The Pot at the Beginning of the Rainbow

December 14, 2008 at 12:10 pm (Cosmic Encounters, Waxing Nostalgic)

A special anniversary passed the other day, of which I was reminded in deja vu fashion. As I walked to work, I looked down and saw a postage stamp-sized baggie laying on the sidewalk, with a speck of white powder inside. Not having any use for it, especially in such a small amount, I left the meth or coke or whatever it was laying there. Civic duty called to me after a minute. Kids walk by there and one could pick it up. The amount was such that all it would do is earn you a felony instead of a buzz, but still… I could toss it into a storm drain and call it my good deed for the day. (I looked on the way home; it had been rescued by a tweaker, no doubt…) When I realized what day it was, I had to smile. Thirty-three years ago to the day, I’d smoked pot for the first time.

So gather ’round, kids. Smoke ’em if ya got ’em, listen to this little ditty to get in the mood, and allow me to reminisce…

I was fourteen years old, and waiting for the end of the world. A Jehovah’s Witness upbringing had strongly suggested the world was going to be destroyed in September of that year. Apparently Jehovah was running a bit behind schedule. I’d done all the right things, gotten baptized, sold my soul for lack of a more appropriate term. I felt ripped off. Puberty was just kicking in, and there were a lot of things I wanted to do. I’d already come to grips, pardon the pun, with the unforgivable sin of masturbation. It didn’t seem fair that the world could be destroyed before I had a chance to get a good look at it. That skeptical cynicism I carry around? I think it may be rooted there.

My friends, of course, were also JW refugees. Saturdays we would meet to create mischief and fight boredom, mostly the latter. Lapsilly and Church ( JWs don’t believe in ‘church’, they ‘go to meetings’, but I had a Witness friend named Church, ironically) came to my house, and we began the mile-long walk to the logging town of Sandy, Oregon. There was the usual ‘tween-angst teasing and horseplay, each daring the other to do something stupid so the other two could tease them mercilessly about it.

Lapsilly looked around as we headed down the hill into ‘the Hollow’, the swampy area just before the freeway. “Check this out.” He pulled a metal pipe out of his pants pocket. “It’s a pot pipe.”

Church flipped out. “Where’d you get that? Cool!…”

“It’s my sister’s.” (Susan was a walking fantasy, and this just made her bad-girl image all the more exciting.) “I have to get it back before she gets home tonight, or she’ll kill me.”

“Man! I wish we had some pot,” said Church.

And then I spoke the words that would make me forever cool in their eyes, and also perhaps do more for my soul than any religion ever could:

“I have some pot.”

Both Church and Lapsilly stopped walking. “What?!”

It was that ‘don’t say it unless you REALLY mean it’ kind of “What?”. They looked at me, Mister Common-sense. “YOU have pot? Nuh-uh..”

“Well, I’m pretty sure it’s pot. I’ve never smoked it-”

“Where is it?!” they asked in unison.

And so we went, back to my house. While we walked I told them of how I came into possession of approximately a quarter-ounce of mid-grade homegrown. For those of you newer to the game, homegrown was a classification at that time. It was green, inexpensive, and anywhere from a waste of time to a get-lost-in-the-woods experience. Nowadays it’s all homegrown around here, albeit a much higher grade and effect.

A couple of weeks previous, I’d been walking to Sandy to catch the bus to Portland. I would leave about 9:30 AM and return by 7:30 PM, the last available bus home. It was pouring down rain, and I was scurrying alongside the freeway, walking against traffic. A state trooper had a guy pulled over up the road, and I watched as I kept walking. They finished their business, and pulled away. I kept walking.

When I got to the spot where they had been, I noticed a baggie laying on the side of the road. I picked it up. Green leafy substance? Police action? Hidden contraband? Could I have found… drugs? I’d been living a sheltered life, but had seen enough Watchtower articles about the evils of drugs to know that this was probably Grass. Weed. Pot. Reefer! It was that stuff you roll into a cigarette, stick a safety pin through the tip of so you don’t touch the stuff, then you light it on fire and smoke it. Makes perfect sense. A growing rebellion wouldn’t allow me to just leave it there, so I stuffed it in my pocket and hurried on, just in case the guy who got pulled over (or worse yet, the state trooper) came back to investigate. Drugs make you do crazy, stupid things; Awake magazine said so.

I walked on, plotting a course of action. I didn’t want to keep it on me any longer than necessary, but I wanted to keep it. I’m still not sure why. It was like owning a gun, of which I had several. It seemed badass, and I wanted street cred.

But I also wanted a clean police record. (I was big on leaving an untraceable past at that time of my life.) And I could see the headlines- LOCAL ‘WHOLESOME’ YOUTH ARRESTED IN DRUG SCANDAL. It’s true; marijuana makes you paranoid!

Where could I put it? I didn’t want to carry it to Portland and back. (Drug smuggling charges carry way-stiffer penalties, or so I was told.) What to do? As I cruised through town center, I had a flash of brilliance.

