My reefer madness
Hi. My name is Elvira and I am a craven pothead.(Hi, Elvira!)
No, I haven't toked in awhile--I've been weed free for about two months now. But that two-year-old brat that is my primitive brain still wants its THC-laden lollipop--NOW, if not sooner.
THE FIRST ONE'S FREE
I hadn't smoked much 'til I entered college, though there was one memorable pot party I threw when I was about 16. I lived then with my aunt and uncle, and when they went on vacation, I (naturally enough) immediately invited all my pals over from my old Queens 'hood-- where I'd lived before my parents died--for a little party.
Once all had arrived, someone pulled out a joint. I'd copped a few fervent hits in the past, but this was the first time I really felt something, and I ran with it.
At that point, I was totally into the Moody Blues, especially their smash hit 'Knights in White Satin," from their "Days of Future Past" LP. For those not familiar with it, it's a very schmaltzy little number with a full orchestral accompaniment--quite a daring mixing of the genres back then. In essence, the singer spends a lot of time kvetching about how alone and alienated he feels. After an insipid pop pablum refrain ("And I love you/yes I love you/oh how I love you") he launches into a solemnly dramatic, melancholy intonation that I can still recall in part. Something along the lines of:
"Breathe deep the gathering gloom/watch lights fade from every room.....(blah de blah blah)....impassioned lovers wrestle as one/lonely man cries for love and has none/new mother picks up and suckles her son/senior citizens wish they were young/
"Cold-hearted orb that rules the night/Removes the colors from our sight/Red is grey and yellow white/But we decide which is right/and which IS an illusion"
Enter full swell of strings coming to a final crashing and unbelieveably dramatic orchestral crescendo.
Yuck! Yeah, ok, give me a break. As a shy, confused little 16 year old, this stuff really "spoke" to me. But it absolutely transported me to another solar system now that I was under the influence of the herb. My normally introverted demeanor was abandoned as I alternately harmonized and recited along, lying in my bedroom in a blissful haze while the rest of the gang partied in the living room. Though I didn't actually stand up on a podium and inflict a formal reading on my friends, the thought of my immodest behavior back then still make me cringe.
Not surprisingly, other major wildness was in the offing that night. Could it have been the evil ganga that led my best friend Alva to lose her virginity with my weird Lower East Side sometimes-makeout friend Chip--on my aunt Eppie and uncle Miltie's bed, no less? Believe me, they would have plotzed--especially since they were Orthodox Jews. Not the kind with the long beards and sidelocks and black coats and wigs (for the gals), but the kind with Yarlmukes who had timers to turn the lights on and off on the Sabbath because turning on electricity on the day of rest (along with pressing the elevator button and other sundry things) was considered labor (something to do with not igniting any flame or fire--Jewish law is very complex).
Ironically enough, I ran into Chip a few years later on Delancey Street, a few blocks from Eppie and Miltie's apartment. The former pillager of my best friend's innocence--the one whose favorite expression was "let's go down to Eldridge Street and get some good shit"-- was now sporting a long beard, sidelocks, and black coat. Oy vey!
I, however, went on to more secular pursuits in college. You would think that my first-semester encounter with black hash that brought on a full-blown panic attack, complete with the fear that I was having a stroke after briefly losing all sensation on my left side, might have deterred me. Instead, I fell hopelessly in love with the Big Pothead on Campus. He was a creep, but he always had excellent Thai stick.
Soon enough, I was smoking every day, and occasionally walking into walls in the large lecture hall where I (very occasionally) attended my Psych 101 class. But I did take my studies seriously--usually reading the entire Psych textbook the night before finals. And even today, I swell up with pride at the memory of how, unlike the slackers who lit up in my packed to the gills "Rock Music" class, I remained clean and sober, paid rapt attention to the prof's solemn commentary after playing a riff from "Kashmir" on the phonograph--and thus bagged an A.
MY LIFE AS A BARFLY
By the time I left college, the classic druggie boomerang effect was setting in, and the side price of daily smoking was starting to bite me in the ass. I couldn't get nearly as high anymore when I smoked, and had sundry gnarly encounters with the paranoia that began to rear its ugly little head. So for a decade or two, I gave up the bong and got into the booze, intermittently but not too excessively.
