Sometime around 1965 I scored some “special” grass.
The word grass dates me. Today it would be called, disrespectfully, weed. But there was nothing weedy about it.
I remember complaining, holding up the transparent bag with what looked like a thin line of fine, golden pubic hair at the bottom: “Is that all you can sell?”
My source looked at me pityingly.
“You’ve heard of Panama Red and Acapulco gold? This is better. It’s unbelievable.”
Of course everything he ever sold me was “unbelievable”, so I walked away unbelieving.
On Saturday night we all tried it.
My sister Marcia and her boyfriend George Minervini, George’s brother Dennis, Dennis’ girlfriend, and Neil Berg, who that morning was supposed to have started his first job but decided to take the day off.
We all shared a single thin joint. Everyone thought I was holding back. When had I gotten so stingy?
Then Marcia and George went out.
Sometime later, and suddenly it was impossible to say how long later was–10 minutes? Two hours?—the phone rang. It was Marcia.
“George is on the floor of the Chinese restaurant and he thinks he’s dying.”
The rest of us somehow made our way down Johnson Avenue to the restaurant just south of 235th Street. We found the dying George, now in a booth, un-dead, and starry-eyed.
“Wow.” He said.
And then a little later, “Wow”.
George did not have a large vocabulary at the best of times. He suspected words, and thought the fewer the better. Strong and silent, he was sort of the Hemingway of Yonkers. Not that he could write.
But now “Wow” was the full extent of his vocabulary. And at that moment it felt surprisingly adequate, articulate even. “Wow” seemed to cover all possible sensations, insights and emotions, even if it made for a rather repetitive conversation, interrupted by the occasional, wistful, “Can you get any more?”
For years afterwards people referred to “that stuff that Gerry scored”.
It was my fame in the neighborhood: my unique, small light at the center of the dark universe. All subsequent stuff didn’t measure up. The grass had become legend.
What everyone meant by “wow” was this: as you inhaled for the first time your body physically rose, 6 to 8 feet into the air. Whoosh. And there it stayed, floating. You were at peace with the world below as you would never be again.
The great globe and the golden future it promised was at your feet.
Wow is right.