On Not Driving.


Many, many years ago, when I was a young “adult”, I had, shall we say, a closer than sensible or legal relationship with drugs. Many drugs. Most drugs. I am not proud of this at all but it remains the truth. I would have cheerfully snorted dry laundry detergent, especially if one of my numerous drug-addled friends had told me that the bluish crystals it contained were delayed-action chemicals that would make me higher, and keep me that way longer. I would have smoked shredded tires that had been marinated in Drano, provided that somebody had informed me that Drano was better than LSD. Thankfully and very surprisingly, I never OD-ed and well before I turned thirty, I’d lost all interest in illegal substances and I will be eternally grateful for that.

And, although vast portions of both memory and intellect have been, to put things charitably, imperfectly improved by the experiences of my “drug years”, there are certain things that I am richer for.

For one, I am possibly the only living being to have ingested more psychoactive chemicals than Keith Richards and yet, compared to him I look surprisingly normal. (We’re grading on a curve here.) Yes, he plays guitar better than I do and has written dozens of wonderfully popular songs and is wealthy enough to purchase an entire subcontinent but he has a severe case of ugly. In comparison, my face, despite its numerous and manifest imperfections, appears almost angelic when compared to Keith’s. Who I’m sure is a nice person and, no matter how scary he looks, probably won’t chew my head off or anything like that. I hope. (Just a side note here. Keith Richards has been totally drug-free for over a quarter century. Can you imagine what he’d look like now if he hadn’t quit? I don’t believe he’d make a good poster child for “Just saying ’Yes’ to drugs”.)

Another thing I’m richer for is having memories, such as they are, of that period of my life. And, I learned things as well.

Things like, that when one is under the influence of very high-grade LSD, playing acoustic guitar for hours on end and recording it will result, once the drugs have worn off, in a startling realization that one is not the Second Coming of Eric Clapton. In fact, one sounds more like a tone deaf octopus playing the cello while affected by a powerful spasmodic nerve agent.

Perhaps my fondest memory of that period of my life is this:

Several of us were at an apartment, rented by our friends Ed and Joanne, the downstairs of a two-floor frame dwelling, listening to music and occasionally passing the guitar around. Also passing other things around. Illegal cannabinoids. Not an unusual event for my friends and me. Until the arrival of Kevin. The names here have been changed to protect the guilty. Kevin’s parents owned the bar that we liked to hang out at on the rare occasions when any of us had money. Kevin worked as a bartender there. This particular night he had gotten off early and showed up about midnight at Ed and Joanne’s apartment.

He brought some beer and wine as a communal gift and also something else. He said it was “Black African Marijuana”. I’m pretty sure it was a form of marijuana and it certainly was black. There will never be a way to determine where it originated. Speculation afterward ran the gamut from Africa to Kashmir, to Uranus and to places outside our solar system. My friends and I were used to the effects of illegal substances; in fact several of us could have been authorities in the field. But none of us had ever experienced anything like the effects of this stuff. I do remember, with surprising clarity, that the bowl passed precisely two times around the group. And two times around was enough. More than enough. WAY more than enough.

Kevin’s gift induced a two hour giggle-fest, the sort of thing where nobody can move but everybody thinks that everything in the world is funny, including the fact that nobody can move. Yes, exactly the sort of intellectual soiree that anyone who knows me would have expected. Eventually, Joanne retired for the evening as she had a real job and had to work the following day. As to the rest of us, some passed out, some didn’t and Kevin, at long last, had to head home, about ten miles away. Ed and I accompanied Kevin to the porch and watched him cross the street to where his car was parked.

NO, we SHOULD NOT have let him drive. I know that now. But this was forty years ago and attitudes were different. It was a weeknight, extremely late and the chances of him hurting someone else were, to us, remote.

The chances of him hurting someone else turned out to be far more remote than we thought.

Ed and I were positioned, on the porch, to the rear of Kevin’s car, about fifty feet away, and watched Kevin get into his car, close the door and start the engine. The he put on the headlights, actuated the turn signal and hit the gas. Then, he turned the wheel and hit the brakes. Followed by more throttle, more signaling, braking on and off, more gas, on and off, more turning of the steering wheel etc.

It occurred to Ed and I simultaneously what had happened. We both howled with laughter at the fact that Kevin had forgotten to put the car in “Drive” and was, as a matter of fact “driving home” in “Park”. DAMN, that WAS some powerful marijuana! Ed and I just collapsed on the porch, helpless, laughing hysterically. I would imagine that at least five minutes passed before we could even talk, let alone stand. Then we thought, as stupid and stoned people often do, that “the cops” or a neighbor might notice and maybe that we’d better inform Kevin of the extent of deviance between his objective and his actions.

We tried to muffle our mutual hysteria (As by now it’s maybe four in the morning.), help one another across the street and up to the driver’s window of Kevin’s car. I knocked on the window and was treated to the sight of a six-foot three individual, head turned full left to look directly at me, screaming in a tone not unlike one that might be made by a washing machine being murdered by a circular saw. Eyes the size of dinner plates. With his lower jaw open almost to his navel. Trying to exit the car by way of both the roof AND the driver’s window simultaneously. And with a degree of pallor on his face that has never before or since been achieved by anyone of the Caucasoid race. Kevin is spectacularly, and I use the word advisedly, rattled. He had thought he was nearly home and in the midst of making a turn off of the highway to the street he lived on.

This, naturally, is by orders of magnitude, the funniest thing we have ever seen in our lives. Ed and I revert to Hysteria Mode, lying in the street, laughing so hard that we both probably wished that the police would come by and just shoot us as we realized that standing up again was not a possibility and that even breathing again was questionable.

Kevin, for his part, showed no appreciation whatever for our corrective actions and at one point, rather unpleasantly threatened to kill us both with a tire iron. We would have immediately agreed to being killed if only it would make us stop laughing.

This is why drugs are a bad thing.

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