Las Vegas: Vampire?

Pre(r)amble: Ah, Las Vegas, to call the monster by the name we’ve given it. I don’t really gamble, and the spectacle of this city wore off after about my third visit, consequently I have come to the conclusion that this city is boring as hell without something to help me ‘plumb the depths’ so to speak. Maybe that’s my Hunter S. Thompson complex I wear from time to time. Anyone who reads this who is familiar with his work will no doubt see that in some respects I am ‘channeling’ or perhaps more harshly yet maybe accurately stated, ‘trying to be like him’ here. That’s fine. I believe Thompson was akin to a William S. Burroughs, a Timothy Leary or a Douglas Rushkoff – an important cultural archeologist. What’s more I truly believe there is something to his courage in taking hallucinogenic drugs and waddling full bore into the middle of the most insane city in America on a quest for the phantom of the american dream. This article will be about one of the things I have found while communing with Psilocybin in that city, and trying to later make sense of what exactly that discovery – if it is indeed a discovery – means in the context of understanding ourselves, our planet and where exactly we fit in the food chain within this strange, unpredictable Universe.

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It is ~12:00 AM Las Vegas time, November 23, 2011. I’ve just eaten about half of a batch of mushrooms I procurred with the help of a good friend specifically for this trip. My wife and I are in our hotel room, preparing to venture out into the Las Vegas night, eager to soak up a little bit of the madness that runs full steam, twenty-four-seven here in an attempt to offset the ‘vitual bends’ that set in after too many consecutive months working and thinking in the life we’ve made for ourselves in the regular world. That’s what I tell myself anyway. My real motivation is stranger. It’s a quest I began a couple of years ago and only get back to once, maybe twice a year. Put simply it’s me looking for a way to reconcile this place with the everyday, regular world, because brothers and sisters, the two are most definitely not compatible.

The regular world. The consensual world we’ve all agreed to agree is real, even though it really only hangs together because as a society we’ve decided it is not necessary or nice to look for anything behind the facade, behind the factory-guaranteed programming that moves us silently through our brief existences as consumers, as reproducers, as commodities to the corporations that now map and define our existence. If you’ve ever caught a glimpse as to why the term for the construction of words within western language is referred to as “Spelling” or how television rather blatantly entices us with its “Programming” then maybe you have seen and recognized what I like to call The Fence. Once you’ve seen The Fence it is almost as if you can hear the carnival barker as he screams into his megaphone: “Pair up! Section off! Reproduce and for god’s sake Buy! Buy! Buy!” And we obey, drifting off to sleep each night beneath the calming light of the television that reinforces the prejudices that define our reality…

Enough! Now, out into the night with a head full of raging ideas and swirling visions of psychedelia. There is something waiting for me out in the night, out in this giant leech that is Las Vegas, Nevada –  a horrifying reminder of the startling lengths Americans will go to in the name of excess, or something quite a bit more… devious?

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2 AM

Not even two hours have passed. Exhausted, confused, thirsty, I’ve come back up to the room to jot some quick thoughts down – when you finally read this article/blog/soapbox this section here will probably be the last of the raw, stream-of-consciousness notes. From here out I will no doubt need to work back through, streamline and refine my thoughts because right now they’re coming a mile a minute and I just can’t type fast enough!

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The last time I was in Las Vegas and took mushrooms was about a year and a half ago. I’ve been back once since then and the insights dried up without the drugs. But that was good. That helped me look back and deduce that during that previous, mind-altering time many of the thoughts that converged in my head over the course of an introspective all-nighter were possibly not originating from my own neural pathways. I began to feel as though something was trying to tell me someone. And as the weight and vibrations of this current experience crest over me I feel it once again. It is almost as though a primordial, almost extraterrestrial voice has set in; low register and declarative enough to begin manifesting as vibrations in my legs, slowing my walk and eventually creeping up into my spine, causing my head to geek and twist in short, sharp bursts of frenzied energy.

Something is talking to me. Through me.

Before I go any further with this I feel as though I should make it clear that this is not exactly a factual article, even though much of what I will quote or reference in it is indeed fact insofar as research and query can be fact. And although I do not intend to provide a bibliography, anyone with any interest in my points and even the smallest bit of internet/Dewey Decimal savvy will be able to supplement them with their own research. I’m attempting to bridge an impossible gulf of scientific and socio-political gray area with a peppering of ideas meant merely to provoke thought and spark debate. It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s just that this is what bookstores would (perhaps unfortunately) denote as ‘metaphyics’ or Egon Spengler might call ‘Parapsychology’. Think of this as a fiction writer trying to juxtapose big, lofty and fantastical ideas such as the vampire with the real world around him. Think of this as 2AM stoned conspiratorial ramblings at a party that has shrunk to a third of its size and now contains three guys in a kitchen with beer bottles in one hand, Danzig’s Black Aria on the stereo and a prediliction for Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles and and Darren Arronofsky’s ∏, desperately trying to exchange ideas and crack the codes that define their existence; an existence all of them feel doesn’t quite fit with all of the things they have experienced while entertaining consciousness on this, the third stone from the sun.

