BAUDELAIRE: ONLY A MILD DEBAUCHEE

by Mathieu Laca

I’m currently taking a slow dive deep into the history of cannabis via Martin A. Lee’s excellent Smoke Signals, published in 2012. Although not current with the rapidly developing legal recreational industry, the history is rock solid and rich in detail. I was intrigued and not a little bemused today when reading about marijuana’s route into Romantic-era France (via colonial Egypt) and its use by those enfant terribles, the original socialist revolutionary punks, the French Romantic poets. What struck me as notable was learning about Baudelaire, the “debauchee’s debauchee“, who became a bit of a marijuana alarmist late in life.

In truth, according to Lee, Baudelaire was a sordid “syphilis-infected figure who botched a suicide attempt, an opium-addicted alcoholic whose overbearing mother, a devout Christian, was obsessed with Original Sin” (p.30). The French poet indulged in drugs, alcohol and sex like a 1970s Hollywood swinger, and yet harbored a Puritan-like fear of self-discovery (probably because he didn’t like what he saw) and a reactionary rubric of bourgeois morality. Although Baudelaire’s poetry was often inspired by opium, alcohol and later hashish, he expressed a strong ambivalence about the upsides and downsides he experienced when intoxicated, saving his most severe judgement for hashish.

At first introduction to the herb, he praised it as “like living some fantastic novel instead of reading it” (p.29). This is the rebellious, adventurous Baudelaire, an original “punk” as he was arrogated by his 20th century devotees. But Baudelaire embraced intoxicants as a means to escape his own “self-hatred” (p.30), not to unleash his rebellion upon the world. In fact, the poet recoiled from hashish with consternation over the “moral and social implications” (p. 30) of its consumption. He expressed middle-class angst about the “psychological risks” (p. 30), and “concluded that hashish is ‘nothing miraculous, absolutely nothing but an exaggeration of the natural'” (p. 30). The Poet sought escape from self, not magnification of self-perception, and he ultimately denounced cannabis as a “chaotic devil” (p. 30).

In short, the French Romantic poet, Baudelaire, feared any catalyst that might magnify his perception of his own flaws. He was terribly insecure, it seems, rather than bold and courageous. Not much of a revolutionary. His literary contemporary, Gustave Flaubert, was direct and succinct in his reaction to Baudelaire’s denigration of cannabis, writing, “I would have thought it better if you hadn’t blamed hashish and opium, but only excess” (p. 30). And yet, blaming “excess” would clearly undermine his revolutionary identity, revealing him to be a coward. Baudelaire was quite fearful, it seems, literally afraid of his own shadow.

TOUCH TONE TUNERS & DEVO D-E-V-O-T-E-E-S

Front cover

This is one of those unique artifacts from a bygone aural era, when technological innovation was ad hoc & DIY meant by any means necessary. DEVOTEES is an incredible album – an incredibly weird album – that captures a moment in time, after punk’s “year zero” yet before “new wave” became smooth and overproduced.

This album also gives a hint of what KROQ 106.7 FM was doing at the time, how free form it was and willing to take chances putting out an album like this…after running a listener contest for content submissions. Hands down, the best track on the LP is “Jocko Homo” (there are 2 versions on the LP), arranged for touch tone telephone and recorded by…The Touch Tone Tuners. In 1979 lotsa folks still had rotary telephones, and although touch tone phones were clearly the new normal, there was still a kind of novelty about it. I remember playing out “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the 9, 6 & 3 buttons.

That these guys took the time to pick out buttons on the phone to arrange the “Jocko Homo” melody is pure genius. They also aped the Mothersbaugh / Boojie Boy vocals but made them as raw an unrefined as the touch tone melody. The “doodoodoodoodoodoodoos” at the beginning and end of the song are attempts to evoke the primitive synth sounds bookending the DEVO  original.  TTT’s version sounds like it was transmitted across the galaxy on frayed telephone lines, suggesting both innovation and primitivism.  The Touch Tone Tuners’ message might be that humans crave technological innovation only to look back and appreciate simpler times.

For more info, Dangerous Minds has an excellent piece up from 3 or 4 years ago.

