We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to
take hold. I remember saying something like “I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…”
And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like
huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a
hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: “Holy Jesus!
What are these goddamn animals?” Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off
and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. “What the hell are you
yelling about?” he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses.
“Never mind,” I said. “It’s your turn to drive.” I hit the brakes and
aimed the Great Red Shark toward the shoulder of the highway. No point mentioning those bats,
I thought. The poor b*****d will see them soon enough.
It was almost noon, and we still had more than a hundred miles to go. They would be
tough miles. Very soon, I knew, we would both be completely twisted. But there was no going
back, and no time to rest. We would have to ride it out. Press-registration for the fabulous Mint
400 was already underway, and we had to get there by four to claim our sound-proof suite. A
fashionable sporting-magazine in New York had taken care of the reservations, along with this
huge red Chevy convertible we’d just rented off a lot on the Sunset Strip… and I was, after all, a
professional journalist; so I had an obligation to cover the story, for good or ill.
The sporting editors had also given me $300 in cash, most of which was already spent on
extremely dangerous drugs. The trunk of the car looked like a mobile police narcotics lab. We
had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid,
a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers,
screamers, laughers and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw
ether and two dozen amyls. All this had been rounded up the night before, in a
frenzy of highspeed driving all over Los Angeles County – from Topanga to Watts, we picked up everything we
could get our hands on. Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a
serious drug-collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.
The only thing that really worried me was the ether. There is nothing in the world more
helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge. And I knew
we’d get into that rotten stuff pretty soon. Probably at the next gas station. We had sampled
almost everything else, and now – yes, it was time for a long snort of ether. And then do the next
hundred miles in a horrible, slobbering sort of spastic stupor. The only way to keep alert on ether
is to do up a lot of amyls – not all at once, but steadily, just enough to maintain the focus at
ninety miles an hour through Barstow.