There are few firsts in life one remembers with such acuity. Loss of virginity. Birth of a child. The twin moments of "Will you marry me?" and "I want a divorce." Still, in the grand pantheon of milestones, "First time I got high" is right up there. So, that's a good place to start.
The first time I got high was in 1981 at a festival concert at Belmont Park in Yonkers, N.Y. The bill featured Rick Derringer, Todd Rundgren, Pure Prairie League and others (as if such an estimable bill needed others). I was a senior in high school, and was with two guy friends and three girls who went to a neighboring high school.
I hadn't given the act much forethought—I wasn't particularly determined to get that monkey on my back that day—but one of the girls handed me a roughly hewn joint, I took an enormously long drag, and began a coughing fit that became so bad I actually feared I'd vomit on our picnic blanket. Once that ended, I said, "Hey, Rick Derringer is awesome, man!" while lying on my back staring up at the sky. Despite the indignity of being kicked awake by a trio of attractive, sunburned females several hours later, I was enamored with my new best friend: the green leaf.
Flash forward three decades. I have just pre-ordered a $300 vaporizer to be delivered moments after its manufacturer release; I have two bongs in my apartment (which, granted, get very little use), a pipe, two dugouts and three grinders. I have two different weed delivery services and a third that only delivers edibles (which, for the uninitiated, are foodstuffs laced with THC).
I'm also a few months shy of 52, and, by any standards, a respected and successful professional. I live in a city where it rains an ungodly amount, I have a "nice" family and, I'm happy to report, I still smoke pot.
And in all likelihood, you do, too.
Everyone I know does now, the same way everyone I knew did then. Sure, we smoke less than we did and, because many of us are married with children, usually smoke with fewer people. Blazing has become less of a social activity and more of an activity to help a person be sociable. And whether we light up with our spouse, on weekends or at parties, or hide in an apartment building's stairwell between loads of laundry, we wouldn't give it up for anything.
It's being decriminalized in different corners of the nation and, probably, two days after I die, it will be legal to purchase it everywhere in the U.S. So the stigma and stench of illegality is somewhat lessened, which totally works for me.
The actual high also totally works, but it's a bit different nowadays. Pot is about a hundred times stronger than it was in Yonkers all those years ago. But, where it used to make me laugh and fantasize about the Beatles recording Abbey Road, more often than not, weed just helps me unwind from a day on life's treadmill.
Fifteen years ago, you could have called me a pothead. I had all the telltale traits: long hair, a belly and I was far more comfortable vegging out at home than going out. I never flew anywhere without weed stashed on me. (Before full body scans, it was in the back left pocket of some relaxed-fit khakis.) If I was seeing a band and wasn't high, I had difficulty coming to grips with that missed opportunity. (I'm talking about you, Radiohead sometime in the late '90s.)
But eventually, smoking pot moves down the list of what's important. Life has a way of reordering responsibility and folly, and so in that sense, I don't really smoke pot that much. Certainly not like I used to.
Now, if that $300 vaporizer would only get here….
J.T. Freeney is a freelance writer who still occasionally listens to Bob Marley.