“Don’t Forget About the Circle:” Further misadventures as a high school stoner

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I spent most of my senior year of high school, age 17, stoned out of my mind and fucking up left and right. A typical night in the life of youthful Ace Backwords:

One Friday night me and some of my high school pals — I think it was Debbie and Glenn — decided to drive up to Harriman State Park in upstate New York, and laze around at out favorite spot by the river in the woods getting drunk and stoned. So we all piled into my parent’s car — me behind the wheel — and off we went.

And of course we’re smoking plenty of weed as we’re driving along, making our way up to the Park. And needless to say my pal Debbie was the high school stoner chick of all time and always had the strongest weed. So we were all plenty stoned. And getting stonier by the mile.

When you get to the park entrance there’s a long two mile-long straight-away of a road before you get to this circle in the road where you can make different exits and drive off north, south, or east into the heart of this massive park. Of course it’s night and it’s dark and there are no lights except for my headlights. So, as I’m barreling down this straight-away and taking hits off the pipe and grooving to some righteous RocknRoll tunes on the FM dial, my friends periodically reminded me:

“Don’t forget about the circle.”

“I won’t forget about the circle,” I said.

After the third reminder — “Don’t forget about the circle” — I was starting to get annoyed.

“I WON’T forget about the circle!” I said indignantly. In fact they were starting to mess with my buzz with their incessant nagging. I took another hit off the pipe and tuned the radio dial to my favorite FM station.

Well sir. I forgot about the circle. Instead of veering right and following the circular path of the road I barreled straight ahead off the road at about 60 miles an hour and plowed right onto the grass field that was in the middle of the circle and in the process ripped off something from the bottom of my car — I think it might have been my muffler — before I finally managed to hit the breaks and come to a skidding stop in the middle of the grass field.

The three of us got out of the car and surveyed the damage. The car had sunk into the ground — like being stuck in a bog — where the bottom of the car was practically dragging on the ground.. After much difficulty I managed to back the car out of the grass field and back onto the road. But by that point various parts of the bottom of the car had been damaged and were actually scraping against the road and drawing sparks as I drove.

So here we are in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere — stoned — with a severely damaged car and at least 10 miles from the nearest anything. . .Well, somehow we managed to make it that 10 miles — me driving about 5 miles an hour, with this loud scraping noise from whatever it was that was scraping against the road, and sparks flying, and clouds of black smoke billowing out of the back of my car. Until we finally got to a payphone. Where I called my Dad who came and picked us up about two hours later and had the car towed to a gas station for repairs and drove me and my friends back home from what had been a rather dismal Friday night and one more night in the life of my rather dubious career that was my senior year of high school.

And “Don’t forget about the circle” became one of the many catch phrases that I would be remembered for by my high school stoner pals.

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You ever feel like your life is a bad Cheech & Chong movie??

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Needless to say alcoholics like me can be plenty stupid. But pot-smokers can be plenty stupid too.

This one time, around harvest time, this stoner friend happened to score a big paper bag full of marijuana leaf. The growers basically save the buds and throw out the leaf. But technically it IS marijuana leaf. And if you roll the leaf up into joints you’ll get a grog-like buzz.

But the problem was, the freshly-harvested marijuana leaf was too moist for us to roll up into smokeable joints that we could sell to unsuspecting rubes for a buck a joint (we needed the cash).

So my stoner friend said “Lets take this paper bag full of wet leaf down to the 7-11. We’ll pop it into the microwave and dry it off so we can sell it.”

“Excellent idea,” I said.

Well the plan was working great. And the microwave had ALMOST dried out the marijuana leaf. But when we set the microwave for one more heat cycle, the paper bag of leaf burst into flames.

“HOLY SHIT!!” said my stoner friend. He grabbed the burning paper bag of leaf out of the 7-11 microwave. Orange flames and clouds of smoldering black smoke billowing into the air of the 7-11. Not good. So we ran towards the exit as fast as we could, carrying the flaming bag of marijuana leaf to the nearest exit (the stuff was definitely smokeable now), leaving a thick trail of smelly black marijuana smoke in our wake.

We ran out the door and down the street and extinguished the smoldering bag of marijuana in a garbage can. And got the fuck out of there as quick as we could.

The moral to the story? I get tired of potheads always looking down on alcoholics like me. Potheads can be plenty stupid too.

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The second time I got drunk

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I remember the second time I got drunk.  1973, age 16, a junior in high school.  And, as usual, my pal  Red was the instigator.

Red and Chuck used to play golf at this ritzy golf course in a nearby town.  The golf course was closed for the winter because, well, you can’t play golf when the greens are covered with snow.  But, according to Red, there was a bar in the middle of the course that was boarded up for the winter and was loaded with booze.  And Red had discovered there was a window in the back of the building that was unlocked (Red was always on the lookout for opportunities for mischief like this one).  So Red suggested that we sneak into the golf course in the middle of the night and steal as much of the booze as we could carry.   Chuck and I both agreed that this was a magnificent idea.

So later that night we drove to the golf course.  Chuck parked his car on the outskirts of the course and we walked up the snow-covered greens to the bar.  The back window was indeed unlocked so we climbed in and jumped down into the room.  It was pitch dark in there and our eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the darkness, when this shadowy figure suddenly darted towards us.  It was a dog, a big German Shephard.  “Holy shit its a guard dog!” hissed Red.  We all froze in the spot as our sphincters clenched up our throats.  For a second we thought the dog was going to rip our throats out.   But the dog just quietly trotted by us and cowered harmlessly in the corner.   Some guard dog.

