Tag Archives: Lysergic acid diethylamide

In Praise of the Pencil

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In 5th grade, Mr. Zych lectured all of his students about how to properly sharpen a pencil. He wasn’t messing around. His speech was not short, and he covered everything from how to properly grip the pencil to the cranking motion – how it should be smooth and continuous, not jerky. He even discussed the perils of over-sharpening, which could lead to premature tip-breakage. Mr. Zych turned pencil sharpening into a science.

Personally, I have had a love-hate relationship with pencils. I first learned how to print my alphabet in pencil and then I learned how to write in cursive in pencil. That was Paradise. Finally, a way to write all the stories stored in my head. Later, I preferred to write with pens – preferably ones filled with purple or green ink. But ever since my son started school, he has been forever in need of pencils; they seem to always be around, and so I returned to the yellow pencils of my youth. I had learned to appreciate the feel of a pencil in my hand again. I even started to like the scratchy-scratchy sound of the graphite as it dragged across the page. After I recently stepped on a pencil, I became suspicious of them again and switched back to pens.

Meanwhile, my son is still on a steady diet of pencils. In middle school, the kids seem to devour them: literally and figuratively. I know my son nibbles on his; I’ve seen the teeth marks. I’ve watched him crunch while he contemplates before committing to writing an answer on paper. But sometimes I wonder if he actually eats them, too. I mean, where do they go? How many pencils does one kid need in a school year?

A few weeks back, Monkey came home in a tizzy.

“I’m out of pencils again,” he announced.

Nonplussed, I told him there were under three weeks of school left and that I was pretty sure he could make-do with his nubs until June 20.

He started at me with contempt.

“Are you serious?” he questioned. “I have exams! I need pencils! Ticonderogas. Now!”

He was not messing around.

The next day while in the grocery store – to my horror – I found plenty of office supplies, but they were only generic pencils. And even I know that those erasers don’t do the job. You need another eraser to get rid of the smears those lame pencils leave behind.

So I made an extra trek, this time to Staples – home of the Ticonderoga pencil – and invested in the Bulk pack. (Because that was all they had.) Let’s be clear. Ticonderoga pencils are like platinum. They cost a fortune. The only way a pencil could be more fabulous would be if you printed your name on pencils. A Ticonderoga is the Hum-V in the wonderful world of pencils. Teachers definitely prefer them. Definitely.

I rationalized that I could spend $15.77 + nearly 9% tax on pencils because they are non-perishable, so it is not like they will ever rot or mold. And I figured whatever is left at the end of the school year, Monkey can use in 7th grade, thus saving me some back-to-school shopping hassle.

A few days later, a good friend of mine called me and reported that her son – also a 6th grader – had run out of pencils. While requesting to buy more, she said my name was invoked. Apparently her son said:

“Can you just be like Mrs. J. and get the Giant Pack of 72 Ticonderoga pencils?”

Apparently Monkey had been bragging about his new stash.

I laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it. Bragging about pencils?

And then I thought about how I had come full circle. Just one week before, I was cursing pencils as my husband dug around my heel with a needle in an attempt to get the lead out. (I know, I know. Pencils are made of graphite. I was going for the funny.) But now I found myself saying a silent prayer on behalf of all pencil-loving children everywhere. Uncharacteristically, I clasped my hands together and thought to myself:

Lord, may this be the worst thing my child ever desires. May this be his worst addiction. May he never see cocaine. May he never use LSD or heroin. May he avoid cigarettes and alcohol. May he avoid the ‘shrooms, the X, the meth. May he never huff. May he find the strength to avoid the Oxycontin and Adderall.

May he always be addicted to Ticonderoga pencils.

Because, honestly, I’ll happily help Monkey score his Ticonderoga pencils forever. I’ll even help him sharpen them. Mr. Zych schooled me on that a long time ago, and I feel confident I can help my son with his #2 pencil fix without any need for an Intervention.

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Post-Museum Trippy Lessons on Drugs

art by Will Goodan

I like museums. Monkey and I have been visiting them since he was very small. When he was around 5-years old, we brought sketch pads and colored pencils and, together, we would roam around local museums until one of us found a piece of something or other that we particularly liked and then we both would sit down and attempt to sketch it out. These days, we leave our paper and pencils behind, but we still like to go to the museums and check out what’s going on. Together, we’ve seen lots of good stuff.

