Viewpoint|The ’60s tore my family apart. Acid made it even worse.

Viewpoint|The ’60s tore my family apart. Acid made it even worse.

” Well, I ain’t got no mother to love me, ain’t got no dad to care … Lord, I ain’t got no factors to go on, provide me no cause to remain here.”

Janis Joplin, from” No Factor for Livin”

Forty-nine years after she passed away of a heroin overdose at age 27, rock’s doomed diva is on the roadway once again. “A Night With Janis Joplin,” a musical homage to the psychedelic age and its favorite blues singer, went back to its Bay Area roots in mid-October– to Santa Rosa and then San Jose, where I first heard that scratchy, sultry crooning through our living-room stereo.

Interest in hallucinogenic drugs has seldom been more powerful. The Oct. 13 episode of “60 Minutes” featured Johns Hopkins University’s ongoing psilocybin research studies. The report made an excellent case for magic mushrooms’ capability to cure anxiety and addiction; many control-group clients in the study swore the drug took them on a few of the most extensive “journeys” of their lives.

Mike Wise, a previous Post sports columnist who is now a digital and on-air reporter for WUSA9 in Washington, is writing a bio of 1964 Olympic gold medalist Billy Mills.

Illustration by Franziska Barczyk for The Washington Post

The Sixties have been dead for 50 years this January. It’s long past time to bury them for good because we have actually seriously overvalued them. Those years left deep marks on our culture while still leaving us in a continuous daze about their precise meaning. On the other hand, the nostalgia bus simply keeps rolling on. For those who were there, the sensory overload never ends: Jimi Hendrix’s wailing Stratocaster; Peter Max‘s Crayola-inspired pop art; the brittle back seats of Volkswagen bugs; Sensimilla buds, empty Coors cans; the acid-trip comedowns; individuals losing themselves in the sound, the substances and, really, the feelin’- groovy zeitgeist. “Never rely on anybody over 30,” Jack Weinberg, a student-activist at the University of California at Berkeley notoriously stated in 1964– the year I was born.

But what if you weren’t merely a kid of the Sixties however just … a kid? What if you couldn’t trust anybody to be your caretaker under30? And what if, gradually, you grew so ill and exhausted of becoming aware of how terrific it all had been that you simply desired to inform everyone to stop the revisionist history and shut the hell up?

During the in 2015 my family of origin was together, “ Woodstock” spun constantly on our vinyl record player, 33 1/3 revolutions per minute. In the living room of our modest, three-bedroom, shag-carpeted, hippie-pillow home on Dogaway Drive in South San Jose, Joan Baez’s “Drug Shop Truck Drivin’ Guy” and John Sebastian’s “Rainbows All Over Your Blues” contended for time and space with the soundtrack from “Camelot” and the Moody Blues’ “Days of Future Passed.”

The damn Moody Blues, haunting the corridor to my bed room, frequently till 2 a.m.

Nights in white satin, never ever reaching completion; letters I’ve composed, never suggesting to send out.

If your father hated his father in between maybe 1966 and 1974, he most likely enjoyed psychedelic and symphonic rock. Anything, truly, to assist him get stoned out of his mind.



The “Woodstock” album still takes me to the very same risky, dimly lit corner bedroom on Dogaway Drive.

One afternoon, some 50 years earlier, those lyrics were accompanied by the siren of an ambulance, pulling up behind our faded, blue Buick station wagon in the driveway. Strangers in white uniforms stormed into my parents’ bedroom, where they pumped my mother’s stomach to rid her of whatever drugs she had actually overdosed on.

My dad informed me to take my 4-year-old sister into my room down the hall to entertain her, play a video game, do anything to pretend Mother wasn’t OD’ ing and needed to be revived.

I was almost 6.

I am 55 now, and even now I keep hearing these homespun yarns about 500,000 individuals gathering in Upstate New York on a dairy farm in August of 1969 for something so much grander and more stunning than just a rock festival.

But the “Woodstock” album still takes me to the same risky, poorly lit corner bedroom on Dogaway Drive, where it’s just me and my sis still horrified we will be all alone tomorrow.

