Fear and Loathing with Dennis Mckenna on the Costa Del Sol

Schwann Cybershaman's picture

I’m a science fiction writer and independent film maker on a mission. I'd been away from my wife and family, located in Cape Town, South Africa, for more than a month. I'd traveled to Tenerife on a giant container ship, spent three weeks exploring Tenerife, then flown to Malaga, Spain, where my old school friend, Roy, put me up in his 'spare villa'.

The mission?

Dennis Mckenna is coming to stay at the villa with me for two weeks and I'm hoping that the synergy arising from this caper will provide unique opportunities to further the ‘evolution of consciousness’ movie that I've been working on for the last few years, or is it longer than that? Time compression is something you want to watch out for.

My host, Roy, is a billionaire-at-large. Either showering us with attention or disappearing to attend to his empire of more than 90 hotels and maybe this is why his phone rings non-stop. Roy’s presence increases my level of surrealism as he only knows two speeds. These are; full speed ahead - or stop. One moment you're in a turbo-charged 4X4 doing 200 kph on a highway, and the next you're in a 60 ft. Ferretti doing 40 knots in the Mediterranean. Is this for real?

Roy usually ends up taking thirty people for supper, so it isn't so strange that people keep arriving until half the restaurant is sitting at our table. I'm immediately surrounded by bankers, real-estate gurus, lawyers, accountants, plus their wives and kids, and also the friends of their kids. Usually, I get asked what I do for a living by someone's wife. The boys are too busy doing business.

“I'm shooting a full-length feature on the effects of entheogens on the evolution of consciousness, with a well known Ethnobotanist, Dennis Mckenna. Have you heard of him?”.

Unsurprisingly, I get blank stares. In a background window, I can see Roy grinning. I’m his secret weapon because no one really understands what I’m talking about, or why I'm 'really' at the villa for the summer. Fortunately, Roy and I go way back, and I probably know him better than they do so I field off their questions with an incomprehensible combination of science and philosophy until supper accelerates into continuously delivered platters of local delicacies, including fried sardines calamari and langoustine, all chased down with whatever's in the nearest glass.

Besides bestowing a fully serviced villa with manicured lawns and a giant swimming pool upon me, Roy has also arranged a Peugot 307, a really neat euro-ride complete with metal fold-down roof. Some few days later, I find myself driving with the top down on my way to Malaga International airport with Joey to pick Dennis up.

It isn't difficult spotting Dennis in the crowd passing through the sliding door at arrivals. He's taller than most of the surrounding bustle and also more bemused, mostly because the system had parted him with his luggage at Madrid and all he'd come through with was his laptop. Assuring him that he'd get his luggage back, 'later', we head back towards the villa for some enforced relaxation. Letting him siesta till 5.00 PM seems like the best thing to do. I spend some time catching up on email but before long Dennis is ready to party. Hood down, we head towards nearby Puerte Banus, a posh waterfront slightly west of Marbella.

The Marco Polo restaurant has running water for a ceiling and serves great spaghetti. We're supposed to meet Joey and Leo here but because I've left my phone in the car we order without them. Every meal counts and I've learned to eat while the opportunity presents itself. Dennis tries the swordfish and I get the puttanesca. By now, Dennis is showing signs of jet lag so we return to the car and head for home at a leisurely speed of 130 kilometers per hour. I only find out later that Dennis thinks the speedo is marked in miles per hour, not kilometers, and is clutching the handhold in panic. By the time we get back to the Villa, it's already after 2.00AM. The Costa del Sol can be relied on to keep you up late, whatever your agenda.

