Thursday, September 29, 2011

Surviving childhood through chemicals

This story is about how Cannabis (pot, weed, smoke, whatever) saved my life, in High School. I will take you on a weird rambling journey through my childhood up to young adulthood. It's been a strange trip. Miserable in the beginning but it wasn't all bad.

Let me make that clear right off. So stop reading if you're against it alternatives to reality or standard and accepted practices; or feel free to continue on, as it is a kind of entertaining story, either way.

To make this clear I have to go back to my early childhood.

My family, what I consider my family (my mother's family, except for my dad's parents and my half brother by him) are from the east coast. My mother was born in Brooklyn, New York. My father was born in in Tacoma.

The main street of our village
My Grandfather traveled the world as a Diesel Engineer. I don't know why, but he got my dad a job in Spain. One that my mom said he didn't really know how to do. But that was my Grandfather, get a job, figure it out later. It got him to the top of his field. Buy my dad liked things very much more one foot in front of the other. Which explains a lot about my own confusion in life, I'm part of both of those jokers. I had a lot of respect for my Grandfather. Some for my Father, but really, I never got to know him.

While we were living there in the south of Franco's Spain in 1958 (that's me in front of my Grandfather's villa after my dad got done with going through the fend), my parents split up after a horrendous argument that entailed my father chasing my mother out of our villa, down the street of the sleepy waterfront village ("Oh look the crazy Americans are at it again!"), and into my Grandfather's villa. My mother said that as my dad was passing through the low swung gates she just burst through, they were still swinging back and forth and hit him in the shins so hard that the pain angered him even further. He grabbed them both and ripped them out of the fence destroying the post and part of the fence that held them.

You can see the damage above. My grandfather had to shut him down in his living room and told my dad that enough was enough. He then had him expelled from Spain. I guess, as he was the one who got him the job and was sponsoring him in the country, he had that power.

After that my father lost touch with me. I saw him a few times but he lost interest before I was out of 2nd grade. So, my family was pretty much only my mother's family. I did see my Father's parents from time to time. I loved them very much (well Grandpa Roy was an old grouch and didn't talk much but Grandma Martha was a brilliantly stereotypical grandmother and baker) and through them I saw my father on rare occasions when he would be polite and that was about it. I felt like I was just another kid in the neighborhood to him.

So I spent some of my summers on the east coast with my mother's family. Finally in the summer just before 12th grade, I got to fly to spend the summer with my (Great) Aunt Marge and her son Jeff (my second cousin) who was younger than me by a few years. He was a troubled youth for growing up with his parents who would battle each other as husband and wife, sometimes ending up on the floor fighting it out (or so my mother said she had seen). By this time, my Aunt and Uncle had split up.

So, Summer of 1972 I was in New Jersey with my rowdy cousin Jeff (my mom's mom's sister's son, welcome to my family, Granma had a lot of siblings). Jeff taught me how to surf in Cape May, New Jersey where they had a "beach" house (in quotes because you couldn't see a beach from there, but it was built on a lot full of sand under the tall grasses).

One day we went to the beach. Cape May is a beautiful place. We hung out, enjoying the beach life. I loved it. God, what a life! We walked along sidewalk, the Atlantic on our right, the parking strip and street on our left, across the street all the little shops and touristy places.

Suddenly he said he had to talk to somone who was sitting in a parked car, watching the ocean. So I stood there on the sidewalk like an idiot while he got into the car and they shared a ciggarette". It was no secret even from his mom that Jeff smoked. Now who, I wondered, shares a cigarette?

Finally he got out. He seemed more relaxed. I said, "Hey, what was that about? What were you doing?"

Now I was the older one, by a few years, but Jeff had been in some trouble and I had been brought over for the summer to try and reign him in. Good luck, if they only knew. The inmates were going to save the patient. Okay, then.

So he was a little leary of being honest having dealt with the police and a therapist that past year or so.

He just said, "Never mind, it's no big deal, you don't want to know." I tried to get him to open up but he wouldn't. He had an embattled mentality from his previous few months and years with his parents and his therapist. There was nothing wrong with him. He just was tired of his parents, as I was mine (but his were worse). I respected Jeff because he didn't want to take crap from anyone, not even his mom.

