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Another solo 4/20

Hopefully, this is the last time

To say I have a love-hate relationship with weed would be an understatement—smoking it has directly led to some of the most outrageous panic attacks I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. It has also profoundly influenced the way I listen to music, read literature and just generally perceive the world. Most people I know have a fairly simplistic relationship with the vitamin W—they either love it or abhor it. My attitude on marijuana frequently oscillates between those two extremes. Also, I don’t think anyone actually calls it the vitamin W. 


Many years ago I wrote a piece on “how to say no without being a buzzkill” for a Portland Mercury 4/20 issue. The article was conceived as sort of a Vice parody, and I felt encouraged by my editors to be as hokey and curmudgeonly as possible. A bunch of stoners sent me hate mail and left incensed comments on Facebook, which seemed both uncharacteristically angry and characteristically obtuse of them; people wrongly assumed that I was a narc, or that I was actually the character I was just temporarily inhabiting for the purposes of a throwaway article. It taught me that people in Portland take weed—and 4/20—very seriously, which I somehow missed even though I grew up here.


This is, of course, the second 4/20 in a row where smoking weed with your friends is gauche. It’s not as bad as it was last year—in April 2020, we still had no idea how bad COVID-19 truly was and the development of an effective vaccine still seemed like it could be several years out. We now have an abundance of effective vaccines and a sense of social normalcy is gradually returning, despite moralistic finger-wagging from the cloistered politicians who practically left us for dead a year ago. 


Still, we at Portland State Vanguard cannot in good conscience recommend smoking weed with your friends in the midst of a pandemic, effective vaccines be damned! So, alternatively, here are a number of things your stoner ass can do alone this 4/20.


Spend approximately eight hours on YouTube


Most of these activities are evergreen, but YouTube rabbit holes are especially engaging when you’re high. I recommend spending time with some light conspiracy theories—i.e., no 9/11 or QAnon stuff. You can watch virtually every episode of Mountain Monsters on YouTube for free—a terrific reality show about a band of grizzled, nicotine-stained trappers and hunters who search for fictitious monsters in the Appalachian Mountains. It goes without saying that this ragtag gang never finds what they’re looking for, but every episode devolves into an unintentionally hilarious spectacle where a bunch of dudes in overalls and night vision goggles trip over each other and mistake rock formations for Bigfoot.


Listen to progressive rock


Ordinarily, progressive rock offers a profoundly sexless and cerebral listening experience, but then you listen to some of this stuff high and realize what all of the fuss is about. It’s also essential that you’re listening to the right brand of prog—not Kansas or Styx or any of the other late ‘70s, chiefly American bands. Instead, listen to Yes’ masterpiece, Close to the Edge, or King Crimson’s seminal In the Court of the Crimson King. Top it all off with Foxtrot from Peter Gabriel era Genesis—an album whose centerpiece is the sprawling, 22-minute “Supper’s Ready,” which is one of the most engaging rock suites ever written.


Play video games


This one is self-explanatory, although you might want to stay away from anything too grisly. Play the peerlessly-trippy Nintendo classic Earthbound. Or, if you have the money to burn, track down a Sega Dreamcast and a copy of Seaman—a classic pet simulator which features a talking fish voiced by Leonard Nimoy.


Go outside


It’s cliched, but the natural world becomes a lot easier to appreciate when you’re high. Thankfully, natural beauty is bountiful in Portland, and there’s a gorgeous park within walking distance from almost any place in the city. To play it safe, 4/20 this year should probably still mostly be a solitary activity—but it doesn’t have to be a sedentary or exclusively indoors one, either.


Have a panic attack that will become a quintessential 4/20 anecdote


One time I got really high and thought my throat was closing up, which is sort of par for the course. This time, however, I got so scared that I raided my friend’s mom’s cupboards and found some local anesthetic that I sprayed into the back of my throat. I somehow missed my throat—the one area I was aiming for—and hit everywhere else in my mouth instead, and I suddenly felt like I was at the dentist. So, I was now high, still worried that my throat was closing up and my entire mouth was doused in local anesthetic. It was truly one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, but in hindsight, I think it’s pretty funny, so that makes it worth it.