Recently, Monkey’s middle school art club took the students on a field trip, which I had to cut short as he was double-booked and had a conflict.

“I never even got to see the special installation,” he complained as he climbed into the car.

I didn’t know anything about the “special installation,” but I promised him that we would see before it left the museum.

Last Sunday was our last chance to see the show before it left town.

So I inadvertently took my 11-year old to see “Psychedelic Art: Hallucinogens and their Impact on the Art of the 1960s.”

I could hardly have been less prepared.

Space Chase (2006)

For those who might not know, “Psychedelic Art” refers to any kind of visual artwork inspired by psychedelic experiences induced by drugs such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin (i.e: “magic mushrooms”). Inspired by the 1960s counterculture, psychedelic visual arts were a counterpart to psychedelic rock music. Concert posters, album covers, light-shows, underground newspapers and more reflected not only the kaleidoscopically swirling patterns of LSD hallucinations, but also revolutionary political, social and spiritual sentiments inspired by insights derived from these psychedelic states of consciousness.

In the museum, little laminated placards set next to each piece of art explained what inspired the artist and the materials used to create it.

“Look,” announced Monkey pointing to one multimedia collage. “That one has red pills set into it. And little leaves.”

I said little, wondering if, in fact, I should have been saying more.

“What’s that smell?” Monkey asked, sniffing the air.

Somebody had clearly smoked a doobie or two before coming to the museum. It seemed obvious that the scent was coming from the dude standing behind us. I glanced at him as he looked dreamily at the canvas that listed the materials as acrylic paint and hemp.

“Ohhhh,” said Monkey as he read the information card. “Those leaves must be dried out marijuana. ‘Hemp’ is another name for marijuana.”

And weed and blunt and spliff and reefer, I thought to myself, smelling the pot that lingered in the air around the dude’s coat. And ganga and cannabis and a million other synonyms that you don’t need to know about yet.

art by Stella

On the way home it happened.

It always happens in the car.

Monkey always asks the big questions in the car.

“Mom,” Monkey asked. “Everyone says drugs are really bad for you. That you should never do them. But the art people created while they were on drugs was really interesting.”

I braced the wheel, white-knuckled.

“What am I supposed to do with that?” he asked.

I explained to Monkey that the drugs of the 1960s were much weaker than today’s drugs. Since he had recently seen about two minutes of a disturbing episode of Intervention where a man was smoking crystal methamphetamine followed by an OxyContin chaser, I made a point of telling him that neither of those drugs even existed in the 1960s: that in the 1960s, drugs were kind of “home-grown” and meant to mellow people out, while today’s drugs have been designed in laboratories to get people hooked.

I know this is not 100% accurate. LSD was manufactured and (initially) distributed not for profit, but because those who made it truly believed that the psychedelic experience could do good for humanity, that it expanded the mind and could bring understanding and love.

I did not tell this to Monkey.

I did tell him that the art/music/drug experiments of the 1960s went along with the whole counterculture movement that was going on at the time. We discussed the Vietnam War and the Hippie movement. I explained that the people who chose to use the drugs were attempting to enter a kind of mystical world to explore a new kind of art, and – in many cases, they were successful as the drugs helped them to see a different dimension, a world where space was filled with multi-colored geometric shapes and surreal images.

I told him that while some people had good experiences with these drugs, drugs could be dangerous as well. I told him that some people who used hallucinogenic drugs had “bad trips” and that things that were bothering them became exacerbated and all they could do was wait for the drug to wear off – and that sometimes that took up to 8 hours.

Monet's Waterlilies

“I can’t deny that psychedelic art is interesting,” I stressed, “but to me it’s more culturally interesting than artistically interesting. I’d rather look at a great Monet. There is a lot more going on in a Monet than in, say, that random piece of plexiglass we saw on the floor. You know, the one with the piece of wood coming out of it?”

Monkey was quiet. “So just because a few artists made cool art while on drugs doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to use drugs.”

“I’d go along with that,” I said breathing again.

I’m not sure I said the right things.

What do you say to your 6th grader when he or she asks about drugs?