Nothing teaches like experience. Repeated direct observation can be a good teacher, too. Below are some of my observations with marijuana.
I grew up in a small town about three times the size of Lyons. My high school class size was just shy of 100. The stories focus on a group of 30 kids that rode the same bus to school. Many became involved with marijuana on a regular basis. For me, it was a source of ridicule. This was a blessing in disguise.
Bill was a smart mouthed guy that liked to talk big. Kelly Leak of the original Bad News Bears reminds me of him. He always had a cigarette in his mouth at the bus stop. He smoked a lot of marijuana too. He decided to clean his gun while stoned. He shot himself in the left shoulder. Surgery repaired most of the damage, but his arm was never quite the same.
Jeff smoked so much pot that one could get high from the fumes off his clothes. He rode his sport motorcycle to visit his girlfriend and smoke pot. He never made it home. He failed to negotiate a turn and flew into the woods. He and the motorcycle struck a tree eight feet up, snapping it off. He was dead on the scene. He was 19. I frequented a cottage next door to his home. I’ve witnessed his mother crying in subsequent years.
Vincent was a clean cut kid that loved basketball. He set the high school’s career and season scoring records. He played some college level ball with Seton Hall. Calvin was my neighbor and a best friend while growing up. He was very quick and agile. He could beat Vincent at one on one. He finally went out for the school team his senior year after lengthy encouragement from many; Calvin quit the team. He said it was for preppy jocks and couldn’t stand the structure. He also couldn’t take the running with lungs full of tar from cigarettes and pot. He returned to the woods behind the school parking lot. We’ll never know how far he could have gone.
Steve was Jeff’s best friend. He and Jeff had the sharpest wits around. They could keep the whole bus laughing. Mark never recovered from Jeff’s death. Pot became a place to hide. I last saw him in his mid 20s still adrift.
Kelly liked to combine sex and dope. She became pregnant. That ended her hopes for art school. She became a single mom. Her parents weren’t supportive.
I met Ethan in nursery school. I can remember racing Tonka trucks with him. We were in cub scouts together. His dad was a troop leader. I think his family left town for a while because I have no memory of him until high school when they moved a half mile up the road from me. By then, Ethan was smoking dope regularly. He was entrenched in the life. He and another, whom I didn’t know, committed suicide by smoking dope while idling a car with a hose from the tailpipe to the interior. Some people were cold about his death: “If you’re stupid enough to suck car exhaust, what do you expect?”. Ethan’s girlfriend, her female friends and many of my female friends would break into crying fits for weeks. Counselors were involved. The staff decided to honor Ethan by making the yearbook black and white, mostly black. I can’t imagine anyone reading it.
Nelson was the shortstop on one of my baseball teams. He was a skilled wrestler and team captain. He was entrenched in the pot smoking life. For him, pot was a gateway to other drugs. He died of drug overdose 4 years ago.
Some pot heads rented a cottage in the woods. They decided to give some dope and hot dogs to a bear. I don’t know which the bear liked more, but it kept coming back. When they ran out of “treats”, the bear decided to ransack the cottage, sending them scurrying for safety. The next few days the bear was loafing in my parent’s backyard and destroying the garbage cans. Everyone was nervous what the bearwould do next. The bear was captured and relocated. So were the pot heads.
Brian and I met as life guards at the college pool. Brian had been smoking dope since early high school. He was smart enough to get good grades while stoned. His usage accelerated during his junior year as he became the biggest dealer on campus. Brian decided to clean up his act senior year. Job searching goes poorly if the interviewer learns you’re a pothead. Brian acknowledged that the long term usage had left his mind duller, that his complexion had yellowed, and no amount of exercise was going to restore his fitness. He skipped his 20s and went straight from teenager to middle-aged. To my knowledge, he didn’t use other drugs.
Stockbridge, MA is less than an hour from were I grew up. The events of Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, a song by Arlo Guthrie, occurred less than 12 months from my birthday. The legacy of those days lingers on. In 1990, I met Walter. We were ski instructors at Butternut Basin. His family was friends with Alice and Ray Brock. Arlo had changed his diaper. He can tell you where the restaurant was originally and later relocated. He knows Officer Obie. He knows what it’s like to eat hash brownies at eight years old. If the kids act up at gatherings, the parents would settle them down so their own session could get underway. Walter is missing some memories that other boys have because he was stoned. He’d like that time back, but its gone. He has said it’s more fun to jump in leaf piles, play hide and seek, chase Fasha the dog, etc. than it is to loaf about because you’re stoned.
Legal marijuana makes as much sense as gorging on bony fish.