A Day At The Races

Lysergic Acid Diethyiamide. Thanks to Albert Hofman money never came quicker or easier in the early 80’s. LSD was better in profit than marijuana and a lot less messier than Cocaine.  No one ever came knocking on my door at 4:30 in the morning looking to trade a television set for a square of micro window pane.  Once the customer dropped, they were done for the evening. 

I was living in Huntington Beach California. I had a nice one bedroom apartment overlooking the ocean. Life was easy. My days were spent sleeping, my afternoons were spent on a bar stool at Mutley’s Pub in Newport. My brother and I would ride our motorcycles up and down the Pacific Coast Highway jumping from one ocean dive to the other. At night I would simply follow the crowd. Sometimes they took me to the clubs on the Sunset Strip, other nights would be spent out on the sand around a fire. I only worked a few weeks out of the year, and that was plenty.

After my travels with the Grateful Dead I had made some pretty cool connections. Not only did I meet people from all over the country, but I met some of the people behind the manufacturing process of Lysergide. So I would drive down to the town of Fontana a few times a year, and pick up a few vials of the liquid. Each tube ran 500 bucks a pop. I would delude the solution with saline and spray small sheets of perforated paper.  Each sheet held 100 squares at 5 dollars a square. One vial would spray 10 pages. You could turn 500 bucks into 5 grand in an hour. Of course I had better things to do than waste a minute with such a  small time break down system, I had to move quantity and move it quickly.

Seeing how California held the monopoly on the market, with small outlets in New York and Florida, the mid west was very dry and very much an open field. One afternoon I was contacted by a guy in Alabama who I had met on my Long Strange Trip and he was looking for someone to bring him out some white paper blotter. I told him I would make the trip but only if it was worth my while. Twenty sheets, two grand a sheet. He never hesitated, it was a bargain after all.

Before I ever left the ground I received another call from a guy in Detroit. I knew I had to take advantage of this while I could. But I had to be smart and not draw attention to myself. I needed to travel without being noticed. Thats when I discovered the races. It was Perfect. That would become my cover. Thousands of people traveled every year to go to these Indy Car races in all these different states. It was ideal.  I booked a flight to Birmingham, bought a ticket to the track and reserved a hotel near by. The connection would meet me at the airport and from there we would drive to the distributors location. Make the sale. Then I would attend the race the following day and fly home that night. 20 thousand dollars richer.

Detroit was also a smooth transaction. I would wrap the sheets in aluminum foil and slip them into a gray alligator skin briefcase and carry them right on the airplane. I started to see how this lifestyle could appeal to so many people. I flew all over, Ft. Worth Texas, Lexington Ohio. I was the worlds biggest race fan, who really had no interest in the races at all. They were loud, dirty and smelled like gas and oil. But I wore the jackets and t-shirts and bought their flags and their coffee mugs.

But it was the grand daddy of them all that I remember the most. May 25th, 1986. Indianapolis Indiana. I was picked up at the American Airlines terminal and driven to the contacts house, where a hundred or so people were waiting. The guy had thrown a party in my honor and the place was packed with eager young minds waiting to be distorted. I hated crowds. I almost panicked and made my exit before ever going inside. But I stayed and we drank and people stepped outside of themselves for a while.

The next day I was at the race with my buddy and the stands were filling with a sold out crowd. We were set up in the middle of the track where the driver’s pit crews were and having a few beers when I noticed something very odd. I recognized so many faces from the party from the night before.  It ends up that a lot of those people at my welcome party were also race fans. Plus some local armature dealers used the race to move product to out-of-town fans. There were so many people tripping pretty heavy within those chain link fences. But then it got even more strange.

It started to rain…hard. Hours went by and the grass turned to mud and the completely messed up attendees became unruly.  When they finally made the announcement that the race would canceled, the crowd went crazy. I remember at one point sitting under a plastic bag on a hill. Every once in a while I would peak out to see people running around, covered in mud. They were lighting trash cans on fire and throwing mud everywhere. It looked like a war zone. Guys were chaining the bumpers of their trucks together and having truck pulls right in the center of the field.

Girls had their tops off, Guys were running around naked. The beer trucks were tipped over and the kegs dragged out and torn into. Cars were set a blaze in the parking lot. It was total mayhem. There were fights, women being carried off over peoples shoulders. Chunks of grass and mud darkened the already gray skies. When the police arrived rocks were thrown into their windshields. I finally made a run for it. I tossed the plastic bag aside and ran for the gate. I walked back to my motel, soaking wet and covered head to toe in mud. I had never seen anything like that, ever. Well at that time in my life anyway.

I came, I saw, and I burned it to the ground. That’s how I roll.

I still hear stories about that weekend to this day.

There was nothing like that time in my life. I was truly living on the edge. But I suppose all good things come to an end at some point. The operation in Fontana would start drawing heat and eventually relocate to Florida. But for a 21-year-old river rat from Riverside, life was pretty easy living for a very short period in time.


About paulsdahlman

Born in Southern California, raised on the road and now growing roots in New England. I am on the journey of my lifetime. May the footprints I leave behind form the words to my story.
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