The Music Festival Guide to Drugs

Having walked into a dozen or two music festivals and having tumbled out or escorted or thrown out by security, I’ve had first hand accounts of the harmful effects of drugs on naive festival-goers. First up, hide it well when you’re going in. Secondly, there’s no doubt that drugs are bad for you, including the ones you get across the counter at medical stores and chemists. In case you’ve been blinded by TV commercials and Shah Rukh and MS Dhoni’s Royal Stag testimonials, even alcohol is a drug.

According to the WHO, A drug is any substance (other than food that provides nutritional support) that, when inhaled, injected, smoked, consumed, absorbed via a patch on the skin, or dissolved under the tongue, causes a physiological change in the body. – wikipedia

‘Drugs’ as per the commonly abused definition of the word, are against the law. Then again, in India and most other ignorant countries, so is homosexuality. The law is dumber than the dude who decided this demonetization thing. So if you get caught, you’re on your own – like I learned at NH7 Weekender 2010, 2012, 2014… and still learning. In this post, we’re only talking about the drugs that the lawmakers and music festivals talk about.

More often than not, you don’t hear of scary stories. But there’s that one idiot who gives the whole crew a bad name by overdosing on some suspicious material, or mixing it all up and then face-planting into the sound console. So before you go all into your fear & loathing at the festival mode, it’s best to educate yourself about what to expect when you’re tripping balls. And luckily there’s enough ways to stay safe and alive.

  1. Weed/hashish/charas – the good stuff can be sniffed out from a football field away. So if you see those big bouncers running towards you, empty your pockets immediately and be ready to beg them to not tear your festival band up. Also stay close to the food stall so you don’t get lost trying to satiate your munchies craving. Caution: Do not mix with hard alcohol.
  2. Alcohol – yes, just because all your festivals are sponsored by them, and your dad drinks, and your grandpa drinks, it doesn’t mean alcohol is not a drug. It is, but the morality of it being legal is a different discussion. Stay hydrated. Eat well. And go easy. You don’t want to projectile at some unsuspecting chick dressed like a fairy. Caution: Slow down. Do not mix the darks and the whites. And remember all that coke and sprite and whatever mixers you use, have an obscene amount of sugar content. Make sure the ice is made with filtered water. Or skip the ice.
  3. Cocaine – now we’re going hard. It ups the energy levels. But it can also up the douchebag levels. Tends to make some feel aggressive. If you have that tendency, stay off the coca. Do not walk around like you dipped your face in snow. Caution: stay hydrated. Don’t start a fight. Somebody will clock you out.
  4. MDMA/extacy/molly – everybody’s fave party/rave/festival drug. Will help you dance 15 hours straight, but the body ache recovery post festival will take 10x that time. Also, you’ll be feeling the love a lot. But don’t get too touchy-feely with random strangers, aaite? The bouncers are always watching. Caution: There’s a lot of bad MD going around, especially at festivals when those greedy scumbag peddlers are out to make a fortune. So go easy. Watch out for really bad downers and anxiety attacks. Both cocaine and MDMA tend to increase your tolerance for alcohol. But when they wear off, the alcohol side effects will make life hell. Very dehydrating, so carry a ton of oral hydration salts or glucon d.
  5. LSD – magical colours, patterns, and love will exist where they never did before. Also this is probably the least harmful drug, physically. But if you have any case of mental or emotional trauma or baggage, stay off absolutely. LSD takes a while to wear off. And if you’re stuck in a painful psychological trip, you might even consider killing yourself to get out of it. Please don’t give the drug a bad name by dying. Caution: stay hydrated. Fresh juices/fruits are best.
  6. DMT – if you take this at a music festival, you’re probably out of your mind. Literally. And some of those EDM acts while tripping on DMT can be akin to sitting in a pitch black torture chamber listening to nickelback for days together on loop. Caution: certainly not to be mixed with other chemicals or alcohol or greasy food.
  7. Ketamine – aka fertilizer aka horse tranquilizer aka don’t touch that thing. But more often than not, this has been passed around as MDMA among unsuspecting festival goers. Given its low cost, its also become a popular choice of drugs among the youth. But honestly, I cant think of a worse drug than ketamine. If you DO end up using, make sure you stay hydrated and keep chewing gum as well. Those jaw clenches can be gnarly. And really, the 3-4 terrible days of recovery period – where your tongue burns and your jaws hurt and you have no appetite – is hell.

