Friday, October 30, 2009

Propaganda In Your Mailbox

Every day for the last few weeks a pleasant surprise greets me whenever I open the mailbox: colorful brochures from the New Jersey Democratic State Committee and Cape May County Regular Republican Orgnaziation.

Political mailers incurred my wrath several years ago. I absolutely fucking hate them. I loathe every piece of these brainwashing bits of partisan propaganda. They absolutely represent everything that’s wrong with the political process: the money wasted on opposition research firms, PR hacks and partisan committees to persuade people into voting for candidates through confusion and fear.

Republican Assembly candidates Michael Donohue and John McCann are facing incumbent Democrats Nelson Albano and Matthew Milam, who are running for re-election at a time when being a Democrat in New Jersey is about as popular as being Jewish in the rural south. Or in Germany during the 1930s. Or in medieval Europe. You get the idea.

Albano and Milam are facing an uphill battle with a hostile electorate who blame their economic woes on another Democrat, Gov. Jon Corzine.

Corzine is very unpopular in southern New Jersey, a Republican stronghold, in a district where Albano and Milam represent.

So it’s no surprise when two unpopular Democrats running for re-election are challenged by two Republicans who keep mentioning the fact that the two Democrats are, in fact, unpopular. Donohue and McCann have hammered Albano and Milam on their lack of a substantial record, but they’re also touting ways to fix the state’s financial woes and advocate cutting state government.

So when a flurry of mailers from the Democrats explain, not what Albano or Milam would do if elected, but about Donohue and McCann’s personal dealings, it’s obvious that any intelligent, substantive dialog will be substituted for inane fluff.

The Democrats are employing a tried and true political campaign tactic: sling enough shit and see what sticks.

These are what I call “Ugly Mailers” because they focus on the negative of their opponents and make me want to angrily club a baby seal. I’m distinguishing Ugly Mailers “D” for Democrats and “R” for Republicans below.

(D) Ugly Mailer 1: Blurry photographs of McCann and Donohue with bars across their eyes like they’re both in Swedish pornographic movies. The text reads “Michel Donohue has held as many as five different government jobs at the same time, earning three taxpayer-funded pensions. While our families struggle with high property taxes, Donohue was busy collecting $700,000 in taxpayer dollars and padding his retirement at our expense.” Continuing, the text reads “John McCann and his Trenton cronies had Governor Corzine appoint him to a cushy part-time job overseeing your property taxes In exchange for attending a few meetings a month, McCann is eligible for health benefits and a government retirement plan funded by taxpayers.”

McCann is a member of the county tax board. And if Corzine appointed McCann to this board, isn’t the governor to blame?

(D) Ugly Mailer 2: Two strawberry ice cream cones squished together on the front cover with a black and white head shot of Donohue and the text: “Michael Donohue has been double-dipping the taxpayers.” The ice cream motif (double dipping, get it?) continues on the inside with a photo of the same ice cream cones melted and a lovable kid cramming an ice cream cone into his mouth, with ice cream all over his face. Though Freudians could have a field day with the imagery, it’s pretty tame…and lame. According to the mailer, “Michael Donohue wants to be in the General Assembly – but he’s already on the public dole. According to The Daily Journal, Donohue held FOUR taxpayer-funded positions in 2008. He’s not just double-dipping – he’s quadruple dipping!” I’m sorry, but you lost me with the photographs of yummy ice cream. I don’t want to read the rest of the mailer. I want ice cream. I mean, who doesn’t like ice cream?

(D) Ugly Mailer 3: A photograph of a man in a suit from the neck down, holding a stack of $100 bills. The text reads, “One word describes Assembly candidates Michael Donohue and John McCann: Greed.” The mailer explains that Donohue and McCann have “scored seven government jobs and five government pensions,” what is describes as “a colossal waste of our tax dollars.” Two excerpts from The Daily Journal of Vineland add legitimacy to the claim Donohue worked as a municipal prosecutor in three towns and McCann is on the county tax board and receives a salary and is eligible for health benefits and state retirement program. If the Democrats, who have control of the legislature and senate, haven’t prevented appointees like McCann from receiving these governmental perks, they shouldn’t accuse McCann of any wrongdoing.

