Monday, November 20, 2006

Certain Substances

I confess to a weakness - discovered somewhat late in life - for reefers, spliffs, joints (and pipes, bongs, hookahs, etc.).

A 'weakness' both in the sense of 'fondness' and in the sense of a comically low physical tolerance. I suspect this is a large part of the appeal. Alcohol has been such a regular companion through my life that I have become far too familiar with its effects, and I am adept at maintaining a measure of self-control even in extremis, even on those rare occasions where I have managed to outstrip my liver's prodigious capacity to process the stuff into harmlessness. Frankly, I find it difficult to get drunk any more: my liver and my brain are too well-schooled in dealing with booze. Cannabis, on the other hand, knocks me sideways; it reminds me - strangely, it reminds me not unpleasantly - of my earliest experiences of getting drunk as a kid. It is such a rare indulgence for me (usually only 2 or 3 times a year) that I have never built up that familiarity and tolerance that I have with alcohol. Moreover, as a non-smoker, I am ridiculously inept at sucking the stuff into my lungs: I'm always rather embarrassed to share a spliff with friends, since my clumsy toking is so dreadfully wasteful of the precious happy-smoke. Fortunately for me (and my friends), even with such inefficient puffing, two or thee drags are usually enough to get me well away.

I especially enjoy the distracted obsessiveness it fosters, the contented fixation, the ability to perceive beauty in unexpected aspects of the mundane (like the creepy kid in 'American Beauty' who videos a plastic carrier-bag dancing in the wind). I particularly recall one occasion in the upstairs bar at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, after a night out on the town with housemate-from-hell, Mad Irish Dave, when I spent a good half-hour or so in silent (possibly drooling), blissful contemplation of the sinuous blue strands of cigarette smoke coilling up towards one of the lights.

I don't so much enjoy the fact that it completely screws my sense of balance. I almost invariably fall over at some point during the evening if I've had a spliff. After some dangerous overindulgence a while back (a friend had suggested trying to circumvent my being-crap-at-smoking problem by dissolving a little resin in hot water - bad idea: a great idea, but a BAD idea!), I found myself incapable of standing up for most of the following day.

These days, luckily, to achieve a gentle high, I don't have to puff (or drink) the stuff at all. It is so readily available in my present home city, so popular among the (American-dominated) expat community here, that I can generally just position myself downwind of the nearest pothead - and fly away on the secondhand smoke. Cor, baby, that's really free! Happy times!!

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