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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On Pot Smoking

This is an essay I wrote on 2/14/2011. I did not edit it since finding it last night.

On Pot Smoking

Nearly twenty years ago, I was in a band. Catfish played guitar, Shoebox sang, Bulldog played guitar, and then there was me, Stretch, playing drums. We originally got together to play for my college’s talent show. We worked through two songs, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and “Bullfrog Blues”, an original that Catfish and Shoebox had written. We rocked the house. After the talent show, we got a Sunday night gig at Bonehead’s, a local bar. We didn’t get paid money – just beer. As a college senior, I liked those Sunday nights. I didn’t have a Monday class until after noon so if I needed to sleep in, I could.

Our set list was primarily the easy songs that bar bands cover – “Hey Joe,” “Roadhouse Blues,” “Taking Care of Business”, “Seven Bridges Road,” and “Tush.” We would throw in some originals that Catfish and Shoebox were writing and closed our nights always with “Enter Sandman” with plenty of distortion. When we were done playing, we would put our equipment in Bulldog’s dad’s truck. For reasons I still do not fully comprehend, all of my drums magically would appear at Catfish’s house the following Tuesday when we convened for rehearsal. I think I owe Bulldog a lot for being my silent non-bitching drum roadie on Sunday nights.

For as fantastic and fun as this situation sounds, it was not without its share of headaches. I grew up in the “Just Say No” era. “Drugs are bad” and the “Don’t Do Drugs” media campaigns of the 1980s were always pounded into my head. I know that in many areas, drugs are a means to a social network as powerful, if not more powerful, than Facebook is today. Consistently, though, I was put into situations I did not like. We went to a party together as a band. Someone pulled out some pot. Who were the ones that quickly huddled around it? My band mates and friends: Catfish, Shoebox, and Bulldog. At the same party, someone offered me mushrooms. There were other times – watching the three of them pass a joint around at an outdoor concert we went to and at rehearsal, someone would light up. Immediately after that, I wanted to leave.

I was a college graduate. I was living with my parents until my wedding day the following August. I was working full-time, being responsible, and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Drugs were an unwelcome member of our group, a silent fifth member of our group that had taken over a band I had helped put together to play music that I loved. It became less and less about the music, though some of our rehearsal tapes have truly magical musical moments of jamming on a riff for 10 minutes and another time, playing one of Catfish’s originals that, to this day, I will never get tired of listening to.

I left the band in October of 1992. We had rehearsed twice a week without any idea why we rehearsed. There was talk about getting some gigs but nothing ever happened. The night I loaded my drums into my car to go home, Shoebox looked at me and said, “This isn’t good-bye, this is see you later.” I nodded and told him to take care of himself. Honestly, despite it sounding like the scene was made for a crappy movie, I do not believe I ever saw him again. I remained friends with Bulldog – he was an usher in our wedding – and the last he had heard, Shoebox was basically homeless and addicted to drugs, living somewhere in Colorado.

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