So yeah, I’ll recycle this post just in time for the next festival season. But keep these general tips in mind anyway, and stay psychologically undamaged/alive.

 

 

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Gentleman’s Club

(Post from Jan 28, 2015 – that i just found in my drafts. Somehow escaped my sight, so here it is)

Location: Tarapoto, Amazon Basin, Northern Peru.

Life after the jungle has been surprising. The rules are as follows. No spices, no citric, no fats, no coffee, no carbs, no meat, no tomatoes, no onions, no drugs, no sex, no weed. For at least 30 days.

When i got out of the retreat, i came straight to Colores, the same place i had spent 10 days the last time i was in Tarapoto. This time around, there were 3 men when i checked back in (with Juan Carlos). So it’s now officially a gentleman’s club. That’s an awesome strategy to keep all horny thoughts away, for a straight guy at least. We occupy hammocks in boxers all day and have farting contests. The one that makes everybody run for fresh air wins. Fernando is the current unbeaten champion. Dora the dog comes in a close second, but she doesn’t win any prizes cos she’s female. At other times, we play poker. I suck at it though.

We watch movies, from my collection of 10 flicks that i carry everywhere, on J-C’s big screen. I’ve even downloaded spanish subtitles so they can all understand, and i can learn spanish too. Sometimes J-C takes the tv into his room to skype. I bet skype sex is better on a 50 inch screen. But i sure hope he’s not cheating on the diet. He’s broken up and patched up with his girl 4 times in the last three weeks.

He, and every other fucker here has a bad habit of putting used matchsticks back in the matchbox, and if i berate them they just laugh and tell me to fuck off. ‘Hahahahah fuck off you indian guy’. So i spend my time reading Palahniuk, watching TV shows (just finished Homeland S04), my fave movies on repeat with Spanish subtitles, listening to amazonian music, playing the guitar, playing with Dora, and removing used matchsticks from matchboxes. Not the most exciting life i’ve led, but definitely the most peaceful and contented. Sex, drugs & rock n roll can take a vacation.

Last week, on 22nd Jan, we opened an Indian veg resto ‘Bambu’ as part of Colores. The place was mostly done up by Miro, the one-man-army from Halifax, Canada who came here to start a new-earth project in the jungle. For cycling down the Nevada desert naked in the early 90s, he deserves his own post on this blog. Our chef is Margie, who lives 10 blocks away. She spent 12 years in India, Poona to be specific, and she makes amazing chole-bhatura. My job was helping Fernando and Gabriel (from the Canary Islands) to paint the logos and signs outside, and playing bollywood music on opening night. Dished out my favourite tunes growing up, from Amitabh Bachchan movies to Aamir Khan flicks, to R D Burman and Kishor and even some Rahman thrown in for eclectic feels and all that. Bollywood night in an Indian veg restaurant in Peru. How we never cease to surprise ourselves…

The next day we were in the papers. There’s a pic of me hiding behind the laptop screen. I’m going to make a youtube playlist for Margie to play every night. Maybe i’ll share it with you.

This week i’m in San Roque de Cumbaza, where the town is gearing up for the carnaval, the biggest festival all over south america. Every nook and corner is going to be a massive party. And i’m headlining act on Sunday night. AND, i’m going to be playing sober. But there’s no other way than to nail it inside out. I’m living at this gorgeous place over the hills called San Roque Centro de Artes, where artists from all over the world come down to do a residency, teach kids, art instalments, etc. It’s run by Daniel, who was with me in Cumbaza for the ceremonies, and his wife. Daniel has literally shown me the light a couple of times in the last month, especially since i’m blind at night . There’s a gorgeous cat here, that Daniel brought with him from Cumbaza, and Arco, the white lab. I’ll be here till Monday. Then another 10 days at Colores, and back on the road post that. Can’t wait to climb some snow-capped mountains, or hit up an oasis, or just go surfing again.


