The house was spectacular. Three stories with an octagonal turret, cedar and teak, granite and river rock, a huge stained-glass window like something you'd see in a psychedelic church.
Plus, a wolf was chained out front.
It was 32 years ago. I was a student journalist at the University of Florida, and I don't remember what moved me to make the three-hour drive to Sarasota, my home town, to see the house. Maybe I'd noticed it on an earlier visit, just cruising around the woods:
a huge, almost pyramidal structure rising above the pines.
However it came about, that's where I met Rick Doblin. He was also 21, also a college student. He'd just inherited $80,000 from his grandfather, and building this house, himself, was what he decided to do with the money. He had an interesting philosophy, starting with the overtly self-conscious idea that in building the house, with no blueprints or previous construction experience, he was actually building his own personality, from the
foundation up. I don't recall drugs being mentioned.
The wolf was the clincher. As I interviewed Doblin, he played with Phaedrus by sticking his chin into the animal's wide-open mouth. The wolf obviously loved it, nuzzling him gently with his oh-what-big-teeth-you-have jaws. For years, that was the last image I had of Doblin. My story about his house and his pet wolf ran on October 9, 1975, in the student paper. I didn't hear from, or of, him for a decade.
By 1985, I was associate editor of the Miami Herald's Sunday magazine, Tropic. A flurry of stories appeared about a new psychedelic revolution surrounding Ecstasy, or MDMA, which was also suspected of causing brain damage. In the middle of the furor, an unlikely figure, a perpetual college student, had somehow become the point man for a movement to allow therapeutic use of MDMA.
The name was vaguely familiar. Then I saw a photo. Doblin!
Excited, I assigned one of my favorite writers -- Jeff Leen, now The Post's top investigative editor (the weird connections keep coming) -- to write a story on the "Timothy Leary of the '80s."
Then another 20 years passed. Ecstasy remained an illegal staple of club drug culture, and nothing more, as far as I knew. Then I saw a news item in The Post: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had just approved a clinical study of MDMA therapy. The man behind the study . . . well, I think you can guess.
This time, I assigned the story to myself. It begins on Page 12.
Tom Shroder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.