Back to the Stoned Age – Hunting for Blunts in Our 50s
Life's a lot more stressful than when we were in college. So why not smoke some pot, like we did back then?
It was 10:30 on a Saturday night.
I had gone to bed, but my brain’s off-switch was stuck in the ‘on’ position. He had remained downstairs. In his favorite chair. With his glass of Merlot, reading his James Patterson novel. I got up to pee, went downstairs. We met in the kitchen.
“I can’t sleep,” I said.
“I can’t read,” he said.
We leaned up against the granite countertop, he in his plaid flannel pjs, me in mine. Life’s stressors were taking their toll. His: Big Job for Big Client, no room for error. Mine: Elderly father living alone, a son who is a work-in-progress, a daughter moving beyond a direct flight, the dog rife with incurable cancer, and the sense of an impending end to all life on the planet as we had come to know it.
“I have an idea.” He went to the cabinet above the stove, where we put the hard liquor, out of the reach of the children, even though they are now of legal age, several inches taller than both of us, and know how to mix a mean Manhattan. Yes, I could have used a drink, but drinking, for me, had been a gateway drug for other, stronger drugs — potato chips and nachos with cheese — and I had lost 10 pounds, so . . . slippery slope?
He dragged a dining room chair across the floor, stood on the seat and reached deep into the back of the top shelf.
“What are you looking for?” I said.
“This!” He produced a plastic baggie. Cooking grease and age had given it a yellow patina.
This had been stashed there 35 years earlier. This had been forgotten. Until now.
“Won’t it be stale?”
“Worth a try, don’t you think?”
“But we have no delivery system,” I said.
“You would be wrong!” He put on his heavy coat and boots. Grabbed keys.
“Where are you going?” I said.
“To the garage.”
He returned with a dented, blue metal fishing tackle box. He blew hot air into his hands to warm them. Unlatched the latch. Pulled up on the tiers of small compartments filled with lures, hooks, and sinkers, and one small wooden pipe, a hole bored into one end, the other a shallow bowl filled with tarry residue from 1975.
“I’ve kept this, just in case–”
He filled the bowl. Used one of the ‘strike anywhere’ matches to light it. Muscle memory had made it look easy. He took a few starter puffs before he coughed and belched out more smoke than he had inhaled.
“Stale?” I said.
He shook his head yes, and continued to cough.
“Might as well throw it in the compost–” I said.
He shook his head no. “We’ve–”cough “got to–” cough “–buy new stuff.”
Where? How? Who? “I’m pretty sure the girl whose boyfriend lived down the hall in the dorm doesn’t sell pot anymore,” I said.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll figure it out.”
Procurement would have been easy had we lived in a state where pot had been legalized. But we didn’t. That would have explained his paranoia when he slid into the passenger seat after a party. I was the designated driver. He made sure no one had followed him to the car before he locked the door and buckled up.
“Are you holding?” He whispered.
“You know–” He mouthed “–check your coat pocket.”
I felt a small plastic bag. It had been slipped in by whom? It was filled with what looked like the small dried flower buds I bought at Michael’s for my fall floral arrangement.
“Give it to me–”
“What are you going to do?” I said.
“I’m going to put it in the wheel well — you know, in case we get . . . pulled over.”
We were two senior citizens in a Chevy Equinox — hardly red-flag material.
The familiar smell of 15 thousand days ago filled the kitchen. He turned on the exhaust fan above the stove and fanned the smoke away from the smoke detector. I felt like I should get a damp towel and put it underneath the door.
He passed me the pipe. Who knew how many pairs of old girlfriends’ lips had come in contact with this end? I took a deep inhale. I hadn’t recalled this horrible burning back in the day, as if I had poured sand down my gullet, then swallowed a lit match, followed by a shot of gasoline. I coughed and passed it back to him. He took another hit. Passed it to me. I waved it off.
“My throat!” I croaked.
He dumped the remains into the sink. Flushed them down the drain.
“Maybe tomorrow you and I could go to a head shop.”
It was 1973 all over again. That familiar head shop smell of incense and sandalwood and leather. Blacklight posters of Jim Morrison, Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company. Tie-dyed t-shirts. Those bulky knit sweaters from Mexico (had I known, I could have worn the one I stashed in our attic back in 1979, along with my Earth Shoes). The guy at the counter rocked a Frank Zappa look, the woman at the register channeled her inner Janis.
I felt conspicuous. Hypocritical. All those D.A.R.E. programs I sat through at our children’s elementary school. I hoped I had lied convincingly when they had asked, “You guys grew up in the 70s . . . did you and Dad smoke pot?”
The clerk behind the counter had been talking with my husband for some time. Pipes had been pulled from the display case and placed on a black velvet board, as if they were fine jewelry and this Tiffany’s. I came in at the point where my husband had said, “–and we used double album covers to roll our joints — I’m sure if I dug some out, there’d still be some seeds!” Frank laughed politely, in that way young people do when old farts start talking ‘good old days.’
“What do you think of this one?” My husband pointed to a kazoo-shaped device made from burled walnut. It looked like it belonged on the dashboard of a chevy van customized with cast-off paneling and orange shag carpeting.
“Sure. Fine. Whatever,” I said.
It was Saturday. 10:30.
He was in his chair. Had just opened James Patterson. I told him I was heading up to bed.
“I’ve got an idea,” he said. “Let’s break in the new device,” he said.
He put a pinch of bud into the shiny bowl. Lit it. Took a few puffs before he handed it to me. One little hit. That was enough. No throat burn. No high. Just a mellowness similar to the moment when the hot water in the bathtub is perfect and the bathroom nice and steamy, and no one needs me for anything . . . ahhhhhhhhhhhh.
It felt nice.
He dragged the dining room chair into the kitchen. Put the pipe and the fresh bag in the back of the cabinet. “We don’t want to make it too convenient,” he said.
“Promise me–” I said.
“Sure, anything,” he said.
“I don’t want you to tell the kids.”
“Oh, come on. Why not?”
“How would that conversation go? Son: So . . . what’s new with you two? Me: Oh . . . same old same old. You: Mom and I scored some sweet Shango Silverback Gorilla.”
Maybe it was the mellowness talking, but we both agreed. “Keep ‘em guessing.”