Tripping through downtown

A writer takes psychedelic mushrooms and embarks on an adventure through downtown Sacramento

First it hits your gut. A tinge of unease. Pupils fix, lights enhance. Sizes, shapes—malleable. Keep your cool. Ride it out. If you find yourself in the confusions of an M.C. Escher labyrinth, do your best to keep it together.

And when all else fails, find your favorite tree and never leave its side.

It’s Friday night. We’re high on mushrooms outside the California state Capitol building, ogling the massive orbs hanging from the state’s Christmas tree. Disco balls, we decide. These are disco balls and January must be Disco Month.

We laugh, dance, make our way toward the ice skating rink before deciding to duck into a nearby arcade/bar to finish the last of our mushroom stash.

I don’t do these kinds of drugs often. They don’t fit my personality. Psychedelics relieve users of their egos, and for a writer immersed in the throes of nihilism and control issues, that’s almost always a recipe for terror.

Now at an underground speakeasy, we drink craft beer and bluff our way through a game of Scrabble. My heart sinks as my partner plays off the end of my word, “DURRVL,” to make “ANNELLLY.” Damn she’s good.

It’s hot down here. I take off my scarf, my knit pink hat. My stomach churns intensified. The mushrooms are really kicking in.

The game continues, but I can’t focus. The ceiling feels lower than before, the room constricted. There are more people here than I can take—gesticulating, shouting, laughing—and I find that when I turn my attention to any one table I am overcome with waves of the sounds and colors and movement they create.

We stand to leave. I take one last look at the Scrabble board and frown. BACORN. SKRAGGLE. She’s clearly won.

It’s nice to be out in the elements again. I take in the white lights strung above the ice rink, the leaves and seeds frozen into the ice below my skates. We glide, laughing as young couples and Russian families weave around us.

This may be my favorite part of the evening: Watching each skater holding hands, holding the wall, racing, playing tag with their crushes, all gliding in perpetuity along this path that has no end or beginning.

Before we leave, I stand next to the rink, direct my line of sight against the flow of traffic and take in the joy on each skater’s face. What a thing, to be alive. I’ve forgotten I’m high.

After a stroll down K Street, we take a break in a small Japanese restaurant. She has sushi and tea. Myself, edamame and beer. It feels like my body is moving without my mind’s blessing, but I’m able to keep it together.

We block out the surrounding patrons with our minds, make this table our universe, eat, giggle, stare into one another’s eyes and dance to the venue’s elevator jazz.

The evening ends where it began: Capitol Park. We wander through the thick of the flora on the east end in quiet content.

The true gift of psychedelic mushrooms is the bond you form with plant life. You know, on a level unlike any before, that these are living, breathing beings. That they have a range of emotions, and that if you treat them kindly, they’ll respond in turn.

We stop, struck by the beauty of the Fagus sylvatica purpurea, or purple beech. What at first appear to be eyes on its body we realize with sadness are the scars of amputated branches. We slide our hands across the tree’s bark, talk to it like an old friend, ask its age. After a few minutes we say goodbye.

Leaving Capitol Park I am struck by the fact that someone out there now has security footage of me hugging a tree. I smile. How patently California.