Amazing Journey: 1.1

By: Paul Vagnoni


“Sickness will surely take the mind

Where minds can’t usually go

Come on the amazing journey

And learn all you should know”

~ The Who

On June 12, 1970, Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis did something that, for all intents and purposes, was virtually impossible: He threw a no-hitter despite being stoned on LSD, otherwise known as acid. Facing the Padres in San Diego, Ellis toed the rubber having dropped acid earlier that day and shut out the Padres, walking eight batters and hitting another.

It was the first and only no-hitter of Ellis’ career, and certainly the only reported MLB no-hitter pitched under the influence of the hallucinogen.

According to Ellis, he visited a friend in Los Angeles the day before his start, did some acid and stayed up late into the night partying and lost track of which day it was. The day he was to start, he woke up and, thinking he was supposed to pitch the next day, did another hit of acid around noon.

At two o’clock, he learned from his friend that he was supposed to be on the mound against the Padres that evening in San Diego. Ellis caught a plane an hour later and made it to the ballpark 90 minutes before first pitch.

Lysergic acid diethylamide is the more scientific name from which “LSD” is derived. Acid is by far the most common street name for LSD. Other street names for LSD vary depending on the time period they were used and the region they were used in.

Many of the current street names from the 1950s and 1960s are still in use today. Growing up, the names used most often when people referred to LSD were: acid, blotter, purple haze, mushrooms and windowpane.

Can someone please tell me what it’s like to be on acid? Having never experimented with any type of drugs, I pose the question sincerely. No rhetoric, I really don’t know. I know it’s about the hallucinating that you do when you take it. To the best of my knowledge, I am pretty sure that I have never gone on an acid induced “trip” and hallucinated.

Seriously, I have never even felt like I had done acid. Well, not until the end of January 2018 when Kenosha Memorial Hospital oversaturated me with oxygen for over a week before unceremoniously dumping me in the Bay. What a strange trip it’s been ever since then.

Prior to that I was an average middle-class white kid growing up in the Midwest in a city conveniently located between Chicago and Milwaukee. I was fairly normal.

So how did this amazing journey get started on January 2018? What led me to having so many first-time experiences? How did I get to that point?

In The Beginning

It’s a boy Mrs. Walker it’s a boy

It’s a boy Mrs. Walker it’s a boy 

~ The Who

May 2, 1957 was a lovely spring morning. The sun had not yet risen, but there was activity in the St. Catherine’s delivery room. The night before, Emil had driven his very pregnant wife, Milly, to the hospital located near Lake Michigan in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They had been waiting over nine months for this occasion, and now the time had come. Granted, it was 12 days later than the ETA, but some things are worth waiting for.

Finally, at 5:20 a.m. the blessed event took place. Paul Enrico Vagnoni, the bundle of joy, had finally arrived. Besides me being a bit tardy, the event went relatively smoothly, a routine delivery. Mom’s only comment was that I had a rather “big” head. Hmm. Being a rather sizeable baby, weighing in at 8 pounds and 14 ounces and measuring 21 inches long, one would think I deserved a large cranium. I did, didn’t I?

It should be noted that I was blessed with the gift of gab at a very young age. Mom reports hearing me jabbering when I was only 8 or 9 months old. However, contrary to popular belief, my first words uttered weren’t Packers, The Who or pizza. I believe it was the more conventional “daddy.”

At eleven months, when Mom was in the hospital giving birth to my brother Mike, I was putting together full sentences. She said I would call her on the phone asking when she was coming home. It was at that point that I would ask her to pick up a pizza on the way home. That’s a joke.

With my sizeable noggin and penchant for chattering, I was a happy, good-natured baby. I was very protective of my baby brother Mike and waited on him hand and foot. With me at his beck and call, he didn’t begin talking until he was two years old.

When he wanted something, all he had to do was point at it and I would dutifully get it for him. Even at such an early age, he knew a good thing when he saw it and was using it to his benefit.

Be that as it may, at some point my brother eventually pushed me too far. Even though I was a happy, go-lucky boy, I could only take so much. Despite being only 11 months older than Mike, I was already considerably larger than him. Because of the difference in our size, my folks would constantly remind me that I couldn’t hit my younger, smaller brother. Not even when he initiated it.

Again, seeing a good thing, Mike took advantage of this often. He would take my toys from me, and give me a kick when I protested. Other times he would just hit me and run. All the while I obeyed my parents and would “turn the other cheek.” Believe me It wasn’t easy. Then it happened. Finally, Mom and Dad caught my kid brother in the act and witnessed his devilish behavior.

I had just put together a pile of building blocks almost two feet high when Mike came over, knocked it over and gave me a slap on the arm. Before he could start laughing, Mom hollered, “Get over here, Mike” and gave him a whack on his bottom. Sobbing, he shot me a dirty look before running off to bury his face in the cushions of the living room sofa.

Now that they had figured out was going on, my parents told me the next time he hit me, I could hit him back. It was quite a while before my little brother hit me after that. I might have been a jolly kid with a prodigious melon that liked to talk, but enough was enough. Sheesh.

Was being bigger than most other kids already shaping my demeanor? Even at such a young age? Would my “generous proportions” become something that I would have to deal with all of my life? What would be next?