The next day, originally planned to do some filming doesn't work out that way. Roy arrives during the shoot and goads us into a culture spanning discussion. After some pointed remarks like; “get that f---g cam out of my face or…”, I reluctantly drop the cam and spark one up before joining the discussion on relevant global political and socio economic factors. Let me add in some personal dynamics here. Joey, like Roy, an old friend of mine, has a conservative view of the things, while Dennis, to put it mildly, is 'progressive'. Roy is obviously an icon of capitalisim. Joey proceeds to question Dennis on various aspects of the psychedelic experience, but mostly about how many times you're 'supposed' to vomit when you take ayahuasca. Roy finds this mildly amusing but wants to know why Bush is bad for America - and other stuff. Dennis believes ayahuasca is a cure for many ailments not dealt with by modern medicine, including drug addiction, obsessive compulsive behavior and depression, (erowid.org) but Joey is not easily convinced and remains steadfastly skeptical. Roy listens to what Dennis has to say about Bush with a look of sincere bemusement. I get it on film some time later.

“I just want to say that if there is some question about the American president’s mental stability, the American people deserve to know this. If he is receiving medication or psychiatric care this should be discussed in the media the same as any other potentially life threatening medical condition and I hope that the media will fulfill their responsibility in asking the right questions in the most appropriate forms. No further comment.” (Quote: Dennis Mckenna)

Fortunately, we eventually agree that there's more to life than politics, so I'm not too worried about being in a car with Joey and Dennis for 6 hours in the morning. Tomorrow we go to Ibiza!

[Authors note: This blog was too long to be posted in one shot, so I am serialising it. Stay tuned!]

Schwann Cybershaman's picture

Part 2

Dennis Mckenna and Schwann go to Ibiza

I don’t usually operate well on lack of sleep, but having Dennis around adds spring to my step and thus it’s only 10.30 AM by the time we leave the vicinity of Malaga. We’d packed the car with appropriate stuff and headed out onto the freeway. Earlier, we’d googled that a ferry leaves for Ibiza from the city port of Denia at 5.00 PM. Denia is some 600 clicks away, so we figure that if we use the high-speed toll road we should easily make in 5 hours. Of course things don’t always pan out the way you plan them.

Two hours of jammed coastal highways with traffic moving along at 60 clicks an hour turn the beautiful coastline into a nightmare of heel and toe driving at nowhere near the type of speed needed to arrive in Denia before 5.00 PM. Things look hopeless enough for me to initialize time distortion, but no one takes me seriously to the point where Dennis suggests we stay the night in Denia. I keep at the distortion. I want to be on Ibiza tonight, and for this reason it doesn’t matter that Joey and Dennis spend the next few hours arguing the validity of Bush’s sanity.

The traffic has diminished enough for me to attain a cruising speed well in excess of 60 KPH. I’m not sure if Dennis or Joey has noticed, but suddenly we’re on a highway. I put my foot down and drive at speeds faster than that of the surrounding traffic, which isn’t too strange because time distortion is where everything is both instantaneous and interminable, a forever moment where a large town constructed of clustered space ships towers over a long stretch of beach between two rocky outcrops. Is Bennidorm an alien embassy, or is it just hell on earth?

Back in the car, we’ve attained a cruising speed in excess of 160 KPH and I’m not only dodging the traffic and making time go backwards, I’m also making spliffs because no-one else is qualified to do this. Fortunately, the crew keeps deathly quiet to let me concentrate. Survival is something we all understand and weirdness can only get you so far in the real world, a world where 18 wheelers are trying to take us out while our shuttle is still due for lift-off to Ibiza without us. There is no plan B.

I hadn’t looked at my watch since I’d worked out that it was impossible to do the allotted distance in the given time, thus I’m somewhat amazed to see a sign that tells us Denia is only a short distance away. It appears we’ve covered five hundred of kilometers in an impossibly short time, but there’s no time to calculate velocity because it’s 4.52 PM and we’ve only got 8 minutes before the ferry is due to leave.

