The Great Stoned Letter!

April 8, 2011 at 11:56 pm (By Amba)

Here, have a contact high.  My brother and I pass this back and forth between us when we need to laugh until our noses run.  I wrote it to him in 1978.  I was 32 and down in Florida alone working on someone else’s book.  He must have been 18 or 19.  Never having been a big-league pothead, having abstained completely since meeting Mr. Clean six years before, and being in the midst of an episode of my trademark ambivalence (torn between the generations of a neighbor family, friends with the long-winded middle-aged father, call him “Jake,” but hot for the airheaded late-teenage son, “Billy”)—well, it was a recipe for—well, you’ll see.  (Punctuation scrupulously verbatim.  Only the third page is numbered:  -2- )

*    *    *    *    *

Weds. PM

OK KID YOU AST FER IT — your sister is now WASTED — so now you get to see the real thing (not just a contact high).

This was grown in Jake’s back yard — he took me up to his house just to visit — hospitably received — Lorna gave me a bourbon & water “like your dad” — then Billy got me stoned — stoneder than I’ve ever been.  Still am — waiting for the parents (Tommy from the Marina was there too —) to arrive, yet! & I have had this incredible insight that all our attitudes — emotions are just passing phenomena that “flit through the mind and are gone (pardon me, I could make a more civilized parody of writing) — wha? (this is really primitive!  Call the whitejackets and strait me away) — Real Zen — (I’m sitting here giggling like an idiot) — well, in turn tonight I have thought — “Do I want to talk to Jake” or “do I want to flirt with Billy” and “Oh God, what a waste of time, I’d rather talk to Jake” and “How can I be sitting here like this while mom and dad are maybe at the house with hurt feelings” — and “Jake & Lorna will think I’m crazy” and “This is frightening” & “this is fun” & “these guys think I’m nuts — am I going way, way out where they can’t follow” & telling Billy I want to go tell his father I don’t know which generation I belong to & etc.etc. etc. and realizing what a spiky, yellow thing my mind is and what a stoned comment that is, neat, I’ll put that down, it’s as good as anything — and — embarrassment, shame at my own silly conduct (I didn’t do anything mind you) — I just had these evil intentions which are so INAPPROPRIATE and beneath me and anyway I think I’d rather belong to the older generation and “what’s the difference” and should I be exposing this aspect of me to my kid brother and why not and — ATTITUDES!  ATTITUDES!  ATTITUDES.  Postures the mind takes like a dancer — that’s all.  I shouldn’t send this letter. — Why not? — That’s a Puritan attitude you’re attached to.  They are, on the whole, getting stronger.  Coming into the fore.  Your (my) rebellious attitudes are weakening.  (Why am I wasting my time doing this — getting stoned with two nice, pleasant dopes — one of whom has about two shreds of future manly style, just enough to flash in — STOP?  Why am I saying any of this (fear — wild giggles — ) WHY SAY ANYTHING??

Why does the mind keep moving all the time?  Like a hootchie kootchie dancer?

Can anyone live out here where nothing matters?  We build our houses of matter — EVERYTHING IS AN ATTITUDE, don’t you see??  This letter is both “total put”-on” and “utterly serious” and “neither.”

When mother & Daddy come — I will click into the Mother & Daddy attitude.  You know — I sense myself hardening — choosing a form — a set of attitudes rather permanent — a “character” — and a rather Puritanical one.  (Never forget these are just attitudes too.  Even “it’s an attitude” is an attitude?  “I won’t be able to do this much longer” I was going to say — then I realized that’s a self-reinforcing attitude of the attitude — Why not? — because I’ve already decided to become that person who can’t.  That’s scary — but why is it scary?  What forces drive us towards those attitudes rather than these?

No wonder people can’t work in this state — They’d just keep saying “Why?” (although “Why not” is equally true

It’s all so arbitrary

Character is:

a) anatomy

b.) Destiny

c.) conditioning

4.) cancel above orders

The “younger generation” have differently structured minds, I think.  They find this easier to take.  They don’t seem to get so “fractured” — I feel as if the rock bottom truth is:  no reason for anything.  Still of course I am attached to certain things — attitudes — & that set of attachments constitute my “character.”  It doesn’t have to insist



  1. amba12 said,

    I should clarify that this was not a Mary Kay Letourneau type situation — and not only because nothing happened. The “teenager” was over 18, and may even have been into his 20s.

