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The Museum Dose: 12 Experiments in Pharmacologically Mediated Aesthetics
by Daniel Tumbleweed
Publisher:
Phoropter Press 
Year:
2015 
ISBN:
0692446443 
Reviewed by David Arnson, 5/15/2017

“This time, it was the bells that guided the bass, luring it like a snake from a basket. It wove into the air, the pews, my feet, my bones. Whereas the bass of Particle had slammed down like a fist, here it felt as if it slipped down into the Earth and up again, buffeting me, lifting me, picking me up. The tinkle of all the bells around it had the joyous feeling of sun and sky.”

“At the threshold to Central Park I stood and stared down the length of the walkway, drifting into the thick of the park. Farther south down Central Park West, light rushed in a river towards the acrid glow of Columbus Circle’s billboards, fluorescent lights in cages beneath scaffolding, warmly lit windows, headlights and lampposts. I walked into the park, where the game between light and dark was playing by much older rules…”

Was it Sasha Shulgin who coined the phrase “museum dose”? I can’t quite remember, but the phrase refers to taking a light enough dose of psychedelics to be taken safely and/or discreetly in a public place, for example, at an art gallery. Daniel Tumbleweed has written 12 chapters (or as he says, “Experiments in pharmacologically mediated aesthetics”) on doing just that, experiencing a museum dose at various art installations and concerts around his hometown of New York City.

Each chapter begins with the art event destination and dosage of the substance that he has taken, and this gentleman proves truly eloquent in conveying the impressions that he receives. Plus, I have to say that he has some great musical taste (in other words, the same as mine, ha!). I mean Brian Eno? Kraftwerk? Pantha du Prince? He can come spin records at my house any day! I don’t know if he wrote these chapters after he experienced them or if he took notes as he was experiencing them, but each different “experiment” is notable both in its acuity of expression and his basically excellent command of the English language.

One interesting factor to note in this book is how, even under the influence of some fairly heavy duty molecular compounds, he generally seems to be able to keep his shit together in public. The one exception to this is his description of a visit to the Dia:Beacon museum up on the Hudson River. Tumbleweed describes encountering an installation of Richard Serra’s immense 20-ton rolled steel walls and finally peacefully curling up into a ball at the foot of one of them. He does get it together after a couple of people walk by, and entertainingly, one of them totally seems to understand his reaction.

Another notable aspect of this book is the fact that the author has the distinct advantage of never having to drive anywhere, as he lives in a city with widespread public transportation. Of course, as many Erowid experience repors warn, driving is never recommended under the effect of a strong psychoactive substance. However, this book is not just a series of experience reports, but a thoughtful and sometimes poetically articulated description of feelings and ideas the author gained under the influence of psychedelics “in the field”. And Tumbleweed is certainly quite the psychonaut, as he reports on experiences with 4-Aco-DMT, psilocybin-containing mushrooms, 2C-E, 2-CI, 2-CT-2, 4-HO-MPT, 4-HO-MiPT, 5-MeO-MiPT, TMA-2, 4-HO-DiPT, 4-AcO-DET, and 4-HO-MET. Holy alphabetamine, Batman!

The Museum Dose was a pleasure to read, and the author’s powers of description and recall were exemplary. On a tangential note, one thing to ponder is that since some of these compounds can last for many hours, what mundane or exceptional activities did he engage in after these concert and art experiences? Whatever the case, he certainly extracted the best parts here. This book stands as an important addition to the art of psychedelic writing.

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