Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Gateway

It's finally and fully summer in Portland. It's too hot during the day to drive my car now -- the cross-country trip really hurt her, I think, and now she overheats in any weather much above 80F. At the same time, at Fnorders we're in the midst of the slow season, so everyone's getting their hours cut back. I'm now working three or four days a week, so I have a little more time off for other things, which is nice, though hard on the budget. The point is, I find myself with an unusual abundance of free time, which helps a bit with the editing and other things I need to be working on. Will it be enough? We'll see. But it's more than I've had for a while.

A lot has happened this week. Most significantly, my roommates finally got married. It was a nice ceremony, very laid back -- the groom wore skate shorts and an orange button-down shirt. The bride was a little more dressed up, but her bouquet flowers were daisies and her dress obviously had to make the reach over a third-trimester belly. Almost immediately before the ceremony was scheduled to begin, I overheard the guy taking the photographs talking to someone else about the tiny video camera he'd brought, and how it might be enough to get fifteen or twenty minutes worth of video. And I did a full-on facepalm. Why didn't I think of that? How had it not occurred to me before that moment? I'd spend a couple of weeks trying to think of something I could do for them for their wedding that wasn't lame, or overly impersonal, or too costly -- but never once had it struck me to take some fucking video of the wedding. So I told Bob I'd be right back, ran home (which was very nearby, thankfully), grabbed my kit and changed into something I could shoot in, and ran back and got set up just in time to grab a shot of the attendees coming over for the ceremony.

So in the end, I got about 40 minutes of footage, which I'll pare down to a 15 minute video or thereabouts. It was exactly the right gift -- something I can do that costs me nothing, and that'll mean something to them in the future. I wish I'd thought of it sooner -- I could've had better sound at the very least -- but it's more than they'd expected, so it's cool.

Yesterday I was sleepy and bored, so I called my friend Rick to see if he wanted to hang out. He was just off work and going home to do laundry, but he said if I felt like following him to the laundromat and watching him fold his undies, he'd welcome the company. And while the laundromat isn't my first choice, I like hanging out with Rick regardless of the setting, so off we went. Afterwards, he had the brilliant idea to go get a pizza and take it back to his place and watch an episode of Deadwood. (He's the one writing the screenplay, which turns out to be a western, so he's watching every western film he can find. If he's going to force himself to sit through all those horrid old 50s serial westerns, the least I can do is turn him onto Deadwood.)

How about I take a minute to tell you about Rick? His internet connection at home is currently defunct, so it's safe to discuss him freely without concern of making myself overly-vulnerable. He turned up at Fnorders sometime around the beginning of March (I think), having transferred from one of the stores in Ann Arbor. We struck up a friendship almost immediately, though predictably it took a few months before it progressed to the hanging-out phase. He's an all-round good guy, lacking in guile or bullshit, responsible without being stuffy, and he has a nicely sick sense of humor. (He's taken to telling our co-workers that PYD actually stands for "Playing with Youths' Dicks", and that I am therefore a pedophile. He makes a lot of repulsive hand gestures when he says it. It's a lot funnier than it comes across here.) The thing that I'm most grateful for, though, is his openness -- he somehow always has time for me, even though he works longer hours, and when he doesn't have time immediately, he makes time later on. And he always seems glad to see me coming, and is always up for whatever I've got in mind. Trip to the beach? Absolutely. Movie night? Definitely. Want to go for pizza and then get high together? Just say so, and it shall be arranged.

We arrived back at his house around 7. He stashed the pizza in the oven saying, "first, we have some business to attend to." He disappeared into his room, and returned a minute later bearing a glass pipe, a lighter, and a baggie of sticky-looking weed.

"You want to? You definitely don't have to, and I don't want to pressure you. But... do you want to?"

"Hmmm."

"Do you have to work tomorrow?"

"No, I'm off tomorrow."

"Then maybe this is the perfect time."

So he took me out onto his back stoop for a few warm-up drags on a cigarette, gave me a few tips on technique, lit up and took the first hit, and passed it over to me, grinning. I apologized in advance for all the pot I was about to waste.

See, I know how to inhale. I've never smoked apart from the occasional shock-value cigarette at a party, but I've tried it, and getting smoke into my lungs and holding it isn't a problem. It's breathing out afterwards, and then in again, that causes me trouble. I got the first hit in easily enough, and held it for an entirely respectable length of time. And then on the exhale I choked noisily and melodramatically. It was really harsh, much worse than I expected; my first reaction once I'd exhaled was, "never, ever do that again." I struggled with breathing for a couple of minutes -- able to get air in and out, yes, but not without a distressing amount of coughing and gasping. "Drink some water, take a deep breath," he told me. It'll get better. And a few minutes later, still feeling nothing, I thought I could probably go again.

I took three hits in all. The third one was the worst -- I think I'd kept the flame on it too long, and the smoke was really hot. And I still wasn't really feeling anything. "Maybe you won't get high the first time, that's not uncommon." He took his last hit and set it aside, and we turned on Deadwood and started on the pizza.

Ten minutes later, I felt something squeezing my head, and realized that in spite of paying close attention, and even having seen it before, I had no fucking idea what was going on in the show. I looked at Rick, and he looked at me and grinned and said, "you feeling it now?" And I was. And I know I don't need to tell you what it was like.

For obvious reasons, everything that follows doesn't make for much of a story. I remember snippets, none of which I recall as actual events, but more as a kind of intellectual awareness. Rick is the perfect kind of person to get high with, since he's one of the most genuinely, spontaneously funny people I've met, able to ramble entertainingly for a long time. I was struggling a little with context -- I was having trouble following his chatter, and thinking it was the effect of the drug, and then remembering that he was completely baked too, so maybe he wasn't making any sense in the first place. After one episode of Deadwood (I don't even remember which one it was) he turned on some Radiohead and we got down to serious giggling. There were moments when we were outside while he smoked cigarettes, and at one point we walked to a gas station so he could get some more. My sense of time was completely fucked, so I can't really connect these events. I'd have brief interludes of something that I perceived as clear-headedness, some perspective on my situation, and I'd realize how stoned I actually was. I'd try to focus on it, and then thirty seconds later I'd re-focus, and think now I was really, really clear, and that the thing that happened a minute ago wasn't real clarity, it was only me too baked to know the difference. Repeated ad infinitum.

There were brief glimpses of something that could've turned into paranoia if I were so inclined -- at the gas station, the only thing I could think about was whether the old man behind the counter could tell. Periodically back at Rick's house, I would be seized with the idea that I had to escape, get out of the house and back to my room. But then I'd remember that I shouldn't try to drive home yet, and I'd tell myself that I was perfectly safe and everything was cool, and I'd sink back into it and be giggling and happy again. Rick's roommate came home at one point and joined in. With the bowl re-ignited, Rick and I went for a second round, and I didn't choke at all that time in spite of the burn. And I was proud of myself.

Everything quieted down at that point, and we all drifted off into private reveries. They were playing something on the stereo -- I have no idea what it was, and couldn't begin to describe it to you -- and I remember thinking, "this music is really weird," and then, "I think I kinda like it." In fact, I liked everything they played; in fact, I think I would've liked anything in that state. I can't say that everything was improved -- my interest in pizza never climbed much above its normal state, and I didn't get a whole lot out of visual stimuli. The breeze felt unusually good, and I found that I was really into interesting smells -- Rick brought out a three-piece suit he'd recently inherited from some late-middle-aged male relative. And he said, "dude, you have to smell this suit. It's amazing." And truly, it was an amazing smell -- cologne and tobacco and whiskey all mixed together. (The only other thing I remember about the suit -- which probably filled half an hour of our time -- was Rick putting on the vest and me laughing my ass off because with his shorts and corduroy shirt he looked exactly like Sam Gamgee from LOTR; and then I asked him what the fuck kind of suit jacket this was, and why did it have so many buttons? And he said, dude, that's not a jacket, that's a shirt. And I laughed till I got cramps in my cheeks.)

But music was definitely the big winner of the night. Not to say that I'm now a reformed fan of jam bands, but the appeal of stuff like that made infinitely more sense to my pot-addled brain. If you can't keep a grip on the structure, why not just let it ramble? If you can't tell how much time has passed, why not keep playing the same thing for half an hour at a time? If pot reduces music to a succession of responses to whatever cool sound you're hearing at that precise moment, then why even worry about context? I wanted to go up to every stoner I'd ever known and say, "I'm not saying that I intellectually approve of your band's 45-minute rendition of 'Lowrider;' I'm just saying, if you played it right this minute, I probably wouldn't hate it. And I want to tell you that I get it now, I get it, I get it."

Anyway. You know how it goes from there.

Other big revelations of the night:

1) I simultaneously "got" every stoner joke I've ever heard in my entire life, ever. They're still not that funny, but at least I really, truly understand them now.

2) My earlier experiments with THC-infused goo given to me by another friend were not as fruitless as I had feared. The buzz from that first attempt was really weak, to the point that I wasn't sure if I was high or just looking for it too hard. But it was essentially the same in nature to what I felt last night, just at a fraction of the intensity. But I was pleased just the same to know it had worked after all.

3) There's an excellent reason why there are so many pothead musicians, and so few pothead writers.

So, that was my first time getting high. I still feel slightly muzzy-headed today, not as sharp as usual, but otherwise fine. I'm a lot less lung-y than I expected to be. I think I actually missed a lot of it, because I was trying so hard to catalog my experiences, thus keeping myself slightly intellectually detached, that I never completely let myself sink into it. I was always just a bit self-aware and self-conscious. Having gotten my first time behind me, hopefully next time I'll be able to let go a bit more and play with it, try out some different things. And I'm quite certain there will be a next time. It's not a state I'd want to spend a great deal of time in, I don't think -- it's deeply pleasant, but the uselessness of it is uninspiring. I can see how you could easily waste much of your life with it. But now and then, for fun, and especially with friends... yes yes, absolutely.

Later this week I think I'll probably put in an application with a video store in town -- not so much for the "extra" money (though filling in the gap in my hours would be a good thing), as much as for cheap video rentals. I'm already getting cheap books and cheap groceries (by way of my roommate), and if I can get cheap movies, I'll be all set. Except maybe for a reliable dealer.
3:07 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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