4.55 PM. Denia. Driving up to the barrier, I’m relieved to see that the ferry’s ramp is still down, but unfortunately this is where I lose control of the situation. Dennis and Joey, who’ve gone to buy tickets from the ferry’s fascist ticket office, are told they’re too late to buy tickets. Revving the engine and making threatening movements with my spare hand, I try driving up the ramp anyway, but am prevented from flattening the attendant security guards by application of the Art of War. I smile at the security guards, who have now surrounded the car while making police noises with their whistles. Joey and Dennis pretend not to notice. They know how close to the time warp we are. Unceremoniously, and with squeaky arrogance, the ferry’s ramp retracts without allowing us to board. I figure that this is not green because there’s still room for another ten cars.

Fortunately, there’s another ferry in an hour an a half and the good news is that Joey, looking a bit glum, has paid for the tickets. The bill for the three of us and the car amounts to the price of a return to South Africa. No wonder it takes Joey a while to cheer up. Tell him “it’s only money” only makes it worse, but what are friends for? I successfully invoked the time warp because we’re scheduled to arrive in Ibiza at 10.30 PM, and the night is still young!

Relieved that we don’t have to spend the night in Denia, a town that wont sell you an ice cream without a cover charge, we rejoin the queue of cars lined up for the next ferry. It’s over 30 deg C outside so we hang out inside the car with the engine running and the aircon on. It’s hot enough not to care what anyone thinks of three geezers crammed into an air-conditioned sports car with the roof up, nor could they imagine what weirdness our merry crew carried within it’s bosom, a bosom nurtured by psychedelic plants and a willingness to explore all available dimensions of reality.

By this time, we’d relaxed into memetic totems. Joey is a right wing fanatic, Dennis is a left wing liberal and I’m an anarchist. Everything remains wonderfully unclear. In a background window, one of the same guard/porter/idiots that had earlier prevented me from driving up the ramp of the 5.00 PM ferry comes over and warily checks our tickets.

Mumbling something in Spanish under his breath, he impatiently signals me to turn the car around and reverse up the ramp. Because of safety regulations, Joey and Dennis have to leave the car but Dennis is a bit slow in moving out the way and in the confusion I nearly run him over in my first attempt at reversing up the ramp. The Peugot 307 with the roof up and fully loaded has zero rear vision and the ferry personnel scream at me to move, first this way, then that. It is impossible to fully describe what it feels like to reverse into the bowels of 16 lane parking garage, but amazingly I’m somehow guided into a claustrophobic parking space between a whole lot of big-wheeler trucks and a metal wall.

There is very little room to do anything more than squirm out of the car and crawl along the wall, something I probably couldn’t do if I was Billy Bunter. Feeling briefly sympathetic for anyone overweight, I try not to notice the strong smell of sewage as I climb the stairs from the car deck to the passenger section, located some three flights of stairs above. By the time I’ve escaped from the smelly bowels of the ferry, I’m suffering monoxide poisoning. Emerging onto the upper deck, it takes me a few minutes to recuperate, during which time I begin to notice that a large percentage of my fellow passengers are brightly colored, young, and mostly good looking. I notice a single fat guy, self-consciously filming everyone with a handy cam. Nobody seems to care.

Strung-out from my first ferry parking experience, I find myself a plastic chair outside on the upper deck and collapse onto it, waiting for Dennis and Joey to appear. All around me, people are taking off their kit and applying suntan lotion. It’s 6.30 PM, but the sun is still high. We start moving away from the dock. Ibiza here we come!

Sometime before we clear the harbor wall, Dennis and Joey make it to my vantage point on the upper deck. Politics aside, they seem to be hitting it off fine so I proceed to relax into a spontaneous photo shoot, during which we endure curious stares from scores of nearly-naked onlookers who don’t appear to speak our language. This is Europe so it isn’t that surprising. Admittedly, we’re a strange bunch of geezers.

“This is better than the real thing”, says Joey.

Dennis is using my still camera to shoot me filming him. Things have finally kicked into gear. The time distortion I’d earlier summoned has eventually mellowed out. Retrieving my chair, feeling somewhat pleased with myself, I settle into a comfortable position, adjust my hat, light a thinny - and wait for planet-fall.