Trouble in Paradise

I reached Ctrl+Alt+Dance at 3 pm. A potential replacement for the annual ruckus in Goa during the last week of December, they promised gates would open at 3 pm. And my amigo/brother DJ Uri was slotted to play the first set, starting at 3 pm sharp. This was the sight at 3:30 pm.

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That dog was the only other being at the venue. First i thought i’d got there the wrong day. So i looked 4-5 times at the poster mentioning the day-wise line up. Then i looked at the date on my cellphone. It matched. Then i pinched myself to check if i had taken any mind-altering substances in the last 48 hours. None. Event finally started at 5 pm. By around 10 pm, there were about 17 audience members at the venue and 20 DJs. If I was the festival organiser, I’d take something to put me to sleep for 3 days straight, wake up in the new year, and hope all of it was a terrible nightmare. But this is all real. This is happening. And i hope the next two days have a better turnout for these guys.

Elsewhere I passed by Nikhil Chinappa’s WonderWall festival, and it looked the opposite of an Oasis concert. I wonder how Sunburn is doing in Pune. Where will all those rum-guzzling open-top jeep loving Delhiites go?

There’s a deathly silence as I walk past all the anjuna beach shacks. Lights are bright, music is soft. The remaining restaurant staff are glued to the TV, watching some trashy Bollywood movie. Most have been laid off within days of coming here. There’s nobody to serve. I probably passed by some 150 shacks, I saw around 20 people in all, tourists and travellers. Christmas was not merry. Business was not bad, it was terrifying. Most people coming in to work from Nepal, Himachal, Assam… they don’t know how they’ll provide for family next year. Add to that, they have sleepless nights about when they’ll get told to go back home by the shack owners. Most don’t intend on staying open beyond January. Modi’s 50 days is up, their terror is just beginning. Kashmiris outside the little jewellery stores still have a smile on their face while they chirp ‘brother want look inside?’.

No brother, I’m a writer, I’m broker than you are.

Out in Palolem, a tourist with no new notes is thirsty, nobody will take her old 500 notes for a bottle of water. A street urchin hands her a 100 rupee note. She bursts into tears.

A honeymooning couple from the UK come back to their hotel reception, the newlywed bride in tears – cos the beach was deader than a British beach in peak winters.

Parties that used to pack 800-1000 people until last year have around 150 people this year. Mostly fat uncles, that too. DJs be like ‘WTF bro, where are the titties?’. I don’t know, bro.

The uber rich have filled out 20k a night luxury hotels with their platinum cards. The rich are getting richer. A famous furnishing company booked out an entire hotel for labourers. People who generally live on 200 – 300 rupees a day, put up in 25k a night luxury suites. Harsha Bhogle was their host. A R Rahman sang some of his slumdog mill songs for them. 30 ‘lucky winners’ won Suzuki Balenos, 5 won BMW 7 series cars. Of course, everything’s legit, I’m certain.

As of Nov 20th, the death toll thanks to #demonetization was 55. By first week of December, that number was over a 100. Hello Prime Minister, Merry Christmas to you and your band of loyal chimps.

Another company pays 800 employees 3 months’ salary in cash, advance. The state of Kerala have formed a human chain from their southern tip to the north to protest. The stray dogs there are going to be happy for a while.

Foreigners have split, sick of standing in ATM queues for hours every day. The sun outside an ATM is not as pleasant as the sun on the beach. Not even a quarter of shacks in Goa accept cards. Some drunk Aussie get into the ATM and use multiple cards to refill their alcohol budget, while the entire ATM reeks of the 2 bottles of Old Monk he’s already downed. He tells his friends its a great idea. They do the same. Each dude takes 10-15 minutes inside. Goan aunty outside, who just shut her store and needs to get home to cook for the family, is not pleased. Curses start.

A big company dissolved 14 crores worth of black money through their hotel chains. The Ambanis are still offering free unlimited 4G services to their customers, which has now been extended from end December to some time in Feb. Of course, it’s just a coincidence, the timing.

Shack owners are losing patience, staff are losing patience, small hotels and store owners are losing patience, tourists are surely losing patience. Tempers will flare, things will get ugly, hopefully. When the Venezuelan govt announced a similar ban on currency notes, their citizens took to the streets and burned govt property to show their wrath. Us Indians, we took to twitter and got #fightagainstcorruption trending. We’re such a cool nation, aren’t we?

