Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Tales of small-town life
In my hometown, the elementary, junior high, and high schools are confined to one city block, right across the street from my house. On this block are two brick buildings. The newer building's contents include the gymnasium, the cafeteria, the multi-purpose room, the principal's office and the classrooms for the junior high and high school and kindergarten through third grade. The older building, which used to house the high school, contains the auditorium and grades four through six. Besides these two brick buildings, there is a small white building housing the superintendent's office, a large weight room/football locker room, a large playground, a football field and track, a parking lot for the school buses, and a weird rectangular building I was in once that is full of janitorial equipment, tools, broken-down school buses, and a boxing ring, for some reason. I have a clear memory of seeing that boxing ring, but it really doesn't make sense for it to be there. Maybe it was only a couple of punching bags, but that's pretty weird, too. Two baseball diamonds sat next to each other north of the school. Little League, softball, teeball, and occasional adult league games were played there in the summer. Otherwise, the diamonds sat dormant during the school year. As a teenager, I would occasionally smoke pot in the dugout or take a leak on the diamond while drinking, but I kept my distance during the summer. I had better things to do in the sweet, sweet summer than watch or play baseball, the most boring sport in the world after football and amateur wrestling. But I digress. North of the baseball diamonds was pretty much a bunch of goddamn wilderness. A lot of grass, dirt, field, and trees, plus a few lead pipes. We didn't hang out there much, even though it was isolated enough to invite mischief, probably because of an unspoken but understood feeling of creepiness, palpable as humidity. You could hear coyotes howling there at night. In the day, it looked like a good place for a murderous child rapist to dump bodies, though the town was fortunately free of that particular brand of party animal. I lit a few illegal fireworks there once while listening to Eazy-E on a boombox (the height of my 12-year-old decadence), but mostly I stayed away. However, in the summer between eighth and ninth grades, while shooting hoops on the playground, a few kids mentioned that some marijuana was growing wild back there in no-man's-land. I was thirteen years old. I realize that a lot of kids are huffing glue and having sex and smoking dope and getting handjobs and snorting meth and shooting convenience store employees by the time they're eleven and a half, but all I'd done at that point was drink half a Michelob Light and take a few swigs of Crown Royal. I didn't know from marijuana, and my friends didn't either. To quote D. Boon, "we were fucking corndogs," as all thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds should be. We decided an exploratory bike trip was in order. I hopped on my little red dirt bike and headed for the weird area behind the school. My friends joined me. My brother might have been in on it, too. I can't remember. Anyway, we didn't ride very far. There it was. A shitload of cannabis, growing wild behind the school. We looked at it, though we realized we had no idea how to partake of the adventure it advertised. I decided to grab a bunch of the plant as a souvenir. I propped the generous portion of pot leaves up on my handlebars and rode merrily away from the wilderness. I must have looked ridiculous, a skinny, red-haired thirteen-year-old dork with a titanic helping of an illegal substance resting precariously between his lap and the handlebars of his bicycle, riding down the street on a summer day in clear, blue daylight. As it happened, the principal's secretary, Kathy, was walking down the street. She saw us, said hello, then did a cartoon-worthy double take. She turned around and stared at us, we stared back, and then we parked our bikes on my lawn. My dad was at work, and my mother was not home. We decided that this marijuana just had to be tried. What did we have to lose? Unfortunately, we were too dumb to the ways and rules of the world to understand the process of turning plant into smokable drug. I'm hip, I thought. I've seen "Sid and Nancy," I've listened to "Appetite for Destruction" and "The Best of the Doors" about a thousand times each. This shit's gonna come natural. How natural? Check out our process of pot preparation. We simply picked off a handful of leaves, tore them into tiny pieces, stuck them on a white piece of Xerox paper, rolled up the paper, and lit it with a match. This, of course, did not work worth a damn. We gave up, and got some nachos and Cokes at the R&W. I hid the rest of the marijuana plant inside my bass drum for a few months, then threw it away. The marijuana growing behind the school was the talk of the pre-high school town for a few weeks, until a clean-cut jock kid told his mother, who told the city, who sprayed the plant with some kind of weed killer. It would be three long years before my next encounter with pot, courtesy of an elaborate plaster bong in the shape of a monkey constructed by my friend Clint in art class and some shitty ditchweed scored from a friend's uncle. You had to inhale at the base of the monkey's butthole. It seemed to work, though I suspect this was due to all the plaster we inhaled, and not the terribly weak marijuana.