This week we bring you Chapter 10 of HIGH Confessions of a Cannabis Addict By Leonard Lee Buschel. Leonard Lee Buschel is an American publisher, substance abuse counsellor and co-founder of Writers in Treatment, which supports recovery and the arts, and executive director of REEL Recovery Film Festival, focusing on stories of addiction and recovery. This week, we bring you the Preface to whet your appetite. Follow us weekly for more delicious chapters of this incredible story.
I am awake. I don’t recall being asleep, and I don’t know why I am driving a hot red sporty convertible and pulling up to a Miami ATM to withdraw three hundred dollars. I’m not alone. In the passenger seat is an exceptionally attractive woman wearing minimal clothing and exceptionally high heels.
I take the three hundred in twenties out of the ATM and give her the money.
“Thanks,” she says, “You’re fun. We should do this again sometime.”
I’m thinking, Do what again? I have no idea who she is or what we did. She shows me where to drop her off.
I go back to my motel room, and I notice that my chest feels sore and irritated. I open my shirt and stare at myself in the mirror, horrified. As the kids today would say, “OMG.”
While not quite The Passion of the Christ, I look as if nails were pounded through my chest. Sudden memory flash: her shoes/my chest.
Good thing she wasn’t a golfer.
These marks are not going away soon—and Ben, age 12, is at his aunt’s house. We were planning on going swimming today and I don’t want him to ask, “Daddy, what happened to you?” I would have to make up some obvious lie about the love marks on my chest. Instead, I’ll make up an obvious lie about why I can’t go swimming.
This is humiliating. I’m not ashamed of whatever transpired between the lady(?) and me, but had I not been in a blackout, I would have taken my shirtless future into consideration before having her walk all over me. Her boots were made for walking . . . and that’s just what she did.
That night Ben and I flew back to Oakland where my current girlfriend was planning to take us back to her place to take a hot tub. I had to find another excuse to keep my shirt on.
Did the blackout bother me? It never even occurred to me that blackouts were becoming a problem. Honestly, it never crossed my mind.
Memories are indelibly etched in my mind like photographs. Some memories are vivid, like a stunning color photo. Some are vague, like a blurry, pixelated image that appears grainy and unclear. And like a photo, once memories happen, they exist forever; unless you accidentally delete the photo or catch Alzheimer’s from all the toxic aluminum in your roll-on under arm deodorant.
I always thought the quality of my parenting was contradictory and hypocritical. I provided well and we had a lot of fun, but I knew I could be whisked away by the police at any moment and not see my son again for years. According to my own anecdotal evidence, marijuana can occasionally induce terror and anxiety. Selling pot while smoking pot increases paranoia, such as I experienced years later when living in San Anselmo, one Golden Gate Bridge away from San Francisco, and one Richmond-San Rafael Bridge close to Oakland. Ben, now 14, was living with me. I drove him to Marin Waldorf School every morning and picked him up every afternoon. One morning after dropping him off, I headed to Oakland to do a 20-pound pot deal. I smoked a joint on the way, and I started panic-thinking, If something happens, and I get busted, there’s going to be no one to pick up Ben from school.
I almost immediately went into a disabling anxiety attack and got nauseated by thinking about what would happen if I got arrested and hauled off to the local police station. The idea of him standing there on the curb waiting, and waiting, and me not showing up was horrifying, but not horrifying enough to change my plans.
“What if . . .” works well for creative writing but living in constant dread of the worst-case scenario drains pleasure from life, triggers debilitating fatalism, and takes all the joy out of a successful drug deal. It’s only when it’s over and you’re back home with your son playing with your dear neighbors and fixing yourself a vodka on the rocks that you can relax. Which really doesn’t take much fixing. Ice, vodka, done.
I made it back to school on time, but so unnerving was my constant anxiety that I recall clearly every panic-stricken moment of that uneventful and perfectly normal day.
PTSD = Perceived Terrifying Surmised Disaster
Frank Speiser and his girlfriend were asleep in the other room. He was in town performing as Lenny Bruce in his one-man play, The World of Lenny Bruce. A month later, Tina Badame and I got a ride from New Jersey to Miami Beach with a drug-dealing gangster named James to see Frank performing in his play. When we got to the Deauville Beach Resort, we met Stacy Keach who did not meet us. He was passed out on a couch in the hotel lobby going in and out of consciousness, waiting for Speiser to get back from scoring for him.
