Marijuana Changed My Life
© 2006 By Farrell Winter
Marijuana changed my life, but not the first time. The first time I was six years old, in the alley behind the candy store. Some older boys were there, giggling and spitting. And that smell! What was it? Then I knew: they were smoking!
“Hey guys, dere’s Froimy! Hey Froimy, c’mere. Try some o’ dis.”
“No, I don’t want it. It’s cigarets.”
“Ya stupid fuck, dis is a different kind o’ cigarets. C’mon, try it.”
“No. I don’t wanna.”
“C’mere, Froimy, watch dis.” This from a second boy. I walked over to where he leaned against the wall. It sure was a thin, twisted cigaret he had. He took a big hit and burned that nail down to his fingers. Then he blew the smoke in my face.
“Ptah.” I spat, then pretended to cough. “Ooh. You … hey. That isn't like my mom and dad’s cigarets.”
“Oh yeah, wadda dey smoke?”
“Oh yeah? Well, dis is progressive Pall-Malls.” At this they began laughing and coughing, slapping each other on the back.
“Hey Froimy, c’mere, wanna do it again?” A third boy.
“No, it makes me cough.”
“No it don’t, ya fuck. C’mere.” I hesitated. Unlike the rest of us, he wasn’t Jewish. I knew he wasn’t Jewish because he had red hair. Two boys half-scooted, half-pushed me towards him. He pulled a cigaret out of his pocket. It was bent, like the thin branch I found in my Aunt Katie’s backyard in New Jersey. “Dis is packed tight, not like dat shit o’ Stevie’s.”
“Fuck you,” from Stevie, the second boy. “I got good shit.”
“Yeah, you got shit shit,” the first boy, Heshie, chimed in. I wondered if I’d get in trouble, hearing all this cussing.
“Watch dis, Froimy,” the redhead – Jimmy (definitely not a Jewish name) – said. He took out a heavy metal lighter, like the kind my father had. He lit the nail and offered it to me.
“No, I don’t want it.”
“Ah, don’t be such a little fuck. Try it. Try it!” I stood still. “Awright, suit yaself.” He took a big hit and blew the smoke in my face. I began sneezing violently, throwing all of them into a paroxysm of laughter.
Marijuana changed my life, but not the second time either. The second time I was eleven, and living in East L.A. My father had just been transferred from a job in Brooklyn to some place called Long Beach. Now Big Badass from the Bronx gonna show these California hicks what it’s all about.
“Hey you. New York. C’mere.”
“What is it?”
“Hey man, you ever smoke grass?”
Finally, a chance to use my well-practiced superior look. “Grass?” I sneered. You mean weed?” Just the right emphasis. Go, Bronx!
“Yeah, weed. You ever seen it before?”
“You kidding? I was born a viper.”
“Viper? What’s that?”
“Umm, not someone who smokes weed.” His eyes opened wide, his face flushed. I could see I’d gone too far. Only the other boys’ laughter saved me from being beaten up. “Wadaya got, Paul? I’ll light it for ya.”
Paul and I ended up being best friends for years. He and I and Richard used to spend hours in Richard’s garage getting high, falling on the floor laughing at nothing, eyes watering and nose running, and going to the bathroom to piss. (Only girls said pee.) There was no insight of any kind involved, except that sometimes I’d dream about being high.
The world of my dreams was sure different from the waking world. It was like my body was the entire Earth, and when the Earth spoke to me I could understand, because it was me. I began having conversations with trees but didn’t do anything more than think about it, for almost ten years.
Marijuana changed my life. Third time’s the charm. The date was June 23, 1967. The place was Century City, California. President Lyndon Johnson came to upscale L.A. and I went to meet him … with thousands of others there to protest the VietNam War, the assassination of JFK (just like 9/11, the government was rumored to be involved or at least aware beforehand), and whatever else was on our minds. One of the groups there was the Peace & Freedom Party, and I picked up a leaflet about a meeting in Seal Beach, just South of Long Beach, where I was living. I liked going to Seal Beach, it had a real boardwalk like Coney Island, and pretty girls in skimpy bathing suits.
After the meeting was over, a man who’d been quite talkative, and who had made a lot of sense to me, asked for a ride back to Long Beach. I was happy for the company, and the chance to converse with him. When we got to his little house, he invited me in. We sat down and he took out a joint.
It felt like the first time I’d ever been really high. I recalled everything that had happened that night, but not just the words. It was as if I were there all over again, experiencing it thru a marijuana haze. I knew the real meaning of what each person said, because I could read their minds.
Most fascinating of all was the connections I saw between each of our separate issues, and how all of us could cooperate together to achieve victory against our foes, which I identified at that time as “corporate monarchy” (and which today I identify as “the Patriarchate”).
Marijuana helped me to these realizations. I began getting high every day, looking for my level. I didn’t want to be like Armando, my friend and fellow activist in the Peace & Freedom Party. My wife at the time said about him, “He never thought about doing anything without smoking two joints first.” All that dope made me fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon. I didn’t like that at all.
I didn’t want to be like Tommy, a friend of a friend who hung out with us. He’d take one hit, then start complaining about what the weed did to him. One or two of the others smoked cigarets, but Tommy had a serious tobacco (and alcohol) addiction. I eventually figured out how much was right for me, recreationally silly without being wasteful.
Marijuana helped me give up tobacco, caffeine, sugar, processed foods and animal products. As Paul McCartney (another vegan) said, “After all, it’s only a weed that turns into a flower in your mind.” Marijuana has helped me see thru the hypocrisy of political leaders. It has helped me to oppose their distortions and distractions, and to oppose them, united with my sisters and brothers everywhere. For an end to the exploitation and suffering of all people and all animals. For a world of social and environmental justice. For a world of joy, knowledge and creativity.
Marijuana helped me recognize the sameness of all life. From the cells that make up my body to galaxy clusters of the boundless universe, each is a unique individual, and each is the same entity as each other. I owe this insight to the holy herb. Oh yeah, and I still talk to trees.