(D) Ugly Mailer 4: A photograph of Donohue and two big hands holding a fistful of money: $5 bills on one hand and $10 in the other. The text on the front, “Michael Donohue has been Double Dipping…” Wow! He’s been pilfering $5 bills and $10 bills? What’s the problem? The interior photograph contains a photo of a man turning his pocket inside out, the graphical symbol of abject poverty.

(R) Ugly Mailer 1: A blurry photo of Trenton’s capital dome with the text “New Jersey Has Highest Property Taxes In The Nation. Trenton Democrats have failed New Jersey.” On the inside we get information cited from the New Jersey Department of Labor, the 2010 state budget and from Namely, “Trenton Democrats offer same old politics that created the worst New Jersey economy in 17 years,” “Trenton Democrats offer more new taxes and fees that have given New Jersey the highest tax burden in the nation,” and “Trenton Democrats offer more of the wasteful spending that had saddled New Jersey with a $10 billion deficit.” So the shocking revelation here is that Trenton Democrats are bad. What about Democrats in other parts of the state? The mailer concludes with portraits from the candidates: Chris Christie for governor, Leonard Desiderio for freeholder, and Donohue and McCann for assembly, just in case you want to identify these guys before you vote for them.

(R) Ugly Mailer 2: A photograph of a young woman with her eyes closed and her fingers in her ears. The text reads, “With all the noise in the New Jersey elections, don’t lose sight of the facts: Trenton Democrats raised your taxes.” How can one lose sight if their eyes are closed and fingers in their ears? The back of the mailer reads, “On November 3rd, don’t let your vote go to waste.” Inside, we get a Wrong Way sign, along with the following: “New Jersey is headed in the wrong direction. The problem is, we can’t trust Democrats and Independents on taxes. Higher taxes will only make things worse.” Saying higher taxes make things worse is like saying sticking a moray eel in your pants is a bad idea. No shit, Sherlock. Secondly, this mailer goes after Independents as well as Democrats. Independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett (whom our paper endorsed, by the way) has rising poll numbers. He’s a long shot by far, but his candidacy is causing Christie headaches because Daggett is viewed as the spoiler and could ruin Christie’s chances by stealing voters from him. So, the GOP is now fighting a war on two fronts, hammering Corzine and Daggett. This is weird because Christie dismissively referred to Daggett’s candidacy as “an amusement” and shrugged him off as a non-viable candidate. Yet by acknowledging the Independent as a threat through this mailer, Christie is showing just how full of shit he actually is. But that’s old hat in politics. Say one thing, do something else.

(R) Ugly Mailer 3: A curious mailer sent by the National Organization for Marriage, Inc., a Washington DC-based group, features a photo of a wedding cake topped with two groom figurines. The text reads menacingly, “Are your kids ready to learn about gay marriage?” Gay marriage? When the fuck did this issue become part of the campaign? I’ve never heard any candidate talk about this issue willingly this year unless we prodded them on it. When we interviewed the Republican assembly candidates, they strongly condemned it. McCann even said that social issues were not part of this year’s campaign. So why am I getting a mailer for it? On the inside, the mailer shows a photograph of a scared child in his mother’s arms, wide-eyed and frightened. The text reads, “Legalizing gay marriage affects your family. The New Jersey State Legislature is considering a bill to legalize gay marriage in our state. If enacted, this plan would have serious consequences for families and kids in New Jersey. Massachusetts schools use the book King and King to teach second graders that boys can marry other boys. And in California, a public school took first graders to a same-sex wedding, calling it a ‘teachable moment.’”

Of course Massachusetts and California are scary places with intellectuals and open-minded liberals. No wonder why Sodom and Gomorra exist there. But it gets weirder. The back of the mailer reads, “Assemblymen Albano and Milam are expected to join with Governor Corzine to ignore New Jersey’s real problems and spend their time legalizing homosexual marriage.” First of all, Albano is opposed to gay marriage. He told us so. And I don’t think these guys will drop everything and rush to whatever gay marriage legislation is lingering in the wings and endorse it.