A SUMMER PAIRING: TOPANGA HARVEST MINIS & TIMMY NOLAN’S IRISH PUB

Downstairs bar at Timmy Nolan's
Timmy Nolan’s in Toluca Lake (downstairs)

I’m always looking for new, local spots to satisfy my palate when my meds potentiate my appetite…especially around mealtime. July evenings, after the intense summer heat of the day transitions to mellow, breezy warmth is the perfect time to hit the sidewalks in a perambulatory exploration for a satisfying supper. The optimal walking weather makes it possible to medicate before stepping out for the evening meal, turning the simple quest into a fun adventure. You are probably more likely to encounter restaurants that fail to satisfy if you’re navigating blindly. Yelp is a worthy advance guide to mediate any aimless meandering, which can be devastating if the destination doesn’t meet some basic expectations. Fortunately we did consult Yelp a few nights ago and then navigated about a half mile or so to the unassuming on the outside, yet rollicking on the inside Irish pub & grill called Timmy Nolan’s, located on Riverside in Toluca Lake, CA.

Since type and quality of food is generally a higher priority than location or atmosphere, I’ll just say that Timmy Nolan’s serves delicious and satisfying comfort food with both American and Irish offerings. If you’re hungry for cold or hot sandwiches, club, melt, etc., burgers, beef, pasta, tacos…or perhaps fish and chips, bangers and mash or shepard’s pie, Timmy’s has it, and it is good.

Timmy’s is a two-story pub, with large screen sports, food and alcohol available on both floors. The upstairs is more restaurant-like, with more tables and a nice view of Universal Studios through a large front window. There are also bars upstairs and downstairs, though the downstairs is twice as large with twice as many lively customers drinking, mingling, snacking and viewing. Most of the dining is done upstairs, where there are more dedicated tables, booth and waiters. Staff folks are cheery and diligent at what they do, and there are more than enough bar, kitchen and wait staff to keep everyone happy and sated. Their menu offers lunch, happy hour, appetizer & dinner menus, all of which are similar in style.

It was fairly crowded on the first floor when we walked in, lively as heck but not rowdy or unwelcoming. We were mainly there for food so after a stop at the downstairs bar, made a beeline for the stairs and guided ourselves up to an open table. The vibe was more chill upstairs and though most tables were full, if felt a much more spacious and inviting atmosphere for eating than we found downstairs. At the bar we had picked up a few happy hour pints of deliciously sweet and heady Magners Irish cider, which complemented my medicated state really nicely.

Packages of Red Velvet Topanga minis
Topanga Minis: Red Velvet

Since different varieties and strains of cannabis can produce totally different effects, it is worth adding that I had enhanced my appetite that evening prior to our walk with some deliciously potent mini red velvet muffins (10mg ea) made by Topanga Harvest. One of the upsides of the new marijuana regs in California is that the state certified edibles are reliable in terms of dosage / potency and food quality. I’ve bought plenty of edibles in the past that didn’t live up to the potency listed on the packaging or that tasted horrible. The Topanga minis come in several flavors & varieties and pack a nice punch. The banana nut & red velvet are scrumptious; the chocolate is good but not as amazing. Other varieties include coffee cake, lemon cake, blueberry, apple cinnamon. The effects produced by these minis include a very manageable yet determined case of the munchies, which is how I felt while scanning the pub’s dinner menu.

I tried to order modestly since my eyes are always bigger than my stomach and bigger still if I’ve got the munchies. Focused restraint, I suppose. As I made my way through the sandwich offerings, I happened upon an item that in its simplicity of design and potential for tasting great would be a great test of the pub’s worth as a grill. I ordered a BLT. There are only a few steps involved in making a BLT: cook the bacon, toast the bread and stack the B, L and T between the two slices of toast with a little mayo. I consider myself a bit of a BLT expert, as one year I spent months walking the streets of San Francisco, each day looking for a new restaurant with BLT on the menu. Timmy’s BLT was fantastic – the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. Bacon was crispy and flavorful and not chewy or tough. Veggies were fresh, bread perfectly toasted with the right amount of mayo. Perfection made simple. I did not taste the individual ingredients, but the delicious sandwich as a whole. Yum! There were different choices for sides, but I went with the standard fries. Timmy’s serves up seasoned steak fries, cooked to crispy glory, that go perfectly with the sandwich. The cider tied all of it together for a very pleasant palate!

The food, drink, service and atmosphere at Timmy Nolan’s were all superb, and I do plan to go back before summer’s end. Now that it is so much easier to use cannabis in California, walking is more often the best option for local transport, and it is really helpful to find good restaurants in walking distance. The reward is a more satisfying and intense experience of the food and all of its flavors and textures. Just don’t let the munchies talk you into overeating.

