It was on the eve of Easter and Denver’s historic 4/20 festivities that this city seemed, in all of its definable and undefinable elements, a city that was truly experiencing a memorable spring.
Traffic was unbearable, with countless out of state plates, and music was humming from everywhere. There was an electricity that couldn’t be ignored. My girlfriend and two of our friends — Sean (the new-age guy) and Dave, a bitter intellect who, after feeling the effects of the tincture, claimed the plant years before had saved his life — walked the mile from our house to Cheesman Park armed with nothing but a Frisbee. And it was in Dave’s confession that he explained how weed has stopped him from always feeling so serious in such a serious world. This set the tone for our afternoon, and after taking off our shoes and setting up near a couple cottonwood trees we passed the disc around and, while short on breath, chasing down poor tosses and feeling the grass under bare feet spoke about this city with a questioning significance.
Denver has become an enigma. We are large players in a drama that I see to be relentlessly unfolding. There are new pressures that can both make you feel cast out and ignored, or on the flip-side malleable and encourage you to dedicate yourself to adjusting. Around us groups played volleyball. Mothers and fathers pushed strollers. The faint scent of weed and barbecue permeated the park, driving itself downward in the calm breeze. The seriousness of life seemed erased in our minds. My girlfriend, taking a break from tossing the Frisbee, climbed trees. Sean lay topless in the grass. David drank water, cross-legged staring into the rolled down windows of cars.
We cartwheeled and rolled, made up games involving meaningless points and allowed a childish competitiveness to take hold, wrestling and laughing and catching our breath. For an instant, all the stressors in our lives melted away — the never-ending commute, the dead-end jobs, the student loans — all of it became insignificant, and the weed allowed us to revel in the overcast Saturday afternoon. We were nothing more than a few twentysomethings just trying to be kids.
It reminded me of how my father used to be before the drug testing started at his work — back when he could still smoke weed. On Friday nights 20 years ago, he told me, he used to smoke in our garage and carve bows and arrows out of large pieces of dead cedar and ash. He said he’d lose himself in the garage, whittling wood under heated lamps. We lived in the country, away from everything, and in the dark of night he would walk sections of our dirt roads, high, exercising and clearing his mind.
It never made his thoughts evaporate, but what he has always said is if he paired weed with an activity (essentially the thrust of all of my columns) he could clear out the things from deep inside himself. The little things that he didn’t care to worry about but still did. Sitting in the garage in his chair whittling, cleaning, welding — I like to think my father did these things with internal freedom, the activities he has done since he was a kid, when he used to hunt and fish while smoking the ditch weed that grew in the creek beds of Kansas.
After my girlfriend, Sean, Dave and I left the park we walked back home. Standing on the deck I mentioned to my girlfriend, “It has been a long time since I have just played.” She laughed, touched my arm and went back inside. Even a mile from the park and another mile from the 4/20 festivities downtown I could still smell marijuana wrapped up in the wind.
I thought: Someday this all might mean something more to Denver, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be now.