My band at the time, Sackweed, pulled into Austin, Texas, on Jan. 10, 1974, to a beautiful spring-like day that boded well for the future. The previous night, we had left behind the winter rain and sleet in Lawrence, Kansas, and headed south to Costa Rica where “our kind of music” would be appreciated. All was well for a while until our girl singer rode off on a harmonica player’s Harley seeking greener pastures, causing her husband in the band no small amount of distress.

Things went downhill fast after the band’s clarinet player broke his hand doing construction work, and I found myself as the only member left in Austin.
Seeking something to do while re-establishing my life, I responded to a volunteer recruitment poster for the city-funded drug crisis intervention center known as Middle Earth. It had been a mainstay of the Austin counterculture for several years, offering a telephone hotline and counseling rooms.

Volunteers worked four-hour shifts on the telephone hotline once or twice a week. Besides “counseling,” the job involved identifying pills out of the huge Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) and responding to would-be abusers with advice such as, “It says here not to take more than five at once.” The counselors were an interesting mix of University of Texas students getting psychology course credits and hippie types of all ages. I became the resident hippie guitar player.

I guess one reason for Middle Earth’s “success” was the very thin line between the people phoning in and the so-called counselors answering. If someone called in having a bummer LSD trip, the counselor might go to the caller’s house, put on some Moody Blues and just stay there being mellow and helpful till the acid wore off.

Over the years, LSD’s popularity gave way to much more sinister hard drugs. All that telephone counselors could do then was instruct callers to check the pockets of overdose victims before reaching the closest hospital emergency room.

Occasionally, Middle Earth went out in the field to provide medical and first aid at the annual Willie Nelson picnics. Thanks to one of these Cosmic Cowboy Woodstock events, I’ve been able to boast that “I sued Willie Nelson!” An analogy for anyone who ain’t from Texas or doesn’t recognize the name: That’s like saying I used to date Margaret Trudeau or I punched Charles De Gaulle in the nose.

It seems that Middle Earth was seeking payment for additional expenses after the latest picnic-party-disaster. As the token hippie musician member of the Board of Directors, my name was listed as one of the plaintiffs. Alas, Willie Nelson’s lawyers outnumbered our one ponytailed (you guessed it) hippie lawyer, with not-unexpected results.

Now, some 40 years later, I sadly confess that drugs continue to be a big part of my life. Much of it can be attributed to living as long as I have. Thanks to the Caja, Costa Rica’s version of Social Security, I’m supplied with Metformina, Lovastatina, Tamsolin and orange-flavored baby aspirin … all for a variety of old-guyish ailments we needn’t go into.

One of my two favorite drugs is Excedrin extra strength tablets — not available here and so must be brought in clandestinely by the matronly mules I engage. Then there is my favorite intoxicant— and possibly also yours — among the sedative drug family: alcohol.

Some of you six or seven regular Surviving Costa Rica readers out there may be disappointed that I’ve made no mention of marijuana, cocaine, opioids, magic mushrooms, peyote enemas, heroin, mescaline or Hawaiian baby woodrose seed.
Are you crazy? Trying to get me busted? The Howler is a fine, upstanding, family-oriented magazine, and your humble scribe is here to represent.