Tuesday, July 17, 2012


The Best Time I Went to the Orthodontist on LSD

I met up with Debi in the center of town. It was our second week of summer vacation; I was 17 and she was 15. I plopped down on the grass next to her, where she'd gathered a bunch of dandelions in her lap.

“Do you have mine?”

Debi nodded and produced an abused-looking tinfoil rectangle. She unwrapped it and there was a much smaller red rectangle inside, perforated into four tiny squares.

“I took one a little while ago,” she said. “I’m starting to feel it.”

She handed me the package. I tore one square off and put it on my tongue. “What do you want to do now?”

Debi shrugged, tracing a dandelion along her cheek. “We could stop by Sonia’s house and see if she’s home.”

“Maybe … nah, let’s just hang out the two of us. Sonia’s not gonna be on our level.” I gave Debi the facial expression equivalent of air quotes when I said on our level. As Debi herself once pointed out, the most honest and effective anti-drug PSA might be one that captures all of the unbearably cheesy and cliché-sounding things a person doing drugs actually says. Don’t do drugs … because then you’ll start talking like someone who does drugs.

We sat on the grass and talked for what seemed like forever while Debi wove a chain from the dandelions. The dandelions: all of a sudden they were so yellow and the stalks were so green, and it seemed like the longer I looked at them the yellower and greener they got. A warm loosey-goosey feeling was spreading through my insides as if I’d had a cup of liquid hugs. My stomach flip-flopped and I couldn’t stop bouncing my right foot. I was spellbound by my bouncing foot and started turning my hands back and forth in the grass like I was twiddling knobs. “Hi my name is Joe and I work in button factory,” I said under my breath.

“What?” Debi said, looking up at me with giant pupils.

I broke into a grin. “I almost feel like I could eat something right now, like it would feel really crazy to chew on something? Am I talking really fast?” I couldn’t stop smiling.

Debi reached in her pocket. “Want some gum? It’s cinnamon.” As she said cinnamon I tasted cinnamon in my mouth and the silhouette of Debi’s face and hair lit up, an outline in hot pink neon.

“I want some gum but I’m not supposed to ha — OH MY GOD!” I jumped up suddenly, flapping my arms.

“Is there a bug on you?”

“I forgot I have an orthodontist appointment at 2! That’s, like, right now almost!” An orthodontist appointment at 2, an orthodonist appointment at 2, that was a fun phrase to say. “I have to go or I’ll be in trouble. That’s okay right? It won’t be that long, right? It’s okay,” I said again, to reassure myself.

At this point in our career as young degenerates, Debi and I had been taking acid for well over a year. We never kept track of how often we did it but we’d been tripping at the supermarket, tripping in my mom’s car, tripping at all-ages shows, and tripping while lying on the beach with our throats exposed in hopes that vampires would attack us, so this seemed manageable. A bit of a style-cramp, but manageable.

Debi got to her feet. “Let’s go. We need to bring this,” she said, holding up the dandelion chain. I nodded in solemn agreement. We linked arms as we walked across the grass to cross the street. We were bold and we were brave, and Dr. Steinlauf’s office was less than a block away.

The office was cold and quiet. Debi took a seat in the waiting room, between two boys our age. I walked up to the receptionist’s desk.

“I’m Samantha Vincenty and I’m here to see Dr. Steinlauf for my appointment,” I said with the stilted delivery of an actor in a local cable commercial, scrawling my name on the clipboard on the counter.

The receptionist smiled. “I know who you are, Samantha. You can go on in, he’s in the very back.”

I walked down the longest hallway that ever existed. Dr. Steinlauf sat on a black swiveling office chair at the other end, fishing around the mouth of a boy my age. The boy had buggy eyes and made me think of Evil Ed, the best friend in the 1980s horror movie Fright Night. I squirmed into the empty exam chair trying to get comfortable and above all, act natural.

Dr. Steinlauf swiveled over to me and got down to business, picking and tightening. Except for the ongoing challenge of sitting still, it was not unpleasant. Dr. Steinlauf liked to hum along to the Lite FM radio hits and I watched his black and gray nose hairs vibrate in time to the humming. Lionel Richie had never sounded so good, and the tinny clinks of his tools against my braces made oddly satisfying echoes in my head.