Or think of it simply as the musings of someone who doesn’t believe we as citizens of the consensual are given all of the information we need to understand or survive reality. Someone trying to understand how the world of fiction and the world of reality sometimes meet and never bother to tell anyone from the human race about it.

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Having visited the only western city that truly never sleeps only a handful of times and in short, urgent bursts I am really nothing more than a passenger here. However, I’m a passenger who has always been interested in the logistics of this town – I feel as though everyone who enters is videotaped, photographed, compared to reservation data and identified, catalogued and chronicled, and when The Town decides it is time to throw you a bone, It does. And even during the sparse moments where I have ‘won’ something I simply cannot fool myself into thinking I’ve actually gained anything at all, because I can’t ignore the simple equations that begin by asking questions such as, “how much have I already spent at the lounge?” “Or how much did I feed a machine before it spit its paltry offerings back to me?”

How much? That’s the question the heavies in this town either don’t ask or eventually lose sight of. How much did they gamble? How much did they drink? How much hope and youth and light from their eyes did they barter away for an endless existence of shag carpeting and mirrored ceilings? “How much?” isn’t a question that jives with the heavies because they’ve become entranced and enslaved and they simply cannot snap off the blinders and comprehend that it all comes out in the House’s favor, whether we’re speaking of The House as the casino or as the Entire Town, and every little victory in between that might or might not happen is merely an exercise in ego-reinforcement, perpetrated by something much, much smarter than them and very interested in taking everything that they have to give. People want to feel good about themselves and their lives and spending $2000 over the course of three days and then winning $200 at the end of it is still sparse and strategic enough to serve that role and make them feel good and as though they are special and have accomplished something. But here is where we begin to approach my overall point, because this type of baffling enchantment is what I want to look at and compare to the kind of hypnotic hold the idea of Vampirism and its lore goes hand-in-hand with.

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The last time I was here and took mushrooms I remember there was this idea that flit into my head. At first it seemed as though it occurred to me, as in the context of my own thought-voice turning a page and suddenly understanding something. This is idea that seemed so revelatory at the time was that this town eats people. You walk through any casino and you see it – not unlike drug addicts, there are those sitting at machines, pulling levers and breathing a heinous mixture of smoke and desperation that hangs in the air and seems to weigh heavy on the frayed and greying folds of their skin, like guilt cut with scotch cut with a frustration the living should never be able to know. But here in Las Vegas these people do know it and that begs the question, are they living? Or are they the walking dead; slaves to an immortal master who long ago captured a piece of their soul and now keeps them in his crypt, shambling to and fro, existing for no other reason than to feed their sire?

Melodramatic? Yeah, you got me there. That’s part of the reason why shortly after this thought occurred to me and I came down off my mushroom trip I forgot about it. But now, tonight, I’ve not only had the exact same thought again but – much more importantly than that – I’ve had it in the exact same voice. The voice that I now recognize as not being my own.

Here’s where we start to juxtapose something that sounds so crazy with pre-existing ideas and phenomenon, looking to see if any precedents have been set.

I now believe that the voice that told me this is the ancient voice of the sentient fungal intelligence that is psilocybin. Ethnopharmacologist/ethnobotanist Dennis McKenna and his brother Terence posited ideas like this decades ago – the idea that the psychedelic agent in the mushrooms may be an actual intelligence and that by consuming and digesting them we can commune with that intelligence – i.e. they talk to us and can teach us things normally quite outside the sphere of regular human knowledge. When I first encountered this, truthfully the idea went over my head – I’ve read or half-read the McKenna brothers’ The Invisible Landscape several times in the last ten years and contained within it is the most disciplined documentation and experimentation with psychedelics I’ve ever encountered. Specific to the topic at hand were the experiments the brothers took part in the Upper Amazon Basin at La Chorrera. Experiments that dealt with a mushroom named Stropharia Cubensis and its effects on their consciousnesses. The McKennas chronicle and report having the experience of interacting with alien (here, not necessarily meaning “from outer space”) intelligences while ingesting Ayahusca made from the ingredients of the Cubensis. They learned things from their experiences, as if something was leading or teaching them. La Chorrera took place in 1970 – meaning the McKennas’ experiences were well after but not outside the perusal of then-ebbing U.S. government research into psychedelics and extrasensory hoo-ha that spun out of the recruitment of Nazi scientists during Operation Paperclip and grew into the infamous Project MkUltra. Ultra, though begun in the 50’s, was hemorrhaging declassification by the mid-to-late 70’s and concerned many ideas very similar to what the McKennas were positing in papers that would eventually be popularly distributed as their aforementioned book. That’s no coincidence and even though most normal people in the world today don’t know about the far-out ideas that have entertained the time and money of some of the rational institutions that govern our world they are there, and whether or not you think things like fungal intelligences and mind control are real, world powers certainly thought them real enough to invest in them for a time.

