Fine, let’s just talk about weed!
A history of pot, and not the one you are expecting.
I have a long history with marijuana, but it is not one you would be expecting from this free spirit traveler.
Truth is pot wasn’t my outlet for experimenting as a kid, if anything that was beer and general debauchery. My parents were open, not oppressive to me trying new things and being free as long as I was safe, and being “safe enough” in those years of youthful indiscretions and indestructibility.
Come the freedom of college, as I watched fellow academic peers “crash and burn” living beyond the edges of their new found free reign, weed was there, but it was a barely noticeable side note to my outdoor activities, waffle stompers and ugly wool sweaters, allowing me to rebel from an engineering indoctrination I had signed up for. I already understood my introverted tendencies, and the effects of THC, the active ingredient of marijuana, turned me further inward. Sure, I would do it now and again, with my fellow “dirt bag” friends, but it wasn’t my thing.
In my senior year, I discovered clove cigarettes would give me a quick, short lasting buzz, but not plunge me into eternal silence. That passed after a while, as did the habit, as the efficacy decreased over time.
A trip over fall break with a good friend to New Hampshire to conquer the Presidential Range, would find us our final night in the tent as an ice storm hit fast and furious. Nestled and warm in our 0 degree sleeping bags, hitting a joint and reading, sometime later, who knows really how long, we would both realize simultaneously, we had each been reading our same respective page, not pages, the entire time!
Stoner humor to say the least, but we joke about that specific time and place to this day.
While volunteering in Kamas, Utah for the U.S. Forest Service while my girlfriend was doing similar in Rawlings, Wyoming for the BLM, we had got a dime bag for a Pearl Jam show she had won tickets for in Cheyenne. Hey, we were wild in addicted traveler sort of way. Driving across states in the inter-mountain west for a concert, weed was just a tiny addition to the overall experience. It and my honesty, caught up with me in Illinois on my drive back to New York, after twisting my own arm hard, to return for my senior year of university.
Long story short, weed chaff in a bag and a stupid pipe, turned into several trips, thousands of dollars, a life’s stranger than fiction interaction with state troops, police booking agents, a hired lawyer that part-timed as the prosecutor (thanks for that piece of information after the fact) and my ass up against the wall, laying on a pad under filled bunks of one sketchy jail cell in east bumfuck Illi-fucking-nois, pawning off my soggy buttered toast at breakfast to the biggest guy in the lockup.
I was done with weed again, not that I ever really started with it.
Don’t take me wrong, our little posy at Clarkson, we were Ken Kessey’s Band of Merry Pranksters and outdoor adrenaline junkies, but my wanderlust exhibited itself more in tune with Jack Keroack’s adventures “On The Road”, finding my own spirituality and meaning in life through Thoreau, John McPhee, and exercising my rebellion against the world through Edward Abbey and his work “The Monkey Wrench Gang.”
Hayduke, the protagonist, was meticulous and disciplined in not offering “reasonable suspicion” when it came to law enforcement encounters, and so too was I when it came to weed. Who knows, maybe Cactus Ed’s stories weren’t fiction, but marijuana wasn’t going to land me in trouble with The Law, a good decade before Medical Marijuana started to enter the lexicon of a growing movement.
Life in California soon followed, and so too did pot, in that liberal bastion of counter culture, going on their second generation of “Flower Power” citizenry, and the respectable reformed dirty hippies that brought us the Atari, an Internet we wouldn’t recognize today, Silicon Valley and Steve Jobs, still years away from winning his battles against straight and narrow IBMers and Bill Gates.
Sure weed was everywhere, but it still didn’t interest me in those ways. But tromping through the woods of California as a utility forester, brought the risks of the illegal marijuana trade and outdoor grow “farms” to my attention full force.
Worrying about rattlesnakes, poison oak, breaking an ankle miles from help without cell service, entering the backyard of sketchy city homes, coming across a pack of wild dogs; all those things paled in comparison to getting too far off the power line Right of Ways, something I’m good at, and crossing an illegal grow operation. I think they’ve made a TV series about it called Sons of Anarchy? Early California meth and pot growing operations in Mendocino and Humboldt counties or the western Sierras, there really was not much difference between them, when you’re the dumb ass or rebellious adventurer walking into them unknowingly. I lucked out, never running into one or breaking my ankle, but the risk was there every day, and I was pushing the limits to see how many of the others I could test my luck against.
