Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?! (a humorous meta-nonfiction)
Maybe Just Not My Drug Of Choice
I smoked pot when I was a teenager and a bit longer. My primary appreciation in response to smoke>lungs>bloodstream>hippocampus was while listening to music—it seemed to add an amazing extra dimension. As I got older and was not as appreciative of the drug’s other effects, especially in social settings, I had to slowly train myself to not accept a joint when it came around. It took many misses, or rather—hits, to break the habit.
I had truly enjoyed that communal sharing aspect— but then there I would be, two tokes later:
1) Misunderstanding what people around me were saying—the guy on the record couldn’t be singing she’s my peanuts in blue cheese.
2) Catching bits of profound and enlightened conversation: Bob Dylan wrote “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” in 1966 but the term 420 didn’t show up until 1971. But 12 x 35 = 420. And the chorus is “Everybody must get stoned.” Man, it’s like prophecy.
3) And then I would wonder if what I had just said, like: what is the address?—was what others heard after my voice traveled across the room. Did they maybe think that what I had said was: want us to undress? And hence their strange looks.
Those were strange looks, weren’t they?!
Pot did however seem to provide a certain expansion of my imagination which lead to dazzling new creative zeniths. The brilliance of my mind, uninhibited! Unfortunately, the next day as I would see that what I had dropped down from those zeniths turned out to be breath-takingly vacuous.
When I think of my friends from those days—under the influence—I have this group photo of all of them in that State of Goof, heads wobbling on their shoulders like bobblehead figures.
Paint the past in broad strokes, Memory!
I’ve continued to dabble in various mind-expanding chemicals over the years, but cannabis was not among them. (My worst drug experience ever was a result of an Alice B. Toklas, an “edible” pot brownie. While my mates were having a great time I was blindingly sea-sick for 3 hours.)
Now four+ decades years later I wanted to experiment with the substance again. Hey, I think a pandemic is as good an excuse as any. Y’know—extra dimension to music, brilliant creativity—and all that.
Well—things have changed. No more going down to Washington Square Park to cop a nickle bag. The drug is now legal in many places in this country and here in NYC the streets are alive with the smell of cannabis.
(It’s placebo cousin CBD oil is making lots of people spondulix and bitcoin. It can calm you down or stimulate you, depending on the label. Artisanal organic broad-spectrum NonGMO. Tinctures, gummies, bath bombs. Dog treats and cat chews. Step right up.)
So here I am. Being forever young—no L7 I— I got a vaping pen and a cannabis cartridge. Last time I put a cartridge in a pen was around 1967—about 100 blocks from here—at St. George Ukrainian Catholic School on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
I have to preface with this disclaimer because the last thing I want is for someone to tell me just how wrong my experiences and descriptions are.
You know which folks I mean—the ones that always begin with that passive-aggressive blessing: “You have a right to your opinion.”
This experiment/study is not peer-reviewed and that should be understood by everyone. Even the cat at my feet whose eyes are focused on me now—meowing: can I have some catnip too?—yes even she knows that the drug will affect different individuals differently.
[Note added by the editors.
• It was explained to the author that these new cannabis oils are very powerful and that his experiment was skewed because his tokage was considered high.
• He countered these details by proposing that while the dosage may have exaggerated the ungallant Goofus Factor™© of cannabis, that it does not change the fact that this is an everpresent aspect of the substance.
• The editors agreed with him and offered to post the 1970’s Public Service Annnouncement—which poignantly asked: Why do you think they call it dope?—at the end of the article.
• The author was delighted and asked that a smiley-face emoji be inserted here at the end of this note.
• :-) ]
I was going to be walking across the park so this seemed like a good opportunity to press the button on the pen and begin the toke-and-choke experience.
I stopped on a bench and a man stood beside me. Nazca birds flew overhead as a cyclops tree nearby kept watch of the proceedings. The man held a bicycle air pump. Standing firmly on its base, he inserted the hose into my ear and began pumping. I was beginning to feel the first effects—what I would call a fullness-of-head.
(First of an ongoing series of epiphanies: so that’s why they called them “head shops”!)
I knew I had to write this down when I got home. I would be the lab rat and report my experiences. I would provide others with a step by step knowledge of the effects and dangers of the Whacky Tabacy!
I knew that the USofA was on the right track when I learned that both recent presidential candidates—whether authoritarian or neoliberal—had shunned escaping reality with this substance. Perhaps my epiphanies could save future generations from the lure of Mary Jane—Marijuana!
I want to be the canary in the mines where they excavate Acapulco Gold.
I propose to hip you to the map that shows the all the locations of Ganja’s Roadblocks. Look here.
I stepped into the maze. The peanuts in blue cheese were at the other end.
1) You won’t know top from bottom.
