Getting my marijuana card

Getting my marijuana card and my first batch of legal pot (legal under Oregon law—it’s still a federal crime) took two weeks and a day. Utterly ignorant of the process, I started with a Google search, and then made a few phone calls. I learned that any doctor could write a recommendation (you can’t get an actual prescription), so I took a chance on my internist even after his nurse told me that he wouldn’t do it. Of course, she was right, but I wanted to argue it out with him and at least hear his reasoning. He said that he was so supportive of medical marijuana that he had helped start one of the local clinics, and that I was a shoe-in for a card, but that his insurance wouldn’t allow him to recommend one. So, I had to pay $255 for the clinic’s hippie/earth-mother M.D. to sign the recommendation, and then I had to mail another $100 to the state of Oregon for the actual card.

After I was approved at the clinic, I put my name and phone number on their bulletin board as that of someone who was looking for a grower. Three men called in one day, and two of those came to my house bearing samples. The first was a disabled man who was driven by his wife in their BMW. He said he was 63, and disliked getting high, but needed marijuana to control his spasms. He left me a couple of ounces in buds and upper leaves to sample, and said I would need six plants a year in order to have enough to smoke, eat, vaporize, and make into tinctures. As for money, he wouldn’t take any—now or ever.

The second grower was in his twenties and came with his girlfriend, both of whom wore dreadlocks. I wondered if they felt odd talking about marijuana to an old and straight-looking guy like me. For my part, I just found their dreadlocks quaint, in a homely sort of way—like Birkenstocks and tie-dye. We had a long pleasant chat, and the woman left me with a single bud. Like the first man, they wouldn’t take any money. I’ve opted to go with the first grower (I can only have one legally-designated grower) because of his intial generosity, his reputation, and because his living circumstances are stable.

As soon as my guests left, I tore off like a shot on my bike to a downtown headshop to buy a pipe or vaporizer. I was the oldest person there by far, but the all-male staff and customers were almost protectively friendly (young men invariably treat me well). What I came up with for a temporary solution was a cheap little pipe that soon proved worthless. While looking for matches, I found an old pipe made of plumbing parts that I didn’t even know I had, so I used it—I immediately hated that pipe, so Peggy and I spent part of her sixtieth birthday bong-shopping (see photo).

My new grower—Stephan—suggested that I start out smoking the leaves since the bud might be too kickass. When you’re as susceptible to the power of marijuana as I am, you take such suggestions seriously, so I smoked a bowl of leaves, and then watched in fascination as the high kept getting more intense for over an hour. When a high becomes uncomfortable, one thing that usually helps is to go for a walk, so I took my blind cowdog, and started out. Wouldn’t you know it, I ran into person after person with whom I felt obliged to talk, but I didn't know any of them well enough to say, “Hi, neighbor, I’m stoned out of my gourd on my first sample of medical marijuana.”

When you’re in that kind of situation, you have no idea whether people can tell that you’re temporarily insane (paranoia being natural when you suspect that someone suspects you’re crazy). However, the more a person who is high listens to people who are straight, the more sure he becomes that they aren’t any too sane either. But then there are other—presumably straight—people with whom you connect strongly, and you know that they’re either oblivious to your mental state, or else they like it. One such person is a neighbor whom I’ve known for twenty years during which I thought of her as gloomy, unfriendly, fault-finding, and an all-around unpleasant person. Then yesterday, we had a long and delightful conversation. Today was the same way. I said hi to a man with whom I’ve never exchanged more than ten words, and he couldn’t stop talking, very pleasantly to be sure, yet with many times more openness and friendliness than I would have expected. I’ve always HATED being around most people when I was stoned, but with a few more interactions like those, I could change my mind.

Last night was the big test, pain-wise, so, having maintained a semblance of sanity with the leaf, I smoked a bowl of bud at bedtime (Peggy even let me smoke it in her bed). Despite being very high, I went to sleep easily while watching movies inside my head, and everytime I woke up during the night, I took another hit. It was one of the first nights in years that I didn’t take a single narcotic or sleeping pill, and I didn’t even use ice. I should have gotten some ice after about seven hours in bed, but the longer I lay there, the more hellbent I became on making it through just one night without having to freeze my shoulder off.

