Monday, June 15, 2009

Herbal Aromas

Having now parented six children into their teens, and three, coming hard on four, all the way through them, and having been a teenager myself, once upon a time (which my kids don’t fully believe, but whatcha gonna do?), I have lost a lot of the earnest innocence with which I initially came into parenthood. Mostly, that’s a good thing, I think, but it has its moments of wistful sadness.

Like pretty much everybody I know who grew up in the 60s/70s, I came into contact with marijuana when I was in my high-school/college years. My freshman/sophomore years of college, every Friday evening in my dorm was marked by The Cloud – the fragrant aroma of burning hemp, which hung about eye-level all through the hall. One could get a nice, mellow secondary buzz just from staying quietly in one’s room. . .

My first experience with the Wacky Weed goes back to when I was in high school, probably sophomore year, but I don’t really remember. My brother came home with a nickel-bag (which was considerably bigger in those days than even dime-bags are now), and, on a night when our parents were out, rolled out a few joints, and wandered out behind the house to enjoy one or two. He asked if I’d like to join him, and, curious as I was, I went along.

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At this point, I should flash back in time to when we were both ten, and the same brother tried to initiate me into the joys of smoking tobacco, on a Saturday afternoon, in a secluded corner of the school playground. He showed me how to light the cigarette; no problem. I put it to my lips and began puffing on it; this was really pretty easy. But then he said, you have to inhale the smoke. Now, even to my ten-year-old brain, that didn’t seem like such a good idea, but, if that’s what you’ve got to do, then all right. . .

But when I purposed to actually inhale the tobacco smoke into my lungs, my lungs informed me, in no uncertain terms, that they were not going to sit idly by and acquiesce to my misbegotten intentions, and they immediately sent each and every smoke particle, and, it seemed, a few small chunks of themselves, flying violently in an outward direction, in a massive coughing fit. Once I stopped coughing, I tried again, with the same result. A few more attempts yielded the same outcome (heh!), and my first attempt at smoking was a complete and utter failure (I know, you’re all just shedding a tear at my misfortune, aren’t you?). A few months later, I tried again, with the same result, and that was pretty much the end of me and smoking (except for a brief fling with a pipe when I was newly-married, but you don’t have to inhale those).

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Those early experiences with tobacco came flooding back to me when my brother took to initiate me into the ways of the Weed. I lit the joint, even savored the smoky-sweet aroma, and took a couple puffs. Then my brother, looking on impatiently, told me that, in order to get high, you have to inhale. Suddenly, I had a sinking feeling, remembering my lungs’ rejection of earlier smoke particles. But this time, I had an added incentive to try again – there was this mysterious ‘Buzz’, to be had, if only I could force myself to inhale. And so I did. And the result was exactly the same as I’d had with those cigarettes five years before – I choked, I coughed, I hacked, I thought I was gonna die. There was simply no way that my lungs were gonna let me ingest smoke into themselves. And that was effectively the end of my brief career as a user of controlled substances. After that, I would be at parties, and joints would occasionally get passed around; at random intervals, I’d check to see if my lungs were inclined to be any more co-operative than they had ever been, and they never were, so sometime during high school, I gave up trying anymore.

As an aside, I might be the only person – I am certainly the only person I know of – who didn’t just immediately laugh derisively when our erstwhile former president said he had tried marijuana “but didn’t inhale”. I could actually share some space with the concept, even if the specific claim stretched credulity a bit.

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So, then, when my own children came into their teens, I had no particular illusions regarding the opportunities that would be presented to them, to sample recreational herbs for themselves. Molly and I were quite open with them about our own exposure to them, in our youth, and quite clear on the dangers we saw associated with them – mainly in terms of who you ended up hanging around with while you were doing them, moreso than the specific evils of sampling the aromatic herbiage. We were never aware of 1F or 2F toking up, but we weren’t surprised when they told us, years later, that they had. 3M was very open about his fondness for the weed, and wrote several term papers arguing for legalization, when he was in high school (yeah, subtlety has never been the young man's strong suit). Sadly enough, those were probably the hardest he worked on anything academic, after about fifth grade or so. 4M was pretty strongly influenced by his older brother, and besides, he was on several sports teams, which, in the urban high school our kids attend, is pretty much its own initiation into recreational herbs. We had hoped, when 3M moved out of the house, that dinnertime conversation would be less dominated by discussing the merits of legalizing marijuana, but 4M carried on the grand tradition, although not quite as vigorously as his brother.