Days later, he wanted to sell his surfboard and get a better one but there was no where local to get a good price. So he talked me into taking his mother's white VW Bug to Atlantic City to sell one of his surf boards. So we opened the sun roof and stuffed his long board in (medium board really, I was using a long board that was the length of the beach, I swear). We got to Atlantic City and drove through downtown with a surfboard sticking out of the roof. We went by the Playboy Club. I thought I was in the big time, we drove by casinos. I was having the time of my life. He didn't get as much money as he wanted but he took it anyway.

On the way back, he said to "Turn here!" and we ended up taking the bug down a dirt road where there was a clearing among the trees, all full of giant potholes half the size of the bug. It had rained the night before and some of the potholes had water in them. We were doing donuts bouncing in and out of the potholes and well, we had a blast.

Then we drove home. Blissful, we went in the house and got comfortable in his room, reading comic books and listening to music. Then his mom starts losing her mind. Something about Mud all over the car, even on the top and how could that happen she wanted to know (she was crazy, not stupid)? She demanded to know where we had gone, what we were doing that was terrible enough to evince such disaster on her nice, clean car?

Innocent, I said, I don't know how that happened. She said, you'd have to do something terrible for it to look like that, the sun is out but you'd have to drive through some pretty big mud puddles. I know what you were doing, you were using my Bug like a dune buggy driving through some pretty big mud puddles."

I said (lying through my teeth, thinking I had a good argument to end this): "But, all we did was drive up to Atlantic City."

Out of the corner of my eye I could see my cousin giving a look like, "Oh great".

Then, she really lost it. I had no idea we shouldn't have hit the freeway and gone up the coast. I figured it was okay, Jeff said it was okay, nothing happened. He motioned for me to follow him ouside.

He said, "You should never have mentioned Atlantic City."

"Why didn't you warn me about that?" I said.

"Hell," he said, "you never know what will wind her up anyway. Don't worry about it. Come on, we'll drive up the street to the car wash and hose it down. Once she sees it clean, she'll forget about it. She just wants things to be normal."

So we got in the car and ran down the street to do it yourself car wash with the power wash wand. We dropped some quarters and hosed it down. When we returned, she actually did forget about it pretty quickly. After all, we really didn't do anything to damage it. But I realized at that point, in part at least, why Jeff was in the state he was in.

Other than a few things like that, mostly we hung out, surfed, visited people and generally had a great time in the sun. Toward the end of my stay that summer (really it was one month), my mother shows up (Oh, what a drag!). From clear across the country, back in Tacoma. And Why, I wanted to know?

Now, you have to understand that this was the first time I had ever traveled alone on a plane to anywhere, so having my mother show up was a big let down. But then, she spent most of her time with her Aunt (our Aunt?) and she wasn't really much of a bother. And she said, she would keep our Aunt busy so Jeff and I could have even more time to hang out. Which, we did.

One day, Jeff and I hitchhiked to Wildwood, the next town over, where the boardwalk was. It was like a year around fair there. And, I got in trouble with a cop. I really didn't do a thing illegal though.

We were walking along the boardwalk and two cops drive by in a police jeep. Jeff says, 'That's that fat cop bastard I told you about who was harrassing me a while back."

I said, trying to be his buddy, "We should kick his ass!" And I slammed my fist into my hand. Really? It was just a joke, I did it to be over the top and make him laugh, to relieve the tension he was feeling. We were walking away from the cops who were now about 50 feet behind us and heading away. But suddenly, they start to turn the jeep around.

Now, before I flew out to New Jersey , I had mail orderd what was labled a "Jaguar Fighting lock blade Knife". I was into mail ordering things. And actually, I had flown into Philidelphia where they normally lived, but then we drove out to Cape May where we were staying at their second house for the summer.

