Driving home Wednesday we caught a commentary on NPR by Marion Winick on the annual observance of April 20 by potheads the world over. Winick is an essayist who either lives in Austin or used to live in Austin (we forget), and, in addition to stories of domestic life with her now-dead-of-AIDS figure skater husband, wrote (fondly, we think, but we can’t remember that well) of shooting heroin as a younger person.
Now Winik is a longtime parent and has metamorphosed into a sort of New Age Erma Bombeck, if Bombeck had shot heroin, and she professes to be so out of it that it was not until a few years ago that she stumbled across the significance of the 4/20 date to “legions of errant youth,” as we believe she put it (we were driving, not taking notes). She acquired this knowledge by standing over an unidentified adolescent male as he instant messaged with a friend, who asked, “What are you doing on 4/20?”
We had figured out this bit of juvenilia a while back, mostly thanks to that raspy-voiced dude on KPFT’s 4:20 Drug War News, who actually sounds like he’s stoned (but maintaining). Then there was a joint that briefly occupied the old Luke’s Hamburgers next to the Galleria, and may still, called Interstate 420 or something, which according to information we received sold sex toys and dope paraphernalia.
It occurred to us then, as it reoccurred to us while listening to Winik, that while we once long ago would often get “muggled up,” as our high school self liked to put it after becoming acquainted with the written works of Mezz Mezzrow, imputing some secret stoner significance to 4/20 (which apparently has something to do with the afternoon time some high school potheads in California would light up back in the godawful 1980s) is kinda the reason we eventually swore off the stuff while still young and relatively unformed.
(It’s been a good 30 years or more since we lit up with any regularity, and on the few occasions since---none we can recall in the last 18-20 years---we were too tipsy to say no when somebody passed it our way. Today we stand ready to submit to a drug test, at random, any time, as long as the person administering the test is willing to hold the cup at a distance of 18 inches or less [our aim being not what it once was].)*
It’s not that we have any great animus toward pot---on the whole, the steady use of marijuana is a while lot less damaging than the steady intake of booze (or so we’re told), and we can see no good reason that small amounts for personal use by adults shouldn’t be legal (which we can’t say about small amounts of cocaine or heroin, but we’re no absolutist). All things in moderation, of course.
But, as the 4/20 phenomenon strongly suggests, reefer flat makes you stupid. For all the times we smoked the shit, and for all the time we wasted in pursuing its purchase, sale and cultivation, at this great distance we can only recall a few times when we actually had “fun” with it, and those were when we first started dabbling, back in “high” school. Mostly, after that, what we remember is the torpor, the witless paranoia, and the long, arid silences that inevitably fell on any room of people who had just toked up (we had a friend, a big dude, about 6’5”, who we witnessed on two occasions trying to break the strained silence by standing up, stripping himself naked and then flopping back down on the couch from which he had risen; needless to say he went on to a successful but not-so-lucrative career as a high school teacher and coach). And while we held at the time that the dope enhanced the enjoyment of sex, music and food, “better” was not a concept we actually attached to sex as a 19 year old (the mere attainment of it being good enough, despite occasional instruction to the contrary), and most of the food we ate back in those days we would now dismiss as crap. As for the music---if it was good back then, it’s still good, and if it was bad, it’s even worse now. Workingman's Dead still sounds good.
*Actually, we did get a buzz, or a slight headache, about 3-4 months ago, when we were jogging on the path that runs beside the water well next to the Jewish old folks home near our neighborhood. We found our self about 50 yards behind two guys on bicycles, both with the short dreadlock thing that screams “New Orleans,” who were passing a stick back and forth as they pedaled lazily along. We were more loping than running but somehow pulled closer and closer to the pair, as big gusts of smoke wafted back toward our lungs, until they came to a halt to finish their business near the wooden bridge over the bayou. “Good shit, fellas?” we inquired as we scooted past, but they, alas, pretended not to hear, perhaps, like us, having been made wary of cross-cultural interactions after viewing Crash .