But 5M is different. 5M is a much more ‘innocent’ kid than either of his older brothers. His closest friends are nerdy home-schooled kids, who like to get together on a Friday night and play Lord of the Rings Risk. He’s a kind and sensitive soul, and not nearly as ‘edgy’ as his brothers. The only possible ‘red flag’ is a fondness for getting together with a couple of his buddies to listen to Pink Floyd and the Who, and argue the relative merits of ‘The Wall’ versus ‘Tommy’, or ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ versus ‘Quadrophenia’. But that’s so endearingly retro, that the ‘druggie’ aspects of the music (at least as I experienced them) seem almost a non-sequitur.

So, I was a bit perturbed when, a few months back, I wandered up to the bedroom that 4M and 5M shared, and there was a distinctive ‘herbal’ aroma hanging in the air. A very familiar herbal aroma, harking back to my college days (or the last time I went to a McCartney concert). I was quite upset – I mean, it was really pretty brazen to be toking up right in the house, while I was home. So, I tracked down 4M, who was somewhere else in the house, and lit into him – what was he thinking, smoking weed right here, in my house? I understand that he’ll have opportunities to light up with his buddies, and I think that’s a pretty bad idea, but I can’t stop him from it. But, by damn! Not in my house, understand? And 4M nodded in agreement, while barely stifling an amused grin.

What’s so funny?

“Uh, I think you better talk to 5M.”

5M? What does 5M know about Weed?

“Uh, just talk to him.” Still with the stupid grin.

So, I tracked down 5M, who had his buddy Tim over for the afternoon. Now, Tim is sort of the Poster Child for dorky, socially-awkward home-schooled kids, right down to the mild lisp he speaks with; if anything, he’s even more innocent than 5M is. Tim's close friendship with 5M is one of the reasons I pretty much trust 5M to keep himself out of trouble. Tim was with 5M, and I probably should have taken 5M aside to ask him separately about my concerns, but I was, how do you say, pissed. So Tim was there when I asked 5M what he knew about the dope-smell in his bedroom. 5M was instantly evasive. But Tim, innocent that he is, said, “Oh – that was me.”

I spun on my heels, as my jaw hit the floor. “You, Tim??”

“Yeah. I had a little bag of oregano, and we lit some of it. You know, like for incense.”

Oregano.

“Yeah.”

Um, do you have any of this ‘oregano’ with you, Tim?

“Sure.” He rustles through his pockets, producing a bag with chopped, dried leaves (and no seeds) in it. “Here.”

I opened the bag and took a sniff. It smelled like oregano. I took a pinch and stuck it on my tongue. By golly, it was oregano.

Uh, Tim, could you light some of this for me?

“Sure.” He makes a little pile of dried leaves, and sets a match to it. It smells exactly like another herb which is more commonly lit for recreational purposes.

Oregano. I’ll be darned. Uh, Tim – you might not want to go around lighting oregano, OK? People might get the wrong idea.

“OK, Mr. Jones.”

And that was that. Crisis defused.

Oregano.

Who knew?

12 comments:

Sailor said...

Guess it's better than it sounds, huh? I never would have thought of lighting oregeno. I did way to much lighting of the herb-you-thought-they-were-lighting though, and your post made me laugh. Pink Floyd, The Wall, in the basement (when I was supposed to be at school, of course).

Now, I use coffee (and mostly decaffeinated at that!) and am just as happy with it.

Glad the crisis wasn't, good for 5M!

Xavier said...

Parenting- the ultimate humbling experience. Nice!

Cocotte said...

As my Husband and I always say, we have no idea how we ended up with kids much better than ourselves (being tail end of the 70's kids).

Now you make me want to go light up some oregano, basil and dried parsley just to see what they smell like!

for a different kind of girl said...