For numerous older teenagers and 20- somethings, tripping on LSD or mushrooms for the very first time, exploring their sexuality, providing the finger to Richard Nixon and the establishment– or, hell, downing a pint of Southern Comfort prior to they went onstage like Joplin– should have felt liberating, nearly Utopian.

However choosing to be a part of that scene would become dangerous and eventually devastating for a young couple– two diverse souls from different nations, who selfishly wanted to engage of that counterculture, be part of whatever resistance they could, while simultaneously raising kids.

And they could not do both.

Ulrike Seitz was just a 15- year-old waifish German woman clearing beer bottles at a hofbrau by the Rhine River when my dad, a 23- year-old U.S. Army private stationed in Würzburg, essentially asked a teen lady out on a date. Statutory rape and pedophilia enter your mind today. In 1962, this was minimized as “robbing the cradle.”



Ulrike Seitz was simply a 15- year-old waifish German girl clearing beer bottles at a hofbrau by the Rhine River when my dad, a 23- year-old U.S. Army personal, asked her on a date. Within a year, they were married.

Within a year, they were wed. 8 months pregnant and not able to speak but a couple of words of English, she left her house for my grandparents’ house in Northern California in late November of1963 When she survived customizeds at the San Francisco airport, she discovered a spooky quiet in the terminal. Within seconds after fulfilling her mother-in-law, my grandma discussed.

” I’m sorry, Ulrike, it is a bad day in America. The president has been shot and eliminated.”

My daddy was released within months and came home to join his teenage bride, who had just turned 17, and their newborn child. Papa decided he wanted to be a newspaper male, writing for little papers in Pleasanton and Livermore prior to the San Jose Mercury News provided him his big break as a basic assignment press reporter in 1966.

By the time my mom was 19, their relationship didn’t require the Bay Area of the late 1960 s to implode. Between a hard-drinking, pack-a-day California hellion and his demure, curious Bavarian kid bride-to-be, mentally alone and a continent away from her brother or sisters and parents, they had sufficient psychological dynamite already scattered in their path. But the proximity to a lot social and political turmoil assisted permanently fracture our household.

If people who are still in thrall to The Sixties– and, for that matter, a number of their kids who still wish to live vicariously through their moms and dads’ fictional pasts– bear in mind that Janis and Jimi OD ‘d within 3 weeks of each other in 1970, they may also remember a songwriter and lyricist named Robert Hunter, best understood for teaming up with Jerry Garcia.

Regardless of putting his body through hell over many years, he passed away in September at 78, outlasting a lot of his contemporaries. Buried in his obituary was this: Hunter volunteered around 1962 to be a guinea pig in Stanford University’s CIA-sponsored psychedelic-drug research program. He was the very first member of the Grateful Dead to frequently take LSD, a fact often attributed to the imaginative surge the band experienced in the following decade.

At Stanford, along with Ken Kesey, the future author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Hunter was paid to take LSD, psilocybin and mescaline and to information his experiences afterward.

The psychologist Timothy Leary quickly turned into one of the psilocybin‘s chief advocates. Leary coined “ Turn on, tune in, drop out,” and much of his disciples followed the recommendations of this amateur guidance therapist. In big hippie swaths of Northern California and beyond 50- odd years ago, it nearly ended up being socially acceptable to drop acid and go into another, undiscovered passage of the mind up until one’s truth and basic understanding of the environment around them broke down.

Stanford was among numerous “testing” websites for lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD. After the CIA heard in the late 1940 s that the Soviet Union was ramping up efforts to produce LSD– and possibly corner the world’s supply– Allen Dulles, then the company’s director, approved a program called MK-Ultra The goal was plain: Beat Stalin in brain warfare. However the testing to determine whether the drug could be used for interrogation, brainwashing or even worse wasn’t plain and basic; it was downright terrible and ominous.

