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Tripping the Light Fantastic, or How I Learned to Play Hockey on Acid

A true story of youthful acid-tripping from bestselling author David Henry Sterry.

Author’s Note: This is a true story. Well, as true as this kind of story can be, given that it involves boarding school, public humiliation, and my whole team dosing ourselves with a super strong batch of LSD before going to get our asses kicked at Andover, the Goliath to our David.  It’s like Bad News Bears with hockey instead of baseball.  And on acid. I’ve written 16 books.  Two of my memoirs are being turned into TV shows.

I’m 16 when I get shipped away to Boarding School for my sins.  The school’s sick with bright, gifted, spindled, folded, and broken teenagers, almost all of whom have been expelled from someplace else. I fit right in at Boarding School.

We have the worst hockey team in the history of the league.  Halfway through the season, we’re 0-5. We’ve scored 4 goals, and let in approximately a kazillion.  We’re going on the road, to play Andover, one of the hoitiest of the toity prep schools in America. 

Suddenly Rat bursts into our freezing, falling apart locker room all excited.  He’s just scored some acid and apparently it’s the trippiest shit EVER. AND there’s enough for everybody.  We stare at him in side-eyed silence. None of us wants to be the first to follow Rat down the road to Acid Infamy.  

“Come on, you sorry buncha pansy-asses,” Rat hisses. “We gotta show the world that we may be the worst hockey players in history, but we’re the all-time greatest partiers!’  

Rat’s speech stirs something within us.  We’re castoffs, misfits, the throwaways of our generation.  And suddenly we’ve got a shot to turn ourselves from laughing stock into folk heroes.  

It’s times like these that turn boys into men.  While we white suburban bourgeois fancy lads sit with our heads up our collective asses, it takes a young warrior from the reservation to lead us.  Joe Starfeather. Joe Starfucker, we call him, and he likes that. He’s our best player and goalie, a kid whose ancestors have been demonized, raped and pillaged, and burned out of the land they loved. Joe Starfucker rises slowly, a beat-up rented mule of a goalie with long, straggly scraggly raven hair, and shuffles over to Rat.   

Who grins like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, and puts the tab on Joe’s tongue like he’s a cross between the Pope, Timothy Leary, and Wayne Gretzky.  

When my turn comes, I’m shocked to see the tab of acid is actually a thin little transparent Santa Claus. I smile as I swallow my electric Yuletide koolaid, visions of Rudolph, his red nose, and freaky elves stoned off their nuts, as Jimi Hendrix wails “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” in the background.

It’s spooky quiet in the Andover Taj Mahal dressing room.  Everyone’s bugging eyes at each other, trying to see if anybody’s feeling psychedelic yet, wondering what it’ll be like trying to play hockey against the masters of the universe Andover superstars while we’re tripping balls. I’m still not feeling any effects, and frankly I’m beginning to wonder whether Rat sold us all a bill of goods.

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Our coach launches into a Win-One-For-the-Gipper speech.   When he gets to the part about how it’s not important whether you win or lose … 

His face starts to melt.  His tongue flicks out like an iguana, his eyebrows are caterpillars crawling across his face and his teeth keep changing colors like the horse in the Wizard of Oz: red to green to blue to orange. I shake my head to try and clear it, but that makes fireworks shoot across the inside of my eyeballs with trailing tails waving wild watercolors.  

I look around. Everyone’s shaking their head, eyes glazed.  

Coach ends on a crescendo, expecting a rousing jolt of manchild testosterone.  We just stare at him like a school of big-mouth bass. He shrugs, turns, and disappears into the bathroom to get drunk.  

As we skate out onto the pristine rink, the Andover superstars, in their shiny new uniforms, stare at us with smug, moneyed menace, looking like bourgeois marionettes, stooge puppets of the paramilitary fascist state.  I grin when I imagine cutting their strings and watching them crumble to the ice.