Then, about 7 years ago, I was going through a rough patch. My 20-year-long relationship with my now-ex boyfriend was officially in its death throes, and I craved some action. I became a regular at a cool basement bar down the block from my office, where the young, sexy bartenders always knew to set me up with my usual before I even slung down my pocketbook: a pint of Bass and a Stoli on the rocks with a splash (no silly lime twist, no pussy-ass fruit juice, no cutesy umbrellas)--and keep them coming, boys. It was kind of a combo dive/college bar, and I met a lot of weird interesting people there. A few weeks before my current boyfriend BG wandered down the stairs one Halloween night and swept me off my feet, I'd asked my favorite bartender Jim if he knew where I could get a joint. He instantly reached into his pocket, pulled out a doobie, and adroitly inserted it into my pack of Marlboro lights.
I went home that night and eagerly lit up--and after a few tokes I felt something beyond deja vu. Not only was it so good that I felt like a pot virgin, but in the intervening years since I'd indulged in the typical stuff--now mostly domestic--it had become ten times stronger than before. In a haze of pure bliss, I marveled at the wondrous cross-breeding breakthroughs and horticultural technologies that had led to this supreme moment of unparalleled paradise. Darwin himself would have been pleased.
So when I met BG at the bar about a fortnight later, I had already reclaimed full-fledged membership status in the daily light-up league, with all the privileges and responsibilities thereof. One of the first things I asked him, after I found out he was an artistic Halloween Scorpio, was: "Do you smoke pot?"
"Sure," he replied. "I have a few joints on me...would you like one to take home with you?"
"No thanks, " I demurred. I've got some back at the apartment.."
BG later told me that this was one of the myriad reasons he instantly decided I was THE ONE--I didn't greedily glom his pot supply. I was an independent, self-reliant substance abuser who rolled her own.
SMOKE THAT FUNKY BOWLEG, WHITE BOY
For the next seven years, we partied with great gusto and alarming freqency. The only trouble was, BG periodically got disgusted with being "sick and tired" and vowed to stop. This usually lasted three or four days, after which I would return from a hard day's work with the smell of beer and incense (used to disguise the pot smell from the famiily-oriented neighbors) wafting into my delighted nostrils.
Pot and booze didn't do the number on me that it did on BG. He was on methadone when I met him, and gradually the higher and higher doses still weren't "holding" him. Of course, his goal had never been to just feel normal. On Fridays the VA dosed him and gave him two bottles to take home til Monday. Every Friday, he'd do an extra half bottle, and on Saturday he finished off the remaining one and a half. I soon learned that the reason his rugs all had multiple cigarette burns in them was due to his tendency to nod out. The bottle-less Sunday, of course, was the worst day of the week.
The combo of pot, alcohol, and methadone often made him go beyond the pale. The party would typically go for at least seven hours--long past the point where I just wanted to eat and crash. At its height, BG would try to go pee and I'd often hear thuds. When I went in, I'd find him in a stupor, attempting to improbably climb the wall in front of the toilet bowl.
BG eventually detoxed, but we continued to drink and smoke. My office was mostly composed of straight women, but I always befriended the bad girls who smoked and knew where to get the good stuff. One of my contacts had a boyfriend who could get half-ounces and ounces with no muss or fuss--and they were great, with massive buds and an aroma so strong that I feared I'd be tackled on the subway by a police dog who could smell the odor emenating from my purse. Like other paranoid potheads, we also had our private nicknamename for the substance--in this case bowleg (hence my boyfriend's pet name, Bowleg Guy.) This was of course in case the phones were tapped, bugs were installed in the ceiling, and the FBI was on our tail (all perfectly reasonable assumptions for a schizophrenic with paranoid tendencies, as BG was).
BG did nothing halfway, so when he indulged he drank way too much and paid for it with hellish hangovers and the occasional late night trip to the loony bin for good measure. So on a few extreme occasions, he impulsively did the morning-after/never again ritual of flushing any remaining booze and joints down the toilet. Of course, a few days later he'd be kicking himself for throwing away perfectly good shit. One time, in fact, we'd been buying so much weed from my work pal that we had amassed an impressive collection of roaches--many of them Mach II (roaches made from roaches) and even Mach III (roaches made from the roaches of the roaches). During one of his repentant intervals, I wound up giving my friend a few leftover buds and the entire bag of uber-roaches. I felt like a schmuck on wheels a few days later.
