When Good Times Aren’t Great: It’s Easier to Blame the Drugs Than the Man

At no point during my existence on this planet have I ever forged a meaningful relationship with a person I’ve met while smoking cannabis. There is nothing about that experience that makes you want to suddenly share all of yourself with a total stranger. The best case scenario is that you’ve already allowed yourselves to build the bridge of friendship before puffing down on an old puff-stick, or whatever the actual modern day slang for it is. That shouldn’t be construed as an endorsement to engage in illicit activities. Instead, consider it a warning to make the most of breaking an unnecessary law. Rather than waste all that time feigning interest through heightening paranoia, you could be at home eating pizza, watching cartoons, and laughing yourself into a perceived (or genuine) cardiac arrest.

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Some time back, an old friend of mine invited me to a show he was in that merged music with visual arts. Wanting a better idea of what he had been working on, I was pleased to say that I would be in attendance. The only catch was that he wanted me to act as a videographer for the event. This was fine because it meant I had the balcony seat nearest to the stage all to myself for the majority of the show. The lights dimmed and I settled in. It was a collaborative success as the sights and sounds worked well together. One medium encouraged the other and the result was an ever-shifting visual and auditory landscape of mood. It was the sort of thing I would have definitely sought out on my own.

Once the concert had concluded, I was invited back stage. It was a patchy network of visual artists, musicians, and random people vaguely affiliated with the musicians. It is a well-known fact that anyone approaching any level of notoriety is required by law to have an entourage. Once I am infamous and society deems it unseemly for me to go anywhere alone I fully intend to have a posse of attractive women in sunglasses and strange men in lipstick. However, on this occasion, I was alone and without the additional credibility brought on by having a midget with an ocelot standing next to you. So I had very little to say to everyone beyond the expected, and earned, round of compliments. But my friend, a performer, introduced me to a few of the more involved parties.

One of the people was a comic artist/legend. My friend introduced me and we exchanged two words with absolutely no eye contact. One of my worst personality traits is not getting overly excited about anything but, fortunately, it served me well enough in this situation. This was a person who had created visual spaces I obsessed over as a child and comics that I idolized as a teenager. But I somehow managed not to take it cripplingly personal when I was presented to him and he just said, “Alright then,” and walked away while frowning. May he be cast into a river of boiling hot Dr. Pepper.

I wandered out the rear exit, had a cigarette, and flirted with a tall groupie before she left with the musicians and their pack of social parasites. Eventually I returned inside and said very little to the other artists and stage hands. They were busy talking shop and gossiping about people that I knew nothing about. I couldn’t contribute much more than the occasional joke and doing so ran the risk of putting down a member of their inner circle. It’s all well and good for them to call each other whores and idiots, but an outsider doesn’t want jump in on that bandwagon. That’s no way to make a new friend, so I spent the majority of my time silent.

After a few more minutes, the theater manager showed up and they all decided to have a quick meeting. I was invited along and we walked as a group of seven through the underbelly of the building. Pipes and ducts occupied much of the space and we were required to squeeze around many narrow corners. Eventually we found ourselves at the entrance of a giant metal box. The door looked like it belonged on a submarine or missile silo and creaked when it moved. We were ushered in by a bespectacled man-boy and made our way through single file.

“It’s the HVAC system for the theater.” The building manager said.

The space was larger than most rooms in my apartment. Looking up yielded an open expanse of blackness and the only light source vanished when the door was shut. A few people had flashlights and a few others turned on cell phones to help illuminate the room. The meeting itself consisted of three joints and several small pipes’ worth of medicinal marijuana.

“Pretty cool place to smoke.” Someone claimed.

