That Smell
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That Smell


This post was originally published on August 20, 2013.

On the morning of Sept 29, 1987 (or was it already afternoon?), I woke up with a head full of cement, a nose full of bloody snot and a 72-hour gap in my memory. At that point, I made a decision. I decided that I was going to take a vacation from the way I was living and give myself a month of drug-free living to let my body and my wallet recuperate. It was a fairly ridiculous decision since I hadn’t gone more than 10 days without getting high since I was 15.

I was 22 at the time.

25 plus years later, I’m still here. I’m blessed…and really lucky. If I made no other good decisions since then, that one was enough. If I made any good decisions, they can all be traced back to that day.

The best part of it is, I don’t miss it. The idea of drinking does nothing for me. The other day, a friend said, “I miss the smell of a wine cork.” I replied, “I wouldn’t know, all my wine bottles had twist-caps.” The thought of putting anything up my nose other than a finger is downright repulsive. Sometimes I think wistfully of those days of experimentation using psychedelic chemicals, but the reality of tripping in a 47-year-old body is disturbing. I’m not sure if I want all those thoughts in my head, and I certainly don’t want to laugh for five straight hours ever again.

But I’d be lying to you if I told you that 25 years later, I don’t still entertain the idea of partaking in the inhalation of God’s wonder-herb. It’s not a constant thought but every now and again I sit back and think, “Man. I’d love to go down to the park with a jay and a sandwich and watch the clouds go by for about three hours.” It’s a fleeting thought; a fantasy really. I did once promise a friend of mine that when I was 65 and retired, limp-dicked and useless, we were going to sit out on my porch and smoke weed all day. As appealing as that may sound, I’m in no rush to be 65…or limp-dicked.

The funny thing is, I stopped smoking pot about four months before I stopped drinking. At the time I was taking all kinds of tests for city jobs and as everyone knows, it takes 30 days to get THC out of your system. Since you never really knew when you were going to get drug tested, you couldn’t risk it. The reasoning at the time was that since coke only took 72 hours, you would have enough time, so snort away. This is dope-fiend mentality.

After being clean for about 10 years, I decided to volunteer some of my free time mentoring. I thought that all my wonderful life experiences would make me a great mentor. I was going to save someone!

After a few years, the mother of the young man I was mentoring called me to let me know that her son was smoking pot. I was irate. How did this happen? What about all my speeches? What about all my tales of woe? When I found out, I read him the riot act. His reaction was, Dude, calm down. It’s no big deal.

“No big deal? Don’t you know that marijuana is a gateway drug, and drugs kill 47 million people a minute and blah blah blah.” I must have sounded like Nancy Reagan.

A few months later, I took him to Giants Stadium to see the Giants play the Eagles. It was a night game. It was a disgusting affair. As we left the arena, we ran into a crowd watching a fight. Well, I think it was supposed to be a fight. In reality it was just two drunks dancing badly with each other. They were throwing punches but nothing landed. The cops came and arrested the guy in the Eagles jersey. The dude in the Giants jersey screamed, “Don’t lock him up, he’s my ride home!” The kid looked at me and shook his head. “Dude, potheads don’t act like that. They smoke, they eat Twinkies, they watch Batman.” I had absolutely no comeback for that. He was right.

It reminded be of an interview I saw the members of the Grateful Dead give about 100 years ago. Some uptight news anchor (it might have been Tom Snyder) asked them about their drug use influencing the youth of America. Weir piped up and said, “People who take drugs don’t start wars. Maybe if some of these cats smoked a few joints together, we wouldn’t have all this mess.” I never did care much for the Dead, but I always liked Weir after that.

As I was coming home the other night, I got hit with a blast of pot aroma. There was no one around so I don’t know where it was coming from, but man did it smell good. I can’t describe it, but I imagined that the garden inside Willy Wonka’s factory smelled the same way. That night I dreamed that I was smoking pot and had been for quite some time. I had to tell my friends that I was lying to them for a while. They looked at me differently, like I had fallen from my mighty perch. I was a little shook up in the morning, but I was glad that it was only a dream.

Every few months, the pot debate jumps into the news cycle. Legalization, medical marijuana, hemp production. I don’t really have strong feelings either way. It seems ridiculous that people in a free country can’t enjoy a good buzz now and again. I know lots of people that smoke pot. They all make it to work every day. They don’t commit crimes. They lead fairly productive lives, although I’m guessing that they would be a little more productive if they put down the bong and got off the couch. And it seems downright criminal that someone riddled with cancer can be arrested for trying to stimulate their appetite and quell the nausea with a couple of pokes of mother nature’s finest. By the same token, I don’t want every third person on the street blasting me with a cloud of smoke. I think it should be a Don’t ask, Don’t tell scenario. Stay in your house, smoke your bone, and you won’t get locked up. That seems fairly reasonable.

Last night I left for work and got hit with the aroma as soon as I walked out the door. Evidently, one of my neighbors is a pothead and evidently he or she is smoking the best weed ever. I muttered all the way up the block. Friggin guy is sitting home in his boxers getting high and watching cartoons while I have to go out and work the night shift. Friggin stoner probably has an EBT card. I hope the cops roll by and lock his ass up. 

I think my jealousy may have gotten the best of me. Maybe I’m just getting old.

But man, did it smell good.

How long until I’m 65, anyway?

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About Author

James McAllen was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY where he still resides with his demons and his imagination. His 1st book, Split Rock Road, was a 2014 IndieReader Discovery Award winner. His novel, Pretentious, is available on Amazon. When not making coffee in church basements, he can be found posting on his blog.