Walking through the park. It’s dark, nightime. Reach into pocket for tin of mints. Try opening it. Doesn’t want to open. Twist it around. Still won’t open. Twist it around again. Three, four times, round and round. Then—finally looking down at it seeing that it is, simply, upside down. No big deal, right? Just a little cognative centrifugal misappropriation. But hold on—the brain is just beginning to respond to the fumigation.
2) Your internal GPS system will go awry.
All your directional information will be provided in a language you do not understand. Tourner à gauche à l’arbre. Girar a la derecha en la cerca. Nai tebe kachka kopne! We’ll call it Central Park this nightime landscape you are crossing and while you normally know its little paths inside out you are now suddenly outside in and the lab rat is not sure which way to the cheese. This is temporary and eventually you emerge next to something that looks like the Guggenheim.
3) You will see the unseeable.
You make it to the bus. It stops and the driver announces he is ahead of schedule so you will be delayed a few minutes. He gets up out of his seat.
Are they switching drivers — did another bus driver get on? He seems to be talking to someone in the seat whom I cannot see. Or is he having a snack?
He gets up and stands facing the seat. I can’t see the front of his body. Is there another person in the seat. Maybe they’re giving him oral sex?
As he slides back into the seat I see him wash down his food with some water. He closes the door and we’re off.
Do you want your perverse imagination to emerge and crawl all over public transportation like that? This is what they meant by Reefer Madness.
4) Don’t operate machinery. Not even towels.
Yes, you might actually get out of the shower, ignore your towel on the rack, and when returning the floor towel to its position on the edge of the bathtub you instead begin to dry yourself with it. Never in years of showering have you ever considered this footmat-for-drying-off possibility. Spliff spazzed.
5) You may end up homeless.
You will struggle with the key to your apartment door as it just doesn’t seem to fit. You even look up at one point (nervous that your neighbor might freak out at someone jiggling their lock) to make sure that the number on the door indicates that this is your domicile. Then you realize the key in your hand was upside down. (See #1 above.)
6) You may never be able to speak again.
Even the writer of the Psalms spoke of the tongue cleaving to the roof of his mouth. Well, there it was. No moving parts, a mouth full of cotton. Press that bottle of seltzer inside your lips and poured the liquid in. You may hear your salivary glands and taste buds sing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (well everybody else has). Your tongue will uncleave and return to its usual exploration of that tooth you know needs fixing.
7) You may eat yourself to death.
It starts with a snack and the next thing you know you’re sitting down with an entire load of Portugese bread, a stick of butter and a chunk of Gruyere cheese. You become aware that even after you’ve munched these comestibles that you will still need something sweet, y’know, for dessert.
In the locker room at culinary school they call it hemp baked.
Okay. Maybe these things won’t happen to you.
Just perhaps—maybe they didn’t even happen to me.
But what about the fate of him?
He finished the loaf of bread.
He felt lazy and just wanted to sit and listen to some records.
But that Busby Berkeley number he sees on the wall—a Butterfinger bar being danced around by a bunch of Whoppers malted milk balls, which have spilled out of a box—invites him to step out into the night.
On his corner he sees four men, socially distanced, the first wearing a white suit, the third barefoot, strolling across the crosswalk.
He decides to go down to the industrial area. Near the chimneys of the powerplant a pig is floating up in the sky. While looking down the avenue he sees four guys taking turns peeing on a concrete piling. One dark hanging cloud reminds him of photos of the Hindenburg going down.
On these mostly abandoned streets people seem strange. A man with a lightning bolt on his face walks by and another, standing in a darkened door, is shaving his face with what must be an electric shaver, but looks like a furry weasel. At the next corner a friendly looking fellow, carrying a guitar, smiles and tips his hat to him. The guitar case at his feet has a sticker of a banana on it.
A guy who looks like he is hustling stands leaning against a lamp post.
He’s eating a large peppermint twist stick and wiping his sticky fingers on his bluejeans, perhaps intentionally bringing attention to his prominent bulge.
Our hero begins wandering homeward and catches a reflection of himself in the pet shop window—his head doing that bobblehead thing. Beyond his reflection, on display in the shopwindow, he sees a replica of a trout mask and an aquarium toy of a swimming naked baby with dollar bill accessory.
That was enough. And then he’s back at home. How long had he been out here? Wasn’t he out in Central Park earlier?
He woke up at home, laying on the floor next to his record player, the albums he’d been listening to for hours were strewn about. Along with an empty seltzer bottle, a Butterfinger wrapper and an empty Whoppers box.
He suddenly remembered that he’d spent time at his typewriter last night.
He wandered over to his desk. He was prepared to be swept away by the uninhibited brilliance that he felt had flowed from his fingertips. His mind and heart were open—to dive into the dazzling wordsmithery that had dropped down from that amazing creative zenith on which he stood last night.
He began reading.
© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.