A short stint in Crested Butte, Colorado, stacked up like cord wood in the tiny A-Frame my dad were refer to as a “crack house” after visiting, with 5, 6, or 7 friends… it’s hard to count actually with all ski bums, snowboarders and tele-shredders living and passing through there, had “room” for grow operations, even if we didn’t! Hey man, weed’s important! Who cares if there is 8 feet of snow outdoors, and the ski instructor “renting” backyard space for his VW Vanagon can’t get in it and sleeping on our living room couch by 8pm. Had he not shacked up with some rich European socialite ski bunny, he would have been out fast. It was that “comfy” in the A-frame on Sophia, but we must grow weed.
Sure, I’ll partake at this point.
It was my first, of many to come, “early retirements.” When he [my dad] retired, a couple months before me leaving San Diego, after 33 years at General Motors, I told him, I was too. He just responded, “Yeah right!”
But I’ve done it 4 more times since, currently over a year into the current “retirement.”
But then, just like in the ice storm on Mount Washington reading a single page, too much THC, this time tasty pot cookies and a collapse into an introverted coma during a party we had, made me stop again. I hate being a mute, and struggle with my large group social interaction phobias enough as is, at least alcohol inhibits those tendencies… weed does the opposite for me. So soon enough, out of the close quarters of the “crack den”, chasing a returned adrenaline addiction for kayaking all over Colorado, the West, the U.S. itself, and even into South America, marijuana was out of my personal life for good. I just didn’t enjoy it, its effects on me, and I’d rib my pot smoking friends just for the sake of it, just as they would call me a “dirty hippy” due to my wanderlust, and outward appearance as being a “pot head”.
It’s all good, but come the growing movement, pun intended, of legalization, first of medicinal, later across the board, I’ve been right there where it has happened. Living in Portland, Oregon, no enemy of marijuana, for 8 years, then more recently in Colorado, my travel always brought me in contact with people and places were pot was illegal. Their choice to use, a legal rebellion in many regards, outside all the other reasons to “light a spliff” or roll a joint.
But regardless of who I talked to in my travels, once I said where I was from, whether California or Portland in the earlier years, or Colorado lately, everyone would ask me about pot, tell me how they want to move [there], and how lucky I was. They would never believe me that I didn’t smoke, and similar to my long run with providing vicarious travel experiences to friends, family and coworkers, here I am, a non-weed smoker, providing vicarious living through pot!
It just makes me laugh to be honest. Not sure why the straight laced business associates or my long-term friends, all to a tee don’t believe I don’t smoke pot. Do I have an invisible Charlie Manson-esque pot leaf tattooed on my forehead, and I’m the only one that can’t see it?!
Although, I do joke with my friends when they pass a joint my way and turn it down, or have to explain saying “No thanks” amongst people that don’t know me, pot and the excitement that surrounds it world-wide, do draw a line on safety concerns. We can go rounds about its effects; how it is safer than alcohol that does not have legality issues; or that it’s healthier than my enjoyment and addiction to nicotine, all we want, but I won’t budge when it comes to THC’s ability to impair judgement in dangerous situations.
Working in a tree 100 feet off the ground, hanging by a rope with a chainsaw in hand, or four hundred feet off the deck on a tower, my life the past 10 years, I don’t care what anybody’s perspective is of “how safe it is” or “it takes off the edge”. In dangerous conditions where any chemical impairment can result in someone being seriously hurt or killed even, weed is no different than alcohol or pharmaceuticals. I would call out, for their safety and mine, emotional and mental issues expressing themselves to me too. Weed, it’s not going to be on my jobsite, or under my responsibility. I don’t want to be asking any “what if…?” questions. So I’m a bit of a “safety or weed Nazi” in this regard, and I’m ok with it.
Truth being, even though the U.S. is transitioning through different levels of marijuana legality at this time, during the past 5 years, my ability to get paid to travel was predicated that I could be drug tested at any site I worked at. Sure, people get around it, I know this. But not so easy for non 9 to 5ers, whose bread and butter come from getting on industrial sites for global corporations, where drug tests could really be random. It’s not good business practice to get denied entry when a customer is paying to have to come to their site. Weed for me, easy to give up, if someone will pay be to travel somewhere. I’m ok with that unspoken agreement! Tobacco-free sites, there’s another story. But my willingness, excitement even, to go where most others will not does have its benefits!
So there you have it, a history of pot from my perspective. At least now, I can just forward a link to the next person I meet, whom is all excited I’m from Colorado or passes me a joint. Or maybe I’ll just go with the flow, and partake in the celebrations at 4:20.
But why would I?
And I’m OK with that!
Find out what happened to all my energy through travel stories, analyses and efforts at my professional website… www.hanshyde.com, that’s taken up most of my attention lately.