Holiday high-jinks

For this writer, the holidays have also meant sneaking outside to smoke a little cannabis

As autumn leaves turn yellow and Central Valley mornings usher in winter cold, holidays in Sacramento bring back memories for me of family, festivities and, yes, cannabis. In one way or another, marijuana has worked its way into 50 years worth of my holiday celebrations, and sometimes I didn’t even know it.

The 1960s

When I was in eighth grade ceramics class, a friend named Gary said he was making a “hookah” water pipe as a Christmas gift for his dad. “What a great idea,” I thought. My dad occasionally smoked pipes, so I made a hookah too. It had to be the ugliest thing I ever gave my pop, and it barely worked. But he used it a few times, just to show that he appreciated the handcrafted gesture. After that Christmas, the hookah sat in a cupboard for 25 years.

But Gary didn’t make a hookah pipe for his dad. He made one for himself. At the time, I didn’t know that Gary was one of a handful of kids at our middle school in the late 1960s who smoked cannabis. The art teacher never figured it out, and in my naïveté, I didn’t either. It took two more years to realize I had actually made a bong for my father.

The 1970s

In high school, I started smoking pot and got booted out of the house one Thanksgiving for refusing to cut my hair, a big issue back then. A friend named John invited me to his house. “My mom says that pupus will be served at 2 p.m.,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

John’s family was from Hawaii, and pupus are seafood appetizers. The whole Thanksgiving dinner was mostly Hawaiian cuisine. Even better, John and I could sneak out to his backyard and smoke joints. Thinking back, I’m not sure whether his parents even cared that we were getting high between courses. Hawaiian food sure is good when you’re stoned.

The 1980s

I found myself alone one Thanksgiving, when everyone else went out of town. Instead of going along, I stayed home and cooked a complete Thanksgiving dinner for one. It wound up making enough for six, so the leftovers were awesome. All day long, I smoked pot in the kitchen, in the living room, the bathroom, whenever I wanted.

Every time I lit up, the cat would sit and stare at me from eight feet away. Was Spot after my secondhand smoke? I have seen cats run at the first smell of smoke, but Spot seemed to like it. I could see her little nostrils working overtime whenever smoke drifted her direction. After several seconds she would walk off and fall asleep. Later that evening, the Dallas Cowboys were getting crushed by the Philadelphia Eagles on television. But Spot and I slept through most of it on the couch. What a great Thanksgiving that was!

The 1990s

Three times in the ’90s, I went to Mexico the day after Christmas. Rather than visit tourist towns, my friend Pete and I crossed the border at San Luis and headed east. We were going camping at Pinacate Peaks, a cluster of volcanic craters in the lush Sonoran Desert. Right after we pulled into the entrance, Pete stopped his truck and said, “Wait here for a moment.” He walked over to a group of rocks and pulled out a small bag. Back in the truck, he handed it to me. “I stashed my pot here last time, so now we’ll have something to smoke,” he said.

“You mean to tell me that you smuggled pot into Mexico?!” I asked.

“Yeah, they don’t check you when you’re coming in,” he answered.

Remember, this was the ’90s.

The 2000s

My wife and son are vegetarians, so I bought an electric roaster to cook the Thanksgiving turkey in the garage. This way, meat aroma wouldn’t be wafting through the house, and I had a reason to watch football in the garage all morning. Electric roasters are brain-dead simple, so there isn’t much to do. Each time I lifted the lid, that wonderful turkey scent floated across the garage blending in with the smell of cannabis.

There were two places at my house, out by the garbage can and inside the garage, where I started hiding small pipes pre-filled with bud ready to light. Once the holiday guests arrived and things got busy, all I needed was an excuse to run outside to take a quick hit. Sometimes I could hear my neighbor on the other side of the fence, smoking a cigar and talking to his dog.

The 2010s

Over the decades, the number of relatives who smoke cannabis has surpassed the number of elders who don’t approve. But out of courtesy, we still take our smoking outside, which means I have to preposition more pipes in more locations. There is a good place by the driveway along the side of the house. To get a quick toke, someone only needs to say, “I left something out in the car.”

For those of us who smoked most of our cannabis during the decades when it was illegal, there is a certain thrill that comes from sneaking around and taking clandestine hits. But everyone can’t go outside at once. Suddenly, three people are sharing a joint out by the garbage can.

For the last few years my friend Dan has invited me over for Hanukkah, on any night it lines up with a Kings game. Alternating between dab hits and tequila shots, we’ll stare at the candles during halftime. One year, Dan explained how the Festival of Lights compares with other Jewish holidays.

“Hanukkah is not one of our bigger holidays, you know,” Dan said. “It’s just got more important because it happens around Christmas. So, thanks to Christmas our Hanukkah presents have gotten better, at least on the last night, getting that bicycle you wanted instead of socks.”

But no holiday memory beats that of being high in the workshop, especially late at night listening to music and wrapping presents with taped-together magazine pages after the Christmas paper ran out. Sometimes I give homegrown cannabis as a gift, but it’s hidden inside another gift to be more discreet. Another few ribbon twists, some tape and my gifts are ready to go under the tree.

Now, remember to put the pot pipe away and get the stockings filled before falling asleep.