ENTER AND EXIT THE FELLOWSHIP
Then, about a year and a half ago, we embraced AA. We stayed clean about 14 months, and then went out again for about 2 months. Although I'd initially begged BG not to throw away all that clean time, as soon as he brought home the goodies I was hooked. So when, a few months later, he realized that being bedridden for days after a party was a rather unpleasant price to pay, he stopped buying from his skanky connection that I didn't know. So when he stopped, I had to. My old supplies had dried out long ago, and he was the only pusher man I knew.
it was very rough for me the first week or two. Pot didn't make me drink to excess as it did BG. The only nasty side effect I expeienced was a raving case of the munchies, and for that reason alone I should have never touched the stuff. But every time we went into Manhattan and passed near the hot spot, I imagined that BG was about to give in and get some more. One day, when we walked within a block of the place, and I realized as we continued walking that he wasn't going to stop and buy, I actually broke down in tears. He almost relented for my sake but I said, "No, BG, don't let me manipulate you like that." How very brave and noble I was!
The problem was, if BG copped for me he would not be able to resist indulging too. When he smoked, he would drink. He would drink and smoke some more, and more still. He would wake up sick as a dog and remain bedridden for days. So if he didn't use, I didn't use. Simple as that.
When in AA, I didn't pray in the traditional sense, but if something good happened, I'd often pause and thank the Higher Power. Since the hot spot didn't always deliver, I had sometimes considered asking the higher power to give BG a successful run. Now, as I sobbed on the street, I considered begging the Higher Power to make BG relent. It was then that I realized my addiction had all the markings of a true Panic in Needle Park-style selfishness.
THE ULTIMATE NEW YORK CITY JUNKIE MOVIE
Released in 1971, The Panic in Needle Park is a harrowing story about how drugs can turn true love into a twisted road of degradation and self-centered betrayal. The movie signalled the young Al Pacino's first breakthrough performance, which helped him subsequently land the legendary role of Michael Corleone in the Godfather.
Bobby (Al Pacino) meets Helen (Kitty Winn; the nanny of Exorcist fame) and she soon moves in with him and enters into his gritty network of skanky Upper West Side heroin junkies. Though both are, underneath it all, very loving and giving, they soon betray each other in appaling ways due to the savage dictates of their addiction. At first Helen just observes all the shooting up, but eventually sneaks a taste and is hooked. Bobby initiates the descent into the slippery slope of selfish immorality when he sends her out to cop with insufficient money, knowing that she will have to turn a trick to get the goods. After she gets hooked, she sells herself out to anyone who has the money to finance another high--including Bobby's slimy burglar brother Hank. The junkies all know that a "panic"-- a drought in the heroin supply--is due to hit, which renders everyone more desperately craven. Meanwhile, a narc has been also been tailing Helen, trying to warn her that all junkies will rat each other out in the end. Sure enough, Helen eventually betrays Bobby, who has entered into a brief career as a medium-end dealer, and he lands in jail. After he is released, all is forgiven and the couple reunite, but the viewer knows the never-ending tragedy of perpetually tainted junkie-love is just beginning.
One day, while pacing on a nearby corner waiting for BG to hopefully cop from his friend, I realized that my love of pot had driven me to the same sort of self-centered obsession as Bobby and Helen. When BG finally refused to get any more bowleg, I was inconsolable. I knew full well that the stuff was poison to him, and I sincerely wanted to see him stay clean. But my craving also made the selfishly addicted side of me long for him to give in again. My love had been compromised by my solipsistic wish to get a buzz on at all costs.
Many people do desperate things for their substance: hooking, stealing, mugging, even murdering. In AA, I heard horror stories about how people had completely ruined their lives in pursuit of alcohol--becoming homeless, friendless, jobless, penniless. But even when he was using heroin, BG never for a moment contemplated ripping anyone off for a fix--he maintained a stressful job, and merely used his paychecks to fuel the partying until his funds ran out. But I realized that for me, althouh the only serious side effect of pot use was the tendency to up like a baloon from indulging in the munchies, my deep-down eagerness to see BG's resolve go by the wayside gave me serious pause.
So now, having given up the spliffs for two months, the craving has mostly gone away. Anyway, I've got a new drug to abuse now -- namely the internet, which I've taken to like a crack addict takes to the old pipe. Is there such a thing as cyber-geeks anonymous? Since I bought Herman, my beloved Apple Powerbook, back in February, I know my relationship with BG has just not been the same. If he didn't pry my fevered fingers from Herman's keyboard and drag me kicking and screaming from the apartment for a long walk, I would probably be an unshowered vegetable sporting a filthy T-shirt who never saw daylight and ordered up Chinese every night.
AA's like to call it switching chairs on the Titanic. But Herman helps out BG too--when he wants to print a cool picture of Sid Vicious or Ezra Pound for his next portrait, or has a hankering to know about the life cycle and mating habits of tapeworms. But he eschews actually touching Herman's keyboard, for I think he fears entering into the nightmarish realm of computer addiction. So for now, at least, I''m getting off alone.