When stoned and running barefoot on Los Angeles’ Manhattan Beach, everyone else seems stoned too — only they’re not stoned like me, as I was lucky to get edibles from my uncle who lives in Northern California.
Along the shore, it seems, many locals are stoned off Southern California’s pollution, and money floats right out their ears and into the gas tanks of their German-made SUVs and chlorinated swimming pools. Their bodies, I thought, are hard enough to shatter a mirror. Personally I never got into the Southern California lifestyle while living there. I usually stay away from beaches, finding them as intimidating as used-car lots, but this day was different. I had just napped for three sweaty hours in a stifling hotel room situated next to Culver City’s Howard Hughes Center, and woke up to the sounds of a car bomb going off on CNN.
I was in L.A. to graduate with a master’s degree, finish a few classes and see some friends. The night before I’d gotten drunk with my graduate school professors and peers. It was a nice affair, white linens, white lights, an open yard and cooler of wine. Hung over, I was applying certain efforts to forget my situation.
The hotel wasn’t shabby, but it didn’t come with shampoo or room service and there were dogs always barking from somewhere. CNN was the only channel I watched, given the 12 channels to choose from on the tubular television set. I had been subsisting on cheap Mexican food. My aunt, uncle, sister, mother and father were to arrive that next hour and, in some way or another, I was going to help my father navigate through the city while trying to overcome the sounds of my mother and sister squealing for the feel of fresh saltwater.
“June Gloom” in L.A. usually keeps the oceans cool, but the marine layer had sucked into the clouds a few days earlier, and KABC-TV’s Dallas Raines said, “The Pacific has heated up to 64 and in some areas, 70.” California was ready to swim. It was June 18 and I hadn’t been stoned for 5 days.
When my family got off their flights, I caught word from my mother that my uncle had brought edibles. They picked me up in a rented minivan. Outside the hotel, two Russians who asked me for weed a few days earlier were smoking cigarettes and arguing about the humidity. I had told them marijuana was illegal and putrid and puts holes in your brain. They failed to see my humor.
On the drive over, everyone was giddy and saying things like: “We had a hell of a flight,” “There isn’t any such thing as legroom anymore,” “I have headache from the screaming baby,” “It’s so good to see you all again.” The minivan boiled with familiar voices and I felt overwhelmed, having spent one week in a hotel alone.
When we got to the beach my uncle slipped me a bag of medical-grade gummies. “They hit fast,” he said, and walked back to my father, who sat with the rest of the family chatting. I fumbled with the package, struggled to interpret the dosage and decided that this would be as good a day as any to take a run.
I left my shoes with the family, took off my shirt, stuffed my phone into my pocket and shot off for the water. Running in sand doubles the workout, I have been told, and for that reason I started slow. In the distance I could see Manhattan Beach Pier and figured it to be close to a mile away. This would be my turn-around point.
At first the weed felt gradual, and evolved as I motored south down the coastline. I ran at an unimpressive pace, surveying the bodies that freckled the coast. I passed a couple who wore matching suits and a girl who was burying her legs under the sand. When the weed finally hit me it smacked me dizzy and my legs struggled to keep up with my mind. I had been washing my hair for the last seven days with a bar of soap and I remember this made me feel giggly and self-conscious. I ran into the Pacific and let the saltwater go through my toes.
I was collected and cool — I was stoned and running.
The sand eventually took its toll and I struggled getting to the pier. I forced myself to count abdominal muscles on passers-by and thought about what the colors of bathing suits meant. As I got closer to the pier — tasting my sweat — I wondered why marijuana and running hasn’t been explored further. It’s better than anything else when it comes to killing running’s monotony.
It feels like you’re mixing drugs.
At the pier I wandered half-naked down the wooden walkway. My phone rang. It was my aunt. She asked me where I was and how I felt. I replied, “Amazingly stoned.” She laughed, and in the background I could hear my parents talking to my uncle. They were telling stories about their younger days, my aunt said. In the distance I saw a man fidget with his sailboat’s mast. She told me to hurry back because everyone was getting hungry. She said we had some celebrating to do. I hung up and got off the pier and went to the water. There was an urge to get in. The urge felt creative and relentless. I left my phone on a rock at the base of the pier.
I had graduated and wanted to wash myself in the Pacific.