At the time, Keach’s career as a film actor was just beginning to take off. It’s always an interesting moment when I meet a celebrity, hoping they’re decent and genuine and not shitheads. I couldn’t tell how Stacy Keach was because he was too drugged up for me to get a sense of what kind of guy he is. Some years later, after being arrested for cocaine possession at Heathrow Airport, he befriended the prison priest, turned to Roman Catholicism, and eventually had an audience with Pope John Paul II.
I’m at the Kyoto hotel in Japantown, San Francisco, listening to a ball game on the clock radio. My team, the Phillies, are behind 3–0. Two outs at the bottom of the ninth, and I have $300 that I’m about to kiss good-bye on the game.
“Tonight,” I say to my good neighbor Charlene, which rhymes with cream, “I’m going to ignore the myth about losing and sex. We’re gonna fuck no matter who wins this game!”
Gamblers’ wives know that when their husband loses a big bet, you can bet there’ll be no hanky-panky that night.
“Great,” she says, “I’ll open the champagne now, okay?”
“Go ahead, we might as well at least get effervescent no matter what happens next.”
The Phillies are at home, three runs down, bottom of the ninth against the Giants.
While she’s getting the bottle out of the ice-cube-filled sink, there is another single, now there’s two men on, and while she’s peeling off the foil, a walk, she’s twisting the cork as the pinch hitter is tapping the nonexistent dirt from his spikes. With the pop of the cork, there’s a monstrous crack of the bat and everyone goes running home! Grand slam. It’s moments like this you never take for granted and hope you’ll remember for the rest of your life. I did. A winning bet, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll.
I had booked the Kyoto hotel because that night Charlene and I were going to see a concert at the Fillmore West, conveniently located around the corner. After the home run, champagne, and sex, it was the best concert I had ever heard.
The Kyoto morphs into the Ramada Inn on Fisherman’s Wharf and the ball game now is football. The Miami Dolphins versus the New England Patriots on ABC’s Monday Night Football, December 8, 1980. I’m with several friends when a few take off to see Stevie Wonder perform in Oakland. I stayed with the women in the room to keep drinking and doing blow and to watch the game. Of course, I had a bet on it. The women were two old friends and one new one, Jordie, from Down Under. No comment. Great accent. None of whom I was sleeping with . . . yet.
Patriot’s kicker John Smith is preparing to kick a field goal.
“Howard,” says Frank Gifford, “you have to say what we know in the booth.”
“Yes, we have to say it,” Cosell replies. “An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of the Dakota Apartment building on Central Park West, was shot twice in the back. He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead on arrival. Hard to go back to the game after that newsflash.”
Such somber news coming from the normally ramped up voice of a sports commentator made the overwhelming news feel even more otherworldly. Yet the consummate professional Howard Cosell carried it off extremely respectfully.
All of us in the hotel room burst into tears. We couldn’t believe what we had just heard. Who would want to shoot John Lennon? They should have shot Yoko. Kidding.
Our friends heard about it when Stevie Wonder stopped his concert, broke the sad news to the stunned crowd, sang “Imagine” and left the stage. There would be no joy in Oakland that night as the audience exited in silence, disbelief and inconsolable grief. I couldn’t stop crying so when Jordie asked if we could lay down and hold each other all night I whimpered, yes. When word of that indiscretion got back to Carlee, she decided to take Ben (six months old), move out of our house in Radner, Pennsylvania, and resettle in Miami, close to her sister. I was devastated. Would I not get to be a dad to my son?
The day after John was murdered, I was alone in my rental car, parked at the top of Nob Hill. The city, magnificent in all directions, and every radio station playing nothing but The Beatles, John, and John and Yoko songs. My tears rolled down the trolley tracks into the San Francisco Bay.
“Fame” is a killer song, and David Bowie sang it with John Lennon on the record. And now he sings it alone at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. Standing in a pinpoint spotlight singing “Fame” he catches a long-stemmed red rose thrown from the audience. He uses it as a prop and sings to the rose, and when he gets to the line, “Fame, I don’t want it/you can have it,” he throws the rose back to an adoring woman in the audience.
While in Los Angeles, walking down Fairfax Blvd. with Genius Cousin Bobb, a shaggy homeless man asked us to tie his shoelaces for him. We didn’t. As we walked away, Genius Cousin Bobb whispered, “You never know when the Messiah will return or what guise he will take.” Since hearing that, I’d like to think I’ve treated all sentient beings a little bit more kindly.
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