When Reg Hartt attended high school in the early sixties, a teacher told him that the only way for a Canadian to be successful was to move to the United States. Unsurprisingly, Hartt was outraged. A few decades and a handful of hallucinogenics later, Hartt is one of the most prolific and enigmatic film personalities in Toronto.
For the uninitiated, 69-year-old Reg Hartt is a film archivist who hosts screenings on a near weekly basis from the comfort of his own living-room-turned-theatre, The Cineforum, located at Bathurst and College. Those “Kid Dracula” posters you might have seen around campus? Ads for his own cut of 1922’s Nosferatu set to Radiohead’s 2000 album, Kid A. But film screenings aren’t the cut off point for the Cineforum’s strange event offerings; “What I Learned With LSD” is the film guru’s latest show.
No more than seven people — two of which I brought with me out of fear of entering The Cineforum alone — awkwardly gathered into the dimly lit theatre as the self proclaimed “crazy wisdom man” chronicled his multi-decade journey with LSD. He recalled his first trip on acid, and how he stared deeply into the eyes of a man sharing the experience with him, suddenly understanding that person more than anyone he’d ever met.
Years later, a youthful Hartt spontaneously travelled to British Columbia to catch the screening of an old film classic. On the drug again, Hartt realized he actually had no idea where the movie was playing. Dejected, he started walking through the city. When he finally stopped moving, he swears to have been standing in front of the theatre 30 minutes before show time. Life has a way of working out without plans, he suggests.
As the film enthusiast put it, “[LSD is] an internal drug.” Substances like marijuana are about escaping from yourself, he suggested, whereas chemicals such as LSD allow you to look inwards. LSD taught him to live moment by moment instead of future proofing at every step.
Hartt then mused about a trip he spent meditating in a mosquito-infested park in nothing but a bathing suit. He felt the bugs eating him alive, but to his surprise insisted he had no itch or irritation the next morning.
About an hour later, Hartt offered us beers and suggested regrouping in his backyard for a two-way dialogue. It’s here that he issued his concluding thoughts: LSD can open the door to a new way of interacting with the world, but one shouldn’t abuse the substance to keep that door open; one should learn to keep it open without the need for narcotics. Hartt tells us that he lives life like he’s always on LSD, despite not having touched it in ages.
So I paid $20.00 to hear Reg Hartt talk about LSD. He’s either a profoundly wise life coach or a brilliant con artist, and I’m not entirely sure which one it is. But as I sat in Hartt’s backyard drinking a Keith’s, I noticed a mosquito land on my arm. And you know what? Despite my first instinct, I didn’t swat it away.