It was not a pretty cool place to smoke. The perpetual breeze in the room made the use of lighters a logistical nightmare. There is also nothing aesthetically pleasing about getting stoned in a giant windowless box in the bowels of Manhattan with nothing but echoes and endless darkness overhead. In all actuality it seemed hand crafted to ensure a weird ominous feeling within all that occupied it. This feeling was further heightened after everyone had their fill of smoke and we all stood there in silence. If you’ve never smoked before, it’s sort of like running your computer in safe mode. There is a brief mental reboot before you begin running nonstop diagnostics on everything. I’ve discussed this phenomenon with my friend Thom in the past and he claims that if you’re not doing exactly what you want, you’ll become keenly aware of it after a few minutes of being stoned.

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So, once conversation started back up, I began a mental countdown of how long it would be until I could leave. But I no longer had any concept of time, so waiting became its own unique challenge. For some reason, I couldn’t figure out a very smooth way to exit the situation either. My best plan involved yelling goodbye, exiting the room, and running through the underground network of pipes and tunnels until I found myself back outdoors. However, executing this would leave my friend with some explaining to do. He had mentally abandoned me and was standing near the man I had identified as the leader of this group of friends. Primates do the same thing to gain standing within social circles. As an outsider, I was just barely being tolerated and he had smartly distanced himself from me. I imagined telling one bad joke and having them all screeching and pounding their chests while I was beaten to death in a primal rage. The thought made me snicker and someone asked me why I was laughing.

“I can’t tell you because you’ll think I’m crazy.” I said.

They didn’t press it and I tried to avoid thinking more than absolutely necessary. Instead I attempted to try interacting with the group. This went exceptionally poorly. But, by just looking and nodding at whoever was speaking, I assumed that I must have been doing a stellar job. Eventually, I was asked a question and realized I hadn’t actually been listening to anything anybody had been saying. My plan was only to appear invested in the conversation and that plan had worked before it backfired horribly. I had focused so intensely on creating the illusion of listening that the actual discussion was never processed by my brain. How was I going to salvage this? I couldn’t say that I didn’t hear what he said because I had spent the entire conversation looking extremely engaged. But I was also starting to think that it had probably been a long time since I had been asked the initial question and that I had better answer soon. There was a deep breath before I gave my answer.

“I’m not… even sure I care.” I exhaled.

My intention was not to be rude. It was the truth and possibly the only right answer I could have given that would effectively cover any question posed. I had no idea what this person had said but I wasn’t really sure any of it mattered to me. I was a stranger that had tagged along and didn’t really want to participate in any social posturing. Perhaps this encouraged my uncouth behavior and ensured their poor opinion of me. I was just sort of there. Not particularly friendly, not inexorably cruel, basically inconsequential. It would have been similar to if someone had dragged in a large fern into the HVAC system and put glasses on it. It wasn’t the drug’s fault though. The deepest part of me desperately wanted to be antisocial well before the first lighter was set ablaze. Drugs are not an excuse to act like an asshole. But I might have been able to fake it if my tissues had been saturated with ethanol or my brain had been processing MDMA.*

Eventually we all stumbled out of the box and made our way back up behind the stage. As everyone made plans to visit a nearby bar, I excused myself and walked home. As I strolled, I tried to recall the faces I felt so indifferent toward and tried to piece together why. Neighborhoods changed and the Village’s quiet charm dissolved as I neared Astor Place’s menagerie of drunken college students and I gradually forgot all about them. Eventually, I encountered a dog wearing a vest and decided to tail it for a few blocks while smiling contently to myself. There are a lot of right ways to live life and even more wrong ones but you have to sort that out for yourself. But, in the moments when you are truly uncertain, attempt to live in the moment. And, whether you’re following a bunch of artists into a windowless box or a vested Labrador into a public park, know when it’s time to leave.

*”Winners don’t use drugs.” –William S. Sessions, Director, FBI

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About You Monsters Are People

Wisdom, wonderment and weird for everyone.
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31 Responses to When Good Times Aren’t Great: It’s Easier to Blame the Drugs Than the Man

  1. prenin says:

    I tried Cannabis once, after much persuasion, and learned two things:

    1) I can get better, cheaper, off my doctor and;

    2) I now know what smoke inhalation feels like… :)

    Since Uruguay has now legalised it because the war on drugs (A joke if ever there was one) has failed, it is only a matter of time before the rest of the world gets the message.

