Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Aunty Pothead

Stoners and former stoners can typically pick other current and former smokers out of a crowd by noting extremely subtle behavioral cues. To outsiders this can seem like a mystical power, but it's not, just as those gifted with "gaydar" are not mystically endowed, but are simply noticing things others might miss.

There's one Aunty here at the Liberry I've had pegged as an old pothead since my interview two years ago. The way she's at once incredibly bright and a bit slow is a dead giveaway (often she'll produce the most astonishing technical information but has to get at it in a fumbly roundabout way), and her drole sense of humor and laid-back aura added to my conviction. Sometimes when I ask her about a cataloging problem she'll freeze and her eyes will glaze over. She'll stammer visibly a few times before she gets out stuff she knows like the back of her hand. I know this state well--it's the pothead propensity to, well, not necessarily forget, but to temporarily lose access to simple things; just as my great-grandmother in her nineties would list all fifteen of her great-grandchildren's names before finding the correct one (Steve, Bill, Robert, Phil, Eric, Ron, Elmer...Geoff!) when she was angry, a burn-out will at times have trouble accessing even the most commonly used databases in the brain.

Last winter Aunty Pothead heard my wife and I had gone sledding and she told me she and her husband and some friends had sledded the same hill on an inverted car hood from a 1974 Plymouth Duster, flipping it up and over onto Charles Street many years ago. This story went into the "evidence of bong hits done" file in my brain. Then I noted lately she's taken to stringing a line of Tibetan prayer flags across the PC monitor on her desk--not your typical Aunty behavior. Of course not every Tibetan-prayer-flag-totin' liberal is a burnout, but again this went into the file.

It was only when she saw I was re-reading Carlos Castaneda last night that I became wholly convinced that this Aunty was a Grade-A smoker in days gone by, and likely an acid freak as well. She picked up the paperback, laughed nervously, said "wow, oh boy!", put it down, grabbed the sides of her face and made a strange sort of "zzzzz" sound, then said "Oh, yeah. I kind of remember reading that. Pretty far-out stuff."

"I'm reading them again to see how they hold up after 20 years," I told her. "They're not so mind-blowing as they were when I was a kid."

"Really?" She asked. "My mind was blown! Of course we didn't need books for that back in the day," she added with a wink.

We had a good laugh.

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