Before I tell you how I got the best job in the world, it’s entirely appropriate for me to recall how I first started smoking pot. I was sixteen years old. It seemed as if everybody was smoking pot back in 1970,
On a warm Saturday night my high school running buddies and I got drunk in the dugouts by the baseball field on Boone’s Farm Apple Wine and Chug-A-Mug beers and crashed a college dorm party. We couldn’t believe we got in. We fanned out to mingle with the older crowd. I found myself talking to a college girl (!!) when someone passed her a joint. She took a hit prettily and passed it to me, Without thinking I took a hit, hammered on wine and beer. If I got high on the weed, I couldn’t tell; but the Rubicon had been crossed.
I had been around marijuana and hippies for about two years, but I had never accepted weed when it was offered. I said no, in part, because I did not want to break my Irish grandmother’s heart – I was a good Catholic boy – but I also had a purely Irish-American proclivity to do precisely the opposite of what was expected of me. Still, It seemed as if everybody was having a good time smoking marijuana back in 1970, and as more of my friends began to turn on with no ill effects, I began to reconsider my options. After years of mulling it over, all it took was the smile of a pretty eighteen-year-old girl to get me to take that first hit.
I was a precocious writer back then – publishing in local newspapers and small-time rock rags – and the following week I headed into New York City to interview Brewer & Shipley, a well-known folk-rock duo, at the Warwick Hotel.
At the time, Michael Brewer and Tom Shipley were enjoying their one-and-only top ten hit. Today, “One Toke Over The Line,” is best recalled as the lilting harmonious double-entendre’ that played over the opening credits of the film version of “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas” starring Johnny Depp. Brewer & Shipley were in town to promote “One Toke” with a week-long gig at the storied Bitter End in Greenwich Village. Their midwestern manners were obvious even to a nervous pimple-faced teenage boy who asked ridiculously simplistic questions. The boy couldn’t help but notice that their road manager, another affable midwesterner named Paul Peterson, sat in one corner of the room quietly rolling a joint.
“So how long have you guys been together?”
The boy didn’t hear the answer because out of the corner of one eye he saw Peterson lick the paper.
“Have you ever been to New York City before?”
He missed that one too because he was watching Paul in the periphery firing up the joint.
“Tell me what it’s like to play at the Bitter End?”
We can assume they liked it well enough, but we’ll never know for sure. The boy watched Tom Shipley take the joint from Paul.
“Tell me about writing ‘One Toke Over The Line'”
Tom told him something about something as Tom took one toke like a rock star and passed the joint to his partner.
“You must be happy having a hit on the radio,” the boy said softly, all the while screaming in his skull:
Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Now he’s going to pass it to me! Am I gonna take it?… Gonna take it,… Am I gonna… Take it!
I took it.
I toked it.
And I liked it!
Some people will tell you that they didn’t get high the first time they smoked marijuana. It happens like that sometimes. Not me…
I got high!
Some people do not like the way that first joint makes them feel. It’s just not their cup of tea. Not me…
I got stupendously high, wonderfully high, extraordinarily high! My eyes opened wide. My heart found a home. Maybe it was the quality of the One Toke rock star weed; or maybe it was the teenage adrenalin that came with interviewing celebrities… Or maybe it was my real future, my destiny, the thing I was born to do, shining down upon me with a heavy bright green light.
Whatever it was, I liked it!