My Dad Is Not Down
Abraham and Isaac: Church of Narga Selassie, Dek Island, Lake Tana, Ethiopia. Late 18th century, photo via
Despite the fact that they grew up in a country where marijuana grows rampantly, my parents definitely do not smoke weed. My mom is pretty open minded and has tried it once or twice, but only to confirm that she is not into it. My dad? Total square. Buried in the most cerebral academia for his entire life, he managed to avoid any exposure to drugs, a feat assisted by his Aspy-esque charm that must have screamed “narc” to any potential sharers. That quality also makes him pretty aloof to any details about me as a person, so it was a complete surprise to him when he randomly came across my postcard from the Cannabis Cup. Considering that this is what I look like, it’s kind of ridiculous that he couldn’t detect that I smoke weed. As soon as he did become aware of it, he felt compelled to discuss its hazards with me—not surprising for a guy who gave me the sex talk when I was 23.
When I visit him, I keep my smoking on the DL out of concern for his kids, who are way to small to be passed the tradition. This puts me in a position that I haven’t been in since I moved away from home—finding a safe place to smoke. During holidays, when the handful of friends I have there are back in town, this isn’t a problem, but on a random weekend in June, I had to improvise. I knew my friend Lisa’s mom, who lived in the neighborhood, had recently started smoking weed again. I knew I’d have to adjust my demeanor, abandoning the candor I have with my usual crew of grizzled dudes for a hangout ethic appropriate for a mom. Sure enough, she had made lemonade and laid out snacks on the back deck by the time I got there.
Lisa’s dad was also hanging out, though he didn’t partake. Having learned from my aunt’s Thanksgiving freakout, I knew to warn Lisa’s mom about the power of my weed and I took care to make the joint extra petite. We got a little stoned and caught up on life, and it was the most wholesome stoned hangout I ‘ve ever had. This is how I’m going to get high when I’m older, I thought to myself as I left Lisa’s parents’ house. I smoked another little J to myself before heading back to my dad’s house, where the kids had decided they wanted to go see a movie, Iron Man III, as selected by my little half brother. The movie wasn’t for another two hours, and I knew that before we headed to the movie theater, I’d have to do a little preparation.
Just before we left, while my step-mom was getting the kids ready, I ran upstairs and rolled a little doobie then dipped out to the side of the garage for a rapid puff. I may have been more careless than usual because my dad knew about Weediquette now, but either way he felt comfortable enough to pop out and join me. He pointed at the joint and said in a most narc-y manner, “Is that grass?” I nodded and offered him a hit, which he turned down, as I knew he would. I was hoping that this would be the moment when he suddenly shed all his stubbornness and innate dad-ness by expressing some curiosity about a hobby of mine. Instead I got a recap of whatever pamphlet he gets his information about weed from.
He did pull out one myth that caught my interest. “You know, centuries ago in India they used to feed soldiers food with marijuana in it to drive them into a frenzy, so that they’d be more ruthless on the battlefield.” While this may be true, I assured my dad that, historically, weed has catalyzed far more acts of peace, love, and sheer sloth than violence and aggression. He refused to believe me, and I told him the only way to prove me wrong would be to try it. It saddened me to see how rigid he was in his thinking, brainwashed by societal mores rooted in the shakiest evidence against marijuana. In my old dad’s mind, my eagerness to show him the light of productive intoxication was merely an erratic need to spread my reefer madness.
The thing that gets me the most was that my dad is a doctor of philosophy. We’ve never seen eye to eye on much, but the only time a discussion doesn’t turn into an uneasy argument is when we’re talking about intangibles—time, space, dimensionality, faith, etc. I knew that when I was younger, my dad simply humored me, fully sure of his philosophical authority. But when I started doing psychedelics and really considering the thoughts I had while on them, I managed to articulate perceptional concepts that made him light up. On this particular night, I told him how much my thinking had been influenced by psychedelics, and that’s when I completely lost him. We were sitting there on two ice floes that had managed to bump for the first time in decades and were now gradually drifting apart again.
It bums me out that my dad, for all his knowledge and wisdom, has chosen to ignore the natural substances in this world that offer us something fantastical—an altered perception. Knowing that there is a way to challenge your perception of the world, what kind of philosopher not only ignores this opportunity, but also actually scorns those who embrace it? I’m lucky enough to have a smart dad who challenged the conventions of my thinking and sparked an interest in the way I see the world. I just wish he was perceptive enough to get the same benefit from me.
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