“It’s no fun for you and Billy here to have to come in on such a nice day, eh?”

“Unhhunh,” I slobbered in response.

“Well don’t you worry, we’ll get you out of here soon enough.” He turned his chair back over to Buggy-eyed Billy and then back to me. After some more humming and picking, it was over and I was free.

I strode purposefully slowly past reception without looking at anyone, like a shoplifter trying to avoid attention from store security. Debi followed me out and neither of us spoke until we were a safe distance away from the office steps.

“That was CRAZY,” Debi said, glancing back behind us.


“No — you don’t even KNOW.” She stopped walking and leaned forward, lowering her voice. “Everyone in that office was tripping.”

I was skeptical. “Like, the receptionist?”

“NO! Everyone in the waiting room! Me, those dudes in there, we were all tripping!”

“Did you talk to them? What did they say?”

“They weren’t talking to me, just to each other, but they were saying things that only tripping people would say. About how crazy the lights looked and whether they were acting weird. I swear! I promise they were tripping.”

I decided to play along. “Yeah that’s weird,” I said. “Hey, let’s never stop walking ever again.”

“Oh no! I left my daffodil necklace!” Debi said, suddenly crestfallen.

“Don’t be sad, we’ll make a new one that’s even better. And more yellow.” I bent down to pick two dandelions and then we were back on the move.

Almost a year later we were sitting on a bench on the other side of the town green. I was in the middle of saying something when Debi pointed behind me. “LOOK! It’s the kid from the orthodontist’s that time.”

I turned to look and from 10 yards away I could see that it was totally him, buggy eyes and all. We chased him down.

“Hey!” He stopped.

“This is a weird question,” I began, “but were you at Dr. Steinlauf’s office like a year ago? With two friends?”

A look of recognition came over his face and he nodded. “Yeah, that was me,” he said, laughing. “Actually that was a crazy day — "

“Were you guys on acid?” Debi had no patience for his exposition.

“YES! We were! Jesus, how did you know that?”

Debi looked at me and threw her arms up in triumph.

Samantha Vincenty is a writer, editor, and nachos enthusiast. She lives in Chicago with her cat Caligula.

Illustration by Gigi Rose Gray.

104 Comments / Post A Comment


Haha, apparently tripping at the dentist's office was The Thing in your hometown (it probably was in mine too, but I was not cool enough to know about it).

Johanna Elemenopee

i love trip stories. the most awesome shit always happens.


It is hard to say how much I love this.
I loved acid. I would never do it now.


@noReally Exactly.


@noReally Same. I gotta say, as I started to read the description of it kicking in I started to feel a little woozily.


I love this, and the ending to it is just The Best.


@katiemcgillicuddy Yep. Made my morning.

It also perfectly illustrates "tripping speak": “I almost feel like I could eat something right now, like it would feel really crazy to chew on something? Am I talking really fast?” I couldn’t stop smiling.

And also, what it's like to be young and innocent and on drugs and with friends and the world is wonderful and crazy and so many things at once.


@itiresias Yes! "Wouldn't it feel really crazy to chew on something?" I know that feeling exactly...


oh my god the thought of going to a dentist (or orthodontist) on any kind of anything is so horrifying to me. I'm pretty sure my reaction to that realization "I have an appointment right now" would be to claw my fucking face off in panic.

And then cancel the appointment.

It is pretty amazing that this happened to two people on the same day and they both decided to go through with it! I guess not everybody has my dental phobia. Jerks.


@redheaded&crazie Face clawing is pretty much what I would have done, too. Just being around anyone who wasn't tripping when I was made me feel weird, so I can't even imagine an orthodontist appointment.


@redheaded&crazie My last ortho appt would have been CRAZY because Barry White started playing in the middle of it. It was pretty weird and I wasn't even on anything.


Two words: "medical marijuana"- you might not even notice!


@l'esprit de l'escalier I've wondered about this! but I think it would be terrible and act as an anxiogenic (lol not anxiolytic) for me in this situation. I've had so many bad experiences at the dentist that I'm kind of scared to try it because of the unknown factor.


