I always wondered what it would be like to smoke with my dad. I figured he must be a stoner—he had wild hair and played a mean guitar—but I never knew for sure.
One stormy Spring, I went for a visit. My dad picked me up at the airport in his Astrovan, and we headed for the Seattle/Bainbridge ferry. On the way, he asked me if I’d tried smoking weed. Tried it? I loved it! We got to the ferry station and parked as it started to rain. The next boat was still a half-hour away.
He pulled a small pouch from his brown bomber that had grown soft over the years, and took out a small, dark, wooden pipe. “Wanna get high?” he said. Large rain drops fell on the windshield.
It was the moment I’d been wondering about for years. I would finally smoke with my dad. What would we talk about? Would he be different? Next out of the pouch came a black film canister. He took the lid off and emptied the little nugs into his palm. My first thought was “where did he get this stuff?”
He packed the bowl and looked both ways to make sure no one was watching. He sparked it up, took a big drag, then passed the pipe to me. I took a little hit, and we passed it back and forth a few times.
We got out of the van to stretch our legs in the rain. A cloud of smoke escaped out the doors, but all the other passengers were in their cars. No one seemed to notice or care. It was awkward at first.
Getting high always is for me. It’s like jumping into a cold lake—it takes a while to get used to it. Soon we were both rolling with laughter. I don’t remember what it was, but tears of joy trickled down my dad’s cheeks. That was the first time I’d ever seen that.
Something happens when you get high. You’re in the moment and roles and facades fall away. The anxiety was gone. I was no longer a son trying to open up to my dad and bring him into my life. And my dad was no longer distant. We were two happy souls enjoying the salt air of Elliot Bay, and laughing our asses off about… something. What was it?
We got back in the van to board the boat, and my dad put the radio on. We both loved the same kind of music—Dire Dire Straits, Led Zeppelin, Taj Mahal. Anything guitar based. We both played, and now it was clear to me what kindred spirits we were. Letting the melodies hit us while high, we connected musically like never before.
The boat took off, and we went upstairs to get some popcorn and walk around. I have the munchies with my dad! was all I could think. We went outside to feel the storm on our faces. We laughed. We munched.
“You wanna go listen to more music?” he said.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
We went back to the van and my dad put in some Tom Petty.
The rest of the visit—like the rest of my life—was changed forever. We smoked. We jammed in my dad’s music room. We had conversations that had never been possible before—like why he left all those years ago.
I got to know my dad—the guy behind the wall who could laugh tears of joy, and describe music in terms of color, and teach me about myself. He made it more than okay to be me. He made it exciting and something shared.