I’m like a kid with a new toy. What a difference legal marijuana makes for someone like myself who remembers a time when people were sentenced to twenty years to life for the possession of a single joint that was 20 times less potent than the pot I’m smoking!

Update. I wrote the above a few days ago, and my appreciation of these new strains of super pot has increased to the point that I think of the drug more as a guide than a chemical. One of the first things that Kush (my favorite strain) taught me was how constricted these years of pain have left my entire body. It did this by first relaxing me into jelly, and then drawing my muscles up into the rigor mortis-like state that I hold them everyday. I was shocked to the point of wondering how I have survived all that I’ve been through even as well as I have. With help from the marijuana, I immediately started training my body to relax, and when I saw my physical therapist today, he was surprised by how loose I’ve become.

Stephan just brought me some more bud. After so many years of pain, I can scarcely believe that something even might be helping. Check with me in a couple of weeks, and I’ll probably tell you that I was mistaken.

Night thoughts that sometimes intrude upon the day

As I lie awake in the wee hours, I think of death, not so much mine as Peggy’s. I don’t believe I could live without her. I don’t believe I would want to live without her. I think of my own death too. I’m 62, and we’ve lived in this house 21 years. Those years flew by. In another 21 years, I’ll be 83, which is statistically longer than I can expect to live. This means that death is practically at the door, and when I look at my life, I wonder what it was all about. What did I accomplish? Not much. What was I thinking? Not much. Why am I not trying to atone for those years while I still have time? Because I feel defeated by how little time I have left. Yet, there’s another part of me that thinks there will always be another tomorrow. After all, I don’t remember a day so dark that this wasn’t true. Try as I might, I can’t conceptualize non-existence.

I’ve lost many people to death. Some were old, and their deaths were expected. Others died tragically (I’ve always been attracted to tragic souls), and few people remember them. Yet, I carry them in my heart everyday. I thought all too little of our time together when they were alive. Then they died, and I realized how much they meant to me. Every moment I was with them now seems like a rare jewel. I try to take this awareness into my relationships with the living, but a reticency stops me. It’s easier to be intimate with the dead because the dead cannot reject me. The dead can be whatever I want them to be.

I’ve lost many dogs to death too, and I miss them even more than I miss the people. This is because dogs are like children—they’re dependent, ever present, and their lives are built around me. If I’m kind to them, they have a good life, but if I’m unkind, their life sucks. They die all too soon, and then I wish I had been even more kind. I never feel that I make the grade whether with humans or with dogs. I’m simply not good enough. I always want more than they can give, yet I can never give as much as I think I should. I want to work through these problems before I die. I want to feel that I did at least one relationship right.

As I was writing this, I learned that my friend, Carl Haga, died this morning. He and I and two other men played pool once a week for years, and only two of us are left. Now I have another jewel to carry within my heart.


I am now living a life in which I am desperate for sleep. I don’t know why I’m in such pain, but since I felt similarly after my previous surgeries, only to eventually reach the point where I could sleep for up to four hours at a time, I can but hope that this time will be that way also. After all, I only had my third surgery nine weeks ago today.

Before my final awakening this morning, I dreamed that I flew bodily to the home of my friends—long since dead—Jim and Doris Bateman. I was so happy to have surrogate grandparents whom I could drop in on at any time that I cried, partly out of gratitude and partly because I couldn’t allow myself to believe that I was really welcome. When I awoke, I was desperate (it seems that I’m desperate about everything anymore) to have such people in my life again. I then realized that I do, really. I have Bella, and I also have a couple of elderly neighors who would love to have me visit. It’s not the same though now that I’m 62. Sadly, the time for grandparents is past.