A school friend’s dad owned a gas station, and no one ever seemed to stop there, because gas was thirty cents a gallon, as opposed to Leathers Oil, which was twenty-eight cents. They didn’t lock the bathroom, so I could slip in and out unnoticed. Neither clean or disgusting, it was perfect. I went to the paper-towel dispenser, lifted the icky used towels and stashed the baggie near the bottom. I covered it back up, then spit a greenie on the top towel. THAT should keep people from rooting around in there…

One of my stops on that excursion was to Mother Hubbard’s, Gresham’s finest (IMHO) record store. I’d read in my favorite book, The Last Detail, about how Badass’s girlfriend used strawberry rolling papers, so I bought a pack of Alfa strawberry. John the clerk, who knew me from dozens of visits, raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. I didn’t volunteer information. I also bought the Beatles Greatest Hits 1967-1970. I caught the usual evening bus home, diverting course just long enough to retrieve the baggie of contraband. A casually discarded paper towel had covered my greenie, otherwise things were undisturbed. I plucked the bag out, stuffed it into the side pocket of my omnipresent army field jacket, and made a beeline for home.

I was smart enough to realize that if you smoked the stuff, it needed to be dry. Sitting on the side of the freeway in a rainstorm wasn’t exactly an arid environment, so I figured I’d better ‘cure’ the stuff. Laying it out on a paper on my bed would bring questions from Mom; questions I wasn’t smart-ass enough to answer just yet. I cleaned out my wooden foot locker, the one with a padlock, and spread the stuff out on top of a newspaper. And pretty much forgot about it, until my friends mentioned it.

Heading back to town, we formed a plan of action. I knew of an abandoned shed in the woods by Church’s house that would be perfect for smoking, but first we had a bit of a technical problem.

Susan’s pipe didn’t have a screen. Sandy didn’t have a head shop. Hmm… I suggested the hardware store. They sell all kinds of screen there.

It was a typical Saturday at the hardware store. Rednecks everywhere, saying yup and um-hmm and discussing oil-to-gas ratios for chainsaws. We found a younger-looking guy with a Fu Manchu and mullet, and inquired about purchasing some screen “for a school project.”

“How much do you need?” he asked.

“About this much,” said Lapsilly. He held up a nickel.

“And it has to be fireproof!” chimed in Church.

“What are you boys making for this ‘school project’?” His tone was dubious, his smirk forever etched in my memory.

“”It’s a plaster-of-Paris volcano,” I said matter-of-factly. Someone has to be the straight man here…

“Um humm…” He snipped off a small piece of window screen and handed it to me.

“How much do we owe you?” I asked.

“Get the fuck outta here before you get us all in trouble…” He was laughing and couldn’t wait to tell his buddies. We beat feet out the door and off to the woods. Time to lose my drug virginity…

The act and the high were not that memorable. I’d smoked cigarettes behind the cabin, off-grounds at school and other places. This didn’t seem much different. I kinda got high, but it wasn’t the massive hallucinatory experience I’d heard so much about. It tasted better than tobacco. Colors seemed prettier, reality seemed more profound. Other than that, meh. I couldn’t see the big deal…

We walked around town. My friends bought all the candy they could afford at the Big Apple Market, where I realized I had a BB gun in my coat that looked like a .45. At that point I realized what a totally stupid thing it was to be carrying a useless gun around, and swore never to pack anything I couldn’t use to its full potential. I also realized I didn’t need a gun to feel safe.

Could this be the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and bad the bible referred to in Genesis? I didn’t see talking snakes. Maybe Adam and Eve had mushrooms for dinner that night…

After a few hours I went home. I figured Mom would look at me and know, but she didn’t. She was starting a load of laundry, so I hurried and tossed my smoky clothes in before she had a chance to catch a whiff. I showered, and was in the clear. I kicked back, watched TV like normal.

And that was that.

I smoked a few more times, but it did nothing for me. I was the designated driver for my friends after I turned sixteen. They were all about getting wasted, a concept lost on me. I looked at drugs as a way to expand my consciousness, not kill as many brain cells as possible. I was never a fan of vomiting or being uncomfortable in my own skin, which seemed to be the two big side-effects of “getting wasted.” My imagination carried me farther than their drugs did.

Eventually I smoked enough of the good stuff to understand. I made inner peace, traded my gun collection for a VW Bug and my violent fantasies for bong hits and listening to Steely Dan on a tiny transistor radio. I don’t regret it for a second. I was finally comfortable in my own skin, realizing I couldn’t count on my parents, religion or anyone other than *me* to get through this wacky thing called life. Might as well enjoy it.

As I told this tale at work the other day, someone I know disappeared and came back a few minutes later. He slipped me a skunky-smelling sandwich baggie, “for later.” It had three different strains of the green bud currently floating around downtown. It kept my brain company as I ran errands Friday, and made for a nice time visiting with a new friend on Saturday. She’s been going through rough times, so we got silly and laughed the afternoon away.

And now? I have just enough left to get through the afternoon football game. Or maybe I’ll watch The Dark Knight. Or maybe…

Indecision and procrastination are the two biggest side-effects I have to deal with today, it seems.

That and munchies…

1 Comment

  1. kofi said,

    Hey i am a big fan of Steely Dan, but Mr Walter Becker has a new album called Circus Money, What a great album it is, just had to share that with all the Steely Dan Fans.

    From the Legendary Steely Dan Man WALTER BECKER NEW ALBUM ‘Circus Money’ OUT NOW

    Unrepentantly and delightfully steely Dan-esque An understated gem.

    “ Q “Melodic funky, and as smart as you like.”

    The Times **** Uncut ****

    Daily Express **** Record Collector

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