Between google and social media, it’s pretty easy to fall down a rabbit hole these days. I’ve fallen down rabbit holes since before the internet had reliable search engines, I owned a set of encyclopedia Britannica and in 4th grade I turned in an extra credit report on a topic of my choice, Adolf Hitler. I promise you I was not a fan, but my 3rd grade teacher who told us her story of being a Jewish baby through WW2 . Then, her fellow friend and local teacher from the neighboring elementary school showed us the concentration camp tattoo on her arm; they peaked my interest on the matter.
From then on I liked to follow the breadcrumbs, one subject can quickly lead to another. I used this fact with music, when I learned that A Perfect Circle’s “The Nurse Who Loved Me” was actually a cover, I purchased the original band’s cd, Failure, and instantly fell in love. I’d do this over and over. Queens of the Stone Age lead me to Kyuss, Screaming Trees, and Desert Sessions. Dinosaur Jr. got me onto Sebadoh and Lou Barlow. Tool quotes Timothy Leary’s famous “think for yourself, question authority” on a track, so I looked into that too.
Honestly, I had no idea what I was looking into when I checked out Timothy Leary’s autobiography. I mean, I’m sure I read the back page where he’s credited as the father of LSD. I learned that he taught at Harvard and he had his students use LSD as part of a class. Then he was fired. However, this was not what I took away from the book.
At the time, I was 14 years old and had never tried any kind of drugs. I’d been around weed, the stoner kids made apple bongs and smoked in front of the Burger King in Hawthorne on a weekly basis. I had friends in Inglewood who got high all the time but it did not interest me to get zoned out like that. My cousin Jessica would tell me all kinds of stories of her trying all sorts of things; weed, acid, cocaine. She told me you could only do acid 7 times in your life without giving yourself brain damage. I never fact checked that but it definitely made it lose any appeal. I lived vicariously through Jessica for a long time, she was only a couple years older but she way far more sneaky reckless than I could ever be. She’s a mother of two now and doing great, we all have our own life paths.
Back to the book, the one thing Leary said that stuck to me like glue for the rest of my life was this; recreational drugs are intended for adults to use. They are for people who have their lives in order, a stable job and home and whose brains are fully formed. They are not meant for teenagers who have not finished puberty, who don’t have jobs, who rely on their parents to feed them. I knew where my food and allowance came from. I hoped my body was not fully grown, I was really hoping for some C cups.
I was not going to interfere with my brain or body’s growth potential. So I listened.
I’d wait until I was 18, not in high school and with a job, to try weed for the first time. I left the party that night to go sit in my car and listen to Tool to honor the occasion.
After that first night, I’d only come back to it here and there if it was offered at parties. I had some really memorable moments without it, like driving through the hills of West Covina blasting music at night and looking up at the stars. The times I cherished the most at 18 years old did not involve drugs. Maybe Leary forgot to mention one thing, not all of us need to “tune in and drop out”. Sometimes it’s more important to keep your head where your feet are and enjoy the moment.