We grabbed as many of the bottles of hard liquor behind the bar as we could carry, plus three big kegs of beer.  Then we climbed back out the window with our haul and  hauled ass down the snow-covered greens.  The kegs were too heavy to carry so we were rolling them down the snow-covered greens.  I will never forget that surreal image as long as I live, its permanently imprinted in the mind’s eye of my memory.  Those kegs rolling down the snow-covered greens, and me, Chuck and Red joyously chasing after them.

We jumped into Chuck’s car and made our getaway.   We were euphoric at having pulled off the crime of the century.  We couldn’t believe that we had actually pulled it off!

But now we had to figure out what to DO with all that booze.  We certainly couldn’t take it home.   We decided to drop it off at the local “hippie house” on the outskirts of town.   My 19-year-old older sister lived there with her hippie boyfriend and about 7 or 8 other hippies,  Deadheads, stoners, and greaseballs that rented out the rooms in this funky old house. That hippie house was often party central for many of the local high school kids.  It was considered scandalous by the local townspeople, this bizarre “hippie commune,” and it was the source of constant speculation, gossip and outrage as to the goings-on at this notorious “hippie house.”  Drug parties and orgies and satanic rituals?  God only knew.  Mostly it was just a bunch of bored potheads lazing around on the sofas watching TV.

Anyways, we were greeted as conquering heroes when we showed up with all that booze.   The problem was, we had forgotten to also steal some taps for the kegs so we had no way to get the beer out of the kegs.  Finally, some genius suggested that we just drive a big stake into the keg.   Which seemed like a magnificent idea, so thats what we did.   A geyser of beer exploded out of the keg all the way to the ceiling, I guess because of the air pressure in the keg.  So everybody grabbed pots and pans from the kitchen to catch the fountains of beer flowing down from the heavens.  It was an incredible moment.  Like winning the World Series and dousing eachother with champagne.   There are some great photos of us all toasting eachother with pots and pans full of beer.

In retrospect, I certainly don’t condone stealing, or being a reckless 16-year-old idiot.   But that was a triumphant moment for me.   And I didn’t have too many of those during my high school career.  So what the hell.

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The Rain

(March 29, 2012)

Decided to stop smoking pot for awhile, smoked up my last roach.  “That’s that,” I said.  Then this guy Lenny gives me a big dime bag of buds as a gift.   I can’t win even when I’m winning.

It rained non-stop all day yesterday.  I sat for hours last night at my old spot, my old corner at Cody’s Books under the awning.  Trapped by the relentless rain.  At first I was digging it.  The rain was  a great excuse to hang out at my old spot and drink several cans of Olde English malt liquor.  Plus, for once, nobody would be coming at me, bothering me, everybody else was running for cover to get out of the rain so the rain provided this real cozy coccoon.  I started having flashback memories of all the past scenes I ‘d had here from 1982 to 2009.  All the great and weird moments.  But after awhile the movies in my head ended and I returned to the present moment.  Sitting in a doorway, a homeless bum in the rain.  Periodically I would scream at the top of my lungs: “FUCK!!”  To blow off some steam.  That was an enjoyable release.  Plus, the sound was mostly drowned out by the battering pitter-patter sound of the relentless rain.  And plus, nobody was going to brave the rain to come over and tell me to shut the fuck up and stop screaming “Fuck.”  So I had a free pass.

Thats probably why Lenny — this aging homeless hippy potdealer —  on his own accord offered me a bunch of buds as I passed.  He was in the adjacent doorway and he probably heard me shouting “Fuck” and wanted to mellow me out.  I remember telling the blonde steet kid he was hanging with “I’m having a nervous breakdown,” and he gave me a nice hippy hug.  Its weird to get suddenly hugged by a stranger. But ya gotta take your kicks where you find them.  I gave Lenny $7 for the weed — he was being generous to me so I’m being generous to him, that bit.

“Get yourself something to drink,” I said.

“I don’t drink,” said Lenny.

“No, I mean get yourself a cup of coffee or something,” I said.

(See, Lenny the pothead was turning it into an anti-alcohol thing.  There’s this whole controversy on the streets, the drunks versus the stoners debate.)  (Don’t even get me started on the speedfreaks versus the crackheads debate.)  (Let alone the Grateful Dead versus Metallic debate.)

Then I staggered down the street with my sleeping bag and blanket in a garbage bag slung over my shoulder.  Staggered to my secret doorway on the campus which I’ve been using as my “rain crashspot” the last two winters.  Its an ingenious spot, right in the middle of the campus but perfectely hidden at a cul de sac. So bicycle cops never ride through and spot you.  Its the back entrance to the basement of this building.  So in the last two years there’s never been a person around when I’m crashing there.  I was congratulating myself last night on how clever I was to have found such a great crash spot.   Then this morning as I’m packing up to get out of there at 7 in the morning before anyone else shows up (always one step ahead of the fucks, me, Ace Backwords) a cop car goes cruising by just as I emerge from my spot. Did he see me? Fuck.  So much for that spot.  That’s life on  the streets.

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