November 16: a completely irrelevant observation. But hey, this review's about sort of losing the plot, isn't it?
Damned statistics. I was listening to a discussion of the recent failed attempt to legalise marijuana in California. Evidently a good deal of the argument is about raising money to avoid the State becoming bankrupt. Along the way this comment by a scientist: 'California spends more on gaoling people than on high school education.' He said that like it means something, but it doesn't does it? That might make California the most relaxed place for crims in the whole world for all we know. It might mean California spends more on high school education than the rest of the US put together. It might mean bloody anything. The statistic on its own means eff all. Sorry, not relevant to the rest of this story, but it irritated me, so I'm having a gripe.
Somebody suggested that this account of marijuana makes me a drug addict. What I was addicted to was not dope, but an idea. I was living with a really badly behaved alcoholic and once I discovered that if he smoked dope he didn’t drink, well. It seemed like a no-brainer. It started out controlled and really rather nice, but degenerated into all-day-every-day and the mood changed with it. I’d just as soon skip the details, but suffice to say, my idea could not have turned out more badly in the end.
Of coure the whole idea was wrong. I was desperately looking for a way to have some power and control over my life and my situation, when this was an impossible task. The only way to gain those was to leave and unfortunately that took me a painfully long time to figure out. Meanwhile I spent years pathetically hoping that any time this person threatened to drink I could wheedle him away with this other substance. We all need to feel like we have some measure of influence, that one's part in a relationship has meaning. I cannot begin to describe how it feels when you realise that it does not.
A potted history.
I keep getting mails from Methodist Ladies College asking me to be a mentor. Apparently their current flock will benefit from my life experience. The first time I got this message I took it to heart, pen to paper and scribbled away, only to sit back to reread what I’d been writing at some point and it was like this. ‘What to do after you’ve spent all your rent money on dope…’ Not ‘Don’t spend your rent money on marijuana’, for example, which I imagine is pretty sound advice. Nup, not that. And even then, the advice could still go down a channel that might work for young ladies. ‘What to do after you’ve spent all your rent money on dope.’ Check in somewhere. Even check out somewhere. But my advice was more for the stayers. The ones who are going to, on a monthly basis, find that they have a seriously fucked up life. They need to know things like how to feed a couple of people on $5 a week and – the hard part of the equation – how to find the five bucks.
This much I can guarantee. To know what it is really like, marijuana, do it for years, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Then you know it sucks.
Some of the bad shit you won’t have a clear explanation for. That thing where it makes you paranoid and the debate goes on. Do paranoid people smoke dope, or does dope make people paranoid? The answer to this is ‘yes’. I reflect upon all the big-time dope smokers I know, and most of them I would judge to have had those tendencies before hand. Dope might also in physiological ways make one paranoid. But there is also a straight-forward psychological issue as well. The stuff’s illegal. Well, whereever I’ve smoked it, anyway. You spend your life hoping people don’t know what you are doing. But all they have to do is look into your eyes to know. Or smell you…or. That’s gotta make you paranoid.
You go down to the 24 hour supermarket at 1am and stand in front of the chocolate biscuit section for – how long? You pick up every packet of biscuits – twice? This is some seriously hard decision you are facing here. You narrow it down to the Teddy Bears and the Choc Fingers. These two biscuits taste exactly the same but they are different shapes. It’s too hard, too hard. Eventually you come to your senses. You’ve been standing in front of the chocolate biscuits for half an hour. Everyone knows.
Of course, it also makes the people around you paranoid.
Sorry, this is just junk, says your friend Denise as you sit in her car with a large joint before heading into the party. It’s a wedding reception. Greek Cypriot. Absolutely no chance of smoking it in
the party. Why, oh why do you ever trust Denise. Well, you know it’s because she’s 5 foot tall like you and little and why should her stamina be better than yours. But it is. It just is. You haven’t been inside for more than a minute before you realise this is yet another party you are going to spend on the bed. People hover around you. Some of them have just come in to say hello to you. But Bobby, he comes in saying Not the water bed. You aren’t going to vomit on the new water-bed. Well, Bobby. Maybe not if you could stop it behaving like choppy waves. I’m not going to vomit because I’m too stoned. It’ll be because I’m getting seasick. Bobby stands by with a bucket. It makes the people around you paranoid too.
Too old to rock-n-roll, too stoned to stop, says the T-shirt.
