4/20 originated, according to Wikipedia legend, at San Rafael high school in 1971. A group of teenagers (they called themselves “the Waldos” because they hung out by a wall, what a bunch of stoners!) would meet at 4:20 to smoke pot by the Louis Pasteur statue; apparently they would get high and then go looking for a buried-treasure-style stash near Point Reyes, which they never found (not shocking).
Today, dispensaries all over LA are giving away little paper bags filled with presents. They are all trying to out-gift all of the other goodie-bag givers and wind up Most Bomb Dispensary. I won’t hate. I got a gift bag. The best thing about potheads is that they’re a fun-loving bunch, and they like to give and receive stapled-shut packages that they can’t open until they get home. Potheads are like kittens: they enjoy creating small suspenseful scenarios for themselves. What will this burger be like? Can I catch a butterfly? What if we could breathe underwater? A little game of chase. Nothing too challenging or aerobic.
The best thing about 4/20 is that all day you go about your business giggling. It’s like senior skip day for grown ups (it’s not for grown ups, I don’t want you to think I actually think that; it’s also not for infants. It’s for people of a certain age who are both). You plan a really exciting dinner. This year it falls on a Tuesday, so you are going to have American Idol later. If you don’t watch American Idol, today is an excellent day to start. The worst thing about 4/20 is that today you made coffee without putting the filter basket in the coffeemaker. The grounds were everywhere. The spillage was extreme. You had to run a water cycle through, that’s how awful things were. Counterpoint: another best thing about 4/20 is that it’s raining, so there’s a low fog over the mountains and steam rising off the lake. THE WONDER OF NATURE in capitals is a 4/20 highlight, for sure. Do you remember the first time you really considered the idea of “the atmosphere”? How about the idea of “water evaporating and then coming back as rain”? Did you draw a diagram? Could that have been on April 20th?
In front of me in line today at the dispensary was a man who was somewhere in his late seventies, at least. This man had, as I heard a casting director once describe it, “fuckin’ dressed” in a jacket and tie. He was undeniably a grown up, but this man was in the process of blowing his own mind on the subject of medicated lollipops. “Wait, flavors?” he said. While he was looking at lollipops, his face like a six year old’s when he first sees a majestic unicorn, he caught sight (I wrote “site” and didn’t catch it!! If you see the unedited post, as a re-blog or whatever, don’t think I’m an idiot; it’s just 4/20, man! 4/20 took hold of my spelling brain!) of raffle tickets. Uh oh. “Are these…raffle tickets?” he whispered, as if to himself. He bought four, maybe stopping himself before he added “…hundred.” As he checked out, they handed him his little gift bag. He made his way out of the store, a bank robber after performing a flawless heist, clutching his paper bags to his chest, eyes darting around. He zoomed away in his car in a way that said, “What have they given me! What’s in this magical bag!!” What else does modern life afford us that causes people this kind of excitement? Is it because pot was so recently absolutely illegal, and we’re just steeping ourselves in the novelty of it? Or is it really just that much fun?
There’s a sense of not knowing where the marijuana legalization movement will go that adds to the thrill you get when you walk into an office building that has a vending machine of joints and chocolates and grams or ounces of something called, like, Ass Crack or Ghost Dog. We know to enjoy it while we still can, because it might be yanked away from us at any moment; maybe in two years we’ll be remembering 4/20/2010, — fondly, “glory days” — as a day where you went to work and paused for a second to glance over into Sally’s cubicle. Sally is housing a packet of Skittles and so involved in Facebook Scrabble that her eyes are little O(1) tiles. You may see Tom the janitor wheeling his mop bucket down the aisle and notice that there are not one, but two In n’ Out chocolate milkshakes balanced on it. You may see your boss come in late, wearing sunglasses, and telling someone on his Bluetooth about the cat who plays on an iPad. You may stop at 7-11 for cigarettes and notice that the store is completely empty and there’s a trail of wrappers leading to the Multiplex. Oh, Avatar is playing all day. Is it a real holiday? I don’t know. It’s a ridiculous holiday. It’s not a holiday, it’s a bacchanal. But whatever it is, I remember past 4/20’s (I know, I know! Do I remember?) as having the same air about them, year after year: you look at people on the street suspiciously, your professor knows what day it is and tells everyone who goes to class not to share their notes (haters), The Big Lebowski has been checked out at every single Blockbuster in your town and the one over. If the mark of a holiday is consistency, you can’t ask for better than April 20th: other than the psychological variables that can lead you to hide under a sofa, heart jumping in your ribcage like a flea, or strolling around the aquarium and stopping in front of the seahorse display for two and a half hours wondering how much like horses they are, and how much like strange underwater bugs, how highly evolved — well, 4/20 will always have that same crazy novelty, at least for now. Like a stapled paper bag, we don’t know what we’re entitled to or what to expect from the legalization of marijuana. We buy Lazy Lemonade at a licensed retail outlet and still feel as though we’re doing something wrong, we see a doctor whose face is plastered on billboards all over Hollywood and get a piece of paper that exempts us from the rules we always knew, and we enjoy, for now, a culture that allows us to high-five a septuagenarian because we’re both playing hooky from the rules for a day.