If the food, drinks & atmosphere sound good but you aren’t sure about the price, Timmy Nolan’s is not just good, but affordable. At Timmy’s, you can get a pint of happy hour cider and BLT with fries for under $20. Consult your local dispensary to sample the Topanga Harvest edibles, or visit their website to find out where you can get some. Abondanza!

Timmy Nolan’s is located at 10111 Riverside Dr, Toluca Lake, CA 91602

 

OLD SCHOOL SHOPPING MALL DIRT BIKE RACING

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 70s and 80s, I experienced a youth culture so over-represented in entertainment media and in advertising that when I now look back, it is almost impossible to separate reality from myth. Even though I lived here throughout both decades, seeing the Valley represented in countless movies and tv shows again and again has seriously impacted my memory. It is just too easy to fill in the cognitive gaps with stock footage from, say, the original Bad News Bears or Skateboard, than it is to remember my own youthful skateboarding or dirt bike riding antics.

Diamondback Viper
The coolest kids had Diamondback BMX bikes

The Valley has provided Hollywood with back door access to teen culture for decades, and many executives, directors, producers and actors reside in the big money hills. Their kids are valley kids who constantly funnel ideas back to their parents through the clothes they wear, the music they dig and the activities in which they engage. It has been this way for decades, going back at the very least to 1959’s Gidget. The post-WWII suburban middle class explosion was without a doubt the most important factor in teens having more and more free time to fill with motion and excitement. Hollywood seized on the golden egg of Southern California youth culture straight away, and the accompanying suburban fads and trends have since been and continue to be disseminated to teens around the world.

With the dawn of the surfing era in the 1950s, Southern California’s sunny climate and burgeoning suburbs provided the perfect setting for post-war middle class kids to engage in exhilarating outdoor sports like surfing and skateboarding and dirt bike racing. Kids everywhere either participated in serious competition with great technical skill, or just had fun riding local sidewalks, streets and beaches in imitation of the more professional set. Dirt bike riding and racing had been very popular with kids my age, and there were expensive bikes for the serious racers and cheap imitations for nerdier kids like me.  As with surfing and skateboarding, BMX racing was extremely popular and really hit a commercial stride around 1980, when it was instantly mythologized in tv shows like CHiPs (in a 1979 episode called “CHP-BMX”) and in commercials. BMX racing continued to be a popular subject for movies throughout the 80s and 90s. Many movies, tv shows and commercials, but the older I get, the more I wonder: What was the reality?

It was with much glee that I one day happened upon this super 8 time-capsule from 1974, capturing one of the BMX races in the parking lot behind Fallbrook Square, the first mall that I ever “hung out” at near my childhood home in the west San Fernando Valley. It was an outdoor mall, and the area inside the perimeter of stores was open for walking and sitting, skateboarding or bike riding (if you could get away with it). I spent quite a bit of time at the Radio Shack there getting my battery card stamped and trying to learn CB radio jargon. Malls were the de facto hangout for my friends and I before we could drive, and Fallbrook was the first my parents would let me ride my bike to. I never raced there or remember any major BMX action happening, but this homemade documentary is like an implanted memory. I can imagine it all as if I were there, even though my Radio Shack days were were still 4 years or so away. And that’s the rub. I wasn’t hanging out at Fallbrook Square in 1974, but watching this short documentary leaves me feeling like I was.

Everything about this short documentary is iconic vis a vis early 1970s So Cal. The grainy, washed out quality of the super-8 image, the clothing and hair of the kids, their pre-BMX dirt bikes, the tenor of the narrator’s voice, the old fashioned signage, marquee & lettering, the classic cars …. It is so far removed from today that it is like a dream…yet a familiar one, referencing the specific place and time in which I had lived while simultaneously echoing mythologized recreations of the general setting that have appeared in television, movies, commercials, and elsewhere.

Wherever and whenever you grew up, there is something about this short piece that captivates and transports the viewer beyond the confines of memory. The reality is that the mall is still there, though very different than it was in the 70s and 80s. The parking lot is still there, but so is a Target. The Fallbrook Theater is gone; it became a Chuck E. Cheese a few decades ago. And you don’t see that many kids riding BMX bikes anymore, in the parking lot, or anywhere, unless you’re at an X Games competiton.

