the reverence for which its mystical properties are held seems to be shared by North American enthusiasts as well. “You must approach these leaves with great respect and caution,” my local head shop guy warned while pocketing the whopping $50 I gave him for a gram of “premium leaf.” “This, my friend, is a substance not to be abused.” And judging by the condition of his teeth and the way his left eye seemingly moved around of its own volition, I could tell this was a man who knew his substance abuse. But still, what could this smelly old hippie teach me about dope that I didn’t already know?
“Yeah, yeah, okay, be careful. No problem.” I shot back cavalierly, and promptly went over to the apartment of one my most bestest drug buddies to get high.

Being experienced drug users, we both knew to start with a relatively small dose before jumping in to the salvia experience whole hog. And though the Mazatec may prefer to eat the muck, apparently there’s a whole complicated procedure involved, so we opted to smoke it instead.

I inhaled maybe an 1/8th of a gram and yeah, the high was okay, but not nearly as thrilling as everyone had led me to believe. My drug bud smoked a little bit more than me but he too was left largely unimpressed by the experience. The buzz only lasted maybe five minutes, and though I definitely felt like I was being transported to another place, truth be told, it wasn’t anywhere all that interesting. There certainly weren’t any angels flying around.

And the drug made me sweat a lot, feeling much the same way as you might after snorting too much heroin and finding yourself face down puking in to some public toilet. An experience not quite as bad as it might sound to the uninitiated, but not exactly pleasant either. I tried it again a few minutes later, smoking a little more this time, but it was pretty well the same deal. I went back home feeling as though I’d been cheated, burned by the twisted gods of salvia divinorum.

It wasn’t until maybe six months later before I accidentally dug up what was left of my salvia stash and decided to give it another go. Not expecting too much from it, I sat my ass down in my living room, all alone, and filled the bowl of my modest little hash pipe with as much salvia divinorum as it could hold. Remembering that the buzz hits you almost immediately, and that once it does there ain’t much else you can do but surrender to it, I tried to inhale as deeply as I could, for as long as I could, and as quickly as I could before the shit rendered me useless.

And Holy Cow! What a difference an extra ¼ gram makes! Goddamn, by the time I put down my pipe I was off and running in the magical land of . . . god fuckin’ knows where, but some place mucho grande intense, baby. I felt like I was dead, but in a good way actually, like I had been dead many times before so it wasn’t all that terrible a thing.

I found myself back in my parents basement, like I was maybe 2 or 3 years old, except I wasn’t really sure if I was truly a toddler or just some depressing older guy who had nothing better to do in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon than experiment with psychedelic drugs. But I didn’t care. It was all good as far as my brain was concerned.

And then, as advertized, came the angels. No kidding, voices started yacking at me from way back inside of my head. For real. I couldn’t tell you who the fuck these voices belonged to ‘cuz they didn’t sound like anyone I’ve ever known, but they nevertheless felt familiar. Although, to be honest, and at risk of belittling the experience, if these really were spirits they must have been a pretty dull lot because I truly can’t remember a word they were on about anymore. But still, who cares? It was pretty fucking cool.

And that was pretty well it. About 10 minutes later I landed back on earth, feeling a little dazed and goofy but all the richer and wiser for the experience—an experience, I might add, that I’ve had many, many times since.

And while I’ve determined that salvia divinorum is definitely not a substitute for LSD or mushrooms -- it affects a completely different part of your brain -- I find myself continually extolling it’s virtues to pretty well everyone I meet these days -- although I’m beginning to feel like I should probably keep quiet about it at job interviews.

Also by Chris Barry:
Talking 12-Tone with Patti Smith
Beauty Pageants: The Golden Years
Swingers' Clubs as Safe Zones
Bust a Move
Trapeze - Swinging Ad Extremis
Hells in Paradise
The Cannabis Cup
Colonic Hydrotheraphy


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