Whether that time of investment has passed is up for debate. Maybe the experiments didn’t end, maybe they merely became refined and began to work. If that was the case then is it too strange to think that what imaginists throughout the history of written word have called the vampire and painted as often suave and entrancing figures out to feed off of the life force of unsuspecting humanity might actually be a bastardized concept? One perhaps drawn from some grander, more invisible and nefarious lifeform that has, in our particular little corner of space and time, manifested itself as the desert city of Las Vegas, Nevada, and encased itself in enough ritz and panache to draw in and, indeed, eat people? Could the city itself not have it’s own sentient intelligence, whether collated into one coherent, invisible mind or a complex, wide-spread system that operates on a vast and mechanical principle completely alien to our understanding?

Losing me? Let’s recap and summate thus far. The idea that Las Vegas is a real life vampire that feeds on human life force is essentially what the mushrooms told me, on two separate occasions, in the exact same voice. This voice occurred inside my mind in a way distinct enough to appear to have qualities that posited it as originating from somewhere outside my own internal O.S. All this happend while I strolled through those self-same mirrored and glittering halls, searching for some deeper meaning to the madness surrounding me on all sides.

Maybe the mushrooms are just drugs and this is the kind of psychosis they warn you about. But then, does that make it any less plausible? Perhaps I am entertaining madness by even thinking these things, let alone writing them down and posting them on the internet for public consumption, but whereas in our culture madness gets you a one-way ticket to the funny farm, in other, more ancient cultures it gets you a revered spot in the community as Shaman. Those cultures met and communed with the planet around them, we sit and stare at bright screens all day and subsist largely on a diet of butchered, stolen lifeforce, so you tell me whose version of reality seems more in line with what the cosmos would want?

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But here’s the thing, how does one deny that life on Earth besides human beings consist of consciousness? Whether we are talking about Duncan Laurie’s research into Radionics and the consciousness of plants or our own inherent connections with the flowers, animals and insects we love it is only with hard hearts and selfish agendas that human beings can argue consciousness is ours and ours alone. The same way you can sense when your mate is mad at you when you walk into a room, I believe we can sense the emotions of other living things as well (okay, plants are a bit more difficult, but have you ever hung out in a forest after a rainstorm? Positive energy abounds!) and this means that to one degree or another they have some form of consciousness. And if simple organisms have simple forms of consciousness, can not more complex organisms have consciousness as well? Albeit perhaps on a level so complex that we may not have the mental perspicacity to comprehend it? What kind of complex organisms am I talking about here? Let’s start with the topic of our discussion, let’s start with cities.

But wait, you don’t think that entities such as cities are organisms per se? Well, perhaps to better illustrate my point let’s skip cities for now and say corporations (and cities are legally incorporated entities, are they not?). Corporations are organisms, i.e. living beings, or at least they are in the eyes of the United States government. In fact, in a landmark decision in 1886, during  the United States Supreme Court case of Santa Clara County vs. The Southern Pacific the court ruled that corporations legally had the same rights as a person.

I’m serious. Look it up.

That makes corporations, at least in the eyes of the systems that govern our world, living beings. And as I’ve already ranted, living beings have consciousness. It’s a slippery slope, I’ll give you that, but if you hold onto the chain of logic here and temper it according to the same legalities that write and define our world, what we have is, I believe, not only a foot in the door for the idea that psilocybin, found in psychedelic mushrooms, may be a consciousness we as living beings can commune with and learn from, but also that the city of Las Vegas, Nevada potentially meets the criteria to be not only a conscious, self-aware organism but also an organism that feeds on the life force of other organisms, colloquially known in 2011, as a Vampire.

So my first salvo has been fired. Read some McKenna, read some Laurie. Go out and walk the carpeted halls of Vegas and look at some of the husks of people left to wither away with one hand on the REBET button and the other on their complimentary cocktail, and ask yourself do we really understand the world we live in? If people can be slaves to heroin, or booze, or blow, then maybe vampirism as a fictional catalyst is simply a metaphor. Or maybe we’re not as knowledgeable about the other life on this planet as we think we are, day to day, when we walk our world and tell ourselves not to be afraid of what we cannot see.

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Las Vegas: Vampire?
  1. Shawn C Baker

    SBaker Reply

    another interesting source I have subsequently discovered but not yet read: http://www.realitysandwich.com/mushroom_gnosis

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