This mailer is the worst kind of propaganda. Released four days before the election, the Republicans, bereft of any specifics or message other than “I’m not the other guy” are showing how desperate they are. So they trot out the gay marriage wedge issue, which worked so well for them in the past. Scare the shit out of God-fearing homophobes by calling your opponents supporters of “homosexual marriage.”

Of all the Ugly Mailers, this one is the ugliest. This mailer is uglier than Kathleen Turner. If you’ve seen her lately in Californication, you know exactly what I mean. If Donohue and McCann have any shred of decency, they’d condemn the mailer. Chances are, they’ll play the good little docile sheep and agree with their party masters. What this ad shows is the utter hypocrisy of the GOP. The mailer should have read, “We’re Republicans. We’ll suck cock behind closed doors, but publicly we’ll condemn gay marriage as destructive to children and families.” Why don’t the Republicans really tell children the truth, that marriage is a soul-crushing, torturous existence where a couple spends year after year in a never-ending routine of spiteful finger-pointing, hoping the other one drops dead so they could be free.

Sounds an awful lot like politics, doesn’t it?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fun With Politicians

One of journalism's perks (besides the executive washroom and free buffet luncheons) is the yearly ritual of interviewing politicians or people who want to be politicians. We invite candidates to our offices for editorial board meetings, which sounds more exciting than they actually are. There's nothing as exhilarating as listening to politicians wax poetic about lowering property taxes, eliminating state agencies and fixing the pension system. Okay, probably a root canal followed by a hot lava enema would be just as exciting. Other than that, it's pretty cut and dry stuff.

Occasionally, we'll have informal chats and a carefree exchange that's less businesslike and more like a group of buddies hanging out in the bar, playing darts and pounding down brewskis. Once in a while, we encounter a few gems in the conversation, little quirky moments where the politicos are off guard and let their hair down. My trusty tape recorder captures it all, an unvarnished record free of spin and hyperbole. Here the candidates shine, warts and all. Far from the carefully crafted images their consultants want to project, the candidates can relax and be themselves.

Here are a few examples from this round of interviews, bits of editorial board meetings best left on the cutting room floor for your amusement, gentle reader. I think you'll agree these lighthearted moments add to the rough-and-tumble, bare-knuckle brawls and show a gentler side of both the candidates and the journalists who cover them.

John McCann, Republican candidate, First Legislative District, on former Gov. James McGreevey, who resigned after outing himself over a gay sex scandal:

McCann: “Let me say this to you from an ethnic point of view. It takes us forever to get an Irishman into the governor’s house and he has to blow it like that.”

Me: “Literally.”

Michael Donohue, Republican candidate, First Legislative District, on abortion:

Donohue: “Even people who would describe themselves as pro-choice say they want abortion to be more restrictive. They want fewer abortions. They don’t want abortion to be birth control.”

Me: “Of course. Who wants more abortions?”

Donohue: “A lot of people do.”

Me (impersonating Richard Nixon): “I want more abortions! More abortions for all of us!”

Donohue: “Absolutely! There are extremist positions. You say that even babies that are born, until they have cognition of their surroundings…”

Editor: “That’s the Spartans…”

McCann, a Realtor, on the subject of abortion:

McCann: “You don’t think doctors who perform abortions, you don’t consider that business, they don’t want that?”

Me: “No.”

McCann: “That’s like me saying I don’t want to sell enough houses.”

Me: “Then the doctors will have to be going around knocking women up to get their business.”

Democrat Assemblyman Nelson Albano, on a TV commercial that depicted opponent Michael Donohue as a pig feeding from a trough:

Albano: “We don’t do the commercials. You know when I find out what the commercials are? When I’m laying in bed at night watching the news and I see it pop up. When I first seen that, I laughed my ass off. I thought it was funny.”

Independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett describing the public's distrust of government:

Daggett: “I can tell you this: people are pissed off in a way that... and I shouldn't used pissed off so don't quote me.”

Me: “It's earthy and it's natural. Basically, mad as hell and were not going to take it anymore.”

Daggett: “It is! One side of me says it's like Network. Throw the window open and say 'we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore' because that's what people feel.”