I wonder if my parents hadn't been so absorbed in their bickering ways if they'd have wondered if I was ever smoking pot while in junior high and high school. Goodness knows I was around it enough while playing the role of good girl in my group of disintegrating friends who loved it and the boys who smoked it constantly. Before school, during lunch on open campus, after school. I was constantly around smokers while cheering, "Do you really think you should be doing that?!"

I can only hope my stellar (before I discovered alcohol, that is) example rubs off on my boys, who still think evertyhing from coffee on up is bad for them!

The Silent Male said...

Ok. I am trying not to laugh, but its not easy. I guess it doesn't hurt that I am remembering my own little humbling mistakes.

lime said...

i've heard of the oregano thing. i prefer mine on pizza though.

Desmond Jones said...

Sailor - You smoke coffee? What's that like?

And I wondered the same thing - what in God's green earth passed thru Tim's brain telling him, 'hey - setting fire to some oregano would be cool!'

Xavier - It didn't come to me as 'humbling' so much as just 'huh?'

Cocotte - Molly and I have always said that our major goal as parents is to make kids who are better than we are/were. So, I salute you. Our results have been more, um, mixed. . .

And hey, go ahead and light up your whole spice cabinet! Then you can blog about which ones give you a buzz. . . ;)

SM - Life would be a whole lot less fun without any humbling mistakes, eh?

Lime - I was thinking of having Molly bake up some oregano brownies. . .

FTN said...

I've always said that if marijuana weren't illegal, or if the possibility of getting caught wasn't there, it would be the one drug I'd be interested in trying. I've never even given it a try, not even once, although my roommate my freshman year of college was quite the pothead.

I needed something that looked like a bag of weed for a movie I made last year, and I mixed oregano with actual weeds from the backyard. Since it was a quick shot, it worked just fine. We didn't actually light any of it though.

I smoked the occasional cigar (Swisher Sweets and the cheap stuff) with some guys when we'd play poker in college, but even that you don't have to inhale much. It's more the smell and the experience. I bought some fairly expensive (for me) cigars for my brother's bachelor party, and I nearly got sick on one of them. I should have stuck with the cheap ones.

Oh, and I'll take Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall over pretty much anything, by the way.

Suldog said...

That's a great little story. I know you were over my way earlier, but I don't know if you read any of my "druggie" tales of earlier in the month, or perhaps the month before. They might interest you; might not especially. But, they're there.

MY WIFE has never - and I mean NEVER - even tried a non-inhaling puff. She says that this makes her the only person in the US who could REALLY qualify for the Supreme Court :-)

Me? I've ben known to scrape stuff out of carpets and smoke it.

Desmond Jones said...

faDKoG - Yeef; sorry I missed you on the first pass of responses. You know I love you, right?

I have no doubt about what a good girl you were (other than your proclivity to trash shower doors; but that was when you were older, right?). And Molly and I still get lectured by our kids about, 'alcohol is a drug, you know'. . .

FTN - Well, your kids are still pretty young, but if you really wanted, you probably know a teenager or two who could get you an 'experimental' dosage, at pretty minimal risk. Not, you know, that I'm advocating any particular course of action. . .

Swisher Sweets are awful! We went to a graduation party last weekend for one of 4M's friends, whose dad is a wealthy Republican, and he had some REALLY fine cigars. . .

And dude. . . 'Tommy'. End of discussion.

Suldog - Thanks for stopping by! I did go back and read a couple of your posts; you had a, um, wilder youth than mine. As you might have surmised, from reading this post. . . ;)

You capitalize 'MY WIFE' the same way Eastern Orthodox Christians do with the name of their bishop. And I'll just leave it at that, without trying to draw any conclusions. . . ;)

And dang it! We just replaced our carpet a little while ago; if I'd known, Id've let you get what you could from it, before we threw it away. . . ;)

Xavier said...

Not humbling? To accuse 4M, then go after 5M, then get stern with Tim, then find out it's herbal essence?

OK, but it is hilarious. And makes me regret that I didn't plant some oregano in the garden ......

Desmond Jones said...

Well, there were valid, understandable reasons for everything I did/said, so I didn't fell particularly humiliated. Altho I agree with you that it's pretty funny. . .

Your garden is more into the veggies than the herbs, as I understand. Tho oregano (and basil!) (even mint!) is definitely worth the investment. . .