Video by David Puls: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkdi6kXyQIcnjPa1UIy3Qew

CANNABIS CONSUMERISM & THE LEGALIZATION BLUES

I have long supported cannabis legalization for adult, recreational use, but admittedly did not read the fine print before voting to approve. And in all honesty, even after having read a summary of the legal regulations, I remain oblivious to the practical impact of compliance on me as a consumer. The main reason for this, I would argue, is that all dispensaries incorporate the new regulations differently. There remains a pronounced lack of uniformity amongst dispensaries here in Southern California.

My medical dispensary began implementing changes January 1, 2017, by collecting all taxes required by the new legislation. It was a rude awakening, but one I was willing to live with in support of access to cannabis for all. I had benefitted immensely from the potent edibles my dispensary sold, which allowed me to overcome a very chronic insomnia condition. The purple gummies that worked for me were more affordable without the added taxes, but the value they provided in treating my condition justified the expense, which still was not unreasonable.

Package of 3 Purple Star Gummies
Purple Star Gummies – 200mg each

One of the main reasons I support legalization for recreational use is that cannabis provides a great deal of the kind of relief otherwise obtained through opiates and benzodiazepines. Far too many people seek relief through licit or illicit pharmaceuticals, often leading to dependency, addiction, and in far too many cases, death. I often wonder if my young, troubled brother would’ve kept his life together if he’d had access to legal, medical marijuana, rather than having been prescribed benzos like Kolonopin that ultimately led to street heroin and overdose in his early 20s. The opiate epidemic kills more people than imaginable. Every day, more than 115 people in America die from opiate overdose, while over 40,000 people perish each year in America by overdosing on opiates. In contrast, zero people die in America each year from marijuana overdoses.

Then one day I was told that my dispensary was out of my beloved purple gummies and would not be getting any more. I was in shock. I asked for details about the changes in availability of edibles and was saddened more than anything to learn that low maximum potency was the new rule and that many manufacturers were temporarily out of production while coming into compliance. To make matters worse, there was a notable increase in prices of edibles my dispensary did carry. Yeah, the new edibles were tested and thus guaranteed to deliver the potency advertised, and would be safe to ingest, but I’d never had any problems with my purple gummies and wanted to continue using them. At a loss,  I settled for aromatic indica flower and returned home, relieved that I still had a few packs of gummies stashed away. Legalization was here to stay, and I was good with it. I just needed to figure a few things out.

Neil Young On The Beach gatefold LP jacket art
Neil Young’s On The Beach – art for gatefold LP jacket

In the years prior to recreational legalization I had made cannabis cookies at home, their potency similar to the sleep gummies. The cookies worked well for a while, but I eventually grew tired of all the prep. I didn’t need the sugar and fat, either. Now, faced with no gummies, I was forced to consider a return to the chocolate chip cookies for sleep. Averse to the cookie reboot, I  remembered a recipe for “honey slides” that Neil Young talked about on stage in 1974 (there’s a great bootleg). Neil and Crazy Horse made great use of these honey slides in recording their superb On The Beach album.

I had some shake and trim stored away so I searched for the audio of Neil’s recipe and tried it out that night. The honey slide was even more potent than the sleep gummies had been, so I knew I would be ok if I made some honey slides and kept them in jelly jars for nighttime use. Next time at the dispensary I bought very affordable indica shake, which worked perfectly in the slide preparation. All was well. I was set to sleep that night and every night. Legalization was good for everyone.

And then June 1, 2017 came and I was not prepared for that day either. That was the day my dispensary stopped selling shake because none of their distributors or growers were testing, packaging and labeling it for sale. No gummies, no shake, and untenable taxes. I had enthusiastically and exclusively patronized my dispensary for a few years and was totally out of touch with the larger cannabis industry and realized I needed to become more informed and more experienced. I bought books and magazines, started looking at blogs and websites like NORML’s as well as forums like Grasscity, Leafly, Reddit, and finally WeedMaps. When I started checking out the dispensary menus on WeedMaps, I was stunned to see so many products still for sale at other dispensaries that were clearly noncompliant. I also noticed that prices at many local dispensaries were lower, across the board.

