By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Roberts and his audience were on the same wavelength. The image, not the product, was their mutual obsession. Poor Marx: He thought you needed an actual object to swoon over.
A gleaming silver Porsche Cayenne sends up a smokescreen as it skids out from a dirt driveway in a hidden Los Angeles canyon and nearly sideswipes my beater ’93 Jeep Cherokee. A visibly enraged, bottle-blond, trophy-pussy, soccer mom smiles apologetically in a sort of pinched, angry-Buddha grin before kicking the pedal to the metal and careening down the twisting road.
Nowadays, these remote canyons are all about high-end, late-model SUVs and astronomically priced real estate. The occasional ghost of a VW Microbus might be spotted in flashback right around sunset, if you squint. But the Microbus is as high on the canyons’ endangered-species list as the hairy arm-pitted, guru-groupie chicks who take names like Shiva, dance Dunham and talk endlessly about their trips to the subcontinent.
I’m straight out of Silver Lake and far out of my element acting as a sort of Truman Capote “walker” — the type of fag who rich heterosexual friends trust to hang out with their foxy wives, because we won’t try to “hit it.” They cover all expenses, naturally. So here I am with my friend’s wife on a mission to see a bona fide healer. Having spent most of my time on the planet in Lower Manhattan, I am naturally aghast at the prospect of involving myself in just this kind of West Coast New Age nonsense.
As we pull up the narrow driveway, we nearly spill into a 10-by-10-foot hole next to a pile of dirt. The terrain is treacherous up here, and you really gotta keep your eyes open. We park just as Ubab, a slender aboriginal-featured, man/woman wearing a sort of East Indian outfit over a “Travis” T-shirt emerges from a shack to greet us.
I soon find myself in an ancient-looking, tent-like structure where I’m instructed to disrobe from the waist up, get horizontal on a padded, turquoise massage table (unnervingly covered with a faded Little Mermaid sheet) and put on headphones blowing Punjabi remix jams. For some reason, I mindlessly comply with these instructions. Then Ubab (not his real name) lunges deep into my tissue employing a very painful Rolfing-style massage technique.
When he mercifully finishes, I stumble back to the car and chain-smoke Camel non-filters in an attempt to normalize. I pretend not to hear my friend’s wife howling in pain nearby. She finally emerges an hour later looking like a crime-scene photo. We speed down the canyon in an irrepressible laugh riot mixed with fits of weeping and choking. Something happened back there, but I’m not sure exactly what.
Ubab’s super-secret California squat is a haven for a small fold devoted to a Westernized version of the ancient practice of entheogenic healing. Entheogenics are said to let one enter a “God-like space” without the ego, as opposed to hallucinogenics that simply distort what’s already in the mind. According to the practice, it is possible to time travel backward and forward seven lifetimes in this “God space” and thereby expose the core-clearing karma while discarding emotional armor and freeing trauma that is trapped in the flesh and bone. Once that trauma has been released into the vapor state, Ubab tells us, it can then be processed on a feeling level. Who knew?
A few days later, Ubab calls and tells us to return on Saturday at 8 a.m. In the driveway, I wedge my Jeep between a Hummer and a BMW and proceed back to the tent. Seven attractive people have gathered by the time Ubab floats in with a tray of teacups. I throw back the bland liquid without a second thought.
As the tea settles in my stomach, I put on the Sharper Image blindfold and headphones and lie in the dark. Just as the Enigma CD starts really annoying me, the portal between consciousness and unconsciousness is blasted open with the force of a small hurricane. I instantly lose sense of up, down, if I have a body . . . or, if, in fact, a body is even a thing I ever had.
My next memory comes hours later when I discover myself as a fetus in the birth canal, petrified in a claustrophobic panic, trapped in a black cave between contractions before being belched out in a convulsive fit. Then I’m sliding on my belly across a jungle floor as something I can’t quite figure out ’til it hits me all at once: I’m a snake! After a spell as a cartoonish, Mayan sex slave (by far the best part of the day), I regress further to some pre-human or animal condition before completely transcending form altogether. Archetypal imagery is still coming at light speed when the music stops. I remove the blindfold and everyone is smiling except my friend’s wife, whose hair looks like she stuck her finger in a light socket.
The drive back down the canyon is a slow roll, and we’re halfway to Hollywood before I’m completely back in my body. My friend’s wife and I try to piece the day together, pausing intermittently while she pukes out the window. I’m not sure exactly what has changed, but I sense in a general way that nothing is really going to be the same again. The therapy was traumatic, to say the least.