    When a significant percentage of the population is breaking the law, what is the point of the law???

    God Bless and Merry Christmas!!! :)

    Prenin.

    • Same to you, Prenin!

      Marijuana isn’t for everyone and even those that it is for can always benefit from moderation. I know many that have integrated it as a central part of their life and those that remain deathly fearful of it due to propaganda. I’m not convinced either have it quite figured out.

      Stay as warm and carefree as possible for the next few weeks. Enjoy your Christmas!

  2. samara says:

    you whore-
    (see what I did there? and don’t you dare say it back, it’s only funny girl to girl, girl to boy, or boy to girl in bed).
    You don’t get to do this. You don’t get to be really, really funny. And then also thought provoking and wise.
    This: “There are a lot of right ways to live life and even more wrong ones but you have to sort that out for yourself. But, in the moments when you are truly uncertain, attempt to live in the moment.” is beautiful. I wasn’t expecting a beautifully written story with an arc, and with a lesson for all of us.
    I did email you with some questions about artwork for my blog. I’m willing to barter and can supply you with an entourage of one, sunglasses and all, for your next event. Not really.

  3. Hummm…a midget with an ocelot. Did you see La Soirée, by any chance?

    I gave up on weed years ago, although I used to smoke copious amounts. In high school, it wasn’t uncommon to go out on a Friday night and smoke ten joints. Weed today is far more powerful than it was back then. If I smoked ten joints in one evening now, I’d require hospitalization. Plus, it’s crazy expensive. No more $20 oz bags of cheap Mex.

    @ samara: This dude lives in our old ‘hood. We should kick his ass but good. How about this…I’ll hold his arms back and you tickle him until he pees his pants. That’s assuage my insane envy.

  4. Sonya says:

    Love the “running your computer in safe mode” bit. Quite an accurate description.

  5. I do hate getting high with people I don’t know, especially if I am buying pot from them, and we are at their house, and they are paranoid because no one ever hangs out with them except to buy weed, because I end up overcompensating with the friendliness. One time I briefly had a butch lesbian drug dealer who for some reason went on a campaign to make me less girly, which was very kind but really not necessary, but she would make me do tough stuff when I came to get my pot. One time I showed up and she made me learn to use nunchucks and punch a man dummy before I could leave. I sucked at it. It must have been pretty amusing for her though.

    • Drugs aren’t a very big part of my life, and haven’t been since high school, but I recall the weird feeling of the post pickup hangout. However:

      “One time I showed up and she made me learn to use nunchucks and punch a man dummy before I could leave.”

      You don’t like that?

      • Well, I’m sure I wouldn’t mind under different circumstances, because I do love a good martial arts training sequence. I learned to dance and to twirl a baton when I was a kid, could waving sticks around and punching things be that different? But this was just awkward.

  6. Layla says:

    oddly enough i’ve always been told the opposite. i’ve never been a pot smoker, I’m naturally pretty low-key and don’t need any help becoming more laid back. if i need any drug its a stimulant!

    i’ve always complained that i don’t have enough solid friendships and don’t know what avenues are available to me to meet new people that could be more than an acquaintance.. and have the potential of being people i could forge a true friendship with. i’ve often asked others how they’ve met their closest friends.. through work, school, shared interests, mutual contacts….. and most of the feedback i get is not relative to me. so the problem persists.

    the most surprising input i’ve gotten (from more than 1 person) is that my issue is that i don’t smoke weed. i was told by people that i know that majority of their relationships are centered around their smoking habits. it’s easy to find company and people to talk to and hang out with when you are all interested in smoking. smoking with a friend or a group of people is a social activity and brings people together. its also a common interest through which you can meet new people. you smoke with a friend and their 2 other friends join and now you can potentially make 2 new friends to smoke with on a daily or weekly basis.

