I'm afraid Miranda Devine half misses the point in her opinion column this week. I accept her main points; that admitting that you smoked dope is no longer political suicide, that smoking it often can send you nuts, and that kids are puffing less of it these days.
I guess I am part of the last generation to find dope cool. When I was growing up and going to parties as a teenager, having a toke on some completely crap weed was the ultimate thing to do - apart from getting laid, that is. Getting stoned and getting laid - now that was something that would forever enshrine a party as completely legendary.
It was cool because it was so rare. Buying beer was easy - I celebrated my 15th birthday with a pub crawl around the Perth CBD with another 15 year old mate, and although we got a few odd looks, no one ever refused us a drink. Getting on the turps was easy and relatively cheap. Booze could be bought anywhere, including just down the hill from school.
Dope on the other hand was hard to procure, expensive and risky. You could get away with drinking at school, but drugs would have you thrown out before you could say "boo". Well, you couldn't exactly get away with drinking - I got busted once, copped six of the best across the arse (yes, welts do bleed if they overlap) and learned to always sober up before setting foot on school grounds.
Dope was also reasonably rare at uni - it appeared at most parties, but not in any great quantity, and there was certainly never enough to get everyone off their face. Booze was still the drug of choice. We knew the odd person that smoked it all the time, and more than a few attempted to grow a few plants of their own (usually ending in failure). But until I was about 25, it was the only drug that I bumped into at parties.
I was never a big fan of dope. It seemed like a lot of effort to procure some from a dodgy vendor, roll a joint or pack a cone etc etc when it was so much easier to buy a keg, spear it, apply some ice and then have cold beer on tap all night. And the things it did to ones lungs.... ugh. I lived with a complete conehead for a while - although it might be more accurate to say that he gatecrashed a party and never left. He essentially dossed on our loungeroom floor for about 3 months until we booted him out. He woke up, coned up and generally stayed in that state all day. And although he offered us cones every day, I never smoked one with him in all that time, because I really didn't like the way he looked and smelled at 9 o'clock in the morning. There is something deeply offputting about trying to eat your weeties and to do the morning crossword whilst you can hear the slurping, bubbling, hacking sounds of a wastoid doing his first cone of the day in the loungeroom behind you.
This is what breakfast with the Big T would sound like:
"Scottish lake, 4 letters"
"Serve from bottle, 4 letters"
"Hack, cough, sluuuuuuurp, huuuuuuuuuuuugggggrh"
"Is the coffee ready yet?"
"Plunge it yourself"
"Tap leak, 4 letters"
"Hey man, you got a lighter? Mine's had the dick"
"There's a bottle of lighter refill in one of the kitchen cupboards"
"Hey, cool man. Yeah. Hey, what you doing?"
"The crossword. Same as we were doing yesterday. And the day before"
"Yeah. Hey, yeah! I remember!"
"Wooden sheds, 4 letters"
"Hey man, I can't find the lighter stuff"
"I said to look in the kitchen cupboards - you're in the laundry"
"Winter garment, 4 letters"
"Coat. Your turn to pour the coffee"
"Hey man, you've got bread. Do you think I could have some toast?"
"Yes, go ahead. Just remember to eat it this time. Don't leave it in the toaster for 3 days"
"Hack, cough, sluuuuuuurp, huuuuuuuuuuuugggggrh"
"Look, could you not do that in here? The smell really doesn't go with weeties"
"Sorry man. Hey, look, you filled in some boxes!"
It says a lot about how generally tolerant and easy going me and my friends are, because we put up with this for a few months before offloading him into a more "culturally suitable" habitat - ie, one where everyone coned up at breakfast, and no one seemed to pay any rent.
If you think drugs are cool and interesting, living with a hippy will disabuse you of that idea for life.
Many years later, I shared a house with a Canadian bloke who had a taste for listening to the Grateful Dead and another band called Fish. This was in the days before the internet, and their music was not readily obtainable in Australia. He's brought a big pack of CD's with him from north america, and they were his most prized possessions. I was intrigued, and asked if I could listen to some one day.
It was truly, truly awful. The worst music I had ever heard.
This bloke had an interesting job. He was an environmental engineer, and he split his time between cleaning up the nuclear fallout at Maralinga (in his opinion, only about 10 acres needed cleaning up) and cleaning up the Homebush toxic waste dump so that an Olympics venue could be built on top of it. He smoked a lot of dope too. He'd be straight whilst he was at work, but as soon as he got home, out came the bong. Thankfully, he was never behind on the rent, helped with the cleaning, was a reasonable cook and was also utterly hilarious - an absolute riot to live with. I only smoked with him twice in the year or so we lived together.
On the first occasion, we decided to deal with our cockroach problem. Living in Bondi Junction, we had a lot of cockroaches. Didn't matter how many baits we put down, or how many we sprayed at night with Mortein, there were always more.
We decided that they had to die by fire.
We got suitably bent, then popped across the road to buy two bottles of metho. Not to drink. We put squirty tops on them, grabbed a lighter each, and proceeded to use the metho bottles as flame throwers on every cockroach that we could see. And we saw a lot of them. I discovered that the brick wall in our backyard had many nook and crannies, each holding a nest of cockroaches, and that we could flush them out by squirting metho in each hole, standing back and then squirting fire into the pool of metho.
Why the Fire Brigade never came is something that I can't explain. We'd firebomb the wall, have another cone, and then bomb it again.
I gave up when I started seeing penguins.
That was a happy, happy night. We also listed to the Grateful Dead, and I thought they were the best band that ever toured the Earth.
Some months later, my girlfriend of the time came round, and the three of us got stuck in again (my girlfriend was much more partial to having a smoke than I was). I got so whacked, I essentially slumped down in my chair at the dining table; awake but completely paralysed. My flatmate and girlfriend retired to the loungeroom, and although I was paralysed and apparently unconcious, I could hear everything they were saying. They thought I was asleep, so they let it all hang out.
She told him she wanted to break up with me as it wasn't working out.
Ouch. And I couldn't say a word. I couldn't move a muscle. I was bent off my head, with my brain completely detached from my body.
That wasn't the bad bit.
It was not long afterwards that the 50 foot crystal glass ants turned up and started chasing me through tunnels of molten fire that turned out to be my veins.... you get the picture. I was having a really, really bad nightmare whilst awake; I couldn't move or talk; and I couldn't stop the nightmare. Through all of this, my now ex-girlfriend was telling my flatmate all the reasons why our relationship wasn't working, as I ran from the 50 foot crystal ants with 20 foot long crystal jaws that just wanted to bite me in half....
Remember the dead baby scene in Train Spotting? That had nothing on what I was going through. It was horrific beyond horrific. There was lots of other creepy stuff in there, and it went on for hours; but the ants is what I really remember. Running from those enormous ants through my own veins.
I think you can appreciate why I've never wanted to touch a bong again. I can also completely understand why people who smoke the stuff all the time might go nuts. It can be nasty, nasty stuff.
Anyway, this was supposed to be about Miranda's story, not mine. Miranda notes that youngsters these days aren't very interested in dope. That doesn't mean they are not interested in drugs - they've just moved onto ecstacy and other pills like that.
Which is another story.