As the Greatest Living American Writer, it’s my sacred civic duty to become deeply acquainted with U.S. drug culture. In decades past, I tripped the light fantastic with my good friend Aldous Huxley, wandered the deserts with Carlos Castenada and huffed glue with William S. Burroughs. I wrote about early psychedelics in my Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Incredible Mushroom Bus" and chronicled '70s New York City cocaine mania in my epic work of narrative nonfiction, "The Big Snort."
Frankly, after the glorious days at Studio 54 where I used to draw lines next to Liza Minnelli’s ever-humming snoot, all while keeping a fine grip on Bianca Jagger, drug writing lost its glamour for me. It was all heroin overdoses and meth heads, massive police busts and grumpy old politicians fulminating from the mount. I wrote about this in an excellent Rolling Stone series titled “The War on Everyone,” but I missed the days when drugs were exciting, not destructive.
Then along came my old friend marijuana. When I first started smoking it in the 1940s, we referred to it as “reefer” or “switchgrass.” As a frequent stoner buddy of mine, Cab Calloway, used to say, “a hey di hey di ho, a hoo de hoo de hee.” Then it went away for a while, only to re-emerge in the ’60s as what I called “breakfast.” And then, in 1996, the golden era began.
Now look at how far we’ve come. Today medical marijuana, used to treat everything from glaucoma to PTSD to “I’m not watching enough Adult Swim,” is legal in more than 20 states, and recreational marijuana (meaning marijuana sold at a markup to vacationing frat dudes) is legal in nine. In addition to that, marijuana is being deployed as a risotto ingredient, a component of gasoline, a household cleaner, a massage oil, a wig, a beer, a stuffing for roulade and a book publicist. The uses of the plant seem to defy comprehension.
For election might, my friend and former jamming partner Barry St. George invited me to his home in the Hollywood Hills, a house that I’d lived in when I wrote my landmark book of essays "Slouching Toward Westwood." It was a massive party, for “Southern California’s weed elite,” to celebrate the election of the first female president and the final triumph of marijuana in the Golden State. As you now know, only one of those two things came to pass. But the consumption levels were tremendous either way. In one night, I consumed more THC than entire American towns combined do in a lifetime. Unlike my literary and drug-taking lesser Maureen Dowd, I can handle my weed.
Upon my entering his home, Barry handed me a sugar cookie with Hillary Clinton’s face on it in blue frosting. “Made with hydroponic cannabutter,” he said. “We’re gonna be getting high off Hillary for years to come.” I gobbled the cookie with enthusiasm, in anticipation of America’s next great president.
Next, I went out on Barry’s patio, where he’d set up an elaborate “pipe fountain,” eight massive glass tubes set up in a circle around a waterfall. It was, Barry informed me, the marijuana equivalent of a cheese plate. One of the strains was even called “Cheese.” I sampled all eight flavors, sucking up a road trip’s worth of exhaust into my lungs, never coughing once because I am magic.
At that point, I felt sort of high, but not too high to sample a 12-ounce helping of marijuana-and-pomegranate soda, a spiked Kit-Kat bar, a “spicy sativa roll” of sushi, six capsules of unknown origin, a coconut filled with bong water and 16 chocolate-covered high-THC potato chips. All of the 200 or so people in attendance had a portable vaporizer for hash oil, and they all shared. I sucked in the sour citrus of sweet victory. And then I went to the dab bar, where a man wearing chemistry goggles handblew candy glass shards that were so powerful, he said, “that history will suddenly seem to go backwards between 40 and 60 years.”
By this point, I’ll admit, I was pretty stoned. All I wanted to do was curl up in the corner with my headphones and my autographed copy of Artistotle’s "Ars Poetica," which I read whenever I’m high. But Barry had one final treat for me.
Sticking out of the wall in Barry’s foyer was a ceramic sculpture of a bright-red baboon’s ass.
“You like my baby?” he asked.
“Well, Barry, you always did have interesting taste in art,” I said.
“This isn’t art,” he said. “It’s a nectar dispenser.”
“A what?” I said.
Barry told me to place my mouth just beneath the baboon’s pooty hole. I did, because it seemed like a good idea at the time. He pressed a button on the wall and out of a hole poured a sweet, white, viscous liquid that tasted faintly of Humboldt Earth. It filled the back of my throat until I nearly choked.
“Blurgh,” I said.
“You just downed 200 milligrams of pure THC extract,” Barry said. “Ooh, it’s time for the election returns.”
I was so high when I watched the crowning of Donald Trump, I might as well have been viewing it from another universe. As I write this two weeks later, I still haven’t gotten up from Barry’s couch. At some point, the weed will wear off and I’ll go to the airport. Meanwhile, Trump will be the president.
But at least we’ll still have weed.
He could never take that away from us.