This week on the Treading Water blog, another post from Lanny Larcinese.
Lanny is a Philadelphia writer and active in the local writing community. “Enough Pot” is an excerpt from his forthcoming memoir, “Women: One Man’s Journey.”
Even as the manager, which meant I should have known my people, I was clueless that drugs were all around. I was so serious about career that I had no notion of how commonly cocaine, pharmaceuticals, pot, LSD, and other stuff were used—including by my staff. When one or the other was nodding and their co-workers said, “He (or she) isn’t feeling well and needs to go for a walk,” I thought they weren’t feeling well and needed to go for a walk. They were younger than me and wired into the drug culture; I was of the “reefer madness” generation, and still believed dope caused you to stare for hours at the sun while it baked your eyeballs.
My friend Jason ended all of that when he introduced me to pot. He managed another department. He was tall, thin-nosed, handsome in a Nordic way, and very easy going. I was at his apartment when it happened. He asked if I minded if he smoked. I thought “cigarettes,” so I said sure, go ahead. As he rolled what I thought was tobacco, I imagined cowboy—Marlboro Man, rolling his own cigarettes. When he fired it up I noticed the unusual sweet aroma. He inhaled deeply, coughed, and offered it to me. I patted my shirt pocket and said, “No thanks, I have my own Pall Malls.” He said, “Try this shit, it’s Columbian,” and took another hit as he went into a coughing jag.
He saw right away that I was a doper-virgin, and he gave me a tutorial as we listened to “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” He explained the different kinds, the best papers, how to roll them, etc. I took a few hits and after gagging, was immediately in la-la land. I decided then and there that I liked it more than alcohol. I felt funnier, wittier, and that cracks in his plaster were painted by Jackson Pollack. It loosened me in a way that alcohol never did (even drunk I was intense.) I was thirty-one years old.
To a person for whom rules were as elastic as suspenders and compulsiveness rigid as rebar, it was exactly what I didn’t need. Up to that time, I had used dexadrine to cram back in school, and later, poppers for sex, but those things never became habit. It didn’t take long for me to start keeping pot around the house and joining Jason and his friends in the culture of mellow thought, ridiculous laughter, and Funyuns.
Jason is a stereo nut and as he monkeys with his speakers, he attempts to explain how his system captures the subtleties of Taj Mahal’s blues. I feign attention because my mind has stretched time and reduced movement to the speed of an inchworm. Speech sounds gurgled through wet cement. Random thoughts – each apparently significant – bounce around my head like lottery number ping-pong balls. I had learned during my years at my parents’ restaurant, the Bungalow BarB-Q, how to converse with shit-faced customers. So I keep nodding and smiling at Jason, yet have no idea what the hell he’s saying. Instead, my father’s image on the bow of a red-sailed sloop glides into my awareness, and he is wagging a finger at me. “You know, Lanny,” he says, “your problem is that you just can’t stand prosperity.”
But I think, ha! He was the one who didn’t get it! Pot actually helps reasoning, I think, so I see how wrong he was. I see that in fact, I could stand prosperity, but it was different from prosperity as he knew it; that my brand of prosperity was freedom to do as I pleased and get away with it; that laws of marriage, sex, and friendship were social constructs I could change whenever it suited me; that people like him who lived within norms did so in hopes that people like me – truly free people – would get our comeuppance—and when we didn’t, rued their own straight jackets and unfulfilled longings and sought the refuge of risk-averse comfort.
As the bong was passed around, I concluded that gurus like Timothy Leary and Willie Nelson were truly onto something, and too bad that I had to wait until my thirties to discover it—or so the evil creature dressed in Armani, the one hiding in the dark closet of my brain, told me.
If I was able to see through other than a blue haze or alcoholic stupor, I would have seen that rules evolved because they worked for most people most times, and that the wisdom of the Judeo-Christian ethic was that sin comes at a cost, and that redemption is not possible without such insight. Then again, who needed redemption?
The pot addiction would extend into my forties, and help paint over the guilty pain caused by my affairs and betrayal of my first wife—a woman guilty of nothing but loving me. My second marriage and birth of our daughter brought occasional moments of clarity, despite being an addict and alcoholic. But karma was knocking at the door… and it wasn’t a singing telegram.
When my second wife stepped out on me and the pain became excruciating, I told my Armani-clad demon to go back to hell. Agony would cleanse me. So like Odysseus, I lashed myself to the sail and plugged my ears.
I didn’t want to stare into the sun until it baked my eyeballs.