You may or may not want to know this, but I thought I would tell you that I am writing this essay in my underwear. You see I feel more room to write when I am not restricted by the confines of clothes. I also feel less inclined to be dishonest in my writing because I feel less restricted by the false impression that clothes can give. I woke up this morning remembering my long-lived love affair with marijuana. I have not revisited the neural delights of the cannabis plant in some time but this morning it was as if I longed for a rekindled encounter with my longest-lived-love affair. This encounter could be more easily referred to as a quickie. The only way that I felt I could deal with this nostalgic rumination which was slowly turning into longing, was to climb out from bed and without changing into more formal attire write an abbreviated essay in response to a much decried postulate that I often attested to. You cannot die from smoking Marijuana, right?
My love affair began haphazardly in 1987 without any formal planning. It was a love affair that was not fiery and passionate from the get-0-go, but rather slowly developing and refining until it was solidified into a sure thing. I was in my junior year of “high” school and attended my first rock concert (without parental escorts) at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I was excited and nervous about seeing Jane’s Addiction play, whom I believed had revived rock and roll out from the slumber of the leg warming eighties. My friends and I grabbed an opportune location from which to watch the band play on the balcony directly above the stage. We stood in anticipation for the forthcoming show like rabbits anticipating organically grown carrots. The excitement that I felt still makes goose bumps rise on my thinning scalp.
Behind us we heard a loud banging followed by high-pitched yelling. My friends and I shyly turned around and noticed what looked like a gypsy caravan. A long faced fellow with rainbow colored braids, black beaded turkey neck covered in crucifixes; wearing tall black sewage boots and a red plastic coat used by sausage workers, pounded on the backstage door. Beside him was a shorter young adolescent who looked like a duplicate copy of him self but had many more holes and metals in her ears, chin and nose. Saying, “I can’t believe it!” besides the two of them was a tattooed and tall lank of a young man with bleached blond stocks of hay for hair and big enough eyes to see God with.
Turned out that the three locked out castaways happened to be Perry Ferrell (the lead singer for Jane’s Addiction), his then girl friend Casey and the bass player for Jane’s Addiction, Eric Avery. They were locked out from back stage and I was witnessing a moment that would be written in the historical annals of my life. Perry kept yelling “come on man let us in, the shows gotta begin, come on man!” while pounding on the door with a hand covered in rings, painted black nails and bruise marks. Occasionally he would look over at me and smile like a child trying to be coy and hide embarrassment. That smile has been tattooed on my brain.
I was a small town boy never having seen or imagined seeing my idols close up in the flesh. In my high school at the time Jane’s Addiction was the biggest thing since Def Leopard or Duran Duran. When someone finally came and opened up the back stage door, Perry handed me a joint and said, here kid, take this. I almost wet my pants as I extended my numb and star struck arm to take the joint from his hand. For me it was like that Michelangelo painting where Adam reaches out for the hand of God. It was the end of my innocence.
My friends and I jumped up and down with idiotic youthful glee. I looked at the joint as if it was Achilles’ sword or a sacrament, put it to my lips, inhaling deeply: solidifying my connection to not only Perry Ferrell but also marijuana.
The show was the most hallucinatory, carnivalesque not really real but seeing it with my own eyes experience this small town boy had ever imagined being possible. I spent the majority of my remaining high school days stoned, attempting to re-kindle the neural lights that were compelled into synapses by the Jane’s Addiction extravaganza. I started to dress like Perry Ferrell, and as a consequence was often beat up by red neck cow kids who ripped out my purple braids and forced me to go home and change. They would not stop me because I was high.
Every love affair has that single moment where the course of events changes for better or worse. Love either begins its onerous descent or is clapped further into existence by a profound realization of its meant to be qualities. For me this moment occurred briefly after my roommate and I had smoked from a pink bong in our dorm room before dinner. I was a sophomore in college and struggling to maintain skills and aspirations to become a professional tennis player. My roommate and I walked to the cafeteria for dinner under the setting sun stoned out of our minds and driven by an ecstatic spirit commonly referred to as Euthanasia. My feet felt as if there was a space between them and the ground. I was so high that I was able to walk directly through an oak tree, freed from the confines of the material world. I understood the meaning of high by experiencing that moment. I was moving along the grass effortlessly transcending all time and space. I looked to my roommate who was trying to fly and said I want to stay in this state for the rest of my life. I had not known happiness like this before.
