Puffy World by Bootsy B.

Bootsy B. Grew up in Tallahassee, Florida. She received a Bachelors degree in Literature and Fine Arts from the College of William and Mary and a Master in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been researching Tibetan architecture in the Himalayas until recently moving to New York. “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go!”

As I’ve been stoned almost everyday for about the last seven years, I suppose you could say I’m a pothead, a drug addict, a hi-ho. It’s funny, though, although I see myself that way, I’m not too worried about it; and really, I don’t think that’s how other people see me. I am a successful architect, and stay active in a number of intense hobbies, and am known for getting things done imaginatively and with a sense of enjoyment and relaxation that people respond warmly to. Naturally, I don’t advertise the fact that I am stoned, and I look straight and play up a corporate image; people really don’t suspect.

It took some time and effort to cultivate my tolerance and use of marijuana, and my “stonedness” has proceeded in phases. Like many people, in college and grad school I only touched the stuff on weekends, mainly because it never occurred to me that people could use marijuana for anything other than recreation; also it seemed dreadfully expensive and difficult to obtain. Shortly after I graduated, both my mother and my long-term boyfriend unexpectedly passed away. As I had never attended a funeral before, nor suffered any particular emotional setback of any real depth, I had no idea of how to “deal with grief.” Basically I went into denial for a few months — went back to work as if nothing had happened, and in fact took on new projects. Finally I sort of snapped, and woke up one day unable to speak. I remember trying to form a sentence in front of a panel of people reviewing my work, and simply lost it – I was unable to form a single sentence. “Well” I conceded ” I must be depressed.” Since suicide isn’t an option for me, and I didn’t have either the health insurance or temperament for therapy, I looked to chemicals. I was such a mess I would’ve done anything – acid, X, coke, smack, thermonuclear brain jelly. But fortunately pot was the only thing I could lay my hands on. I started smoking enough so that I could sit still and quiet long enough to get a purchase on myself, and to pay attention to the voices in my head that commanded me to stop my life and to remember my mother and my lover. I was so programmed to be “type A” and stoic about my own emotions that I didn’t know how to grieve. Since the people with whom I was most intimate in my life were both suddenly gone, too, I couldn’t really turn to anyone whom I trusted sufficiently to talk about myself. I reckon pot saved my life on that one. Finally, after some real work, I did reconcile myself to both their lives and their memories, and I gradually started smoking less as I re-emerged from my cycle of grief.

Some time passed, and my connection left town, so I didn’t smoke at all until one day, when my boss had a cash flow problem, he offered me a few ounces of premium grade Hawaiian stuff that he got from his lawyer – they had some kind of off-the-record business arrangement. He also mentioned that he would prefer to smoke in his office, if it was all right with me and my colleague. Naturally we had no complaints. We smoked in a companionable, productive way, and worked hard, 12-hour days. We were able to sustain focus, creativity, and a true sense of enjoyment for the buildings we were working on. There are also ridiculously boring aspects of architecture which Ganja made infinitely more bearable for us — it was easier to get into the rhythm of working.

Of course, I was smoking at home, too…but at home, Ganja was for sex.

Oh, and always will be. It’s just so lovely.

Then, I went to India for a few years, where I could really only get hash, which is quite different. It takes enormous mental discipline to “get things done” on hash, and it can fill me, anyway, with a much heavier sense of malaise than Ganga. Of all my pot-smoking phases, this was unquestionably the most abusive – from morning to night, spliffs, spliffs, spliffs (the European style hash-tobacco superlong joint.) Pot smoking became my life entirely, and I did nothing, sometimes, for weeks, but smoke hash and eat and sleep. The Jamaicans don’t call it “dread” for nothing.