Then: Xanax and have a friend drive!!! It can be worth it, believe me.


@l'esprit de l'escalier my dental phobia is starting to wane due to awesome dentist who gives me laughing gas for anything remotely painful. Also, valium. I fell asleep in the waiting room after the valium, then went in for a wisdom tooth extraction, where i got gas too, then got paranoid he'd know I. Was high, and refused to talk to him anymore. Good times!


@swirrlygrrl Awww man, my dentist USED to have the gas, then he went all natural (he still has novicaine to numb), but he uses some homeopathic jibba jabba to "relax you" during a filling. DOES NOTHING. I have such fond memories of the laughing gas.

D. Von Trapp@twitter

I love a story with a happy ending
PS let's be friends


Is everyone else seeing an ad for a book called Bond Girl right there? Did anyone else stare at the jacket thumbnail for about two minutes trying to make it be something other than a red and black vagina?


I have some sort of Chinese TV dinner. I found no vagina, unforch.


@noReally literally just scrolled up and yelled "OH!" at the ad, yeah it is very vaginal.


@noReally It's a stiletto shoe, seen from the back. But yes, it does oddly resemble a vagina.


@l'esprit de l'escalier I don't know; I think it's definitely fortunate not to find a vagina in a Chinese TV dinner.

Betsy Murgatroyd

Can you just imagine if that was a day when you needed impressions made? Ugh. That was worse than tightening, imo.
I never did acid, but I could imagine all of this on shrooms.


@Betsy Murgatroyd
There's no way I wouldn't have freaked out and made a scene because I thought I was going to choke to death.

Nicole Cliffe

Ugh, I ALWAYS wanted to do LSD, and now I have a kid and it's probably never going to happen. #canwetrulyhaveitall? #whatwouldannemarieslaughtersay?


@Nicole Cliffe Ah, at some point the kid will be old enough to go off to camp or jail or something and you'll get your chance if you really want it.


@Nicole Cliffe My parents definitely still smoke up with their friends, so I think you'll have your time. (They are also old hippies, though.)


@katiemcgillicuddy ZOMGZ Winnie! Thank you so much for making this your avatar. You are probably looking older by the minute.


@okaycrochet God, I've been trying to do it all day but for some reason the internet was being straight up militant! Yeah, it's funny cause the guy at the liquor store told me just last night I look about ten years younger than I am (27), and he says it every single time. It's most definitely an overstatement, but I do hear it a lot. It's kind of irritating. So maybe!


@Nicole Cliffe If Roger Sterling can do it...


@Nicole Cliffe Yes! Megano is right. You just have to wait til your kids are grown and then you can Roger Sterling all over the place.

Nicole Cliffe

@HeyThatsMyBike Grown-grown? Or unwillingly away at summer camp?


@Nicole Cliffe Summer camp SO counts as grown.


If only it lasted like two or four hours. Such a long haul!


@Nicole Cliffe You definitely don't need to wait until she's grown! Just get a babysitter (one for you and one for her).


No way! I can't believe the ending. That's amazing. Super great writing btw, it really took me back to my own misspent youth.
Do HS kids still do acid as much as they did in the 90s? Or are they more into like, I dunno meth now?


@paperbuttons I graduated high school in '02 and I only did acid a few times cause I always preferred shrooms. And by preferred I mean, "ate them by the handful". They always seemed more popular than acid.


No, Maryland. Yeah, I went to college on the eastern shore of Maryland where there are plenty of farms and I had some buddies who basically used to wade through cow shit to get shrooms for free. I was willing to pay for a middle man. I always liked acid, too, I don't know why I didn't do it more and for some reason this is bothering me? I could have saved a lot of money! I could have bought like, so much weed!

It's a good thing I stick to booze these days, "good" being a relative term.


@katiemcgillicuddy Huh, how did I respond to that comment if now it's been deleted? I is confused.


@paperbuttons I graduated two years ago and the answer to your question is YES! I think its relative cheapness will ensure that it's always pretty popular.


This sentence tells me I have so much in common with you.


@NeverOddOrEven God, which sentence? Either way, we should be friends.


The first one. I'm not from Maryland, but graduated in '02 and am a big fan of the psychedelics.


