One of my friends sent me a funny birthday card: on the front is a picture of Saint Dude, the Patron Saint of Lost Brain Cells. St. Dude has long brown hair, a beard, and a halo. He wears sunglasses and carries a bong in one hand and a beer bottle in the other. Marijuana plants and Zig Zag rolling papers decorate the border of the card. My friend and I go way back, to the Lost Brain Cell days, so looking at this card brings it all back, at least what's left of my brain cells can remember.
The first time I got stoned I was fifteen, in Rio Nido near Russian River, in a kiddie park. My friend (different friend than the one above) and I smoked a joint (someone at the Rio Nido teen dance gave it to us) and then we played on the swings and the jungle gym and the merry-go-round, laughing like crazy. I really don't know if I was stoned or not. My lost brain cells can't recall precisely, but my friend and I thought we were so cool, in our bell bottom jeans, desert boots, and beaded necklaces. Of course, we had to try it again. This was in the late sixties in California, so you could get pot or mescaline or LSD at the vending machines at school. I proceeded to get stoned almost every day. At lunch, a gang of us would walk along the railroad tracks or sit in the drainage ditch, in one of those cement tunnels, and smoke our doobies. After lunch one day, I had to give a speech in my Civics class. I really enjoyed public speaking, but I knew I was maybe a little too stoned. The pot we had smoked was laced with THC. Who knew what that was. Man, it was all part of the exploration, the good time, the freedom, the new paths of consciousness. I was blitzed to the gills giving this speech, and suddenly, my hearing switched off, and small, glowing particles started zipping around the room, fireflies on speed. I didn't know what was happening, but it was cool. Oh, Saint Dude, man, it was boss! Groovacious! I watched those flying sparkles careen off the classroom walls while I kept talking without hearing a thing. After I was finished with my speech, my teacher took me outside and asked if I'd like to see the nurse. The nurse took my temperature and sent me to the library to rest. I sat outside the library with a book upside down on my lap and watched the air, fascinated.
Home Ec class was a gas. I once sewed a dress I was making to my t-shirt. I stood up and the dress ballooned out of me like an alien. My friends were equally stoned, and we laughed so hard we fell down on the floor, rolling around in hysterical glee among the spools of thread. We were sent to the office. The nurse took our temperatures. We were sent home. We repaired immediately to the railroad tracks and got stoned.
I took LSD for the first time when I was seventeen. A friend and I went to San Francisco and bought two tabs of LSD from a guy on Haight Street. Hey, I still remember the name of this LSD, I think: Green Barrels. It could have been rat poison, but we trusted everyone. We swallowed it and went to Golden Gate Park and had a good time in the forest, but then had to get back home across the Bay so we could go out on a double date. My friend dropped me off at my house, and I took a shower and started fixing my hair. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror combing and combing my hair. My older sister walked by and said, "You're combing the curl out." My mother kissed me good-bye and said, "Be home by ten." "Okaaaaaaaayyyyyyy," I said, watching the letters stretch out into infinity. My mother would never dream I was stoned. She had never heard of LSD, would never believe I would take it, I got good grades in school. And she was only worried about boys. This was one of my first dates. She was constantly worried I would get pregnant. Don't have sex, don't get pregnant. I hadn't had sex yet, but I'd smoked enough pot to start a revolution and ingested quite a few tabs of mescaline. I said I would be home by ten, and I wouldn't let my date impregnate me. No, I didn't say that last part. I was too amazed at my hair to speak.
We went to the drive-in and saw Bullitt. I sat in the driver's seat of my date's van, astounded at the windshield wipers. It was not raining, but I just couldn't get over how the wipers went back and forth and back and forth. I gazed through windshield wiper arcs at the cars racing and Steve McQueen's handsome face. It was all too much, so I went into a closet in the van and closed the door. I saw many kinds of creatures, in neon, in that closet, tropical fish and animals unknown on any planet. My date asked me to come out of the closet. We lay down in the back of the van, but I wanted to pump my legs like I was riding a bicycle, so we didn't have sex. In fact, the four of us lay down in the van and rode our bicycles around the ceiling. Then we smoked a joint and sang "Hey Jude."
Man, St. Dude, Patron Saint of Lost Brain Cells, it was fab.
But what a bummer after I got home. I couldn't stop seeing things, even when I closed my eyes, there was wild stuff happening on the curtains, and my bedroom was a Merry Prankster circus of cartoon zoology. Colorful animations of insects and birds and amphibians. It wasn't scary, but I wanted it to stop. Then it stopped. And I couldn't see. I was blind. Then I realized I could see, but there was nothing to see. I was in a land of nowhere, no ground, no walls, no sky, a long grey fog. It wouldn't change. I believed I had died, and this was Limbo (I was raised Catholic) and I would wander this empty zone forever, my soul totally stoned.
I luckily exited Limbo in the morning. I felt like my head had been vacuumed. I met my friend at Fosters Freeze and had a Frosty cone and French fries. We liked to dip our French fries in the vanilla Frosty cone. That was the end of my LSD days. First and last time.
When I graduated from high school, I stopped smoking pot. That summer, I was sitting in my mother's car in a grocery store parking lot, waiting for her. For some reason, I wasn't stoned that day, and I saw these flags whipping in the breeze. It was the grocery store's grand opening. I felt like I hadn't seen anything real in a long time. I cried. I don't know why I cried. I can't remember. Maybe I was just relieved to see the world as it was, that it was pretty good to look at as is.
I feel fortunate that I survived my friendship with St. Dude. In high school, I once smoked opium on Mount Diablo. Laughing, I threw my head back and rolled down the mountain. I had twigs and rocks in my hair, my madras shirt torn up. When I got home, my mother asked, "Did you drink a beer? Were you with a boy?"
I was flying backward with St. Dude. We circled and circled Mount Diablo. We couldn't remember how to get down.
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