In 1967, I was one year out of college and living in Berkeley. The new wild world was all around me–long hair on everyone, patchouli scent emanating from every doorway, student protests and sidewalk jewelry shops on Telegraph Avenue, and always in the background (sometimes the foreground), rock ‘n roll, sex, and drugs. I was thrilled by all this, but wary, more of an observer than a participant. I’d made a terrible mistake and cut my hair short just at the wrong moment, so I didn’t fit in, fashion-wise. I was too shy and reserved to throw myself into the free sex scene. But I did manage to give the drugs a try.
I had friends who put on pot parties. You’d sit on the floor of their living room and a joint would be passed around. Someone would be reading Magister Ludi. Indian sitar music would be playing. I was not a smoker, so inhaling smoke scorched my throat, but I persisted; the water pipe helped. I waited to be transported to the dreamy land where everyone else seemed to have gone. There was no conversation. People swayed back and forth and stared at the carpet or the air. Nothing much happened to me. I got bored fairly soon and left early.
A few more times during those years, I tried to get high, but it just didn’t work for me, not even the brownies, and I gave it up. It wasn’t until more than twenty years later that I had my first and only good trip. I was in a boat on a lake in the Sierras with a friend who’d brought along what she insisted was really good stuff. We smoked; we talked; we gazed out at the water, which had diamonds all over it. My friend, when I looked sideways at her, was transformed into a teenage cheerleader, a total delight. We laughed like crazy. It was great, but I was content to leave the drug experience behind after that. When I want to alter my consciousness, I just have a glass of wine.
Jeanne DuPrau is a writer of fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She is best known for The City of Ember, a New York Times Children’s Bestseller, and its three companion books, The People of Sparks, The Diamond of Darkhold, and The Prophet of Yonwood. The Ember series is read by children from the age of ten on up and often by adults as well. It was made into a movie starring Bill Murray in 2008. Jeanne is also the author of a young adult novel called Car Trouble, a memoir called The Earth House, several non-fiction books, and various essays, book reviews, and stories.