Ahhhh, A+++ ending!!


I pictured it so perfectly...


aaaaahhhhhhhhhh I cannot even. this made me feel so flaily in the head.


And I thought riding the subway home on acid back in HS was surreal...I can't even fathom this!


Once my roommate made me go to Duane Reade with her while we were both on LSD. It was only like a block from our apartment, but I thought EVERYONE KNEW and we were DEFINITELY going to get arrested, even though I don't think you can be arrested just for being high? Anyway, normally I'm like the tripping camp counselor and I make everybody sandwiches and I give out colored pencils and I keep friends from wandering off and getting hit by a cab, but I absolutely hate having to leave the house on psychedelics.


So was that "and threw her arms up in triumph" like, "Touchdown!"?

I've only done acid once but it was amazingly great. I did two things I highly recommend: a) ate a dark chocolate dove bar and b) flew a kite, standing ankle deep in the Pacific, for an hour until after it got dark and I could no longer see the kite.


@laurel There's something about flying a kite at night that's so unwholesome.


@laurel Hee, I immediately thought of Ted "Theodore" Logan. But then, I am old, and love that movie. And Keanu.


This made me squee in delight. I remember a similar experience with a student driving lesson. And a talking sandwich.


@christonacracker Was the sandwich the student or the teacher?

Samantha Vincenty@facebook

@christonacracker I definitely want to hear the driving lesson story, not least because talking food is a source of endless humor for me.


I am going to maybe have the opportunity to do acid for the first time this weekend. I am hesitant because I am fearful of having a bad trip. Also, it will be around a group of people I am familiar with but not super close to, so added anxieties. This story is making me feel a bit better though.

Anyone more experienced in the art of taking hallucinogens have any advice to offer?


@MoonFlavor um! Plan ahead -- make sure you have access to water, food, spliffs, anything (coloring books, music, things you buy in the toy aisle at CVS) else and turn off your phone and internet before you start tripping. There is nothing worse than the outside (ie. Gchat) banging on the door to your brain when you're out to lunch.

ALSO! There's no such thing as a bad trip if you just remember that you're totally in control and it's just like going to an amusement park. Have fun, but don't expect it to change your life. My best trips were always a steady stream of cool shit to look at (marble countertops, houses that were over-decorated) and plenty of fun stuff to do.

I also recommend watching The Yellow Submarine while you come down. Take two advil and drink a big glass of water at the beginning and you'll be asleep by the end.


@MoonFlavor My advice? Be excited. Look forward to it. This exponentially increases your chances of having a good trip. Anxiety will significantly decrease your chances. If you smoke weed, consider taking a hit or two before tripping - just enough to loosen you up, and lift your mood. Others might have more specific advice, but in my experience it's really all about being in a happy frame of mind when the trip starts.


@rabbitheart I once watched Life in the Undergrowth while coming down and vividly remember being overwhelmed to the point of crying during the spider web segment.

I second all of this advice! Especially the looking forward to it part.


@MoonFlavor Ooh! Have fun! Roll with it and enjoy. And for some reason, gum is always good to have. Fruity gum is the best, like grape or watermelon. I don't know, it just tastes extra good when you're tripping. Come back and tell us how it was!

Barry Grant

I always opted for outdoor fun. The 90-degree angles in buildings just seem so redundant. But leaves? Rocks? Ladybugs? Endlessly absorbing. Even some quiet patch of weeds is so much fun!


@MoonFlavor - As Barry Grant says, get outdoors. Indoors feels hollow and fake and dead when you're tripping. You'll think it's a bad trip but it's just cause you need to get your arse outside in the grass and leaves and sunshine.

Also - daylight. Do not trip at night. Please. Do not trip at an insanely loud night party with music and movies and tripping people screaming stupid stuff. Of course that said, all the trip will do is make you more like who you really are. If you're a natural extrovert, the loud dumb party might be just the ticket. But if you're a natural introvert, then being trapped in the dark with dumb movies and crazy people in a hollow indoor life will make you have a awful, mind-numbingly bad trip.

The worst one I ever had, I was in a house I couldn't leave, and I could hear the electricity running through the walls (or something). You do not want to be trapped in a place you can hear electricity running through the walls for like, four hours. Worst trip ever.