Daggett on negotiating with unions:

Daggett: “In all my experience and I've solved a lot of difficult problems over 30-plus years of being involved in the fabric of New Jersey. Usually what I do is start with the facts, because I found too often we're having an argument about what we should do about fixing something, and you can't reach an agreement and you say 'what are the facts?' and the guy says 'X' and you go, 'shit, I thought...' Excuse me...”

Me: “He is comfortable! He is a regular Joe!”

Friday, October 23, 2009

Mr. Pie In The Face

In keeping with a partial function of this blog as a chronicler of dead celebrities, comedian Soupy Sales died at 83. I remember Sales from a TV show he did in the 1970s, and my father thinking it was the funniest thing on the air. He was a master of double entendres and in many ways was ahead of his time. The censors never let him get away with what he really wanted to do, and that's a shame. Judged by today's standards, Soupy's act was shticky, with puppets, corny songs and the trademark pie in the face gag, yet there was something quintessentially American about his buffoonery. The Soupy Sales Show was what every lame kids show in the 1950s wanted to be; an attempt to tweak the nose of repressed America and break out with something innovative and new. As crude as it was, it preserved a Vaudevillian style, a man in a studio grasping at jokes, playing the fool and getting pelt with pies all in the name of entertainment, to elicit smiles and laughter. What more nobler pursuit could one strive for in a jaded, fearful world? Soupy pushed boundaries on his program. In an improvised moment, he asked children to sneak into their parent's rooms and find the little green pieces of paper with pictures of presidents on them and mail them to him. In exchange, the children were promised a postcard from Puerto Rico.
In recent years, Soupy attended Ocean City's Doo-Dah Parade, even judging a pie in the face contest. It appeared he had a stroke, which limited his mobility, yet he was a regular guest at some of the city's events, such as a rally for deceased comedian and politician Pat Paulsen in 2008. Though he sat in a wheelchair, gaping mouthed and silent, he appeared very responsive and aware of the celebrity impersonators around him, and seemed to enjoy the moment.
I might sound like a 90-year old curmudgeon on a fixed income here, but young people today will never have firsthand knowledge of comedic legends like Soupy Sales. Sure, they have their Dane Cook and the in-your-face, OMG attitudes of pop culture screaming by them at warp speed, but in living in such a hyperactive world where ADD is as common as texting, American Idol or the latest portable entertainment gewgaw, it lacks perspective. When life is flashing by you and the audacious and obnoxious passes for political debate and entertainment, when snark and profanity are the end-all-be all and alpha and omega of existence, you don't have that vista of where we've been and how far we've climbed.
And in that, you lose perspective.
Now don't get me wrong. South Park and Family Guy are two of my favorite shows, combining animation with biting social commentary or in the case of the latter, surreal and funny sight gags. Yet Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Seth MacFarlane are really the bastard children of Soupy Sales. Their comedy is an evolution from Soupy's canned shtick. The old school comedians like Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Andy Kaufman paved the way for Bill Hicks, Sam Kinison and Richard Jeni, who in turn inspired the current pumper crop of comedic talent in Patton Oswalt, Greg Giraldo and Lisa Lampanelli.
Lingering in the background were the venerated fathers of 20th century comedy: Soupy Sales, Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Mel Brooks and Woody Allen. Each of their acts different yet eerily similar in the way they applied comedy, through joke telling on the new medium of television and films. For boundary pushers and shocking innovators like Lenny Bruce, who worked in smoke-filled nightclubs, it wasn't the medium but the message that changed what we thought was funny and challenged the puritanical prudence of the 1950s and early 1960s.
Yet Soupy was a creature unto himself, a Vaudevillian who harnessed the airwaves with shlock and shtick and inspired everyone from Pee Wee Herman to Howard Stern with risque double entendres, a stripper in the closet and a pie in the face.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Election Ads