Next time I’m never going to a festival at the ‘gates open’ time.

Oh Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and some #BlackMoney to you too!


Himalayan Ballbuster

It was supposed to be a leisurely ride through the valley. ‘I just want to rent a bike for a few days and ride around’, I told Godwin.

Godwin had plans of his own, running in his head from way before. Godwin and Snehal are the amazing couple running ‘Ride Inn’ at Shanag Valley, 6 km north of Manali. A gorgeous place with probably the best food I’ve eaten while at Manali. Also the  best view, and the cutest dog Luka.

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View from Ride Inn

‘Let’s do Pangi Valley and Sach Pass, you’ll love it’, Godwin said. I heard ‘valley’ and ‘pass’ and got excited. What i didn’t know was that since he, a regular rider, hadn’t been on the road for over a year, he was already pushing the limits in his head.

I’m not a biker really. I don’t like groups. I don’t like following others’ plans. I don’t even like bikers much. They talk about pistons and cranks and rods and shafts and *yawwwwn*. But since this was Godwin and Snehal leading the way, I had no problems at all. Digvij and Bhuwan, two of their friends, were coming in from Rajasthan, and we’d join them on their way through to Pangi Valley. And those two turned out to be super fun.

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Godwin & Snehal

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Leisurely ride, I thought. So I booked myself a nice 500cc classic. A tad expensive, as is the norm renting bikes in Manali (Rs.1200 – 1500 a day).

The rule was Godwin & Snehal rode up front, me second, then Digvij, and finally Bhuwan – the most experienced one to keep a watch on us.

This should be fun, I thought.

It was, for the first two hours…

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The ‘leisurely’ bit

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Day 1 brought that easy ride to a shattering demise. It took us 9 hours to get across 190km, from Manali to Tindi. In my head, before we started, I was all ‘hmmm, that’s about the distance from Bombay to Poona, should take us about 5 hours…’

Bullshit.

Not when there’s NO ROAD. No kidding. The road disappeared after the first 40 km or so. Then there was only mud and rocks. Boulders and water crossings from glaciers melting above, foxes, and roads that you shouldn’t look over if you have a fear of heights. Up until Rohtang pass (50 km from Manali), everything was nice and reminiscent of a romantic scene in a Ryan Gosling movie.

After that it was all downhill, literally. Your ass hurts, of course, from the constant bump and grind on hard rocks. But readjusting your balls every 10 mins inside the boxers you wear, while using just the other hand to balance a 200 kilo bike on rocks and boulders, is a bit tough. Life lesson: never wear boxers to a long and treacherous bike ride.

Around 5 pm after i bounced over some 200 rocks and boulders, I turned to Godwin and asked him ‘how much longer is the road like this??’

‘Why do you ask so many questions, just ride man!’

That was it. I was trapped. If one question got that response, no more questions.

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Resting it out at the Forest Dept Villa…

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…wondering WTF I got myself into

At night, after Bhuwan had hustled our stay at the forest department’s guest house, we rested our respective arses. They had old monk for company, and as always – the spirits bring out the funnies in people. And Digvij went on to tell us how, from behind me, he had a field day watching me ride.

According to him, I was either faster than a bullet, or slower than a snail. No in-between. Sometimes I was so slow, he thought I was stopping, and he’d imagine I was taking a break to pee, so he would too… and as soon as he stopped and got off, I was speeding like that bullet again. I didn’t even know this was happening. I don’t know what was going on in my mind. Just survival, I guess.

Next morning we were up, post some chai and parathas, on our way again. If day 1 was hard, day 2 was US army torture in Iraq. It took us 11 hours to cross 137 kilometers.

Let that settle in. Add to that the cold. Early October, season’s almost down cos of snow. Yeah, its freezing cold. By the time you end the day, your wrists, fingers, ankles, legs, face, everything’s numb. Even with gloves and innerwear and jacket on.

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Ummm, road block! *BEEP BEEP*

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And in case I forgot to mention earlier, this terrain that we started off, can be seen on youtube under some of the videos that say ‘world’s most dangerous roads’

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Bhuwan & Digvij playing Dark Knights

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Landslide

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Now ain’t that BREATHTAKING

One landslide delayed our progress by about 30 minutes. Chairi was our lunch stop. There’s not many options for food in these places apart from dal-rice-chapatis, parathas and maggi.