I had been buying mail order junk from the Johnson Smith Company (typically found on full page ads in the back of comic books). About half the stuff was pretty cool actually and the other half was hype and junk. I think the Postal Service must have put them out of business for false advertising or something. I had also gotten over the years, the very hot bubble gum, the snapping gum pack, the secret book safe which I had for years and was too cool. And you can actually see the ad for the powder I bought on this page (amazing):

Sprinkle a little of this
almost invisible magic
powder on any soap.
When anyone uses
the soap their hands and
face will turn bloody red.
Have fun! Drives them
crazy! Harmless!
No. 123 30c pkg.
4 pkgs $1.00"

Yeah, drives them crazy all right. I remember my mom looking at me like I was hopeless and my saying those exact words from the ad: "It's harmless...."

I'd been buying stuff from them since about fourth grade when I bought some white powder to put on the soap. The night of the day I recieved it, I put it on a bar of soap in the kitchen. I've described this situation before: the next morning, getting ready for school, my sister washed her face in the kitchen as I was in the bathroom. Suddenly she started screaming (who washes their face in the kitchen sink in the morning?).

She's screaming bloody murder lookikng in the mirror just above the kitchen sink. My mom comes running in, I come running in, our little brother comes running in. Then she starts screaming my name, even before I enter the kitchen. See, she figures it out. My sister always was smart. She's yelling: "what did he do? I know he did this!" I looked at her face and actually I loved my sister a lot and that was rally the last thing I wanted to see, or any of my family for that matter, their face looking like a bloody mess. Hands. HANDS! I was only shooting for bloody Hands!

Mom looks at me, my brother looks at me, she's looking at me, it was no secret by this point. They all knew it had to be me. When my mom first saw my sister's face all red, as if she was bleeding profusely, it freaked her out, but my sister immediately said there was nothing wrong, something must have been on the soap.

So there was nothing to do. I 'fessed up and quickly apologized, I felt really bad. I pointed out that I had no idea someone would wash their face in the kitchen sink. So my mom looks at me and realizing what was going on says: "So you thought I would discover it while I was doing the dishes by hand, how funny would that be, Right? So you thought I would think I had cut myself on a knife or something, right? Nice, thanks."

Okay, whatever. Did I say I was in the fourth grade? This was the fourth time we had moved in four years since we moved back from the east coast. I had to find something to entertain myself with. I guess I hadn't thought it out clearly, though. The ad from Johnson Smith Company said it would have fun. I believed them. Cool, high hilarity for my family! But uh, no, evidently the ad was wrong. Well it was right about one thing. It does drive them crazy. They just didn't share their definition of the word, "crazy".

Anyway, back to the cops on the boardwalk in Wildwood, New Jersey, August of 1972.

I see the cops turning around and I panic. I panic because I had my knife from Johnson Smith Company with me (yes, you'd think the soap incident would have taught me a thing or two, but alas, no, it never did). And by this time I was sure it was illegal in New Jersey because when I first showed it to Jeff, he had said it was illegal. I was surprised by that but hey, it was just so cool looking.

So, not waiting to see if the cops were turning around to come after us (had I stood there probably nothing would have happened, too), I run into an arcade, like a penny arcade with all the games and stuff, full of people, mostly kids. It was just the closest place to disappear into. I ran into the back and bang, it's a dead end wall.

I couldn't BELIEVE I was in a stupid dead end. I figured it would be a U shaped arcade inside (but then, they'd probably have figured that out and split up, catching me on the way out). All I know is I turn around and the cops are walking in after me, probably just because I ran from them. I'm thinking fast, what to do?

JUST as they got up to me, the smaller Latino looking cop was first (imagine that, the fat cop was last arriving). By this time, I had the knife out of my pocket and in my hand, palming it. Now, back then I used to wear a leather wrist band, "Peace sign" cut out, about three inches wide. So I deftly slipped it up my sleeve held in place by the wrist band. Now both hands were free. "If only it doesn't slip out now", was all I could think. Which is probably good because I was so concerned about that I didn't have time to be that scared.
Sure enough, the cop turned me around to face the wall, but just then the fat cop gruffly took over, rudely pushing the other cop aside. He shoved me against the back wall (now everyone, including Jeff, is watching), as he was holding a pair of wooden nunchacku in his right hand. Those are the grain and rice threshing farm tools that Okinawan farmers turned into weapons to fight their invading Japanese Samurai with.