    Whatever brings you together sometimes all people need is some company and the opportunity to talk and share with others.

    too bad I’m not a fan of smoking… still must find a more enjoyable solution to my problem!

    • You’re right. Smokers do tend to pair up with smokers and drinkers with drinkers… etc. However, I’ve had good friendships and relationships with people who were more (or less) apt to take part in recreational drug use. Fortunately, we can all find plenty of reasons to share company outside of it.

  7. Layla says:

    Reblogged this on livelaughlayladotcom and commented:
    I just came across this post from a fellow blogger that I recently began to follow – These monsters are People – and I commented on her post. Thought maybe I should post my comment on my own blog and see what type of input you guys might have. Where have you guys met the people that you consider you closest friends? And what forums do you feel are the best way to meet others that could become friends… and not the ‘what can you do for me’ type of friends, but solid friendships that are mutually helpful to one another, the people you can call on in the times you need a friend and you know will be there for you.

    heres my comment posted on the blog “these monsters are people”
    oddly enough i’ve always been told the opposite. i’ve never been a pot smoker, I’m naturally pretty low-key and don’t need any help becoming more laid back. if i need any drug its a stimulant!
    i’ve always complained that i don’t have enough solid friendships and don’t know what avenues are available to me to meet new people that could be more than an acquaintance.. and have the potential of being people i could forge a true friendship with. i’ve often asked others how they’ve met their closest friends.. through work, school, shared interests, mutual contacts….. and most of the feedback i get is not relative to me. so the problem persists.

    the most surprising input i’ve gotten (from more than 1 person) is that my issue is that i don’t smoke weed. i was told by people that i know that majority of their relationships are centered around their smoking habits. it’s easy to find company and people to talk to and hang out with when you are all interested in smoking. smoking with a friend or a group of people is a social activity and brings people together. its also a common interest through which you can meet new people. you smoke with a friend and their 2 other friends join and now you can potentially make 2 new friends to smoke with on a daily or weekly basis.
    Whatever brings you together sometimes all people need is some company and the opportunity to talk and share with others.
    too bad I’m not a fan of smoking… still must find a more enjoyable solution to my problem!

  8. Pingback: Life – When Good Times Aren’t Great: It’s Easier to Blame the Drugs Than the Man | Live Laugh Layla

  9. Janie Doh says:

    Everything about this post is awesome and I’d say more but I’m high.

  10. I wonder where the dog took you.

  11. PsiFiGal says:

    “I fully intend to have a posse of attractive women in sunglasses and strange men in lipstick” – This floored me! I always look forward to your posts (too few, too far between). The imagery is fantastic. I’ve been in similar situations but I was a bit of an extrovert so I would just charge right in to the conversation, oblivious of whether they wanted me to or not. I stopped smoking when my doctor put me on opiates for my pain because I had to have regular drug testing, but now that I’m off the opiates I’ve been thinking I should start up again, to help with my pain. I just don’t know if it will make me more forgetful and lazy than I already am and that would be a real problem. You take care, and next time someone invites you into an underground maze and windowless room maybe you should politely decline, or not :)

    • I definitely will be. From now on, when someone invites me to smoke their drugs, I’m going to say “only if you promise to be somewhat interesting and not take me into a box devoid of light sources or escape routes.”

  12. mcbarlow5 says:

    I think you described the feeling of being stoned perfectly (from what I’ve heard):)

  13. Not everyone gets paranoid when they smoke. Which obviously is much nicer.

  14. Gente Cosmo says:

    I like your blog, now I will follow you, it´s really nice, Congratulations!!!

  15. isjamesland says:

    I have personally forged some meaningful relationships with people while high on pot. Do Taco Bell food and Family Guy episodes count as people?

  16. “There are a lot of right ways to live life and even more wrong ones but you have to sort that out for yourself. But, in the moments when you are truly uncertain, attempt to live in the moment. ”

    That one line, is enough. :)

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