As it turned out, California was not experiencing an orderly and uniform transition to cannabis compliance. It was admittedly a small sample, but none of the the first handful of local dispensaries I checked out were in compliance, nor were they charging tax. This jibed with the report from the State of California showing that marijuana tax revenues were far lower than anticipated and due to the proliferation of non-compliant, black market dispensaries, brand and product knock-offs, and as we would later find out, China-funded grows.

I support legalization for moral reasons and for those reasons alone avoid non-compliant commerce as much as possible. Legalization is only going to work if it is shown to be socially responsible. Now that so many unlicensed shops and businesses have had ample time to conform, city government is taking action, closing down black market shops, and I am beginning to see a slight calm returning to the industry. But sadly, prices remain high. Discounts have helped quite a bit, but I’d rather that prices come down to enable cannabis consumers to integrate cannabis into all aspects of their lives, making use of the many innovations and improvements in cannabis and cannabis products. Until then, I’ll keep searching for someplace like my old dispensary, but I have a feeling that I may not find one. Time will tell, but I have a feeling that when I come up empty and admit defeat, my old dispensary will still be there to welcome me back with open arms.

THAT TIME MY PARENTS CAUGHT ME SMOKING HERB IN MY BEDROOM…

I was the guy in high school whom each of my friends blamed when their parents found their bongs.

John Candy as "Dr. Braino" on SCTV
SCTV’s “Dr. Braino”

I wasn’t exactly my high school’s Dr. Braino, but by age 15 I was headed in that direction. I talked about cannabis, read about it, listened to songs about it and evoked it all directly and indirectly through my personal style. If nothing else, I presented myself as someone more than willing to buck conventional wisdom, question authority, and open the doors of perception so that I could be free…without being hassled by the man…and get loaded.

I was a bright kid and a pretty good high school student, but I’d also come to embrace the rebellious and iconoclastic ideas I’d been discovering in underground music, books, magazines, art & culture. I found these themes and messages to be far more interesting and meaningful than what I was learning in school, and the promise of self-realization and existential authenticity made my connection to these messages personal. Admittedly, I was a pretty typical – almost cliché – self-obsessed, aspiring intellectual/teenage rebel with my love of the Beats, Camus/Sartre, Zen, Salinger, Ken Kesey, and counter-culture in general. I had a fantastic record collection of 60s garage and psychedelia, 70s hard rock, punk 45s & new wave galore. During the week I was with my school friends, but on the weekends I went with my counter culture comrades to clubs & concert halls to get wasted and see live music. These were not the friends my parents knew well, and these were not the friends who would rat me out to their parents about cannabis. Cannabis was central to our weekend adventures and to our vision of a different kind of world than the one we inherited. In contrast, my high school friends waxed poetic about the herb, but it was with a wink and a nod, and fell short when challenged by their parents. When their rigs and stashes were discovered by mom and dad, their poems turned to pleas as they caved, hypocrites all, and blamed a scapegoat, your humble scribe, as the source and owner of their contraband.

Designed to crush the truly devoted into smithereens
Juggernaut in India

I wholly embraced the notion that mind-altering agents like cannabis & psychedelics were essential for attaining a deeper, more meaningful understanding of life. That is what set me apart from those high school friends who fingered me when their parents found their stashes. They flirted with a more superficial & cosmetic association with underground culture, taking a bong rip or two on weekends and wearing a Hendrix or Sex Pistols t-shirt to the mall, whereas I was a true believer and lived it every day. The contrast didn’t occur to me at the time – I just thought of it as being at different rungs in the evolutionary ladder. It never occurred to me that my less evolved friends would use my openness to exculpate themselves while burying me under what ought to be their parental juggernaut.

It surprised me at first to hear from time to time that one friend or another had falsely ratted me out to his parents. It seemed like my high school pals had all agreed on a readymade conspiracy to blame me should they get caught. To their parents, each of them reflexively disavowed any connection to marijuana other than that I, a supposed friend, had convinced them to try it. “It’s not mine! It is HIS!” they lied. “HE pressured me to do it”. Another lie. And yet it was convincing because it was exactly what their parents wanted to hear. “What a relief!” they silently exclaimed. “No thugs in our house!” . Their parents actually took a bit of delight in my scapegoating, a little schaudenfreude at my downfall, because I lived the counterculture life and didn’t care about consequences. They were quick to differentiate between their own innocent, destined-for-greatness kids, and me, for whom they imagined a wifeless, childless life of minimum-wage earning obesity, kind of like the Comic Book Guy.

Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons

My high school friends’ parental discoveries should’ve awoken me to the prospect of what I might say in the event my actual wares were discovered by my own parents. But for some reason, I hadn’t thought about it at all. Did I not imagine my folks one day finding my bong in the house, or my pipe or stash? Didn’t I need a scapegoat to blame when the inevitable happened? I was avoiding the issue. I definitely had enough friends outside of school that my folks would’ve accepted as bad influences, since they really didn’t know them. So why hadn’t I picked one to be my scapegoat? It was a question I would ponder following my parents’ inevitable discovery of my herb smoking.

That inevitability became reality one Tuesday evening when my mom knocked on my bedroom door asking about the burning smell wafting down the hallway, a question I was totally unprepared to answer. The burning smell. The. Burning. Smell. The odor that arises when matter is consumed by fire. In. My. Room. I had stupidly and unforgivably exposed my clandestine consumption, and it was now my turn to face parental inquisitors. In the milliseconds it took to collect myself and formulate a response, I wondered how I had become so arrogant? What had I been trying to prove by sending out smoke signals…from my bedroom…on a school night? Wasn’t it enough to rebel by blasting the entire so-called “anti-parent” Damaged album? Apparently not. For some impulsive, arrogant, careless reason, I had lit up the bong in my bedroom, effectively revealing to my parents that I smoked marijuana.

But just as soon as I had accepted my fate, in that instant, I realized that I had an out. See, mom hadn’t asked specifically about herb. She hadn’t come in my room and she hadn’t seen a bong or a pipe. She hadn’t seen anything, standing on the other side of my closed bedroom door.  She had asked only about the burning smell. So in my unplanned for, instantly conceived and blurted out response, I quickly

Striking A Match in the Year 1985
Striking A Match

blamed…matches. I lied and said that I had been burning matches. Not my fault. It was the matches. I felt like an idiot for proffering such an obvious lie, but as I stood at my door and steadied myself for invasion and investigation, I only heard a bland “Oh” and the sound of my mom walking away. I was stunned. How, I wondered, was I able to get away with blaming an innocent book of matches, when all my school friends were getting nailed and blaming me?

In retrospect, it isn’t so hard to figure out. First of all, my mom didn’t come in my room – she just knocked on the door – so matches were plausible. Second, my mom had only been exposed to cannabis once, decades before, and had declined to partake. That piney, citrusy, skunky aroma just wasn’t familiar to her. At first I was relieved that my mom’s passive response had made the deception easier. But then I began to have doubts. If my mom had been more intrusive, cornering me with the goods and exposing my guilt, I could’ve blamed it on any of my friends. Might not have been as believable as when I was the one blamed, but my parents would want to believe the best about me and would probably accept my excuse. But unlike my high school friends, I didn’t blame anyone else for the burning smell or anything else. It didn’t even occur to me. Even if mom had burst in and caught me in flagrante delicto, I wouldn’t have named names. It would’ve felt worse to malign a friend than to own the moment, myself, and deal with the fallout. Perhaps most significantly, even though I was only 15 or so, I had already rationalized marijuana indulgence as a benign (my grades were good) and believed in what I was doing. When my friends were looking for outs to escape punishment, I was looking for more ways to make cannabis a part of my personal journey.

And yet when I was caught and had the opportunity to admit, if not champion, my embrace of herb, I caved, too. I lied. Didn’t plan it or think deeply about it. Just a reflexive lie. But in caving, my lie was of a very different sort than that of my tattling friends. My mom hadn’t found my bong, pipe or stash, nor did she catch me in the act. Thus, even if I were the type to rat out a friend, there wouldn’t have been anything to rat out. I lied with the matches excuse to save my parents the headache of confronting the cannabis issue. Or perhaps I lied to save myself the headache of having to explain myself to my parents. If I was only burning matches, then it was like nothing happened. I could’ve left it there. But, being the hyper-analytical guy that I am and have always been, in the seconds that followed my clever deception, I was overcome with the realization that my lie seemed to me a pretty weak and obvious lie. I wondered to myself why on earth I would be burning matches in my bedroom on a Tuesday night when I’m supposed to be doing my Geometry homework. Who would believe it? The stupidity of it all floored me, but my mom had just said, “Oh”, and walked away. That was it. There was no follow-up from mom. No skepticism. It was as if the reality of me smoking marijuana in the house – or perhaps at all – just hadn’t occurred to her.

