Will Self: PsychoGeography #98

A puff of smoke
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The Independent Online

Ralph has, perversely, got it into his shaggy head that I'm a paterfamilias of rare distinction. The drawing you see here is the second depiction of parental hypocrisy he's sent me, together with the instruction that I use it to educate our audience as to the True Path. Where he got this idea is beyond me; from time to time I've descended on Steadman Towers with the posse, only to have them smash Mrs S's Royal Doulton, torture the felines and wreak havoc in the Great Man's studio. Now he sends this morality splurge - when to be frank marijuana is a sore subject with me.

One of the many motivations I had for eschewing all narcotics was the pathetic spectacle of my own marijuana addiction. The other drugs, the alcohol, they were not a pretty sight, but only pot wreaked true bathos on me. Hopping up and down in the toilets of international airports making rectal deposits of weed is scarcely dignified. When I was busted in Scotland and strip-searched, it wasn't until I was down to my underwear, that they found the ounce of hash in my sock.

People say that marijuana isn't addictive; and, of course, for people who don't get addicted to things it certainly isn't, while for those of us who can get addicted to fiddling with Velcro, it most definitely is. When I finally stopped consuming the stuff after a quarter century of roaches, skins, bags and bongs, I sweated all night, every night, for nigh on three months until it was out of my system. There were no other withdrawal symptoms per se, although I couldn't help wondering why it was that I'd withdrawn quite so much money from the bank to pay for a drug that, in the end, had no more impact on my overloaded psyche than Ovaltine.

Emerging from this artificial purgatory, it impinged on me that even more than the other drugs, potty training had infantilised my perception of the world. I had tottered about on five continents, restrained from even rightly comprehending where I was, by an elongated set of toddlers' safety reins woven from hemp. In Casablanca I fell in with a young company of Sufis, and wandered for hour after hour through the trash-choked alleys of the city. We ended up discussing mysticism in a tiled room wreathed with dope smoke. This - I thought to myself - is the life! But what kind of life? I was so addled one of them had to escort me all the way back to my hotel.

In Thailand I island-hopped by fantail over from the plastic resort where we were staying to an authentic Leonardo DiCaprio beach, where I scored a few ounces of weed off an authentic Thai junky. The stuff was so absurdly strong that I became paranoid for a week, and didn't dare flush it down the toilet in case the police had secreted a camera there.

In Nepal I ate a gob-stopper of opium-laced hashish and stood staring at the Palgam Lake in the moonlight. Eventually, seeing me lost in this asinine moment, the manager of the hotel came and took me by the hand: "It is too late," he said gently, "and you have taken too many drugs; it is time to go to bed." This would've been humiliating enough, but the manager was 10 years old. I was being sent to bed by a child.

In the Australian outback I caromed off from Alice Springs at 160 kph, puffing a stupefying stogie and confident in my ability to find the road for Ayers Rock, because there was only one right hand turn in the next 500 kilometres. Needless to say, it wasn't until we crossed the border in South Australia that I realised that I had, indeed, managed to do just that. We were now faced with an extra two hours driving in gathering dusk, with the added risk that what lay at the end of it wasn't the most majestic of rock formations, but a marsupial plunging through the windscreen stoned on our headlights.

The only thing that makes such recollections even remotely tolerable is that most of them are so very fuzzy, if not entirely absent. For all I know I may have spent months as a language student in Atlantis - er, no, actually that's one I do remember. The family were very helpful and considerate, although their scaley helmets were a little unsettling, and I never got the hang of bubbling. E

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