Suddenly the game’s starting and the crowd shape-shifts, all fuzzy disintegrating colors.  Or maybe it is me who’s disintegrating. The referee looks like a chubby zebra. The puck takes about six weeks to drop from the Zebra’s hoof to the ice.  I don’t have to move my legs to skate. I float over the ice like an angel on a wave of feathers. Rat shuffles the puck back to me. It takes its sweet time.  I can see it realizes that time is sweet. I stop it with my stick, which bends in my hands. My bones are almost-congealed jello, my skin tingles with the fire of Godlove, and my third eye is wide open.  I see Harry the Hoagy streaking up ice with trails like a comet. I flick my stick and the puck heads straight toward Harry, like we’re connected by a Higher Power. The puck nestles gently on Harry’s stick.

Suddenly The Hoagy’s 1-on-1 with the master of the universe goalie, stoned off his nut.  Harry starts to go right. The goalie follows. Harry trips, accidentally drops his stick, then goes airborne like he’s on a magic carpet ride. While the puck eases into the gaping goal like Casanova scoring with the Queen of France.  

The Hoagy slides for miles across the ice with his hands out in front of him like Superman on LSD, and crash-lands into the boards: THUD!

The crowd sits in stunned silence.  The Andover superstars are flabbergasted. We mob Harry the Hoagy and do a group hug/interpretive dance celebration, Alvin Ailey meets Bullwinkle. 

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The whole game is like that.  Lurch hits a guy so hard he knocks out his whole family.  Rat is a whirling dervish, leading rushes, poke-checking guys who aren’t even there.  Joe Starfucker has the game of his life. At one point he makes a save, and his glove flies off.  The shots rebound to another Andover superstar, who fires away. Joe reaches out and grabs the puck with his bare hand. Starfucker holds the frozen galvanized rubber over his head, like an offering to the Great Puck Spirit.  

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Late in the game, the Andover superstars manage to sneak one by Joe Starfucker, after they rough him up in the crease like the fascist, imperialist, colonizers they are. 1-1.

There’s a minute left to play.  I’m lost, hanging out in front of the Andover net.  All 6’ 6” of Lurch winds up and takes a Paul Bunyon swing at the puck from the point.  But he catches the puck on its end, so it flutters like a drunken butterfly toward the net.  Instead of barreling like a bullet. The Andover superstars are caught off-guard, clenched and moving towards the upper left corner of the goal, where the fat black disc is happily headed, at a fraction of its expected speed.

I see the puck fluffernutting towards me, calling my name: “Hey, David – here I coooooooome…” 

I reach up with my undulating stick and kiss the crazy gyrating puck with it.  The Andover superstar defensemen and goalie are headed left, already off-balance because it’s moseying instead of shotgunning.  So when I flick it, the puck tumbles down and right, leaving them grasping at air straws.

Gently, lovingly, the puck bulges into the billowing net. The buzzer sounds.  

BUZZZZZZZ!

The game is over. 

Silence sits on the ice like the gods have pushed the mute button. David has slain Goliath.  Not with a slingshot and a stone, but stoned with a headful of the trippiest shit in the Berkshire Mountains.

We skate over to Joe Starfucker and jump all over him, flopping around on the ice like a huge undulating amoeba, until they cart us off.  In the Taj Mahal locker room our clothes jump off our bodies. We sing in the rain of the shower, then have a raucous ride home.  

Word of our triumph, and how we achieved it, spreads like wildest of fires through our little community.  Of course we never win another game all year. Never even come close. Rat’s LSD connect dries up, and that’s the end of the great Acid Hockey Experiment.  

But for one glorious afternoon, we were one with the universe, Kings of the World, and we did it tripping the light fantastic.

David Henry Sterry is the bestselling author of 16 books, a performer, a book doctor, and activist. His first memoir Chicken Self: Portrait of a Man for Rent, has been translated into 10 languages. His latest book, Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rentboys, appeared on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.

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