Posted on by Lee Richmond
“You don’t have to go to those bars,” said Gary. ”You should be smoking pot.” “You think so?” It was a moment of calm in the City Room — the second edition had gone to bed, and we were waiting to paste it up once it came off the presses. Gary was a skinny wild-eyed red-haired guy, implicit leader of the copyboys by virtue of his manic energy. “Absolutely! Alcohol just brings you down. Pot is –” His eyes went all dazzly, he spread his fingers in the air. “You ever try it?” “Once.” All it had done for me was a dry throat and a headache. If I had been ‘high,’ I hadn’t noticed. “You have to try it, man! Come on over to my house tonight. I’ll turn you on.” After work, we were sitting at Gary’s kitchen table. He was turning the crank on an old tarnished flour sifter. Out the bottom fell green shreds of fragrant leaves. Swiftly he licked a cigarette paper, joined it to another one, pinched a copious quantity of leaf into the folded paper, rolled it up swiftly into a ‘joint’ as thick as my little finger, licked it closed. Lit it, took a deep drag, chased it down with a deep breath of air and handed it to me, speaking without exhaling, in a squeaky back-of-the-throat voice: “Your turn.” It was a lovely sweet draft of herbal fragrance. “Hold it in!” I held my breath as long as I could, passing the joint back to him. By the time I had exhaled the second deep draft, everything had changed. Colors! Jazz! On the radio! Gary! Light dancing around his head! Curtains! Fluorescent light! “Pretty good, huh?” Gary’s voice, musical as an oboe! Much later we were walking down Haight Street, deep-eyed kind-faced Oriental merchants packing up their brilliant-hued stands of amazing fruit. Where the street ended in a park with the biggest trees in the world was a diner, brilliantly lit in outrageous reds and purples. Gary introduced me to the California Cheeseburger. Taste! Mayonnaise! Bacon! Pickles. Goodbye to books, Greyhound buses, skid row hotels, Hayes-Bickford, Vern, rubber drive belts — I had fallen down the rabbit hole.