I realized that as long as you retain a clear sense of purpose and will and identity, you can smoke as much pot as you like, as long as you don’t make substantially more errors than you do when you’re straight. But when you forget what you are doing because of pot, and when you lose the motivation to do it, then you should probably lay off. Now that my hash-phase is over, and I’ve found a balance to the amount I smoke daily, I use pot to calm my nerves enough to tackle the tough parts of my job. A few years ago, I remember distinctly, I was working in a large, real-estate development corporation as a project manager. I had several intricate, high-stakes meetings and conference calls a week, and was under a great deal of stress.

I started smoking before I went into work in the morning; after that, my boss was thrilled with my performance and my easy-going, confident way of leading meetings; promotions and bonuses followed. I started sneaking out to the park across the street for a lunch-time puff on the one-hitter and got a company car!

Ah, but the pleasures of puff are so plentiful! Part of it is sensual, the fragrance and the deep breathing of smoking. Some of the joy is the ritual of smoking — I like to roll long, elegant, smooth spliffs as quickly as the Dutch, but I’m still working on it. Something about the tactility and the craft of it is pleasing, like taking time out of a busy day to arrange some flowers in a vase, or washing the dishes. At parties, nothing beats the warm recognition of a fellow smoker. Sharing puff with people who wouldn’t ordinarily smoke is always a nice kick, and it’s of course fantastic to meet people who are true weed connoisseurs. My hippy cousins live on the west coast, and are really switch-on about Northern Lights and Oregon Purple and Alaskan something or other — I always enjoy their experiments into true psychedelic weed, but I find the Jamaican guy down the street’s quotidian Brooklyn fare just fine. Marijuana opens up the world for me — because of “dope connections,” I have met people from all nationalities and classes that I never would’ve known if I weren’t a smoker. By far, though, my favorite dope activity is to load up a backpack with a book, a pencil and paper, a Walkman, a list of things to do, and take off on an all-day urban hike.

Actually, mentioning my cousins brings me to my family’s rather bizarre clannish involvement with dope. They say, don’t they, that tendency towards addiction is genetic; I have no doubt. My mother was a fairly committed alcoholic (it’s what she died of, in fact), but dad and I are cut from the same cloth — two beers and we’re both hung over for a week. Moreover, we both reflect our Puritan roots in our attitude towards work and the task of constant self-improvement. We come from a long WASP-ish line of liberal, bookish Bostonian educators and activists, which is a self-conscious legacy my forbears like to keep imagining to be some kind of dynastic destiny thing. Things got a little thwarted in the sixties, though, when my dad and his 3 brothers and all their wives repotted, so to speak, their Bostonian roots in the tropical wilds of Los Angeles. There they all overcame their Puritanical leanings enough to enjoy their marijuana copiously, but not enough to admit it publicly.

Although my dad is a really smart guy, for some reason when I was about ten he got it in his head that if he grew his own plants, he could hide them from my sister and me by installing a thin shower curtain over his scrawny basement garden. Although we weren’t sure what it was, we instinctively knew that it was not a topic for conversation. A few years later, when we were spying on our uncle’s Malibu pool parties in the seventies, we figured out what it was for. And in fact, we filched a couple of joints from his secret joint box (filled to brimming) and tried our first marijuana on the flanks of the San Fernando valley. We felt very disco, as pre-teenagers go, but we shortly thereafter moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where marijuana hallelujah bliss had not yet been recognized by our fellow junior-high schoolers.

It wasn’t until the no-mercy confiscation laws came into effect in the conservative eastern state where my family now lives that my sister worked up the chutzpah to talk to dad about dope. She simply said that she completely understood how a hard-working, successful father of five bright, healthy kids would want to grow his own puff (he has quite magnificent tomatoes, too), but that she would feel safer for the whole family if he stopped growing it. Now she buys it for him, but he’s a little sheepish about it. It has, however, made our relationship with our father warmer and more human, The moral of the story is, I suppose, that if you smoke pot your children will know about it and they will still love you: but you should be prepared to teach them the difference between responsible and irresponsible use.

