“What the hell is happening to America?” I asked the first time I saw an ad for Shine rolling papers—made from 24k gold leaf and infused with a stern slap to the face of the Third World. I was feeling particularly self righteous that day, I think.
At Sacred Garden (tucked away in the Green Jeans cult complex), things were different. I was eyeballing a $30 24k Shine Twax joint ($30/gram) twinkling under display lights. “So what's the deal with that thing,” I asked. “Will it make me grow feathers or something?”
“Under the gold leaf is a natural hemp blend that burns evenly every time,” the budtender answered. “It's dipped in hash wax and rolled in kief. You will definitely feel the effects after one hit. It's … hard to smoke by yourself.”
As I write these words now, I realize they were meant as a warning. The young woman was looking out for a clueless patient, dazzled by stories of big city excitement and life-altering experiences. But I'm a professional, godammit, and I took it as a challenge. Pfffft. I'll burn that tree to the ground, I thought. “Ring me up,” I said.
The following is a direct transcription of the notes I recorded while smoking the famèd cigarette:
“I've closed myself in the closet. Turning this damn thing into a poor man's rocketship. Going to blast off through the stratosphere. Blast off to Mars. Meet some Martians, probably. For $30, I damn well better. This feels like Rome [clicking sound of the lighter being struck] …
“I'm Caligula, walking through a rotten orchard [coughing], plucking [violent coughing] … Oh my God. The hell did they put in this thing? My … nose is starting to run. This is way intense [coughing]. I can't breathe [rattling throat that's like the sound of paper being torn, played backward at low speed].
“Some of the wax stuff is dripping on my arm. It's super sticky. I have to keep rotating the joint to keep it on there. Hoo boy—my eyes are really crying, now. Oh, hell.”
“It's getting real smoky in here. I probably should've brought some tissues. Okay. So, the joint's really burning, now. I've hit it, I think, maybe five times? So far I haven't seen the face of Jesus or been introduced to aliens, or whatever. Phew. I am … what's the right word here? ‘Medicated?’ Dude, I am … medicated for sure.
“Um. Okay. My head is beginning to get very light and I can feel that crawling sensation at the back of my brain—where the neck meets the skull. Like a tickling coldness working its way into the brain stem and taking over the nervous system. That has to be placebo, right?
“Oops. Spilled more wax. It's pretty much gone past the wax and the kief part. It's weird because even the ashes are goldish. It's like [laughter, then more coughing] … the ashes from the joint are slumming it in my ashtray. They're trying to improve their street cred with the youths [laughter bubbling from the pits of a Bardo Hell].”
“[More coughing] It's actually getting harsher the closer I get to the end. I've become a sticky mess of wax and snot. And crying—tears, I mean. I have to go grab some damn tissue. Hold on [sounds of mumbling and shuffling].”
I'll take this pause to mention some things I noticed about the experience that I failed to mention while working through it. I was somewhat distracted by the outright revolt my face was engaging in. Maybe it's unnecessary to point out, but I was clearly feeling a boost in mood from the joint.
Ah. I've returned.
“[Door slamming] Whoa! It looks like a forest fire in here! [Laughter] I think I'm just gonna hang for a while. I'm going to sit here and do some yoga breathing and soak this shit up.
“Oh! I forgot. It tasted like broccoli [laughter] for real, for real. And it pretty much smells like broccoli in here too. Or like [deep, nasally breathing] that dude's car in high school. Um. I was walking around out there—outside—and I noticed I couldn't stand real straight. Or maybe it just feels off. There's still a little left. I just have to re-light it.”
The recording ends there. I did indeed sit for a few minutes in that little smoggy room, breathing as deeply and slowly as I could. When the whole thing was a smoldering rubble, I was higher than I've been in years. I felt light and emptied, like a clean Coke bottle. I could easily have drifted off to sleep, but I decided to tour the neighborhood instead.
I walked out into the night air. A blast of frigid air lashed my nose and suddenly I remembered that the only thing holding me onto the Earth was an occult force we call “gravity” and that in reality, I was right then spinning around the planet's center at hundreds of miles an hour. Together, the planet and I were also moving around the sun at roughly 67,000 miles per hour. Our solar system (with little ol' Joshie attached to it way down there in a backwoods cul de sac called America) is throwing all of us—people, planets, the sun—around the Milky Way galaxy at a brain-wrenching 448,000 miles per hour.
I decided to sit down.