Of course, some people do exactly these kind of parties to trip, and have a blast, so what do I know.

Get outside, during daylight hours, near a water source if possible - stream, river, lake, even a swimming pool. Start about 11 am. And have a blast!!


@MoonFlavor If anyone has access to benzos like valium, xanax or klonopin, it's handy to have one around for the comedown in case things feel a little too intense. I agree with:
- outdoors! daytime!
- fruity gum
and add to that
- lots of water and juice, just to switch things up

Pocket Witch

First time I went to the orthodontist's after having my braces put on, I kept screaming because it hurt so much (I have a pathetically low pain tolerance, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I'm a wuss). Second and all subsequent times, they put me in an auxiliary room down the hall, instead of the main room with two other chairs and the waiting room next door.

Man, I hated braces. And I hate retainers with a passion I normally reserve for shitty GUIs.


Love the illustration, too!

Elizabeth F. Orever

mine would be titled "the best time I was in my high school's production of joseph and the amazing colour dream coat on lsd" and it involves sweating and watching television snow at intermission while all the bank geeks pointed and laughed (with me of course, not at me!)


@Elizabeth F. Orever I imagine everything would definitely be red and yellow and green and brown and scarlet and black and ochre and peach if you were trippin'!

Elizabeth F. Orever

@Xanthophyllippa sometimes I catch myself going "poor poor joseph, whatcha gonna do. whatcha gonna do..."


I guess I am a party pooper, but I kept thinking, "Did the ortho change his gloves in between attending the author and the bug-eyed boy?" This sounds fun otherwise, though!


@MoxyCrimeFighter I thought the same thing! But then I thought that if all of his patients are tripping on LSD then no one probably noticed that he was being gross? Then I questioned just how many kids came in to get their braces worked on while on something.

Blousey Brown

Dr. Steinlauf's kind remark broke my heart a little.


God, I thought I was the only one dumb enough to have ever done this (eaten acid and then remembered a dentists' appointment)! Now I know not just one, but TWO (or three? Does Debi count?) other people have done the same. Thank you for making me feel better about that whole episode!


@ru_ri Everyone in every dentist's office, ever, is apparently tripping balls.


Oh god. What if dentists are all just a mass hallucination? What if there's no such thing, and they're really just something everybody sees during bad trips?


I totally thought of a better story than the self pity I was just spreading...The Best time I got purse-snatched while I was high then nearly had a panic attack when I realized I would have to talk to cops while high! The good news is the caught the guy, got my purse back and didn't seem to notice or care, but I started freaking out that my elbow was bleeding while talking to the officer and I think that's why they were so nice to me!

Fiddle dee dee

Ooh, tripping would have been fun at my orthodontist's place- he had an exam chair upholstered in rabbit fur.

like a rabid squirrel

@Fiddle dee dee And tripping would be terrible at the dentist's office from whence I (by way of failblog) snatched my avatar.

Fiddle dee dee

@olliegrace It's a little bit terrifying even without any chemical assistance.

Michael Schiavo@twitter

This was highly enjoyable. Every single part.


Oh jesus. Best time I ever tripped was in the ER. Long story!


@stuffisthings TELL US NOW.

Harriet Welch

Whatthewhat???!!!!!! This is the best thing in the world! How....why???? I have done quite a bit of "recreating" (which is why I now talk like that) and I would have freaked out and cancelled. I hate Trying to do legit person stuff under those circumstances. Like telling campus security which direction a purse snatcher went and just muttering "To the warm parts...the warm parts. He went where the warm parts are".

Harriet Welch

@Harriet Welch to be fair, he was headed toward the warm building we had just exited...
Luckily my friend had the presence of mind to give the officer a snotty look and said that I had a cognitive disability.
The Best Time I Didn't Get Arrested Because I Passed For a Person With a Cognitive Disability?