I’m taking fewer narcotics because they don’t work well enough (outside of elevating my mood) to risk liver damage. Double doses of sleeping pills still deaden the pain enough for me to at least rest a little, although I worry far more about becoming dependent upon them than I ever worried about Demerol or Dilaudid. I’m still pursuing marijuana, and, because of my desperation, I have placed what is surely an inordinate amount of hope in it. Meanwhile, Obama just reversed his promise to not bust medical marijuana users, doctors, growers, and everyone else affiliated with the drug. Because Peggy is a nurse, I worry that she might lose her license simply by being married to me—sort of a collateral damage scenario. The waste, bigotry, and short-sightedness that is America leaves me aghast. I violate my conscience everytime I pay taxes. I mustn’t dwell on that though…. I see that the mailman just delivered my seventh medical bill of the week.

When I go to a doctor, I take along a summary of my problems so that I can express myself succinctly and not forget anything. The rest of this post consists of my summary from last week.

Treatments that have been of little or no benefit in relieving my bilateral shoulder pain:

Three shoulder surgeries in two years
Numerous steroid shots
Several courses of physical therapy
Dalmane, Restoril, Ambien, Lunesta, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Ultram, Demerol, Dilaudid, Naproxen, Piroxicam, Celebrex, Neurontin, Elavil, Tofranil, DMSO, Ginger, Turmeric, SAM-e, Habanero Peppers, Topical Anesthetics
Ice packs
Massage, Yoga, Acupuncture
Sleeping in a recliner

It is a good night when I am able to sleep two hours in a row before the pain awakens me, at which time I have to take more pills, get a fresh ice pack, or stay up for awhile. The pain makes it necessary for me to sleep entirely on my back, but my middle back hurts so much in that position that it combines with the shoulder pain to keep me awake.

Before the onset of shoulder pain, I enjoyed yardwork and handyman projects; but I have to be very cautious about such things lest the nighttime pain becomes so bad that I am challenged to sleep at all. I also enjoyed camping, but the pain now prevents me from doing that as well. Life as I had lived it for decades ended in 2006.

I’ve spent 4 ½ months out of the past two years in a sling, and 4 ½ additional months during which I couldn’t lift anything heavier than a cup of coffee. Now, I’m facing at least one more surgery. As with other treatments, I will submit to it simply because I am desperate for relief and don’t know what else to do.

Other complaints:

Burning pains in both shins was diagnosed by one doctor as complex regional pain syndrome and by another as syringomyelia. A third doctor disagreed with both diagnoses but didn’t have one of her own.

Raynaud’s Disease in both hands.

Advanced osteoarthritis in my left knee accompanied by a Baker’s Cyst and chondromalacia (a 2006 knee debridement failed to help).

An osteonecrotic C-5 vertebra that was initially thought to contribute to my shoulder pain, although a vertebral biopsy and a series of steroid shots to my neck failed to reduce the pain.

Sleep apnea for which I use a CPAP.

*Photo by O'Dea

“If you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Nietzsche

For decades, I’ve written my way through depressive periods, but this last one was too deep. The more I despair of ever being free from crippling pain, the harder life becomes, so when something else upsets me—and something about the group I lead did upset me—I sink to a place that is cold and dark and from which words cannot escape.

Peggy and I took an overnight trip last week, and, as sometimes happens, I threw out all the stops in order to get enough pain relief to enjoy myself, but when I couldn’t feel 20 mgs of oxycodone (2-4 times the normal starting dose), I gave up. Same thing yesterday when we had an overnight guest. I took my strongest sleeping pill (Dalmane), but it only worked for ninety minutes before I had to consider what to take next. So it is that I can no longer quiet the pain without taking high doses of so many different kinds of pills that I fear for my safety. I’m going to look into getting some marijuana because it’s all that I know to do. At least pot won’t kill you.

I haven’t smoked marijuana in fifteen years. The last time was at a large party, which is the last place I should smoke dope, but, what the hell, it was good shit, and it was free. When the social terror kicked in, I went outside and sat in a car with a woman, and things were good until she got cold and went back in. I soon became cold too, but I couldn’t face all those people, so I drove home. It wasn’t a long way, but it seemed like a long way because my sense of time and speed were so warped that I had to stare at the speedometer the whole way. Things stayed bad for me once I got home, but at least I was alone.