Personally, I don't think they are as useful to a cop as a Tonfa, or "Tree Fork", the side handled baton that is so excellent for blocking, punching, all kinds of stuff.

As he is frisking me, he is also covertly punching me around the head, neck and ribs with the chucks. It was quite obvious to me that he knew NO one realized he was hurting me.

Amazingly, they found nothing. I was more stunned about getting away with it than anything else by that time. Then the other cop started talking to me and checking me out. I knew any minute they'd find the knife, and then it would be worse because I couldn't argue ignorance. I mean, if I thought it was legal, why was I hiding it? When I told him I was from Washington State, the completely lost interest in me, but still gave me a hard time. I didn't have any ID on me as I seldom carried any unless I was driving the car. And today we were hitchhiking.

So the cop says, annoyed: "Adult carry ID. Always carry ID with you, other wise you could find yourself in jail for no reason sometime, just because you can't prove who you are." And from that day on for the rest of my life, I have carried ID on me. Unless that is, I needed to be anonymous for some reason.

After a while they walked me back out to the boardwalk. I was humiliated having to walk between two cops through all those people who were staring at me like I was some common criminal. And really, I hadn't done actually done any thing.

Once we got outside, Jeff walked up and the cops threw us off the boardwalk and out of town. That is, they told us we were banned. Now Jeff was really pissed, but I grabbed him to shut him up (he was a real firecracker at times) and whispered to him reminding him about the knife, once we were out of earshot. He wanted to do something about what just happened but I drug him away and told him that first we have to ditch the knife, then I'll do whatever he likes about all this.

Now Jeff was more pissed off than I was. This was the second time this cop had ruined his day. And because, as he put it, he liked Wildwood and now he couldn't come back. And he REALLY hadn't done anything. For me, it was just a summer thing. For him, he lived there and it just wasn't right.

So we found a vacant lot and put the knife under a big rock where no one could find it so that I could later retrieve it, or Jeff could, if I didn't make it back before I flew home for the summer. I walked away regretfully, thinking I would probably never see it again. But we never did see it again. When we went back later for it that next week, it was gone.

How anyone found it I have no idea. Jeff thought someone must have seen us hiding it.

Finally we decided that we would complain about this to the police station. And we did. Walked right in to the station and told our story. I was brave now that I had no assumed contraband. We were very surpirsed when the Sergeant in charge sighed and shook his head.

"Yes, we know about him." He said, "He's just a bad cop. We want to do something about him, but no one will put in a complaint against him; people are rightly afraid of him. He is retiring soon, so one way or another he's gone, but not soon enough as he's caused too many citizens problems. I just wish we could get him out of here now. If you would just sign a statement, and promise to testify, then we could do something."

At this point, we were beside ourself with wanting to be upright citizens and testify against the jerk. We told them the other cop was a very nice guy and we didn't want to cause him any grief. But we promised to come back in the morning to fill out the paperwork.

As it was getting late, we hitchhiked home but only got to a crossroads about half way. Then Jeff decided to leave me and go elsewhere. Oh great, now I'm hitchhiking alone, but he assured me I would be okay. So here I was alone, walking along a road in the diminishing sunlight, in the middle of what appeared to me to be nowhere (although there was a frozen chocolate banana stand at the crossroad, but it was closed).

So I'm hitchhiking along when who shows up? Along comes my mom and Aunt Marge. Oh, great, just what I need. But then again, I was tired of walking and I was hot, so I gratefully got in the car.

On the way home, I told my story (sans, "Jaguar Fighting lock blade knife"), explaining about how a "Pig" had harassed me and how I didn't do anything (trust me, both women knew both kids and neither of them thought either of us were angels). Now I had never called cops "pigs" but hey, he WAS a "Pig". Even his own Sergeant at the station said he was a bad cop, but people were just too afraid to report the fat jerk. Not me, at 16, I was fearless. I would turn in a report. No problem.

