I once mentioned to my friend Pete that I hadn’t smoked pot in over ten years. He was nonplussed. “Yeah but you don’t like weed,” he said. True. I don’t. I want to say that I could count the number of times I’ve smoked pot on one hand but, unfortunately, I think my lifetime total is about seven, so, I have to leave that expression behind.
I’m sort of amazed at the fact that I was never a full blown pot head. As a teenager growing up in the suburbs of upstate New York, I had shoulder length hair, wore Birkenstocks, and liked jam band music. Hell, I even did the white man’s wiggle* at a Phish concert. And I was sober. Who does that?
(* The white man’s wiggle is the somewhat pejorative name given to the “dance” that people do at jam band concerts. The dance is performed by individuals though they are often clustered in groups. While it varies from person to person, the feet generally remain planted and the arms and body move jerkily while still remaining within one’s own personal space. It is odd to both witness and perform.)
I have had ample opportunity. Some of my dearest friends smoke weed and have, over time, stopped offering because they know I don’t smoke. And, incidentally, I don’t have to resist, I’d just rather not.
I do, however, love pot humor. Watching Dazed and Confused was a rite of passage for kids in high school. The Big Lebowski, with it’s burnout protagonist, became a bright shining star in my pop culture univierse. I would later discover the genius of Friday, a movie I initially thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to given that it took place in South Central Los Angeles. However, it remains one of the funniest, and – more importantly – most quotable movies I’ve ever seen leaving me to postulate that marijuana may in fact transcend racial barriers and perhaps the burnout at the party who says, “man, if only all the leaders of the world got together and smoked up…” may have had a point.
In high school I was actually quite anti-pot.I judged people who smoked pot. I would hear about another friend who now smoked pot and I treated it like a fall from grace. Wait, you saw X smoking pot at a party? But drugs are bad! You smoke some pots and soon enough, you’re snorting lines of cocaine and shooting the heroin. That’s how it happens!
I thank/blame the genes from my mother’s side of the family that bestowed upon me some rather robust anxiety as well as Nancy Regan’s Just Say No campaign. (These forces are, however, of no consequence to one’s feelings towards alcohol, particularly when one is a Catholic whose ancestral home happens to be Ireland.)
Once, during a high school class in which we were discussing the peer pressure of drugs, I gave my opinion. “What if you’re at a party and someone hand you a joint and says, ‘come on, don’t be a wimp’?” This betrayed that not only had I never been to a party but any knowledge of parties came straight from television of the “I learned it by watching you” variety. A couple of my classmates looked at me quizzically like I was a foreign exchange student who had just asked if the other chaps would join me for an impromptu game of cricket after school if the headmaster wouldn’t mind. Brendan said, “no one does that.” Eric said, “yeah, no one does that.” A misstep like this is ripe for mocking but my ignorance actually inspired their pity and they just let it go.
Time went on. My freshman year of college roommate and all of his friends smoked a lot. My fraternity brothers smoked pot. I even had a discussion with my parents where I asked them if they ever smoked and my father, in mock exasperation, said “pot?! Never!” I was shocked. My mother said, “look, Rob, I don’t know anyone who was alive in the sixties or seventies who didn’t.” Then she paused, “except your Aunt Carol.” So, due to a combination of lightening up, slightly and gradually, and the realization that smoking marijuana doesn’t turn you into a homeless crackhead in the span of twenty-four hours or less, I smoked a few times.
I never got it.
The sensation was kind of like a cone of silence. I felt a dot at the zenith of my cranium that began to spread radially down my head and over my body, coating me, kind of like the way they show Pepto Bismol coating a stomach in those ads. And, after that, I didn’t really speak. I wanted to but I was in the cone of silence. Luckily, the cone would eventually make it’s retreat, like when you wait for Novocain to wear off after a visit to the dentist.
With each subsequent try, I thought that I would get the experience that people liked so much. Perhaps I would even get these so called “munchies” everyone talks about. Wouldn’t that be a hoot!
But alas, it never came and so now I walk the world as square as an Eisenhower G-man.
I do remember once, however, a business trip that I took in 2000. It was still the dot com era, so, we all gathered in a hotel room to smoke pot and watch anime. I said no thank you to the pot but was excited by the movie. It was called Ghost in the Shell. During the movie, after a particularly mind bending line about the nature of the soul, I and my stoned co-workers actually let out a quiet, involuntary, Keanu-esque “whoa.”
It was when I did that sober that I knew I wasn’t missing anything.