Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on November 6, 2014


I don’t consider myself much of an expert on drug addiction because I never did drugs all "that" much, prescription or otherwise. I also know that when I talk on subjects like this that some readers are uncomfortable. I apologize for this, but as it happened, drugs played a very important part in the direction and mind make-up of the 1960s, of which I am a child. I am not about to white-wash that history.

I took a few ‘bennies’ (Benzedrine) back in the late 1950s, some Dexedrine in the early sixties, and a bit of Methedrine in the later 1960s during the band (performing music) days. And sure, I smoked pot from time to time back then, and ‘yes’ to Peyote, a bit of Opium, and of course LSD and other hallucinogens like Morning Glory seeds, but nothing that I later had to shake off, unless it was the aftereffects of LSD. That did take some time, and I will address this in Part 2 of this series. For now, I will start with pot.

If you would rather listen to this blog as a podcast, here it is:



Back in the late 1950s when I so desperately wanted to be part of the then-fading Beat movement, aside from alcohol, it was all about speed and pot. Sure, there were hard drugs back then, like heroin, but I never had any. However, friends of mine and people I knew died from them, for sure. And I can remember sitting around watching addicts with their elaborate paraphernalia cook the stuff up and inject it into their veins, while I stood by spellbound, a young rapt observer.

And yes, following the direction of the Beat poets, we would sometimes drive from town to town hitting drug stores for the brands of cough syrup or inhalers that back then had a little bit of codeine or speed in them. You could only buy one at a store (something like that), but if you made enough stops, traveled far enough, you had something you could get high on, although the aftereffects were literally nauseating, at least with the inhalers. Back then we would try almost anything to get high.

Just out of high school (which I never finished) I took Peyote in the little basement room where I lived, the one where every spring and fall (when the rains came) a little river would run right down the wall from the tiny rectangular cellar window, stream across the middle of the floor, flow under my door and seek a cellar drain. I chewed the Peyote buds, threw it all up, and went on to see tigers leaping in my mind and all kinds of other marvelous apparitions. So this was what the term ‘mind-altering substances” was all about, I thought. At the time I was reading everything by Kerouac, Ginsberg, and the Beat poets, plus hitchhiking back and forth to New York City with friends like Bob Dylan and other players.

Later, in 1967 I recall watching Eric Clapton and Cream shoot up speed in the green room before playing at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco for their first U.S. Gig. My band, the Prime Movers Blues Band, opened for Cream in August of 1967. While I was a performing musician, I saw a fair amount of that kind of drug-thing, but never shot up myself. So much for speed; now pot was a different thing.

I once had a whole pound of marijuana hidden under the floorboards in the attic of 114 N. Division in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which was called the Prime Mover House, after our band. It was where we all lived, and I worried a lot about its being there, that is: until we smoked every last fiber of it. And it was not even very good pot, probably nothing like I hear and read they have available today. It did a little something to us, and we were happy about that. Back then my generation wanted so much to find its way out of our ultra-straight upbringing into whatever was cool and relaxed. I would drive into downtown Detroit late nights and catch jazz greats like Cannonball Adderley playing at clubs like the Minor Key. Things like that.

In the late 1950s, as a high-schooler in Ann Arbor, I hung around whatever was bohemian, including the “Promethean,” a one-horse faux-Beat coffee shop in Ann Arbor where they served mulled cider, regular coffee, and listened to Shelley Berman records. We would sit around, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, and talk about "serious" things. The only movies we watched back then were the dark, downer European flicks like Ingmar Bergman films. The Promethean Coffehouse did not last long.

We soon graduated to the private houses and apartments in Ann Arbor where jazz was being played weekend nights and marijuana was being smoked. This was before liquor-by-the-glass was legal in Ann Arbor, so most of the music was in houses rather than in the clubs. Because we were just kids, we were seldom offered any of that precious weed, but we used to snort the ashes from joints that were left in the ashtrays for a kick. Now that is dedication!

Pot has never been my thing. In truth, I get a little paranoid on it, but that is not my main complaint. For me, in my experience, it was pretty much a waste of time. Many years ago I had high hopes that pot might enhance my creativity. But when I rather thoroughly checked it out, smoking it and then trying to play music, paint canvas, or write a poem (or something meaningful), in every case the next day when I took a look at whatever I had done the night before, it was worthless, like a bad joke; Humiliating.

What I thought was so creative when I was high on pot (and doing it) was trivial and laughable come morning. The creativity was all in my imagination; it literally went up in smoke. In other words, pot was not a high point for me and I never become that attached to it. But I did get really messed up on it from time to time, pot and its harsher cousin hashish.

I can remember one time during the band days. We were playing at a teen club in upstate Michigan somewhere. Dressed out in suits and ties, we were also stoned out of our mind. This was when Iggy Pop was playing drums for us. I can remember looking across the stage at my brother Dan (who was playing lead guitar, while I played rhythm) and the two or our eyes met, glued together in the moment. Neither of us had the remotest idea of what chord came next in the song we were playing. We were freaked, but always, somehow, at the last instant, we would find that chord. You get the idea. That was pot, an extravagant diversion or distraction.

In time, marijuana was for me just not worth bothering with. I did not get out of it as much as I had to put into it, so I just let it go. Yet I have known (and still know) so many good friends that can’t live without it, friends who use it every day and every night even today. In fact the first thing some do each morning is roll a day’s worth of joints and line them up all in a row. I have watched them do it.

And I have also seen these same friends smoke and wax eloquent, at least to their own mind. I can’t follow them half the time and am not interested in much of what they say when stoned. It sounds to me just like they are, well, stoned. It is odd to see sixty-something year olds wanting to get away from it all by smoking marijuana. Many have more or less smoked their lives away and never did what they set out to do. It would be one thing if they were happy, but many are not, although some seem to be. Most still mean to do what they once hoped to do if given time, but it would seem to me a little too late for that scenario to play out happily.

In my case pot was just a waste of time, pleasant at best, nerve-wracking at worst. I have no moral judgment against using it, but in my observation it seems to me that the folks I know who dote on pot seem no the wiser for it and worse, have become mostly transmitters with no receivers. In other words, they can talk, but they no longer listen. They are effectively ‘gone’ when it comes to a two-way conversation, which is the definition of conversation. This then to me is sad.

If I have learned anything from using marijuana, it is that my mind, just as I have it at birth, is already creative. For me, pot only confused and stained an otherwise clear mental sky. I much prefer my natural mind just as it is these days and I realize that most drugs cannot in anyway enhance the mind, any more than you can salt the salt. Enough said. We all have our opinions.