Around midnight, I went back to the party, and that was good because the pounding music and deafening chatter were gone, and enough people had left that things were mellow. I couldn’t find Peggy, and no one remembered having seen her for hours. I figured she would turn up eventually, so I settled into the conversation until around 2:00 when someone finally found her asleep on a bed upon which people had thrown their coats. Never a woman to hold her liquour, she had gotten sleepy after two drinks, burrowed to the bottom of the coat pile, and missed most of the party.

In 1980, I had my worst—and my best—experience with marijuana at another party. What made it so bad was that I had no place to get away to because I was a hundred miles from home in the Louisiana Delta—near Tallulah. Another problem was that there were only twelve people at the party, so I would have needed to explain my departure, but I couldn’t very well have done that because I had lost the ability to make words come out when I opened my mouth. Imagine an animal that rolls itself into a ball when it’s afraid, and imagine that this animal doesn’t know when to stop, so the ball keeps getting tighter and tighter until the animal’s every thought and every function are drawn into a psychic black hole. That’s how marijuana makes me feel sometimes.

It was nightime, and we were on a screened-in porch sitting around an empty cable spool that had been turned into a table. My mother was there and she was drunk, but she never smoked marijuana. Joints and water pipes were being passed around so fast that I hardly had time to exhale from one before someone handed me another. I knew that things were about to get really bad for me, but I didn’t do drugs for fun but because I wanted to explore every corner of my being. When I was with a group of people or with people I didn’t trust, the result was very bad, but when I was alone—or with one other person whom I did trust—it was very good.

There were citronella candles on the spool, and I was staring at a raised area on the one nearest me when it morphed into the face of a monster. The monster stared at me—and me at it—until it suddenly leaped from the candle into my face. I jumped, and then I turned the candle around to make the monster go away, but another monster took its place. I turned the candle again and again, but a different monster appeared each time, and it never occurred to me to stop looking at them. Then I realized that everyone had stopped talking. When I looked up, eleven smug monsters with lying smiles on their evil faces were staring at me.

With a Marlboro held high in one hand and a Miller High Life in the other, my monster mother drawled in her best drunk Southerner accent, “Boy, I think that stuff has affected your brain.” Everyone laughed. Everyone, that is, but her and me. Another monster asked if I was okay, and I nodded because I wanted them to stop looking at me, to stop thinking about me, to stop knowing that I was even there, because what I was seeing and what I was feeling was too personal to share with people whom I didn’t trust, even if I had been able to talk. It’s always mistrust that shuts me down, that balls me up, that makes me leave parties. It’s knowing that my reality isn’t “normal.” Yet, what is “normal” but society’s demonic child, and society is bullshit. All societies all the time are bullshit, and, that night I could no longer carry on the illusion of being an oh-so-normal person at an oh-so-normal party in an oh-so-normal society. This meant that there was there was no reason for me to stay, yet I was too balled-up to get out of my chair and, besides, I had no place to go.

Later, I found myself in bed, and out of the darkness came colors and patterns that flashed and revolved before my eyes. They comforted and delighted me all night long, and it was very good. When the darkness turned to gray, I went outside in the already muggy heat and sat atop a truck cab. There was a grove of water oaks nearby, and I watched them do a joy dance as the gray turned to blue and the sun moved down their branches. Then, other people got up, and called to me and looked for me, and when they found me, the trees no longer danced, and the kaleidoscope of night no longer comforted me, and I too had turned back into bullshit. People ruin things. That’s mostly what people are good for.

I have been blessed by hallucinogenics. I regret nothing. I would do them all again.

The art is called “Dizzy Thorns” and is by a fellow named Marcello from Potenza, Italy. Blow it up, and and stare at it for a few minutes. When the nausea, the fear, and the exhilaration become too much, you can turn away; but what if you couldn’t; what if it became your entire reality, and you didn’t know if it would ever go away?