Ego Trips by Del Cogswell Brebner
Del Cogswell Brebner is an 80 year-old writer who lives in New Hampshire. Finding an amusing antidote to American football, she indulges in the subtleties of the game, and the highest score of the evening.
The book that somebody has recommended is totally disappointing. The point-of-view leaps about distractingly. The characters are too good, too nasty, too unreal. Into the up-for-grabs bag it goes. Hmmm. What now? My dearly beloved (and sometimes hated) of fifty-two years is watching a football game, not a choice for me. Ah! That joint rolled with my efficient eighty-year-old fingers is up in the bookcase behind Another Roadside Attraction, tucked there a couple of nights ago because the book of that night was happily absorbing. Football is not. So how about a little ego trip, a continuation in my thirty-year plan to thwart that ailment that troubled both my parents, glaucoma. The bonus in smoking pot, sort of medicinally, is something one does not talk about, write about, or even think about. But as long as this football game is on let me give it a try.
Almost immediately it turns out to have been a lifelong error to have forsworn football. It’s really a very fine game. See that incredibly long pass to the running-like-crazy guy who actually catches the ball against all odds – the speed, the distance, those guys in the orange shirts trying to prevent his catching the ball. But, there you go, he does catch it and then, in the cleverest maneuver, cuts away from the three brutes and runs all the way to the goalposts while thousands cheer. “While Thousands Cheer.” What is that, a musical? A movie? Did Dad take me? It was at the Colonial? Did we go to the Parker House for dinner? Before or after the show? Dad was dear about taking me to excellent places. Shore dinners at the Salem Willows. He was so amused by how much I ate. Baseball games, remember Rabbit Maranville and his “vest pocket catch.” The Ritz. The Copley-Plaza. The Kenmore for baseball games. The hockey game where we saw Sonja Henie skating like Pavlova between periods of the game. Was that the same night there was blood on the ice and I almost fainted?
Oh, wow! That player just kicked a perfect field goal with his bare foot!
But what’s this? Has my watch stopped? Was it only ten minutes ago that I took that couple of tokes of dope? Dope. Is that short for dopamine? What’s dopamine? Some kind of neurotransmitter in the brain, the wonderful brain. My wonderful brain. Here I am at long last enjoying football and at the same time musing about neurotransmitters and wondering how I managed to pull out that bit of information and remember, too, that dopamine has something to do with pleasure and watch, with pleasure, while the orange shirts try to get even with the blue shirts.
After a pleasant while it is half time and the jock anchormen are yakety-yakking and they don’t capture me although another time they might and then I could get right into their chatter and find them either bright and informative or dull and even silly. And enjoy the discovery, either way.
So then, delighted by my fascinating brain and its surprising recollection about dopamine, the greatness of me becomes a matter for consideration. And the greatness of me is the greatness of everybody. And the smallness. Hmmm. Sure. I really have it all figured out. Except that I’m quietly giggling at my own arrogance and calling out to the sports commentator, “No, no! Not ‘he invited my wife and I.'” And my love nods and asks if I had noticed a minute ago that the same handsome fellow had said of a player that he has an “unbridled love of the game.”
We are together. But not quite.
Where was I? Ah, yes, getting the answers. Somebody better write me down. Or is that somebody’d better?
Hmmm. We’re all great. We’re all small. You got that? And what was the other thing? Well, for one thing people have no free will. Human will is utterly incapable of generating or preventing individuals’ decisions, from tying their shoes to getting married until death do them part except if they get divorced for which also their will is not free. Fact. Nobody out there can do anything. They are all – all – puppets in the wily hands of the all-powerful memory. B. F. Skinner and I could probably enjoy a chat about this over a few Buds.
“Honey, is B. F. Skinner still alive?”
“Skinner?” He considers. “No, he died about ten years ago.”
Great guy, my mate of fifty-two years.
No matter. B. F. and I will invite Sigmund. Hume? I’ll look it up. But not now. I have to watch a football game and eat some pizza. But I forgot something, something important. You see, as opposed to all you millions of helpless puppets I – yes I – do just happen to have what is otherwise an oxymoron – Free Will.
Out of the ego trip now, the off-the-wall fantasy.
But why put oneself into such a silly frame of mind? Why not spend that time doing something useful? Well, maybe I’ve been doing something useful all day. And when straight I have neither the time nor the inclination to sit and let my head play. Nor would it even work without the couple of tokes. I’d probably remember something like I have to change the kitty litter or I ought to clean those glass doors where my neighbor ten-year-old twins had been playing with sticky tumble-down-the-glass toys.
This is strange. After about thirty years of occasional enjoyment (aka abuse) of this miraculous leaf (aka substance) I do not recall actually trying to describe the experience. Friends who share a joint or two with me might comment the next day, “Wow!”
“Oh, man!” Good stuff!”
“Can I get some of that?”
But nobody, in my memory, has ever described or shared personal stories about this very subjective event.
So, if I’m on an ego trip in which I think I’m having an epiphany, others might be eagerly planning a menu, remembering a happy occasion, embellishing and changing it. It’s possible that somewhere an investment banker in a three-piece suit is having a jolly ego trip in the Dow Jones. I could have a couple of small hits and list a hundred possible ego trips to be had out there.
But here’s a thought. Maybe I’m the only one who sees this as I do, who trips as I do. Then how do the others trip? How about an international competition for the World Champion Tripper? Even for this abuser it is not always the same. One should see my energy and enthusiasm for “cleaning up this mess”, sometimes to the tune of John Lennon’s “Clean Up Time.” Positively athletic, and productive as well. The mess is cleaned up with more than ordinary efficiency, and it was great fun.
Fun is the word. Even not having discussed this with my friends, the endangered species, to me it is extremely likely that the one word they would use to describe their reason for persisting in so dangerous an activity is FUN.
Fun to get a bit silly with friends.
Fun to have food fests hastily put together in the local convenience store.
Fun to play with the clouds.
Fun to get into your head.
Fun to listen to music.
It is important to note here that it is also inconceivable to me that any of the potheads in my world would go wild, get hooked on drugs, commit any crime beyond this particular one in which fun is the chief object.
Certainly it could be argued that some proven criminals are also proven tokers. Some of us would suggest that the cause of the criminal behavior was probably the end result of the criminals having been abused as children or at least ignored, unloved.
Addiction? Not a problem with any of my lawbreaking friends and acquaintances. The majority smoke at most a few tokes daily, more likely on occasion, sometimes days or even weeks apart. And many of them will admit that they couldn’t start the day without a couple of cups of coffee, a very popular drug that the Drug Enforcement Agency has not added to its schedules to alert police across the country to criminal activity.
Does anything positive aside from fun, a categorical positive, result from this euphoric rush and its attendant head trip? Others will have to speak for themselves but of myself I can report that I have made many good decisions on difficult problems while happily in a state of “reefer madness.” I have had insights into heady philosophical matters, insights that hold and that affect positively my behavior, my relationships, my life. In other words, quite often when I take a head trip, just as when I take trips by planes, trains, and automobiles, I am more knowledgeable and richer for having made the voyage.
And I had a lot of fun.