Neal Pollack Has Visions, Revisions

Yesterday, Salon published a piece by writer Neal Pollack about his experiences with this year’s moral panic-inspiring quasi-legal drug, salvia divinorum, in a piece called Confessions of a Salvia Eater.

Fans of Mr. Pollack will no doubt enjoy his description of what he saw on the other side:

I put the salvia in my freezer and didn’t touch it for almost two years. Then I had a free midnight, and it occurred to me to try some. … Almost immediately, I had visions. … The next night, I repeated the dose. While I had a few small visions, I mostly felt that my body was stretching out beyond its boundaries, moving into infinite space. The night after that, I did a third consecutive salvia chew. Nothing came of it, and around 1 a.m., I fell asleep. … Approximately two hours later, I snapped awake, aware that the room had shaken with a tremendous thud, as though something very heavy had landed. A massive stone warrior, looking vaguely like a lost piece of Mesoamerican art, stood in the middle of the room. ‘Don’t mess with what you don’t understand,’ he said to me. Terrified, I closed my eyes, and saw the woman again. I seem to recall begging her to show me the secrets of the universe. She spoke for the first time as well. ‘You take yourself too seriously,’ she said.

But then, fans might feel like they’ve been there before.

In 2006, Mr. Pollack reviewed a biography of Timothy Leary for The Nation and described the same trip: "I perceived that a flash of light had filled the room, though it didn’t wake up my wife. I heard, and even felt, an enormous thud. A squat, thick stone warrior was standing at the foot of my bed, unmoving, unspeaking. It was like he’d been sent to me as a gift or an offering, or maybe a warning. … Dude. That was freaky."

Mr. Pollack called the Media Mob after an initial e-mail inquiry and said that when writing the Salon piece he’d forgotten about his Nation review ("I feel bad I forgot it") and pointed out that he’d actually written about the experience on his blog in 2005. (He says his editor at Salon knew about that earlier version.) He says that the differences in his descriptions of the trip are reasonable enough. After all, it’s drugs.

"It’s as if I were writing about my dream," he said. "Every time you describe it to someone, it’s different. It’s essentially the same dream."

As for his roundtrip reports, Mr. Pollack explained them, too: "It’s a time-honored habit for writers." Neal Pollack Has Visions, Revisions