The boy and his father noticed the odor as soon as the doors opened. When the doors closed, leaving the boy and his father alone, the father harrumphed: "Marijuana."
The boy regarded his father with surprise. He'd always seen his father as the straightest of straight arrows. How could he possibly know what marijuana smelled like?
He eventually found the courage to ask.
The father harrumphed again. "You kids today think you invented everything. If you haven't done it, it's never been done before.
"People smoked marijuana when I was a kid, too, you know. Especially musicians. Gene Krupa went to jail for possession of marijuana in 1943. It nearly ruined his career" --
Gene Krupa?Oh. You thought I was the father in that story? Sorry. I was the son.
Gene Krupa was a drummer and bandleader in the Big Band Era. He had the drum solo on "Sing Sing Sing" at the 1938 Benny Goodman concert at Carnegie Hall that seemed to go on... and on... forever. I listened to the concert recording a lot as a kid.
(And that record was made an entire generation before In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.)
So my father was right: Our generation hadn't invented anything new. The Baby Boomers may have expanded the covert pharmacopoeia a bit, but that's all. Louis Armstrong had smoked pot. Bing Crosby smoked pot.
(Kids in the 1970's didn't think of Louis Armstrong or der Bingle as particularly cool. These were artists our parents enjoyed... and so, by association, they were necessarily uncool. A lot of us grew out of this.)
And if we had thought about it at all, we might have realized that old movies that we laughed at in late night campus showings, like "Reefer Madness", were made because kids were smoking marijuana even way back when.
I've written before about my very limited experience with marijuana: Essentially, I had no use for it. For me it was a logical proposition: Getting caught with dope could get me into serious trouble -- even then -- but drinking beer, awful as it tastes, was entirely legal. (The drinking age was then 19 in Illinois. And even that was winked at. Then.)
I wonder, though, if this incident with my father might not also have colored my attitude toward dope: Pretty hard to be cool and rebellious merely by aping your father now, isn't it?
We put our kids through all sorts of anti-drug indoctrination today: D.A.R.E. programs and Red Ribbon Weeks and so on. And the kids look at almost any movie or TV show from the late 60's or 70's and conclude that either we're all a bunch of lying hypocrites or that we (their parents) were really the hopelessly dorky kids who never heard of the stuff -- leaving them free, in their imagination, to discover drugs for themselves.
Well, I haven't been that easy on my kids: I haven't sugar-coated my own exposure to drugs. I haven't denied that I drank in college. I won't be a hypocrite (although I do reserve the right to keep some details to myself -- at least until they've safely navigated the shoals of adolescence and post-adolescence).
I've told my kids the have rules changed since I was their age -- the rules are harsher now. The consequences are more onerous. In Illinois, for example, there's a zero tolerance statute for underage drinking and driving: A driver under 21 who is stopped for any traffic offense while driving with any liquor in the driver's system -- even less than the .08 legal limit for adults -- will lose his or her driver's license. There aren't many loopholes. See, 625 ILCS 5/11-501.8.
I tell my kids I didn't make up these rules. Nor can I do anything about the new, harsh rules: They'd better just follow the rules.
Besides: Clamping down on drinking and driving makes sense. Some of us drank and drove... but we got lucky. But this isn't what persuades the kids. So I keep this mostly to myself.