*PIF — And the Delaware Water Gap
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned.
––Bob Dylan, “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35”
Even well into my senior year in high school, I was still personally unfamiliar with marijuana — not to the point of smoking it and actually getting stoned, anyway.
I really had no idea what pot was, I’d just heard about it, and even though I was traveling with a crowd that spent Saturday afternoons at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village, I never quite caught on. I could be naive that way sometimes.
Pot was part of the culture, but I had only the vaguest idea what it was. I’m not even sure I’d ever seen actually seen it, but I latched on to its counter-cultural potential sometime in the middle of my senior year.
There was an expression floating around the school, something about “Mother Hive’s PIF Club.” “PIF” was an acronym for ‘Pot is Fun’.
And even though I had yet to really get stoned, I knew kids who were smoking it, so I thought of away I could curry some favor with the cool kids.
I got a sheet of black poster board.
And I pasted little white letters on the poster board. At the top, one line, only an inch or so high, I pasted “This message is brought to you by Mother Hive’s PIF* Club.”
The rest of the poster was black, negative space.
Except at the very bottom, where I pasted another line of small white letters, an answer to the asterisk in the first line: “ *Pot Is Fun.”
This from a kid who had never smoked the stuff. Might not even have known that it’s something that you smoke…
Nevertheless, I hung my black poster on a bulletin board in the school cafeteria.
The insiders saw it and chuckled.
It lasted there about half an hour before somebody on the faculty figured out what “PIF” meant and took the thing down.
It wasn’t the idea that pot was actually fun that I was advocating. Rather, it was just the idea that posting such a thing in the cafeteria was sure to piss somebody off.
So, yeah, I was aware of pot, and I knew kids who smoked it, and I guess I’d tried it a time or two, but hadn’t experienced any effects — yet.
I recall another early brush with pot. That was the the night that Charlie Fox and some other friends came over to my house. The parental units were in New York, at Lincoln Center. That was their date night, every Thursday going into the city to see the Symphony — and the taking their lives in their hands coming home on Route 22… with my one-eyed stepfather at the wheel.
Charlie was a pretty good guitar player. That got him into the hippie crowd, and he was one of the first in our circle to start smoking pot.
So that night my parents were in the city, the hippie kids came over, and we opened all the windows to the screened-in porch at the back of the house and passed around a couple of joints. I puffed on a them a couple of times but didn’t feel any actual effects.
When the smoking part of the evening was finished, we decided to it would be fun to load up a car and see how many people we could sneak into a drive-in movie.
Never mind that we had no business driving. Yeah, some of us were licensed by then, but none of us knew any better.
We drove to within a few blocks of the drive-in, pulled into a residential neighborhood, and some of us started climbing into the trunk of the car.
Then a cop car drove up.
Charlie — despite being pretty stoned — sorta took over.
The cop asked him for some identification.
Charlie mumbled: “my idemnifa… indemnifa…. indemnifiation…?”
That probably should have tipped the cop off that something was not quite right, but maybe he was not in the mood to collar a bunch of silly high school kids. And he was pretty young for a cop so maybe he could relate to what was afoot.
Instead of arresting us, he forced a confession. Seeing the open trunk and a couple of blankets, he said,
“You were just gonna try to sneak a bunch of you into the drive-in, huh?”
Yes, sir, Mr. Officer. You nailed us. That’s what we were gonna do.
We confessed and he let us all go.
We went back to my house, and my mother scolded me for leaving all the windows open on the porch. She didn’t bother to ask why we’d opened them in the first place.
A couple of months later — probably early May –I went to the Delaware Water Gap with Brian Fox (no relation to Charlie). Brian was one of my better friends, he played bass with some of my other friends in a band (which begs the question, “how come my friends all had bands but I was never in any of my friends bands? I’ll have to take that up with my therapist…)
So Brian was one of the hippie musician types, too — and like Charlie, had access to pot and, in this case, hashish.
We drove up to the Delaware Water Gap — a state park on the Delaware River on the peak of the ‘little-man-of-New Jersey’s eyebrow (look at a map). Brian brought some hash and a small pipe. We walked as short distance to the edge of the woods and smoked some hash. And then we went on a little hike into the woods.
It was early spring. Above us the leaves were just starting to fill in the branches, but the ground was still covered with all the dead foliage or the previous fall and winter.
And those leaves … there on the ground, the one’s I’m slowly walking over and looking at as I climb up the path.. those leaves are… fucking…. A-MAZ-ING! I had never seen such vibrance in dead leaves! Who knew that brown could be such a bright color?!?
I tried to get closer. I wanted to be the color. I was practically crawling up that trail, absolutely entranced by the patterns in the ground in front of me. I had never seen such intense browns and oranges. Dull, lifeless colors suddenly filled with intensity and brightness. So many different shapes! I wanted to be a snake, so that I could slither between the leaves on the ground.
That’s as much as I remember of my first experience getting really stoned. With Brian Fox at the Delaware Water Gap. Brown leaves turned vivid. Brown? Vivid? Yes. Brown. Vivid.
I was finally stoned. And I quite liked it.
And by the time I finally gave it up almost 20 years later, I’d probably smoked a whole Delaware Water Gap’s worth of the stuff.