Often I wonder why some of us are allowed to live a charmed life. Yesterday was one of the most significant days of my six decades on earth. I never cease to be amazed that we live in a world where I can wake up in Dunedin, Florida, hop on a plane, and in just over an hour, find myself in Baltimore, Maryland. And then be back to my Dunedin beach cottage, snuggled in bed by evening.
And yesterday, in the hours between spent a magical day that enhanced all four essentials of my life: sensuality, curiosity, communion, and freedom (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider reading my latest book, “The Quest”). These essentials provide ultimate enjoyment and authenticity to my life—in a word—”wholeness.”
1) Legacy Society/Peabody Library—Gina and I have the honor of being the first people (as I again learned yesterday during multiple introductions) possibly in the world, but almost certainly in America, to bequest a significant financial gift to Psychedelic and Consciousness Research (more on that next). Therefore we have been inducted into the Johns Hopkins Legacy Society. In a lifetime of accolades, it is perhaps the most meaningful honor of my life.
I am invited to many events; however, I’m an incurable introvert and thoroughly enjoy the life of a hermit—away from public life after a lifetime on the stage. But when I received the invitation for the 5th annual Johns Hopkins Legacy Society luncheon, they had me upon realizing it was at the iconic George Peabody Library (circa 1878) in Baltimore.
The library interior is often regarded as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. The visually stunning, monumental neo-Greco interior features an atrium that, over an alternating black and white marble floor, soars 61 feet high to a latticed skylight of heavy frosted glass, surrounded by five tiers of ornamental black cast-iron balconies and gold-scalloped columns containing closely packed book stacks.
The private VIP luncheon was held on the library floor, surrounded by the labyrinthian and ornate six floors of over 300,000 ancient and rare books. In other words, for me, the equivalent of heaven, mecca, nirvana, or whatever words connote a sense of eternal bliss to you. To make it even more special, curators Earle Havens and Paul Espinosa presented brief but impactful talks related to the library collection about “Women and Books” and their new rare children’s book installation. In addition, each of us was gifted with a beautiful engraved journal and pen set with the Legacy society emblem.
The opportunity to be with so many brilliant and vibrant human beings (fascinating fellow Legacy Society members and Hopkins faculty and staff) in a setting such as this enhances my mind’s essential of curiosity. The event exceeded my wildest expectations, and the space was one of my life’s most sacred and aesthetically beautiful; it is indeed a cathedral of the mind.
2) Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness (CPCR) Research—Reading Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind,” listening to Dr. Roland Griffiths (Center Director) on Sam Harris podcasts, SXSW forums, Tim Ferriss podcasts, and personally experiencing the life-changing effects of psychedelics has elevated the CPCR to exalted status for me.
I never dreamed of being given a VIP tour by Mike DeVito (Senior Associate Director of Development, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Fund for Johns Hopkins Medicine). But yesterday, that dream came true. And further, Mike (my delightful host for the day) arranged an hour of private appointment and conversation with Dr. Fred Barrett, the current acting director of the Center, a neuroscientist who is also a fellow musician. You can view his fascinating and riveting TedMed talk on The Neuroscience of Psychedelic Drugs, Music, and Nostalgia HERE. I have watched it three times and taken copious notes.
We slipped softly down the hall (three psychedelic sessions were in progress along the corridor) to a vacant psilocybin session room. It was surreal to sit on the leather couch and hear about the current progress and future dreams explained passionately and articulately by Dr. Barrett (Fred) and Mike while sitting in that (to me) hallowed room. I could not help but think about the many life-altering experiences that had happened where I was sitting.
My head was spinning with all the information, ideas about how to provide additional assistance, and a conviction to ask some of my friends to join me in helping CPCR grow. And my heart was grateful for this opportunity to view this life-changing Center and converse with Dr. Barrett. Being with Mike and Fred in a setting such as the Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness enhanced my body and spirit’s essentials of sensuality and freedom.
As the afternoon approached, Mike and I said, “so long,” having planned for Gina and me to return after the holidays to learn more and enjoy a private tour of the George Peabody Library with its curator, Dr. Paul Espinsoa.
3) As we walked out the door of the Center, Mike handed me off to one of my favorite and long-time friends Jonathan Ford who works nearby at the National Institutes of Health. Jonathan (who knows how much I appreciate fine culinary experiences and communion around a table of food and drink) whisked me off to the Royal Taj in Columbia, Maryland, for one of the finest dining experiences of my life. And believe me, I’ve had more than a few.
The service and food were impeccable, and to my surprise and delight, one appetizer included a curry mixture I have been trying in vain to recreate at home for the past twenty years. The chef was gracious enough to come to our table and give me the exact ingredients and recipe. The early dinner included Vegetable Samosas, Alu Tikki, Shrimp Biryani, Saag Paneer, Tandoori Naan, Naan, Chicken Curry, Basmati Rice, a spicy sauce trio, and more.
Drinks included perfectly mixed smoked Old Fashioned, Chai Tea, and a dessert drink that reminded me of Thai Tea. The server topped it all off, bringing us a unique and surprisingly delicious after-dinner drink composed of Kahlua and Fireball—it was my first time to taste Fireball.
As delectable as the meal experience was, the communion with my dear friend was even better. Jonathan is the kind of friend you instantly pick up as though you had never been apart. The conversation was vibrant, life-giving, and authentic. Jonathan personifies the qualities I most desire in a friend—curiosity, congeniality, and intelligence. This priceless time around the table enhanced my heart’s essential of communion.
He then graciously drove me to the nearby airport, and not to be outdone by John Hopkins, as we warmly embraced goodbye, he presented me with a gift—an awesome National Institutes of Health long-sleeve running shirt.
As I collapsed in blissful exhaustion on the airplane seat, my head spun with ideas, inspiration, communion, and gratitude for one of my life’s most enjoyable and inspirational days. By 11:00 pm, I was sipping a Rye Whiskey, trying to stay awake and recount the day’s highlights to Gina in the comfort of my favorite chair. She (my muse, companion, and lover) was beaming from ear to ear—so thrilled that the day had far exceeded my expectations.
Yes, I had quite a trip yesterday.