The following is a feature story from Mass Appeal Issue #52. To get a copy of your own, subscribe here. Photos and words by Jason Goldwatch.
PHOTOGRAPHER/FILMMAKER JASON GOLDWATCH IS LITERALLY TRIPPIN’. FOLLOW HIM DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE.
I grew up in San Francisco, California. And I used to eat a shit ton of Magic Mushrooms.
I ran with a pack of mischievous single-parent art kids. We were all in high school together. We used to meet up around 5 a.m. Drive out to the Marin Headlands on the coast and hike in towards the rolling mountains and away from everything else. There were usually five or six of us. We would eat the filthy, dry, disgusting mushrooms with our preferred drink of choice, and trip the fuck out well into the afternoon, usually heading home by sunset. Returning to civilian life with mud on our faces, feathers in our hair and life in our hearts. It was a ritual we practiced about once a month for a couple years. I was around 15 and it peeled everything I thought I knew away. It showed me infinity in small pieces and it helped make me the extremely spiritual man I am today.
I began to get so comfortable with the mushroom that I felt I could communicate with it. This all scared the shit out of my mom. The raddest single parent to ever do it, she was not into my drug-induced spiritualism, and turned a bitter blind eye when I left at 5 a.m. wearing my hiking boots with a backpack full of orange juice. So I stopped trying to tell her about it. It was for me anyways. She’d cook me the best meal I’d ever had — again — and I would pass the fuck out.
This went on for years. And, long story short, with this gift of seeing, I chose to become a photographer and a filmmaker.
Cut to last summer. Enter Uncle Wade. Wade Davis is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, credited with bringing Ayahuasca to the U.S.; he wrote “The Serpent and the Rainbow,“ (about himself) and has a Ph.D. in Ethnobotany from Harvard. Dude’s a super O.G.-Indiana-Jones-Rock-and-Roll Uncle.
He and I are working on a film together; best way to describe it would be that moment in-between your birth and your death. He invited me to Far Northern British Columbia, where he has a cabin in the wilderness, which stands completely alone on a pristine lake. Wade spends his summers there with his family writing, fighting the copper mining industry and simply “being” on his wonderful compound. A cozy combination of eccentric living and “roughing it” in the wild, with a tiny put-put generator for occasional power and a two-story glass outhouse he named the “crystal crapper.” So off I went — New York to Seattle, Seattle to Vancouver, Vancouver to Smithers, and then a seven-hour drive straight into the wilderness.
Wade greeted me with enormous hugs coupled with incredible hospitality. He’s the rad, educated tough guy every young spiritualist deserves. And that evening we ate fish from the lake and drank cold beer by the fire and shared stories until the moon left. The next morning we awoke and found a new visitor had arrived in the night. Strange, I thought, due to how far out we were, but with Wade you can never be surprised about anything. I wasn’t surprised when he fed me dried Peruvian coco leaves from a bag in his desk the night before, so a new addition to the encampment was actually not that strange at all.
His name was Charley. He slept in the white passenger van he drove up in. He was a quirky man, small in stature and almost shy. He had long wizard locks pulled back into a balding-type ponytail and a vest adorned in magic mushroom patches. Such a unique man with an ancient-type swag; when he first walked down towards the main house I shot Wade a stink eye like, “for real?”
Wade introduced us. Apparently I’m a gifted photographer, seer and world famous “hip-hop photographer …” Wade then eloquently explained that Charley was the world’s foremost mycologist (a mushroom expert). And legit-famous for foraging some of the rarest and most expensive morels and champignons to be found anywhere in the wild.