Basking in the heat of Lake Powell while tripping on mushrooms, Kelly Green, eyes closed and lying on the sand, had the epiphany that earned him thousands of dollars, a famed spot on the Grateful Dead tour and recognition from an entire subculture, including Timothy Leary, the father of LSD himself.
And they say daydreaming isn’t productive.
Wearing black jeans, a tucked in tie-dye shirt and Tevas, it’s clear Green never really left the ’80s. He tops off the look with his trademark curly-haired mullet, freshly trimmed for the Vegoose music festival he attended in October.
At first sight Green isn’t your average entrepreneur. But his product, a psychedelic trip toy he named the Day-Dreamer, isn’t your standard stock item, either.
“Before I will let anyone write about the Day-Dreamer, they have to try it,” he said. “I’ve made a guy from the Post in a suit and tie sit down and play with it, and let me tell you, it changed his whole perspective.”
The purple contraption looks like a kid’s toy, but has kept all ages enthralled. Blowing into a small tube connected to an eyepiece causes a disk to rotate, regulating the flickering of the sun’s color spectrum across one’s closed eyelids.
This produces what Green calls a “dream-like state,” but what the average student would call “tripping.”
Interested in toys since childhood, Green has a collection of gadgets strewn about his basement, where he also keeps his Day-Dreamers and Day-Dreamer memorabilia, including the letter he received from Tim Leary.
“I sent him a Day-Dreamer in the mail to check out. He actually wrote back himself, and even endorsed it,” Green said, holding the letter with the care of a mother holding her child. “Pretty cool, huh?”
Leary responded for good reason. Green, whose interest in the “matrix of the mind” began at a young age, has thoroughly researched the science behind his product, and exactly how it works on the brain and eyes. Most would consider his knowledge of the brain extensive, and the Day-Dreamer reflects that.
It’s festivals like Vegoose where Green got his project started. Marketing it first as the Kaleido-Sky and then as the Day-Dreamer, it was soon nicknamed the LSD Flight Simulator, for it’s “trippy-like” effect on the eyes and brain.
With fans of the Grateful Dead being his “major market,” Green followed them throughout an entire tour, selling “test flights” for a dollar, as well as the “Flight Simulators” themselves. He’s kept a necklace from each show he’s seen, which he proudly still displays in his bedroom.
Memories of touring with the Day-Dreamer are fond ones for Green, even if he can’t quite remember them all. But he can recall the creation of his toy like it was yesterday.
Living in Aspen as a self-proclaimed ski bum, Green took an annual trip to Lake Powell in 1986 with the ski photography company he’d found work with. It was on this trip where the Day-Dreamer was born.
“I was laying out, tripping hardcore, when the idea came to me,” he said. “I wanted to create a way for people to experience the visuals that I was without actually having to use drugs.”
Marketing the original Kaleido-Sky wasn’t always easy. After getting the product manufactured in 1988, Green went on a road trip to East Coast colleges, hoping it would catch on with students.
The trip, however, ended in defeat, with Green driving home from Daytona with almost the same amount of Day-Dreamers as he’d arrived with.
“I just couldn’t get East Coast kids to look stupid in front of their friends by playing with a toy in public,” he said. “They were all too worried about what everyone else thought.”
While displaying the Day-Dreamer on campus last week, it was clear from his tie-dye attire and constant yelling that Green wasn’t able to empathize with the East Coasters’ fear of public humiliation. But he didn’t give up.
“I brought them to the West Coast where everyone was growing their hair out and more into drugs,” he said. “They couldn’t get enough.”
From there he began taking them to the Dead shows, where their popularity could be comparable to the actual drug. He also hired people to sell them at similar festivals, like Lollapalooza, selling more than 60,000 over the next nine years.
And then Jerry Garcia died.
And Green fell in love.
Realizing he couldn’t support his wife, Barbara Green, on a salary earned from following a dying music group (no pun intended), Green, sighing, said he had to make a “real living.”
His idea of a real living, however, was to quit selling his toy and move on to bigger and better things: pork and beans. Go figure.
Green and his wife opened BBQ Bob’s after settling in Loveland in 1996. The restaurant, just like the Day-Dreamer, is famous for its childlike simplicity, yet surprising uniqueness and quality. But Bob’s is a whole other story.
The Day-Dreamer, however, is far from following in Garcia’s footsteps. Green hopes it will make a comeback this year, with the help of CSU students and anyone else interested in a self-controlled way of altering their minds.
“The Day-Dreamer is a truly natural experience,” according to the brochure that comes with each product, written by Green. “It offers the ability to bring back the capacity for seeing the world with a child’s eye.”
Staff writer Margaret Canty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those looking for a one-of-a-kind Christmas gift for friends or family, or just another way to feel messed up at outdoor concerts, Green can be contacted at 412-4200, or the Day-Dreamer can be purchased on eBay by searching under “purple trip toy.”