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Waterfalls from glacier melt. Quite a few on this stretch.

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Sometimes the manoeuvring is VERY tricky, that river is upto 3 ft deep

Just before sunset, Digvij’s thunderbird breaking down was our big worry. The bike just wouldn’t climb the steep slopes anymore. And these heavy ass bikes have a mind of their own once they’re on a sharp angle. The number of times I just let the bike lay on the ground instead of bothering to pick it up was quite a bit. Digvij was in two minds to head back. But our peak was only 20 km ahead now. So we worked on constructive thinking. And Godwin, the champ that he is, just pulled out the bike’s air filter, and voila, it was all good again!

I learnt a few things about riding through glacier melt this same day. Snehal taught me a few things about staying steady and keeping your legs down. Cos I was treating it like a theme park ride. Legs up in the air and WHEEEEEE splashing water. But one rock under the water, slipping, could be the end of the ride. For the bike. And the rider. So the next time I almost fell in the icy water, I simply jumped off and let Godwin rescue the bike.

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Sach Pass, our peak.

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After reaching our highest peak, which was Sach Pass at 4440m, at sunset, we had to get to the next guesthouse before dark. My bright idea was to turn the bike into neutral and let it glide down the mountain.

IT WAS THE MOST EXHILARATING SHIT I’VE EVER DONE ON A BIKE.

It was pitch black by then in the mountains, moonless night. And the narrow beam of the headlight was all I could see ahead. Everything else around, black. The speed I had managed to pull with gravity alone was ridiculous. And I’m grateful to the foxes and dogs that did not run across my path. It’s not too good for the bike though, this neutral gliding thing. But there’s some things you can do on a rented bike…

It was almost 9 pm when we reached satroondi checkpost – which is a heavily guarded point because of its proximity to the Pakistan border, and history of militants coming in from the same. Shortly after that, we were at Bhairagadh – and cozily settled into ‘Mannat Guest House’. There’s nothing more rewarding than a pillow for the bum after a whole day of riding on rocks. These guesthouses we lived in were all in the range of 200-400 rupees a night. And the forest department houses are pretty cute too.

Day 3 was the calm after the storm. Also the easiest day for my bum to handle. Flat roads again, and despite another 11 hours, we managed 255 kilometers. We halted in Chamba for lunch at Zaika Dhaba, and bike corrections for Digvij. The ride from Bhairagad to Chamba was a beautiful one through the forest. Our boys from Rajasthan split here at Chamba, so it was eventually Godwin, Snehal and me heading back to Manali. There was still 2 more days to complete though.

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Chamba to Dharamshala and eventually Bagsu was our final stint for day 3. Bagsu is right below Dharamkot, where unbeknownst to me, I was going to lose my heart a week later.

Day 4

Godwin & Snehal decided to stay at Bagsu a day or two. And since I had to return to manali to give back the bike, and catch a bus to Dharamsala and eventually get to Dharamkot to attend my retreat, I spent the final day solo. 10 am kick off from Bagsu, through Dhauladhar tea estates, where I stopped for some awesome green tea and juice, and then moved on to Mandi where I had a massive lunch of dal, chappatis, and you-guessed-it, parathas.

I was getting to Manali just around sundown. That’s when the Aut tunnel threat happened. Within the helmet was my sunglasses, which I should have taken off before the tunnel. But I didn’t think of the consequences. As soon as I got into that tunnel, everything was pitch black. And this is a tunnel that runs about 4km. Imagine riding 4km BLIND. I’m half-blind after sundown anyway. Old issue. Add to that, sunglasses that I cant remove mid-ride, because I have fat gloves on. I cant stop cos I cant see the side of the road, and there’s no way one can really stop in a tunnel. There’s a sinking feeling in your stomach. There’s panic, there’s also prayers. And you hope the one guy you’ve been ignoring all your life will somehow get you through this. HA! Eventually, the glare of oncoming traffic, which I usually cant tolerate, saved me.

It’s just I have a history with tunnels.