It's that time of year when the leaves turn colors, the air gets nippy and politicians escape their long slumbers to poke their noses from the safety of their burrows and go on the attack. In New Jersey, we're voting for a governor and lieutenant governor. The stakes are high, and the race is contentious, a public blood sport like bearbaiting in its ferocity and barbarism.
Instead of eviscerating their foes with sharp, bladed instruments, politicians use words and advertising, a much more civilized approach to slaughter and humiliation. It used to be that flogging was reserved for criminals who transgressed moral and civil laws. Now it's perfectly legal and dragged back into the public square via television and Internet.
A decent political ad is all about conveying your message and persuading voters that you're the candidate they should vote for. Failing that, it's a chance for you to outline your differences with those running against you. If that's not possible, an all-out mudslinging orgy is in order, with the loosest facts, sound bites, ominous music and blurred visuals are summoned. After all, if you can't persuade people to vote for you, scare the shit out of them and force them to.
The following ads are tame, even for New Jersey. They don't represent the ugliness found in modern campaigns. The three gubernatorial candidates have different ways of presenting their messages here.

Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine's ad "More To Do" has an Aaron Sorkin vibe: stirring music, images of hard-working New Jerseyans and a mini-drama of Corzine as the fault-ridden leader begging for a second chance. It's non-controversial, non-attacking and generally upbeat in theme and presentation. it's also depressing as hell that the governor is essentially pleading with voters, like he's on the ropes, but they'll be a new day dawning tomorrow, only brighter and full of opportunity or some other overtly optimistic bullshit.

Republican challenger Chris Christie is taking a different approach with this ad, "Googly Eyes." You know those commercials for Geico with the odd stack of dollar bills with bulbous eyes staring at unsuspecting dupes? Apparently, the Republicans incorporate that popular ad, but with a twist. See ,that pile of bills is the money taxpayers could be saving with Chris Christie as governor. Get it? Who says Republicans are bereft of ideas and uncreative? This pinnacle of lameness is pretty sad. If this ad was meant to be funny, it bombed miserably. It's time for Christie to start spending campaign funds on an ad consultant and less on stromboli at Sbarro.

Then there's this ad from Independent candidate Chris Daggett. It's the hidden masterpiece of the election, because it incorporates several interesting visuals, including some pretty bad actors portraying Corzine and Christie. Note to North Woods Advertising: when you're casting for these spots, make sure the actors actually sound like the people they're impersonating. The guy portraying Christie could get bit work in the Sopranos. Anyway, the use of the broken escalator representing the state is creative and shows inertia and stagnation. Corzine's response is to wait for a bailout while Christie, a federal prosecutor, threatens incarceration with those responsible. Daggett steps in like the white knight, takes immediate action and asks people to follow him and together by walking instead of waiting, he leads them to the top.
On an advertising level, it's brilliant: the image of Daggett as a take-charge, proactive leader comes through here while making his opponents look like incompetent buffoons. It's also the only ad I've seen that successfully uses humor without being vitriolic or malicious.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Stoned with Women

Marijuana. Pot. Weed. Herb. Ganja. Grass. Mary Jane. Reefer.

These are names for cannabis, a plant whose dried buds are a popular euphoric drug. Much has been written about the wacky weed over the last century, from the anti-hemp lobby’s attempts at prohibiting the drug with propaganda films like “Reefer Madness,” to the rise in recreational use by jazz musicians and beatniks in the 1950s, to the full-blown psychedelic tidal wave and proliferation of the counter culture of the 1960s and 1970s.

Marijuana became the dug of choice for California hippies who wanted to kick back on a beanbag chair and listen to I Am the Walrus for evidence Paul McCartney was dead.

Yet despite its reputation in the mainstream media as a gateway drug, or a drug that leads to the degradation of our youth in the form of giggling uncontrollably, wearing tie-dye T-shirts and watching Cheech and Chong movies, marijuana is here to stay. Powerful strains, grown in hydroponic facilities and harvested for sale is a multi-million dollar industry in America, where the drug is stigmatized and illegal.

In New Jersey, getting caught with 50 grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor that nets a fine of $1,000 and six months of incarceration. If you cultivate less than one ounce of marijuana, you’re hit with a $10,000 fine and 18 months in jail. If you’re an entrepreneur with a capitalist spirit and sell less than one ounce of weed, you’re hit with a $150,000 fine and are going to jail for a year.