James “Whitey” Bulger, the late Boston criminal offense manager, ended up being one of MK-Ultra’s earliest test topics when he was put behind bars at an Atlanta penitentiary in1957 “Eight convicts in a panic and paranoid state,” Bulger later on composed of being by force injected with the drug. “Overall loss of appetite. Hallucinating. The room would alter shape. Hours of fear and feeling violent. We experienced horrible periods of living headaches and even blood coming out of the walls. Guys turning to skeletons in front of me. I saw a camera change into the head of a canine. I felt like I was going crazy.”

But other guinea pig didn’t report psychotic episodes. They claimed their transformed mental states took them to dreamy, smiling happy locations, to streaks of resourcefulness, enhanced imaginativeness– genius, even.

Leary thought so much of LSD’s advantages, he encouraged the “spiritually ready” moms and dads of his young followers to share acid’s mind-bending experience with their children.

And one night, that’s what my daddy stated my mother wanted to do.

I don’t understand when my parents started using, just how much or what, exactly, they took. And it wasn’t just their own detours from reality that terrified the hell out of me and my sibling. In San Jose, around 1969, any person could be high as a kite.

Jill, the auburn-haired sitter of possibly 19, had actually taken acid one night when she came to tuck me in and unexpectedly began calling me, “Joe,” her sweetheart’s name. She laid on top of me and started kissing every part of my body. Until I started yelling, “I’m not Joe! I’m not Joe!” Jill got off me and returned to the living space to smoke a cigarette and cry.

Virginia was the “good” sitter. She had Coke-bottle glasses, made authentic tamales from her native Mexico and was the only lady beyond our grandmother and our aunt we felt safe with at that age. One night when my father came by her house to pick us up, Virginia asked Daddy if he had hit my mother.

Feigning sleep on the sofa the ways kids do, I still hear my daddy’s words– despite the fact that I would not understand them till years later on.

” I only hit her when, slapping her in the restroom,” he said. “I did it after she asked what it would be like if we offered the kids a little LSD.”

Whether he lied so he would not discover as a wife-beater or whether my mom’s nervous breakdown prevented her from being parental, I do not understand. All I understood was that Mother and father took drugs and the ambulance came to our house so Mommy wouldn’t die.



My dad informed me to take my 4-year-old sister into my room down the hall to entertain her, play a video game, do anything to pretend Mom wasn’t OD’ ing and needed to be revived.

Mommy quickly went to live at the state psychiatric medical facility in Napa, so she might “get much better,” everyone stated. For my sibling and me, that indicated she might come home again, make us breakfast, tuck us in, be our mama.

About a year later on, we drove to a home in the neighboring suburb of Hayward, where she was briefly sticking with an older female from Germany she ‘d fulfilled. The home was painted white, and it was at the very end of a long street. Mommy sobbed at the cooking area table, holding us so tight, kissing our foreheads and running her fingers through our hair. We weren’t sure why until Papa drove away.

” Your mom is returning to Germany,” my daddy said, his voice cracking. “You won’t see her any longer.” My sis buried her head in my lap in the rear seats of our Buick and began to let out her own convulsive sobs.

It was the fall of1970 The decade had actually declared my household, my mom, my security. There was a cost to pay for the extravagance and experimentation, and individuals who eventually settled that karmic debt were frequently the children of the parents who called up the bill. Lots of took journeys and returned. Fifty years later on, numerous more have children, 401 Ks and fond memories. However some took too much, toyed recklessly with their delicate brain chemistry and never returned.

When I heard a few months ago that organizers failed to manage Woodstock’s golden anniversary festival, that all the big acts had actually taken out and the tickets had never been sold, I thought calmly, to myself: Excellent. Time to turn the page. Time to let that go.

Mommy would return a number of times from Germany to see my sister and me till I was12 But after 1976, I did not have contact with her for another 15 years, when I was27 I went back to Würzburg a year later, asking her for many of the troubling information of my youth but constantly stopping short of humiliating her for not being the mom she wished to be. I wasn’t upset or hurt; I just enjoyed that my mother was in my life once again.

