I didn't know of - and still don't know of - any drug use by my friends during my high school years and my years in the Army. Since I already knew everything anyway, I dropped out of high school at 17 and joined the Army. I spent nearly ten years there, but finally tired of it and got out. Honorably, I might add, and as a staff sergeant (E-6 for those of you from other services).
I imagine that some military friends and acquaintances used drugs - or at least marijuana - especially during the year I spent in Vietnam. But many things go over my head and not only did I not know of anyone doing so, the thought never even occurred to me.
I left the Army at age 27 and embarked on a civilian life. As time passed I learned that several of my friends smoked grass, but I didn't have any particular interest in doing it myself. I was already aware that the claims of politicians that it was addictive were nonsense, but I didn't need any more expensive habits, or bad habits either, for that matter.
Pot smokers are easy to get along with for reasons other than that they may be stoned. They'll offer you a hit and if you decline, well, that's cool. No pressure. They don't proselytize.
When I was thirty-five, I met Joan, a waitress at the Backgammon Lounge in Boston (now defunct, alas). We became friends, but not dating friends. Soon after, a girlfriend of hers, Mary, moved to Boston to share an apartment with Joan and Lily, another girlfriend. All three were from the same small town in New York, and all in their mid-twenties.
Coincidentally, Mary was hired at the same company and in the same programming division where I worked, and for a short time I was the only person in Boston that she "knew," outside of her roommates.
During the first or second week that she was there she came to me and asked if I could be her chauffeur for an afternoon several days from then. She was going to a dentist to have wisdom teeth removed, and "They're going to put me under and I don't want to drive after that." It was an easy yes, and several days later I drove her to the dentist.
After a half hour or so she left the dentist's chair and I was summoned to another area where I found her on a cot, her head on a pillow and a blanket covering her from ankles to chest, her face looking like that of a chipmunk. I pulled a chair over to the cot, took one of her hands, and waited until she opened her eyes. "How do you feel?"
"Great! I don't want to come down. I can't wait to get home and roll a joint."
When we were given permission to leave, I walked her to the car. We had one stop on the way to her apartment, and that was for groceries - soups, ice cream, whatever she was going to be able to eat without much chewing. I was useless at helping her put things in the refrigerator, the first criticism being "Not my shelf." The girls had shelves of their own and separate areas in the freezer.
Food safely stored, she sat down with a baggie and rolling papers and began rolling a joint, a process I had never witnessed (and still cannot imitate). "Colombian," she said, as if it should mean something to me. I just nodded.
In fact, she rolled two of them and when she was done she lit one and passed me the other. Now's as good a time as any. I decided to see what the fuss was all about and lit the other. In short order I was flying, on one of the best highs grass has ever given me.
We moved into the living room, she turned the TV on, and we sat on the couch. The experience is impossible to describe and the closest I can come to it is to say that I had a wonderful feeling of well-being, and that it seemed that there was some kind of field, more powerful than an aura but possibly its big brother, around my head. I was absolutely content. Numb, but content.
The girls had an old console black and white TV, which fit nicely with everything else. Old, used furniture, threadbare carpet, and so on. They had all just finished college and were just starting out. Still, it was one of the most comfortable homes I've visited. We watched the TV - some sort of game show I think - in total silence. After a few minutes, the vertical hold went and we watched that for a few minutes. Not entirely sure I could stand up, I nevertheless said, "I'll fix it."
I could and did stand up and I walked over to the TV, crouched down to examine the controls, and actually stopped the rolling. Miracle of miracles.
I stood up, walked to the middle of the room, and turned around to admire my handiwork. A few minutes later Joan arrived home, took in the situation, and said, "Hi Don. Are you leaving or just standing?"
OK, back over to the couch with Mary. Lily arrived and soon the four of us were stoned and watching some awful TV program.
Somehow I found myself holding a glass with some liquid and ice cubes, as was everyone else. Now I still had on my three piece suit, white shirt - collar buttoned - and tie. I became aware that the girls were giggling and that Mary was trying to get an ice cube inside my collar. OK, that's cool. This didn't bother me at all, and I slowly became aware that way out there somewhere, perhaps eighteen inches to the right of my neck, there was a cool spot. Before long the spot began approaching my neck and became too cool, and I took the ice cube out from under my collar and plunked it into my glass, earning a small round of applause.
That's pretty much it. I know that marijuana has different effects on different people - I have a couple of friends who get paranoid when they smoke it. They feel like everyone's whispering about them. They've tried it, they didn't like it, and they just don't do it.
Since then I have shared marijuana with any number of people, somewhere along the way no longer being surprised to learn of different people who smoked it, a list that in my experience goes from teenagers up to executives in billion dollar corporations.
As for the girls, we all became good friends, with Joan remaining my "best" friend of the three. Perhaps three or four times a year I'd get a call at one o'clock or even two o'clock in the morning: "We're bummed. Why don't you come over and visit. Bring your popcorn popper." I would, and I'm sure that all four of us were dragging on the mornings after.
One New Year's Eve I was between girlfriends and had declined several invitations to parties, determined to just relax for once. Joan called and was in tears. She had been stood up by the bum she was dating and she had nothing to do and was alone in the apartment. I drove over, we got stoned, and I took her to see Superman, which had been released only a couple of weeks earlier. We got there just as the movie began and the only adjacent seats were in the first row. Stoned, Superman, big screen, first row - how good does it get? It was about two and a half hours long and when it finished we still had the munchies. There was no question of being seated at any decent restaurant without reservations, so we picked up some Chinese food and took it back to her apartment. All in all, a fun night.
I still do the occasional hit. I'm an easy high and a quarter ounce will last me a year. The only person I ever turned on was my father, who volunteered. I was candid with my parents about it, as was my brother. Once Mom asked me "Why do you do it?" and I told her about the feeling of well-being, and she seemed content with that as an answer. Lord knows she had seen my brother and me smoke it often enough with no effects obvious to her except perhaps that we sometimes became a little quieter, sometimes a little sillier.
She once watched my brother Billy roll a joint and asked, "Billy, could I try making one of those?" "Sure, Mom." When she was done she proudly held up something that looked like Moby Dick, but lumpier.
A thought: If you smoke pot and you haven't seen the 1930s movie "Reefer Madness," try to find it and watch it. Get high first. It's an anti-marijuana propaganda film, and the ultimate in high camp.