After a seven year college career that cost my parents more than $100,000 dollars I barley graduated with a BA in Media Studies and found myself without any aspirations other than to sit in the sun, pursue sexual escapades, play basketball and smoke weed. I was twenty-nine years old.
I began to make the journey by train from Palo Alto to San Francisco reading Jack Kerouac and longing for beatnik days filled with read wine, orgies and poetry. I laughed my way through the financial district watching the poor souls who spent days on end cooped up in artless offices made from greed and struggle, while I remained penniless and proud. I would buy books at City Lights and read in the bars of North Beach while wondering about times past which I could not recall. In my journal I produced poor prose longing for a time past and fulminating about time present.
I remained stoned through three serious relationships and dozens of jobs. I watched Pearl Jam explode onto the grunge scene and grow old before I could really identify the passing of time. Chris Cornell had just been the lead singer for Sound Garden and now he was playing with some band called Audio Slave and looked like a middle-aged man. The words of T.S Elliot resounded in my mind each time I tried to justify to myself the path in life I had chosen to take:
Time passed and Time Future
Are all contained in time present
Like my prognostication fifteen years before, I had managed to remain stoned through the most formative years of my life. I prolifically painted and waited on tables while sleeping with prostitutes and wasting away the days in strip clubs which made me feel as if I was dreaming away my afternoons. I got fired from a shoe store for telling a costumer that her feet stunk. Weed elevated my sensory faculties and made dishonesty impossible. Weed made me feel as if I was the entertainer in a play about me. I rode my bike through parks high as a bird and traveled like a dharma bum through the sierras and city ghettos. I dreamed and then forget what I had dreamed.
Always the passionate advocate of the virtues and health benefits of smoking weed I postulated again and again that no one had ever died from smoking weed. I read book after book about the healing benefits of marijuana. I took great enjoyment in teaching others about the way of weed. It calms the nerves, enlarges the heart so blood flow is improved and the heart muscle strengthened, clears phlegm and toxins from bronchial passage ways improving lung capacity, accelerates metabolism, improves concentration and has anti-carcinogenic properties. Meanwhile I was suffering from wheezing and palpitations refusing to blame my symptoms on my true love. I did not want to admit to my self that the love that I had spent the past fifteen years of my life with was slowly destroying time present.
I reached the age of thirty-nine still pleasantly pre-occupied with denying the effects of my relationship with weed. I had watched friends die or begin the obvious descent into middle age. Perry Ferrell had devolved from rock star status into dusty memorabilia from a time passed and forgotten. An illegal war in Iraq raged on in its corrupted fury and through out all these life cycles I had managed to remain high.
I was working as waiter and celebrated my working class status because I had my days free to smoke weed and ride my bike around Berkeley in search of an herb or elixir that could cure my chronic cough. I developed allergies and a terrifying irregular heartbeat as I wrote non-sensible essays in the afternoon and meditated under parking cars. Was I loosing my mind as I aged my way towards fifty? I often wondered. Then I married a woman who could no longer tolerate my anxiety attacks, constant fear of death, feelings of failure and Walden Pond philosophy that espoused that the cost of something is the amount of life that you are willing to exchange in order to have that thing. I wanted life not things. Your Thoreau is keeping us poor and working class and your marijuana is going to kill you, she would often attest.
The night was warm and now the summer morning seems to be working it’s way into a quick boil. After I finish writing this, I will put on pants and go out for a long bike ride around town. I am almost forty-two years of age and I have not smelled the aromatic scents or inhaled the tropical mists of Marijuana smoke in close to half a decade. Even though our relationship has ended- I am left with the scars of our almost twenty year affair. I have a chronic cough, an inability to recall the location of my parked bike or home. I am fatigued enough that I have a tendency to fall asleep in the most inappropriate of places. I have watched time pass and my face grow old. In an attempt to maintain a state of physical well- being I exercise by standing on my head for an hour a day and ride my bike to and fro the places I need to go. Otherwise I spend my time tending to my garden, sleeping in my underwear and trying not to think about the past that I seem to re-live day after day. It is as if my mind is trying to bring forth the years and years that I spent stoned so that I can now become accountable for the life I lived in the light of sobriety. I talk about these moments with my wife and I have built a writing career off of writing about my times passed, but still I am left in a state of duress or uncertainty when I ask myself and others the question, marijuana can’t kill you, right?