Back home, we had a Tacoma City Police Sergeant who lived on the corner of our block and were friends with his family through the late 60s. So, I had a positive idea of cops. I was on a rifle team in 8th grade that was highly thought of by TPD and we shot at their downtown firing range. Later at 19, I took the police test and rated 350 out of 600 for interviews, I got the best time on their obstacle course for the physical side of things, running up and down a three story building carrying a 70 pound rug over my shoulder and going in and out of windows, over and under stuff, and would have done better but the woman who was supposed to tell me where to drop the rug (the fake person) just stared at me for like five seconds before she realized I was waiting for her to tell me where to drop it.

As it was, I did the course in 47 seconds; no one else got into the low 50 seconds and the women were all in the 60 second range (sorry ladies, that's the truth). Oh, and I didn't get the job with TPD. They had six positions open and they all went to minorities due to a new equal opportunity minority law, so I ended up joining the Air Force as a Law Enforcement officer instead (and we may all know how that turned out; not bad if you don't know).

So for me to call a Cop, a "Pig" back then (and my mother knew this), meant something. Just about then my Aunt started in, screaming about how I was calling Cops "Pigs" and so on and on. When I said, "But he IS a Pig!" It didn't go over very well. Then when I said that Jeff and I had to go back tomorrow to report him (mostly to support the truth of my report), both my Aunt and Mother said an emphatic, "No!"

So, I would not be going back and that was the end of that. I was crushed. And I didn't go back.

After we got home, my mother pulled me into a room alone. She said that she knew I wasn't calling cops Pigs all the time and that he probably was a bad cop. I agreed that no, I never call cops "Pigs" but the definition certainly fit this guy and by his boss's own statement (more or less). She said she understood that but it really was not a good idea to go back. I argued weakly, but it was settled. Then she tried to change the subject and lighten the mood.

We talked about her being there in NJ in the first place. She knew I was bummed that she was there as it was detracting from my grown up-ed-ness in traveling alone for the first time. But, she said, she really only came out because she had a surprise for me. Rather than fly directly home, we would be flying to Phoenix's SkyHarbor airport to visit my brother for a couple of days.

He was seven years older and had lived there for a while now and I missed him a lot. After we left Cape May and flew off, Mom made me promise I wouldn't drink any alcohol with my older brother, as she knew Jon would want to play "let's party with big brother"; and she was pretty much right about that. Nothing out of hand, but he would have let me drink some beer. I didn't see the issue with that but, I had agreed, I gave my word.

See, when I was very young, I guess I lied a lot. So that when I got to where I was conscious of that kind of thing, no one trusted me. I made it a thing that I would never lie again and I have tried hard all my life not to. The plus end of that, if any one who never lies, but learns how to make it through life with as little injury as possible, also discovers that telling the truth makes you smarter. You have to think fast and talk your way around things. It's actually better than lying. But not for the generally accepted reasons.

After we got settled into a motel, my brother stopped by that evening to get me. He drove me to the top of a mountain about dusk to show me how big the city was, like 35 miles from one side to the other. He pointed out how different things were there, bigger, and that this (South Mountain Park) was their city park: a mountain. On the way up there he did stop for some beer to drink at the top, but I told him I had promised not to.

He just said, "Okay, it's up to you."

Later, we hit his house in Mesa. He said, "Hey, let's go to the neighbor's house." So we went next door. I met the guy and we sat on the floor around a low table. The neighbor pulled out some some weed from a plastic sandwich baggy and proceeded to roll three joints. I mentioned again that I had promised, but as big brother's are wont to do, he pointed out how that was about drinking.

I smiled, he smiled, we all smiled, and I took a hit. Then we smoked all three. This, was my first time smoking pot.

At some point I had to excuse myself. I went into the bathroom. I relieved myself and washed my hands. Then, I stared into the mirror.

Now, I had done things other than pot. I had my first dirnk at a party in 10th grade at a friends house.