My mom’s muted response was overwhelming in what she didn’t say, or accuse, and it really threw me off. I felt like a junior Dupin, overanalyzing my adversary’s strategy through reverse psychology and double-deception, coming up with the explanation but then second-guessing it and choosing the opposite. A fake out of a fake out of a fake out. But as much as I’d have loved to find that mom was deceiving and in fact trolling me with a sleek 3D chess move, leaving me feeling like I’d gotten away with something only to trip me up later, it just wasn’t like her to play the game that way. There was no way she had outsmarted me. And yet by quickly walking away and leaving me to my thoughts, she left me in grave doubt of the legitimacy of my match-burning excuse. It was so preposterous, such an obvious prevarication, that I felt the need to come clean. Thus, in my stoned overthinking, I decided to clarify my remarks to my mom and not sound so lame with that flimsy excuse. It was a brilliant plan, I thought. Either way, I believed that marijuana was positive and productive, and I wasn’t down with the prospect of playing cerebral ju-jitsu with mom in the event she had outsmarted me.

In feeling the need to come clean with mom, I was motivated by paranoia and guilt about my lying rather than anything to do with cannabis, per se. Preparing to clear the air, I took some deep breaths and, after a few moments of calm reflection, built up the nerve to own my activities and my identity…to be accountable for whom I was and what I had chosen to do. I took a final deep breath, marched straight across the hall, knocked on my parents’ bedroom door, and went in like George Washington after the cherry tree, proudly and firmly announcing, “I cannot tell a lie, I was smoking pot in my bedroom.”

It was hard to believe what I was hearing as the words tumbled forth. I stared at mom as she took in my admission. She thought about it silently for a moment and then another “Oh”, and after a brief pause, a request not to smoke in the house anymore. I couldn’t believe the calm reception I was getting and quickly responded, “O.K.” It didn’t feel like all of a sudden I’d earned parental approval of my marijuana use, but it did feel like this was an issue that could be discussed without fearing retribution. Mom talked about the one time her cousin and some friends were going to smoke, way back in the 60s, but that she declined the offer to partake. And that was it. My parents didn’t realize what I was up to because they had absolutely no familiarity with it, and perhaps because they didn’t realize how ubiquitous it was amongst kids my age. Mom ended the chat with a, “I’ll have to talk to your father about this,” which I accepted and then left. I can’t recall when I first spoke with my dad about it. I do remember arguing that my good grades demonstrated my ability to handle marijuana and my dad frustrated and disappointed at my inability to see the big picture – that all drugs were bad. Period.

I don’t think I was ever punished for my crime. Don’t they say the cover up is worse? Transparency seemed to be my advocate, and I always tried to be honest with my parents, up to a point. There are some things parents just don’t want to know. I suppose mom and dad could’ve grounded me, but I was getting too old for that. I’m not sure they ever found my foot high sunburst plastic bong, whether hidden in the little attic off of my bedroom, or in the trunk of my Chevy. I probably kept it in the Chevy after ceasing the in-house hot-boxing, and my folks never did catch me in the act or find anything in the house. Looking back, I’m happy to have outed myself rather than scapegoat a friend. Mom & dad were born a couple of years too early for the 60s counter-culture movements and thus were not prepared for that counter-culture coming home to roost with their kids in the 80s. I’m grateful they weren’t the kind of parents to enact heavy discipline, or the kind that would leave me feeling like I had to scapegoat a friend to save my ass. In hindsight, I wish I’d focused on school a little more and stayed high a little less, but my life as it is now couldn’t be better, and I wouldn’t change a thing. And if the day comes when there’s a burning smell coming from either of my teenaged kids’ bedrooms, I won’t pressure them to scapegoat anyone, but I will talk about adolescent brain development, about the law, about choices that we are empowered to make as adults, and about being accountable for those choices. I would not be as passive or as clueless as my parents were. I would be skeptical and want to see the source of the burning smell, myself. But whatever I found, I would be understanding and supportive, just as my parents were and are. Ironically, as cannabis has become legal here in California, I don’t see the same kind of counter-culture embrace in my kids that I experienced in the 1980s, and I don’t see the same kind of fascination with drugs in general. At least amongst the kids in my home. And that’s a good thing for now.