Don, a dope head of decades standing is wearing the T-shirt. We are on our way to a tournament in Surfers. I hadn’t intended to take any gear with me. Really, not a gram. But there was that last moment before I went out the door and I grabbed some, thrust it in my pocket. We are in the airport and the metal detector gets excited. ‘Empty your pockets please’. Fuck. There is really no other word for what I’ve done. What I grabbed was hash and it was wrapped in alfoil and it’s in my pocket. Fuck. It’s not a big brain in the first place and way too much of it was doing the drugs. But just because everybody’s out to get you, it doesn’t mean you can’t get lucky. I had a packet of cigarettes in my pocket. How often can you say a packet of cigarettes saves your life? It must be these, I say to the dude with the detector. The foil, you see. He’s happy. I’m waved on.
Before I tell you what a bad drug this is, I’d like to establish myself as quite the opposite of the reformed smoker. I can tell you how good this stuff is. It makes you feel really good. Happy becomes happier. Sex can be totally divine. It makes you feel really clever. Anybody who’s done a lot of the stuff will tell you that it only makes you feel
really clever. You might…I don’t know…let’s say log into goodreads and
vote for Manny’s review of Four Quartets and
you think you understand it – no, you know you understand it. Honestly, this is the review:
Question 1 (5 points)
Contrast the treatment of denotation and reference in the following works:
- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
- T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets
- Marcel Proust, A L'Ombre Des Jeunes Filles En Fleurs
Well, that's what I think's wrong with formal examinations.
And you’ve just gone and voted for it. Not that I’m saying I’m on drugs, it’s just an example of what could happen if you were. If I were
stoned, after all, I would have left a comment as well, like ‘That’s so amazing, Manny. It’s like just what I’ve always thought too.’ Crosses back to review link. Shit. I did
write that. I thought it sounded familiar, once I’d written it down. Have I mentioned yet that marijuana fucks around with your memory bigtime?
So, you think smoke a joint and everything you do is inspired. And I’m not going to say this is not necessarily the case. I’ve written some stuff stoned that was better than okay. But when I look back on having written an entire major book stoned 24 hours a day every day I wrote it, and when I consider that it is quite a good book – even becoming a second edition as we speak – all I can say is that looking back on it, this is some feat. Then again, it must be considered that as you go from occasional dope smoker to getting up in the middle of the night to pee and having a joint on the way back to bed, well, it must be considered that this does change the nature of the relationship. I’m always rather nervous about alcoholics not being allowed to drive above the legal blood alcohol limit. They need to be where they are used to and that is way higher. It’s a bit like that. And since I wrote fantastic stuff and generally performed very well before I got involved in this world, I have absolutely no sense whatsoever that it helps working in those sorts of ways. Being ‘creative’ for lack of a better word.
And the really important consideration is that all these things that might be a case for dope being a good thing also make it potentially evil. It can make food bad, sex foul, it can make the soul despair of a better life. Later on, it was suggested to me I had a black hole in my life, ten years that I lived in some other place from the real world and although there were other reasons for that, surely dope was one of them. It really does fuck around with your memory in every way. I read a lot of books in this period and recall not a thing about them. And memory in other ways too:
You decide to make lettuce soup for dinner. Oh yes, indeedy. A culinary delight in store for you after you’d indulged in a joint or two. You put lettuce and water in a saucepan, turn heat up and start the ceremony of rolling. I can’t say I entirely know what happened next. Certainly dinner was entirely forgotten, and not, I assure you, because we weren’t looking forward to the idea of lettuce soup. I conjecture sex and sleep. The next morning you go into the kitchen and there it is, lettuce soup. Want to know what lettuce soup looks like after it’s been cooked for 12 hours? With a cautious curiosity I turned the gas off and lifted up the lid. Eventually, it transpires, lettuce soup becomes an exquisitely fine collection of ashes, that waft out of the pan. I can vouch for good quality saucepans. Worth every cent.
The despair, not to mention the practicalities – or impracticalities perhaps – would be funny in a movie. But after sitting here for a while, I realise that I can’t quite bring myself to describe the bad, bad, bad side of marijuana. It’s harder than I thought. I’ve given up lots of things in my life, but dope wasn’t one of them. I just stopped one day, ten or more years ago and at some point realised I would never do it again. One of my better moves.
So, I don’t know. Maybe this tale has more to it and maybe not. We’ll see. Maybe this review is like the spider’s web:
A straight spider’s web:
A stoned spider’s web. Full marks for starting, but couldn’t actually be bothered seeing it through: