I was fourteen years old the first time I smoked pot. I tried it the first time someone offered it to me. In fact, I had asked everyone I knew if they knew anyone who had ever tried it, because I wanted to try it, too. I had no idea what being high would be like but I knew I wanted to experience it firsthand. Almost everyone I went to school with had claimed to have tried it, and they all claimed to have had sex, too. The truth was that we were all just a bunch of virgins in more ways than we even knew. We listened to music by groups like Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd and felt some distant, but strong, connection with people who lived life on the edge, whatever that meant.
A friend of mine, Tom, came up to me one day and asked me if I wanted to smoke some pot. I had already lied about my experiences in smoking several times, and so did he, so we both acted very cool about the whole deal. We were going to go riding with an older guy on Saturday and he was going to have some pot. The older guy was nineteen. He was a friend of a friend and he was trying to sell some pot. Marijuana was dirt-cheap back in the seventies. For twenty bucks you would get a sandwich bag stuffed full. For reasons I never understood, this was called "a lid". I came up with my ten bucks and Tom did too. We waited for Ray to show up, and on time, and frighteningly, he rolled up in a green pick-up truck. I remember the way it felt when I got into the truck. I sat in the middle and it felt like I was sitting next to some terribly hardened criminal who might cut my throat in a drug deal gone bad. I had heard of such. I remember staring at the radio, the old push button type, and wondering if the cops might swoop in on us, or if this was a drug sting. I was so terrified that I was almost panting. Then Ray pulled a joint out of his pocket and handed it to me.
Back then, everyone rolled their joints in strawberry flavored papers. As a result of the flavoring, the papers, and therefore the joints, were pink. Ray had rolled a big fat doobie that was twisted on both ends. I stared at it. I smelled it and for the first time in my life smelled the smell of pot. It smelled like weeds to me. I had pretended to smoke cigarettes before but had never really inhaled anything. My first puff produced coughing and laughter. Tom fared slightly better. Ray was an old hand at smoking pot, took deep breaths of smoke, and blew smoke rings.
I remember being scared, mostly. The smell and taste of the pot will always stick in my memory, of course, but mostly I was scared. I had taken a step off the deep end and I knew it. This was my first real and true criminal act. This wasn't like sneaking out of the house to swim in the City Pool at night. This wasn't on the same level as cheating on tests in school, or pretending to be sick to get out of school. This was smoking pot. I fell in love with that feeling.
Ray dropped us off and Tom and I split the lid between us. I hid my share under my mattress, because who would think of looking there? Ray had also given us a few papers and I experimented in rolling a joint, and failed. I never could roll worth a damn. Tom and I would sneak off before school and get stoned as hell the next Monday. We were instant celebrities. We were the Bad Boys, the Criminal Element, and we had finally taken a step towards all that we had ever dreamed of being. All the famous rock stars smoked pot and now we did too! The world was a much brighter and funnier place than it had ever been before.
On my fifteenth birthday, I celebrated by getting too drunk to stand up, and too stoned to see straight. I took two Valium and chased them with beer. I woke up face down in the back yard early the next morning.
Pot wasn't a gateway drug, it was just the first I could get. It wasn't a question of if I would do drugs but only if I could get them. The legality of drugs never entered my mind when I began, and the legality of drugs never entered my mind when I laid them down. Whatever you think you know about drugs, let me assure you that until you've been there yourself, or with someone else, you really don't know why it happens, or what to do to stop it.
More later. This took some time.