She came over with her husband to get me early one night. I had known her from Civil Air Patrol, then she got married and I became friends with them both. She was a little older cadet. She had been an officer. There was another girl, Lynn, who was her boss. I ran into her after I got out of the Air Force, and was delivering rental TVs. She was just engaged and even more attractive than before.

After we all stopped Search and Rescue activities, I remained friends with the first girl. So that afternoon, she came over with her husband. They had just had a baby recently. It was a Thursday night and summertime and they got me out of the house for the night. They told my mother I was going to baby sit her newborn as her and her husband were going to a party. But when we got to their house, some people were there, then a bunch of other people showed up.

I said, "hey, I thought you were going to a party?" She said, "We are, but it's here. We knew your mom wouldn't let you come, so we just explained it creatively. You'll be here, you'll be safe and you can help watch the baby."

And that night I had my first real drink at a party. It was a "Salty Dog", vodka with grapefruit juice and salt around the rim. I didn't like the salt much. But I got pretty buzzed. Luckily, not drunk and so no hangover.

I had also taken some other things that let you hallucinate (I was told it was powdered psilocyben from mushrooms) through my 10th and 11th grades in High School. But I'd had never smoked  pot.
So when I stared into that mirror at my brother's neighbor's house in Mesa, Arizona, I'd expected to hallucinate. It felt like it was about to happen, but nothing realy did. However, the tip of my tongue was numb from the THC, or something. I smiled, I realized I felt really good, and that my tongue actually felt pretty good, too.

So I went back out to the living room and sat down. My brother asked, "what took you so long?" And I told him.

I hesitated and then said, "My tongue is happy."

They thought that was the funniest thing they had ever heard and aparently he still does because I've had to hear that story for about forty years now.

The interesting thing about this story is that when I got home, I searched out our friend Curt. My brother told me to do that so that I wouldn't get involved with shady types... or "the Law". Curt was like an older brother to me and we all knew that none of us would ever tell on the other. We were like brothers, "tight". In fact, my brother was, my brother.

So I got Curt and we left his house to a friend of his and he got me a half a "lid" (half ounce) for $5. He left me in the car as he said the guy was paraonoid. This was prime light weight rolling weed, not the premium killer bud of today which would paralyze you now a days in comparison. I see online some speculation that a "lid" was 3/4 of an ounce, or an ounce and a quarter, which is laughable. It was an ounce. You bought an ounce you expected an ounce and if you got shorteted, you were pissed. A good dealer gave a little over an ounce, but it was all about supply and demand, sometimes you got less and you were happy as there as none, or it was extra good and got less. Or it wasn't so good so they threw in some more. But it was an ounce in Tacoma in the 70s.

I tried to get more from him a few weeks later, but he pointed out that no one only buys a half, so from then on, I had to scrounge up the standard $10, or go in halves with a friend, which I did because it took me a long time to use it all up.

This was during a time when my weekly paycheck in High School, at the local Drive-in Theater, was about $30/week after taxes (and then after car payment, gas and car insurance). This lead me to take a spear I had made out of a bamboo pole I got out of the garage from when we got a new shag carpet. As a kid, I used to use the pole for pole vaulting. It never broke.

So I had turned it into a spear with a flat brass arrowhead I found on the floor at Pier One Imports one day. I wound some string on it as you would with a fishing pole and there it was, a cool spear. You can see it in the photo below. This was part of my bedroom in high school; note the very psychedelic posters which I had my first hallucinatory experience with in 10th grade at 2AM, but that's another story. The posters were everywhere including the cieling. Also note the 3D chessboard sitting on the chess table I made in 9th grade wood shop and the aluminum sculpture on the bookcase I did in 10th grade arts. Part way down on the bamboo spear you can see the large nut I was using as a bowl.

After I got the half a lid from Curt I had to figure out how to smoke it. I found some pipes I got from the Explorer Club I belonged to as a kid but the wood was too soft, pipes for export, not smoking. So I took my spear, cut the end off a mushroom shaped incense stick burner, and put it on one end. Then took a large nut and wired it to the other end, making it a five foot long pipe. I would put it out the window with a lit candle on the window sill, stand back and puff away. Had my mother (or step father) known, I can't imagine the trouble I would have been in.