  2. amba12 said,

    And also that the funniest part of it for me, hands down, is the punctuation. Maybe you have to be a copyeditor.

  3. amba12 said,

    That, and the Person from Porlock-like cutoff: “Parents” (I was 32, for Chrissake — what did I have to hide from my parents??)

  4. wj said,

    I think that, at some level, we are all eternally children when we think of our parents. We adjust our behavior to deal with them as adults. We may even think we are thinking of them as adults. But at some deeper level (the deepest emotional levels perhaps?) they are still the way we saw them at 7 or 15. What the pot did (besides it’s usual effect of dropping your apparent IQ 50 points) was take you down to that emotional level.

  5. amba12 said,

    Just glad I never smoked enough to make the IQ drop permanent . . .

    Actually that was a very interesting experience, though. Underneath the idiocy was something like a satori — the “Hey, look! I am not my mind!” experience that can happen in Buddhist meditation.

  6. Emilie Babcox said,

    Love these two (related) lines:

    ATTITUDES! ATTITUDES! ATTITUDES!Postures the mind takes like a dancer


    Why does the mind keep moving all the time? Like a hootchie kootchie dancer?

    This does all tie together, in that free-form stoned sort of way that can be lots of fun in small doses. The underlying wonderment about whether or not we somehow ARE our customary attitudes and ideas and habits, or whether our selves are much more flexible, less defined – that and the sexual tension. Nicely captured in the dance metaphor.

    And you gravitated naturally toward Emily Dickinson dashes. And, the Porlock ending.

    I really enjoyed this!

  7. mockturtle said,

    How well I remember just how profound and clever we thought we were when we were stoned! ROF in hysterics because someone said something SOOO funny! Sometimes I would write it down so I wouldn’t forget. Looking at it later, I just had to shake my head in wonder.

    Last time I partook of the cannabis was in the early 80’s with a friend up on Queen Anne Hill, Seattle. Not having smoked it since the 60’s, maybe early 70’s, I was unprepared for the increase in potency! Let’s just say that driving home from Queen Anne to Normandy Park was a challenge. :-\ How could a group spend a sociable evening smoking this stuff? You’re wasted after one or two tokes! Yikes!!

  8. amba12 said,

    Yes, I had the same experience the last time I partook, which was also around the early ’80s at a New Year’s Eve party. I stopped after one toke and even that was too much!

  9. Icepick said,

    Why does the mind keep moving all the time? Like a hootchie kootchie dancer?

    The mind as Charo?

  10. Icepick said,

    Excuse me, Charo would be the Cuchi Cuchi Girl. So the mind is NOT Charo, and Western Civilization has averted yet another disaster. Or missed a Golden Opportunity. Or something.

  11. Icepick said,

    Perhaps most importantly, I have discovered that Charo hs her own official YouTube channel.

  12. Ron said,

    This post has me cocking my head to one side like Nipper the RCA Victor dog….I clearly haven’t had enough dope.

  13. karen said,

    i don’t mind the punctuation, guys. Reading writing like it’s spoken- that’s the bonus of the written conversation. No, i’m not stoned- i’ve never even tried the stuff(too scared to, i’m challenged by life enough as it is)! i tend to gravitiate towand the dash- only, mine are singled out– not doubled. Where IS the doubled dash??

    My favourite line:
    “We build our houses of matter — EVERYTHING IS AN ATTITUDE, don’t you see?? This letter is both “total put”-on” and “utterly serious” and “neither.””


  14. karen said,

    … ~gravitate toward~.

    So many of my words are underlined anyway-
    i guess these 2 were the ones to get away.

  15. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Charo hs her own official YouTube channel.


  16. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Karen — on my Mac, the double dash is shift-option-dash. I don’t know if that means anything on a Windows PC.

    If that strikes you as brilliant, maybe you are just naturally stoned on life, like J, who used to say a glass of water would do it.

  17. karen said,

    :0) probably.

    When i get a glass of H2O from our faucet in the barn, the smell alone is enough to get me stoned. I love the smell of water. I drink it from a mason jar, no lie. I think it smells so good because it’s so close to the well from that faucet.

  18. Icepick said,

    Charo’s actually a pretty good flamenco guitarist. From IMdb:

    Was winner of ‘Guitar magazine”s Readers Poll as Best Flamenco Guitarist two years in a row.

    When she was 14, she won a scholarship to study classical guitar with Andrés Segovia.