When I was in high school back in the 1980s, I never understood the pot culture. I thought drug users were basically losers who sat around their parent’s basements getting high and watching Pink Floyd’s The Wall. They reeked of reefer, had long hair and this attitude that because they read Hesse’s Siddhartha ad nauseum, that they were somehow intellectually superior.

My first experience with marijuana involved several concerts in high school, when the Philadelphia Spectrum was thick with pot smoke during a Van Halen show. Maybe the kids passed joints around because that’s what Van Halen fans do, or maybe it was because Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth. I still don’t know, but that heady aroma stuck with me. It sort of had a faint aroma of burning oregano and sage, and smelled like a beautiful hippie goddess wearing patchouli oil who spontaneously combusted.

A "joint" and a "bowl", two things that could get you incredibly fucked up.

Generations of young Americans believed recreational drug use was getting high, listening to records and not caring if people knew you were stoned or not. You can tell if a young person is stoned because they’re smiling. Most teenagers are moody, with an apathetic attitude. When the kid that’s grinning like the Cheshire cat on nitrous oxide, well, he’s tripping.

Pot is in popular culture. Its influence in music in nearly omni pervasive, and marijuana on television, once taboo, is a regular occurrence. The Showtime drama Weeds tells the story of Nancy Botwin, played by Mary-Louise Parker, a widowed mother who sells marijuana to support her kids in the suburbs. Marijuana has been featured extensively on the animated comedies Family Guy and South Park, the latter featuring an animated towel named Towelie who gets high.

There’s a movement to legalize marijuana in this country, led by Rastafarians, Berkeley professors and people who listen to Phish. They cite cannabis’ positive effects on cancer sufferers and advocate medical marijuana for people with glaucoma and other maladies. The activists assert that medical marijuana will help alleviate suffering and should be available with a prescription. Yeah, that’s what I want to see my pharmacist dole out: plastic baggies of weed. Maybe when grandma is rolling her joint and toking up to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, she’ll finally be relaxed enough to bake cookies. Of course the cookies will have more hemp in them than brownies in an Amsterdam bakery. Perhaps she can crochet a covering for her bong.

Facetiousness aside, I was reluctant to take the plunge and try marijuana. Part of being a writer is to actually experience things so you could write about them, that with that shared experience, you’d have firsthand knowledge of something, become familiar with it and articulate it in writing. Such was my reasoning for trying the accursed weed. Reluctant I was, I thought what if I become an addict? What if I actually enjoy the stuff? What if I start listening to folk music and become a registered Democrat, or worse, vote for Ralph Nader?

So many doubts and fears plagued me, yet I didn’t want to be one of those prudent killjoys who sits on the sideline of life chastising and nitpicking. If I was going to do this, I would have to really do it and jump into the marijuana mosh pit, arms and legs flailing.

The first thing I realized is people who smoke marijuana don’t frequent mosh pits, which are loud places filled with violence. Pot smokers are a passive lot, preferring the tranquil solitude of nature, the still sanctuary of their bedrooms, or a quiet parking garage at two in the morning.

Not wanting to try my first recreational drug by myself, I partook with women on a few occasions. Getting high with women is an interesting experience for two reasons: first, you don’t have to put on a false display of bravado like you do getting stoned with men and secondly, you can have sex with the women.

Lil' Blunty. You never forget your first one.

So let me lay the scenario out for you: We’re in her apartment, she lights a few candles to set the mood. We take our clothes off first, because undressing while stoned poses its own hazards. There’s only so much fumbling and tripping your way out of your pants you could do before falling on the cat. So she rolls this joint that looks about half the size of a normal joint. I’ve seen Cheech and Chong movies where the joints are about the size of a Buick. The joint she rolls is so small, an ant couldn’t get high off it.

I call it Lil’ Blunty. It’s my first. She lights it up and puffs on it, then exhales a smoke cloud into my face. Eyes stinging, I take hold of the micro-joint, put my lips on it and…nothing.

I chicken out. Like Bill Clinton asserted, I didn’t inhale.

I just couldn’t bring myself to inhale. Oh, I might have taken a few wispy puffs and some of the smoke might have touched my lungs. That might have happened on a microscopic level.