Don't tell anyone, but I have a quarter of mushrooms in my bedside drawer. Shh!

fondue with cheddar

@myrna.minkoff I'm jealous! It's been a looong time.

dracula's ghost

I have never done any drug harder than weed but I have had SO MUCH ORTHODONTIA/ORAL SURGERY and now I feel cheated


I had a bad enough trip from the gas when I was six and had to have oral surgery - pretty sure the cavern I was floating down in the dream was my own ailimentary canal. It was populated by people with their heads on springs, like giant bobbleheads.

That the memory is so vivid even >30 years later is pretty much why I've never been interested in trying hallucinogenics/psychodelics.

fondue with cheddar

@Xanthophyllippa Our brains are very different, and psychedelics are definitely not for everyone. I'm glad you learned they're not for you the easy way and not the hard way!


@jen325 Two people close to me, who have done acid and enjoyed it, warn me against it. They say I'm too sensitive for it and they don't want my mind to be changed by it. I'm partially like, "Shut up, you've done it and liked it," and partially like, "Am I a delicate snowflake?" and partially like, "OMG, maybe they know something I don't know and I don't want to ruin my mind." So far with the things I've done (not acid) I've been fine- just a few bad experiences, and no permanent harm- but I always wonder what, exactly, they mean.

fondue with cheddar

@whateverlolawants It's hard to explain. It's nothing as simple as "If you are x, then psychedelics are bad for you." It's not necessarily a matter of how strong or weak your mind is, it's more like the way your mind works. It changes some minds for the better, but it can be destructive to others. If someone familiar with such drugs knows you well enough to say that, it's best to assume they're right. I'm sorry that's not a very good answer, but it's all I've got.


@jen325 That's pretty interesting, thanks for your thoughts.

fondue with cheddar

@whateverlolawants You're welcome, sorry it doesn't make much sense. Some aspects of psychedelics are easy to describe, like visuals, but it's harder to convey the rest of it. And what exactly "the rest of it" is varies from person to person. For instance, they gave me a sense of connectedness with nature (so much so that one time my then-boyfriend and I were this close to driving out to the woods with no supplies and living off the land even though we had no skills). But they might coax disturbing things out of the mind of someone with a traumatic event in their past. I knew someone who had a bad trip at a concert and wound up screaming in horror at the top of her lungs at the front entrance and was arrested (I don't know what that was all about because I heard the story second-hand). It was suggested by friends that Syd Barrett (the famous former member of Pink Floyd who descended into madness) had such a bad response to LSD because he had a very vivid, childlike imagination, though others say that mental illness was there all along and the drug just brought it out.


@jen325 Yes, I was thinking of Syd Barrett! Glad you mentioned him. Some of my friends describe the connectedness-to-nature thing, which sounds cool (if you don't starve/get mauled out there.) When I wonder if it would bring up previous traumas, I wonder if that means I need to address those traumas more. Hmm. Very interesting.

fondue with cheddar

@whateverlolawants Yeah, I'm glad we came down before driving out there (then ditching the car, obviously). The best connectedness-to-nature experience was lying in the parking lot looking up at this huge tree, which I felt was hugging me like a mother.

If you do decide to try it, just be careful of the setting. You want somewhere private, familiar, comfortable, and safe, and you want to be with people who are experienced with psychedelics and who are willing to keep and eye on you and talk you down if your mind goes to a scary place.

I've only ever done mushrooms, never acid. My experiences were all positive except for getting a little freaked out while looking in the mirror.


Wow, I would not have survived that trip. I nearly died when a cop stopped me to ask if I'd heard any fireworks going off in the area while I was tripping. Prolonged contact with an "authority figure" would probably have stopped my heart. Also, on a different trip, I totally bit a tree branch, as it made sense at the time.


@TrotskyHoldsMyiPod Oh man. One Christmas a friend and I did mushrooms. We were in this park walking along the walkway when a cop car pulled up ON the walkway. I stopped because I didn't want to walk on the grass since there were cops there, and I didn't want to get in their way since they were driving on the fucking walkway.
They stopped and asked what we were doing, and I said "we're taking a walk and trying to figure out what YOU're doing" all indignant like. Then they told us to be careful because some kids got knifed there the night before.

I think they were fucking with us.


The best time I went to a working interview... on lsd.

I did not get the job. I think it took me an hour and a half to bake a pan of brownies? They must have thought I was a bit touched or something.


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