I reckon it’s like meditation, Prozac, caffeine, vitamins, and exercise… we humans are always manipulating our state of mind and being with some kind of chemical readjustment. We do this either by ingesting some pharmacologically active substance, a placebo which still brings about some relief, or by deploying mental-glandular strategies (i.e. meditation or biofeedback). Some of us seem to require something, some of us seem never to touch anything, but all of us develop a dependency, on either a behavior or a substance. If we did not influence our own chemical state we could not exist in harmony with the world around us. I feel as if pot is one of several chemical re-adjustments or strategies that people make in their lives quite normally in the course of the day. I adjust myself — without overhauling my personality — in all sorts of ways throughout the course of the day. Pot is one of them. Earl Grey tea is another; counting to ten when I’m angry is also very effective. I can’t afford therapy, and moreover I don’t really need to try it; I am quite actively happy because I recognize now that the patterns of my own behavior work. I don’t need Ganja any more than I need coffee or meditation. But I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it, either — I have given up all sense of societal guilt about my use of pot. When people say (and they don’t, for the most part) “Oh, you smoke two joints a day, you’re obviously an addict” they demonstrate a complete internalization of the pleasure hating, relief-denying, judgmental Puritan ethics of the drug war. I get the work done. I am kind and sensitive to other people and I always try to match my private intentions with my public actions. I do no conscious harm to anyone, feel a keen sense of responsibility in my life as a citizen of the world and go out of my way to stay informed about the world. My use of pot is my own private affair and not anyone’s domain to judge.

The two drawbacks are obvious — health and legality. Obviously, smoking hurts a person’s lungs, but I find a steady exercise routine keeps any serious damage on the backburner, and I smoke only two or three joints made with one cigarette and a couple pinches of puff, with little filters that I make myself. Bongs are certainly overrated and it’s harder to control their blast of dope. I must admit, as an ex-smoker of cigarettes I do tend to reach for a one-hitter when I crave a cigarette, but because the process of smoking dope is so much more pleasurable, I actually put far less smoke into my lungs.

The legality issue is absurd, of course. I tend to be cavalier about smoking in public and thus far, touch wood, have managed to talk my way out of apprehension the few times it’s come up. More troubling is the fact that buying it can be a true pain in the ass, and I have spent more than a few nights roaming the streets talking with burnt-out and well-armed junkies and dealers trying not to get hornswoggled. I would happily pay a hefty tax on legalized pot to re-engineer the American criminal justice system and tobacco and hemp-based industries. And good god, the farce that the DEA does to American foreign policy. That our intolerance and moral hypocrisy jeopardize our credibility does not go unnoticed by the pressed-upon peoples who supply our vast demand for it.

The Million Marijuana March was recently held in New York City, where I live — it was attended by mostly young, hippish looking folk, whom I love. But I was sad to see that there weren’t more people who are closer to the top of the power structure of society, because the Drug War is a hegemony against people who don’t subscribe to Nancy Reagan’s idea of pure living, which is, the way I see it, just about anybody with a pulse or a conscience.

So lately, pot has become a political cause for me. Recently, I gave money to NORML, wrote to Giuliani telling him he’s a jerk for his pot crackdowns, demanded my civil liberties from my insipid, hypocritical president and my fearful congressional representatives. To think that I can’t buy a joint but could buy an automatic weapon sends my blood absolutely boiling. Color me criminal if you like, but I am going to fight for my right to get relaxed.

As I mentioned, I am an architect, and so by nature a pragmatic idealist. I envision and re-engineer the world in my head a million times over, from the microscopic to the macroscopic, all to improve the world so that it’s a more beautiful, just, efficient, and commodious place for all people. Pot can neither liberate me nor prevent my liberation — only I can do that. But I — and all humans — can use it to our own ends, if liberation is what we’re after. But we cannot restrict biology any longer. The drug war must cease.

That’s my story, this is where I stand in relation to marijuana.

P.S. One more little thing – there is no better cure for intense menstrual cramps than a little bit of yoga and a little bit of pot.

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