In the end, the important thing about this tale is that although I continued to drink beer and whatever the rest of my friends did, I stopped taking any of the more dangerous stuff I was into and just smoked pot. I had gotten into pills since the end of 9th grade, mostly because of my mother having them around, and mostly "diet pills" or valiums ("mother's little helpers" - The Rolling Stones).

I had taken a hit of diet pill ("speed") the first time in about 9th grade and went over to that friend's house who took me to the party. At that time, they lived across the street from the High School I that would be going to the next year. She offered me luncyh but when I turned down food she knew something was wrong. She finally got it out of me that I had taken a diet pill and wasn't hungry. She got pretty angry with me and said that was WAS going to eat something and that I WAS going to promise never to take any pills like that again. I didn't. Until 10th grade.

My home life wasn't great. It could have been far worse, but I just wanted out of there. My step father made life miserable and liked to terrorize me from time to time and its not a lot of fun always trying to avoid one of your parents, trying NEVER to run into them. Especially when you worked at the same place starting in 10th grade and had to ride to work every night with him. His night job was Asst Manager at the Auto-View Drive in Theater, while mine was eventually as the Snack Bar Manager, by 11th grade.

Things deteriorated for me somewhat during High School so that by time I got high with my brother in Arizona, I was rapidly approaching a drug and alcohol induced accident. So my going home that summer, after getting high on pot for the first time with my brother, and seeking out more of it, actually saved my life. I felt I was probably only months away from a fatal overdose.

But instead, I got more laid back, more relaxed, and I never took pills again unless a Doctor made me.

Which actually worked against me years later when the doctor who birthed me and who had gotten my mother addicted to drugs (long story), also got me addicted. If you asked me which is more dangerous, pot or "legal" drugs, I would have to say, legal prescription drugs and their manufacturers and the doctors, some of whom, even if inadvertantly, push these harsh chemicals. I won't bore you about how much more harsh are western medicines or alcohol, in comparison to Cannabis.

I had been having headaches since high school. I had one that put me in the hospital in 12th grade. It was a migraine, now I'm pretty sure about that. It was the worst pain I'd ever felt. I can deal with any pain, I've been doing so all my life. I can use my mind to cancel it out pretty well. Years of training in Karate and tournament fighting in grade school years helped. But, when the pain is seemingly IN your mind, that's a hard one to defeat.

Three neurosurgeons were called in to consult. They conferred with my mother and she told them about our very tense home life. How it had been for years. Their advice? Move out as soon as possible, or figure out how to deal with it. They gave me a prescription for Valiums and sent me home after three days in the hospital.

I had only a few months to graduate, and I did. Then I moved out at seventeen. I got my own apartment. And Life, was good.

It felt great to look around and know I owned everything in the apartment, it was all mine. I was responsible for me. I could do what I wanted. It was a little lonely at first, but I adjusted. Still, there was no contention. No anxiety. No dodging parents. The fear was gone, the anger was there but only residual, not current or active. I had made it, I survived my childhood.

Now I just wanted to forget about it, to put temporal distance between myself and my childhood. That's when the military arrived at about twenty. The US Air Force used to be one of the best places in the world to get drugs (I hear Navy is good too, maybe better if you think about big ships and all but I suspect there are more dogs going though ships; it's hard to get a dog around a plane). No customs. No checks when you land. Crew chiefs who "owned" the planes knew the best places to hide things and no one could find them. B-52's and KC-135 tankers were simply too big and numerous to check everything all the time.

So we had some amazing drugs. Or so I was told. After I got out, I got a degree in Psychology. That, was a brilliant move. I got four years of free therapy, the last two at a University level. I partied, but I knew my goal was a degree and the best grades possible, but more important than that, was to learn. I wanted to cram all I could into my mind during those years. And I did.

Eventually, I grew to understand my childhood, my life, my orientation and my way of looking at things.

But in the end, or the beginning (the middle really, I guess), pot saved my life.

