As I alluded to in my food porn post the other day, a series of unfortunate events during SXSW led to me chewing and swallowing (and subsequently, being gastronomically tortured by) the raw leaves of the coca plant, which are used to make everyone’s favorite drug, cocaine. I half-expected to get an email from EIC Jennifer telling me to keep my degenerate exploits off this fine and moral blog, but instead I got one saying “TELL ME MORE,” so I will.

When I got to Austin last Wednesday afternoon, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I promised to pace myself. Neither drink nor drug passed my lips for a full 24 hours, which, if you’ve ever hung out with me at Southby, you know is kind of amazing. I was even the designated driver! By the time my friend’s after party rolled around Thursday night, I felt I deserved a treat.

When I got to the party around 2am, I saw my friend Dana chilling atop of a pile of cardboard with a new pal. One thing I love about this girl is that she immediately locates the coolest/weirdest person at the party to hang out with, and in this instance it was a large, gay, Mexican guy in a clown suit. Here’s a short video clip of him dancing:


He had this little baggie of leaves with him, which he explained like this: Austin had just had a major coke bust and it was nigh impossible to get the stuff anymore. (I later discovered it was not hard at all, but whatever.) However, he had obtained some raw coca leaves, which were just as good as–nay, better than–cocaine:

“You hold it in your mouth for a while and activate it with baking soda, and it will totally get you high. It’s totally pure, man. Not stepped on at all. The Indians chew it for energy in the jungle.”

That sounded a bit suspect, but Southby is all about having new experiences, so I was down.

On the way to the bodega to buy baking soda, Dana met some transvestites and started booty poppin’ with them on a car to no music but the wonderful music in their heads until a horse cop rode up and told them to simmer down. Just to give you an idea of what kind of night it was.

Baking soda obtained, we proceeded to try to make crack in our mouths, but not much happened. My tongue got a little numb, but mainly I just felt annoyed that I had to keep holding all this gross-tasting stuff in my mouth. My teeth and saliva began to break down the leaves.

“Is it okay if I swallow it?” I asked the Mexican clown. “Oh, totally,” he replied. “It keeps working in your stomach.” I was 90% sure that wasn’t true, but I swallowed them anyway, because it’s hard not to swallow a leaf once you’ve been chewing on it for a while.

It never worked, not even a little, unless you count “making me feel like I was going to die” as working. When I got home, I sat by the toilet for an hour but couldn’t throw up, so eventually, I fell asleep. The next day, I passed it out the other end of my system and felt better, but I still couldn’t eat for a few hours. I now understand why people decided to make that shit into snort-able powder. Coca leaves are very inefficient!

It’s unfortunate my iPhone wasn’t working the whole time I was there, or I might have gone on Wikipedia and read this:

The coca alkaloid content in coca leaves is negligible: between .25% and .77%,[4] which means two things: first, traditional chewing or drinking coca tea does not produce the high (euphoria, megalomania) people experience with cocaine.[5] Second, someone must apply complex chemical processes using any type of alcohol/acid base chemicals to the plant in order to transform it and obtain a concentration of coca alkaloid that is high enough to produce the transformation to cocaine paste and the high associated with cocaine.

Nevertheless, I tried a new new drug the next day in the form of an obscure anti-narcolepsy medication, and that made me feel excellent. You win some, you lose some. It also gave me a story to tell people that made them think I was kind of dumb, hence disarming them for my journalistic efforts. It even helped me meet Skrillex! I’m not in any rush to do it again, but it certainly could’ve been worse. And if you’re somewhere reading this, my gay Mexican clown friend, I still think you’re pretty cool.