    And she’s allegedly fluent in Japanese, amongst other languages. And in case you doubt, here’s a quote, “Around the world I am known as a great musician. But, in America I am known as the cuchi-cuchi girl. That’s okay because cuchi-cuchi has taken me all the way to the bank.” How American is THAT?

  19. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    OK, I’m impressed.

  20. Icepick said,


    And somehow a discussion of Charo just seems pretty trippy, and thus appropriate. Or not.

  21. Icepick said,

    On the topic of marijuana – only tried i once. It was right around my 23rd birthday. I had never tried it before because I just wasn’t that interested in messing with my perception of reality. And at 20 I had been in a major car accident and spent a few days on morphine and other opiates. I did NOT like that.

    But on the occasion of trying pot I just decided to give it a try to see if it would meet my expectations, which were that it wouldn’t be much more severe than getting trashed on alcohol. It more or less lived up to my expectations, though in ways I hadn’t foreseen. Just like morphine it completely messed up my perception of time. Time would alternately dar out and compress itself in unpleasant ways. (I was smoking some good shit (so I was told) with professional stoners.) The morphine had been even worse, as that would make seconds seem like days, and eight or twelve hours would pass in the blink of an eye.

    Those experiences actually left me resistant to taking anti-depressants. It took a severe depression to finally break me into taking those.

  22. Ron said,

    Carmen Miranda’s Law: All Stoner blog posts eventually lead to discussion of Charo…or hats with excessive piles of fruit under Diggby’s Double Down Correlate.

  23. A said,

    Some of the 60’s magic is a different experience (harking back to another of Annie’s books!) when one is IN one’s sixties, in ways I’ve been recently surprised and gratified to note. And I’m envious of Karen’s well water; the sips from the mason jar sound so very delicious.

  24. wj said,

    Well water is probably the thing I miss most from growing up on a farm. It really can’t be beat. Even though ours was so high in minerals that I never experienced soap suds in the shower until I went away to college — you just don’t get suds with water that hard.

  25. karen said,

    I didn’t want to bore you w/my well water(lol) but… our well is the only one on our 5mile (very dirt)road that doesn’t have any iron in it. Our neighbour’s well water isn’t potable(right word, i’m thinking) and they can’t even use it to make coffee because of what it does to the coffee maker.

    When we were down at my in-law’s, i didn’t dare offer coffee to Randy and Evelyn due to the arsenic content of the town water, but i think i was being overly cautious- something about the standards being raised… and the need for an expensive processor which cost buku bucks(no freaking idea on the buku spelling, sorry)(for the taxpayers- spelling:boohoo). I didn’t want my friend sick the 1st time we’d ever met!!!

  26. A said,

    No one on my country lane has potable well water, we all have drinking water delivered
    in plastic jugs (glass was phased out, because of weight) that probably leach BPA. Not only is our well water not safe to drink, we don’t always have enough of it. It keeps us very water-conscious, in every way. I read a few years ago that over half of the water municipalities in the US are foreign-owned. I thought that was stunning.

  27. callimachus said,

    I just smoked up and read this, and it is fucken brillint!

    Seriously, it’s what liberation looks like. Ephemeral and illusory liberation, maybe, when it comes with the smoke, but it’s real enough in the moment. An eucatastrophe.

    Stoned writing really does produce lines that are great: “We build our houses of matter ….”

  28. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Yes, it was the real thing — separation of the observer from the mind — despite the means of getting there . . . in which my ambivalence was also a key ingredient. I could feel my brain up there changing configuration from Worldview A to Worldview B and back, with an almost muscular contraction, like the rotation or eyeblink of the lens in an old-fashioned slideshow. And it was so two-dimensional. Another image that occurred to me, whether then or later, was of being a coelecanth looking up from the depths at an ice skater tracing patterns on the surface.

    Something I didn’t have time to write my brother about because of the Parents from Porlock was that about the time I was noticing that pointless slideshow wasting energy in my head, one of the boys carefully put the joint in his mouth backwards; the other leaned his lips close and the first boy blew a thin stream of blue smoke into his friend’s lips. Although I’m pretty sure not thus intended, it struck me as such a beautiful erotic, aesthetic, mythical image, like two young gods exchanging a spark of lightning; it made a mockery of that conceptual slideshow in my head, and I thought, This is what Keats meant by “Beauty is truth, truth beauty”!!

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