We were walking the other day through a tucked-away little alley and approaching a small knot of teenagers when the sweet smell of pot drifted our way. Smells have a way of transporting you back to very specific times in your life, and this one did, too. Unfortunately, it reminded me of a time in my life I don’t remember very well, so nostalgia never really got a foothold. Still, I was favorably disposed, until we drew closer and I saw that the teenagers had become very quiet and one of them was trying on a look of dignified defiance, and I realized we were the Encroaching Old Farts. “Want me to freak them out?” Dave asked, and I said “no,” but as we passed them by Dave let out: “we used to pay fifteen bucks an ounce for that.” I think he’s still chuckling.

It’s not entirely true, of course. What we paid fifteen bucks an ounce for was similar to compost in appearance and effect, and once you’d carded out all the seeds on your LP jacket, it still took a good bit of puffing to get anywhere. The first time I tried it I was fourteen and camping out on Old Rag Mountain, far from my parental units. That’s what you get when your club chaperone is a college freshman. There was no effect that time, or the time after that, but the third time, a bunch of us were driving somewhere and the light a block up ahead turned red and it seemed to take us half hour to get up to it. “Whoa,” the driver said upon reaching the intersection, and that struck all of us as high comedy. We giggled for a couple hours, or possibly a couple minutes, I’m not sure, and then we had to go get brownie hot fudge sundaes just to settle down.

Every time I noticed I was stoned, what I really noticed was that I had been stoned for the last five minutes. Time seemed to have developed a degree of elasticity. At some point, after a few years of this, my brain began to be alarmed by its own elasticity and it began to play around with the idea of going completely nuts and just getting it all over with. This wasn’t pleasant. I had my sanity by a thread, and I tethered it to any friend I could draft to stay put and not leave me. He or she would hang onto the thread while my brain kited around in Looneyville. After an hour or so (or possibly five minutes, I’m not sure) the threat would subside. Then, a few days later, someone would be passing around another joint, and I’d do it all over again. This continued on and off for about ten years. Why?

Well, because there were a lot of truths my generation held to be self-evident, and among these truths was that war was evil, materialism was evil, doing laundry was over-rated and pot was harmless. Everyone knew these things. I regarded every single pot-induced panic attack as an anomaly. “Maybe this time it will be fun again,” I would think. Nope. We didn’t notice that we smelled, either.

Then the war folded up, immediately followed by our idealism, and we discovered how much fun money is, and we bought a lot of new toys and some really big-ass automobiles, destroyed the climate and the economy and loused everything up in general for our children. I don’t know how they’re able to afford the new pot, but they’re welcome to it. We owe them that, at least.