Delusions of Ganja

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DISCLAIMER TIME: Know in advance of reading this that I am now verging on the precipice of curmudgeon. I know that college life is all part of the growing process but if today I were to witness some of what I am about to describe, I think I would be more judgmental about them. I doubt I’d say anything … but I might think about being judgmental. Hence, the precipice of curmudgeon.

I attended UMass/Amherst in the late ’70s and early ’80s. During that time, one could make the assumption that the Pioneer Valley and Five College Region might have been THE agricultural center for weed, pot, refer, grass, dope, or ganja. I was uneducated in terms of extra-curricular social explorations, or what some called “torching up,” “mowing the grass,” or “burning the giggle stick.”

Up until that time, I did not know much about marijuana and had not been an advocate for its use. It was what it was. And I was pretty “meh” about it because intellectually, I didn’t see the benefits. Still don’t, really.

However, I also had difficulty seeing the drawbacks. Still do. It didn’t bother me aside from those instances I walked through pungent clouds passing airheads in the halls of my high school. And, oh yes, that effervescent and lingering scent those clouds left on my knockoff leisure suit. I wasn’t too enamored with that, but the effect of second-hand tobacco smoke was pretty much the same thing. Different but the same.

I might have wanted to fit in. To be included. To be one-of-the-gang … but pot smoking didn’t attract me. As time progressed, however, I mellowed a bit in my distaste for all things Mary Jane, Donna Juana, Donna Juanita, Aunt Mary, roaches, blunts, ashes, etc.

If my friends and acquaintances in college were drawn to lighting up at a gathering, fine, I just didn’t want to be included in the communal event. Sometimes this made me feel like an outsider — but not because of any things my friends said or did. I was who I was, still a geeky kid trying to fit in and find my footing. And they were who they were. In my eyes, a few of them were years ahead of me in terms of adjustment to being away from the “home base” of my home town (where I didn’t always feel I fit in, either).

My first introductions to partying were being in a room with others partaking and passing around a joint or bowl or bong, eating and drinking a bit — and then eating more — and laughing when others laughed. A glowing object was passed and I abstained courteously and let the joint or bowl or bong pass me by. So, while I certainly enjoyed the laughter and communal experience, I didn’t always experience the degree of everyone else’s laughter. I wasn’t being judgmental — at least, not that I recall — it just wasn’t for me.


"Buy the ticket, take the ride." -Hunter S. Thompson
“Buy the ticket, take the ride.” – Hunter S. Thompson

Spring 1982. Something in me said, “Okay, I’ll participate.”

I’ve told this story countless times through the years but my retrospective gaze shifts a bit as I recall more (or recall less) or one of my friends offers a tidbit of their memory, adding nuance to Gare’s collegiate history.

At this time in Spring 1982 I may have been grasping at straws. Many of my friends would be graduating soon, and me, with another semester to go. (I can blame the Spanish language core requirement, but really it was my own misguided priorities over years of non-study that allowed me to fall behind and my GPA to plummet.) So, at one of our communal gatherings, I no longer abstained when that magic herb made its way to me and I partook a few times. But I didn’t feel stoned. So I tried again another night. Nothing. Then it became more of a challenge to me. For the next few social gatherings, I really wanted to see what the fuss was about. Still nothing, nothing and nothing.


Until that one night when I said, “Guys, I think I just became aware of my eyelids.”

Silence. Followed by laughter.

At that point, I realized that I was stoned. We laughed and laughed and had a good time. What a time it was. A time of innocence. A time of confidences. Long ago, it must be…

But that was it. I did not have a drive to be stoned again and did not have the urge to partake again, returning to my polite non-acceptance of whatever was being passed around.


December 1982. But this one was unbeknownst to me as a member of the group had made some special chocolate chip cookies. Still having the sweet tooth of my youth — I ate a cookie. Or two. Or three. Perhaps a few more. Time passed.

As I reached for another cookie, my glassy-eyed friend Mul called my name from across the room and with a knowing smile said, “Hey, Gare — Do your hummingbird impression.” Bite of cookie still fresh in my mouth, I looked at him quizzically.

There was an odd but brief silence in the group. In that silence a chant of laughter and hummingbird encouragement began and within a multiple of moments, I laughed and paused, laughed and paused, laughed and paused. And in one of those pauses, I wondered aloud: “Wait a minute, do I even DO a hummingbird impression?” More laughter ensued, my ribcage seemed to burst through my torso and I cried from the comedy and discomfort and joy of so much laughter. Probably one of the Top Five funniest moments in my life. I adored that moment. A revered moment with friends from college. Close relationships are so short, relative to time. Especially compared to the rest of life. Ah, the precipice of a melancholy curmudgeon.

"Reefer Madness"
“Reefer Madness”

My recall of those times are hazy and hindered by time and circumstance. I have been stoned only one or two more times in the almost 34 years that have passed. One event involved a romantic moment filled with plenty of physical desire but also becoming so Sahara-desert-famine parched that any possibility of a romance only brought images of that scene in “A Christmas Story” where Flick’s tongue gets stuck.

Let’s just say that it was hysterically non-stop funny. Imagine if you will, a man and woman in an embrace, one of whom was in dire need of 2 or 3 —or 8 — gallons of water to quench his thirst, but his tongue is stuck and his arms are flailing. Then the fire department has to be called in order to unstick him. Funny, yes. But hardly romantic.

Careful, folks. Marijuana ain’t the answer.

Life. Really, a time of innocence. A time of confidences.

trahanGary Trahan of Manchester, NH, has written and performed throughout New England, Colorado, Florida and New York City. Gary has written plays, sketches, screenplays and humor columns, including for almost three years as part of a rotating team of humor columnists submitting for the Encore section of The Nashua Telegraph. “Gare” received his BA from UMass/Amherst another lifetime ago, and has been learning lessons ever since. Writing and other forms of creativity help to keep him sane, uh, sanER. You can reach him at

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