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Thursday, 29 October 2015

The Party

By Vicki E. Jones

The year was 1969, and I was a graduate student living in an old dormitory where graduate students lived two per tiny apartment. My roommate was named Helen and she looked exactly like a blonde-haired, blue-eyed version of Sophia Loren in both face and figure. She also had a sparkling personality.

Helen was a popular young woman who knew everybody and one day she asked me if I would like to attend a party with her, hosted by four graduate students who were sharing a large apartment.

I wasn’t a party-going person but she really wanted me to come with her. So I agreed to go along. I offered to drive, especially since I was a non-drinker.

The party was crowded and everyone seemed to be having a nice time. The music was good and there was plenty of food. Helen introduced me to those people that she knew and people stood around talking, learning more about each other or talking about events of the day or making new acquaintances.

Eventually someone suggested that everyone sit down in a circle. Once everyone was seated, one of the hosts announced that he was going to light a joint of marijuana and pass it around for everyone to take a puff.

Then I remembered Brenda. Brenda was a close friend during my last two years of high school, back in 1963 and 1964. When we graduated, I kept in touch though we were both so busy that it wasn’t often that we talked or saw each other.

She had entered UCLA after high school and I had gone off to a small state college about 40 miles from home and was living on campus. Each of us was carrying a full course load.

Brenda hadn’t been at UCLA more than six months when I got a phone call one weekend from her mother when I happened to be visiting my parents in L.A. Her mother asked if I had anything that had belonged to Brenda. I immediately understood, from her wording and tone of voice, that Brenda was dead.

Soon after starting college at UCLA, Brenda had met her boyfriend. It being the days of free love and social and sexual revolution and birth control pills, she had moved in with him. He had gotten her started on smoking marijuana and doing LSD. And now Brenda was dead. Brenda was 18 years old.

I learned decades later, at a high school reunion, that Brenda had taken her own life. But Brenda had no such inclination. She had no depression or any other factors that would lead to suicide. I could only think that perhaps her drug use had contributed to it.

So when everyone sat down and I heard that a joint of marijuana was going to be passed around for each person to take a puff of it, I only wanted one thing: I wanted to leave.

I turned to Helen and said, “Helen, I don’t want any part of this. If you want to stay and get a ride home with someone who has been smoking pot, that’s up to you. You could also get arrested. I am not staying. I am leaving right now.”

Helen thought for a few moments and then said, “Never mind. I’ll leave with you.”

That was the last time I went to a party where I didn’t know the people or their idea of what goes on at a party. I had no need of going to parties where drugs were passed around. I was – and still am - a no-drugs person. And I am that way partly because of Brenda and what happened to her after she started doing pot and LSD.

I was glad that I left the party, and proud of myself for taking a stand. And I was proud of my roommate for her decision to leave the party too. /p>


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Very smart. Good for you. I am not a saint, but over the years I have seen the devastating effects of pot and its long term consequences on many people I know, including our own family. People think it's so safe, but they don't understand it's not for everyone.

And now four states approve rec pot use including Colorado where the debate was held. I am afraid for the residents of those states and having to live near people who may not be clear thinking.

I am afraid of that, too. Medicinal marijuana, the kind that isn't mind-altering, is - in my opinion - OK for those who need it medically, but recreational drugs are another story entirely. Especially when users get behind the wheel of a car.

Never used it, don't care to try it, but I have no problem with medical marijuana..better than some of the other fixes, perhaps.

Let's be clear that medical marijuana is the same plant and product as recreational marijuana.

That's true. It is the same plant, but I have read (and heard on the news) that the variety suitable for medical applications is a different variety and contains very low levels of the mind-altering chemical. I know two people in intense pain that can't find a solution that works or that they can tolerate, and they have applied for clearance to try it. There are people with painful fatal conditions in that situation, also.

Oops - Sorry, everyone. My husband says medical marijuana has the same mind-altering chemical level i.e. Ronni is right. There isn't a variety with lower level. He says I'm thinking of hemp, which is much lower in that chemical. Got them mixed up.

Vicki, I do enjoy your blogs and the care you put into precise language, grammar and punctuation. I wish more bloggers, on here and elsewhere, were as careful. I often wonder--don't other people have little red, wavy lines under their mistakes? If not, turn on the controls, please. They are hard to ignore!

Good idea, Lyn.

Thank you, everyone.

I have no problem with "medical" marijuana, but I believe it should be dispensed in a pharmacy like any other prescribed (mind altering) medicine not in some little specialty shop. I'm pretty tired of the whole charade.

I agree. A pharmacy would be more appropriate, and safer for everyone.

Vicki, I have never in my life used any 'recreational pharmaceuticals', and if I'd been in your place at that party, I like to think I'd have had the gumption to do the same thing you did. I applaud you.

That said, you may have been placing the blame for Brenda's tragic death where it doesn't belong. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical fallacy. (A rooster crows before dawn, but it doesn't cause the sun to rise.) The causal relationship could easily have been the other way around. Many serious mental illnesses do emerge spontaneously in late adolescence to young adulthood. And they are just that: illnesses. You wouldn't say that because someone didn't have ebola six months ago, they couldn't have died of it now. Brenda's drug experiments might well have been attempts at self-medication for an acute new problem triggered by the stresses of life as a student at UCLA.

It's possible, of course, that her drug use made the problem worse, but if so, of the two, I'd be more inclined to blame LSD for that than pot. LSD is far more dangerous. Moreover, you don't know what else she was trying. If she messed with something that was severely addictive (which doesn't describe either pot or LSD), she could have felt she was in such a deep hole she'd never get out. At eighteen, you still aren't old enough to get that Now isn't Forever.

She wasn't stupid. She was ignorant about mental illness, because in those days everyone was. Looking back, it's appalling how little was known, and how barbaric some of the standard remedies seem now. My own mother... but that's another story.

What's more appalling is that the decades of propaganda mean that we still don't know through any sort of proper scientific studies whether pot, or perhaps others amongst the demonized drugs, may actually be helpful for brain chemistry maladies like depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Perhaps Brenda was on to something. Perhaps her drug use did help her. Just, tragically, not enough.

You've made some very good points I hadn't thought of, Sylvia. I agree that if drugs were a causative factor, LSD was more likely to have been contributing than pot. And we still don't know whether these drugs could be helpful for certain disorders. There is a lot we just don't know.

So sorry about Brenda, whatever the cause. I'm sure at least a few sat in the circle so they wouldn't appear square. So glad Helen had you as a leader to follow. Perhaps your strength kept her as beautiful as ever for a fine future.

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