These guys are seeing things. You aren’t.
I recently re-read Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” and, a couple years earlier, Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”
Looking back at these books as a middle-aged man with over a decade of sobriety, I expected to have a different opinion or reaction than I did as a stoned teenager or drunken college student.
(Er, um, drunken graduate student also.)
One thing stood out to me — Neal Cassady was psychotic. Not a holy angel spouting beatitudes. A lunatic.
When the “Electric Kool-Aid” subjects Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters drove their school bus cross country in 1964, with Cassady at the wheel, they filmed everything. They recorded everything too.
Of course they didn’t synch the audio recordings with the film footage.
Which meant that at journey’s end, Kesey and Kompany had miles of footage and tape to edit together.
They tried, but it was a mess, and ultimately the project fizzled.
In 2011, Allison Ellwood and Alex Gibney’s “Magic Trip” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
The Sundance Film Festival audience routinely enjoys the most appalling crap. They liked “Magic Trip.”
The directors managed to put together a more or less coherent account of the fabled trip, and even synched up some of the sound with the pictures.
Which is why I say, without any doubt, that Cassady was a complete whack job.
Where Allen Ginsberg heard an angel speaking, I hear babble from the padded cell.
It may just be a difference in perception — but I don’t want this guy driving the goddamn bus. Especially not while wearing headphones and shaking his head and waving his hands around.
The wheel, Neal.
Or is it “The Wheel, Neal”?
Anyway, despite the best efforts of the filmmakers to restore the footage and add to the myth of the Pranksters, “Magic Trip” boils down to the longest home movie of all time.
Hint to future psychedelic warrior/filmmakers — people who haven’t taken LSD can’t see what you are seeing, so shooting a lot of footage of people standing around in bathing suits will not be very interesting.
It’s probably a good thing that the Pranksters didn’t have modern digital equipment. They would have wound up with 1000 hours of shaky camera footage of people in bathing suits staring at the sky or at a stream or at the mud — not a miserly 100 hours.