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Who Is the Stoner Generation?  

I am the stoner generation.

Ron Perlman in Kid Cannabis

It's exhausting. When you feel like you've done just about everything there is to do in a town like America you suddenly (or gradually) realize you are tired. Wasted? I've just finished suffering through the true consciousness of a hot grinding time like a lot of others. A decade and more of trying to catharize the impacted shit of the decades and millennia before. It's rough for people my age who are doomed to follow war babies through history.

After 10 years of the terminal intensity of hard play combined with the cannabis culture I am a part of, I find that I can currently soothe myself with the most simple of moments. A seat on the dock, a view of the lake and a well rolled WILLIE'S RESERVE joint in my hand. It provides a kind of vast visceral relief.

I've been in such a mood recently, only without any ear or eye stimulation, for a rare, rare change. I sat in the dark and just tried to empty my mind. Not meditate—you understand—just blank out, empty my mind. It didn't take me very long time to comprehend that I have been undergoing a constant audio visual overload in (virtually) every waking moment.

From the jump, things begin to float to the surface of my consciousness–then blink and they are gone. Concepts stormed out of hidden recesses in my mind. And then it hit me: It was as startling as when you're home alone and something falls in another room. There very probably will never be another generation like mine, a generation that crossed the digital frontier and saw the legitimization of the cannabis culture from its dark days of the mid 1970s through the creation of the drug cartels to the institutionalization of it through the efforts of individuals like Willie Nelson. 

The 1980s were right in the middle of it all. My "formative years." What would they have been like in a world of legalization? Many of my friends would not have blemished records. The current generation will never really know what kind of risks so many of us took to smoke what was often some pretty crappy weed. It's true that there are advantages to having been through that generation and to be able to form opinions based on first-hand observations. If you have seen enough guys get way too stoned because they ate a whole brownie, then you know to never eat more than a half. Sounds simple, but everyone is impatient. Even guys who eat a half wind up eating the other half in an hour because they don't think its working. Then it hits and you're screwed up in a corner having an out of body existence.

About marijuana I was pragmatically naive up until my sophomore year of high school. But I was a fast learner. I intend to make no qualitative differences here with the Baby Boomers, whose perception of the world was shaped by those who had lived through World Wars. My era did not have the weight of their hindsight. Generation X grew up in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a world twisted away from the ordinary day-to-day world that existed before civil rights and the Vietnam War. It became a world of new hope that resonated with a generation that grew up with Star Wars and Atari.

Today's Millennials have a certain kind of unity as a generation. It's easy to feel a strong sense of unity when you are rallying around the open and free cannabis culture. Generation X was united in our desire to march to our own independent beats, not driven by social media but driven to discover social media.

I come from a culture and heritage deeply rooted in its struggle for survival. In the Eastern European villages of scholars and craftsmen, who had their own kind of negative unity, and rarely enjoyed themselves because they had it drilled into them all their lives that it was un Godly. Generation X broke the cycle of guilt that had driven generation after generation for hundreds of years. Life did not have to be strictly about survival. When putting food on the table was no longer the most difficult part of your day, there is a certain sense of enlightenment.

For the Baby Boomer's parents, the only way to be truly free of guilt on weekends was if they exhausted themselves slaving their asses off the other five days of the week. They never knew what it was like to consider a prospect and say, "If it's beautiful—DO IT!" They died of acute incomprehension. They never understood why they lived, so they died, thinking they might understand that. The Baby Boomers were the first to exit this historical status. But it was Generation X that was the first to benefit with no guilt.

And race relations, which Millennials are often shocked to see strained, did not exist before the 1970s. There were no race relations in the 1950s and 1960s. Although schools were integrated by the 1970s and 1980s it was still all very new to Generation X. They had no frame of reference and it would take decades to work though that discovery process. For some reason I always identified with black people—maybe because I saw them as being somehow, no matter their age, as vulnerable as me and mine.

Friends are of course always important—but they seemed especially so then, when we sat about gleamy-eyed with rapport, the very air growing warm with revelation. Ex-friend is still a pretty bad word in my lexicon. How desperate the urgings on graduation photographs for the recipient to "Always remain as you are." Kids truly feared maturation, not like today when my fourteen-year-old can watch Ted or old Harold and Kumar movies and get a ganjacation. Marijuana was part of my common ideology that enabled those relationships with many of my friends to endure. Will it now, in the digital era? More people smoke alone than ever before. Is this part of the evolution? Has the commoditization of weed for some made it no different than three extra strength Advil, but a more certain reaction?

When we sat around discussing what our careers should be it was, "What's gonna be around in 20 years? What's gonna pay? What's gonna be the coming thing?" At that time, we would sit around pretty stoned, watching sci-fi movies and we brilliantly predicted that it would be such things as computers and technology, thank you Gene Roddenberry. 

It is hard to imagine the truth. But it is there staring me in the face. All that I think I knew, is now available to my children, at 10 years old, on a small device in their pocket. All the travails of discovery I went through, from finding marijuana to the navigation of the New York subway system, let alone self diagnosis of medical ailment, are solved in the blink of an eye or a swipe of the hand. Perhaps the Millennials will figure out how to use their time more effectively and make a better world for the generations to come after. Meanwhile, I will continue to sit on my dock, stare at the lake and enjoy my WILLIE'S RESERVE joint.


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