This here is Aut tunnel (via youtube) – but doing the same thing like The Terminator is a different story.

As soon as I got out of the tunnel, I stopped at a quiet little tea stall, and reflected on life.

For a first ride, this was the hardest, and the most gorgeous ever. Would i attempt it again? Hell yeah! If it wasn’t for Godwin, this wouldn’t have happened, so i’m glad he got me into this ‘easy ride’. You learn a lot of things about yourself on the road.

Survivalism is just one of them.


Bend it Like Me

Stretching the resume a little bit. I’m a certified yoga teacher now. No, seriously.

So if you need a DJ for the night that’ll kick off yoga lessons in the quiet room at the afterparty, call Johnny B. Say farewell to hangovers and blocked noses!!!

If you just need a yoga teacher, call. Do it do it.

Think of the possibilities here. Great soundtracks for yoga!

Huge shout out to the peeps at Yoga Vidya Gurukul, Nasik. And the amazing batch 104 of Yoga TTC there.

I’m damn excited. I can’t wait to get you all bendy.

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Shaanti Bruh

I have no experience at parenting, but in hindsight, our folks did a lot of things right bringing us up. The most meaningful and lasting one was the lack of religious teachings. Not religiousness, just religion. The only one time they sent me to church, it ended terribly. Religion is a fucked up scheme today, a marketing/publicity/my-dick-bigger-than-yours scheme. You can do any shitty thing and ask for forgiveness in temples and get on with life. Give some donations, talk to a priest, and all your sins are forgiven. The world is a fucked up place and hence business is good. It’ll stay fucked up till people don’t grow a conscience.

What all the religions meant to teach was a simple rule. Do right to others. Karma, Dharma, all simple teachings really.

But look around, everyone’s out to bring someone down. Curse, wail, brag, diss, insult, blame, kill, complain. But Sunday mass, can not miss. Must bow to the lord every Sunday for his blessings.

Wars. My religion is the best, those other religions should fix themselves first. Kids are conditioned into this state of mind very young. It’s just one little pie of the bullshit they’re conditioned with at childhood. If you taught your kids instead to be good to other kids and just love without conditions, we’d have a better world to live in. And that would happen sooner than you think. Look at the wars and scams and calamities around us and ask ‘who’s responsible for this? what are we bringing our kids into?’ 

Why are you holding onto something you had no choice in deciding decades ago when you popped out yo’ mama? Did it do the world around you, or you, any good? Then putting your kids through the same? Hey man there’s nothing wrong in teaching the things Lord Shiva or The Prophet or Buddha shared with us. If you do bother to read though, you’d realize they all taught the same thing.

Get your kid a puppy. They teach unconditional love. If you must teach religion, teach the basic goodness of it. Love and compassion is the universal message. It’s not that complicated. If you must take your kid to christmas celebrations, take them to diwali and eid and everything else. Kids would love that! Stop categorizing them at a young, impressionable age. Don’t put your kids through that circle. There’s a reason babies are the sweetest. Then they get older and the whole ‘process’ begins. A system that has only propagated fear and hate on the basis of religion. And then some of those once-upon-a-time babies are out killing/dying in the name of religion.

Even if there was a heaven, religion doesn’t get you there. Spare the kid. Let him/her choose, if they want, when they want.

“As little children, we are authentic. Only the present time is real for us; We don’t care about the past, and we aren’t worried about the future. We enjoy life; We want to explore and have fun. Nobody teaches us to be that way; We are born that way.”

~ Miguel Ruiz

Update: 31 Aug 2016

Just found this.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/danthropology/2015/11/study-finds-that-children-raised-without-religion-show-more-empathy-and-kindness/


Throwback Goa – The Hippy Days

Ever since the post that featured Goa Gil, i’ve come across him a few times on various other links.

This one came up on my fb timeline today. A heart-wrenching look at what happened to Goa in a few decades. To think we were not even born during the best days.

It’s a thing with human beings; find something beautiful and destroy it. We’re all guilty. That’s why I’ve spent most of the last two years in sparsely populated lands.

And yes, when a man from the 60s tells you that cocaine and heroin killed the hippie era, stay off that shit.

This dude right here, if you can find him, spend as much time as you possibly can.