Thursday, June 02, 2005

I Smoked Pot When I Was Eight

Brace yourself -- it's yet another violation of the Lordzim rules! Yes, you've stumbled upon a new collection of exceptionally sordid personal details.

I smoked pot when I was eight.

All I got was a ferocious hangover and a shocking anecdote. And this lousy t-shirt.

How does an eight-year-old find a joint? Through his cool best friend who lives in Topanga, the most hippiest of all hippy places. Ben, my cool best friend, had moved to Topanga with his cool hippy parents. Lucky him! Their neighbors were hippies, and everybody they knew were hippies -- which seemed to me like the very best thing on Earth, because I so desperately wanted to be a long-haired, bellbottom-wearing, pot-smoking, draft-card-burning, authority-questioning hippy too.

But I was only eight. So when Ben said he'd found a joint and we were going next door to his neighbor's house to smoke it after dinner, I was overjoyed -- excited beyond belief. The key to the kingdom. Sophistication. What it's like to be groovy and grown-up, I thought. I will be groovy when I have smoked pot, went my impeccable pre-teen logic. After a long dinner with Ben's pot-smoking parents and his mean older sister, he and I sauntered across the dusty sideyard to the low shack where Harry lived. Harry was 40.

Why would a 40-year-old smoke pot with two eight-year-olds? Ask Michael Jackson. But it wasn't like that. Yes, he brought out a beer, and we all shared a joint and that single can of Budweiser, but apart from the gross lapse -- vaccuum? -- of judgment that led him to get high with little kids, the guy didn't do anything else I'd like to have him locked up for. Or killed for. Besides, when we sat down on the mismatched furniture in his dim filthy living room, he did his due diligence. He looked at me and said, "You've done this before, right?"

I nodded, and Ben vouched for me. Of course I had. You could tell from my long hippy hair. On the other hand, I had an almost perfectly circular face and wore clothes my mom and I found in the "Husky" section. (Oh, the shame of the Husky section.) But sure, I had smoked pot and drunk beer. I was an old hand at smoking and drinking. I bore all the marks of a hardened druggie. I was eight, but a sophisticated eight! Yep. Crafty, too -- look how easily I'd just fooled a wise old grown-up.

I have no idea what we talked about as we slowly smoked and drank. I don't think I even got high. Bad weed, not enough weed, nerves, the beer -- who knows. What I do know is that I woke up early the next morning with the worst hangover of my young life. Well, it was the only hangover I'd ever had, which just made it worse. I was face-down on a dirty sheetless waterbed outside by a swimming pool filled with thick green water. And no, my ass didn't hurt, but my head did. A cat in heat was pacing and meowing right next to it. Over and over and over. I tried meowing back to quiet him, to no avail. To this day I can reproduce that sound, a plaintive, pained eruption full of sexual frustration. He'd dropped the "me" part of "meow" and was just saying "Owwwww" over and over again. Twice a minute or more. It was relentless, and it struck like a dagger deep into my own throbbing skull. I tried putting a pillow over my head, I tried shooing him away, I tried falling back asleep, but the cat, who was probably my conscience in a fuzzy corporeal form, would not shut up.

Years later -- decades later -- after Ben died rock-climbing and his dad became a crackhead and his parents split up and moved out of Topanga, I ran into his older sister at a party. I asked her how, why, what kind of adult would smoke pot with eight-year-olds? She looked pained and patient and far away, and then she said, "It was a different time. People saw the world very differently then."

So it's all a matter of perspective. Harry, that 40-year-old stoner loser, saw the world differently. Those were the years when "art photographer" David Hamilton was selling soft-focus images of naked little girls. Back when being a priest had its benefits. Before Just Say No and MADD and Amber Alerts and the Internet and our modern awareness of how easily children can be seduced into doing adult things.

So I lost my marijuana cherry at age eight. Ben assured me that the first time is always weird. As bad as the experience was, I wanted to smoke it again. But a whole year would pass before pot would cross my lips again, and I didn't get high that time either. A few more years passed. My hair was still long and my face was still round, but my complexion was going to hell and I had started wearing little round John Lennon glasses. I was 12. And somehow I lucked into a pot-smoking crowd at my junior high. Lucky, lucky me. I bought my first "lid" of Mexican for $40. It was lousy, but it was mine.

Hijinks ensued.


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