I knew lots of pot smokers in high school. We weren't particularly close or anything, but I knew of their existence. Take this guy Brad; he was well-known in our high school for his lung capacity. He could inhale for something like 30 seconds. I'm sure it's helped him along on his life's path.
Brad wore this braided leather necklace that had a wooden mushroom dangling on the end. He wore the necklace tight around his throat, and every time I saw him it made me a little uneasy. Seemed like it would cut off the airflow. But Brad didn't much mind, and didn't seem to care about anything, and therein lied his charm. Brad drifted through his day, his head stuck in the clouds. By clouds, I am course referring to the insane amount of pot the guy smoked before school, between periods, and at lunch. The clouds were actually inside his head.
But no matter. I saw the girls flock towards this Brad character, like flies around a pile of dog shit. A typical interaction:
Girl: "Oh Brad, what's up?"
Brad: "Just chilling. Chilling."
Girl: "What are you up to this weekend?"
Brad: "I dunno? Chilling. Maybe some grilling."
Girl: "Brad, I love how little you talk. You're the strong silent type, aren't you?"
Brad: "Niiiiccce." (Brad would especially draw out his vowels. Perhaps the smoke in his head interfered with his vocal cords in some way).
Girl: "Brad, will you take me home and make love to me, with no strings attached?"
Brad: "Ohhh yeaaaaahhhhh."
And so forth. I was a lot smarter and better looking than Brad, but he had this dumb confidence that appealed to dumb girls. I had heard that dumb girls would "put out," so I naturally tried to make myself dumber, but it always came off wrong. I tried walking slowly, with a certain swagger, but it just looked like I was tip-toeing down the hallway. Some people thought I had been injured.
I also tried smoking pot here and there. I never much had a mind for it. I would laugh uncontrollably at this absurd little world we live in. I guess my high-pitched laughter would be the polar opposite of Brad's oblivious stupor disguised as detached coolness.
Once I tried smoking weed, my lady-skills took a rapid turn for the worse. Not sure how attritubutable it is to the weed, but I determined that the most "natural" way to healthy hair would be to renounce washing my hair altogether. I went several months without washing my hair, and my hair morphed into a stringy, greasy tangle. Like a pile of slivery albino snakes in full revolt.
Needless to say, the women kept away, probably thinking that my hair experiment was contagious in some way. It seems that women want their men laid-back, yes, but not in regards to their hygiene.
My marijuana dabbling continued on past high school, where I found my first post-graduate job, as a camp counselor. I didn't fit in so well at the camp, I guess. When I first arrived, I was jeered and called a "goddamn hippie." Seems I'd left my bubble of friends and stepped into a hornet's nest of short-haired angry white men.
An old friend of mine, Curtis Crow, turned on me quite quickly when I had apparently defected to "the dark side." He greeted my arrival at the camp with a large spit of his chewing tobacco. It splashed all viscous and brown on the parking lot pavement.
"What in the hell are you wearing?" He grabbed a fistful of thrift-store plaid shirt. "You turned into a goddamn hippie. What the fuck happened to you?" I could see this conversation wasn't going anywhere, but I gave it a shot anyhow.
"I'm the same guy I've always been," I said. "Don't be fooled by the hair and clothes."
But Curtis was shaking his head in disgust and didn't seem convinced. He spit his tobacco juice on the sizzling pavement. "You're a fucking traitor. A goddamn hippie."
As I was soon to discover, this summer camp of my youth was actually a breeding ground for many things I'd come to stand against: buzz cuts, fraternity life, bland country music, large rumbling trucks, mystery meat, conversations about popularity, and good clean fun. I'd indeed gone to the dark side and my fellow counselors took some pride in reminding me of this at every turn. They took to calling me "Dirty Hippie." Rumors quickly spread that I was dealing drugs within the camp.
At this point I had never even bought weed, but I certainly looked the part. My only friend at the camp had bought marijuana, which we shared. His car had inexplicably burned down and melted and exploded, not sure in which order. In any case, he asked to store his weed in my car, and I stupidly agreed. Given the rumors swirling about my activities as a "drug dealer," I should have known that the heads of camp had their targets set straight on my gross stringy blonde mop-head.
The downfall came quite quickly. Somehow, the kids in my cabin heard about "the donkey show," from some other folks at camp and asked me for an explanation. In the gentlest and vaguest of terms, I described "the donkey show" to my youngsters. The next day, I had several counselors ask me, "Did you tell your kids about a woman who has sex with donkeys?" Not only was I a drug dealer now, but also a pervert intent on corrupting young minds.
Later that day, an announcement came over the loudspeaker. "Missster Billll Baird, Misssttter Billll Baaaird. Please report to the front office."
Once there, they informed me I had 15 minutes to leave the camp before the police were called. I guess they don't take too kindly to drug-dealing perverts.
So I headed back home with my tail between my legs. At least I hadn't been forced to wash my hair during my brief stint as camp counselor (they had asked repeatedly).
There wasn't really much of a bright side to this tragedy, though. I arrived back home, got in an argument with my dad, and moved out. Oh well, no more home. I went to stay with a friend at his grandma's while coming up with a plan to make a little money.
It was a rough few days, and in my desperation, I cut my hair and even washed it. Maybe I just wanted to say that I had been to "Chong's Uni-sex Hair Salon" on Austin Highway. I did get my haircut there and the Bee-Gee's "Night Fever" was playing through a boombox perched on top of a coke machine. The soundtrack to my only haircut while 18 years of age. Seems the barbers at "Chong's" are also chiropractors; after my cut, the reticent barber jerked my neck sideways and I could hear joints crack in a hundred different places. Sounded sort of like Rice Crispies, maybe a little louder.
This haircut helped my job prospects immensely. Not because it made me more employable, really, but because while inside "Chong's Unisex Hair Salon" I found one of those small employment newspapers, this one called the "Greensheet."
The "Greensheet" typically would be your best bet for finding a place to unintentionally donate a kidney (you know, get drugged, wake in a bathtub of ice, etc), or to find all the latest job listings for area McDonald's. I'd only ever perused it in a laughing manner, but I'd just gotten fired and they probably weren't gonna give me a good reference. I needed a job that required no skills, no references, no nothing except the willingness to prostrate oneself. I'd hit rock bottom, I guess.
In the "Greensheet" I found an employer that advertised $15 hourly, full benefits, no skills needed. "Just a friendly voice," it said.
Turns out the employer was West Telemarketing, the 2nd largest employer in San Antonio behind the military. I drove out to their headquarters, address scrawled on small piece of paper. I needn't have written down the address. The building complex was at least as large as Disney Land.
to be continued tomorrow.