As PrideFest has come and gone this June, and with the recent 4/20 Pot Party a hazy memory, let us acknowledge that homo-sex and smoking a doobie are still the acts of rebellious citizens in the United States.
True, same-sex couples can marry, and many pot-lovers can partake without criminal consequence, but the current conservative tidal wave threatens to drown these recent victories with legal rollbacks. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an anti-pot Christian crusader. State legislatures continue chipping away at LGBTQ rights. Let us remember not to take our freedoms for granted.
At the risk of sounding like your ancient uncle who blithers about the “good ol’ days,” I remember when sex with a man — illegal in Colorado until 1971 — was a thrilling danger and potentially social suicide. Paranoid rubbernecking accompanied by a joint and a ten-buck ounce of pot could land you in jail for years.
I became an accidental rebel when I was a student at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, class of ’75. Vietnam, Watergate, racial riots, women’s rights, and Soviet Russia upended the nation. Inflation affected everyone. Cheap pot jeopardized my graduation, but even through the sweet smoke I intuited that reality would burst the bubble of these four halcyon years. College was a time to be savored, not wasted, though I often was. Academia took a backseat to exploration, excitement, and experience. Coming out as gay was the apogee of that trifecta. As I polish the patina of age, the bet paid off. And pot escorted my youth of winning gay memories…
I remember when my high school best friend Mitch (secretly my object of desire) drove us to The Apartment, a 3.2 gay bar in Denver, and told me that he was gay. That rocked my world, forced my own admission, and solidified our complicated friendship.
I remember when we composed a new song with our gal pals Linda and Kathy, getting as far as “I got the farts, doo doo da doodie.” Hilarity prevented us from further composing, and the world is worse off.
I remember when a nursing lab friend gifted me with a hemostat, the Cadillac of roach clips.
I remember when Mitch and I were the only two white boys swaying and swooning over Marvin Gaye at the Denver Coliseum, or Al Green in a tiny Boulder club.
I remember when two acquaintances drove us to Tucson for a Loggins and Messina concert. Road trip! Road sex! At 80 mph! Front row seats preceded a choice seat at the after-party kitchen table. Never mix pot, Cheetos, hash, rum, cocaine, Dr. Pepper, tequila hookers, and marijuana brownies. Lesson learned.
I remember when Mitch and I attended Reefer Madness and Fantasia, winking at buzzed buddies, acknowledging our recherché audacity.
I remember Mitch teaching me to roll the perfect joint: tight, un-torn, dry. And seedless! Like popcorn exploding in your face.
I remember changing my psychology major after taking the first class and thinking, “You people are crazy!”
I remember when I embodied my new communications major by backtracking conversations, an oral Mobius strip. “And then you said… and then I said…”
I remember a lodge near Boulder, nestled in the woods and hidden from prying police, that provided gay dance parties.
I remember when Watergate erupted and our nation unraveled. Mesmerized, Mitch (a Journalism major) and I watched Walter Cronkite, with his avuncular tranquility, report the day’s calumnies uttered by our president and his stooges — a déjà vu made scarier because it is not pot-induced.
I remember watching Gus Guessie, a Cheyenne newscaster, because his name was funny.
I remember Mitch and I placing pillows between speakers on the floor and laying head to head, blasting Uriah Heep. Or Traffic’s Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, which I thought was about drag queens.
I remember when the U.S. military used a lottery of birth dates to draft Army recruits. In the dorm, those destined for Vietnam mourned their lot, dumbfounded, crying and/or getting drunk and high. Gay guys were extra afraid.
I remember when my sex buddy Marty and I attended a kegger hosted by an engineering student who had rigged a milk can with a metal bowl soldered to its cap and ringed by eight hoses. Ah yes, the famous octo-hookah!
I remember walking the old campus in the fall, reveling in colorful trees, the rustling of fallen leaves, the enduring buildings. Revulsion often followed from the miasma of Montfort’s feedlots (since relocated) and the smell of cowshit.
I remember when my girlfriend Chris and I attended an Elton John concert at the Denver Coliseum, then danced the Bump at The Den, leading to bruised hips.
I remember when I struggled with my sexuality, was seduced by a professor, felt depressed with not belonging to Greeley’s gay clique, was tormented by Mitch’s jealous lover, and felt terrified of my uncharacteristic nerve to appear in Boys in the Band.
Pot and I did almost everything together. I am lucky I got to live my gay youth in safe Greeley. But I did not squander my educational opportunity. I knuckled down senior year and eked out a 3.5 GPA.
Mitch and I did everything together too, a seminal friendship lasting until he took a solitary turn and ended his life in the mid-nineties. Our laughter still echoes delightfully.
My hemostat lies in a box somewhere, unused for decades, and a Perfect Rob Roy is my current escort. Our nation survived Tricky Dicky; it will survive Deceiving Donny.