I’m fresh from the dentist’s office, and I freely admit I’m just a little bit woozy. That’s because when I go to the dentist, I take the gas. The thought of me sucking down nitrous oxide would surely amaze my old rock ’n’ roll bandmates, who spent nearly 20 years trying to get me stoned on anythingeven Romilarjust once.
Those boys couldn’t do it. They knew me when my teeth were perfect and my only exposure to a mind-altering substance was when I got my tonsils out at age 7. Even then, I said no to dope. When the doc came to knock me out, I went down swinging. I yanked at the mask, threatened everybody around the table, kicked and clawed, and fought sleep like it was the devil himself. I would’ve won too, except those white-coated sumbitches were big enough to hold me down, and they had a whole tank full of ether.
To this day, I have never been stoned, high, messed up, wrecked, smashed, tipsy, or tore down, except at the dentist’s office. Understand, I’m not bragging. It’s just that when you consider that I started playing music in low-life bars when I was 12, kept company with hard-core dope fiends and dope dealers all through my teens and 20s, and that I’m the last boy-child in a long line of backsliding alcoholic reprobates, it’s odd that I’d turn out straighter than your average Amish farmer.
Back in my traveling-band days, I wasn’t just straight, I was militantly straight. When one of the band brothers lit up a joint and it came around to me, I wouldn’t even pass it.
“I’m not touching it, bubba,” I’d say. “I’ve seen the people y’all buy from, and I’ve seen the dope before you roll it. It’s mostly stems and seeds, and the rest of it’s cow cud. Y’all look like a bunch of welders with those seed holes burnt in your shirts.”
I admit, I toyed with the idea of taking LSD. But then I talked to some serious LSD users and found out that my routine, everyday thought processes were very much like their most vivid hallucinations. That makes a certain amount of sense, seeing as how schizophrenia does run in the family. My sister, bless her heart, hears voices and sees Jesus routinely if she gets off her medication.
I interviewed more dope-using friends and learned that my insomnia, hyper-alertness, and paranoia were pretty much in line with heavy users of cocaine and amphetamines.
With this, I started to understand why dope dealers who wanted to sell to the band would always come to me first. I couldn’t walk down a street, couldn’t set foot on a college campushell, I couldn’t pump gaswithout somebody trying to sell me drugs. Clearly, I had the aura of a dope fiend. My stock answer to dope dealers was, “I’m sorry, but I just spent my last buck on a four-way hit of windowpane.” That, along with a certain Manson-like quality I had at the time, would always get ’em off me.
A few years back, when I needed a little dental work done, my tooth-care professionals and I discovered that I needed something like triple the amount of Novocaine to get numb, and that the Novocaine wouldn’t take effect for about a half-hour. Besides that, I was prone to flinching, grimacing, and putting up a little bit of a fight when they came at me with the tools. So my kindly dentist offered me the gas.
Since then, I won’t let ’em touch my teeth until I’ve got the little nose mask on. With some years of experience, I’ve gotten pretty adept at using nitrous oxide. If the dentist’s drill hurts a little bit, I just take a few really deep breaths, and I’m carefree. If I work the breathing just right, I can see the hazy outline of that tunnel to heaven people describe when they come back from being nearly dead. When I see the tunnel, demons could claw me baldheaded, and I’d just giggle.
I know, I know. That tunnel is the beginning of hypoxia. That’s when I ease up on the gas and go back to mouth-breathing.
I thought the gas experience was the most stoned I’d ever get, until the day came when I had my wisdom teeth removed. That day, I went to an oral surgeon, who hooked me up to an IV, which knocked me right out. When I came to, the guy was right in the middle of splitting my bottom right wisdom tooth into four pieces and yanking the pieces out with pliers. I could feeland hearthe pliers digging in, the tooth cracking, and the roots snapping.
The amazing thing was that I didn’t mind in the least, and I thought the whole thing was funny.
Best I can figure, I’m a mutant. Back when my chromosomes were getting in line, nature saw that bad things would happen to me, and probably some of my fellow creatures, if I had my predecessors’ built-in urge to get altered. So nature stomped the guts out of my get-high chromosome. All in all, it’s been a blessing. All I missed was bad dope in bad times.