Better living through chemicals? Yes, for some of us. For some of us it means death, for others, life. It has a lot to do with your attitude toward life, your way of dealing with things. My way was that I was going to surive my childhood, no matter what. And that's how I feel about life in general. I'm going to surive. And while I'm surviving, I might as well enjoy what is around me.

It was over a year after getting out of the service that one day I noticed a sunset and found it beautiful. I had once heard Tom Savini say that. Tom is the guy that brought us the great effects in Night of the Living Dead in 1969. After a year in Vietnam photographing everything, bodies, tanks, blown up things, he said a year after he got out, he noticed a sunrise and realized how beautiful it was. And his life changed from them on and he regained his zest for living.

My point in all this long tired story is that different things work for different people. Yes, it is best to get therapy in life when you can, to try and fix yourself the "right" way. But even in doing that, I have seen myself in life where it simply doesn't work. It helps to turn to alternate methods of "healing" either because of lack of proximity to the appropriate help, or whatever.

Sometimes it can even be because of a spouse. I allowed myself to be bullied by my wife at one point in our lives together as she didn't want me to read about ADD, something I now realize was insane. I always believed that more info is better and I allowed her to "scare" me into inaction. And so sometimes, we simply need to do what we can for ourselves.

Maybe it is getting really drunk and allowing a night of "blowing off steam" or the hangover the next morning, to put things in perspectrive. Perhaps it is getting stoned on pot, cannabis can be a great reliever of pain, either physical or emotional.

But it is up to the indivdual to do for themself. Not all chemicals, not all drugs are all bad. Cannabis is a greatly slighted natural substance. There should be no limitations on it, other than standard ones like alcohol (but not, heroin which has nothing to do with it). I've always believed that if it grows naturally, it should be legal. If you have to synthesize it, like heroin, it should be regulated, or possibly, illegal.

I was told in psychology at my University that you have an addiction, a problem, when what you are doing adversely affects your familylife, your relationship with your friends and your job. Otherwise, it is a past time, a hobby, entertainment. It is no one else's business what you do for the most part, as long as you are not harming others in your pursuits.

By the design of some, religion should be illegal. Some of things religions do are as offensive to many as what the religions say they are offended by. When you consider churches demonstrating at the funeral of military who have died in action, but were gay. That, is harming the family, friends and loved ones of that deceased indivdual. No one should have the right to do that. Yet, it is illegal to smoke pot and legal to demonstrate, yelling, or holding up signs that say "God hates fags".

Does he? Does he really? Because MY God, would love everyone. Including Bob Marley. Did Jesus drink wine back then? Didn't everyone? Water wasn't so good. Why didn't God talk about weed if it's so good? He didn't talk about antibiotics either and one has to wonder why easy things like that were never mentioned or why God or Jesus didn't give us something useful other than just words. But one would have to think that a God would want us to make use of the things he gave us to use.

And he probably wonders why everyone hates his favorite gift to Humankind, an innocent weed that can be used to produce an unimaginable amount of benificial things (medical drugs, clothing, rope, paper, burnable oils, and on and on) for those who will open their minds and be thankful.

In the end, I'm not say that everyone should smoke pot. I'm saying that for those that do, it shouldn't ruin their lives because of their government. It should be available in the chance that it could alter their lives in a good way. People that ABUSE things, will always abuse things. But many, many people, most people that smoke pot, do not abuse it. But we never hear about that because of the fearful and the fear mongers.
I have known many people who were into prescription drugs, hooked on them by their doctors, who were into other illegal, harder drugs, who, once they discovered Cannabis, quit the other drugs and were happy just lighting up, essentially, saving their lives. It changed their lifestyle, it eliminated their hanging around harder criminal types in order to get their cocaine, or prescription drugs on the street, or being legal through their doctor or doctors, but still hooked on harsh, dangerous drugs (why don't they ever talk about that?). It turned people around from being hooked on drugs, being criminal, to being good citizens again; self healed. Even if you claim they are still hooked, isn't it better still, than their taking cocaine, pills, alcohol? Actually, it is. I know people, where their starting to smoke Cannabis, literally saved their lives.

So, lighten up people. Or maybe, just light up.

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