The first time I got high, I didn't know that I was going to get high. It was the early 70s and I was a 16-year-old counselor at a summer camp for underprivileged boys in upstate New York.
After taps and lights out, we counselors were officially off duty, and if we couldn't get a ride into town, we'd go to the canteen, buy some crap (frozen Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were my go-to) and shoot pool for a few hours. Then a bunch of us would end up in the auditorium, which doubled as a gym. Fat Chuck, Skinny Lenny and Doug were my co-counselors for the older kids and we'd often play two-on-two or one-on-one games of basketball until curfew.
One night I was just shooting hoops by myself when Fat Chuck walked in. He was a few years older than I was and resembled a biker if bikers were allowed to wear cut-off jean shorts. He was also obsessed with beating me one-on-one. I was a decent player and, unlike a lot of big men back then, could shoot from the outside pretty well. For some reason that pissed Chuck off. We played one-on-one almost every night and he never came close to winning.
"Let's do this, Lar," he growled while taking off his shirt, revealing his already sweaty fat belly and then tying a Grateful Dead bandana on his head. "You take it out."
And for the next hour or so, I just kicked his ass. We played up to 11 and there were some games where he didn't score a single point. He was always huffing and puffing, as it was steamy hot in the gym, to say nothing of his strategic cigarette breaks every 10 minutes. Skinny Lenny and Doug walked in just as I drained a corner jumper.
"Game!" I said, and then Chuck put out his hand for what seemed like a shake, but only to grab me in a bear hug, wiping his disgusting sweat all over my slightly less disgusting sweaty body.
"Hey, let's take a time-out. Follow me, guys," Fat Chuck said. Skinny Lenny, Doug, and I all went up to the stage in the auditorium/gym and then up another couple of steps to a small alcove. Chuck began to sing the Grateful Dead's “Friend of the Devil.”
I set out running but I'll take my time/A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine.
"Let's get toasted, fellas," Chuck said, taking out a joint from this cool black leather trucker wallet that he always wore on his hip. "You get high, don'tcha, Lar?"
All summer I had lied to these guys, who were all in college, about getting stoned and getting laid and anything else you could get, and Chuck must've known I was full of shit because I could see the pleasure he was getting out of making me feel uncomfortable.
He lit up and took a deep hit and passed it to Doug, who took a hit and then passed it to Skinny Lenny, who took a long pull on the joint. Lenny then passed it to me and shot me an encouraging nod. So I took an even longer toke until I started coughing my brains out. We continued passing the joint back and forth until it was a tiny roach in Chuck's fat fingers.
Larry as a teenager
I don't remember what we were talking about, but I do remember feeling incredibly light and then incredibly heavy, and at that moment Chuck, Doug and Lenny were the coolest guys I had ever hung out with and I was proud to be among them. Chuck was smiling the whole time and I noticed that he never took his eyes off me.
It was about 11:30 and curfew was midnight. Time to go back to our bunks. When I stood up, my head and body felt like they weighed 1,000 pounds each, like I was now Fat Chuck.
"Whoa there, boy. Watch out for that first step, it's a doozy," Chuck said and then he started singing “Friend of the Devil” again. I set out running but I'll take my time/A friend of the Devil is a friend of mine. "One more game, Lar, and we'll call it a night."
As soon as he said it, I knew that Chuck had planned this sneak attack all along. The only way he was going to beat me was getting me so stoned that I couldn’t see straight, much less shoot or dribble.
“No way, man. I can’t play like this,” I whined.
“Don’t be a pussy. Let’s just play one more fast game. First to seven wins. You can take it out,” Chuck said, handing me the ball.
I thought if Willis Reed could hobble out to the floor on one leg for Game seven of the NBA Championship, I could certainly play Fat Chuck one-on-one up to seven zonked out of my mind.
Chuck put up both his arms to guard me as I dribbled around to the top of the key and let loose a jumper — which barely grazed the bottom of the net and feebly rolled out of bounds. He grabbed the ball and proceeded to back his rather large backside into me until we were about a foot away from the basket and hit an easy bank shot. This obviously wasn’t the first time Chuck had played high.
"One-zip," he said, smiling a stoned smile right out of Zap Comix while humming that stupid Dead tune. "I'll give you a break and we'll play loser's out."
I promptly dribbled the ball off my foot as it ricocheted onto the stage, and it went like this until Chuck was up 5-0. Lenny and Doug were pretty much zombies the whole time until they finally came to life and started to cheer me on. I called time and drank from the water fountain for what felt like an hour.
"C'mon, man," Chuck called. "We gotta get back to the bunk in a few minutes. Let's finish this shit now."
Chuck hit a lucky shot from the foul line. "Point game, asshole," he said. And then, out of nowhere, something just kicked in and I still don't know how it happened. I just decided I was going to drive right past him and that's what I did. I clamped down on defense and didn't allow him to get another shot off. I was like a wild animal, I was so high, I was unstoppable. I was some cosmic combination of Willis Reed and Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir. It felt like one of those out-of-body experiences, like I was watching myself play while I was playing. Getting high was cool as fuck.
I beat Chuck 7-6 and the four of us set out running: We couldn’t take our time, we had to be back before curfew. Then we sat outside on the porch, all of us trying to catch our breath, while our campers were fast asleep in the bunks, and when the OD came around for his last check-in of the night, he shined his flashlight in our faces and the four of us—me, Doug, Skinny Lenny, and Fat Chuck—just burst out laughing.