But generally, I just breathed in the smoke and handed her the joint.

“How is it?” she asked, taking a long drag on Lil’ Blunty.

“Yeah, it’s good,” I said, getting dizzy.

“Did you inhale it?” she asked.

“Yeah, well, I’m inhaling the smoke,” I said, trembling that I was on the slippery slope to stonerhood.

Despite my failure with Lil’ Blunty, the experience wasn’t a total failure. One thing the government doesn’t tell you about marijuana is that it makes women very horny. She told me her senses heightened every time she smoked marijuana, like an out of body experience, a drug-induced astral projection that made her wetter than Niagara Falls and as promiscuous as Jenna Jameson. When she climaxed, the neighbor two floors up complained of the noise.

That’s when it occurred to me as I peeled her from the ceiling: the government wants to outlaw marijuana because the last thing America needs are sexually satisfied couples. The status quo prefers sexually frustrated people who fail at sexual intimacy and end up taking out their anger by kicking their dogs and working late at the office. Frustrated people are naturally more bitter, more loathing and more apt to shop more, support war as conflict resolution and approve censorship. In other words, sexual frustration leads to our current society.

But if the women were stoned and more relaxed we’d have plenty of couples who experience wild nights in the sack, and with this a cheerful and happy outlook on life. Sure, after the pot wears off the women would get the munchies and put on 20 pounds, but it’s a price this country will have to pay to not have its men be so uptight and angry.

The next time the woman and I got together, she had some pot left over.

“It would be a shame to let this go to waste,” she said, and rolled a joint. Not as small as Lil’ Blunty, the second joint, which I’ll call El Capitan, was a success. After she became as stoned as the entire front row at Woodstock, I went back to the nightstand for seconds and realized El Capitan did the trick.

Physically, when you get stoned with women, your body relaxes. Maybe it’s the orgasm or the snuggling with a women you didn’t have to buy dinner for, but your heart rate slows, you get sleepy and your mind freely rolls back to your childhood when you sat through all of those mental hygiene films that specifically decried marijuana as an evil corrupting force that would kill you stone dead. Lying there in the arms of a snoring nymphomaniac, I understood that the people who made those films did not get high with women.

Two years after El Capitan, another female friend visited me with a plastic bag of marijuana as a housewarming gift. I would have preferred a fruit basket, but it’s the thought that counts, after all. As we sat at my kitchen table, separating the dried cannabis sativa buds from the seeds, I pondered upon this new life skill. After sorting out the green flakes, she gave me some rolling papers and I rolled my first joint. The technique here is to place a bit of the marijuana on the paper lengthwise, roll it up and lick the end.

She remarked that for a beginner, my joint looked pretty good, a compliment I relished. It wasn’t every day that you sat at the kitchen table rolling joints. Okay, maybe in the inner cities, but not here. I didn’t even want to name my own joint, preferring to let it stand on its own, unblemished and untarnished by a whimsical title. Instead, I smoked my nameless joint as we watched adult cartoons.

What can be said for this shameful escapade? Am I the next Hunter S. Thompson, a junkie journalist flying from assignment to assignment with psychotic visions of monstrous bats or melted walls? Hardly. I know the freewheeling 1960s are over and like the Moody Blues sang, Timothy Leary is dead. I understand cannabis is illegal and even possessing a smidgen of it could land you in prison on Devil’s Island for 100 years.

Yet I just wanted to try it, to see what all of the fuss was about, to taste the forbidden herb. The verdict: being buzzed is the same thing as taking a nap. It’s relaxing when you’re baked, a sensation like you’re drowning in happiness with Care Bears farting This Land is Your Land.

While joints are cigarettes for people who want to lose their short term memories, I won’t be rushing out to Rico behind the Sunocco for a dime bag any time soon. I also won’t be applying for that staff writer position at High Times, either. The drug culture is all about escapism, and that’s what marijuana is. It’s a natural substance that makes women sluttier and men stupider. If you enjoy lying in the middle of a field at night and counting stars while waiting for a visit from the phosphorescent fairies that dwell in your subconscious, I’d sooner listen to Terrapin Station sober. At least you could understand the lyrics.