Bottom of the Bag

I was a teenage pothead. Defined as anytime, anyplace, with anybody. I self-medicated behind the gym, in hardscrabble woods, in the sprawl of parking lots, in stank-masking men’s rooms. And, of course, out the window of my rock-and-roll refuge, the room in my parent’s stucco-ceilinged castle. The built-in let-down being depletion, the bottom of the bag, when I and my like-minded stoner either pushed off, seeing as there was nothing left, or strategized about the next score. The friend of a friend of a friend, that kind of thing, or the vaguely known tough who might point us in the right direction. And then we had to come up with the cash.

The hybrid capitalist culture that we were immersed in, that we took for granted, amounted to us being under the effects of a natural mind-altering substance purveyed by a multi-national underground economy, while we earned the price of admission by working at an above-ground multi-national fast-food franchise, extending our own limited range via that most essential of green-energy technologies expressly made for an American teenager’s mobility – the two-wheeled self-powered bicycle. We got on our bikes and went somewhere, anywhere, around and around in circles.

In the stories, scripts and stand-up comedy sketches that concern marijuana, there are the usual stereotypes, the befuddled consumer who has the munchies, a sidebar to the main story, whatever that is. But inside my head, it was deadly serious. The weed was more effective than any over-the-counter or prescribed-by-the-doctor anti-depressant, all of which were being pushed on me, along with guidance counselors, church ministers, well-meaning uncles who passed me the occasional off-brand beer. I kept my secret and kept my head secretly buzzing. I was a died-in-the-wool teenage pothead of the rock and roll variety, a fresh-faced white-American-suburban teenage boy, satisfied with riding my bicycle next to the railroad tracks under the sway of marijuana. I didn’t give a shit. We got on our bikes and headed for an obvious destination, the dingy over-the-garage abode that housed Mike the Roofer, a guy who tried to make ends meet or at least pay for his stash by dealing the all-too-average dime bags that coincided with a suburban teenager’s budget. At any given time, Mike the Roofer’s product made all the difference, made a slight difference, or made no difference at all. He greeted us at the door with a towel wrapped around his waist, slyly letting it drop that he was in the middle of “getting it on”. Come back later. A tussled-haired woman with a sheet pulled up to her chin in the background, giving us a conspiratorial grin.

I wasn’t the best student. I wasn’t the worst. I wouldn’t say I was falling prey to drug-induced despondency, falling behind in my classes. I had perfected the best way to keep my head above water, to establish the easiest way out. And my dad was an alcoholic. My parents were on their way out as I edged into adulthood. No one checked my homework, or even the way I was scribbling in an extra-curricular notebook, getting the high grade in my art classes, the essay writing contests, a stereotypical stoner circumstance counter to the other stoner stereotypes. I dabbled in poetry, song lyrics, film scripts, citing everything I saw on TV or read off the back of an album cover. I went to the public library and picked random books off the shelves, kept them in my backpack until they were long overdue.

The next stop was no-man’s-land, a public park with cracked-asphalt basketball courts that bordered the hardscrabble woods, a place where all manner of under-age partying, making out, alcohol poisoning, and minor scuffling took place, a de facto intersection between the less affluent and more affluent sections of town, a place where the various cliques interacted. We weren’t part of any clique, sturdy enough to survive the pre-emptive mocking. We mingled between the types as all we were interested in was weed and whoever had it. And there was big beefy Jimmy or Jimbo from the other side of the tracks, sucking on a big bomber, huddled in a tight circle with his crew, giving us a “they’re cool” entry to the last few hits of the finger-tip-burning roach.

You know how it is. Or maybe not. How on one occasion I’d be huffing and puffing but I might as well having been burning hay, and on the next I would be enthusiastically asking “Where can I get more of that?” This time it was like everything had shrunk to the radius of Jimbo’s crew with a surrounding haze that came out of a movie’s flash-back sequence. The crew was giggling and murmuring at a level unusual for roughnecks. One girl who had been eyeing me from the other side of the circle, pulled me away from the crowd and without any prelude began furiously making out with me. I could taste her artificially flavored bubble gum tinged with the naturally fragrant weed and while I was saddled with an instant hard-on, I still thought of all the stores where she might have bought the gum, the proprietors and how amenable they were to roughnecks. Nothing was going to come of it. She was older than me and quickly walked away with the first call of  “Come on Sheila, we’re splitting”.

And just as quickly, the effect evens out, fades, and we were left with our redundant task, the endless search for an obscured product, something we would never find like all the other products that sat on a shelf next to artificially flavored bubble gum or a six-pack of off-brand beer. I gave up and went home. I got out my notebook and scribbled notes for my story/epic/film script about marijuana, how it started, when it happened, who it was happening to, and how it felt. And like all the other died-in-the-wool dopers, I scoured the floor for errant flakes, meagre roaches.

And when I looked under my bed, I found a crumpled magazine page that miraculously held a small quantity of marijuana. Someone, some kind of friend, had probably dipped into my bag when I had left the room and tried to clip some, but wasn’t fast enough to get away with it. Either that, or something magical had happened.


Photography Credit: Dennis Haritou

Andy Peyrie is an autodidact who started writing to ameliorate the boredom of some of his paying (yet nevertheless unmonitored) jobs. His work can be found at various places around the internet.