Over her range in her Würzburg flat that summer of 1992, she made my preferred childhood meal for me– lentils with German wieners that she ladled kindly over these tender egg noodles called spaetzle. After we consumed, Mother put her hand on my shoulder with a gentleness that ended up being the most maternal minute from her I can remember. For maybe 3 seconds, I went back to the child I was when my moms and dads were together and I had every assumption that they would be permanently.

A year later on, I decided to call her after midnight California time and prior to 8 a.m. Germany time. A policeman responded to. The female sergeant asked in broken English if this remained in reality her child from America. “Yes,” I said.

” Your mom is dead.”

She was simply 46 when, with beer, wine and sedatives in her system, she accidentally went to sleep in the tub and went under. I hadn’t spoken with her because her birthday a month previously. It still eats at me: Why did I call then? Why didn’t I call the night before?

My dad offered up the drinking, drugging and carousing life of a 1960 s and ’70 s San Jose newspaperman, transferred to Hawaii, found his method to a lifesaving addiction healing room, and trained for triathlons and marathons (mostly out of guilt that he had nearly ruined his body a years earlier). As he put his life together for more than a decade, he felt a calling: He chose he wished to end up being an Episcopal priest. At50 He had one relapse, 2 more not successful marriages and died in 2013 at the age of 73.

My sibling and I made it through by pretending we were regular kids from a normal household, long prior to we understood there was no such thing. If I was her protector, she was my guide– showing me how to fill that hole with healthy instead of upsetting things.

Her course to finding a life partner was five years shorter than my own. I lived the lie till 40- plus, which cost me many relationships, a wrenching damaged engagement and left a great deal of people in my life questioning why I was so good at fleing.

I medicated for a time with females and food and workout. One of the couple of benefits of growing up in the 1960 s and early 1970 s, however, was seeing firsthand the damage the drinking, smoking cigarettes and drugging can do; other than for a cigarette butt I obviously consumed out of the fireplace when I was 1, I’ve never ever smoked, hardly drink and have never attempted anything harder than cannabis.

I was eventually detected with something called attachment disorder, which suggests I became adept at sabotaging relationships. That method, a life-saver of a mental-health expert informed me, I would never be deserted by anyone again if I did the abandoning first.

It wasn’t up until I strolled into a males’s relationship support group one day about 15 years ago where I had actually heard about a male congratulated for safeguarding himself from ever getting injured like he had actually been injured as a kid. “But that’s not truly what you have actually done,” he was told by his sponsor. “No, by setting up walls all these years, you’ve actually avoided yourself from receiving the love you are worthy of.”

The guy broke down in tears and started to let individuals in again.

I still run in chaos better than I do inside well-defined lanes. However it’s a process, just like forgiving the individuals who brought you into the world.

The year prior to he died, Dad pertained to visit his grandchild in Washington. I siphoned as numerous stories out of him as I could, trying to piece together the past without likewise shaming him. Then came a revelation, with my partner being in the front space:

He had used LSD again, he said. Relatively just recently. He continued. “I forgot how it broadened my mind in ways I could not think of.” I felt ill before changing the subject and walking upstairs in shock.

When he passed away in 2013, Roger Francis Wise was endured by me, my sis and a years that would not pass away. It’s method past time to put that era down. And down for great.

Learn More:

A jogger saved Mike Wise’s life. 6 years later, the columnist got to repay him.

John Kane: The initial Woodstock was turmoil. That assisted make it magic.

David Von Drehle: 50 years earlier, our contemporary political universe started

Ken Burns wants ‘The Vietnam War’ to unify America. Can anyone do that under Trump?

More Viewpoints Essays:

Robert Kagan: Israel and the decrease of the liberal order

Robert Kagan: The strongmen are back. And we have no concept how to challenge them.

Elizabeth Bruenig: Evangelicals see Trump as their protector. Will they stand by him in 2020?

Anne Applebaum: Wish to develop a far-right movement? Spain’s Vox party reveals how.

George F. Will: How our democracy has made dependency a right

Check Out more from The Opinions Essay series and other Viewpoints functions

Credits: Mike Wise

Check Out More